Tag «Espionage»

Single Sundays: Velvet Undercover by Teri Brown

Single Sundays: While this blog may be focused on reviewing book series as a whole, we can’t forget about the good ole’ standalone novel! On Sundays, I will review a novel that is considered to be a standalone novel. Here is this week’s offering:

Synopsis for Velvet Undercover (from Goodreads):

Samantha Donaldson’s family has always done its duty for the British Crown. In the midst of World War I, seventeen-year-old Sam follows in their footsteps, serving her country from the homefront as a Girl Guide and messenger for the intelligence organization MI5. After her father disappears on a diplomatic mission, she continues their studies of languages, high-level mathematics, and complex puzzles and codes, hoping to make him proud.

When Sam is asked to join the famed women’s spy group La Dame Blanche she’s torn—this could be the adventure she’s dreamed of, but how can she abandon her mother, who has already lost a husband to the war? But when her handlers reveal shocking news, Sam realizes there’s no way she can refuse the exciting and dangerous opportunity.

Her acceptance leads her straight into the heart of enemy territory on a mission to extract the most valuable British spy embedded in Germany, known to the members of LDB only as Velvet. Deep undercover within the court of Kaiser Wilhelm II, Samantha must navigate the labyrinthine palace and its many glamorous—and secretive—residents to complete her assignment. To make matters worse she finds herself forming a forbidden attraction to the enemy-a dangerously handsome German guard. In a place where personal politics are treacherously entangled in wartime policy, can Samantha discover the truth and find Velvet before it’s too late…for them both?

breakdown

Author: Teri Brown
Genre: Young Adult, Historical, Thriller, Espionage, WWI
Heat Rating: cold
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Date: October 2015
Source & Format: Public Library–eBook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I love a good espionage story and I’ve read some great ones set in WWI. I’m not sure how this one crossed my radar (I’ve noted it was from another blog but this was before I noted the blogs–doh!) but I was excited to see how this would unfold.

The Concept / The World:

I loved how each chapter started by defining an espionage term. Quite a few I knew but others I hadn’t so that was a great way to get into the story. Sam isn’t just playing spy here. The stakes are high and it is a matter of life and death for her.
It doesn’t dwell too much on the history of the time, just enough to give you the importance of the situation and help you identify the point of time. However, I wasn’t reading this for the history necessarily. I was more interested in the spy elements so it wasn’t a major issue for me.

The Plot:

I enjoyed the suspense of Sam’s mission. There were so many unknowns that it kept me hooked. The story just gets more convoluted as you go. However, we never dwell too long on anything. Which has its advantages and disadvantages. It isn’t an overly complicated spy story but it also just scratches the surface of the potential story it could have. So while it kept my attention, I craved more.
I also thought that identity of her target was super predictable. I had guessed it pretty early on and while I did waver slightly as the story evolves, I was proven right. That being said, there were a few twists that I didn’t expect so that impressed me.

The Characters:

I liked Sam as a lead. She’s smart yet flawed and it was interesting to see how she evolved as a spy and character.
I also liked how everyone has their own mystery to them that only gets uncovered as you read more about them. It added a little suspense to the story because you weren’t sure who you could and couldn’t trust.

The Romance:

Definitely the weakest part of the story due to its superficial nature. Given the “forbidden” nature  of it, it could have had more tension. It isn’t a huge aspect to the story but it plays enough of a role to interfere with the plot at times.

My Rating: 3.5/5

overall

Despite some of its flaws, this story is definitely enjoyable! It’s fast and always evolving so readers will no doubt be entertained though they might crave a little more.

Read if You Like: espionage novels, women in WWI
Avoid if You: a true espionage thriller
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Book Review: Love, Lies and Spies by Cindy Anstey

Synopsis for Love, Lies and Spies (from Publisher):
Juliana Telford is not your average nineteenth-century young lady. She’s much more interested in researching ladybugs than marriage, fashionable dresses, or dances. So when her father sends her to London for a season, she’s determined not to form any attachments. Instead, she plans to secretly publish their research.

Spencer Northam is not the average young gentleman of leisure he appears. He is actually a spy for the War Office, and is more focused on acing his first mission than meeting eligible ladies. Fortunately, Juliana feels the same, and they agree to pretend to fall for each other. Spencer can finally focus, until he is tasked with observing Juliana’s traveling companions . . . and Juliana herself.

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SERIESous’ Top PicksFav YA Standalone 2016, New Must Watch Author
Author: Cindy Anstey
Genre: Young Adult, Historical, Romance, Mystery, Espionage, Humour
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: Third Person, Alternating
Publication Date: April 19, 2016
Source & Format: Xpresso Book Tours–eARC via NetGalley

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thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I first saw this book when I was browsing NetGalley and the cover piqued my interest. The concept sounded like a lot of fun but I was bogged down with other reviews so I didn’t put it on hold right away. Until, the opportunity came along to be a Blog Tour Host and I knew I had to sign-up!

Not only is Cindy Anstey a fellow Canadian ? (woot!) and I love supporting my fellow Canadians, but this book sounded like so much fun! It’s been a long time since I’ve read an historical YA novel so I was eager to dive into that world again. 

