Book review – Veronica Chambers – “Kickboxing Geishas” plus a DNF #amreading #books

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My last two holiday reads in a bit of a catch-up: I’m horribly aware I did double posts over the last two days (Wednesday’s were at least on two different blogs) so I’m sorry if I’ve bombarded you and can promise you things will be back to normal from now! So here’s a book I enjoyed and one that came all the way over the sea to be skim read and left by the sea!

Veronica Chambers – “Kickboxing Geishas”

(22 July 2017, via BookCrossing, through Sian)

Published in 2007, so a little dated now, this book, subtitled “How Modern Japanese Women are Changing their Nation” takes an interesting look at various facets of Japanese women’s experience, whether of costume, travel and return, dating, work, entrepreneurship or traditional marriage, how these have perhaps changed and the women’s in-depth lived experiences. She travelled to Japan a number of times and subsumed herself into the culture with an anthropologist’s eye, having written other books on women’s experiences in the US: it was reasonably well put together but there were some odd orderings (words used a few chapters before they were explained; repetitions of explanations and comments) which made me think the book had perhaps been constructed out of a series of articles or even blog posts. This did dislocate the reading experience at times, but on the whole it was a good and engaging read.

It’s also fair-minded, and where the Japanese women seem to criticise Japanese men quite heavily for, in effect, not having moved with the times, and the author describes the common “Narita divorce” (a couple get back from honeymoon where the man couldn’t cope and the woman leaves him at the airport) and mature divorce (a salaryman retires and his wife gets sick of him), she does talk to men, too, and argues on their behalf.

The book talks of the Asian bubble and subsequent crash but of course doesn’t reach the most recent financial crisis, and it would be interesting to see how things have changed during and since that time – have conservatism and populism risen there, as they have elsewhere, for example?

Eileen Myles – “The Importance of being Iceland”

(04 November  2017, via BookCrossing, from Cari)

A book of essays on travel, mainly in Iceland, and art which was oddly written and I found unengaging – I skimmed for the bits about Iceland but didn’t read it properly. A shame, as Cari had sent it all the way from New York! It’s from the Semiotext(e) imprint of MIT so I fear maybe a little academic for me.


I’m currently reading “The Queen of Bloody Everything” by Joanna Nadin, a NetGalley book published on 8 February, a coming of age novel about a girl with a rather rackety mum being sucked into the orbit of a fascinating other family. There’s a dual time aspect in that the narrator seems to be telling it to her hospitalised mum, and it’s good and engaging so far. Plus the big book on Virtual Reality, of course! What are you up to with your early February reading?

Book review – Jenni Murray – “A History of Britain in 21 Women” #amreading #books

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I’ve wickedly promoted this one to the top of the pile because so many people seem to have read it recently, or rather so many people I know, because my friends’ Very Small Book Group read it for their January read. Heaven-Ali reviewed it the other week. So i grabbed it from my birthday pile to read OUT OF ORDER (shock). It was a January read for me, too, but scheduling has got a bit complicated!

Jenni Murray – “A History of Britain in 21 Women”

(21 January 2018, from Sian)

This is subtitled “A Personal Selection”, which of course neatly allows Murray to sidestep the inevitable criticism over who she chooses to include and who she leaves out of her 21 chapters; indeed, she does mention other options she had (Shirley Williams, Florence Nightingale) and explains why she didn’t choose them in some of the pieces. She also often mentions her personal connections to the women, from seeing the sculpture of Boadicea as a child to interviewing Nancy Astor, Barbara Castle and Margaret Thatcher; this and the fairly informal tone of the book do make it warm and approachable, as if she is indeed telling you about some favourite figures.

Unfortunately, the informal tone of the book is carried over into the feature which has shocked a few readers I know (and was literally underlined in this copy, which made me smile): Murray fairly often references works of fiction when telling the stories of her subjects – a novel I’ve never heard of about Boadicea, fairly famously, a Philippa Gregory novel in the chapter on Elizabeth I, and a drama documentary about Mrs Thatcher. This just seems odd to me, as there has been plenty of well-researched non-fiction written about these people. There are also no references or bibliography at all, but acknowledgements given to people who helped her keep the facts straight. But, after all, its a “personal selection”.

The Fanny Burney, again fairly notoriously, includes vivid primary source accounts of an operation, but this is well-signposted, with an exhortation to “[b]e brave and read on” (I didn’t). It is good in general and I learned about Mary Somerville (her of the college) and at last worked out that Elizabeth Garrett Anderson and Millicent Garrett Fawcett were sisters, which had always somewhat eluded me. A decent introductory read, but further reading could easily have been enabled with better referencing.


Next up is a book called “Kickboxing Geishas” about women in modern Japan, which was passed to me with slightly mixed reviews …

State of the TBR – February 2018

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Oh, the terrible state of the TBR, post-Christmas and -birthday! In fact, it was worse than this, but I pulled a few books off it that were either BookCrossing registered or quick reads to take with me on a trip, so there is at least some wiggle room at the end … But The Pile has had to encroach onto husband Matthew’s shelf (shock, horror!).

I’m currently reading Veronica Chambers’ “Kickboxing Geishas: How Modern Japanese Women are Changing their Nation” and a book on at in Iceland, and you’ll see a review of Jenni Murray’s “A History of Britain in 21 Women” later today, otherwise I won’t get all my reviews in. I’m also getting on with Jaron Lanier’s “Dawn of the New Everything” for Shiny New Books (and I have a fab book on women’s suffrage activists to go for Shiny next; there’s a whole crop of these to celebrate the centenary of people like me being able to vote in the UK). Then coming up, I didn’t do a photo because it’s pretty well the same as last month, with seemingly just two books having left the shelf, so Bruce, Frazzled, The Hate U Give and the history of Rough Trade all jostling for attention. First to start after finishing any of the current ones will, however, be Iris Murdoch’s “The Bell”, this month’s #IMReadalong novel.

What are your February reading plans?

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