The Monday Check-In ~ 11/20/2017

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.

Life.

Greetings from Connecticut! I’m on the East Coast spending Thanksgiving with family. Wishing everyone a peaceful and joyful turkey day! My blogging will be minimal this week, but I hope to read lots and lots.

What did I read last week?

Into the Drowning Deep by Mira Grant: If mermaid horror isn’t already its own genre, this book should change that! Absolutely loved it. Review to follow.

Outlander !!

My reaction post for episode 310, “Heaven and Earth” is here. Not the best episode of the season, but hey — all Outlander is good Outlander.

Here’s a little peek at the episode:

Fresh Catch:

No new books this past week! Although I did indulge a bit when it comes to Kindle daily deals.

What will I be reading during the coming week?

Currently in my hands:
 

Odd & True by Cat Winters: So excited to finally be reading the newest release from Cat Winters!

Standard Deviation by Katherine Heiny: A book club read for November — seems like a lot of fun.

Now playing via audiobook:

The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden: I read this book at the beginning of 2017 (review), and loved it. I’m doing an audiobook re-read now before diving into the sequel — although my listening will be pretty limited while on vacation this 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: Our group read of Private Matter is almost done — just three chapters to go! We’ll be moving on to Lord John & the Succubus in January — contact me if you’d like to join in.

So many books, so little time…

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Insta-Reaction: Outlander, Season 3, Episode 10

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 310: “Heaven and Earth”

The official synopsis (via Starz):

Claire races to discover the source of an epidemic aboard a disease-stricken ship before hundreds of sailors die. And as Jamie locks horns with Captain Raines, Fergus finds himself torn between loyalty and love.

My take:

Major plot points:

  • Claire and Jamie are separated once again — Claire on board the Porpoise, and Jamie left behind on the Artemis.
  • Claire gets down to business tending the sick. Jamie? Loses his sh*t completely, attempting a mutiny to get the captain to pursue the Porpoise and get Claire back.
  • Jamie is thrown in the brig. Fergus brings him food and water, but refuses Jamie’s command to steal the keys and free him so they can take the ship.
  • Meanwhile, Claire leads a valiant effort to stem the epidemic on the Porpoise and begins to see success once she traces the source of contamination to a cook’s helper.
  • Unfortunately, Claire also discovers that there’s a witness to Jamie’s crimes in Edinburgh on board the ship — the man who ended up burning down the print shop — and he’s informed the captain of the Porpoise that Jamie is wanted for sedition and murder. (The body in the cask of creme de menthe has been found after all).
  • Claire needs to find a way to warn Jamie, but the captain won’t give her the opportunity. A kind woman tending goats on the ship helps Claire escape.
  • As the episode ends, Claire jumps overboard, with hopes of drifting to the nearby island and finding a way to reach Jamie before he arrives in Jamaica, where he’ll be arrested.
  • Cutting back to Jamie, he’s released from the brig finally in order to help with navigation, after finally seeing Fergus’s point of view. He gives Fergus and Marsali his blessing to marry, but says they must wait and be married by a priest.

Insta-reaction:

This is going to be a short one, as I’m traveling this week and I’m viewing and writing on my laptop here in a little guestroom, without a whole lot of time to devote to getting this done.

Jamie and Claire had some brief moments of happiness last week, so of course this week they’re kept apart and are each dealing with a hellish situation.

Claire is amazing at dealing with the typhoid fever. She’s in her glory, giving orders and having them carried out, under the full authority of the captain. Claire’s knowledge of germs and diseases leads to some resistance and nastiness from certain of the men, especially after she orders the grog rations cut in half so that the rum can be distilled into pure alcohol. They men look at Claire as if she’s crazy, but all that dipping of hands in alcohol and her other cleanliness measure pay off, as by episode’s end, the epidemic seems finally to be under control.

Poor sweet Elias Pound! Elias is a 14-year-old on the ship, assigned to help Claire, and he’s sweet and oddly authoritative as he acts as her right-hand man. Sadly, just as most of the men seem to be healthier, even singing sea shanties in their hammocks. poor Elias is struck down by the disease. Like so many others, he’s buried at sea.

