Tag Archive: book releases



Heist Society #2: Uncommon Criminals by Ally Carter

Ages 12 and up

Kat is back. It’s been two months since she “robbed” the Henley and she is famous…among certain circles. She shouldn’t be surprised when she’s approached to steal back the world famous Cleopatra Emerald for its rightful owners. After all, who better to pull of the impossible theft of a cursed jewel that hasn’t been seen in public for thirty years than a team of teen-aged super thieves. They’ve done the impossible once already. It should be easy, right? Except just when Kat and her crew think they’ve pulled off the greatest heist since the Henley, everything blows up in her face. Now, if Kat wants to fix her mistake, she’ll have to convince her crew to pull off the impossible one more time.

If Heist Society was the intro to Kat and her world, Uncommon Criminals gets into the nitty gritty depths of the characters. This was a stunning follow-up to the first book and it also happened to be a blast to read. Ally Carter definitely delivers in this book. She’s not just continuing the story, but deepening our understanding of Kat and her friends. And she’s not afraid to get “real” with her characters either.

After reading Uncommon Criminals, I have to say that book one just scratched the surface of the characters. We get to see Kat slightly apprehensive in book one, but still determined and gung-ho. She doesn’t have the luxury of stopping to doubt herself for very long. In the second book, doubts abound. Of course, that’s typically what happens when you fall flat on your face (figuratively of course, not literally). We get to see her mess-up big time in this book–both on the professional and personal levels–and that’s nice. I like knowing that the characters I’m reading about aren’t perfect. After all, what better way to stretch a character than to make them face their own failure. Remember, perfect characters are boring characters.

Another highlight in this book for me was the growing relationship between Kat and Hale…or maybe I should say growing awkward relationship. They’re caught in that place where they’re more than friends, but they haven’t quite committed to crossing the line. (And yes, if you’re wondering, I did spend half the book yelling at them.) And we get to watch as Kat contemplates that cross and what it means. Aside from Kat, Hale does continue to be one of my favorite characters. My notes literally have a bullet point with just his name and an exclamation point. And I have no idea what I meant when Iwrote that…so I’m just gonna gcover my bases. Just like Kat struggles with her own issues, we get the impression (from what we can see through her eyes) that Hale is having to deal with his own. And surprise, surprise–they mainly involve her. Some of my favorite moments in this book are the moments between the two of them. In fact, my favorite part is centered around him and his perfect sense of timing. I cheered, just dropped the book and whooped and hollered (and that’s all I will say).

All of our favorite characters are back in this book, including more time with Uncle Eddie (sort of) and some quality time with Gabrielle. I find I like her a lot more in this book (she’s growing on me). She and Kat are less at odds. After all, there’s already enough conflict surrounding Kat with out escalating her rivalry with her cousin.

Just like with her Gallagher Girls series, this second book is nicely wrapped up at the end. Mostly. There’s enough loose ends to have something for a sequel, but were not left with anyone dangling off a cliff. All matters have been settled. I would have liked to have more revealed about what happened to her mom, but I’m assuming that that is going to develop into a greater plot point should the series continue (which it really should).

This is a good example of:

  • Character development
  • Shifts in POV
  • Character flaws
  • Character relationship
  • Plot twists (it’s a big one)

This book is on my recommended reading list.

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Book Review: Wither


The Chemical Garden Trilogy #1: Wither by Lauren DeStefano

Ages 16 and up

Rhine Ellery is used to living with a death-sentence hanging over her head. She’s sixteen, which means that she has four years before the virus that now claims every female at 20 and every male at 25 comes to claim her. She and her twin brother, Rowan, have spent most of their lives surviving day by day. Until the Gatherers find Rhine. Suddenly, she finds herself a teenage bride in a polygamous marriage. She’s heard of this happening, part of a desperate effort to keep the human race from dying out completely, but she always thought that she and her brother were careful enough to keep it from happening to her. Despite the fact that she finds herself in the lap of luxury and is quickly becoming her new husband’s favorite wife, all Rhine can think about is getting out of her gilded cage and back to her brother. So she can spend whatever years she has left in freedom. But her husband’s father is a man bent on finding a cure and saving his son and Rhine starts to feel that she has perhaps been chosen for a darker purpose than being his son’s wife. A purpose that she’s not sure she likes.

