Book Review: The Windy City

The Windy City
I, Q #5
by Roland Smith & Michael P. Spradlin

My rating: 4 / 5
Genre: Children’s spy thriller

Spoiler notice: The following review will contain some spoilers for the previous books in the series, starting with Independence Hall.

New step-siblings Q (short for Quest) and Angela continue to trail a ghost terrorist cell along with SOS, a team made up mostly of retired operatives from the CIA and other organizations. Angela’s mother is climbing her way toward the top of the ghost cell, but the danger is getting higher all the time. Meanwhile, Boone may not be the only one with a mysterious ability, and there seems to be a mole on the SOS team or amongst their allies.

Here we have part 5 of the series-long story, the kind of series that you really need to start from the beginning. A lot more happened in this book than in the previous, which I’m glad for, because the previous wasn’t as interesting as the earlier books in the series had been. I was concerned the second half of the series would end up being a let-down compared to the first half. I can’t say that we get much in the way of answers in this book, but there were certainly some revelations. And the story really moved forward, with action comparable to what we see in the rest of the series.

One thing I’ve begun to notice in this book is that Q, as the main character, isn’t the stereotype we might expect in a book like this—an action-loving kid who has taken to all of this adventure and danger. He’s anxious and jumpy and will probably need some therapy in the future. It makes for a much more realistic story, even while there are some unrealistic things happening as well. I do wish the author had had the foresight to realize he might want to include some scenes from the POV of someone other than Q later in the series, though, and not started it in 1st person. I’m not a fan of changing between 1st and 3rd. Overall, though, I’m really interested to see how this series ends.

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Book Review: The Alamo

The Alamo
I, Q #4
by Roland Smith & Michael P. Spradlin

My rating: 3.5 / 5
Genre: Children’s spy thriller

Spoiler notice: The following review will contain some spoilers for the previous books in the series, starting with Independence Hall.

New step-siblings Q (short for Quest) and Angela continue to trail a ghost terrorist cell along with SOS, a team made up mostly of retired operatives from the CIA and other organizations. Angela’s mother is climbing her way toward the top of the ghost cell, but the danger is getting higher all the time. Meanwhile, something strange is going on with Boone, and is Q’s dad friend or foe?

Here we have part 4 of the series-long story, the kind of series that you really need to start from the beginning. This is the first book that is co-written by another author, but it’s not super noticeable to me. Though I will say that this is the first book that starts with a list of all of the characters and a recap of past events, which my aging memory appreciated. Overall, though, it doesn’t feel particularly new. None of the questions from the last book are answered and are really only muddied more. The characters gain a very small amount of ground, and some of the plot points feel like a rehash.

There’s still a lot of action, and I like the way that the series moves around the country to different major locations. I think there are some discrepancies regarding the relative placements of the Alamo Plaza and the San Fernando Cathedral, an area I’ve studied recently for my job (https://www.getbeyondthewalls.com/), so that brought me out of the story a little. However, I’m still really interested in seeing where the rest of this series goes.

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Book Review: Kitty Hawk

Kitty Hawk
I, Q #3
by Roland Smith

My rating: 4 / 5
Genre: Children’s spy thriller

Spoiler notice: The following review will contain some spoilers for the previous books in the series, starting with Independence Hall.

New step-siblings Q (short for Quest) and Angela continue to trail a ghost terrorist cell along with SOS, a team made up mostly of retired operatives from the CIA and other organizations. Most importantly, they’re following Angela’s mother and the First Daughter, and it’s vital that they don’t fall for the ghost cell’s attempts to confuse whoever might be following them. Meanwhile, some unexpected new developments are thrown into the mix, and it’s not always clear who is friend, foe, or neither.

We start in the middle of the chase again in this book, though I had no difficulty diving back in. I’m glad I’m reading the series after it’s all out, or I’d probably struggle with remembering what’s going on if I had to wait a year or more to continue on. The first two books were largely from Q’s POV (1st person), with other scenes shown to us as 3rd person and in italics. This book, though, has a lot more from other people’s POVs, still 3rd person, and fortunately loses the italics, because it would have been a lot of italics, and that’s not always pleasant to read. It seemed strange to still be 1st person when following Q, since there was so much 3rd person this time, but it would have also been weird to suddenly drop the 1st person completely after 2 books. It was only a little confusing to go back to 1st person now and then, so overall, not a problem. And I really appreciated being able to follow the multiple sub-sets of the SOS team in one particular part of this book.

