Library Chicken: Books You Can Be Seen Reading in Public

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home/school/life secular homeschool magazine

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!

This school year I’ve been doing a lot of World War II reading for the middle school history class, which means (among other things) a lot of very thick biographies about very terrible people. (I’ve discovered that I’m really not comfortable carrying a Hitler biography around to read in public). I’ll do a round-up post of my nonfiction WWII reading later in the year, but as we’re getting back into the swing of things, I thought I’d focus on my recent non-Hitler-related reading:

The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton

Turton’s debut novel is a Groundhog-Day style murder mystery where the detective relives the same day over and over again, each time inhabiting a different guest at a house party, while trying to solve the murder that will happen at the end of the night. I am definitely up for this level of weirdness, but I was a little disappointed: it felt like the author worked so hard to get all the puzzle pieces to fit together that he forgot to create interesting characters for me to root for. (LC Score: +1)

City of the Beasts by Isabel Allende

We’ve reached South America in World Lit, which means I get to make my middle schoolers read one of my very favorite authors! City of the Beasts is Allende’s first children’s/YA novel and the first in a trilogy. In it we follow our 15-year-old protagonist up the Amazon river in search of a mysterious yeti-like creature. It’s a little slow to get started and occasionally the prose (translated from the Spanish) can be a bit clunky, but I love the descriptions once the adventure really starts and things get exciting. (LC Score: 0, off my own shelves)

The Word is Murder by Anthony Horowitz

Horowitz is hit or miss for me. I really enjoyed Magpie Murders, but haven’t fallen in love with any of his other books. This one (coming after Horowitz’s popular Sherlock novels The House of Silk and Moriarty) casts an obnoxious ex-cop as a “consulting investigator” and stand-in for Holmes, with Horowitz himself as first-person narrator and Watson. I have mixed feelings about authors who insert themselves as characters in their own books; I think it creeps me out a bit, not knowing where the reality ends and fiction begins. There are some good plot twists, but I really didn’t enjoy the Holmes character and I don’t think I’ll be picking up the forthcoming sequel.  (LC Score: +1)

The Stranger Diaries by Elly Griffiths

A high school English teacher is horrified when her best friend is murdered--and is even more upset when the murder seems to be connected to a famous Victorian ghost story written by an author that she has studied for years — and THEN mysterious messages start to appear in HER OWN DIARY!! So creepy I get chills thinking about it! This one is hard to put down and I’ve got my fingers crossed that Griffiths will write a follow-up with the same investigating officer, a not-quite-out lesbian Sikh who still lives with her parents. (LC Score: +1)

Pandemonium by Daryl Gregory

I already know I love Gregory’s books and this one, his first, was no exception. Since 1950, the United States and the rest of the world has been living through an epidemic of demonic possession, though no one can quite figure out what the “demons” actually are. Are they aliens? Telepaths? Jungian archetypes? Gregory’s worlds are always bizarre and fascinating, and I thoroughly enjoyed this story of one man desperately trying to solve his own demonic possession problem. Plus lots of cameos by celebrities both fictional and non! (Let me know when you read it so we can have a conversation about the true identity of Siobhan O’Connell.)  (LC Score: +½, returned overdue)

See What I Have Done by Sarah Schmidt

I’m always up for a good Lizzie Borden book. (Most recent favorite: Maplecroft by Cherie Priest, which is Lizzie Borden plus Cthulhu.) Schmidt’s book is a retelling of the Lizzie Borden murders, showing us the inside of a deeply dysfunctional family. (Slight SPOILER: I was concerned that it was all going to be about sexual abuse, which I do NOT enjoy reading, but it turns out that there are many ways of being dysfunctional! Hurray!) I maybe wanted to go a teensy bit deeper, but it’s incredibly compelling and I read it in one sitting.  (LC Score: +1)

My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh

Aw, man, I really wanted to like this one. I love the cover and I’m definitely intrigued by the idea of taking a year off to “hibernate,” but I found the protagonist--who is miserable but always (as she keeps reminding us) beautiful--completely unrelatable and borderline unrecognizable as an actual human, capable of actual human relationships. It’s an example of what I think of as a very New York City novel about very New York City people, who are apparently completely unlike the rest of us in the rest of the world? This one, unfortunately, didn’t work for me.  (LC Score: +1)

The Broken Teaglass by Emily Arsenault

Adventures in lexicography! While researching etymologies for a new edition of the dictionary, editorial assistant Billy discovers pieces of a story told via the citations collected in their catalog. As he looks for more pieces of the puzzle, he discovers the outline of a mystery, perhaps even involving murder! I found the ending slightly anti-climatic, but it was a very fun read.  (LC Score: +1)

Books Returned Unread: -1

Library Chicken Score for 3/22/19: 6 ½

Running Score: 5 ½

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