Book Review 7: The Kite Runner

I wasn’t finding much time to read on the South Island. There was always something to do or someone to talk to. Even the nights without wifi I was finding myself immersed in conversations or playing cards with new friends. So reading took a bit of a back burner. The book I had on deck was The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini. I’ve read this book ages ago, but I couldn’t remember everything except that I had enjoyed it.

The story begins in San Fransisco in 2000 with a phone call to the main character that changes his life forever. We are then transported back to the winter of 1975 in Afghanistan and see the world through his eyes. I feel like the books that take place in the Middle East during this time period are rare and definitely not as widely known as The Kite Runner. I actually may be wrong about that, but I haven’t personally read any others. This story is very captivating because it shows the everyday life of someone growing up before and during the wars. The Kite Runner is also highly acclaimed and has been listed as a New York Times Bestseller.

Hosseini does a marvelous job touching on sensitive topics without getting political. I also found that it was a fairly easy read and once I actually sat down to read I flew through it. I’m glad I re-read this novel and if you haven’t personally you should put it on your reading list. Hosseini has a couple of other novels that I now plan on getting my hands on.

Goodreads Synopsis

The unforgettable, heartbreaking story of the unlikely friendship between a wealthy boy and the son of his father’s servant, The Kite Runner is a beautifully crafted novel set in a country that is in the process of being destroyed. It is about the power of reading, the price of betrayal, and the possibility of redemption; and an exploration of the power of fathers over sons—their love, their sacrifices, their lies.

A sweeping story of family, love, and friendship told against the devastating backdrop of the history of Afghanistan over the last thirty years, The Kite Runner is an unusual and powerful novel that has become a beloved, one-of-a-kind classic.

My previous book review.

Book Review 6: Jane Eyre

I picked up Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte at a hostel in Auckland. I was so hesitant to go down the classic genre route again after Anna Karenina, but decided to give it a go. It is a classic for a reason after all. The story is written as an autobiography of the female main character, Jane Eyre. It was published in 1847 so this was truly the first novel of its kind at publication.

The book starts in Jane’s childhood when she is 10 years old. Then it spends a bit of time there, but quickly fast fowards to when she is 18 and her life truly begins. The story follows along her character and moral development in a very personal way. There are times Jane addresses the reader directly and it feels as if you are hearing a real person tell their life story. It does become a love story, but not in mushy way. I think the book is really realistic for the time period. I wouldn’t say it’s dry, but it definitely lacks the flourishes, flare, and dramatics that we find in today’s novels. I don’t think that kind of writing was used yet. It is a nice change of pace especially if you want to immerse yourself into a former time period.

If you are looking for a classic book to expand your repertoire this is a good one to do so.

Goodreads Synopsis

Orphaned as a child, Jane has felt an outcast her whole young life. Her courage is tested once again when she arrives at Thornfield Hall, where she has been hired by the brooding, proud Edward Rochester to care for his ward Adèle. Jane finds herself drawn to his troubled yet kind spirit. She falls in love. Hard.

But there is a terrifying secret inside the gloomy, forbidding Thornfield Hall. Is Rochester hiding from Jane? Will Jane be left heartbroken and exiled once again?

Read my previous book review.

Book Review 5: All The Light We Cannot See

Do you ever have a book in your head that you want to read, but don’t know why or even what it’s about? That was All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr for me. So much so that this was one of the books I brought over with me from home. So lets get into it, shall we?

First off, it is not a happy book and it is not a love story. A stark comparison to my last read. The book mostly follows two main characters between WWII. Every chapter jumps between the two and essentially two different countries. Then the book also jumps between 4ish years (think start of the war and towards the end). The author does a remarkable job jumping between the two and most of the “chapters” are only two pages long. So it’s always a quick, smooth transition and you’re not fully immersed in one story to be ripped out. It shows the war through different sets of eyes so you see the impact beyond the concentration camps.

Predictable ending? Maybe not for most, but for me it definitely was. I think the author was trying not to be predictable, however I had the ending sorted for the last third of the book. I did like, that in a similar fashion to the other recent WWII era books, he didn’t tie everything up with a bow and a happy ending because there are no real happy endings with wars and especially not that one.

I don’t think this is one you have to run out and get immediately, but it is a good book. If you’re interested in reading about impacts of the war then I think you would like this.

