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October 14, 2015

Shot of YA: Velvet Undercover by Teri Brown

Series: Standalone
Format: eGalley
Release Date: October 20, 2015
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Source: Publisher via Edelweiss
Genre: YA Historical | Suspense-Mystery

Samantha Donaldson’s family has always done its duty for the British Crown. In the midst of World War I, seventeen-year-old Sam follows in their footsteps, serving her country from the homefront as a Girl Guide and messenger for the intelligence organization MI5. After her father disappears on a diplomatic mission, she continues their studies of languages, high-level mathematics, and complex puzzles and codes, hoping to make him proud.

When Sam is asked to join the famed women’s spy group La Dame Blanche she’s torn—this could be the adventure she’s dreamed of, but how can she abandon her mother, who has already lost a husband to the war? But when her handlers reveal shocking news, Sam realizes there’s no way she can refuse the exciting and dangerous opportunity.

Her acceptance leads her straight into the heart of enemy territory on a mission to extract the most valuable British spy embedded in Germany, known to the members of LDB only as Velvet. Deep undercover within the court of Kaiser Wilhelm II, Samantha must navigate the labyrinthine palace and its many glamorous—and secretive—residents to complete her assignment. To make matters worse she finds herself forming a forbidden attraction to the enemy-a dangerously handsome German guard. In a place where personal politics are treacherously entangled in wartime policy, can Samantha discover the truth and find Velvet before it’s too late…for them both?

From author Teri Brown comes the thrilling story of one girl’s journey into a deadly world of spycraft and betrayal—with unforgettable consequences.

More like 2.5


I was looking forward to reading VELVET UNDERCOVER because I enjoyed Teri Brown's YA paranormal-historical series, Born of Illusion. I was looking forward to getting the same level of satisfaction I got from that unfortunately it wasn't as crisp as I hoped it would be.

Let me start with the things I liked:
  • I liked the idea of a teen spy. There were a lot of women who helped the Allies win the war so Samantha was a plausible character. 
  • I liked the German setting and background, being inside enemy lines at such a tense time is nerve wracking! Samantha is just 17, recruited from Girl Guide directly, no experience to boast of. Germany is a big deal and I admire her gumption very much. I don't think I'd be able to sleep, eat, or breathe if it were me. 
  • I loved that there was no romance. Samantha had a thing with a dude named Maxwell, but it didn't really go beyond gingerbreads and a short conversation in the hallway. I loved that Samantha has her priorities straight and used logic over the pull of attraction she has with Maxwell. Outside the story, thanks TBrown for doing away with it, IMHO it wouldn't work well with the plot.
  • I liked the twist on Velvet's identity. TBrown held on to that secret until the last minute and it was a good surprise.

On to the not so enjoyable parts for me...
  • With all the spying and working undercover I found VELVET UNDERCOVER to be flat. It mysterious, but wasn't suspenseful as I expected it to be. I feel the story to be too calculated that it took away the character drive the blurb hinted on.
  • The stunted setting played a big part IMHO and I wish it went beyond a few German phrases. Samantha is in Germany spying for the Allies in the midst of WWI! The atmosphere should be thick with tension even if Samantha was mostly inside palace walls. I would think the situation is more prevalent inside the Kaiser's adobe than anywhere else. 
  • Lastly, my first meeting with Samantha wasn't fantastic. I found her irritating at first, and for a top Girl Guide whose father is also a spy, some of her questions felt very uninformed like she came across like some girl MI5 picked up on the street versus a credible and viable candidate for the position.

Overall, I liked the notion of giving interest to such a very important part of history. VELVET UNDERCOVER might not be a true story, but it can pique the interest of a young adult to research and know more about such a pivotal moment that changed the landscape of the world. I just felt like there were key elements missed that would've made the novel suspenseful of thrilling. Harriet The Spy is a better mole than Samantha Donaldson.









Talk Supe


41 comments:

  1. It sounds like a good book in fact but not extraordinary so I confess I don't really know...

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    1. Not really, you're not missing out on a lot

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  2. Sounds a little disappointing... You're right, of course - against that backdrop, there should be tension galore.

