Review: Dark Triumph by Robin LaFevers

DTTitle: Dark Triumph

Author: Robin LaFevers

Publishing Information: April 2, 2013 by Houghton Mifflin Books for Children

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Romance

Series information: Book two in the His Fair Assassin series

Format: Hardcover, 400 pages

Source: Received an ARC from the publisher via Netgalley

Recommended For: Fans of historical fiction featuring layered characters, strong heroines, and manly yet gentle male leads

Like many novels that I adore, I took my time reading Dark Triumph; Robin LaFevers creates a vast and beautiful world that is easy to fall into. Her characters are layered and the story follows its own course, while weaving its way into prior plot threads left for us in Grave Mercy. As in Grave Mercy, Dark Triumph is full of detail regarding the land of Brittany, and its history, through this storyline we are able to see how Anne still struggles and we gain a further glimpse into the convent, which made me remind myself that not all villains are as obvious as you would think. For this reader, D’Albret was the clear choice as villain, and he played his part well, but the sly behavior of the Abbess is what put me on high alert, I am intrigued to see how the convent and its sisters fare in book three. Though a large part of the novel focuses on Sybella and her upbringing in D’Albret’s household, and how it came to be that she became part of the convent of Saint Mortain, the underlying issue was that Sybella was unsure of everything in her life. She didn’t believe in stability, love, and loyalty. It is clear that she never trusted anyone completely, save herself, and like Ismae she struggled to believe in the love that Saint Mortain held for her as a father. Even more, she struggled to believe that any being was capable of a true love that speaks to your soul and makes you realize that a life forever alone may be a lonely one indeed.

I found that I connected to Sybella much more than I did Ismae in Grave Mercy. Sybella was flawed, she was layered and she had a wildness in her that I couldn’t help but be enamored with. There is no question that the things that Sybella goes through in her lifetime are serious and enough to drive anyone to madness. I felt for Sybella, yet I also respected the way that her anger shaped her and drove her to stand up for herself, always. Though it is true that these handmaidens to Death go through training, of sorts, they are chosen by Him for a reason and their ability to carry out his wishes are only partly why. Ismae believes that she is to work as Death’s Mercy and after time, Sybella realizes that her past and her particular gifts have molded her into Death’s Justice. It is the trials and anger that Sybella carries as both a shield and sword that make her into the strong woman that she is.

I will speak briefly of the Beast of Waroch because there is much to be said and therefore, too much to potentially spoil. LaFevers goes a different way than most when creating this hero. She does not paint him as a suave, handsome and utterly charismatic yet insufferable male lead. Instead, he is steadfast, unbelievably manly, strong, and is described as being “ugly” on more than one occasion, yet at the same time he is loyal, charming, and an altogether gentle character. The dual nature of his character is what really shook me, and though I fell fast for Duval in Grave Mercy, I can say with conviction that Beast has secured my heart until the very end.

Then there is Julian…oh, Julian. How do I even begin to explain the array of feelings I felt toward you? True, there were many times while reading that I was disgusted and enraged, times I kept thinking “MY EYES! MYYY EYEESSS!!” over what I was reading. Then, little by little, you squirmed your way into a dark recess of my heart and I started to have FEELS. I started to care. Little by little, I started to feel my heart break. Something that was so HUGE yet was not the center of the plot managed to move me in a way that I did not see coming.

As I said above, Dark Triumph is extremely layered and detailed, and it’s the details that really go straight for the heart. We learn much more about the Saints in this novel and that was really one thing that I need want more of. I absolutely loved the lore presented in this novel and if Robin Lafevers wanted to give me a history lesson on her Saints I would gladly sit and listen for hours. Then there was the addition of the Charbonneri, and their characterization in Dark Triumph was interesting and deeply moving, I hope that we hear more from them in the next installment.

Also, I can’t leave you guys hanging, remember how Grave Mercy had a rather glorious slow burn romance between Ismae and Duval? Remember how near the end you were feeling the FEELS and anticipation so you were nearly falling over with the intensity of it? Dark Triumph has that, but in a completely different way. The relationship between Beast and Sybella was in no way instantaneous, but it wasn’t a relationship that the reader saw coming a mile away while the heroine was all “Oh I am unworthy and cannot trust a man” for 400 pages. Yes, Sybella was wary and no, she didn’t trust right away. Instead, where Duval stood back and let Ismae come to terms with her feelings on her own, Beast was his unfaltering self and nearly told Sybella how she felt before she realized it herself. There were swoons galore, guys, I can’t lie to you. While letting Sybella stand on her own two feet Beast also managed to provide a very important stronghold for her to fall back on. Oh, and, let’s not forget, there were some kissy scenes. Rather good ones, I must add.

