Book Reviews

Question Everything: Need to Know by Karen Cleveland @karecleve @BeckyShort1 @TransworldBooks

Beware. You are about to click on a secured page containing classified information. Open the link at your own risk. Swear on your chocolate bar that your intentions are good and you will not be using any detail located in this review against the Blogging Law.

My biggest thanks to Anne Cater for giving me access to the file and the blog tour. This file is also my thank you to the publisher for having me work on their project.

Screen Shot 2018-01-27 at 1.03.01 AM.pngTitle: Need to Know
Author: Karen Cleveland
Publisher: Bantam Press
Date of publication: January 2018
Format: Paperback
Source: Publisher
Number of pages: 304
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

In pursuit of a Russian sleeper cell on American soil, a CIA analyst uncovers a dangerous secret that will test her loyalty to the agency—and to her family.

What do you do when everything you trust might be a lie?

Vivian Miller is a dedicated CIA counterintelligence analyst assigned to uncover the leaders of Russian sleeper cells in the United States. On track for a much-needed promotion, she’s developed a system for identifying Russian agents, seemingly normal people living in plain sight.

After accessing the computer of a potential Russian operative, Vivian stumbles on a secret dossier of deep-cover agents within America’s borders. A few clicks later, everything that matters to her—her job, her husband, even her four children—are threatened.

Vivian has vowed to defend her country against all enemies, foreign and domestic. But now she’s facing impossible choices. Torn between loyalty and betrayal, allegiance and treason, love and suspicion, who can she trust?

my review red

What I am about to tell you is classified.
Your mission is to read. Mine is to convince you.

Luckily, Karen Cleveland makes it very easy for me.

Close your eyes (well, don’t do it for real, or you won’t be able to read!) Imagine yourself working for your country, imagine your husband, a nice handsome, and caring man. Picture your house full of children toys and laughs. You built the perfect American family.

Have you really?

I have always been fascinated by international agencies and their work, the devotion their agents show, and the strongest examples we have come from the US. Americanized as we are, and I say it in a good way, I see the world a certain way, and I admire the men and women who put so much effort to keep the rest of us safe.

Until it gets personal.

Espionage thrillers are a hit or miss with me. If the talks get to complicated or the action takes over, I’m out. I need intricacies, undercover missions, secrets, codes, “Wow” moments, in the perfect balance. Add the right amount of the X factor and we have a winner.

Well, Need to Know is a winner!

Here, the X factor is the thin layer of ice Vivian is treading from the first to the last page. A cold coming from far away creeping into your veins as you realize how deep the story goes. I should say stories.

A CIA analyst working on a very touchy Russian operation. This only got me interested. I did not feel the need for action-packed gunned-blazing stuff. Need to Know reminds the reader a seat in one of the most secure building in your country can be the most dangerous place! I was pleased the book chose the slower, clever conspiracies, pitfalls, and spies route in a very special and personal way. Don’t we say enemies are often closer to home than we expect them to?

Now, if you know me, you know I happy-danced when I saw my proof saying “He’s a spy’ VS “He’s your husband”. I need to make a little video of me flipping this, this is brilliant!! I am a sucker for stories involving shady husbands! I think this story tops them all!

Why is this one different? Because Karen Cleveland brings work into the safety of home in such a breathtaking way I couldn’t help gasping at every chapter! So many moments felt like getting an unexpected and unwelcome cold shower. No wonder it was a one-sitting read!

It all comes down to how easy it is to like Vivian and how the author managed to bring out the humanity of this woman in a few pages before her world starts crashing down. Told in the first-person narrative, you can’t help but connect to the amazingly smart wife, mother, and employee giving her best to uncover Russian spies.

Matt pays attention, he takes care of the kids, he cooks, he makes sure his wife is alright. Picture perfect. I suspect perfect. But this time, I was confused all the time! You get a slap in the face in the first chapters, but the rest of the book blows hot and cold, and even I couldn’t make up my mind! For someone who would happily make a barbecue of all the nasty husbands out there, it’s a first!

How would you feel? I felt it all! The confusion, denial, confusion, fear, betrayal. I am pretty sure I went through the five stages of grief! All in a few chapters! And if you think this is all you’re getting with Need to Know, let me laugh and hand you the book!

After the shock comes the decisions. Decisions make us who we are. I was rooting for Vivian the whole time, wishing it was a bad dream (while enjoying this bad dream of hers!!!), hoping the perfect American picture would not be shattered by a single photo in a file…

Decisions are the heart of the story. I felt my mind go round and round with possibilities and hope, disappointment and rage. Need to Know shows just how damaging deceit can be, whether you see it or not…

What would you do? One thing leading to another, while Vivian was fighting her battles, I lost my nails and my sanity to a stunning espionnage thriller with its teeth rooted in its characters’ development. Behind a chilling pending threat lies loyalty. Family or country? Truth or lies? Giving in or standing up? My mind kept being pushed around by the sharp protagonist development combined with the most heart-stopping and emotional narration. We are not simply talking espionage, thriller, but also domestic tragedy. Need to Know truly is a pure tragedy. A bottomless pit you want to fall into.

The ending felt me gobsmacked. Shocked. It was pure agony to read the end.

So, no, this story isn’t about the good people being good and the bad people being bad. It is about who we decide to be, what we decide to fight for, and how much we are willing to pay to make the world a better place.

Believe me, You Need to Know!

Luckily, the book is out! And we get a fabulous blog tour poster!




Karen Cleveland spent eight years as a CIA analyst, the last six in counterterrorism. She has master’s degrees from Trinity College Dublin, where she studied as a Fulbright Scholar, and from Harvard University. She lives in northern Virginia with her husband and two young kids.


30 thoughts on “Question Everything: Need to Know by Karen Cleveland @karecleve @BeckyShort1 @TransworldBooks”

  1. Excellent review! You articulated everything that I felt about this book. I agree, it’s a must read! I can’t wait for the movie and seeing Charlize Theron play Vivian!


  2. I love the way you write your reviews! 🙂 And that CIA badge is damn cool. This book sounds really intriguing and exciting. I’ve never read an espionage book before, but I love conspiracies so I am really interested in picking this up! Great review.


    1. This is such a lovely compliment, thank you! I love having fun with reviews. I don’t overthink everything any more and just jot down how I felt and what I thought, and sometimes it’s good enough to be published, haha! I am enjoying espionage stories more and more! I can only recommend this one! xx

      Liked by 1 person

      1. You are so welcome! The way you write is just so entertaining 🙂 I think not overthinking is a good idea, I wish I was better at it 😛 I saw an advert for this book the other day when I was on the train, it seems to be getting a lot of buzz, and you’ve definitely made me want to read it! xx


  3. Swear on my chocolate bar? I don’t think a chocolate bar would last long enough for me to finish the oath haha. Lovely review my dear! This sounds like a fantastic read and I just love the package they send you. Definitely gets you in the right mood for this book. ❤


      1. I’m trying to not have any chocolate in the house right now because I know I wouldn’t be able to resist… But it’s HARD. xD And that is so cool!


  4. OMG, Meggy!!!!! The way this all starts is just spectacular and your review was amazing as always! This sounds like such an amazing book – the breathtaking moments, the emotional side, all of it!


  5. I love the marketing work for this book and tour. The package you got sent with the badge is brilliant, as is the way you included it with the spy talk in your review.
    I’m so glad you enjoyed it.
    Amanda xx


  6. Waw what a review! You totally convinced me! OK I was interested (smitten with the cover, the page edges and the badge you all got) but cautious about the novel itself because I don’t really like a lot of action and gun shooting in novels but you told me exactly what I wanted to hear. Yep definitely want to read!


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