Thursday Quotables: Reflections (Indexing, #2)… two weeks in a row!

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Welcome to Thursday Quotables! This weekly feature is the place to highlight a great quote, line, or passage discovered during your reading each week.  Whether it’s something funny, startling, gut-wrenching, or just really beautifully written, Thursday Quotables is where my favorite lines of the week will be, and you’re invited to join in!
A little programming note: While I’m mostly back to weekly postings, I find I’m not at 100% yet! I’ll continue to post Thursday Quotables most weeks. If I happen to skip a week when you have a post to share, feel free to link up to whichever TQ post here is most recent. Many thanks!
Onward with this week’s Thursday Quotable:
Indexing: Reflections by Seanan McGuire
(published 2016)

Because I’m “reading” this series via audiobook, it’s taking me quite a while. So, for the second week in a row, I just have to share a few passages from Reflections, which has been keeping me riveted (and occasionally snorting with laughter) on my morning commutes. First, an ominous passage:

The air was cold, and the wind tasted of apples, and something was very, very wrong.

Ooh. Chills, right?

And a moment that made me laugh, courtesy of my favorite character Sloane, who is tough as nails and talks like a Valley Girl:

I produced my badge from my pocket and held it up for the camera to see. “Agent Sloane Winters, ATI Management Bureau. We’re with the United States Government; we’re allowed to punch people if we want to.”

“Please tell me that’s not going to be our new motto,” said Demi.

And finally:

I glared at her for a moment before I started striding toward the entrance to the maze. “I hate you,” I said.

“I know,” said Ciara, following me.

“I’m going to play jump rope with your intestines.”

“Won’t that be fun for both of us.”

“Don’t make fun of me.”

“I wouldn’t dream of it.”

What lines made you laugh, cry, or gasp this week? Do tell!

If you’d like to participate in Thursday Quotables, it’s really simple:

  • Write a Thursday Quotables post on your blog. Try to pick something from whatever you’re reading now. And please be sure to include a link back to Bookshelf Fantasies in your post (http://www.bookshelffantasies.com), if you’d be so kind!
  • Add your Thursday Quotables post link in the comments section below… and I’d love it if you’d leave a comment about my quote for this week too.
  • Be sure to visit other linked blogs to view their Thursday Quotables, and have fun!

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Shelf Control #96: Ghost Talkers

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Welcome to Shelf Control — an original feature created and hosted by Bookshelf Fantasies.

Shelf Control is a weekly celebration of the unread books on our shelves. Pick a book you own but haven’t read, write a post about it (suggestions: include what it’s about, why you want to read it, and when you got it), and link up! For more info on what Shelf Control is all about, check out my introductory post, here.

Want to join in? Shelf Control posts go up every Wednesday. See the guidelines at the bottom of the post, and jump on board!

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Title: Ghost Talkers
Author: Mary Robinette Kowal
Published: 2016
Length: 304 pages

What it’s about (synopsis via Goodreads):

Ginger Stuyvesant, an American heiress living in London during World War I, is engaged to Captain Benjamin Harford, an intelligence officer. Ginger is a medium for the Spirit Corps, a special Spiritualist force.

Each soldier heading for the front is conditioned to report to the mediums of the Spirit Corps when they die so the Corps can pass instant information about troop movements to military intelligence.

Ginger and her fellow mediums contribute a great deal to the war efforts, so long as they pass the information through appropriate channels. While Ben is away at the front, Ginger discovers the presence of a traitor. Without the presence of her fiance to validate her findings, the top brass thinks she’s just imagining things. Even worse, it is clear that the Spirit Corps is now being directly targeted by the German war effort. Left to her own devices, Ginger has to find out how the Germans are targeting the Spirit Corps and stop them. This is a difficult and dangerous task for a woman of that era, but this time both the spirit and the flesh are willing…

How and when I got it:

I was dying to read this book as soon as I heard of it, so I preordered and got it right when it was released in August 2016.

Why I want to read it:

I can’t believe this book has been sitting on my nightstand for a year now! I’m ridiculous. I still really want to read it — I love the idea of mediums working in military intelligence! It sounds really awesome, and I’m picking this as my Shelf Control book to try to shame myself. Really, I have to stop buying books and then not reading them, especially when they appeal to me so much! Too many books, too little time… I need to be better at prioritizing my reading in 2018!

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Want to participate in Shelf Control? Here’s how:

  • Write a blog post about a book that you own that you haven’t read yet.
  • Add your link in the comments!
  • If you’d be so kind, I’d appreciate a link back from your own post.
  • Check out other posts, and…

Have fun!

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Take A Peek Book Review: The Austen Escape by Katherine Reay

“Take a Peek” book reviews are short and (possibly) sweet, keeping the commentary brief and providing a little peek at what the book’s about and what I thought.

 

Synopsis:

(via Goodreads)

After years of following her best friend’s lead, Mary Davies finds a whimsical trip back to Austen’s Regency England paves the way towards a new future.

Mary Davies lives and works in Austin, Texas, as an industrial engineer. She has an orderly and productive life, a job and colleagues that she enjoys—particularly a certain adorable, intelligent, and hilarious consultant. But something is missing for Mary. When her estranged and emotionally fragile childhood friend Isabel Dwyer offers Mary a two-week stay in a gorgeous manor house in Bath, Mary reluctantly agrees to come along, in hopes that the holiday will shake up her quiet life in just the right ways. But Mary gets more than she bargained for when Isabel loses her memory and fully believes that she lives in Regency England. Mary becomes dependent on a household of strangers to take care of Isabel until she wakes up.

