Archive for July, 2012

An Echo in the Bone: A Novel Outlander Review.

Monday, July 2nd, 2012

An Echo in the Bone: A Novel Outlander. An Echo in the Bone: A Novel Outlander

Product: An Echo in the Bone: A Novel Outlander Review.

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Diana Gabaldon’s brilliant storytelling has captivated millions of readers in her bestselling and award-winning Outlander saga. Now, in An Echo in the Bone, the enormously anticipated seventh volume, Gabaldon continues the extraordinary story of the eighteenth-century Scotsman Jamie Fraser and his twentieth-century time-traveling wife, Claire Randall.

Jamie Fraser, former Jacobite and reluctant rebel, is already certain of three things about the American rebellion: The Americans will win, fighting on the side of victory is no guarantee of survival, and he’d rather die than have to face his illegitimate son–a young lieutenant in the British army–across the barrel of a gun.

Claire Randall knows that the Americans will win, too, but not what the ultimate price may be. That price won’t include Jamie’s life or his happiness, though–not if she has anything to say about it.

Meanwhile, in the relative safety of the twentieth century, Jamie and Claire’s daughter, Brianna, and her husband, Roger MacKenzie, have resettled in a historic Scottish home where, across a chasm of two centuries, the unfolding drama of Brianna’s parents’ story comes to life through Claire’s letters. The fragile pages reveal Claire’s love for battle-scarred Jamie Fraser and their flight from North Carolina to the high seas, where they encounter privateers and ocean battles–as Brianna and Roger search for clues not only to Claire’s fate but to their own. Because the future of the MacKenzie family in the Highlands is mysteriously, irrevocably, and intimately entwined with life and death in war-torn colonial America.

With stunning cameos of historical characters from Benedict Arnold to Benjamin Franklin, An Echo in the Bone is a soaring masterpiece of imagination, insight, character, and adventure–a novel that echoes in the mind long after the last page is turned.

  • Amazon Sales Rank: #440 in Books
  • Published on: 2009-09-22
  • Released on: 2009-09-22
  • Original language: English
  • Number of items: 1
  • Binding: Hardcover
  • 832 pages

Features

  • ISBN13: 9780385342452
  • Condition: NEW
  • Notes: Brand New from Publisher. No Remainder Mark.

Beautiful, but boring3
I never in a million years thought I’d give DG less than five stars. She’s one of three authors on my release-date auto-buy, and I’ve been eagerly awaiting this book for years. But having spent the last couple of weeks reading it, I really don’t even know what to say (I know I should take that back - I ALWAYS have something to say and I’m about to say it).

Problem one: It took me several weeks to read. I’m a compulsive reader. I can’t sleep with a story unfinished, and yet Echo never grabbed me. I went several days without evening picking it up because I didn’t feel like it. I never felt emotionally engaged. A good lot of the time, I just didn’t care what was happening. And even worse, I felt bored by the story.

Problem two: The book is so physically big that it hurt to read. And I mean that literally. I had shoulder and elbow pain from holding it up. It really, really needed to be cut. There was a point where I wished DG had cut out the last 150 pages and replaced them with “Six months later.” There was just too much of mundane life and while beautifully written, it had no presence, no force, no suspense. The book overall needed more focus on story and less on how to fix a collapsed lung using nothing but tar and a bird feather. Many of the elements got lots of story didn’t end up leading anywhere (such as Ian & the two orphan girls. I expected them to show up again.)

Problem three: Timing. The book is really three different stories. Jamie & Claire in 1777 America (mostly), William (Wee Willie) Ramsome in about the same time period, and Bree & Roger in 1980’s Scotland. But the timelines didn’t happen evenly and so I was often rather confused. For example: William is leaving to go find Dr. Hunter in the rebel camp. Then we switch to Jamie/Claire and cover 7-8-9 months time in a hundred or more pages. Then we go back to William who has found the doctor a day or so later. This went on throughout the book, and made me crazy. Since one of the main foreshadows of the book is that Jamie & William would meet again, I could never tell if they were even in the same time / same place.

Problem four: Pacing. The book has more of an episodic plot rather than linear. It unfolds around smaller incidents that contribute to a greater whole. Many of the smaller incidents involve the William, Lord Grey, and the battles of the American Revolution, Jamie & Claire trying to make it to Scotland, Roger and Bree making a life in more modern Lallybroch. Things move slowly, but beautifully. I have learned to expect that from DG, and she is so good at it that I enjoy the details and the history and the true-to-life characters (knowing that she is as historically accurate as possible). But in this book it was way TOO slow.

