Book Reviews: Call Down the Hawk by Maggie Stiefvater and War Spies by Daniel Polansky @mstiefvater @DanielPolansky @Scholastic

Call Down the Hawk
The Dreamer Trilogy, Book 1
Maggie Stiefvater
Scholastic Press, November 2019
ISBN 978-1338188325

There’s an inexplicable way that Ms. Stiefvater wields her words so that the reader is comforted by the cadence and speeds along the stripped-down, short statements that say so very much. If this book were a car, it’d be the 2020 Lotus. Call Down the Hawk doesn’t warm up, it’s already impatiently revving, mirroring the barely-held-back growl that vibrates inside of Ronan Lynch.

Yes, my fellow Raven Cycle fans, Ronan Lynch is back! And, we are in his world now. Beyond the barns.

Ms. Stiefvater, of course makes no time for traipsing down memory lane, but there’s no need. New readers won’t need the background of The Raven Cycle to thoroughly enjoy this story centered around the Lynch brothers. I will not be surprised however, if readers of this first tantalizing tale in the Dreamer Trilogy seek out Raven Cycle series while waiting for the second, simply Stiefvater, Dreamer Book.

Ronan Lynch is a Dreamer. But that isn’t what makes him so surly and somewhat terrifying. Those traits are mainly because he is always thinking. Working out complicated puzzles in his head means that any interruption, even as innocuous as a casual greeting, is enough to have him snarling.

Declan, the eldest Lynch sibling, exists in a severely serious state of being. His dogged determination to be boring infuriates Ronan, while Ronan’s recklessness gives Declan heartburn. But both brothers adore their younger brother Matthew. The elder siblings are viciously protective of the blissfully unaware boy, in his constant state of content.

Despite their differences, the brothers Lynch are going to have to find a way to work together. The recent loss of both parents has made the trio a target. Turns out, Dreamers aren’t quite as secret or unique as the boys had been led to believe. In fact, there is a group of people banded together for the sole purpose of finding and eliminating all of the Dreamers.

If the brothers Lynch are to survive the assault, they will have to finally be completely honest with each other. Facing the folks set out to obliterate Dreamers could be exponentially easier than unleashing the secrets each sibling has been desperately trying to keep.

Reviewed by jv poore, November 2019.


War Spies: One Mission, Six Bios
Daniel Polansky
Scholastic Paperbacks, November 2013
ISBN 978-0-545-57655-0
Trade Paperback

Spies seem to have always been significant in warfare, serving not only to steal and share information, but often sabotaging plans as well. This non-fiction collection contains six scintillating, snap-shot bios of some of the most effective double-agents throughout history.

While this may have been written with Middle-Grade and Young Adult readers in mind, this Not-So-Young reader found it to be incredibly interesting and enlightening. I know many of “my” students will definitely dig it.

From the ‘original spymaster’ to the ‘limping lady’, fascinating facts fill the pages. I even re-read the section on the British spy agency’s first female operative. Although I knew a good bit about Belle Boyd, I was delighted to discover the first crime she committed: as a child, she taught a young slave to read.

War Spies is the 7th book in the Profiles series and I learned so much, so quickly that I’m going back for more.

Reviewed by jv poore, January 2019.

Book Review: The Agent’s Daughter by Ron Corriveau

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Title: The Agent’s Daughter
Author: Ron Corriveau
Publication date: May 18th 2013
Genres: Romance, Thriller, Young Adult



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The Agent's DaughterThe Agent’s Daughter
Ron Corriveau
Geek Parade Books, May 2013
ISBN 9780615799018
Trade Paperback

From the author—

Melina has been preparing for a future career as a spy. She just doesn’t know it.

Evan Roberts, legendary field agent for an ultra-secret United States government intelligence agency always knew that his fifteen-year-old daughter Melina also possessed the absolute lack of fear required of an agent. Without telling her his real profession or his intention, he began to guide her toward an eventual career with the agency. However, Melina’s world is shattered after her mother is involved in an accident that leaves her mysteriously unhurt but unresponsive. Her father’s plan on hold, Melina settles into life at a suburban high school, immersing herself in a world of schoolwork, her friends and a budding romance with Alex, the cute new guy in her class.

When Melina and her father uncover shocking new information about her mother’s accident, Melina is pulled deep into her father’s shadowy world. With Alex desperately trying to find her and only hours to go before it will be too late to save her mother, Melina and her father work together using their combined skills to find a way to reach her.