The most important thing that you should know is that Dark Triumph was easily my most anticipated read of 2013, and like with so many books that I have hyped up in my mind, I was wary that Dark Triumph would fall short of my expectations. Thankfully, it not only didn’t fall short, it exceeded my expectations and left them in its wake. If you have not yet read Grave Mercy, I suggest that you do so very soon as Dark Triumph comes out in just a few days. Though I was lucky enough to snag an advanced copy, this was one book I did not second guess in pre-ordering. If you enjoy fantasy, strong heroines, swoon worthy male leads, historical fiction, paranormal elements, family dynamics, intrigue and more swoons, I suggest that you pick Dark Triumph up as soon as possible. I wait, rather impatiently, for Annith’s addition to the His Fair Assassin Trilogy.

Recommend A…(8)

“Recommend A…” is a weekly meme, posted every Monday, hosted over on Chick Loves Lit. It’s a quick, fun and unique way to recommend a book that you love!

Recommend A…First Book in a Series!

My choice this week is Grave Mercy by R.L. LaFevers

The book follows Ismae, a desperate girl who has just been sold to an abusive man by her cruel father. When her new husband sees the mark on her back from poison her mother took to attempt to abort her in the womb he becomes enraged, knowing that she is marked by Death himself. He immediately goes to find a priest to “cleanse” her and she manages to escape with some help to St. Mortain’s convent. However, this is no ordinary convent; the sisters here are trained to become assassins for Mortain, the Saint of Death. They are taught everything they need to know to become Death’s handmaidens and deliver vengeance to those who put Brittany in danger. Ismae does her job thoroughly and soon crosses the path of Duval and as their plans become intertwined they learn what it takes to trust and come to understand that the price of honor isn’t as easy as they thought.

This one might be cheating a teeny bit since technically the His Fair Assassin “series” is really going to be companion novels instead of a series of continuations but it’s still one of my favorite books EVER and it’s ridiculously amazing, so go read it right now.

“My life is yours.” Outlander Week Six

Outlander Read-along

Chapters 36-41

We made it!! YAAYYY! I know it was harder to get through this book for some of us but overall I am thrilled to have participated in this read-along with you all!! I would definitely do it again! I am having a hard time deciding how I feel about the book at this moment so I will let the questions speak for me!

1. Jaime has the worst case of seasickness. Do you get seasickness or motion sickness? If not, is there something else that makes your stomach a bit queasy?

I have really only been on one of those ferry things while still sitting in my car during a rather SCARY storm so yes, I did get sick but I am not sure if it would happen if I was on a regular ship or not…Also, I hate to fly so I am debating going on some mini cruises to see how I hold up so I can have some way to travel :]

2. How did you handle reading the details of Jamie’s torture at the hands of Randall? Did you blame Jamie for anything that happened during the encounter with the captain? If you were Claire, how do you think you would have taken hearing about the abuse from your husband? What did you think of Claire’s method’s to get Jamie to start healing psychologically from his wounds from Randall (when she filled his room with opium and simulated another attack by the Captain)?

Honestly this part REALLY bothered me. I really don’t become sickened or horrified by anything while reading (or watching) but child molestation and rape are two things I cannot handle. I was enjoying the book (though some parts did make me rather angry) but this was too much for me. If I was Claire I would have been disappointed that Randall was killed by livestock and not killed at my own hands. I CAN NOT IMAGINE being on the listening side when someone I adore was recalling this trauma. I also kept thinking WTF while she was simulating another attack on him. I don’t even know how that idea crossed her mind to be honest and it really didn’t feel believable to me but kind of bothered me as much as the story of what happened at Randall’s hands..

3. This cover:

Outlander Special Edition

“history, warfare, medicine, sex, violence, spirituality, honor, betrayal, vengeance, hope and despair, relationships, the building and destruction of families and societies, time travel, moral ambiguity, swords, herbs, horses, gambling (with cards, dice, and lives), voyages of daring, journeys of both body and soul…you know the usual stuff of literature.”

Which of the above elements of Outlander were you most looking forward to? Which did you enjoy the most while reading? Which did you enjoy the least while reading? Which did you just not care about? Any of these do you which there were more of? Or less of?

I was pretty much excited by all of it and I love my stories filled with hope, despair, love and okay, some sexytimes!! I wanted more from the time travel (why didn’t we hear more about Geilie??) and would have enjoyed a little more joy and a little less religion and rape.

4. Share with us your overall thoughts on Outlander by Diana Gabaldon. Your favorite quotes, scenes, and/or your favorite words that had you searching for a dictionary. If you haven’t been marking your favorite quotes/passages, you can find Outlander quotes on Goodreads.

I don’t even know how to answer this question to be honest. There were parts I was smiling at the book and really loving Jamie and Claire and there were parts where I hated them both. I have to say that by the end Claire did redeem herself for me somewhat and I thought her to be a lot stronger than she had been. Looking back the parts that bothered me about the story (RAPE, RAPE RAPE!!) nearly outweighed the good parts. I read a lot of books that rip your heart out and mend it back together and honestly I am not sure that this story has mended me properly. I know its a series and I know that things aren’t always tied up neatly and I know that complete happy endings don’t always happen but after finishing last night I was let down and not happy about the book as a whole. I really am disappointed because I really did want to LOVE this series.
As for favorite quotes, don’t mind if I do:

“I had one last try.
“Does it bother you that I’m not a virgin?” He hesitated a moment before answering.
“Well, no,” he said slowly, “so long as it doesna bother you that I am.” He grinned at my drop-jawed expression, and backed toward the door.
“Reckon one of us should know what they’re doing,” he said. The door closed softly behind him; clearly the courtship was over.”

