Thick as Thieves

thickasthievesby Megan Whalen Turner
First sentence: “It was midday and the passageway quiet and cool.”
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Others in the series: The ThiefThe Queen of AttoliaThe King of AttoliaA Conspiracy of Kings
Review copy provided by the publisher.
Content: It’s a bit slow, and the main character is an adult. There is also some (not very graphic) violence. It will be in the YA section ( grades 6-8) of the bookstore.

Turner writes in the introduction to the ARC that you really don’t have to read the other books in the series in order to enjoy this one. It does help, of course, but this one holds its own on its own. And she’s right: it’s been years since I’ve visited these characters, and it didn’t matter that I can’t quite remember exactly what The Thief was about. (Which means I need to reread it.)

Kamet is a slave of one of the high officials in the Mede empire. He’s happy, pretty much, because he’s his master’s right  hand man, which means he has a certain amount of privilege and power. And then, in the course of a single day he is offered freedom from a strange Attolian soldiear, and he is told that his master was poisoned. He doesn’t want to be blamed (and killed) for the murder, so he takes the Attolian up on his offer and leaves.

Most of the book is Kamet and “the Attolian” (you’re not given a name until the end, but if you’ve read the others, you’ll guess who it is) making their escape. It’s not a straightforward thing: they have difficulties, they’re chased by the emperor’s guard, they meet friends and foes alike. It’s not a fast book, it’s not an intense book, but it is an intriguing journey, and the developing friendship between Kamet (who is not always the most reliable narrator) is a delight.

There are some nice twists at the end as well, ones I kind of saw coming but was still delighted by. And Turner helpfully left the door open for another book. Which is always good, because I’ll happily visit this world anytime she decides to set a story there.

Reread: I Shall Wear Midnight

by Terry Pratchett
First sentence: “Why was it, Tiffany Aching wondered, that people liked noise so much?
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Others in the series: The Wee Free Men, A Hat Full of Sky, Wintersmith
Content: There’s a bit more romance, and some illusions to sex (none actual), and the story’s a bit darker than the other Tiffany Aching books. It’s in the YA section (grades 6-8) of the bookstore.

Last time I read this, seven years ago, I called it a perfect ending for a perfect series. It’s still a perfect series. But, going back and rereading this, I’ve realized that this isn’t an ending. More like a stopping place. (And I am glad The Shepherd’s Crown got published. It makes for a better ending.)

That said (follow the seven years ago link for the plot), I still loved this one. I loved that the conflict was the negative opinions of witches, the hate that is so often seen in the face of the unknown. It felt very timely. I liked that Pratchett used old lore to battle the hate (if we know and understand our history, we will better be able to fight against the dark), and having recently read Small Gods, I understood all the references to the priests of Om this time. I adore Tiffany’s practicality (and wish I could figure out how to better roll with the challenges in my life), and I love the humor. There can never be too much NacMacFeegle, and I loved the fierceness with which Jeannie (the kelda) watches over her clan.

Really, these books are such a delight to read.

Homegoing

by Yaa Gyasi
First sentence: “The night Effia Otcher was gorn into the musky heat of Fanteland, a fire raged through the woods just outside her father’s compound.”
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Content: There’s non-graphic sex, a lot of swearing, violence, and general difficult situations. It’s in the adult fiction section of the bookstore.

A good, powerful look at two sisters, separated at birth — one eventually sold into slavery in America, and the other remaining in Africa — and the subsequent generations. It’s a powerful look at choices (made by and for individuals) and how those can affect not only individual lives but also generations. It’s a unique way to tell a story — every chapter is a different person, progressing through the generations — and both the writing and the actual storytelling are excellent.

It’s a haunting read, but a good one.

Strange the Dreamer

by Laini Taylor
First sentence: “On the second Sabbat of Twelfthmoon, in the city of Weep, a girl fell from the sky.”
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Content: There’s inferences to rape, but none action. There’s violence, and some off-screen sex. It’s in the Teen (grades 9+) section of the bookstore.

Lazlo Strange, a peasant orphan from nowhere, has a dream. It’s about a long-gone city, that probably is mythical, and definitely is of no interest to anyone scholarly. And yet, he is drawn to them.

It was more of the same from Taylor, but that more is excellent. I love falling into her world building, and I love her language. So, while it wasn’t a wholly original story (it did feel a lot like Daughter of Smoke and Bone), it was still a delightful one to read.

 

Amina’s Voice

by Hena Khan
First sentence: “Something sharp pokes me in the rib.”
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Review copy provided by the publisher
Content: There is an act of vandalism (against the mosque) that is handled really well, but might be upsetting. It’s in the Middle Grade (grades 3-5) section of the bookstore.

Amina is starting sixth grade, the one time that people associate with change. And Amina’s experiencing it. Her best friend Soonjin is becoming a U.S. citizen and is thinking about changing her name. She’s also becoming better friends with their former grade-school bully’s sidekick, Emily. Her uncle is coming from Pakistan to stay with them for three months, and his stricter interpretation of Islam has Amina wondering if her love of music (both playing the piano and singing) is against God’s wishes. And then there’s the fact that she has stage fright, and there’s a Quran competition that her parents are making her enter. Will she survive all this?

Such a delightful portrait of a 12-year-old trying to figure out her place in the world. Khan got pre-teen girls, their anxieties and insecurities, and how they are struggling to find their own, well, voice. I also appreciated the religion in the book; Khan give us a slice of Islam with faithful people, loving parents (and Imam), which is completely relatable to anyone who reads it. This is one of those important books: it’s a great window into an Islamic family and community, and it’s a great mirror not just for Muslim kids but anyone who is religious. But, it’s also a great story, well told.

Very, very good.

Audio Book: Good Clean Fun

by Nick Offerman
Read by the author
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Content: There’s some mild swearing. It’s in the humor section (I think) of the bookstore.

This is, basically, Nick Offerman’s homage to Offerman Woodshop, his woodworker’s collective in L.A. It’s a portrait of the craftspeople who work there, as well as those people Nick has come across in his “career” (the acting just pays the bills) as a woodsmith.

So, no, it wasn’t the best book to 1) start reading Nick Offerman (I think I’m going to try Paddle Your Own Canoe next) or 2) listen to in audio. That said, Nick is delightful to listen to read a book (not as delightful as Neil Gaiman), and there were lots of delightful anecdotes about Nick’s colleagues, as well as his opinions about working with your hands (pro: I felt justified, since I really enjoy canning) and the joy of working with wood, specifically.

I do have to say that while listening to this, I kind of wanted to learn how to build things (not a new desire for me; I should have taken shop class). I enjoyed Offerman’s enthusiasm for the art of woodworking, and his sense of humor. Even though I wish it has more of a narrative, I still found it enjoyable to listen to.

Reread: The Thief

by Megan Whalen Turner
First sentence: “I don’t know how long I had been in the king’s prison.”
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Content: There’s a few minor swear words, and some violence. This is in the the YA section (grades 6-8) of the bookstore.

I’ve been telling people at the store that I can’t remember much of what this book is about, but that the main character has stayed with me for 10 years.  And, in rereading this (it’s been nearly 10 years), I remembered some of what happened (at least, so that the ending wasn’t a surprise this time), but it was still so delightful falling into this world again.

Turner is a fantastic world builder, and a superb storyteller. The characters are magnificent, and I loved seeing all the clues she left along the way to the end.

It really is a magnificent book.