A Review of Outlander (Book 1) by Diana Gabaldon

While exploring the Scottish countryside while on a scholarly trip with her husband, Frank, Claire Randall finds herself on a hill wrapped in mystery called Craigh na Dun. After witnessing what appeared to be a pagan ritual involving possible witches she goes back to see if she could figure out what was happening. Wandering through the rocks, she somehow gets sucked through a crack and comes to amidst a skirmish of some sort. She meets a man who happens to be an english soldier of some kind. She quickly realizes this man looks exactly like her husband Frank. The man quickly attacks her and tries to rape her. She is suddenly rescued and whisked away but finds she is also now a captive to a band of cattle thieves who think her an english spy.

After awhile she puts things together and realizes she’s been spirited away to 1740s Scotland. After being taken to Castles Leoch and establishing that she is in the lands of the clan McKenzie, Claire settles into castle life while still plotting her way back to the standing stones and her husband Frank. But the ruggedly handsome Jamie Fraser is a huge distraction to that plan. Will Claire find her way back to Frank and her time or will she fall in love with the young Highlander and give up all she knows for the past?

There are many things about this book that I absolutely loved. The slow burning romance between Claire and Jamie was fascinating. The very confusing way the McKenzie and Fraser clans were related was interesting. There was a lot of mystery within the different characters and what was going on with them, like whether or not characters were good or bad. The character development was phenomenal.

But, on the flip side of that coin, I felt like the way the characters responded to each other in certain situations was outside how they would behave when you consider how they’ve been presented up to that point. I felt I got to know these characters and Claire and Jamie especially. I came to see them as friends that I was rooting for and while most of their actions were very much them, some were far too unbelievable. The other problem I had with this one is that it was far too long. I thought parts could be cut out that seemed to be more filler than actual necessary pieces to unravel the story.

I give this one a 4 out of 5. This book won’t be for everyone. It contains strong language and strong sexual content. It is also more romance than history, though there is quite a bit of action. So much happens that it seems more like an epic than a novel. I hope if you read it, that you enjoy it like I did.

A Review of In the Kingdom’s Name by Amy Jarecki

I was gifted this ebook from Netgalley in exchange for a fair and honest review. I received this one awhile back but upon finding it was a sequel, I purchased the first book in the series and read it first. You can find the review for that book in this blog as well.

In the Kingdom’s Name finds Eva still in medieval Scotland, during the war to free themselves from English rule. Andrew Murray is on the brink of death and William all but forces Eva to use her newfangled healing to save him, something time does not want her to interfere with. Because of this, she is spirited away back to modern day and is desperate to get back. Will fate let her go back? Can she change time to save William Wallace’s fate.

This was a really good follow up as it helped to further develop Eva and William’s relationship but aside from the historical aspects of where the story had to go in order to still be true, the rest was kind of a let down. Jarecki explains her decision in the author’s notes and it makes sense but it didn’t feel right to me. I thought there were many things that could’ve happened to make the outcome more enjoyable. The last chapter of the book felt very forced to me and I never gained any real emotional connection to the resolution.

Another thing that bothered me, is that William Wallace is an extremely pious man. He had decided that he was going to take his vows into the priesthood until he decided to take up arms to fight the cause of his country. That being said, he very quickly jumped into a sexual relationship with Eva from the very beginning. While men can change their minds, he continued to read his psalter and to quote scripture all while this is taking place. So for me, I don’t feel like his character stayed true to himself and the whole sexual relationship was contrived to help the story further along.

This was a decent read but I liked the first installment of this saga better. I give it a 3 out of 5. This decision was mainly based on the fact that the ending was completely lost for me. I felt the author couldn’t figure out a way to make her original ending work and so this was plan B and everyone, including Eva, got the second best option.  This book has strong sexual scenes so reader discretion is advised.