This book was on my list. I was going to read it eventually, because a very reliable source told me it was good. And then I got to have a brief conversation with the author over Twitter (emphasis on brief). So if you were hoping my next review would be on Uncommon Criminals, blame it on the mouse. (And the fact that Borders forgot to call me when my book finally came in. Good thing I’m proactive.) Anyways, it got a well-deserved bump up to the A.S.A.P. part of my list, so here it is.

In case you hadn’t noticed, I’ve been on a dystopian kick recently. I am far from being an expert, but I find that I love it. I knew Wither  was categorized in that section, so I came to the book with a few preconceived notions about what I could expect. And with the big stuff I was correct. But one of my favorite nuances was how proactive Rhine felt. What I have found to be the case much of the time (and this goes for genres, I just think it’s more with this one) is that you have Protagonist. Protagonist is surviving in a less than perfect society, following the rules and acting like a good little sheep. And then something happens. Protagonist’s best friend runs away, or their sister’s name gets drawn from the cup of death. Protagonist reacts and the story begins. But through out the whole story, survival is goal (it’s a very good goal, I will give you that). The main character will do what has to be done for them to survive, but they don’t act out of the box unless they have to. They don’t try to break the mold without outside influence (be it from friends of enemies).

Rhine isn’t like that. She wants to live. She wants to be free. From almost the moment she wakes up in Linden’s house, Rhine is figuring out how she can get out. Rhine has suddenly found herself in the lap of luxury, with a guy who adores her more every day. Her needs are more than met, she could just sit back and accept that she is going to spend the rest of her life here. She could be like her sister wife, Jenna, and think that this is a better a place than most to die. But surviving isn’t good enough for her. Rhine wants freedom. Another thing that I like about Rhine is that she isn’t overly cynical. She could be. She is witty and real in her observations, but not unpleasant to a fault (actions are sometimes a different story).

This book has some of the best examples of using significant detail in a story that I have ever seen. There are some books where you can guarantee that the author is going to describe every dress or every building. Books where facial features will be stressed or actions. But in Wither, DeStefano uses her details to enhance what is happening in that moment, which means that the details with significance change constantly. One moment, she’s describing the wedding attire of Rhine and her two sister wives, giving you a glimpse into each girl’s personality. Two pages later, you see Rhine focusing on just one wall of her new home, impressing on you just how big the Ashby house is. She even manages to uses something as mundane and everyday as make-up to lead into background for a minor character. It’s brilliant. Absolutely brilliant.

And speaking of background. This is one book where I was as happy to be reading backstory as frontstory (is that the technical term?). You get dropped right in the middle of the action. You don’t have to go through Rhine’s typical day and then she gets kidnapped. She already is kidnapped. DeStefano uses innuendo and slight of hand to deftly make you as interested in Rhine’s past as you are in her present and future. You want to know about her brother and about how her parents died. The balance between backstory and current plot is such a hard balance to strike. Too much and the reader gets bored. Too little and the reader gets lost. DeStefano does a very good job of walking that line between the two.

Of course, it’s not a perfect book. There were a few times when Rhine or the plot would make a jump and I’d be dragged out of the story to say, “Wait, what? How did you come up with that?” I’m someone who is constantly jumping in and out of the story. When it gets too intense, I’ll out the book down for about thirty seconds. Or when I’m struck by an author’s brilliance.  Or when I’m just laughing to hard to hold the book still…or breathe. Rarely do I actually have to stop because something doesn’t make sense or because I actually have to back track to figure out what the blazes is happening.  I can think of only two times that this happened and I don’t even remember where they were (not that I would tell you if I did, that would be a spoiler and I don’t give those). And I’m still not sure that I wasn’t supposed to have to stop and think at those points.

With Wither, you are in the hands of someone who knows exactly what they are doing. And they won’t tell you! I’m sure that the clues are all there. I’m sure that when I get to the end of book three (however, many years down the road that is) I’ll be able to reread the series and go, “How did I not see that?” and everything will make perfect sense. But right now, my powers of prediction are sadly baffled. And that is frustrating! (If the author is reading this, I bet she’s doing a little victory dance or at least grinning evilly.) One of my favorite parts about reading a book is to take the pieces and see where the plot is going and figure out what is going to happen before it happens.  It’s an uncanny skill that I have. And it is being pushed to the max right now. Normally, I find it painfully easy. Not this time. My brain is still turning possibilities and lines of story development and the interaction between characters and coming up with likely directions the story will take. But I can’t settle on any one thing that I know is going to happen (okay, actually there are a couple of things that I think I might know are going to happen, we’ll see). This is not a familiar feeling for me. It’s weird and foreign and…actually, kind of fun. It won’t stop me from trying of course, but I like that I wasn’t able to figure all the big stuff out in one reading. No, I don’t like it…I love it. And it’s part of why I can’t wait for Fever to come out in February (*cries* It’s SO far). Because the more pieces of the puzzle I can get, closer to seeing the whole picture I will be.

This is a book that I would recommend to people all across the board. It’s up there with The Hunger Games, I think that all my friend’s that enjoy a good book will enjoy this. Whether you are into the dystopian scene or not. Make this your introduction. At the same time, anyone who wants to write, especially if you want to write YA, this book should be on your list. I had as much fun reading how it was written as I did reading what was written. It’s one of those books you walk away from and say, “Wow…Let’s do that again!” (Kind of like you do with a good roller coaster). Parents, if you’re looking for a good, thought-provoking book for your teens to read, have at it. I would keep this one away from the younger teens. Rhine knows first hand the reality of her situation, she sees glimpses of it, and she’s honest. She doesn’t shy away from the realities of her world. Some of what she sees, or knows is happening just might be bit much for kids that are younger than fifteen or sixteen. I didn’t even come close to needing to self-censor the book while I read. It is very clean (I can’t vouch for the second and third books as they haven’t been written yet), but it is also very deep and kind of dark.

This is a good example of:

  • Significant detail
  • Character reveal
  • Backstory integration
  • A good love triangle
  • First person narrative
This book is one my recommended reading list.

Heist Society


Heist Society #1: Heist Society by Ally Carter

Ages 12 and up

What Kat Bishop wants is a normal life. A life where visits to the Louvre don’t involve casing it. Where trips to Austria don’t involve stealing the crown jewels. And she almost manages to get it. Then her best friend gets her kicked out of her prestigious boarding school, because a very dangerous man is missing five priceless paintings. And her father is the suspect. Thing is, Kat is pretty sure that her father didn’t steal the paintings. Not that anyone believes her. With a deadline of two weeks, Kat sets out with her best friend Hale and her cousin Gabrielle to figure out just who stole those paintings…and steal them back.

Despite my deep and abiding love for Ally Carter’s writing, I refused to read this book for a while. On principle. Because the book I really wanted to read was the next book in her Gallagher Girls series. Of course, in the end, that only hurt me and with the next Heist book in the series coming out in nine days and a four dollar price tag at Borders (yeah, I totally took advantage of the four stores that had to close in my area) I decided that is was time to stop acting like a spoiled kid and just read the darn book already. Because I knew I would love it. Which I did, because Heist Society might possibly be better than all the Gallagher Girls books put together (and they are basically four books full of awesome).

Kat is a complicated character. She is a good thief. Good as in, wicked skilled. Everyone she loves is a master thief and this is something that she’s been trained for since the age of three. But it’s not the life she wants. Not since her mom died. She is painfully aware of how much her skills have suffered during her brief hiatus. It’s rather interesting to see her mourn over the loss of skills that she no longer wants to use. Of course, with  her father’s life on the line, she doesn’t let rusty skills stop her. She enjoys the rush of the game, while being painfully aware of just how much one wrong move will cost.

And then there’s Hale.

The only thing that rivals Carter’s masterful female protagonists are her male protagonists. In GG, we had Josh. And then Zach (who I’m in love with, by the way). In Heist we get W.W. Hale. Carter does really well with the tough guy who is really a softee with a little bit of damage. Hale is everything that he needs to be. He’s protective, without being overbearing or getting in the way. Really good with witty dialogue. Just a little bit mysterious (Hale is his last name, he refuses to tell Kat his first) and really, really hot. Yes, it is possible for a character in a book to be hot. Hale is the honorary inductee into the Bishop family. He doesn’t have any ties to “the life”. He just caught Kat breaking into his home one night and took advantage of the opportunity knowing a teenage super thief to find a different life from the one his parents planned for him…and to become said teenage super thief’s not-boyfriend. Just like Kat, Hale has so many more levels than you see at first glance. But where we get a good look into Kat’s thought process, we only get a peek at Hale’s inner self. We just kind have to make an educated guess. I’m hoping we get to see more of Hale’s vulnerable side in the next book (which comes out in nine days, did I mention that?).

