I’d Tell You I Love You, But Then I’d Have to Kill You & The Heist Society by Ally Carter

Cammie Morgan is a student at the Gallagher Academy for Exceptional Young Women, a fairly typical all-girls school-that is, if every school taught advanced martial arts in PE and the latest in chemical warfare in science, and students received extra credit for breaking CIA codes in computer class. The Gallagher Academy might claim to be a school for geniuses but it’s really a school for spies. Even though Cammie is fluent in fourteen languages and capable of killing a man in seven different ways, she has no idea what to do when she meets an ordinary boy who thinks she’s an ordinary girl. Sure, she can tap his phone, hack into his computer, or track him through town with the skill of a real “pavement artist”-but can she maneuver a relationship with someone who can never know the truth about her?

1) This is a story to introduce. It simply introduces you to Cammie, her life, her friends and what they do at a school called Gallagher Academy. I found that in the books after this, the first book doesn’t really apply. It was just made because Ally Carter had an interesting idea that led into a bunch of other ideas about the same setting, but not necessarily building on the first book like most series tend to do. So technically, I’d say this is more of partner/introduction novel to the rest of the series.

2) This is in no way the best spy book I have ever read.

3) This is a girl book aka a chick flick, in case you didn’t notice by the title. (Which was of a heck of lot longer than most of titles I write).

Building on point number 3, I was honestly disappointed by this series. It seems like girl spy books aren’t taken that seriously anymore. It’s all about romance and ‘most dangerous mission of all’. Romance, technically, is NOT the most dangerous mission of all. The only girl I liked in this story was Bex, Cammie’s best friend, but not really anyone else. If anything, the only good I really liked in this series was the second-to-last one, which, sorry to say, was kind of a long time to wait for the book I wanted to read.

Yes, I do think that Ally Carter is a pretty good writer. I was a fan of her Heist Society series, which was actually pretty cool. It was just this series that I didn’t like. I, like many other people have, rounded. The reason why I gave this book 4 stars on GoodReads was because I couldn’t give it 3.5 stars.

I can see how this would be appealing to other teenage girls, but after you’ve read Ian Fleming, Robert Muchamore, Robert Ludlum, Suzanne Collins, Ann Aguirre and other kick butt spy/action novels, it’s kind of hard to be impressed by this. Sorry for being the one to ruin it, guys. It’s like this, except the other way around: (I actually love this pic…)

images

Now, for what I did like about this series. After about the third or fourth book, this series actually gets pretty interesting. Cammie herself wasn’t bad as a character, but I didn’t like the way Ally Carter made her sound in her narration. There are some aspects to this book that actually will make you laugh and smile, and I appreciated that, but some of Ally Carter’s sentences sounded like she meant them to be funny but they weren’t funny to me, which was a bummer.

This book did keep me amused, and it brought a lot of new ideas into my mind–as every new book does, regardless of being good or bad, so I did enjoy it. This book makes a great gift for girls 12-15, or girls who are reluctant readers.

pg count for the hardcover: 284

Series: Gallagher Girls

Heist Society by Ally Carter

Personally, I would much rather recommend this book than I’d Tell You I Love You, But Then I’d Have to Kill You, it made more sense, was better organized, had better characters and was more of an all-around, great spy/thief book.

Synopsis: When Katarina Bishop was three, her parents took her on a trip 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 Kat back into the world she tried so hard to escape. But he has a good reason: a powerful mobster has been robbed of his priceless art collection and wants to retrieve it. 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 history–and, with any luck, steal her life back along the way.

pg count for the hardcover: 284

Series: Heist Society

The Forsaken by Lisa M. Stasse

As an obedient orphan of the U.N.A. (the super-country that was once Mexico, the U.S., and Canada), Alenna learned at an early age to blend in and be quiet—having your parents taken by the police will do that to a girl. But Alenna can’t help but stand out when she fails a test that all sixteen-year-olds have to take: The test says she has a high capacity for brutal violence, and so she is sent to The Wheel, an island where all would-be criminals end up.

The life expectancy of prisoners on The Wheel is just two years, but with dirty, violent, and chaotic conditions, the time seems a lot longer as Alenna is forced to deal with civil wars for land ownership and machines that snatch kids out of their makeshift homes. Desperate, she and the other prisoners concoct a potentially fatal plan to flee the island. Survival may seem impossible, but Alenna is determined to achieve it anyway.

I only disliked three things about Lisa M. Stasse’s The Forsaken. 

