The King of Attolia: A (Reread) Review

It is not easy to become the king of a country already fond of its queen, especially for a foreigner who kidnapped that queen and may or may not have forced her hand in the matter of their marriage. How can any man truly become a king when no one sees him as a sovereign? Not that it matters. With such tenuous foundations, sovereignty is not enough to ensure loyalty anyway.

Being the Thief of Eddis was always enough for Eugenides. He didn’t want to become King of Attolia. He didn’t want the crown at all. He wanted the queen. Even more wondrous, Attolia wanted him. But one cannot marry a queen without becoming a king.

Their marriage will not be an easy one. Each move will require careful calculation. Especially when a rash young guard is dragged into the middle of the kingdom’s political machinations.

Much like Gen himself, Costis wants nothing to do with the royal court or Eugenides’ efforts to avoid all royal responsibility. And yet the more time he spends with the young king the more Costis understands all that Gen has lost in his pursuit of the throne–and what made the sacrifice worthwhile. Together these unlikely allies might even teach the Attolian court a thing or two about what it takes to be a true king in The King of Attolia (2006) by Megan Whalen Turner.

I’m hard pressed to pick a favorite book in this series–it’s a bit like asking a person to pick their favorite arm or leg–but some of my favorite scenes from the series are in The King of Attolia. Going into this book I, like most fans of Turner’s series, already know and love Gen. Which makes it all the more satisfying to watch as Eugenides performs for and ultimately wins over all of Attolia.

This book is written in third person with shifting perspectives. Most of the story is told through a close focus on Costis, a young soldier in Attolia’s royal guard. Readers learn about Gen’s changed circumstances through Costis’ eyes. In this way, it is easy to see how little the country thinks of their new king and also, thanks to moments from Gen and Attolia’s perspectives, how greatly they underestimate his cunning and his ingenuity.

Attolia and Eugenides are one of the most fascinating couples in literature. Nothing about them quite makes sense. Attolia is older and even taller–she embodies her title and position so much that it feels strange to refer to her by her given name, Irene. She is brutal and demands attention. Eugenides is small, like all good thieves, and abhors attention and the trappings that come with being in the public eye. Since the loss of his hand he has had to create a new persona–one that often capitalizes on selling himself short (and only partly on really not wanting to be a king). Watching the two of them balance all of the fraught history between them and what it means to be royalty as well as newly married is fascinating and made me fall in love with both Attolia and Gen all over again.

Costis’ perspective also breathes some new life into this story filled with familiar characters. Both he and Gen have a lot of growing up to do in this story as each young man begins to grasp his true place in the world. The King of Attolia is a slow burn of a story filled with satisfying reveals, wonderful moments, and truly memorable characters. Richly told and expertly written, The King of Attolia is another fine installment in this marvelous series.

If you enjoy The King of Attolia, you can read more about Eugenides (and Eddis, Sounis, and Attolia) in The Thief, The Queen of Attolia, A Conspiracy of Kings and Thick as Thieves.

Possible Pairings: The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh, Plain Kate by Erin Bow, The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson, Graceling by Kristin Cashore, Vessel by Sarah Beth Durst, The Lost Sun by Tessa Gratton, The Shadow Behind the Stars by Rebecca Hahn, Book of a Thousand Days by Shannon Hale, Seraphina by Rachel Hartman, A Thousand Nights by E. K. Johnston, Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones, Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta, Dreamhunter by Elizabeth Knox, Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers,Soundless by Richelle Mead, Sabriel by Garth Nix, The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski, The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

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Bowery Girl: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

Bowery Girl by Kim TaylorPickpocket Mollie Flynn and prostitute Annabelle Lee are as much a part of the Bowery as any of the immigrants or local gangs that call the area home. Unapologetic and unafraid, Mollie has no qualms doing what she must to survive amidst the poverty that threatens to overtake her every day.

It’s 1883 and things are changing in New York City. With the Brooklyn Bridge nearing completion and Annabelle Lee newly released from prison, Mollie dreams of crossing the bridge and finding a new life there outside the filth and tenements of the Bowery.

But getting to Brooklyn will take more than a few choice marks and johns can offer. With unexpected difficulties and unwanted meddling from a new neighborhood reformer named Emmeline Dupree, Mollie and Annabelle are forced to decide once and for all who they are and, harder still, who they want to be in Bowery Girl (2006) by Kim Taylor.

