This week’s library chicken is heavy on comfort reading, plus a little middle grades horror, some snarky steampunk, and a little YA superhero romance.
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!
CABIN-EXTRAVANGANZA, THE AFTERMATH: There’s always a bit of a dip in my Library Chicken score the week after the cabin. After all, once I’m back home I have to (1) return all those library books that I checked out for the cabin (which may take several trips), (2) catch up on TiVo (new episodes of The Great British Baking Show, So You Think You Can Dance, AND Grantchester on Masterpiece!), and finally (3) stare vaguely in the direction of the bags that need to be unpacked and laundry that needs to be done before deciding that “Nah, it can wait 'til next week,” (even though next week is the last week before school starts for the non-homeschoolers in the family, meaning that I’ll be frantically running around getting ready for orientation and there’s no way any laundry will get done). As you can see, with that whirlwind of activity there’s hardly any time at all for reading.
Frederick Douglass by William S. McFeely
I brought several big important biographies to the cabin but didn’t really get around to them. Fortunately, I was able to get to this one before it was due back. A thorough and very readable history of an important American life.
(LC Score: +1)
Passion and Affect by Laurie Colwin
Several years ago I zipped through all of Colwin’s novels, but I haven’t gotten to her short stories before now. I found this collection a bit disappointing—the stories were okay, if faintly depressing and not very memorable—until I read the two linked stories (“The Girl with the Harlequin Glasses” and “Passion and Affect”) about cousins Guido and Vincent and the women they love. Those two stories were fresh and funny and sweet and worth the price of admission all on their own.
(LC Score: 0, off my own shelves)
High Rising by Angela Thirkell
It’s been about three years since my last reread of Angela Thirkell’s Barsetshire series, which means that I’m overdue. (Also, I sometimes need a break from big important Frederick Douglass biographies.) Angela Thirkell wrote 29 books set in Anthony Trollope’s fictional Barsetshire, publishing roughly one a year throughout the 1930s and beyond, taking her characters through WWII and (just barely) into the 1960s. I’ll confess that I haven’t read all 29, but I have a healthy selection on my bookshelves and I turn to them when I am in need of charming delightfulness. Unfortunately, that occasionally comes along with the occasional hint of anti-Semitism (sadly not shocking in a British novel of the 1930s). This first book introduces us to popular author Laura Morland, her precocious young son, Tony, and their old friend George Knox, who in a display of poor judgement has taken on a pushy, bad-tempered, husband-hunting secretary, leaving Laura and co. to set things right.
(LC Score: 0. off my own shelves)
Bone Vol. 2: The Great Cow Race by Jeff Smith
This Week in Comics: As I’ve mentioned before, the Bone series by Jeff Smith has been acclaimed by critics and loved by various children in my own household, but I think I have to reluctantly admit that it’s not for me. There’s a lot here that is clever and charming, but the overall combination of silliness and seriousness doesn’t gel for me the way it seems to for others. That said, I’d still recommend it without hesitation for young readers interested in graphic novels.
(LC Score: +1)
Up From History: The Life of Booker T. Washington by Robert J. Norrell
Yep, this is one of those big important bios I didn’t get to in time. RETURNED UNREAD.
(LC Score: -1)
Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy: Four Women Undercover in the Civil War by Karen Abbott
And here’s more interesting history that was due back at the library. RETURNED UNREAD.
(LC Score: -1)
The Second Sex by Simone de Beauvoir
So I was excited to see that my library had this new (2009) translation, complete and unabridged in English for the very first time! But I didn’t realize that it was over 700 pages! And when I tried the first couple of chapters I only understood about 50 percent of what she was saying! I think I’ll have to clear my calendar before my next attempt at this one, and maybe do some background reading about de Beauvoir for context, because I was very seriously lost. RETURNED UNREAD.
(LC Score: -1)
The Marbury Lens by Andrew Smith
Smith is an original and compelling YA writer and I’ve been meaning to read this for a while, but I guess it’ll have to wait a little bit longer. RETURNED UNREAD.
(LC Score: -1)
Library Chicken Score for 8/1/17: -2
Running Score: 80
On the to-read/still-reading stack for next week:
Mother and Son by Ivy Compton-Burnett (the queen of acerbic dialogue)
Brat Farrar by Josephine Tey (I’ve been aware of this title for forever but I don’t actually have any idea what it’s about)
The red-winged blackbirds are back — which means spring is coming, even though our back deck was dusted with snow a couple of days ago. This winter has been cold but not snowy, so we’ve spent a lot of time inside around the fire this year. That means lots of books and artsy-crafts projects in our house.
:: We have a lovely stack of biographies to read for Women’s History Month. (Did you see all the great recommendations we had in the winter issue? I think the Marie Curie biography is one of the best-written biographies I’ve read in a long time, but my daughter is loving Invincible Louisa, which didn’t even end up on our final list for the magazine.)
:: Everybody seems to be having babies this year, and I’ve made Milo and the Puerperium Cardigan (free) so many times I can knit them even when I get caught up in the Buffy musical (which may be the greatest single episode of television ever, no?).
:: My daughter is very into making felt portraits of her favorite anime characters right now, so we have been on the hunt for quality felt. We’re digging the plant-dyed colors from A Child’s Dream, which are richer and more subtle than some of the crayon brights we’ve discovered. Bonus: The pink is apparently just the right shade for Madoka’s hair.
:: Cold weather apparently makes me want comfort books because I have been rereading some of the cheerfully old-fashioned domestic books I loved in my younger days: The Blue Castle (don’t you really want a movie version of this in which Nathan Fillion plays Barney?), A Woman Named Smith,The Grand Sophy,The Rose Revived …
:: Winter is my favorite time to make complicated, lots-of-prep-work-required recipes, and Nigella’s Mughlai Chicken is one of our favorites — creamy and not-too-spicy served over mounds of basmati rice with spinach on the side.
:: This is also our season of board game playing. Wildcraft remains our family favorite — we always cheer when we draw the chickweed card because that is one handy plant — but we have also enjoyed Quixx (a dice game that’s like a cooler, more strategic Yahtzee), Quilt Show, Tokaido (which nicely taps into the kids’ passion for all things Japanese), and the Laser Maze logic game.
:: We have had a lot of fun with the How to Make a Coat of Arms tutorial at the The Postman’s Knock. I think we now have coats of arms for ourselves, the Grimm sisters, Ciel Phantomhive, Pigeon (of Mo Willems fame), and the Baudelaire and Snicket families hanging up in our art room.
What's your family enjoying this March?