Magan: Uncommon Criminals by Ally Carter

Warning: There may be a hint of a spoiler for Heist Society (book 1). Proceed with caution.

book cover for Uncommon Criminals by Ally Carter

Uncommon Criminals by Ally Carter (website | twitter)
Series: Heist Society, Book 2
Publication Date: November 12, 2013
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Pages: 272
Target Audience: Young Adult
Keywords: robberies, teenage robbers, Cleopatra Emerald, best friends falling in love
Format Read: Paperback purchased from Barnes & Noble.

Summary: Months after Kat and her team pull off one of the greatest robberies in the world, her team is reunited for another impossible task — to steal the Cleopatra Emerald. Though her uncle would disapprove of their actions, they move forward and create plans that take them all over the world.

Why, hello Hale. And Kat, too, of course.

You know that feeling when it’s just so incredibly nice to be reunited with characters you love unconditionally? Even when they’re acting in ways that may make you want to punch them once or twice so they stop acting like fools? I have so much love and affection for the entire Heist Society crew and couldn’t help but fly through Uncommon Criminals.

After pulling off one of the biggest robberies ever in Heist Society, Kat sort of disappears for a while. She disconnects from her friends and family and travels the world on her own secret mission. Of course for this tight-knit group, that doesn’t really fly. Hale is understandably irritated that Kat would feel she can do so much on her own. But what he may not realize is that Kat has a lot she needs to sort through. How does she feel about him — there’s chemistry there (obviously), but does she want to risk ruining their friendship by seeking something more? One thing I love about Hale is he just doesn’t deny his emotions; he doesn’t go through hypothetical play-by-plays of what-ifs. He has feelings for our beloved Kat and doesn’t withhold them. I find that so refreshing and am reminded of the beginning days when I first started dating Dustyn. (He told me on our second date that he loved me.)

Once Kat finally turns back up, she is approached about another big, big job. Stealing the Cleopatra Emerald is something that’s been attempted several times before, unsuccessfully. Why is Kat approached? Her uncle would flip his lid if he knew the risks she and her team are taking and the danger they face. Furthermore, the Emerald is thought to be cursed. Isn’t that enough to make anyone run in the opposite direction? But who can back down when it seems like the wrong you’re being asked to commit will right so many past faults and land the gem in the hands of the rightful owners?

The major appeal of Uncommon Criminals continues to be the around-the-world travel, the strong character connections with spot-on dialogue, and the increasing pressure to see if Kat and Hale can pull off the job they’re facing before time runs out. I so desperately want to circle every place they visit on a map and hop on a plane as soon as possible. The scenery is delightful and Carter does a fantastic job transporting her readers around the world, desperately trying to solve the puzzle.

I mentioned wanting to smack a character a time or two while reading. Sometimes main characters get a little bit of a savior complex and take on so much that it bears down on them. Understandably, Kat begins to feel responsible and guilty for a few things that haphazardly occur. While I may have been frustrated that she dragged her feet and couldn’t get over the punch to her ego, I find myself thinking her reactions were extremely realistic. Who wouldn’t need to grovel after you’ve fallen victim to … oops, not going to finish that sentence. So not going to be that spoilery person. Read it and find out for yourselves, friends!

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Estelle: All Our Yesterdays by Cristin Terrill

All Our Yesterdays by Cristin Terrill: September 2013 book release from Disney HyperionAll Our Yesterdays by Cristin Terrill ( web | tweet )
Publication Date: September 3, 2013
Publisher: Disney Hyperion
Pages: 368
Target audience: Young adult
Genre: Science fiction
Keywords: time travel, politics, best friends, romance
Format read: eBook from NetGalley via Publisher. (Thanks!)

Summary: Em and Finn have run out of all possible options when it comes to destroying a time machine that they know has made the world a dark and dismal place. All Our Yesterdays alternates between past and present as the two converge together to bring truths (the painful and the triumphant) to love, friendship, and the future of the world.

In order to prepare yourself for reading All Our Yesterdays, I suggest you 1) have a book buddy on hand who has read it before you (Sasha from Sash and Em was mine) because you are going to have a lot to WTF about and 2) an undisclosed amount of time (even if it is on a street corner near your grocery store) to read this book as close to straight through as you can.

There are very few things I can say here without revealing too much of the brilliant plot secrets contained within this book. What I will tell you is this: there is a Dawson/Joey/Pacey vibe rooted in this story, it’s okay to reread paragraphs until you understand the smallest of details because Terrill has intricately (and painstakingly) made her story feel so real even down to the most scientific explanations, and third of all: your brain might explode a little bit because the emotional and physical impact of reading as two time periods are lined up and brought head-to-head? Hard to fathom.

