Game

Spoiler warning! If you haven’t read Barry Lyga’s I Hunt Killers yet, you simply must before reading the sequel, Game. (My fellow South Carolinians need to read I Hunt Killers anyway. It’s nominated for the 14-15 SC Young Adult Book Award.)

As you’ve no doubt gathered, I recently finished reading Game, the second book in Barry Lyga’s Jasper Dent series. In this series, we get to know Jasper, known to his friends as Jazz, the son of the world’s most prolific serial killer. In I Hunt Killers, Jazz helps the authorities find the Impressionist, a killer copying the work of Jazz’s father. At the end of that book, though, readers got the kind of cliffhanger that makes us weep or scream in frustration. Somehow, Jazz’s father escapes from prison, and he’s on the hunt again. That’s where Game picks up.

Jazz knows his dad is on the loose, and it’s just a matter of time before their paths cross. In the meantime, there’s yet another serial killer prowling in New York City, and Jazz’s help is once again enlisted to determine just how this maniac thinks. And if anyone knows how a killer thinks, it’s the son of Billy Dent.

Jazz and his girlfriend Connie head to NYC in the hopes that they will be able to find some clues that lead to the capture of the Hat-Dog Killer. The police and FBI seem to have no leads, and Jazz is able to provide a bit of insight into the mind of this psychopath. It’s not always a comfortable process for Jazz (or the reader). In trying to figure out what the killer thinks, Jazz is forced to come face-to-face with his own damaged psyche.

Can Jazz really handle the pressure of thinking like a killer once again? Is he losing himself to the teachings of his father? How can Jazz possibly spend most of his time profiling serial killers without succumbing to the voice of Billy Dent in his head?

As Jazz comes closer to the truth about the Hat-Dog Killer and his dad’s possible involvement in this disturbing game of murder, Connie and Jazz’s best friend Howie are entangled in their own mystery. Someone is sending Connie messages leading her to some disturbing information about Jazz and his past. Who is sending these messages? And why send them to Connie and not Jazz? Connie enlists Howie’s help in her search for the truth, but neither of them will be prepared for what awaits them…

Once again, the hunt for a killer is on. Jazz and company will have to rely on their wits, tenacity, and good old-fashioned luck to figure out what’s going on…but it may not be enough. Even when questions are answered, dozens more pop up in their place, and the hunt for the truth may lead Jazz, Connie, and even Howie into further danger.

Someone is playing a murderous game with people’s lives, and Jazz and his friends may just become unwitting game pieces themselves. Can they make it out of the game alive? Only time will tell…

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I freely admit that the above recap doesn’t come remotely close to capturing everything that happened in Game. I didn’t even touch on the glimpses we got into the minds of Hat-Dog, Jazz, Connie, Howie, and Billy. Each perspective brought us new insights into these characters and how they view the world around them.

I briefly mentioned Jazz’s struggles with his own mind, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Jazz is all kinds of messed up, and that definitely comes through for the reader. I even had to put the book down a couple of times and just catch my breath. Jazz’s head is not a happy place to be. What do you expect when a kid is basically raised to be a murderer, right? Sometimes it’s not clear if we’re actually reading Jazz’s thoughts or those of his lunatic father. I guess that’s the dilemma for Jazz as well.

Without giving too much away, I must say that the “game” aspect of Game freaked me the crap out. I may never look at board games the same again.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the whopper of a cliffhanger at the end of this book. When I closed Game last night, I just sat there for a minute and thought, “You’ve got to be kidding me!” Has Barry Lyga been taking lessons from Steven Moffat (of Sherlock and Doctor Who fame) on torturing fans with mind-boggling endings? Do we seriously have to wait until September to find out how things are resolved (or if they are resolved) for Jazz and friends? I guess we do, but we don’t have to be happy about it!

The third book in this series, Blood of My Blood, should be released on September 9th. (Loving the title, by the way. Can’t wait to see what it might mean for Jazz!) Judging be the synopsis on Goodreads, we’re in for a lot more danger and intrigue. I look forward to diving into what I’m sure will be another fantastic read.

If you can’t wait for more of Jasper Dent and company, though, you can check out a couple of companion novellas. Lucky Day tells of how Billy was first captured, Career Day is a day in the life of sixteen-year-old Jasper, and Neutral Mask provides a look into the beginnings of the relationship between Jazz and Connie. Just click on the titles of each novella in the previous sentence, and you’ll be taken to the Goodreads page on each ebook.

