The Monday Check-In ~ 3/25/2019

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.

Life.

I’m away this week, visiting family on the East Coast. Still reading, of course! I may not be online much until I get back home next weekend… so if I don’t connect with you this week, I hope you have a great one!

What did I read during the last week?

Only Child by Rhiannon Navin: A book group book! My review is here.

Inspection by Josh Malerman: So weird. So good. My review is here.

I also finished two frothy, fun, sweet books on the plane:

  • The Princess and the Fangirl by Ashley Poston
  • Christmas at Little Beach Street Bakery by Jenny Colgan

Over in my book group, we finished our group read of A Plague of Zombies, a novella starring Lord John Grey. It’s a good one!

Fresh Catch:

No new books this week. Yay, me!

What will I be reading during the coming week?

Currently in my hands:

The Island of Sea Women by Lisa See: I’ve only just begun — but I’m really looking forward to getting further into the story.

Now playing via audiobook:

Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse: It’s fun to listen to the audiobook version!

Ongoing reads:

My book group’s classic read is Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston. We’ll be done next week. What a powerful book.

So many books, so little time…

boy1

The Monday Check-In ~ 3/18/2019

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 during the last week?

Woman 99 by Greer Macallister: Powerful historical fiction. My review is here.

Tortall and Other Lands: A Collection of Tales by Tamora Pierce: A terrific set of stories set in and around the fantasy kingdom of Tortall. My review is here.

A Dangerous Collaboration by Deanna Raybourn: The 4th book in the delicious Victorian-era mystery series starring Veronica Speedwell. My review is here.

Thanks to the Serial Reader app, I was able to fulfill one of my goals for this year: Read more Dickens! I finished The Old Curiosity Shop in a mad rush over the weekend. While the point of Serial Reader is to take a big, potentially daunting book and digest it in small, bite-sized pieces, I have a tendency to reading many days’ installments in a row as I get close to the end. The Old Curiosity Shop was a 75-installment serial on the app, but I ended up finishing it in five weeks. Serial Reader is a really fun way to tackle bigger books, and I had a great time reading this work by Charles Dickens, which — to be completely honest — I hadn’t even heard of before I went looking for Dickens options.

Pop culture goodness:

Over on Netflix, I watched the first episode of The Umbrella Academy. Seems like a promising start! I’ll definitely be continuing over the next week or so. Anyone else watching this?

Fresh Catch:

Once again, no new books! Except for the Kindle variety, because I can never resist a good Kindle deal.

What will I be reading during the coming week?

Currently in my hands:

Inspection by Josh Malerman: I’ve only read the first chapter so far. Man, is it weird! But in a good way, so I’m buckling in for the ride.

Now playing via audiobook:

Only Child by Rhiannon Navin: My current audiobook is my book group’s pick for March. It’s pretty hard to take because of the subject matter — a school shooting. At the risk of sounding insensitive, the POV was kind of off-putting at first. The book is told from the perspective of a six-year-old, and while it’s moving and tragic, having a child narrate an entire novel got on my nerves a little at the beginining. Now that I’m past the halfway point, I’ve gotten used to it. It’s a brutally emotional book, but so compelling.

Ongoing reads:

Two ongoing reads with my book group:

  • A Plague of Zombies by Diana Gabaldon: We’ll be finished with this Lord John novella this coming week.
  • Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston: Our group classic read — such beautiful language.

So many books, so little time…

boy1

The Monday Check-In ~ 3/11/2019

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 during the last week?

Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid: Loved it! My review is here.

The Lieutenant’s Nurse by Sara Ackerman: Historical fiction/romance centered around the attack on Pearl Harbor. My review is here.

Gmorning, Gnight!: Little Pep Talks for Me & You by Lin-Manuel Miranda, illustrated by Jonny Sun. A sweet book — my review is here.

In audiobooks:

I listened to Lucky Suit by Lauren Blakely, which was an Audible freebie last month. It’s a short, fluffy, modern romance — not really my thing, but pleasant enough to keep me entertained while driving.

