Saturday, July 13, 2013

2 Reviews of Books that Couldn't Be More Different

If you tried to put 2 books together that are completely different, I don't think you could do much better than Kate Atkinson's Life after Life and David Baldacci's The Hit.  The 1st one I'm still trying to figure out, and the 2nd one is a sequel to The Innocent, which I gave a 3.5 (out of 4) last year.  Let's start with Life After Life (this won't take long).  I'll quote you Goodreads' synopsis because I couldn't figure out how to describe the book on my own.

On a cold and snowy night in 1910, Ursula Todd is born, the third child of a wealthy English banker and his wife. Sadly, she dies before she can draw her first breath. On that same cold and snowy night, Ursula Todd is born, lets out a lusty wail, and embarks upon a life that will be, to say the least, unusual. For as she grows, she also dies, repeatedly, in any number of ways. Clearly history (and Kate Atkinson) have plans for her: In Ursula rests nothing less than the fate of civilization.

Does that make sense to you?  Yes?  Well, then, you're a lot smarter than I am.  I read all 529 pages (in hardcover, mind you) and kept trying to figure out when Ursula died and when she reappeared.  I made a note that the book picked up on page 187 and another note that I finally cared about Ursula on page 231.  And then I didn't.  How can you get emotionally connected (I know, I'm at it again) with someone who is alive, then dead, then alive, then dead, ad nauseum.  Except for page 231, I couldn't.  

I gave the book a 2.5 because it is well-written, and because I acknowledge the complexity of the story.  But if I can't get caught up in the main character, then a 2.5 is the best number I can give.  Sorry, Kate.  I enjoyed seeing you at Book Passage, and I do love that British accent.  But if you can't make me care (i.e. cry), then you've, at least partially, lost me.  I own Case Histories and will maybe give that a try - some day.

Baldacci's The Hit picks up where The Innocent left off.  As a little recap, The Innocent centers on a 40-year old hit man for the CIA who develops a conscience.  I liked the main character, Will Robie, and thought he was one of Baldacci's better protagonists.  HOWEVER, what really made the book for me was Julie, the 14-year old spunky cast-off from a foster home that Will ends up on the run with.  She carried the book for me and made me really care what happened to her.

In The Hit, Julie only makes a couple of cameo appearances.  This one is all about Will and another CIA assassin, Jessica, who has gone rogue.  She has apparently killed a couple of CIA bigwigs, and Will is dispatched to dispatch her.  Him chasing her and then catching up to her makes for a very interesting book.  Baldacci has definitely hit on a good character.  But, without Julie, it's just a little bit flat.  It's still a solid 3 out of 4, but I can't give it a 3.5 like I did with The Innocent.  I firmly believe that Baldacci will be able to survive my diminshed rating.

That's it.  Every once in a while, I like to fool you all by reading mainstream, mass market books.  I'll try not to let it become a habit. 


  1. I liked Life After Life more than you did but it did take me a while to figure things out.

  2. Since you rode a big girl's bike at only 5, you're obviously way more advanced than me. But, besides that, there are a ton of people that really liked the book a lot. I know that it resonated with some more than others. I am one of the "others."

  3. I have both Life After Life and Case Histories but haven't read either. Life After Life was sent to me by a friend, but it intimidates me a little! Not sure if I'll be smart enough for it.

  4. You seem pretty darn smart to me. If you do decide to read it, I will be anxious to see your reaction to it. And if you decide to go with Case Histories, I'll rely on your review to determine whether or not I read it.

  5. I put The Innocent, The Hit, and Life After Life into my library audio queue, but alas, they are all a long wait. But I did read Saving Cee Cee Honeycutt and loved it! It had the same feeling as The Help for me, taking place in the same era. Another great recommendation!

  6. I'm glad you liked it. I'm 1-2 books away from Beth's 2nd, and latest, book, Looking for Me. The reviews I've read have been great, but it's hard to imagine that it could be as good as Saving CeeCee Honeycutt. I'll let you know.
    And if you do read Life After Life, I will be anxious to hear your report.