He was laughing so hard at this point that he had to gasp for breath between phrases. “Jamie…I said…for all she’s a Sassenach bitch…with a tongue like an adder’s …with a bum like that…what does it matter if she’s a f-face like a sh-sh-eep?”
I tripped him neatly and landed on his stomach with both knees as he hit the floor with a crash that shook the house.
“You mean to tell me that you married me out of love?” I demanded. He raised his eyebrows, struggling to draw in breath.
“Have I not…just been…saying so?”

“Where did you learn to kiss like that?” I said, a little breathless. He grinned and pulled me close again.
“I said I was a virgin, not a monk,” he said, kissing me again. “If I find I need guidance, I’ll ask.”

There are more I’m sure and yes, I know they all revolve around Jamie and sexytimes but don’t judge me, those were my favorite parts of the book 😀

5. Are you going to continue with the series or are you done after Outlander? For those of us who are new readers of this series, any predictions? Do you think participating in the read-along helped or hindered your experience with the story? For those of you who’ve already read Outlander and books beyond, how much did you enjoy (or not enjoy) this re-read?

Ahh this is a tough one…I am still debating. I liked the books enough to possibly continue on with the series but I don’t feel like I need to go grab them all right now and read them. I think the read-along may have hindered me in a way because I definitely looked at the books with a more critical eye. I really don’t know if I will go on, it’s too new.

*Bonus #1* Take the Outlander QUIZ on Goodreads and tell us how you did!*

I got an 86% woo woo

*Bonus #2* Claire is able to visit the library at The Abbey. Share with us pictures or a description of your own personal drawing of your dream library. Feel free to share more than one. Some of you may even have a Pinterest board full of inspiration, please share!

First, a non sexytime quote from Outlander that I loved: “Overall, the library held a hushed exultation, as though the cherished volumes were all singing soundlessly within their covers.”
To answer your question:

 

Yes, my dear beast. Yes, we do.

Review: Scarlet by A.C. Gaughen

Title: Scarlet

Author: A.C. Gaughen

Publishing Information: February 14th, 2012 by Walker Childrens

Genre: Young Adult, Historical Fiction, Romance, Retelling

Series Information: Standalone novel

Format: Hardcover, 292 pages

Source: Borrowed from my local library

Recommended For: Fans of strong heroines, and lovers of historical fiction wrapped inside a bit of romance

Before I even begin this review there are some things you should know. First, there are probably three obsessions I have in relation to literature: Shakespeare, The Wizard of Oz and Robin Hood. I am so in love with Robin Hood that my thesis in undergrad was a 40 page cultural comparison of the original Gest of Robyn Hode and the 1991 film, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. For those of you who majored in English and wrote a thesis, you all know that there is probably little I haven’t researched and read in relation to the famous outlaw. Second, I ADORE stories that showcase a female character that is feigning being a boy, which brings me right back around to my love of Shakespeare (my cat is named Celia only because the bf hated the name Rosalind!) These little tidbits bring us to Scarlet…

Scarlet is an important part of Robin’s band of outlaws, she is one of his most trusted allies and one of the most skilled thieves in Nottinghamshire. The band is made up of Robin, Scarlet – known as “Will” through town, John and Much. They work diligently to ensure that the townspeople are fed and protected from the sheriff – by ensuring that they have the funds to pay the increasingly high taxes. The story is reminiscent of the tale we all know and love but the tables turn when the sheriff hires and “thief taker” Guy of Gisbourne to hunt and kill Robin and his friends. Upon hearing the news, Scarlet begins to have misgivings about staying with the group as her old wounds are re-opened and her past is suddenly brought forward in a very real and serious manner.

First, let’s take a look at the characters. Scarlet is combative, abrasive and independent, and I loved her. I loved that she was all of those things yet also extremely sensitive, kind and a little confused about her feelings about those around her. I believed Scarlet to be immature when she ran away when anything (or anyone) came too close to picking at the scars she kept deeply hidden but I found that she balanced these moments with moments of sheer courage that allowed her to run toward an obstacle and handle it head on. Scarlet had a very intelligent head on her shoulders and I appreciated the balance between her kick-ass elements and her somewhat shy and insecure characteristics, it made her more real for me.

