• Books

    The Scottish Prisoner by Diana Gabaldon

    The Scottish Prisoner
    I think only fans of the Outlander series will care about this review. This is actually my first Lord John book. I meant to read more of them around Christmas, but I got distracted. Lord John Grey is one of my favourite characters from the Outlander universe. Jamie Fraser is also featured heavily in this book too. I adore the relationship John Grey and Jamie have; it’s strange but also good relationship in many ways. The unrequited love that John has for Jamie is touching and kind of adorable actually.

    In contrast to the regular Outlander books, thee is just one or two rather self-contained mysteries. In the main series book, there are usually several threads going through the book itself or across books. In some ways, this book felt less intense than reading a regular Outlander novel. It had less narrative perspective, less characters and less things to keep track of. It was noticeably shorter. I still enjoyed myself and there was a snippet of the next Outlander book and it was nice to be teased.

    Read February 24th, 2012.

  • Books

    Diana Gabaldon Outlander Series Books 5-7

    Outlander the novel

    In 2008, I listened to Outlander by Diana Gabaldon on audiobook and liked it. The audiobooks are excellent; they are narrated by Davina Porter. She does such a great job that sometimes when I am reading the books, I hear her voice for the character’s. Back in November 2011, I decided to finish what I started with this series. I read Dragonfly in Amber, Voyager, and Drums of Autumn, books 2-4 of the Outlander series, and listened to some of it on audiobook too in a very short amount of time. I also read The Exile – an Outlander graphic novel in December.
    I was up to chapter 22 of The Fiery Cross (Book 5) but didn’t pick it up again until this month. It was in my Kindle which never helps since I get distracted by books from the library, by movies/tv, or life.

    Since I have The Scottish Prisoner from the library, I decided I should at least finish TFC before starting another Outlander universe book.

    I try not to be too spoilery in my book reviews, but with a book series, it’s even harder. I have put my thoughts on the three books under the cut, but the spoilers are very mild.

    As a general review of the series, the books usually start off slowly and build up momentum so they can be hard to put down. This series’ time travel aspects appeals to me greatly, and I tend to like books about characters transplanted from one era to another in fiction. It makes for fascinating drama.

    I also think there was a lot of good character and historical developments at this period of the books. The characters were in Scotland, France, the Caribbean and colonial America. I find this series to be one of the better ones I have read in the last few years. They are detail-oriented, well researched, and long. Also, I really enjoy the characters; I’ve grown quite attached to almost all of them.

    There are a lot of characters in this series, but they are all mostly well written. Gabaldon also has a way of balancing her five or so main characters. Giving them each perspective. I also like how flawed each of them are, but weirdly relatable even though all of them are from a different time than I have experienced.

    Unlike some books in other series, Gabaldon’s endings aren’t edge of the seat cliffhangers, but they do make you intrigued about what will happen next. The endings usually prove satisfying and also set up for future things.

    Onto my mini reviews of books 5 to 7.

  • Books

    First Among Sequels

    This is the fifth book in the Thursday Next series by Jasper Fforde, but it marks the second part of the series and is the first part of the next four books. For maximum enjoyment of this book, I recommend you start with the first four books. It’s been so long that I don’t remember how good those books are individually, but I love this series as a whole. It’s fun, unique, different, hilarious, and well written. I forgot how many plots Mr Fforde can balance in these books. This may turn some people off because he does have so many plot lines set up, but most of them are closed without much fanfare in the last couple of chapters. The other ones are set ups for the next books. For a more in depth review with slight spoilers from the previous books and this one (nothing major), click below.

  • Books

    The Best American Travel Writing series

    Best American Travel WritingHoughton Miffllin publishes annual installments to this series and other ones on genre writing such as mystery, poetry, short stories, science and nature, and others (complete list). The travel writing series began in 2000, and I started reading them a couple years later. I’ve read every single book in this series, and there are always a few gems. Since I do not have the chance to buy and read periodicals and magazines, I find the anthology refreshing. I have read a fair amount of travel writing, and the series always brings out the reasons why I like the stories. There are adventures, food, history, trivia, and most of all, stories and articles about people and characters. In this 2006 edition, I read about a Ukrainian giant, opulent Dubai, Hawaiian water parks and resorts, quiet bourgeois Zurich, and Ian Frazier’s coming of age road trip across America.

