Friday Reads: THIRTEEN by Kelley Armstrong

13Thirteen: Otherworld Series #13
by Kelley Armstrong
(paranormal romance)

Thirteen is the final (and 13th) book in the Otherworld series. I have enjoyed reading this series for so long, that even though I ordered the hard cover of the book as soon as it came out (over 2 years ago now) I have put off reading it until now. The series isn’t over if I haven’t finished reading it, right?

I can’t really go into much in the way of plot details without spoiling the rest of the series, but suffice to say that there is a big massive plot going on that will involve just about everyone you’ve ever met in the Otherworld who hasn’t died, and some who have. And yet, it felt complete and proper for this book to be so all-encompassing. I didn’t find it awkward or trite or anything, the way some wrap-ups are. Perhaps because the characters have all been in and out of each other’s books throughout the entire series, and so it’s nothing new for it to happen in this one. Besides, when you have a relatively small supernatural community who all know each other, and something is threatening their entire world, wouldn’t it make sense for them to call on each other for help?

As to the construction of this book: officially it’s a Savannah book. Unofficially it also touches on everyone else who has narrated a book in the Otherworld series. For instance, after a few chapters of Savannah narrating, Jamie narrates a chapter. Then a few more of Savannah, and then Elena has a chapter. And so on. I wasn’t sure about it after the first non-Savannah chapter, but once I realized that all the other narrators were getting a final nod, I thought it was a really cool touch. Yes, the plot points could have been delivered in other ways using only one narrator, but this was more fun. Also, some of the information which was completely natural in a cameo narration would have seemed like info-dump in the main narration, so I’m glad it was presented this way.

And now… well, now I want to go back and re-read the entire series. Again. Or at least re-read my favorites. (For reference, if anyone’s curious, Paige’s and Jaime’s books are my favorites. I do also love some of the others, including BITTEN (book 1), but I don’t love all the books in the series equally.) Then again, I think maybe I should wait a bit before jumping in to a re-read, if I want to get any sleep in the near future. I kept meaning to go to bed last night, but THIRTEEN wasn’t finished yet and I had to know how it ended. Yup. That’s me. Wait two years to read a book because I want to pretend the series is still running, and then stay up until 1am on a work night because I can’t wait another day to discover the ending. Hey, no one said that bookworms were logical.

If it wasn’t obvious, I really enjoyed this book. Not sure yet where it ranks in my “Otherworld favorites” list, but it’s nearer the top of that list than the bottom. And it’s one of my favorite books that I read in 2015. Kudos, Kelley.

Review: Kelley Armstrong’s No Humans Involved

Somehow I skipped a couple of months of the book reviews for Moonlight Gleam’s Women of the Otherworld reading challenge. I’m still not quite sure how that happened. At any rate, it worked out okay because HAUNTED and BROKEN aren’t my favorite of the stories. (They aren’t my least favorites either, but I’ve read them more than once, which was enough to know that they’re middle of the road in the series for me.) And, in addition to accidentally skipping stories that I know well enough, I returned to the reading challenge for one of my favorites in the series.

NO HUMANS INVOLVED features Jamie Vegas and her relationship with my favorite of the werewolves, Jeremy Danvers. These are both characters I’d enjoyed reading about for some time before they got their own book I think this is why I liked them:

PhotobucketUnlike most of the other supernaturals in this series, Jamie seems almost normal. She’s the first of the supernaturals we really meet who doesn’t have kick-ass powers. She can’t change into a wolf. She can’t cast spells. She can’t burn things with a touch or even use simpler half-demon tricks like Troy does to keep from getting wet in the rain. She can contact the dead, but based on our interactions with her up to this point, that seems frankly like a curse rather than a blessing. This makes my impressions of Jamie based on not what she can do, but how she does it – and I certainly like her personality. She’s just a lot of fun, in my book.

