3 of 5 stars to ‘Lost Highlander’ by Cassidy Cayman

Lost highlander

Slow but entertaining

When Piper calls Evelyn from Scotland, frazzled, incoherent and desperate, Evelyn doesn’t think twice. She hops on a plane to Scotland to help her friend. Upon arrival, she finds that her best friend has inherited a huge estate – and a few other things too, including a time traveling highlander from the 18th century and a serial killer. There’s one major plus though, in the form of Piper’s dreamy Scottish friend Sam…

This book had two of my favorite things: Scots and time-travel. Evelyn was also a fun and quirky character. Yet, I struggled with this story. The first half of the book was extremely slow – everything happened only after the halfway mark. The point of view left me puzzled for most of the story. There were essentially two love stories in this novel, and I felt that the story of Piper and Lachlan was underplayed and essentially lost beneath that of Evelyn and Sam due to the fact that the story was told mostly from Evelyn’s point of view.

The second half of the book was more exciting. I think it would have been a great novel if the starting point had been the fifty percent mark, but it was still entertaining.

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?

3 of 5 stars to ‘Findley’s Lass’ by Suzan Tisdale

Findleys lass

Lightly entertaining

It was a chance meeting that brought Findley McKenna and Maggy Boyle together, but from the first moment, the independent widow had stolen Findley’s heart. Unable to think of anything but the fiery-haired lass, Findley returns to offer her a home in which to raise her five foster boys. But when he arrives in the little valley Maggy calls home, he finds only destruction and death. Fearing the worst, Findley searches the ruins and is relieved to find that Maggy and four of her boys have escaped the massacre, but her fifth son has been taken as hostage by an evil Laird hell-bent on forcing Maggy to marry him.

Can Findley win Maggy’s trust? Can they rescue Ian? Can Findley get Maggy to spill her secrets and ultimately, can they overcome the many challenges that threaten to keep them apart?

I have a certain fondness – perhaps even an obsession for all things Scottish, most especially Scots fiction heroes. Scottish men are stereotypically brave, handsome warriors – and I quite like that stereotype. Novels set in the highlands often also include sweeping descriptions of the foggy lochs and heather-strewn hills – another huge plus in my opinion.

Sadly, ‘Findley’s lass’ was lacking in both these areas. While it was a pleasant story, I felt the characters of Findley and Maggie were not strong enough for my liking. The antagonists were overly-evil and stereo-typical, and I would have preferred to see some kind of redeeming quality in both of them for more reader conflict. There was very little descriptive writing, which is such a shame in this amazing setting. The story, I felt was too long with too many crests and falls and could have been simplified. The metaphors were cliche, and the excessive use of the words ‘braw’ and ‘tetched’ became positively irritating in the second half of the book.

Overall, it was a lightly entertaining novel and I still enjoyed parts of it, like the character of William, who was stronger in personality that Findley in my opinion. The little bits of humor also kept me going.

Audible narrator: I felt that the narrator was overly-dramatic in this performance. I did not enjoy it.

5 of 5 stars to ‘Outlander’ by Diana Gabaldon – EPIC!


Timeless addiction

When I first read the blurb on this book, I thought it would be too similar to Karen Marie Moning’s Highlander series, which is one of my favorite ever. I was loathe to read another series like it because I didn’t think anything could live up to the bar Moning had set. When the TV series began, one of my friends fell in love with it and recommended the books, so I gave in. And now I’m positively addicted! While the two authors have followed the same premise, their writing is so different, it’s nearly impossible to compare the two.

Gabaldon’s characters are strong and yet human. Claire Beecham’s strength get’s her through amazing trials and ensures some passionate head-butting with her equally strong-willed Scottish partner. Yet, underpinning her strength is a vulnerability and impulsiveness that often gets her into trouble and endears her to readers and Scots alike.

Jamie, on the other hand is a conundrum of innocence and wisdom. His experiences growing up in the brutish Scottish highlands have sharpened his senses and wit. There are times when the words out of his mouth seem to come from a hundred year old soul. Then there are times when his uncensored words give away his youth and innocence – especially when he is alone with Claire. This combination of traits ensures that Jamie perfectly fulfills the idea of the Scottish hero – fierce protector and gentle lover – without perpetuating the stereotype.

Gabaldon’s authentic depiction of the seventeenth century Scottish Highlands is one of the main attractions of this novel. While the characters may be romantic, their environment is not. Gabaldon has so wonderfully captured the tension between the Scottish and British, the rustic realities of life without technology, the dangers of traveling in such times, the superstitions of our ancestors and the role of women in earlier society. Claire’s strong-willed nature, in a time where women were often considered nothing more than property, throws the contrast between the now and then into sharp relief. The character of Captain Randall and Claire’s continuous comparison of him to his descendant, strengthens the contrast between the times, and also heightens the moral dilemma Claire faces in her attempts to reconcile the two halves of her life.

There is so much that has been packed into this novel and so many wonderful and frightening experiences that each of the characters have lived through, I feel as though I have lived an entire lifetime alongside them. It is a rare and amazing talent for an author to be able to draw a reader so deeply into the lives of her characters as Ms Gabaldon has done.

This novel is pure addiction. You’d be a fool not to read it!

Outlander 2014Jamie Fraser quote