For more information on I Hunt Killers, Game, or other books by Barry Lyga, check out his website, Tumblr, Twitter, and Facebook. If you’ve got a minute or two to spare, you may also want to take a look at the Game book trailer below. It covers things I didn’t here, and, in my opinion, it definitely captures the mood of this intense read!

 

Also Known As

Every once in a while, Amazon offers some pretty great Kindle Daily Deals. (Most of them are less than $3.00.) Recently, one of those deals came in the form of Robin Benway’s Also Known As. I previously read and liked Audrey, Wait!, one of the author’s other books, so I was pretty sure that I would enjoy this one. After reading the synopsis, I was even more certain. You see, this book is about Maggie, a teenage spy. After reading Ally Carter’s Gallagher Girls and Heist Society series, I really dig books about teenagers who are spies or use, shall we say, less than legal means to right wrongs. That’s just what I got with Maggie in Also Known As.

Maggie is an expert safe-cracker. She’s been a spy for the Collective for over ten years…and she’s a teenager. Maggie picked her first lock as a preschooler, and she’s been working ever since. But now, she’s facing her first solo assignment. She and her parents (also spies) are relocating to New York, and Maggie is tasked with obtaining information that could expose and bring down the entirety of the Collective’s operations. How will she do this, you ask?  Well, her mission begins with enrolling in high school…

Maggie has never been what one would call a traditional student. She’s never been in a regular classroom, had to make friends, been judged on her fashion choices (which are many even with school uniforms), or faced the horror of a school cafeteria. Her first and most daunting task here is going to be just trying to fit in. This might just take every one of her super-spy skills.

Eventually, Maggie becomes closer to Roux, a social pariah at school, who has a connection that Maggie needs to complete her job. Roux is acquainted with Jesse Oliver, a boy whose father may just be printing the article that could end Maggie’s world as she knows it. As spies have always done in the past, Maggie must use every weapon at her disposal, including budding friendships, to get the job done, and that’s exactly what she does.

What Maggie didn’t count on, however, is actually becoming close to both Roux and Jesse. (How could she anticipate such a thing? It’s not like she ever had real friends before?) Now, Maggie is torn between doing the job she’s always been groomed for and being honest with the first real connections she’s ever had with people her own age. Could there possibly be a happy medium here? And can Maggie complete her mission–and figure out who would put the mysterious Collective in jeopardy–before it’s too late? Follow Maggie on her quest for the truth–and lasting friendships–when you read Also Known As, the first book in an exciting new series by Robin Benway!

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Also Known As is a quick, thoroughly entertaining read that, in my opinion, is a great fit for upper middle grade and young adult readers. There is some swearing, but I don’t think it’s excessive, and it’s true to the situations in this book. (I dare you to be a teenage spy or son/daughter of extremely permissive, absent parents and not drop the occasional expletive. Go ahead. I dare you!)

I think this book is more about developing Maggie’s character than it is about spying…but there was plenty of intrigue, especially in the latter part of the book. The biggest mystery for me was how Maggie was going to reconcile her work with her new relationships…and I feel like Benway resolved that in a rather satisfactory way, one that I’m sure will pop up in subsequent books in the series. (At least, I hope so!)

Speaking of sequels, the next book, Going Rogue, will be out in less than two weeks! It will be released on January 14th, and I’m definitely planning to read it as soon as possible. I’m sure it will be just as captivating as the first book!

If you’d like more information about Also Known As and other books by Robin Benway, check out her website at http://www.robinbenway.com/index.php. You can also follow her on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and Instagram. Enjoy!

Published in: on January 3, 2014 at 7:41 pm  Leave a Comment  
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City of Orphans

Well, my summer is nearly at an end, and I’ve almost finished reading the twenty books nominated for the 2013-14 South Carolina Children’s Book Award. Last night, I finished #19, City of Orphans by Avi (also nominated for the South Carolina Junior Book Award). Had this book not been nominated for the SCCBA, I don’t know that I would have picked it up. It’s no secret that historical fiction is not my favorite genre. (For those wondering, the 20th SCCBA nominee left to read is also historical fiction. I’ve put it off as long as possible.) After reading City of Orphans, though, I’m honestly glad I gave this book a chance.