And Jeremy… the thing I like best about him, have ALWAYS liked best about him, is his reserve. Many of my friends go for the bad guy, either in real life or “just” in fiction. I’ve always liked the nice guy. The respectful guy, the one who will hold doors and just generally treat a girl “right”. So Jeremy, for me, was a perfect fit. (Lucas too, but he’s not in this story much.) I do like the fact that we get to see beyond that very basic feeling of “Jeremy’s a good guy” and see the wolf underneath. But I also like that he’s true to his nature, and is written in an utterly believable way (once you get past the whole changes-into-a-wolf thing).

The two of them as a couple? Works. And is sweet in a very grown-up way. There’s nothing else I really want to say about it… it just seemed very natural. It works.

Now, about the story itself… (I am going to jump to the end here. There will be a little in the way of spoilers, so you are fore-warned.) My biggest complaint is that we didn’t get enough in the way of actual answers. Most of our answers are inferred based on what the protagonists discover in their investigation.

But… was May part supernatural? We can assume so. The question is which kind? The comment about dried bits of body parts makes necromancer seem likely, but then why could she do magic and not see the dead? Also, in this world necromancy – as with the spellcasters – runs in families. I don’t remember hearing that you had to occasionally cross two lines of necromancers (or spellcasters) to keep the powers strong. This implies that May had some other kind of supernatural blood. Maybe half-demon? That would be my guess, but it’s just a guess.

Also, what happened to the children? What kind of rite was it that was being performed which prevented them from crossing over into the ghost world? There are guesses we can make, but it’s left unconfirmed.

Now, these unanswered questions could annoy me. The story is written well enough, though, that they don’t. I get the definite impression that Kelley knew what the answers to these questions were when she wrote it, but the answers don’t need to come out for the story to be finished. In fact, leaving them as unanswered questions makes perfect sense when you realize we’re also dealing with the Fates here… they tend to leave as many questions unanswered as possible.

All told, I really like this book. I think it’s my third favorite of the series (behind only the two books Paige narrates). Granted, I haven’t read THIRTEEN yet, but we’ll see. I have read other books narrated by Savannah, and I prefer Jamie’s voice to Savannah’s so far.

Book Review: Industrial Magic

Well, not only did I read book 4 of the Women of the Otherworld series earlier in the month, I remembered to write the review earlier in the month! Yay!

As with the other review of this series, this is for Moonlight Gleam’s Reading Challenge.

Industrial MagicThis is quite likely my favorite book in the series. First of all, it has my favorite main characters: Paige and Lucas. Second, it has bunches more characters I like as secondary characters. (I won’t go into who, since I’ve been told I need a chart of some kind to keep this from being confusing.) Third, it has a great plot.

Now, most of Kelley’s books have good plots. Some of the others are even as spectacular as this one. But for me, this is the first plot in the book series that far outshines the others. This is where Kelley first really shows her storytelling abilities, in my mind.

Without going so far into the book as to cause spoilers, there are so many levels to this story. So many tiers to the plot, so many twists it takes that are – somehow – not actually plot twists. And everything flows so smoothly. It all makes sense. Nothing feels like it comes out of left field.

I also particularly like the way Paige and Lucas’ relationship issues (which is the internal conflict for the book) work so effortlessly with the case they are working on (the external conflict). Granted, it’s not always as easy – or even possible – to make the two conflicts so seamless. But in this case, since working on cases together (rather, NOT working on cases together) is a symptom of the internal conflict, having the external conflict be a case that needs investigating is perfect.

In addition to the well-crafted story, there is plenty of humor. One of my favorite scenes (humor-wise) in the book comes near the very beginning. Paige ends up in an elevator with a half-demon who could easily overpower her. When asked if she’d seen that scene in a movie, she replies that yes: what happens next is that the heroine gets attacked, then overpowers her attacker, escapes, and unfortunately sends him hurtling to his doom. (It’s funnier the way Kelley wrote it. Believe me.)

At any rate, while I enjoy most of the series, this is my go-to re-read. If I want to read a story from the series, but don’t want to read them ALL, this is almost always the one I will pick up. If you also decide to pick it up, I hope you enjoy it!

