Monday, January 25, 2010

I probably should've written my reactions to Diana Gabaldon's Breath of Snow and Ashes before I read Echo in the Bone. The story so captivated me, however, I just kept reading from one book straight into the next. This is the Diana Gabaldon we've all come to know and love. The place-marker pace of The Fiery Cross is gone and Jamie, Claire, Brianna, Roger and everyone else are off at breakneck speeds once more. Both books keep up the energetic pace and...wait. I'm getting ahead of myself.

One of the hallmarks is a good story is evident when the reader can't get the story out of his/her head, even when doing mundane tasks like laundry or grocery shopping or teaching a class. Okay, the last isn't mundane, but shows the depth to which these characters and the events that happen to them (or they cause to happen, which is more often the case with Jamie) stick with the reader. Breath of Snow and Ashes has a scene that made me put down the book and sit and think about it for a good, long time.

I need to put in a small spoiler here, so if you haven't read the book and don't want any spoilers, stop reading at this point and go here to read something on a completely different topic.

(I'm putting my badge here as a way of helping to put space before the spoiler. You've been warned!)

Claire is abducted; Jamie comes to her rescue (he darn well better!). But when she's given the opportunity to take justice on the men, Jamie steps forward and says, "I kill for her."

The entire incident really made me stop and think about my relationship with my husband. Would he kill for me? Would I want him to? The question is, perhaps, moot in 21st century America, but the question still lingers. Just how far would you go for your spouse? What are the limits of what love should do?

A more appropriate question for today is "Would you fight for me?" since today's courts of law would not take vigilante justice kindly. And "fighting" doesn't mean with fisticuffs either anymore. When I was poorly treated by a medical so-called professional and came home in tears because of it, my husband immediately went to the phone, called the office and laid them out in lavendar. He got me an apology from the office manager (poor woman, she wasn't the one at fault, but I applaud her stepping up), a new appointment with a different doctor and most importantly, made me feel like I was the most important person in the world to him.

And at the heart of it all, isn't that truly the kernal of truth Diana Gabaldon has illustrated in this book? That marriage isn't just flowers and candy and nights of hot sex (although none of those should be discounted, by any means!), but that marriage means going to bat for one another no matter how much needs to be done. When you get right down to it, marriage is holding one's spouse as more important than oneself.

Thank you, Diana G, for reminding me of that.

Play safe,
Diana H.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Putting down Breath of Snow and Ashes when I'm only 150 pages from the end was very, very hard to do last night. I won't write a full review yet, but let me say...she's back! I was afeared, after The Fiery Cross, that maybe the steam had run out on this engine. It has not! This book has all the action, angst, passion and detail I fell in love with in the first two books.

So why am I writing instead of finishing it off? I'm about to give this book the highest compliment a reader can give an author: I don't want the book to end!!!

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

When I mentioned to a friend recently that I'm re-reading Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series in preparation for reading Echo in the Bone, she grinned and said (I paraphrase), "I'm Claire, you know."

I grinned back and said, "Of course you are. So am I."

And there, in two sentences, is the magic of the series. Diana Gabaldon has created a heroine we all can identify with -- her foibles and passions, her talents and desires -- but most of all, her incredible love for Jamie Fraser. Claire is who we all want to be. An independent woman, intelligent and educated, who has a love so deep it withstands the travails of time itself.

The Fiery Cross is the fifth book in the Outlander series. In it we follow Jaime and Claire Randall as they build a life together in the wildnerness of North Carolina. The year is 1771 and the task is no small feat. There's a forest to tame, a community to build and a war looming on the horizon. Our hero and heroine are assisted in these endeavors by their daughter, Brianna, and her husband Roger as well as a host of minor characters who keep the action moving.

Hmmm, on the surface, that doesn't sound like much, does it? What keeps this from being a mundane historical read is the twist Diana Gabaldon brings: Clare, Brianna and Roger were all born in the 20th Century and have travelled back in time. They're often torn between acting on the knowledge they've brought back with them or letting events unfold as history will have it. This sets up some wonderful internal conflicts in the characters that adds depth to their lives and brings them into focus.

That said, I found this book to be, in places, skimmable. The first four books I read every word, slowing down as I got towards the end because I didn't want to finish too quickly. Those books balanced plot action with character development so each got their fair share.

But with The Fiery Cross, there were sections I found that were over-long and my eyes skipped over the page looking for the next bit of action or character development. Most of those sections had to do with the description of the scenery. While I appreciate a beautiful sunrise or scenic view, to have entire sections of chapters dedicated solely to description of the scene made my eyes wander along the page till I found the action again.