Robin was the perfect hero in this book (remember, I’m biased!) and even though he was a jerk often and I wanted Scarlet to slap him a bit he was still every bit the man I wanted him to be. It wasn’t until the end of the book that I realized Robin’s reasons behind his somewhat arrogant and mean behavior. I think reading his comments and jibes toward Scarlet hurt me because I knew how much she was self-loathing internally and I just wanted him to see that and make it all better! John was the more flirtatious and fun between the two obvious love interests and I really loved him a lot too, though I knew he wasn’t the one for Scarlet. I adored the way in which Scarlet was oblivious to John’s affections at first and then still scoffed at the idea that he truly liked her yet she still somewhat tried to go along with it because she was young and confused and really didn’t know how to feel. Girl, we have all been there! John was the perfect big brother figure, the best guy to have at your back because he really was loyal to the cause and his band, despite how he let his feelings get in the way now and then. Much was a character I would have liked more from. I really loved every interaction with this character and thought he was a perfect balance to the other characters. Much was the calm through everyone’s crazy storms. Every character had their darkness but Much knew his use to the band and he excelled in his position. I really can’t stress how much I loved these characters and they way they looked out for one another. Though I know Scarlet was confused by how the band cared for her, it melted my heart at times. When Robin looks at Scarlet and realizes she has been harmed at Godfrey’s hands, I swooned a little (page 125.) It’s moments like those that really proved how much the band valued her both as a member of their group but as an important person in their lives.

We can’t forget about the villain, Guy of Gisbourne. As I am keeping this review spoiler free I can’t get into the real evil behind this character but here is a description of him from Scarlet’s point of view, just to paint a little picture:

“People stopped to look at him. He were wrapped in violence as if it were his clothes, his cloak like death, his armor like blades. His hair were shaggy as an animal’s and it looked like the Devil were trapped in his head.” – Page 74

One of my main reasons for adoring this story was the way in which it contained surprising plot twists that also felt familiar. It was somewhat clear to me what Scarlet was hiding from the band from very early on in the novel. However, there is no great reveal at the end but details given throughout the novel that make the reader piece together her past and understand her a little more as each chapter progresses. I also loved the ending. Usually I am not a fan of books that conclude without their loose ends being entirely tied. However, I think the ending of this novel perfectly represented the story in its entirety and it left me with a glorious feeling.

This book is easily one of my favorite reads of 2012. At one point the bf walked in, glanced at me and said, “Are you petting that book?!” and it turns out, I was. I was petting the book because that is precisely how much I loved it. It was a book that made me feel as if it was written just for me to enjoy, bringing me into the dark canopy of the trees of Nottinghamshire.

“Like iron to true North”: Outlander Week Five

Outlander Read-a-long

Chapters 29-35

Well, we are almost near the end! I have to admit, I might just read ahead now and finish the book. I honestly am not sure if I am going to be continuing on with the series or not. I am enjoying this book to an extent and I think I would have enjoyed it more if I wasn’t being such a critic because I had to rehash my opinions in the answers each week. It really makes me realize why I cannot STAND Claire. This week also made me adore Jenny/Ian even more and LOATHE Dougal. Guy needs a nice face-punch in my opinion.

1. We are now settled into life at Lallybroch. What are your impressions of this place, and Ian and Jenny Murray? How do the stories of Jamie’s life here growing up shape your feelings toward him?

I really like Lallybroch, I found it to be relaxing and really loved how it molded Jamie and Claire’s relationship in a different way. I also LOVE Ian and Jenny so really more time with them just made me ridiculously happy. Jenny is the kind of leading lady I can get behind, she is strong and knows how to use her intelligence and wiles to her advantage. I also loved the the part where Jenny was describing what it feels like to be pregnant, it made me smile.

2. What do you think of the story of what really happened between Jenny and Jack Randall? Could you have been as bold as Jenny? Does this change your understanding of Randall? 

I wasn’t really surprised by this story though I was surprised she hadn’t told Ian earlier as it didn’t really seem like a big issue to me. I like how Jenny gauged the situation clearly and knew that fighting back with force (which I would have probably done) would likely result in her death. She was able to learn enough about Randall to know that her being afraid and fighting back would have encouraged him further so another win for Jenny in my book!

3. For the second time, we see Claire warning a Fraser about future events. Do you think this is wise? Or does this mess with history/the space-time continuum/the natural order of things? 

Time travel is something I am not so familiar with so I can’t really say my opinion on the matter. I think that Claire holds back enough information and really takes heed to only tell those who she believes will listen and make choices intelligently based on her information. Also, who is to say that Claire going back in time isn’t really part of the bigger picture anyway? There is no way to know if she wasn’t meant to travel back in time and spill the beans!

4. Do you consider Claire brave or foolish for going after Jamie? Would you be courageous enough to go into enemy territory to try and save the man you love?

It is both brave AND foolish in my opinion. However I am almost positive that I would do the same in her situation. What is there to live for if he dies? Go back to Frank? Stay here with Dougal? Ahh, no thanks. I’d rather be dead I think. Not to mention the fact that you would always be wondering if you could have done something to save him. I think it would be a bit more foolish if she didn’t have all of the help that she does but regardless it is one of the moments where I did agree with what Claire was doing.

5. Jamie makes a gut-wrenching decision in Chapter 35. Do you blame Claire for putting him in that position? What kinds of repurcussions do you expect?

