peter dickinson

Library Chicken :: 3.28.18

Library Chicken :: 3.28.18

Spooky stories, murder mysteries, and more good stuff keep Suzanne's library card busy this week.

Library Chicken Update :: 1.31.18

Library Chicken Update :: 1.31.18

On a particularly good Library Chicken week, Suzanne's reading short stories, British detectives, a little Virginia Woolf fan fiction, a charming novel totally worth the library hold list, and more.

Library Chicken Update :: 11.7.17

Library Chicken Update :: 11.7.17

Scooby Doo meets Lovecraft, Plato fan fiction, classic and new British mysteries, and some feminist biographies feature in this week's Library Chicken.

Book Nerd: Library Chicken Weekly Scoreboard (8.22.17)

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!    

PANIC AT THE LIBRARY. For four long days this week my library’s online systems were down, meaning that I could not check on holds or renew books as they came due. As you might expect, this threatened to throw the entire precarious system at Library Chicken HQ into disarray. Fortunately, I weathered the technological storm better than I would have expected—and in the process, discovered that some time ago the maximum number of checkouts per card had been doubled, from 25 to 50 (!!!). Somehow, I WAS NOT INFORMED of this life-altering event, but I’m doing my best to make up for lost time. Meanwhile, my family members have started gathering in small groups to have hushed conversations, and I may have overheard something about an “intervention”...


Wild Strawberries by Angela Thirkell

The Demon in the House by Angela Thirkell

August Folly by Angela Thirkell

Summer Half by Angela Thirkell

Pomfret Towers by Angela Thirkell

Now that we’re back from summer vacation and the high school kids have started school, it’s time for me to really dig into all that non-fiction reading and class prep I have on my to-do list for my outside classes this fall. But instead I decided to read the next five Thirkell Barsetshire books. As I’ve said in a previous update, they are charming and delightful (and only very occasionally racist and/or anti-Semitic) and a favorite comfort read of mine. Thirkell published about a book a year (these five take us from 1934 to 1938) set among various families and villages in fictional Barsetshire. There are eccentric but lovable noblewomen, English country house weekends, obnoxious lady novelists, hapless clergymen, public school intrigues, and, in every book, at least one awkward but good-hearted pair of young (and sometimes not so young) people will end up engaged. (NOTE: All of Thirkell’s teenagers and 20-somethings seem five to ten years younger than their supposed ages. This is especially noticeable in The Demon in the House, in which teenage Tony Morland acts about 8 years old throughout, demonstrating either (a) that our modern youth do in fact lose their childhood innocence much earlier than past generations, or (b) that Thirkell never actually hung out with any young people.  It’s a little weird, but I try not to let it bother me.)  
(LC Score: 0, off my own shelves)


Mother and Son by Ivy Compton-Burnett

After all that sweetness I need some sour. Compton-Burnett, like Thirkell, was a prolific English writer of popular novels during the 1930s and later, but there the resemblance ends. Where Thirkell is warm and gentle, Compton-Burnett is cold and cynical. Her books have a very distinctive style, consisting almost completely of dryly ironic dialogue, forcing a reader to pay close attention since it’s often difficult to tell which character is speaking (they all sound the same) or even which characters are part of the current conversation (since the author rarely deigns to let us know their movements). I think it’s safe to say that she is something of an acquired taste, and when I first read one of her novels, I wasn’t entirely sure I was going to acquire it. But I read another, and then another, and now, every so often, I find myself in a mood for an Ivy—it’s a very particular clear-out-the-cobwebs sort of craving that no other author will satisfy. In Mother and Son, an overbearing matriarch with an overly-attached adult son advertises for a companion, but really, the plot doesn’t matter because I’m in it for all the sharply intelligent, passive-aggressive, calmly hostile conversations that will inevitably ensue.  
(LC Score: +1)


The Sinful Stones by Peter Dickinson

Inspector James Pibble #3. In this mystery, Pibble finds himself (for complicated personal reasons) on a remote island with a cult-like group of monks. Unsurprisingly, all is not well. Dickinson’s Pibble mysteries continue to be bizarre and unlike anything I’ve read before (in the best way!).  
(LC Score: +1)


