[751]: Aftermath by Kelley Armstrong

by Kelley Armstrong

Have you ever thought about what it was like for the families of the shooters who killed innocent people? Not in the way that they are victimized, but just how life goes on after one of their own shoot up a school and are labeled as murderers for the rest of their natural born life?

Kelley offers a fascinating perspective into the life of a victim in his or her own way. It was interesting, heartbreaking, and frustrating because this victim is the sister of one of the suspected shooters.  She was shunned and was treated like she pulled the trigger herself. On the other side of the coin is Jesse, whose brother was actually one of victims of the shooting itself. Once upon a time, Jesse and Skye were the best of friends. But because Skye’s brother was one of the shooters, their friendship was just one of the many things that ended on that day.

Being back in the town that Skye left soon after the tragedy happened was in the list of things she’d rather not do. But with her mother’s deteriorating state of mind, and her grandmother’s recent stroke left her no choice but to move back in with her aunt. To nobody else’s surprise, the town did not give her the warmest of welcomes – especially in a school where most of the students knew her and of her brother.  Everyone treated her like a pariah, even Jesse, her former best friend.

Everyday she’s faced with a reminder of the shooting. People haven’t moved on. Skye has known in her heart that Luka, her brother, was not the villain everyone had painted him to be. And as life in town and in school got even harder, she’d awaken a determination to get to the truth.

This was a hard read all around. I have read a lot of books by Ms. Armstrong but nothing as relevant a subject as a school shooting.  It’s a sensitive subject in it that the senseless loss of lives is involved, and an author needs to paint a clear view of both sides. I feel that Kelley did the best she could in presenting a non-biased view. She invoked a sincere empathy that made the readers feel all the difficult struggles on both sides, post-shooting.

Kelley is the equivalent of M. Night Shyamalan in the book world. She knows how to plot a twist that will leave you breathless upon reveal. The same goes in this novel. She crafted a convincing story that is a page turner of a thriller. Time and again, her characters are well padded, not necessarily wholesome; neither perfect, but the realest you’ll ever read.

Armstrong the veteran knows how to give her readers something new, compelling, and brave and she proves it with every book that she pens.

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[700]: A Darkness Absolute by Kelley Armstrong

Armstrong’s talent in writing smart thrillers on full display.

A Darkness Absolute
by Kelley Armstrong

We’re thrust back into the remote Northern Territories with Casey Duncan on the hunt for another killer. An unforeseen storm that throws them off track led them to a girl who has been missing for more than a year. Trapped in a hole no more than the size of a small person, the emaciated girl is rescued from her harrowing isolation. Days and months of endless physical, sexual, and mental abuse left her on the brink of madness.

Now, the Sheriff’s office has to track down a killer who upon further investigation might be responsible for several deaths of missing women.

Casey Duncan has all but acclimated to the life living in remote Northern Territories. Rockton and its people have grown on her – especially one person in particular. But if peace and quiet were what she’s after, Rockton apparently is the wrong place. Because once again, the town is facing deadly crimes with very little suspects to consider.  And since this is Rockton –  remote, a touch primeval, and wild – finding the killer will prove to be difficult. They’re not only racing against time, there’s also the brutal changing weather to contend.

Kelly Armstrong does a marvelous job in immersing her readers in her story in such a way that descriptively immortalizes an otherwise fictional town. The town of Rockton and its vicinities are beautiful as they are harsh. Not only do we get to experience all its wildness, but the townspeople themselves add a certain brutality that makes it seemed more sinister. Characterization has always been Armstrong’s forte. She writes the most credible kick-ass women.  Surprisingly enough, the men play a pivotal role in further empowering her heroines. It’s hard to explain. I guess the best way to describe it is like a marriage between a couple and each unit has the ability to qualify each other’s strengths and weaknesses.

She keeps the pacing of the story at an even keel. Giving her readers time to adjust and savor their own observations. Short chapters also help as she effectively pulls the readers into the nuances of the plot. Armstrong was very stingy with suspects. Since the town’s population is small, I felt like I already know everyone so you can pretty much tick off one townie at a time.  But in the end, and after the pieces of the puzzle have been connected, she made a very convincing case for the killer’s motives, psyche, and eventually, his identity.