With Mary in charge and surrounded by new friends, Isabel rests and enjoys the leisure of a Regency lady. But life gets even more complicated when Mary makes the discovery that her life and Isabel’s have intersected in more ways that she knew, and she finds herself caught between who Isabel was, who she seems to be, and the man who stands between them. Outings are undertaken, misunderstandings play out, and dancing ensues as this triangle works out their lives and hearts among a company of clever, well-informed people who have a great deal of conversation.

My Thoughts:

Although I’ve enjoyed other books by this author, The Austen Escape never particularly grabbed me. It’s very reminiscent of Austenland, although here, the Austen experience isn’t played for laughs. Instead, it’s a luxurious retreat for people of means, a chance to live in Austen’s world. The guests dress up, have dinner gatherings, dance, ride, and are treated as esteemed guests. They’re encouraged, but not required, to adopt the personae of Austen’s characters, although the point of this is a little lost on me. Maybe it’s the execution, but I couldn’t particularly see how it mattered if one guest was supposed to be Emma Woodhouse and another Catherine Morland. None of them enacted enough of their characters’ stories or personalities to make a difference.

The key issue for me is that Mary, the main character, never actually gelled for me. I liked (adored) that the lead female here is an engineer, a tech superstar with a drive to succeed and a brain that thinks of the world in scientific terms at all times. That’s really awesome, truly. But (yes, there’s a but), Mary didn’t click for me as a person. We get a lot of explanation, but I didn’t quite see what her issues are. Why is she hesitant to pursue (or accept pursuit from) the man she likes? Why has she never traveled? How does she feel about Isabel’s presence in her life, and why has never addressed this before now?

The synopsis is a little deceptive too. Isabel doesn’t get conked on the head and lose her memory — instead (minor spoiler) she has a sort of nervous break from reality after an emotional blow, and her doctor from home advises Mary to keep an eye on Isabel, play along, and wait for her to snap out of it. I’m sorry, but this seems like terrible advice.

The Austen escape — the luxury vacation — does seem pretty amazing, but even there, I’m not sure in truth how much fun it would be. There are only five other guests when Mary and Isobel arrive, and the options for a true Austen adventure, with socializing and balls and fancy dinner, seems very limited. I think I would have been bored silly within about 48 hours.

The story itself held my attention, and I read the entire book in about a day and a half. It’s a fun read, but the lack of connection to the main character makes this a book that I can finish and not look back at. All in all, I’d say The Austen Escape is enjoyable light entertainment, but on the deeper, emotional level the author seems to be aiming for, it just doesn’t work.

Interested in this author? Check out my reviews of:
Dear Mr. Knightley
Lizzy & Jane
The Brontë Plot
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The details:

Title: The Austen Escape
Author: Katherine Reay
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Publication date: November 7, 2017
Length: 320 pages
Genre: Contemporary fiction
Source: Review copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley

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The Monday Check-In ~ 11/6/2017

cooltext1850356879 My Monday tradition, including a look back and a look ahead — what I read last week, what new books came my way, and what books are keeping me busy right now. Plus a smattering of other stuff too.

What did I read last week?

La Belle Sauvage (The Book of Dust, volume 1) by Philip Pullman: Amazing! I loved this book. My review is here.

Outlander !!

I’m finally posting a reaction post on the same day an episode airs! I have two episodes covered since my last Monday Check-in:

Click on the links to see my reaction to these two episodes, and let me know your thoughts as well!

Here’s a little peek at “First Wife”:

Fresh Catch:

My Kindle preorder of the newest Gail Carriger novella landed over the weekend!

More Parasol-verse, please!

What will I be reading during the coming week?

Currently in my hands:
 

The Austen Escape by Katherine Reay: Just getting started. I’ve read a few of this author’s books, and really enjoy her way of incorporating Jane Austen and other classics into contemporary stories.

Next up will be Artemis by Andy Weir. Can’t wait!

Now playing via audiobook:

Indexing: Reflections by Seanan McGuire: The 2nd book in the super-fun Indexing series. Loving it — should finish by the end of the week.

Ongoing reads:

Book group reads:

  • Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott: My book group’s classic read! We’re reading and discussing two chapters per week.
  • Lord John and the Private Matter by Diana Gabaldon: Outlander Book Club is doing a Lord John readalong — we’ll be reading all of the Lord John novels and stories in story chronology. Let me know if you’d like to participate! All are welcome.

So many books, so little time…

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Insta-Reaction: Outlander, Season 3, Episode 8

Season 3 is here! My intention is to write an “Insta-Reaction” post for each episode soon after viewing, to share some initial thoughts, questions, reactions — you name it.

Warning:

Spoilers

I may be talking about events from this episode, other episodes, and/or the book series… so if you’d rather not know, now’s your chance to walk away!

Outlander, episode 308: “First Wife”

The official synopsis (via Starz):

Claire returns to Lallybroch with Jamie, where she does not receive quite the reception she was expecting. Unbeknownst to her, Jamie’s made some choices in their time apart which come back to haunt them with a vengeance.

