Library Chicken :: 3.28.18

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!

We’re almost to the end of March Madness -- I don’t have any idea which teams are playing in the Final Four, but I have been having fun following the Annual Tournament of Books, which wraps up with the grand championship match at the end of the week. As usual, I haven’t read many of this year’s books (too busy catching up with competition entries from years past) but they all sound distractingly wonderful.



A dysfunctional family moves into the “most haunted spot” in England, a country manor home previously occupied by a beloved children’s author. This was a fast and fun read, alternating the family’s experience with excerpts from novels written by the previous owner (and other histories relating to the house) and I LOVED it. Next up for me: Newman’s Anno Dracula, an alternate history vampire novel.

(LC Score: +1)

THE NIGHT GARDENER by Jonathan Auxier

I’ve been falling behind on my middle-grade reading, but this spooky Victorian tale by Auxier was a great way to jump back in. Irish orphans Molly and Kip go to work at a country manor where All Is Not As It Seems (And It Already Seems Pretty Scary). (Note to self: When visiting England, stay away from country manor homes.) This would be a fun read-aloud, though it might get a little intense at times for younger listeners.

(LC Score: +1)

THE MOVING TOYSHOP by Edmund Crispin

Gervase Fen mystery #3 (and the most well-known of the series). A British poet visiting Oxford discovers a dead body in a mysterious toyshop -- but the next morning, both body and toyshop have vanished. Fortunately, his old friend Professor Fen is there to help with the detecting. Another cheerfully absurd mystery from Crispin, with a sleuth who occasionally seems to realize that he is in a detective novel. (My favorite 4th-wall-breaking scene involves Fen trying to come up with book titles for his author, the best of which is clearly “Blood on the Mortarboard: Fen Strikes Back.”)
(Challenge Accepted 2018: Read Harder’s “A Classic of Genre Fiction.”)

(LC Score: +1)

THE DEAD MOUNTAINEER'S INN: ONE MORE LAST RITE FOR THE DETECTIVE GENRE by Boris and Arkady Strugatsky, translated by Josh Billings

The Strugatsky brothers, sometimes known as the “greatest science fiction writers of the Soviet era,” dive into murder mysteries with this novel (translated from the Russian). A vacationing detective inspector finds himself dealing with a locked-room whodunit set in a remote mountain inn populated by oddballs. Things start out bizarre and only get weirder from there, with a twist or two taking things into the realm of the Strugatskys’ usual genre, science fiction. Very strange but a fun ride and I look forward to tracking down more books by Boris and Arkady.
(Challenge Accepted 2018: Popsugar’s “A Book by Two Authors,” Read Harder’s “A Book of Genre Fiction in Translation,” and HSL Reading Bingo’s “A Book That’s Been Translated to English.”)

(LC Score: +1)

KING AND JOKER by Peter Dickinson

In 1976 London, members of the British royal family are attempting to cut living expenses while dealing with a vicious practical joker. This, however, is an alternate history version of the royals, descended from Edward VII’s eldest son, Albert Victor (who as it turns out did NOT die young in an influenza epidemic). The youngest royal, 13-year-old Princess Louise, just wants to live as much of her life as possible as a “normal” girl, but the upheavals created by the palace joker lead to some upsetting revelations about the unusual private lives of her family. Though a fairly recent convert, I am a sincere fan of Dickinson’s entertainingly bizarre (and/or bizarrely entertaining) mysteries, and I was excited about this one from the opening epigraph (a Lytton Strachey quote from his history, King Victor I). Unfortunately, the ugly racist caricature of a minor character and a reveal at the end of some awful behavior by a main character (that is then brushed aside as no big deal, reflecting the dismal sexual politics of the time) sucked some of the enjoyment out of this one for me. Here’s hoping that the sequel, also starring Princess Louise, will have a bit less racism and misogyny.

(LC Score: +1)

JACOB'S ROOM by Virginia Woolf

Girl Who Reads Woolf: This is Woolf’s third novel and her first major attempt at the style of writing that she would become known for. Here she tells the story of a young man (thought to be at least partially inspired by her deceased older brother, Thoby) through the eyes and impressions of the people (primarily women) around him. I hadn’t read this one before but my love-affair with Woolf’s writing continues, even though not much actually happens here and I don’t always understand exactly what’s going on when something does happen.

(LC Score: +1)


As you can see, I’m getting back to novels this week, but I still have a stack of short story collections to work through. This slim but celebrated collection from Indian-American author Lahiri lived up to its reputation for me: I thoroughly enjoyed her melancholy but fascinating stories of culture clash.

(LC Score: +1)

  • Returned Unread: LC Score: -4
  • Library Chicken Score for 3/28/18: 3
  • Running Score: +13 ½


On the to-read/still-reading stack for next week: