a spy in the house

Review: A Spy in the House

10:46 AM

About time I posted something, I think. I have been HUGELY busy (yes that is a thing) because it's coming down to the wire in my sociology class, in other words-- finals. Yikes! My final paper is sitting to my right. I'm scared of reading through it one last time because *pauses to collect myself* editing. If I find one comma wrong, I cannot stop myself from re-printing the entire paper. EDIT: I did find a mistake and I did reprint a whole page.

School makes me grumpy.

Today, my peeps, I give you a review. I also want to talk really quickly about the books I review on Life of a Random. First of all, I've never really stated specifically what I review but I focus almost completely on YA fiction, narrowing it further down to dystopian, sci-fi, and fantasy usually. However, I read in all types of genera so you can expect a historical YA fiction once in a while or a biography, or etc. etc. Also, I'm a reviewer for Bethany House now so you can probably expect one Christian fiction type book every month. Variety is good, so while I'm still going to be focusing on what I usually do, I will have other features as well. Take the opportunity to try out some new books too! It'll be fun :)

Publication Date: March 9, 2010
Publisher: Candlewick
Pages: 335
Source: library
Format: paperback

Rescued from the gallows in 1850s London, young orphan (and thief) Mary Quinn is surprised to be offered a singular education, instruction in fine manners — and an unusual vocation. Miss Scrimshaw’s Academy for Girls is a cover for an all-female investigative unit called The Agency, and at seventeen, Mary is about to put her training to the test. Assuming the guise of a lady’s companion, she must infiltrate a rich merchant’s home in hopes of tracing his missing cargo ships. But the household is full of dangerous deceptions, and there is no one to trust — or is there? Packed with action and suspense, banter and romance, and evoking the gritty backstreets of Victorian London, this breezy mystery debuts a daring young detective who lives by her wits while uncovering secrets — including those of her own past.

I already knew, or at least hoped, that this was going to be an amazing book after seeing the cover and reading the blurb. Do you see the key integrated into the title? Exquisite I tell you. One thing, though, I wish I'd had time to read it more steadily because then I would've been able to set out all the points I liked and didn't like better, but I savored every bit of it that I read so don't worry. ;)

The summary (from Goodreads by the way) is a little misleading in my opinion. Mary isn't actually a major part of the case (of the missing cargo ships) at first; however, she gets involved, or more involved than she was supposed to, because she's curious and impatient. On to the review!

It does mention romance.

No, it is not. In fact, I LOVED the main relationship that was featured. Mary and the dude only kiss two times, and it's not make-out kissing either. That made me happy. Because like the grandson in The Princess Bride, I'm not a big fan of kissing books. *grimaces*  Mary and the love interest always had playful (or cutting) banter going on, and they also roughed each other up a bit. The love interest is a bit of a young Mr. Darcy. A review quoted on the back of the book said this and it's quite accurate. This usually makes the romances interesting...

Mary Quinn was awesome. I have no idea how she put up with some of the characters but I liked that she only managed it because she had to stay undercover. She was spunky and smart and quite rebellious for that time period. The conversations between her and the luurve interest were hilarious.

The romance was amazing because it wasn't too fast and it wasn't too slow. It didn't take over the whole book (I'm SO thankful) and it didn't fade like it almost wasn't there. I could see the mutual attraction *smiles smugly* I totally ship them.

When the love interest kisses her, Mary's like


And the plot. This was truly a book of deceptions. There was no way I could've figured anything out on my own (I did get suspicious but nothing definite). It's like the author took all these straying, seemingly-independent mysterious sub-plots and combined them into one, ALSO giving Mary her own mystery that is related to her personal history. So while you're wondering what's going on with these disappearing ships and all that jazz, you're also wondering what's going on with Mary.

I LOVE CONFUSION. And what is more awesome than a spy in the Victorian era when women were seen as delicate creatures? The ending was a gentle ending, sort of winding down from the tense guessing game. But just wait. The ending.

There was nothing majorly wrong with this book. It may have started a bit slowly and there was quite a bit of telling as opposed to showing for those of you who don't like that. Personally, I didn't mind. It even seemed like it added a little to the voice of the book.

I would recommend this book to those who like historical YA fiction, spy stories, mysteries, and snappy (as in quick-witted) romances.