I wasn’t a great fan of the Jamie storyline. Jamie’s demands of Captain Raines aren’t reasonable, IMHO. He’s demanding that the Captain sail the Artemis at full speed in order to catch up with the Porpoise, which is a much bigger ship already at full sail. It’s just not possible, and the captain seems sincere in saying that what Jamie wants him to do isn’t safe. Jamie just doesn’t seem rationale, and his demands of Fergus aren’t particular fair or logical. Fergus is right to refuse — there’s the strongest likelihood that their attempted mutiny would lead to their deaths, dooming Marsali and Claire as well. Fergus’s decision not to obey Jamie is a huge step for him, and while Jamie thinks that only someone who understands love would move “heaven and earth” to rescue the woman he loves, Fergus’s reasoning about what’s best for Marsali is just as valid a demonstration of strong, true love. I’m glad Jamie finally gives in and offers his blessing.

Here’s where we get into parts of the story that never much appealed to me in the book, and which I hope will be resolved with less fuss in the show. The accusations against Jamie in the captain’s log on the Porpoise and the appearance of the witness against him seem like unnececessary plot complications at this point. The captains of the two ships were in agreement that they’d meet up in Jamaica, and Claire and Jamie could reunite then. But now, with Jamie at risk of arrest and possibly hanging, Claire is desperate enough to reach Jamie that she jumps overboard! What exactly the plan is once she floats ashore, I couldn’t tell. Annika (who helps Claire) gives her money — to buy passage on another ship? How does she expect to reach Jamie? Find a ship willing to intercept the Artemis for her? I’ve read the book several times, and I still don’t see the sense in what’s going on.

Insta-reaction wrap-up:

I have a pretty mixed reaction to this episode. On the one hand, I do love seeing Claire in doctor mode. She’s so calm and authoritative and knowledgeable, and doesn’t back down no matter what opposition she faces. She may have been upset initially at being hijacked against her will, but she buckles down immediately and is determined to fight and stop the disease, and frankly, she seems to be right in her element, finally getting to act as a medical professional with the backing and support of the people around her.

On the other hand, Jamie threatening a mutiny seems far-fetched and unnecessary. He knows he’s headed in the same direction as Claire, and I understand he’d be upset, but he goes too far. Fergus is sweet, but also shows backbone in this episode. He reveres Jamie and would do anything for him, but he actually draws a line and defies his wishes here. That must have taken incredible bravery. Good for Fergus.

I try not to dwell too much on comparison between the book and the show, but in this case, what I really missed from the book was Claire’s shipboard encounter with Lord John — not knowing who he was other than the new Governor en route to Jamaica, each ignorant of their signficance in Jamie’s life, but connecting over the moment of peace and quiet, and the desperation of being responsible for men’s lives. It’s a lovely little moment, and could have been a nice addition to the episode.

Wrapping it all up…

Based on the previews, it looks like the Claire/Jamie separation will drag on a while longer. These two just never catch a break. I wonder how they would ever fare if they had a solid month to just live peacefully somewhere, with no kidnappings or smuggling plots or spies or charges of sedition. Would they even know what to do with themselves?

Maybe that’s another reason Claire’s marriage to Frank was doomed to fail — not enough brushes with the law, political manipulation, or hiding from excisemen!

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The Monday Check-In ~ 11/13/2017

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.

Life… and a programming note.

I’ll be away for Thanksgiving week, and may not be keeping up with my regular blogging activities. We shall see. Meanwhile, I’m enthusiastically building piles of paperbacks to throw into my suitcase!

What did I read last week?

The Austen Escape by Katherine Reay: My review is here.

Artemis by Andy Weir: My review is here.

Romancing the Werewolf by Gail Carriger: A sweet, sexy novella. My review is here.

In audiobooks:

Indexing: Reflections by Seanan McGuire: Wow, what a great listen! My thoughts are here.

I also did a quick listen to Once Upon A Time in the North by Philip Pullman, a novella that’s a prequel to the events of His Dark Materials. Excellent, as are all of the audiobooks in the series. The full-cast recordings are just amazing, with terrific narration by the author himself and some very talented voice actors in the cast.

And in graphic novels…

The Adventures of John Blake: Mystery of the Ghost Ship by Philip Pullman: A fun, quick graphic novel aimed at middle grade to young teen readers — an adventure story involving time travel, a mysterious ship, and bad guys set on world domination. I’ve been on a Pullman roll lately, so I just had to check this one out.