If any book was ever to cause me to have a split personality, it would be this one. Do I like it? Yes, in some ways. Do I think it’s well-written? No, not really. So how can I say I like it?

The premise is appealing and, although it’s completely over the top, that’s okay, even a good thing, because it’s a teenaged spy/ninja warrior story so of course it has to be way beyond belief. That’s also what makes it fun and is the primary reason I enjoyed it for what it is.

On the downside, this author clearly has no idea how teens talk or behave and I wonder how he can be so removed from reality.  In a writing style that’s frequently annoying, the author apparently doesn’t believe in using contractions any more than he has to and, as a result, the dialogue is stilted and doesn’t flow as normal conversation does. We also get a tremendous amount of telling and exposition that’s unwieldy and sometimes unnecessary such as when Alex explains to Melina what a Castle Grant is after she has just told him her brother has one.

Another irritant is that this family is just too perfect. Melina, Travis and their father are all either brilliant or remarkable fighters or both, making them seem almost like comic book characters.

The scene that will stick in my mind for way too long takes place in the high school cafeteria. I can’t say why it got my attention except to say it involves kissing—and, no, I don’t mean a scene where there’s kissing going on.

When it’s all said and done, I think this story is better suited for middle graders rather than high school teens because it is, put simply, rather childish. When you get to the scene I mentioned, you’ll know what I mean and, if the author really thinks such a conversation would happen among today’s 15-year-old girls, he needs to time travel back to his own high school days. Even back then, girls were not this naive and clueless. Still and all, the premise of the book is entertaining and I think there is a market for it.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, January 2014.


About the Author

Ron CorriveauRon Corriveau is an electrical engineer and works designing custom integrated circuits. He started writing to prove to himself that he actually does have a right side to his brain. Originally from Southern California, he currently lives outside of Dallas with his lovely wife and two awesome kids. He has only recently come to terms with the fact that he is a geek, although he would like to stress that he doesn’t hold any kind of leadership role in the organization.

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Book Reviews: Sorrow’s Knot by Erin Bow, The Passion of the Purple Plumeria by Lauren Willig, and The Last Condo Board of the Apocalypse by Nina Post

Sorrow's KnotSorrow’s Knot
Erin Bow
Arthur A. Levine Books, November 2013
ISBN 978-0-545-16666-9

How many times have you asked “Why?” only to be told (with a bit of exasperation) “Because, we’ve always done it this way!”  From the outside looking in, this can be frustrating, a non-answer.  It doesn’t explain a thing and it seems somewhat defensive and stubborn.  Of course, if you have “always done it this way”, and there are no obvious repercussions, the old “if it ain’t broke…..” adage may seem more than adequate.  With that philosophy, there would be no progress, no improvements, we would become stagnant.  The devil’s advocate may wonder, what is wrong with that?  Well, Sorrow’s Knot shows us.

I finished this book awhile ago, but writing this review has been challenging. I could almost write two different reviews—both hugely in favour of the book.  It is truly fantastic.  The unique and subtle life lessons were spot-on and welcome.  As an adult (chronologically), a mom, a short-time former educator and self-proclaimed promoter of the written word; I find this to be a stand-out book.  On the other hand, the book loving, adolescent inside of me just thinks it is a kick-ass story.

First, the appeal to the intended Middle-Grade audience: allow me to gush about the Rock-Star-Quality characters.    Otter, Cricket and Kestrel are unique and likeable, individually; but as the tightly knit trio, they are outstanding! I want to hang out with Kestrel, be her BFF.  She is my new heroine.  I could spend days completing menial tasks if Cricket was there to tell me stories.  The friendship among them surpasses all, including the laws that their people have forever lived by.  Together, they face mystery, intrigue, love and death.

Strengths exhibited by Kestrel, a female ranger, are more real, and therefore way cooler, than the modern-day vampire.  Sweeter romance will not be easily found.  In their world, okishae, said to mean mate, pair, knot.  It is the exception, not the rule.  Okishae lasts a lifetime.  Two humans choosing to love each other, exclusively and forever, is not just rare, it is strange.  That which is feared, The White Hand, is a brand-new (or newly introduced) creepy, eerie and scary entity.  The vagueness surrounding it adds to the mystique and makes for a bone-chilling tale.  As their sheltered life begins to unravel, Otter and Kestrel are faced with decisions that will impact, not just them, but the entire population of Westmost and potentially beyond.  Unceremoniously joined up with a complete stranger in Orca; the ladies will be forced to choose where to place their trust.  Should they accept Orca’s wild tales or continue believing what they’ve always been told?  The many twists and turns are thought-provoking and entertaining, making this one of the grooviest books I’ve read this year.

