Saturday, February 20, 2016

February Mini Reviews: Part 1

So I'm still reading... quite a bit. I know I sound surprised, but my reading had sort of fizzled out a bit (well, by my standards) by the end of last year. Now I'm back to the pace I was reading years ago, getting a book finished nearly every other day. Of course, uni has helped a bit in this regard. At undergrad, I thought having to read a book/per class/per week was bad, but at MA level it's suddenly 2 or 3 books per class per week. Most of what I've read so far has been pretty damn good. I'm doing Irish Gothic and Fin de Siècle fiction, both of which are kind of my jam. So a lot of the texts on the syllabus are stuff I've read before and stuff I really love, so that's nice.

Anyway. I'm dividing this month into two parts, and then doing a separate post for my uni reading too, just because I like it when these posts don't drag on for too long :)

Little Girls in Pretty Boxes: The Making and Breaking of Elite Gymnasts and Figure Skaters by Joan Ryan

If you're confused as to why I decided to read a 20-year-old book about competitive gymnastics, let me explain. I first encountered this book in this article on Autostraddle back in wow, 2010. Not going to lie, I have a sort of morbid curiosity and a grizzly exposé of the gymnastics world sounded interesting to me. Then Book Riot mentioned it in a recent article and I was like, oh, that book. I wonder if I can find a copy. And I did, and it was pretty great. It's pretty much as bad as you can expect- eating disorders, 14 hour training sessions, brutal injuries, gymnasts being forced to continue competing with brutal injuries. Of course, this was published in 1996, which begs the question of how much has changed. Hopefully a lot, but I suspect maybe not so much. As for the writing: I know this book has been criticised for being biased, but I don't think balance was really what Ryan was going for, so that doesn't bother me. What does bother me: she could seriously have used a better editor. Little details like ages were sometimes inconsistent, and there was some repetition- yes, it's incredible that gymnast Kathy Johnson, due to being forced to keep her weight dangerously low, didn't get her first period until she was 25, but does it really need to be said three times? Still. I liked this a lot, actually. I wholeheartedly echo Book Riot's call for more gymnastics books.

Lumberjanes Vol. 1: Beware the Kitten Holy by Noelle Stevenson, Brooke Allen & others

This is a graphic novel about a bunch of girls at a scout camp and all sorts of strange and wonderful things that happen to them. I was excited about this ever since I first heard about it- from Autostraddle as well, oddly enough- but I had to wait ages for the trade paperback to come out, and then ages for it to come out in the UK, and then several months more because a certain online store messed up my pre-order. But it was totally worth the wait and well-deserving of the hype- it's so fun and original. The only problem is that it's so short- even for a graphic novel, as this only includes 4 issues. But Vol. 2 is out already and Vol. 3 is out soon, so you bet I'll be grabbing those ASAP.

The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer

This has a Jeffrey Eugenides blurb on the cover which is rather fitting because this is so similar to his The Marriage Plot. I mean, I suppose in lots of ways they're very different- Eugenides' book is about immediate post-college life while this one follows the characters all the way to middle age. But it had a lot of the same feelings- even the main female characters of both are married to men with mental health problems. Basically, it follows a group of friends at an arts summer camp in the 70s and what happens to them afterwards- how some of them try to reach their goals and some of them succeed and some of them fail and some of them do well in other fields. Some of them marry each other. Some of them leave the group forever. It was an interesting (sorry) read, one that makes you think about your life and your teenage goals and all that.

Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay

This is another book/author that had been on my radar for some time, and I'm glad I finally got around to it. It's a collection of essays, some of which (but by no means all) are about feminism. Other essays are about race, TV and competitive Scrabble. No, I'm not kidding about the last one. It's hard to talk about it as a whole, since the essays range so much. I enjoyed pretty much all of them, even when she was tearing apart things I like, as her arguments were all pretty sound. So, yeah, this was a really good read. I already have her novel An Untamed State on my Kindle and I'm looking forward to getting to that soon.

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