My take:

For once, I may actually get an “Insta-Reaction” post up on the same day the episode airs… because I happened to be up late enough on Saturday to be able to stream the episode online instead of waiting to watch it when it aired on Sunday. The joys of being early! Onward…

Major plot points:

  • Jamie, Claire, and Young Ian arrive back at Lallybroch.
  • Claire is delighted to see Jenny and tries to reach out to her, but gets a very cold reception.
  • Jamie tells Claire that he’s been keeping something from her, but before he can get any further, two girls walk in and call him “Daddy.”
  • Uh oh! Turns out Jamie married Laoghaire two years earlier! Claire is horrified and feels betrayed.
  • Jamie explains that his marriage to Laoghaire wasn’t successful and that they’d been living apart.
  • Claire prepares to leave, but Laoghaire shows up again with a pistol and shoots Jamie.
  • Claire removes the birdshot pellets from Jamie, then gives him an injection of penicillin when he begins to become feverish from infection.
  • Lawyer Ned Gowan comes to Lallybroch to work out the dissolution of Jamie’s marriage to Laoghaire. The marriage itself is invalid, but Laoghaire wants to sue Jamie for distress.
  • To resolve the situation, Jamie agrees to pay Laoghaire a very high settlement and ongoing payments, which he can only manage by retrieving a box of jewels from an island, which he discovered during his escape from Ardsmuir prison years earlier.
  • Since Jamie’s arm is wounded, he can’t swim out to the island, so Young Ian goes instead. He finds the jewels, but is then kidnapped and taken aboard a sailing ship that arrives at the island.
  • Jamie and Claire can only watch helplessly from shore as the ship leaves with Ian.

Insta-reaction:

Whew. What a homecoming.

Inlaws – amiright?

It’s understandable that Jenny would feel so betrayed by Claire and treat her so coldly. The truth — that Claire traveled through time — simply wouldn’t be believed. (Okay, we can quibble about this. It’s a superstitious time. People believe in fairies and witches. Why wouldn’t Jenny believe that Claire traveled to a different time? It would explain so much!) Anyway, Jamie and Claire believe that they can’t share the truth with Jenny, which means they’re stuck with the lame story that Claire believed Jamie was dead, sailed off to the colonies, and has been there ever since. As Jenny points out later in the episode, she could have written! Jenny makes it very clear that life at Lallybroch has moved on without Claire and that’s she’s no longer a part of the family. Ouch.

As Claire and Jamie prepare for bed, Jamie’s on the verge of sharing with Claire what he’s been hiding… when we have the “Daddy!” moment. Not good. Claire is freaking out over the two girls — one of whom has very red hair — when it goes from bad to worse, as their mother walks in. It’s Laoghaire, right back to ranting about the “Sassenach witch”. It’s like twenty years never happened.

Jamie obviously has a bond with the girls, and Claire is heartbroken that he not only married the woman who once tried to have her killed, but that he apparently has a life and has children. How could he have let her think that she still fit into his life? Jamie and Claire have a very ugly fight, with broken things and face slaps and the beginning of angry sex, until Jenny literally throws cold water on them, since the whole house can hear what they’re up to.

Once Laoghaire shows up again the next day and shoots Jamie, Claire has cooling off time as she picks the pellets out of Jamie’s shoulders and chest. Young Ian makes an adorable surgeon’s assistant, even picking up a bit of Claire’s medical jargon. As he’s recovering, Jamie shares more with Claire — about his loneliness when he returned to Lallybroch from Helwater, after leaving his son behind and knowing that he’ll likely never see him again. He was rootless and disconnected, until Laoghaire’s daughters made him laugh again. He wanted to be a father, and he wanted to be a husband, and Jenny encouraged the match — but it just never worked. Laoghaire was twice widowed, and at least one of her late husbands was presumably unkind and harsh to her in bed, because things just never clicked her for her and Jamie. He didn’t love her, but thought he could make a life with her and her daughters — but in the end had to leave rather than live with a woman who was afraid to have him touch her.

Claire was relieved to find out that the girls weren’t Jamie’s daughters, but rather his stepdaughters. Jamie had a great line about there being other red-headed men in Scotland — little Joanie’s red hair doesn’t automatically mean Jamie’s the father. The older daughter, Marsali, looks so much like Laoghaire! Great casting, show.

Claire finally sits and talks with Jenny. Turns out Jenny is responsible for Laoghaire showing up at Lallybroch — Jenny sent her daughter to fetch her. Not cool, Jenny. Jenny didn’t trust Claire and thought her return would only end up hurting Jamie. Without telling Jenny the whole truth, Claire gives her a partial truth that helps Jenny start to thaw a bit. Claire tells her that she married another man when she arrived in the colonies and tried to build a life with him, thinking Jamie dead. It was only after her husband died that Claire decided to return to Scotland to visit Jamie’s grave, and that’s when she discovered he was alive. Jenny admits to having loved Claire as a sister, and Claire says she loved her too. Baby steps, but at least there’s a glimmer of hope that Jenny can start to accept Claire again.

It was great to see Ned Gowan! He credits his longevity with never having married — such a scamp! (Who can argue, given that Jamie’s marriages just led to him being shot.) Lovely to see the affection between Ned and Claire — it was one of the few times this episode when Claire’s smile looked genuine, without the shadow of hurt hiding behind it.