    I also finished The Road by Cormac McCarthy yesterday. It’s one of those rare books that I don’t really know how to approach with a review or commentary unless I reread and study it in depth.

  • Books

    The Tin Princess by Philip Pullman

    The Tin PrincessThe last of the Sally Lockhart quartet. Published in 1994, Pullman notes on his website how this was the most enjoyable of the books to write. This book is different from the first three books in two major ways: 1) It is not set in Victorian England, and 2) Sally Lockhart is not the protagonist and remains missing for most of the novel. The setting is a fictional kingdom in Prussia called Razkavia involving the eponymous Adelaide as one of the protagonists, Jim as the male lead, and a 16 year old named Becky as another female lead. Becky’s age reminds me of Sally in the first book, and I love that Sally has become the type of woman. I can see how much fun it must have been to write because it’s certainly less intense and in a better setting than the first three novels. It was really good to read about Jim again because I missed him when he was absent from the last book. While I liked this book as I did the others, I found that I really missed Sally. Not that the two strong female leads weren’t well written. Indeed, I was reminded in this novel about how Pullman is very good at writing female characters. I’ve grown quite attached and fond of Sally Lockhart, and it was almost jarring not to have her in this novel knowing she could be involved. This book also followed what I consider to be the most extreme of the thrillers so this did not affect me as much as a reader. Still another quick page turne, and I’ve liked every ending for the characters in the series. Pullman notes on his website that he still has ideas for adventures for these characters. Who knows if he’ll ever publish another Sally Lockhart & Co book, but the year after this one, Northern Lights / The Golden Compass was published, beginning one of the most interesting trilogies of recent years.

  • Books

    The Tiger in the Well by Philip Pullman

    The Tiger in the WellWhen I read the summary for this, it seemed very psychological and intense. I’ve grown quite attached to Sally Lockhart and the other characters. Sometimes I think Pullman is as good as Dickens when making up Victorian characters. The actions in this novel were very horrible to read about because the idea of having one’s child taken away from you especially in a patriarchal, puritanical society such as Victorian England is extremely cruel. I can’t imagine being in Sally’s situation, and while it is sensationalist and fictional, the historical accuracy in these books is more or less correct. I really wanted to get to the end so it could be all resolved and see how it all was connected. The only one grievance I have was that I knew who the enemy was when reading the summary, but it took Sally 3/4 of the book to figure it out which I don’t blame her since I’ve read many more books, movies and television shows. Once again, another good thriller from Pullman, and probably the most tense so far. Though, I’ve noticed he tends to like to use the chilling and malicious monkeys.

  • Books

    The Shadow in the North by Philip Pullman

    The Shadow in the North My original plan after reading The Ruby in the Smoke was to write a big review of the whole Sally Lockhart quartet because I wrongly assumed the other three books would be as short as that first book. I should have foreseen this as it happened with the His Dark Materials too. Unlike HDM, these books can stand alone, but that doesn’t mean there is not a not a hook to connect these Victorian mystery thrillers. They are definitely page turners, and while I have little experience in adult mysteries or thrillers, I’ve enjoyed the young adult ones I have read. Pullman is not a writer who writes specifically for an age group, and I’ve always been in the belief that adults should read good books no matter the intended age group, just as young adults should read adult books if they are mature enough readers for it. He has admitted on his website that he wrote them with melodramatic undertones, but resolves them in his realistic style and detail (he calls fantasy classified HDM “dark realism”). One of the highlights in this series is the ensemble cast of characters; I thoroughly enjoyed them in the first book and found it almost comforting to see how much has happened since tRiS (six years between the two books). I did not understand how engaging the book was until I found myself shocked at the climax. Well played, Mr Pullman. As much as I want to read the next book, it looks particularly intense that I’m going to hold it off for a nonfiction or two. These books require one or two sittings to finish off before bed.