A Review of The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George

Jean Perdu is a man who has spent the last 20 years of his life in mourning and angry about a woman who spurned him and then died. He lives his life angry at her for leaving him, doesn’t sleep, and lives a very basic sedentary life. He runs a bookstore on a barge floating in the Seine River, called the Literary Apothecary. He has a special talent for reading people emotionally with a minimum of information. With this skill and his love for books he prescribes books to help patrons with what ails them emotionally. He’s been stuck in this rut for a long time, until a newly divorced woman moves into his building and a popular young author seeks refuge aboard his boat, and everything changes.

I absolutely loved this book. It gripped me emotionally from the first few pages. Perdu is a truly broken man and Nina George guides you along his journey as you empathize and feel for everything he is going for. I fell in love with each and every character in this book. They all possessed qualities that seemed to encourage each other to grow and is even great advice for the reader. I found this book to have some of the greatest quotes about life and love. The entire book is a roller coaster of every emotion imaginable. I found myself laughing one minute and crying the next.

There are parts of this book that I think are a bit wordy and I felt my attention drifting a bit, but just when I thought I might lose interest, I was reeled back into the story. There is some mild sexual content, as Perdu is a middle aged man who has completely shut himself down, and along the way he rediscovers his sexuality along with finding that his heart is still capable of love.

I will easily give this book 5 stars. There was no point where I was truly board and I truly empathized with Perdu and rooted for him as he created new friendships, built himself a family, and allowed himself to see the light in life again. I found myself not wanting it to end. I wanted more from the Epilogue. I fell completely in love with this book and the core characters.

A Review of Rise of a Legend by Amy Jarecki

Eva MacKay is an archeological journalist fascinated by the legend of William Wallace. After he husband is brutally murdered she takes a job on a historical dig at the battleground of Loudoun Hill. One early morning, her professor gives her a necklace without telling her much about it. She falls asleep at Fail Monastery only to wake up amidst a historical battle in 1297 Scotland. Right as she thinks she’s going to die, she is rescued by a man of great size. After introductions, she realizes her savior is none other than William Wallace himself. Their chemistry is instant and so begins a tumultuous relationship during some of Scotland’s greatest massacres and battles.

This book caught my attention from the very first pages. Eva has known a lot of tragedy in her 27 years and you begin to feel for her right away. There is a lot of history in these pages the author went to great lengths researching the history of William Wallace that we know, while still injecting her own twist to what happens. This era in Scotland’s histories has quite a few holes so the author used multiple sources to weave her tale. William was a battle hardened man with a chip on his shoulder about the English monarchy. Jarecki gave a nice contrast between a man bent on taking back Scotland for his people and a  softer man falling in love with a woman he doesn’t completely understand.

My one criticism is the numerous sex scenes. I, personally, don’t enjoy reading about extremely graphic sex. I would have enjoyed something a little more subtle to characterize their budding romance instead of gratuitous sex. The relationship between Eva and William starts out very carnal and this is shown throughout the book. I did, however, greatly enjoy the slow transition between lovers blowing off the steam of tragedy and the deeper love their grew to have for one another.

I give this book a 5 out of 5. Despite the graphic sexual content, the history and character development was amazing. I love time travel of any kind and historical romance is one of my favorite sub genres of this. There’s something so intriguing about someone from our own time finding themselves in way earlier time periods and falling in love with icons I’ve only read about in history books. To be front and center to histories battles would be incredible. I recommend this book to fans of historical romances. Definitely keep in mind that there is a lot of sex and very graphic depictions of death and battle of the period.

Love Hurts: A Speculative Fiction Anthology Edited by Tricia Reeks, Kyle Richardson, and Margaret Reeks

Love Hurts is a collection of short stories by various authors from different cultures, which you can see in the names and events written about. There are 26 stories all dealing with various forms of love set within the science fiction and fantasy genres. These aren’t traditional love stories. They cover all forms of love: true love, familial, sibling, same sex, interracial, interspecies, platonic and more. There’s pretty  much something to pique everyone’s interest.

