The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini

For the past few years I have been meaning to read The Kite Runner. I am not sure why I didn't get around to it until now, but I am glad that I finally did. I wondered if it was going to be one of those books that is so popular that I would be disappointed in it. I've read other immensely popular books like The DaVinci Code and found that I didn't really understand what all the hype was about. For about two thirds of The Kite Runner I was feeling that way. Then, something happened.

It's not that the first two-thirds of the book weren't enjoyable to read. I was just thinking to myself through it that it was enjoyable, but not fantastic. However, when Amir gets the call to go see an old friend in Pakistan, the book took a turn that made it difficult to read the rest of the book. Why was it difficult? I ended up either on the verge of tears or in tears for the remainder of the book. There are few authors that can bring about enough emotion in me that I feel every inner pain, struggle, and hurt of the characters. Hosseini did that for me. I felt all the anguish that Amir felt through the years after his betrayal of his best friend, Hassan. I felt the redemption in Amir when he finally confronted his past in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and I felt that hurt and fear that Hassan's son, Sohrab experienced in his homeland. The characters felt real. There was never a time that I felt like I was just reading a novel.

For me, this kind of writing is rare. Khaled Hosseini is such a gifted writer. Not only do you love the story that he's writing, but you end up becoming more aware of the history and plight of Afghanistan. This novel is definitely on my top ten novels of all time list now. I am sure in the future I will re-read it which is not a common thing for me. If you read The Kite Runner, expect to be pulled emotionally in many different directions and just let yourself go along for the ride.

Endymion - Dan Simmons

It's been a few weeks since I last posted! I don't know whether I got a little burned out on reading, or if life just kind of got away from me the last two weeks. It did take me a full two weeks to finish Endymion by Dan Simmons, but it was worth the wait!

The book is about Raul Endymion--a man in his late 20s who is chosen by the poet Martin Silenus to find and rescue Brawne Lamia's daughter Aenea from the Pax government. The book has a lot of religious politics in it which I found really interesting. However, it was a little bit slower read through a lot of the book because of it. The story is a continuation of the Hyperion Cantos. I was a little surprised that there was another book after The Fall of Hyperion because all my questions were answered at the end of it. Dan Simmons weaves another great story out of all the elements from the first two books. The Technocore, cruciforms, and farcasters all play an important role in this book. I like how masterful Dan Simmons is at telling the story. There were times that I got so lost in the scenes that I could actually feel when he was describing how cold it was or how the gravity affected their bodies.

The android from the first book, A. Bettik, was also a prominent character in this third book. I really enjoyed reading about him even though he was such a minor character in the first book. He was no more than a passing mention really, but he is such a likeable character and has his own unique story that I'm glad Simmons made him a major part of this story.

Like Hyperion, Endymion ends in the middle. In other words, there is no resolution so I feel like I need to read the last book of the series pretty soon. So be warned, if you pick up the series, it's probably best to pick up all four books at the same time, or pick up the first two books at least (the last two happen ~270 years later so it's not necessary to read them all at once). This series is definitely on my top 10 books of all time so far. I have really enjoyed the series and think the quality of writing is superb.

Bloodsucking Fiends (A Love Story) - Christopher Moore

OK...I admit it. Earlier this year I read the Twilight series by Stephanie Meyer and kind of got addicted to vampires. Since reading Twilight, I've read some Charlaine Harris books (which I've written about on this blog) and now I delved into vampiric comedy. Bloodsucking Fiends by Christopher Moore looks at the more comedic side of both humans and vampires while still remaining just a bit dark.

Honestly, I thought the book was just so-so. I think my problem is that I don't enjoy comedic writing very much (the only series that I laughed through was The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy). I read a Bill Bryson book a few years ago and really didn't like it. I chuckled a few times while reading Bloodsucking Fiends and enjoyed the story to a certain extent, but I didn't bust a gut laughing while reading it. Maybe I have no sense of humor!

The story is about a guy named Tommy who moves to San Francisco from Indiana to become a writer. There he meets Jody who has recently been turned into a vampire by an unknown assailant. The two become a couple and go through all those things that couples go through--testing to see if your mate can turn to mist and a bat, trying to avoid becoming a regular meal for your mate, and so on. While all this is happening, dead bodies seem to follow the two and they begin to suspect that Jody's vampire assailant is the one leaving them. Of course the police get involved and the two have to figure out how to keep Tommy from going to jail or worse, end up dead.

The book is a fun, light read that you can finish quickly. I enjoyed it enough to read the sequel, You Suck. If you are looking for something quick and humorous, you might check it out at the library. It's not a waste of time and is light reading before bedtime--and it's not scary at all!