The Walking Dead, volume 28: A Certain Doom: Well, I binge-read and binge-watched The Walking Dead this year, so I just had to read the newest volume as soon as my library got it in stock.

Outlander !!

My reaction post for episode 309, “The Doldrums” is here. Great episode!

Here’s a little peek at “Doldrums”:

And in case you missed them, here are my reaction posts for the previous two episodes:

Fresh Catch:

First, I received a copy of Paperbacks From Hell by Grady Hendrix, courtesy of the lovely folks at Quirk:

And just yesterday, a special treat (from me to me) arrived in the mail — a signed copy of the 25th anniversary edition of Dragonfly in Amber by Diana Gabaldon!

BTW, did you know that you can get signed copies of pretty much all of Diana Gabaldon’s books from the Poisoned Pen bookstore in Phoenix? Check out their web info, here.

Last but not least, a delivery of a book I’m so looking forward to reading — Into the Drowning Deep by Mira Grant, a full-length novel that’s a follow-up to the excellent novella Rolling in the Deep.

What will I be reading during the coming week?

Currently in my hands:
 

Odd & True by Cat Winters: So excited to finally be reading the newest release from Cat Winters! I’ve loved every single thing she’s written so far, and this one is off to a great start.

Now playing via audiobook:

The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden: I read this book at the beginning of 2017 (review), and loved it. I’m doing an audiobook re-read now before diving into the sequel!

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 9

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 309: “The Doldrums”

The official synopsis (via Starz):

Claire and Jamie leave Scotland, sailing to the West Indies on an urgent quest. When the superstitious crew looks for someone to blame after a string of bad luck, rescue comes from an unlikely source.

My take:

Although we’re technically past the half-way mark of the season already, episode 9 is a real new beginning for the show and the season. And hey, we’ve got a new theme song to go with!

Major plot points:

  • Cousin Jared helps trace the ship that took Young Ian — a Portugese ship called the Bruja, sailing for Jamaica.
  • Jamie and Claire book passage on the Artemis. Jamie declares that he will not set foot in Scotland again without Young Ian.
  • Fergus and Mr. Willoughby join them on the ship. Also, a stowaway — Fergus has brought Marsali with him.
  • Fergus and Marsali claim to be married, having been handfast that morning. Jamie begs to differ.
  • Ultimately, he allows Marsali to continue the voyage, but declares that she will bunk with Claire and Fergus will bunk with Jamie, in order to preserve Marsali’s virtue until she and Fergus can be properly wed.
  • The ship’s crew are very superstitious, and when the ship becomes becalmed, they start looking for someone to blame — a “Jonah” to throw overboard.
  • The wind finally returns, and the Artemis gets back underway, only to be stopped by a British man-of-war looking to “borrow” the ship’s surgeon.
  • Claire goes to the other ship to advise on treatment for the typhoid fever ravaging the crew — and then the ship takes off with her aboard.
  • Once again, Claire and Jamie are separated against their will.

Insta-reaction:

This:

If I could just see Claire and Jamie looking this happy and in love every day, I’d be good.

Anyhoo…

One of the biggest changes revealed in tonight’s episode is the amazing new version of the opening theme song, tweaked now to incorporate an island/Carribbean feel:

I just love it. It really captures the feel of the remainder of the season, with the emphasis on the sea voyage, the island culture, a hint of the mysterious and the danger awaiting — and with a nice connection from the torches in the new scenes to the lanterns of the dancers at Craigh na Dun, going full circle back to the beginning.

This episode felt like a breath of fresh air after the tension and strain of the last two. Claire and Jamie’s problems won’t evaporate immediately, and yet being alone together on a ship for months on end will hopefully give them the space to reconnect and regain their comfort with one another.

The filming for this episode was pretty glorious, taking full advantage of the beauty of being at sea to open up the horizons and give the characters more breathing space. The sunshine and open skies seems to portend an improvement in Jamie and Claire’s relationship — and even though they’re worried sick over Ian, there’s nothing they can do at this point but go on the voyage. I enjoyed seeing them living in the moment for the time being and taking time to be together.

Poor Jamie! He is not cut out for the life of a sailor. Mr. Willoughby to the rescue! Take note — if you ever find yourself in the middle of the ocean retching your guts out, make sure you have a skilled acupuncture practitioner along!