Book Review: Dime Store Magic

Well, I’ve had Dime Store Magic sitting beside my computer as a reminder to review it for a coupe of weeks now. It’s probably my second favorite of the Women of the Otherworld series, so re-reading it was no chore. (I tend to re-read this one and the one that follows, Industrial Magic at least every other year.)

Since Moonlight Gleam is hosting a monthly read & review contest, I’d better get the review written before the month is out! I need to get better on writing these earlier in the month…

Dime Store Magic As I’ve mentioned, this is my second favorite book of the series. (My favorite is #4, so I’m looking forward to next month’s book.) It has my favorite characters, Lucas and Paige. It has a good plot, and enough of the supernatural world is still unknown to the reader, so there are fun things to discover along with the narrators.

Granted, fans of Elena and Clay will have complaints about this book. Those characters only show up in a phone call. (At least in the next book they have a brief cameo.) But for me, Paige and Lucas are the characters that matter most. They are the ones I want to see more of. And if there’s a werewolf in the book, frankly, I’d rather it was Jeremy. (So yeah – I love No Humans Involved, too.) Or Karl, I like Karl. (Though I don’t like Hope much. So that causes a problem.)

Anyway – back to this book instead of jumping ahead in the series. Yes, there are problems with it. I’m not altogether sure that Savannah would ever have been allowed to stay with Paige, no matter that her aunt says so. I’d suspect magic was involved, except it would have to be cast by the Coven, who are useless.

The Coven are another problem I have with this book. Though, to be fair, I think they are perfectly created characters. The problem I have is with the facet of our culture and society that makes this seem utterly realistic. Yes, I do believe there would be young witches like Paige trying to change things or just getting fed up and leaving. But I am disgusted to have to admit that if the Otherworld truly did exist, the Coven witches are the most realistic and believable characters.

I don’t have the same problems relating to Paige that I had relating to Elena. (This probably is why the spellcasters, and not the werewolves, are my favorite characters.) She has many traits that I could see myself sharing in her situation. The only thing that really bugs me about Paige is her insistence to try to lead the Coven even though they are dead set against actually DOING anything. Then again, that is a huge part of her personal journey for this book, and most of my complaints about her have been resolved by the time we head into book 4.

Thanks again to Lucy for hosting this challenge!

STOLEN – a review

It is April, so Moonlight Gleam’s WOMEN OF THE OTHERWORLD Reading Challenge is on to STOLEN!

Make sure to swing by the hosting site and see what other people are saying about this book… I can almost guarantee you that I am in the minority here.

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I’ve never really cared for STOLEN. It’s (I think) the 4th of the series that I read, even though it’s the 2nd book, and I am super glad that I was hooked on the series before I got to this book. If I’d started with BITTEN I might not have gotten past STOLEN.

I have never before tried to figure out why I don’t like STOLEN, however. And this time around – which is only the second time I’ve ever read it, for all that I’ve read some of the others dozens of times – I tried to focus on that aspect. Tried to convince myself that it was just prejudice because I like Paige the best of the narrators and she’s not presented in a very favorable light in this book.

But that’s not it. However, I figured out what it IS.

I don’t like the bad guy. Yes, I know, that’s the point. But I don’t like the way he’s presented. I don’t like how much screen time he gets compared to the good guys. I don’t like having Elena on her own for nearly the entire time, without the other core characters. My favorite part of the series is how well everyone works together. How they each have their own strengths and weaknesses and how all of it ties into the plot. In STOLEN, there is very little of that (visible). The book is more about how Elena deals with this problem, or that problem. Not a lot of collaboration. Not a lot of communication. (Yes, this working together stuff does happen more at the end than during the middle. But I nearly put the book down several times in the middle because of this, so it fixed my main complaint almost too late.)

