p.g. wodehouse


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!

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: As you might imagine, weeks of prep are required for the Annual Family Trip to the Cabin Where Mom Gets a Glass of Wine, Puts Up Her Feet, and Reads the Entire Time. I have to make a list of all the books I want to bring and then carefully time my library hold requests so that I can pick up the books before we leave. I start working on my list weeks ahead of time: I especially like to get nice thick new releases (that I might not otherwise get to before they’re due back) and I don’t want to bring any potential duds (though of course there are always surprises). Over the years, my cabin memories have gotten mixed up with the books that I’ve read there (Life After Life by Kate Atkinson, The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet by David Mitchell, and The Three Weissmans of Westport by Cathleen Schine, to name a few), so it matters to me what I bring, meaning that it’s important to carefully winnow the list. Or not. I’m not so good at the last part. This year was a record: I brought three bags of books, wildly overestimating (as usual) how many I would be able to get to. But as Amy reminded me, that’s the entire point of Library Chicken, right?


Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz

This one was a lot of fun. A writer of Agatha Christie-like mysteries finishes his final book and commits suicide--or does he? And what happened to the last chapter of the manuscript? We get two mysteries for the price of one as the tale of the editor investigating the author’s mysterious death bookends the text of his final novel.
(LC Score: +1)


Today Will Be Different by Maria Semple

A semi-famous artist and animator, now a full-time mom, deals with depression and anger during one very long, very bad day. I wasn’t sure how much I’d enjoy this novel given my mixed history with Semple’s other books, but this one is funny and heartfelt and goes in the YES column. NOTE: The main character will be easy to identify with for those of us (I know I’m not the only one!) who are married to super-nice spouses while being not-always-so-nice (even though we try, we do!) ourselves. And if you happen to be the super-nice one in the couple, you could always read this to see what it’s like being the other half.
(LC Score: +1)


Wodehouse: A Life by Robert McCrum

After having completed the Bertie and Jeeves oeuvre I wanted to read a Wodehouse biography. This one is solid and entertaining and deals well with the international scandal at the center of P.G. Wodehouse’s life, when, as an interned Englishman stuck in France during WWII, he agreed to broadcast on Nazi radio, even though he was in no way a Nazi-sympathizer himself. McCrum does a good job of explaining Wodehouse’s behavior (which was seen as providing traitorous propaganda to the enemy) without trying to excuse or defend it.
(LC Score: +1)


The Nest by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney

Four adult siblings squabble over the disbursement of the family trust, which has been gutted as a result of the eldest’s irresponsible and immoral behavior. (Though maybe not in the way you expect.) At the beginning, the family seems to be made up entirely of mean-spirited jerks and pathetic losers, but new connections are forged and relationships shift, leading to a surprisingly sweet ending.
(LC Score: +1)


Ha’Penny by Jo Walton
Half a Crown by Jo Walton

The second and third books (following Farthing) in the Small Change trilogy, set in an alternate Britain (where the Nazis made an early peace with England and won the war on the continent) circa the 1950s. In Ha’Penny, following closely on the events of Farthing, we see England slip closer to fascism, while in the background a plot is hatched to assassinate the new Prime Minister and his guest, Adolf Hitler, on the opening night of a new London production of Hamlet. I had major issues with one of the relationships in this novel (and if you’ve read it, email me, because I would like to discuss it AT LENGTH), but it won me over in two ways. First, the actress involved in the assassination plot is one of the “famous Larkin sisters”, who are clearly and unashamedly based on the Mitfords, and yes, I’m up for reading anything and everything involving the Mitford sisters. (I may even occasionally cackle with glee while doing so.) Second, the Mitford-I-mean-Larkin actress is playing the title role in the production, a gender-bent Hamlet, and I found the backstage conversations about the motivations of a female Hamlet fascinating. (Also, I would now like to see this production. Atlanta Shakespeare Tavern, could you please make that happen?) Half a Crown jumps the action forward 10 years, to 1960 and an England with its own secret police force and soon-to-be-opened concentration camps. While the depiction of Britain’s fall into fascism felt scarily realistic, I thought the ending of the series was a bit too pat, though overall I enjoyed the trilogy.
(LC Score: +2)