The Green Gene by Peter Dickinson

This standalone novel by Dickinson takes place in a world just like our own—except that Celts have bright green skin (and can therefore be easily segregated from right-thinking Saxons). Our protagonist, an Indian researcher and medical statistician, has been hired by the British Race Relations Board to track down the elusive “green gene,” allowing them to identify carriers even if they’re not actually green-tinged. Although he’s a “Saxon” (at least according to his identity papers), he has to deal with other forms of racism and eventually discovers that the embattled and oppressed Celts can be ruthlessly violent towards their own people when dealing with ideological schisms. Published in 1973, it’s not exactly a cheery book, but it is a fascinating (and unfortunately relevant) take on racism from a unique perspective.  
(LC Score: +1)


My Real Children by Jo Walton

I never know what I’m getting with a Jo Walton novel but I always enjoy the journey. Here, a grandmother suffering from Alzheimer’s realizes that she seems to be switching back and forth between two distinctly different timelines, each with its own set of memories. In one, she marries the man she shouldn’t have and suffers a great deal of personal sorrow; in the other, she has a lovely and fulfilled life, but the world is going to hell. Which one should she choose to live in? (NOTE: If ambiguous endings drive you crazy, be warned that Walton doesn’t tie everything up neatly here, though I felt fairly satisfied with my own interpretation of events.)  
(LC Score: +1)


Frederick Douglass: Autobiographies edited by Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

I’m embarrassed to admit that I haven’t read Frederick Douglass before now, though I’m glad I tackled McFeely’s biography before diving into Douglass’s autobiographies. This Library of America edition collects Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave (1845); My Bondage and Freedom (1855); and Life and Times of Frederick Douglass (1881, 1893). Following his first published autobiography, Douglass’s practice was to use the text of the previous book, virtually unchanged, in each subsequent book, updating it with chapters describing the most recent events in his life. Narrative describes his life in slavery and is the emotional core (along with being the shortest and most successful of his works). I’ll be adding it to our own homeschool curriculum. HOMESCHOOL RECOMMENDED.  
(LC Score: +1)


The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood by Ta-Nehisi Coates

Having read Between the World and Me, I’m already a devotee of Coates, and this memoir of his childhood (his first book) just confirms my admiration. Here we meet Coates’s unconventional family, including the older brother who taught him the Knowledge he needed to survive the streets of Baltimore, and the ex-Black-Panther father who raised him to be a Conscious black man in racist America. In passing, he casually (and constantly) references everything from the pop culture of the time, the fantasy worlds of D&D and superhero comics, and the by-words of Knowledge and Consciousness, leaving me slightly dizzy (since I didn’t understand more than half) but always swept away by his narrative.  
(LC Score: +1)


Joe Gould’s Teeth by Jill Lepore

This odd little book (by the always-interesting Lepore) explores the life of Joe Gould, a bizarre little man who was somehow discovered by (and won the patronage of) notable writers and intellectuals of his day, including e.e. cummings and Ezra Pound. He claimed to be writing a massive oral history of the world (though it’s not clear if it ever existed) and became semi-famous after a New Yorker profile by Joseph Mitchell. He was also mentally ill and weirdly obsessed with race, with a history of stalking and harassing women. It’s a fascinating story, though I was left not quite sure what Gould ever did to merit his 15 minutes of fame. I suspect that Lepore was similarly puzzled.  
(LC Score: +1)


A House Full of Daughters: A Memoir of Seven Generations by Juliet Nicolson

The Mistresses of Cliveden: Three Centuries of Scandal, Power, and Intrigue in an English Stately Home by Natalie Livingstone

Nicolson’s paternal grandmother was the writer Vita Sackville-West, whom she highlights in her engaging history of her fascinating female ancestors and the well-known English country homes they lived in. Meanwhile, Livingstone is the wife of the current lessee of Cliveden (now run as a five-star hotel), another famous home that played host to Restoration-era scandals, the Cliveden Set, and the 1960s Profumo affair, all explored in her entertaining book. Donations to the Library Chicken travel fund (so I can visit all these places myself) will be happily accepted!  
(LC Score: +2)


Signal to Noise by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

1980s mixtapes and magic—didn’t get to this one, but I’ll be checking it out again soon. RETURNED UNREAD. (LC Score: -1)


Lincoln and the Abolitionists: John Quincy Adams, Slavery, and the Civil War by Fred Kaplan

