A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini

“One could not count the moons that shimmer on her roofs,
Or the thousand splendid suns that hide behind her walls.”


4/5 stars.
ebook, 432 pages.
Read April 7, 2021 to April 13, 2021.

I adored The Kite Runner so I was excited that this novel was picked for one of my book club reads. Hosseini has a magical way with words and characters that can draw in any reader. This novel is also a relevant and timely read with the resurgence of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan.

A Thousand Splendid Suns depict the intertwining of two women in war-torn Afghanistan in the 1990s. After her mother kills herself, Mariam, who is still a teenager, is wed to Rasheed, a conservative man that is old enough to be her father. Every decision, dream, and hope Mariam had for her life is robbed from her and she resigns herself to the same misery her mother endured. Unable to give her husband a child, Rasheed’s affections turn into violence.

Laila came from a family that supported her education and individuality, though Laila’s mother was rarely present as she was never able to come to terms with the death of her brother. Laila’s father, however, was there for her and wanted the best for her. Young and in love with her closest friend, Tariq, the support Laila has from her loved ones isn’t enough to stop the war from finding them. When war comes to her doorstep and her loved ones are wiped out, Laila finds herself alone, pregnant, and unwed. Wanting to protect her unborn child she agrees to become Rasheed’s second wife. The dynamic between the Mariam and Laila is strained to start with but during one of Rasheed’s violent outbursts on Mariam, Laila tries to protect her. Eventually, the two form a bond of friendship that makes their married lives bearable. However, war is still all around them and Laila refuses to live her life by the confines of Rasheed.

Hosseini’s ability to create realistic, dynamic, and believable female characters is extraordinary. He depicts the impact of the Taliban regime on women and the suffering that so many of them endured and are still enduring in a remarkable way. The suffering that Mariam and Laila endure is so visceral moving and moving but the bond of love and sacrifice that they share in the end is intensely endearing. Hosseini’s writing is enthralling and beautifully composed and despite its heart retching content, is a novel that I did not want to put down. I love when I beautifully written book is both a stunning piece of literature but also an intensely important book that reflects and brings attention to real-world issues.

With the current state of affairs in Afghanistan, this book is a must-read for everyone though it may be triggering to anyone who has suffered domestic abuse or war-related PTSD.

Baptism of Fire by Andrzej Sapkowski

“A baptism of fire, the Witcher thought, furiously striking and parrying blows. I was meant to pass through fire for Ciri. And I’m passing through fire in a battle which is of no interest to me at all. Which I don’t understand in any way. The fire that was meant to purify me is just scorching my hair and face.”

4/5 stars.
ebook, 288 pages.
Read from March 15, 2021 to March 22, 2021.

Next to The Last Wish, this has been my favourite Witcher book in the series so far.

Geralt has found himself in quite a predicament. He almost died after the Wizard’s Guild fell and has been separated from Ciri. He is recovering from his injuries in the Brokilon forest, of which he is a rare male exemption amongst the female dryads. While Geralt is nowhere near healed, he must find Ciri as rumours are circulating of her capture and impending marriage to the Emperor. Little does he know that the Ciri in the Niflgaardian court is an imposter. The real Ciri has found the company of thieves and has managed to keep her identity a secret, for now. Despite Geralt’s desperate situation he attempts to maintain his gruff lone wolf mentality by trying to shrug off some very unique companions as well as finding himself involved in a battle he wanted no part in.

The story in this book really revived the series for me and makes me want to replay and rewatch the games and TV show (especially before the second season starts this Christmas). Geralt is a stubborn brute and I love him for it. The character work and Geralt’s internal conflict in questioning who he is a Witcher and what he stands for as well as his interactions with his new, and generally unwanted, companions that stick with him through thick and thin are what make this book one of the best in the series. His new companions are robust and dynamic characters that I fell in love with immediately and the surprise reveal of one of them really caught me and had me loving and appreciating this story even more.

The books, games and TV shows are each such innovative takes on Geralt’s path and the Witcher world. With any other series, I might be annoyed at the discrepancies and inconsistencies with character appearances and the chosen focused storylines, however, with the Witcher I’ve really enjoyed each medium’s differing takes on Geralt’s story, the characters that he meets, and the trouble he finds himself in.

A highly recommended read for fantasy lovers, it’s definitely worth reading the whole series just to get to this book. Here’s hoping the next book continues to impress.

Almost American Girl by Robin Ha

Growing up in the 90s was hard enough but imagine coming of age in a new country that you didn’t want to move to in the first place, with a language you don’t understand…

4/5 stars.
ebook, 228 pages.
Read on January 21, 2021.

Recommended by a friend, this was a comforting read to have amidst another wave of COVID.

Robin Ha was born in Seoul, South Korea as an only child. While her father was briefly in the picture for part of her early childhood, Robin’s mother soon finds herself as a single parent, which, with the conservative views of 1990s Korea, didn’t bode well for either of them. Almost America Girl is a memoir that begins with Robin’s early life in Korea, the difficulties socially and financially that she and her mother faced. Then when Robin’s mother remarries they take a vacation trip to the United States to visit her new extended family, however, this trip abruptly becomes permanent. Robin feels immensely betrayed by her mother with this sudden and intrusive change of home that she had no say in. She is cut off from her former home and is not even able to get to say goodbye to her friends. Barely knowing a word of English, Robin details the struggles and triumphs she experienced as a youth in a new country, with a new language, a new family, and the reflection and rebuilding of relationships and trust that comes with time.

Robin’s artwork is clean, visually appealing, and easy to read while also capturing the moods and feelings of each scene and emotion the author was looking to create. The audacity of the move that Robin had to live with is one that is hard to sit with. While her mother did what she had to for her daughter, I can’t fathom how difficult it must have been to have your whole life turned upside down in that way. One of the redeeming factors of this story is that her mother does enrol her in a drawing class and it is the first place she finds some belonging in her new surroundings which ultimately leads to Robin’s art career and creation of this book. Robin is also able to reflect on the differences between the two cultures she grew up in as she revisits Korea as a young adult.

While Robin’s story of change is not unique in that many people are forced to sometimes make dramatic moves and face similar issues of culture and language, Robin’s story details the difficulties of such an isolating experience for those that have never had to face such an ordeal, and places the reader within her shoes, highlighting why stories like Robin’s need to be told. It also highlights the resilience that it creates in overcoming such challenges.

I would highly recommend this book to teens, anyone struggling with feeling different, or for any graphic novelist enthusiast. Further, I feel that this book would be a perfect read to have within a high school curriculum as it helps to build empathy and understanding for anyone that has ever been perceived as different.