5 of 5 stars to ‘An echo in the bone’ by Diana Gabaldon

Echo in the bone

What a cliffhanger!

James Fraser knows what the outcome of the American rebellion will be, and yet his knowledge may not be enough to get him and Claire through the raw realities of daily life in a country at war. Then, there is the fact that he may end up on opposite sides of the battlefield to his illegitimate son.

Claire and Jamie have been separated from their children and grand-children across the wide expanse of time. Can they, and can Bree and Rodger start afresh in this messy time?

I’ll be honest – I’ve been seriously contemplating giving this series up, but Gabaldon keeps throwing in new reasons to keep me reading. This installment was all about new beginnings. There was a point in the novel where I began to feel that the story was lagging with its descriptions of life in the war camps of the American revolution. Yet that sense of ‘lagging’ really added to the stark reality of the depressing conditions under which the Americans fought for their independence so many years ago.

The trip back to Scotland inserted some nostalgia into the story and heightened the emotional impact. It made me realize how amazing Gabaldon’s writing is. I haven’t read many books that cover entire lifetimes of characters, and those I have read were pretty boring. Gabaldon, however, consistently adds new, daring, frightening and exciting adventures to keep the lives of her characters tumultuous and interesting.

With the cliffhanger in this one (or should I say cliffhangers) there’s no question as to whether I will continue this series. I simply MUST find out what happens to Claire and Lord John after the bomb he dropped on Jamie at the end and I NEED to know what Bree is going to do about her son.

5 of 5 stars to ‘A breath of snow and ashes’ by Diana Gabaldon

A breath of snow and ashes

An uncertain future

The American revolution looms before the Frasers. Jamie walks the tight-rope between the crown and freedom, but will soon have to jump, plunging his entire family into war. Many decisions will have to be made, and consequences faced as Jamie’s time-travelling family adjust to life in these harsh times and make the ultimate decision – stay or go?

Every time I close an Outlander novel, I think: what more could these people live through? I am astounded at the extent of Gabaldon’s imagination. Claire and Jamie have lived through every possible adventure, tragedy and joy – and yet I know that Ms Gabaldon will find even more amazing adventures for them in the next book. Never have I felt as invested in the lives of character as I do with the Frasers.

The first part of this installment was charming in it’s descriptions of life in the times. I thoroughly enjoyed the politics and ebb and flow of life on Frasers Ridge. Just when I thought I’d reached a point where the story was starting to slow, Gabaldon threw Claire into a new adventure that Jamie had to rescue her from, and the rest, was a tumultuous race to the end.

There was a wonderful sense of family and the purity of a simple life on Fraser’s ridge. The Mackenzies added depth, variety and freshness to the story, without detracting from Claire and Jamie’s stories. Gabaldon very cleverly played with the questions of morality and predestination once again, with particular use of Roger’s character.

The end was quite a shocker, unravelling the carefully laid foundations of the last few novels. I feel as though I’ve been thrown back into the beginning with Claire and Jamie – and I’m excited to find out what they are going to make of their new and uncertain future.

5 of 5 stars for ‘The Fiery Cross’ by Diana Gabaldon

The fiery cross

More danger, romance and intrigue

It’s 1771, and Claire and Jamie Fraser know that war is coming. Once, years ago, they had to walk the fine line of politics between the Brits and Scots. Now, they must walk that line again in this new land they have chosen to call home. The stakes are high. Jamie is now responsible for an entire settlement of families, not to mention that of his own blood. Will Jamie and Claire ever find the peace they crave?

Once again, Diana Gabaldon has excelled. Her diverse storytelling skills have enabled her to successfully span months and years in the lives of Claire and Jamie in each novel. Now, Diana slows the story down, focusing on a shorter timespan and delving deeper into the relationships and politics of the characters and times.

The beginning of this novel was funny in a way the other novels haven’t been. Usually, there is so much drama, and very little light-heartedness, so it was a nice change to have a bit of humor in this one. There were two distinct parts where I felt the story had taken a Sherlock Holmes twist and I have to say, that it felt a little forced, unlike Gabaldon’s usually, flowing style. But then I fell into the story again and it didn’t seem to matter. There were the usual, heart-warming moments, some nail-biting twists and dramatic climaxes. I don’t know where Ms Gabaldon finds the inspiration for some of these incidents, but I LOVE reading about them!

This series is possibly one of my favorite of all time. I am addicted to the characters of Claire and Jamie and have loved following them through their adventurous, traumatic lives. Yet I find myself at a crossroads. Carry on the series? It’s never even been a question in my mind – until now. I’m not sure I want to see Jamie Fraser grow old. I think I like the idea of the strong, fierce, Scottish warrior. While I have grown to like Brianna and Roger, I’m not sure I’m invested enough in their story to continue it.

So, I need some good advice from those of you who may have read “A breath of snow and ashes”. Should I continue?