Two big things happened in this book that intrigued me the most. One was not clear to me by the end whether or not there’s more going on than what is stated (there’s not much more I can say without giving spoilers). The second new development is the big one, that being the sudden supernatural elements that seem to come out of nowhere. Though when I examine it further, I don’t think it’s completely out of nowhere. There were certainly signs that something unusual was going on in the first two books, but I definitely did not expect this. I’m willing to give both of these uncertain elements a chance, though. The books have been enjoyable so far, and I am still looking forward to seeing where the overall story goes from here.  At this point, I still recommend this series for younger readers who want something exciting or thrilling, or even adults who don’t necessarily care for adult spy thrillers but enjoy a good adventure story.

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Book Review: The White House

The White House
I, Q #2
by Roland Smith

My rating: 4 / 5
Genre: Children’s spy thriller

Spoiler notice: The following review will contain some spoilers for the first book in the series, Independence Hall.

New step-siblings Q (short for Quest) and Angela delve deeper into the world of espionage as they try to help Angela’s mother, who was until recently believed dead, work against the terrorist cell she has infiltrated. Q and Angela are staying at the White House while their newly married rock-star parents prepare for a show for the president. Can they help flush out the bad guys in the White House and keep the first family safe?

This book really hits the ground running, with not much in the way of reminders from the first book, either about plot or about who’s who. I’m glad I made some notes and also didn’t wait too long to continue the series. It was a fast-paced story, building on what the first book set up, and even giving us Angela’s mom’s perspective throughout. Angela and Q were a little less involved this time, more watching, listening, reacting, even lucking into things, but on the other hand, it’s a little more realistic. Still, I like seeing Q’s and Angela’s smarts and abilities come into play.

I’m looking forward to seeing where the story goes from here, and I would recommend this for younger readers who want something exciting or thrilling, or even adults who don’t necessarily care for adult spy thrillers but enjoy a good adventure story. This series is the type where the whole thing tells one long story (from what I’ve seen so far, at least), so keep that in mind if you consider reading it—start with #1.

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Book Review: Independence Hall

Independence Hall
I, Q #1
by Roland Smith

My rating: 4 / 5
Genre: Children’s spy thriller

New step-siblings Q (short for Quest) and Angela are thrust into the world of espionage when Angela is told that her mother, who had died 4 years previous, might not actually be dead. But if she’s alive, she may also be a deadly terrorist. And now it appears that someone may be after Angela, but she and Q aren’t sure who they can trust.

Spy thrillers aren’t really my thing, but I really enjoyed this one written for teens and pre-teens. There were quite a few twists along the way, no one is quite who they seem to be, and even the bad guys weren’t just bad guys. I second-guessed a lot of what I was shown during the bulk of the book, and of course it’s not the most realistic thing that these two teenagers are being caught up in this plot. However, the author does a decent job of at least making it plausible. And I really like the way they do whatever they can not to ruin things for their newlywed parents, who have recently made it big in the music industry.

My husband brought home the first 3 books in this series of 6 without knowing anything about it, thinking I might enjoy it. It took me quite a while to get to it, and I was really unsure how I’d like it. However, now I’m sad I only have 3 of the 6 (though the rest are available at my local library), because I am looking forward to seeing how this all turns out! I would recommend this for younger readers who want something exciting or thrilling, or even adults who don’t necessarily care for adult spy thrillers but enjoy a good adventure story.

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Top Ten Tuesday: Bargains of Unknown Value

It’s time for another Top Ten list from That Artsy Reader Girl. Today’s topic is “Books I Bought/Borrowed Because…” Last July, recent changes in my life had left me with more time than I’d had for the past few years. I realized then how much I really wanted to get back to reading regularly, which had dropped off some time after my first child was born, 18 years ago. As tends to be the way with me, once I decided to do this, I dove headlong into it, adding book reviews to my blog, building a to-be-read on Goodreads, and of course keeping my eye out for books to add to that list.

