Tag Archives: spies

Late to the Party ARC Review – All Fall Down (Embassy Row #1) by Ally Carter

22571275Title:  All Fall Down (Embassy Row #1)

Author: Ally Carter

Rating:  ★★★★

Synopsis:  Grace Blakely is absolutely certain of three things:

1. She is not crazy.
2. Her mother was murdered.
3. Someday she is going to find the killer and make him pay.

As certain as Grace is about these facts, nobody else believes her — so there’s no one she can completely trust. Not her grandfather, a powerful ambassador. Not her new friends, who all live on Embassy Row. Not Alexei, the Russian boy next door, who is keeping his eye on Grace for reasons she neither likes nor understands.

Everybody wants Grace to put on a pretty dress and a pretty smile, blocking out all her unpretty thoughts. But they can’t control Grace — no more than Grace can control what she knows or what she needs to do. Her past has come back to hunt her . . . and if she doesn’t stop it, Grace isn’t the only one who will get hurt. Because on Embassy Row, the countries of the world stand like dominoes, and one wrong move can make them all fall down.

Huge thank you to Scholastic Canada for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

When I was at OLA back in January, I remember being handed an ARC for All Fall Down by a Scholastic Canada representative. I have never read an Ally Carter book, but many of my bookish and blogger friends all say she’s a fun read, and great for getting out of reading flunks. Considering this was my first book by her, I can say it likely won’t be my last because this book was a ton of fun.

Sometimes you just want a read a book that sweeps you through the story in a fast-paced way. It’s crazy, ridiculous, stuff is constantly happening, and this book is exactly that. The plot is constantly moving, you don’t get a breather, but you don’t mind because the story is just that engaging. In a lot of ways, readingAll Fall Down reminded me a lot of the television showsRevenge and Homeland. It’s the story of a young girl desperate to find the person who murdered her mother, but it still has all the elements of being a political charged story. Carter keeps the narrative moving at lightning speeds, and it helps considering how the events within the novel are laid out. Everything felt very well-plotted, carefully laid out, but with a ton of action and intrigue. I’m aware that Carter has written a lot of spy novels, and she definitely has a knack for it.

The one thing that drove me a bit crazy with this story was Grace, our heroine. At times she felt a little too one-note, because she basically spends a lot of the novel obsessing over a man she is convinced killed her mother. Grace is completely fixated, focused and obsessed, but she comes across lacking in other personality traits, which is odd given the rest of the characters in the story. I adored Rosie, Megan and Noah, and felt like in terms of characters, they contributed so much more than Grace did. Also Alexei was quite interesting, given his political position against Grace, even he had more personality than Grace did.

It was also weird to read a YA novel that didn’t have a romance. I mean, you get a sense that Grace is likely going to hook up with either Noah or Alexei at some point in the series, but I appreciate how much of this novel felt like “strictly business” and I was happy to see that no romance had been shoehorned in, because after completing it, it just would have came too out of left-field in my opinion. Sometimes it’s just nice to not have a romance in a story, especially when there’s nothing developing towards it.

I loved what a quick read this book was, and I do have Heist Society in my collection that I think I may now need to bump up in the ranks. Ally Carter is just such a fun writer and I totally understand why my friends like to read her books when they are in a funk — they are just crazy, and ridiculous, but you don’t mind because the ride is just so engaging. I’ll definitely be checking out book two when it releases next January.

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ARC Review – Going Rogue by Robin Benway

17934520Title:  Going Rogue

Author: Robin Benway

Rating: ★★★★ 1/2

Synopsis: Being permanently based in a local New York City high school as an undercover operative has its moments, good and bad, for 16-year-old safecracker Maggie Silver. Pros: More quality time with her former mark-turned-boyfriend Jesse Oliver and insanely cool best friend, Roux. Getting to spend quality time with her semi-retired and international spy honorary uncle, Angelo. Cons: High school and the accompanying cliques, bad lunches, and frustratingly simple locker combinations. But when Maggie’s parents are falsely accused of stealing priceless gold coins, Maggie uses her safecracking skills to try and clear their names. Too bad it only serves to put her and everyone she loves in danger. Maggie and her “new team” flee to Paris where they must come up with a plan to defeat their former allies.

Sam’s Review:

Huge thank you to Walker Children’s / Razorbill Canada for the advance reader’s copy of this book!

It’s official: I am a believer than Robin Benway’s books have the power to make you feel good about life. For all the insanity that Maggie Silver has in her life, I always appreciate the positive messages that Benway leaves for her readers to grab hold of and cherish.I admit to being hard on Also Known As. It hit a few of my YA pet peeves that really irked me causing it to be not be an instant favourite. Funny enough, the sequel Going Rogue has made me a fan. Perhaps its the fact that Maggie’s world feels a lot more settled and matured, or may be it was just the plot of Going Rogue worked better for me – its hard to really say why this book worked while the previous did not. While you have to have read Also Known As to enjoy Going Rogue, I felt like the plot and its characters were so much more solid here. The crisis Maggie and co. faced felt ten times more real than the previous book, and overall, Maggie’s parents were real parents in this book. That was my biggest beef with the original book, so I’m glad that in this book they came across a lot more realistic, if still just as quirky as ever.