I really should know better than to check out nice thick history books from the new releases (due back in two weeks, no renewals) section. RETURNED UNREAD.  (LC Score: -1)


Library Chicken Score for 8/22/17:  7
Running Score: 87


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

The Princess Diarist by Carrie Fisher (PRINCESS LEIA WILL LIVE FOREVER)

The Singing Sands by Josephine Tey (final Alan Grant mystery)

Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore by Matthew Sullivan (bookstore in the title = I’m sold)
Louisa May Alcott: The Woman Behind Little Women by Harriet Reisen (both for pleasure and for prep as Middle School Lit approaches)

Library Chicken Update CABIN-EXTRAVAGANZA 2017 : THE PREQUEL


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 PREQUEL: Every July we pack up the cars for our annual family trip to Boone, NC (chosen because it is roughly halfway between Atlanta and my brother and sister-in-law’s home in Virginia Beach), where we stay in a rental “cabin” that, with three levels, a hot tub, excellent wifi, and an assortment of widescreen TVs, bears zero resemblance to any of the actual cabins I camped in during my outdoorsy youth. However, it is built of logs and there’s a nice fire pit in the back (not to mention a boulder-filled creek with a very convenient swimming hole) so I guess it’s sort of cabin-ish. Boone is a great little college town (Go Appalachian State Apps!), with unique restaurants, fun and funky shopping opportunities, and an assortment of great outdoor activities, so as soon as we’ve unloaded, we head inside the cabin and do our best NEVER TO GO OUTSIDE AGAIN. The family’s goals are to catch up on what’s been happening in our various lives, play board games from the truly impressive collection we’ve built up over the years, and nap as much as possible. MY goal is to read as many books as I can, even while being distracted by my loving family and their attempts to engage me in conversation and so-called bonding activities. As you can imagine, during the week prior to the cabin trip there is a flurry of last-minute housecleaning, packing, and frantic calls to make sure we remembered to get someone to take care of the pets. Meanwhile, I’m upstairs reading all the books that have to go back to the library and in the process not quite finishing the Library Chicken Update I was supposed to turn in before we left.


Shakespeare Saved My Life: Ten Years in Solitary With the Bard by Laura Bates

I’ve been trying to read more about our prison system, and in particular I am interested in education behind bars, both in terms of the men and women who choose to do that work, and the effects on the inmates who participate. Professor Laura Bates spent years teaching Shakespeare to maximum security inmates. Her memoir of that time exposes a world that few of us ever see, but I was surprised by her choice to focus almost exclusively on one particular student, Larry Newton, who was convicted of murder and sentenced to life without parole while still a juvenile. Bates has clearly been deeply affected by Newton, who she describes as extraordinarily talented and insightful, and there’s some fascinating stuff here, but I became impatient with her concentration on Newton’s story and their relationship and was disappointed not to learn more about her broader experience with the dozens of inmates she worked with over the years.
(LC Score: +1)


The Noble Hustle: Poker, Beef Jerky, and Death by Colson Whitehead

Whitehead wrote this memoir of the time that a magazine staked him to play in the World Series of Poker several years before his novel, The Underground Railroad, won the Pulitzer Prize (and everything else), and gee, I sure hope he’s feeling better these days. His writing is smart and funny, but the tone of this memoir—written in his persona as a native of “the Republic of Anhedonia”—is cynical half-joking despair that never lets up. Ha? It’s hard for me to laugh when I’m worried about whether the author is eating and sleeping okay and whether someone is regularly checking up on him.
(LC Score: +1) 


By the Pricking of My Thumbs by Agatha Christie

Tommy and Tuppence mystery #4—and my favorite so far (with one left to go). Tuppence, now a grandmother, gets suspicious when an elderly woman seemingly disappears from an old folks’ home. This one is by far the best-plotted of Christie’s Tommy and Tuppence novels (yeah, okay, maybe there are some plotlines that don’t quite get wrapped up but what’s a loose end or two between friends?) and of course I always enjoy hanging out with the Beresfords.
(LC Score: +1)


The Old English Peep Show by Peter Dickinson

This is Dickinson’s second mystery novel starring the fabulously named Inspector James Pribble and I think I’m hooked. In 1960’s England, Pribble is sent to the country estate of a famous and wealthy family to explore the suicide of an old retainer, but all is not as it seems, especially since a large chunk of the estate has been converted into an Olde Englande theme park experience. With man-eating lions, which just you know isn’t going to end well. (Insert your favorite Jurassic Park quote here.)
(LC Score: +1)


