February book log

My reading was very bitty in February, and I’m not sure I can even remember all that I read. This is because I got hammered by tonsillitis in the first week, and have never really recovered. I had two review books from LTER which I really wanted to read, but put off because I didn’t think I could give them proper attention.

I did start one of the LTER books, and got about 30 pages in before deciding that I simply wasn’t up to reading a brand new book. But I greatly enjoyed what I did read of The Agency by Ally O’Brien, and I really want to get back to it once I’m feeling capable of it.

Read several more stories from an older LTER offering, and reviewed the book earlier today: Ron MacLean — Why the Long Face?

Bought a Wycliffe omnibus, “How to kill a cat”/”The Four Jacks” on my first afternoon in Coventry, and read “The Four Jacks” during Redemption. The usual Wycliffe fare — I read this one because I’ve read it before so could manage it even in my dilapidated state, but had read it long enough ago that it still felt fresh. The omnibus isn’t listed on the Orion website and has a rather odd listing on Amazon, and I strongly suspect it of having been printed specifically for the remainder market, a specialist remainder chain being where I bought it.

The other omnibus picked up in the remainder shop was two of the early Dalziel and Pascoe novels, “An April Shroud” and “A Clubbable Woman”. Started “An April Shroud” but haven’t finished it yet — again, a book I’ve read but with enough of a time lapse to be interested in reading it again.

And on the Cybook, E Nesbitt’s Book of Dragons, which I hadn’t read before and found enormous fun; plus started on Jane Eyre, which I haven’t read for at least ten years, and probably longer. ETA: And Thorne Smith’s “Topper”.

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Book review: Ron MacLean — Why the Long Face?

I received a review copy of this book as part of the LibraryThing Early Reviewers programme. As with many of the books I’ve requested on LTER, it’s a book that I might not have picked up and bought in a bookshop, but which looked intriguing enough on the LTER information for me to want to try it. As such, it’s outside my usual reading range, which does have some bearing on my review.

The book is a collection of contemporary short stories by Ron MacLean. It was described in the publishers blurb as “MacLean’s characters – from a girl who walks on telephone wires to a memory-addled truck driver — all offer revelatory evidence of the strange workings of the human mind.” I’ve found that it doesn’t quite match the impression I picked up from the blurb, being much more experimental litfic than I’d really expected. This isn’t a problem as such, but I found some of the “quirky” stories to be a lot less experimental and cutting edge than the publisher suggests, at least from my perspective as a long-time reader of speculative fiction and high end fanfic.

The stories are very much character-driven, a step into the lives of people who range from the ordinary to the bizarre. The characters and their concerns are deftly portrayed in beautiful prose, but I’ve found that a common feature of the stories is that they feel as if they’re the first chapter of a longer story — there’s no real end or closure to any of the ones I’ve read so far. It works when the stories are taken one at a time, but I find it irritating when reading two or three in a single session, which is a large part of why I still haven’t finished the book. I fully intend to read every story, and expect that I’ll want to re-read some of them, but I enjoy it better taken a story every so often rather than reading the book through.

In the end, a worthwhile use of my time, but rather hard to review in any coherent fashion.

LibraryThing entry
Amazon US
Amazon UK