Top Ten Tuesday: Ten authors I’ve read the most books by

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl, featuring a different top 10 theme each week. This week’s topic is Authors I’ve Read the Most Books By.

It looks like I did this topic back in 2015, but my reading habits have changed since then — so, new and improved for 2020, here are ten authors whose books dominate my shelves.

Note: The numbers as reflected in Goodreads aren’t entirely reliable, since they include novellas and stand-alone stories that I’ve marked as read as well as actual novels and other published materials. So… take the the numbers below with a grain (or ten) of salt.

Seanan McGuire – 38 

Because I adore the October Daye series and the Incryptid series, as well as her various other novels and novellas and, well, basically anything she writes. And this doesn’t even include the 12 works I’ve read by her alter ego Mira Grant.

 

Jim Butcher – 29

And more coming this year, with two new Dresden Files books releasing this summer and fall! Besides the Dresden books, this number includes Codex Alera, some story collections, and Bigfoot!

 

Dana Stabenow – 27

The Kate Shugak series is at 22 books (and counting), plus there are 4 Liam Campbell books published so far, and I’ve read a collection of her non-fiction travel writing. (Plus, I have more books of hers on my TBR, but who’s counting?)

 

Patricia Briggs – 25

I love the Mercy Thompson series, as well Alpha & Omega, plus I’ve read any and all Mercy-verse stories that have appeared in various anthologies.

 

Diana Gabaldon – 23 

I’m going to keep using this picture, because hey, I met DG once in person and it was awesome!

No, there aren’t 23 books in the Outlander series, but this include the Lord John books, the reference books, and the various novellas and stand-alone stories.

 

Gail Carriger – 23

According to Goodreads, that’s 4 each for the Finishing School and Custard Protocol series, 4 for the Parasol Protectorate, a whole bunch of novellas, and two works published as G. L. Carriger.

 

Stephen King – 21

Considering how many books he’s written, this is just scratching the surface! I don’t think I’ll ever run out of backlist King books to read, not to mention keeping up with the never-ending new releases.

 

Tamora Pierce – 19

I went on a Tamora Pierce reading binge last year, reading basically ALL of her Tortall books, one after another. And loved them all! (Mostly.)

 

John Scalzi – 19

So there’s the Old Man’s War series, the Interdependency trilogy, the Lock In books, and various others too.

 

And finally, one that maybe should go into a separate category…

Robert Kirkman – 33

Because I’ve read the entire Walking Dead series in trade paperback editions, and that’s 32 books, plus one more about Negan.

 

Which authors have you read the most? Do we have any in common?

Please share your links!

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Insta-Reaction: Outlander, Season 5, Episode 12 (season finale)

And just like that, it’s the end of season 5. Here’s my final “Insta-Reaction” post for the season!

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 512: “Never My Love”

The official synopsis (via Starz):

Claire struggles to survive brutal treatment from her captors, as Jamie gathers a group of loyal men to help him rescue his wife. Roger and Brianna’s journey takes a surprising turn.

My take:

Tough, painful episode. I’m not even going to try to recap it.

Insta-reaction:

The show has now gone to the most difficult and awful section of book six. I was hoping (but without really thinking there was a chance) that the show would for once decide that it doesn’t need to show every single rape that happens in the books. Sadly, that’s not what happened.

Look, I love Outlander, but I think it has a rape problem. Maybe because the books are so long, and so many years go by in between the publication of each book, it just doesn’t feel like being hit over the head quite as much as it does when viewing the TV show. I was just thinking back — has there been a single season of TV Outlander that hasn’t had at least one character being raped? Sadly, the answer is no.

This segment of the book is so disturbing and awful. I just can’t say it strongly enough. It’s what makes me flinch whenever I think about re-reading A Breath of Snow and Ashes (which happens to be a book with a LOT of terrible things — probably the bleakest of the books).

Couldn’t the show have included the abduction, if it needed to, without including rape? I think it could have. Book purists will argue that it had to be included because it happpened in the book, but I think the trauma and violence and fallout from this incident could have been conveyed regardless. Then again, I made the same argument when it came to Brianna in season 4, but no one else agreed with me!

I absolutely applaud the fine acting in this episode, particularly Caitriona Balfe, who just shone. She was splendid in every scene, and I respect her accomplishment and dedication so much. Really, the entire cast was excellent.

But still… it was a tough episode, and a downer of a season finale.

At least we got one of my favorite classic Jamie lines:

Sigh. Oh, Jamie.

Brianna and Roger’s return is practically an afterthought — yes, they went through the stones, but because they were both thinking of home, they ended up right back in the same place. They both now realize that they belong at Fraser’s Ridge, with Jamie and Claire.

I did think the opening was quite well done. As Claire is being abused and assaulted, she dissociates and in her mind, goes to a 1960s-era home where she’s surrounded by her loved ones — Jamie, enfolding her in his plaid, and then a Thanksgiving dinner with Ian, Murtagh, Jocasta, Marsali and Fergus. They all look super mod and it would be adorable if it weren’t a fantasy that’s keeping Claire from having to live in her pain and trauma.

Overall, this was a terribly painful episode to watch, and I wish this wasn’t the final note of the season, because this is the tone and content that we’ll all be left with over the long months (years?) until the next season airs.

Season wrap-up:

This has been a very uneven season — not because of the acting, which is as excellent as ever — but because of the strange pacing, the downplaying of certain traumatic events, and the inclusion of others that I wasn’t expecting until next season. It leaves me wondering what’s next. Will the show circle back to the pieces of book six (such as the Christie family) that didn’t get included here? Or will we be moving directly on to season 7 and the looming war?

