Tag Archives: Ally Carter

To Catch a Thief

perfect scoundrels coverIn Perfect Scoundrels (Disney/Hyperion 2013) by Ally Carter, teenage master thief, Kat Bishop, is left hanging (literally. There’s a zip line involved) in the middle of a job in Argentina when her boyfriend, billionaire W.W. Hale V, gets a call that changes everything. His beloved grandmother — the only family member who ever really understood him — has died and surprisingly left the whole Hale empire to him. Soon Hale is acting cold and distant and is sucked back into the world he was so desperate to run away from. Kat’s not sure how to help him, especially when she learns that his grandmother’s will might have been forged in a nefarious scheme to steal the Hale family fortune. To figure out what’s going on and stop the possible thief, Kat gathers her “family” (Gabrielle, Simon, the Bagshaws, Nick, Uncle Eddie, her dad, and more) to help save Hale’s. However, by saving her boyfriend’s company she could lose him to that fancy-pants world forever. It’s quite the dilemma.

As with the first 2.5 books in the series, there’s a lot of fun to be had in Perfect Scoundrels. I have a few minor quibbles (and one major one), but overall I really loved it.  Here are my somewhat scattered thoughts, in no particular order: Continue reading

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Spies and Thieves

Double CrossedI believe I’ve mentioned my love of stories about spies and thieves before. In fact, one might say that I’ve discussed it incessantly. It should be no surprise then that Ally Carter is one of my favorite YA authors. I mean she has one series about teenaged spies and another series about teenaged thieves. What’s not to love? Now in anticipation of new books coming out in BOTH series in 2013, Ally Carter has put out the holy grail for obsessive fans like me: a crossover story.  And the best part is that it’s free!

Double Crossed (Disney/Hyperion 2013) finds Gallagher Girl Macey McHenry and Heist Society’s W.W. Hale V meeting up at a fancy society charity gala.  Both were born into immense privilege and both can tell that the other has more going on beneath the surface. So naturally when a group of thieves crash the party and hold everyone hostage, Macey and Hale have to team up to save the day, with a little outside help from master thief Kat Bishop and super-agent Aunt Abby. Yay!

The plot is kind of beside the point here. I mean all I really ask in a crossover story is that there be a legitimate reason for the characters to cross paths.  And of all the characters from both series, Macey (who is my favorite Gallagher Girl, by the way) and Hale make the most sense. Not only were they both born into that uber-rich world, but they both use that world to hide their true badass selves. There are lots of fun “why is that billionaire boy pick-pocketing the mayor (because he can)” and  “why does that socialite know Albanian (because it was for extra credit) kind of moments. The heist plot makes enough sense and it’s satisfying when they inevitably take the bad guys down.

Double Crossed is a treat for the fans. Not to get too greedy, but it made me want a whole bunch of stand-alone crossover novels, like those Nancy Drew/Hardy Boys specials from when I was a kid. You don’t need to have read the previous books to understand the story though. And since it also contains the first three chapters of Heist Society and I’d Tell You I Love You, But Then I’d Have to Kill You, it’s a good way for readers to sample Ally Carter’s world. The story is only available electronically, but you can read it at SpiesAndThieves.com if you do not have an e-reader.  And only a few more weeks until the next book!


I Don’t Know What I Did Last Summer

Warning: There will be spoilers for earlier books in the series in the review below.  Read at your own risk!

When we last saw our heroine, Cammie Morgan (aka The Chameleon) had just narrowly escaped the clutches of the nefarious Circle of Cavan during an attack that had left suspected double agent (but in reality triple agent) Joe Solomon in a coma.  Knowing that she was endangering everyone she loved, Cammie ran away determined to find out why the Circle wanted her and what they had done to her father five years earlier.  Out of Sight, Out of Mind (Disney Hyperion Books 2012) picks up 4 months later when Cammie wakes up in an isolated Austrian convent with her oddly emaciated body covered in bruises and various other injuries, her hair cut short and dyed, and oh yeah…NO MEMORY.  Oh God, it’s just like the third season of Alias!  Which granted, was not the best season of that show, but I blame the convoluted Rimbaldi mythology and Melissa George’s craptastic acting “skills” rather than the amnesia plot.

Oh sorry, I just had to spend an hour watching Alias clips on You Tube, but I’m back now. ANYWAY, once she returns to The Gallagher Academy for Exceptional Young Women (you know, the spy school for girls), nothing is the same. For one, her friends, who are pissed that she left without them, don’t seem that happy to see her.  Their reactions range from falsely cheerful to downright hostile.  Also, it seems like her sorta-boyfriend, Zach, has gotten quite close to her best friend over the summer.  The CIA and school trustees aren’t entirely sure that Cammie should be trusted, and for good reason.  She’s behaving erratically, losing time, and seems to have picked up a few new … skill sets during her time away.  With the help of new faculty member, Dr. Steve, Cammie and her friends try to piece together what happened over summer vacation.

This story is the darkest installment to the Gallagher Girls series yet and I loved every second of it.  So I decided, in true Cammie Morgan style, to make a PRO/CON list detailing my feelings about this book.

