Voyager by Diana Gabaldon

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From Goodreads

Summary from Goodreads:  From the author of the breathtaking bestsellers Outlander and Dragonfly in Amber, the extraordinary saga continues.  Their passionate encounter happened long ago by whatever measurement Claire Randall took. Two decades before, she had traveled back in time and into the arms of a gallant eighteenth-century Scot named Jamie Fraser. Then she returned to her own century to bear his child, believing him dead in the tragic battle of Culloden. Yet his memory has never lessened its hold on her… and her body still cries out for him in her dreams.  Then Claire discovers that Jamie survived. Torn between returning to him and staying with their daughter in her own era, Claire must choose her destiny. And as time and space come full circle, she must find the courage to face the passion and pain awaiting her…the deadly intrigues raging in a divided Scotland… and the daring voyage into the dark unknown that can reunite or forever doom her timeless love.

I like Gabaldon’s books.  I don’t love them.  When I am in the mood for adventure, outrageous coincidences and a male protagonist who is, well, perfect, Gabaldon’s books work. When not, I have to admit, they feel a little like torture.  At least Voyager did.

In Voyager, Claire returns to the past to find Jamie.  Over twenty years have passed – Claire and Jamie are middle-aged and still madly in love with each other.  It’s sweet.  They have a romantic reunion, followed closely by dangerous and crazy circumstances that only Claire and Jamie can manage to create.

I find it very difficult to relate to Claire.  I almost see her as an ignorant tourist.  You know the ones who go to other countries and expect to find all the luxuries and conveniences they left at home; those who become irate when they can’t find said conveniences and get angry when others do not speak their language?

This description is a bit unfair to Claire because she has a good understanding of the century to which she travels and knows what to expect.  However, she also brings with her many of her beliefs from the 20th century about women, education, and people of different races – and though I can’t blame her anger in the face of sexism, classism and racism, what does she expect? To change the people around her because she knows more?

I need a good long break from Claire and Jamie – I’ve read the first three books of the series consecutively, so perhaps I judge harshly due to fatigue from the same scenarios over and over.  Claire and Jamie cannot live without each other.  Claire discovers secrets about Jamie’s past.  Jamie deals with said secrets like a knowledgeable self-help guru of the 21st century.  They encounter danger – Claire is headstrong and dives into impossible situations from which Jamie must always save her (on a few instances, she does save herself).  Blah blah blah…Yes, I definitely need a break. 

I also find the books needlessly long.  There are SO MANY scenes and entire chapters in Voyager that could’ve been dropped from the novel and the plot would’ve remained intact.  I flipped through 10-12 pages at a time out of boredom without compromising my knowledge of the plot and characters.

I know it sounds like I dislike Gabaldon’s series; but I honestly don’t!  I was very happy with the resolution to Voyager and am actually looking forward to reading book 4, Drums of Autumn which has Claire and Jamie’s daughter, Brianna, making the trip back in time.  She will (hopefully) be a refreshing change and I am sure her reunion with her father will be a touching one.

Anyway, I won’t read about that for a while because there are other books on my list to tackle.

Have you read Voyager? What did you think?  

Have you come across books in your reading life that you liked, but skipped scenes and chapters along the way?

sign off bookmarks

Outlander and Dragonfly in Amber by Diana Gabaldon

Courtesy Ashley Dzama

The year is 1945. Claire Randall, a former combat nurse, is back from the war and reunited with her husband on a second honeymoon–when she walks through a standing stone in one of the ancient stone circles that dot the British Isles. Suddenly she is a Sassenach–an “outlander”–in a Scotland torn by war and raiding Highland clans in the year of Our Lord…1743. (Summary from: Goodreads)

I found the book started a little slow – as per the summary, I knew the premise.  Claire Randall time travels – and, for me, it took too long for that to happen.  Once it did, I kept trying to guess where the plot was going – who was the man she would fall in love with? Would it be the first man she encounters, her husband’s ancestor, Jack Randall? Or, the red-haired Scot, Jamie,  whose shoulder she pops back in and whose life she saves?

But, then Gabaldon’s writing swiftly turned me away from the guessing game of who Claire’s lover would be and brought her journey into focus.  Claire is clever, sharp and keeps her wits about her in a way that one would expect a strong heroine would.

Of course, she’s an incredible field nurse in 1945 who happens to be married to an historian. So her vast medical knowledge and the snippets she remembers from her husband’s ramblings aid her in 1743.  I found this a little too convenient, but I was reading a novel about time travel… I had to get over it.

Once I made my peace with the main female character, I found myself hooked.  The relationship between Claire and Jamie was so gradual that I no longer expected it.  Suddenly, they were married and their adventure began.

Outlander relies heavily on the deep, sweeping love that develops between Claire and Jamie.  I tired of Claire’s constant need to assert herself and inadvertently end up in life threatening situations from which Jamie saves her.  Nonetheless, I did enjoy reading Gabaldon’s portrait of Victorian Scotland and her colourful characters.

I was extremely disturbed by Jamie’s horrific ordeal at the hands of Jack Randall near the end of the novel.  I understand that “these things happened”, I understand that the episode is almost necessary to truly solidify Jamie and Claire’s relationship when she saves his life – physically, emotionally, and spiritually – but, I was horrified by the sheer evil that one human being can inflict upon another, and didn’t really need it all described.

Unless you enjoy historical fiction, or fantasy/time travel books this might not be the book for you.  However, if you enjoy a really good romance that truly captures the beauty of a loving, honest relationship – you may decide to overlook the whole time travel thing and let yourself be taken in.

From Wikimedia

For twenty years Claire Randall has kept her secrets. But now she is returning with her grown daughter to Scotland’s majestic mist-shrouded hills. Here Claire plans to reveal a truth as stunning as the events that gave it birth: about the mystery of an ancient circle of standing stones … about a love that transcends the boundaries of time … and about James Fraser, a Scottish warrior whose gallantry once drew a young Claire from the security of her century to the dangers of his.  Now a legacy of blood and desire will test her beautiful copper-haired daughter, Brianna, as Claire’s spellbinding journey of self-discovery continues in the intrigue-ridden Paris court of Charles Stuart … in a race to thwart a doomed Highlands uprising … and in a desperate fight to save both the child and the man she loves. (Summary from Goodreads)

I finished Outlander and immediately began Dragonfly in Amber because I had to know if Claire would thwart the Bonnie Prince, Charles Stuart, and change the entire course of Scottish and English history. How would Gabaldon handle this?

As with Outlander, I didn’t get to answer my questions quickly.  I had to read through a lot of stuff with new characters that I really didn’t care all that much about.

It is twenty years later – yes, twenty. Claire is a successful doctor and surgeon.  She is in the present time trying to find clues about Jamie’s life and outcome.  The clues are discovered, told and re-told too many times to count.  Until eventually, with the help of a young, astute historian, Claire can almost pinpoint Jamie’s location in history.  

In between these searches, we are taken back to 1743 and follow Jamie and Claire on their trip to Paris where Claire enhances her Victorian medical knowledge and also manages to have sex with the French King.  The trials and challenges continue until the pair find themselves back in Scotland, forced to follow and support Bonnie Prince Charlie in a rebellion against the English.  Historically, after some success, the Scots fail miserably and the clans are essentially annihilated.  Jamie and Claire are pushed to the limit, until they must part.  Jamie forces Claire to return to the future and to Frank (her husband in 1948 -it’s been three years since she time traveled) because Claire is pregnant and Jamie will not condemn his unborn child, nor his wife.  It is a heart wrenching decision and scene as the two are literally torn apart.

I enjoyed the past more so than the present in this novel.  The present repeated the same scene in different words over and over – Claire revealing bits about her past, Roger on the hunt for Claire’s secrets and finding little tidbits, Brianna dealing with the knowledge that Frank was not her father, but some guy from the 1740’s named Jamie Fraser!

Although Dragonfly in Amber can stand on its own and you don’t really have to read the first novel to understand the second novel, I got through book 2 because of how much I liked Outlander.  I felt like Dragonfly in Amber was a book I had to get through, I was rooting for it the whole time; whereas in Outlander I really wanted to know what happened to the characters.

I’m currently reading book #3 in the series, Voyager and although interested – I’m not really taken by it yet.

Have you encountered a series where the subsequent books were not as good as the first?

 

Reading Trashy Books and Loving It!

I have been very quiet lately.  Midterms.  Mommyhood.  Wifehood.  Oh yeah, and the few, fleeting moments that I steal for myself when I stubbornly sit and refuse to let anything else take away from my reading time.  This has been my life of late.  I try to catch up with blogs – but I mostly catch up via Twitter.  Sounds like everyone’s having a grand time – which warms my heart.

I have a confession to make.

I have drifted away from more “literary” reads (if you can call them that) and have started reading books that are more romance oriented, historical fiction romance to be exact.  You know the type – bold heroine, dashing hero, hot passionate sex and an adventure with lots of horse-back riding that inevitably leads to ever-lasting love in a grand castle of sorts.  Completely and utterly unbelievable.

I’m eating it up.  My brain is thanking me for the break from incessant thinking and analysis.

