Monday, 21 April 2014

Review: The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

"For you, a thousand times over" - Hassan explaining the number of carelessly placed similes in this book. 

Amir is a man reflecting on his past. This book is essentially him writing a book about writing a book. When he was younger, he and his friend Hassan had many good times together... well, as much as a boy and his servant can have. But it all changes when Hazara-born Hassan becomes The Kite Runner, the boy who the book is named after. In this book we read about how Amir has grown on his journey for redemption and forgiveness. According to Rahim Khan, there is a way to be good again. 

This review is going to contain a few spoilers so don't read it if you want to actually read the book. The following review may seem harsh in the way I have written it, but I was quite angry with the book at the time, and even after calming down my opinion still stands. 

Once again, this westernised version of Afghanistan is on display for every person ignorant to the truth of the violence really happening. I have seen many people review this and say it is the "cartoon version" of Afghanistan, and they are absolutely right. The portrait of the violence was painted so simplistically that I felt as though I was reading a piece of political propaganda. I expected much better and much more accuracy in the portrayal of Afghanistan, but I was left disappointed. 

I got the point of the book. Yes I hate Amir. Yes I feel sorry for Hassan. The clash in social status, the parallelism between the boys and their fathers, and the key themes of regret and redemption. It was nothing I hadn't seen before in terms of analysing the novel, but yet it had less to comment on than any book I studied two years ago. 

It included every devastating plot line known to man and this bored me. I felt as though I knew what was coming next. You could have a list of every unfortunate plot line and tick them off as you went through. Rape, murder, cancer, marriage, infertility, loss of a friend, lack of fathers approval, no female role model, war, loss of a home, migration, fitting into a new country, overbearing father in law, death, journey to self enlightenment... It tried too hard and not enough at the same time. 

And those randomly strewn Farsi words, many without translation. If you can't or won't give a translation to foreign words in books, don't include them. Simple as. I am sorry to inform you that I'm pretty sure 99.9% of those reading the book in English won't be fluent in Farsi. I know right? Shocker. 

I was beginning to think they only ate Naan and kabobs. I was hoping to be culturally educated and I was bitterly disappointed. It's kind of the same for the view of the Taliban we see in this book too. I wanted to learn, but for what people claim as a 'historical novel' it didn't deliver.

"I became what I am today at the age of..." "that was the day everything changed" "Afghanistan was never the same again". Every paragraph seemed to start and end with a dramatic cliché and I really didn't like that. I get it, it's meant to be a tense book. But let the action speak for itself, I don't need to be told everything was going to change. 

I hate writing bad reviews, I really do. I mean, the writing style was fluent. I didn't get bored. It was a good length. I believed the emotions. Hassan was a beautifully written character and the only strongly written one in the whole book, and then Amir got him fired and the book went downhill. It started off so strong, so original, and very raw. But as I read on, it became a stereotypical historical novel. 

I wouldn't have even minded if Amir learned from his mistakes, but he didn't even understand what he did wrong. He was a one dimensional character, he constantly felt bad but kept doing the thing he felt bad about. And he was a kid but was competent enough to know exactly what he was doing. So after a quarter of a century I thought he would get it. It wasn't the fact that he left Hassan to be raped that evening. It was the fact that he was constantly jealous, that green eyed monster creeping in his life, when he clearly had nothing to be jealous about. He didn't find forgiveness or redemption! He just had nothing to be jealous about anymore because by the end of the book everyone he had ever done wrong by or was jealous of were all dead. 

And yeah, the story was predictable. But I admit that I did like it more than some of the books I've read this year. So for this Hosseini can have 3/5 cups of tea. 

Saturday, 19 April 2014

Saturday: Book haul and what you've missed

A while ago I had a lovely day out with Kendal and we ended up in Waterstones for ages... only to come out of Waterstones and walk straight into WHSmiths. I only allowed myself to get a couple of books this time around so I picked two that I had heard of and wanted to read: Eleanor and Park, and The Shock of the Fall.

The first one I picked up was Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell because I had heard such good reviews and I loved the review from John Green on the front cover. As it was so highly recommended, I absolutely had to try it. I have already read it and a review will be going up soon, but you can see Kendal's HERE. We compared notes after reading it and we pretty much had the same thoughts, but you'll see soon anyway.