Bowery Girl is a wonderfully evocative look into life among the immigrant poor in 1883. Taylor brings this era of New York to life on the page with her careful descriptions of everything from Mollie and Annabelle’s tenement rooms to the bath house where they bathe that eventually becomes a reform-era settlement house.

Bowery Girl is an informative story about New York City before the five boroughs consolidated with interesting details about the Brooklyn Bridge and daily life.

Unfortunately, the plot in Bowery Girl does not stand up to the finely detailed scene Taylor sets. There is simply not enough action to move the plot forward even at the slim 240 pages.

Readers hoping for action and excitement will be mollified by Mollie’s raucous and violent Bowery lifestyle and the near-constant swearing throughout. Where Bowery Girl will really shine is for readers hoping to find insight into this period in New York City’s turbulent history.

Possible Pairings: Twenty-One Elephants by Phil Bildner and LeUyen Pham, Strings Attached by Judy Blundell, The Wicked and the Just by J. Anderson Coats, Ten Cents a Dance by Christine Fletcher, The Luxe by Anna Godbersen, New York: A Short History by George J. Lankevich, Twenty-One Elephants and Still Standing by April Jones Prince, How the Other Half Lives by Jacob Riis, Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys, How to Save a Life by Sara Zarr, All These Things I’ve Done by Gabrielle Zevin

Once I Ate a Pie: A (poetic) Picture Book Review

I am not thin, but I am beautiful

When

no

one

is

looking, I steal tubs of butter off the table.

I take them to the basement to eat in private.

Once I ate a PIE.

Once I Ate a Pie by Patricia MacLachlan and Emily MacLachlan Charest, illustrated Katy SchneiderOnce I Ate a Pie (2006) is a collection of poems written by Patricia MacLachlan and Emily MacLachlan Charest with illustrations by Katy Schneider.

In this delightful collection thirteen dogs tell all about everything from being small, barking, to “borrowing” bread from the table. The poems fill the page in large, easy to read print that bends and dips in interesting directions to draw reads in.

Schneider’s illustrations, especially Mr. Beefy (who once ate a pie) shown on the cover, bring these many and varied dogs to life.

Once I Ate a Pie is a great poetry collection for readers young and old. The poems are endearing and funny but also subtle for older readers. The writing is clear and easy to follow with straightforward wording. Every time I pick up this collection, I find something else to love.

The Boy Book: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

The Boy Book by E. LockhartSince the end of her disastrous sophomore year at Tate Prep Ruby Oliver has:

  • Continued going to therapy
  • Befriended fellow Tate Prep misfits Noel, Hutch and Meghan
  • Lost all of her other friends and her first ever boyfriend

Although the panic attacks are in check and the wounds sting a little less, Ruby’s reputation is still in tatters. Her former best friends all still hate her (except maybe Nora . . . or maybe not). She still has panic attacks.

It’s not the best situation but Ruby is prepared to do her best to deal with it all including: getting a job, scamming, deciphering the many secrets of boys (including Noel, Angelo, and her ex, Jackson), and even going on a school trip that might not be a total disaster (although from past experience Ruby isn’t getting her hopes up) in The Boy Book: A Study of Habits and Behaviors, Plus Techniques for Taming Them (2006) by E. Lockhart.

The Boy Book is the second book in Lockhart’s Ruby Oliver series (preceeded by The Boyfriend List). The book could stand alone but honestly since they’re so short it’s worth just reading them all in order.

The Boy Book is a slim, fun book. Ruby’s life is not glamorous, or perfect, but it is real. Lockhart blends humor, wit, and a bit of mayhem to deal with weighty matters and rescuing hooters in need alike. As  the title suggests there are boys in The Boy Book but what really sets this book apart (like The Boyfriend List) is Lockhart’s treatment of friendships. Friends aren’t forever, no matter what we might hope, and Ruby deals with that sadness and the process of moving on (but she calls it Reginald) throughout the story.