Pop culture goodness:

I finished watching season 5 of Grace & Frankie!

Anyone else feel like most of the characters are getting really mean? And that Frankie is becoming more and more intolerable? I’m still really having fun with this show, but certain moments really made me cringe. And now we wait for season 6!

Fresh Catch:

No new books this week! I mean, yes, I did get a few library books (that will probably end up going back unread)… and well, yes, I did end up grabbing a few price-dropped e-books this week:

What will I be reading during the coming week?

Currently in my hands:

Woman 99 by Greer Macallister: Historical fiction — off to a good start!

Now playing via audiobook:

Tortall and Other Lands by Tamora Pierce: More Tortall! After finishing the Beka Cooper books, I didn’t want to pull myself completely away from this fantasy world. So far, I’m enjoying this collection of stories set in and around Tortall, featuring some familiar characters as well as introducing us to new people and magical creatures.

Ongoing reads:

Two ongoing reads with my book group, plus one more on my own just for kicks:

  • A Plague of Zombies by Diana Gabaldon: Continuing our journey through all of the Lord John books and stories.
  • Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston: Our group classic read.
  • The Old Curiosity Shop by Charles Dickens: I’m reading this classic via the Serial Reader app, and really enjoying it! I’m at 70% — the end is in sight!

So many books, so little time…

boy1

The Monday Check-In ~ 3/4/2019

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.

Life.

What a week. Insanely busy at work, and then crazy hectic at home too. So… my reading time got squished down to almost nothing, leaving me frustrated. Boo.

What did I read during the last week?

Pachinko by Min Jin Lee: I actually finished this the previous weekend, but just posted my review this week.

That Ain’t Witchcraft by Seanan McGuire: The 8th book in the super-fun InCryptid series! My review is here.

In audiobooks:

I finshed the Beka Cooper trilogy by Tamora Pierce! Loved these books so much. My series wrap-up post is here.

Also, I listened to…

The Test by Sylvain Neuvel: The audiobook version of this novella is short (2 hours, 12 minutes). I can’t say I was bored, but I thought overall that this work of speculative fiction lacked true depth, and the key plot twist is just too obvious. Not a bad way to kill a couple of hours, but certainly nowhere near the greatness of the Themis Files books.

Pop culture goodness:

What a week for theater! I ended up seeing two terrific performances this week:

What a fun production! The costumes are so eye-poppingly colorful, and the choreography was a treat too.

But the true highlight for me was seeing…

HAMILTON!!! This was my 2nd time seeing the show, and if possible, I loved it even more the 2nd time around. I saw it Saturday night, and have been walking around with a dopey grin ever since, singing my own off-key version of the songs and feeling some serious afterglow.

Oh, and I got this shirt, which makes me very happy.

Yes, I absolutely needed a Hamilton in San Francisco shirt!

Fresh Catch:

I picked up a print copy of the book I’m reading via Serial Reader, to make it easier when I need to go back and check details.

AND… it’s always a treat to get an email from Goodreads about winning a giveaway! I won a Kindle edition of this book this week:

Gorgeous cover, right? And the premise sounds amazing. Since the book doesn’t come out until September, I’ll probably hold off a bit before reading it — but I’m so excited to have a copy of my own!

What will I be reading during the coming week?

Currently in my hands:

I’m bouncing between a few books right now:

  • Daisy Jones & the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid: So excited to be starting this book finally.
  • Here by Richard McGuire: A graphic novel recommended to me by a friend.
  • Gmorning, Gnight! … because I’m high on Lin-Manuel Miranda right now.
Now playing via audiobook:

Lucky Suit by Lauren Blakely: Okay, I’ll be the first to admit that this does not look like my sort of listen. Still, it was an Audible freebie last month, it’s under 2 1/2 hours, and what the heck? Might as well go with something quick and light before committing to one of the longer listens in my library.

