The Sunday Salon: 13th December 2009

It’s been a busy week for me and I have only posted one review this week – The Rendezvous and Other Stories by Daphne du Maurier. I’m now reading (re-reading, really) A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens as part of a group read at Goodreads and also as part of the Christmas Reading Challenge. I used to read it every Christmas when I was younger but haven’t read it for a few years now, so I’d forgotten some of the details of the story and am enjoying my re-read! Also, as mentioned in my previous post, I received my first book from LibraryThing Early Reviewers yesterday – A Warrior’s Life: A Biography of Paulo Coelho by Fernando Morais. From the synopsis it sounds like Paulo Coelho has had quite an eventful life!

Something else I’ve been working on this week (and will need to continue working on for a while longer) is a profile of M.M. Kaye’s The Far Pavilions for the Book Drum website. Book Drum is a new site that aims to provide pictures, videos and information to help enhance our understanding and enjoyment of hundreds of fiction and non-fiction books. They are currently holding a tournament with prizes for the best book profiles – the closing date is 31 January 2010, so there’s still time to enter.

I had a nice surprise on Friday when Kath from [Insert suitably snappy title here…] named me one of her five best blogs. I feel very honoured as I’ve only been blogging since October! To continue the chain of love (as requested by Kath) I’ve listed below five that I always enjoy visiting, though still being relatively new to the book blogging community I’m discovering great blogs almost every day – I’ll highlight some more in my next Sunday Salon post.

Laura’s Reviews
What Book Is That?
Mindful Musings
A Bookshelf Monstrosity

Enjoy your Sunday!

Chunkster Reading Challenge 2010

This challenge is hosted by Wendy and runs from February 1, 2010 – January 21, 2011.

A chunkster is 450 pages or more of ADULT literature (fiction or nonfiction) … A chunkster should be a challenge.

To find out more about the challenge and to sign up, please visit the challenge blog.

This challenge is perfect for me as I read a lot of very long books! I’m joining at the “Mor-book-ly Obese” level (6 or more chunksters or 3 books with 750+ pages).

Books read for this challenge (updated 27 March 2010)

1. The Far Pavilions by M.M. Kaye – 960 pages
2. Drood by Dan Simmons – 775 pages
3. In a Far Country by Linda Holeman – 640 pages

Review: The Rendezvous and Other Stories by Daphne du Maurier

The Rendezvous and Other Stories is a collection of short stories written by Daphne du Maurier. Some of them are among the earliest examples of her writing and most of them, as you would expect if you’ve ever read any of du Maurier’s work before, are slightly disturbing and unsettling. She takes some quite ordinary situations and ordinary, flawed people, and adds undertones of suspense and drama.

Many of the stories are just 10-20 pages long – perfect if you don’t have a lot of time, although in most cases I would have preferred them to be longer and more developed. My favourite story from the collection was No Motive, in which a private detective investigates an apparently motiveless suicide. I felt it could easily have been expanded into a full length detective novel, though it worked well as a short story too. The other one that really stood out for me was Split Second, in which a woman goes out for a walk one afternoon and returns home to find strangers living in her house. This story had a touch of the supernatural about it, as did Escort, which describes a ship leaving port during World War II and being rescued from a submarine attack by a mysterious sailing ship.

I liked the three stories I’ve just mentioned, as well as The Closing Door and La Sainte-Vierge, but there were too many of the others that I just didn’t enjoy very much. However, it was still interesting to read them and see how good Daphne du Maurier’s writing was even in the early stages of her career.

Genre: Fiction – Short Stories/Pages: 288/Publisher: Virago/Year: 2005/Source: Library book

Review: The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

The Kite Runner is the story of two boys growing up together in Afghanistan. Amir is the son of a rich businessman, whereas Hassan is the son of their Hazara servant (an ethnic minority and considered to be lower on the social scale). Amir has always felt that his father is disappointed in him and he desperately wants to please him by winning the local kite fighting tournament (a sport where competitors fly kites with strings coated in cut glass and attempt to cut down their rivals’ kites in order to have the last kite still flying). Hassan is the ‘kite runner’ of the book’s title. When Amir wins the tournament, Hassan chases the fallen kite so Amir can present it to his father. When Hassan is ambushed by a gang of bullies he refuses to give them the kite, knowing how much it means to his friend, and as a consequence is assaulted by the gang leader. Amir witnesses this but is too afraid to intervene.

