Book Review: Out of Sight, Out of Time, by Ally Carter

March 21, 2012 at 9:44 am (Book Reviews) (, , , , )

Cammie leaves a report at school and leaves the Gallagher Academy for Exceptional Young Women to keep those she loves safe. She wakes up in an Alpine convent with short black hair, injuries, and a hole in her memory extending four months. No matter how hard she tries she can’t remember what happened during her summer vacation, and not everyone is convinced she should try, but the reasons she left are still true. Cammie and everyone she loves are in severe danger, and somewhere in those lost memories is the true reason why. Provided she can stay alive long enough to reclaim them.

Every now and then you stumble across one of those books that’s extremely hard to talk about because almost everything you say could be a spoiler. This is definitely one of those books. So, bear with me; there’s going to be a lot of dancing in this one.

This book is brilliant. Utterly, not-so-simply, fantastically brilliant. It goes all over the place chronologically speaking as Cammie tries to put together the fragments of her summer, but it doesn’t necessarily go in order. It’s not that this happened, then this happened. It’s that she was at this place, so why? What was she hoping to learn or achieve? Sometimes more frighteningly, what did she learn or achieve? Layered through everything is Cammie’s panic at simply not knowing. Even when she can respect her mother’s warning that the memories might be too terrible for her to hold, there’s something terrifying about simply not knowing, especially as she continues to show skills she shouldn’t know. Like a loose tooth you can’t help but play with, Cammie can’t leave those missing months alone.

Cammie has a hard time adjusting, but so do her friends. They’ve been worried sick for four months, and now that she’s back, it’s hard not to be a little resentful. It strains a few things, glosses over a few others, to make things more difficult at a time when Cammie really needs all the help and support she can get. Their reactions are perfect. Hard, but perfect, as is the gradual resolution towards an even state.

And of course there’s Zach. Zach in a towel, as a matter of fact. Well, there’s Zach in regular clothing too, but the timing of the towel is hysterical. In some ways, though perhaps this is horrible to say, Zach is Cammie’s guide to how things can get worse. Her dad is missing and presumed dead? Let’s talk about his mom. Oh no, her mom forgot their Sunday dinner? His only real parent figure came off the wrong end of a bomb at the beginning of summer. No matter how bad things get for Cammie, she has only to look at Zach to know that things could still be worse. But for Zach, in a lot of ways, Cammie is his guide to how things can get better. Even when the bad things happen, he sees the support from her friends and family, the teammwork that goes into looking for a solution, and knows that things will improve. They may not be perfect, but they’ll improve. And they’re both grateful for what the other is. Even when things are strained between them, they’re a pair.

And here’s where the dancing goes crazy because there’s so much I love, right down to the details, and I can’t talk about it without spoiling things. But it’s there. The way everything pieces together, the way things continue to layer through from previous books, the way characters continually surprise us. Even when things are new and astonishing, they’re based on things we’ve already seen, things that make sense as soon we get this new shred of information. And we don’t get all the information- even when there are questions that badly need answers, there’s the blatant acknowledgment that we live in a world where we don’t always get answers. Doesn’t mean we stop looking, but we may never find them. And there is SO MUCH to look forward to in GG6.

This book was so absorbing, so entirely immersive, that when I was reading it on break at work, one of the other girls had to poke me and tell me the microwave was done with my meal. By the time I get a break at work I’m generally starving, as I was that day, and the microwave being done is like the start of the races. Didn’t even notice it. I actually had to set the alarm on my phone to make sure I wouldn’t be late clocking back in. Any book that sucks me in that completely is amazing.

If you’ve read the other four books in the series, race out and buy/borrow this boook NOW. If you haven’t read the other four books in the series?

What are you waiting for?! Go do it!

Until next time~
Cheers!

