Thursday, December 29, 2011

Uncommon Criminals

Uncommon Criminals by Ally Carter
Publication Date: June 21, 2011
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Pages: 298
Keywords: thief, cleopatra, travel
Format read: library book

Summary: Katarina Bishop has worn a lot of labels in her short life: Friend. Niece. Daughter. Thief. But for the last two months she's simply been known as the girl who ran the crew that robbed the greatest museum in the world. That's why Kat isn't surprised when she's asked to steal the infamous Cleopatra Emerald so it can be returned to its rightful owners. There are only three problems. First, the gem hasn't been seen in public in thirty years. Second, since the fall of the Egyptian empire and the suicide of Cleopatra, no one who holds the emerald keeps it for long — and in Kat's world, history almost always repeats itself. But it's the third problem that make Kat's crew the most nervous, and that is... the emerald is cursed. Kat might be in way over her head, but she's not going down without a fight. After all, she has her best friend — the gorgeous Hale — and the rest of her crew with her as they chase the Cleopatra around the globe, dodging curses and realizing that the same tricks and cons her family has used for centuries are useless this time. Which means, this time, Katarina Bishop is making up her own rules.

Ally Carter wowed me again. I sped through this book in less than 48 hours. I was absolutely blown away about midway through the book. I cannot say anything, really, because it would give away the awesome-ness that was this plot. It was just so unpredictable. Every time I turned the page, I encountered a new problem I had not seen coming. And Katarina, as always, is a fabulous character. I love that she is stubborn and doesn't always see the obvious, even though that makes me want to smack her. However, that is the brilliancy of her. And I love her crew (especially Hale) and the fact that they are all just as cunning and witty as Katarina.

Of course, I did have a teeny problem. All of these heists are incredibly well-thought, and the reality, though slim, is pretty good. The books have a very realistic quality about them, which is what I like so much. However, a curse? Really? I was so upset to read that in the premise. But, the book actually didn't mention the curse enough to be considered the biggest problem for Kat and her crew. In fact, I was really confused after I finished the book because the curse was only mentioned casually when someone tripped on the sidewalk. So that was fine, really, because I didn't like the premise of the curse anyway. But I was confused at why it was presumed to be the biggest problem for them.

There's really not much more to say, other than this was an awesome read. I really really enjoyed it, and it was a lovely one to read over the holidays, as I could zip through it quickly and get lost in it, and I was able to avoid doing laundry for a day or so. Really highly recommended!

Monday, December 19, 2011

The Beginning of After

The Beginning of After by Jennifer Castle
Publication Date: September 6, 2011
Publisher: Harper Teen
Pages: 432
Keywords: orphan, grief, car accident

Summary: Sixteen-year-old Laurel's world changes instantly when her parents and brother are killed in a terrible car accident. Behind the wheel is the father of her bad-boy neighbor, David Kaufman, whose mother is also killed. In the aftermath of the tragedy, Laurel navigates a new reality in which she and her best friend grow apart, boys may or may not be approaching her out of pity, overpowering memories lurk everywhere, and Mr. Kaufman is comatose but still very much alive. Through it all there is David, who swoops in and out of Laurel's life and to whom she finds herself attracted against her better judgement. She will forever be connected to him by their mutual loss — a connection that will change them both in unexpected ways. 

I was really excited to read this one, but after the fact I think I didn't know what to expect. Meaning, I had an idea of what I wanted the book to be, but it turned out completely different. And in a good way. I've read a lot of reviews of this one, and some kind of make me mad. This isn't really a grief story in any way, other than the fact that Laurel loses her family. It is about her life continuing, and the fact that life doesn't stop, no matter what happens. It says so right in the title. This is what happens after. And I think that's where people got confused. They wanted it to be a grief story, just like I did. But it was such a well-written after-the-fact story.

I loved Laurel and David, cliche as it is to do a good-girl, bad-boy premise. But they were both such lovely characters, developed really well. They also had good dialogue back and forth, and I loved that a dog kept the two together even though they were far apart at times. I hated Joe. Joe was a guy Laurel had liked at school, and he finally asked her out to prom. However, I felt the whole time he had asked her out of pity, and then he didn't put any effort forth in continuing a relationship. He only did things when drunk or when Laurel acted first (anything at all, not just romantic-y stuff. texting. calling. everything. he drove me nuts. man up!). And I really didn't like Laurel's best friend, either, though I understand her purpose and her hidden storyline.
One thing that really drove me crazy (alert to ALL AUTHORS) was the texting. PEOPLE DON'T REALLY TEXT IN COMPLETE ABBREVIATIONS. I use full sentences and punctuation. And I didn't know what half of the words were in their texts. And honestly, they were unnecessary. Description could have done the job better. They were a huge disruption to the story and frankly, I hated them. And I hate to see texts in books anyway. It's just annoying.

Moving on. I loved the progression of this book. It didn't dwell on too much of one particular time period, but it focused when it needed to. I never got tired of reading description and happenings in the narration. It was all done very well. I also loved the animal focus in this book, giving Laurel a new purpose and something to focus on. This was a very real and believable aspect because this could actually happen. Laurel's Nana didn't really like the whole animal thing (not sure why...), but I did and thought it added great depth to the overall effect of the story.

Overall, it was a pretty good one, once people get it out of their heads that this is a grief story. Remember, it's a story about life moving on no matter what, and how Laurel manages the "after."