At first, I thought it a bit ironic considering my loathing of 50 Shades of Grey…but these books have strong characterization, strong (albeit, formulaic) plots and they have (what I think is) a good grounding in history (important for historical fiction).

Now, as I write this, I realize that these books aren’t trashy after all.  I think I would insult the legions of fans of this genre to call these books trashy.  They are pure fun and definitely help me unwind from long, stressful days.

Hmmm….change in direction for my blog?  Who knows?  In the meantime, I will keep reading and (hopefully) writing about my new-found interest in romantic historical fiction.

Do you ever find yourself reading (or doing) something completely out of character and find it totally refreshing?

Top Ten Tuesday: Summer TBR List

(a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and The Bookish)

This week’s top ten list is all about summer reading.  I recently published my summer TBR list, since then I have come across some tantalizing titles that I would love to delve into once my short summer list is done.  First you’ll see a recap of my Summer Reads (#1-5), followed by my “if-I-have-time-wanna-reads” (#6-10).

1.  Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez 

2. Wild Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys

3.  The Throne of Fire by Rick Riordan

4.  The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton

5.  Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James (kinda regretting this choice…we’ll see how it goes!)

6.  Secret Daughter by Shilpi Somaya Gowda – because every time I pick it up I really want to read it, but there’s other things that keep me from it.  Hope to read it by the end of the year in any case…

7.  Graceling by Kristin Cashore – found this recommended by other sights and on Goodreads.  Love novels about girls that kick ass.

8.  Something by Phillipa Gregory – girls kicking ass Tudor-style.  Or at least I’d like to think so…She has published so many books, I’m having trouble narrowing it down to one.  I’ve read one historical fiction novel (The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane) and rather enjoyed it.  Several readers recommended historical fiction as a genre.  I might take them up on it.

9.  The Night Circus by Erin Morgentsern – like Secret Daughter, this is one I pick up and put back down again – at first I felt ambivalent…but after reading a few great reviews I think it is a must read for me.

10.  As much as I’d love for there to be a #10, this spot is reserved for work-related reading I’ll have…Alice Walker, Carol Ann Duffy, Kate Chopin, Oscar Wilde…plus figure out how to teach them. Fun times ahead.

So, what’s on your Summer TBR list?

The Story of Deliverance Dane

“For a godly people, he reflected,

his neighbors surely take their interest in one another’s sins” (52).

Deliverance’s story, and I believe the Salem Witch Trials in general, as per Katherine Howe’s novel The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane, take root in the nosey neighbour.  Everything about Deliverance’s story creates sheer discomfort and anger at the point to which paranoia will lead people.  This tale helps those of us who are weary of neighbours who want too many details about our lives feel vindicated for our slight cold shoulder and not-all-too-inviting attitude.  (Friendly chat about the weather – yes, sharing inner-most dreams – no).

Upon reading Howe’s novel, it is clear that women were put to death because of the fear of the mob.  Accusing and killing these women assauged those fears, but left a tremendous legacy.  Howe humanizes the women accused of witchcraft through Deliverance Dane.  She is no-nonsense, fearless about using her gifts, and a good, Christian woman.  Her neighbours rushed to her for help with ailments.  Those same people turned on her in an instant when it meant saving themselves.

It is when she says good-bye to her daughter, Mercy Dane, that the injustice of the accusors is accutely felt.  Howe adeptly brings to life the trials and all of the feelings of those involved in the trials.  It is an intimate look at a very dark moment in American history.  I learned so much about a fascinating subject without opening a textbook.  It was great.

Howe builds towards the climax with all sorts of stories about Deliverance’s descendants as Connie Goodwin hunts for Deliverance’s lost book of spells and potions veiled as recipes.  Each story is so intriguing that I would be perturbed whenever I had to return to Connie’s story.

It is so very difficult for us to imagine a world where witches actually exist.  We believe that they do not, they live in the same dimension as the Easter Bunny and the Toothfairy.  Howe’s Postscript assures us that the fear in 1692 Salem was very real.  There are all sorts of political and economic explanations for the panic; nonetheless, to the people of that time and place, witchcraft was a fact.  Howe adds a twist:  what if they were real?

Howe adds a touch of fantasy to her plot by incorporating real witches, real witchcraft and showing that perhaps, they were far better people than those persecuting them.  Or, at the very least, they were grossly misunderstood.

Ultimately, I enjoyed Katherine Howe’s novel as a first exposure to historical fiction.  It is not a genre I am anxious to jump into again, but one that I will not avoid.  Not at all.

If you read Katherine Howe’s The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane, what did you think?