A Darkness Absolute is a fantastic sequel. It hits the ground running right from the first page and doesn’t let up until the very end. There’s never a dull moment and you’ll feel like you can’t flip the page fast enough. This is the perfect book to cozy up to on cold winter nights with your reading socks and a nice cup of tea on hand.

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[610]: City of the Lost by Kelley Armstrong


I am ashamed to admit that I don’t follow too many Canadian authors. I haven’t even read too many of Margaret Atwood’s work. Kelley Armstrong, however, is one that I don’t dare miss. She writes the best thriller in any genre, so when I came across this title, I immediately pounced at the chance to read it.

City of the Lost is the story of Casey Duncan, a detective who found herself on the run because her past came back to haunt her. On top of that, her best friend’s abusive ex found her again and decided to reunite with her the only way he knew how: by beating her to within an inch of her life.  Wanting to hide, they found sanctuary in a town where people come to disappear. In the remote wilderness of Yukon Territory, a sense of an otherworldly danger only the likes of Casey can detect. And it doesn’t take long before she’s entrenched in a series of murder investigations where the suspect roams the inside and outside of the boundary of the forest.

I’m often cautious to recommend a good crime story. But if that’s not your thing, and you’ve decided to see what you’ve been missing, Kelley Armstrong’s work is a great place to start. She somehow manages to entice non-readers to come to the dark side with her tightly-woven mysteries and seemingly stereotypical characters. Don’t get me wrong, stereotypical characters are not always a good thing, but since it’ll be a new territory, it’s oddly comforting.

You’ve got a strong female character who presents a tentativeness that you don’t normally see from heroines in the genre. Casey can kick the living daylights of the bad guys any day, but is a little insecure in some ways. She’s a study in dichotomy, oddly enough. But then again, aren’t they all? I’ve never found her to be confident, even though she’s intelligent and quick on her feet. She’s mild-mannered and even-tempered. Just don’t surprise her or she’ll shoot you first and then ask questions after.

Then, there’s the Sheriff. He was a dick. But this dick grew on me. Hard. (Sorry. I can’t resist). Eric Daulton grew up in this secret town so he has a sense of ownership and is always looking for ulterior motives from any newcomers. Casey was on his shit list at first, but she quickly wins him over with her take-no-shit-from-anybody attitude. This novel features a whole slew of shady characters with shady pasts. And since this Rockton is a place where none of that matters, the investigation was a slow process. I think the only thing I can complain about is tediousness and it wasn’t very forthcoming with clues either. But never fear Casey and Eric’s interactions were torturous fun.

Once again, Kelley didn’t disappoint. She captures the very essence of a good mystery novel in a setting unlike anything I’ve ever read before. This is a first in the series so I’m chomping at the bits to read more. The possibilities are endless for this town of Rockton, the good Sheriff and the detective.

GOODREADS SUMMARY | January 2nd, 2016 | Random House Canada | 



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[512]: Empire of Night by Kelley Armstrong


GOODREADS SUMMARY | Double Day Canada | Hardcover, 432 pp. | April 7th, 2015 | Age of Legends, #2 | Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

Oh wow. That ending… and the mother of all plot twists! I don’t even know when the next book will be out, but trust me when I say, I’ll be making another offering to the ARC-giving goddess to send a copy my way. There’s no date yet, so I’m guessing Kelley is still writing the third book. Empire of Night is much of the same, only she’s up the ante on this book.

Warning: Spoilers ahead. 

Prisoners of their discontent.

The children of Edgewood are still missing. While the twins are growing more impatient each day, the Emperor doesn’t seem all that in a rush to retrieve what’s left of their village. In the meantime, Moira’s pride is still smarting from the betrayal of who were once a trusted ally. There is no better motivation for revenge than an injured ego. When the Emperor finally sends them on a negotiation mission, things will go from bad to worst.

The tale of a two-faced warrior.

If you haven’t read Sea of Shadows, I should warn you that it ended with one of the boys betraying the twins. As in, he may or may not be involved in the massacre of their people – including, their father. Moira may have put her trust in the wrong place, but I can almost tell that her heart may have been broken because of this. She will not admit, though. She will not admit that she liked the boy a bit too much.

