Friday, September 27, 2013

United We Spy (Gallagher Girls #6) by Ally Carter


Cammie Morgan has lost her father and her memory, but in the heart-pounding conclusion to the best-selling Gallagher Girls series, she finds her greatest mission yet. Cammie and her friends finally know why the terrorist organization called the Circle of Cavan has been hunting her. Now the spy girls and Zach must track down the Circle's elite members to stop them before they implement a master plan that will change Cammie—and her country—forever. Get ready for the Gallagher Girls' most astounding adventure yet as Ally Carter's New York Times best-selling series comes to breathtaking conclusion that will have readers racing to the last page.



**SPOILER Warning** While I try my hardest not to include spoilers in my reviews, this is the sixth in the series & it would be hard to say what I love about this book without referencing things that happen earlier in the Gallagher Girls series.  If you are new to the series, then you might not want to read further.

I found the Gallagher Girls series somewhere between book two & three being released.  So, with my annual visit to the Gallagher Academy over the last few years, it really feels like I've watched these girls grow up.  In the first book, I'd Tell You I Love You, But Then I'd Have To Kill You, we meet Cameron Morgan (aka Cammie), Rebecca Baxter (aka Bex), Elizabeth Sutton (aka Liz) and Macey McHenry (who is just Macey...) at age 15.  They go to Gallagher Academy, an elite boarding school in Roseville, VA.  To the outside world, they are spoiled rich girls...but in reality, they are spies in training.  Their first mission is...of course...boys...or in particular, one boy who has caught Cammie's eyes.  They use their spy training to learn everything they can about him & to turn Cammie into the "perfect girlfriend".

As an adult reading this, it felt a little silly, but it was fun & well written.  I listened to it on audiobook to pass the time at work.  When I finished the first one, I went on to the second & then the third when it came out shortly after.  What hooked me was how much the stories matured with each book & passing year for the girls.  They really started to find themselves and their footing in the spy world as each mission got more real & more dangerous.

United We Spy picks up right where Out Of Sight, Out Of Time left off.  Cammie is still recovering from the events of the last summer...which she is finally starting to remember.   The mission is to find the leaders of the Circle of Cavan & prevent whatever world changing event they are planning.  They don't know what they are trying to stop...they just know it is supposed to be big. 

I like the fact that even though these girls are at a boarding school, their parents are still a big part of their lives.  So many YA books these days just seem to omit the existence of parents.  There are situations that they are placed in that are well beyond what I have experienced in my 30+ years, but there are also reminders along they way that they are still kids.  I also liked that they learned to rely on each other through everything, but also learned how to stand on their own when they needed to.  Most of all, I appreciated that the storyline evolved from a world where boys were their only focus to one where while romance is still a part (and don't get me wrong, I love Zach!) it isn't the point of the story.

I am sad to see the series come to an end, because I have really looked forward to and enjoyed those annual visits!  The ending is bittersweet, but perfect....especially after reading the bonus epilogue short story A Gallagher Wedding.  The only edition of the book this story is included in are the hardback copies from Barnes & Noble.  I'm glad I heard about the bonus before I bought the book so that I was sure to get the right edition.  If you read a different edition & miss out on the short story, you have two options, go sit in Barnes & Noble for a few minutes & read it...or as long as this link still works...I found this online!

Friday, September 20, 2013

Covet by Tracey Garvis Graves


What if the life you wanted, and the woman you fell in love with, belonged to someone else?

Chris and Claire Canton's marriage is on life support. Downsized during the recession and out of work for a year, Chris copes by retreating to a dark place where no one can reach him, not even Claire. When he's offered a position that will keep him away from home four nights a week, he dismisses Claire's concern that time apart could be the one thing their fragile union can't weather. Their suburban life may look idyllic on the outside, but Claire has never felt so disconnected from Chris, or so lonely.

Local police officer Daniel Rush used to have it all, but now he goes home to an empty house every night. He pulls Claire over during a routine traffic stop and runs into her again at the 4th of July parade. When Claire is hired to do some graphic design work for the police department, her friendship with Daniel grows, and soon they're spending hours together.

Claire loves the way Daniel makes her feel, and the way his face lights up when she walks into the room. Daniel knows that Claire's marital status means their relationship will never be anything other than platonic. But it doesn't take long before Claire and Daniel are in way over their heads, and skating close to the line that Claire has sworn she'll never cross.


I was introduced to Tracey Garvis Graves by Tammara Webber.  I struck up a conversation with Tammara on Facebook shortly after I finished her book, Between The Lines, and I asked her if she had any recommendations.  She told me to read On The Island.  I looked it up & found that it was a story about a teacher & her student being stranded on a desert island.  I had seen the story line of inappropriate student/teacher affairs popping up in several of the shows I was watching at the time & wasn't really interested, but I had time on my hands & nothing to read at the time so I downloaded the kindle sample & started reading.  As soon as the sample ended, I pulled up Amazon & bought the book.  Never for a second did I regret it.   So, buying Covet was a given...even though the subject matter once again made me wonder about the book.

Covet wasn't an easy book to read, but it touched on several important topics & raises some good questions.  She describes it as "Women's Fiction" as opposed to On The Island which is "Contemporary Romance", and there is definitely a different feel to this book.  What hasn't changed though, is how well it is written.  It's compelling because it is so real, but that is also the reason it is hard to read.  The circumstances could happen to anyone & some of the same mistakes would be so easy to make.  

