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Archive for the tag “Outlander”

Sequel: The Sequel (ad nauseam).

We are a country that loves its sequels. We just can’t let a story go. If a sequel doesn’t make sense, we have prequels. Reboots. Trilogies that somehow turn into 5 movies. TV adaptations and spin-offs. It never ends!

In the book world, sequels are series. And I’m starting to notice a trend…

Just as a TV series really should end around season 5, a book series has to have some end point. I recently finished book 2 of “Outlander” and am DAUNTED, even though I love series, at the prospect of reading 7 more 900+ page books. When is it logical for the story to end?

There are those series that consume your entire life. “Game of Thrones” is one of them. I read Book 4 last month and I’m not sure George R.R. Martin has an end game, though there should be. “Harry Potter”, for example, was well-plotted. Each novel felt like the characters advanced to a next level, and part of this is due J.K. Rowling’s brilliant foresight and planning to have the books follow Harry and co. by age and education level. By the time they are ready to leave Hogwarts the books are done.

Diana Gabaldon could have easily written the “Outlander” series as a great trilogy, rather than drag it out for 8+ books. You end up following the characters lives as closely as your own. I don’t need that. Endings are painful, but necessary. Stories are meant to live on in your imagination. I want a book that will stay with me and take a part of me with it when I reach “The End”. Why give away a novel’s power by feeding the story beyond any logical expectations?

Sue Grafton backed herself into a corner when she started writing her alphabet series. I believe we are up to “X” in the series, and as I’ve ready each book faithfully from letter A until now (some of them more than once) I get a sense that she’s exhausted. She’s been writing these mysteries for the better part of 30 years. Her main character Kinsey gets nearly killed in every single book. What a life! At some point, maybe around “K” or “M”, we stopped believing that Kinsey’s life had any realistic trajectory moving forward. By all accounts she should be dead (or under witness protection).

I will admit the books are fun- as are most books in a series- but I get lost in overall arc of the storyline. I begin to feel manipulated that the books keep coming and the story gets stretched beyond limits because there’s money to be made. Did Diana really anticipate a full 8+ series storyline when she first typed out the original “Outlander” novel? Or did someone tell her she needs to write more in the series because fans and publishers demand it?

I’m reminded of obsessed fan Annie Wilkes and writer Paul Sheldon from “Misery”. What will happen once Diana finishes “Outlander”? Will millions of us fans revolt, lock her up in a basement somewhere, and demand she bring Claire and Jamie back to life? J.K. Rowling let go, much to the dismay of a bazillion kids and adults alike, but she hasn’t been stoned.

In praise of the trilogy, I say, and here’s to logical endings. What are some of your favorite trilogies? (Books, tv miniseries will count, films)

 

 

2014 Book Challenge Results- 50 Books Read!

I did it! I met my goal of 45 books read in 2014 and went ahead and read 5 more. Actually, I’m glad I over shot my goal because there were a few books I couldn’t (and refused) to finish.

At the bottom of the post is my reading list for the year, but I wanted to take a moment and point out some highlights from my year of books.

BEST OF 2014:

  • Outlander, Diana Gabaldon. I know, I know. I’ve talked about this book quite a bit. It made me fall back in love with books. After a long slump of reading ho-hum fiction, along comes this sweeping epic that truly moved me and sparked my imagination into high gear. What more could a reader want?
  • The Signature of All Things, Elizabeth Gilbert. Give Elizabeth’s fiction a chance. This is one mother of a book. Gilbert’s astounding attention to detail and research is mind-blowing. She is an excellent storyteller. And while the book does have its slow (and even slower) moments, I really appreciated the main heroine and all that she stood for.
  • Stories I Only Tell My Friends, Rob Lowe. Why, you might ask, is THIS book on a list? Let me tell you that I was skeptical, too. I thought I was in for a juicy and gossipy light-hearted ride, but instead was treated a tender and insightful memoir that was actually quite inspiring. I have to hand it to Rob Lowe, he’s incredibly intelligent and hardworking. I’m almost ashamed that I didn’t give him the benefit of the doubt before I read his book.

WORST (or most disappointing) OF 2014:

  • Winter’s Tale, Mark Helprin. Could be one of the most pretentious, overblown, and dullest novels I have ever not finished. I usually finish all of my book club picks, but this one was next to impossible to see all the way through. I nearly fell asleep on the road while listening to it, and so the book became a dangerous driving hazard. I know there are folks out there who rave about this novel but not me.
  • The Light in the Ruins, Chris Bohjalian. So disappointing. He’s normally such a beautiful writer, but his latest book fell flat with a thud. Read his The Skeletons at the Feast in place of this novel.
  • Where’d You Go, Bernadette?, Maria Semple. God, such a turgid book. I don’t even know where to start with how much my expectations were destroyed after reading it. Marketed as somewhere between a humorous satire and (supposed) tender look at mental illness, the novel just comes off as mean-spirited and trite. A complete disappointment.

BIG SURPRISES:

  • The Fault in Our Stars, John Green. Well, the joke is on me. I went on to read this book fully expecting to hate it. I was curious as to why the novel was garnering so much attention that I had to read it, but as I’m not a huge fan of YA novels I put my snob face on. The snob face was promptly wiped away. This is a sneaky book. While it’s not the best piece of literature out there and features some fairly unbelievable characters, it’s a heartbreaking and ultimately well-written story about kids with cancer. And one I think most teens would benefit from reading.
  • Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, John Berendt . A reread that I’m glad I reread. For a true crime novel, it reads more like a biting and zesty article in a gossip rag. Better the second time around.
  • The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald. I think everyone should reread this novel every ten years. Its tone and imagery evolves as one matures. I love this book so much, and I can’t wait to read it again and again. It’s lost none of its charm since I first read it in high school.

