Thursday, August 25, 2011

Review: Heist Society and Uncommon Criminals by Ally Carter

Heist Society by Ally Carter
Publisher: Disney/Hyperion Books
Publication Date: February 9th, 2010

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.
(Courtesy of Goodreads)

I really enjoyed Ally Carter's first series, The Gallagher Girls, and I had been wanting to read this for awhile, but like many of the books on my TBR, it kept getting pushed aside for other books.  My 10 year old daughter read it shortly after it came out and thought it was great, and had been bugging me to read it, claiming that I would love it.  Finally I did this past Spring because it's sequel, Uncommon Criminals was about to be released and I wanted to be ready...  

This book was beyond good.  I don't usually go for cute, but this books was so strong in so many other areas that I found myself even liking the cuteness.  It was such an original story and that is always essential for me, because nothing annoys me more than deja vu.  Add to that the really likable characters, action and adventure, a great mystery, age-appropriate romance, and a protagonist with a good heart, and I'm sold.  A lot of books have some of those elements, but it is extremely rare for a book to have all of them.  Ally Carter serves up the whole package in a believable way that makes you want to come back for more and more.

My Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ 

Grade Level Recommendation:  See GLR at the end of the Uncommon Criminals review.

Uncommon Criminals by Ally Carter
Publisher: Disney/Hyperion
Publication Date: June 21st, 2011

Katarina Bishop has worn a lot of labels in her short life life. Friend. Niece. Daughter. Thief. But for the last two months she’s simply been known as the girl who ran the crew that robbed the greatest museum in the world. That’s why Kat isn’t surprised when she’s asked to steal the infamous Cleopatra Emerald so it can be returned to its rightful owners.

There are only three problems. First, the gem hasn’t been seen in public in thirty years. Second, since the fall of the Egyptian empire and the suicide of Cleopatra, no one who holds the emerald keeps it for long, and in Kat’s world, history almost always repeats itself. But it’s the third problem that makes Kat’s crew the most nervous and that is simply… the emerald is cursed.

Kat might be in way over her head, but she’s not going down without a fight. After all she has her best friend—the gorgeous Hale—and the rest of her crew with her as they chase the Cleopatra around the globe, dodging curses, realizing that the same tricks and cons her family has used for centuries are useless this time.

Which means, this time, Katarina Bishop is making up her own rules.
(Courtesy of Goodreads)

I liked Uncommon Criminals even more than Heist Society.  It was absolutely phenomenal.  There were so many things I liked about this book, and nothing I didn't like.  How rare is that?  I definitely had a very difficult time putting this down, and I can't wait until an inevitable 3rd book is released.  

Among the thing I really liked about this book is that Kat's confidence has grown "professionally", but she is still unsure about all the things the average 15 year old girl should be unsure of.  I also really liked Kat's reasons for staying in the family business.  Even though she is still a "thief", she operates nobly and for the right reasons.  I love that she has a conscience and operates accordingly, while not sitting in judgement of the rest of her family, who operate for profit.

This book was much more action packed than the first.  There were a lot of surprises and twists; I was thrown for a loop more than a few times.  Just when I  thought I had something figured out, I would be proven totally wrong.  I also liked that there was little more to to romantic element, while still holding to not having the story be centered around it.  I also like that the romance remains unsure  and innocent enough that I can feel comfortable with my 10 year old reading it, while intense enough that it evokes some feeling in the reader.

My favorite part of this book is how we get to know so many of the supporting characters.  In Heist Society, we mostly got to know Kat.  Here we learn a lot about some of her extended family members and close associates.  Characters that I didn't really like in Heist Society are amongst my favorites after Uncommon Criminals.

If you liked the first book, you MUST read this.  If you're a fan of the Gallagher Girls, but haven't started on this series, you really don't know what you're missing...

My Rating:  ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ 

Grade Level Recommendation:  Both books are clean.  No language, the barest minimum of violence, and only the most innocent of romances.  This is actually a great jumping off point for young girls who are wanting to make the leap from MG lit to YA.  Ages 9 and up (grades 4+).


  1. This is such a great series, isn't it! It really is jam packed full of if only she told us Hale's first name!!!

  2. I read Heist Society just a few days ago and LOVED it. Seriously though. I'm glad to hear that the sequel is even better--I'm so looking forward to reading it. Great review!

  3. Uncommon Criminals was one of the last books I picked up from Borders! I really enjoyed reading the book, and you're totally right, it's somehow even better than Heist Society. I'm glad that there is a rumored book three because I'm not ready to give up on these characters and this incredible story just yet.

  4. I to enjoyed Uncommon Criminals a tad more than Heist Society, It was strong enough to make me expect the third book, which was just recently confirmed by Ally on twitter. :)


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