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Book Review: I’d Tell You I Love You, But Then I’d Have to Kill You

February 29, 2012 at 6:49 pm (Book Reviews) (, , , )

Cammie Morgan and her classmates arrive at school in limos. They have a five-star chef prepare their meals, their school is on gorgeous grounds, and the Gallagher Academy for Exceptional Young Women caters to a very select clientele.
They’re not Society darlings.
They’re spies- or at least they will be someday. For now, it’s learning, training, and living under a deep cover as spoiled prep school princesses for the benefit of the nearby town. These girls can speak fourteen different languages, defuse a bomb with a bobby pin and a gum wrapper, and know seven different ways to incapicate a grown men with a pinky finger, but there is one very important thing they don’t know: boys.
As Covert Ops takes them deep into the enemy territory of town, Cammie and her friends will undertake the mission of their life: boy meets girl.

I have a confession to make: this is one of the best books I almost missed. The first two books were out when I started working at a bookstore and I saw them. Saw them and thought they looked really hokey. I’m not even really sure why. It was probably a combination of my not reading much contemporary, the ransom note letters, the prep school uniform, and the light-and-fluffy vibe I got from reading the back. I didn’t take the book home.

Yet, anyway. Then, about two weeks before the third book came out, I started compiling my very first agent query list. I researched a slew of agents and books/author they represented, and it was while on Kristin Nelson’s site that I saw these books again. At that point I figured why not, the first two books are in paperback, they’re cheap, I get a discount, I’ll give them a try to get a taste of what that agent likes.

Will it surprise anyone that I devoured both books that night and then danced impatiently for the next two weeks until the third one came in?

I LOVED THEM.

I’d Tell You I Love You, But Then I’d Have to Kill You is the first book of the Gallagher Girls series. We’re introduced to the Gallagher Academy for Exceptional Young Women, a campus with as many secrets as its students. Within the high gates and manicured lawns is a beyond-state-of-the-art security and surveillance system. There’s a board outside the cafeteria that tells them which language they’re allowed to speak at meals, and their classes have names like Culture and Assimilation, Countries of the World, and Covert Operations. Gallagher Girls are all over the world, in a number of high places.

Cammie Morgan is a legacy- her mother, father, and aunt are all spies, even if her mother has stepped into a less active role to be Headmistress, and…well…her father’s been missing for a while. It’s not something they talk about. It’s understood that spies don’t always come back, but the uncertainty makes it hard to bear. In spy lingo, Cammie is a pavement artist, a chameleon who disappears in plain sight, who blends in perfectly to her surroundings, which makes her ideal for conducting surveillance. She’s proud of her school’s history and can’t wait for the day she can take a more active role in the Gallagher Girl legacy.

Coming into sophomore year, we also have best friends Liz Sutton (total Brainiac and all around genius) and Bex Baxter (Gallagher’s first British student and quite capable of kicking serious butt). It’s their sophomore year, the year they finally get to go to Sub-Level One for their first CoveOps class, and when the year starts the school is abuzz with the simple mysteries of what Mister Smith’s new face will be and the identity of the new teacher.

First shock of the year? New teacher is HOT. As in these teenage girls have no idea how to deal with the level of hotness HOT. And he’s got a history with Cammie’s mom.

Second shock of the year? New student Macey McHenry, daughter of a high-profile Senator and socialite, kicked out of more private schools than most of the girls could name, and Rebel with a major attitude. The girls aren’t too sure what to make of their new roommate at first, and Macey couldn’t care less.

Then comes Shock Number Three: on a CoveOps assignment in town, someone sees Cammie even though she’s in full chameleon mode. A BOY sees her- and wants to see her some more. Suddenly, Macey is a valuable resource because she knows how to talk Boy. Enter? Operatives Morgan, Sutton, Baxter, and McHenry, and a mission they have to keep secret from an entire school of people trained to ferret out secrets.

This book cracks me up. This is one I reread several times a year because I just love it that much.

