Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Review: Forbidden and Amityville Horrible by Kelley Armstrong

Hey everyone! How are you doing? Sorry for the lack of posts ^_^; I've been pretty tired lately - curling, Chinese New Year, hanging out with friends = lack of sleep - and I think it's been affecting my mood, my reading and my blogging :( Hopefully, I'll be able to catch up on my sleep this week!

Today is a two-fer reviews because well, lack of reviews in the past couple of days, but also because both books were written by the same author: Kelley Armstrong. These are novellas that were published back in December with  Subterranean Press. Seriously, I'm really happy Ms Armstrong has decided not to end the series and just go on hiatus :P Anyway, with these two reviews, I'm almost done with 2012! Yay! Then, I'll start tackling 2013, given my blogging muse comes back soon :) However, as my blogging muse seems to be on vacation for now, I gotta warn you that these reviews might not flow really well ^_^; I really had a hard time writing them, it just wouldn't come :( I hope you can still enjoy them though :)

Forbidden by Kelley Armstrong
published by Subterranean Press in December 2012
The team-spirit sign by the side of the highway seems a good omen to loner Morgan Walsh, as he drives to what could be the most important visit of his life — a chance to join the North American Pack. Then he wakes naked in the woods, surrounded by wolf tracks and a ring of suspicious cops. The situation only gets worse when he’s bailed out by Alpha-elect Elena Michaels and Clayton Danvers, her terrifying enforcer and mate.

Disappointed that such a promising young werewolf risked exposing them, Elena isn’t expecting anything from the pesky retrieval job except some much-needed alone time with Clay. Instead, she finds a different kind of evil stalking the streets and forests of Westwood, New York. Trapped in town by a snowstorm and sabotage, Elena, Clay and Morgan must find the mysterious threat before it sets its sights on them.
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Series: Women of the Otherworld/Otherworld stories

The Story: The synopsis is pretty accurate. Morgan Walsh comes from a family of fishermen in Newfoundland and is a hereditary werewolf. Not interested in his family's lifestyle, he set out to see what the world had to offer. That led him to Anchorage, Alaska, where he tried to live as a wolf, exploring his second nature. It's during that time, eighteen months ago, that he met the American Pack (Frostbitten). They issued him an invitation to visit and perhaps recruit when he was done with his wolf experiment. Interested and intrigued, Morgan has finally decided on the visit. However, his visit starts off on a bad note when during a rest stop, Morgan finds himself in need of Changing and the next thing he knows, he's being arrested, naked in the forest during winter. Then, Elena is called in to bail him out. On their way out, their car's tires are slashed, effectively trapping them in town for the night...

My Opinion: The Women of the Otherworld series is one of my favorite urban fantasy series and so, I always look forward to new additions, whether they are full-length novels or novellas. I was even more excited about Forbidden when I found out it was about Morgan :) Ever since Frostbitten, I've been curious about his character and wondered whether he would join the Pack or not... As such, I'm really glad Ms Armstrong  finally wrote a story that provided me some of the answers.

All in all, I thought Forbidden was an interesting read. First, I always enjoy reading about the Pack and this time was no exception. Packs are one of my favorite elements in series that have werewolves, shapeshifters, changelings, etc. because they are an integral part of the world building and really set the tone, the atmosphere. I also enjoy them because I find the hierarchy fascinating and for the Pack politics and dynamics which are very akin to court intrigues :) In the Women of the Otherworld series, I think Ms Armstrong has created a very unique Pack. Part of it is has to do with the hierarchy which is not as strict and rigid. There's simply less emphasis on dominance and instinct. I mean, I wouldn't consider Clay a beta male, LOL, and Jeremy and Elena were both chosen/elected as Alphas. In that sense, the Pack is more humane and therefore, there is more focus on personalities. However, the reason I find the Pack stands out is its size. At the beginning of the series, the North American Pack was almost decimated and for the longest time, it consisted of only 5 werewolves. Finally though, in the past few books, it's slowly being built back and  new werewolves are joining. It's been interesting to read about the process, especially because because Ms Armstrong has done an excellent job at creating characters with distinct personalities and motives :) For example you have Karl which is really a veteran and has been a lone wolf for so long, but who craved territory. Then, there's been Reese and Noah who are younger and more malleable... and then, Morgan who is more individualist. I really enjoyed reading Morgan's thoughts about joining the Pack, especially his worries about not being up to standard. The nervousness he felt coming down for this visit, because he's evaluating whether he wants to join or not, but he knows he's also being evaluated. Anyway, I'm glad that Morgan has chosen to give the Pack a chance and I'm really looking forward to see how the Pack grows :)

