In my opinion, Ally Carter is severely underrated as a YA author. She manages to combine great action, humor, history and romance in this well plotted...moreIn my opinion, Ally Carter is severely underrated as a YA author. She manages to combine great action, humor, history and romance in this well plotted novel marked by Carter's trademark smooth prose. I loved this story of teen thieves pulling the ultimate con/heist. Really well written and a fun plot. I hope there are more books in this series!
Katarina Bishop was born to the life. When she was three, her parents took her to the Louvre - to case the joint. Kat’s family members have been thieves and con artists for generations. Kat herself has participated in some of the most daring heists in recent history, but none were as audacious as the con she pulled on her own, one that got her out of the life and into one of the most prestigious boarding schools on the East Coast.
Kat’s stay at the Colgan School lasts just a few short months before Hale, an old partner in crime, runs a scam to get her expelled and back into the family business. Kat would be furious with Hale but it turns out he had an excellent reason for ruining her con. Someone has stolen five paintings from a very powerful, very scary Italian mobster. The list of people who could have pulled the job contains exactly one name - Kat’s dad. The only problem is, he didn’t do it.
Her dad is currently under surveillance by Interpol (a result of the job he was actually pulling on the night the paintings were stolen), so that leaves Kat to discover who pulled the art heist and get the mobster’s paintings back before he starts hurting the people she loves. Kat’s got two weeks, a crew of teenagers and (hopefully) all of the skills she needs to plan and pull off the biggest heist in family history - and given her family history, that’s saying something.(less)
Aurelia may be the crown princess of Tyralt, but her life is anything but perfect. She has given up nearly every dream of personal value for the sake...moreAurelia may be the crown princess of Tyralt, but her life is anything but perfect. She has given up nearly every dream of personal value for the sake of her people and her kingdom. Her life is a series of stiff, boring, formal events. The only fleeting interruptions to her scheduled days occur when Aurelia manages to slip out of the palace in disguise and explore the city around her.
Robert Vantauge grew up in the palace, the son of the royal spy. Four years ago, his father left the king’s service for a life on Tyralt’s frontier. When Brian Vantauge receives a letter informing him that someone has made an attempt on the life of the crown princess and asking him to return to the palace to uncover the would-be assassin, the former spy refuses the request.
Robert, however, would do almost anything to keep his friend and former classmate safe. Against his parents’ wishes, he takes up the commission in his father’s stead. Instantly, Robert is plunged into a tangled web of deceit, intrigue and danger. Alone, Robert and Aurelia are in over their heads. Clearly they will have to work together if they are to have any chance of uncovering the plot and preserving Aurelia’s life.
This book was such a pleasant surprise. I was expecting a historical fantasy with elements of mystery and romance tacked on, but I got so much more than that. Aurelia contains all of those elements, but they are seamlessly combined in the wonderful story. From the first page, I was completely sucked into the world Ms. Osterlund has created. The story surrounds you and Aurelia and Robert feel like friends you've met and know you'll like forever. The lesser characters are also fully developed, and because of that, it's not always easy to separate hero from villain. I highly recommend this one, it kept me eagerly turning pages from beginning to end.(less)
"'You're just like your father, Hildy Biddle.' I guess that means obstinate, unbending, always searching for truth. I can live with that." - Hldy Bidd...more "'You're just like your father, Hildy Biddle.' I guess that means obstinate, unbending, always searching for truth. I can live with that." - Hldy Biddle, in Peeled
There a lot worse things you could do to Hildy Biddle than compare her to her father. Mitch Biddle was a journalist as well known for his compassion as he was four his absolute dedication to the truth. A big part of the reason Hildy starting writing for the school paper back in the third grade (an article about the death of the class rabbit, Wigglesworth) was her desire to be like her dad. Mitch died three years ago, but Hildy still thinks about the things that he taught her every single day.
After covering such mundane topics as health week and locker safety, Hildy is ready to tackle something a little more serious for her high school paper, The Core and right now the most serious subject in all of Banesville is the mysterious goings on at the abandoned Ludlow house. Folks in town think the place is haunted by the ghost of old man Ludlow, who allegedly killed his wife and her lover there thirty years ago and later died in his yard under an apple tree. Whatever happened in the past, there is definitely something fishy happening there now. Cryptic signs are appearing on the Ludlow property, a man has been accused on attempting to break in, and now a dead body has been found in the yard. The town's only newspaper, The Bee, seems intent on adding to the fear and confusion, even if it means stretching the truth to fit sensationalist headlines. Hildy and her friends at The Core don't know if ghosts are involved or not, but they are determined to investigate thoroughly and print only the truth.