If the spy school premise occasionally goes a little far- “once sweet-talked a Russian dignitary into dressing in drag and carrying a beach ball full of liquid nitrogen under his shirt like a pregnant lady”- that’s okay. Ally Carter is fully on board with the camp. There are moments that are ridiculous and absurd and utterly delightful, absolute fluff in the grand scheme of things.

Then there are the pieces that could take place in any school or setting, the universal story that weaves through Cammie’s. As she gets older, Cammie has to negotiate a changing relationship with her mother- as both parent and Headmistress- and opens her eyes to a world that can be a lot scarier than she realized. Spywork isn’t just fun and cool- it’s also dangerous. There’s friction with the new roommate. And, of course, there’s the boy.

Josh is sweet and endearing and completely normal- normal means something rather different for Gallagher Girls. Just communicating with him is harder than translating War and Peace from Russian into Farsi. There’s coming up with a cover, a story to convince him she’s just a normal girl. And there’s trying to figure out where a boy and a relationship fit into everything else. How do you juggle school and family and friends and a boy- oh, and sneak off a campus better equipped than most Federal buildings?

The answer is pure gold.

And if you love this one, check out the rest of the books in the series: Cross My Heart And Hope to Spy, Don’t Judge a Girl By Her Cover, Only the Good Spy Young, and Out of Sight, Out of Time out in stores 13 March 2013.

Want to win a copy of this book? It’s one of the prizes in my Double Celebration Giveaway, which you can enter here.

Until next time~
Cheers!

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Double Celebration Giveaway!!!

February 26, 2012 at 11:59 am (Giveaway) (, , , , , , , )

And yes, all three exlamation points are necessary, I promise.

Like the title suggests, I have TWO great reasons to celebrate, which means if you choose to celebrate with me, you get entered for awesome prizes.

Reason Number One: I HAVE BEEN BLOGGING FOR A FULL YEAR NOW.

That’s right, we just hit my blog anniversary! A full year of reviews and writing talk and occasional nonsensical rants. Honestly, I’m a little amazed I didn’t give up on it back when the stats were entirely dismal- I’m a positive reinforcement kind of person- but I realized I was having so much fun I almost didn’t care if other people were seeing it or not (almost- I do care about you and what you think, but I wouldn’t stop posting even if you begged me to- this is release, people). It’s also been a great form of discipline for me, to have to abide by a regular schedule of writing and posting in the midst of so much research. Y’all have been wonderful with comments and shares, so this is a huge thank you to you for supporting this effort.

And, Reason Number Two: I SIGNED WITH AN AGENT.

Yes! It’s truth! Earlier this month I signed with the Fabulous Sandy Lu at L. Perkins Agency and I’m still over the moon about it. And if I’m honest, there’s a small part of me that expects to wake up and it’s still the end of January in the query trenches (better known as Query Hell sometimes). After three years of querying three differents projects (never at the same time, that’s a very bad idea), the slush pile pushed me forward and now everything is a giant step closer to Dreams Coming True. Don’t get me wrong, there’s still a LOT of work from this point out, but if you don’t celebrate the milestones, how can you really measure progress?

SO I’M CELEBRATING WITH YOU!

I have four- count them FOUR- prize packs up for grabs.

Prize Pack 1: Thieves and Spies
Heist Society, by Ally Carter
I’d Tell You I Love You But I’d Have to Kill You, also by Ally Carter

Prize Pack 2: Shapeshifters
Nightshade, by Andrea Cremer
Firelight, by Sophie Jordan

Prize Pack 3: Arranged Marriages
Matched, by Ally Condie
The Selection, by Kiera Cass (ARC)

Prize Pack 4: Swag Bundle!
-swag, some signed some not, from Kathleen Peacock (Hemlock), Jill Hathaway (Slide), Nova Ren Suma (Imaginary Girls), Sophie Jordan (Firelight and Vanish), Hannah Moskowitz (Break and Invincible Summer), Leah Cypess (Nightspell and Mistwood, Jodi Meadows (Incarnate), and Laini Taylor (Daughter of Smoke and Bone), and Suzanne Collins (The Hunger Games).

