The Kite Runner: My Review

Title: The Kite Runner
Author: Khaled Hosseini
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Release: 2003
My rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

The story:

Following the span of a few decades, the story centers on Amir from the streets of Kabul to his immigration and his life as an adult in the United States. Amir was the son of a rich Afghan merchant, and grew up with the son of their servant, Hassan. The two got along really well until Amir made a decision that would change both of their lives and cut him away. As Afghanistan turned to civil war, Hassan and his father moved to Peshawar in Iran, and then to California, where they built a new life together. But one day, a phone call brought back the past to him, and changed his life once again.

My opinion:

This book had been on my TBR for quite some time now, and I’m SO GLAD I finally read it. It definitely belongs on the list of books that changed my life. I had heard many great things about it – even my mom had recommended it to me – and I was a bit scared that I would be disappointed, but oh boy I was not. Emotionally, this book was so much more than I could ever expect.

I listened to the audiobook version, which was narrated by the author himself, so that was definitely a plus to the reading experience!

crying more

[an accurate representation of me after I finished The Kite Runner]

Basically, the book evolves around friendship and family, race and class, and it’s both beautiful and heartbreaking at the same time. It deals obviously with Amir’s relationship with Hassan, and how the choices he made towards him affected his life as well as perspective on things. But there is also a great chunk of the book where Hassan is not really preseny (except, of course, in the back of Amir’s mind). The story also evolves around Amir’s complex relationship with his father, and later, the blooming relationship with his wife, which turned into a steady, loving relationship that never failed to melt my heart. It made me lose hope in humanity and gain it back right away. It was a hell of a ride and I cried way more than I would ever admit, but it was totally worth it.

The main character is flawed but deeply human. He makes bad decisions as a child, but at the same time you can’t really put all the blame on him. The society he lives in is messed up, and some of these betrayals decisions are also about his own survival in such a world. He also perfectly manages to redeem himself, and overall is very realistic in my opinion.

There are two things I loved above anything else (three if you add Amir’s wife) and the first is how much I learnt about Afghanistan while reading this book. I have to say, I came into it knowing pretty much nothing about it. But while reading I learnt about its culture, and it’s recent history which was fascinating – albeit a little alarming. I also learnt about Islam, which I always enjoy. It’s something I am working on, and it’s always a great surprise to learn about it in books & TV shows. There are also a few bits of the intrigue that take place in Iran, which was also interesting. The second thing is the amount of crazy plot twists in this book. Some may have seen things coming but I totally did not and that made the story all the better, especially towards the ending, which piles up revelation after revelation when it’s not rudely breaking me in a thousand pieces of tears.

Overall, this book was really intense and well-written. It also contains some fascinating villains, great characters and many plot twists. There is so much more I could tell you about it, but so far my review didn’t really contain spoilers and I don’t want to ruin that. All you need to know is that it is a hell of a ride, and a bit of a tear-jerker, but also an amazing, fantastic story which will most likely make you think a lot. I will definitely be reading other books by this author!

Thanks for reading, and if you have any similar story to recommend, please do so!

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Authors I Would Like To Meet

I was thinking about all the authors I got to meet this year, and how amazing that was, and then it got me thinking of other wonderful authors I wanted to meet. But first of all, I have to admit that I was really blessed this year because I got to meet so many of my favourite authors.

Earlier this year, I attended the Paris Book Fair and met Sarah Dessen, Victoria Schwab, Marissa Meyer and Tatiana de Rosnay who are all among my absolute favourite authors, it was surreal. I also got to meet Diana Gabaldon and that was very impressive. In addition I attended book readings at Shakespeare and Company, and got to meet with both Reni Eddo-Lodge and Olivia Laing.

Last year, I also met with Rainbow Rowell at the book fair, as well as Annie Ernaux who is one of my favourite French authors. In 2016, I saw both James Dashner and Michael Cunningham, again at the Paris book fair. And back in 2015, I got to see John Green in Paris, while he was on his tour to promote the Paper Towns movie. That was also one crazy afternoon, and it was so great. I thought this would never happen, as he was one of my absolute favourite authors, and I am so lucky I got to see him that day. Anyway, back to the topic.