Carter has always been really good with her characterization. She has just enough characters in the story to keep things interesting, but she doesn’t over load you. She takes her time, making each of the characters that you spend time with separate and distinct and fleshed out. I can’t wait to see more of Kat and Hale’s teenage crew of thieves in Uncommon Criminals. Especially her cousin, Gabrielle. The tension between Kat and Gabrielle (partly centered around Hale) is very telling of both of their characters. They like each other more than they’ll admit, but sometimes they feel like two cats about to launch into a clawing, yowling, spitting fight.

I’ve read a lot of books. And many authors that I’ve read don’t really change from book to book. If you’ve read one Redwall book, you have the basics of every other Redwall book. How the author treats point of view, the kinds of story they tell, the kinds of characters they like to focus on don’t usually change. Not so here. While Gallagher Girls was a first person narrative with a protagonist decidedly on the right side of the law, Heist Society is in third-person and about characters who are more likely to cause a headache for the law. Granted, there is still a lot of Carter’s style in the book. It’s still about teenagers that spend a good deal of time having to look over their shoulders. And her humor is just as skillful, but the characters are a little more mature than in previous books. The scene on page 283 had me in stitches for a good five minutes. And then, of course, that was so much fun that I have to reread the scene.

The point of view in Heist Society is unique. It’s limited omniscient, I believe. For the most part we’re reading from Kat’s POV, but every now and then the lens zooms out and we get to glimpse a moment or an impression. Almost like we’re voyeurs, stealing  in to watch the story unfold. It gives the book a movie-like quality.

The premise of the story, a master thief being forced to steal against her will isn’t anything new. But the way Carter treats it is refreshing. the struggle between Kat and her family to accept her leaving is real and touching. And the solution that she comes up with at the end of the book is both surprising and expected. One of those, should-have-seen-it-coming kind of things.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It was the reading of an afternoon and an enjoyable use of my time. I can’t wait to get my hands on book two next week.

This is a good example of:

  • Author versatility
  • Limited POV
  • Character crafting
  • Handling a moderate cast of characters
  • Humor

This book is on my recommended reading list.


I don’t know if it’s just because I’m weird or if it’s a common thing, but cliffhanger endings and the waiting aside, I love it whenever a series that I’ve been following comes out with a new book. Something about the suspense, the rush of seeing the promotional material, the bubbly feeling when you finally see it on the bookstore shelves and the joy of the clerk handing you your newly bought book (or the librarian) is just fun for me. My friends will tell you, I have been caught drooling of the Throne of Fire posters and I will probably be doing the rounds to find a friend that has finished it and will let me borrow it (little strapped for cash right now).

Here are some of the books that I am just counting down the days until I can hold them (and maybe take them home, we’ll see)

  • The Kane Chronicles #2: The Throne of Fire by Rick Riordan: Comes out May 3rd (eeeek!). I think most of you will have figured out that I am a fan of all things related to RR. And he’s got two big ones coming out this year (more on that later). In the first book, he did for the Egyptian mythos all of the wonderful things that he did in the Percy Jackson books. Cannot wait for the TTF to come out!
  • Heist Society #2: Uncommon Criminals: Comes out June 21. Okay, so maybe the first book is still sitting on my bookshelf waiting to be read. But it’s by Ally Carter, so that means it’s pretty much literary gold from my point of view. And while I’d much rather be putting GG5 on this list, I suppose this will have to do. ;D
  • The Heroes of Olympus #2: The Son of Neptune by Rick Riordan: Comes out October 4 (Cover reveal May 25). I don’t care what anyone says about this series not being Percy Jackson books…People, these books are Percy Jackson books. Just read them and you’ll see. SON will have me parked outside the bookstore waiting for them to open the doors just so I can get my hands on a copy. I mean, I’ve only been looking forward to this for to come out since  I finished The Lost Hero.
  • Beka Cooper series #3: Mastiff: Comes out October 25. I just recently got into this series and I have to say, Tamora Pierce doesn’t disappoint…ever. I’ve been following her since I was seventeen. And I can’t wait to see how she concludes this one.
  • The Inheritance Cycle #4: Inheritance: Comes out November 8. I know, took him long enough. I remember when Eldest came out I was SO excited. Here we are three years later and I’m considerably less excited for the final book. I’m kinda ready for this to be over…but still, I do enjoy his books. They’re just not as urgent feeling anymore.
That’s it. That’s the list so far. If I hear of anything else exciting (that I’ve read) I’ll put it down.
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