Time is a funny thing. There are some of us that are so accepting of its whims, but there are others who are obsessed with the past. “If I could change one little thing, that tiny tiny thing, everything would be alright.” You’ve heard it before. I read about it previously in the fantastic 11/22/63 by Stephen King this year. Even though King’s book and Terrill’s are totally different, the sentiment felt similar to me and just as scary and just as heartbreaking. Because changing even one little thing, even if it makes it better for you, affects countless more than you can even imagine. So think about a machine that was created from the best intentions to change the world for the better and all of it just blowing up in your face; how a beautiful person can turn so ugly because of power and those good intentions.

Terrill has done an amazing job of telling such an epic story. All Our Yesterdays started a little slow for me and I wished there was more dialogue throughout the novel, but otherwise, it is completely addicting and so well plotted, that I’m anxious to reread it from the beginning and discover those details I may have missed the first time around. So even though science fiction isn’t a genre I frequent a lot, I know a good story is what is important when reading and THIS is a good story from all angles: the intrigue, the suspense, the romance, and the enormity of having the future of the world on your shoulders (whew, it makes me feel tense all over again just thinking about it).

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Sweet Summertime Reads: Fourth of July in Nantucket Blue

Sweet Summertime Reads - Summer Beach Reads Feature with Fiction Folio and GReads!

There’s only one time I’ve spent Fourth of July somewhere other than home or at the park, watching the fireworks on a blanket. It was a few weeks after I got engaged, we were on a short vacation with my now husband’s parents, and we built a fire on the beach and watched the fireworks from the sand. It was pretty incredible.

Rather Be Reading Blog Fireworks at Montauk

I’m hoping that we can do something like that again someday: just the two of us. I don’t know if it’s the fireworks, or the holiday falling smack dab in the middle of the summer, but I think Fourth of July can be a totally romantic and sweet holiday.

This leads me to a scene in Nantucket Blue by Leila Howland. Ginger shared two great scenes from Endless Summer by Jennifer Echols and Second Chance Summer by Morgan Matson yesterday, and here I am with mine. When we first decided to share snippets from our favorite FOJ scenes, this was the first one that popped into my head.

What’s a little forbidden romance, stolen champagne, and a boat ride? Nothing short of spectacular, that’s for sure.

“Hey, you said champagne. Does this mean you’ve gotten over your French girl?”

“Maybe,” he said smiling. I lean back, elbows on the edge, and looked up. The sun had set, but it wasn’t dark yet. The sky was purple. Above us, a half-moon tipped. We rowed past the homes that lined the harbor; past the squares of lighted interiors; past people sitting on verandas, drinking and laughing. Voices floated out to us on waves, turned to wisps, drifted away. The oars slapped the dark water, slid under and emerged, tilted and weeping as they skimmed the surface. I dropped an arm, let my fingers trace the water. I felt like I could’ve stayed in the back of that boat all summer and been happy.

“So, you see that McMansion with all the lights on?” Zack asked, taking both oars in one hand as he turned and pointed to a house on a distant cliff.

“Yeah.” It was a huge place with hundred windows.

“Okay, now, you see the one next to it, with only one light on? That’s where we’re headed. It’s the best spot to see the fireworks.” He turned to face me again, rowing with effortless strength and confidence. Maybe this was where he got his soccer-player body. The thought made me shiver.

And later…

“We’re not going to get lost at sea, are we?”

“Not unless you want to.” Zack smiled. There was the feeling again. The warmth. The fluttering. The heart buzz. I focused on rowing. A few fireworks shot off from a distance beach. Little gold ones.

Howland does such a great job describing this scene. I feel like I can see the whole thing in my head, and I want to be there so badly. Maybe as Cricket hanging out with Zack or maybe just as me, the freedom of the ocean under my boat and sharing a peaceful summer moment with my husband.

I tend to refrain from calling Nantucket Blue the perfect summer read because I feel that implies that it’s fluffy and maybe a little light in plot. Instead, Nantucket Blue is the perfect beach read because Howland makes you feel like Nantucket is right at your finger tips: the beach, the people, the small town. It’s all there. And the story, while it does deal with a lot of growing pains also has a lot of the good stuff: mending a heart with first love, understanding your parents, and accepting who you are. Definitely a favorite read of the year for me.

Happy Fourth, friends! Hope it’s magical and filled with a good book! (Wink, wink.)


Nantucket Blue by Leila Howland

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P.S. NB fans, did you know there will be a second book out next summer? Get excited!

Nantucket Blue Blog Tour: Review, Leila Howland Q+A, Giveaway!

Huge thanks to Jamie from Disney Hyperion and Leila Howland for making today’s post a reality! I’ve been at the edge of my seat wanting to share my review with you, and finally (cue the trumpets and confetti!), today is the day! (It’s also Nantucket Blue‘s release date… even more exciting!)