  • I’m taking the one specific person I mean out of the this sentence to keep it from being a spoiler, but I think that killing off some of the main characters in this book wasn’t smart. It distracted and depressed me for the rest of the book.
  • Alenna. First off she’s okay with not being with Liam, and then she’s fighting the same friend who asked her not to be a couple with Liam, because she deems it her right to be with him! I’m not saying that was a bad thing that she ended up with Liam, I’m saying Lisa M. Stasse could’ve formatted it way better.
  • Gadya. I was upset because I felt that Gadya could’ve been so much more, but the author gave her two options: the jealous ex-girlfriend and the brave, courageous warrior. One thing about characters is that you need to keep them straight and tidy, need to know exactly what they’re all about. Instead, we’re left with Gadya, the split personality queen.

I had some issues with the characters, as you can see. Mostly because Alenna is forgettable. There is nothing striking or miraculous or particularly interesting about her. She claims that in the book, but there’s another flaw, all the guys like her. Honestly. It might be okay that she’s forgettable in the story, but it’s not okay if she’s forgettable to the reader.

Nevertheless, I really liked this book. The personality test was actually the main reason why I picked this book up off the shelf at the library, particularly because I thought it would help feed the flame of inspiration I’m building on right now for another story. But, of course, that part was basically non-existent.

Building on what I did like, the island part to this was very intriguing. The nitty gritty details weren’t for me, but the big picture was fascinating. There’s an anime called Ikkitousen. Basically, seven schools are constantly ‘at war’ with each other, and the students within – both male and female – have become skilled fighters and constantly battle with rival schools. Their lives and fates are guided by strange jewels that contain the spirits and destinies of warriors from the Sangokushi period. One girl, Sonsaku Hakufu, has recently moved to Japan and is apparently destined to unite the schools as her counterpart united seven countries long ago. But, like all heroes, there is a darker side to her fate, and as always there is a constant struggle by those around her to break the chains of their own destinies and make their own lives.

So when I got into the first few pages of fighting and the descriptions of the Wheel, I was really excited to see what would happen between the people on the wheel. I think that after watching Ikkitousen, it’s hard to appreciate this book as much because conceptually, the anime is much more interesting because of the history woven into it, you get what I’m saying? On it’s own though, when I tried to detach from my expectations because of Ikkitousen, this is a pretty good novel. It’s really gritty, but I didn’t like the character of the Monk and his ‘religion’ as much. This book has a lot of action in it, and I’ll admit that a lot of the twists I enjoyed. The ending was pretty good as well, and I loved the twist with Alenna’s parents. Plus, I loved the cover of this book.

cover of forsakenAll in all, 3.8 stars. I’ll be interested to see what Lisa M. Stasse comes out with in the next book in this series.

pg count for the hardback: 375

Series: The Forsaken

 

Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare

Orphan Tessa Gray, sixteen, crosses the ocean from New York to find her brother Nate in Victorian London, her only possession a clockwork angel necklace from her mother. She is ignorant of her power to transform; the Dark sisters are not. They kidnap her for the Magister, who wants to marry Tessa and claim her power.

Shadowhunters, warriors of angel blood, battle demons and keep the peace in the Downworld of vampires, warlocks and other supernaturals. Orphan teen Shadowhunters Jem, Will, and Jess rescue Tessa and agree to help save Nate. Vengeful vampire Lady Camille Belcourt and her current lover, warlock Magnus Bane provide entrée to the Magister’s secret Pandemonium Club.

I just finished Clockwork Princess, the final book in this trilogy. I’m not sure if I was happy with the ending. In a lot of books, I’m really partial to one character. In the bits of Twilight that I did watch, I was partial to Jacob. In Pride and Prejudice, I was more on Darcy’s side. In Jenny Han’s Summer trilogy, I was more partial to Jeremiah. In this book, both Jem and Will managed to win me over. It’s not just the strength of the brotherhood between the boys, and the friendship they share, but their unwillingness to betray one another.

I can’t say that I was happy with the ending Cassandra Clare pulled. It just seemed a little…wishy washy, I guess. (Don’t worry, I’m not gonna give away spoilers). I’m still thinking about whether or not I liked it a lot, even though I finished it three weeks ago. It doesn’t really matter though to me. I’ve been a big fan of Cassandra Clare for a long time, and her Mortal Instruments and Infernal Devices series have been among my favorites at times. Her writing style, originality, curves in the plot, humor and well-defined characters who are truly unique, have impressed me many times. This book has been no exception to that, and I think it was very original and clever, if nothing else.

The covers are beautiful as well.

The magic, mysteries and wonder of Victorian London is a fantasic backdrop to this story, and Cassandra Clare defines it in the best ways possible. Actually, it’s like Victorian London isn’t even scenery. It’s very finely tuned in with the story, every nuance and detail in place so that I can clearly envision the world of Tessa Gray, the Shadowhunters and the Pandemonium Club. I would highly recommend this book for teenagers. It’s a great read, though not necessarily as fast at times. I was really happy to have read this and the final installment in this series will not disappoint fans, that I have great confidence in. Well worth the time to read.

