Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Outlandishly Obsessed

To say I am obsessed with Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series would truly be an understatement. Not only have LOVED Jamie and Claire since I read the first book, Outlander. I cannot actually remember when I first heard of the series. I know I started reading them in the early 1990s because I remember finishing the second book Dragonfly in Amber and having to wait for the third book Voyager.

Now, I will admit, I have not read the last two books - which actually includes the book which was released earlier this month - An Echo in the Bone and Written in My Own Heart's Blood. The reason, I do not want the series to end!!

Every chance I have to recommend a book to someone, I suggest this series. I love everything about these books, the historical aspect, the magic of time travel, oh, and how could I ever forget - the romance. These books are not just about the romance though. It is SO much more than the love between Jamie and Claire. It is about their life together. I love talking about the books and the emotions I felt when I read a certain section of one of the books. I know my family was tired of hearing me say how much I love the books, until they picked the books up and started reading them! My husband, father, aunt, niece, sister-in-law, cousin, and so many friends have now read the books because of my recommendations and all they can say is "WOW!" Obviously I wasn't wrong!

Last night I had the wonderful opportunity to attend the Dallas Museum of Art's Art & Letters Live program where Ms. Gabaldon was speaking. I was a bit concerned that she would be like some of the other authors I have anxiously awaited hearing, but was sorely disappointed. She did NOT disappoint. Not only was she very open during her Q&A ("I don't know yet." and "I write pieces and fit them together. It's like a new age Tetris."), but she was also very humorous. She opened the evening telling the audience of over 1200 (her largest group in the US book tour) about her experience as a university professor teaching human anatomy and physiology. Her class was very popular "because they thought it would be easy". She commented how the football team would be sitting on the front row of the auditorium class with their eyes closed. She got their attention immediately when she said they would be discussing contraception and proceed to quote this little ditty.

In days of old
When knights were bold
And condoms weren't invented
They wrapped their cocks
Inside old socks
And babies were prevented.

From then on, she said she had their attention. When asked what portion of her was in Claire (the heroine of the series) she replied, 15.8%. She then went on to compare herself to the villain in the series - Captain Jonathan "Black Jack" Randall.  She was not the sweet demure woman I thought she was going to be in, which actually made me love her even more. My few seconds with Ms. Gabaldon were almost surreal. I was so excited the entire time I stood in line to see her. I had so many comments and questions running around in my head, but when I finally made my way to the front of the line all I could say was "Thank you." It really wasn't enough to let her know how much her books have meant to me, but it is what I could actually get out of my mouth at the time. Remember - Authors are my Rock Stars and to be completely honest, I was star struck.

Diana Gabaldon signing my author / illustrator autograph book
Dallas Museum of Art - Art & Letters Live, June 24, 2014
Just to let you know how much I love the books and Jamie and Claire, here is a picture of OUR Claire.

Claire Betts, March 2014

If you are interested in the Outlander series and you would like more information, you can read more about them and her writing process here. If you are interested in the new television series which will premiere on Starz, August 9th of this year, you can read it here and you can see the trailer here. For those who are completely obsessed you can download desktop wallpaper, headers and you can even print off your very own Pocket Jamie here.

After hearing Ms. Gabaldon speak last night and being surrounded by all of the excitement of the books, I have decided to go back and start over again. I know it is going to make my ever growing stack and list of "To Reads" build up, but they are SO worth the time. I will also make sure to read all of the books this time and not stop just because I don't want the series and the story of Jamie and Claire to end. I guess I will be like Elder Cunningham in Book of Mormon: The Musical and Man-Up (or Woman-Up is more appropriate).

It is not a bad thing to go back and re-read favorite books. It is a time to discover things you didn't catch the first time and a way to fall in love all over again with favorite characters. I'm off to the 18th century Highlands my friends.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Going Back to the Grim Reaper

Third Grave Dead Ahead
by Darynda Jones

I honestly cannot believe it has been three years since I found Darynda Jones's first book First Grave on the Right. It was not one of those books I could simply add to my ever growing list of books to read before I die (funny when you read the books and realize the main character, Charley Davidson, is the Grim Reaper), it was one that had to be read immediately. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it and did not like having to wait for the library to order the second book in the series, Second Grave on the Left. In fact, it was almost six months later that I was finally able to read the second book, and even longer for me to write my review. I guess looking back six months was nothing when I realize this book has been out for two years and I am just now getting to it. Maybe there is a limit to how much one person can read about the Grim Reaper before it starts to get to you.

While looking at the titles suggested by the librarians at my local public library I happened to see the title of Darynda Jones's latest book, Sixth Grave on the Edge. Right away you can see I am a bit behind. Evidently while I have been marking other titles off of my To Read List, Ms. Jones has been pumping out the books every six months, or so. I was thrilled to see she was still writing about Charley Davidson and even more thrilled when I found out the third book in the series was on the book shelf just calling to me, asking to be checked out.Well, that is just what I did!

Third Grave Dead Ahead does not disappoint. I truly felt I was back with an old friend. It is hard for me to imagine how I would react to a friend telling me she is the Grim Reaper. For the friends of Charley Davidson it just seems natural. This little tidbit of information is not something she reveals to her clients, but her abilities and other worldly friends make her job as a private investigator a little easier. However, these friends and abilities cannot keep Charley from getting into all kinds of life and death situations. Reyes, the son of Satan [Who I personally did not think I was going to like once his true identity was revealed. At first I kind of thought Ms. Jones you have jumped the shark, but I no longer feel this way. I have accepted him for who he is and the part he will play in Charley's life.] is back and although Charley has bound his incorporeal body to his physical body, he continues to make life interesting (mentally and physically) for our main character, even though he is serving a life sentence in prison for killing his step-father, Earl Walker. There are a number of story lines in this novel and I applaud Ms. Jones for the way in which she weaves the characters and their different journeys together to make a fantastic twisting tale of excitement. 

Without going into too much detail, here is a short list of some of the different characters Charley is involved with in the 300+ pages, and I'm not even going to get into all of the various spiritual beings Charley communicates with in the book in order to gain insight and information.

  • Dutch (Reyes's nickname for Charley) and Reyes's adventures - again I don't want to ruin the story by giving too many details.
  • Charley hired by Dr. Yost in order to find his missing wife, Teresa
  • Charley hired by Teresa Yost's sister and brother in order to locate the doctor's missing wife.
  • Charley's involvement with the leader of a biker gang, Donovan and his dog Artemis.
  • Charley's dependence and working relationship with her assistant Cookie.
I have already added the next three books in the series to my list of books to read this summer (Fourth Grave Beneath My Feet, Fifth Grave Past the Light, and the already mentioned Sixth Grave on the Edge). The seven book, Seventh Grave and No Body will be released in October - two days after my birthday (family and friends, take note...a Amazon or Barnes and Noble gift card would be a GREAT idea for a gift ~ just saying). Unfortunately I will not be reading the fourth book right away. Like I said, I found these at the library and I don't want to carry them out of town with me when I leave for a few days. Instead I will grab a paperback, or two or three, to throw in my backpack with me. I'm sure I won't be able to find anything to read while I'm away! ["There is a great need for a sarcasm font." - This is one of my favorite lines in the book. It is a t-shirt quote opening chapter two.] Never fear though. I WILL be back providing information about the next books in the series. We can't have Charley running around New Mexico without knowing what she is up to in her exciting life as the Grim Reaper, P.I.