The scene with Ned was quite interesting. Yes, the marriage to Laoghaire is invalid since Jamie’s “first wife” was alive the whole time. Laoghaire is threatening to sue Jamie, which could get ugly — but at the same time, pistols are illegal at that time, and Claire is all for turning Laoghaire over the British, which could result in transportation to the colonies for her, most likely to Virgina. (Gotta love Claire’s snide comment about Richmond being lovely that time of year.) Jamie won’t hear of it — he has the girls to think of. In the end, the amount of “alimony” he agrees to pay Laoghaire seems extortionary; not just a settlement amount, but ongoing yearly payments until both girls are settled in marriage. This decision on Jamie’s part will have an impact on his life with Claire for years to come. Interesting to see Jamie’s compassion here contrasted with Claire’s desire for vengeance against Laoghaire. Some wounds never heal. (She tried to have Claire killed! It’s not a forgive and forget situation.)

And then the episode ends with Jamie and Claire on the cliffside, watching Young Ian swimming out to the island to retrieve the cache of jewels. Claire’s still not sure she belongs with Jamie. Maybe it’s all a mistake. She had a career and a home and friends back in Boston. Does she still fit into Jamie’s life? Can they be happy? Jamie tells her yet again that he loves her and wants her, and asks her if she can take a chance on who he is now, for the sake of the man he once was.

Their moment of romantic reconciliation is interrupted by the arrival of the ship, and they’re helpless to save Ian from being kidnapped. Disaster strikes again, because Jamie and Claire just can never catch a break.

Insta-reaction wrap-up:

Another strong episode, although with some key departures from the book.

Laoghaire and the girls show up in Jamie and Claire’s bedroom — but unlike in the book, they don’t walk in while they’re having sex. That’s a relief. Those girls do NOT need to see that.

The biggest change, I think, is that Claire doesn’t leave. In the book, she takes off (with Jenny’s encouragement), grabbing a horse and riding (slowly) back to Craigh na Dun, both determined to go back through the stones and hoping that Jamie will catch her before she does. He doesn’t come after her, though — Young Ian does, because Jamie’s been shot, has an infection, and is likely dying. Claire goes back to treat Jamie and save his life, but whether or not she’ll stay is up in the air. (Book spoiler: She stays.)

The changes work, although having Claire leave would certainly have been more dramatic. The action in the episode felt a bit rushed, but I guess it’s understandable, given how much ground the show still needs to cover.

The fight between Claire and Jamie was brutal, and Jamie says some things that border on unforgiveable. As she’s lashing out at him for marrying Laoghaire, he yells back at her that she left him! This is a devastating charge — she didn’t want to leave him; he forced her to go. It’s painful and awful, but also feels pretty real. Couples don’t always fight fair. Jamie knows that the facts don’t support what he’s saying, but at the same time, he’s saying what’s in his heart. She did leave, willingly or not, and he was left behind, and never got over the hurt.

One thing the show does very well, in some ways better than the books, is show the difficulty of Jamie and Claire’s situation. They can’t just pick up where they left off. It’s not all sunshine and roses. If they’re going to stay together and rebuild a marriage and a life, it’ll take real work, and it’ll take time. They knew each other heart and soul once, but they don’t really know each other at this point. They need to learn to be together all over again.

The Hogmany scene was excellent. It strongly conveyed how alienated Jamie felt, outside of the family and all the happiness right in front of him. It’s easy to see how the laughter of the girls and their affection and openness could charm him. Here are two girls who need a father, and here’s a man with two children whom he’ll never see or raise himself. Seems like a perfect fit, and even Laoghaire looked lovely at the party. We really can’t blame him for trying to fit himself into the role he’d spent so many years longing for. (Even though — ew — Laoghaire.)

The end of the episode represents the crucial turning point of the entire series. In the books, Ian’s kidnapping sets everything that follows in motion. If not for this event, Claire and Jamie would never have gone to America or built a life there. I suppose for viewers who didn’t know it was coming, this was probably a pretty jarring end to the episode. But it’s necessary for the next stages of the story, so off we go.

Wrapping it all up…

It’s definitely funny to see the ship at the end, and also to see more ships in the preview for next week’s episode. The production moved to South Africa for the filming of the seafaring part of the story, using the sets from Black Sails. It’ll be hard to watch the next episode and not be waiting for Captain Flint to show up! (Ah, wouldn’t that be amazing?)

All of a sudden (or so it seems to me), we’re 8 episodes into the season, with only five left. There is so much more that needs to happen to get through the rest of Voyager! Man, this is going to be a jam-packed rest of the season. Episode 308 felt rushed to me, and I’m afraid that the fast pace will only increase for the next several episodes. Which is fine – there’s a lot of story to cover — but I hope they do manage to slow things down enough for us to get more of the personal moments that we need. We really do need to see Jamie and Claire come together and start rebuilding their relationship. They still love each other, but they’re starting over again, and the show needs to give them a bit of breathing space to explore their relationship and rebuild the trust and the bond that has always connected them.

Still, terrific acting once again in this episode from the outstanding cast. They’ve breathed such life into these characters, so we really feel their pain, their anger, and their fears. Now let’s let the love back in a bit, shall we?