Jamie in paternal mode is a fairly funny Jamie. He’s very upset about Fergus and Marsali, who claim to have been courting for six months and to now be handfast (basically, declaring themselves wed in front of witnesses). In the books, Fergus is about 30 at this point and Marsali is 15, but it would appear that the show is fudging the age difference quite a bit to make the relationship more palatable. Jamie is so determined to keep Fergus from sleeping with Marsali that he declares that Marsali will share Claire’s cabin for the journey — only realizing a moment too late that this means that he and Claire won’t be sleeping together. Silly Jamie. (Fortunately, he and Claire do manage to steal some private time, and they seem very… um… satisfied by their time together).

The whole doldrums section — no wind, not enough water, the ship becalmed, the men becoming more and more superstitious — was a bit boring to me, to be honest, but luckily it went by pretty quickly. I do love when Claire gets righteous about the stupidity of superstitions (like touching the horseshoe or — gasp — having women on board).

No sooner do they get back underway that further bad news comes along in the form of the Porpoise, a British man-of-war with a decimated crew. Typhoid fever is spreading unchecked throughout the ship, with all senior officers already dead and a very young, inexperienced lieutenant now the acting captain. Claire has been immunized and knows she can’t catch the disease, and agrees to go see what advice she can offer. She explains to Jamie about her Hippocratic Oath, which is something Jamie can understand. Taking an oath in the 18th century is a binding, practically holy thing. This will matter throughout the course of the books, as Jamie treats Claire’s oath as something sacred, and this allows him to support her in pursuing whatever she needs to do to fulfill it, even if her actions are bewildering or defy society’s accepted roles for women.

In any case, apparently Claire’s advice to the Porpoise is a little too good, because they realize they need her and cast off, leaving the Artemis behind. Claire and Jamie are separated once again.

Poor Jamie — first sea-sickness, then getting stuck full of needles, and then his wife gets kidnapped at sea! Life with the Sassenach just isn’t easy.

Insta-reaction wrap-up:

Wow! I really, really loved this episode.

I suppose you could divide this season into thirds: First, there’s Claire and Jamie’s lives apart. Second, there’s the reunion and their time together in Scotland. And this episode marks the start of the final third, the voyage of Voyager‘s title, in which Jamie and Claire set sail for the new world, of course having no idea that they’ll not return for a very, very long time.

Once thing I really loved in this episode was Claire’s changing look. She’s been looking very starched and stiff since she returned to Jamie, buttoned up and in lots of formidable looking clothes with a scraped-back bun. As the journey progresses, she starts to shed her layers. The hair comes down, held back in a simple tie. The outer layers of coat and vest get discarded, and her skirt gets bunched up (sorry, I have no idea what the term is — not a fashion person, I!) so that it becomes more utilitarian, out of the way of her feet and enabling her to move about the ship with ease. I love too that her gray hair is back. In preparing for her return to Jamie, 20th century Claire dyed her hair. Now it’s back to being natural — and I actually feel that the grey streaks in her looser hair style and more relaxed clothing adds to an overall younger look for her.

Granted, the show has acknowledged that it’s not heavily aging the actors. Still, I love the idea that Claire is looking more youthful here simply because she’s finally starting to relax into her new life with Jamie. We can see them gaining a feel for their marriage again, exchanging small looks and gestures and intimacies. If not for the fact that their nephew’s life is in danger and they themselves are in the midst of a perilous sea voyage, this could almost be a 2nd honeymoon!

I’m really liking the actress playing Marsali. She’s got spunk and speaks her mind, and I like that she looks a bit like young Laoghaire too. Jamie insists that Fergus can’t possibly really know Marsali well enough to marry her since he presumably hasn’t told her about all the girls he’s slept with before — so he goes ahead and does that, and Marsali doesn’t seem to care. She’s headstrong and stubborn and knows what she wants. I had to laugh when she told Jamie that if he sent her home, she’d tell everyone that she’d slept with Fergus even though she hadn’t — so Jamie’s choice is to see her wed or see her ruined.

Wrapping it all up…

Heading into the final stretch of the season, I have a few trepidations. To be honest, I always found this section of the book kind of over-stuffed — but I’m hopeful that the limited amount of screen time will mean that the show whittles the often convoluted plot elements down to their essentials and leaves out some of the fluff.