This series is fun because it’s hysterical but Lockhart stays true to her exemplary literary standards. Readers can observe the growth of Ruby’s character over the course of the books. Interestingly, having read both The Boy Book and Lockhart’s Printz honor book The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks. (Isn’t Ruby kind of like Frankie before Frankie turns criminal mastermind? Maybe after as well. The similarities between Jackson and Frankie’s boyfriend, or even maybe Alpha, are also striking.)

At the end of the day The Boy Book is a funny, light-hearted read. It is authentic and marvelous and, even when Ruby is at her lowest, The Boy Book is optimistic and hopeful.

Ruby’s (mis)adventures continue in The Treasure Map of Boys.

Possible Pairings: A Week of Mondays by Jessica Brody, Something Like Fate by Susane Colasanti, Boys Don’t Knit by T. S. Easton, The Lonely Hearts Club by Elizabeth Eulberg, To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han, Life by Committee by Corey Ann Haydu, Girl at Sea by Maureen Johnson, Alice, I Think by Susan Juby, The Museum of Heartbreak by Meg Leder, When We Collided by Emery Lord, Love and Other Foreign Words by Erin McCahan, Vibes by Amy Kathleen Ryan, The Unwritten Rule by Elizabeth Scott, Absolutely Maybe by Lisa Yee

Rebel Angels: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

Rebel Angels by Libba BrayThe more Gemma Doyle learns about her visions and the magic that allows her to enter the Realms–a world beyond our own usually seen in dreams or death–the more questions she has. Gemma finally knows the truth about her mother and the mystical Order that she once belonged to . . . and helped destroy with her closest friend, Circe.

Now the magic is loose in the realms and Circe is hunting Gemma, her only way back to all of that magic. Kartik, Gemma’s mysterious shadow since leaving India, insists Gemma must bind the magic before disaster strikes. Which would be fine if Gemma had any idea how to do such a thing.

Worse, is it the Christmas season–Gemma’s first since her mother’s death. While her friends Felicity and Ann talk of balls and other wonderful plans for their time away from Spence Academy, Gemma is left to wonder what the holidays can hold at home with her strict grandmother, her irritating brother, and her feeble father.

The holiday season promises a world of distractions in the form of balls and the most intriguing form of one Simon Middleton–not to mention an introduction to the rarefied circles of high society. But Gemma has no time for distractions.

Questions will be answered, enemies will be fought, and Gemma will have to take her stand in Rebel Angels (2006) by Libba Bray.

Rebel Angels is the second book in the Gemma Doyle Trilogy (which began with A Great and Terrible Beauty). It is also one of those books where it is very clear that it is the second book in a trilogy, which is fine. The beginning of the story provides almost enough recap of earlier events to make it possible to read this book out of sequence though, as ever, many nuances would be lost that way.

While Rebel Angels is a continuation of an already exciting story, this book lacked some of the verve and spark of the first. With all of the summarizing the story starts slowly, picking up when Gemma and her friends depart from Spence for their holiday. While Gemma and Kartik evolve and change especially throughout this story, it felt like a lot of the other characters were working through the same emotions and the same problems readers saw in the first book.

That said, the second half of the book is much more exciting and faster paced than the first. Bray once again provides a vivid window into the world of 1895 London from the eyes of a heroine willing and ready to think for herself. The underlying commentary on the roles of women in Victorian England and feminism is also fascinating in a book that is ostensibly a historical fantasy.

As a whole the story is very interesting and aptly sets up the conclusion of the trilogy, of course, but Rebel Angels just lacked that little spark to set truly set it apart as a book in its own right.

Possible Pairings: Chime by Franny Billingsley, Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare, Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins, The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane by Katherine Howe, Wildwood Dancing by Juliet Marillier, The Crucible by Arthur Miller, The Ruby in the Smoke by Phillip Pullman, The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare, The Amulet of Samarkand by Jonathan Stroud, The Lady of Shalott by Alfred Lord Tennyson, The Grand Tour by Patricia C. Wrede and Caroline Stevermer

Exclusive Bonus Content: Although I really didn’t like this one as much as the first (and feel really really guilty about it!), this book did make me wish more academics read YA Lit. I love that academics can study popular culture and literature, but not everyone can write scholarly books and articles about Buffy and Harry Potter. Where are the articles about the feminist underpinnings of the Gemma Doyle books? Where is the commentary on this trilogy being a reflection of the evolution of feminism from the discovery of the Problem Without a Name in The Feminine Mystique to the Second Wave feminist movement? Where is the Feminist Theory/Women’s Studies class that has this series as assigned reading? No, seriously, where is it?

