Sunday, December 27, 2015

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

According to Goodreads, I started this book in March 2014 and finished it a few days ago. There's a reason for that and it has nothing to do with the book's quality. Trust me, it's a wonderful book and I'm eager to read the rest of the series.

I got distracted

Yes, I started watching Outlander on Starz before I really got into the book and Sam Heughan really got me all distracted. When you consider the number of times that Claire and Jaime have sex in the book and that the show really tried to remain faithful.... *fans self*

Outlander is a book about time travel? No. Romance? No.... The 1700's in Scotland? Maybe. Sex? Mostly. Claire is a war nurse from 1945 and is recently reunited with her husband, Frank, for a little after war vacation. She ends up in an area of the British Isles and POOF! is suddenly sent back to Scotland in 1743. She is obviously an outsider (a Sassenach) and comes across a clan of highlanders who take her back to their castle (prisoner for the most part, since she is so unusual for the time).

Since she is a nurse, she has purpose in this time as a healer. But since the Scots still feel she is a spy, she is closely watched even as she keeps attempting to get back to the spot she fell through to get back to Frank.

She meets up with Redcoats, including Black Jack Randall, an ancestor of her husband's. Black Jack turns out to be a sadistic son of a bitch and Claire must be protected from him. In order to try and keep her safe, she is married to Jaime Fraser (see above photo and swoon). At first unhappy, Claire and Jaime enjoy quite the physical relationship and she grows to love him dearly (can you blame her?).

There are a lot of adventures for this clan in this novel so I won't go into all of them in this review but,with 800+ pages, it's an amazing read. First in the series, I cannot wait to read the rest and to see season two of the show.

(oh, and Scots really don't wear anything under their kilts)

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Cleopatra by Stacy Schiff

“As always, an educated woman was a dangerous woman.” 
 I picked this book going in because it was a fairly straightforward historical account, not one of those silly romantic non-fiction books that read like fiction. I listened to all 13+ hours and was hooked. I've never watched the movies, never cared for Elizabeth Taylor, so I went into this with very little knowledge of the Queen of Egypt. 

Unfortunately, history is written by the winners and Cleopatra was a loser in the sense that Rome won and took over Egypt and she committed suicide. Naturally, being a woman, she was stripped down to her sexuality instead of commended for her intelligence. Good to know that things haven't changed really since then. (/sarcasm)

Cleopatra wed twice, both times to brothers (incest wasn't even a known word then), had a child with Julius Caesar and then had three more children with Mark Antony. Antony proved to be her undoing in the world, as she proved to be his as well. What is written about Cleopatra is scarce and probably not to be believed (written by the winners, remember?). But we can deduce that she was an intelligent ruler who was beloved by her countrymen. It was in her blood to be murderous, but it seemed to be in everyone's blood back then so she can't be faulted for that. 

Schiff clearly loves the subject of Cleopatra and this was an engrossing book on history that people pretty much have forgotten. 

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Hunger Makes Me A Modern Girl by Carrie Brownstein

Fresh off of seeing Sleater-Kinney perform at the Murat Theatre (yes, I'm still calling it that) in Indianapolis on December 4, 2015, I went home and purchased Carrie's book to take on vacation with me. Carrie is a bona fide rock star.

She leads us through her upbringing, finding music, starting bands and beginning Sleater-Kinney with Corin Tucker (Janet Weiss comes in a smidge later). Once the band is fully formed and on it's way, we get front row seats through Call The Doctor up to No Cities To Love.

What is particularly interesting (aka sad) is how hard SK had to work to be known as a BAND. Just a band, without adding in the fact that they were all female. As Carrie points out, does anyone call a band with only guys an All Male Band? No, they don't. Even somewhat well meaning interviewers still focused on their gender, describing their outfits rather than their music.

Carrie is a bit crazy and a lot dorky and she acknowledges and embraces both. It's actually kind of nice to see someone who I think is a cool, talented rock star start off as a complete dork. Gives me (and other dorks) hope.

The writing got to me a bit. It was well written but Carrie has a tendency to described things in threes. It happens a lot and I couldn't help notice every time she did it. Otherwise, this is a must read for any Sleater-Kinney fan. And if they come to a town near you, go see them! You won't regret it.

No Way To Treat A First Lady by Christopher Buckley

I knew this would be a good one since I had previously read Boomsday and enjoyed it. I wasn't disappointed.

The President of the United States is having an affair and is boinking his mistress, an actress and "activist", in the Lincoln bedroom. He seems to be.... having trouble but finally finishes the deed. He heads back to his wife, First Lady Beth MacMann, in their bedroom. Beth knows about the affair and just turns over to go back to sleep. In the morning, the President is dead and Beth is arrested for assassination.

Beth calls up her old boyfriend who she abruptly dumped in college to defend her in court. Boyce Baylor, aka Shameless Baylor, takes the case for $1,000 an hour. Did I mention Beth dumped him to marry her now-dead husband??

Buckley makes the media circus that surrounds the Trial of the Millennium hilarious and frighteningly accurate. He's clever with his words and twists and turns. Well worth reading!

The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith

This was one of my choices to take on vacation since I was hoping to pack in a lot of reading while aboard a cruise ship. I didn't read what this was about, just relied on a friend's recommendation that it was "charming" (and cost me $1 at Half Price Books).

I ended up reading this in one day and leaving it on the cruise ship for someone else to enjoy so I don't have it with me to refer back to for the review.

Precious Ramotswe lives in Botswana with her father, raising cattle and taking care of her dad and the land. She tried marriage before and ended up abused, beaten and having a miscarriage for her efforts. Once her father dies, she sells the cattle and opens her own business. This business is a detective agency and she can claim it to be Number 1 because, well, no other detective agency exists, let alone one ran by a woman.

Ramotswe takes on various cases and cleverly solves them all. The blurb on the back claimed a missing boy was her biggest concern, yet that case wasn't technically a case and it took up very little of the book. Either way, this is a cute and charming book but I'm doubtful I will read the rest in the series.