My Rating:

Disclaimer: I was not reimbursed for this review in any way. I have written it solely for the entertainment of the readers of this blog and myself.

bethany house

Review: Caught in the Middle

2:55 PM

Publication Date: April 1, 2014
Publisher: Bethany House
Pages: 346
Source: Bethany House
Format: Paperback

The train to Garber, Texas, is supposed to bring life's next victory to Nicholas Lovelace. Instead, it gets held up by robbers who are thwarted by the last person Nick ever expected--Anne Tillerton from back home in Prairie Lea.

Anne’s been hiding away as a buffalo hunter. She’s only in Garber to find their runaway cook, but the woman flees--leaving Anne with her infant son. With Nick the only person Anne knows in Garber, the two form an unlikely team as they try to figure out what to do with the child.

But being in town means acting and dressing for polite society--and it's not going well for Anne. Meanwhile, Nick's work is bringing new pressures, and being seen with a rough-around-the-edges woman isn't helping his reputation. Caught between their own dreams, a deepening relationship, and others' expectations, can the pair find their way to love?

The first thing I liked about this book was the cover. In a huge selection of Christian historical romances featuring covers with a beautiful lady and a tall muscular man with his head cut off (not literally of course), this was unique and refreshing. A beautiful dress and cowboy boots, besides being awesome, also managed to tell a little bit about the main character without me even cracking the spine.

The second thing I liked was the main character Anne. I was completely on her side from the beginning of the book. She's strong, tough, and can take care of herself. She dresses like a man for the majority of the book, and I liked that although sometimes people mistook her for a man from a distance they pretty much knew she was a lady when they saw her (I appreciate realism). And Anne had such a painful past that (is this a spoiler? I don't think so) I felt bad for her.  She was a realistic character who was strong and hardened, but at the same time fearful and nervous.

I also liked the plot. Anne is given a baby which she has to learn to take care of and it was sweet watching her grow closer and closer to him. It wasn't the most exciting plot (I'm seriously starting to wonder if all the dystopian I've read has deadened my sense of "plot twists" and "exciting plot") but it wasn't boring either. I appreciated the fact that the author pointed out that it's wrong to just be a Christian when everything's going super awesome for you too. 

Now here are the things that didn't really impress me...The romance kind of threw me off because it was so sudden. I wouldn't call it insta-love, but it was the kind where the MC and love interest are going along sometimes hating each other, sometimes being mildly attracted to each other (but mostly arguing all the time). When suddenly, out of the blue, one of them knows that they love the other one (or maybe it's simultaneous. who knows). This really aggravates me. I would have preferred it if the author had worked it into the plot with little hints here and there instead of suddenly springing the l-word. It left me thinking something like, "Ummm. Where did that happen? When you were insulting her clothes?"

Which leads me to the love interest--Nicholas Lovelace (which to be honest, I had a hard time taking seriously when I learned his last name). Here's the thing, when I first met him read his character I thought he was okay. As I read more, however, I did not like him at all. Refer to the GoodReads update below.

If that's too tiny for you to read, it says, "OMG. Nick, really?? Really? Grr. You rude, impudent, infuriating male."
I kept on not liking him until towards the end of the book. I could see how he cared about Anne and wanted the best for her. But in most of the book, I wondered how Anne could be falling for him. She'd say something about him making her feel safe or something. I'd shake my head -_- and say "How can you like such a pompous idiot?" However, at the end of the book, I did support her decision. They made a nice couple. :)

I recommend this book for anybody who enjoys historical romance, Christian-based fiction, or rogue-ish heroines. 

My Rating:

Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

book haul

A Trip to the Ol' Library

9:58 PM

Well, no, our library isn't that ancient. I just thought it made the title sound more poetic. I haven't written a library haul in a long time, mainly because I haven't actually gone to the library in ages and have been existing solely on books I've bought and books I've borrow from the e-Library.

Today was a beautiful (little bit cloudy) day and our whole family went to the our little local library together which was fun. :)

But, guys.

