Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Review: The Grift of the Magi by Ally Carter

The Grift of the Magi (Heist Society, #3.5)

Goodreads Overview:

Katarina Bishop is a thief. To many it wouldn’t matter that she now uses her considerable skills to re-steal valuable works of art and return them to their rightful homes. 

She’s still a thief. 

So that’s why Kat’s surprised when an Interpol agent comes to her one snowy evening, asking for Kat’s help. 

The Magi Miracle Network was set to auction off a very rare, very valuable Faberge egg two days before Christmas, but the egg’s been stolen and now the charity’s reputation—and their future—is on the line. 
Kat’s family and Interpol might be on opposite sides of most jobs, but someone just stole Christmas. 

Now it’s up to Kat and her crew to steal it back. 


How can anyone not love the Heist Society books?  I didn't realize there was a novella and was ecstatic to once again return to the crazy world of Kat, Hale, and the rest of their crew.

This time around it isn't just a Faberge egg and any old charity that was impacted.  It is a charity with connections to Hale's late grandmother and his corporation.  He is on the board of the charity and his reputation and the charity's future are now on the line.

This novella is about half the length of the other books in this series, so it was far more substantial than most novellas.  It wasn't just an extra scene, but an entire story that can stand on its own.  Add in the Christmas setting and this is a perfect book to curl up by a fire and enjoy the holiday season.  (I actually finished reading this book in early February, so it was still bitterly cold and snowy where I live.)

I really hope this isn't the end of this series and Ally releases "Heist Society #4" sometime soon. There is so much more potential for these characters and I desperately want to see how things work out for Kat and Hale in the future. I would vote for several more Heist Society novels, but at least one more is needed if readers are going to get the warm happy feeling we had at the end of Ally's Gallagher Girls series.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Movie Review: Confessions of a Shopaholic

I just finished reading the second book in the Shopaholic series, Shopaholic Takes Manhattan, and discovered there was a Shopaholic movie.  I was sure it would be absolutely hilarious, and the cover of the DVD confirmed my assumption.  I checked it out from the library and had it all set for this week's movie night.

Well...It wasn't nearly as funny as I thought it would be and it deviated so far from the books that I was in a constant state of WTF.  They combined a lot of the elements from the first two books, so I was glad I had already finished reading book two or it would have spoiled a few things.  

But seriously....Becky is BRITISH.  Luke is BRITISH.  They live in LONDON.  The movie starts with them in New York and they meet at a hot dog stand. Seriously?  Everything that I love about these books was completely omitted from the movie.  I know,...the movie is never as good as the book, but they could have at least put forth some effort to maintain the integrity of these adorable and hilarious books.  I love Becky's British slang and watching her integrate into the American culture was a highlight of the second book.  

I thought the choice of actors and actresses was good, but there were scenes that were a bit hokey and nothing like what I would have expected from Becky or Luke. Overall, I would recommend sticking with the books.  The movie was average at best and left me feeling disappointed.  On the plus was free from the library, so I really can't complain too much.  I was just hoping for more since I love this series.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Review: Shopaholic Takes Manhattan by Sophie Kinsella

Shopaholic Takes Manhattan (Shopaholic, #2)

This is the second book in the Shopaholic series and it is just as funny and entertaining as the first.  When we left Rebecca (Becky) Bloomwood at the end of Confessions of a Shopaholic, she had just worked out all of her shopping difficulties.  She had amounted a large amount of debt, but everything was now on the upswing.  With a new job, a fantastic boyfriend, and most debt...she is determined to stay on track with the help of her flatmate Suze.

It doesn't take long for Becky to start "investing in her career."  She "needs" to have various items to wear on her TV show, or to help her write her self help book, or to take on a weekend holiday.  Before you know it, she is once again over her head.  To make matters worse, she accompanies her boyfriend Luke on a work trip to New York City.  She will get to spend a couple of weeks in the Big Apple hitting all of the glamorous shops and boutiques.  If all goes well, Luke and Becky will move to New York so he can concentrate his efforts on his office and she will be a star on American television.  

Everything is on shaky ground with regards to Luke's expansion efforts and Becky's financial troubles soon become public knowledge.  She is humiliated and watches everything she worked so hard for fall apart.  Just when she thinks she will never get a break, she stumbles upon some very useful information that could turn everything around.  She also devises a strategy that just might erase her financial problems.

I absolutely love all of the dialogue and British vocabulary used in this series.  While I can't relate to the woes of a shopaholic, I couldn't help but love Becky.  There are so many laugh out loud hilarious situations that could only happen to her.  It was also funny to see some of the cultural differences and how she integrates into American society.  While I understand the reasons for the plot twists, I wish there could have been more to Becky and Luke's relationship.  Obviously, that is likely what is coming next in Shopaholic Ties the Knot, but it felt like there was constant tension between the two of them.  He was so focused on expanding into the United States that he lost focus on everything else in his life.  The last couple of chapters definitely redeemed him, but it took a long time and a lot of external assistance for him to come to his senses.  

If you are looking for a fun summer read I would definitely recommend this series.  I can't wait to read Shopaholic Ties the Knot and just discovered there is a Confessions of a Shopaholic movie!!  I had no idea.  I'm sure it wasn't an award contender by any means, but it has to be hilarious.  If you have seen it, let me know what you thought of it.  I'm going to see if I can find it on Netflix or Prime for this weekend's movie night.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Review: A Painted House by John Grisham

A Painted House

Goodreads Overview:

Until that September of 1952, Luke Chandler had never kept a secret or told a single lie. But in the long, hot summer of his seventh year, two groups of migrant workers — and two very dangerous men — came through the Arkansas Delta to work the Chandler cotton farm. And suddenly mysteries are flooding Luke’s world.