Now—a quick adult-themed note: I love that the village is mostly women, that a monogamous relationship is an oddity, that a Story-Teller plays such a vital role in the community and that the adolescents are so strong, smart and capable.  Most of all, I loved the purity and loyalty that came with their friendship.  These might not leap out as attributes to the intended audience, but the strength and solidarity that they lend to the story will not be missed.

Coming out in November, just in time to kick off your holiday shopping, this would be a welcome gift to any reader.

Reviewed by jv poore, October 2013.


The Passion of the Purple PlumeriaThe Passion of the Purple Plumeria   
A Pink Carnation Novel  
Lauren Willig
New American Library, August 2013
ISBN 978-0-451-41472-4
Trade Paperback

The story opens in Paris with Gwendolyn Meadows, part of the intrepid Pink Carnation spy team, crouched on a balcony outside a room occupied by opera singer, Aurelia Fiorila, and the notorious Tallyrand, Napoleon’s foreign minister. They are hatching a plot whereupon Aurelia will play the spy in Britain. Gwen, of course, carries the news back to her employer and friend, Miss Jane Wooliston, who is known in certain circles as the Pink Carnation.

Meanwhile, Colonel William Reid, late of the East India Company, has just arrived in England with plans to build a home for himself and his two daughters, whom he sent to England ten years previously when his wife died.

Gwen and William meet on the doorstep of the girl’s school attended by Jane’s younger sister and William’s youngest daughter, only to discover the two girls have disappeared. Have they been kidnapped? Has someone taken Agnes Wooliston in order to flush out the Pink Carnation? Or is something else at work here? Why is Lizzy gone too?

The set-up sends Gwen and William on a wild chase seeking the girls. A sultan’s treasure is involved, stolen by one of William’s sons. The plot carries forward with non-stop action, fine-tuned characterizations, and excellent descriptions. And that’s just for starters.

Author Willig’s builds her two main characters with snappy, laugh-out-loud dialogue. The situations are both madcap and serious. Yes, I know. Both. The story building reminds me of some of Georgette Heyer’s lighter and more amusing farces, only Willig is funnier. I’ll certainly be reading more of Lauren Willig’s spy series. The only thing I found not to love was the insertion of some chapters that take place in the present day. Those chapters seemed to me to break the spell set up for William and Gwen.

Reviewed by Carol Crigger, October 2013.
Author of Three Seconds to Thunder.


The Last Condo Board of the ApocalypseThe Last Condo Board of the Apocalpyse
Nina Post
Curiosity Quills Press, February 2012
ISBN: 978-1-62007-016-1
Trade Paperback

Kelly Driscoll is a bounty hunter for hire tasked with finding one suspect within a 500-apartment condominium. Finding him within two days will be pretty spectacular but that’s her job and she’s gonna do it. But there are more to these residents than meets the eye. Will she find her suspect in time and claim all her expenses?

To be honest, I couldn’t really get into this book at all. Even writing the short synopsis above took an age because quite simply, I didn’t care about the story, mainly because it was so manic throughout that I don’t know if I got it in the end. Ask me what it was about and I’ll struggle to tell you accurately because there are a myriad of characters all running about acting strangely and seemingly without purpose and certainly without sense. The only thing this achieved was to confuse and add unnecessary complexity to the story that made me want to just give up. Reading page after page about condo meetings is agonising and boring. I guess it was meant to highlight how this weird group of characters get distracted from their original purpose but I could have easily done without it, or at least had a very edited, shortened version. It felt like filler, just very, very boring filler.