I love Outlander, and always will, but this season has left me with very mixed feelings.

Of course, after watching today’s episode, it may just be that I haven’t dealt with the impact yet. Maybe with time and a rewatch, I’ll feel better about the season as a whole. Still, right now, I’m uneasy and feeling not quite satisfied.

 

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Insta-Reaction: Outlander, Season 5, Episode 11

Season 5 is here! I’ll be writing 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 511: “Journeycake”

The official synopsis (via Starz):

A revelation about Jemmy forces Roger and Brianna to choose between staying in the eighteenth century and returning to the safety of the future.  Jamie finds that unrest in the backcountry has given rise to a new power – an organization led by the unpredictable Brown brothers.  Claire finds that her attempts to make this time safer for her family have dire, unintended consequences

My take:

Major plot points:

We’re really and truly into book #6 now. Major events this episode:

  • After discovering that Jemmy has the ability to time travel, Roger and Brianna decide it’s time to go back to their own time
  • Jamie tells Brianna about her brother William.
  • The Browns form a Safety Committee and want Jamie to join, along with his men, but he declines.
  • Later, Lionel Brown brings his wife to Claire for treatment, and discovers that she’s the “Doctor Rawlings” whose advice has been circulating.
  • Brianna, Roger, and Jemmy leave.
  • Claire is abducted by the Browns. (Scum.)

Insta-reaction:

Wow. The show is serious about covering a lot of ground. It’s been a year since the events of the last episode. It’s now 1772, and there’s a LOT going on.

It’s full speed ahead into territory covered in book #6, A Breath of Snow and Ashes. We open with the same disturbing setting as the opening of the book, the “Dutch cabin”, where a family of settlers has been killed and their cabin burned to the ground. The Frasers find the bodies and wonder what could have happened. One woman, horribly burned, is found still alive. Jamie and Roger give her a mercy killing and a final blessing, and the family buries the dead.

Back at the Ridge, Ian plays with Jemmy using the opal left by Otter Tooth. Jemmy touches it and says that it’s hot. The stone is hot to the touch for Claire, Roger, and Brianna, not to Jamie and Young Ian. The time travelers can also hear the hum that they associate with the standing stones, and when Jemmy holds the opal again, it cracks. This must be a sign that Jemmy is a time traveler, like his parents, and — Brianna hopefully adds — perhaps this is finally the proof that Roger is Jemmy’s biological father.

Roger and Brianna decide that it’s time for them to go back to their own time, and agree to leave in a month, to give them time for proper good-byes. Young Ian learns the truth about Claire and time travel, and begs Brianna and then Claire to take him with them, so he can then attempt to go back to an earlier time and fix his mistakes. He’s devastated when they turn him down, explaining that it doesn’t work that way — either you’re born a time traveler, or you’re not, and since he didn’t feel any heat from the opal, he’s not. We still don’t know much about Ian’s time with the Mohawks, but he does mention a situation between husband and wife. Book readers know what happened, but this is another clue for show-only fans that Ian has a romantic past that’s yet to be revealed.

A group of armed men led by the Browns show up at the Ridge, calling on Jamie to gather his men and join their Committee for Safety, to patrol the region and ensure peace. They do not have the blessing of the new governor. Despite some attempts at intimidation, Jamie says he needs time to think. This does not please the Browns.

Lord John comes for a visit, and hey, it’s always great to see Lord John. He’s preparing to return to England. William’s grandfather has died, which means that William is now the heir to both the Ellesmere title (he’s an Earl, don’t you know) and the Dunsany estate, and John needs to prepare him for what that will mean for him as an adult. He leaves Jamie with a portrait of the lad. Later, Jamie shows the portrait to Brianna and explains that she has a brother. He tells her the story of how William was conceived and what his life is like, and suggests that when she’s back in her own time, she look in the historical records to see if she can find him.

Lionel Brown returns to the Ridge for Jamie’s answer, and he declines to join the Brown endeavor. This is not going to sit well with the Browns. Before leaving, Lionel wants Claire to tend to his injured wife. The poor woman, married to Lionel for only a year, has a broken wrist and has clearly been abused. When Lionel leaves the room, she confesses to Claire that Lionel became angry when she wouldn’t sleep with him, and she didn’t want to because she read Doctor Rawlings’s advice about when to avoid intercourse if a woman doesn’t want to conceive. Uh oh. And then Lionel comes back into the room and sees a notebook with Dr. Rawling’s name on it. Double uh oh.

Brianna and Roger make tearful good-byes. Their cover story is that they’re moving to Boston, where Roger has been offered a professorship. Kind of a flimsy alibi, isn’t it? Won’t everyone wonder why they never come back for a visit or write a single letter to their parents? In any case, it’s all quite sad. Poor Lizzie fully expects to go with Bree, and seems heartbroken when she’s told that she’ll have to stay at the Ridge.

After a farewell dinner of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches (Jamie and Ian are not impressed), Brianna and Roger head to the stones, with Ian along to make sure they arrive okay. Roger ties ropes around himself, Brianna, and Jemmy so they won’t get separated, and they touch the stones… and are gone. They wake up, somewhere, and apparently see something shocking. But we don’t know what! Let’s hope we find out next episode that they arrived back in the 20th century safe and sound.

When the Fraser’s Ridge still explodes, Jamie and the men go running, leaving Claire and Marsali alone in the house tending to a patient. A gang of Brown’s men burst in, knock out Marsali, and abduct Claire. Damn, damn, damn.

The episode ends with Jamie lighting the fiery cross, calling his loyal men together. It’s a sign of readying for battle. They’re going to get Claire back.

