A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini

The story of women living in politically unstable Afghanistan.


This book. It was emotionally draining. There are a lot of horrid things that Laila and Mariam (wives of the despicable Rasheed) have to endure. And whilst we see them surviving in an unhappy family dynamic, we have Afghanistan as the backdrop. An Afghanistan that sees the rise and fall of various political entities. The lives of Mariam and Laila parallel the stability of Afghanistan. That was a true stroke of genius.

Now, I couldn’t help comparing this book to The Kite Runner. Did this book affect me in the same way? Thankfully, no. Kite Runner destroyed me. For a long time I cried every time I thought of that book. Every time. A Thousand Splendid Suns didn’t hurt me the same way. But that’s not to say it didn’t pull at my heartstrings. Because it most certainly did. Reading about women having their rights and liberties stripped away angered me. To see Laila and Mariam sacrifice and be brutalized over and over again. God, that hurt. That hurt so fucking much. 

At its heart, this book focuses on women. Their friendships. Mother-daughter relationships. Their relation to the world around them. A heartwrenching, beautifully written book. 



2018 POPSUGAR Reading Challenge.

Prompt: a bestseller from the year you graduated high school

[The book was published May 2007 but was a NYT Bestseller in January 2008]

Challenge Update: 49/50

A Book About a Problem Facing Society Today

I tried to narrow this down to one problem. But I couldn’t. I simply couldn’t. Our society has one too many issues. And these books do a good job of sparking a discussion.

RACE RELATIONS
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

What can I say about this book that hasn’t been said before? This is an incredibly powerful book. My top read this year. No doubt about it. The hype is legit with this one.

Starr is an African-American teen from “the ghetto” attending a predominantly white private school. One night, her best friend is murdered by a cop right before her eyes. What ensues, is heartbreakingly real and poignant.

This book is real. Cannot stress that enough. I cried, I laughed, I was angered, I reminisced and I cried again. Look, I grew up in the hood. And I felt this novel perfectly encapsulated that part of my life.

All I know, is that if I were to fall victim to a crime today, my name and reputation would probably be dragged through the mud because I lived in the projects and may therefore have “possible gang affiliations”. Despite the fact that I live in the suburbs, graduated from a decent university and have a steady job. But in today’s America, those details get lost as soon as someone’s skin color is seen.  

My review of The Autobiography of Malcolm X


SEXUAL ASSAULT

Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town by Jon Krakauer


A look at the prevalent number of alleged campus rapes/sexual assaults in Missoula, Montana by college athletes. The book presents interviews with the victims and the accused and their parents, friends, etc. It is an in-depth look at certain cases, some that made headlines. 

Wow wow wow. A myriad of emotions. I listened to the audiobook which was narrated by Mozhan Marno and every morning I was upset. I’ve always been on the “believe the victim” side (I’ve known people who were roofied, sexually assaulted and raped). So to listen to these young women in the book go through what they did in detail. It was a lot. My blood boiled. And it scared the shit out of me. At the end of the day though, it didn’t really surprise me. That’s the heartbreaking part. That I knew justice wouldn’t be served in these cases. In one instance, it actually is. It shocked me and I cheered and cried. Why? This shouldn’t be something out of the norm. But, it is. 

The way the prosecutors and detectives went out of their way to help the accused football players makes me see red. Seriously Kirsten Pabst?! She was in charge of one of the cases but refused to file charges. She then resigned, her boss decided to file charges, so she joined the guy’s defense team! I mean, what kind of bullshit is that?! 

And the trials themselves! Good Lord! You confess to rape and still deserve a lenient sentence because you’re a good person? The fuck?! NO! Raping “your little sister” proves otherwise! “I have suffered enough and have a bright future”. Excuse me?! You’re the one that raped someone and have caused years of emotional damage. Do not play victim when YOU have committed a crime. 

Reason #37293629 why I don’t trust the justice system. I am a woman and if I were the victim of sexual assault I wouldn’t get Oliva Benson or Eliot Stabler. I’d get some asshole that would blame me for falling asleep in a friend’s house in the first place. How dare I expect people to act like decent human beings? Haha, silly me. 



SCHOOL VIOLENCE

Columbine by Dave Cullen

An in-depth look at the school shooting that rocked the United States. This book is written by one of the many journalists that initially covered the massacre. My one pet peeve: the writing format. Bounced back between something that happened pre-massacre to one of the survivors. It seemed a bit unstructured to me.

I remember life before Columbine. After? Big changes. My sister was in high school and my mom worried about her constantly. I went from having regular earthquake/fire drills in school to active shooter/lockdown drills. Although to be completely transparent, my elementary school was in a rough neighborhood and we had drive-by drills. Um, yeah. 

Look, I don’t know what the root of these incidents is. Gun control? Mental health? Bullying? I honestly, have no clue. One of the Columbine killers was a psychopath, the other was severely depressed. So again, I don’t know. I do know that whatever is driving this phenomenon has gone on too long. 

I thought after Sandy Hook some kind of change would occur. Those babies were slaughtered. Yet, nothing happened. Sending your kids to school shouldn’t be a daunting task. 

Here’s a loose list of mass shootings that have happened in the last 20 years. Full disclosure: my alma mater is on the list. (Sort of). IV ❤ 

2018 POPSUGAR Reading Challenge

Prompt: a book about a problem facing society today

Challenge Update: 44/50

Not So Mini Reviews: YA & Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Four YA novels and one feminist essay. I need to get better at writing shorter reviews haha.