My favorite Cassandra Clare covers:

1fav 2fav 3fav

pg count for the hardcover: 478

Series: The Infernal Devices

Gone by Michael Grant

Everyone disappears in the blink of an eye. Except for the young. Teens. Middle schoolers. Toddlers. But not one single adult. No teachers, no cops, no doctors, no parents. Just as suddenly, there are no phones, no internet, no television. No way to get help. And no way to figure out what’s happened.

Hunger threatens. Bullies rule. A sinister creature lurks. Animals are mutating. And the teens themselves are changing, developing new talents—unimaginable, dangerous, deadly powers—that grow stronger by the day.

It’s a terrifying new world. Sides are being chosen, a fight is shaping up. Townies against rich kids. Bullies against the weak. Powerful against powerless. And time is running out: On your birthday, you disappear just like everyone else…

In the blink of an eye. Everyone disappears. Gone. Hence, the name.

I thought that this was a great book. It hooks you in right at the very beginning. The narrative and Michael Grant’s voice as a writer clearly shine through, which impressed me. I love the creativity of good writers, and Michael Grant is no exception. This book is brave, surreal and really cool. The concept is both amazing and terrifying. It is quite interesting, actually. Would make for a great, extremely deep and philosophical discussion.

I had a few problems with the characters, and I felt like the book didn’t have to be 576 pages, but it was fine for me. All in all, I liked the characters. Not my favorite characters, not so bad that I feel that I need to rant on about it.

This book is really readable, gripping and is exciting. Highly recommended for action-loving teens. Great book. 4.2 stars.

pg count for the hardback: 576

series: Gone

I Had Seen Castles by Cynthia Rylant

John Dante is seventeen when the Japanese bomb Pearl Harbor, and he wants to fight for his country. But then he falls head over heels for Ginny Burton, who is against all war, and his beliefs are suddenly questioned. Rather than be judged a traitor or a coward, though, John enlists–a decision that changes his life forever.

I just finished this book for the first time. It was interesting. It wasn’t the best war book or the deepest one either, but it had a lot of heart in it. There were many passages I loved in this book, and even though it’s not really for anyone under the age of 14, I think this book is a very valuable introduction to the horrors of war and the feel of the time of John Dante.  I think I need to read this book again, analyze it more carefully. I just get the feeling in the back of my mind that I’m missing something, and I can’t wait to find out what it is.

There were some things to this book I didn’t quite understand, like the symbolism of castles. I’m sure if I think about it I’ll figure it out, but it didn’t really make sense to me. Some things I can think really deeply about, some things are a little bit harder. I feel like there’s something more to them than what I’ve judged.

This is a lyrical little book, not even 100 pages, that is honest and will leave you humbled. I read it just for kicks in the morning when I accidently brought with me two books I had already read, but it was definitely worth it. I’m almost glad that I forgot my other books.  There were many parts to this book that I really enjoyed, a lot of concepts that were brought to my mind more because of his book. Worth a read.

Memorable passages (and notes):

Page 12, My best friend, Tony, phoned me about an hour after the broadcast. “I’m joining up,” he said. Tony, who loved the head cheerleader and vanilla malts.

Page 13, Every man I knew wanted to fight. My father, all my uncles, the mailman (who was already gone), the grocer (who was packing), the boys in my senior class. Everyone.

These two pages really struck me. It shows a lot of character and sympathy for the people of war. The desire people have to protect and defend their country. Everyone was going to help the war effort. The mailman, the grocer, both of which had probably never been in combat before, boys who were just that–boys, packing up and leaving to fight. That really amazed me, Cynthia Rylant’s efforts to show people just how determined people were. How many lives were lost, the bravery of the human will.

Page 24, “So, you want to go to the movies sometime?” I asked Ginny as we walked. Brazenly. Fearlessly. I had a hell of a lot more to fear than a pretty girl’s rejection. I didn’t feel the luxury of time and subtle courtship; I had to start things now.

I felt that this was a refreshingly quirky yet honest and brave statement I really appreciated. There were many bits of humor to this story and I found myself smiling as a I read it.

Page 44, Though I saw Ginny’s father only once–on a Sunday afternoon when I happened upon him and his boys throwing a ball in the street–I believed he was a good man. I thought him good that particular day because, exhausted as he must have been and wanting only to sleep all of a Sunday, he played instead with his children. I thought him good because he wanted a house for his family and was willing to labor like an animal to secure one. And I thought him good because he was not miserly and gave a bit of his money to Ginny so she might buy herself a new blouse or hair ribbons and so look pretty for me, whom he knew she wanted very much to please.

I think this statement says a lot about heroes. Heroes who live among us every day and will never be recognized, but nevertheless are heroes in their own right. It meant a lot to me, and I can’t wait to read this book again.

