Welcome to the weekly round-up of what the BookNerd is reading and how many points I scored (or lost) in Library Chicken. To recap, you get a point for returning a library book that you’ve read, you lose a point for returning a book unread, and while returning a book past the due date is technically legal, you do lose half a point. If you want to play along, leave your score in the comments!
Somehow we’ve made it to the middle of July, which means that school starts in less than a month for those kids in my house who attend traditional high school. (The one homeschooler remaining doesn’t start back until September, so I imagine he’ll spend the month of August lazing around and playing loud video games and generally being obnoxious to his siblings while they try to do homework.) I need to get serious about breaking out of this reading slump if I’m going to get one last burst of summer reading in—though that’s hard to do when I’m busy going to the movies (Wonder Woman! Cars 3! Baby Driver! The new Spiderman! Wonder Woman again!) all the time. I’ll just have to bring Jeeves and Wooster along to read in the theater while I’m waiting for the coming-soon trailers (The Big Sick! Dunkirk! The new Thor!) to start.
Stiff Upper Lip, Jeeves by P.G. Wodehouse
Jeeves and the Tie That Binds by P.G. Wodehouse
The Cat-Nappers by P.G. Wodehouse
Jeeves and Wooster #7 through 10. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the best Jeeves and Wooster novels come from the middle of the 10-book sequence (beginning, I’d argue, with my personal all-time favorite, The Code of the Woosters). By the time we get to The Cat-Nappers, Wodehouse has lost some steam, though I think we can forgive him given that this 10th Jeeves and Wooster novel was published in 1974, when he was 92 years old. So while the last few novels are maybe only for hard-core fans, I still thoroughly enjoyed going through the whole sequence, mostly because I got very attached to Bertie and his lovable dopiness.
(LC Score: 0 for Stiff Upper Lip and Tie That Binds, off my own shelves; +1 for Cat-Nappers)
Jeeves and the Wedding Bells by Sebastian Faulks
Which brings us to the “extra” Jeeves and Wooster novel, an homage to Wodehouse (officially sanctioned by his estate) by novelist Sebastian Faulks. As I’ve mentioned before, I find that these kinds of books can be hit or miss (mostly miss), but Faulks gets a lot of things right. While he can’t match the sparkling brilliance of Wodehouse at the top of his form (who can?), he clearly appreciates Bertie and gets that while Bertie may be an upper-class twit, he is also cheerful, friendly, open-minded, and endlessly obliging and generous to aunts, old school chums, and ex-fiancees. In this last adventure, Bertie and Jeeves end up switching roles, with Jeeves pretending to be a Lord and Bertie masquerading as a gentleman’s gentleman—as to be expected, hijinks ensue—but the most important thing (SPOILER! SPOILER! SPOILER!) is that after more failed and accidental engagements than one would care to count, Bertie finally meets The Right Girl. It’s a sweet ending to a series that celebrated farce but never became mean-spirited or cynical. (BONUS HEADCANON: The future Mrs. Wooster works in publishing, so clearly she must have met Harriet Vane, and I’m sure the two of them hit it off. And then, given that Lord Peter and Bertie are both old Etonians and Oxford alumni and must have mutual friends, Wimsey-Wooster dinner parties undoubtedly followed. With Jeeves and Bunter butlering in the background. THIS MAKES ME VERY HAPPY.)
(LC Score: 0, off my own shelves)
Scream for Jeeves by P.H. Cannon
Okay, maybe I’ll sneak in just one more Jeeves and Wooster homage—after all, if you see a book advertised as a Lovecraft-Wodehouse crossover, you pretty much HAVE to read that book, right? This very slim volume takes three Lovecraft stories (I had to look up the references, as I’m not as up on Lovecraft as I am on Wodehouse) and plugs in Jeeves and Bertie, behaving pretty much as you would expect. It’s cleverly done and gave me the giggles but I think you need to be a big fan of both authors to make it worth your while.
