Notes from the Keeper Shelf: The Queen’s Thief Series

This week, I got my hands on one of my most anticipated reads of the year: Return of the Thief, the sixth and final book in Megan Whalen Turner’s young adult fantasy series The Queen’s Thief. And it was totally wonderful.

But in wanting to write about why I thought it was great, I realized that I wanted to talk about the series more broadly, because it’s not nearly well known enough and specifically might scratch itches for Game of Thrones and romance fans.

This will likely be a bit rambling (I’m under the weather), but here’s why you should give The Queen’s Thief a try. I’ll start with a long non-spoilery pitch, then talk about the titles in a more specific, brief, and spoilery way.

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Notes from the Keeper Shelf: Fangirl

Remember back when I said I was going to talk books more, and then I never did? Good times.

I wrote a lot of words in the late spring, but then the summer doldrums hit. I’m now ready for cooler weather and more sanity in the world, but in lieu of either, let’s talk about a book: Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell.

Rowell’s big breakthrough was the 1980s-set young adult romance Eleanor & Park, but without getting into the weeds, while I liked E&P, there were a number of speed-bumps for me related to the representations of poverty and Park’s mother and some of how Eleanor sees/describes Park. I haven’t reread it because I’m afraid those issues would loom even larger a second time.

Fangirl is another story. It was probably my favorite book of 2013, and it’s held up for me on countless rereads.

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Notes from the Keeper Shelf: “You Were Perfectly Fine”

I miss talking about books.

It is hard to talk about books when you write them. If you’re going to review, do you have to be willing to negatively review in order to calibrate or somehow “earn” your positive ones? Will negative reviews, if you write them, hurt someone’s feelings or alienate readers? If you’re reviewing the work of someone you know (and the longer you’re around the community, the more people you will know), how do those friendships shape those reviews? What if you recommend books and people don’t like them? And besides, shouldn’t you be using the writing time you have to, you know, write?

But here’s the thing: my life as a writer began in early 2011 before I’d jotted down a word of fiction. My kids were newborn; I was breastfeeding and changing diapers continually and sleeping about 93 minutes a day. Oh, and I had a new Kindle. “I’m interested in women’s popular fiction,” I thought. (It was one of the subjects of my then in-process dissertation.) “Maybe I should read a romance.”

I literally Googled “best romances” and found lists at AAR, Smart Bitches, and Dear Author. So I started with an inspie a friend recommended (I did not like it. at all.), and then I moved onto Lord of Scoundrels. That was followed by approximately 200 more titles over the course of six months, mostly historical romances, but then contemporaries, romantic mysteries, paranormals, etc. I was hooked.

The reason I kept reading romances was not just because they were fun and sex-positive and female-centered and revisionist and amazing, but because of those (and other) blogs. It was about the discussion community around the books as much as it was about the books themselves. When I started writing, in NaNoWriMo in 2011, it was because I wanted to write a book that could be dissected by the blogs I’d come to love.

For reasons I’m not qualified to parse, the discussion sphere of romance has quieted. There are still book and review blogs of course, but the conversation seems driven by promo as much as by criticism.

With this in mind, I have many and varied writing goals for this summer, but one of them is this: I’m going to talk about books more. I’ll probably stick with things that are at least five years old and I can’t guarantee all of them will be romances in the RWA sense, but they’re books and stories I love and want to discuss. I hope you’ll join me here, and maybe explicate some of your favorites and share the links with me (hint, hint).

The first is a 1929 short story by Dorothy Parker called “You Were Perfectly Fine.” The page numbers are from The Portable Dorothy Parker; be advised I’m going to spoil it shamelessly.

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