A great read.

pg count for the hardbacj: 97

The Alchemyst by Michael Scott

He holds the secret that can end the world.

The truth: Nicholas Flamel was born in Paris on September 28, 1330. Nearly 700 years later, he is acknowledged as the greatest Alchemyst of his day. It is said that he discovered the secret of eternal life.

The records show that he died in 1418.

But his tomb is empty.

The legend: Nicholas Flamel lives. But only because he has been making the elixir of life for centuries. The secret of eternal life is hidden within the book he protects—the Book of Abraham the Mage. It’s the most powerful book that has ever existed. In the wrong hands, it will destroy the world. That’s exactly what Dr. John Dee plans to do when he steals it. Humankind won’t know what’s happening until it’s too late. And if the prophecy is right, Sophie and Josh Newman are the only ones with the power to save the world as we know it.

Sometimes legends are true.

And Sophie and Josh Newman are about to find themselves in the middle of the greatest legend of all time.

So, a couple weeks ago in the car on a ski/snowboard trip to Whistler, BC Canada, I looked up Michael Scott to see if this was the book I was thinking about. I clicked on images so I could see the cover and what came up was a ton of pictures of Steve Carell from the Office. And this:

fearedorloved

Personally, I love Steve Carell as an actor. And this was hilarious to me. I was laughing for a whole forty seconds. (Which is actually pretty long for a laugh). This picture pretty much sums up my feelings for this book though, except in a different way. I am afraid of this book and I love it.

First off, the kids were annoying. Sophie and Josh were bratty and didn’t understand the situation. I felt like choking Josh sometimes. His density and nativity squandered some of the important moments in the story. I was disappointed that the characters had to ruin those moments, because those were the moments in the book that would’ve really impressed me.  There were also parts to the story that I hated, because of the plot of Sophie and Josh saying something wickedly smart and extremely intelligent and then do some really, really DUMB things. It’s like one second they understand and the next second they’re fed up with the situation that they don’t really know if they understand.

far_side-1

Just think of some of Gordon Korman’s work. Gordon Korman is able to reference to modern day devices, phones, events that are really going on and make it work. There are many talented authors that can make you feel like you’re living in history with the scenes and backdrops of books that you read about. I think Michael Scott was bordering on the edge of something dangerous by referencing back to history and current-day stuff so much. I just had this chagrin in the back of my mind as I read the story, kind of waiting to see what Michael Scott would do. I was glad that it worked though, and I breathed a sigh of relief when it did. I was happy in the end, even though I felt like he was going to mess it up the entire way through. It was more relaxing to read the second time around. On the second time, I felt like those events made Michael Scott’s story more immediate, relatable and believable, which I really appreciated.

The magic in this story was really interesting, connected with the five senses and all that. Michael Scott did a great job of coming up with some original magic that I could bounce back ideas with as I read the book. I love books that inspire me.

If I could change one thing about this story, it would definitely be the characters. I would’ve liked to see Josh and Sophie grow more as people throughout the series. It’s weird that they don’t fight in the beginning. That works for some people, if you can come up with a good enough reason for why they don’t fight. Maybe one sibling is a pacifist. Maybe one is a Gandhi-in-training. Maybe they were both part of some freak accident and no longer have no one to turn to but each other. I don’t know, I’ve seen all kinds of books that made it work and all kinds of books where the theme was the broken relationship between siblings or a family. If Josh and Sophie had argued, it would have opened up all kinds of possibilities for the two of them to go and grow, adding onto the fact that it would’ve seemed more realistic.

3.5 stars. Like the books in the later series better. Recommended for tweens girls and boys.

pg count for the hardcover: 375

Series: The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel

Masterpiece by Elise Broach

Marvin lives with his family under the kitchen sink in the Pompadays’ apartment. He is very much a beetle. James Pompaday lives with his family in New York City. He is very much an eleven-year-old boy.After James gets a pen-and-ink set for his birthday, Marvin surprises him by creating an elaborate miniature drawing. James gets all the credit for the picture and before these unlikely friends know it they are caught up in a staged art heist at the Metropolitan Museum of Art that could help recover a famous drawing by Albrecht Dürer. But James can’t go through with the plan without Marvin’s help. And that’s where things get really complicated (and interesting!). This fast-paced mystery will have young readers on the edge of their seats as they root for boy and beetle.

The rhythm, the prose and the plot line all come together in this story to make a truly enjoyable read. It’s a quick read, and perfect for a summer day. A genuinely cute story that’ll make you smile and think to yourself what you would do in James’s situation. If you liked the Borrowers or Stuart Little, you’ll really enjoy this story. This story has simple, elegant writing that is easy to understand and is fun to read. Four stars.

pg count for the hardcover: 304