The original list of authors I absolutely wanted to meet would have included John Green, Victoria Schwab, Sarah Dessen and Marissa Meyer, so this year really feels like a huge success in terms of that!

But without further ado, here’s a list of some authors I would love to meet:

1. Becky Albertalli, author of Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda. I just love her books so much, it would be such an honour to meet her. And I probably wouldn’t know what to say but whatever.

2. Sandhya Menon, author of When Dimple Met Rishi. She seems like such a wonderful person, I loved her books, and I also really like following her on twitter, and I think if I met her I would probably cry, but you know, in a good way.

3. Rupi Kaur, author of Milk and Honey. She is such an inspiration to me, both in terms of writing and life in general.

4. Adam Silvera, author of History is all you left me. He is one of my latest author discoveries, and I just fell in love with his books. I also really like following him on twitter, and I would totally love getting to see him in real life!

5. Patrick Ness, author of The Rest of us Just Live Here. I actually read More than this a few years ago and only came back to his work this year, which only just confirmed what an amazing and inspiring author I think he is.

I would also love to meet with some authors I chat with on Instagram, including Freedom Matthews, Claire Marie Lucas and Rachel R. Smith, fingers crossed it will happen one day!

And I’m now waiting for March because that’s when the next Paris book fair will take place 😇 Anyway, that was random, thanks for reading and I hope you have a wonderful day 😘

Leah on the Offbeat: My Review

Title: Leah on the Offbeat
Author: Becky Albertalli
Genre: YA, Contemporary, Romance
Release: 2018
My rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

The much anticipated sequel to Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda! Featuring bisexual love all the way! Needless to say I was sold before even reading the blurb. And after the first page sentence, I knew I would fall in love with this book.

[me reading Leah on the Offbeat]

The story:

This time, the story follows Leah Burke, Simon’s sarcastic drummer best friend. We saw them drifting apart a bit in Simon vs. as far as I can remember, and in this one, we get an insight in Leah’s perspective about a year later, as they are in their Senior Year of high school.

Leah is the only daughter of a young, single mom (see a Gilmore Girls kind of relationship, something Leah points out herself), and that sets her apart from her group of friends. She may not talk about it with them, but it’s kind of a burden. And then there’s the fact that she is bisexual… Of course, she told her mom when she was eleven, but none of her friends know about it. Even her gay best friend Simon, and she starts to feel that it might be too late to tell him… You know, off the beat.

Basically the novel follows Leah through her Senior Year, has she must think about graduation, college… and her first love! And it’s absolutely adorable.

My opinion:

Warning: Spoilers!

I am eternally grateful that I came into this book not knowing who Leah would end up with, and even though it became obvious quite quickly who she had feelings for, I do not want to ruin that experience for you if you haven’t read the book yet, which is why I’m warning you before jumping into my fangirling: this review contains spoilers!

The first thing I absolutely loved about this book is the amount of pop culture references – of course I’m talking about Harry Potter, Hamilton and such – but also the fact that the book wasn’t scared of mentioning all the nerdy fandoms that I love inculding Doctor Who and Six of Crows, which was my favourite mention. I totally didn’t see it coming, and I loved it. I love the fact that Leah is so involved in fandom things, she draws a lot of fanart, and reads fanfiction. It’s so pleasant to read about characters like her.

Which brings me to the second thing I absolutely loved about this book, and that is the fact that I could really relate on the one hand with Leah, and on the other hand with Abby, and that was such a wonderdul reading experience. On the one hand we have Leah, somehow shy but sarcastic, loves music, is a huge nerd and active on fandom sites such as tumblr, actively trying to make all of her friends read Harry Potter. This would be the part I relate to. Then we have Abby. Unlike Leah, she didn’t figure out she was bi when she was eleven. She is still figuring things out as the story unfolds. She knows that she feels something, but she doesn’t really understand it. That’s the part I could relate to. I felt like my life was reflected in both characters, and that made the reading experience so much better.

