Thursday, April 28, 2016

Book Review: Good Bones by Margaret Atwood

Release year: 1992
Author links: Goodreads - Website
Publisher: Virago
Pages: 160
Purchase links: Amazon - Book Depository

Description (from Goodreads):

These wise and witty writings home in on Shakespeare, tree stumps, ecological disasters, bodies (male and female), and theology, amongst other matters. We hear Gertrude's version of what really happened in Hamlet; an ugly sister and a wicked stepmother put in a good word for themselves,and a reincarnated bat explains how Bram Stoker got Dracula hopelessly wrong. Good Bones is pure distilled Atwood - deliciously strong and bittersweet.

What caught my attention in the library was that wonderful cover! That women looks like a badass and I LOVE IT. I have been meaning to read something by Margaret Atwood for such a long time, and since I was in the lookout for short books and collections of short stories, it didn't take me long to decide that this is a title that needs to leave the library with me. I guess I can could pat myself in the back for an awesome decision, because once I started reading this one, I couldn't put it down and ended up reading the whole thing on one sitting.

Good Bones consists of fairly short stories that discuss everything from feminism and fairy tales to Shakespeare and religion. Atwood's prose is interesting and Good Bones did exactly what I hoped it would be - ignite an interest in reading more Margaret Atwood. It also further ignited my interest in reading short stories. 

Though some of the stories are only four pages in length, they leave an impression. Actually, I think it was the more shorter stories in general that I enjoyed more than the longer ones. There is a story that features Gertrude's version of what happened in Hamlet that I really enjoyed, as well as one that adds a little twist to the Little Red Hen story that is just absolutely brilliant!

Though this one was an interesting and enjoyable book to read on one sitting, now that I look back I kind of hope that I would have taken a little more time with it to fully digest these stories. One day I will definitely borrow this again from the library so I can reread the stories that left the biggest impression on me.

I will definitely be curious to continue this new reading journey with Margaret Atwood. If you have any suggestions for what I should read next, please let me know!

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Dewey's 24 Hour Readathon - Opening Meme

1. What fine part of the world are you reading from today?

I am reading at Turku, Finland. Wouldn't say that it is really one of the finest parts of this world, but oh well, it will do for a few more weeks until I get to go home for the summer.

2. Which book in your stack are you most looking forward to?

Maybe Are You My Mother? by Alison Bechdel. I read her Fun Home for a class this spring and loved it, so I am excited to see how I feel about Are You My Mother? which focuses on her history and relationship with her mother.

3. Which snack are you most looking forward to?

I am making grilled cheese for dinner today, so that!

4. Tell us a little something about yourself!

I LOVE HOCKEY! (that was the first thing that popped into my mind at the moment because I am currently working on a project for my queer mediation class about homosocial environments and producing queer texts about hockey players (fan fiction, youtube videos, etc.)

5. If you participated in the last read-a-thon, what's one thing you'll do differently today?

RELAX! Take a break if you have to!

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Book Review: Revenge by Yõko Ogawa

Release date: January 31, 2013 (first published in 1998)
Author links: Goodreads
Publisher: Harvill Secker
Pages: 162
Purchase links: Amazon - Book Depository

Description (from Goodreads):

A woman goes into a bakery to buy a strawberry cream tart. The place is immaculate but there is no one serving so she waits. Another customer comes in. The woman tells the new arrival that she is buying her son a treat for his birthday. Every year she buys him his favourite cake; even though he died in an accident when he was six years old. 

From this beginning Yoko Ogawa weaves a dark and beautiful narrative that pulls together a seemingly disconnected cast of characters. In the tradition of classical Japanese poetic collections, the stories in Revenge are linked through recurring images and motifs, as each story follows on from the one before while simultaneously introducing new characters and themes. Filled with breathtaking images, Ogawa provides us with a slice of life that is resplendent in its chaos, enthralling in its passion and chilling in its cruelty.

What a strange, awesome little book this was. I picked this one up from the library just because it sounded interesting and I was looking for more short stories to read. I didn't really have any expectations towards it, which I think is a good thing. On the other hand, I don't think I ever could have expected quite something like this.