For the most part, this is not a particularly happy book, but it does explore what life was like for kids in turn-of-the-century New York. (Hint: If you had no money, it was bad.) The title, City of Orphans, refers to the fact that even kids with parents, most of whom were immigrants, were–for all intents and purposes–orphans. It was up to them to figure out how and where to make money, where to go when they needed help, and how to get out of bad situations. In this book, we meet Maks and Willa, two “orphans” just trying to survive in this bleak world.

It’s 1893, and New York City is teeming with people–immigrants, crooks, cops, and, most of all, kids. Kids just trying to survive, trying to make a few cents to help their families. One of these kids is Maks Geless. Maks is a newsie. (He sells newspapers on street corners.)

One night, Maks runs into some trouble on his way home from work. Trouble by the name of Bruno and the Plug Ugly Gang. Maks is sure he’s dead meat…until a dirty, homeless girl with a big stick saves him. This girl, Willa, has lived in the streets for months, and Maks figures the least he can do is give her a place to stay for coming to his rescue. So Maks takes Willa home to stay with his family.

Maks’ family, immigrants from Denmark, lives in a tenement, nearly ten people crammed into one small apartment, but it’s home, and they’re all together…until Maks’ older sister Emma is arrested! Maks is sure that Emma must be innocent. There’s simply no way she could have stolen a watch from someone at the new, fancy Waldorf hotel where she works. Maks’ parents are unfamiliar with the way things really work in America, so it’s up to Maks–and his new friend Willa–to figure out just what happened with Emma and the case of the stolen watch.

All the while, Maks and Willa have to watch out for the scary Bruno and this gang, just waiting to terrorize them and take their meager earnings. Can these two kids save their own necks while trying to get Maks’ sister out of jail? And is anyone willing to help two poor kids–who have no money–without expecting something in return? What will these two junior detectives discover in their quest for the truth? The answers will shock even them and will have the power to turn their worlds upside down. Learn how two kids navigate the perilous waters of turn-of-the-century New York when you read City of Orphans by Avi!

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I think City of Orphans is a great discussion-starter about what kids experienced throughout history. As a former social studies teacher, I can tell you that most lessons focus on what adults did in the past. Not much attention is given to kids’ experiences, and that’s a shame. I think many students today would find lessons more engaging and relatable if they could somehow identify with the people they were studying. Do we need to ignore what adults were doing during historical periods? No, but we shouldn’t discount a large portion of the population just because they’re young. (I see a research project in the future for some of my students!)

I also believe City of Orphans could be a “gateway” book to other works of literature. Those that immediately come to mind are the works of Charles Dickens, particularly Oliver Twist and Great Expectations. City of Orphans, while not quite as bleak–or wordy–as Dickens’ works, has the same kind of tone. I don’t particularly care for Dickens, but others do, and readers who really enjoy City of Orphans may want to explore a few of these classics.

If you’d like more information about this book and others by Avi, visit http://www.avi-writer.com/. You can also like his page on Facebook.

I hope you enjoy City of Orphans as much as I did!

The Great Gatsby

This week, I finally did something I probably should have done years ago. I read The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. I know many people may be shocked that I never got around to reading this American classic in high school, but I guess I just missed out on it. (When I was in high school, I didn’t read “classics” unless they were required in my literature classes. I gravitated toward cheesy teen romances, fantasy, and some science fiction. Not much has changed.) Anyway, I wanted to see the movie adaptation this weekend, so, of course, I had to read the book so that I could compare the two.

(For the record, I probably would have seen the movie even if I hadn’t read the book. I’ve been a Leonardo DiCaprio fan since he played Luke Brower on Growing Pains in the early 90s. That is one man who just gets better with age…and he’s a fantastic actor.)

So, I’m not going to tell too much about the book because I figure all of my readers either have read it or will read it the future. I will say, though, that I think The Great Gatsby paints a vivid picture of what life was like in New York in the Roaring Twenties. There were some lavish parties and, at least among the upper echelons of society, a rather casual disregard for propriety and self-control–when it came to wealth, sex, marriage, sobriety, etc. (Goes a long way in explaining how the whole concept of Prohibition came about.)

