Review: Heist Society by Ally Carter

Review: Heist Society by Ally CarterHeist Society by Ally Carter
Series: Heist Society #1
Published by Hachette Children's Books, Hyperion
Pages: 352
Genres: Contemporary YA, Young Adult
Source: Purchased myself
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Also in this series: Uncommon Criminals, Perfect Scoundrels

When Katarina Bishop was three, her parents took her to the Louvre... to case it. For her seventh birthday, Katarina and her Uncle Eddie traveled to Austria... to steal the crown jewels. When Kat turned fifteen, she planned a con of her own--scamming her way into the best boarding school in the country, determined to leave the family business behind. Unfortunately, leaving "the life" for a normal life proves harder than she'd expected.

Soon, Kat's friend and former co-conspirator, Hale, appears out of nowhere to bring her back into the world she tried so hard to escape. But he has good reason: a powerful mobster's art collection has been stolen, and he wants it returned. Only a master thief could have pulled this job, and Kat's father isn't just on the suspect list, he is the list. Caught between Interpol and a far more deadly enemy, Kat's dad needs her help.

For Kat there is only one solution: track down the paintings and steal them back. So what if it's a spectacularly impossible job? She's got two weeks, a teenage crew, and hopefully just enough talent to pull off the biggest heist in her family's (very crooked) history--and, with any luck, steal her life back along the way.

Thoughts: Even though this is the first Ally Carter book I’ve ever read, I’ve been a fan of hers for eons. I like her blog, her twitter and, just, the fact that she went out and pitched “I’ve got a book about teenage thieves a-la-Ocean’s-Eleven, but with a proper gender distribution” to a publisher. And then I loved the fact that people went out and bought it.

So, when I picked up Heist Society, I knew I would enjoy it. What I did not expect was the four-hour reading marathon that would ensue as soon as I picked it up.

I didn’t just “like” it. I loved it.

Ally Carter has a writing style that is deceptively simple. She jumps from country to country, character to character, scene to scene, with the skill of a professional storyteller. She manages to weave in the main character’s complex back story (complete with heists, a dead parent and billionaire BFFs) into an already-tricky heist plot. Ally Carter shows and doesn’t tell. Colour me impressed.

As for her characters, all I can say is: L-O-V-E. I was skeptical at first that there would be any emotional depth to this book… but there is. Lots of it. The main character is a tough, smart, savvy girl, but she is still damaged in a way that you can relate to. She’s not perfect, but she’s is trying really damn hard. I absolutely adored her.

Of course, the most important part of this novel is the heist. It had to be superb; it had to be believable; and it had to be pulled off by teenagers. A tall order, but one that Ally Carter met with flying colours. I won’t give anything away, but suffice to say that she succeeded!

Bottom line? Heist Society is a smart, slick, and surprisingly-moving novel. Pick it up!

Great for fans of: Leverage (TV) and White Collar (TV).

Note about the UK edition: There were a number of unfortunate typos in my copy. Usually this really pisses me off, but I was too distracted by the genius of the writing to fuss too much. Hopefully this will be something that’s cleared up in the next printing.

Review: River Marked by Patricia Briggs

Review: River Marked by Patricia BriggsRiver Marked by Patricia Briggs
Series: Mercy Thompson #6
Published by Ace/Roc, Orbit
Pages: 326
Genres: Urban Fantasy
Source: Purchased myself
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Also in this series: Moon Called, Blood Bound

Being a different breed of shapeshifter - a walker - Mercy Thompson can see ghosts, but the spirit of her long-gone father has never visited her. Until now, on her honeymoon with the Alpha werewolf Adam. An evil is stirring in the depths of the Columbia River-and innocent people are dying. As other walkers make their presence known to Mercy, she must reconnect with her heritage to exorcise the world of the legend known as the river devil...

Thoughts: This book has confirmed what I long thought to be true: Patricia Briggs is incapable of writing books I don’t like.

I was in a real reading slump when I picked up River Marked. Almost every book I picked up left me with a desire to send letter bombs in the mail – and there seemed to be no cure in sight. I thought: “If Briggs can’t get me out of this funk, no one can.” And sure enough, she did.

River Marked was absolutely stellar. It was really different to the previous Mercy books, as Mercy and Adam spent 90% of the time away from home with strangers. I adored this for two reasons: 1) it was a chance for us to see how Mercy and Adam’s relationship would work outside of their comfort zone. 2) it was a completely natural, realistic thing for a couple to do. Too often authors will stick to a particular group of characters or a certain location, because that’s what people want to read. Not Briggs. She’ll take two of your favourite characters, toss them somewhere brand new, and make you love her for it.

That said, though most of the book was spent on the road, Briggs did sneak in a few fan favourites: Bran, Stefan and Jesse all put in some rather solid appearances. Thank God, as I really needed to check in on them after Silver Borne.

