Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Uncommon Criminals

It had been so long (four years!) since I read Heist Society, the prequel to Ally Carter’s Uncommon Criminals, that I just could not remember the huge cast of characters. So many people came in and out of the story that I just did not recall, but that Carter assumed I did, that I often found myself confused and floundering. Overall, the plot of Uncommon Criminals can stand on its own, but to understand the characters, readers really need to have recently read the prequel.  

Uncommon Criminals finds Kat once again trying to use her skills as a thief for the good. This time, she agrees to return the Cleopatra Emerald, a cursed jewel, to its original owner. Of course, all does not go according to plan, so Kat must assemble her cast of thieves to help with a seemingly impossible job.

The book is a fast and a fun read. I am amazed by Carter’s imagination and impressed by the clever scenarios she develops. Clearly, I do not have the ingenuity to be a thief—which is, I suppose, exactly why I read.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Goodbye Stranger

The middle school students in Rebecca Stead’s Goodbye Stranger face issues typical to young adulthood: changing friendships, budding romances, and even sexting (though that word is never used). Despite introducing serious topics (like sexting), the book feels appropriate for a younger audience. The characters experience crises, but the mood stays positive and the outcomes tend to be unrealistically rosy. The book seems to be a good introduction to topics like romances, divorce, and peer pressure and reminds me a little of those “very special episodes” they showed on TV when I was a child.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

The Uninvited

I read The Uninvited after attending a lecture by the author, Tim Wynne-Jones. I enjoyed his presentation, particularly his focus on place, and wish I had read The Uninvited beforehand because he referred several times to the young adult novel. As I read the book, though, I was much more interested in the plot. Mimi runs from New York City to Canada to avoid a bad relationship. When she arrives, she learns family secrets and finds out she has a stalker. The story is intriguing and kept me reading. I wanted to know what was going to happen. However, there is also an overt theme of incest that I found both uncomfortable and interesting, but I also question whether a young reader would be sophisticated enough to differentiate the shades of familial relationships that Wynne-Jones paints.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

P.S. I Still Love You

In P.S. I Still Love You, the sequel to Jenny Han’s To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, Lara Jean and Peter navigate a real relationship, including exes, physical intimacy, and unexpected friendships. Once again, the characters are flawed but likable. I shed a few tears, wanting the best for Lara Jean and remembering how difficult dating can be. I look forward to next installment in the series.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

To All the Boys I've Loved Before

In Jenny Han’s To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, Lara Jean writes a goodbye letter to each of the boys she loves, without ever intending to send them. When the letters are sent, she must face her crushes, including both her sister’s ex-boyfriend and her former best friend’s ex-boyfriend. Overall, the characters of this book are likeable while still being flawed. I felt for Lara Jean and wanted a happy ending for her. This was the first in a series that left me wanting more.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Orphan Train

I read Christina Baker Kline’s Orphan Train because it appeared on a reading list for my niece who is entering her freshman year in high school. I was intrigued by a historical situation I was completely unaware of—orphaned and abandoned children from the East sent to the Midwest for “adoption”—and thought it would be a topic worthy of discussion. I wasn’t overwhelmingly impressed with the writing or even the plot—too many characters were two-dimensional, all black and white with few shades of gray—but the book raises several topics and questions worth discussing, from the titular orphan train to the Native American experience to foster care to parenting choices. I imagine the discussions following the book will be deeper and more fulfilling than the book itself.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Hugo & Rose: A Novel

Every so often, I approach a book with a complete misunderstanding of its content. In 2003, when everyone was raving about The Da Vinci Code, I assumed it was a novel with some sort of literary merit. Imagine my disappointment when I discovered it was plot-driven, poorly-written froth. I had the opposite experience with Bridget Foley’s Hugo & Rose. When I read its description on Amazon, I thought it would be light summer reading but discovered it was a much heavier.

The story was slow to start, and I only persisted because I had read good reviews of the book. I could relate to Rose’s feelings of dissatisfaction with marriage, parenthood, and her post-childbirth body. I could relate less to her dream world, which I often found tedious and boring. I found the first half of the book uninspiring but ended up surprised by the turn it took in the second half, although that is not necessarily a positive thing.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Finding Audrey

Audrey is a teenager dealing with a serious anxiety disorder. She finds it difficult to socialize and even leave home—until she meets Linus. Finding Audrey is a young adult novel that tackles issues of depression, self-esteem, and young romance.

I read Finding Audrey because I am a fan of Sophie Kinsella’s Shopaholic series, which I find both entertaining and exasperating. Audrey was an easy read, but it was not as lightweight or humorous as Shopaholic. That said, although Audrey addresses serious issues (and contains strong language), the characters still seem to be unrealistically happy and stable, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing for a young adult novel.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

The Girl on the Train

There’s a reason Paula Hawkins’s The Girl on the Train is a bestseller: it’s a page turner. Rachel Watson fantasizes about a couple she sees outside the train window on her daily commute until one day she sees something she shouldn’t. What could be more intriguing?

Reading Train was a similar experience for me as reading Gone Girl. Train’s characters are flawed, often to the point of revulsion, and the story raises doubts and questions about marriage and relationships in general. Yet Train, like Gone, is fascinating, intriguing, and a book you’ll want to discuss with your friends—even if you have mixed feelings about it, as I do.