Ranty pants time! All I kept thinking of the ENTIRE time before Randall walked in was why Claire wasn’t scouring the room for weapons and a place to hide or at least stand ready near the door to take Randall down when he walked in. Wasn’t she JUST talking about how important the element of surprise is? I can somewhat understand trying to get Jamie free first but really it would have made so much more sense if she had waited to the side to ambush Randall as he came in, she clearly knows how to kill a man and Randall PROBABLY has the key to let Jamie free! So, yeah, I pretty much do blame Claire for putting him in that position and then SITTING ALONE NOT WATCHING THE BODY as Jamie was trying to save them both. Yet again, had she looked about and realized that RANDALL IS NOT DEAD she could have oh, I don’t know, KILLED HIM? Or at least made certain he was unconscious and therefore couldn’t get up and PUT A KNIFE TO HER THROAT!!! UGH! Disgusted all around. Then in the next scene she kills a wolf. I literally don’t understand how she is able to recover these memories that help her survive but its like common sense and rationalization of the present moment fails her. Cripes, woman! LEARN FROM YOUR MISTAKES!!

You’re nice to croodle wi’: Outlander Week Four

Outlander Read-a-long
Week Four: Chapters 16-28
 
Not sure what this is all about? Here’s the deal…
 
The read-a-long is going to go from June 11th to July 23rd on Mondays and more information can be found here.
 
Whewww these chapters were LONG this week and I feel like SO much happened! Not that I am complaining, I enjoyed most of them and they certainly gave me a lot to think about! I love the introductions of the new characters and I fell in love with Ian Murray, Jenny and Grannie MacNab almost instantly.

 

1. How do you feel about Claire disobeying Jamie and the resulting punishment he brings forth on her for this? Do you feel that Jamie’s punishment was justified by the fact that everyone was put in danger by Claire’s actions? Finally, did Jamie’s vow with Claire’s dagger do anything to sway your thoughts or change your mind on how you initially feel/felt about his punishment? 
 
I read ahead last week and my first thought upon reading the part where he “punishes” her was conflicted. Part of me was like “THAT’S RIGHT WOMAN, MAYBE NOW YOU’LL STOP BEING SO DAMN STUPID!!” Upon further thought (and re-reading) I have to say that overall I don’t agree with the beating as punishment. I actually think that it might have worked to a point with Claire but the fact that Jamie “lost his temper” and beat her A LOT is not okay. That being said I do have to mention that I can count on one hand how many times I was beaten with my dad’s belt, I can also tell you exactly what I did and that I never, ever pulled any of those stunts again. So again, you can see, I am conflicted with my answer. For the sake of the story, I agree with what happened and I can see that it is fitting to the times, however, it is not something I can condone. 
Jamie’s vow at the end of this section proved to me that he knew that he did wrong and being that he doesn’t ever go back on a vow means he won’t do it again. I believe I can forgive him but as I stated before it is a little unsettling that he lost his temper in such a way.
 
2. Just for fun, what was your reaction to the suspicious black spot Claire spotted on the floor near the area where Jamie was sleeping? Did you have any theories to what it might have been before it was revealed to be a _____? 
 
Honestly, I just kept thinking “Can you kill the damn bug, Claire?!”
 
3. With regard to the ‘changeling’ baby Claire and Geilie spotted in the wild – if it were you back then and you happened upon a changeling baby in the wild in a circumstance such as this, do you think you’d have reacted most like Claire or Geilie? Explain.
 
Okay, I read A LOT. My favorite author is Juliet Marillier and celtic lore is one of my favorite things. Therefore, as soon as Claire was all “Geilie, there’s a baby!” I was thinking, “Don’t do it!” and of course, SHE DID. I am a compassionate human and of course there would be a part of me that would wonder about this poor baby being left alone. However, the other parts of me would be taking in the whole picture here, including the time in which I am currently living. Therefore, I think I would have walked the other way as soon as I saw what was going down. I can tell you that I am ONE HUNDRED PERCENT positive that once Geilie explained the situation to me I would not have argued and gone BACK! This is the kind of stuff that makes me utterly loathe Claire. She is written as this strong and intelligent character and she is utterly ignorant and juvenile. I really barely even felt bad for her when she was being tried as a witch because she is so STUPID! I wouldn’t trust Laoghaire further than I could throw her AND Jamie told her to stay AWAY from Geilie. She deserved the whole thing.
 
4. Share your thoughts on Geilie Duncan. Is there anything that surprised you about her story or were you suspicious of her from the beginning?
 
I was a tiny bit suspicious of her from the beginning, she had this side to her that seemed not so nice and at dinner when Claire asked if his stomach was better and she was all casual about it I was like “Yeah, she’s definitely poisoning him.” I do have to say that I was extremely surprised by the mark on her from the smallpox vaccine. I actually can’t really stop thinking about who she is and where she came from which is pretty marvelous because really this book has yet to blow me away. I was also pretty surprised at the whole twist with Dougal, THAT I did not see coming!
 
5. Your thoughts on Jamie’s LAST REASON for wanting to marry Claire – the one he had been so secretive about. GO!
 
Jamie is nearly the only redeeming quality for me at this point and I love, love, LOVED this moment between Claire and Jamie. I loved that she was surprised by his affections and I love that he managed to tell her how much he loves her while still being a little bit of a jackass. I have a soft spot for this sort of affection as my boyfriend told me he fell in love with me the moment we met. Funny, all I remember is asking him why the f he kept staring at me like he’d never seen a woman before 😀
But I digress, this scene was entirely endearing and as mentioned, Jenny is one of my favorite characters. I fell in love with her at this moment:
Returning to pick up her embroidery basket, Jenny sailed in at this point and stood eyeing her brother with some amusement. “And what are you up to, young Jamie me lad? she inquired, one eyebrow up.
“I’m makin’ love to my wife,” he panted, breathless between giggling and fighting.
“Well, ye could find a more suitable place for it,” she said, raising the other eyebrow. “That floor’ll give ye splinters in your arse.”
This whole scene kind of redeemed Claire for me and made me see that both Jamie and Claire have flaws (one maybe more than the other) but they compliment one another and that there really is love between them.
 

"Dangerous thing, infatuation." Outlander: Week Three

Outlander Read-a-long
Week Three: Chapters 15-21
 
Not sure what this is all about? Here’s the deal…
 
The read-a-long is going to go from June 11th to July 23rd on Mondays and more information can be found here.
 
I am still really enjoying this book though I don’t think it will be one of my favorites I can still appreciate it as a romantic distraction. I was beginning to like Claire a bit more and after this chapter when she saves herself (you go girl!) I had convinced myself she was high on my kick ass female character list. HOWEVER, as the chapters went on I started to seriously dislike her AGAIN and I really don’t know if there is any going back. The part in which the men teach her to fight was one of my favorite parts of the story thus far and as always Jamie still makes me swoon all over the place.
 
1) We FINALLY get to the scene we’ve all been waiting for. You know what I’m talking about–yay sexytimes! What were your impressions? Was it what you were expecting? Or did you want more? 
 
Ohh this chapter was all that I had wanted and more! I just LOVE how sweet Jamie is and when he tells Claire, “I said I was a virgin, not a monk, if I find I need guidance, I’ll ask.” I just about died. I think it was just the right amount of descriptions and so forth. I read a lot of adult books that go into DETAIL and even though sometimes I appreciate it, it’s nice to have a bit of  a balance.
 
2) I know that some readers thus far have been bothered by the fact of Claire being married to Frank but still being involved with Jamie, despite the different time periods. Does their time as newlyweds change anyone’s opinion of that? If not, now what are you thinking of the situation?  
 
Frank is totally out of my head at this point. I absolutely adore the way this romance is blossoming between the two and it seems very realistic to me. Claire and Jamie didn’t fall head over heels at once and decide to get married. They got married out of necessity and Claire talks in length about infatuation and this was one of my favorite parts from the chapters this week. I can appreciate their romance and really enjoy that they are growing to trust one another and I have no doubt that this infatuation will inevitably turn into love.
 
3) What did you think about the “waterhorse” that Claire saw? Why do you think Peter was so spooked? And what do you think this means for Claire? 
 
I LOVED the story of the waterhorse but when Claire was going up to the water I kind of saw it coming and rolled my eyes a bit. I think that being that it is a legend even in this time Peter probably thought Claire was  somehow connected to the waterhorse or perhaps the lovely wife. Regardless, he seems afraid of her which I believe shows that in his mind she has some connection with either the legendary beast or some form of witchcraft. Methinks I see some foreshadowing happening…
 
4) If you were Claire and you were knowingly in the vicinity of the stones, would you have done the same thing she did?  
 
I really don’t think that I would. First of all, I think she is happier here than she ever was with Frank so why even try to leave? Second, the woman CONTINUOUSLY comes this close to being raped because she is a woman (weak in their eyes) and can’t control herself. Okay so you have a dirk that you now know how to use, can you use that against an army? I don’t think so, Claire. Finally, I have no doubt that Jamie would take her to this place, she doesn’t even need to explain the situation just ask to go there and I bet he would bring her because it is clear that he just wants to make her happy! He is in this for the long haul and he is honorable and therefore will live up to his vows. This part of the story really made me dislike Claire right after I was starting to like her again! I am a very outspoken woman as well but seriously, learn from your mistakes.
 
5) What do you think about Captain Randall? How do you think the family resemblance between him and Frank affects Claire and particularly her relationship with Jamie? 
 
I HATE CAPTAIN RANDALL!! I like Claire’s bravery at first but then it just seemed rather foolish to me considering how much power he holds over her. I believe I would be unnerved if this man, who could be my husband’s twin, was acting the way Randall did but I like to think I’d keep my head in the game and just handle the situation as it presented itself. I don’t really see how Randall’s likeness to Frank affects Claire and Jamie’s relationship and besides a few thoughts it seems Claire knows that Randall and Frank are two separate people. This whole episode annoyed me in a few ways, you were in the room by yourself so explain why you took the time to ruin the Captain’s things instead of, oh I don’t know, GETTING THE DIRK OUT OF YOUR SKIRT?! It’s really juvenile how she acts here and THANK GOD Jamie rode in at the right moment to save the day! I totally see this ending in a showdown where Jamie kills Randall and therefore, Frank in the future. YAH!
 