Yõko Ogawa's Revenge begins with a woman who goes to a bakery to buy a strawberry cream tart for her sons birthday. What is soon revealed is that this son actually died in a tragic accident when he was six years old. A simple trip to a bakery turns into something much more complex and as the book processes, the short stories start to make connections between each other - we see new sides to situations and characters and through the use of linking images, motifs and themes, the stories become individual parts of a much larger story. 

The way these stories are weaved together is done brilliantly! It is not done too obviously, but rather allows the reader to look for the connections and to establish the links between the themes, characters and so on. Ogawa's prose is beautiful and subtle, which makes some of the shocking moments REALLY shocking. Ogawa does not aim for spectacle, but rather makes the shocking moments so shocking because of their simplicity and subtlety. There are moments of beauty here, but also moments that were extremely upsetting and uncomfortable. To describe something so tragic or violent so beautifully takes talent. 

I went into this after reading The Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri, and while both are collections of short stories, the similarities pretty much end there. I loved both, but in very different ways. With Revenge, I marveled at Ogawa's craft first and foremost, while at the same time I fell in love with the stories and their occasional absurdity. The moment I finished with this one I instantly started looking for Ogawa's other work, because I definitely want to read more from her to see if her other work is as awesome and effective as this one.

Revenge definitely left a positive impression on me and made me want to look for more short story collections to read. I also love the fact that it originates from a culture very different from mine, which added a whole new element to the enjoyment of its stories.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Top Ten Tuesday (#59) - Ten Books That Will Make You Laugh (or at least chuckle)

For more information on Top Ten Tuesday click here

I have been looking forward to doing this list because funny books ARE THE BEST and can sometimes help you in switching your mood completely. For some reason funny books also are the ones I usually end up rereading. Please leave me links to your lists in the comments so I can add more funny books to my TBR.

1. The Royal Wedding (The Princess Diaries #11) by Meg Cabot - Though I think all of the Princess Diaries books are hilarious, this newest addition to the series made me laugh out loud SEVERAL TIMES. I loved reading about grown up Mia and her adventures and life with Michael.

2. Yes Please by Amy Poehler - Amy Poehler is pretty much my QUEEN and this book is gold! I especially love the segments dedicated to SNL and Parks and Recreation memories. DAMN, I MISS PARKS SO MUCH!

3. Bridget Jones's Diary by Helen Fielding - Kind of an obvious one, but oh well... I was probably way too young the first time I read this and never really got it, but reading it in "adult age" cracked me up in a whole new ways. 

4. The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things by Carolyn Mackler - It has been YEARS since I read this one, but I remember the main character being really sassy and funny and just enjoyable to read about. 

5. Attachments by Rainbow Rowell - This book was like watching one of my favorite romantic comedies. The characters are so interesting and funny and well-developed and Rainbow's writing is just so pleasurable to read. I definitely need to reread this one soon!

6. Losing It by Cora Carmack - This might not be a laugh-out-loud kind of book, but I remember being very entertained by this one. It was also nice to read a more humorous NA title since most new adult is very angsty and tragic.

7. Him by Sarina Bowen and Elle Kennedy - I HAVE SO MANY FEELS WHEN IT COMES TO THIS BOOK! Though I loved the romance aspects in this one, I think it also has a lot of funny parts that cracked me up. 

8. When Parents Text: So Much Said...So Little Understood by Lauren Kaelin and Sophia Fraioli - This is one of those funny little coffee table books that is fun to read out loud in company. There are some extremely funny text exchanges here that I instantly had to share with my friends. Definitely worth a browse through if you get a chance for it.

9. Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel - Though this one deals with quite serious issues, it also manages to be extremely funny. I read this for my queer representation class and really enjoyed discussing its humorous elements in class. If you are interested in getting into graphic novels, this one could be a good start!

10. Side Effects by Woody Allen - I was kind of hesitant about including this here because Woody Allen is such a complicated public figure. I was introduced to Allen's writing and films and fell in love with them BEFORE I knew nothing about his personal life (I was quite young and it was a time when we didn't yet google everything). When it comes to cinema and comedy, Allen is an icon and I think in this situation I have just decided to separate the personal life and the artistic product (I honestly know very little about his personal life and I am not really even interested... it is his films that I care about). Allen's short stories are much like his films - a little absurd, not necessarily laugh-out-loud, but funny in their own Woody Allen-ian way. 