(LC Score: +1)
Partners in Crime by Agatha Christie
Tommy and Tuppence #2. The Beresfords, now a young married couple, take over a private detective agency and entertain themselves by solving mysteries in the style of their favorite fictional sleuths, including (because Agatha was meta before meta was cool) Hercule Poirot. And a whole bunch of other detectives I’ve never heard of. It’s a fun collection, though I was slightly disconcerted by the number of attractive young women who drop dead immediately after encountering Tommy and Tuppence. I also winced a bit at the very end when Tuppence cheerfully gives up detecting because she’s got a new calling: Mother-To-Be. That said, the Beresfords are awesome and you’ll have to excuse me now because I have to think up a good way for them to get invited to the Wimsey-Wooster dinners.
(LC Score: +1)
Ugly Ways by Tina McElroy Ansa
Have I mentioned that I love novels that are about adult children coming together and returning to the old hometown to deal with a death or other major family issue, A.K.A. Getting the Fam Back Together? I first heard of this one while making a list of authors from Georgia that I wanted to check out. Here, the three adult children of recently deceased “Mudear” (a nickname for “mother dear”) return to their small Georgia hometown to arrange her funeral and deal with the personal fallout from their relationship with this neglectful and emotionally abusive woman. I have a hard time with abusive mothers in fiction, but Ansa gives Mudear her own voice and the opportunity for rebuttal throughout, making it clear that she’s more complicated than simply being the villain of the piece.
(LC Score: +1)
Bats of the Republic by Zachary Thomas Dodson
And I think we’ve established that I love epistolary novels (BRING THEM ALL TO ME). This is an epistolary novel To The Extreme, a beautifully designed book that includes an actual sealed letter bound in the text for the reader to open. It’s also a post-apocalyptic novel of sorts, with two narratives that mirror each other: Zadock Thomas’s story set in 1843, and his descendant Zeke Thomas’s story set in a “post-Collapse” 2143, both revolving around a mysterious letter. I really enjoyed reading this book. I also think it is flawed in some interesting ways—in my opinion, the narrative collapses under the weight of the puzzle it has created. A good read, though, and certainly worth picking up to admire the artwork and how it’s put together.
(LC Score: 0, off my own shelves)
Bone Vol. 1: Out From Boneville by Jeff Smith
The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl Beats Up the Marvel Universe written by Ryan North, art by Erica Henderson
Dial H Vol. 2: Exchange written by China Mieville
This Week in Comics: The Bone series was a big hit in my house when my kids were younger, so I’ve been meaning to pick it up for a while, and of course I’m always up for a Squirrel Girl adventure (in this standalone graphic novel she accidentally clones herself and you know that never ends well). I wanted to finish the Dial H series since I had read the first volume earlier, and believe it or not volume two got even weirder—I don’t think I ever really figured out what was going on, though I enjoyed the introduction of a Sidekick-Dial to go with the Hero-Dial.
(LC Score: +3)
Underground Airlines by Ben Winters
Lord Darcy by Randall Garrett
The Mirror Empire by Kameron Hurley
Ink and Bone by Rachel Caine
Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater
The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison
A lot of great-looking books went back to the library this week because of (1) the previously mentioned reading slump, and (2) I’m clearing the decks for our upcoming Annual Family Vacation to North Carolina, where I sit on the back porch reading all day while my family tries (in vain, mostly) to get me to participate in bonding activities like board games and conversation. Gotta return all the books that would come due while we’re gone so I can get a brand new stack of books to carry out to the back porch.
(LC Score: -6, RETURNED UNREAD)
Library Chicken Score for 7/11/17: 1
Running Score: 58
On the to-read/still-reading stack for next week:
By the Pricking of My Thumbs by Agatha Christie (Tommy and Tuppence age gracefully!)
Shakespeare Saved My Life: A Memoir by Laura Bates (teaching Shakespeare in a maximum-security prison)
Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman (I’m overdue for a reread of this one)
Vermilion by Molly Tanzer (in which I will apparently learn what a ‘psychopomp’ is)