The visuals in these sea-based scenes are stunning, and I can’t wait to see the action shift to Jamaica. Kudos to the production for taking advantage of the sets in South Africa. It must have been a delight to film there, and based on this first episode, it’s yielding beautiful results.

I’m sad that there are only four episodes left this season! How did that happen so quickly? The work of the cast and crew has been phenomenal in season 3, and the production overall seems to get better and better.

Sigh… I’m off to enjoy the scenes of Claire and Jamie’s Atlantic cruise once again.

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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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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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The Monday Check-In ~ 10/30/2017

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?

Indexing by Seanan McGuire: I finished up my audiobook listen — my reaction is here.

Great Expectations by Charles Dickens: I did it! I finally, finally, finally did what I’ve been talking about for years — I read Great Expectations! Some thoughts, here.

Outlander !!

My love for Outlander knows no bounds. Check out my reaction post from last week’s super-sized reunion episode (“A. Malcolm”) here. My reaction post for the 7th episode (“Creme de Menthe”) which aired last night will be up in a day or two –meanwhile, enjoy this little peek:

Fresh Catch:

Three new books this week – so exciting!

What will I be reading during the coming week?

Currently in my hands:
 

La Belle Sauvage (The Book of Dust, #1) by Philip Pullman: I started this a week ago, then got derailed by Great Expectations. But now I’m back! Only 3 chapters read so far, but I’m loving it.

Now playing via audiobook:

Indexing: Reflections by Seanan McGuire: I had so much fun with the first book in the Indexing series that I just couldn’t resist moving straight on to book #2.

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 6

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 306: “A. Malcolm”

The official synopsis (via Starz):

After decades apart, Jamie and Claire finally reunite and rekindle their emotional and physical bonds. But Jamie’s new business dealings jeopardize the couples’ hopes for a simple life together.

My take:

Major plot points:

Really, what more do you need to know besides JAMIE AND CLAIRE ARE REUNITED! Okay, exuberant celebration aside, here’s what happened:

  • Jamie is living a busy life in Edinburgh as a printer, but apparently with some less legit business going on the side.
  • Jamie is shocked by Claire’s sudden appearance in his print shop.
  • Claire shows Jamie a packet of photographs of Brianna. Jamie is clearly moved. Jamie tells Claire about his son Willie.
  • They head out to meet Mr. Willoughby, first running into Fergus in the street.
  • Jamie brings Claire to his room in the brothel, where they reconnect over dinner before going to bed together.
  • Claire learns that in addition to being a printer, Jamie is also a smuggler. Also, he keeps a room in a brothel. (But he doesn’t partake of the wares.)
  • Young Ian makes an appearance.
  • While Jamie is out on business, Claire has breakfast with the ladies of the house. When she goes back up to Jamie’s room, she finds a dangerous man searching the room.

Insta-reaction:

Ah! The reunion! The printshop! It was all so glorious and romantic… and yes, awkward too. It’s been 20 years. I loved how the actors shows the strangeness of this reunion. For Jamie, it’s practically a supernatural moment. He never thought he’d see Claire again, and can’t quite believe she’s real. And for Claire, after years of yearning, and then all that searching, it all comes down to this moment.

They begin with tentative kisses. Neither quite knows the other at this moment. Claire can’t be sure Jamie wants her, and wonders if she still fits into his life. Jamie wants to know why Claire is there — has she come to be with him, or is she only there to bring him news of their daughter? It all feels so real. It might be nice to imagine that they’d simply fall back into one another’s arms as if no time has passed, but this is so much more realistic. They’re both self-conscious about having aged (Jamie is adorable in reading glasses!), and there’s so much life to catch up on.

Certain book moments are captured splendidly. I love the scene of Jamie looking at photos of Brianna. First, Claire has to explain what photographs are… and then she has to reassure Jamie that it’s perfectly normal for a teen-aged girl of the 1960s to be hanging out in a bikini. Somehow, I don’t think Jamie will ever get with the program on that one.

Jamie’s business keeps getting in the way of the reunion, but again, that makes it feel more real. Jamie has commitments and business dealings, and none of these stop just because Claire walks in the door.

