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review 2015-02-23 02:24
A Spy in the House by Y.S. Lee
A Spy in the House - Y.S. Lee

I don't think I'd have read this if it hadn't been for my local public library's very limited Overdrive e-book holdings. I decided I wanted to read a mystery, and this was one of the few mysteries immediately available for checkout that looked interesting to me.

On to the story. At the age of 12, Mary was saved from being hung as a thief and was given the chance to become a student at Miss Scrimshaw's Academy for Girls. When Mary is 17, she is given another opportunity: if she wishes, she may become a spy for the Agency, an organization connected to the school. Mary's skills as a thief allow her to have a shorter training period than normal, and, only one month later, she begins her first assignment. Her job is to listen in on conversations in the Thorold household and hopefully acquire information about Mr. Thorold's smuggling activities. To make her work easier, Mary takes a job as the new paid companion of Angelica Thorold, Mr. Thorold's daughter.

Mary is a pretty terrible novice spy. She becomes bored with her work after only a few days. Her impatience prompts her to take greater risks, which result in her activities being discovered by James Easton. Luckily for her, James is doing some spying of his own and can't turn her in without drawing attention to himself. George, James's brother, is in love with Angelica, and James is concerned that Mr. Thorold may be involved in something that could become trouble for his family if George ends up marrying Angelica. He wants to find proof of his suspicions before it's too late, so he proposes that he and Mary work together as a team.

This book started out fairly rough, with pages and pages of expository dialogue. Felicity and Anne, two of the Agency's senior members, had Mary recite the details of her early life and family for no real reason other than getting readers up to speed. They then helpfully told readers that Mary was “brave, tenacious, and decisive” (16), as well as shy of strangers and men in particular, in possession of a bad temper, and not fond of being corrected. Oh, and also that there was something “exotic” (14) about her appearance – they and others kept pointing out Mary's dark eyes and hair, as though all English people were blond and blue-eyed.

The action picked up a little after that, although the writing was never what I would call “subtle.” Based on her actual behavior, as opposed to what Felicity and Anne had said about her, I'd say that Mary was impatient and too much of a risk-taker, but at least good at thinking on her feet. She made a lot of mistakes, starting with her decision to disobey orders and begin investigating on her own. I expected her bosses to gently chastise her for putting herself in danger and then praise her for having the courage to take the initiative and do some extra investigating on her own. I was pleasantly surprised when Mary's bosses rightfully chastised her not just once, but several times. She was never exactly punished, but it was made clear that her behavior hadn't been appreciated and had made things harder on the primary agent (who Mary knew existed, but never got to meet).

At certain points, Mary was investigating so many suspicious characters that I had trouble remembering what it was she was originally supposed to be doing. There was Mr. Thorold and his supposed smuggling operation, Mrs. Thorold and her possible affair, and the secret meetings between Angelica and Michael, Mr. Thorold's secretary. In addition, things were further complicated by a slight romantic subplot involving James Easton, because of course. At least James agreed with me that Mary was a reckless novice who had a high likelihood of getting herself killed.

All in all, A Spy in the House was a “meh” read for me. If I continue reading this series, I hope that Mary becomes a less frustrating heroine who learns from her mistakes.

 

(Original review, with read-alikes, posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)

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text 2014-04-10 02:09
Reading progress update: I've read 60%.
Turned - Virna DePaul
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text 2014-04-09 13:08
Reading progress update: I've read 37%.
Turned - Virna DePaul
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review 2014-04-09 04:43
Review: Turned by Virna DePaul
Turned - Virna DePaul

Rating: C+ Liked It, but I had issues
Originally posted at That's What I'm Talking About
Review copy provided by NetGalley 

 

In Turned, Virna DePaul introduces readers to the Belladonna Agency, a top secret section of the FBI that knows all about (born) vampires and uses rogue vampires to turn human agents to made vampires. Special Agent Ty Duncan is one such agent that was turned against his will by a group of rogues who captured and tortured him, along with his sister Naomi, Peter Lancaster and Ben Porter. Ty is now helping to recruit human females who will help the Belladonna Agency bring down the renegade rogues.

 

Ana Martin grew up on the streets, protected by the Sangre gang. She and her sister had a rough life until one night when everything went wrong. After spending some time in jail, Ana escaped her past and made a new, anonymous life for herself as the owner of a Seattle coffee shop. Yet she yearns to know what happened to her sister, and after meeting Ty, she realizes that maybe her life isn’t as wonderful as she makes it out to be. Taking a big chance, Ana agrees to join Ty and the Belladonna Agency.

 

Like many first books of a new series, Turned is packed full of new characters, complex backgrounds and intensive world building. I appreciated the idea that the FBI is keeping the vampire secret from humans while simultaneously using the vampires and double crossing their queen. Unfortunately, sometimes the story becomes weighed down by the sheer volume of information. At times, I got characters confused, and I had to take detailed notes to understand the different layers behind both the FBI’s and vampire’s plans. In addition, part of the problem for me was how the information is doled out in bits and pieces. Often the reader is only privy to a part of the bigger picture with hints of “more,” and it isn’t until much later that we discover the whole story. It was the constant reminders that I didn’t know the whole truth, which really began to wear on me. Yet, the world is an interesting one, and I throughly enjoyed the concept at the core of the series. I’m hoping that the next book will be a bit more streamlined now that we have the basics of the world.

 

Right from the get go, we find out that Ty has an insatiable attraction for Ana, yet he doesn’t even understand why, only that he has difficulty keeping the vampire side at bay when he thinks of her. The pair share some extremely sexy dream time and make for a lovely couple while asleep. However, in real life, both characters attempt to keep a tight leash on his/her emotions. Of the two, I found that I liked Ty a bit more than Ana. I like that he is smart and on top of things rather than being easily mislead. For a long time I had mixed feelings about Ana. I found her strength and determination appealing, yet when she does things like leaves Ty before he can leave her... ugh! I got so frustrated!

 

A big part of the storyline comes in the last half of the book when Ty and Ana go undercover to find out if the Hispanic Community Alliance is really a front for rogue vampires to illegally collect human blood. This part of the story is pretty exciting, especially given who the leaders of the group are. I enjoyed the detailed scenery and play-by-play of the pair’s infiltration. I appreciated that the pair finally had the time to take a good look at their “relationship” and what it meant. Although I wasn’t overly excited by the mysterious man who created key plays in the climax of the story, I liked the end results. And I liked that even though the story has a definite conclusion, there are still many unanswered questions in the grand scheme of things.

 

Overall, I enjoyed Turned, but it was a mixed bag for me. At times the book kept me completely engrossed, while during others, I found myself wanting to skim through. After a while, the constant mysterious tone felt forced and became tiresome. In addition, the world building and character introductions were a bit overwhelming. However, I am intrigued by the core mythology and definitely want to read more. I liked the ultimate direction the story took and found the cast of characters full of potential future tales. In the end, I find Turned worth the read for fans of paranormal romance.

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text 2014-04-07 02:06
Reading progress update: I've read 25%.
Turned - Virna DePaul
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