As usual, I also enjoyed re-visiting Elena and Clay and see how they are dealing with parenthood LOL. I wonder what is harder for Elena, being a mother of twins or transitioning into her responsibilities as Alpha? :) However, while it's fun to catch up with one of my favorite pairings, it's pretty much the same as always... there's not much growth or development to their characters. It sounds a bit weird to write this given there are some big changes that have occurred - them becoming parents, Elena taking over Jeremy - but the transitions have been so smooth... Sure Elena has doubts and worries, but then again, she always had had those for different reasons and Clay as always is her rock. Anyway, I guess what I mean is that it's fun to see Elena and Clay again, but not much is happening with them, they just serve as narrators. It wouldn't really be an issue in full-length novels because then, there'd be the plot, suspense and action to detract the attention from them... but as this novella is not focus on them as was Hidden, well it feels like Ms Armstrong is pleasing fans more than anything. Not a bad thing, but more substance would be appreciated.

The plot of Forbidden, aside from Morgan joining the Pack, was okay given the length. That wasn't the reason why I read the novella, so it could overlook its flaws. The fact that it involved a bit of woo-woo made sense - it's urban fantasy after all - but seemed a bit too coincidental to me. Two things though that bothered me about Forbidden. The first is when does the story take place in the series timeline? I was a bit confused because there was a mention about Karl and Hope having a special news and I was wondering if it's the fact that Hope was pregnant in which case, the story took place before Waking the Witch. If that's not the news they were alluding to, then I'm really curious to know what is the special news!! ^_^; And the second thing is the art... I'm sorry, but I really wasn't a big fan of the art in Forbidden. It was a bit weird and the white/black/red color scheme did not help ^_^;

My Grade: B. Plot-wise, Forbidden wasn't the best novella Ms Armstrong has written. However, I got to know Morgan better, revisit Elena and Clay and read about the Pack, so it was still quite enjoyable for me :)


Amityville Horrible by Kelley Armstrong
published by Subterranean Press in e-book - December 2012/ in print - January 2013
Jaime Vegas—spiritualist, entertainer and, unbeknownst to her audience, real-life necromancer—swore she’d never do another reality ghost show after the last fiasco. But when she’s railroaded into a charity gig, she finds herself back on the set, this time with a cast of photogenic college kids, an up-and-coming Russian spiritualist, and a tale of missing girls and murder in New England. It’s cheesy, but that’s show business. With her werewolf Alpha lover, Jeremy Danvers, along to keep her nights interesting, it’s not so bad really. Until the bloody ghosts show up. Jaime has never faced spirits like these, and no matter how hard she tries, they won’t be ignored.
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Series: Women of the Otherworld/Otherworld stories

The Story: Once again, the blurb is pretty accurate and I'm not going to try to summarize more, because I'd be giving too much away ^_^;

My Opinion: I had absolutely no idea about Amityville Horrible's release until I stumbled across it over at Kobo, so it was a really nice surprise! And given Jaime and Jeremy are another of my favorite pairings of the series, I was thrilled! Lucky for me Amityville Horrible turned out to be as enjoyable as Forbidden :)

Okay, this review is going to be short and sweet since Amityville Horrible was even shorter than Forbidden. All in all, I think Amityville Horrible was a good novella because it was well balanced between the plot and the relationship. I think it helped that Ms Armstrong had a focal point to concentrate on: Jaime. As it turned out, the storyline was actually quite interesting and spooky! And I thought the twist was clever - I did not see it coming. People keep underestimating Jaime and I love that she surprises them, LOL. I also very much enjoyed the outlook we got on Jaime and Jeremy's relationship - how they deal with it and how it works for them. Jaime and Jeremy's relationship is quite unique and it really contrasts from Elena and Clay's. While they are a couple and have a 'HEA ending,' they are not constantly together, attached to the hips. I love that the two of them haven't given up their lives, their responsibilities. Instead, they  compromise and it works. It feels very mature. I also liked that we got a glimpse of Jaime's role in the twin's lives, because I've been wondering :)

My Grade: B. Amityville Horrible turned out to be a very enjoyable novella :) If you are a fan of this series and particularly for Jaime and Jeremy, you won't want to miss this one.