A brutal murder leaves the town seething in gossip and suspicion. A beautiful young woman ignites forbidden passions. A fatherless baby is born ... and someone has begun furtively painting the bare clapboards of the Chandler farmhouse, slowly, painstakingly, bathing the run-down structure in gleaming white. And as young Luke watches the world around him, he unravels secrets that could shatter lives — and change his family and his town forever....


Back in the early 90's I read most of Grisham's books as soon as they were released.  I was in high school then and had plenty of time on my hands during the summer and on school breaks.  I have been trying to catch up, which is an almost impossible feat since I'm in the same predicament with a number of authors and series, but I keep plugging away.

This book was very different from any of his other books that I have read.  It did not involve a lawyer or some epic case that needed to be solved.  Instead, we are taken to a small cotton farm in Arkansas.  The story is told from the viewpoint of Luke Chandler, a seven-year-old boy who lives with his parents and grandparents.  He dreams of one day playing baseball for the St. Louis Cardinals and moving far away from the farm, where he spends long hours picking cotton six days a week.  Sunday is a day for rest and worship.  

Luke's sheltered lifestyle takes a real turn in the summer of 1952 when he witnesses not one, but two murders.  As the number of secrets compound throughout the story, it almost becomes too much for him to bear.  He begins acting differently and the adults get suspicious, but he knows he needs to keep quiet to protect himself and his family.

This wasn't my favorite Grisham book, but I did enjoy the story.  He did a great job of taking us back to a time and place most readers have little experience with.  There was plenty of drama, gossip, and scandal to keep the pages turning, but it wasn't the fast paced read I am used to from Grisham.    

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Review: United by Melissa Landers

United (Alienated, #3)

United is the third and final book in the Alienated series.  In this installment, the alliance between Earth and L'eihr is being threatened by another alien race.  They demand that all humans and L'eihr's return to their homes or they will destroy both civilizations.  Of course, Cara and Aelyx are not going to go down without a fight.  They are determined to return to the colony and the life they have worked so hard to build together.  

This book was action packed as Cara and Aelyx fight off not only another alien race, but also the hybrids from L'eihr, who are working with the enemy to sabotage the alliance. They recruit Cara's brother Troy, Aelyx's sister Elle, and his best friend Serene, but the odds certainly are not in their favor.  They have already witnessed the power of their competition and both of their governments have agreed that it is in their best interest to terminate the alliance.

Overall, I loved Aelyx and Cara throughout this series and was happy with how it concluded.  There were a few situations in this book that were VERY far fetched, even for fiction.  Of course, the end result likely gave readers the warm and fuzzy feeling were likely looking for, but you couldn't help but roll your eyes and think... Seriously?  Instead of spending quite so much time on the unrealistic elements, I wish there would have been a larger focus on life on the colony.  After the first two books, I was kind of over all of the drama that was keeping Cara and Aelyx apart.  I would have enjoyed reading more about how the humans and L'eihrs begin working together and seeing the colony flourish.

Alienated was definitely my favorite book in this series, but they were all very entertaining.  I especially enjoyed listening to them on audio.  I read the first book, but listened to the final two.  The narrator did an AMAZING job with the different character's voices.  I especially loved her interpretation of Aelyx's personality.  

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Review: Don't Kiss the Messenger by Katie Ray

Don't Kiss the Messenger was about a group of athletes at a private high school.  It actually came across as more like a college setting since the students lived on campus and had the intense focus of collegiate sports vs. the more relaxed setting I see in our community high school programs.  The students are recruited, watch game tapes, have two a day practices, study tables, and tutors to make sure they remain academically eligible.

CeCe is the captain of the volleyball team and a star player.  She is well respected on campus, but she is constantly looking down on her appearance because of a scar she received in a car accident when she was ten.  She has a number of guy friends, but doesn't think a relationship is a possibility for her.

Emmett Brady is a senior transfer student and the new starting quarterback.  CeCe meets him in her Shakespeare class when they end up getting paired up together for a class introduction exercise.  She quickly learns there is a lot more to him than football.  He is a gifted music student, intelligent, and extremely good looking.  While she is interest in him, she believes someone like him couldn't possible be interested in someone like her.

Emmett starts dating Bryn, who is a transfer student on the volleyball team.  She is beautiful, but reminded me of Paris Hilton.  Her idea of a deep conversation was "He's Hot" or "You have nice hair."  Emmett would have ditched her after the first date if it weren't for a little scheme CeCe and Bryn devised.  It would be better for Bryn to communicate with him via text and email to break the ice....AKA so she could get CeCe to help her sound more intelligent. you can imagine the plan backfires every time Emmett and Bryn are together and she can't string a few words together on her own.

Emmett and CeCe really start to hit it off via email and their friendship is quickly growing from their in class interactions.  They have a lot in common, but will she find the courage to tell him she is really the "messenger."

Overall, I loved reading all of the interactions between Emmett and CeCe.  They definitely had chemistry and were drawn to each other's personality and interests.  I wish their relationship would have been the major focus of the book, but perhaps that is what will take place in the next installment in this series.  I understood the Beauty and the Beast references with the really pretty girl and the scarred girl, but the constant focus on looks was a bit overwhelming.  I was more interested in Emmett's music, CeCe's crazy stunts, and the campus sports scene.  Those are the things I will remember most vs. who was considered pretty and who was not.