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!
It’s the first Library Chicken Update of 2018! We’re wiping the slate clean and starting over from scratch in honor of the new year. I’m looking forward to a great year of reading, but mostly I’ve been busy rearranging my to-read list and (finally) copying it over from Amazon Wish Lists to my goodreads account. There’s no easy way to do this (that I’ve discovered), so I’m going through and transferring it book by book, which takes a while when you have [ACTUAL NUMBER REDACTED BECAUSE I’M EMBARRASSED BY THE EXCESSIVENESS OF IT ALL] books on your list. It’s a wonderful way to waste time online, though, and I’m much more cheerful afterward than if I’d spent the same amount of time on Facebook or Twitter being brought up to date on all the horrible things happening in the world.
Also new this year, in an effort to make it look like I’m accomplishing something by lying around and reading all day (and because it seems like a lot of fun), I’m officially tackling three reading challenges: BookRiot’s Read Harder Challenge, the Popsugar Reading Challenge, and of course our very own HSL’s 2018 Reading Challenge! Happy reading, everyone!
THE CASE OF THE GILDED FLY by Edmund Crispin
Gervase Fen #1. New year, new mystery series! This 1940s series stars an Oxford don as our sleuth. In fact, as Fen says early on in this erudite murder mystery, set around the production of a new play in Oxford: “I’m the only literary critic turned detective in the whole of fiction.” I love it when books break the fourth wall, so I’m definitely looking forward to #2.
(LC Score: +1)
FUN PHANTOMS: TALES OF GHOSTLY ENTERTAINMENT edited by Sean Manley and Gogo Lewis
THE OXFORD BOOK OF ENGLISH DETECTIVE STORIES edited by Patricia Craig
This week I start the short stories class at our hybrid homeschool (Poe! Jackson! Wodehouse! more Poe!), but I’ve still got anthologies stacked all over the floor, waiting to be read. Now that I’ve (re)discovered the joys of short fiction I have, as usual, become a bit obsessed. I’ve taken a break from The Modern Tradition this and 50 Short Masterpieces that to veer into genre with some ghost and detective stories. Fun Phantoms is an unusual 1979 collection that specializes in humorous ghost stories, some of which are classics (e.g., “The Canterville Ghost” and “The Open Window”) and some of which (ahem) are not. Meanwhile, The Oxford Book of English Detective Stories takes us all the way from the classic early days of alibis based on train schedules and locked room whodunits to the 1980s with P.D. James and Ruth Rendell. I do have a bone to pick with the editor: at a minimum, a story included in an anthology of “detective stories” should actually have a detective in it. If it has a murder but no detective, that’s a crime story, and that, I would think, belongs in a whole other anthology.
(Challenge Accepted: HSLs “A Collection of Short Stories”)
(LC Score: +2)
THE WEIRD: A COMPENDIUM OF STRANGE AND DARK STORIES edited by Ann and Jeff VanderMeer
“Weird” is a difficult genre to describe —it’s something of a cross between horror and sf/fantasy, and it may be my favorite kind of writing just now. A shelf of “Modern Weird” would include books by Neil Gaiman, China Mieville, Helen Oyeyemi, and the co-editor of this anthology, Jeff VanderMeer, but this massive (over 1100 pages!) and thoroughly enjoyable collection goes back in time and around the world to collect weird tales from a diverse group of authors. Full of wonderful and disturbing stories, this anthology is more than an introduction to the genre, it’s an education.
(LC Score: +1)
CARTER & LOVECRAFT by Jonathan L. Howard
THE BALLAD OF BLACK TOM by Victor LaValle
H.P. Lovecraft is classic weird, and modern authors have been having a wonderful time in the past few years revisiting and revising him. And he does need some revising: H.P. is unfortunately as well known for his virulent racism and sexism as he is for tentacled mind-melting hell-beasts. Howard and LaValle both play with that reputation in different ways. In Carter & Lovecraft, an ex-cop private eye gets mixed up with the last Lovecraft descendant — who happens to be both female and black — and a plot to change the rules of reality in very unpleasant ways. (SPOILER: By the end of the novel things are looking fairly bleak for our heroes, but the sequel, ominously titled After the End of the World, just came out for all of us who want to read what happens next.) In The Ballad of Black Tom, LaValle reimagines Lovecraft’s “The Horror at Red Hook”, often described as H.P.’s most racist tale, by telling the story from a different perspective, creating a powerful novella that comments both on the original work and on modern day society. (SPOILER: It also includes a tentacled hell-beast or two.)
(LC Score: +2)
EVERY HEART A DOORWAY by Seanan McGuire
I’d had this fantasy novella (first in the Wayward Children trilogy) about a boarding school for children who had disappeared into magical worlds and had trouble readjusting when they returned to their old lives on my list for a while, but Amy’s positive review pushed it to the top, just in time for the release of the final book in the series. Can’t wait to read the next one!
(Challenge Accepted: home|school|life’s “The First Book in a Series” and “A Book You Can Read in One Day”, ReadHarder’s “A One-Sitting Book”)
(LC Score: +1)
THE COMMON READER: FIRST SERIES by Virginia Woolf
I’ve read several of Woolf’s novels, but this is the first time I’m tackling her essays. Her narrative voice is, as always, engaging and very pleasant to spend time with, but I was a little intimidated by the French and Greek quotations that she apparently expects her “common” reader to be able to handle.
(LC Score: +1)
VIRGINIA WOOLF: A BIOGRAPHY by Quentin Bell
PORTRAIT OF A MARRIAGE: VITA SACKVILLE-WEST AND HAROLD NICOLSON by Nigel Nicolson
I picked these up as part of my ongoing Girl-Who-Reads-Woolf project. Bell’s biography of his aunt Virginia is the original account of her life, but I didn’t expect to be so charmed by his wry narration. He treats his topic with the casual informality appropriate to a nephew and I only wish he’d written a dozen other Bloomsbury biographies for me to read. In Portrait of a Marriage, Nicolson presents the autobiographical writings of his mother (and Virginia’s great friend), Vita, along with his own history of her life. Vita’s portion is mostly an overwrought account of her wild affair with Violet Keppel/Trefusis, still ongoing at the time of her writing. Both books together present a fascinating account of two unique partnerships made up of talented and original people: Virginia and Leonard, and Vita and Harold.
(LC Score: +2)
RETURNED UNREAD: LC Score -4
Library Chicken Score for 1/17/18: 6
- Running Score: 6
- Challenges Met: 4
On the to-read/still-reading stack for next week:
- Growing Up Ethnic in America edited by Maria Mazziotti Gillan and Jennifer Gillan (short story collection about learning to be American)
- Bradbury Stories: 100 of His Most Celebrated Tales by Ray Bradbury (revisiting one of my favorite authors)
- The Philosopher Kings by Jo Walton (sequel to The Just City)
- A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles (finally got my hands on this one after spending months on the hold list)