Ongoing reads:

Two ongoing reads with my book group, plus one more on my own just for kicks:

  • A Plague of Zombies by Diana Gabaldon: Continuing our journey through all of the Lord John books and stories.
  • Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston: Our group classic read.
  • The Old Curiosity Shop by Charles Dickens: I’m reading this classic via the Serial Reader app. So good! I’m now at 40%.

So many books, so little time…

boy1

The Monday Check-In ~ 2/25/2019

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.

Life.

So my son (very dedicated to his anti-book stance), now a high school student, casually dropped at dinner this week: “Hey, mom, that author was at school this week. You know, the guy that wrote that Scythe book.” Me: *freaking out* *freaking out* *freaking out*

He mentions this to me days after the fact! And said (grudgingly) that the talk was interesting. And that he (Neal Shusterman) talked for about an hour. And talked about writing Challenger Deep, which I really need to read.

I swear, school is wasted on the young! I wish I could have transported my consciousness into the body of one of the students for the day so I could have been in the audience. Sigh.

What did I read during the last week?

Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls: I wrote about reading this children’s classic (as well as Anne of Green Gables) here.

Pachinko by Min Jin Lee: A powerful, multi-generational family drama set in Korea and Japan. This 500-page book took up most of my reading time this week! I’ll post a review in the next few days, I hope.

Fresh Catch:

Nada! No book purchases this week.

What will I be reading during the coming week?

Currently in my hands:

That Ain’t Witchraft (InCryptid, #8) by Seanan McGuire: I’d intended to start this last week, but then got side-tracked by Pachinko and ran out of time. I’m so excited to be starting this book! I love the series so far.

Now playing via audiobook:

Mastiff (Beka Cooper, #3) by Tamora Pierce: The trouble with listening to a great book is getting close to the end, dying to know what happens, but not having enough listening time to actually finish. I’m at 83%, and I’m so tempted to switch to print so I can race through the big finale! But nope… I’m going to practice a little self-restraint and stick to the audio. For now.

Ongoing reads:

Two ongoing reads with my book group, plus one more on my own just for kicks:

  • A Plague of Zombies by Diana Gabaldon: Continuing our journey through all of the Lord John books and stories.
  • Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston: Our group classic read. The writing is so beautiful.
  • The Old Curiosity Shop by Charles Dickens: I’m reading this classic via the Serial Reader app, and love it so far. I’m at about 25%.

So many books, so little time…

boy1

The Monday Check-In ~ 2/18/2019

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 during the last week?

A Bollywood Affair by Sonali Dev: My book group’s February pick. My review is here.

The Secret of Clouds by Alyson Richman: A new release for this week. My review is here.

Golden State by Ben H. Winters: Weird and wonderful. Finished late Sunday. My mini-review is here.

Fresh Catch:

I treated myself to the newest book by Charlie Jane Anders. Looks amazing!

What will I be reading during the coming week?

Currently in my hands:

I have two books on the go right now:

Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls: Filling in yet another gap from my childhood reading.

That Ain’t Witchraft (InCryptid, #8) by Seanan McGuire: Love, love, love this series (and pretty much everything written ever by Seanan McGuire). I’m so excited to be starting the newest InCryptid adventure!

Now playing via audiobook:

Mastiff (Beka Cooper, #3) by Tamora Pierce: The third and final Beka Cooper book… and I’m loving it!

Ongoing reads:

Two ongoing reads with my book group, plus one more on my own just for kicks:

  • A Plague of Zombies by Diana Gabaldon: Continuing our journey through all of the Lord John books and stories.
  • Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston: Our group classic read. The audiobook version is fantastic.
  • The Old Curiosity Shop by Charles Dickens: It’s been a while since I’ve used my Serial Reader app (which is awesome — see here for more info). I’ve been wanting more Dickens in my life, and figure that 10 – 12 minutes a day is a reasonable investment!

So many books, so little time…

boy1

The Monday Check-In ~ 2/11/2019

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.

Life.

