Reading Backwards

Book reviews by your favorite Git.

Mini Reviews (2006, January-June)

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Since time and interest don’t allow for every book to get its own lengthy review, I’m going to do some mini-reviews. Clod save us all.

This install comes from the 2006 50 Book Challenge, which is going great guns, thanks. Books 1-20 were read during this time period. This mini review includes:

  • Yentl’s Revenge (Essays on Judaism and feminism)
  • Dragonflight (Dragonriders of Pern #1)
  • Diary of a Viagra Fiend (Humor)
  • How I Paid For College (Bildungsroman, real life)
  • Diary of a Young Girl (Anne Frank)
  • Pyramids! (Discworld)

I didn’t get much reading done until May because I was doing so much for school, and reading for pleasure when I should’ve been reading for class seemed like slacking. Luckily I came to my senses right before finals. And I still made the Dean’s List. So nyah!

Yentl’s Revenge Yentl's Revenge
Edited by Danya Ruttenberg
Read: March 2006
Rating: Fascinating
biographical, contemporary, non-fiction, school book

Read for the same class as For The Love of God, this is a collection of essays by Jewish feminists. (Take a moment to let that sink in.) The class was about how feminism is being applied to various religions–a vast topic. Judaism and Feminism haven’t been dating for very long, but their relationship is as complicated as any other.

I most enjoyed Bubbe Got Back (about being a Jewish girl with curves), Parenting as a Religious Jewish Feminist (in Israel, dressing her daughter in traditionally male religious attire), You Take Lilith, I’ll Take Eve (who was the real rebel?), and On Being a Jewish Feminist Valley Girl (from stereotype to free thinker). The women who contributed to this book come from a wide range of backgrounds and their opinions are varied–even somewhat undecided. It’s an excellent look into real lives, and I do highly recommend it.

My copy is currently on loan to a Jewish friend whose mother will plotz if she finds out.


Dragonflight
By Anne McCaffrey
Read: High school, reread April 2006Dragonflight
Rating: Beloved
classics, fantasy, dragons, loved it, romance, sci fi, young adultI love this book. I think this was my third time reading it, and I could’ve cried because the copy from our local library was nearly falling apart. I didn’t want to give it back!!The planet Pern was colonized by humans in our distant future, but the event was so long ago at the time of the novel that it seems like a legend. No one really understands what the purpose of the massive Weyrs is, or why the dragons and their riders deserve tithes from all the surrounding agricultural lands. The old ways are falling out of practice… but the time is coming when the Weyrs and dragons will be necessary for Pern’s survival once more. F’lar, a wingleader, is itching to make the needed changes but he needs a strong weyrwoman to lead the whole of Pern. Could that bent, dirty scullery maid in a dominated hold possibly be the young, fiery spirit and keen mind needed?It’s an awesome book, although it does have flaws. The progression of events is sometimes too easy, and Lessa and F’lar’s relationship could’ve done with some more depth, but it’s still fantastic. Even with a few more years on me, more books in the series read, and several years of writing under my belt, I still love it. It’s historically and culturally significant because it stars a strong scifi woman heroine and was published in the 1970s. My parents have some other books from that time still on the shelf. Barbarians and girls with burstings boobs, the lot of them. Lessa was savior and birth of a new subgenre, and for that I salute Ms. McCaffrey.


Diary of a Viagra FiendDiary of a Viagra Fiend
By Jayson Gallaway
Read: April/May 2006
Rating: Fun
contemporary, nonfiction
How could it not be fun? How could I not pick it up? A library find that I couldn’t pass up. This is a collection of columns/essays/whathaveyou from Jayson Gallaway about his many sordid misadventures.And, yes, the Viagra is a major one.He does some very stupid things, but portrays all the boozing and drugging with excellent wit and kept me laughing through most of the book. There are some fantastic quotes tucked away. If it’s your sort of humor, you will adore it.


How I Paid For College: A Novel of Sex, Theft, Friendship & Musical Theater
By Marc AcitoHow I Paid for College
Read: May 2006
Rating: Fabu
biographical, contemporary, boys kissing boys, loved it, young adult
We FINALLY have some more for the Boys Kissing Boys category! Whoohoo! And, yes, everything in the above title does take place. Delicious.

This is the story of Ed Zanni, a New Jersey teen with a passion for theater in 1980s. He’s all set to go to Juliard after graduation–until he pisses off his father, who refuses to pay for any of it. Soul crushing, dream crushing! But Ed’s friends aren’t the sort to leave him high and dry. He’s actually good at acting and they want to help him: His girlfriend, the guywholikesthegirlfriendbutmakesEdsweat,too, the foreign minx, the geeky neighbor no one really likes, and Ed’s bestest friend Paula who herself is a year older and currently attending Julliard. Together they wreak some neighborhood chaos, stir up their libidos… and make plans to get Ed to Julliard no matter what it takes.

It really is a master of a first novel. It’s very funny, a great portrayal of its time, as well as an awakening of self, and the struggle between your real family… and the wretched one you’re born into. Highly recommended for anyone in the 17 and up bracket.


Diary of a Young Girl
By Anne Frank
Read: June 2006Anne Frank
Rating: Necessary
biographical, classics, nonfiction, young adult (?)
For some reason we never read this while I was in school. I saw the ‘definitive edition’ at Strand Books and decided it was time.The biggest thing I’m left with is the feeling that if Anne had lived, she would still have made her mark on the world… and I keep wondering how and what she would have done.She was a feminist, and quite progressive for her time. She was also very ballsy, and truly wanted to be a writer. I imagine that if she had lived she would have gone on to be a part of the women’s movement and perhaps brought feminism to Judaism much sooner than Yentl’s Revenge (see above). She would have been on news programs to mouth off about abortion and equal wages. She was no dummy about politics or the world, either. I see in the young girl someone preparing to be an adult I would have greatly liked and respected. It is bizarre to read the diary of such a young girl, knowing that she’d only be 77 this year and could well be alive now… but I am older than she ever was allowed to be.It’s fascinating for me, because I recognize all those Growing Up elements. At the younger end, she believes herself to be as mature as she’s going to get. Later she rereads those entries, edits them, and looks back at them with something like pity. I’ve done the same thing so many times…For writers, it is a must. For girls, it is a must.


Pyramids!
By Terry PratchettPyramids!
Read: June 2006
Rating: Fun
fantasy, dragons, deities,
A good, standard Discworld novel. It delivers all that one would expect: A lightish, interesting, entertaining and humorous read. Perfect.This time Pratchett takes us to a kingdom very much like Egypt, only not. They build pyramids to their dead pharoahs–but these pryamids are magic. Their mass and form leads them to gather magic at a tremendous rate, and every evening that magic must flare off in a brilliant display of light. It’s all very normal if you live there, of course. Teppic inherits the throne when his father dies, and makes the mistake of agreeing to having the biggest pyramid ever built for the former King Pteppic. Alas, this wreaks havoc with the magic… and everythign else in the kingdom. Meanwhile, King Pteppic is still hanging out near his body in ghostly form, and his son Teppic is now a trained Ankh-Morporkian assassin (he needed a way to pay the bills for all those pyramids, you see).

A one-off, though I would quite like to see more of this place. Not quite as good as Small Gods, but certainly better than Equal Rites.

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