Alex, Approximately by Jenn Bennett

Bailey Rydell moves in with her dad in a beachside town in California. She has great plans for the summer. Mainly, she hopes to track down Alex, a guy she has been talking to online and who lives in her new hometown. Her plans don’t go as planned when she meets Porter Roth at work. Porter comes from a legendary surfing family and his cocky attitude makes Bailey loathe him. But all their mutual dislike evaporates and well they fall in love. Duh.

This book was kind of adorable. I loved the setting. A beach town? Yes, please! Completely reminded me of my college days. The shark attack, yeah, that hit a little too close too home. The story itself was super predictable (You’ve Got Mail  vibes). It’s not anything groundbreaking or new. But I was so here for Bailey and Porter. And all of the classic movie references! What can I say, I’m a sucker. *shrugs shoulders*

Oh and one another thing. What Cal Poly is referred to in the book? There are two of them in California ya’ll. I’m assuming SLO because it’s closer to the area in which the story takes place. Honestly, it’s not even important within the plot. But apparently I get really hung up on details. And I just realized that right now. Huh. 

Moving on…

The Names They Gave Us by Emery Lord

I was a little hesitant when it came to this book. The main character, Lucy, is a devoted Christian teen. Not something you typically find in a YA novel. And not something I can relate to. But I loved it. It’s a pretty remarkable story that centers on Lucy questioning her belief system and wondering who she is. 

Simply put, Lucy’s experiencing a crisis of faith due to her mom’s cancer returning. So her mom asks her to spend summer not at their church camp, but at Daybreak, a camp for kids who have had a rough past. Lucy wants to spend every possible minute with her mom but reluctantly becomes a Daybreak counselor. And oh boy. What a beautiful story unfolds.

I am so here for Henry Jones!! What a straight up, wonderful human being. Ah, and Lucy. Sweet naïve Lucy. I’m not sure I bought all of her wide-eyed wonder. It was a little strange how everything went over head. She can’t be that sheltered right?? Oh, and can I just say that break up was so unbelievably amicable! I mean, whoa. Break up goals right there haha.

And that plot twist! I figured parts of it. But not the actual secret. I was way off. It was nice to see how everyone rallied around Lucy though. What I particularly enjoyed was watching Lucy’s faith grow. Yes, she questions. Yet she grows and understands. It was beautiful to read.
A heartwarming novel.

Mosquitoland by David Arnold

Mim, Mary Iris Malone, is a teenage girl living with her father and new stepmother. One day she overhears a conversation from which Mim infers her mother is ill. She quickly decides to leave. She steals money from her stepmom and buys herself a greyhound bus ticket. On the ride, she meets a slew of interesting characters.

You know when you don’t really like someone, every little thing that person does annoys the crap out of you? Even the way they breathe gets to you? Yes? Well that’s how I feel about Mim. 

It all started when she was on the bus. A British couple tries to engage her in conversation. And she is awful. In her internal monologue, she makes fun of the way they look, particularly their teeth. She puts on a fake accent and they catch her in the lie and she has the audacity to be butt-hurt. Little girl. Relax. Sit down and stop being so damn judgmental. 

From that point on it was just more of her judging people. Which I didn’t care for. Her “woe is me” shtick had me rolling my eyes. No YA book has ever made me feel like such an adult haha. 

To be fair, her dad is shitty. His sister was diagnosed with a mental illness and he worries his daughter may have inherited it or something. He puts her in therapy and things are good. Mim has established a good relationship with her therapist. But! Her dad wants her to be medicated. The therapist doesn’t think Mim needs medication. So her dad makes Mim go to a new therapist that instantly prescribes her drugs. Look, I get that parents want the best for their children. But Mim had a healthy relationship with her first therapist. Why would you get in the way of that?? Drugs don’t automatically make your mental illness go away! Ugh!!!

The best part of this read? Phoebe Strole. The narrator of the audiobook. This may be the best read I’ve listened to thus far. She got Mim’s nuances down and made her a bit bearable. 

Mim definitely had her decent human being moments though. I felt for her in some instances. Do I think she changed by the ending of the book? Yeah, I think there was a bit of growth. But I simply couldn’t get over my initial impression of her.

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

Eleanor is the new girl at school and she has a shitty home life. Park is a mixed race guy, who befriends Eleanor on the school bus. 

I was expecting a fluffy YA novel which I guess this book does have a bit of. But it is surprisingly kind of deep. It pulls at your heartstrings. Wow. I think Rowell did a wonderful job of portraying teenage life. And the 80’s setting didn’t hurt. The ending though! Why oh why must books have open endings? 

I listened to the audiobook which is wonderfully narrated by Rebecca Lowman and Sunil Malhotra. I would probably not recommend it though. It’s too confusing. The story is told in third person pov, which makes the narration of the story a bit awkward. If the book were in first person pov, then the audiobook would be perfect. 

All in all, a really good book. Now I can’t wait to read more by Rainbow Rowell! 

We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

A short essay on feminism. I listened to the audiobook, which is narrated by Adichie herself, twice. What particularly struck me were the points where she discussed how children are raised. Because I agree with her.


Parents raise their sons and daughters in a way that is not conducive to equality. My mother raised me with a very old-fashioned mentality; male and female roles were clearly outlined. To stray from those roles was wrong and shameful. Luckily for me, those ideals didn’t stick. I knew from an early age that my mom’s ways were ridiculous. Excuse me mother, but I was not put on this earth to cater to a man’s needs or to conform to a woman’s perceived role within society.
 
Our kids need to be raised better. To be decent human beings. To respect one another despite our differences. We, as parents and adults, need to do better.