AUTHOR OF THE YEAR:

  • Ms. Gillian Flynn gets my vote for one of the best mystery/thriller writers out there, especially in the female writer category. She is unapologetically gross- and not for the shock value, either. Flynn captures the dirtiness and scumminess of human society in the most realistic way. Her heroines are anything but heroic, but nor are they tragic figures. They are raw and flawed women with scratches and scars, yet are somehow at the same time likable and repulsive characters. I can’t wait to read more of her stuff.

LESSONS LEARNED:

  • I’m glad I gave myself permission this year to not finish books that didn’t speak to me. I saved a lot of precious time.
  • I need to be more discerning about choosing audio books. Some of the narrators are just awful and do not do the books any justice.
  • I will not do any reading challenges in 2015. While I do like to see how many books I can read in a year, and I love discovering new authors through a variety of challenges, I find that time-wise I become almost maniacal about getting through a large amount of books in short time periods. I don’t think I enjoy the books as much. Plus I want to finish some of my longer series, such as Outlander and Game of Thrones, and those hefty novels take up so much time.

Behold the 2014 book list! Here are my categories:

  • YES: This book changed my life in some way and hopefully it will change yours. Or I just really enjoyed it.
  • VACATION READ: We all need books that can sustain us for long periods when we are sitting on a beach or in front of a fire in a log cabin. These are not necessarily the best books I’ve ever read, but will hold your attention for more than a few hours, while still allowing you to relax. (I may even put YES and VR together, mean yes it’s great AND good for vacation).
  • NO: I just didn’t like it or it wasn’t worth my time. Doesn’t mean someone else might not love it, but I would never hand this book to another and say “You gotta read this!”

(I apologize for the format below. I tried copying and pasting from Goodreads, which was a mistake).

Happy reading in the New Year, everybody!

 NO
VACATION READ
YES, VR
NO
YES
NO
YES
YES, VR
NO
YES, VR
YES
VACATION READ
NO
YES
YES
YES
YES, VR
YES
YES
YES
YES, VR
YES, VR
YES
NO
YES, VR
YES (hesitantly)
YES, VR
NO
VACATION READ
NO
NO!!
NO
YES (hesitantly)
YES
NO
YES
YES
YES
VACATION READ
YES
VACATION READ
YES
YES
YES
YES (Hesitantly), VR
YES
YES

 

Frolicking in historical fiction and fantasy.

Outlander          The White Queen        GOT

 

Sometimes I amaze myself. I don’t know why, but this past month I started reading three books at the same time- one on audio, one at lunch, and another at night- that are complete epics. All three- “Outlander”, “The White Queen”, and Game of Thrones book 3 “A Storm of Swords”- take place in the past and all of them have fantastical and magical elements.

You might think I’ve keeled over in pure exhaustion, but I’m rather inspired.

I love historical fiction. It’s fast becoming my new favorite go-to genre. Mysteries used to my coveted and favorite reads, but now that I’ve branched out into the world of fantasy, I’m happy when I can find a book or two that combines all elements. I’m relatively a newbie to fantasy. Sci-fi and fantasy just were never my genres of choice when it came to pleasure reading. But after reading Patrick Rothfuss’ “The Name of the Wind” for a book club meeting, I came to have a new appreciation for fantasy. And Game of Thrones is so character heavy and mind-boggling at times, but I absolutely love the series.

Also interesting (to me, anyway) is that the above books are also on TV. I only just begun the Outlander series on Starz, but I saw the mini-series The White Queen before I read the book, and I watched all three seasons of GOT before I picked up the first book. With these dense and historically meandering books, I’ve found it actually helps to watch the shows first. This is profound, in that it’s not something you will usually hear me say.  I don’t think it’s cheating, really, to watch the shows in tandem or before reading the novels. Think of the show as a companion piece and handy visual guide to the books!

Side bar: I know Game of Thrones is not necessarily “historical fiction”, as Westeros and environs are pure fantasy. But the books feel as though they are set in the middle ages, sort of on a parallel universe as ours.

I can’t say why, exactly, I’m in love with historical fiction. I know several people who can’t stand this genre, for whatever reason. But I get so excited when history comes alive. I like to revel in what life was like all those years ago. In the case of “The White Queen”, I am always delighted when a new story about the Tudor era debuts. Reading about history in texts and documents never quite captures the true spirit of a person ,and who is to say, after 500 years, that what we are reading is even really true? But stories have so much leeway to create a character, and in the context of factual events I feel like I’m right there.

“Outlander” knocked my socks off. It’s not the type of book that will appeal to everyone, though. For one thing, it’s a time travel novel. That right there can immediately turn people away. It has all of the trappings of being a romance novel, but it’s not a romance either. As for fantasy, well it’s not so heavy on that, but it dives just a twinge into fantasy-like situations (I won’t give away any spoilers here). And this is a dark book. When I say dark, I mean DARK. Rape, torture, spousal and child abuse are all fair game here and author Gabaldon doesn’t shy away from any of it. Really, “Outlander” is a sweeping epic set in 18th century Scotland. With men in kilts. And some pretty explicit sex scenes. Think the TV show Game of Thrones set in the Highlands and you are all set.

Anyone second guessing historical fiction now?

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