Adding it up – my reading in February

Month: Feb 2014

Books completed this month: 4 (4 ebooks)
Books completed year to date: 13 (9 ebooks; 1 hard copy; 2 audio; 1 part hard copy, part ebook)

Books abandoned this month: 1 (a recent fiction publication, with too much drink, drugs and blackouts for my liking).
Books abandoned year to date: 2

Short stories completed this month: 3
Short stories completed year to date: 9

Best reads this month: a bunch of short stories – The Sniper (Liam O’Flaherty),The School (Donald Barthelme), and Mme Zitta Mendès, a Last Image (Alaa Al Aswany).

Completed this month for the various challenges:
Reading round Munster – 0 (Total year to date 4/6 – runs from Nov 2013 to Sept 2014)
Full House Challenge – 1 (Total year to date 8/25)
Back to the Classics – 0 (Total year to date 2/10-and-a-movie)
Read Scotland – 0 (Total year to date 1/1-4)
Africa Reading Challenge – 0 (Total year to date 0/5)
Deal Me In [Short stories]: 3 (Total year to date 9/52]
Non-Fiction: 1 (Total year to date 3/10)
I Love Library Books: 0 (Total year to date 0/3)
Audio Books: 0 (Total year to date 2/1-5)
Ebooks: 4 (Total year to date 9/10, now 9/25 as I have upped to the next level of the challenge)

Comments: Not a lot completed this month, though I have several other books in progress.  Having a plan of at least some books for the various challenges really helps when I’m not sure what – if anything – I want to read next.

From CD to DVD: up-levelling at the ebook reading challenge

When I signed up for the ebook reading challenge, I had no idea how many ebooks I would read in 2014, so I played safe and chose ten (CD level).  Well it’s only the end of February and I’ve already completed nine, so I’m declaring my intention of going for the next level up, which is 25 ebooks (DVD level).

Who knows, I may eventually even go higher?

I’m going over to WorkadayReads (the host blog) now, to mention it there.

Short Story #9: Mme Zitta Mendès, a Last Image (Alaa Al Aswany)

Deal Me In Reading Challenge: I drew the six of clubs.

Story: Mme Zitta Mendès, a Last Image, by Alaa Al Aswany (translated from the Arabic by Humphrey Davies) [in The Granta Book of the African Short Story]

Comments: This is a beautifully written story.  It is very simple, consisting mainly of two depictions of the same woman, known to the narrator as “Tante Zitta” – she was his father’s mistress.  The first scene depicts her in 1961, when he was a boy, going to visit “Tante Zitta” with his father on Sunday afternoons; the second tells of a chance encounter between the narrator, now an adult, and the aging woman, in 1996.  For an excellent review of the story, see this blog post.

Alaa Al Aswany is an Egyptian writer, and I will be on the lookout for more of his work.

#13. The Wife of Reilly (Jennifer Coburn)

Book: The Wife of Reilly, by Jennifer Coburn

Genre: Romantic comedy

Where I got it: Free Kindle download

Length: 304 pages

Briefly, it’s about Prudence, a New York accountant who wants to divorce her husband Reilly, in order to marry the college sweetheart with whom she has unexpectedly re-connected – but who, to assuage her guilt at dumping Reilly, attempts to find a new wife for him to replace herself.

Comments: The plot is totally absurd, yet there are interesting flashes of reality in here – if there weren’t, I wouldn’t have kept reading to the end.  Elements of the story of Prudence’s relationship with her father were revealing, and towards the end there was an unexpectedly positive account of her encounter with a Catholic nun in a hospital chapel.  But the closing chapter?   Ah well, we all need to escape from reality from time to time.

Challenges: Ebook reading challenge.

#12. City of Beads (Tubby Dubonnet Series #2): Tony Dunbar

Book:  City of Beads, by Tony Dunbar

Genre: Murder / mystery

Where I got it: Free Kindle download

Length: 228 pages

Briefly, it’s the second book in a murder mystery series, featuring Tubby Dubonnet, a New Orleans lawyer.

Comments: This is the only book in the series that I’ve read.  It was a bit confusing in places, as the author weaves at least three divergent strands of narrative in and out until all converge at the end.  I’d read another book in the series if I came across it, but I wouldn’t go out of my way to track it down.  I liked the “feel” of New Orleans that’s portrayed here, though residents of the city might object as it’s focused on some of the less attractive aspects (that any city has).

Challenges: Full House Challenge, for the category “Suspense or Crime”; ebook reading challenge.

#11. On My Chest (Adoni Patrikios)

Book: On My Chest, by Adoni Patrikios

Genre: Fiction

Where I got it: Free Kindle download

Length: 208 pages

Briefly: an English football team struggling at the bottom of the League and in danger of relegation, hires a woman as new team manager.  This is the story of how it works out for her, and for the team.

Comments: This is a great story idea – but gah!  The book turns out to be so PATRONISING – ultimately, women are baby machines, and football is for guys, right?  It’s written from the perspective of a sports journalist, and I suspect that the author may actually be one, because he writes descriptions of games that are very credible.  But as for the rest of it… a waste of reading time.  (Don’t start me on the grammar…)

Challenges: Ebook reading challenge.

Short Story #8: The School (Donald Barthelme)

Deal Me In Reading Challenge: I drew the three of hearts.

Story: The School, by Donald Barthelme (I read it at

Comments: This is another very shortie but really, really, really, goodie.  You can read this in a few minutes – but you’ll be thinking about it for days afterwards.  It is gloriously under-stated, and very powerful in impact.  I’ll be on the lookout for more by this author.