The Kite Runner

by Khaled Hosseini

Wow. This book would be noteworthy enough simply for its eye-opening glimpse of Afghan life and history. But it also delivers with a good story:a tale of despair, betrayal, and hope that is fueled by the internal conflicts of its main character, Amir.

The story follows Amir’s life, from his early days as the privileged son of a Kabul businessman, through the political unrest of the late 70s and 80s that eventually leads his family to leave Afghanistan and settle in the US. Though he enjoys his new life in the States, Amir’s past haunts him–especially a tragic event involving his childhood friend and servant, Hassan. He’s given an opportunity to redeem the past by returning to Afghanistan and readers travel along for an unforgettable journey into the Taliban-ruled country.

Its easy to imagine that Afghanistan has always been the conflicted and war-torn country that we hear about on the news today. And much of that darkness and brutality has been inked into the pages of this book. But The Kite Runner reminds us that this country has a gentler side to its history as well–and even holds out some hope for this nation of political turmoil. If you want a book that’s timely, educational, and entertaining, sit down with a copy of The Kite Runner. It’s a journey you’ll not soon forget.

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Corduroy

by Don Freeman, illustrations by Lisa McCue

I loved reading Corduroy books when I was young, so naturally, I was drawn to this board book depicting the friendly little bear with charming illustrations. It’s a large, shaped board book, which sets it apart from all the standard-sized books we own, and my son seems to enjoy looking at the pictures every time we pull it out together.

Though the pictures are nicely done, the text is pretty generic, using brief sentences to describe Corduroy’s actions throughout the day. (“Corduroy reads his favorite books.” “Corduroy is mailing a letter.”) But since the illustrations satisfy my sentimental attachment to this overalls-clad bear, I can forgive the lackluster story. All in all, it’s a nice book to introduce Corduroy to a small child.

One special note about this book: We also own Corduroy’s Day, a counting book about Corduroy. However, many of the illustrations in the Corduroy board book are exact copies of those in Corduroy’s Day. So if you already own Corduroy’s Day, you may want to avoid this board book and get a different one from the Corduroy series instead. (There seem to be a vast array of Corduroy board books on the market.)

Happily Ever After

by Susan May Warren

In Happily Ever After, Warren weaves a love story between two people who are living with the weight of the past on their shoulders. As the book opens, Mona moves to Deep Haven, Minnesota to pursue her dream of opening a bookstore/coffeeshop, but she’s plagued by doubts that God will allow her dreams to come true. Enter Joe Michaels: A drifter who’s just returned to Deep Haven so he can check in on his brother Gabe, a young man living in a group home for those with Down’s syndrome. Joe takes a job as Mona’s handyman, and a romance soon follows.

Without giving any major plot elements away, I’ll just say that this romance follows the familiar formula: Boy and girl meet, attraction develops, obstacles arise to thwart the budding romance, and are eventually overcome. In this case, Joe and Mona both have unresolved pain from the past that needs to be dealt with: They need to learn some lessons about forgiveness in order to move forward with each other.

Warren developed somewhat interesting characters, but the plot dragged along and was bogged down with too much metaphorical and descriptive language about the Minnesota scenery. Unfortunately, this book also fell into some lengthy passages of “preachiness,” barely disguised as dialogue between characters. In a sense, I felt that Warren didn’t trust her own story enough: I think she could have left out a lot of the direct conversation about forgiveness and just let Joe and Mona’s story do the talking.

All in all, Happily Ever After had a cute story with interesting characters, but it fell a little flat on delivery. I’d say if you want to read a good Christian romance, you’ll probably want to try something else.