In the Realm of the Never Fairies: A Picture Book Review

In the Realm of the Never FairiesIn the Realm of the Never Fairies: The Secret World of Pixie Hollow (2006) with text by Monique Peterson and illustrations by Disney’s Storybook Artists is one of several titles Disney rolled out to coincide with their launch of a new line of films/merchandise featuring Tinker Bell. The launch also featured a variety of books including Fairy Dust and the Quest for the Egg which, frankly, was a huge disappointment.

Instead of providing a full story about Pixie Hollow, this is more of a coffee table book with all of the facts and vital statistics about Pixie Hollow, Never Fairies in general, and all of the Fairies you’ll meet in other volumes.

In the Realm of the Never Fairies is a fun look at fairies and a must read for anyone who is a fan of Brian Froud‘s fairy books or, really, fairies in general. I’m still not sold on the idea of all of the fairies having talents (bit too clique-like for my tastes) or a few other things about the new angle on Tinker Bell and the never fairies.

That said, this book is filled with fun information for fairy lovers of any age and the beautiful illustrations that have set Disney’s new fairy books apart as something really special. Like other books in the new Disney Fairies series, I’m not sure how I feel about this one as an actual book or a piece of text. But as a work of art it’s definitely a winner–all of the books in the series are stunning.

The King of Attolia: A Review

It is not easy to become the king of a country already fond of its queen, especially for a foreigner who kidnapped that queen and may or may not have forced her hand in the matter of their marriage. How can any man truly become a king when no one sees him as a sovereign? Not that it matters. With such tenuous foundations, sovereignty is not enough to ensure loyalty anyway.

Being the Thief of Eddis was always enough for Eugenides. He didn’t want to become King of Attolia. He didn’t want the crown at all. He wanted the queen. Even more wondrous, Attolia wanted him. But one cannot marry a queen without becoming a king.

The union requires a careful dance of shadows and unsubstance, but under it all, there is still a marriage of two people. But there is also more. An unlikely pair and, for Gen at least, unlikely monarchs, their marriage will not be an easy one. Each move will require careful calculation. Especially when a rash young guard is dragged into the middle of the kingdom’s political machinations.

Much like Gen himself, Costis wants nothing to do with the royal court or Eugenides’ efforts to avoid all royal responsibility. And yet the more time he spends with the young king the more Costis understands all that Gen has lost in his pursuit of the throne–and what made the sacrifice worthwhile. Together these unlikely allies might even teach the Attolian court a thing or two about what it takes to be a true king in The King of Attolia (2006) by Megan Whalen Turner.

The King of Attolia is the sequel to Turner’s Newbery honor book The Thief which first introduced readers to Eugenides and his world and its followup The Queen of Attolia. Readers of Turner’s earlier books will quickly recognize references to characters from other volumes and past events (others might be well advised to re-read the earlier titles to get a better sense of the big picture of the series).

Written with shifting viewpoints, readers learn about Gen’s changed circumstances through Costis’ eyes. In this way, it is easy to see how little the country thinks of their new king and also, thanks to moments from Gen and Attolia’s perspectives, how greatly they underestimate his cunning and his ingenuity.

As much a coming of age story as the story of a man learning to be king, The King of Attolia is another fine installment about the inimitable Thief of Eddis. Somewhat lighter on action and war-making than the first two books in the series, this one makes up for it by providing more insight into the ways of Attolia and her relationship with Gen. Richly told and expertly written, this story  lays fine groundwork for the next installment in Turner’s wonderful series A Conspiracy of Kings.

Possible Pairings: The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh, Plain Kate by Erin Bow, The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson, Graceling by Kristin Cashore, Vessel by Sarah Beth Durst, The Lost Sun by Tessa Gratton, The Shadow Behind the Stars by Rebecca Hahn, Book of a Thousand Days by Shannon Hale, Seraphina by Rachel Hartman, A Thousand Nights by E. K. Johnston, Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones, Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta, Dreamhunter by Elizabeth Knox, Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers,Soundless by Richelle Mead, Sabriel by Garth Nix, The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski, The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater