Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

outlander

Click to visit Diana Gabaldon’s website.

Wow, it took me two months to read Outlander! Even though I loved the story, I needed to take frequent breaks from the book; possibly because it’s over 800 pages long. But even when I wasn’t reading the book, I would think of it fondly, referring to it in my head as “Claire and Jamie”. I would say to myself, “I wonder what Claire and Jamie are doing today?” because I felt that close to the story.

* CONTAINS SPOILERS

THE STORY
Reunited at the end of World War II, Claire Randall and her husband, Frank, visit Scotland for a second honeymoon and so Frank can research his ancestor, Black Jack Randall. After secretly witnessing a pagan ritual at Craigh na Dun, Claire returns to collect a plant only to faint upon hearing a strange noise emanating from the stones. When she opens her eyes, she finds herself in the middle of a fight between English red coats and a group of fugitive Scotsmen. One of the Scotsmen rescues her from the clutches of Frank’s ancestor, Captain Jack Randall, whom she instantly recognizes. Claire pays back the favour by treating Jamie Fraser, a young Scot who has dislocated his arm. The clansmen think Claire is an English spy and take her to Castle Leoch, their home ruled by laird Colum MacKenzie. At the castle, Claire is plunged into the politics of castle life, but finds a role as a healer. While she is still treating his injuries, Claire and Jamie develop a friendship and he educates her on the history of the clan. Still considered suspicious by both the MacKenzies and Jack Randall, and under constant threat of danger, Claire reluctantly marries Jamie in order to become a legal Scotswoman and alleviate some of the mistrust. Once married, Claire and Jamie discover an unexpected, but delirious passion and love for each other that could possibly be one of the sexiest literary romances EVER.

THE GOOD
Outlander is an exhilarating adventure right from the start. I became completely absorbed by how Claire adapted to her new life in 18th century Scotland. Diana Gabaldon is a former academic and at the event I saw her at in June, she explained how heavily she conducted research before and during the writing process. As a result, the story is so rich with details, you can’t help being carried away to the highlands with Claire. Outlander has everything I would have thought I would want in a good book: adventure, politics, history, the supernatural, romance, sex and laughs. Except …

THE BAD
Outlander is SO long … and a little repetitive. At times, the plot seemed to consist of: Jamie rescues Claire. We learn about Jamie’s family history. Claire rescues Jamie. He says something gushingly romantic and they do it. Repeat. — After about 600 pages, I lost the wind in my sails and wasn’t able to find my momentum again.

CONCLUSION
Outlander is positively one of the most enjoyable books I read this year. On her website, Diana says she used to tell people that if they could put down Outlander after reading three pages, she would pay them a dollar, but she never lost on that bet! Heck, I’ll give you the dollar if you don’t like Outlander, but I’m pretty confident most readers will enjoy this book. Just keep in mind it’s not a literary masterpiece, but a delicious historical romp. I’m hesitant about whether to read the next seven(!) books in the series, but I am definitely checking out the TV series that premieres in August.

4.5/5 Stars

One Plus One by Jojo Moyes

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Click to visit Jojo Moyes’ website.

Last week I said on my blog that One Plus One wasn’t rocking my world. I thought it was cute, but didn’t find myself transported away by the story. I was very aware that I was reading about a single mother, her kids and a messed up tech entrepreneur. However, Jojo Moyes did it again. The deeper I got into One Plus One, the more emotionally invested I became in this oddball family. Shucks, I even got choked up and teary-eyed a few times.

* CONTAINS SPOILERS

THE STORY
Jess Thomas is a single mom who has been abandoned by her husband and left caring for their preteen daughter, Tanzie, and her ex’s teenage son from another marriage, Nicky. Jess has two jobs and worries constantly about how to make ends meet, about her shy and insecure daughter, and the constant bullying Nicky faces. The snobby and arrogant Edward Nicholls owns one of the beach cottages Jess cleans. Ed has troubles of his own after giving the woman he was sleeping with sensitive information about his company. Now under investigation by the FSA, Ed is trying to keep a low profile, including not answering his sister’s pleas to visit their sick father. Out one night in his car, Ed comes across Jess, her kids and their monstrous dog on the side of the road with a busted vehicle, explaining to the police that they are trying to reach a maths competition. He surprises himself by volunteering to drive them to Scotland and so begins a cross-country journey full of drama and discovery, as Jess, Ed and the kids come together in love and understanding.

THE GOOD
Other reviewers are calling this a geeky love story and even the book jacket declares One Plus One “an irresistible love story”. It’s partly true, but in my opinion it’s a family love story and about sticking together. One Plus One pulls at your heartstrings, but with unconventional characters and by travelling along an unbeaten path.

THE BAD
The chapters are written with an alternating person viewpoint which I think causes some confusion in the beginning until you get the hang of the characters and story. Also, as is typical with romantic comedies, when you have one crazy incident after another, it all becomes borderline silly rather than funny. Luckily, the story doesn’t go too overboard.

CONCLUSION
Although I still believe Me Before You is a better book because of how skillfully Jojo Moyes handles the subject matter, One Plus One won’t disappoint anyone looking to read a warm and fuzzy story with loveable characters. When I didn’t love the book in the beginning, I wondered if I should rethink reading The Girl You Left Behind or any other Jojo Moyes book. After reading this book, I can’t wait to get my hands on something – anything – by her!