Monday, April 18, 2016

Dewey's 24 Hour Readathon

Dewey's 24 Hour Readathon is almost here and I bet it needs no introductions. I wasn't quite sure whether I would be able to participate, but since it seems like my uni schedule has opened up a little bit, I hope that I have at least a little bit time to participate in all of the fun. I have a bunch of short books from the library on loan, and I think those would make wonderful readathon reads.

Though I don't want to set myself a strict TBR pile for the 24 hours, here is a list of the books that I would like to pick from:

Asleep by Banana Yoshimoto (177 pgs)
The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone by Tennessee Williams (111 pgs)
The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark (128 pgs)
Murder in the Dark by Margaret Atwood (110 pgs)
The Third Man by Graham Greene (157 pgs)
What We Talk About When We Talk About Love by Raymond Carver (134 pgs)
The Night of the Hunter by Davis Grubb (200 pgs)
Are You My Mother? by Alison Bechdel (290 pgs)
Pride and Prejudice: The Graphic Novel by Laurence Sach and Rajesh Nagulakonda (104 pgs)

In addition to reading, I hope to take part in at least some of the challenges, because year after year those are always good fun and a nice break from the reading.

Are you participating in the readathon? What are you planning to read?

Midmonth Obsessions (#7) - April 2016

This is a little bit late (once again), but this time around I actually have a good reason for it. I was at my aunt's place at Tampere last week (a city about 2 hours north from where I live) and didn't have my laptop with me, so I wasn't able to post this until now. I turned 25 last Thursday (yay me!) and had a really nice week at my aunt's place! 

I have only three weeks left here in the South of Finland and then I am traveling home for summer holiday. I CAN'T WAIT! I haven't seen my best friend (aka our dog) for almost five months and I miss her like crazy, so I am really looking forward to seeing her again.

But now, let's have a look at some of my obsessions from the last month...

Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries

After seeing several people raving about this show on Twitter, I decided to give it a go. It has played in Finnish TV too, and my mom used to watch it, but I never gave a time of the day for it back then. After noticing it was on Netflix, I decided to take the plunge and OH. MY. GOD. 


I love Phryne, her feminism, her wit and her sense of fashion. And Jack, oh Jack... So dreamy and perfect. The chemistry between Jack and Phryne is INSANE and managed to give me all sorts of fangirl feels. Season 4 NEEDS TO HAPPEN SOON! 

Finnish Hockey Hall of Fame

During my visit to Tampere, I visited the Finnish Hockey Fall of Fame, one of the six museums in the world dedicated to the glorious sport that is ice hockey. The museum space itself isn't very large, but for a hockey fan like me, THERE IS SO MUCH TO SEE from old jerseys to a collection of hockey cards and goalie masks. The jewels of the collection are the Finnish Championship Trophy (in the photo behind me) and the trophies from the World Championship Victories in 1995 and 2011. I of course took time to spot mentions of all of my favorite players from my hometown team. I bought a few posters with me as a souvenir and can't wait to hang them on my walls.

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt - Season 2

I loved the first season of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, so I was obviously very excited for season 2. I have about three episodes of the second season yet to watch, but I must say that in general I have enjoyed it. I acknowledge that it is problematic at points, but as a complete product, I can't help but to enjoy it. Titus is still my favorite character - so damn funny and perfectly cast and acted! I also love all of the Robert Durst/The Jinx references.

Working on my Queer Archive

As a final project for my Queerly Mediated class we need to put together some sort of Queer Archive. Since I love sitcoms and have been doing research on them, I thought I would do mine about the evolution of queer representations in American situation comedies. I have been watching a lot of clips from Youtube and putting together a video edit that features examples from the past five decades or so. The classes for this course have been incredibly interesting and I cannot wait to see what kind of queer archives the other students come up with. 