Peeled is classic Joan Bauer, well-written and honest, narrated by a fresh voice young readers can identify with. As with most of Ms. Bauer's novels, she has a point to make with Peeled (the value of truth, the power of words) but she does so very gently, never sacrificing the story in the process. Hildy, a confident, independent girl, faces the kind of questions, dilemmas and ultimately, choices, that will define the adult she will become with both faith and hope. One of the delights in any novel by Ms. Bauer is the cast of supporting characters and that is certainly the case with Peeled. Hildy's family, her friends at The Core and the people of Banesville all add layers of believability (and occasionally humor) to this satisfying novel.(less)
She was born a Princess in the palace of Tyralt, the most powerful kingdom in the land. She was raised to rule her people, learning etiquette and dipl...moreShe was born a Princess in the palace of Tyralt, the most powerful kingdom in the land. She was raised to rule her people, learning etiquette and diplomacy and above all duty, surrounded by luxury and privilege. But Aurelia Lauzon's life has been anything but cozy and pampered. At the age of three she witnessed the death of her older brother and suffered not only the grief of his loss but subsequent abandonment by her mother. She watched as barely two years later her father chose a new Queen, a hard, cold woman with little affection for her. She has seen her childhood friends drift away one by one, the effort required to be close to the Crown Princess gradually defeating each of them. Through it all, Aurelia put her love for Tyralt and her duty to her people before all, even her own dreams and desires. And now she has had to come face to face with the ultimate betrayal.
After a spate of attempts on the life of the Crown Princess, an investigation revealed that Aurelia's younger sister was at the center of the plot. Reeling from the discovery that her beloved sister Melony harbored such contempt and hatred for her, Aurelia turned to her father the King, only to be betrayed once again. Weak and too fearful of scandal to publicly reveal Melony's role in the plot or to punish her in any way, her father informed Aurelia that she must marry the aged and odious King of Anthone. "You are no longer safe in the palace," he said. For Aurelia, this is one step beyond way too far. If she is not safe in the palace it is because her father refuses to make her so. She rejected his ultimatum and the marriage, even though doing so means her father will likely renounce her as his heir and name Melony in her stead.
Disgusted with all that has happened, Aurelia has chosen exile, and the chance to fulfill a life-long dream. Now she is embarking on an expedition to traverse the Kingdom of Tyralt and to meet the people she loves so dearly, even is she may not ever rule them. By her side is her only true friend, Robert Vantauge, a childhood classmate grown to manhood and the only person in Tyralt Aurelia trusts. Robert knows, even if Aurelia has not yet realized, that removal from the palace and the intrigues of court will not necessarily thwart those who have been plotting against her. As the expedition gets underway, he struggles daily with his feelings for Aurelia and his absolute need to see her safe, even as he helps her to see Tyralt as it truly is - both beautiful and cruel, a land of strength and wealth, but also hardships and injustice. Yet, as deadly forces track Aurelia through the Kingdom, her greatest fears are not for her own life, but for the country and the people she fears she can no longer help, and for the safety of her heart in the face of the young man who loves Tyralt as passionately as she does.
First of all, if you have never read anything by Anne Osterlund, you have no idea what you've been missing. Both Academy 7 (a stand alone novel) and Aurelia (the novel that precedes this one) are fabulous stories, well-written and possessing the kind of depth and nuance you rarely see in Y.A. fiction. Like those two previous works, Exile takes place in a world so well drawn and so richly peopled that it's easy to think of it as historical fiction rather than fantasy. And the truth is, it is some of both and so much more. I loved this book - the story, the landscape, and the wonderfully three-dimensional characters. To my mind, Ms. Osterlund is one of the most talented Young Adult fantasy authors writing today.
As an interesting side note, according to the author's blog it was Aurelia herself who insisted on a sequel - loudly and often until her demands were met. I, for one, am grateful for her agitation. And although I am eagerly looking forward to Salvation, the novel the Ms. Osterlund is currently working on, I can't help hoping that Aurelia will convince her to start a sequel to Exile soon.(less)