The story centers around Claire Canton.  She once had the picture perfect life.  A happy marriage, two great kids, the house in the suburbs & great friends.  However, her life changed when her husband Chris lost his job due to downsizing.  Chris took great pride in his work & providing for his family. So, this was a devastating blow to him.  After a year of trying & failing to find work, he slides into a deep depression.  During this time, Claire has tried to be supportive, but can't help but feel more & more lonely as her husband pulls away.  When Chris does finally find a job, it requires a lot of travel. At first both he & Claire are hesitant but thinking that part is temporary & not really having any other options, Chris takes the job. His absence is felt strongly by the whole family & Claire is doing her best to hold it all together.  When she meets Officer Daniel Rush at a routine traffic stop & ends up spending time with him when she is hired to work on a project for the police department, they become friends.  Here is where the question comes into play of whether a man & woman can just be friends.  

I have seen several reviews referring to Covet as slow or boring.  It is a slower pace than a lot of the best sellers being released today, but I think the pace works for the story.  I love that we see the point of view of all three of the main characters because it shows how there is always more to a situation than what you think. I especially appreciated the addition of Chris' point of view.  It would be easy to write him off as the selfish, neglectful husband who is too absorbed in his own problems to see the pain he is causing to his family, but seeing his view point helped answer the question of why he made the choices that he did.  It's also heart-breaking & all too familiar to see how many problems are left un-resolved in a relationship just by failing to talk to each other.  As to where this story goes or how it resolves, I'll leave that to you to find out.  Don't go into this story expecting a lot of drama or excitement, but do give it a chance.  Where it didn't skyrocket to the top of my best books I've read this year list like On The Island did, I am definitely glad I read it & am already looking forward to Tracey's next book! 

Sunday, September 1, 2013

One Day More / Life After Theft by Aprilynne Pike


This captivating and poignant 50-page digital original short story is a prequel to New York Times bestselling author Aprilynne Pike's Life After Theft—a haunting novel about the true cost of paying for one's mistakes.

Most teenagers would do anything to have Kimberlee Schaffer's life. But beneath the beauty, the wealth, and the popularity, Kimberlee has a terrible problem: an uncontrollable, insatiable need to steal. Over the years, she's learned to hide her secret from those closest to her, but now it's completely consuming her life—and Kimberlee is afraid that if she doesn't find a way to put an end to her compulsion, she may see her perfect world come crumbling down.


Moving to a new high school sucks. Especially a rich-kid private school. With uniforms. But nothing is worse than finding out the first girl you meet is dead. And a klepto.

No one can see or hear Kimberlee except Jeff, so--in hopes of bringing an end to the snarkiest haunting in history--he agrees to help her complete her "unfinished business." But when the enmity between Kimberlee and Jeff's new crush, Sera, manages to continue posthumously, Jeff wonders if he's made the right choice.


In a reading slump several years ago, I stumbled upon Wings by Aprilynne Pike. I picked it up because I thought the cover was pretty & I was pleasantly surprised by the story. I was drawn into her faerie world quickly & anxiously awaited the next part of the adventure as each following book was published. When I read that she was releasing the first book in a new series along with a stand-alone book, I was thrilled. Two books in one year! And a novella teasing the stand alone! So, of course, I downloaded One Day More as soon as it was available.

While is isn't absolutely necessary to read One Day More before reading Life After Theft, I would recommend it! One Day More gives a glimpse into the life of Kimberlee Schaffer. Kimberlee is the kind of girl that most girls in high school wish they were...beautiful, rich, & popular. What nobody sees is how unhappy Kimberlee is with her life & how lonely she is. She started stealing as a way to get her parents attention, but now she can't stop.

Kimberlee does come across as a bit of a spoiled princess which makes her a little hard to relate to, but reading One Day More did exactly what it was supposed to do, it introduced me to the characters & made me want to read Life After Theft.

It is hard to review Life After Theft without giving away the end of One Day More so if you want to read the novella unspoiled, please stop reading here!


Where One Day More was Kimberlee's story, Life After Theft is Jeff's. We meet Jeff at the end of One Day More when Kimberlee discovers that she was successful in her attempt to drown & has returned as a ghost haunting the halls of her high school. Day after day passes with people walking through her until the day Jeff arrives at the school & sees her. His life is changed dramatically as he deals with Kimberlee & (after a bit of badgering) agrees to help her with her unfinished business so that she (and he!) can finally rest in peace.

Life After Theft picks up right where One Day More left off.  If you chose not to read the novella, the story will still make sense, but One Day More explains the why of how Kimberlee is the way she is which helped me to understand her motivations more than if I had just picked up Life After Theft on its own.

Kimberlee is the same spoiled princess we met in One Day More, but Jeff is a refreshing contrast. They play off of each other well & I enjoyed the way both characters grow & learn about themselves through the choices they make and their consequences. I really enjoyed the adventure & mishaps that occurred while Jeff tries to deal with Kimberlee & fit in at a new school, as well as the fact that the romantic story line wasn't a love triangle & didn't involve Kimberlee.

After reading the novella, I am glad that Life After Theft was written in Jeff's POV rather than Kimberlee's as he is the more interesting character. However, one thing I did wonder about while reading the book...and sadly am left how Jeff can see Kimberlee & no one else can. We are just asked to accept that fact, and I wish there had been a little more detail. Overall, I really enjoyed the story & all of the characters. We spend most of our time with Jeff & Kimberlee, but we also get to know Jeff's laid back, yet loving parents as well as Sera & Khail who are mysterious yet compelling as their characters unfold.

While Life After Theft didn't feel quite as well thought out as the Wings series, it was a fun story. I love Aprilynne Pike's characters because they feel real...even with the paranormal elements thrown in. They are a mixture of sweet & snarky which makes for a great read. I'm glad I picked up this one & can't wait to read Earthbound!