The Concept:

This book is a great homage to Jane Austen’s work. You can definitely see where Austen’s influence lies in the not-your-everyday-beau-monde heroine Juliana and the scheming of family members. It also has all the “season-drama” as well. But don’t think the writing reads like a classical novel. The writing has a great, fast and often quirky flow to it that makes it such a joy to read. So if you didn’t enjoy Pride and Prejudice (maybe read the Zombie version 😉 ), don’t think you won’t enjoy this one because you totally will (if you like historical espionage romances that is).

The Plot:

I found that there was never a dull moment with this book! If I wasn’t absorbed into the romance, I was trying to figure out the political espionage or enjoying the antics of the other characters during the season. I knew right from the start given the situation Juliana immediately finds herself in and how she meets Spencer that this was going to be a fabulous and fun read.

There are plenty of twists along the way and there is always something to keep your attention. The best way I can describe this book is as the perfect hybrid between Meg Cabot’s YA historical reads and Tessa Dare’s Spindle Cove Series. You have the stronger, independent heroines, the dashing but intriguing heroes and a splash of humour that makes reading the story so entertaining!

The Characters:

I loved Juliana from the start. I thought she was a quirky character and I like how she handled herself throughout the novel. Maybe it’s just the novels I read that are historical romances but most of the time, the heroine is one that breaks all of societies rules so it can get a little monotonous. However, I never really felt that way with Juliana. She was very unique and had a great aura about her that drew me to love her.

Spencer was also completely swoon-worthy. He was just as entertaining as Juliana so when they were together, it was magical. He was everything I wanted a cute dashing spy to be and perhaps a little more <3

The Romance:

While I normally read romances that are a little spicier than this, there was something so sweet and completely addicting about the romance here. I think it was because I knew what a great match these two were for each other right from the get-go. Their interactions together were a blast to read and I know I giggled like a little school-girl at some of the things they said. Definitely my favourite aspect of the novel for sure.

My Rating: 5/5

overall
This is definitely at new personal favourite for me! I don’t reread books often simply for the sake of rereading them but this one I will be picking up again. I just loved the plot, the antics and the romance. It has a comforting feel about it, like Victoria and The Rogue (one of the only books I have reread multiple times).  I was thoroughly entertained from start to finish and I cannot wait to read Cindy Anstey’s next novel!
Read if You Like: historical YA, witty characters, historical espionage
Avoid if You: want a steamier read, dislike historical stories

similarreads

  • Victoria and the Rogue by Meg Cabot
  • A Week to be Wicked by Tessa Dare (Spindle Cove Series #2)

Cindy Anstey
She has lived on three continents, had a monkey in her yard and a scorpion under her sink, dwelt among castles and canals, enjoyed the jazz of Beale St and attempted to speak French.

Cindy loves history, mystery and… a chocolate Labrador called Chester. Love, Lies and Spies is her debut novel.

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DNF Series Review: Phantom Knights by Amalie Vantana

Series Review: Is this series worth your time? Does it get better as the novels progress? Or does it get worse? Find out below:

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booksynopsis

Synopsis for Phantoms in Philadelphia (from Goodreads):
When you live a life of secrets, you trust no one and question everything

Nineteen-year-old Bess Martin has many secrets. She can outride, outshoot, and outsmart most people, but her greatest secret…she is the leader of the Phantoms, a spy organization.

After spending three years fighting in a war, eighteen-year-old Jack Martin returns home to Philadelphia with his sister Bess, ready to live a life of ease, but what is waiting for them is a task more difficult than any other battle they have fought.

When people start disappearing and the weather turns unusually cold, the city is in a panic. They believe the war angered a deity and that the disappearances are the sacrifices, but who will be next? When presidential hopeful James Monroe is targeted, all clues lead to the mysterious secret society known as Levitas. It is up to Bess, Jack, and their team of Phantoms to uncover a dark and winding plot that reaches further than they could have ever imagined. As their journey draws them deep into secrets of the past, Bess and Jack may come to find that a normal life is not possible when you are a spy.

breakdown

Series: The Phantom Knights
Author: Amalie Vantana
# of Books: 4 (Phantoms in Philadelphia, The Charleston Chase, Secrets in Savannah, Deceit in Delaware )
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Young Adult, Historical, Spies, Mystery, Romance
Heat Rating: unsure
Point of View: First Person, Alternating
Publication Dates: December 2013 – July 2015
Source & Format: Own–eBook

thoughts

Note: I only read 20% of Phantoms in Philadelphia. Find out why below…

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I found Phantoms in Philadelphia for free for my Kobo a long time ago. Don’t ask me why, but every-time I glanced the title over the years, I thought it was about vampires. I think it’s the mask on the cover? But when I saw it was about spies, I was also super excited–I needed a new espionage novel in my life!

I was also really curious about the sibling dynamic. It has been wayyy too long since I read a story that focused on two siblings as the protagonists.

What I Liked:

–The Focus on the Siblings–

I’m so use to reading alternating POV from romantic partners so I thought it was super cool that this story used two siblings to tell the story. Bess and Jack seem to have their own individual plot lines happening so I liked the promise that there would be a lot happening.