I fangirled/whatever-you-call-it-when-the-love-of-books-makes-you-hyperventilate when I saw that this, our small town library, had a gazillion books that are currently very popular and on my TBR list. I almost couldn't handle it. I was SO tempted to walk out of there with half the YA section. However, I exercised enormous restraint and only borrowed six (see? I'm very responsible). Five of those are ones I will be able to cross of my TBR list when I finish! *happy dance*

I'm going to list these from the bottom up.

Clockwork Prince by Cassandra Clare- This is one hefty chunk of gorgeousness. I can't wait to dive into The Infernal Devices again (I've read Clockwork Angel). I'm such a big fan of Cassandra Clare's work!

City of Fallen Angels by Cassandra Clare- Also a big book. I read the first three books from The Mortal Instruments one after the other, but at the time the fourth wasn't at the library. Now I get to continue the adventure (and hopefully remember enough to not be confused).

Unravel Me by Tahereh Mafi- O.O Yes, please. I had no idea that the library had this! Another series that I have yet to finish.

Amber House by Kelly Moore- I didn't know about this one until I discovered it at the library. It has a really vibrant cover and I think it's historical mystery so that'll be a nice change from all the dystopian. :)

A Spy in the House by Y. S. Lee- This is about a girl spy in the Victorian era. Which is awesome. And a review on the back cover compared the love interest to Mr. Darcy, which will make the romance really awesome I believe ;)

Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi- This one's not in the picture, but I've been wanting to read this one for a while too. Can't really remember what it's about at the moment...hmm. Pretty cover though. :)

*I am going to be editing this post to include the favorite covers of me, my sister, my dad, and my mom probably tomorrow.

book peeves

Um...Are You a Guy or a Girl?

7:34 PM

I don't have any book reviews for you today, although quite a few are coming up on my schedule. But I do have something that's been on my mind recently and it's kept pestering me so I decided to tell you all about it. ;)

I will start with this-- There's a reason that guys and girls are pretty much always immediately differentiated between.

They look different and that's a fact. So, it annoys me quite a lot when I read books where the main character is a beautiful girl, something comes up so that she has to disguise herself as a boy, and then nobody can tell that she's a girl.

Please. That's extremely unrealistic. Long hair is not the only thing that makes a girl look feminine (that would be very scary), okay? 

Here are some real world examples of this phenomenon (*cough* sarcasm):

Anne Hathaway

Jennifer Lawrence




Having short haircuts does not make these women look like guys. I'm pretty sure it still wouldn't make them look like guys if they didn't have make up on.

There are some pretty girls that might be able to get by as very dubious guys. But in most cases, it's not an option. I know I wouldn't be able to pass as a guy (besides the obvious height thing...). And that's another thing.

If the face didn't tip off those oblivious people who thought the girl was a guy, then their height might be a tiny bit suspicious. I mean, do you see any eighteen year old guys that are five foot three? Never. And if ever, it's extremely rare.

Also guys' hands are usually way bigger and (usually) thicker than girls' hands. Girls' hands have a tendency to be more slender and smaller.

In the end, it's not realistic for a beautiful/pretty girl to be able to become a guy with just a few snips of the scissors.

What do you think? Do you agree with me? Are there any other things like this that are totally unrealistic about book characters that you can't stand?

Bloggers Commenting Back

The Discovery of Romeo & Juliet (news + review + project inspire)

2:31 PM

So I have some news that you all might be interested in...

1. I joined the Bloggers Commenting Back! community after getting curious about it by seeing it on all my favorite blogs. It's a group of bloggers who reply to all comments on their blog and visit & comment back on the blogs that have commented on theirs. 

You may have seen this logo around the blogosphere:

2. I decided to be a part of The Blog Notes Project hosted by Amber @The Mile Long Bookshelf!

Here is what will happen as explained by Amber: 

  • Each blogger will be assigned another random blogger. I will email you with your assigned blogger on 21st April 2014. When you know who it is, please don't tell them! They'll find out at the end, but it will be more fun if no one knows who they're paired with.
  • Everyone will have a few days to check out their person's blog.
  • Once you have looked at your assigned blogger's blog, please send me a few lines (or even a thousand words. Honestly - whatever floats your boat!) about why you love their blog. Maybe their design is the best you've ever seen, or perhaps their reviews are simply spectacular. Perhaps their blog has brightened your day; maybe their blog posts make you laugh out loud. Whatever it is, make sure to note it down! The aim of what you're writing is to make your blogger happy, and everything has to be true. Please email this to me by 28th April 2014.
  • Guess what? You will also be someone else's assigned blogger, meaning you will get a happy note in return!
  • I do love going with the element of surprise, so I will send out everyone's notes to each blogger on the same day in May. No one knows when this will be, except me...;) I'm hoping the blogosphere will be filled with love, and maybe a blogger who was having a bad day will suddenly be having a really good one.