The Great Gatsby is both a tragic love story and a tale of people who bring out the worst in each other. Told from the perspective of Nick Carraway, who is at once above the drama and a part of it, we delve into the mystery of Jay Gatsby and his love for Daisy Buchanan. It’s often difficult to sort out the truth from all the lies, but the lives of the people in this book intertwine in a beautiful mess, and, in the end, their lives unravel in the blink of an eye.

I enjoyed reading The Great Gatsby, and a big part of me is happy that I waited until I was an adult to experience this book. I honestly don’t think that I could have appreciated it as a teenager. Now, with some knowledge of the time period–I studied the 1920s extensively as an undergrad student–and more life experience myself, I can grasp just why this book is widely considered a must-read American classic.

I can’t wait to see what Baz Luhrmann does with Jay Gatsby’s story. I hope I enjoy it as much as I did Moulin Rouge, especially since The Great Gatsby has the same kind of decadence that was present in that wonderful musical. I have high hopes for this movie, and I am praying that my hopes are not dashed by Hollywood (as they have been so often in the past). So far, reviews are mixed, but I don’t really put too much stock in reviews. (The original Star Wars trilogy was widely panned by reviewers. Those people were made of stupid.) Either way, I’ll get to look at Leo DiCaprio on the big screen, and that’s always fun!

Speaking of fun, here’s a trailer for the movie adaptation of The Great Gatsby to whet our appetites for the movie…which is in theaters today!

Published in: on May 10, 2013 at 10:25 am  Leave a Comment  
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City of Lost Souls

Warning!  There may be City of Lost Souls spoilers ahead!

After work on Tuesday, I rushed to the closest Barnes & Noble to pick up a book I waited on for far too long—City of Lost Souls by Cassandra Clare.  I started reading it as soon as I got home, but, sadly, I wasn’t able to finish it until yesterday.  (Lots of things kept getting in the way—work, my regular TV schedule, meetings, and my need for naps.)  But finish it I did, and I was absolutely blown away.

Like the other books in Clare’s Mortal Instruments series (City of Bones, City of Ashes, City of Glass, and City of Fallen Angels) and her Infernal Devices series (Clockwork Angel and Clockwork Prince), City of Lost Souls had me hooked before I even opened the book.  And I think a part of me was reluctant to finish the book, partly because I wanted to prolong the time I spent with my favorite characters, and partly because I knew this book would end on a cliffhanger, and I’d have a long time to worry about how things would be resolved.  How right I was.

I’m not going to tell you much about what happens in City of Lost Souls because I don’t want to spoil things for you.  This series means too much to me to ruin it for other fans.  I will say, however, that I am an emotional wreck after reading this book.  Sacrifices and deals are made—or at least considered—that change the entire fabric of this world.  The relationships between the characters have me tied up in knots, and I’m hoping against hope that things get better for everyone in the next book, City of Heavenly Fire.  I even found myself hoping that there was some way to “fix” Sebastian.  When you read this book, you’ll see why that hope was rather short-lived. 

While reading City of Lost Souls, I was always for clues about what might happen in Clockwork Princess.  (For those that don’t know, Clockwork Princess is the third book in the Infernal Devices, the prequel trilogy to Mortal Instruments.)  I think I may have found at least one clue, but it’s so out there that I don’t want to say anything in case I’m wrong (but I don’t think I am).  I also looked for things we might see in the next Shadowhunter series, Dark Artifices, which will take place a few years in the future at the Los Angeles Institute.  Based on things I’ve heard from Cassie Clare and the YA blogging community, I encountered a few characters that I know I’ll see again.

In short, I LOVED this book just as much as everything else Cassandra Clare has written.  I am totally invested in what happens to these characters that I’ve come to love and think of as my friends.  (Most of my best friends are fictional characters.)  I am eagerly anticipating the final book in the Mortal Instruments saga, City of Heavenly Fire, which won’t be released until March of 2014.  (Yep.  You read that right.  Nearly two years away.  Let the temper tantrum begin.)  Clockwork Princess will tide me over for a bit, but it won’t be out until March 19th of next year, so I’ve still got about ten months to stew.  Curses!