The second book I picked up, after searching the whole shop for it, was The Shock of the Fall by Nathan Filer. I have heard extremely good things and it has won the Costa Book of the Year in 2013, so I thought I would give it a go. I haven't read it just yet, but the cover looks interesting so once my exams are over that's the first fiction book getting read!  

Now for what you've missed! I got my tumblr back because I thought I was missing out on all of the fandom gossip, and I might be making another one since I felt super guilty for deleting the Stay Strong and Carry On tumblr. I felt like it had to be done at the time, and who knows, I might end up deleting it again, but I've only got a few weeks until my exams are over so I will have loads of time to give advice and write more. 

I've also had an idea for a book, and I'm not going to spoil anything yet because I haven't technically started writing it. This one feels a lot more planned out compared to the others and I'm hoping its not going to be too long in length, so I'm excited to start work on it. More details to come!

As I've said, I'm busy revising for exams right now because I do 5 A-Levels instead of 4 and this includes French, so I've got more than just some English words to learn! Once I've finished my exams, my main goal is to relax more and work harder on the things that make me happy, so expect more posting on the blog.

To anyone who is doing exams too, good luck!

Friday, 11 April 2014

Kendal's Column: Divergent- a movie review.


In Tris' world, you fit into one of five, but what happens when you don't fit the mold?

Rating: Thursday
In Beatrice Prior's dystopian Chicago world, society is divided into five factions, each dedicated to the cultivation of a particular virtue--Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). On an appointed day of every year, all sixteen-year-olds must select the faction to which they will devote the rest of their lives. For Beatrice, the decision is between staying with her family and being who she really is--she can't have both. So she makes a choice that surprises everyone, including herself.
During the highly competitive initiation that follows, Beatrice renames herself Tris and struggles alongside her fellow initiates to live out the choice they have made. Together they must undergo extreme physical tests of endurance and intense psychological simulations, some with devastating consequences. As initiation transforms them all, Tris must determine who her friends really are--and where, exactly, a romance with a sometimes fascinating, sometimes exasperating boy fits into the life she's chosen. But Tris also has a secret, one she's kept hidden from everyone because she's been warned it can mean death. And as she discovers unrest and growing conflict that threaten to unravel her seemingly perfect society, Tris also learns that her secret might help her save the ones she loves . . . or it might destroy her.

A week ago today, Divergent officially hit cinemas worldwide. I went to see it opening night and again on the 5th (because i have so many friends *hair flip*-I joke of course). I think this was actually good for me because the first time i got to be 100% 'ohmergawd i have been waiting for this since i read the book' excited and just watch it and the second time round i was able to be more judgemental about the films content and how faithful the adaptation was to the book.

Divergent is one of my favorite dystopian novels rivalling the hunger games. They both have ratings of 4.4 (rounded. Divergent 4.36, The Hunger Games 4.44) on Goodreads which is a achievement in itself and, currently, tris is beating katniss in the hashtag vote for the MTV movie awards (side note: Mockingjay Part 1 Teaser is expected during the ceremony) so it's fair to say that i went into my first showing wanting it to be really fabulous and really faithful to the book and it really was- srsly guys, 11/10.

The first shot is of dystopian Chicago and it looks beautiful in a eerie kind of way and the film starts with Tris voicing over how society came to split into the five factions.
I think that they did a really good job of giving the context of the novel and explaining WHY people thought the faction system was the answer because it also provided a way of introducing Tris.
The first few scenes of the movie are really faithful to the novel and they even had the first scene from the book as the actual scene.
I feel the presentation of the factions was brilliant AND LET US TALK ABOUT DAUNTLESS. 
For those who haven't read the book, dauntless is the badass faction who stand for bravery and they take every opportunity to show just how brave they they don't just get on a train, they JUMP on and off.
Tris is waiting to go in for her test (to tell her which faction the system thinks she should be in) and dauntless show up, jumping off trains and such, and their music starts pumping (which is basically drums) and all i want to do is start running with Dauntless and go jump on trains and punch stuff- YEAH DAUNTLESS
...and this feeling carried on throughout the WHOLE film.
I kid you not, I got out and turned to my friend and said 'Hey, do you wanna go for a run? i feel like running, lets run' (sidenote: this was at 11 at night).
Anyone who has read the book KNOWS that the story is the most high-octane-roller-coaster-adrenaline-rush ever and the film is almost too faithful to that.