What I Didn’t Like / Why I Dnf’d it:

–The Setting was Unexpected–

What I didn’t realize is that this series takes place in the 1800s. I honestly don’t know why I thought it was a modern day/1900s story so that threw me for a loop. It surprised me that I didn’t enjoy this setting more because I LOVE Victorian/Georgian era stories but I just couldn’t get into the time period.

–Not As Exciting as I Thought–

Given that the two leads have essentially their own plot lines and–you know–the fact that they are spies, I thought things would move at an accelerated pace…and that wasn’t necessarily the case.

I found the writing to be dry and my mind would wander thinking about other things so I would miss what I assume are going to be important details. I also feel like nothing really happened in the first 20% of the book–just a lot of exposition which is fine but I still really didn’t know where the plot was going to go when I decided to call it quits.

Will I Finish It?

I first DNF’d this at 15% (so end of Chapter 4) but then the reviews on Goodreads made me want to keep going. I also read the synopsis for the rest of the series and was mildly curious about the events that come later. Add to the fact that I had this as a Rock my TBR selection and it has sat on my Kobo forever and I really wanted to push forward.

So I tried to read a chapter or two a day and got through a whomping one more than before when I realized I just couldn’t do it. Yes, it sucks but it isn’t fair to this book nor myself to keep on trying to make something work that just isn’t going to no matter how hard I try.

Series Rating: N/A

overall

I think if I had read this as a young teen, I would have really enjoyed it. Fact of the matter is, as someone approaching her mid-20s and who has a lot of experience with faster paced YA reads, this one doesn’t keep up. I need insta-excitement and intrigue from the start and this one just didn’t have it.

Read if You Like: tween/younger YA reads, Victorian era spies but set in America
Avoid if You: want faster plots, want more romance

similarreads

  • A Spy in the House by Y S Lee (The Agency Series #1)

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Series Review: Gallagher Girls by Ally Carter

Series Review: Is this series worth your time? Does it get better as the novels progress? Or does it get worse? Find out below:

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SERIESous’ Top Book Series: A Favourite Young Adult Series
Series: Gallagher Girls Series
Author: Ally Carter
# of Books: 6

There is a crossover novella with the Heist Society novels called Double Crossed. There are also two other novellas: Classified Material (#4.5) and a Gallagher Wedding (#6.5).

Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Young Adult, Espionage, Action, Adventure, Romance, Chick Lit
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: First Person, Single

Thoughts:

The first thing that capture my attention with this series was the witty titles. I love punny things so I counted that as a sign that I should read these books. I also love stories about kick-ass female heroines and the whole espionage thing was an added bonus. When I really started getting into my reading addiction, this series came up all the time but I didn’t read the first book until 5 years after it had been published (so my first year of university). I was probably a little too old to be reading it but I couldn’t resist.

This series reminds me a lot of the Confessions of Georgia Nicolson Series--but if Georgia and crew were spies. Gallagher Girls definite has more suspense and focuses on the action part of the plot, but the friendship between Cammie and her friends really reminds me of Georgia and her crew which I really liked. It was a lot of fun reading about this group of girls and joining them on all their adventures from finding first love to saving the world.

These books continued to be a lot of fun even when the plot line got to be more serious after book 3, Don’t Judge a Girl by Her Cover. The first three books have a story arc that starts and concludes within the same novel (for the most part). There are some hints here and there about the eventual over-arching plot line that takes place in the later books but I found they focused mostly on a single plot line. Book 4, Only the Good Spy Young, is where the final story arc of the series begins but I found that the plot never dragged despite spanning 3 books. I think it helps that the characters are all solid in their personalities and by this point in the series you are attached to every single one of them.

I really enjoyed reading these books! They were always what I expected them to be (and a little bit more) and I’m sad to see Cammie and co. go.

Conclusion:

A very well executed and written Young Adult series. If you like tough but fun and lovable girls as your YA heroines, this is a great series for you to read. Definitely geared more towards the younger set of readers but older YA fans will no doubt enjoy.

Rating: 4.5/5
Would I Recommend this Series to a Friend: Yes

Similar Reads: Angus, Thongs and Full Frontal Snogging by Louise Rennison (Confessions of Georgia Nicolson #1)

Synopsis for I’d Tell You I Love You, But I’d Have to Kill You (from Goodreads):
Cammie Morgan is a student at the Gallagher Academy for Exceptional Young Women, a fairly typical all-girls school-that is, if every school taught advanced martial arts in PE and the latest in chemical warfare in science, and students received extra credit for breaking CIA codes in computer class. The Gallagher Academy might claim to be a school for geniuses but it’s really a school for spies. Even though Cammie is fluent in fourteen languages and capable of killing a man in seven different ways, she has no idea what to do when she meets an ordinary boy who thinks she’s an ordinary girl. Sure, she can tap his phone, hack into his computer, or track him through town with the skill of a real “pavement artist”-but can she maneuver a relationship with someone who can never know the truth about her?

Cammie Morgan may be an elite spy-in-training, but in her sophomore year, she’s on her most dangerous mission-falling in love.