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Book Review: La Belle Sauvage (The Book of Dust, volume 1)

Eleven-year-old Malcolm Polstead and his dæmon, Asta, live with his parents at the Trout Inn near Oxford. Across the River Thames (which Malcolm navigates often using his beloved canoe, a boat by the name of La Belle Sauvage) is the Godstow Priory where the nuns live. Malcolm learns they have a guest with them, a baby by the name of Lyra Belacqua . . .

Welcome back to the wonderful world first introduced in the amazing trilogy, His Dark Materials (which I recently wrote about, here). After 17 long years, Philip Pullman takes us back to the alternate reality of an Oxford, England in which the church is in control, people are accompanied by animal-shaped daemons who are really a part of them, like a visible soul that they can converse with, witches are real, and a strange particle known as Dust has everyone in a tizzy.

La Belle Sauvage, the first book in Pullman’s new trilogy (The Book of Dust), is a prequel to the events of The Golden Compass and the rest. Anyone who’s read His Dark Materials knows (and loves) Lyra, the preteen heroine who’s brave and clever and ultimately responsible for saving the world.

In La Belle Sauvage, Lyra is a baby — a helpless character, but still very much at the center of the action. The main character here is a boy named Malcolm, an innkeeper’s son with a heart of gold. Malcolm is a smart, inquisitive boy with the mind of a potential scholar, even though he’s probably destined to run the inn when he’s grown. Malcolm works hard at the inn, serving customers and helping his parents, and in his spare time also does whatever odd jobs are needed by the nuns of the Godstow Priory across the river. And when Malcolm has any time left over, he takes his canoe, La Belle Sauvage, out on the rivers and canals to explore and see all there is to see.

When the nuns take in baby Lyra and offer her sanctuary, Malcolm becomes her instant protector, madly in love with the adorable baby and her equally adorable baby daemon. But the Consistorial Court of Discipline (CCD) is out to get Lyra, along with a deranged former scholar with a criminal past, and Malcolm comes to believe that only he can keep her safe and get her to her father, Lord Asriel, for protection. When a huge storm unleashes massive flooding, Malcolm and Alice, a girl who works at the inn as well, rescue Lyra from the waters engulfing the priory and set off in the canoe, with all sorts of dangerous foes determined to catch them and take Lyra away, no matter what it takes.

Oh my, is this a good book! The adventure is top-notch. We have spies galore, and Malcolm first becomes involved when he inadvertently witnesses the capture of a member of the anti-Church spy ring by agents of the CCD. We also see the creeping terror as the Church’s iron-fisted rule takes over school and society, as school children are encouraged to join a religious league and inform on their parents, friends, neighbors, and teachers — anyone who steps away from the approved teachings of the Church or dares to break the increasingly harsh rules imposed by the CCD.

Malcolm is a terrific main character. He’s smart and daring, always looking to learn, but loyal to his parents and the nuns, and not afraid of working hard. He’s kind and patient, but ready to step up and be fierce when needed. He and Alice start off as enemies, but as they flee with Lyra, they become allies and then true friends.

Lyra, of course, is adorable. She doesn’t do much, but all the action swirls around her. It’s fascinating to see an infant in this world — something we never see in the original trilogy. What we learn in The Book of Dust is that babies have baby daemons, who are also rather helpless and cute and dependent on others for care. Lyra’s daemon Pan takes the form of various small animals — among them kittens and chicks — and curls up to nap with Lyra, each giving comfort to the other. Lyra and Pan babble together in their own language, and somehow it’s just amazing to see how Pullman plays out the concept of daemons in the context of early childhood development.

I wondered how Pantalaimon got his name — I’d assumed while reading The Golden Compass that the person must name his or her daemon, but in La Belle Sauvage, one of the nuns tells Malcolm what Lyra’s daemon’s name is. So is the daemon named by the parent at the same time as the child? I guess it must be so, since the daemon has a name before the child can talk, but it struck me as surprising — I kind of expected the naming of the daemons to have something to do with the person’s inner truth, or some such thing, rather than to be imposed from an external source. This is something I’d definitely like to know more about!

There are some cool connections to the world of His Dark Materials. I thought Malcolm’s name was familiar… and with good reason. In the novella Lyra’s Oxford, which takes place a couple of years after The Amber Spyglass, Lyra encounters a Professor Polstead, who is described as “stout, ginger-haired, affable; more inclined to be friendly to Lyra than she was to return the feeling.” It’s Malcolm! I’m so happy to know that he’s still a part of Lyra’s life later on, even though she doesn’t know his significance or how he saved her life. I hope we’ll learn more in later books in The Book of Dust. Other familiar faces are (of course) Lord Asriel and Mrs. Coulter, Lyra’s parents, as well as the gyptian Farder Coram and the scholar Hannah Relf.

I absolutely loved the world-building in La Belle Sauvage. Even though this world is familiar from the earlier trilogy, we get to see aspects of the society that are new, through new and different sets of eyes. As I mentioned, the characters are phenomenal, especially Malcolm, but even the more minor characters are distinctive and memorable.

The action is thrilling, especially once the flood comes and Malcolm and Alice begin their adventure on the river. The two show amazing courage and stamina, sacrificing everything for the sake of little Lyra. Their experiences are often truly terrifying, but their essential goodness and bravery keeps them going even when it seems like they’ll never reach safety.