From the trailer(s) i was actually kind of worried that Shailene Woodley wasn't the right choice for Tris because Shailene seemed too...nice(?) but, then again, they don't call it 'acting' for nothing and Shailene, without a shadow of a doubt, proved that she was the best choice for Tris.
Moreover, Theo James' accent was covered nicely in the films whereas in the trailers his accent seemed to waver between british and american and he delivered flawless Four.

However, there is one plot point in the book that the film misses out completely which I didn't actually notice until my second time seeing it (I put this down to having read the first book over a year and a half ago) but the plot still worked and, what they missed out, I can forgive.

Overall, I feel that the movie adaptation of one of my favorite dystopian books was amazing. I feel like it rivals catching fire in faithfulness to the plot and would gladly watch it again.

Happy Friday!

Friday, 4 April 2014

Kendal's Column: New Books On The Shelf (March 2014)

Another month has rolled around and in times of pre-exam-mental-breakdown i find myself, once again, looking for books.

The Eye of Minds (The Mortality Doctrine, #1)
The Eye of Minds- James Dashner
Status: To Read
Michael is a gamer. And like most gamers, he almost spends more time on the VirtNet than in the actual world. The VirtNet offers total mind and body immersion, and it’s addictive. Thanks to technology, anyone with enough money can experience fantasy worlds, risk their life without the chance of death, or just hang around with Virt-friends. And the more hacking skills you have, the more fun. Why bother following the rules when most of them are dumb, anyway?
But some rules were made for a reason. Some technology is too dangerous to fool with. And recent reports claim that one gamer is going beyond what any gamer has done before: he’s holding players hostage inside the VirtNet. The effects are horrific—the hostages have all been declared brain-dead. Yet the gamer’s motives are a mystery.
The government knows that to catch a hacker, you need a hacker.
And they’ve been watching Michael. They want him on their team.
But the risk is enormous. If he accepts their challenge, Michael will need to go off the VirtNet grid. There are back alleys and corners in the system human eyes have never seen and predators he can't even fathom—and there’s the possibility that the line between game and reality will be blurred forever.

Fangirl- Rainbow Rowell
FangirlStatus: To Read
Cath is a Simon Snow fan.
Okay, the whole world is a Simon Snow fan . . .
But for Cath, being a fan is her life — and she’s really good at it. She and her twin sister, Wren, ensconced themselves in the Simon Snow series when they were just kids; it’s what got them through their mother leaving.
Reading. Rereading. Hanging out in Simon Snow forums, writing Simon Snow fan fiction, dressing up like the characters for every movie premiere.
Cath’s sister has mostly grown away from fandom, but Cath can't let go. She doesn't want to.
Now that they're going to college, Wren has told Cath she doesn't want to be roommates. Cath is on her own, completely outside of her comfort zone. She’s got a surly roommate with a charming, always-around boyfriend, a fiction-writing professor who thinks fan fiction is the end of the civilized world, a handsome classmate who only wants to talk about words . . . And she can’t stop worrying about her dad, who’s loving and fragile and has never really been alone.
For Cath, the question is: Can she do this?
Can she make it without Wren holding her hand? Is she ready to start living her own life? Writing her own stories?
And does she even want to move on if it means leaving Simon Snow behind?
I read Eleanor & Park around a month ago and LOVED IT so i figured i'd give fangirl a whirl considering i've heard nothing but great things about it.

Half Bad (Half Life, #1)Half Bad -Sally Green
Status: To Read
You can't read, can't write, but you heal fast, even for a witch.
You get sick if you stay indoors after dark.
You hate White Witches but love Annalise, who is one.
You've been kept in a cage since you were fourteen.
All you've got to do is escape and find Mercury, the Black Witch who eats boys. And do that before your seventeenth birthday.
I will openly admit that i bought this book based on the fact that it is
B-E-AUtiful. My edition is a shiny silver with red moons printed on the edge of the pages AND IT'S SIGNED.

(Note: I only just realised, as i was looking for the cover picture, that the blood diffusion looks like a face on the right hand side- 11/10 book design)

Happy Friday!