Another thing I don’t like about the bad guy is his motivation. A rich guy who wants some excitement. Compared to the other bad guys in the series, I think he’s the weakest. (Series spoilers in the rest of this paragraph… you’ve been warned.) I mean, really. You have Winslow, who wants to play games, deadly though they are. On the other hand, you have Edward and Natasha, who want eternal love. You have Kristof, who wants his daughter. You have a group of humans who want to be paranormal. And you have werewolves who want revenge. If you ask me, no matter how deadly Ty’s games are, they are the most minor motivation on this list.

STOLEN does work as a book in the series, and it sets up some great parts of later books. And it introduces a much larger cast of characters than just the Pack, and in such a way that it seems logical and not to avoid getting bored of werewolves. But I still don’t like it.

Bitten Again

It’s March. You know what that means?

Yes. It’s time to start the Women of the Otherworld Reading Challenge! (Here’s the March contest page.)

Now, as anyone who has read this blog for any length of time will know, I have read nearly all of Kelley Armstrong‘s books more than once. There are very few I have never read. She is one of my heroes, role models, and Internet mentors. (Though this last has fallen off a bit lately, as I haven’t written much of anything in quite some time and so am not an active member of her OWG anymore.)

Anyway, it should come as no surprise that this is not the first time I have decided to review Bitten. What is odd is that the first time I reviewed it, I posted very little in the way of opinion in the review. So, this time around, I’m not going to focus on the plot and instead just concentrate on my feelings towards the book. (If you want to know about the plot of the book, click the link at the beginning of this paragraph for my earlier review.)

It should be noted that I did not start the series with this book. I started with the third in the series, Dime Store Magic, which has a different narrator (and therefore different love interest). This is probably a really good thing, as I didn’t actually like Clay (the love interest inBitten) all that much, especially at the beginning of the story. He acts way too obsessive and stalkerish for my liking. Come to think of it, Elena (the heroine) isn’t really my cup of tea, either.

The story starts with Elena trying to fit in to the human world, but not really being happy there, and then going back to the werewolf Pack and trying to pretend that she’s NOT happy with them. Honestly? That DROVE ME NUTS. It makes for good conflict and good fiction, but I could not relate to it. Especially reading it this time around.

There were plenty of times when Elena and Clay weren’t annoying me, however, and I enjoyed those parts of the book very much. And to be fair, Kelley has since written novellas that explain a lot about why these two characters are the way they are. (Since this was the first thing written in the Otherworld, however, early readers didn’t have Savage or Becoming to reference as a character study. There’s a free online graphic novel edition of Becoming available, too.)

As to the rest of the Pack… I really like Jeremy. That’s something that has never changed. I like Nick and ‘Tonio more than I originally did, too, but my second favorite of the wolves (with Jer being my favorite) is still Logan. Sadly, Logan is someone whose personality you don’t get to see in Bitten. You’ll have to read Becoming in order to get any clue to that.

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I don’t know if I’ve said it yet, but thank you Lucy for organizing this! It’s been a while since I’ve read any of the Otherworld books beyond my favorites, so it will be nice to revisit each of them again over the course of these months.

An Otherworld Reading Challenge

Some of my blog readers have read Kelley Armstrong’s WOMEN OF THE OTHERWORLD series, while other have not. For those who would like to (either read or re-read) these wonderfully fun paranormal romances, there’s a challenge being hosted over at Moonlight Gleam’s Bookshelf.

Looks like fun to me! Basically, the goal is to read one book from the series every month. The schedule of what book is what month is up on the hosting site (see link above) so if you miss a month you can join in at any time. Then review or otherwise comment about the book on your blog or Goodreads, and link back to that review. There are prizes, too, but for me a large part of the fun will be just enjoying the books all over again.

I’ve read all of the Women of the Otherworld books out so far with the exception of the newest, Spellbound. And then there’s the conclusion to the series, Thirteen, which will be out later this year. I look forward to getting to know my some of favorite fictional characters all over again with this challenge. Let me know in the comments if you decide to join me!