The author never talks down to his audience, and as in the original trilogy, brain power is required. There’s talk of physics and theology and particles and matter, and scholars are among the most esteemed characters. Philip Pullman’s characters value intelligence and curiosity, and reading his books is anything but a mindless pursuit. The ideas and concepts here demand that the reader put some effort in — all well worth it.

Ah, such a good read! Really, what more can I say? I cannot wait to continue the trilogy, and will be eagerly stalking The Book of Dust‘s Goodreads page for the first hint of a publication date for the second book (which, according to Goodreads, will be called The Secret Commonwealth).

If you read His Dark Materials, you simply must read La Belle Sauvage. And it probably goes without saying, but for anyone who hasn’t read the first trilogy, go do it now! Get thee to a bookstore or library and grab a copy of The Golden Compass! It’ll rock your world.

One final note: The book is marketed as young adult fantasy and is published by the children’s division of the publisher, but as with His Dark Materials, I have a hard time defining this book by its intended audience. It’s a great book, period. For anyone. And for anyone who cares about such things, I’d say the tone here is skewed slightly older, as there are hints of more adult content in the context of the actions of a terrible villain, and there’s even an f-bomb, which I don’t believe occurs at all in His Dark Materials. Regardless, La Belle Sauvage is beautifully written and is another excellent chapter in an exciting series of fantasy novels — and should be read by adults and smart kids of all ages!

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The details:

Title: La Belle Sauvage (The Book of Dust, volume 1)
Author: Philip Pullman
Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers
Publication date: October 19, 2017
Length: 464 pages
Genre: Fantasy/young adult
Source: Purchased

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Thursday Quotables: Reflections (Indexing, #2)

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Welcome to Thursday Quotables! This weekly feature is the place to highlight a great quote, line, or passage discovered during your reading each week.  Whether it’s something funny, startling, gut-wrenching, or just really beautifully written, Thursday Quotables is where my favorite lines of the week will be, and you’re invited to join in!
A little programming note: While I’m mostly back to weekly postings, I find I’m not at 100% yet! I’ll continue to post Thursday Quotables most weeks. If I happen to skip a week when you have a post to share, feel free to link up to whichever TQ post here is most recent. Many thanks!
Onward with this week’s Thursday Quotable:
Indexing: Reflections by Seanan McGuire
(published 2016)

I’m thoroughly enjoying my audiobook adventures with the Indexing series by Seanan McGuire (you can check out my review of book #1 here), and thought I’d share a funny, don’t f-with-me little snippet for this week’s Thursday Quotable.

Sloane sauntered into the observation room like she didn’t have a care in the world, and scowled when she saw the coffee cup in my hand. “I came for coffee,” she said. “If you have consumed all the coffee, I am going to straight-up fucking murder you, and drink a latte out of your skull.”

I get it. I have those mornings sometimes too.

What lines made you laugh, cry, or gasp this week? Do tell!

If you’d like to participate in Thursday Quotables, it’s really simple:

  • Write a Thursday Quotables post on your blog. Try to pick something from whatever you’re reading now. And please be sure to include a link back to Bookshelf Fantasies in your post (http://www.bookshelffantasies.com), if you’d be so kind!
  • Add your Thursday Quotables post link in the comments section below… and I’d love it if you’d leave a comment about my quote for this week too.
  • Be sure to visit other linked blogs to view their Thursday Quotables, and have fun!

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Shelf Control #95: The Pack

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Welcome to Shelf Control — an original feature created and hosted by Bookshelf Fantasies.

Shelf Control is a weekly celebration of the unread books on our shelves. Pick a book you own but haven’t read, write a post about it (suggestions: include what it’s about, why you want to read it, and when you got it), and link up! Fore more info on what Shelf Control is all about, check out my introductory post, here.

Want to join in? Shelf Control posts go up every Wednesday. See the guidelines at the bottom of the post, and jump on board!

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A little bit Halloween-y — my Shelf Control pick this week is:

Title: The Pack
Author: Jason Starr
Published: 2011
Length: 352 pages

What it’s about (synopsis via Goodreads):

When Simon Burns is fired from his job without warning, he takes on the role of stay-at-home dad for his three-year-old son. But his reluctance pushes his already strained marriage to the limit. In the nestled playgrounds of the Upper West Side, Simon harbors a simmering rage at his boss’s betrayal.

Things take a turn when he meets a tight-knit trio of dads at the playground. They are different from other men Simon has met, stronger and more confident, more at ease with the darker side of life- and soon Simon is lured into their mix. But after a guys’ night out gets frighteningly out of hand, Simon feels himself sliding into a new nightmarish reality.

As he experiences disturbing changes in his body and his perceptions, he starts to suspect that when the guys welcomed him to their “pack,” they were talking about much more than male bonding. And as he falls prey to his basest instincts, Simon must accept that werewolves exist if he is to turn the tides of his fortune…

How and when I got it:

I really don’t remember where I got this book, but I know I picked it up years ago after hearing a friend mention something about a werewolf book.

Why I want to read it:

Because every once in a while, there’s nothing like reading about werewolves! I’m not sure that I’m truly up for yet another version of werewolf-ism as a metaphor for man’s inner animal or some such thing, but at the same time, a pack of stay-at-home dads turning into werewolves sounds kind of awesome. I’d almost forgotten I still have this book, but in honor of Halloween, I thought I’d prowl my shelves for something on the icky/scary side, and this is what I found!