The Fall of Hyperion - Dan Simmons

My book club is meeting at the end of October to discuss Hyperion by Dan Simmons. The book ended on such a cliffhanger that I wanted to read the next one in the series before we met. The Fall of Hyperion answered so many questions that I had from the first book and was just as masterfully written as the first.

I think I mentioned that I saw a man perusing the Science Fiction section of Barnes and Noble so I went ahead and asked him what authors he recommended. Dan Simmons (and his Hyperion Cantos) was one of the first people he mentioned. I went through Simmons' books and decided that even though the cover of the book was really strange, I'd go ahead and give it a try. I am so glad I did. Both Hyperion and The Fall of Hyperion are probably the best science fiction I have ever read (not that I'm that well-versed in science fiction). If there are any John Keats fans out there, then you'll probably know that Simmons based some of his characters on Keats and his poems (i.e., The Fall of Hyperion, Endymion, and Lamia come to mind). I loved that he melded in classic British poetry into the books.

I don't remember exactly how the first book ends. I think it ended with the pilgrims walking toward the Time Tombs to confront the Shrike. I was so disappointed with the end! It was one of those moments where you feel like someone stole some pages from your book! I should have picked up The Fall of Hyperion right away, but of course I didn't. I felt a little lost through part of the book because I had read so many books in between. Eventually though, it all came back to me and I really got addicted. There are so many answers in this book. The fate of all the pilgrims is resolved as well as some lingering questions about the World Web and the Techno Core.

I highly recommend both books. I was so satisfied with the ending of The Fall of Hyperion that I immediately started reading the next book in the series, Endymion. If science fiction isn't something you normally read and you want to try it, this book will be sure to challenge you and suck you in. I am secretly hoping that the cliffhanger ending will encourage my book club members to pick up this book and read it as well. It's just as good as the first and has a very satisfying conclusion.

Prince Caspian (The Chronicles of Narnia) - C.S. Lewis

I started reading The Chronicles of Narnia two years ago by starting off with The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. I will not lie. It took me a year to finish it. I think I started reading this series 20 years later than I should have. I decided to give the Chronicles another go and read the second book, Prince Caspian this last week. While I liked the story better, I still found the story and the writing to be too childish for me.

Don't get me wrong. The book is full of high adventure as Peter, Edmund, Susan, and Lucy return to Narnia to help Prince Caspian take his rightful place on the throne of Narnia. I enjoyed parts of it as they made their way to find the Prince and help him in his fight against his evil uncle, King Miraz. There was just something missing in them for me. Clearly the series is written for children, and I can't change the fact that I am almost 32 years old. If I had children to read it to I might have enjoyed it infinitely more.

Because it's a classic, I'm determined to finish the series. I decided to read them in the order that they were published instead of chronological order. I hope that wasn't a mistake. Anyone have any thoughts on this?

Straken (High Druid of Shanarra: Book 3) - Terry Brooks

Since I had such a large amount of time between the first and second books of the High Druid of Shanarra series, I decided that I'd pick up Straken as quickly as I could and finish out the trilogy. I know some people aren't fond of the way that Terry Brooks took the Shanarra series--the airships and technology that didn't exist in the first books are really prevalent in the last two trilogies he has written--but I rather enjoy it. It takes the series a whole new direction with more depth and exciting adventures.

The last installment of the series wrapped up a few different storylines. Grianne Ohmsford (the Ard Rhys of Paranor) is still stuck in the Forbidding, Pen has been captured by the Druids and taken back to Paranor, the demon changeling that has been released from the Forbidding is trying to wreak havoc in the Four Lands, Pen's parents have also been captured by the Druids, and a war is being fought on the Prekkendoran plains. It is safe to say that I knew this book would be exciting from beginning to end. I stayed up really late last night because I hit the truly exciting part in the book and couldn't put it down. How could I put down the book when a battle was being fought for the future of the Four Lands?!!

There was something a little more dramatic about this book than some of the other ones I've read. Some of the characters I really grew to like, but knew that they were conflicted. I was disappointed but relieved with some of the outcomes to these characters (like Weka Dart and Grianne Ohmsford). Brooks wrote them in a way that I knew what needed to happen, but wasn't sure exactly what would happen to them until the end. I like how noble many of his characters are and find myself wishing more people were like that outside of a work of fiction. I think the world would be a better place!

Overall, I thought the book was a really fun read that I couldn't put down. I was satisfied with the end of series and can't wait to read more of Terry Brooks' works. If you like stories with adventure, danger, magic, and friendship, look no further than Terry Brooks.

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