Book Review: The Kite Runner

This is the very first book I’ve read from my very first book challenge and I think it's a pretty good start to the world of challenges.

The Kite Runner tells the story of Amir, a child of an affluent business man and Hassan, a servant of the family and their life-long friendship set in a changing Afghanistan. The book details their lives, their love and loyalty, deceit and ultimate redemption.

The subject matter for this challenge (Expanding Horizons, link to the right) was daunting, which is why I chose it. I want to expand my knowledge of places completely foreign from my own. What better way to do this than to immerse yourself in a good yarn? However, would I fully grasp tales from different lands, about different cultures? To Hosseini’s credit, The Kite Runner’s foreign terms, concepts and customs were very well-defined and assessable. The historical content was set as a back drop to the compelling human drama, allowing me to fully grasp the details of the country’s political upheaval enhancing what I’d learned about Afghanistan while watching the news over the years.

I have a few complaints that have been shared with the book’s detractors. Some of the plot seemed to be a little contrived, making it feel a slightly like a soap opera at times. But, honestly, as I looked at some of the ironic and heartbreaking nightmares of my own life, I guess Kite’s turns could be possible, so I was able to push that minor quibble aside. Also, the main characters, especially Hassan, are portrayed in morally black and white terms, which isn’t always realistic, but again, the story was well-written enough to overlook this as well.

In the end I found myself drawn to the characters and their stories. My heart ached and I cared about their outcomes. I also learned more about a culture that was previously mysterious to me and my horizon was expanded by this great book.

3.5 out of 5 Iggystars.

Next book….I Am Legend by Richard Matheson

Book Review: Alek

This is the cover that launched model, Alek Wek, into the supermodel stratosphere and the book, Alek, tells the story of her amazing rise from a Sudanese refugee to the fashion runways of Paris.

Alek was a quick and enjoyable read. This is not a insider's view of the fashion biz, as a matter of fact, that aspect is not given much attention at all. The main focus is on Alek's childhood, her family and their struggles in the war-torn city of Wau. Alek's young life was filled with uncertainty, as their family had to move from their home and try to survive while civil war raged in their country.

The things that really impressed me about Alex the person, is how down-to-earth and unaffected she is. She is strongly grounded by the traditions and love shown by her amazing parents who taught her to be appreciative of life and to work hard. Another really amazing fact is that Alek suffered from a horrible case of psoriasis as a child, one that caused her to have flaky lizard-like skin. This is particularly hard to imagine as her dark, rich, smooth and very beautiful skin is one of her trademarks (I would love to have such a perfect complexion). Due to this disease, Alek was often ostracized, but on the other hand, this shaped her view of beauty in general. She mentions that she thinks it very ironic that she makes money off of her looks, as she was considered ugly as a's the same Alek on the inside, nothing has changed.

Indeed, as she made it through the ranks of the fashion industry it is clear that this career, one she fell into by chance, is a way for her to be a voice for her native country, Sudan. She hasn't got, "the big head" from being a model, but approaches modeling as she would any other job, to her it's very much like any other job. She's just a hard worker, again, learned from her parents.

In the end I found this book to be eye-opening more about Alek, not as much about modeling and that's fine. After I finished I immediately went on the 'net to look at some of her pictures and she was more beautiful than I'd ever thought, all because I'd learned a bit about the inner beauty of this fashion model.