The Monday Check-In ~ 5/11/2020

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.

Wishing all the moms out there a happy Mother’s Day! My family treated me to a nice breakfast, fun phone calls, and a walk… which is about all we can do during these social distancing days. I enjoyed it all!

What did I read during the last week?

Of Literature & Lattes by Katherine Reay: The follow-up novel to The Printed Letter Bookshop. Enjoyable and warm. My review is here.

Defy or Defend (Delightfully Deadly, #2) by Gail Carriger. So much fun! My review is here.

Past Prologue by Diana Gabaldon and Steve Berry: An Outlander-adjacent story collaboration. And yes, Jamie Fraser makes an appearance, making this short story a must-read for all Outlander fans.

Pop culture — Outlander, season 5:

Season 5 of Outlander ended Sunday night. And now Droughtlander begins again. Right after watching, I wrote up my reaction to the season finale. It was a really difficult episode, and I found it hard to talk about.

Outlander, episode 512, “Never My Love” — my reaction post is here.

Other TV watching:

Anyone else watch Netflix’s Hollywood ? It’s so… different from what I expected, and really, really interesting. I watched the whole thing over the weekend (only seven episodes). Patti Lupone’s fabulous performance is a highlight, but really, there’s a lot to take in and enjoy.

Fresh Catch:

No new print books this week… although my Kindle library is growing by leaps and bounds, thanks to all the random price drops that have come my way over the past few weeks.

What will I be reading during the coming week?

Currently in my hands:

If It Bleeds by Stephen King: I’ve read three of the four stories in this collection. Loving it so far! I think I’m going to need to buy myself a copy once I return this one to the library.

Now playing via audiobook:

Sword of Destiny by Andrzej Sapkowski: The audiobook narrator makes these stories so much fun.

Ongoing reads:

Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes: Woo hoo! I made a big effort this week, and now just need to read one more chapter to catch up to my book group!

So many books, so little time…

boy1

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

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

Warning:

Spoilers

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

Outlander, episode 512: “Never My Love”

The official synopsis (via Starz):

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

My take:

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

Insta-reaction:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sigh. Oh, Jamie.

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

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

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

Season wrap-up:

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

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

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

 

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The Monday Check-In ~ 5/4/2020

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.

Another week. What is there to say? Working hard (at home, of course)… but at least we had a good few days of sunshine, so I was able to get in some long walks and feel the fresh air on my face!

Oh, and I started a new jigsaw puzzle — first one in a while. It’s making me happy.

What did I read during the last week?

The Printed Letter Bookshop by Katherine Reay: Uplifting novel with a bookstore setting — always a plus! My review is here.

Educated by Tara Westover: I listened to the audiobook of this memoir, and was completely fascinated by it. My review is here.

The Last Emperox by John Scalzi: An awesome wrap-up to a terrific sci-fi trilogy! My review is here.

Read but not reviewed:

Long Story Short by Lisa Brown: Lisa Brown’s 3-panel book review comics used to appear in the book section of my local paper (back when the paper still had a book section, which it no longer does…). Anyhoo, I always enjoyed these literary comics, so I thought I’d treat myself to the newly released book version. It’s fun, but I have to be honest and say that I’m a little mad at myself for spending money on this, when I’m trying to budget my book buying. I flipped through it in about 20 minutes, and now I’m done. Some of the comics are very clever, others made little impression. I think this would be a great gift for a booklover, but I’m not convinced I needed to buy it for myself. Moving on.

The Tales of Beedle the Bard by J. K. Rowling: Yes, I’ve read the tales plenty of times already, but this is a new Audible production, featuring HP cast members such as Warwick Davis, Jude Law, Jason, Isaacs, and more. The audiobook is short (1.5 hours), and includes Dumbledore’s commentary on each story. Totally fun way to experience these “classic” tales all over again!

Pop culture — Outlander, season 5:

Season 5 of Outlander is almost over. As usual, I wrote up my thoughts on this week’s episode:

Outlander, episode 511, “Journeycake” — my reaction post is here.

Next week is the season finale!

Other TV watching:

Never Have I Ever on Netflix is sweet, funny, touching — a must-watch! And it’s only 10 half-hour episodes, so it’s easy to gulp down over a couple of days.

And… I watched Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life. Mixed feelings on this one. I binged all of GG’s seven seasons during the past year, and loved the characters and the story so much (except for certain parts and occurrences that I’d prefer to ignore). A Year in the Life takes place ten years after the regular series, and while it was great to see these beloved characters again, it also made me sad. Sad to see how much older everyone is, sad to see that life hasn’t turned out perfectly for everyone, and sad because of certain losses that have occurred. (Also, sad to see some body-shaming going on, which just is not in good taste, but that’s a different kind of sad!). I’m really glad I watched, but I’m left with some dissatisfaction too, and wish there could be more!