PROS AND CONS OF OUT OF SIGHT, OUT OF TIME

(A list by Captain Awesome)

PRO: Amneeeeesia!  I wasn’t kidding in our 2012 preview post that my love of amnesia stories stems from a lifetime of watching daytime television.  And yes, it can be kind of a cheesy cliche on the soaps, but there’s something fundamentally terrifying about losing your memory.  We are who we are because of a culmination of our life experiences and if you can’t remember those experiences, then I’d imagine that would be pretty disconcerting.  In Cammie’s case, she’s clearly undergone some kind of physical trauma, most likely torture, and her Mom is urging her NOT to try and remember the pain.  It makes for some pretty great drama.

CON: Because of the amnesia, the reader only gets the same bits and pieces that Cammie herself remembers.  While this brings a lovely tension to the narrative, it also means that we never find out everything that happened over the summer.  A part of me thinks that this is a really interesting stylistic choice, but the rest of me wants to know EVERYTHING THAT HAPPENED RIGHT NOW DAMNIT!

PRO:  Ahh, the unreliable narrator: a classic literary trope.  I love it because it always keeps the reader guessing.  Is Cammie just traumatized or has she gone crazy? Or is she even working for the enemy?  I don’t know and it’s fantastic.

CON: Because Ally Carter has done such a good job of making us care about Cammie over the four previous books, it’s difficult to watch her go through such hell in this one.  I just want to give her a hug.  And as some of you know, I am not normally a hugger.

PRO: One of Ally Carter’s strengths is writing relatable teenage girls in unrelatable circumstances. Despite the whole spy thing, Cammie and her friends feel very much like real teenage girls.

CON: Real teenage girls can be really annoying. Hey Bex, I understand that you’re mad at Cammie for leaving without you, but she’s been tortured.  Cut her some slack!  And Cammie, yelling at your mother because she didn’t find you when you specifically did everything you could to keep that from happening, makes me want to smack you.

PRO: Zach is now a Gallagher Girl!  As another target of the the Circle Cavan, it makes sense that he would only be safe at the Gallagher Academy, but the idea of Zach in his little uniform, taking classes and eating breakfast with all the other girls really amuses me.  Plus since all of his secrets are now out, he’s dropped that cryptic yet smirky facade and now has a haunted protector thing going for him that I’m sure will make all the teenaged girls swoon.

CON: I am not a teenager, so even though I like the Zach character quite a lot, I did not swoon.  The romance angle aspect of the story is fine, but not the most interesting part of the series for me.

PRO: Ally Carter manages to tie together the events of the first book, I’d Tell You I Love You, But Then I’d Have to Kill You, to the main series arc. Aside from setting up Gallagher Academy and the main characters, the first book has always seemed different in tone to me and almost unconnected to the books that followed, so it’s nice to see how it fits with the series as a whole.

CON: It’s a really small connection and I kind of wish that she’d gone all out with it instead.  Like maybe have the whole town of Roseville be spies for the Circle or something.  Oh God, it’s possible that I really have been watching too much Alias, isn’t it?

PRO: I seriously think that this is one of the best designed series in YA.  I mean between the school uniform plaid and the ransom note style lettering, you know exactly what the basic premise of the series is.  Genius.  And this one is no exception. The darker cover definitely reflects the darker tone of the story and will look so pretty on my bookshelf next to the others in the series.  And that’s really what’s most important.

CON:  There’s one of those headless girls on the cover, which I know bothers some people, but I’m ok with it.

PRO: Ally Carter wraps up the story for this book quite nicely, but also clearly sets up the premise for the 6th and final book of the series.  And it’s going to be good, guys!

CON: We’ll probably have to wait like a year for the next book.  Boo.

PRO: “‘You know,’ I whispered, ‘some girls might think it’s creepy having a boy watch them sleep.'” (pg. 282)  Bless you, Cammie Morgan.

 And now, just because, a clip from Alias:

What?????

And the book trailer:


2012 – A Lot to Be Excited About

Let's hope the Mayans were wrong.

It’s the time of year for lists. Many many lists. Magazines, newspapers, blogs, toilet paper companies, all of ’em are doing their Best of 2011 lists. While I would love to know what the 5 Softest Toilet Papers of 2011 were, we thought it would be more interesting to look ahead to 2012 and talk about the books to be published that we are excited about reading. So, barring that end of the world thing that the Mayans predicted, here are a few books that each Rampant Reads lady can’t wait to get her greedy mitts on.

(NOTE: Rhymenocerous just had to go off to Russia while we wrote this post, so her picks aren’t in this list. Let’s all just be jealous and have a vodka shot in her honor.)


Anatasia Beaverhausen:

The Fault in our Stars by John Green (Jan. 10)

I don’t have to wait long for this one and THANK GOODNESS. They released the first 2 chapters online (you can read them online here) and I am already hooked. The premise sounds a bit grim – girl with terminal cancer finds love – but John’s writing and superb characters will change your expectations and make this not to miss. Plus, he signed EVERY SINGLE PRE-ORDERED COPY, god bless him.