The Secret History of Wonder Woman by Jill Lepore

Secrets and lie detectors! Polygamy and Margaret Sanger! Feminism and bondage fetishes! The creation of Wonder Woman is one of those you-couldn’t-make-this-stuff-up tales, brought to life in this well-researched history by Jill Lepore, who always chooses interesting and unique topics to write about. (I’m also a big fan of her Book of Ages: The Life and Opinions of Jane Franklin.) It’s a great read, especially if you’ve just enjoyed the new Wonder Woman movie. (And if you haven’t, what are you waiting for?)
(LC Score: +1)


Mister Monkey by Francine Prose

This novel consists of a cleverly linked series of narratives from various people connected with the doomed revival of a popular children’s stage musical, Mister Monkey. Though a very different book with a very different style, I was reminded of The Nest, in that it starts out rather sordid and grim, but ends up with a bit of sweetness and hope.
(LC Score: +1)


A Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay

Fifteen years ago, a reality show depicting an exorcism performed on a 14-year-old girl became a pop culture phenomenon. Now her younger sister is 23 and is being interviewed for a book on the events of that show and their shocking aftermath, declaring in the process that she believes her sister was actually mentally ill and was denied needed treatment. I don’t want to give too much away, but Tremblay owes a large debt to Shirley Jackson in this creepy and occasionally disturbing novel.
(LC Score: +1)


Swing Time by Zadie Smith

Smith tells the story of two young girls growing up in the housing projects of London, who meet in a dance class and become on-again off-again best friends. One of them becomes a professional dancer and the other, our narrator, becomes the personal assistant to an international pop star. For what it’s worth, this is one of those novels where I felt I missed the point somewhere along the way, but that didn’t actually hamper my enjoyment.
(LC Score: +1)


The Vacationers by Emma Straub

An extended family vacation in Mallorca leads to all sorts of secrets being revealed, with relationships upended and characters having to figure out a way to stay together—or not. This was a quick, entertaining read, but I was a little disappointed by the cliche nature of the family problems. Basically, all the men (with the partial exception of the nice gay couple) are sleeping around, and (DEEP SIGH) the 18-year-old daughter wants to lose her virginity before going home and starting college. (Is that still a thing? Really, is that a thing we’re still talking about as an important life goal? Could we maybe decide not to have it be a thing anymore?)
(LC Score: 0, off my own shelves)


Howards End Is on the Landing by Susan Hill

In this memoir, subtitled A Year of Reading From Home, accomplished author and publisher Susan Hill devotes herself to reading and rereading the books on her own eclectic bookshelves. I’m always in the mood for a book about books, but I found Hill to be a bit of a lit snob, just a smidge smug and condescending. To be fair, I was probably never going to get along with someone who dismisses the Wimsey-Vane romance as ridiculous and has an entire essay on how she finds Jane Austen boring.
(LC Score: 0, off my own shelves)

Library Chicken Score for THE CABIN 2017: 10
Running Score: 82


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

The Beautiful Struggle by Ta-Nehisi Coates (Coates’s memoir of his father)

The Opposite House by Helen Oyeyemi (need to finish reading Oyeyemi’s backlist) 

The Sinful Stones by Peter Dickinson (Inspector James Pribble #3)

Postern of Fate by Agatha Christie (the final Tommy and Tuppence)

Book Nerd: Library Chicken Weekly Scoreboard (7.11.17)

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!

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.


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)

Stuff We Like :: 7.7.17

home|school|life’s Friday roundup of the best homeschool links, reads, tools, and other fun stuff has lots of ideas and resources. 