There is, however, something I’m looking forward to that will ease the pain of waiting.  Cassie Clare is coming to South Carolinain November!!!!  I got to meet her late last year during her Clockwork Prince tour (and she’s as awesome as you’d think she would be), and I was thrilled this week when I heard she’d be coming back to my fair state.  She, along with dozens of other bestselling authors—including Holly Black, Stephanie Perkins, Gayle Forman,  Margaret Stohl, Andrea Cremer, Kim Derting, and too many others to name—will be coming to Charleston for YALLFest (http://yallfest.org/), the Charleston Young Adult Book Festival.  The event will be November 9-10, and I am so there!  I’m so excited about this that I can barely contain my joy!

So, while the wait to find out what happens to Jace, Clary, Simon, Alec, Magnus, Isabelle, and even Sebastian, is way too long for me, there’s plenty going on that will tide me over (including hearing more about the middle-grade series by Cassie Clare and Holly Black that’s currently in the works). 

If you’d like more information about all of Cassandra Clare’s amazing books, check out her website (http://www.cassandraclare.com/), her tumblr site (http://cassandraclare.tumblr.com/), Twitter (https://twitter.com/#!/cassieclare), and Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/Cassandraclare).  You may also want to check out my favorite fansite, Mundie Moms (http://mundiemoms.blogspot.com/).  Also, if you haven’t seen it already (I’ve watched it about five thousand times), here’s the official City of Lost Souls book trailer.  If this video doesn’t make you want to read this outstanding book, nothing will.  Enjoy!

Published in: on May 13, 2012 at 10:06 am  Comments (4)  
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Timeless

This post is going to be a short one.  Why, you ask?  Well, because it’s my birthday, and I want to spend the rest of it having a Big Bang Theory marathon.  Anyway…I finished reading Timeless by Alexandra Monir earlier today.  If you follow this blog at all, you probably know that I’m not a huge fan of time travel fiction.  That hasn’t changed, but I will say that I enjoyed this story.  I also enjoyed the glimpses I received of New York City life throughout the past century.  So much has changed while so much has remained the same…

After a horrible tragedy turns Michele Windsor’s whole world upside down, she is sent to live with her wealthy, estranged grandparents in their Fifth Avenue mansion in New York City. Michele is not sure why her mother chose these people–who’ve never shown an interest in Michele or her mother–as her guardians. Michele just knows she’s not ready for this huge change in her life. Well, an even bigger change is on the horizon…

After Michele receives an mysterious key and finds an old diary, she is somehow transported from 2010 to 1910. Michele can only be seen by certain people in her travels through time…and one of them will totally capture her heart.

Philip Walker is just as enraptured by Michele as she is by him. But how can their love exist when neither belongs in the other’s time? Is there a way? And what force is allowing Michele to travel through time anyway? What family secrets will Michele uncover on her journeys, and can she find a way to stay with the love of her life? Read Timeless by Alexandra Monir to discover that real love can cross all boundaries…even time itself.

I truly enjoyed this book (and I honestly didn’t think I would). I was pleasantly surprised by how the timelines in the story connected, and I appreciated the discussion of Albert Einstein’s theories of time travel contained within the book. As I said previously, I loved the glimpses of old New York, and I also liked how history and music played into how events unfolded for Michele and Philip. (I was a music major for a while in college, and I started my career in education as a history teacher, so this was even more awesome for me.)

If you think you’d enjoy Timeless as much as I did, I invite you to check it out. You can also look forward to more of Michele’s story in the sequel, Timekeeper, due out in December 2012. To learn more about Timeless and author Alexandra Monir, visit http://www.alexandramonir.com/. You can even download some of the music featured in Timeless! Pretty cool!

Published in: on March 3, 2012 at 9:57 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Wonderstruck

After reading the wonder that is The Invention of Hugo Cabret, I knew I had to read the latest work of art by Brian Selznick, Wonderstruck.  I finally got around to it this week (at the urging of some of my students), and I was immediately captivated by this amazing story.  Although the book is over 600 pages long, it took me less than two days to read it.  (Of course, it helps that over half of the pages were pictures.)  Wonderstruck brings together two seemingly independent stories–one told in words and the other in illustrations–that take readers on an emotional journey that will leave them…well…wonderstruck!