Other tidbits:

  • Ulysses is hiding out at Fraser’s Ridge, after killing Gerald Forbes in the previous episode. He’s going to sail to England with Lord John, posing as his servant. Once out of the Carolinas, he’ll finally be free.

  • Jamie and Claire make love in a window (straight out of the book). The next day, Claire shows Jamie his sperm under a microscope. Um, thanks? Weird scene, and now we’ve all seen Jamie Fraser’s sperm.

  • This episode was written by Herself, aka Diana Gabaldon. It’s always nice to get her imprint on an episode! And now, I’d like for her to finish up the next book, pretty please.

Insta-reaction wrap-up:

Damn it. The preview for next week makes it clear where the storyline is going — straight toward the part of A Breath of Snow and Ashes that makes me truly unhappy, and that I’d prefer to be spared, or at least not forced to watch this season. There’s been quite enough trauma already, thank you very much.

Given the speed with which the show is moving through books 5 and 6, does that mean that next season will pick up with season 7? Frankly, book 6 contains a lot of pretty disturbing material, so if we could be done with all that, I’d be fine with it.

The cast is turning is really strong performances, and I just hope that Brianna and Roger’s departure doesn’t mean that the actors and characters will be disappearing from the story. (The books include their 20th century lives… we’ll see what happens in the show).

Next week’s episode is the season finale. I really and truly hope that they don’t follow the absolute letter of the book with this next set of events. If you’ve read the book, you know what I mean. That would be an awful way to end the season. Please, please let us end with something upbeat!

Ack. I’m feeling upset already, and we’re not even there yet. Keeping my fingers crossed that the show finds a different way to bring this season to a close.

 

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Insta-Reaction: Outlander, Season 5, Episode 10

Season 5 is here! I’ll be writing 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 510: “Mercy Shall Follow Me”

The official synopsis (via Starz):

Jamie and Roger implement their plan to eliminate the threat looming over them, but it goes awry. Brianna is forced to confront her greatest fear and fight for her and her son’s lives.

My take:

Major plot points:

Well, I’ll go into detail below. The basic fact to know is:

  • This episode brings the Stephen Bonnet storyline to a close.
  • Good riddance.

Insta-reaction:

Good-bye, Stephen Bonnet.

This episode is quite a departure from the source material, The Fiery Cross (#5 in the Outlander series). While the book deals with yet another violent encounter with Stephen Bonnet, he remains around to torment the Frasers some more through book #6, A Breath of Snow and Ashes.

The show appears to have made the decision to wrap up his storyline this season, and they’ve moved the major events related to Bonnet’s capture and death up in the timeline. And that’s fine by me.

Bonnet has been lurking in the background this season, seemingly having latched onto the idea that Brianna’s child is his and suddenly dressing and presenting himself as a gentleman. Here, we learn a bit more about his motivation. He’s learned from Gerald Forbes, Jocasta’s lawyer, than wee Jemmy is set to inherit River Run. By law, the child’s property would rightfully belong to his parents… so if Bonnet can claim Jemmy as his son, he’ll also be able to claim River Run. Especially as he’s in cahoots with slime-bag Forbes to get Jocasta and her husband Duncan Innes out of the way so he can get his hands on the fortune right away — with Forbes getting a nice cut as a reward.

Forbes manages to screw things up when he meets with Jocasta. Jocasta is feeling generous and wants Forbes to write up an addendum to her will, giving money to Fergus and Marsali, Young Ian, and even the servant Lizzy. It seems to be Lizzy’s name that pushes Forbes over the top, who starts to rage about Jocasta giving away his money and then tries to suffocate her with a throw pillow. Fortunately, Ulysses rushes in to save the day (and snap Forbes’s neck), but of course, that probably spells doom for Ulysses.

Meanwhile…

Jamie and Roger and Ian have a plan to waylay Bonnet and kill him once and for all. Roger is insistent that he’ll be the one to take the shot. Jamie promises to avenge Roger if he gets killed. (This made me laugh… oh, Jamie, never change). Roger promises the same. But their promises end up not mattering, because Bonnet doesn’t show up where he’s expected.

Instead, he comes upon Claire and Brianna at the beach. Dammit, Bonnet, why did you have to interrupt such a lovely moment? Honestly, I could have watched Claire and Brianna racing on the beach and collecting shells for a few more hours. It was a beautiful, happy scene, and Outlander really doesn’t give us a whole lot of happy, does it?

Bonnet shows up and threatens both women, manages to knock Claire out and then Brianna, and leaves with Bree. When Claire comes to, face-down in the sand, Brianna is gone.

Bree wakes up in strange but well-furnished surroundings, and learns that she’s on an island, in a house that belongs to Bonnet. At first, he tries to playact with her, treating her as if he’s a gentleman, talking about raising their son together and wanting to learn to be proper. He’s clearly nuts, but he’s a lucid kind of nuts. Brianna plays along, because what choice does she have? She dresses up in the fancy gown he gives her and sits down to dinner with him, teaching him about table manners, and later reads to him, cleverly pretending to read him Moby Dick. (Bonnet is illiterate, it would seem.)

The playacting seems to be working to keep Brianna safe, until the next day when she convinces Bonnet to let her go get Jemmy and bring him back so they can all be together as a family. But when Bonnet insists on a farewell kiss, the jig is up. He can tell Brianna is faking, and the nice-guy gloves come off. He forces her to watch while he has sex with a prostitute named Eppie. When he leaves the room, Bree begs Eppie for help, but she refuses. Things look bad for Brianna.