Fresh Catch:

My signed copy of Defy or Defend arrived! Thank you Gail Carriger and Borderlands Books! I’m so excited to start this!

What will I be reading during the coming week?

Currently in my hands:

Of Literature & Lattes by Katherine Reay: After finishing The Printed Letter Bookshop, I just had to start this book, which is set in the same small town and has many of the same characters. I’m at about 50%, and it’s charming.

Now playing via audiobook:

Sword of Destiny by Andrzej Sapkowski: I was feeling the need for a little more Witcher in my life right now. These audiobooks are so much fun!

Ongoing reads:

Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes: My book group is reading two chapters per week. I managed to read a little more, but I’m still six or seven chapters behind.

Past Prologue by Diana Gabaldon and Steve Berry: Also in book group, we’re doing a group read of this short story featuring the King of Men (Jamie Fraser).

So many books, so little time…

boy1

Insta-Reaction: Outlander, Season 5, Episode 11

Season 5 is here! I’ll be writing an “Insta-Reaction” post for each episode soon after viewing, to share some initial thoughts, questions, reactions — you name it.

Warning:

Spoilers

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

Outlander, episode 511: “Journeycake”

The official synopsis (via Starz):

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

My take:

Major plot points:

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

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

Insta-reaction:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Other tidbits:

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

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

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

Insta-reaction wrap-up:

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

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

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

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

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

 

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The Monday Check-In ~ 4/27/2020

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.

We had a pretty goofy family Zoom this week — the first one we’ve managed to pull off. It was fun and silly, and just so nice to see everyone’s faces, even from far away.

What did I read during the last week?

The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix: Loved it. My review is here.

The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison: I’m in love with this book! Why didn’t I read it years ago? My review is here.

Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor: Really enjoyed this audiobook, and can’t wait to listen to #2! My review is here.

Four Days of You and Me by Miranda Kenneally: Wonderful YA. My review is here.

I also had one DNF this week:

Siri, Who Am I? by Sam Tschida: DNF’d at 20%. It was just so dumb. I couldn’t take it a second more.

Pop culture — Outlander, season 5:

Season 5 of Outlander is getting close to the end!

Outlander, episode 510, “Mercy Shall Follow Me” — my reaction post is here.

Only two episodes left this season!

Other TV watching:

I finished Sex Education. Loved it — bring on season 3!

Fresh Catch:

Ooooh. My copy of The Last Emperox arrived! This is the 3rd book in the Interdependency trilogy (my reviews of books 1 & 2 are here and here). So excited to read the conclusion!

What will I be reading during the coming week?

Currently in my hands:

I started reading Of Literature & Lattes by Katherine Reay, and then realized that it’s the follow-up to her previous book, The Printed Letter Bookshop, which I haven’t read. So… I’m detouring back to the first one, before I return to the second!

Now playing via audiobook:

Educated by Tara Westover: Okay, so I’m only about two years behind everyone else! I’m glad to finally be experiencing this powerful memoir. I’m about halfway through the audiobook — it’s great.

Ongoing reads:

Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes: My book group is reading two chapters per week. I’m still about six chapters behind… but slowly, slowly making an effort to catch up.

Past Prologue by Diana Gabaldon and Steve Berry: Also in book group, we’re doing a group read of this short story featuring the King of Men (Jamie Fraser).

So many books, so little time…

boy1

Insta-Reaction: Outlander, Season 5, Episode 10

Season 5 is here! I’ll be writing an “Insta-Reaction” post for each episode soon after viewing, to share some initial thoughts, questions, reactions — you name it.

Warning:

Spoilers

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

Outlander, episode 510: “Mercy Shall Follow Me”

The official synopsis (via Starz):

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

My take:

Major plot points:

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

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

Insta-reaction:

Good-bye, Stephen Bonnet.

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

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

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

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

Meanwhile…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Insta-reaction wrap-up:

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

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

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

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

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

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The Monday Check-In ~ 4/20/2020

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.

New week, same as the old week! I worked from home, went for walks on sunny days, and that’s it!

I had a couple of Zoom calls with family and friends — it was nice to use Zoom for fun reasons rather than just for work all day, every day. Looking forward to the day when we can see one another’s faces again in person, not just on screens!

What did I read during the last week?

Chosen Ones by Veronica Roth: Awesome! My review is here.

Beartown by Fredrik Backman: Such a terrific audiobook. My review is here.

The Consuming Fire by John Scalzi: Book #2 in the Interdependency trilogy — what a great adventure! My review is here.

Pop culture — Outlander, season 5:

Season 5 of Outlander is moving right along. Here’s this week’s newest episode:

Outlander, episode 509, “Monsters and Heroes” — here.

Other TV watching:

I’ve been loving Sex Education on Netflix! I’m almost done with season 2… great to know that there will be another season.