In reading through this collection I felt every emotion on the spectrum. Some made me sad, some angry, and some made me jump for joy. There’s also varying landscapes from alien, to dystopian, even ancient China. Some of the stories were so abstract they were hard to understand, but if you are someone who likes to read between the lines to find deeper meaning you would probably really enjoy it.

A couple of the stories that really spoke to me I will highlight here for you. The first is called “Catching On”. It is set in a world where children can be born with special powers. Two of these children are now adults and one can see into the future. She knows of an event that could destroy humanity and wants to destroy the object that would be the catalyst. This is a tale of love realized too late and filled me with sorrow. The second one that really touched me is called “Metempsychotic”. A pregnant woman is on the verge of giving birth and goes over the events of her life with the ghost that lives with her that only she can see. This one is a tale of young love lost and how someone can love you so much that they stay with you even beyond the grave to make sure you are okay. This last one I will mention is by far my very favorite and captivated me so much that I wish it was a book because there could be so much more than the small portion that was written about in this book. It is called “So Fast We’re Slow”. In a world where people can selectively erase memories, Maggie is a wet nurse who has lost a lot. The baby she loved died in her womb and the father of the child had his memories of her forcibly removed by his controlling parents. On the Zephyr she has begun working on she meets a man who brings those repressed memories back all too clearly.

The material is very science fiction in nature and has some sexual content so reader discretion is advised. Though most of the stories were entertaining a few just weren’t for me which is why I rated is a 4 out of 5. All in all, I really enjoyed it.

A Review of All Stories Are Love Stories by Elizabeth Percer

I won this ARC through The Reading Room in exchange for a fair review.

This book chronicles the events surrounding a major earthquake in San Francisco, very similar to the great 1906 earthquake. Max is a 34 year old man, abandoned by his dad and me still mourning a failed relationship from his teens. Vashti is a young Iranian pastry chef who has not known much more than tragedy her entire life. Gene is a geologist who has found his great love in life but is struggling in his professional life.

The narrative jumps between the lives of these 3 characters and how their lives become woven together through tragedy. I As the emotions, lives, and back stories of these characters take center stage, the earthquake is more of a background scenery.

I really liked this book because the character development was phenomenal. Their lives became something I was familiar with, making me feel like I knew them and was rooting for them. Each chapter leaves the reader with questions making it hard to find a place to stop. I felt like I was opening a chest and slowly taking out one layer at a time until the full scope finally came together at the end.

But at the same time, this book is depressing. The author paints of very real picture of family life and how it isn’t always perfect. People let us down. Our parents let us down. Life even let’s us down. I found myself going over my own life experiences.

If you enjoy emotions and character this is the book for you. I’m glad I read it and would definitely recommend it.

A Review of In the Darkness That’s Where I’ll Know You: The Complete Black Room Saga by Luke Smitherd

Charlie Wilkes is a 33 year old man with a tragic back story. He wakes up in a dark room completely naked and confused. The last thing he remembers is being out drinking with some co workers and then he blacked out. As he gets his bearings a screen turns on in front of him and he’s seeing a view through what appears to be someone else’s eyes. As he watches this person begin to get ready, he realizes it is a female. He talks out loud to himself and this startles her. He discovers that he is not just naked in a movie theater of some kind, but he has somehow found himself inside a woman’s head, or at least, a physical manifestation of her head. Now he has to figure out how he got here, how he will get back to his own physical body, and what this means for himself and the woman he is inhabiting.

I would put this on my list of best books I’ve ever read. For much of this book you are immersed in the thoughts and inner monologue of Charlie Wilkes. Because it is so well written, I found myself feeling what Charlie felt: his thoughts, his fears, his insecurities, his disappointments and longings, and I fell in love with the two main characters, as they fell in love with each other.

This is a love story but so much more. It is also a psychological thriller and a lot of suspense. Just when I thought I knew what was going to happen I was surprised to discover the novel taking a much different turn that was even better than I possibly could have imagined.

To say I love this book is an understatement. I will buy a physical copy of this book for my own collection and I look forward to more of what this writer has to offer.