Back in Wilmington, Claire, Jamie, Roger, and Ian follow clues to Madame Sylvie’s brothel, where Claire treats Eppie for pain and Eppie agrees to help, telling them where to find Bree. Our brave heroes show up just in time, as dirtbag Stephen Bonnet is about to sell Brianna to some random sea captain who’s also a complete dirtbag. Brianna is saved.

In the end, rather than killing him on the spot, the Frasers take Bonnet back to Wilmington to face justice, and he’s condemned to death by drowning. He’s left out in the water, chained to a pole as the tide comes in. As the water starts to rise above his chin, Brianna takes aim and shoots him, killing him but saving him from drowning, his worst fear. Roger asks if it was mercy or to make sure Bonnet was really dead, but Brianna gives no answer.

Insta-reaction wrap-up:

I’m glad this storyline has been dealt with and finished. Honestly, I wouldn’t mind if the show skipped or condensed most of book 6 and moved straight on to #7. A Breath of Snow and Ashes has some of the most dismal and disturbing plotlines in the series, and I wouldn’t be sorry not to have to see those acted out on my TV screen.

As for the Bonnet plot, I appreciate that the show wrapped it up all in this episode. The kidnapping and  island business goes on for a long time in the book, and also includes some pretty sadistic, cruel treatment that Bree is forced to endure (while pregnant!). I’m glad the show didn’t go as far as the book does, and that we didn’t have to see Brianna suffer longer than necessary.

Can we just go back to the beach scene, before Bonnet’s arrival? Both women, Claire and Brianna, looked so happy and beautiful, carefree and enjoying themselves and enjoying their time together. I love seeing the moments where Claire and Brianna’s love is center stage. This was perfect.

Ah, only two episodes left this season! Where did it all go?

Last episode and this one have been my favorites so far. As I said last week, I think the episodes that are about the people and their relationships are so much stronger than those that focus on battles and politics. More of the Frasers and Mackenzies, please!

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Insta-Reaction: Outlander, Season 5, Episode 9

Season 5 is here! I’ll be writing 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 509: “Monsters and Heroes”

The official synopsis (via Starz):

When Jamie is bitten by a venomous snake, Claire fears she may not have the resources to save him. Jamie asks Roger to complete an important task in the event of his death.

My take:

Major plot points:

  • Jamie almost dies. But he doesn’t.
  • Really, that’s the focus of the whole episode.
  • Marsali has a baby girl.
  • Roger and Jamie bond.
  • Claire is amazing.

Insta-reaction:

The menfolk of the Ridge go out on a hunt, then split up into groups to track a herd of buffalo. Roger and Jamie pair up, and Jamie is bitten by a snake. It appears to be venomous, and Jamie becomes ill very quickly. Roger attempts to go for help, but the others are too far away. They have no choice but to make camp for the night and try to return by daylight.

Jamie’s condition worsens, and he believes he’s going to die. He asks Roger for last rites, which Roger says he doesn’t know, and in any case, that Jamie doesn’t need them. He offers Jamie a prayer for the sick, but Jamie scoffs since it’s not in Latin. As long as he keeps his sense of humor, he can’t be too badly off, right? Jamie makes Roger promise two things in case he (Jamie) dies: To kill Stephen Bonnet, and to make sure Claire goes back to her own time, along with Roger, Bree and Jemmy, if possible.

In the morning, Jamie’s condition is bad, but he’s still alive. Roger begins hauling him back to the Ridge, but luckily, Ian and Fergus find them and help get Jamie home.

Jamie’s leg looks bad. His body has fought off the venom, but his wound is infected, and even an application of maggots can’t get rid of all the infection. If only Claire’s syringe hadn’t been broken by that rotten Brown brother last episode!

Claire knows that she may have to amputate the leg to save Jamie’s life, and he tries to force her to promise not to do it. Ian scolds Jamie harshly, asking if Ian Sr or Fergus were any less brave or honorable for having lost limbs to amputation?

Finally, Jamie gives in and gives Claire permission to amputate, but engineer Bree rushes in to save the day. She’s made a syringe from the fang of the snake that bit Jamie, and Claire is able to use this to inject Jamie with penicillin. All is right with the world!

There are some great moments in this episode. Early on, we get a tender moment as Claire gives Marsali a prenatal check-up and Marsali confides how glad she is to have Claire with her, both as a doctor and as a mother. Sweet! Of course, when the time finally comes, Claire has her hands full with Jamie and Marsali goes into fast labor out in the woods with Fergus and their two kids… let’s just assume she made it back home and didn’t deliver right then and there.

We also get an important scene with Claire and Brianna, talking about finding their callings. Claire knows she was always meant to be a doctor, and whether called a healer, a nurse, or even a witch, her life will always have meaning so long as she can continue to practice medicine. Brianna is concerned about both herself and Roger and what they might do with their lives. Claire reassures Brianna that she’s meant to be an engineer, and that it’ll be up to Bree to figure out what that looks like for her in the 18th century.

I loved Roger and Jamie’s time together, each showing their depth of caring and respect in their own way. And in all the drama of the episode, it’s almost easy to forget the opening scene, when Jamie comes to the cabin to fetch Brianna for the hunting trip and basically walks in on Roger and Bree in bed together. Little Jemmy was adorable too.

And not too quibble or be ungrateful for a beautiful episode… but apparently the show has decided that Roger is just perfectly okay and has no lasting damage from the hanging? Alrighty then. I mean, strange choice, but okay.

