Nov. 1st, 2008

keilexandra: Adorable panda with various Chinese overlays. (Default)
The Kite Runner
by Khaled Hosseini
371 pages (trade paperback)
Genre: Fiction/Literary

"Amir and Hassan, the sultans of Kabul," reads the knife-carved inscription on the pomegranate tree atop a hill in an old cemetery. The Kite Runner is a fictional memoir narrated by Amir, a boy born into privilege but desperate for paternal affection; it is a novel about Hassan, the simultaneously brave and weak "kite runner" of the title; it is a story chronicling Afghanistan's effect on one fragile family unit fraught with secrets and tragedy. It is at first a bildungsroman, a beautiful portrayal of Amir's growth through the years from his friendship with Hassan, the son of a devoted servant and a Hazara (a racial minority), to his marriage to a girl with similar past regrets in her life and to acceptance of Hassan's legacy. It is a tremendous novel--a work of literature--with all the perfectly-pitched prose, symbolic imagery, elegant motifs, mirroring and framing that "literary" implies.

Of course, I still prefer Hosseini's second novel, A Thousand Splendid Suns, for perhaps selfish gender reasons. And it's interesting to read my thoughts on that book at the time, a bit over a year and a month ago; I still remember its emotional impact, but I also appreciated Hosseini's prose in Kite Runner where I apparently didn't in Suns. I'm richer for reading both and I'll keep this on my bookshelf for its skill with language; I will also be interested in any of Hosseini's future works, although I hope he'll consider a setting other than war-torn Afghanistan. There are some plot holes in the debut novel--What are the chances of Hassan's mother randomly returning? Why did Rahim Khan keep the secret for so long, and then trick Amir even as he revealed the secret, so manipulatively?--that he mostly hid through prose and characterization. Moreover, I did not sympathize with Sohrab as much as I wanted to, as much as I expected to based on my emotional connection to the other characters. The Kite Runner reads very much like memoir, so stark and poignant in places that I wonder how much of it was inspired by reality--I am reminded of Tim O'Brien's The Things We Carried, which is also memoir-like but incorporates a meta aspect.

Overall not a disappointment in the least, and it bore great fruits for book club discussion.
keilexandra: Adorable panda with various Chinese overlays. (Default)
by Gail Carson Levine
244 pages (hardcover)
Genre: Fiction/YA/Fantasy

From the cover blurb, I had great hope for Levine's newest release. Despite their younger core audience, I loved Ella Enchanted and The Two Princesses of Bamarre. And the premise of Ever excited me so much: Kezi is a talented weaver and dancer raised in Hyte, a country following a monogamous religion worshipping Admat. Olus is the youngest Akkan god yearning for mortal companionship. They fall in love and must overcome the ultimate sacrifice--death--to be together. Plus I had heard hints of faith being a major theme, with Kezi becoming agnostic at the end. I'm not so sure about that last part, alas. Ever is frustratingly simplistic in both construction and content.

To be fair, Levine doesn't hide the book's intent or style. On the first page, Kezi's style is set forth--simple, plain, concise. This can work, and maybe it works for other readers, for me it became irritating because I wanted more depth and less choppy skimming over the surface. I enjoyed the religious themes, as expected, but not as much as I expected. I enjoyed the fairytale/divine myth format, but I was unsatisfied by the resolution; Kezi didn't give up or lose anything permanent and she lacks a sense of true agency throughout the book. It's a quick and competent read--however, I expected much more from Levine, especially with this amazing premise. Essentially, I wish this had been an older YA or adult novel instead of younger YA skewing to middle-grade. That's not Levine's fault but she definitely could have done better even within genre and age restraints.

ETA: And as [ profile] meganbmoore mentions, it's narrated in first-person present tense, if that's an issue. I tend to slip into the narrative easily and don't notice the POV unless it's really jarring, so I forgot to note it.


Nov. 1st, 2008 02:33 pm
keilexandra: Adorable panda with various Chinese overlays. (Default)
Happy belated birthday, [ profile] rachelmanija! Man, I need to read LJ more often than once a week.
keilexandra: Adorable panda with various Chinese overlays. (Default)
If surgical steel is hypoallergenic, how come my ears still get infected (50% of the time) when I wear steel-hooked earrings and 25% of the time when I wear sterling silver? No idea on gold because I don't like the yellow color and find it silly to pay for white gold when sterling silver looks the same and costs less.


keilexandra: Adorable panda with various Chinese overlays. (Default)

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