The meeting with Fergus in the street was brief but lovely. I’ll miss young Fergus, but I think this grown-up version will do just fine! The love he feels for Claire is palpable, and there’s a sweet but sad moment when Claire touches Fergus’s replacement hand. For book readers, we all probably caught Fergus’s questions to Jamie “what about…?” and know exactly what it means. I’m glad the show kept the little hints that there’s something more to Jamie’s situation than what Claire knows.

As for their first night together, it was beautiful and sweet, and in some ways a call-back to their wedding night. Claire and Jamie are upstairs in his room, and first get to know one another all over again over dinner, filling each other in on the missed years — where they’ve been, what they’ve done, and who they are now. When they’re finally ready to go to bed together, they’re eager but shy. Claire covers herself up once she’s naked, not sure if Jamie will still be attracted to her after all these years. (He is.) They’re tentative at first (and Claire has to teach Jamie what a zipper is), but ultimately they fall back into the intense sexual chemistry that they’ve always had.

The show makes clear that their reunion won’t be easy. They have so much to catch up on, and really need to find out who they each are all over again. But this episode shows that the foundations of love and desire are still there, and indeed have never left.

 

Insta-reaction wrap-up:

The reunion was all I could have hoped for, and then some.

One change from the book that really made me happy is that Jamie tells Claire about Willie right away. We know that there are still some secrets he hasn’t told, but there’s no reason to keep this from her. Claire wanted to know if Jamie loved Willie’s mother, and he told her he didn’t, although we can assume he’ll tell her much more about just how Willie came to be at some point down the road. I’m so glad that this is out in the open between them. If they’re to succeed in rebuilding a life together, they have to be honest. For Claire especially, who gave up an entire world — her daughter, her profession, her own time — to be with Jamie, she needs to know what’s in Jamie’s heart if she’s to stay. Willie is too important to Jamie for him to keep secret from Claire.

The new cast members all appealed to me — Young Ian, Older Fergus, and Mr. Willoughby. Young Ian is a particular book favorite of mine — I can’t wait to see more of him in action!

Ah, this episode really delivered! The production team wisely gave extra time to this episode, and the story was allowed room to develop and blossom. We got to see the initial disbelief and euphoria, the joy, the shyness, the uncertainty, and everything else that would be natural for these two to feel after so many years apart. Neither has been fully their true selves for the past 20 years, always missing some essential part of their own soul. Now they’re together, and yes, they’ll have to work to rebuild a life that they can share and to rediscover how to be together, but their love remains, and with that, we can feel assured that Jamie and Claire will be okay.

If only they didn’t have to deal with dastardly villains and run-ins with the law for at least a day or two…

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The Monday Check-In ~ 10/23/2017

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.

Life.

In an otherwise busy week of work, I had two great brushes with cultural life. One, I went with my son to see a wonderful hula performance over the weekend. And two, I GOT TICKETS TO SEE HARRY POTTER AND THE CURSED CHILD ON BROADWAY! Granted, the tickets are for June, so that’s a pretty long time from now, but I’m still super excited!

What did I read last week?

Guts: The Anatomy of the Walking Dead by Paul Vigna: Clearly, you have to be a fan to enjoy this one… but since I am, I did. My review is here.

Elsewhere on the blog:

Check out my post summing up the glory of listening to the His Dark Materials trilogy audiobooks.

Outlander !!

The print shop! It was the reunion of the (18th) century last night on Outlander! I’ll have my reaction post up later today or tomorrow.

The Walking Dead:

If I spend all day yawning today, blame the premier of The Walking Dead! Couldn’t stop thinking about it, therefore didn’t get much sleep, and I’m likely to spend the day looking like this:

Life is hell before my morning coffee…

Fresh Catch:

Another batch of my E-Bay Georgette Heyer purchases arrived this week:

I also treated myself to two books from the new Tor collection of mini-hardbacks:

I posed them here alongside my Funko Pops to give a sense of their size. They’re really adorable little hardcover books. Find out more about the collection here.

What will I be reading during the coming week?

Currently in my hands:
 

La Belle Sauvage (The Book of Dust, #1) by Philip Pullman: I’m so excited to be started this! I’m only a few chapters in so far, but loving it.

Now playing via audiobook:

Indexing by Seanan McGuire: Fairy tales are real! This audiobook is lots of fun. Should be done 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.

Via Serial Reader:

  • I decided to finally dive in and start Great Expectations! I’m using the Serial Reader app, and really liking it so far.

So many books, so little time…

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