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.
(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 (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.  
(LC Score: -1, RETURNED UNREAD)

 

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)