Fresh Catch:

I treated myself to this illustrated edition of Neil Gaiman’s The Sleeper and the Spindle. So pretty…

What will I be reading during the coming week?

Currently in my hands:

The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix: I’m THIS CLOSE to being done. Loving it! I’ll probably have a review up in the next day or two.

And now I’m trying to decide which ARC to read next — I think it’s narrowed down to one of these two:

So much pink!

Now playing via audiobook:

Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor: I’ve had this book for a few years, and finally decided to listen to the audiobook. It’s great! So long as it’s sunny enough to go for a walk, I think I’ll finish tomorrow.

Ongoing reads:

Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes: My book group is reading two chapters per week, and I’ve fallen so far behind! I did manage to squeeze in one chapter during this past week — only 6 or 7 to go until I’m caught up. I think.

Past Prologue by Diana Gabaldon and Steve Berry: Also in book group, we’re doing a group read of this short story featuring the King of Men (Jamie Fraser).

So many books, so little time…

boy1

Insta-Reaction: Outlander, Season 5, Episode 9

Season 5 is here! I’ll be writing an “Insta-Reaction” post for each episode soon after viewing, to share some initial thoughts, questions, reactions — you name it.

Warning:

Spoilers

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

Outlander, episode 509: “Monsters and Heroes”

The official synopsis (via Starz):

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

My take:

Major plot points:

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

Insta-reaction:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Insta-reaction wrap-up:

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

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

More of this, please!

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

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The Monday Check-In ~ 4/13/2020

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.

Another week at home! What is there to say? I feel fortunate to still have a job, so I can’t complain.

We had a scare about my father this week, but fortunately, it looks like he just had a day of not feeling well and not something worse. Fingers crossed. Meanwhile, three cheers for the brave and hardworking health care workers in all of our lives!

What did I read during the last week?

The Book of Koli by M. R. Carey: Loved it! My review is here.

Upright Women Wanted by Sarah Gailey: Awesome novella. My review is here.

Fantastic Hope edited by Laurell K. Hamilton and William McCaskey: The whole reason I requested this anthology from NetGalley was to get my hands on the new Patricia Briggs story — and I was not disappointed in the slightest! Asil and the Not Date is a fun, exciting adventure for the dangerous old werewolf, and I always love getting to see him in action. A must for fans of the Mercy Thompson and Alpha & Omega series! I’ll pick my way through the rest of the stories in this collection, but the Briggs story was what motivated me, and I loved it.

Pop culture — Outlander, season 5:

After a week off, Outlander is back! Here’s my reaction to the newest episode:

Outlander, episode 508, “Famous Last Words” — here.

Other TV watching:

Hey, I posted a thing about why I love Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist so much — check it out!

And…

I watched Little Women! I have… thoughts about it. I loved it, but also kind of didn’t — not that that makes any sense. The sequencing of the story really changes some of the impact of the plot elements, and I just couldn’t get over the portrayal of Amy or the ending of the movie. But I’m glad I saw it!

Also, I finished Derry Girls! Which, if you haven’t watched it yet, is a two-season series about girls growing up in Northern Ireland in the 90s, and it’s hilarious. Now streaming on Netflix…

Fresh Catch:

No new books this week… but I decided to order a few books through my favorite local bookstore, now that they’ve reopened for mail order business, because I love them and want them to thrive. See, I get to buy books and feel good about it! Can’t wait for my orders to arrive.

What will I be reading during the coming week?

Currently in my hands:

Chosen Ones by Veronica Roth: I put in a request for this e-book at the library earlier this week, and the confirmation message said it would take about 20 weeks for my hold to come in. And then two days later, it was available! I have no idea how that worked out, but I’m glad it did. Really enjoying the book so far!

Now playing via audiobook:

Beartown by Fredrik Backman: I’m so close to being done! I have to resist the urge to finish up via my paper copy to see how it all turns out. I’m really enjoying the audiobook.

Ongoing reads:

Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes: I don’t know why I’m still including this book as if I’m actually reading it. It’s my book group’s ongoing read, and I’m at least three weeks behind. Will I ever catch up? It remains to be seen… but I’m not feeling especially motivated at the moment.

So many books, so little time…

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Insta-Reaction: Outlander, Season 5, Episode 8

Season 5 is here! I’ll be writing an “Insta-Reaction” post for each episode soon after viewing, to share some initial thoughts, questions, reactions — you name it.

Warning:

Spoilers

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

Outlander, episode 508: “Famous Last Words”

The official synopsis (via Starz):

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

My take:

Major plot points:

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

Insta-reaction:

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

Okay, digging in a bit more…

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

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

Sniff.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Insta-reaction wrap-up:

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

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

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

Not enough Jamie and Claire. Nuff said.

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

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

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