Great fiction parents

Parent quote 2

Since it’s that time of year again when we celebrate the amazing things our mothers and fathers do for us each day, I took a look at some of the books I’ve read recently in search of great Mom and Dad examples. Sadly, there are not many! In fact, most books, in the young adult genre in particular, are characterized by absent or troubled parental figures. Perhaps it is a sign of the times, or a tainted perception from the eyes of the troubled main characters? Thankfully, there were a few good examples though! Here are my top fiction moms and dads:

1. Claire and Jamie Fraser from the Outlander series:
They’re the kind of parents many of us dream of having. Protective and loving, but willing to let their offspring live and learn. A shining example of a healthy marriage. They give their children their own space and are there to help, but they’re not afraid to let them fight their own battles. Claire and Jamie have tempered their love with just the right amount of freedom to ensure that their children are prepared to travel through time to be with them.

2. Esme from Twilight
She may not be there biological mother, but Esme is “Mom” in every sense of the word to the Cullens. She loves fiercely and will protect to the point of death. She’s got enough heart to welcome even an outsider human into the family and her maternal love spans centuries. Any woman who can love as unconditionally as Esme can and take another’s offspring as her own is a heroine in my books.

3. The Lancasters from The fault in our stars
They’re faced with a parent’s worse nightmare. Nothing could be worse than knowing you will outlive your child. Yet they have accepted the reality of their daughter’s fate with both grace and bravery. There’s no time to treat Hazel as the teenager she is. The Lancasters have accepted that their beautiful girl is just more grown up than other girls her age, as a consequence of her shortened life expectancy. They treat Hazel with the respect, leniency and maturity of an adult, with just the right amount of concern and protectiveness. One of the things that sets this couple apart from the rest, is their ability to think beyond life with their daughter. Mom and Dad realize that they have their own lives too, and it’s important to live to the fullest, regardless of their tragic circumstances. This strength spills over into the life of their offspring.

These are some of my favorite fiction moms and dads. Can you think of yours? Better yet, can you think of your own parents and what makes them so special to you?

5 of 5 stars to ‘Drums of Autumn’ by Diana Gabaldon

Drums of Autumn

Another sterling installment 

Claire Randall is happily living her life alongside her husband Jamie Fraser two hundred years ago – or so Brianna thinks, until she discovers a newspaper clipping from the past. Now she must choose between staying with the man she loves, or risking everything to change the past.

I’ve got to admit that every time I start another book in the Outlander series, I’m expecting the worst. I keep thinking: what more could happen and how could Ms Gabaldon possibly hold my attention through another couple of hundred pages after the thousands I’ve already read? Yet without fail, when I read the last sentence of each novel, I’m left holding my breath, wanting more.

This installment focuses greatly on one of the most interesting issues raised by the series – the question of whether it is possible to change the past, whether doing so is morally correct, what effects changing the past has on the future and whether the fates are truly fated. This issue is of particular importance with the character of Bonnet and it is fascinating and heart-breaking to watch the Frasers reap the consequences of their timeline interferences.

The relationship between mother, daughter and father is heart-warming. Each character is so human and the dynamics between them are so realistic and yet so right for the time period. In a time when women were married and became mothers in their early teens, I particularly enjoyed the freedom and maturity of interaction between Brianna and her mother. Claire is always there for her daughter, but she allows her to experience her own life and reap the consequences of her own actions.

What I found really interesting, is the way in which Ms Gabaldon created a relationship between two characters who never meet – James and Frank. The effect each one has on the other through the characters of Claire, Rodger and Brianna is fascinating to behold.

The historical setting is once again unique, realistic and rustic. Ms Gabaldon’s descriptions of untamed America are sweeping, beautiful, wild and fresh. I’m astounded by the ease with which she can switch settings from Scotland to France, Jamaica to America and can only assume that she has done her research well and travelled too!

This is still one of the best series I’ve ever read!

5 of 5 stars to ‘Voyager’ by Diana Gabaldon

Voyager

Beyond the shores of Scotland

Twenty years after Claire left Jamie Fraser at the standing stones, she returns to Scotland to share the truth with her grown daughter Brianna. In divulging her history, she discovers that her true love did not, in fact, die on the battlefield at Culloden. Now she must choose between a future with the daughter she loves dearly, or one with the man she has pined for all these years apart.

There are very few writers who can carry off a series of more than three books and still keep the reader begging for more. I must admit to being skeptical after ‘Dragonfly in Amber’ – I mean, Jamie and Claire have lived through it all already, haven’t they? Yet Ms Gabaldon has managed to once again create a heart-breaking, riveting, dangerous adventure.

In this installment of the Outlander series, Gabaldon takes us beyond the shores of Scotland in the seventeenth century. We get a taste of the trade routes, colonies and dangers of overseas travel, contrasted starkly with the amenities and ease of travel of the nineteen sixties.

The real hardships of Jamie’s life seem that much greater against the comforts of Brianna and Claire’s time and yet their emotional distance and turmoils appear equal. These are two souls that have truly become one. I was concerned that the time apart and separate experiences would have created an irreconcilable rift between Claire and Jamie. But their love is true enough to span centuries. In fact, the time apart made their reunion that much sweeter. I loved getting to see Jamie and Claire fall in love all over again and get to know the new people that they have become.

Rich history, offset by sweeping descriptions of the natural beauty of the new colonies and heart-wrenching emotional dilemmas, interspersed with century-spanning romance and heart pounding action, makes ‘Voyager’ a must-read for any self-respecting Scot-lover, historian or book addict.