The summer issue is in final edits—hooray! 

around the web

This piece about aging and women in Tudor England was both hilarious and fascinating. Case in point: “Contemporaries had only to consider the wildly popular Women’s Secrets to know that old women should be viewed with suspicion. Best keep these crones away from infants, cautioned the learned text, since they could ‘poison the eyes of children lying in their cradles by their glance.’ All women were ‘entirely venomous,’ readers were told, but in earlier years menstrual blood at least served to dilute these evil humors. With the onset of the menopause, the poison was left to stew fetid in the body, with the worst toxins escaping malignantly through wrinkled eyes.”

A feminist biography mixtape (I’ve read some of these, but the rest are going on my TBR list, reasonable life expectancy considerations be damned.)

Hamilton karaoke!!

Really interesting read that doesn’t end up where you might necessarily expect: Are coding toys useful?


at home/school/life

on the blog: Teaching what you don’t know

one year ago: Our favorite campfire readalouds

two years ago: Organizing your reading lists

three years ago: Find the Beauty in the Mess and Chaos


reading list

My Library Chicken game was pretty weak this week, but I am cranking out the summer issue, so maybe I could get a point for that? My summation: The Adventures of Sally (+0, on my Kindle, a little non-Jeeves Wodehouse fun but I missed Bertie); Monster, Human, Other (+0, advance copy, but I’m looking forward to doing a full review of this); The Power of the Adolescent Brain: Strategies for Teaching Middle and High School Students (-1, returned unread, but I do still really want to read it); Mrs. Sharp's Traditions: Reviving Victorian Family Celebrations of Comfort & Joy (+0, on my shelf); The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness (+1, really well written and interesting and I’m glad I read it, but I think I need to stick to Wodehouse for a little while because this made me so sad)

Homeschool reading: None! Summer issue holiday for the kids, which they are mostly using to build Hogsmeade in Minecraft


at home

We spent the Fourth of July getting a new hot water heater, so I am enjoying my Very Expensive Showers for the next couple of weeks until the cost-per-shower returns to more normal numbers. 

I don't want to be all self-promote-y, but if you are in Atlanta and looking for middle or high school classes, you should check out The Academy. I've been spending a lot of time helping get it up and running, and I think it has really amazing classes.

Book Nerd: Library Chicken Weekly Scoreboard (7.4.17)

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!

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! 

Happy Fourth of July! Today I will be enjoying the traditional re-watch of the musical 1776 and hissing and throwing popcorn at the screen whenever Thomas Jefferson shows up. I might also read a bit. I’m still in a reading slump, meaning that I find it hard to focus on anything and have at least half a dozen partially finished and temporarily (I hope) abandoned books lying around. When I’m feeling like this I have a hard time dealing with any kind of fictional conflict, so when I see it approaching I put down the book and pick up something else—typically a reread and/or something with very low stakes. Bring on the Jeeves and Wooster!


Jeeves in the Morning by P.G. Wodehouse

The Mating Season by P.G. Wodehouse

Bertie Wooster Sees It Through by P.G. Wodehouse

How Right You Are, Jeeves by P.G. Wodehouse 

I’ve been reading and rereading Wodehouse for decades, but before now I’ve never tried to read through all ten Jeeves and Wooster novels in chronological order. (Mostly because the joys of Wodehouse are not dependent on “story arc.”) I’m enjoying the experiment, of course, but I’m also finding that it allows me to appreciate Bertie’s voice even more—his verbal tics and repetitions, the way that the story of his winning the Scripture Knowledge prize at school works its way into every single narrative. These are books #4 through #7—three more to go!
(LC Score: 0, off my own shelves)


The Secret Adversary by Agatha Christie

Tommy and Tuppence #1. Young Tommy and Tuppence, childhood friends just demobbed from their service in The Great War, run into each other in London and (through the usual series of unlikely coincidences) find themselves caught up in a mystery involving the sinking of the Lusitania, Bolshevik spies, and a missing girl named Jane Finn. It’s all utterly ridiculous plot-wise, but great fun, especially if this if your first introduction to the Beresfords. I’ve read it before and remembered The Big Twist, but still enjoy reading it as a romance, even if the mystery is a bit silly.  
(LC Score: 0, Kindle)