3.5/5 Stars

Character Study – Hannibal Edition

Character Study is my feature on the book characters some of my favourite actors have played. I meant to make this a regular thing, but you know how it goes …

Hannibal surprised me by suddenly becoming one of my favourite shows. I’ve read both Silence of the Lambs and Red Dragon by Thomas Harris, and watched almost all of the Hannibal movies. But I never intended to watch the TV show until Netflix put it into my “Suggested For You” queue. Three weeks later, I finished both seasons.

Hannibal‘s eery, yet hypnotic dreamscape sucks you right into the killer hiding in plain sight plot. The acting is pretty damn impressive, and I was inspired to look into the filmography of the three key actors: Hugh Dancy, Laurence Fishburne and Mads Mikkelsen.

hugh

Who doesn’t have a crush on Hugh Dancy? The guy is adorable! He’s cute with both an English and American accent. Married to super-talented actress Claire Danes, Clarice Starling is already cast for her Hannibal arc. Some of my favourite Hugh Dancy characters from books are:

Confessions of a Shopaholic (2009) – Luke Brandon
Confessions of a Shopaholic by Sophie Kinsella

The Jane Austen Book Club
(2007) – Grigg Harris
The Jane Austen Book Club by Karen Joy Fowler

Ella Enchanted (2004) – Prince Charmont
Ella Enchaned by Gail Crason Levine

* * *

larry
Larry Fishburne is so smooth and cool, but with depth and intelligence. He is my second favourite CSI:Crime Scene Investigation character, following William Petersen (who played Will Graham in the original Hannibal Lecter movie, Manhunter!) Some of my favourite Laurence Fishburne characters from books are:

Man of Steel (2013) – Perry White
Superman D.C. comics

Othello (1995) – Othello
Othello by William Shakespeare

Apocalypse Now (1979) – Tyrone “Clean” Miller
Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad

* * *

mads

Ever since Casino Royale, Mads Mikkelsen has had a je ne sais quois effect on me. I don’t know what it is about him, but I’m fascinated by his face, his voice and his range as an actor. He is dynamite in Hannibal; equally charming and personable, and ice cold and ruthless. Some of my favourite Mads Mikkelsen characters from books are:

The Three Musketeers (2011) – Rochefort
The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas

Casino Royale (2006) – Le Chiffre
Casino Royale by Iam Fleming

King Arthur (2004) – Tristan
Arthurian legends

Have you read any of these books or seen the movies? Have you watched Hannibal?

Book Blogger Brunch – Summer 2014

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The lovely Karen from One More Page and I are hosting a brunch for book bloggers!

Saturday, August 16th at 10 am
Hothouse Restaurant, 35 Church Street, Toronto

If you’re a book blogger and will be in the Toronto area come join us! It will be an informal meeting so some of us can finally meet in person and chat about what we love the most: books and our blogs!

RSVP by August 14th by commenting below. Hope you can make it and please spread the word!

 

Blogger Diaries #4

july

OUTLANDER AND DIANA GABALDON EVENT
Believe or not, I’m still reading Outlander. As much as I love the story and characters, I’ve found it difficult to focus for the last few hundred pages, so I’m just taking my time.

I had the pleasure of seeing Diana Gabaldon speak in Toronto in June (they pronounced her name Gah-bal-doh-ne). Diana was gorgeous and poised, speaking with a slightly deep voice. She joked and smiled the whole time, utterly charming the room full of hundreds of fans. As someone who was new to the series, and with Claire and Jamie fresh in my mind, I found it fascinating to hear how she came to write Outlander. I also found it fascinating that so many fans had crushes on Jamie Fraser and wanted Diana to dish on him. One woman told the crowd she yelled at her husband during a fight, “Why aren’t you Jamie?” LOL!

Back in January, Carolyn at Rosemary and Reading Glasses wrote a post about  Jack Randall as a gay character in Outlander. Diana commented on her post to bring clarity to the discussion taking place. I couldn’t remember the exact details of the post, but thought it was so fun that Diana took the time to comment. I decided to ask her about it and at the microphone, I explained what occurred and asked Diana if she typically visits blogs or responds on social media to comments by fans. She gave a thoughtful response along the lines of she does enjoy interacting with fans on social media and discussing her books if she has the opportunity. I was so thrilled to be speaking to her, I just nodded  with a goofy grin and then sat down. Afterwards, my friend and I decided to skip the book signing because it would have taken all night.

AUSTEN IN AUGUST
I was so happy to learn that Jenna from Lost Generation Reader is taking over Austen in August. Adam at Roofbeam Reader was an amazing host when I participated last year, but has stepped back from his book blogging commitments. Would you like to sign-up too? This summer I plan to read the BIG ONE for the first time. That’s right, it’s finally time ebookclassics read Pride and Prejudice!

READING UPDATE
I recently finished reading Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage by Alice Munro and Mân by Kim Thuy. In addition to Outlander and War and Peace, I’m reading One Plus One by Jojo Moyes. I can’t say it’s really rocking my world like Me Before You.

HANNIBAL
In other news, I binge-watched sixteen episodes of Hannibal over five days and have a “killer” hangover. Nyuk nyuk nyuk.

What are you reading? I hope you’re enjoying summer.