A Thousand Splendid Suns

Dear Crystal,

First of all THANKS FOR NOT RESPONDING IT’S BEEN FOREVER. Firstly, I’m soo sorry for being MIA for so long. School is hard. Mostly bio is hard. 😦
This week I read A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini. I’m going to try to make this week’s review short and sweet and mostly spoiler-free, but we’ll see how far I get with that LOL. The novel is an engaging and beautiful story about two Afghan women in different generations who struggle to find feminism, happiness, and love in the political turmoil from the 1970’s to the early 2000’s. The women, Laila and Mariam, face shocking horrors and hardships and spend their lives looking for a way to escape the oppression. Hosseini’s story is also very enlightening and educational regarding Afghanistan’s troubles during that time. Just an all-around great book.

Often times I’ll get bored by the plot of books like this. Not ONCE did I want to put the book down. A Thousand Splendid Suns is the perfect pace for someone who enjoys a surprising and fresh plot as well as phenomenal writing. I love love love this book (I mean, let’s be real here– any book that can make you sob nonstop for an hour is a good book). I finished the book ten minutes before I had to go to a class so I showed up looking something like this:

 crying cry feels hurt feelings GIF

Anyway, A Thousand Splendid Suns is a touching and devastating novel. It’s like Hosseini sat down intending to create step-by-step the saddest story for the main characters. I will grant it a 9.5 out of 10 because no one is perfect, and there’s always room for improvement. I look forward to reading The Kite Runner soon, a very very very popular book also written by Khaled Hosseini. I can’t wait!!

Love,

Jeannie

The Winner’s Curse

Dear Jeannie,

Okay so I’m going to cut you some slack since it’s midterm week for you but bruh, post already.

Now that the obligatory chiding is out of the way, instead of getting ahead on/doing problem sets and whatnot this week, I read a bunch of YA novels (the others of which I’ll be reviewing in the upcoming weeks). The one I finished most recently is The Winner’s Curse (which I will be abbreviating with TWC because I’m not about typing the same thing over and over) by Marie Rutkoski. (First of all, it’s still so strange that when I read YA now, all these characters are younger than me?? Like smol child, please stop doing these things before you get actual PTSD.)

TWC is mainly about star-crossed lover pair Kestrel and Arin, (Arin starts out as Kestrel’s slave before we find out they are on opposite sides of the political situation–Romeo and Juliet on steroids?). Kestrel, a Valorian, is part of the currently ruling faction, in fact her father is the general of Valoria’s military, while Arin hails from the conquered people, whose houses and land Valoria has seized.

I will say that to its credit, TWC actually reads like a plausible historical fiction novel, if you know, you made Valoria (I hate these stupid made up fantasy names) France during Napoleon’s reign or Genghis Khan’s empire. And there was a surprisingly low level of emotional constipation from the leads once they figured out their own feelings (obviously pre-confession there were still tense moments). But for sure the highlight is Kestrel’s intelligence & deviousness. Unlike many YA novels where the heroine is “like super smart while still kicking sooo much a$$” Kestrel actually has a believable talent for strategizing and scheming. It almost reminds me a lil of good ol’ Artemis Fowl.

While not mind-blowingly awesome, it was a fun read. Would recommend.

Love,

Crystal

A Man Called Ove

ove

Dear Jeannie,

This time I’ll be reviewing A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman. So the biggest tip about reading this book is don’t do it in a public place! I read it on the plane and see below:

sobbing

Literally, tears & snot all over the place. I had to ask for more of those tiny napkins they hand out with the pretzels and every single time the flight attendant looked at me with a pitying shake of her head. In fact I had to take reading breaks so I could get the sobbing under some kind of control.

But don’t feel like you should be giving second thoughts to reading this novel, it’s not at all like the gratuitous tearjerkers of YA fame (I’m looking at you, The Fault in Our Stars). It’s a book that doesn’t try for emotional pretentiousness, it knows what it is and operates within that realm in a believable, realistic manner. It simply recounts the story of an old man who thinks he no longer has anything to live for.

Backman is an incredible writer. He manages to turn what seems not universally #relatable (being a lonely grumpy, uptight old man) and maybe what seems not even interesting into an experience that is heart wrenching and tear-inducing. The reader grows to love Ove by the end of the novel despite the distance between the reader and Ove at first.

10/10 highly recommend.

Love,

Crystal

A River Runs Through It

river

Dear Jeannie,

Hai…so this review is like two weeks overdue…oops? My only excuse is that school has got me shook and I am just trying to survive my never-ending p-sets and exams :))))).

My life right now:

The book I read (actually you know the part that says “and other stories” haha yeah, I didn’t read the other stories, so from now on “entire book”, “book”, “whole book” etc. refers only to the eponymous story) is called “A River Runs Through It” by Norman Maclean. Honestly I don’t even remember why I picked it up but if I had known the entire fricking thing was about fly fishing I definitely would not have done so, which would have been my loss.

Literally. Fishing.

Also to my continued amazement, this book got made into a movie starring Brad Pitt??!? first of all, Brad, why. Was this before Ocean’s 11? Mr. and Mrs. Smith? Were you still figuring out your life? Second of all, how did this book about fly fishing get a movie and Artemis Fowl didn’t??

Alright. I’ll admit he works it as a fisherman.

The titular pseudo-memoir novella (this is some strong creative nonfiction!!!) centers around a narrator (Norman), his brother, Paul, fly fishing/nature/alcohol (so many people are drunk, getting drunk and/or on their way to a drink) and only very occasionally the background cast of characters that is his family.

The late Norman Maclean, who moonlighted(? Moonlit?) as a professor of English Literature at the University of Chicago, is very, very good at writing. This entire book is an exercise in every English teacher’s favorite game of ‘good writers can write interestingly about any subject! Here’s a leaf. You have twenty minutes. Go.’

Maclean turns the (to me at least) incredibly dull subject of fly fishing into merely a canvas on which he majestically paints a story about two brothers, and also a substory of a man and his father. In fact the central character is the definitely-alcoholic-lives-life-too-fast-too-loud-and-too-much Paul (aka Brad Pitt).

Yet even in the loneliness of the canyon I knew there were others like me who had brothers they did not understand but wanted to help. We are probably those referred to as “our brother’s keepers,” possessed of one of the oldest and possibly one of the most futile and certainly one of the most haunting of instincts. It will not let us go.

and

Poets talk about “spots of time,” but it is really fishermen who experience eternity compressed into a moment. No one can tell what a spot of time is until suddenly the whole world is a fish and the fish is gone.

lastly

Eventually, all things merge into one, and a river runs through it. The river was cut by the world’s great flood and runs over rocks from the basement of time. On some of the rocks are timeless raindrops. Under the rocks are the words, and some of the words are theirs.

I am haunted by waters.

By the end, I was half convinced that I ought to try fly fishing in order to access some of that transcendental experience Maclean seems to draw with every cast. But then I realized what makes a transcendental experience is not that particular experience, it’s not the leaf that catalyzes a beautiful poem or essay or creative nonfiction piece, it’s the writer’s inner feelings and thoughts and wishes spilled onto paper like blood.

And so I was content to go back to my completely sedentary lifestyle.

Love,

Crystal