I’m back! After a tough week, I’m back home and trying to get back into my normal routines, including blogging. Thank you to all who reached out for your support! It’s nice to be part of a community that cares.

What did I read during the last week?

This is actually two weeks’ worth of reading, since I was offline most of last week.

Reviewed:

Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse: My review is here.

Summer at Little Beach Street Bakery by Jenny Colgan: My review is here.

Comics Will Break Your Heart by Faith Erin Hicks: My review is here.

Not (yet) reviewed:

Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery: I did it! I finally read the book I’ve been talking about reading for YEARS. I’ll write up some thoughts later this week (or maybe after I read more in the series), but the short version is — I loved it! I definitely want to continue the Anne books.

Triquetra by Kirstyn McDermott: An excellently creepy novella about what happens later in Snow White’s life. Check it out — it’s available as an e-book or you can read it for free on the Tor website.

And in audiobooks:

The Last Days of August by Jon Ronson: An Audible Original telling the sad story of porn actress August Ames, whose death by suicide rocked the porn world. Jon Ronson narrates his investigation into the life and death of August, and while he doesn’t come up with any easy answers, the story paints a portrait of a woman worn down by her life and by mental illness at much too early an age, and at the same time illustrates some of the unfortunate circumstances facing women in the industry as a whole. It’s a moving, interesting listen, although the takeaways are a little muddled at times.

Bloodhound (Beka Cooper, #2) by Tamora Pierce: Ah, this trilogy rocks! I just finished listening to the 2nd Beka Cooper book, and loved it. I’ll write up my thoughts on the series as a whole once I finish #3, which I’m starting immediately!

Fresh Catch:

Yay, Quirk Books! I received this ARC in the mail while I was away this week, and couldn’t be more excited:

What will I be reading during the coming week?

Currently in my hands:

A Bollywood Affair by Sonali Dev: This is my book group’s selection for February (the group tends to pick romances every Feb for Valentine’s Day). I’m just a few chapters in, but liking it so far.

Now playing via audiobook:

Mastiff (Beka Cooper, #3) by Tamora Pierce: I’ve been listening to Tamora Pierce’s novels since the fall, and I just can’t stop! The Beka books are so darned good, and the narration is terrific. I’m just starting, but expect to love it.

Ongoing reads:

Two ongoing reads with my book group:

  • A Plague of Zombies by Diana Gabaldon: Continuing our journey through all of the Lord John books and stories.
  • Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston: Our group classic read. The audiobook version is fantastic.

So many books, so little time…

boy1

Insta-Reaction: Outlander, Season 4, Episode 13 (SEASON FINALE!)

Season 4 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 413: “Man of Worth”

The official synopsis (via Starz):

Jamie, Claire and Young Ian’s attempt to rescue Roger from his Mohawk captors goes awry when a ghost from Claire’s past lays waste to their plan. Meanwhile, Brianna worries Claire, Jamie and Roger might not return.

My take:

Major plot points:

  • Jamie, Claire, and Ian find the Mohawk camp where Roger is being held. Negotiations for his release don’t go well.
  • Claire’s opal upsets the Mohawk. A woman from the tribe shares the story of Otter Tooth.
  • Rescue plans are foiled. Eventually, Ian agrees to stay with the tribe in exchange for Roger’s freedom.
  • Brianna gives birth to a son.
  • Murtagh and Jocasta get busy. Oh my.
  • Everyone gets reunited in the end.

Insta-reaction:

I don’t know exactly why, but I was left feeling a little let down by the season finale. Maybe it’s just knowing that it’s the end of the season, and I’m already going into Droughlander shock. In any case, here’s what happened this episode.

Claire, Jamie, and Ian find the Mohawk village and ask to trade (pots, pans, and whiskey) for Roger. They seem to be making progress until someone spots the opal around Claire’s neck, which freaks everyone out. The trio is ordered to leave. Later, a woman from the tribe tells them the story of Otter Tooth, the man whose skull Claire found earlier this season. He showed up a few decades earlier and tried to convince the tribe to go to war against the white people and kill them all, in order to prevent their tribes from being wiped out in the future. No one believed him, and eventually his ravings were too upsetting, so he was killed. The woman offers to help them rescue Roger in exchange for the stone.