Goodreads Synopsis

From the highly acclaimed, multiple award-winning Anthony Doerr, the stunningly beautiful instant New York Times bestseller about a blind French girl and a German boy whose paths collide in occupied France as both try to survive the devastation of World War II.

Marie-Laure lives in Paris near the Museum of Natural History, where her father works. When she is twelve, the Nazis occupy Paris and father and daughter flee to the walled citadel of Saint-Malo, where Marie-Laure’s reclusive great uncle lives in a tall house by the sea. With them they carry what might be the museum’s most valuable and dangerous jewel.

In a mining town in Germany, Werner Pfennig, an orphan, grows up with his younger sister, enchanted by a crude radio they find that brings them news and stories from places they have never seen or imagined. Werner becomes an expert at building and fixing these crucial new instruments and is enlisted to use his talent to track down the resistance. Deftly interweaving the lives of Marie-Laure and Werner, Doerr illuminates the ways, against all odds, people try to be good to one another. 

Check out my previous book review.

Book Review 4: American Royals

Coffee and the beach

After reading Anna Karenina I wanted an easy, mindless type of book to read next. I first saw American Royals by Katherine McGee featured on theSkimm and then a friend also posted about it on her Insta. I ventured to Dymocks (closest thing to a Barnes & Noble in Sydney) and picked it up. The pages were lined in pink so I knew it was going to be a super fun read.

I pretty much read this book exclusively on a beach. It’s the same category as the Clique/Gossip Girl/Pretty Little Liars books.

The premise is really cool – the world in present day if George Washington had become the King of America rather than the President. It’s set in the modern day following the lives of four girls, aged 17-21, in the monarchy that rules America. There are some tiny digs of humor to our actual reality. It turns out that it will actually be a series with the next book coming out “Fall 2020.”

If you want a fun, girly, easy beach read American Royals is for you.

Goodreads Synopsis

What if America had a royal family? 

When America won the Revolutionary War, its people offered General George Washington a crown. Two and a half centuries later, the House of Washington still sits on the throne. As Princess Beatrice gets closer to becoming America’s first queen regnant, the duty she has embraced her entire life suddenly feels stifling. Nobody cares about the spare except when she’s breaking the rules, so Princess Samantha doesn’t care much about anything, either . . . except the one boy who is distinctly off-limits to her. And then there’s Samantha’s twin, Prince Jefferson. If he’d been born a generation earlier, he would have stood first in line for the throne, but the new laws of succession make him third. Most of America adores their devastatingly handsome prince . . . but two very different girls are vying to capture his heart.

Check out my previous book review.

Book Review 3: Anna Karenina

Here we go again…another serious book. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy is classified as a classic. I’m not sure why I wanted to read Anna Karenina, but I did, so much so that it was on my wish list for Secret Santa last year (thanks again, Jilly). No idea what possessed me to want to read a classic novel from 1877…maybe I should have watched the movie first. Well this one was a doozy. Not only was it physically heavy and a lot to constantly carry around (963 pages), but full of characters and plot lines written in a very matter of fact, formal, dry way. I can honestly say Anna Karenina was the most challenging book I’ve ever read because every step of the way I was fighting to continue. I would only recommend this book if you were trying to read through the classics. The next book I read will be more enjoyable, I promise.

Goodreads Synopsis

Acclaimed by many as the world’s greatest novel, Anna Karenina provides a vast panorama of contemporary life in Russia and of humanity in general. In it Tolstoy uses his intense imaginative insight to create some of the most memorable characters in all of literature. Anna is a sophisticated woman who abandons her empty existence as the wife of Karenin and turns to Count Vronsky to fulfil her passionate nature – with tragic consequences. Levin is a reflection of Tolstoy himself, often expressing the author’s own views and convictions. Throughout, Tolstoy points no moral, merely inviting us not to judge but to watch.

*Note the novel is translated from Russian and each version is claimed to have a different tone/voice.

Check out my previous book review.

Book Review 2: The World Without Us

Pit stop to read on the Coastal Walk

The second book on the roster was The World Without Us by Alan Weisman. This book makes you think. As a non-fiction book with heavy scientific analysis this one wasn’t an easy read either. It basically explains what would happen to the world if humans just vanished.