It’s not too late to sign up for the Outlander read-along! Check out my post to find out what its all about and to learn more about the upcoming schedule!

Swoons Galore! Outlander: Week Two

Outlander Read-a-long
Week one: Chapters 8-14

 

Not sure what this is all about? Here’s the deal…

The read-a-long is going to go from June 11th to July 23rd on Mondays and more information can be found here.

Last week I mentioned that I was thrilled that Outlander was living up to my expectations and that I was happy at how engaged I was while reading the story. After this week’s reading I have to say that I am LOVING this book and I want to hug those lovely bloggers who started this read along. I actually had to stop myself from reading ahead this week (I might have cheated a little) and I cannot wait to see what happens next. The characters being introduced are becoming fleshed out and interesting and I actually felt real rage upon Claire and Randall’s second meeting. I LOVE WHEN BOOKS MAKE ME FEEL FEELINGS!!
1.  Claire has been given the task of healer at the castle. She must adapt her nursing skills for the time and learn what herbs and etc will cure each particular ailment that is presented to her. Do you have any home remedies that were passed down to you (cure for a cold, bee sting or what have you)?
My family comes from Germany, I am nearly 100% German – except for that little blip on my family tree I talked about last week- so we have some very interesting cures for ailments. I’m not going to get into details but my gram used herbs for hot flashes, and beer, liquor, garlic and honey to cure everything else. There have been some stories about urine being healthy for you, I have heard both on wounds and also by ingesting it. My gram is a tad facetious at times so I take this one with a grain of salt! (see what I did there? :P)
2. What do you think would be the biggest challenge of living in the past? (Clothing, hygiene, food, etiquette or etc.)
Most DEFINITELY hygiene. They say that Henry VIII only bathed when he was born and when his attendants got him ready for his funeral. Uhhh WHAT?! Knowing his “escapades” throughout his life I am appalled that the guy didn’t bathe obsessively. How did he gain so many wives/mistresses? I get that he’s the king but c’mon ladies, have some standards! But I digress…back to the main point, I would need to bathe. My hair would need to be washed on AT LEAST a weekly basis over here and I would have to be smelling nice. I think I would love the clothing, the food wouldn’t bother me and I like to think I am a quick learner so with the exception of being the “lesser sex” I could adapt to the etiquette as well.
3. Do you have a favorite character, scene or quote so far? If so, share it with us.
I am liking Claire significantly more and more as each chapter progresses. I was appalled at the second meeting between Claire and Randall and when she was all “your wig is crooked.” I about died but I also wanted to reach through the book and slap him around a bit! RAGE! I also really like Dougal, but let’s be serious, Jamie is obviously my favorite character. One of the parts that had me melted into a puddle is when they are actually getting married and both Claire and Jamie are acting as a sort of support for the other. “Bear up, lass, It’s not long now. Say the words after me.” I was all “awwwww” and such. I loved the whole wedding scene, DG definitely painted a nice picture of Jamie all dolled up and when he gave Claire the pearls that belonged to his mother I swooned a little. I also have some favorite lines from chapter 15 (Don’t you judge me for reading ahead!) but I won’t post them here because that is for next week!
4. What did you think about the addition of the blood bond in the wedding ceremony? Is this something you would do with the one you love?
I liked it in relation to the story and I think that it will definitely heighten their “bond” throughout the series but it is not something I would enjoy doing. I can’t help but think of the germs but maybe I’m just not romantic enough!
5. Are you reading along closely with the scheduled chapters or are you ahead or behind?
I am being such a good little reader and staying close to our schedule! I do have to admit though, I saw some read along friends who were all talking about “kilt dangling” in chapter 15 and I immediately picked up my book and read chapters 8-15 and OH. EM. GEE. I am so glad that I did. The good stuff? IT’S ALL THERE! We will talk about that next week so I won’t get into it here but it was totally everything I had hoped it would be.

It’s not too late to sign up for the Outlander read-along! Check out my post to find out what its all about and to learn more about the upcoming schedule!

Read Along Outlander by Diana Gabaldon: Week One

 
Outlander Read-a-long
Week one: Chapters 1-7
 
Not sure what this is all about? Here’s the deal…The read-a-long is going to go from June 11th to July 23rd on Mondays and more information can be found here.
 
So far, this book is everything that I had hoped it would be. I am enjoying the fact that it isn’t jumping right into a dalliance between Jamie and Claire and I really like the strength and independence Claire shows from the beginning. I am anticipating continuing on with the story and I foresee having a hard time keeping myself from reading ahead in the challenge! 


1. Outlander is a well-known book. Before you cracked it open, what were your expectations or assumptions about this story? Or did you jump into it with a blank slate? 



I have to say that I had VERY high expectations when starting this book. This is a series that has been pushed on me for YEARS AND YEARS by my family because they are CONVINCED that I will just love them. I have to say that though my expectations are extremely high, I have not been disappointed. You know how sometimes you build something up so high that it ends up falling short? Sorry, Hunger Games fans they were not as good as I expected – this has thankfully, not been the case with Outlander! I know we are only 7 chapters in but I am pretty enthralled at this point and I am DEFINITELY invested in the relationships currently growing.

