the unbeatable squirrel girl

Library Chicken Update :: Top 10 Kids/Young Adult Books Read in 2017

Library Chicken Update :: Top 10 Kids/Young Adult Books Read in 2017

Suzanne picks the best 10 children's and young adult books she crossed off her TBR list in 2017 in this Library Chicken roundup.

Library Chicken Update CABIN-EXTRAVAGANZA 2017 : THE PREQUEL

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 (7.11.17)

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.
(LC Score: -6, RETURNED UNREAD)

 

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)


Book Nerd: Library Chicken Weekly Scoreboard (6.20.17)

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!

IT’S ELECTION DAY! Today is the runoff in the congressional election in Georgia’s 6th District. I care quite a bit about the election outcome, but no matter what happens I’m ready to celebrate two things: (1) no more political ads! (at least for a little while), and (2) I can park at my library again now that early voting is finished!

 

Version Control by Dexter Palmer

Palmer, author of The Dream of Perpetual Motion, is back with a novel, set in a not-so-great near-future, about a time travel machine, or as the physicists involved would put it, a ‘causality violation device.’ (Which still sounds pretty cool and/or terrifying, in my opinion.)  It’s also about relationships and family and tragedy, and how we cope with all of the above. I don’t want to spill any spoilers because it’s good and you should go read it, but I will say that a major plot point involves an accident caused by self-driving cars and user error and now I’m totally freaked out about self-driving cars so thanks a lot, Mr. Palmer.
(LC Score: +1)

 

Roses and Rot by Kat Howard

In this retelling of Tam Lin, two sisters, a ballerina and a writer, attend a prestigious artists’ retreat (in part to escape their abusive mother) and soon discover that All Is Not As It Seems. They have to decide exactly what they are willing to give up for their art, or for each other. (As a bonus, this reminded me that it’s time for one of my periodic re-readings of Pamela Dean’s awesome Tam Lin, set on a college campus in the 1970’s.)  
(LC Score: +1)

 

The Rabbit Back Literature Society by Pasi Ilmari Jaaskelainen, translated by Lola M. Rogers

Have you been thinking to yourself that you really don’t read enough Finnish novels? And that you’d especially like to read one about a mysterious writers’ group created by a world-renowned children’s author who may or may not be entirely human and who has definitely disappeared under bizarre circumstances?  OF COURSE YOU WOULD.  This novel, by an award-winning Finnish science fiction and fantasy author, has been described as Twin Peaks meets The Secret History meets the Moomins, and if you can resist that you’re made of stronger stuff than I.  My only complaint is that this appears to be the only one of Jaaskelainen’s works available in English--and Duolingo doesn’t have a Finnish option.
(LC Score: +1)

 

Dial H Vol. 1: Into You written by China Mieville, art by Mateus Santolouco

Lumberjanes Vol. 4: Out of Time and Lumberjanes Vol. 5: Band Together written by Noelle Stevenson and Shannon Watters, art by Brooke Allen

The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl Vol. 5: Like I’m the Only Squirrel in the World written by Ryan North, art by Erica Henderson

This Week in Comics: One of the great things about modern comics is the crossover of authors from the literary world to the comics world and vice versa. In Dial H, weird and wonderful fantasy author China Mieville reboots an obscure DC title about a magical phone dial that can temporarily turn the user into a random superhero—sometimes not so “super” and not so much “hero”.  The resulting book is definitely weird—perhaps not one of my favorites, but worth a read just to encounter “heroes” like Captain Lachrymose, Iron Snail, and Boy Chimney.  Plus: the Lumberjanes learn more about their camp history and rock out with mermaids, and Squirrel Girl vacations in Canada!  
(LC Score: +2, Lumberjanes borrowed from daughter)

 

Away Down South: A History of Southern Identity by James C. Cobb

Redefining Southern Culture: Mind and Identity in the Modern South by James C. Cobb

The Brown Decision, Jim Crow & Southern Identity by James C. Cobb

Even though I’ve lived in metro Atlanta since I was 17, I’m married to a (mostly) Southerner, and my children are all native Southerners, I’ve never felt much like a Southerner myself. What does being a Southerner even mean in the 21st century? Professor Cobb’s books and essays go a long way toward explaining what “being a Southerner” has meant over the years and how it’s changed now that the South is no longer defined only by white supremacy and opposing anything deemed “Yankee”. Away Down South (an expansion of the essays collected in Redefining Southern Culture) is a fascinating read that does a good job of walking the line between dense scholarly tome and pop-history for non-academics. The Brown Decision, a lecture published for the fiftieth anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education, revisits the legacy of that decision, illuminating some of the arguments that have arisen in academia (that I was unaware of) over whether segregation would have ultimately faded away even without intervention and the possible negative effects of Brown.  (Professor Cobb is definitely in the pro-Brown camp.)
(LC Score: +3)