Ben, a boy living in Minnesota in the 1970s, and Rose, a girl living in New Jersey in the 1920s, are searching for the same thing–a place to belong. Both of them long for the parents that seem (and often really are) out of their reach. As both young people go on a quest to find their places in the world, their stories intertwine, and both of them end up in a museum at the heart of New York City. What connection does this museum have to Ben and Rose? And can it help them to find the sense of belonging that they’ve always wanted? Read Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick and join Ben and Rose as they discover the truth about their pasts and the connections that will lead them into the future.

Wonderstruck is an absolutely beautiful story that will resonate with readers from ages 10 to 100.  The symmetry with which Brian Selznick wove the two seemingly independent tales of Ben and Rose is truly remarkable, and the similarities between the characters will appeal to many, as will the connections that bridges the gap between the fifty years that separate them.  

The pencil drawings in Wonderstruck, like all of the illustrations I’ve seen by Brian Selznick, are gorgeous.  It’s amazing to me–an admitted non-artist–how someone can convey a character’s emotions simply by drawing their eyes.  No words were needed.  I knew exactly what the character was feeling, and I experienced those emotions as well.  Brian Selznick proves that his pictures truly are worth a thousand words.

If you’re looking for your next great read, I highly recommend Wonderstruck.  You won’t be disappointed.

For more information on Wonderstruck and author Brian Selznick, visit http://www.wonderstruckthebook.com/.

If I Have a Wicked Stepmother, Where’s My Prince?

The title and cover sort of say it all, don’t they? If I Have a Wicked Stepmother, Where’s My Prince? is definitely a “chick” book. It might as well have a pink cover.  (It’s lavender.  Close enough.)  If you’re looking for a quick, extremely light, somewhat predictable read, this is the book for you.  It’s a nice bit of brain candy after you’ve read something really heavy.  (Think of it as the dessert after a huge meal.) 

Lucy Norton’s life is a lot like Cinderella’s.  Her father’s remarriage has uprooted her from everything she’s ever known.  She has a new home where she feels like a guest…if not the hired help.  She has a stepmother and two stepsisters who only acknowledge her to criticize something.  Her father is largely absent from her life.  She has no friends.  (At least Cinderella had some furry woodland creatures to keep her company.)  And she’s got a crush on the most popular guy in school (the handsome prince, if you will).  How can her fairy tale ever become reality when her life sucks so much?

As you’ve probably guessed, things turn around for Lucy pretty quickly.  Two girls befriend her after it becomes obvious that Lucy’s dream guy might just see her as his dream girl.  All of a sudden, Lucy is the popular girl she’s always wanted to be.  Sure, her life at home is still total crap, but at least her social life is booming, right?  Right?  She’ll just ignore the little voices in her head that tell her that the perfect guy may not be the perfect guy for her.  Join Lucy as she learns that the fairy tale isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.  After all, what would Cinderella have done if Prince Charming turned out to be kind of a butthead?

If I Have a Wicked Stepmother, Where’s My Prince? may not be the greatest thing to hit YA literature, but female readers, particularly those in grades 7 to 10, will enjoy this light read.  The book was released in 2005, so I’m betting that a lot of teen girls have already picked this one up.  If not…well, maybe I’ve done a little to get one or two people to escape into this story. 

If you’d like more information about this book or others by author Melissa Kantor, you can visit her website at http://www.melissakantor.com/.

Heist Society

Before I begin writing about my latest read, I’d like to wish everyone who takes the time to read this blog a happy Thanksgiving.  I am thankful for all of you, and I appreciate each and every comment posted (and even those of you who’ve never made a comment but still, for some reason, care what I think about books).  Knight Reader started as a way for me to keep track of what I’ve read, but it’s quickly grown into a passion, and my readers definitely help to make this more than a hobby.

Now, on with the show…

I just finished reading Heist Society by Ally Carter.  I’ve been meaning to read this one for a while, and I finally picked it up this weekend when I was in the mood for something kind of light. While this was a light, fast read, Heist Society was also engaging, fun, and suspenseful.  The story is kind of a blend of Gossip Girl and Ocean’s Eleven, and, even though I’m adamantly against crime of any kind (except the occasional breaking of the speed limit), Heist Society makes art thief seem glamorous and terrifying at the same time.  I would be a horrible thief—I get very nervous when things don’t go according to plan—but the teens in this book make it seem so effortless, much the way Danny Ocean and his crew did in Ocean’s Eleven (and Twelve and Thirteen).  But things weren’t so smooth at the beginning…

 

All Katarina Bishop wanted to do was leave her old life as a thief behind.  To do that, however, she had to pull off one more con—scam her way into the best boarding school in the country.  Well, she did, and Kat’s life was boring normal for a while…until circumstances pulled her back into the life and family she left behind.