2. Claire’s husband, Frank, is fascinated with learning more and more facts about his family tree, which extends back pretty far. Do you or anyone in your family keep a family tree? How many years/generations back does it go? If not, have you ever considered or attempted to create one?

I have actually recently started taking advantage of the ancestry software available at my public library. I recently got stuck a few generations back on a woman named “Sarah” on my dad’s side. From what I understand, I have Native American roots and Sarah was a common name given to women who carried somewhat “different” names and backgrounds. I am so intrigued now to find out who this “Sarah” is in my family and am currently waiting for some records to be sent to me from Pennsylvania so I can continue on with my search!

3. How did you find Claire’s initial conclusion as to her surroundings after waking up from going through the stones? Did you think that was a reasonable conclusion?

I honestly don’t think it is something that would have crossed my mind. She seemed a little flustered and then was like “Well they suddenly started to film a movie at the exact spot where I am standing!” I can appreciate her trying to rationalize and thought her to be very intelligent but it is definitely not something that I would have thought up!

4. How about her composed, rational way of dealing with the fact she’s traveled back in time. Did you find it believable? Do you think you would have acted the same way?

As I was finishing up the chapters from this week I was thinking that I would like to think that if I was thrown into the same situation I would handle it with the same grace and intelligence that Claire is using. However, I don’t know if that is how things would really go, as I have to assume there would be a slight freak out sesh commencing upon seeing kilted men barreling toward me. I am a pretty tough gal and I know I would be a tad distracted by the red-haired, accented, kilted man but I also know that I would need a few moments to rock/cry in the corner.

5. At this point in the story, what are your feelings or expectations on Claire and Jamie? Is Frank still a factor for you?

Honestly I might be a terrible person but Frank really isn’t a factor for me at this point. He definitely seems like he isn’t enough for Claire in many ways and though I know my friends don’t always enjoy listening to my prattle about different literature/Shakespearean plays, they at least try to listen. It seems like when Frank speaks Claire is all “oh he is being an intellectual again, how tedious,” and then she just stops listening. She needs someone who excites her and I just don’t think he is the guy. I have HIGH expectations for her and Jamie though!

Bonus Question: Frank encounters a man outside of the inn where he and Claire are staying. He is afraid it might have been a ghost. What do you believe it was? Do you have any predictions or suspicions on what that was about?

This one is a toughie and I find it fascinating. Could it be Jamie, traveling to the future? The rogue, Jonathan Randall? Or perhaps someone from Claire’s time who knows a bit about what is to come. I am very excited to find out!

It’s not too late to sign up for the Outlander read-along! Check out my post to find out what its all about and to learn more about the upcoming schedule!

Outlander Read-a-long

 
June 11 – July 23
 
 
 
The year is 1945. Claire Randall, a former combat nurse, is back from the war and reunited with her husband on a second honeymoon–when she walks through a standing stone in one of the ancient stone circles that dot the British Isles. Suddenly she is a Sassenach–an “outlander”–in a Scotland torn by war and raiding Highland clans in the year of Our Lord…1743.

Hurled back in time by forces she cannot understand, Claire is catapulted into intrigues and dangers that may threaten her life…and shatter her heart. For here she meets James Fraser, a gallant young Scots warrior, and becomes a woman torn between fidelity and desire…and between two vastly different men in two irreconcilable lives.

I’m sure half of you are rolling your eyes at me thinking about how drastically I do NOT need to add another challenge to my list and the other half is just happy that I am finally taking the plunge and reading a book that they have been pushing on me since I was a youngin’ first blurring the lines between YA and Adult Lit. Outlander is a book that I have been wanting to read for a LONG time, in fact, it was featured on my Top Ten Tuesday list last week as one of the books I can’t believe I’ve never read. I was overjoyed when this read-a-long was brought to my attention and I am very excited to participate!!

Here’s the deal…

The read-a-long is going to go from June 11th to July 23rd on Mondays and the schedule and hosting blogs are as follows:

Monday, June 11th:

Questions for chapters 1-7 announced at Gone with the Words

Monday, June 18th:

Questions for chapters 1-7 answered & questions announced for chapters 8-14 at Stalking the Bookshelves

Monday, June 25th:

Questions for chapters 8-14 answered & questions announced for chapters 15-21 on Tangled up in Blue

Monday, July 2nd:

Questions for chapters 15-21 answered & questions announced for chapters 22-28 on Into the Hall of Books

Monday, July 9th:

Questions for chapters 22-28 answered & questions announced for chapters 29-35 on Logan E. Turner

Monday, July 16th:

Questions for chapters 29-35 answered & questions announced for chapters 36-41 on The Reading Housewives

Monday, July 23rd:

Questions for chapters 36-41 answered on Gone with the Words. The end.

Special thanks to the participating blogs for hosting this awesome read-a-long and getting my butt in gear to read a series I am convinced I will LOVE!!