Suddenly I had a new purpose when I went with my husband to thrift stores, garage sales, and bargain stores. Even my husband started bringing home books for me that he thought I might be interested in, when he went to these kinds of places without me. I’ve since had to slow way down on buying physical books that I know nothing about, no matter the deal. But for today, my list will include books that I (or my husband) bought simply because they were super cheap (anywhere from $0.25 to $2, or even free), without really knowing much, if anything, about them.

At the time of making this list, I have not read any of these books except the first one, so the value of the bargain I got on each of them is still completely a mystery to me. Some I plan to read soon, others will likely take a while to get to.

Landry Park by Bethany Hagen
This was the very first book I bought with no knowledge of it but the blurb on the jacket. But it was a good deal at a bargain store, so I had to get it! After reading reviews for it later, I was concerned I wouldn’t like it, but I just finished it recently and felt it was worth the buy. See my review here.

Mrs. Murphy series books by Rita Mae Brown
At a local thrift store which tragically has very few books, I found 2 books from this series for 25¢ each. All I really know about these books is that they’re cozy mysteries and involve a cat. And my parents named their dog after the cat. I now own books #2 & #8 in the series, but will start at #1 if I can.
Shown here: Rest in Pieces

Dad Is Fat by Jim Gaffigan
This is one my husband picked up at a thrift store for maybe $1 when I wasn’t with him. We’re big fans of Jim Gaffigan, ever since seeing him on That ’70s Show years ago. Plus, he’s from Indiana, where we live. And he’s hilarious.

I, Q series by Roland Smith
My husband came home with the first 3 books in this 6-book series at the same time as he bought the previous book. It’s a YA spy series that I’d never heard of, but does sound interesting.
Shown here: Independence Hall

The Maze Runner by James Dashner
I actually got this book completely free when buying books for my sister on eBay. I took advantage of a buy 2, get 1 free offer from one seller, buying 2 for her, and when I didn’t see anything else in the eligible books list that she’d like, I grabbed this for myself. I watched some of the 1st (or maybe the 2nd?) movie at a hotel once years ago, and since then have been curious to read the series.

Redshirts by John Scalzi
This was already on my TBR list, as my husband had strongly recommended it, and then he shared with me an offer he found to get the e-book for free. As a Star Trek-franchise fan, I’m looking forward to reading this.

The City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau
This is another one my husband brought home from a thrift store recently (he tends to stop by Good Will and other local used stores when he’s out by himself to look for the odd board game gem, and now he looks for books he thinks I might like too ❤️). I don’t know anything about it except what the blurb on the back says.

Dragon and Thief by Timothy Zahn
Another of my husband’s suggestions, though at least I was present for this one. We found this in our library’s used book sale section, and my husband figured at least this way I’d read a book by the author of some Star Wars books my husband likes (I have no desire to read Star Wars books). I’m starting to amass too many books that start a series in the middle grade or YA age groups. There are 3 just on this list!

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Great Illustrated Classics books by various authors
A few months ago, I read the GIC version of Little Women to my 9-year-old daughter, and then not long after that, the version for Anne of Green Gables. We both agreed that it was a nice way to read old classics. And we both quickly agreed we really wanted to read Pride and Prejudice next. But our library only had a few of these, and not that one. After searching for it to buy and not really wanting to spend upwards of $7, I found this lot of 40 GIC books on eBay for what came out to about $3.50 per book. I took a few days to think about it, and then my husband pulled the trigger. My daughter has already started reading one on her own, and after we finish the book we’re currently reading together (Anne of Avonlea), we’ll start on Pride and Prejudice.

Scores of free Kindle books by various authors!
Thanks to this blog (check out her Friday Reads posts) and daily emails from this site, just in the last couple of weeks I’ve acquired 9+ free Kindle books. I’m not going to list them all here by name, but below (and above) are the covers (some of them are probably still free on Amazon if you’re interested). For these, I do actually do a little research before I acquire them, even though they’re free, and only pick ones that seem interesting and don’t have reviews that scare me off.

Have you read any of these, or are any on your own TBR? Link your TTT post so I can see what you did with today’s topic!