Now I saw a lot of people saying in their reviews that they couldn’t recognize the characters from Simon vs. and I personally felt that this was really interesting. A year has passed since the events, and the characters have grown, obviously, but I think that’s not enough reason. Here, let me explain – because for some reason, this made me genuinely happy. In Simon vs. we get to see things through Simon’s perspective. He is so sure that Leah likes Nick for example. He sees Leah drifting away from him, he doesn’t really know why and we see that from his perspective. But in Leah on the Offbeat, we see things from Leah’s perspective and she is really different from Simon. She’s more introverted, she’s not as confident… There are lots of things that make them different, including the way they see themselves and their friends. I could really see that while reading through Leah, and I personally think that’s where the difference comes from, and that’s what makes Becky Albertalli such a brilliant writer.

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[me sending my love to the characters because I love them]

Finally, I loved all the little references to Simon vs. that we got through the book, with Cal’s character from example, as well as the mention of Jacques and Blue’s emails. Simon and Bram have come a long way, and it was truly heartwarming to see that. I also absolutely loved the mention of the characters from The Up Side of Unrequited. The trip to Athens was adorable, and I feel that the characters are deeply human and relatable, which is why I loved this book so much! I laughed so much while reading it too, it was fantastic, and I can only recommend you read it as well… That is, if you haven’t read it yet!

The Spectacular Now: Rant Review

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The Spectacular Now had been on my TBR for quite some time, and I finally managed to read it — listen to the audiobook actually — and I feel like I just shouldn’t have… From beginning to end I cringed at how much of an asshole Stutter was, and honestly I still don’t know what to make of this book. Like, what the fuck did I just read.

Title: The Spectacular Now
Author: Tim Tharp
Genre: YA, Contemporary
Release: 2008
My rating: ⭐⭐/5

Goodreads Blurb:

I do not have the energy to sum up this book…

SUTTER KEELY. HE’S the guy you want at your party. He’ll get everyone dancing. He’ ll get everyone in your parents’ pool. Okay, so he’s not exactly a shining academic star. He has no plans for college and will probably end up folding men’s shirts for a living. But there are plenty of ladies in town, and with the help of Dean Martin and Seagram’s V.O., life’s pretty fabuloso, actually.

Until the morning he wakes up on a random front lawn, and he meets Aimee. Aimee’s clueless. Aimee is a social disaster. Aimee needs help, and it’s up to the Sutterman to show Aimee a splendiferous time and then let her go forth and prosper. But Aimee’s not like other girls, and before long he’s in way over his head. For the first time in his life, he has the power to make a difference in someone else’s life—or ruin it forever.

Thoughts:

THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS

TW: Rape

Let me start by telling you that I do not want Stutter Keely anywhere near any of my parties. That’s it, I said it.

And before I delve deeper into this review, can I say how annoyed I was at the fact that the main character kept calling himself “The Stutterman”? It just felt deeply ridiculous. How am I supposed to take this book seriously, honestly I don’t know.

eyeroll

My expectations for this book were not that high but I still managed to feel disappointed. I felt like Stutter was an insufferable character from the beginning to the end, and didn’t feel close to any other character. I still managed to finish it but it was overall rather underwhelming. And in addition to that the novel doesn’t bring anything special compared to other similar YA novels except for the fact that the main character was an 18 year old alcoholic so yeah. The high school experience as depicted in this book also felt unrealistic with what of renting a hotel for a birthday party and such. Maybe it was just me, and maybe would I have enjoyed this book more had I read it 5 years ago, but it just didn’t work for me. I can’t believe they made a movie out of this story. I was orinitally planning on watching it as well, but let me tell you that’s not happening any time soon.