The rescue does not go as planned, and they’re caught. The woman ends up being banished by the tribe, and Jamie, Claire, and Ian are ordered to leave. The Mohawk will not release Roger, as no trade was completed. Jamie offers himself in exchange for Roger — but then Ian jumps in and makes his own bargain. Ian (and Rollo!) will stay and become part of the tribe, and Jamie and Claire are free to leave with Roger. Lots of tears at the good-bye!

Roger is naturally extremely pissed at Jamie, when all is said and done, and once they’re away from the village, he gives Jamie a very one-sided beat-down, since Jamie decides to take it as his punishment for beating up Roger and selling him in the first place. Once all the beating stops, Claire tells Roger what’s happened with Brianna — that’s she safe, but that she was raped after he left her, and that she’s about to have a baby, which may or may not be his. It’s a lot to take in, and Roger wants time to think. Jamie starts to get angry with Roger over his need to take a minute, but Claire basically snaps at Jamie to back the hell off. I mean, poor Roger has been to hell and back. Give him a second to breathe. Even though he really shouldn’t be hesitating for a second, but okay, let’s give Roger this moment to clear his tortured brain.

Back at River Run, Brianna is sad a lot. Then she has a baby. Then all of a sudden, the baby is two months old and Claire and Jamie arrive, but Brianna is heartbroken to realize that Roger isn’t with them. They prepare to return to Fraser’s Ridge. At the last moment, Bree sees a rider approaching and realizes it’s Roger! She runs across the lawn to him and they have a big, dramatic embrace. Roger asks her to take him to see his son. Awwwww.

Meanwhile, earlier in the episode, Murtagh and Jocasta argued and argued, she threw her drink at him… and they ended up in bed. Murtagh is quite the silver fox, amiright? Yowza. Let’s see if these two crazy lovebirds can make it work.

Maybe not, because the episode ends with redcoats arriving with an order for Jamie from the Governor: Form a militia to put down the Regulators, and find and kill their leader, Murtagh Fitzgibbons.

AND… fade to black! Bye-bye, season 4 of Outlander!

Insta-reaction wrap-up:

Jamie and Claire have been absent or underused during the last set of episodes this season, and while they do play a role in this final episode, it’s not much, and definitely not enough. Their screen time seems to be shortened lately to make room for Roger and Brianna, and I get that there needs to be a balance, but I think it’s tipped too far over to the non-Jamie and Claire side. Their moments this episode were powerful, but just too short. Jamie in particular only really had one truly strong emotional beat, in his good-bye to Ian (sob), but I didn’t care for his scene with Roger.

The Roger punching Jamie in the face bit wasn’t fun to watch, and didn’t feel true to the character. I get that Roger has a lot of rage and frustration to deal with, but by this point he’s heard the story of why Jamie did what he did. On top of that, Roger isn’t a fighter — he’s a history professor, for heaven’s sake, and isn’t someone who ever has had to use his fists to express his feelings. Roger is much more a man of peace and reason, so I just didn’t dig this scene at all.

Young Ian seems happy where he is, and seems to be excited about the new adventure ahead of him. In the book, one of the attractions for him was that he’d already fallen for a girl from the tribe and wanted a life with her. I wonder if we’ll see him at all in season 5? As far as I recall, Young Ian isn’t in book #5, but I suppose they could easily find a reason to have him show up for a visit if they wanted to.

I was really frustrated by the end of the episode. Why end with the Regulators business, the absolutely least interesting aspect of season 4? I get that they’re trying to set up the central conflict for the next season, but it just was not satisfying.

My preferred ending would have been Roger and Brianna holding the baby, with Roger naming the boy and claiming him as his own. It’s not enough that we see him telling Bree to take him to his son — after all the turbulence in their relationship and all the pain and suffering, we needed the pay-off of seeing the family together, with Brianna and Roger united and ready to start a new chapter. Wouldn’t that have been lovely?