The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey

Another reread! Inspector Alan Grant, flat on his back after an in-the-line-of-duty accident, revisits the murder of the Princes in the Tower. This novel consistently ranks as one of the best mystery novels ever written and I’ve read it at least a couple of times before, but it’s actually the fifth novel with Inspector Grant. Last year I went back to read the beginning of Tey’s series (the first one is The Man in the Queue) and found that I really enjoyed them (though fair warning: they are typical detective stories, so don’t go in expecting something like the historical conundrums of The Daughter of Time). When I got to The Daughter of Time in the sequence, I wasn’t in the mood for a reread (too many great library books on the stack) and it’s taken me until now to get back to it. One thing that struck me was how much more I enjoyed the book now that I understand more of the historical context, having read more English history in the interim. I also think it makes a great homeschool read, not just because of the history, but because the whole point of the book is to develop your critical thinking skills and look at history (or more specially, historians) with a skeptical eye. It’s a great way to introduce students to the idea that history is written by the winners. Since it helps to have context, it would be a good side-by-side read with for anyone studying that period, and I highly recommend it for anyone who’s doing Shakespeare’s Richard III. HOMESCHOOL RECOMMENDED.  
(LC Score: 0, off my own shelves)


The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black

Shockingly, NOT a reread! This YA fantasy is one of the books I’ve been picking up and putting down for a couple of weeks now and I decided to power through. I love the beginning: there’s a modern-day town on the edge of a forest and everything is perfectly normal, except for the unbreakable glass casket in the forest where a horned prince has slept for decades. And a changeling attends high school with our protagonists and every year a couple of tourists get eaten, but yeah, other than that everything’s perfectly normal. This novel has a lot going for it—there’s a great scene where the high schoolers are partying and drinking in the woods around the glass casket like they do every Friday night because of course that’s what teenagers would do—but (and this may be the slump talking) it turns out I’m kinda over Faerie at the moment. I’m also definitely not in the mood for YA teenage kissing, and there’s a LOT of YA teenage kissing in this book. (Diverse kissing, though, so thumbs up for that!) I think it’s a case of wrong book, wrong time for me, but I’d have no hesitation in passing it along to my favorite YA readers.  
(LC Score: +1)


Claire DeWitt and the City of the Dead by Sara Gran

So YA fantasy isn’t working for me; let’s head back over to the mystery section. Claire DeWitt is a very unusual private investigator who has been hired to find out what happened to a missing lawyer in post-Katrina New Orleans. I really enjoyed this book. I also am now completely freaked out about ever visiting New Orleans, since Gran vividly depicts it as a lawless violence-ridden Third-World city that you need special skills to survive. (Seriously: my daughter’s freshman chorus trip was to New Orleans and if I had read this book before then I might not have been able to sign the permission slip. Fortunately she and her fellow singers had a great time and all returned unscathed.) Alongside that, there’s an incredible amount of love and respect for the city and its inhabitants here. If anyone out there is from New Orleans please read this and let us know what you think—I’d love to see a reaction from someone who knows the city.  
(LC Score: +1)


Farthing by Jo Walton

A murder has taken place in a country house in 1949 England, getting us comfortably back to the world of Wodehouse and Christie—except that in this version of 1949, England made an early peace with Hitler (as a result of the Hess Mission, which, yes, I will happily read ALL THE BOOKS, fictional and otherwise, about Rudolf Hess and his bizarre flight to Scotland) and so now exists in the shadow of a Third Reich-controlled Europe. The owners of the house and their friends make up the “Farthing Set,” a group of powerful pro-German politicians who helped broker the peace. Things do not end well. I don’t want to say too much, except that it’s a great book and I recommend it, but the book does have a strong political viewpoint and I was surprised to see that some reviewers thought it heavy-handed. I did not, which may be an unfortunate side-effect of the times we are living in. It’s the first book in a trilogy; as soon as I work up the emotional energy I look forward to tackling the next two books. 
(LC Score: +1)