Nantucket Blue by Leila HowlandNantucket Blue by Leila Howland ( tweet | tumblr )
Publication Date: May 7, 2013
Publisher: Disney Hyperion
Pages: 304
Target audience: Young adult
Keywords: summer, family, friendships, divorce
Format read: ARC from NetGalley via Publisher (Thanks!)

Summary: When an unexpected tragedy threatens to change her friendship with her best friend, Cricket decides to find her own way to Nantucket to hopefully bridge the distance growing between them. Her summer of waves, romance, and time with Jules becomes a summer job at a hotel, an unexpected (forbidden) romance, and lots of time to reflect.

If you like your summer with starry skies, a boat, and a bottle of (stolen) champange, Nantucket Blue is going to sweep you away.

I’ll admit the romantic embrace featured on the cover is a tad misleading. There is romance and there is sand, but this story is so much more about Cricket and the unexpected discoveries the summer brings her. She goes to bed one night, knowing she is going to spending the summer with Jules and the entire Clayton clan and when she wakes up the next morning, everything has changed: her summer plans, and most importantly, her relationship with Jules.

Cricket and Jules have the kind of friendship where you can call each other when you get your first period or want to divulge your most embarrassing secrets; the kind of friend who you can tell your meanest thoughts to and never feel judged or like they are going to spill the beans. Cricket never imagined the day that Jules would not be her partner-in-crime, not there on the other end of the telephone. Instead Jules makes her feels like she is out of some exclusive club and Cricket doesn’t know what to do.

I gotta give it to the girl, she takes lemons and finds a way to spend the summer in Nantucket anyway. She works at an inn with the awesome and hilarious Liz (so Rebel Wilson-esque) and even finds an (unofficial) internship to keep her busy. Her attempts to talk to Jules are short-lived and she starts spending time with someone pretty unexpected (though I could sense the chemistry from early on) and unearthing her mom’s scandalous younger years in a book of Emily Dickinson poems.

Howland’s writing isn’t perfect; some scenes seemed too strategically placed, as if the movement wouldn’t have propelled forward without them. While I like my stories to progress a bit more naturally, I felt so much for this character who, after one event that isn’t even necessarily connected to her, is forced to deal with a ton for the first time — the aftermath of her parent’s divorce, the crumbling of a long-term friendship, and wonders and fears that come along with falling in love. Cricket spent so much time calculating her every move (don’t be a slut; don’t be a prude) to stay under the radar, and dodging her real life that all her true feelings had no choice but to rise to the surface at some point. Welcome to that point. (“Feelings find each other. I thought.  Let one up and the others follow.”)

Nantucket Blue is one of those books I can see myself picking up time and time again. Howland’s fulfilling descriptions make me yearn for summer days in the sun (there’s also a good dose of funny!), and she found a great rhythm when it came to the highs and lows that Cricket went through that summer. She’s a character we get to watch grow, through her mistakes and her triumphs; her heartbreaks and happiness. Everything about it feels so good (especially the honest ending that doesn’t have to be tied up in a pretty bow — love that!).

Leila Howland, you have certainly made a fan out of me!

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As a special bonus, Leila Howland stops by and answers some questions about Nantucket Blue and more!

EMH: Setting is so crucial in Nantucket Blue. It takes a lot for me to be transported into summer when it’s freezing in New York City, and I’m wearing a dozen layers just to get to work. But with NB, you totally nailed it. I felt like I was there. Does Nantucket have special significance to you or was the setting a combination of your favorite spots?

Leila: Thank you!  I was worried about getting it right because Nantucket is so specific and so meaningful to so many people. It’s one of the most gorgeous places I have ever visited.  Stories just live in the air there. I don’t know how to explain it! There’s so much history and for the most part it’s been preserved.  You really know you’re on an island when you’re there. You’re out at sea and you can feel it.  I worked there for a summer when I was 18 and it was the first time I’d really ever felt like an outsider. It was striking to feel so lonely in such a beautiful spot, and I suppose that’s why I was able to absorb so much and why it really stuck with me.  Also, the beaches are just pristine. Just heaven. As my 90 year-old friend who grew up on Nantucket puts it, it’s like swimming in champagne.

EMH: Cricket and Jules seem to have this solid friendship until an unexpected tragedy reveals the cracks. I thought Cricket was pretty loyal (and slightly insane) for following Jules out to Nantucket even though she wasn’t really wanted. Back then, would you have gone to the same lengths to save a friendship or would you have waited it out at home?

Leila: I would have gone to the same lengths, without a doubt.  My friendships have always been very important to me and I was brave about going new places on my own at Cricket’s age. And yes, Cricket is loyal, but I think that she’s also running away from something as much as she’s running toward something else, even though she may not quite realize it. Of course, that’s open to interpretation!