  • *Sign-ups close on April 18th. There is a really simple form that you can fill out to join the Blog Notes Project. Check it out here.


    Juliet Immortal by Stacey Jay
    Publication Date: August 9, 2011
    Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers
    Pages: 306
    Source: Library
    Format: eBook

    The most tragic love story in history . . .

    Juliet Capulet didn't take her own life. She was murdered by the person she trusted most, her new husband, Romeo Montague, a sacrifice made to ensure his own immortality. But what Romeo didn't anticipate was that Juliet would be granted eternity, as well, and would become an agent for the Ambassadors of Light. For 700 years, she's fought Romeo for the souls of true lovers, struggling to preserve romantic love and the lives of the innocent. Until the day she meets someone she's forbidden to love, and Romeo, oh Romeo, will do everything in his power to destroy that love.

    "These violent delights have violent ends
    And in their triumph die, like fire and powder,
    Which as they kiss consume."
    —Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare

    I found this book by accident, or...accidentally on purpose. I'm doing an ABC challenge in one of the Goodreads groups I belong to where you read a book for each letter of the alphabet in a certain time (in this case a year). Turns out, I didn't have any books that started with 'J' on my TBR list. I know, weird. So I turned to the all-knowing Google search engine and that's how I discovered Juliet Immortal on someone else's ABC Goodreads challenge. 

    I wasn't sure if I would like it because it was based on Romeo & Juliet, Shakespeare's play, and I hadn't liked the movie at all. I was yelling and making sarcastic comments at the TV almost the whole time the movie was playing, and it still made me sob at the end. Ugh. This is what happens when you have common sense and a softie movie heart. It is the worst pairing. 

    Anyways, (yeah I don't know how I strayed so far off topic) this book blew me away. First of all, the premise is extremely intriguing, even though the "she meets someone she's forbidden to love" part might have sounded a little cliche and (to me) like a pure romance novel...I have a weakness for re-tellings. And there aren't a lot of books out there that focus on fighting to protect the souls of true lovers against someone who's your ex-lover.

    The setting is not a huge focus of the book, but what was described of it was crucial to the story and helped me picture what I felt like was a small, tired town that crouched in rolling hills with mist wrapped around it. It had that feeling of possibility. It was filled with shadows that held unimaginable things. It felt a little dark, a little haunted. Even the descriptions of the school contributed to that.

    Every secondary character embellished the setting with their twisted pasts or broken souls (and some of them were just evil jerks). I think every character that I got to know had some kind of scar from something. Juliet was a very strong heroine. No, she didn't have black belt. She couldn't throw a knife with extreme precision (or even at all). But she never gave up, and she never stopped fighting. In some ways she might have hurt herself by looking at things the wrong way but she wasn't a quitter. You know that lovey-dovey, "Oh Romeo" *dramatic sigh* that we all know? Yeah, you won't find her here. I also really liked that Juliet tried to understand people and not pass judgement too quickly. She genuinely cared for her charges, even though her own "love" turned out rotten. And let me just say right here that Romeo is the most complicated and confusing villain of all time. One second I would be growling at him for being such a complete twisted evil person, and the next I would reluctantly feel sorry for him. No matter how hard I tried, I could never tell what was going on in his head. He was unpredictable and a very well-written character.

    The plot was made up of a lot of tiny plot twists and then at the end BOOM! I got hit in the face with a concrete wall. Let me explain. There are no certainties in this book. I would assume something and then later that assumption would be very wrong. If I could choose a sentence to describe this book, it would be:
    Nothing is as it seems.

    Juliet Forever left me helplessly staring into space (I might have looked slightly deranged), shaking my head in disbelief. How.

    Can I just say, "Feels."

