Category: 4 Book Reads

The Queen’s Thief series, Megan Whalen Turner

 The Thief, The Queen of Attolia, The King of Attolia, Conspiracy of Kings

I love a good intrigue and Megan Whalen Turner’s series has it all: murderous monarchs, twisty-turny plots, political upheaval, marriage alliances, and some good old-fashioned thievery. You can’t go wrong with a solid bit of thievery.  The series is focused around Eugenides, a thief embroiled in the affairs of three countries on a smallish continent loosely based on Greece. The thing that impresses me most about  this series is the vulnerability and empathy Turner imparts on her characters. Eugenides is not a typical stoic male figure, but often shows fear, and where the queen of Attolia could easily become a one-dimensional cut-throat Turner gives us a glimpse of something deeper, showing how the queen became as she is. The series also has some fantastic endings which are always appreciated. Nothing annoys me more than a great book with a let down ending.  Turner consistently surprises and delights. Overall an excellent series. 

4-I’ll read it again and again


Drop the book you are reading right now and pick up The Poisonwood Bible. It’s that good. Kingsolver’s fictional tale about a family of missionaries who travel to the Congo in 1959 is mermerizing. Poisonwood is broken up into a series of mini-chapters, each of which employs a  first-person narrative from one of the Price daughters. Each daughter is wildly different, yet compelling, as is their mother Orleanna.  While the characters and the story are interesting, it’s the prose that makes this a book to come back to again and again.  Kingsolver weaves a spell in words. Reading this was like feeling the heart of Africa beat in my chest.  Frankly I could spent a happy afternoon reading Kingsolver’s grocery list (especially after reading her informative memoir Animal, Vegetable, Mineral).  Poisonwood Bible is a heart-rending, heart-pounding delight.

I found this epistolary novel (written in a series of letters) absolutely charming. Ella Minnow Pea tells the story of the fictional island of Nollop whose denizens esteem language so highly that when letters start falling off a statue in the town square all of the citizens are prohibited from using their fallen fellows.  Mark Dunn has written a narrative love letter to the English language and the ways even the tiniest letters of the alphabet shape the way we express ourselves. I marveled at how Dunn could continue writing despite his alphabetic setbacks. The book would be worth reading just for that,  but Ella Minnow Pea also boasts a delightful protagonist and an exciting narrative. Word lovers everywhere will rejoice over this book.

I’m a sucker for cleverness, so perhaps it’s not surprising that this debut novel by Jedediah Berry made me swoon.  The Manual of Detection is filled with moments, both little and big, that display the author’s creativity and thoughtfulness. Let me be clear: this is not your average mystery novel.  Detection is a kind of cross-breed between mystery and surrealistic fantasy where the whodunit is less important than the way the story unfolds.  This change of pace can be nice if you’re looking for a different spin on your average noir, or off-putting if you prefer a more straightforward formula. I couldn’t put the book down and am looking forward to what this new author comes up with next.

Chances are you’ve heard something about this book (it was published in 1972).  Yes, it is about rabbits. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t a wonderful and genuinely remarkable story.  There’s something about this rabbit world, filled with snippets of the unique rabbit language and mythology, that’s completely absorbing.  The characters are more developed and complex than most tales featuring human protagonists, and the narrative is a finely balanced mix of brisk action, competing emotions, and mythology. Pick up this book and keep an open mind. You won’t be disappointed.