EMH: I thought it was a lot of fun that Cricket worked at the inn and interned for the writer staying there. Did you ever any fun summer jobs when you were younger?

Leila: Just like Cricket, I was a chambermaid at an Inn on Nantucket. It wasn’t very interesting, and it was kind of gross, but I learned how important it is to tip the maid and how essential it is to be kind and polite to people who work behind the scenes and clean up after us. I wish I’d had a George to intern for! Other than that, I did A LOT of babysitting.  My favorite summer job was working at The National Playwrights Conference at the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center. I loved being around all that creativity. I met so many cool actors and writers.  I don’t even remember what my job duties were, but they were very menial. I think I did laundry?? The point was to be somewhere where cool stuff was happening!

EMH: Being that NB is your debut novel, what was most surprising to you about the process? What inspired you to write it?

Leila: The most surprising thing to me about the writing process was how crucial it was to stay in the world of the book.  I wrote most mornings in a café down the street from my house.  If I took more than one day off in a row, I’d have to warm up to the characters all over again. But if I wrote every day, even for just half an hour, it stayed with me throughout the day, and I could pick up right where I left off the next time I sat down at my computer.

A few things inspired me to write Nantucket Blue. I started teaching teenagers and realized how much I enjoyed their company; my agent thought I had a good voice for YA and sent me a few books that rocked my world (Lost It by Kristen Tracy and The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart); but most importantly, I had a terrible fight with my best friend. I was devastated. I looked everywhere for books about friend break-ups, but couldn’t find any that really got it. So I wrote about a friend break-up because I wanted to read about one. The romantic storyline actually took me by surprise, though once I discovered it I was like, “Yes!”

EMH: I can totally see myself (and many others) re-reading Nantucket Blue on many upcoming summer adventures. What are some of your favorite beach reads?

Leila: Thank you!  Let’s see, when I’m at the beach I want to be swept away.  I just finished The Rules for Disappearing by Ashley Elston. It’ll be out on May 14th and it’s a real page-turner!  Some of my other favorite beach reads are: The Summer Series by Jenny Han, and The Love Season and The Island by Elin Hilderbrand (not YA, but also take place on Nantucket).  Where the Peacocks Sing is a memoir by Alison Singh Gee about falling in love with a real, live Indian prince and living in his broken-down castle in India. It’s not YA, but it’s one of those transporting books that will make you want to travel to far off lands.

EMH: I’m already pumped to read your next book! Is there anything you can tell us about what you are working on right now?

Leila: I am working on Nantucket Red and I’m so excited about it. I think we can all agree that Jules and Cricket have a lot to work out before they head off to college, and what better place to do it than on Nantucket?


Friends, I am so excited about the prospect of reading more about Cricket and Jules… I yelped when I read Leila’s answers! I do hope you’ll check out Nantucket Blue — just a perfect summertime read!

Before you go, don’t forget to try your luck and win a copy of the Leila’s book!

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A Literary Birthday Celebration (From What I Remember)


I’ve said it before and said it again, but one of my favorite things about blogging is meeting new people.

About a month or two ago, I started to chat with Cassie of Books with Cass, who like me is from New Jersey (although she still lives there) and has a birthday in February.

And can you believe that we are exactly a day apart? (In fact, she shares a birthday with one of my best friends and the reason I met Magan in the first place!)

During one of our daily chats, we decided to had to jump on this coincidence and write joint posts today! Basically, Cassie and I have chosen a favorite read that would inspire the best birthday celebration.

So, for me, we are heading to…


[ oh mexico. it sounds so simple i just got to go. a lil james taylor for ya ]

Last June, on a wonderful summer vacation with my husband, I read From What I Remember by Stacy Kramer and Valerie Thomas. It was so much fun, such a surprise hit, and it’s most definitely on my list to re-read when the weather gets a little warmer on the east coast.

Basically, the class brainiac (Kylie) and big man on campus (Max) are forced to work together on a last minute school project and a bit of bad luck comes their way — causing them to embark on an unexpected road trip to MEXICO. Kylie is a serious person with lots of responsibilities and Max seems quite the opposite, pretending his life is easy breezy when he has a lot going on in the background. There’s EXCITEMENT. CHEMISTRY. FEAR. VARIOUS MOVIE QUOTES. AND DRINKING.

Despite the chaos, this is what I’m seeing:

From What I Remember Fiesta

Mix an awesome setting + a great dress + some frozen libations and I feel a party coming on.

Although, I will opt out of the hangover when it’s all finished. Thank you very much.

I really appreciate you taking the time to celebrate my birthday with me (a few days early), and I hope you’ll head over to Books with Cass to see what Cassie has in store for her own birthday extravaganza!

Happy Saturday!

Psst. If you haven’t checked out From What I Remember yet, the title is under $8 for the Kindle edition + the Nook too!