And furthermore…

Overall, it’s been a good, strong season, despite the show moving the central storyline away from solely focusing on Jamie and Claire. There were some lovely moments along the way for the two of them, and it was nice to be able to spend time with Lord John and Murtagh again, as well as introducing teen Willie and Aunt Jocasta.

Now we start the waiting game again! Here’s hoping that season five comes along before the end of 2019!

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Insta-Reaction: Outlander, Season 4, Episode 12

Season 4 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 412: “Providence”

The official synopsis (via Starz):

Brianna confronts a violent figure from her past in an attempt to cope with her trauma. Roger befriends a fellow captive and endeavors to escape the Mohawk Village, while Fergus and Marsali plan a dangerous mission.

My take:

Major plot points:

  • Roger suffers. Poor Roger!
  • Seriously, this episode is about 90% Roger, and I’m not complaining.
  • Roger deals with life as a Mohawk prisoner, and tortures himself over all the idiotic ways he acted in pursuit of Brianna.
  • Brianna goes to see Stephen Bonnet in prison where he awaits execution.
  • The Regulators break Murtagh out of jail.

Insta-reaction:

Roger — actor Richard Rankin — owns this episode, and kills it. Yes, other stuff happens too, but at its heart, this episode is the Roger show. Breaking it all down:

Roger has arrived at the Mohawk village in New York (and wow, that’s a long way to walk from North Carolina!) Because he fails to make it all the way through the gauntlet before collapsing, he’s informed that he remains their captive. Would he have been freed otherwise? Unclear. In any case, Roger is wounded, with his arm in a sling and all sorts of cuts and bruises on his face, and is basically put to work as a servant in the camp.

A nice Mohawk woman offers him some herbs to ease his pain, but no one else seems to want to interact with him except to yell or push him around. Eventually, he does something to piss people off (pointing and interrupting, apparently), and gets put in a leafy shack that seems to be the Mohawk equivalent of a jail cell. There, he meets Father Ferigault, a Catholic priest who the Mohawk welcomed — but he fell in love with a woman from the tribe and had a baby with her, and now he refuses to baptize the baby as the tribe wishes. He won’t baptize the baby because he considers himself a sinner, but the Mohawk see this as an insult to the tribe and have threatened to kill him unless he performs the sacrament. Roger tries to convince him to give them what they want in order to save his own life, but he refuses.

Roger finds a way to escape and starts running off through the wood, but his damned sense of honor won’t let him run when he can hear the screams of the priest, who’s being held over a fire, where he’ll slowly burn to death. He runs back to the village and hurls a cask of alcohol on the pyre, setting the priest fully on fire so he can die more quickly. The priest’s lover kisses her baby good-bye and then walks into the fire to die with him.

That’s the bulk of the episode, but additionally, we spend some time with Brianna, Lord John, Fergus and Marsali.

Fergus and the Regulators have decided to bust Murtagh out. Not really worth going into the details. Suffice to say, the jail break works, and Marsali drives the getaway horse and cart, with Murtagh hidden in the back, headed for Fraser’s Ridge.

Brianna asks Lord John to take her to WIlmington to see Stephen Bonnet. She reads Jamie’s letter to her, encouraging her to seek forgiveness rather than vengeance, for her own well-being. For Brianna, this means going to see Bonnet in prison, chained up, on the eve of his execution. She tells him about the baby, saying that her way of forgiving him is to give him the peace of knowing that some part of him will live on after his death — although she also stresses that this is HER baby, and he’ll never know a thing about Bonnet. Okay, Bree, so your point is??? I’m not a big fan of this scene, either in the book or the show. Surely there are better ways for Brianna to heal than to go and talk with her rapist, who is not the least bit repentant. And why give this man a piece of information that may come back to haunt her? Brianna believes it’s safe to tell Bonnet about the baby because he’s about to die, but this is a man who’s escaped death sentences before — and as we see at the end of the jail break, it would appear that he got away yet again.