Also Maggie and Jesse are still freakin’ adorable. They are such a wonderfully sane couple despite all the circumstances and insanity they face. When Jesse created the alphabet of Maggie, I nearly died of laughter. In fact, this book is really made of smiles and laughter. There were so many laugh-out-loud moments that it was hard to be frustrated with it. Maggie is still a terrible spy, but I love that she constantly tries. She felt much more mature and realistic in this book and her voice was still as infectious as ever.

And Roux and Angelo! I am so happy that they got the endings they did. No spoilers, but they were my favourite characters so of course I was rooting for them to find some sense of happy in their lives! I think everyone in this book has such a wonderfully positive attitude (yes, even Roux) and perhaps that’s what worked for me most of all.

Going Rogue is such a snappy, fast-paced read. It’s for those who want a little action, a little romance, and a whole lot of fun. It doesn’t expect a lot from its reader, it just expects that the reader has a charming ride from start to finish. Read Also Known As and then grab Going Rogue and I swear you’ll have a lot of fun with this series.

ARC Review – Sekret by Lindsay Smith

15673520Title:  Sekret

Author: Lindsay Smith

Rating: ★★★ 1/2 & ★★★★ 1/2

Synopsis: Yulia’s father always taught her that an empty mind is a safe mind. She has to hide her thoughts and control her emotions to survive in Communist Russia, especially because she seems to be able to read the minds of the people she touches. When she’s captured by the KGB and forced to work as a psychic spy with a mission to undermine the U.S. space program, she’s thrust into a world of suspicion, deceit, and horrifying power where she can trust no one. 

I received an ARC from the publisher and I’m writing this honest review to say thank you.

River’s Review: 

3.5 Stars

I wanted to love Sekret more than I did. Spies. SPIES GUYS. I love anything with spies. And this wasn’t just spies, it was PSYCHIC RUSSIAN SPIES. Which was so cool.

Overall I enjoyed the setting of this book a lot, but I sometimes have trouble getting into historical books and that might have just been one of the parts that disconnected me from this book. Another part was that it was slow. I would read for an hour and be like ‘wow, I read so much!’ and then update my status and be shocked to see that I’d only read like 30 pages. I just feel like it took me FOREVER to read this. And it wasn’t that long and it wasn’t boring it was just… slow.

The entire thing wasn’t slow though. When they went on missions it was really tense and I was totally sucked in! But when they were training at school and stuff I just never felt fully engaged.

Despite that the writing was beautiful, and I loved the imagery that flowed through the words. I also enjoyed learning about Russia and the atmosphere of the book.

I did like the characters, and felt so bad for Sergei at times, he just was like such a huge puppy dog trying so hard to make the best of everything and then there’s dark, mysterious, musical Valentin who steals everyone’s hearts through his dark eyes. Ugh, it was hard to pick who to swoon over.

I DID like that I didn’t see the twist coming and I want to know SO much more about how all of that came to be! Maybe in the next book?

So if you like historical fiction, then you’ll love this. If you like spies, then you’ll love this. If you like psychic teens then you’ll like this. If you like all of these, then you’ll LOVE this.

Sam’s Review:

4.5 Stars

I am a huge fan of books that take place in Russia or use Russian history as a backdrop. I also love spy and espionage story, so Sekret won me over with its premise alone. Turns out, there was also an excellent novel hidden in this book!

Although this is Smith’s debut, this is one of those books where you can’t tell it’s in fact, a debut. The writing is tight, tension filled, and memorizing. I found I had a hard time putting Sekret down every time I started it, because I had to know what was happening to these characters and this world. The writing makes everything feel so vivid and terrifying, I literally jumped a few times just because Smith took turns I wasn’t necessarily expecting.

Seriously, the plot twist alone int his book makes it worth the read. I didn’t see it coming, and it’s definitely something that will make your jaw-drop. Also Sergei needed like, all the hugs in this book. All of them. I just loved all the characters, and I thought Yulia was a fabulous protagonist to follow. She has great convictions, strength and determination, and it’s no wonder why people fear her gifts in a lot of ways. With the way the novel ended, I’m struggling to wait for book two. I really am.

Sekret is slow, but thoughtful. Engaging, but creepy. There’s so much to love in the writing, characters and world building that I feel like Smith wrote an almost grand-slam. I do think the pacing will bother some readers, but when slow burns are done the right way, they often can be the most interesting reads of all.