The Glass-Sided Ants’ Nest by Peter Dickinson

In her introduction to Farthing, Walton thanks Dorothy Sayers, Josephine Tey, and Peter Dickinson for getting her on the right track regarding British mysteries. I had not read Dickinson, but of course I have to check out anyone mentioned in such illustrious company. This is his first novel, written in 1968, and first in a series with Inspector Jim Pribble as our detective. Here’s the setup: During World War II, a (fictional) New Guinea tribe called the Ku were slaughtered by the Japanese. The handful of survivors now share a home in London, along with the anthropologist daughter of the white missionary couple that had lived with them in New Guinea, and their chief is murdered. When I first saw the cover of the library edition, featuring a cartoonish African man, I was...concerned. You might be thinking that all this sounds like a great opportunity for a lot of casual racism and general offensiveness, and you wouldn’t be wrong. The Kus are described as primitive and child-like, definitively alien and Other, and characters more or less continually comment on the blackness of their skin. One character also suggests that the anthropologist, who has been accepted as a member of the tribe, is keeping them as her own private project, a personal “ant farm” that she can tend and watch. That said, Dickinson gives depth to the story and the characters, and the Kus that we meet (the few with speaking parts) come across as distinct individuals. I’m not entirely sure how I feel about this novel, but I can tell you that I read it more or less in one sitting and that I’ve got the next one coming. I’m hoping for no more cartoon African covers.  
(LC Score: +1)


The Dark Forest by Cixin Liu   

The nice thick sequel to The Three Body Problem.  Nope, not this week.  


Library Chicken Score for 7/4/17: 3  
Running Score: 57


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

Ha’penny by Jo Walton (sequel to Farthing)

Claire DeWitt and the Bohemian Highway by Sara Gran (sequel to City of the Dead)

The Singing Sands by Josephine Tey (next Alan Grant book) 

The Old English Peep-Show by Peter Dickinson (next Jim Pribble book)

Book Nerd: Library Chicken Weekly Scoreboard (6.27.17)

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!

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!

So have you ever had one of those weeks where Everything Is Awful and there’s really No Point in Even Trying Anymore so you might as well give up and binge-watch an entire season of Real Housewives after which you feel vaguely nauseated for the next day or so rendering you completely unable to focus on any of the four or five perfectly nice books you’ve started reading or cope in any way with anything that requires functioning brain cells? Anyone? Or is it just me?

Thank You, Jeeves by P.G. Wodehouse

Right Ho, Jeeves by P.G. Wodehouse

The Code of the Woosters by P.G. Wodehouse

Nothing better than the first three Jeeves and Wooster novels for a reading slump. As usual, Bertie is busy trying to help his old school friends get engaged (or to get out of one of his own frequent accidental engagements) and nothing seems to work out until Jeeves comes in to save the day. The only bad thing I can say about any of the Wodehouse books is that they do occasionally betray their age. Thank You, Jeeves, published in 1934, uses the n-word (without any malice, apparently, but it’s still jarring) to describe a traveling troupe of "minstrels," and a major plot point revolves around Bertie disguising himself in blackface. So that’s fun. Fortunately, my favorite of the three (and perhaps my all-time favorite Wodehouse novel), The Code of the Woosters, is free from random racial slurs, so that I can thoroughly enjoy its delights: Bertie sneering at a cow-creamer! Roderick Spode and his Black Shorts! Gussie Fink-Nottle and a bathtub of newts! Farce involving a policeman’s helmet! Now I need to go re-watch the Fry-Laurie adaptation, which I’m sure is better for my spirit than Real Housewives.
(LC Score: 0, from my own shelves)