The Monogram Murders by Sophie Hannah

You know, I have loved books that everyone else hated and hated books that everyone else loved, so I get that reading is subjective. I generally try to be as positive as possible even when I didn’t particularly enjoy a specific book, and when it comes to official fanfic—like this “New Hercule Poirot mystery!”—my expectations are not high. But in this case, I kinda feel like I read it so you guys don’t have to. (In fairness to Hannah, I thought her Poirot was okay, it was the rest of the book that didn’t work for me.) (LC Score: +1)


Vermilion by Molly Tanzer

ARRGH. I loved loved LOVED the beginning of this book. Our heroine, Lou, is a Chinese-American psychopomp (essentially a freelance exorcist) in an 1870s San Francisco populated by ghosts, assorted undead, and sentient bears. Tanzer, you had me at the bears, but when you threw in SENTIENT SEA-LIONS (!!!) I immediately logged into the library system and put everything else you’ve ever written on hold. Unfortunately, the beginning just sets the stage and the main plot has Lou leaving San Francisco behind (the sea-lions, Lou, how could you leave the sea-lions?) to investigate why Chinese men are going missing in Colorado. And yes, there’s a Mysterious Sanatorium and other supernatural things to come, but I just didn’t find it as interesting as the initial set-up. Plus, once we got into the main plot I started having major issues with story and characterization. Mostly I just desperately wanted to go back to San Francisco. (Dear Ms. Tanzer, I will happily read an entire series of Lou’s psychopomp adventures in San Francisco—and please can she have a special sea-lion buddy?) Anyway, I’m still going to look for Tanzer’s other novels, but this one broke my heart a bit as it went from 'My New Favorite That I Must Tell Everyone About' to 'Flawed But With Some Great Ideas.' 
(LC Score: +1)


Moxyland by Lauren Beukes

This is the second Lauren Beukes novel I’ve read (after the equally excellent Zoo City) and I would just like to say that she is amazing. Moxyland is a near-future modern-cyberpunk tale of the corporate-ocracy told by four alternating narrators (one of whom is an art student who allows herself to become, via a sort of nanotech tattoo, a literal walking advertisement for a soda company). It is original and energetic and I couldn’t put it down. Now I just need to work up the courage to read her most recent novels: The Shining Girls (about a serial killer targeting bright young women throughout time) and Broken Monsters (about murders where human bodies are seemingly fused to animal bodies). (Beukes is great and I really want to read her latest books but all the reviews talk about their “brutal and disturbing violence” and I’m kind of a wimp and keep chickening out.)
(LC Score: +1)


The Panopticon by Jenni Fagan 

After Fagan’s end-of-the-world story The Sunlight Pilgrims I expected this earlier novel to also be science fiction, but there’s nothing otherworldly or futuristic here—it’s the story of a 15-year-old Scottish girl who’s been in and out of foster care and who is now in a group home waiting to see if she’ll be charged with murder. The storyline is bleak and violent, but surprisingly I didn’t find it a particularly bleak or depressing read, in part because Fagan allows the humanity of her protagonist to shine through and even leaves us with a tiny smidgen of hope.
(LC Score: +1)


The Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood

Atwood’s retells The Odyssey from the point of view of Penelope and the twelve maids who were murdered by Odysseus upon his return. Short and entertaining (if a bit grim, topic-wise), and would make a great high school side-by-side read with the original.
(LC Score: +1)




Boy, Snow, Bird by Helen Oyeyemi

I have loved everything I’ve read by Helen Oyeyemi (White is for Witching, Mr. Fox, What is Not Yours is Not Yours) and this novel was no exception, but I struggled a bit getting through it. This was my second attempt and even with a running start I got stuck for a couple of week about a third of the way through. I hasten to add that this is a me problem, not a problem with the book. In this, her version of the “wicked stepmother” story, Oyeyemi deals with uncomfortable issues of race and parenting that made it a challenging read at times, though well worth it.
(LC Score: +1)


Deconstructing Penguins: Parents, Kids, and the Bond of Reading by Lawrence and Nancy Goldstone