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Book Review: The Color Purple by Alice Walker

Publication date:
Author info: Goodreads - Website
Publisher: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich
Pages: 314
Purchase links: Amazon - Book Depository

Description (from Goodreads):

Celie is a poor black woman whose letters tell the story of 20 years of her life, beginning at age 14 when she is being abused and raped by her father and attempting to protect her sister from the same fate, and continuing over the course of her marriage to Mister, a brutal man who terrorizes her. Celie eventually learns that her abusive husband has been keeping her sister’s letters from her and the rage she feels, combined with an example of love and independence provided by her close friend Shug, pushes her finally toward an awakening of her creative and loving self.

Ever since I enrolled for a postcolonial theory and media culture class at the beginning of this year, I have been more eagerly looking for reading experiences that challenge my preconceptions and allow me to "listen" to a perspective of someone who finds herself from a situation different from mine. Though I was aware of it before, this class made me more conscious of the fact that as a white, educated, middle-class woman, it can take me time to count all of my privileges. Through more extensive understanding of intersectional feminism, I have learned more about the importance of feminism that is all-inclusive. While that course is now over,  I want to continue with this journey, so of course, I took to Google and looked for lists of feminist literature and books recommended for those interested in intersectional feminism. Pretty much all of those lists included The Color Purple, which is one of those books I have been meaning to read FOR AGES, but never have gotten around the read. Also, quite surprisingly, I have never seen the film, so I went into this one with very little previous knowledge about it.

The Color Purple is a Pulitzer Prize winning epistolary novel narrated through letters written by Celie (and later on also her sister Nettie). Celie is a poor, black woman living in American South. The novel begins when Celie is 14 and sexually assaulted by her father. Celie ends up pregnant multiple times, and after it seems her father has lost interest in her, she starts to worry for the future of her intelligent younger sister Nettie. When 12-year-old Nettie is approached with a proposal of marriage by a man who is throughout the novel identified just as 'Mister', Celie handles the situation so that in the end, it is her that leaves with Mister and enters into a miserable marriage. For a while, Nettie is with Celie and Mister, but after she doesn't warm up to Mister's advances, he sends her away and for years to come, Celie is made to believe that her sister is death.

A ray of hope enters Nettie's life unexpectedly when she forms a bond with Shug, an independent black woman who tours around the country singing. Shug, an old lover of Mister, and a woman he still loves. Shug speaks her mind, is sexually assertive and holds a kind of independence and courage Nettie never thought Black woman could have. Through time spend with Shug, Nettie learns more about herself while also learning, that there is a possibility for her to "rise up" and to take control of her life. 

There are also other interesting female characters in this novel, such as Sofia, who is strong and sassy and who repeatedly gets into trouble for speaking out about things that women are not meant to speak about. Grown-up Nettie, a character we get to learn about mostly through letters, is also extremely interesting, and through her, the novel breaks the bounds of the US South and takes the reader to Africa with Nettie and the group of missionaries she travels with. 

Though I do not analyze literature very often, if I were to analyze this book, I would say that sisterhood is in a very important role within this novel. There is a biological sisterhood between Celie and Nettie - Celie stands up for Nettie and sacrifices herself for a future majority of Black women at the time were subjected to as a result of which Nettie eventually gets a change to escape the poor South to experience a new kind of life in Africa. Through the sisterhood formed between Celie and Shug, Celie learns new things about herself - she gets empowered, strong and starts to yearn for the kind of respect and independence Shug has. She also starts to love in a new kind of way, a way she never would have expected. As the novel develops, I grew more and more interested about Celie's journey and her process of finding a life in which she has the control, not her husband.

I always seem to hesitate picking up classics/modern classics because I think it will take me ages to read them through. The Color Purple was actually a pretty quick read for me, mostly because once I really got immersed into the story, I had a very difficult time to put it down. The letter format moves the story forward quite quickly, and it was extremely interesting to read about these different women and the ways they try to stand up for forms of behavior that have rule in the South and the ways they are able to take control of their own lives. 

The Color Purple was a solid five star read for me, and a book I definitely want to go back to at some point - I read it now as an ebook, but I definitely want to get my own copy, so I can reread it and take notes and highlight stuff, etc. Now I also think I should start to think about watching the film adaptation!