 

Death’s End by Cixin Liu, translated by Ken Liu

Okay, so after reading The Three-Body Problem I put the second and third books in the trilogy on the hold list, but I didn’t know that the third book, Death’s End, was still a two-week no-renewals check-out and really there’s no way I could get to it in time so it’s totally not my fault.  RETURNED UNREAD.
(LC Score: -1)

 

Library Chicken Score for 6/20/17: 7  
Running Score: 57

 

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

Boy, Snow, Bird by Helen Oyeyemi (I LOVED Oyeyemi’s White is for Witching and Mr. Fox)

Absalom, Absalom! by William Faulkner (Amy says that if I’m going to read about Southern stuff I have to read some Faulkner so <sigh> okay here I go I guess)

Farthing by Jo Walton (post-WWII alternate history from the author of Among Others)

Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy: Four Women Undercover in the Civil War by Karen Abbott (why, yes, this is relevant to my interests)


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)


Book Nerd: Library Chicken Weekly Scoreboard (5.30.17)

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!

Hope you had a great Memorial Day weekend and are getting ready for some summer reading! We’re done with homeschooling for the school year so now I can get serious about checking things off the TBR list. It’s the most wonderful tiiiiime of the year… (Except for the miserable Georgia heat and humidity of course, but I solve that problem by never leaving the air-conditioned house except to go in the air-conditioned car to the air-conditioned library.)

The Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu, translated by Ken Liu

I was a science fiction junkie growing up. And the first sf I fell in love with was hard sf, from the likes of Asimov, Heinlein, Niven, and Clarke. In hard sf, science is the star—the pleasure is in exploring scientific and technological problems, imagining what it would be like to live on this sort of planet, or how to build that sort of spaceship. Characters often exist primarily as tour guides to show you around, with a plot to move them from one piece of the carefully-constructed, scientifically-accurate set to the next. This novel, first in a trilogy by Chinese science fiction master Liu, is firmly in that tradition, exploring the repercussions of a first contact situation with a fascinatingly original alien race. All the while, the narrative voice remains calm and detached from the action—I’m not sure if that’s Cixin Liu’s individual style, or if it has more to do with Chinese literary tradition (being as I’m pretty much entirely ignorant of Chinese fiction). These days, I generally ask a bit more from the plot and characterization in a novel (and I may have less patience for pages of scientific explanation), but a novel like this hits all my nostalgia buttons and of course I’ll have to find out what happens next. The aliens are coming, after all.
(Bonus modern-day hard sf suggestion: Andy Weir’s The Martian.)
(LC Score: +1)

 

Paper Girls Vol. 2 written by Brian K. Vaughn, art by Cliff Chiang
Lumberjanes Vol. 3 written by Noelle Stevenson & Shannon Waters, art by Carolyn Nowak
The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl Vol. 1 written by Ryan North, art by Erica Henderson

This Week In Comics: Last week I was excited about Paper Girls and Lumberjanes, so this week I want to rave about The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl. <deep breath> OMG SQUIRREL GIRL IS SO AWESOME! Buddies with Iron Man, victor over Marvel’s biggest-baddies including Doctor Doom and M.O.D.O.K, friends with the crush-worthy Chipmunk Hunk, she is the BEST and the MOST PERFECT and y’all should run out and buy her (on-going!!!) series right now. Seriously, this is funniest comic I have read in years (my husband kept coming over to see what I was giggling about) and it’s appropriate for ALL AGES, so send your favorite 5-year-old an issue or three to get their comics habit going. I know I’m using a lot of all-caps here, but check out her adventures with sidekick squirrel Tippy-Toes and tell me I’m wrong. The only problem I’m having with all these wonderful comics collections is that I read them too fast—I go through ‘em like a bag of chips and ending up craving MORE immediately.
(Bonus cheer-you-up-if-you’re-having-a-bad-day suggestion: google ‘Squirrel Girl cosplay’. You’re welcome.)
(LC Score: +2, Lumberjanes borrowed from daughter)

 

Hag-Seed by Margaret Atwood

Atwood is such a Giant of Modern Literature that it feels slightly blasphemous to critique her work in any way, but I have to admit that I don’t often enjoy her writing. I find her work compelling, important, fascinating - but a fun read? Not so much. This retelling of The Tempest, though, was a very pleasant surprise. Shorter than usual for an Atwood novel, her Tempest involves a prison production of Shakespeare’s Tempest, created by an unfairly ousted theater director as a vehicle to get vengeance on those who wronged him. It’s a satisfying, enjoyable, and occasionally very moving read.
(Bonus homeschool suggestion: This would make a great side-by-side read for anyone studying The Tempest. HOMESCHOOL RECOMMENDED.)
(LC Score: +1)

 