N or M? by Agatha Christie

I mean no disrespect to Poirot or Miss Marple, but the best sleuths ever created by Agatha Christie were clearly Tommy and Tuppence Beresford. Christie must have loved them too, because after first appearing as 20-somethings just after World War I in The Secret Adversary, Christie’s second novel, she returns to them over and over again during her career, so that we see them age along with her until their final appearance as 70-somethings (in Christie’s last-written, though not last-published novel) in Postern of Fate. I picked up N or M?, from the middle of their career, at a library booksale a while back and was glad to have it in hand so as not to completely overdose on Wodehouse. During World War II, Tommy and Tuppence (now middle-aged) are undercover at a boarding house trying to sniff out Fifth Columnists. Frankly, they do a fairly terrible job of it, suspecting the obvious choices while the real culprits go undetected, but I don’t even care because I enjoy hanging out with the Beresfords. Sadly, there are only five Tommy and Tuppence books. I’m not always excited about professional fan-fiction, where a current author contracts with the estate of a deceased author to carry on one of their series, but I NEED more Tommy and Tuppence, so someone should get on that IMMEDIATELY. (NOTE: I would also accept a stand-alone series starring Ariadne Oliver.)
(LC Score: 0, from my own shelves)


Georgia Women: Their Lives and Times Vols. 1 & 2 edited by Ann Short Chirhart and Betty Wood

Leftovers from my stack of Georgia history. RETURNED UNREAD.
(LC Score: -2)


Trail of Tears: The Rise and Fall of the Cherokee Nation by John Ehle

Nope. In no way do I have the emotional stamina to be reading this one right now. RETURNED UNREAD.
(LC Score: -1)


Library Chicken Score for 6/27/17: -3
Running Score: 54


Umm, did I mention that I may be in a bit of a reading slump? Recovering from a slump requires lots of comfort books so there may be some Georgette Heyer or Dorothy Sayers or Elinor Lipman in my future. Also I’ve got these lined up on the nightstand:

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

The Secret Adversary and Partners in Crime by Agatha Christie (Tommy and Tuppence #1 and 2)

Jeeves in the Morning and The Mating Season by P.G. Wodehouse (Jeeves and Wooster #4 and 5) 

Stuff We Like :: 6.23.17

home|school|life’s Friday roundup of the best homeschool links, reads, tools, and other fun stuff has lots of ideas and resources. 

It has been raining here ALL WEEK. I'm hoping to get a little sunshine this weekend.

around the web

This cracked me up: Texts from Wonder Woman

My friend Stephanie shared this piece earlier this week, and it has some great tips for not-black parents to talk to their kids about police shootings of black people. She said something that really hit home with me—that it’s so tempting to protect our kids from things like this but that that very temptation is kind of the epitome of white privilege.

Internships and summer programs can be great experiences, but maybe there’s nothing like the classic camp counselor gig.

Relevant to my interests: Songs about libraries and librarians


at home/school/life

on the blog: Nanette is pretty much filling up my podcast app right now, most recently with The Unexplainable Disappearance of Mars Patel

one year ago: 31 Great Books to Inspire Young Writers

two years ago: Myers Briggs book recommendations, the tragic truth about hoverboards, the Wolf Hall audiobook, and more in this 2015 Stuff We Like roundup.


reading list

Suzanne inspired me to pick up some Wodehouse to get me through this week’s special election, so Jeeves features largely on my Library Chicken list: Carry On, Jeeves (+0, on my Kindle), Right Ho, Jeeves (+0, on my Kindle), Iron-Hearted Violet (+0, because it was discounted for the Kindle so I had to buy an e-back-up copy, but then I also had to read it because I love Kelly Barnhill), Lower Ed (+1, a really interesting—and kind of disturbing—look at the world of for-profit colleges), The World of Odysseus (+1, work-related), The Greeks: A Portrait of Self and Others (+1, work-related), and Courtesans and Fishcakes (+1, work-related)

In the hammock with the kids: Revenge of the Evil Librarian, A House Without Mirrors (I’m totally stealing this one when she’s done), Hamster Princess: Giant Trouble

Homeschool: How We Got to Now: Six Innovations That Made the Modern World (This has been fascinating!)


at home

We’ve been watching a Supergirl/Arrow/The Flash in tandem so that we get to the big crossover episodes in all of them at the same time.