So, along with the fantastic exploration of Mercy and Adam’s relationship, River Marked also introduced a bunch of Native American mythology… which I loved. I read stories about Coyote and Raven when I was a girl, so seeing their stories incorporated into River Marked was a dream. Without giving away too many details… I also really liked how Briggs dealt with Mercy’s family history. Maybe other readers will find it a bit iffy, but I thought she handled it all very well.

You can also see the beginnings of a bunch of new plot lines in River Marked; I am positively twitching with impatience with the need to find out what Briggs has planned! I was starting to worry that she was wrapping up the Mercy series, but I can picture at least 5 more books worth of content she can cover after this.

Bottom line? A stellar – albeit, very different – installment in the Mercy series. If you are looking for a UF series that can hold up six books in, look no further.

Cover Note: I’ve used the US cover for this post as I absolutely loathe the new UK covers. The covers are actually what kept me from reading this book for so long – I just couldn’t stand the idea of buying the UK version! Only reason I bought it in the end was because I spotted it at Oxfam. Will need to get the US cover on bookdepository one of these days…

Review: Doubleblind by Ann Aguirre

Review: Doubleblind by Ann AguirreDoubleblind by Ann Aguirre
Series: Sirantha Jax #3
Published by Ace/Roc
Pages: 310
Genres: Science Fiction
Source: Purchased myself
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Also in this series: Grimspace, Wanderlust, Killbox

Sirantha Jax isn’t known for diplomatic finesse. As a “Jumper” who navigates ships through grimspace, she’s used to kicking ass first and taking names later—much later. Not exactly the obvious choice to sell the Conglomerate to the Ithtorians, a people whose opinions of humans are as hard as their exoskeletons.

And Ithiss-Tor council meetings aren’t the only place where Ambassador Jax needs to maneuver carefully. Her lover, March, is frozen in permanent “kill” mode, and his hair-trigger threatens to sabotage the talks—not to mention their relationship.

But Jax won’t give up on the man or the mission. With the Outskirts beleaguered by raiders, pirates, and the flesh-eating Morgut, an alliance with Ithiss-Tor may be humanity’s only hope. Which has Jax wondering why a notorious troublemaker like her was given the job…

Thoughts: There were so many things I loved about Doubleblind, I hardly know where to start. While this was an unmistakably Jax book, it was extremely different Aguirre’s previous books. There was less action and a lot more talking. And while that may sound anticlimactic, it was, if anything, even more nerve-wracking than guns-blazing action. Why, you ask? Because it was all politics – old-school, world-saving negotiations with assassination attempts and violent demonstrations. It was The West Wing on crack in space. It was glorious.

And to top it all off, all this glorious political action took place on Ithiss-Tor. When I first read Grimspace, I was rather floored by the entire book… but Vel just knocked my socks off. He only appears in the last, say, 50(?) pages of the book and in that time became one of my very favourite characters. So getting to visit the home-world he left behind? Well, nothing could have made me happier.

In Doubleblind, Aguirre reveals a lot about the Ithiss-Tor, Ithorian culture, and – best of all – Vel’s past. If I hadn’t loved Vel before, Doubleblind would have sealed the deal. He is such a noble, loyal, brilliant individual – and his relationship with Jax is unlike anything I’ve ever read before. He cares about her so deeply, in a way that completely defies traditional values. He’s an alien – an insect-like, long-living, practically Vulcan alien. And yet, I adore him. You will too.

Doubleblind also includes an extremely traumatised March. This is not at all the man we met in Grimspace: he’s senselessly violent and pretty much soulless. Aguirre handled his changed interaction with Jax spectacularly – although, I admit, my attachment to the two of them together began to wane in this book… I’ll just leave it at that.

Bottom line? Best book since Grimspace. Pick up this series if you love 3D characters and complex plots.

Review: If I Die by Rachel Vincent

Review: If I Die by Rachel VincentIf I Die by Rachel Vincent
Series: Soul Screamers #5
Published by MIRA
Pages: 342
Genres: Paranormal YA, Young Adult
Source: Received for review from publishers
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Also in this series: My Soul to Take, My Soul to Save, My Soul to Keep, My Soul to Steal, Before I Wake, With All My Soul

The entire school’s talking about the gorgeous new math teacher, Mr Beck. That is, everyone except Kaylee Cavanaugh. After all, Kaylee’s no ordinary high-school junior. She’s a banshee — she screams when someone dies.
But the next scream might be for Kaylee.

Yeah — it’s a shock to her, too. So to distract herself, Kaylee’s going to save every girl in school. Because that hot new teacher is really an incubus who feeds on the desire of unsuspecting students. The only girls immune to his lure are Kaylee and Sabine — her boyfriend’s needy ex-girlfriend. Now the unlikely allies have to get rid of Mr Beck…before he discovers they aren’t quite human, either.