Put it this way, the story is too haphazard and convoluted to actually work. It lacks direction and purpose and lurches from thread to thread with too many stops and starts. 61 chapters in a 250 page book is too many in my opinion and only add to the manic atmosphere of the story. While I understand that the book is supposed to be detailing the advent of the apocalypse, having to cling to the plot with a death grip does not make for pleasant reading and in the end, the story wasn’t strong enough for me to even care. It ends very abruptly as well which in this instance was a blessing for me when I realised that I didn’t actually have another 25 pages to read. But, abrupt endings are never a good idea anyway. Teasing and tantalising the reader with an open ending or cliffhanger is good, dropping the story like a hot potato is bad. Since the book contained a preview of the next book titled The Last Donut Shop of the Apocalypse, I’m pretty sure this is aiming to be a series. However, I didn’t even bother to read the sample chapter so indifferent was I to the first title and I certainly didn’t dip into the other sample chapter of One Ghost Per Serving either. This book needs a darn good editor and extensive rewriting before it will hit any bestseller lists. As it is, I won’t be recommending it to others.

Reviewed by Laura McLaughlin, August 2013.

Book Review: Pretty Girl-13 by Liz Coley and Double Crossed by Ally Carter

Pretty Girl-13Pretty Girl-13
Liz Coley
Katherine Tegen Books, March 2013
ISBN 978-0-06-212737-2

From the publisher

Angie Chapman was thirteen years old when she ventured into the woods alone on a Girl Scouts camping trip. Now she’s returned home…only to find that it’s three years later and she’s sixteen-or at least that’s what everyone tells her.

What happened to the past three years of her life?

Angie doesn’t know.

But there are people who do-people who could tell Angie every detail of her forgotten time, if only they weren’t locked inside her mind. With a tremendous amount of courage, Angie embarks on a journey to discover the fragments of her personality, otherwise known as her “alters.” As she unearths more and more about her past, she discovers a terrifying secret and must decide: When you remember things you wish you could forget, do you destroy the parts of yourself that are responsible?


Angie’s parents have experienced what every parent fears, the abduction of a child with no resolution, no knowledge of what really happened on that fateful day. When Angie suddenly reappears three years later, the repercussions are not what we might imagine, should we find ourselves in such a situation. I would not be the least bit surprised that the child can’t drop back into life as though nothing happened but, in this case, I found her father’s behavior baffling and sometimes her mother’s was also. Yes, her mom has the excuse of pregnancy wreaking havoc on her hormones and moods but her dad’s aloofness is nothing but hurtful and it’s even shameful when he has to choose whose story to believe.

Angie, on the other hand, is an extremely sympathetic character and I understood her desire to have a normal life as well as her rage against her parents. When it began to be apparent that “others” had an active say in what normal meant, I completely bought into the premise. Although multiple personalities are a fairly rare condition, it makes sense for Angie when her alters start to reveal what Angie’s life has been like—and not just for the past three years.

I’ve read other books that feature a kidnapped child, including those who are held for long periods, but this one struck me as particularly appealing. I like Angie very much and applaud her strength, no matter it’s source. Ms. Coley has done a fine job of telling not only Angie’s story but that of the people who love her, including those who will always be a part of her.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, March 2013.


Double CrossedDouble Crossed
A Spies and Thieves Story
Ally Carter
Disney/Hyperion, January 2013
ISBN 978-1-4231-8747-9

From the author—

Macey McHenry—Glamorous society girl or spy-in-training?

W.W. Hale V—Heir to an American dynasty or master thief?

There are two sides to every coin. Whether these two can work together is a tossup.

Born into privilege, Macey and Hale are experts at mingling with the upper class. But even if they’ve never raised an eyebrow at the glitz, neither teenager has ever felt at home with the glamour.

When Macey and Hale meet at a society gala, the party takes a dangerous turn. Suddenly they’re at the center of a hostage situation, and it’s up to them to stop the thugs from becoming hostile. Will Macey’s spy skills and Hale’s con-man ways be enough to outsmart a ruthless gang? Or will they have to seek out the ultimate inside girl to help?

Two very uncommon teens discover each other, and their respective talents, at a high society charity auction just before a band of masked intruders breaks in and a heist begins. It begins but why doesn’t it end as quickly as most such things do, allowing the robbers to abscond with the goods before the cops get there? Macey and Hale are on their own to try to save the day—but, then again, they’re not really on their own when Kat and Abby make their presence known in Hale’s earbuds.

This is a novella that combines the characters of Ms. Carter‘s two series and then offers excerpts from those series. I’ve known about these books for quite a while but have never read any of them—now I’m a convert and am heading on over to fill up my Nook. Hmm…not sure which series to start with but probably Gallagher Girls since that was first. Can’t wait to get started!

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, March 2013.