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Want to participate in Shelf Control? Here’s how:

  • Write a blog post about a book that you own that you haven’t read yet.
  • Add your link in the comments!
  • If you’d be so kind, I’d appreciate a link back from your own post.
  • Check out other posts, and…

Have fun!

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Top Ten Tuesday: Ten haunting books for Halloween chills

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Happy Halloween!

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, featuring a different top 10 theme each week. This week’s topic is a Halloween freebie!

This year, I think I’ll focus on ghost stories… some read recently, some longer ago, but all good choices to send a little shiver down the spine

1. The Winter Ghosts by Kate Mosse

2. The Night Strangers by Chris Bohjalian

3. Thornhill by Pam Smy (review)

4. Bag of Bones by Stephen King

5. The Uninvited by Cat Winters (review)

6. The Dead Fathers Club by Matt Haig (review)

7. The Vanishing by Wendy Webb (review)

8. The Uninvited Guests by Sadie Jones (review)

9. The Mystery of Grace by Charles De Lint

10. Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger

Do you have any good ghost stories to recommend? What’s on your Halloween TTT? Share your link, please, and I’ll come check out your top 10!

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Do you host a book blog meme? Do you participate in a meme that you really, really love? I host a Book Blog Meme Directory, and I’m always looking for new additions! If you know of a great meme to include — or if you host one yourself — please drop me a note on my Contact page and I’ll be sure to add your info.

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Insta-Reaction: Outlander, Season 3, Episode 7

Season 3 is here! My intention is to write an “Insta-Reaction” post for each episode soon after viewing, to share some initial thoughts, questions, reactions — you name it.

Warning:

Spoilers

I may be talking about events from this episode, other episodes, and/or the book series… so if you’d rather not know, now’s your chance to walk away!

Outlander, episode 307: “Creme de Menthe”

The official synopsis (via Starz):

Claire follows her conscience as a surgeon, even though it could put her and Jamie’s lives at risk. At the same time, Jamie attempts to evade the reach of the Crown as its representative closes in on his illegal dealings.

My take:

Major plot points:

Day 2 of Jamie and Claire’s reunion isn’t going so well:

  • We start where the last episode ended, with Claire being accosted by a stranger searching Jamie’s room. After a scuffle, he falls and hits his head.
  • Jamie thinks it would be best for the man to die. Claire is a doctor and can’t leave the man without trying to treat him.
  • In going to fetch herbs, Claire meets Archibald Campbell, who arranges for Claire to come see his sick sister Margaret later on.
  • Claire tries crude surgery on the injured man, drilling into his skull to relieve the pressure, but he dies anyway.
  • Sir Percival comes to search the brothel for Jamie’s smuggled liquor, but finds nothing, as Ian and Fergus have already removed it and sold it.
  • Ian has his first sexual encounter with a barmaid, after some coaching from Fergus.
  • Ian Sr. comes looking for Young Ian, and Jamie lies and says he has not seen him.
  • A man with a blind eye searches the print shop and finds Jamie’s seditious pamphlets. In a fight with Young Ian, the printshop catches fire.
  • Jamie rescues Young Ian, but the shop is completely burned.
  • Jamie agrees that he and Claire should take Young Ian home to Lallybroch.

Insta-reaction:

Well, the honeymoon is over.

Jamie and Claire had one blissful night of lovemaking in the last episode, but now in the cold hard light of day, the reality of the rest of the world comes crashing back in, leading to danger from without and conflict between Jamie and Claire.

I can only imagine what’s going through Claire’s mind during the events of this episode. She thought she knew what she was getting herself into, and had accepted the uncertainties she’d face. Before traveling back through the stones, Claire knew that it was possible that Jamie would no longer have room for her in his life. It was a calculated risk, and one that she took for herself and for Brianna, putting her faith in the love she and Jamie had shared, and hoping it would be enough for them to build a new future on.

And here she is, back in Jamie’s world — and in her shoes, I’d probably be asking myself what the f*** I just did to my life. Once again, she finds herself married to a man on the wrong side of the law, with no home, no standing, and no way to fulfill her professional goals. She asks Jamie if they can find someplace else to live (what, brothels aren’t homey enough for you Claire?), but Jamie says money is too tight. Claire suggests that she can set up shop in the back of the printshop as a healer, but Jamie doesn’t seem all that enthusiastic. Honestly, he seems to mostly be looking at Claire as if she’s trouble throughout this episode. A nice docile wife would, I guess, have agreed to let the injured man die — but instead, Jamie has Claire back in his life, putting her medical vows first even when it thrusts them into greater danger. Deja vu all over again, right Jamie?

As for Claire, she’s quite clear with Jamie that she’s a physician and a surgeon, and it’s also clear that she may be regretting walking away from her 20th century medical career, with its clean hospitals and surgical implements and medicines. No, she doesn’t regret finding Jamie, but I think it’s hitting her bit by bit that she’s back in the 18th century, where she has no authority and lacks the most basic of decent medical resources.

Mr. Willoughby seems like a good assistant to Claire. As I probably mentioned last week, I’m very thankful that the show is treating his character as a respectable adult, rather than as the caricature he is in the books.