The Intuitionist by Colson Whitehead

I haven’t yet read Whitehead’s Pulitzer Prize-winning Underground Railroad—I know it’s going to be difficult so I’m working my way up to it—but I was excited to pick up this novel, his debut. Set in an alternate recent past, where the highly respected calling of Elevator Inspector is divided into opposing camps known as Empiricists and Intuitionists, we follow the career of the first black female inspector as she navigates a professional and personal crisis. Yeah, I know, it sounds weird when I say it, but you should go read it anyway. Whitehead is exploring issues of race and gender (and elevators, I guess?) and I would never have guessed it was a first novel - clearly the man knew what he was doing.
(Bonus zombie-novel-authored-by-Pulitzer-Prize-winner suggestion: Whitehead’s Zone One. And if you know of any other zombie novels authored by Pulitzer Prize winners, please let me know ASAP because I will read the heck out of ‘em.)
(LC Score: +1) 

 

Stamped From the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America by Ibram X. Kendi

This book, which came out in 2016, is important and perspective-changing and everyone should read it. In clear and readable prose, Kendi untangles the confusing and contradictory ideas fueling/created by American racism, from the early colonial days through the Obama presidency. It’s not a short book, and the material is emotionally challenging, but it’s an absolutely necessary read for those of us who missed out on ‘the history of racism’ in school (meaning pretty much all of us) and want to understand what’s happening today.
(Bonus suggestion: PLEASE READ IT, I MEAN IT. Which I guess isn’t much of a bonus, but I feel strongly about this.)
(LC Score: +1)

 

The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin

Still catching up—y’know, I can’t think of one book, nonfiction or fiction, that was required reading in my high school lit classes that was written by a person of color or had a person of color as the protagonist. I’d say 'oh, look how embarrassingly backward things were 30 years ago,' but my daughter, who just finished her sophomore year at the local high school, not only has never had a person of color for required reading, but she’s yet to read ANY female authors. And the only female protagonist(ish) was Lady Macbeth. (When they can pick a book from a list, the authors are fairly diverse, but in terms of required reading that every single student has to get through before graduating? So far, ALL white guys. BURN IT ALL DOWN, PEOPLE.) ... Anyway, sorry, got distracted. This slim volume is a classic for good reason—I’m glad I had a better idea of the context from Kendi’s work.
(Bonus side-by-side reading suggestion: one of the essays here is a letter from Baldwin to his nephew that would be really interesting to read side-by-side with Ta-Nehisi Coates’s letter to his son, Between the World and Me. HOMESCHOOL RECOMMENDED, of course.)
(LC Score: +1)

 

Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor

Are you looking for something to fill the Harry-Potter-sized hole in your reading heart? Do you want to provide your middle school/YA readers with a more diverse bookshelf so that they don’t end up exclusively reading books by white guys about white guys for their entire educational career? (Not that I’m BITTER over here or anything.) I’ve got the book for you! This fantasy novel is about 12-year-old Sunny, born in America to Nigerian parents who have since moved Sunny and family back to Nigeria, where she discovers that she’s a Leopard Person, heir to certain magical abilities. Like Rowling, but in a completely different setting, Okorafor creates a magical world existing next to and within our own, and we get to see Sunny explore this world, making friends, finding teachers, and shopping for magical items. (Is it weird that I LOVE the magical-shopping parts in fantasy novels?) It’s a great read - highly recommended.
(Bonus long-awaited-sequel suggestion: Akata Warrior comes out this October!)
(LC Score: +1)

 

The Way It Was in the South: The Black Experience in Georgia by Donald L. Grant

Looks fascinating but it’s due back and I really do need to take a break from Georgia for a minute. RETURNED UNREAD.
(LC Score: -1)

 

  • Library Chicken Score for 5/30/17: 7
  • Running Score: 39

 

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

The Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood (since I enjoyed Hag-Seed so much, thought I’d check out Atwood’s version of The Odyssey)

Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee (more SPACE OPERA for my summer reading) 

The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison (and some fantasy so that my sf/fantasy pile doesn’t get too unbalanced)

The Fire This Time: A New Generation Speaks About Race edited by Jesmyn Ward (follow-up from Baldwin)


HSL Book Deal of the Day 5.27.17: The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl

Suzanne was raving about this series at lunch this week (and I don't want to spoil anything, but it might feature in her next Library Chicken update), so I can't not share that Volume 1 is bargain-priced for the Kindle right now. Squirrel Girl is a smart, feminist, awesome superhero who adventures are pure, hilarious fun. Can't wait to read it myself!

(Hey, are you a fan of the daily book deal? Leave a comment—we've been doing them for a couple of weeks and want to be sure we're not cluttering up the blog with stuff you don't want to see!)

We're highlighting our picks for best book deal of the day on the blog, but you can always find our favorite Kindle book deals here.