It really sheds light on just how much damage we are doing to the world. Totally fascinating and freaky. Not to sound hippie-dippie, but our actions have implications for thousands of years after we depart the world and are damaging the earth immensely. It just makes you think: could we do better?

I’ve never read a book quite like this one and I think it opened my mind. Do I think this is one is for everyone? Absolutely not. It was pretty dry and without some internal willpower hard to get through, but if you want a bit of a challenge go for it! I can’t imagine many of my friends picking this one up and enjoying it, but it’s good to broaden your horizons. Let me know if you’ve read this or plan to in the future.

Official synopsis:

The World Without Us

In The World Without Us, Alan Weisman offers an utterly original approach to questions of humanity’s impact on the planet: he asks us to envision our Earth, without us. In this far-reaching narrative, Weisman explains how our massive infrastructure would collapse and finally vanish without human presence; which everyday items may become immortalized as fossils; how copper pipes and wiring would be crushed into mere seams of reddish rock; why some of our earliest buildings might be the last architecture left; and how plastic, bronze sculpture, radio waves, and some man-made molecules may be our most lasting gifts to the universe.

The World Without Us reveals how, just days after humans disappear, floods in New York’s subways would start eroding the city’s foundations, and how, as the world’s cities crumble, asphalt jungles would give way to real ones. It describes the distinct ways that organic and chemically treated farms would revert to wild, how billions more birds would flourish, and how cockroaches in unheated cities would perish without us. Drawing on the expertise of engineers, atmospheric scientists, art conservators, zoologists, oil refiners, marine biologists, astrophysicists, religious leaders from rabbis to the Dali Lama, and paleontologists—who describe a prehuman world inhabited by megafauna like giant sloths that stood taller than mammoths—Weisman illustrates what the planet might be like today, if not for us.

From places already devoid of humans (a last fragment of primeval European forest; the Korean DMZ; Chernobyl), Weisman reveals Earth’s tremendous capacity for self-healing. As he shows which human devastations are indelible, and which examples of our highest art and culture would endure longest, Weisman’s narrative ultimately drives toward a radical but persuasive solution that needn’t depend on our demise. It is narrative nonfiction at its finest, and in posing an irresistible concept with both gravity and a highly readable touch, it looks deeply at our effects on the planet in a way that no other book has.

Check out my first Book Review.

Book Review 1: Lilac Girls

So along with overpacking clothes I also brought four books with me to Australia. Again my thought process was that I could either have them with me or they would be at home collecting dust. I had the room so I packed them in. The first book I read was Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly. 

My mom made fun of me because this wasn’t a light, summery book, but I had purchased it this summer before I went to Europe and didn’t even crack it on that trip. Now I have a year of freedom so why not read what I want? She was right though it wasn’t a light book whatsoever. It follows the course of three women during World War II and it was fascinating. I was captivated by the stories and I couldn’t put it down. I pretty much finished this book straightaway.

I then told my mom that she had to read it and she also loved it so much so that she drove to meet the author in Connecticut one weekend. 

I fully recommend this book if you want to connect to an important time in history from a unique standpoint/point of view(s). 

If you liked The Alice Network by Kate Quinn, you’ll like this one. 

Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly

Official synopsis:

Inspired by the life of a real World War II heroine, this runaway international bestseller reveals the power of unsung women to change history in their quest for love, freedom and second chances.

New York socialite Caroline Ferriday has her hands full with her post at the French consulate and a new love on the horizon. But Caroline’s world is forever changed when Hitler’s army invades Poland in September 1939 – and then sets its sights on France.
An ocean away from Caroline, Kasia Kuzmerick, a Polish teenager, senses her carefree youth disappearing as she is drawn deeper into her role as courier for the underground resistance movement. In a tense atmosphere of watchful eyes and suspecting neighbors, one false move can have dire consequences.
For the ambitious young German doctor, Herta Oberheuser, an ad for a government medical position seems her ticket out of a desolate life. Once hired, though, she finds herself trapped in a male-dominated realm of Nazi secrets and power.
The lives of these three women are set on a collision course when the unthinkable happens and Kasia is sent to Ravensbruck, the notorious Nazi concentration camp for women. Their stories cross continents – from New York to Paris, Germany, and Poland – as Caroline and Kasia strive to bring justice to those whom history has forgotten.
‘This is a part of history—women’s history—that should never be forgotten’ Lisa See, author of China Dolls