This guide shares tips and techniques that the Goldstones have learned after years of hosting a series of book clubs for upper elementary and middle school students. I’ve found it a helpful resource when thinking about how to begin discussing literary analysis with middle-grade readers, and I picked it up for a reread to get ready for the middle school literature this fall. (Though clearly I’ve been hanging out with Amy too much, because every time the Goldstones talk about teaching the kids to be “book detectives” who find the meaning hidden within each book by the author, I think to myself, “The Post-Structuralists might have a bone to pick with you about that.”) HOMESCHOOL RECOMMENDED (despite those wacky post-structuralists).
(LC Score: +1)


The Great Brain is Back by John D. Fitzgerald

While working on a recent Summer Reading post I discovered that there was an 8th Great Brain novel I hadn’t read, published after Fitzgerald’s death, and of course I had to find a copy. Unfortunately, I don’t think it’s a necessary addition to the series; posthumously published works are hit or miss to begin with, and in this particular case, I really struggle with the character of Tom (the Great Brain) as he gets older. From a parental perspective, Tom does some terrible things to his siblings and friends (which, I have to say, did not bother me at all when I read and reread these books growing up), and in his first adventure here he ends up cheating his brother and taking a loss because he can’t stand the idea that little brother J.D. might actually have gotten the better of him this one time. As Tom enters teenagerhood that behavior stops being funny and clever and just-maybe-acceptable and starts to look a wee bit sociopathic. (I was comforted to read that the author, John D. Fitzgerald, also struggled with this as the characters aged, feeling that it was past time for Tom to mature and permanently reform, while the publisher insisted on his adventures continuing just the same as always.) Please do continue to pass along the original Great Brain books to any upper elementary readers in your vicinity, but I think it’s okay if you give this last one a miss.
(LC Score: +1)


The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Black Dossier written by Alan Moore, art by Keith O’Neill

This Week In Comics (Part 1): Previously on Library Chicken, I reported on Scream for Jeeves, a Lovecraft-Wodehouse crossover. One might think that we had covered all the Cthulu/Jeeves mash-ups available, but not so! In Black Dossier, a collection of League histories from its earliest 17th century incarnation onwards, one short story has Bertie Wooster telling us about the time Lovecraftian monsters attacked his Aunt Dahlia’s home, Brinkley Court. (SPOILER: Gussie Fink-Nottle’s brain gets removed, but no one notices.) The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, for those who are unfamiliar, is a group of Victorian heroes, including Mina Harker, Captain Nemo, Allan Quartermain, and Dr. Jeckyll, documented in a series of comic books by Alan Moore and Keith O’Neill. (There was also a truly awful movie adaptation that you should feel free to ignore.) This graphic novel brings some of the characters forward to 1958 (when, in this universe, Britain is just coming out of its 1984 Big Brother era) in a framing story where they must steal the files containing the history of the League. WARNING: I love the concept and all the literary references, but Black Dossier and the other comics in the series would qualify for a hard R-rating (violence and <ahem> quite a bit of sexual content) and are definitely NOT for kids.
(LC Score: +1) 


The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl & the Great Lakes Avengers

This Week in Comics (Part 2): This Squirrel Girl collection, made up of material from before the current run of The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl by Ryan North and Erica Henderson, consists of a few miscellaneous appearances plus her adventures with the Great Lakes Avengers, most of which spoof Marvel Comics and their occasional grimdark tone. WARNING: While the GLA issues can be funny and entertaining, they are also cynical, violent, occasionally mean-spirited, and sometimes come awfully close to being outright offensive (all the while playing it up with cute little comments like “Look how offensive we’re being! Oh, that’s terrible! We’re going to get letters!” so that we can be sure to appreciate how clever and ironic they are). Plus: Deadpool guest-stars! Despite the incredibly adorable cover, these comics have a very different tone and spirit from the current run and are definitely NOT appropriate for young SG fans.
(LC Score: +1)

Library Chicken Score for 7/18/17: 14
Running Score: 72


On the to-read/still-reading stack for THE CABIN:

Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz (a mystery within a mystery)

Today Will Be Different by Maria Semple (loved Where’d You Go, Bernadette, did NOT love This One Is Mine

The Nest by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney (squabbling adult siblings, my favorite)

The Vacationers by Emma Straub (more squabbling family members—on vacation!)

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. &nbsp;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)