#124 – A Thousand Splendid Suns, by Khaled Hosseini
- Read: 9/28/17 – 9/29/17
- Challenge: Mount TBR (112/150); Beat the Backlist (31/40); PopSugar 2017 Reading Challenge
- Task: A book about a difficult topic
- Rating: 5/5 stars
A book about a difficult topic? How about several difficult topics, like bastardy, forced marriage, domestic abuse, war, military occupation, murder, and execution?
I put off reading this for a long time because of the dreaded second-novel syndrome–I adored The Kite Runner and I was afraid Suns would be a disappointment. My fears were groundless. If anything, I loved it more–the story is profoundly feminist in its brutally uncompromising portrayal of what an Afghan woman’s life can look like, both at its best and worst.
Despite all the difficult topics, the book isn’t depressing, but beautifully hopeful, even when what’s happening on the page is graphic and horrifying.
I’m so glad now that I have a copy of Hosseini’s third novel, And the Mountains Echoed, waiting for me on my TBR shelf.
#125 – Paula, by Isabel Allende
- Read: 9/29/17 – 10/3/17
- Challenge: Mount TBR (113/150); PopSugar 2017 Reading Challenge
- Task: A book about an interesting woman
- Rating: 5/5 stars
If this is what her memoir reads like, I can’t wait to get into Allende’s fiction. (I have a copy of Daughter of Fortune, but I haven’t gotten to it yet.)
Despite the inherent tragedy of reading a work dedicated to and written for a dying daughter, Allende’s incredible gift for absurd metaphor and exaggerated melodrama injects a great deal of humor into the narrative. She’s quite up front that she’s going from memory, not history, almost daring readers to take the time to fact-check her–but I would rather enjoy the roller coaster of family anecdotes and political upheaval that describes and defines who Allende had come to be as she sat at her daughter’s bedside and penned this long, deeply moving letter. Love and devotion come across in every word.
#126 – Misfits, by Garrett Leigh
- Read: 10/3/17 – 10/4/17
- Challenge: PopSugar 2017 Reading Challenge
- Task: A book from a genre or subgenre I’ve never heard of
- Rating: 3/5 stars
It isn’t that I wasn’t aware menage romance was a thing–I’ve read and reviewed two already–but they were both MMF, whereas this one was MMM. Not a genre that had hit my radar until a friend on Goodreads rated this book and it came up on my feed. I was intrigued.
The premise laid out is that a long-term, committed couple has an open relationship, where from time to time both partners take other lovers. What’s suddenly different is that one of the hookups becomes more.
I loved how Jake, the hookup character, got excellent development not only as the third-wheel-turned-partner, but also as a person looking for a career. I love how un-rushed the timeline of the story was–too many romances take a week or two from start to Happily Ever After, whereas this one took months. I love how Tom and Jake’s attraction was instant and gratifying, where Jake and Cass took a long time to heat up, becoming friends long before they crossed over into lover territory.
What I didn’t love was the last arc of the story. An out-of-left-field external conflict throws a wrench into things and makes the worst of Cass come out, causing what is supposed to be breakup-level tension…but it felt all wrong to me. There were barely any hints of it coming, just a few passing mentions of Cass’ dark past which meant little without more context or development, then WOMP! his past is front and center…in the last 20% of the story. It was an abrupt tonal shift, and I didn’t like it.
#127 – The Basket Maker’s Wife, by Cait London
- Read: 10/4/17
- Challenge: Mount TBR (114/150); PopSugar 2017 Reading Challenge
- Task: A book with a family-member term in the title
- Rating: 1/5 stars
DNF @ 10% from extreme mental fatigue due to the word “basket(s)” appearing 53 times in the first chapter alone. Yes, I was so frustrated I went back and counted.
Even setting that aside, the writing style was excessively repetitive. The tragic backstory was laid on thicker than a clay face mask, and how often in one day does a person really think about their employer dying? I mean, I know she’s ninety, but is she so incredibly frail you can’t go five minutes without praying she doesn’t drop dead?
#128 – Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress, by Dai Sijie
- Read: 10/4/17 – 10/5/17
- Challenge: Mount TBR (115/150)
- Rating: 3/5 stars
I was completely enchanted by the exploits of the two teenage boys sent into rural China for their “re-education” under Mao’s regime; the narrator’s tone was filled with exuberance and sly humor.
But that was part of this book’s problem for me, as well–for all that dire consequences were mentioned often for every transgression the teens made . . . nothing happened. They stole the forbidden books from Four Eyes, Luo had an illicit affair with the Little Seamstress, and the narrator aided her in obtaining an abortion–and they got away with it.
The specter of prison and torture loses its very real sting if nothing comes of it.
I was also completely bewildered by the sudden jump near the end to three separate POVs–the miller, Luo, then the Seamstress. While each provided a new level of detail about the affair, not one of them told me anything new about the larger plot–it all seemed unnecessary. The transition to the ending, too, is incredibly abrupt, jumping three months forward and telling the highlights in past tense, explaining how both boys were too stupid to realize the Seamstress was going to leave.
So…I really liked the first half, and the second half fell apart for me.