Black Heart by Holly Black (Apr. 3)

Holly is one of my favorite YA authors, as evidenced by my treasured signed copy of Tithe in my intro post. This is the 3rd book in her superb “Curse Workers” series and I can’t wait to see where she takes it.

The Doors of Stone (The Kingkiller Chronicles Day 3) by Patrick Rothfuss (Date ?)

Rothbuss exploded onto the fantasy scene with the first book in this series, The Name of the Wind, in 2009, and his brilliant writing and playing with fantasy tropes made it an instant hit with fantasy fans. I think even folks who aren’t fantasy people would eat this series up. Each book takes place over one day and I am DYING to finish this up. GIVE ME A RELEASE DATE!!
Continue reading


Let’s go steal a cursed emerald!

Spoiler-free review of Uncommon Criminals by Ally Carter:

This book is really fun.  If you like fun, then you should read it.

Spoilerish review of Uncommon Criminals by Ally Carter that may contain plot details about its predecessor, Heist Society:

I love heist stories.  LOVE them.  Seriously, you give me a heist plot that at least kind of makes sense, and chances are, I will enjoy it.  Give me a heist plot that mostly makes sense (just a few tiny quibbles) and also has humor and extremely likable characters, and I will clap my hands with glee.

Riding high from her triumph in Heist Society, Kat Bishop has gotten a little cocky.  In her quest to steal back priceless objects of art originally taken by Nazis and other really bad men, she’s started doing risky jobs all by herself, much to the chagrin of her friends and family.  So when an old women approaches Kat and asks her to steal back the elusive, and supposedly cursed, Cleopatra Emerald that was originally stolen from her family, Kat can’t resist.  Even if it means going against the wishes of Uncle Eddie, the fearsome family patriarch.  Mistakes are made, secrets are revealed, and shenanigans do ensue.  I love a good shenanigan.

We get a bit more character development in this one, which is always a nice bonus in stories with this much sheer fun.  In Heist Society, Kat’s motivation to get back in the thief game was pretty much to save her dad.  This time she’s motivated by ego, pride, revenge, and redemption.  It’s messier and a lot more interesting.  She’s like a teenage girl version of Nate Ford from the TV show leverage, only with less alcoholism.  Hale, Kat’s best friend and love interest, is as charming and snarky as ever, but you see hints about how hurt and frustrated he is over Kat going off on these dangerous jobs on her own.  He likes Kat’s strength and intelligence, but I think he feels excluded and maybe a bit abandoned.  Femme Fatale Gabrielle is still clashing with cousin Kat, but she’s also the person who sees through the bullshit and will tell Kat exactly what she thinks.  As the Fug Girls would say, she’s Kat’s Get-A-Grip friend.  As the son of an Interpol agent, Nick is the only one that really gets Kat’s Robin Hood mission, although the rest of the crew is still understandably wary of him.  I’m also glad that Carter has given up the Kat/Hale/Nick love triangle nonsense and now I want Nick to hook up with Gabrielle.  And we even find out why Uncle Eddie is such a hardass.  Yay! (By the way, if that last paragraph doesn’t make much sense, it’s because WordPress lost the original when it didn’t save my draft like it was supposed to, and I was too lazy and annoyed to fully recreate it.  But rest assured it was brilliant and insightful.)

My favorite part about this book though, is what Ally Carter leaves out.  Take my favorite quote:

“Hey, anyone who thinks a non-military-grade rappelling cable can support the weight of two grown men and a miniature donkey deserves to fall off a cliff.”

What?  What the hell does a donkey have to do anything?  (p.s. Thanks for the tip.)  And the book is littered with off-hand references to different cons and past jobs and I want to know about every single one of them right now!  But these things never get fully explained because 1) the characters all live in that criminal world and therefore don’t need to over-explain things to each other and 2) it forces us to use our (gasp) imaginations.  This also extends to the romantic subplot between Kat and Hale.  There are lots of scorching looks and instances of palpable romantic tension, but the characters don’t spend an endless amount of time discussing their feelings, and I for one am grateful.

And lastly, the unsung hero of this series is the book designer.  The covers have a great Audrey Hepburn Breakfast at Tiffany’s/How to Steal a Million vibe, and I love how the object that the crew is trying to steal is reflected in the lens of the sunglasses.  And you can see the girl’s face!  I don’t get as worked up about it as some people, but that’s a rarity these days for YA covers.  I also love the map inserts that detail Kat’s location and countdown to the various cons that are sprinkled throughout the story.  Not only do the maps help the international master-thief feel, but the timeline helps the reader keep track of the story.  Between these books and the Gallagher Girl series, Ally Carter should really send flowers to her designer at Hyperion because he or she is doing a fantastic job.

So to all those whiners out there complaining about the darkness in YA, here’s the fun, joyful adventure you’ve been looking for!  And reading this book just might inspire you to go watch Ocean’s Eleven again.  This is never a bad thing.