The girls portrayed, whether Cassidy or Aimee, were only seen through some king of “girlfriend potential” metric from the eyes of Stutter and it made me SO uncomfortable. Not to mention the fact that he doesn’t ever question his actions, except at the end when he decides to quit drinking and gives up after 5 days because it’s too much of a hassle. The book basically starts the way it ended: with the main character drunk and roaming the streets.

I also wanted to take a second to complain about the number of times Stutter said that Cassidy was fat. Like, we get it, he thinks it’s glorious and amazing, but maybe, just maybe there could have been other adjectives used to describe her.

And finally, I could talk about this book without mentioning how little the fact that Aimee was raped by her step-brother was addressed. Dear authors, if you’re going to have a character who is a rape survivor, take the time to address it carefully, and fully make it part of the story. It’s not some quick plot device. It felt like this could explain a lot of things about Aimee — like for example the amount of layers she wears — and yet it was barely addressed, which again, was disappointing.

Overall reaction to this book:

book-out-window

Feel free to try and convince me otherwise though!

Books that did it better in my opinion: The Fault in Our Stars, All the Bright Places, or even Me and Earl and the Dying Girl (which I didn’t even like that much).

Let’s Talk About Outlander

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Many moons ago, I started watching Outlander. At some point in the process, I decided that I should read the book first as well, since it was based on a book, and a quite popular one at that. As of now, I have seen the first season of the show, and haven’t pursued it in ages – I don’t know if I ever will. And as of last weekend, I have finally finished reading the first book in the series. Just like the show, I don’t know if I will continue. Let me explain.

Disclaimer:

Overall I’m going to address aspects of the story that I found in both the book and the TV Show (first book and first season, since it’s all I’ve read/seen). If there are aspects specific to one or the other, I’ll just mention it!

And before I delve into things, I met Diana Gabaldon at the Paris book fair this year and it was a crazy experience because I still can’t believe I had in front of me this woman who had written so much, and who was so successful. And of course I was so impressed I barely manage to say anything.

Warning: Contains spoilers

Let me start by saying that I absolutely LOVE the concept of this story. I am a huge fan of time-travel, and it’s usually a genre that always works for me whether in books or TV Shows. And that aspect of the story really did work for me. I’m also a huge fan of both Scotland in general, and its history in particular, so again, I really liked that aspect of the story. I also think it’s rather well-written, and I really like the narration.

I personally listened to the audiobook for the most part, and it was narrated by Davina Porter who is an absolutely brilliant narrator, so that definitely added something to the story. I discovered her when I listened to The Invasion of the Tearling by Erika Johansen, and now I simply want to have all my audiobooks narrated by her. She really brings something to the characters and the plot, it’s like she adds a dash of her personal magic and I LOVE IT.

hearts

But anyway, back to the story. For the most part, I felt like the characters were likeable. We feel bad for Frank, even if we don’t see him that much. We are scared for Claire, we empathy, and maybe we fall in love with Jaimie at the same time she does. She is smart and brave at the same time, and honestly the story would fall apart without her. She is one of the most strong-willed characters I have ever seen, and some part of me definitely wants to know what happens to her after book 1. But is it worth all the rape and abuse? I think not. And thus I transition to the things I found problematic.

⚠️ SO many TRIGGER WARNINGS for rape and abuse ⚠️

Yes, Jaimie seems very loveable at first, and very good looking on screen I’m not going to deny that. But there are several occasions, if I remember correctly, where he forces sex on Claire, and I am so not here for it. But that’s not even all. There is, about half-way through the story, this scene I will never forget, where Jaimie decides he needs to punish Claire for… I don’t even remember, but the idea is, if he doesn’t do it, his Scot buddies are going to make fun of him, so not only does he give her a beating – so much so that she can’t even sit down on the next day – but then he tells her that she’s going to enjoy it, like, please stop. What the hell went through your mind while writing this passage, Diana, I’m not sure I even want to know. But one thing I know is that I can’t forgive it. Every time I see/hear someone fangirl over Jaimie I just think of that passage and it stops me right where I am. It just killed the buzz for me.