No Jamie and Claire this episode! We get just the briefest bit of Jamie as Brianna reads his letter to her, but that’s it.

Insta-reaction wrap-up:

Any episode without Jamie and Claire feels incomplete to me. Let’s face it — they’re the true reasons we watch this show, and their story is always the most compelling. As in the books, as the story progresses, Roger and Brianna become much more prominent, but particularly on TV, losing Jamie and Claire screen time does not feel like a satisfying trade-off.

Lord John is always a delight. He’s such an upright, honest, and devoted man. I love how his feelings for Jamie and Claire have translated so easily into caring for and protecting Brianna. He’s the perfect gentleman, truly. And I suppose it’s a plus that his status as a Lord helps open doors for Brianna that might have otherwise been closed. Still, it feels like a needless move on Brianna’s part to travel (pregnant!) to Wilmington to confront Bonnet. Why not just practice forgiveness from a distance?

The Regulators storyline continues to be my least favorite part of the season. Just not engaging at all — give me the human drama any day. That said, here’s hoping that the jailbreak will result in Marsali, Fergus, and Murtagh settling at Fraser’s Ridge. It would be nice to see the whole family together again… but first (next week), Jamie and Claire need to find Roger!

And furthermore…

It was good to get more of a view into the Mohawk village’s life, beyond Roger getting beaten up all the time. I liked the little glimpses of children playing and families gathering. If the show is trying to break away from the stereotypes of fierce Native warriors acting inscrutably, they need to give us more of this — opportunities to understand their customs, their values, and their way of life, and not just viewing them as the mean people doing bad things to Roger.

Next week is the season finale! It’s all gone by so quickly. I know what’s coming (according to the book), but can’t wait to see the drama and excitement on the screen.

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Insta-Reaction: Outlander, Season 4, Episode 11

Season 4 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 411: “If Not For Hope”

The official synopsis (via Starz):

Jamie, Claire and Young Ian embark on a long uncertain journey to rescue Roger, while Brianna forges a friendship with one of Jamie’s old friends as she fends off Aunt Jocasta’s attempts to secure a husband.

My take:

Major plot points:

  • Brianna is staying at River Run with Aunt Jocasta while Claire and Jamie search for Roger.
  • Jocasta is trying to find a suitable husband for Brianna.
  • Lord John visits River Run and begins a friendship with Brianna.
  • Claire, Jamie, and Young Ian continue to follow Roger’s trail.
  • Claire and Jamie soothe their hurt feelings and end the distance between them.
  • Roger is still captive, and finally arrives at the Mohawk village.

Insta-reaction:

Gotta admit it — I didn’t love this episode. I didn’t hate it either. I guess this is more of a move-the-story-along episode, where events proceed but there’s not a huge impact.

Okay, so what happened?

The bulk of the episode is spent on Brianna. She’s settled in at River Run, drawing portraits and worrying about poor Roger. Aunt Jocasta is not one to just let things be. She’s aware that Brianna is pregnant, and having an illegitimate child is not something she wants for her niece. So, she takes it upon herself to round up a bunch of eligible bachelors and invite them to a dinner party, hoping one of the gentlemen will be a suitable match for Brianna. Brianna, obviously, wants nothing to do with her scheming aunt’s matchmaking.

Lord John is one of the guests, and is most chivalrous toward Brianna. Later that night, she stumbles upon John in an intimate encounter with another of the male guests. (Dude, why are you doing it in the pantry? Couldn’t you at least have found a hidden place outside the house or something?) The next morning, Phaedre informs Brianna that her aunt wants her downstairs because Mr. Forbes, yet another of the party guests, is going to ask her to marry him. Brianna slips outside, asks John to join her, and basically tries to blackmail him into marrying her.