Kat’s father, a master thief himself, has been accused of stealing a very valuable private art collection.  But the cops aren’t the ones after him.  No, a more sinister character is after Kat’s father.  This bad guy wants his paintings back, and he wants Kat to bring them to him.  There’s just one problem…Kat’s dad didn’t steal the paintings.  But who did?  And can Kat find out and clear her father’s not-so-good name?

As Kat and her motley crew, including the handsome, rich, and enigmatic Hale, travel the world, it becomes clear that to prove her father didn’t steal the paintings, they will have to find out who did…and steal the paintings back.  Can Kat pull off the biggest theft in her family’s history with a teenage crew?  Does she even want to?  Will she be able to leave everything behind again when/if she completes this job?  And is there more to these paintings than meets the eye?  Dive into the mystery when you read Heist Society by Ally Carter.

I really enjoyed this book, and I look forward to further adventures of Kat and crew in the sequel, Uncommon Criminals, which is already out.  Even though I did wonder where most of the parents were throughout this entire book, the story was still thought-provoking and entertaining.  Male and female readers from middle school on up will enjoy this one.

For more information on Heist Society and other books by Ally Carter, visit http://allycarter.com/.

Published in: on November 23, 2011 at 11:32 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Haven

Last week, I finished a book that was sort of a hybrid of X-Men and The Hunger Games (Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi).  Purely by chance, this week, I finished Haven by Kristi Cook, a book that’s a bit like X-Men meets Twilight.  (Maybe the universe is telling me that I need to have an X-Men movie marathon this weekend.  I’m okay with that.)  In any case, one of these books was new and different.  The other…well, the other was extremely predictable and easy to put down.  If you’ve read my review for Shatter Me, you can probably guess which of these two books was my favorite.

In Haven, readers are introduced to Violet, a teen girl with strange abilities.  She’s always been an outcast, but she has a good feeling about her new boarding school, Winterhaven.  She’s drawn to the place, and she soon learns the reason why.  Winterhaven is a school for others like her, students with special “gifts,” psychic and supernatural abilities that mark them as different from those outside the school.  Inside the school grounds, they are safe and can learn to hone and control their talents.  Violet can finally share her ability–disturbing visions of the future–with others, but she doesn’t see how she can control these visions…or stop them from coming true.

As Violet adjusts to life at Winterhaven, she encounters the most intriguing guy she’s ever met.  (Of course she does).  There’s something about Aidan Gray that draws Violet in, and it appears he feels the same way about her.  But his emotions seem to run hot and cold.  One minute, he’s completely crazy about her.  The next minute, he’s doing his best to push her away.  How does he really feel about her, and why is he so determined that Violet keep her distance?

Violet isn’t sure what’s going on, but she is certain of one thing:  Aidan is playing a starring role in her visions, and the future doesn’t look good.  Why is Aidan covered in blood?  Who is threatening her friends?  Why does she see herself killing the boy she’s come to love?  What do these visions mean, and can Violet find a way to stop them before it’s too late?  Read Haven by Kristi Cook to find out.

I must admit that Haven was not a top read for me.  It was simply too much like Twilight for my tastes (even though Violet was a bit less needy than Bella Swan).  There was always this push-pull between Violet and Aidan that, in many ways, mirrored the Bella-Edward relationship.  Can he suppress the urge to bite her?  (Oops.  Kind of gave it away that Aidan’s a vampire.  My bad.)  Will the kissing go too far?  It’s been done.  I did like Aidan’s interests in science and possibly finding a cure for his “disease,” but, all in all, the story was very predictable, and the resolution was a bit anticlimactic. 

If you’re set on reading about boarding schools for teens with special abilities–and X-Men is not your thing–I would go with Rachel Hawkins’ Hex Hall books (Hex Hall and DemonGlass) over this one.  If, however, you decide that Haven is the book for you, be prepared for a sequel as well.  The second book, Mirage, is set for a summer 2012 release.  For more information, go to http://kristi-cook.com/.

Published in: on October 5, 2011 at 10:05 pm  Leave a Comment  
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