Claire was simply stellar in this episode. She tends to Jamie as a physician but also as the woman who loves him, and feels the absolute crushing weight of her impending decision. I don’t for a minute believe she’d allow Jamie to die rather than amputate his leg, no matter what she promises him, but she also knows that if she does it without his consent, he may never forgive her. The moment when he appears to be dying and Claire wraps herself around him and begs him to stay with her… oh my. Waterworks.

Insta-reaction wrap-up:

This was such a well-done episode. Maybe I loved it so much because it does what the best Outlander episodes do — show us the hearts of the people involved and the depth of their relationships.

So much of season 5 has focused on externals — the Regulators and the Governor and the battles and militia. Here, in episode 9, we’re tightly focused on the Fraser family and their life at the Ridge, and it’s a beautiful thing.

More of this, please!

And yet… it’s sad to realize that suddenly the season is starting to near the end. Only three more episodes to go!

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Insta-Reaction: Outlander, Season 5, Episode 8

Season 5 is here! I’ll be writing 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 508: “Famous Last Words”

The official synopsis (via Starz):

The Frasers must come to terms with all that has changed in the aftermath of the Battle of Alamance Creek. Brianna tries to help Roger overcome the trauma he has endured. An unexpected visitor arrives at the Ridge.

My take:

Major plot points:

  • First things first: Roger lives. Yes, he survives the hanging that ended the previous episode.
  • However, his recovery is tough. While physically fine, his vocal cords and throat have been damaged. Three months later, Roger isn’t speaking. At all.
  • Jocasta and Jamie mourn for Murtagh.
  • Young Ian returns!
  • Ian and Roger seem to help each other take the first steps forward after their respective traumas.

Insta-reaction:

This is going to be another relatively short reaction post — because how much more is there to cover beyond ROGER IS ALIVE and IAN IS BACK(!!) ?

Okay, digging in a bit more…

We open with a scene at Oxford in 1969, which Roger is leading a classroom discussion in his role as professor. Damn, he’s good. As the class discusses “famous last words”, Roger’s students press him to say what he would want his own last words to be. He finally shares:

Let history forget my name, so long as my words and my deeds are remembered by those I love.

Sniff.

We cut back to the 18th century, but the show makes the strange stylistic decision to show the hanging and its immediate aftermath in the style of an old silent movie. It’s a weird choice. Yes, we’re supposed to be experiencing this through Roger’s traumatized perspective, but I don’t know. It just didn’t work for me.

In any case… by freeing his bound hands moments before the hanging, Roger is able to get a hand in between the rope and his neck just enough to keep his airway open, and when Jamie goes to cut Roger down, he discovers that Roger is still alive. Claire performs emergency field surgery to get him breathing. Everyone should be happy, right?

Unfortunately, Roger is suffering severe PTSD. Three months later, while healed physically, he’s withdrawn and noncommunicative, not even willing to try to speak. His voice will never be what it was, but he should be able to talk a little, at least. It’s not until Jemmy is about to touch a hot kettle that Roger vocalizes at all, shouting to protect Jem… but Brianna’s delight is short-lived, since Roger still won’t talk.

Bree is feeling sad and desperate, wondering if she’ll ever get Roger back. Claire explains about “shell shock” to Brianna, which helps her understand a bit more what Roger may be feeling.

Meanwhile, Jocasta comes to the Ridge to visit Murtagh’s final resting place, and she and Jamie share fond words and tears.

And later, Jamie and Claire and Jem are playing hide and seek in the woods (ooh, aren’t Jamie and Claire fun grandparents) when a wild boar comes at them. The boar dies instantly from an arrow shot by a Mohawk up on the hill — who turns out to be Young Ian. Yay for Ian’s return! In book #5, he doesn’t show up until much later, but I’m happy to have him back. His hair is kind of silly looking, but I’m loving the dots tattooed on his face. Ian is very reticent, not offering any explanation for why he’s back or what he’s experienced (despite Marsali’s best effort to get him talking. I love Marsali to pieces).

As a “so sorry I nearly killed you” consolation prize, the Governor has granted Roger 5,000 acres of backcountry land, and Roger and Ian go out together to survey the property. It’s a healing trip for both men, as both have to find reason to live.

When Roger returns, he’s finally ready to try to talk again. He and Brianna reunite, although he explains that he’s not the same person he was before.

Insta-reaction wrap-up:

I just didn’t love this episode. The silent movie effect didn’t feel necessary to me — I felt like it was trying too hard to be artistic, and it took me out of the emotion of the episode.

Not to be too nitpicky, but I believe Claire says early on that Roger doesn’t have a scar (or barely has a scar) — and maybe it’s easier for the costume and makeup folks this way, but book Roger bears a very noticeable and obvious scar across his throat for the rest of his life. It’s yet another thing that marks Roger as an outsider, making him an obviously hanged man wherever he goes.

As I mentioned, I do love Marsali. She just brightens up every scene she’s in, and she had a few good ones this episode.

Not enough Jamie and Claire. Nuff said.

But it is great to see Young Ian back, and I’m eager for him to start sharing his story with Jamie and the family.

And yay for the family fur babies! We got both Adso and Rollo in this episode, so I consider that a win!

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Insta-Reaction: Outlander, Season 5, Episode 7

Season 5 is here! I’ll be writing 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 507: “The Ballad of Roger Mac”

The official synopsis (via Starz):

The Regulator Rebellion reaches a boiling point, forcing Jamie to face his fear and confront the consequence of his divided loyalties.

