Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Everybody Has Everything

Title: Everybody Has Everything (Amazon)
Author: Katrina Onstad
Genre: Fiction
Published: 2012
Rating: 7/10

Review: I received a copy of this novel as a present and the author is completely new to me, so I started out without any particular expectations. The novel is set in Toronto. Ana and James unexpectedly find themselves in charge of two-year-old Finn when Finn's parents are in an accident. His father dies and his mother is in a coma and their will stipulates that Ana and James would be the guardians for the child. They take on the child and in the process learn a lot about themselves.

Everybody Has Everything is one of those novels where nothing really happens. Half the plot is described in the paragraph above and the rest could be told in four more sentences. This is not action-packed to say the least. But that's not to say it isn't engrossing, because I finished reading the book in pretty much one sitting.

It is one of those narratives that is all about getting into someone's head. And in order to do so, the author is showing the reader their lives, their daily decisions, their reactions, their interactions. I am a bit ambivalent on whether I actually enjoyed getting into the characters' heads. They are both interesting, but at the same time a bit off-putting. All the tiptoeing around each other, all the inner drama, all the indecision were both very realistic and exasperating at the same time.

Onstad did a pretty good job capturing the details, it all felt very natural, but at the same time it made me feel a bit frustrated with the whole thing. The novel wasn't moving anywhere for quite awhile and even in retrospect I don't know why some of the scenes needed to be there at all.

Much of the novel revolves around the decision to have kids or to be judged for not having them. Ana and James are not able to conceive, so they are quite familiar with the latter. However, after taking guardianship of Finn, what's involved in the first decision is quite a shock on their marriage despite the fact that the kid is generally impressively well-behaved in the book. Things fall apart pretty quickly with both parties at fault. There's much in that process that anyone could relate to, but it's a bit agonizing to watch it happening so slowly and obviously.

The ending is actually a bit better than I expected and I was rather satisfied with the wrap-up. The final scene is a bit too literary high-brow for me, but oh well. Altogether, it is an interesting character study, parts of it left me cold and I am not entirely sure this is an author I would pick up again.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Written in My Own Heart's Blood

Title: Written in My Own Heart's Blood (Amazon)
Author: Diana Gabaldon
Series: Outlander, book 8
Genre: Historical Fiction
Published: 2014
Rating: 7/10

Review: I've read the very first Outlander book over 5 years ago. It was not a genre I read much of, but it came highly recommended and I gave it a try and enjoyed it immensely. Each book is quite meaty and it can be a journey to finish one, but it's a pleasant journey with familiar faces at your side.

It took me a fairly long time to finish Written in My Own Heart's Blood -- over a month. It was quite strange, really, because I was reading this novel late into the night when I started it, but then at some point I've put it away and had very little compunction to get back to it. The plot felt more like an ebb and flow of a river than the typical arch of a novel. It would pick up pace in places and then just drift off leisurely. I was shocked when the book ended because I really didn't expect it to just end there (and it's not as obvious on Kindle as with the paper books). Towards the end, I also had to do a double take to check that they've really moved on from one location to the other so quickly.

I enjoyed the return of many familiar faces in the book. I enjoyed the descriptions of the Americas during the revolution and the depiction of George Washington, who actually meets the main characters in person in this novel. There are some good dramatic parts. But altogether, the book just didn't feel very cohesive. It felt very much like a "middle" book of a long series, slowly lumbering somewhere. Some plotlines which were carried over from previous books were tied up, new ones got created, but in the grand scheme of things there really wasn't a standalone theme to the book. I still enjoyed it as a historical piece and good character drama, but I am really hoping there will be a bit more direction to the next one.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Half Way There!

Happy 4th! I just got back from watching some very nice fireworks. While waiting for the fireworks to start, I've been reading Written in My Own Heart's Blood by Diana Gabaldon. I've been waiting for a few years for that book to come out and I am not disappointed. However, I am taking my sweet time getting through the 900-page novel, so it'll probably be a while longer before I post the review.

Half a year is already over, which is hard to believe, time is moving just so fast. I thought we just celebrated Christmas a short while ago. So it's time to take stock of my reading so far. In the past half a year, I finished 19 books and 1 novella. That's pretty much on track for 40 books that I am aiming to read. I also read one non-fiction book, though not a very good one. That leaves me with about 20 more books to read. I am hoping to get to some more non-fiction. And also to some awesome novels I've received for my birthday.

I am quite satisfied with the quality of fiction I've read this year so far. My favorite discovery so far is Love Minus Eighty (Amazon) by Will McIntosh. Some of the best sci-fi I've read in some time. But we are only half-way through the year, so who knows what the next half will bring! Looking forward to some more reading this long weekend.