Although John’s not willing to marry her, his heart melts a bit when Brianna tells him about Stephen Bonnet, the rape, and that she doesn’t know who the baby’s father is. She wants to wait for Roger to return, but she can’t be sure he’ll still want her when he learns that she may be carrying another man’s baby. (Clearly, Brianna doesn’t know Roger as well as she should!) Lord John talks to Brianna about his feelings for Jamie, and also about his admiration for Claire. Ultimately, he saves her from Jocasta and Forbes’s plans by announcing that he and Brianna are engaged.

Let’s see, what else? There are some random scenes of Marsali, Fergus, and Murtagh, and I’m sorry, but the Regulator business is too boring for words. Murtagh and Fergus do manage to track down Stephen Bonnet, but Murtagh himself is arrested before they can get away with Bonnet.

Maybe this was only a “meh” episode for me because of the limited Claire and Jamie time. Yes, Brianna’s story is the most dramatic at the moment, but there’s only so much time I want to spend with her at the expense of our true power couple. Claire and Jamie are at odds, each carrying around a ton of hurt and guilt. Ian tries to get them to patch things up, and eventually, they do. Claire reassures Jamie that he is a good father, that he is a good man, and that she loves him. They both are blaming themselves for the mistakes they’ve made that led to this point, but at least they’ve reestablished their bond and will continue on their hunt for Roger together.

Roger only gets a couple of scenes at the beginning and end of the episode. He ends up at the Mohawk’s village after weeks (months?) of travel, and is immediately put through some sort of gauntlet where everyone gets to take a swing at him. Welcome to your new home, Roger!

Insta-reaction wrap-up:

Like I said, I was fairly underwhelmed. I didn’t appreciate the attempted fake-out at the beginning, as the episode opens with Roger in a hot shower. Aha, he went back to the 20th century after all! Like anyone would really think that — not at all convincing. Of course, the shower is just a fantasy, and he didn’t go anywhere. I’m a little annoyed that the show didn’t let us know whether he walked away from the stones himself or was captured before he could attempt to time-travel. I hope they make this clear later on — it’s an important distinction that shows Roger’s frame of mind, and I believe it should not have been left so ambiguous.

I’m not clear on why Jocasta felt such a need to marry Brianna off. If they need a suitable cover story for the sake of her social position (and that of the baby), why not just say she’s a widow? Or that her husband was lost on a perilous voyage, so if he shows up later, it’s all good. Bree doesn’t need a husband to care for her — she has her parents, and for that matter, she could have a home at River Run for as long as needed. Why the rush, Auntie?

And ugh, that dinner party “game” Brianna invents, invoking psychology and the interpretation of dreams. I mean, what the hell was that? I was afraid for a moment that they would actually go around the table and make us listen to each individual person’s response to Bree’s question, which could have taken up the rest of the episode and then some. So weird. So unnecessary.

Ah, Lord John. Always a lovely man. It’s fun to see him with Brianna. As I mentioned before, he was being AWFULLY indiscreet, which is tremendously out of character for him. BUT, at least this is an improvement over the presentation in the book, where Brianna catches him sneaking back to the house from the plantation slave quarters where, it is implied, he had a tryst with one of Jocasta’s slaves. Thank goodness the show didn’t go down that problematic path.

It’s nice to see Fergus and Marsali, but I wish they had something to actually do.

The Jamie/Claire reconciliation was sweet and emotional (oh, the tears in Jamie’s eyes!), but there just wasn’t enough of them to satisfy me. They’re still the main characters of this show, and episodes that are light on Jamie and Claire feel like a cheat.

And furthermore…

I do like how Young Ian’s attire keeps getting little bits of ornamentation that show how much he’s been interacting with the Cherokee and becoming comfortable with them. Between the armband, the fringed boots, and the hanging knife sheath around his neck, he’s really picking up bits and pieces, which I think show that he’s developed a friendship with the Cherokee near Fraser’s Ridge. And now we learn that he speaks some Mohawk too. That’s not going to be important down the road, is it?

Only two episodes left! Here’s hoping the remaining too have a little more oomph that this one.

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