My take:

Major plot points:

  • The militia and the Regulators prepare to face off in battle.
  • Brianna recognizes the name of the location, Alamance Creek, and rides in to tell Claire and Jamie that the Regulators lose this battle.
  • Jamie wants to warn Murtagh and get the Regulators to leave, rather than stay, fight, and get killed in a battle they cannot win.
  • Roger volunteers to cross to the militia camp to deliver the warning, but encounters trouble trying to get back.
  • Governor Tryon “honors” Jamie by giving him an officer’s red coat.
  • The British troops and their cannon are too much for the Regulators, who are defeated.
  • Claire treats the wounded men.
  • Murtagh is shot protecting Jamie, and dies.
  • The episode ends with the discovery of Roger having been hanged by the Governor’s troops, who took him for a Regulator

Insta-reaction:

I’m going to keep this brief, because my brain is absolutely fried this week!

The 7th episode of season 5 focuses exclusively on the Batttle of Alamance Creek, fought between the Governor’s troops and the rebel Regulators. As Bree explains in her hasty history lesson, this battle is later seen as a precursor to the War of Independence. For now, Jamie and Claire are on the government’s side, but they know they’ll have to switch soon.

Poor Roger! He has no business being a soldier. He’s an Oxford history professor! He never handled a gun in his life before traveling to the past, and now he’s a militia captain? He’s doing what he must for his family, but geez, do I wish he and Brianna had had the good sense to get the hell out of there by now.

And hey, it’s Jamie’s 50th birthday! May we all be so blessed to look that good at his age! He and Claire enjoy a tender, loving morning in bed before the battle arrives. Jamie later invokes the spirit of his late uncle Dougal MacKenzie, the warrior who taught him all he knows about battle and whose side he fought beside so many times.

You’d think Claire and Jamie would understand by now that they can’t change history — but Jamie still has to try, for the sake of saving Murtagh. Roger delivers the message and Murtagh declines to leave before battle, but Roger would have made it safely back to Jamie’s camp most likely had he not had the misfortune of running into his ancestress Morag Mackenzie, whom he’d saved (in the previous season) on board Stephen Bonnet’s ship. He tries to warn her away from the battle and offers her and her family a refuge on Fraser’s Ridge. But when he embraces her, her husband shows up and beats the hell out of Roger. (And good job, show, for bringing back the amazing Graham McTavish as Buck Mackenzie! With a full head of hair! Nice touch of casting, indeed.)

Well, things are not good. Jamie is forced into wearing the red coat of a British officer, which is just not a feel-good moment for him, considering that these coats represent the enemy in so many of his life’s worst times. As the battle progresses and the slaughter begins, Jamie finally encounters Murtagh in the woods, but Murtagh is shot protecting Jamie. In his last heroic act, Murtagh stayed true to his vow to Ellen Mackenzie Fraser to always protect her son. Murtagh is dead before Jamie can get him to Claire. It’s so damned sad.

Roger still hasn’t come back. Jamie has heated words with the Governor, disgusted by all the needless death, and throws down the coat and renounces his military role. The Frasers go looking for Roger, and eventually come upon a tree where some Regulators have been hanged for treason. Jamie recognizes one man, despite his face being covered. It’s Roger!

And…. scene!

So wow. Not an upbeat episode at all. It’s always great to see Claire in full doctor mode, and I wanted to punch whichever awful Brown that was who deliberately crushed her one and only syringe of penicillin.

My heart was busy aching preemptively for Roger and Brianna. Having read the book, I knew what was coming. I also know what happens after the cliffhanger ending, but I’m not telling!

Insta-reaction wrap-up:

I really did love seeing Graham McTavish again! So clever to cast him as a nasty Mackenzie.

And poor Roger! He should have known better than to hug Morag. I mean, HE knows that she’s his many-greats-great-grandmother, but she and her husband don’t. And while I don’t think he deserved what happened, he should have had the sense not to act so intimately toward another man’s wife, no matter how innocently intended.

I was surprised by Murtagh’s death. As we all know, his character dies at Culloden in the books, so any role for him past season 2 is new and different for the TV series. TV Murtagh was a fantastic character, but I didn’t love his role as Regulator leader. It just didn’t seem to fit him, and it led directly to his death. So what was the point of keeping him alive until now? I wish he’d had more time to live happily on the Ridge with Jamie, but I guess it wouldn’t have had enough drama that way. Jamie’s heartbreak over Murtagh’s death was incredibly well done.

And now, it’s two weeks until the next new episode… two weeks of dreading the outcome of that horrible last scene.

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Insta-Reaction: Outlander, Season 5, Episode 6

Season 5 is here! I’ll be writing 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 506: “Better To Marry Than Burn”

The official synopsis (via Starz):

At Jocasta’s wedding, Jamie learns Tryon’s true motivation for ending the Regulator threat.

My take:

Major plot points:

A wedding, locusts, and make-up sex in a barn. What more do you need to know?

In a bit more detail:

  • Jocasta is going through with her plan to marry Duncan Innes, despite a last minute plea from Murtagh to wait for him.
  • We learn more about Jocasta’s past back in Scotland.
  • Jamie and Claire get a lead on a connection to Stephen Bonnet, from the odious Philip Wylie.
  • Claire and Jamie fight, then have the aforementioned make-up sex in a barn.
  • On the Ridge, a plague of locusts descends, but Roger rises to the occasion and saves the day.
  • Governor Tryon is aiming for a transfer to New York, but meanwhile, he plans to defeat those pesky Regulators once and for all — this time, on the battlefield.

Insta-reaction:

We open in Scotland, 1746, just after the battle of Culloden, as Hector Cameron, wife Jocasta, and daughter Morna are on a mad dash to escape. An unfortunate interception by a pair of redcoats puts their load of gold at risk, and as shots are fired, the British soldiers and Morna are all killed. Hector drags Jocasta from Morna’s dead body and they continue their escape. Brutal!