    One thing that I will point out is that there is a little bit of "love at first sight" going on, but much to my surprise it didn't make the story worse at all (and I'm not too crazy about love at first sight). I just felt like hugging the characters and pushing them together and saying, "Guys, you've been through so much. Just go be happy together."

    If you are into darkish paranormal/romance YA then this is definitely the book for you. (Or anyone else. EVERYONE GO READ. NOW.)

    My Rating:

    Days 22-32

    Day 22: "In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer." Look for the positive side of things. Make an effort to see the flowers in the desert, the ray of sun on a cloudy day, because there's always something good you can find. 

    Day 23: "Keep your head up. Keep your heart strong." The haters are gonna hate. They're irrelevant. You are important. Value yourself because you are so important. It's unbelievable how important you are. 

    Day 24: "Sometimes, rock bottom is the perfect place to rebuild." It hurts, sometimes, to have everything you worked so hard for taken away. But you can make it again. Maybe people have brought your self-esteem to zero and you wonder how you're going to face them out there. Start over again because you can do it.  

    Day 25: "You were given this life because you were strong enough to live it." You were born for a purpose. Maybe you don't know what it is or how that's possible. But you are here for a reason. 

    Day 26: "Logic will take you from A to B. Imagination will take you anywhere." This is for you, my writer pals ;) We all know that plotting and researching are the only parts of writing that count as logical (and maybe not even then). Your imagination is what makes the soul of the book though. Don't worry if you're having an off day, or if you've completely run dry of ideas. Everyone has those--you got this.  

    Day 27: "Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have always imagined." Pursue your dreams. Don't listen to those people who tell you it can never happen. 

    Day 28: "But without the dark, we'd never see the stars." Sometimes the world is a scary place to be, sometimes circumstances make us wish that we didn't exist. But there are always stars. Keep going because you'll be able to see the good parts better for the dark. Keep stargazing.

    Day 29: "Don't lose hope. When the sun goes down, the stars come out." Never lose hope. <3

    Day 30: "Birds flying high, you know how I feel. Sun in the sky, you know how I feel. Breeze driftin' on by, you know how I feel. It's a new dawn, it's a new day, it's a new life, for me...and I'm feeling good." Take the chances that new days give you. Embrace the world more tightly every morning. Go outside and breathe in the fresh air. I bet you'll feel good ;) (Unless, of course, it's raining. Or snowing. Or you know.)

    I think Project Inspire was supposed to end on the 15th. Once again, super sorry that I didn't post every day, but I think I caught up on this post thus the extreme length. Hope you enjoy and I'll try to have the Project 30 Days of Inspire page up in a few days with a trendy slideshow of all the quotes.

    Day 31: "Use your smile to change this world, but don't let this world change your smile." I definitely know that there are times to fake a smile (like when a stranger rudely interrupts you while reading), but don't let your REAL smile disappear. Hold on to it, smile for yourself, and who knows, someone may keep smiling because they saw you smile. 

    Day 32: "A smile is the shortest distance between two people." Isn't it the nicest feeling when someone you don't know smiles at you? Try it out and smile at a stranger today. :D



    GIF War

    12:57 PM

    This is a new experiment/project where me and my sister answer questions (or argue) with GIFs. I'm using GIFs from Marvel movies and she's using GIFs from Supernatural. We hope you'll like it :) 

    NOTE: I am currently editing this post while undergoing torture from my sister (aka Tansie) while she brushes (pulls out handfuls of hair), curls (yanks), and hairsprays (not only my hair but also my arms, my back, and pretty much my whole body. She needs to work on her aim) my hair. I'm so nice to her.

    1. Describe your sibling using the GIF(s) of your choice (how they act, what they say, etc.).



    2. Describe yourself using the GIF(s) of your choice.


    This is Tansie:

    Me again.


    3. Why do you love to read?



    Skylar is Dean. Dean=the one with short hair.

    Skylar says: 

    4. How would you describe writing?



    5. What's your opinion on Divergent?



    6. What's your opinion on Something Strange and Deadly?



    Skylar says (a lot, but that's beside the point): 

    Tansie says:

    Well...we learned a lot of things today! We learned that Tansie is very extremely violent. And Skylar's awesome. Of course.

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