For What It's Worth

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Review: Omens (Cainesville #1) by Kelley Armstrong


16101040#1 New York Times bestselling author Kelley Armstrong begins her new series with Omens, featuring a compelling new heroine thrust into a decades-old murder case and the dark mysteries surrounding her strange new home.

Twenty-four-year-old Olivia Taylor Jones has the perfect life. The only daughter of a wealthy, prominent Chicago family, she has an Ivy League education, pursues volunteerism and philanthropy, and is engaged to a handsome young tech firm CEO with political ambitions.

But Olivia’s world is shattered when she learns that she’s adopted. Her real parents? Todd and Pamela Larsen, notorious serial killers serving a life sentence. When the news brings a maelstrom of unwanted publicity to her adopted family and fiancĂ©, Olivia decides to find out the truth about the Larsens.

Olivia ends up in the small town of Cainsville, Illinois, an old and cloistered community that takes a particular interest in both Olivia and her efforts to uncover her birth parents’ past.

Aided by her mother’s former lawyer, Gabriel Walsh, Olivia focuses on the Larsens’ last crime, the one her birth mother swears will prove their innocence. But as she and Gabriel start investigating the case, Olivia finds herself drawing on abilities that have remained hidden since her childhood, gifts that make her both a valuable addition to Cainsville and deeply vulnerable to unknown enemies. Because there are darker secrets behind her new home and powers lurking in the shadows that have their own plans for her. ~ Goodreads

Source: Finished copy provided by Dutton Adult books for my honest review

Review:
I have been a long time fan of Armstrong's writing. Most readers know her from the, just concluded, Women of the Otherworld series and her YA Darkest Powers/Rising trilogies. My personal favorite is the non-paranormal Nadia Stafford trilogy. I'm going to get back to that series later on in my review.

Omens is not so much paranormal as mystery with a touch of paranormal elements. I didn't have a problem with that but it might be jarring for hardcore fans of the Otherworld series that are missing Elena and all her supernatural friends.

This is a fascinating start to a series and the author does not just hand you the story with one big info-dump. Omens unravels slowly - sometimes too slowly - leaving you with more questions than answers.

Olivia starts out as a somewhat pampered young woman from a prestigious family with a high profile boyfriend. Her life seems perfect until her world is turned upside down by the revelation that she was adopted and her real parents are notorious serial killers. When the news goes public people she thought she could count on abandon her and she has to unravel the secrets of her past on her own and without the money that has afforded her such an easy life.

I have mixed feelings about Olivia, and the story in general concerning her. Even though she's wealthy, she's not a brat. Quite the opposite. She cares for others and is extremely intelligent and loyal. I really admired her. When she finds out the truth about her biological parents, it shakes her to the core but she pulls herself up and strikes out on her own to learn the truth about her parents and childhood. Her inner monologue often leans towards whiny and repetitive in the first half. She makes a few very dumb mistakes, yet still considers herself self reliant. She's a little cocky at times but she's learning though so I was able to cut her some slack.

From the earlier publicity surrounding this title, I thought this was going to be more about Olivia grappling with what it was like to be the child of serial killers. Of thinking you're one kind of person because of how you were raised - then wondering if your genetic makeup could have more of an influence on you as a person. Nature vs nurture. I adore those kinds explorations. I was also very on board with the uber creepy town of Cainesville!

Unfortunately, both of those elements, although touched on, aren't the focus of this story. This is almost straight up mystery and that's just not a genre I enjoy much. I feel that Omens tries to be all things and as a result felt scattered, especially with the multiple POV’s (although it’s mainly form Olivia’s). I do think it's all groundwork begin laid down and will all come together and be something amazing.

I really think this is a series you will need to be patient and stick with for the long haul. It's quite complex, there are an endless cast of intriguing characters and we've just touched the tip of the iceberg as far as Cainesville is concerned. The story could head in dozens of different directions which is always exciting.

One thing I did notice though is a striking similarity to a few plot elements from Armstrong's Nadia Stafford series. That sort of pulled me out of Omens a bit because I kept thinking - Hey! Didn't something like that happen with Nadia? I can also see a set up in the romance department that again, was in the Nadia series. I could always be wrong on that front and if you've never read that series it won't bother you at all. I kept getting a sense of deja vu.