I usually try to knit everyone a new sweater for Hanukkah, which means I have to get started in the summer to get them all done! This year, we have a new family member to knit for, and I am thinking of making him this cute little doggie sweater for our winter walks. Have you knit a dog sweater? Is there a pattern you really like? (I’m thinking about Abate for my son, too, but I haven’t settled on any official people sweaters yet)

My kids asked for a food delivery subscription this summer (maybe inspired by YouTube commercials? I am not sure -- it's one of those things where they send you all the ingredients for a specific recipe), and they’ve been really adorable making dinner together twice a week. I’ve always been non-plussed by subscription meal services, but I love that it’s given them the confidence to tackle dinner regularly. (I’m still not sure why a tiny bottle of soy sauce is more user-friendly than measuring out a portion from a bigger bottle, but I think I have to accept that it just is. I don't recommend Blue Apron, though!)

Book Nerd: Library Chicken Weekly Scoreboard (6.6.17)

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!

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!

Early voting has begun in the runoff being held in Georgia’s 6th congressional district! How is this pertinent to Library Chicken? Well, one of the early voting locations is very conveniently set in my Friendly Neighborhood Library. I’m thrilled to see the turnout—even in the first couple of days voting lines have occasionally been out the door. I’m less thrilled that my early-voting patriotic countrymen and women have been filling up the parking lot so that I have to park down the street if I want to actually use the library for its intended purpose. Also, the voting line blocks my hold shelf. BUT being that I am also a patriotic American and support the whole democratic process and all that I guess I can put up with it for a couple of weeks. (Seriously, I’m shocked by the lines. We never get lines for early voting—that’s the point. And everyone seems fairly patient and cheerful, which is nice.)

The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl Vol. 3: Squirrel, You Really Got Me Now
The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl Vol. 4: I Kissed a Squirrel and I Liked It
written by Ryan North, art by Erica Henderson

This Week in Comics: It is so much more difficult than it ought to be to read comics. Not actually the reading part—the figuring out what to read part. By now, I think I’ve got the hang of the fact that 1) the individual issues come out, 2) the issues are collected into a trade paperbacks, 3) which may then be further collected into a hardback. So when I started reading the current run of The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, I read the hardback Vol. 1, collecting issues #1-8 (not to be confused with the paperback Vol. 1, collecting issues #1-4), and then jumped to the paperback Vol. 3, which collects issues #1-6 but that’s a completely different #1-6 because Marvel started the run over with another #1 issue so that Squirrel Girl had two #1’s in 2015 AND HOW IS ANYONE SUPPOSED TO FIGURE THIS OUT. It feels like I spend more time researching a particular run to figure out what to check out at the library (Wikipedia is usually helpful, though not always up to date; Amazon sometimes tells you what a collection collects, but not always) than I do actually reading the thing. Squirrel Girl continues to be awesome, so I guess there’s that at least.
(LC Score: +2)


The Last Days of New Paris by China Mieville

I love China Mieville. For me he’s in the same category as Neil Gaiman with brilliantly original horror-tinged fantasy. This slim novel is an alternate history (another favorite genre of mine) exploring the Surrealist political movement, about which I know virtually nothing (but conveniently for me, my daughter came home from her AP World History class earlier in the year talking about it, so I wasn’t as utterly lost as I might have been). In an alternate version of Nazi-occupied Paris, an explosion composed of Surrealism and occult energy has rearranged the city, so that Nazis and resistance fighters fight each other in a bizarre and unpredictable landscape while giant figures from various works of art, brought to life by the blast, stalk the streets. Plus, there are Nazi-summoned demons, just to make it interesting. A large chunk of the novel is populated entirely by actual historical figures, including Jack Parsons and Varian Fry (both of whom you should immediately Google if they are unfamiliar to you) and a whole bunch of Surrealist artists who I know nothing about but whose works I spent most of the novel looking up on the internet. Aside from being an all-around great book, this would be an amazing side read for a teen studying either art history (you could base an entire Surrealism curriculum on the references here) or resistance in Nazi-occupied Paris.
(LC Score: +1)


