Bookbub Bargains: My review of 'Thief' by CL Stone
I know, I know, in my last review I ripped on the Ghost Bird series, so what the heck am I doing reading another Academy series by the same author?
Maybe I'm a sucker for punishment, or maybe I'm just a sucker for stories in which a girl gets a whole harem of hot guys. You decide.
Either way, I received a free copy of this book in the back of one of the Ghost Bird books - IDK which one, don't ask me. That was a long time ago.
So I decided that this still counts as a Bookbub review since it's what led me here. Once again, I'm going to review the entire series (that is out as of Aug 2019) because I clipped through the books pretty quickly and I don't recall specifically which parts were only in the first book. Sue me, it's not important.
This story is about a (supposedly) street-wise, smart-aleck of a teenage girl who took her GED to get out of high school so she could support her alcoholic father and younger brother. She took to picking pockets because she couldn't earn enough money to pay the rent. Supposedly her father doesn't work and demands she come up with money to pay for their dumpy motel room.
Kayli gets busted picking pockets by a (surprise, surprise) group of extremely hot guys, who are all naturally attracted to her and want her to help them with a case. This is not a YA romance like Ghost Bird, so the reader better buckle up and be prepared for some coarse language and sexual situations.
Somehow Kayli figures out way too much about 'The Academy' way too quickly, making Sherlock Holmes-level deductions based on a few inconsequential facts.
Also she is a self-taught pocket-picker, wise to avoiding cops and mall security, but takes enormous amounts of unnecessary risks when she gets peeved and has a really dirty habit of just jumping into vehicles with people who may or may not want to hurt her. Fortunately for her, most of them just want to get it on with her, but not all of them do. She also goes a day or two at a time not eating, then packs away multiple burgers and orders of fries in a sitting and apparently doesn't suffer any discomfort from this cycle.
Through the series, she and the team get into ever-more-complicated situations as they attempt to 'do academy things' and Kayli keeps roping in the do-gooder rich guy that was her first mark in the first book.
For the good things, I love that the guys are all unique and the author takes time to give you a sense of personality for all of them. There's a feeling of real connection between Kayli and each guy, even if it's kind of formulaic and repetitive. I can sympathize with how she might find herself in a romantic entanglement with one or two and be unsure of how to navigate it safely. I like the danger-spy element, and the thought that goes into the mysteries and the setting.
I don't buy that all of these guys completely suspend their apparently sharper than average sense of perception when it comes to this girl and what she's doing. There's only fighting amongst themselves when she predicts there's going to be, and while we're on that subject the number of times that she said, "Well if so-and-so gets mad at me at least I'll still have so-and-so... I'm sure he'll still love me." was enough to drive me insane. And then, once they're all brought on board with what's going on, everyone is suddenly super cool. Like they weren't just about to punch each other out over this girl they all are apparently in love with in a few short weeks and now it's all good.
I also don't buy that she is so smart and wicked-perceptive about so many things, and then makes so many painfully stupid decisions. It's like she gets hormonal and loses her damn mind. Either she's incredibly smart and analytical, or she's not. She can't be Sherlock one moment and Dora the Explorer the next.
I also thought some of the set up was super lame. Like, okay, no one believed that Corey was actually gay, I hope you don't think that fooled anyone. So all the times where Kayli thinks to herself, "I've never had a best friend before, it's even better to have a gay best friend. I wonder if he's really gay, he's never said it, but his brother said he is and of course he'd know, he's so sweet, cuddling me and kissing my forehead, aww," just made Kayli look like the biggest idiot. Not to mention that she sleeps in Corey's bed but somehow when his twin brother is climbing into bed with her every night the very not-gay Corey (who is naturally already in love with Kayli) isn't bothered by that at all.
I can understand her liking multiple guys at once and being worried they would be upset. I could even suspend my disbelief that she clings onto that idea after they've all told her, repeatedly, that they're there for her no matter what (despite the fact that she has no history of someone breaking promises to her, so just having an abusive alcoholic father doesn't really explain her complete inability to believe anyone). I can accept that they get entangled in a few things that go horribly awry and cause bigger issues.
However I don't buy that these guys just keep charging in every time this bimbo gets herself involved in something else that's not her problem. Later on in the series she gets asked to help with something that is so glaringly over her head it's stupid to the point of ridiculousness. At that point I was just along for the relationship rollercoaster, which continued to be at times fun and exciting and other times aggravating. Eventually she stops tiptoeing around her perception of their feelings and then it gets interesting, but it took 4 books for that to happen.
I get that she is supposed to be a troubled character, but she is rather unlikeable, and she doesn't develop at all, over several books. She just keeps charging in and setting everything on fire. There are a lot of little quirks that are annoying, like we get hit over the head that she doesn't care about clothes, but then she describes in detail every item of clothing she wears and talks constantly about how uncomfortable she is in what she's wearing.
The editing was better in this series than the latter half of Ghost Bird, and the covers were at least more consistent. But, honestly, with the rate that this author puts out a book it surprises me that these are not better written. There's just a lot of lazy writing and poor word choice that could be so much better. If you're taking a year and a half to put out a book, you've definitely got time to edit it and pull up grammarly.
That said, I went ahead and read the entire series, so she got my $4.99 for each book (not counting the first one which I got for free) so I guess the joke's on me. Problem being I don't care enough to wait for another book to come out. The last currently available in the series, Hoax, came out 3 years ago. Three MFing years! And there's no sign that the next will be the end of the series. Sorry, but I will forget nearly everything by the time the next one comes out.
Overall I'm rating this series 3.5 *s. I enjoyed some parts of it, but it's not compelling enough to hang around and wait 3+ years for each book. The main character is difficult to like, and suffers from a personality disorder. The guys are unique and interesting, but not enough to make this one a 5* read, and we still don't know anything about them.