But Kaylee’s borrowed lifeline is nearing its end. And those who care about her will do anything to save her life. Anything.

Thoughts: If I Die was my favourite Soul Screamers novel, hands down. Rachel Vincent resolved all my complaints, “beat my head against the wall” feelings, and shoot-Nash-in-the-face desires in one tidy little novel. How? Well, she gave Kaylee a gigantic wake-up call in the form of imminent death. *grins* Oh, the joy.

OK, I realise that makes me sound rather evil. But let me put it this way: when a character literally has no reason to hold herself back, she has the chance to let out her true self. And the “true” Kaylee? She’s rather brilliant. You see, finding out she is about to die frees Kaylee… it frees her from Nash, from her father, from her schoolmates, and – most importantly – from herself. So when I say “finding out she is about to die is the best thing that ever happened to Kaylee”, I really do mean it in the very best of ways.

Now, other than telling you that open-eyes!Kaylee is featured in If I Die, I can’t really say much more without spoiling the book for you. In short: the villain was horrifically genius, Tod was swoon-worthily brilliant, Nash was ludicrously screwed-up, Kaylee’s Dad was adorably protective, and Sabine was, well… Sabine. *sighs happily*

Bottom line? It is worth reading the first 4 books of the Soul Screamers series just to read If I Die. Seriously. Hell, just consider the first 4 books a very, very long prologue.

Finished the book already? Check out my interview with author Rachel Vincent for her thoughts on the series post-If I Die. She gave me some fantastic answers – read it if you are longing for something to tide you over until the next book!

Review: Silver-Tongued Devil by Jaye Wells

Review: Silver-Tongued Devil by Jaye WellsSilver-Tongued Devil by Jaye Wells
Series: Sabina Kane #4
Published by Orbit on January 5th 2012
Pages: 405
Genres: Urban Fantasy
Source: Received for review from publishers
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Also in this series: Red-Headed Stepchild, The Mage in Black, Green-Eyed Demon

Spoilers for the first 3 books! 

Life is looking up for Sabina Kane. Now that her scheming grandmother is dead, the threat of war has passed and the rulers of the dark races are about to sign a treaty to ensure ongoing peace. Her relationship with sexy mage Adam Lazarus is strong and all her friends are around her. Even her magic training is progressing further than she ever expected. The only two dark spots in her otherwise settled life are her guilt over her sister Maisie's fragile mental state and Sabina's own sinking sense that she's got unfinished business with Cain, the mysterious cult leader she let get away months earlier.

When a string of murders rock the New York dark races community and threatens to stall the peace negotiations, Sabina finds herself helping to find the killer. Her investigation leads her down troubling paths that have her questioning everything - and everyone - she knows. And the closer she gets to the murderer, the more Sabina realises this is one foe she may not able to kill.

Thoughts: Silver-Tongued Devil was brilliant. I expected great things from Jaye Wells, but truth is that Green-Eyed Demon left me wondering where she could go with the series. Everything had ended so happily that I couldn’t really work out why Wells needed two more books.

The reason? Because there is no such thing as a happy ending, not even in fiction! In real life, people don’t just go from being a ruthless assassin for 50 years to being a warm-hearted softie overnight. And in real life, love and friendship aren’t the only ingredients to lasting relationships. So while Sabina might want to ride into the sunset, that wasn’t going to happen any time soon. And to honest, I am so very grateful for that!

Let’s start with Sabina. She’s one of my favourite characters in fiction, she is a take-no-prisoners woman who has a panache for violence. It’s fabulous and depressing at the same time. But in the third book in the series, it felt like she was trying to be someone she wasn’t. Luckily, that attempt is dealt with head-on in Silver-Tongued Devil. Not only did she deal with her own demons, she dealt with the way people around her were treating her too. *cough* Adam. *cough*

And while all the inter-character relationships were fantastically done, it was the gargantuan plot twists that made this book stand out. Jaye Wells is not afraid to “go there”. She made some pretty big revaluations in this book and made her characters suffer through pretty horrific consequences because of them. What was especially gratifying was the way the plot built on existing scenes – Wells has been laying the groundwork for the events of Silver-Tongued Devil over the entire series. Now that? That’s a real writer.

While the first half of the book was good, the second half was fantastic. The pace and the plot just grew more and more intriguing with each page – I found myself thinking about the book whenever I’d put it down. This book made going about my day a very frustrating venture, as all I wanted to do was read!! The only reason it isn’t getting 5 stars? Well, it’s not quite as funny as its predecessors. Other than that, it was perfection.

Bottom line? Silver-Tongued Devil was everything I didn’t even know I wanted. It was a gripping installment to an already brilliant series. Go forth and read it!

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