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    1. She was slipping into ENGLISH and she has a "weird" accent which would've made those around her suspicious.

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  3. I can understand why a romance plot would not work with this book. And of course I love a teen spy book, too! It's a bummer that Velvet Undercover fell flat. :/ it has the makings of such a good book... Sigh. Hate when that happens!

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    1. Especially since I barely read YA anymore

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  4. I was looking forward to reading this one, but hmm... I don't like that it's so flat. I mean it's a spy book! You HAVE to be having fun while reading it, not bored. I'm sad about the lack of romance too, but I guess I understand why it's a good thing.
    Maybe I'll just skip this one. D:

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    1. Right? I want them tingles, didn't get it

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  5. Sorry this fell flat for you in the suspense department. You are right though, a good mystery is always suspenseful as well.

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    1. The setting alone is tense in itself, I'm disappointed it wasn't used to it's full extent

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  6. First I was a bit meh about the blurb but then I was turned around

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  7. Aww I hate when books fall flat, hope your next read is awesome :D

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    1. Fingers crossed, about to start The Diviners by Libba Bray...

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  8. This sounds like it held a lot of promise - too bad it didn't deliver completely. My younger kiddos just finished reading All Quiet on the Western Front, so they may like this one...

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    1. Maybe I am the wrong reader for it, maybe a younger reader will better appreciate the laid back story. Good point, Brandee!

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  9. I love the premise, but struggle with the genre in YA. Great review Braine, i am sorry this fell flat for you.

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    1. I rarely pick up YA anymore so when I do, I expect it to blow me away. Didn't happen this time around

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  10. Nuts! I love the idea of spying and infiltrating during WWI, but I want the suspense, too. Still, think I'll give this one a go eventually.

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    1. Let's compare notes then, maybe it's me :D

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  11. The teen spy does sound like an interesting premise

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  12. It definitely wasn't filled with tension, considering the war going on. Also, some of the tactics used when she was "training" were too short and not exciting. I did enjoy the ending though.

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    1. It felt more like Girl Scouts than Girl Guide. I got super irritated when she was crying over losing that trophy to another girl. Then we see her "skills" and I understood why she lost.

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  13. I kind of lost interest in this author, her first book didn't overly impress me. Too bad this one fell flat, it had a lot of potential.

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    1. I liked that one, this one just tanked.

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  14. Not really my kind of book and I've been reading mixed reviews but I love the spy angle!

    Karen @For What It's Worth

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    1. I guess I need to get a new spy book to read.

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  15. Despite the problems, it still sounds like an interesting read. Not quite sure if it is for me as I'm not sure I would connect well with the heroine. I do like that she is a spy.

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    1. I am a big fan of spy novels,too bad Samantha didn't quite meet my expectations...

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  16. Maybe the next book will be better. :-)
    sherry @ fundinmental

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    1. I'll pass, this didn't grip me enough to come back for more

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  17. It's hard to enjoy a book if you don't like the main character. A shame you didn't enjoy it as much as you hoped!

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  18. With a teen spy, you would think it would be more suspenseful.

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  19. Hmmm, I was on the "wall" about this one (get it? ha, lame!) and I have it so I probably will start it and see how it goes but I won't try and push it if it doesn't GRAB me. Thanks for the heads up!!! Great review!

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  20. Aw damn, and the cover was so intriguing too!

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  21. The blurb sounded intriguing, but it sounds like it doesn't fully live up to that. I do like the fact the main character has her priorities straight and doesn't focus on the romance, especially considering the whole situation she is in. You would think with all the spying going on it would be more suspensefull.

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  22. The cover for this is gorgeous, shame the content isn't as breathtaking

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  23. Harriet the Spy, LOL! I would definitely need Samantha to demonstrate some more adept spying skills, especially since her father's already in the business. I think I'll pass on this one because my expectations for suspense would definitely be high, given the book's synopsis.

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  24. Bummer. Sorry to hear it didn't live up to her other book. It does have a promising sound to it. Maybe the next book will pick up more?

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  25. Good to know! I was going to read this one, but now I won't bother.

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