And the last couple hundred pages (the ending?) were just strange. First things slow down so much that pages and pages are devoted to reminiscing and revisiting the past and death and… (well I can’t tell you everything!) Then it switches so that the story & people move so fast I can’t keep up. And the turn-about surprises are SO surprising that I have a hard time believing them. I’m left with a feeling of `where did that come from?’ and `why did that happen?’ and `you’ve got to be kidding me!’ The end was hugely dissatisfying, and yet that was (to me) where the real story was. The good stuff was glossed over.

So while DG is still one of the masters of the written word and I will probably fork out another $30 for her next book, I overall am rather disappointed. I feel like she is more interested in showing all the neat historical details she has learned than in telling a story. She has lost the story. And that makes me so sad because I have spent something like 16 or 17 years following these characters and being invested in their final outcome (we all know it comes back to that ghost watching Claire brush her hair). Please DG, go back to telling us their story rather than showing us what it was like to live in the eighteenth century.

I don’t know whether to give this book one star or five!3
OMG! I just got to the end of the book… I can’t say I finished the book, I’ll just say that I got to the end of it.

Loose ends are loose ends, but Diana…. what is this about? I read this on my e-reader and I kept paging back and forth, trying to find the rest of it, thinking, “This can’t be over. There’s no ending!” It leaves far too many characters hanging with life or death situations, far too many conversations in mid-sentence. It’s worse than a soap opera!

And let’s talk continuity, here. Does she even have an editor? At the end of the last book, Jamie stood with John Grey, watching Brianna and William in the street. In this book, Jamie claims not to have set eyes on William since he was 12. There are about a half a dozen major continuity conflicts in this story that would have been really easy to fix, if anyone was paying attention.

Now I love Diana’s characters and her writing and I get so wrapped up in her stories that it threatens the rest of my ability to function in life, but this ended so strangely that I’ll be jarred and marred for days!

I enjoyed reading this book and I’ll buy her next one, but I recommend that no one read this one until the next one is available. Leaving us hanging here, for possibly years until the next one comes out, is too upsetting.

SPOILER ALERT: THERE ARE SPOILERS IN THE COMMENTS

A little too much left hanging, but ….4
I found the book a wee bit slow to get started, and a tiny bit choppy. But that’s because the main character’s lives have changed dramatically, and the whole *family* is no longer on *The Ridge*. But once I got into the flow of the story, I found myself reading faster and faster to find out what happened next, which means I’ll have to go back and reread it to catch nuances.

But there were some story lines that left me thinking *why*? Why reintroduce a character and then not have that character have any more to do in the story ( I am not naming that character so as not to spoil it for others#.

Another reviewer mentioned why adding Lord John and William into the mix, and not just concentrating on Jamie & Claire’s story. Well, then we’d only have half the book we have now, and probably half the total number of books to begin with if their lives aren’t fleshed out. And once into the full series of book you want to know what’s going on with the extended family, who was doing what with who. And Wlliam isn’t just a nobody.

But as I read faster towards the end, I began to think that all the time & effort spent on the story around Ft Ticonderoga, while interesting, left the ending not as well fleshed out by comparison. As if the ending was rushed in the writing. I really felt there ought to have been another 200 pages to flesh out what was happening.

And then the ending. There are quite a few *cliff hangers* at the end. But. But, I am still hooked. And beg Ms Gabaldon to start the next #will it be the last?) book as soon as possible. Cause I need to know!

All told, I love The Outlander series. I love books that are this long and this interesting. That we get to see a love story and lives fleshed out as well as Ms Gabaldon does. Hopefully she will continue the great work.

Wench: A Novel Sale-$16.49!

Sunday, July 1st, 2012

Wench: A Novel. Wench: A Novel

Product: Wench: A Novel Sale-$16.49!

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An ambitious and startling debut novel that follows the lives of four women at a resort popular among slaveholders who bring their enslaved mistresses

wench \’wench\ n. from Middle English “wenchel,” 1 a: a girl, maid, young woman; a female child.

Tawawa House in many respects is like any other American resort before the Civil War. Situated in Ohio, this idyllic retreat is particularly nice in the summer when the Southern humidity is too much to bear. The main building, with its luxurious finishes, is loftier than the white cottages that flank it, but then again, the smaller structures are better positioned to catch any breeze that may come off the pond. And they provide more privacy, which best suits the needs of the Southern white men who vacation there every summer with their black, enslaved mistresses. It’s their open secret.