U.S. only (sorry, but shipping is expensive and my post office is staffed with very rude people).

ENTRY RULES:
-Actual Entry: comment below and tell me what book you’re most looking forward to in 2012. Doesn’t even have to be YA or MG, just whatever book makes you dance in place wishing it would come out NOW because you can’t possibly wait until release.
-Extra Entries: (completely self-serving and shamelessly self-promoting, I admit)
-Follow this blog (if you already do, just say you do)
-Follow me on Twitter (@dothutchison ; same as above, if you already follow me, just say so)
-Tweet about this giveaway! (and include the link below)
Those are extra entries, and completely up to you whether you want to do them or not, but the option’s there. The only thing you HAVE to do to be entered is leave the comment.
-Entries accepted through Saturday, 10 March which makes it open for two weeks.

AND THANK YOU FOR CELEBRATING WITH ME!
Y’all are at least half the reason I have anything to celebrate today, and I am so grateful to you for that.

Until next time~
Cheers!

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Book Trailers

January 15, 2012 at 8:12 pm (General) (, , , , , )

I’m of two minds about book trailers- sometimes they’re done really really well, and sometimes they come across as something out of a high school av lab. For me, trailers don’t really do anything for me. Well-done trailers of books I already love make me smile, make me fall in love even a little more, but even a well-done trailer for a book I’m not in love with makes me appreciate the talent that goes into the trailer, not the book.

BUT, that being said, a well-done trailer is a great way to make someone curious about a book. I tend to only check out trailers for books I already have an interest in, but I talk to quite a few people in the store who find about a book from a trailer.

And there are a few book trailers I absolutely adore. Let me share them with you. *grins*

This was recently finished for Lisa Mantchev’s So Silver Bright; the hardcover came out in September, with the paperback out in May. Guys, I love this book. Love it, love it, love, the culmination to a beautiful trilogy that makes all the geek parts of me very happy. It’s a beautiful trailer, one that fills all the potential of the series and the empty space of pages.

(Lisa Mantchev is having a trailer contest on her blog; check it out, there’s some fun stuff there!)

I adored Liesl & Po by Lauren Oliver; it was such a gorgeous, lingering book, and the trailer does that every bit of justice. What’s really awesome about this is how it takes the actual illustrations from the book and pairs them with an original song. Yes, you read that right: original. And it’s beautiful. Really fits the impressions of the book.

Third one here is Forever by Maggie Stiefvater. I haven’t actually read this book yet- I’m waiting for it to come out in paperback so I can read all three at once- but I LOVE this trailer. This is one of the few trailers that would actually pull me in to investigate a book I know nothing about. The fact that I do know this book, and have been looking forward to it greatly, just makes it even more amazing.

Normally I’m not a huge fan of trailers with a lot of words on the screen- I guess I figure the words are for the page and the trailer is for the audio/visual enticement, but I was surprised to find I really liked the trailer for Ally Carter’s Only the Good Spy Young. It gave an action-movie feel to it, like a teenage spy thriller on the big screen, which is perfect for the book and for the series.

Last one is for a book that came out several years ago, Catherine Fisher’s Incarceron. I love how simple it is, how it pretty much plays off of the cover and uses that to lure the viewer in to the rest of the story. It’s elegant and mysterious and doesn’t give too much away.

Any trailers you particularly love? Or hate? Share below!

Until next time~
Cheers!

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Book Review: Heist Society, by Ally Carter

July 27, 2011 at 3:54 pm (Book Reviews) (, , , )

Kat Bishop just wants a normal life. School, homework, set menus in the cafeteria. Predictability. Predictability is a little hard to come by when you’ve been raised in a masterclass high-end family of thieves, but Kat’s walked away from all of it and stolen a life as a normal student at a boarding school. Until her father’s life is endangered by a mob boss convinced Bobby Bishop stole several very important paintings from him. Then, with nothing but a teenage crew and some skills that have gone more rusty than she’d like to admit, Kat’s going to have to do the impossible. Preferably with style.