To be honest, description has always been something I've skimmed. Taylor Caldwell was one of my favorite authors when I was in my teens, yet I found her pages and pages of description unnessary for my imagination. I painted in the picture as I saw it...give me the broad brush strokes and I was ready to go. The same with JRR Tolkien. I love The Lord of the Rings and appreciate the descriptions of the Shire and of Ithelien, but tend to skip over them from time to time.

Which is probably why I tend to use such broad strokes of description in my own writing. I don't really want to know every detail of the dungeon, or the car, or the house, or the hero and heroine for that matter. I want general shapes and that way my imagination can paint in the details the way I want them to be. Don't confine me with your vision -- let me have my own. And so, I skim over the descriptions when I find them going on too long as I did in The Fiery Cross.

I'd consider this the weakest of the five so far based solely on that drawback. The characters of Claire and Jaime are fun to watch as they move into middle age; Roger and Brianna take center stage several times and acquit themselves admirably. All in all, a good read rather than a great one.

NOTE to publisher (that would be Dell): consider including "Who's Who" appendix. There were several characters who made a reappearance in this book (Sergeant Murchison comes to mind) that made me stop and have to think, "Now who is that again?" A listing in the back with a one or two-line description would be most helpful!

Feel free to comment whether you've read the book or no! Oh dear -- now I'm sounding Scottish!

A few months back I decided to read Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series again. I'd been introduced to the series years ago when a student of mine wrote a book report on Outlander. She and her mother had loved it and were anxiously awaiting Dragonfly in Amber. She loaned me the book...and I was hooked. I've followed the adventures of Jamie and Claire ever since, getting my own mother hooked on the series as well. I'm now working on my 19-year-old daughter and she's informed me she's in love with Jamie and wishes he were real. Don't we all!

Why do I bring this up? For two reasons.

First off, I've been searching for a way to make myself blog more often and thought maybe if I kept a running tally of the books I read throughout the year, I'd keep that New Year's resolution. Inspired a little by Julie and Julia, I thought about the conversations we could have about those books. Since I just finished The Fiery Cross, that'll be the first one on my list and will be in a separate post momentarily.

Second off, I just found this very cool site (thank you, Leontine!) that has thrown down a gauntlet worthy of Claire Randall Fraser herself: to read the entire Outlander series throughout the 2010 calendar year. Since I'd already started, I joined the challenge just for fun. I've not yet read Breath of Snow and Ashes for the first time -- that's coming up next. And Echo in the Bone just came out in hardcover. But I'll wait for paperback to purchase it. Much easier to handle -- and cheaper!
I throw down the gauntlet to all of you now...whether you've read the series before or are discovering it for the first time, come join in the discussion! I tend to lurk, but love reading what other people think. Watch for my post on The Fiery Cross on this site soon! Till then,
Play safe!

Friday, January 01, 2010


The second decade of the second millenium I've been alive has begun. Wait. That didn't come out right. I'm older, but not THAT much older. I mean I've lived in two millenium and we're starting the second decade of the second one. Okay, maybe I'd better quit while I'm ahead... :)

Like everyone else, I've begun the new year with a host of resolutions (lose 20 pounds, get rid of the extra stress in my life, write more on my blog...nothing new and exciting). Some I'll keep, some I won't. The exciting part about today is I have no idea which resolutions are which. Next December 31st will tell what I managed to actually do.

Obviously write more books is top on the list. I'm working on one at the moment (I always have one in progress) that I hope to have out by late summer. I was aiming at the 4th of July, but I think I've missed that deadline already. The last few stories I've written have really pushed the extreme limits of the BDSM genre and I have to wonder if these characters are the backlash. So far their very tame -- and this is turning out to be a sweet romance. Nothing wrong with that, just different from anything I've written so far.

But its good to break out and do something odd...something unexpected...something strange every once in a while, right? Shake things up again and then come back fresh. So I'm going to finish the book and then decide what to do with it. We'll see if they stay sweet or if these two have a hidden streak I don't know about yet :).

Hmmm...on my reading list this year is a host of books to go with my host of resolutions. Started Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series all over again last October and read my way through the first four fairly quickly. Had to wait a few weeks to get The Fiery Cross from my mom; she also has Breath of Snow and Ashes, which I haven't read yet at all. I'd stopped after The Fiery Cross because I'd lost the train of the story, in fact, that's one reason I started at the beginning and am going all the way through. I'm figuring by the time I get to An Echo in the Bone it'll be out in paperback and I can afford it. Still have to read Lord John, too!

Admission of guilt here: although I write erotic romance in the BDSM genre, what I really like to read are fantasy and historical fiction. My TBR pile is filled with books in those genres! If you have any suggestions for me, leave 'em below! I'm always looking for good reads :).

Happy New Year!