Final thoughts: Omens is a  well written and promising start to a series that's full of mystery, complex characters and the potential for some shocking twists. Personally, I'm not a fan of the mystery genre, so I wasn't as engrossed as I had hoped but I still highly recommend it to those who are.

I also want to point out that Omens is light on the romance. I know I have quite a few followers who enjoy a more plot based/world building heavy story without a lot of steam and this is it.

Author: website | goodreads | twitter
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Omens

21 comments:

  1. I'm a HUGE Armstrong fan -- read everything she's produced, including the MG she wrote with Melissa Marr (another fave). I really enjoyed this first book. Very different than what we're used to with her stories in that there was only the suggestion of paranormal (for now) but the worldbuilding, as always, is astounding. Looking forward to seeing where she takes us!

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    1. I haven't read Loki's Wolves yet but I want to. I hear it's amazing.

      I'm sticking with this because I think the future installments will delve deeper into everything. I don't' mind the lack of paranormal at all - I'm just not a who-done-it fan lol

      Have you read Written in Red by Ann Bishop? It has a similar writing style and is VERY good.

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  2. I liked this slow series build to Cainesville. I do think that it can go in so many directions , but I do think that there will be romance in the other book with either James or Gabriel. Yes I wanted to see you brought up about nature vs nuture, but I think we might see more of that in the other books.

    Gasp it reminded me of written in Red and you know how much I adored that one :)

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    1. It totally reminded me of Written in Red! I did like that one a bit more but this is going to be a great series.

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    2. Yes I think that this series will be Great :)

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  3. Ah, when you have such conflicting feelings on the main character

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    1. I didn't love Olivia but she's young and had a lot thrown at her for one book. Sometimes I get irritated with characters who run in to things "knowing" they're right but that's probably my own cautious personality sneaking in lol

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  4. I am not sure about this one, I like her PNRUF series...but this is different

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  5. I have a Nadia book but haven't read it yet. I'm also behind on the Otherworld series. I do enjoy her writing and I also like a good mystery so I think this one would be for me. I do want to check it out. One thing I've learned from her books is that even if you are conflicted with a character don't count them out as blah. You might end up liking them in the end. LOL

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    1. Oh I think you would like the Nadia series. It's a good time to start it too. The third and final book is coming out in November.

      Olivia has a bit of a Elena/Savannah vibe. She's different but has that stubborn streak that's sometimes annoying. She's going to grow into a kick ass woman though!

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  6. THIS: I really think this is a series you will need to be patient and stick with for the long haul.


    I agree! I am willing to stick around and get to know Olivia more. Get to see how her relationships (parents and otherwise) play out :) I really liked the mystery aspect. Warmed my little mystery reading heart!

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  7. I've not read any of Armstrong's books, but I've heard good things. I think I would enjoy this more if it focused more on the relationships than the mystery.
    Nice review, Karen!

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    1. I'm surprised! You would love her Otherworld series Andrea!

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  8. I haven't read any of this author's book but I know they are very popular. This one sounds interesting but I like more romance!

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    1. The romance is coming lol but no - there isn't much in this book.

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  9. I love straight-up mystery, but I'm disappointed that the book doesn't focus much on the serial killer parents, which for me would be one of the most interesting parts of the story!

    Thanks so much for stopping by! Jen @ YA Romantics

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    1. It does - especially with the mother. Just not in the way I hoped it would. If you like mysteries you might enjoy Omens.

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  10. This actually sounds like something I'd like. I still have to read her other series too though...yes, I'm late to the party once again.

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  11. I love it when books just flirt with the paranormal, I think the subtlety makes things much more interesting. I am so far behind on the WotU series that I doubt I'll ever catch up, but I'm defintiely reading this. Armstrong is a pretty fabulous author if you ignore her current YA trilogy :D

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    1. I'm not a fan of the YA series either. I haven't read all the WotO series - I skipped around :-) I like the werewolf ones!

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  12. I freaking LOVED this one. After having read so many Kelley Armstrong books I'm used to her very slow moving plots. Normally I hate slow moving but with her I always know the payoff is worth it in the end. I liked that it was light on the romance - that means there will be REAL development there not just something that will feel superficial. So glad you were a fan!

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