Arabella of Mars by David D. Levine

More alternate history! Here, Regency Britain has (as it was wont to do) colonized Mars and its inhabitants. (As it turns out, there is plenty of breathable atmosphere between the planets, which, yeah, seems fine to me. Carry on.) Arabella was born and raised on Mars, but her English mother, worried about her going native, has dragged her back to Earth, where Arabella learns of an assassination scheme against her brother back on Mars. There’s nothing for her to do but disguise herself as a cabin boy and take passage on one of the Marsmen clipper ships, hoping to get back there in time. This is a fun Regency steampunk adventure, and I’m looking forward to Arabella’s next outing.
(LC Score: +1)


Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee

This novel has been compared to Ann Leckie’s Ancillary Justice, in part because it too was nominated for both the Hugo and the Nebula awards, and there are definitely some interesting parallels between the galactic empires portrayed in both books. Unlike Leckie, though, Lee concentrates almost completely on the military side, so if you’re in the mood for a hardcore space opera shoot-’em-up, this is the book for you. I got a bit lost in the all the world-building (which was well done, but left an awful lot unexplained) but I’ll be back for the sequel, which (conveniently) is coming out in just a week or two.
(LC Score: +1)


The Fire This Time: A New Generation Speaks About Race edited by Jesmyn Ward

Excellent collection of essays (plus a couple of poems) in many different styles from writers of color about their personal experiences with American racism past and present. Belongs on the shelf next to Coates’s Between the World and Me.
(LC Score: +1)


Deadly Persuasion: Why Women and Girls Must Fight the Addictive Power of Advertising by Jean Kilbourne

(Also published as Can’t Buy Me Love: How Advertising Changes the Way We Think and Feel.) In this 1999 book, Kilbourne, who’s spent decades studying how advertising depicts women, explores the effect advertising has on American culture, particularly its role in supporting addiction by pushing alcohol and tobacco while cynically devaluing the importance of human relationships. I read this as research for a class on Critical Thinking and the Media that I’ll be teaching in the fall and although I think Kilbourne occasionally overreaches (and of course the material is out of date) many of her points still stand.
(LC Score: +1)


The World of Jeeves by P.G. Wodehouse

This glorious 650-page collection brings together every single Jeeves and Wooster short story ever written (with ONE exception, according to Wikipedia, but we’re ignoring that because otherwise it would bug me until I embarked on an obsessive quest to find that one last story, and frankly I’ve learned from experience that that sort of thing never turns out well). Anyway, as I said, it’s got all the Jeeves and Wooster stories and it’s been the reason I survived this homeschool year. I’ve used it as a read-aloud with my older kids in past years (because Wodehouse should be an important part of every homeschool curriculum) but we quit after a half-dozen stories or so. By then, you’ve seen just about every combination of Bertie’s-school-friend-in-crisis plus Jeeves-saves-the-day (and gets Bertie to stop wearing that horrible pair of trousers/vest/moustache/etc.) that you’re going to get. (I adore these stories, but originality is not their strong suit.) This year, however, with my younger kids, we just kept right on going. And the way 2017 has been, sometimes the only thing that got me up in the morning was knowing that we were going to start the day with Jeeves and Wooster. We didn’t make it all the way through—only to page 500 or so—but I polished off the last few stories myself and am now starting to reread all the novels in chronological order, beginning with Thank You, Jeeves, which under the circs (as Bertie would say) seems incredibly appropriate. I can’t wait to sneer at a cow creamer or two. HOMESCHOOL RECOMMENDED.
(LC Score: 0, off our homeschool shelf)

Library Chicken Score for 6/6/17: 7 Running Score: 46

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

The Sisters Brothers by Patrick DeWitt (a “cowboy noir” that’s been on my list for years)

Ink and Bone (The Great Library) by Rachel Caine (because you know me and books with “library” in the title)

Mister Monday by Garth Nix (reread for a Summer Reading write-up)

Three Moments of an Explosion by China Mieville (short story collection because I’m in the mood for more Mieville)