Back in the main storyline of the show, it’s the eve of Jocasta’s wedding, a lavish affair at River Run. First, she signs legal paperwork making little Jemmy her heir. Guests arrive, and it’s all very fancy and posh. Duncan seems like a nice enough man — maybe wealthier and with property, as compared to book Duncan — but it’s not a love match for Jocasta by any means.

Lord John is among the wedding guests, being panted over by all the single society girls. Governor Tryon may be awful, but I do love his wife. Philip Wylie is gross and awful, coming on to Claire in a gross and awful way, and later trying to get physical with her — which she fights off very proficiently, but then Jamie appears being all “grrrrrr, unhand my wife” and things get even more tense.

Rather than stab the man with his pointy little knife, Jamie challenges him to a card game. He bets Claire’s wedding rings, which pisses her off. Jamie insists it’s all for Bree’s sake, because Wylie has a connection to Bonnet, and they’re trying to find a way to meet with him so Jamie can take revenge.

After winning the card game, a very drunk Jamie finds Claire in the stables, where the hot barn sex happens. Oh, these two. They’ve definitely still got it.

Back on the Ridge, we get what I hope will be an every-episode glimpse of adorable Adso, playing with something on the floor that turns out to be a locust. Uh oh. That’s not good. The people of the Ridge are in a panic about the oncoming swarm and want to burn all the fields, which Roger is sure is a terrible idea. He remembers a story from his childhood, which inspires him to use smoke to drive away the locusts instead. His efforts work, and suddenly he’s a hero! All the men who’d doubted him before are now fans. Yay, Roger!

There’s a tear-filled scene between Murtagh and Jocasta the night before her wedding. He asks her to wait for him, and she explains that she’ll never pledge herself to another man who loves his cause more than he loves her. Not only does she believe Hector’s devotion to the Jacobite cause cost her her daughter Morna, it turns out that her two other daughters died in the aftermath of Culloden as well. For a woman who usually comes across as hard as nails, it was a touching and very sad scene.

And we end with Tryon telling Jamie to gather up the militia and get ready for battle. This is not good. Neither is the parting shot of slimy lawyer Neil Forbes telling Stephen Bonnet that “his” son now owns River Run.

Insta-reaction wrap-up:

There’s absolutely no fall-out from last week’s murder. So, apparently devout Catholic Jamie isn’t much bothered by the sin of taking a life? Show, this makes no sense, but okay, sweep it under the rug if you must.

I liked the contrast of the fanciness of the River Run party and the desperate, sweaty work of trying to save the crops and the settlement on the Ridge. It was nice to see Brianna and Roger working together, and to see Roger coming out on top for once.

As for Jocasta and Murtagh… well, we all wondered whether Murtagh’s role in the show would replace Duncan’s, and now we know. So Jocasta has herself a new husband, and Murtagh is heading back to be a rebel leader.

At least Claire and Jamie are happy! For now.

It’s been at least 5 or 6 years for me since I read The Fiery Cross, so I’m quite fuzzy on the details of what happens in the book and when. But I remember enough to know that next week’s episode is going to be very, very bad for the Frasers and Mackenzies.

 

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Insta-Reaction: Outlander, Season 5, Episode 5

Season 5 is here! I’ll be writing 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 505: “Perpetual Adoration”

The official synopsis (via Starz):

Jamie and his militia arrive at Hillsborough to learn that Governor Tryon has proposed a rather unorthodox solution to deal with the threat posed by the Regulators and to resolve the growing political crisis.

My take:

Major plot points:

It’s Adso, y’all! Can we just ignore the rest of the episode and focus on this adorable ball of grey fur?

No?

Okay… here’s what happened in this episode:

  • We spend some time with Claire back in the 1960s, after Frank’s death but before her trip to England and Scotland when she discovered that Jamie had survived Culloden. She has an encounter with a patient that has had a huge impact on her.
  • In the main timeline of the show, Jamie and his militia ride into Hillsborough, only to discover that the governor is pardoning all the Regulators.
  • Lt. Knox learns about Jamie’s past and his connection to Murtagh… and Jamie straight up murders him!
  • Claire performs tonsil surgery on the Beardsley twins, after discovering that she’d finally made penicillin.
  • Bree and Roger have some trouble over Bonnet, but they work it out.
  • Jamie comes back to the Ridge WITH ADSO. So he and Claire can have the cutest reunion ever.

Insta-reaction:

Okay, I just need to say this.

JAMIE FRASER IS NOT A MURDERER.

Maybe the show thought it was adding intrigue and tension, but I do not for a minute believe that MY Jamie would have murdered Lt. Knox like that. He might have tried to get the papers from him, or mislead him, or do something sly to throw him off his track, but Jamie has too much honor to behave as he did in this episode.

Ugh.

Here’s where keeping Murtagh alive (instead of having him die at Culloden, as he did in the books) is starting to backfire. Once Murtagh showed up as the leader of the Regulators, I knew this could not be good for the story. Sure, it’s dramatic having godfather and godson on opposite sides, but it felt like a reinvention of Murtagh’s character to me, and is leading to Jamie acting in ways that Jamie never would. I’m more than annoyed by this turn of events. And then Jamie goes back to the Ridge and is all smiles and happiness when he sees Claire — no soul-searching or tormenting himself over the sin he just committed? This is not working for me. At all.

