I’ve been falling behind on my book review posts. I keep forgetting that I have some old reviews to fall back on while I’m in the middle of a book. Today I finished Lev Grossman’s The Magician King, the sequel to his amazing fantasy The Magicians. I plan on writing a review of it tomorrow or the next day, but I’m a little burnt out today from a long weekend and a heartfelt post on my other blog.
Since I don’t want to neglect this blog any further until then, I’d like to share two reviews I’ve written about stories that center around knitting groups. My sister got me interested in knitting, and recommended the YA series Chicks with Sticks, written by Elizabeth Lenhard, which were very cute. My first review is of Book One in the trilogy, It’s a Purl Thing.
This book made me want to learn how to knit, and to wish that I’d had something like knitting to turn to in high school, and a store like KnitWit to go to. I’m just past my own cheesy teenage angst now, so I was able to go back to a place in my mind where it wasn’t so cheesy at all.
I really liked the characters, and the pages just kept on turning, because it was fun and easy to read – but not easy in a dumbed-down way, because it was well-written.
It’s nice to read a book in which adolescent girls actually find a way over and through their differences to be nice to each other, unlike a lot of teen fiction and movies where they really focus on the cruelty and snobbery. It was maybe a little optimistic, a little bit utopian, but who doesn’t like warm fuzzies once in a while?
I know I wouldn’t have complained to have had a similar experience with my fellow teen girls. Maybe reading this will inspire current teen girls to not be so mean to each other. Stranger things have happened.
One thing bothered me about this book – what was with all the crunchy stereotyping of Bella? It seemed like all the other girls (and the author?) were just completely icked out by her hippie-ness and wanted her to change – everyone was all “yay!” when she changed into skinny jeans and high-heeled boots for an afternoon. They also thought it was so strange that Bella didn’t need to hide things from her parents, and seemed to encourage her to deviate from her upbringing, when it was clear she had the healthiest home life and family relationship out of all the characters.
The story was all about celebrating individuality – unless Bella got too hippie dippie on the girls and said something about energy, or mentioned white flour. They made it seem like everything that she said was crazy and they just sort of tried to see past it.
What about embracing her differences , instead of ignoring them and hoping they’ll go away?
Ah well, no book is perfect. I think this is why I couldn’t give it 5 stars.
After reading that series, I decided to try some other books in which the characters are brought together by knitting. The next review is of an adult fiction novel, an emotional story by Ann Hood called The Knitting Circle.
I discovered this in the display of books by women authors at the library, for Women’s History Month. I was definitely interested in reading another book about females pulling together to help each other through hard times, especially in the context of crafting together.
I liked the writing, because I felt pulled into the story. I cried my eyes out, though, and I don’t think the book needed to be so relentlessly sad. Then again, maybe it did, because it sort of helped you to realize that the tragedy was ongoing for the main character – little reminders that made you cry along with her.
It was a little formulaic, however – Mary goes to Scarlet’s turf, learns a new knitting technique, and Scarlet tells Mary about her own tragedy. Next, Mary goes to Lulu’s turf, and Lulu tells Mary about her tragedy while teaching her a new knitting technique. Mary goes to Ellen’s and Harriet’s and Alice’s and Beth’s turf… you get the idea.
There were other plot points that I felt were a bit predictable. That didn’t really stop me from enjoying the book, but I really don’t think this is something a parent should read, especially a parent of a small child. It’s just too painful, even for myself (as a non-parent who just has a small child or two in her life).
This is not one that I will be re-reading, and I wish I could give it 3 1/2 half stars, but it deserves 4 more than it deserves just 3, I guess.
I no longer knit quite as often as I used to, but I still enjoy it, and I like it as a literary theme. Have any of you read any good knitting novels that you would recommend? We’re getting into that time of year when it’s nice to have a pile of yarn on your lap, and just as nice to read about it, so don’t be shy with the suggestions, please!