Where's Your Book Today?

That's what people always say to me at work, if I don't have a book or my PDA or my eBookwise Reader with me at lunch. I love to read and I guess it's obvious. So many books, so little time...and so much dust in my apartment.

Sunday, April 30, 2006

Kelley Armstrong's online fiction - part 1

I discovered Kelley Armstrong's Women of the Otherworld series sometime after the fourth book was published. When I was looking online to find more information, I found her website where she offers short stories and novellas about the characters!

So, having read "Bitten," the first book in the series, I was excited at this extra glimpse into some of the characters' backstory. What's especially nice about these online freebies, in my opinion, is that they're written solely for the readers. The stories focus on specific incidences from the characters' lives, especially expanding on what we readers already knew from reading the novels. They weren't written with stand-alone publication in mind, so you don't get a lot of rehashing of old plots to make sure new readers can keep up.

In addition, some of these stories finally give you the men's point of view. "Bitten" is narrated from Elena's point of view. As I read through the series, each of the books comes from one of the women's point of view. (I know - duh! - it is "Women of the Otherworld." But I didn't really catch that when I started reading. I thought it was more an ensemble cast at first). Writing in the first person limits what readers can know to what the narrator knows and what she thinks she knows. It's strongly colored by her perceptions, and in my opinion, both Elena and Paige (she narrates books 3 and 4), are a bit...petulant...in their interactions, at least in the beginning. So I found myself wondering what was really going on in the heads of men.

I'm making an effort to read these with the print books in the order they would have been published. As I said above, they seem to expand on things mentioned in the books, and I think I'll be less confused if I can read them in order.

So first I read "Bitten," which was released in the US and Canada in September, 2001. According to the website, the online fiction began a result of some reader polls in 2002, beginning with two novellas in 2003. I think the second novella was written after the second book, "Stolen," but I read it and the third one first. Chronologically in the storyline, they all happen before "Bitten."

Online novella: "Savage" (rating 4 out of 5)
This is Clay's story. It explains how he became a werewolf and how Jeremy came to adopt him. It really does help to understand why Clay acts the way he does. I didn't find him entirely likeable in the published books, and this gave me enough background to be more forgiving of his foibles. It also offers a better look at Jeremy, who in the books can be a rather Spock-like character.

Online novella: "Ascension" (rating 4 out of 5)
This is the story of Jeremy's rise to power in the Pack. He's not a typical werewolf, preferring discussion and cooperation to brute force. That's not to say he's all "brains over brawn"...it's more that he's more proactive than reactive. We also get to see how the Pack interact, especially with the relationships between Jeremy, Clay, Antonio, and Nick. If I hadn't read this or Savage, I might have written off the Pack as a bunch of mysogynistic brutes, to be honest.

Online novella: "Beginnings" (rating 4.5 out of 5)
This is the story of how Clay and Elena first met and fell in love. Clay is a visiting professor where Elena goes to school, and he's pretty much drawn to her from the beginning. Because of his previously reclusive nature, though, he doesn't really have a clue what's going on. It makes for some funny and tender scenes. This novella takes you right up to the bite which changes both their lives forever.

The short stories were written in 2005, some before and some after book 4, "Industrial Magic," was released. I will probably read them all after, just to keep things simple.

If you liked Armstrong's published books, these are definitely worth checking out. And for those of you who haven't tried ebooks yet, these are a great way to get a taste of reading electronically. Armstrong offers them in three formats: HTML (web page), PDF (Adobe Acrobat), and PDB (eReader). The eReader format is my chosen format for encrypted ebooks and can be read on any Windows, Unix or Mac computer, or Pocket PC or Palm handheld. I believe it can also be read on certain "smart" phones, as well, although even I think that screen my be a bit too small for long periods of reading!

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