But other than that…

I pretty much liked Claire’s storylines in this episode — her ruminations on the nature of time, and how all things connect. How if she hadn’t encountered her Scottish patient, Graham Menzies, and then ended up taking a leave of absence after his death, her path would not have intersected with Roger’s, and she might never have made her way back to Jamie again. And the ripples go on from there — Bree and Roger wouldn’t have met, Bree might never have learned the truth about her father, and she and Jamie would never have had the opportunity to know one another and form a relationship.

Marsali is so full of win on this show. Her adorableness over the penicillin was superb. The surgery scene was gross but great, and I think Lizzie’s face was probably all of us at the moment when Kezzy was wide awake and Claire was cauterizing his throat.

Can we just ignore the whole Regulator storyline? Basically, the governor is going to pardon all the Regulators except Murtagh, who is public enemy #1 and must be caught and hanged for treason. Great. And then there’s the Ardsmuir business and the murdering business, and I just get mad again.

On the home front, Roger and Bree get cuddly, but later fight when he finds the gemstone Bonnet gave to Bree at the jail and learns that a) Bonnet is alive and b) Brianna told Bonnet that the baby she was carrying was his. And how dare she, when she’s never said as much to Roger? I think Roger was a bit of a jerk here, to be honest. He’s not the victim! Eventually, they make up, and Roger talks again about going back to their own time, once they figure out if Jemmy can time travel. Which is not a bad idea — because let’s be real, they’re really not safe where they are.

So yeah, I’ll stop talking about how pissed off I was by the end of the episode and just focus on what’s important, i.e., all the cuteness of Adso.

Insta-reaction wrap-up:

Why, show, why did you do this to Jamie? I don’t like what this might mean for the plot going forward, and I don’t believe that good, honorable Jamie would behave the way he did in this episode.

So, all the cuteness and Claire’s medical victory and the glimpses of the past/future are pretty much overshadowed for me by the murder.

Although I did really dig seeing mod 60s Dr. Claire again!

And three cheers for The Impetuous Pirate!

 

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Insta-Reaction: Outlander, Season 5, Episode 4

Season 5 is here! I’ll be writing 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 504: “The Company We Keep”

The official synopsis (via Starz):

Roger leads Jamie’s militia to the trading post of Brownsville and finds himself embroiled in a bitter feud. Jamie and Claire arrive to find that Roger’s unusual strategy may have cost them the loyalty of the militia.

My take:

Major plot points:

  • Roger leads the militia into Brownsville, kicking off a local feud.
  • Claire and Jamie consider what to do with Fanny Beardsley’s baby.
  • Roger has mixed results as a captain of the militia.
  • Brianna suspects that Bonnet is around, and is scared to death.
  • Jamie sends Claire back to the Ridge with the Beardsley twins to do some doctoring.

Insta-reaction:

Once again, I’ll keep things on the brief side.

This episode mainly takes place in the (dismal and depressing) town of Brownsville, founded and led by the Brown brothers, Richard and Lionel. We don’t know much about them at this point, but they don’t exactly come across like sunshine and roses. (And if you’ve read A Breath of Snow and Ashes, you’ll forgive me for feeling a deep hatred for them as soon as they appeared in this episode.)

Roger rides into Brownsville with the militia while Jamie and Claire are dealing with the Beardsley mess — and immediately starts getting shot at. One of the men in the militia, Isaiah Morton, has apparently “dishonored” Alicia Brown, and her father is having none of it. Because of their illicit relationship, Alicia Brown’s betrothal to a wealthy man has been called off, and the Brown family is not pleased. Roger makes peace by breaking open a cask of whisky and allowing Isaiah to be detained, which doesn’t sit well with all of the militia men, some of whom leave.

Jamie arrives to clean up Roger’s mistakes, berating Roger for not showing more loyalty to one of his men. He refers to Roger as “professor” rather than “captain”, which is a pretty serious Jamie burn. Poor Roger! But at least Roger gets in some good singing, so there’s that.

Meanwhile, Claire’s been caring for Fanny’s baby, Bonnie, but the baby obviously needs some mother’s milk. A local woman nurses the baby and takes a liking to her, and several of the women ask Claire if she’ll let them have the baby as their own and raise her. Later, drunk, Jamie asks Claire if she wants to keep the baby, since they never got to raise Bree together and he’d like to give Claire that opportunity if she wants it. She doesn’t, though — she loves her life with Jamie, and feels that the baby will be well treated in Brownsville, especially as she’s the heir to the Beardsley property.

There’s more drama around Isaiah and Alicia… the short version is that Claire and Jamie are suckers for a good love story, and eventually help them escape together, Jamie having created a diversion by setting the town horses free to gallop down the main (mud) road.

Roger is to travel back to the Ridge as Claire’s escort, along with Josiah and Kezzie, so she can take care of their infected tonsils. And after the surgery, she’ll rejoin Jamie and the militia once again.

Back at the Ridge, we get a few brief scenes with Brianna. After a trip to town, she finds a coin in Jemmy’s basket, and learns that an Irish gentleman placed it there. She fears that this means that Bonnet is around, and later has a small freak-out when she can’t find Jemmy. Marsali consoles Bree later and gets her to calm down and even smile again, but the show makes it clear that Bree’s fears are well-founded.

Insta-reaction wrap-up:

It’s not every day that we get to see Jamie Fraser perform a Highland fling! What fun.

This was a very cute scene, and Claire was so obviously smitten. These two. So adorable.

Overall, “The Company We Keep” was another well-done episode, but Brownsville gives me the creeps. I liked the little character moments for Roger, Fergus, Marsali, and Bree, and even seeing a little more of Mrs. Bug was nice. On the whole, I’m enjoying the time with the Fraser clan this season, but knowing what a lot of the action pieces will center on makes me a little apprehensive about where the season is going.

 

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