Imagine every good movie about high end art thieves you’ve ever seen, every impossible stunt, every mastermind plan…hell, every episode of MacGyver…add in a masterful blend of humor, self-consciousness, and ridiculosity, and then put it all in the hands of a group of teenagers. That’s Heist Society.

And it’s brilliant.

Comparisons between an author’s different series are somewhat inevitable, but despite some running gags (compare the hilarious names and prop requirements of the stunts Cammie’s crew and Kat’s crew each suggest, discard, or pull off) this book stands strong against such easy assumptions. Cammie has been studying all her life for the chance to get out there and do things; Kat’s been doing things all her life and craves the chance to stay in and study. They have different backgrounds, different outlooks, different goals, and very VERY different views on people. While who to trust is a strong element of both series, the stakes play out along separate roads and twist the stories into different directions.

This book is an incomparable use of voice and style. The narration swivels across characters at their different tasks, bystanders, even hypotheticals- the “someone would have seen” can be SO hard to use, even harder to use well, but it works here. It really puts you right into the feel of everything. Appearances can be very deceptive, something Kat and her crew use with precision, and what we don’t see and what we see incorrectly are as important as what we do or think we see. There’s also a high degree of risk- there’s really no such thing as a “safe” plan for these people.

Each of the characters are distinct, which can be hard to do in an ensemble cast. They each had distinct talents and comfort zones, each have something specific to bring to the table, but they’re also complex people with the ability to surprise Kat- not to mention their opponents. Gabrielle is amazing. I didn’t want to like her at all because she comes off as such a snot, but there’s a lot more to her than she’s let anyone realize- that she lets Kat and the others see even a bit of that shows how important they are to her. Simon and the Bagshaw brothers aren’t simply lumped together as “the boys”, which can be tempting.

And oh, Hale. W.W. Hale the Fifth (Kat’s been trying for YEARS to figure out what the W’s stand for) is rich boy turned bad boy, more the fun of it than any actual need to steal, but this bad boy has a lot more than art and jewels on his mind. Like probably every other female who’s read this book, I totally fell for Hale, mostly because beneath a startlingly thin layer of charm and moneyed boredom, there’s a deep well of vulnerability. (AND- he has Superman pajamas. I’m sorry, but amazingly HOT rich boy with charm, loyalty, a talent for thievery, AND Superman jammies? Droolworthy!)

Kat is, I think, the most interesting character Carter’s written yet. She’s short-statured and looks even younger than she is (which can go either way in any given situation), she desperately wants to be normal, and yet takes pride in the skills she’s acquired, even if she’d really rather not use them. She’s clever and resourceful, capable of taking some appalling risks, but she also brings in other opinions. She’s simultaneously confident and self-conscious, one of the few ways in which she really comes off as a normal teenager. And yet…the aging effect of her experiences never makes her seem less of a teenager- just less of a ‘normal’ one. The way she looks at things, the ways she grows, are very much a product of her age and background. Most importantly, there’s something uniquely teenager about the ability to have everyone else telling you no and deciding to do it anyway.

This book moves quickly, jumping all over the world in a matter of days, and one of the things I love is just how much work goes into pulling off each and every one of the elaborate heists. Nothing gets to be simple. It’s not as easy as proving to the bad guy that Kat’s dad didn’t steal them, but is instead an ever-increasing array of formidable and at times dangerous tasks that require a vast spread of talents, expertise, and resources.

Reading this book made me desperately wish I owned Cary Grant and Grace Kelly’s To Catch a Thief, which I’m pretty sure had to be on the research list. The pages are filled with humor and wistfulness, action and intelligence, loyalty and betrayal, and above all, inimitable characters that step out of the words and sit beside you to comment on everything.

Heist Society, by Ally Carter, out in stores and joined by its sequel, Uncommon Criminals (review to follow eventually)

Until next time~
Cheers!

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