In the past, authors making their readers choose “teams” has been a source of my aggravation. And while I was tempted to do so in this instance, I got over myself. I think I mentioned it on my review of Sea of Shadows, that it’s not that important. Well, by the time I finished this book, it’d become one of the reasons why I can’t wait to read the third book. Not so much as to see who she chooses, but more to see how it will play out. Armstrong is wickedly brilliant…or brilliantly wicked. I had developed a distaste for this character after the first book and during the second. But, by the end of the second, I’m finally seeing his end game.

Upping the ante.

I often struggle with the middle book in a trilogy. While the plot tries its damnest to convince me of its importance and relevance to the series as a whole, it more often fails.  It was not the case in this book, however. Armstrong used conflicts after conflicts to move the plot along. And much like the first book, there will be no down time here, folks. These books have been so much fun. I’m dying to see how it all ends, because that ending was so incredible…torturous, yes. But incredible, nonetheless.

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[510]: Sea of Shadows by Kelley Armstrong


GOODREADS SUMMARY | Double Day Canada | Hardcover, 406 pp. | Age of Legends, #1 | April 8th, 2014 | Fiction | Young Adult | Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

We all know I’m not the most patient reader when it comes to fantasy novels. I just can’t get into them. The way I look at it, if I can’t picture myself in that world, chances are, my interest wouldn’t hold for very long. Which would be the primary reason why I waited an entire year to read this. Kelley Armstrong is a prolific story teller. I’ve always enjoyed her books (apart from her Women of the Otherworld series). She’s the type of author whose books will always have a place on my shelves. That being said, I tend to drag my feet with certain genres, regardless of how much I admire the author.

Wonder twins

Sea of Shadows is your stereotypical fantasy novel. It starts with a quest: to find the children of Edgewood who disappeared after the Shadow Stalkers killed all the adults in sight. It’s up to twins, Moira and Ashyn, and their beasts to find them. Moira and Ashyn aren’t your typical twins. Moira is a Keeper; and Ashyn, the Seeker. When they were born, they were chosen by the gods to protect the empire. They are, in essence, an indomitable force. But what chances do they have against creatures that once only existed in the story books? Giant acid-spitting-earthworms, hawks as big as airplanes that bring storms, and shadows that kill in the most heinous way imaginable. Aside from beauty and smarts, these two are fearless.

Easy like Sunday morning

As one would expect from a fantasy novel, this book took the slow route to lay down its foundation. Armstrong took deliberate care in showing us exactly what kind of world with which to tell her story. In the beginning, we see what’s involved with being a Seeker. Ashyn was pretty much front and centre for three-quarters of the novel. Simply put, her job is to send the restless spirits packing. These spirits are those of criminals condemned to die in The Forest of the Dead. Of course being a newbie on her first day of the job, nothing will go as planned.

I could’ve sworn there were two of you

To be honest, I’d forgotten that Moira is a part of this story as well. I thought that the first book would focus solely on Ashyn’s role. I had to come back to the first few pages to get some sense into Moira’s role. As we go deeper into the story though, we see what kind of responsibilities rest on her shoulders. Let’s just say, if this was a story about the mafia, Moira would’ve been the designated hitman. Both girls are fierce creatures. While Ashyn uses considerable smarts, calm and poise, Moira is the brains and the brawn. She’s a fearsome thing to behold, and fiercely independent.

Three boys, two girls

There is allusion to romance(s). However, it’s not quite clear. There is a warrior who lives to aggravate Moira; and a thief who starts off completely enamoured by Moira’s ferocious persona. Things will change, though, but the pairings are not clear. Especially with the appearance of Prince Tyrus. When the dust settles, I wouldn’t care either way because I’m not vested in the romance element of this book. And that’s a good thing, because this series is fantastic with or without it.

Why you should read it

Sea of Shadows is a surprise. Immerse yourself in a well-conceptualized world featuring a couple of fierce women who had to forget their own tragedy for the sake of the empire. This may be lengthy or wordy, but this is what you fantasy readers like, isn’t it? There is intrigue, betrayal, and relentless battles that makes for an engrossing, heart-pounding read. Honestly, this is a different side of Armstrong that I’ve rarely seen; a fantastic showing of the scope of her storytelling prowess.

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