Now, I know that Jaimie went through a lot. He is also very understanding towards Claire most of the time, like when she talks to him about Frank, and particularly when she explains how she ended up in Scotland in the first place. He barely escaped being executed, almost witnessed his sister’s rape, and saves Claire on countless times. BUT DOES THIS FORGIVE THE FACT THAT HE ABUSED HER? I THINK NOT. And yes I know, this was another time. Fair enough, though the idea of having a historical fiction book that doesn’t feature rape is something I can still fathom thank you very much. Yet, having rape or abuse featured in a book is something that I can handle (see Pillars of the Earth for example, which is one of my favourite books) as long as it is an issue that is discussed and portrayed as a bad thing. I know that may sound childish but the fact that it was 18th century Scotland doesn’t excuse his actions. What I really can’t forgive is the fact that this whole rape + beating thing is completely brushed over and romanticized. Just because Jaimie is a pretty face. Maybe Frank was boring, but at least he didn’t beat up his wife when she did something he disapproved of.

And behold, I’m not even done with the problematic stuff, because as you may or may not have noticed, I haven’t even mentioned Captain Randall yet. Some may say he is a villain you love to hate… That’s absolutely not the case for me, but, you know, feel free to like him if you do. It’s not even that I don’t like him (though I really don’t). That is not even the thing I hate the most about it, what really struck me is how dirty he was done. Hey, let’s write a villain for Outlander. First, he will have the face of Claire’s husband and be his ancestor. That is totally awesome in terms of the plot I have to say. But ooh… Claire met her husband’s ancestor! And he tried to rape her! I was already out at that point, but this was only the beginning. Not only is this something that comes up at several points in the story – oh we need a plot twist, let’s have Randall have to rape Claire, portray it as a total damsel in distress scene and have Jaimie rescue her at the risk of his own life – but then we have the great (almost) finale of the book where PLOT TWIST Randall wants to have sex with Jaimie. And not only does he physically abuse and torture him, he then blackmails him to have sex without resisting, and all in the meantime talks about his wife whom he also attempted to rape, and then he also cuts him, brands him with his personal seal, tells him he loves him and tries to have him say it back?

i can't even

I need to stop talking about this, because it’s getting me too worked up. But in case you didn’t get my point it was: why did you make such a horrible character and have to make him queer? That was pointless, and not the representation I’m here for.

So anyway, aside from these few points that definitely disturned me to say the least, I have to say that Outlander as a fascinating world build-up that combines time-traveling and strong ladies (Claire obviously, but also Gillie Duncan, Jaimie’s sister who is a total badass, and many of the ladies from castle Leoch), something that I definitely appreciate. And I can’t deny the fact that I am totally in awe at Diana Gabaldon for writing such a big chunky book with a restless plot, but for then taking it to the next level with many sequels. And I will probably never read those sequels, but I can’t help but wonder, and there’s no denying the fact that I am amazed by this universe.

September Wrap Up

This month I listened to two audiobooks and read many comic books (many thanks to my internship). Overall though it was not a crazy reading month, hopefully next month will be better in terms of productivity! I found however that I read several very interesting books dealing with the Middle East which is something I don’t read that often, so that was definitely a positive point in terms of my reading month.

Books I read:

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Star Wars Vol. 1 by Jason Aaron and John Cassaday ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

McCurry, NYC, 9/11 by JD Morvan, illustrated by Kim Jung Gi ⭐⭐⭐⭐ (review)

NIMA by Enrique Fernández ⭐⭐⭐ (review)

Intisar’s Car by Pedro Riera and Nacho Casanova ⭐⭐⭐⭐ (review)

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Valerian & Laureline: The Complete Series vol. 1 and 2 by Pierre Christin et Jean-Claude Mézières, both ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Currently reading:

Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

Shows I’ve been watching:

Timeless, Suits, B99