Lizzie, Reenie, and Sweet are regulars at Tawawa House. They have become friends over the years as they reunite and share developments in their own lives and on their respective plantations. They don’t bother too much with questions of freedom, though the resort is situated in free territory–but when truth-telling Mawu comes to the resort and starts talking of running away, things change.

To run is to leave behind everything these women value most–friends and families still down South–and for some it also means escaping from the emotional and psychological bonds that bind them to their masters. When a fire on the resort sets off a string of tragedies, the women of Tawawa House soon learn that triumph and dehumanization are inseparable and that love exists even in the most inhuman, brutal of circumstances–all while they are bearing witness to the end of an era.

An engaging, page-turning, and wholly original novel, Wench explores, with an unflinching eye, the moral complexities of slavery.

  • Amazon Sales Rank: #1407 in Books
  • Published on: 2010-01-01
  • Released on: 2010-01-05
  • Original language: English
  • Number of items: 1
  • Binding: Hardcover
  • 304 pages

Features

  • ISBN13: 9780061706547
  • Condition: NEW
  • Notes: Brand New from Publisher. No Remainder Mark.

A Fine Line of Favor5
Dolen Perkins-Valdez delivers the gripping tale of primary characters, Lizzy, Reenie, Sweet and Mawu’s, lives as slave maids and mistresses during the mid-19th century. Although from separate southern plantations, the mistresses vacation with their white masters to a free-state resort in Ohio each summer, forming a sisterly bond and developing relationships with each other.

Suffering emotional, physical and sexual abuse at the hands of their “owners,” the women grow weary, often dreaming of their and their children’s freedom. While each of the women has a unique relationship with her respective master, Lizzy, Reenie, Sweet and Mawu share the bond of slavery and mistreatment. Despite the seeming perks each wench receives over all the other slaves at their home plantations, each woman still finds herself living in misery. This story brings readers into the heart-wrenching decisions, painstaking moments and emotional turmoil endured by each of the women as they struggle to save themselves spiritually, physically and emotionally. They walk a fine line of favor with their masters. Should the women stay, or should they run, when the opportunity is staring them right in the face?

This story is unlike any other story I’ve read about slave women and children. Yes, I’ve heard the stories and knew these type things happened but never have I been drawn into the minds of the women that have lived this life. Themes of particular interest to me while reading this story were the relationship between the master’s wife, Fran, and Lizzy. Lizzy’s character is also of the most interest to me in that she was quite indecisive. I understood her indecision. I felt these women’s pain and suffering. I also acknowledge the author’s underlying message of the possible cause and evolvement of black-on-black prejudices.

After reading this story, I am even more deeply appreciative of the women before me. They suffered tremendously and if it weren’t for them I would not be living the life I am today. Any time you read a story and you feel the emotions jumping from the pages, you’ve got a page turner. The history behind the Tawawa House and what the land is actually used for today is also quite interesting. I would have never known had I not read this book.

Based on this novel, I would read a second offering from Ms. Perkins-Valdez.

I Could Not Put It Down5
I could not put this book down. Rarely does a book capture my attention the way Wench did. After I started reading this book I left my chores undone, ignored the work on my desk and stayed up late at night reading. I have such mixed feelings about the pleasure I took in this book because it covers a horrible topic. Yet the author took such care telling the stories of four slave women forced into sexual relationships with their master. You must not miss the stories of Lizzie, Sugar, Reenie and Mawu. They share their lives with the reader and you come to care deeply about them before the reading is done. What the white masters did to these women is terrible yet the women handle it grace and strength that I myself do not have. My only hope is that the author plans a sequel because the story is just too good to end.

Wasn’t ready for it to end5
Dr. Dolen Perkins-Valdez does a great job portraying the setting and the characters - providing details that bring the story to life, without being superlative. As I was reading, I shed several tears. I smiled some too - and, many times, I felt a host of mixed emotions concurrently. Perkins-Valdez does a great job of showing the complexity of humanity in her characters - allowing her readers to think about themselves in a very real manner. The novel compelled me to think about several issues in more intricate ways. The words led me to think about history and slavery, but also love and strength, in subtle yet powerful ways. I read a lot, and I have written a good deal too. I know that this much vitality in a novel is hard to find. I found Wench to be very well-done. I had a hard time putting it down. My only complaint is that I wasn’t ready for it to end.