Several years later during the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, Amir and his father flee to America to start a new life – but Amir is unable to escape from the shame and guilt that have haunted him ever since the day of the kite fighting tournament when he stood by and watched Hassan being raped.

There were times when I almost forgot this was fiction, as the book had the feel of an autobiography, particularly in the early chapters which were quite vivid and realistic. Amir, as the narrator of the book, is not a very likeable character. As a child he is weak and cowardly and betrays a loyal friend who would do anything for him. As an adult I still found him difficult to like, though I could sympathise with him and wanted to see him redeem himself.

One of the things I liked about this book was learning more about Afghanistan from the point of view of a child growing up in a wealthy district of Kabul. Amir and his father had a comfortable, privileged lifestyle and the Kabul described in the early chapters of the book is certainly not the way we picture Kabul today. The Kite Runner shows how everything changed with the Soviet invasion and then the Taliban regime – and changed so much that Amir, returning to Afghanistan later in the book, remarked that he felt like a tourist in his own country. One horrifying scene describes the Taliban stoning two people to death in front of a crowded stadium during a soccer match.

The writing style used throughout this book is very simplistic with lots of short or incomplete sentences. Although it didn’t spoil the story for me, I did find it distracting. Another problem I had was that halfway through the book the plot became too predictable and I could guess how the story was going to end. Despite those few negative points, The Kite Runner is an emotional, thought-provoking story with some heartbreaking scenes and some horrific ones. Although I have read some very mixed reviews of this book (people seem to either love it or hate it) in my opinion it’s definitely well worth reading.


Genre: General Fiction/Pages: 324/Publisher: Bloomsbury/Year: 2004/Source: Library book

Booking Through Thursday: But What About Me?

Here’s this week’s question from Booking Through Thursday.

What’s your favorite part of Booking Through Thursday? Why do you participate (or not)?

Booking Through Thursday was the first weekly meme I discovered when I first started my blog in October and I have tried to participate as often as possible. The questions are always thought-provoking and make me think about the books I’m reading and my reading habits etc. It also gives me something interesting to write about on a Thursday!

I enjoy reading other people’s answers, even if I don’t have time to comment on them all. It’s a good way to find great blogs that I might not have found otherwise.

What’s in a Name? 3 Challenge

I signed up for another challenge today. I’m trying not to sign up for too many as 2010 will be my first full year of challenges, but this one sounded fun!This challenge is hosted by Beth and is called What’s In A Name? 3. Here are the rules as posted on the challenge blog.

Between January 1 and December 31, 2010, read one book in each of the following categories:

  1. A book with a food in the title: Clockwork Orange, Grapes of Wrath, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
  2. A book with a body of water in the title: A River Runs through It, Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters, The Lake House
  3. A book with a title (queen, president) in the title: The Murder of King Tut, The Count of Monte Cristo, Lady Susan
  4. A book with a plant in the title: A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Wind in the Willows, The Name of the Rose
  5. A book with a place name (city, country) in the title: Out of Africa; London; Between, Georgia
  6. A book with a music term in the title: Song of Solomon, Ragtime, The Piano Teacher

The book titles are just suggestions, you can read whatever book you want to fit the category.

Other Things to Know

  • Books may be any form (audio, print, e-book).
  • Books may overlap other challenges.
  • Books may not overlap categories; you need a different book for each category.
  • Creativity for matching the categories is allowed.
  • You do not have to make a list of books before hand.
  • You do not have to read through the categories in any particular order.
  • There will be a single prize at the end of the challenge. Readers who complete the challenge and write up a wrap-up post (or wrap-up comment) are eligible. I’ll figure out a way to make it international.

Books read for this challenge (updated January 9 2010)

1. [Book with a Title in the title] The White Queen by Philippa Gregory