Young Ian and Fergus are adorable together (and basically are adorable always, in any setting). So now we know that Fergus lost his virginity at age 15 in a menage-a-trois. Oh, Fergus. Never change. Fergus gives Ian a few tips that seem to work pretty well, because before he knows it, he’s heading to bed with the pretty barmaid. Sure, there’s the confusion that seems to plague the virginal males of the family — no, Ian, you do not have to do it from behind. Don’t worry, Jamie was befuddled at first too, but you’ll learn. Sadly, Ian’s first experience is interrupted by the printshop bursting into flames, but I’m sure he’ll have plenty of opportunities down the road.

Claire’s reunion with Ian Sr. was interesting and difficult. He looked at Claire with love, but also with hurt, I think. He tells Claire that he and Jenny mourned for her for years. It’ll be hard for them to accept Claire’s cover story — that she thought Jamie was dead and fled to the colonies. It begs the question of why she never wrote or tried to contact Jenny in any way, and there’s no good answer. Either Claire tells the truth about time travel, which they may or may not believe, or she sticks to a story that makes her sound hard-hearted and uncaring toward the Murray/Fraser clan. Still, Ian had tears running down his face while embracing Claire. He may be hurt, but he loves her anyway. I wouldn’t expect instant forgiveness from Jenny, Claire.

Claire is shocked that Jamie lies to Ian Sr. and says that he has not seen Young Ian. Clearly, Young Ian is involved in Jamie’s less-than-legal business dealings, and just as clearly, Jamie doesn’t want Jenny and Ian to know anything about it. Claire doesn’t understand how Jamie can lie to his family, and a rather ugly exchange ensues in which Claire makes a nasty comment about Jamie not understanding what it is to be a parent. Jamie of course brings up Brianna’s bikini as an example of Claire’s questionable parenting choices. Ouch. Boy, there is a lot of tension simmering beneath the surface.

And of course, the lies don’t end there. We finally hear spoken what we know already from the books, when Fergus asks Jamie the big question:

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Uh oh. Jamie’s lies (and lies of omission) are about to catch up with him in a big way. Next week’s episode should be explosive.

Insta-reaction wrap-up:

After the highs of the reunion last week, this week’s episode feels pretty low. Lots of unhappy people, lots of tense situations, not a whole lot of joy for anyone.

Claire and Jamie are both now facing the reality of what her return means. She instantly (although through no fault of her own) causes dangerous complications for him, his business partners, and the family. She’s realizing that her fantasy of a quiet, peaceful, loving home with Jamie is as far from reach as when she was in Boston.

Both are realizing that there are things about the other that maybe don’t fit their rosie-eyed pictures. Claire sees Jamie both disregarding the value of a human life and telling lies, two things that are absolutely contrary to her values. Jamie sees once again that having Claire in his life means having a wife who can’t be relied upon to follow his orders or sit on the sidelines.

They do love each other. Jamie affirms yet again that he wants her. But the open question here is whether they truly fit together any more, after so many changes and so many years. Can they rebuild a new version of their life and their marriage that will give them the happiness together that they both want?

I must admit here that I found this section of the book kind of irritating, so it’s no wonder the episode didn’t especially appeal to me either. It was very well done, as they all are — but I just find this section of the plot getting on my nerves. Jamie is so busy with his random illegal business obligations that he doesn’t pay very much attention to Claire’s needs and just expects her to fit herself into his life. Okay, fine, so he didn’t know she was coming and does have an actual life that he was living, so it’s not like he’s not justified in his actions. Maybe there is no easy answer.

I just know that in Claire’s shoes, if I found the love of my life after 20 years and he was too busy smuggling, hiding bodies, and telling lies to make me feel welcome back into his life, I might be asking myself some really big questions right about now.

“Creme de Menthe” shows that perfect love still has jagged edges, and that no matter how deep and true the romance, people have to live in the real world. For Jamie and Claire, the question is whether their love is enough to see them past their differences and the changes wrought by their 20 year separation. They’re not out of the woods yet.

Wrapping it all up…

I probably should have mentioned this back at the beginning of the season — but I am not reading along with season 3, and it’s been years since I’ve read (or re-read) Voyager. I mention this because I’ve already heard that a lot of book readers are steaming over this particular episode and its omissions and additions vis-à-vis the book. During season 1, I made a point of reading the relevant book chapters prior to watching each episode, and I found that this approach actually detracted from my enjoyment of the show. It just put too great an emphasis on noting the differences from the original source material to the TV adaptation.

I decided going into season 2 that I’d do it book-free. I remembered enough to know where the major plot deviations were, but didn’t have the details so vividly in my mind that I’d get upset about the delivery of certain lines or whether something should have happened upstairs or downstairs (for example). It was a much happier viewing experience for me. I was able to savor the beautiful parts, admire the artistry and choreography of complicated scenes, and simply enjoy the production.

So far, this approach is absolutely working for me in season 3. Which brings me back to this episode. As I mentioned, I didn’t particularly love this part of Voyager, so if they skim over some of the smuggling adventures as a means of moving the plot forward, I’m fine with that. And no, Claire doesn’t drill into a man’s head in the book — but I’m okay with that too. Here, in the TV episode, it’s a shorthand method of demonstrating the differences Claire and Jamie still have to overcome.

So — no, episode 307 isn’t the best of the season, but I think it did what it needed to do to get us from point A (the reunion) to point C (the beginning of the rest of their lives together). It’s okay. It’ll all be okay.

And anyway, since when did Jamie and Claire ever have smooth sailing?

 

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