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Outlander Premieres on Starz – Guest Blogger Elizabeth Eckhart

This write up about the new OUTLANDER TV series was proposed and written by blogger & writer Elizabeth Eckhart and because I have reviewed the Outlander series on my blog as great books to read, we thought her analysis of the series might add to the discussion on the blog.  So I will step aside and share what Elizabeth wants to say:


When the new series Outlander debuted August 9 on Starz, it attracted a whopping five million viewers. That’s not surprising given the long-running series’ devoted fan base, many of whom took advantage of Starz’ current online streaming (for the first episode only, anyone could watch it) and teaser videos. Diana Gabaldon’s sprawling collection of books, first published in 1991, includes eight main novels which she describes on her blog as “big, enormous books,” as well as smaller novellas and short stories set in the series’ world.

That world is a complex mix of places and times. The story’s protagonist is a World War II era nurse named Claire Randall who finds herself whisked back in time to 18th century Scotland, where she’s nearly abducted by the evil ancestor of her loving husband Frank, a history teacher and former M16 agent. Claire becomes caught up in clan politics and eventually is taken under the protection of Clan Mackenzie, where she begins to fall in love with Scotsman Jamie Fraser.

It may sound primarily like a time-traveling romance, but Gabaldon herself insists that in many ways her stories resist easy classification. You’ll hear them described as historical fiction, mystery, fantasy and even science-fiction, much like the similar literary series Game of Thrones (the TV adaptation which is also available online, through Direct TV). That last appellation may be the biggest reason that Ronald D. Moore, of Battlestar Galactica fame, was a natural choice to executive produce the project, which he terms “magical fantasy.”

The success of the first two episodes has already guaranteed the show a second season. Outlander is being shot on location in the Scottish Highlands, and the detailed care given to period and costume settings will undoubtedly keep fans of the books happy. Fans of Game of Thrones might also recognize the castle setting, since both shows use the courtyard of Castle Doune, a fascinating though challenging place to shoot due to complicated logistics.

Devoted fans may also be comfortable with the slow pace of the show. Since the entire first season is based solely on the first novel, the creators have been able to take their time revealing complex layers of the plot and in developing characters. This is a luxury that feature filmmakers, with only two hours at their disposal, simply can’t afford. While there is some concern that the slow pace might not keep the attention of potential fans that aren’t already familiar with the novels, that’s a risk the show’s creators seem willing to take. Given the strong built-in fan base, it may be more important to stay true to the novel’s contours, something that Variety’s Laura Prudom thinks the first episode, at least, does very well.

Irish actress Caitriona Balfe plays Claire and provides the voice-over narration. That narration echoes the first person nature of the books, and keeps viewers invested in exploring this strange world right along with Claire. The voice-over may feel heavy in initial episodes but lessens as the show goes on, according to critics who have seen more of the first season. Claire’s husband Frank is played by Tobias Menzies, who doubles as his own sinister ancestor Jonathan “Black Jack” Randall, while Scottish Sam Heughan takes on the role of Claire’s 18th century love interest Jamie. Balfe is receiving kudos for her turn as the strong, displaced heroine.

True to the books, the show contains some bodice ripping moments, but for the most part Outlander doesn’t linger on scenes of sex or violence. The main charm for viewers so far seems to echo the appeal of the books. This complex story world is fun to explore, and the show’s creators seem to be having a delightful time setting it up for us.

Elizabeth Eckhart on Twitter 

My neighborhood has a group to discuss the Outlander series new on Starz and they have a go to lunch group who want even more discussion time too.  Have you discovered these books and the new series?   I saw the pilot free and it was so well done.    Thank you Elizabeth for sharing your thoughts and just maybe we will get a good discussion going in the comments section?  What do you think?

Outlander Series

THE ANGEL OF LOSSES: A Novel ~Stephanie Feldman

“’And what were you born for, my eldest?’  The rebbe asked. ‘Besides bringing disappointment to your family.’”
“ I was born to put the beauty of the world onto paper.  I was born to be a scribe.”
“’Ah’, the rebbe said.  ‘Then you give me nothing, nothing but disappointment.’” (uncorrected proof copy page 29)

The significant theme in this novel for me was the relationship between the two sisters and how that played out throughout THE ANGEL OF LOSSES.  Two New Jersey daughters, who were born four years apart, were very close all of their lives until they went to college and their Grandfather moved out of their family home to Coney Island where he died.  Their Grandfather Eli took care of the girls while parents worked and told them old stories and myths but nothing about his childhood.  Eli Burke was very angry about religion and especially about the Jews and their Berukhim School in the neighborhood.   His son, the girl’s father was raised as a Gentile (I would have said Protestant) yet the family did not practice any faith except events like Christmas.  At nineteen, Holly, the younger daughter, converts to an Orthodox Jewish Sect to marry Nathan a scribe who is older and this causes a rift between the sisters.

THE ANGEL OF LOSSES is about the heritage of WWII and Jewish Mythology highlighting the story of the Wandering Jew. Marjorie, the older sister, is actually getting her Ph.D. and her dissertation is about the Wandering Jew.  Eli Burke has left his granddaughters 4 notebooks about the major parts of the myth and about his childhood during the German invasion of Russia and the destruction of his family.  The notebooks are hidden and Marjorie spends her time trying to find the journals before her brother-in-law Nathan interferes with the family’s truth.

Through the author’s telling of the journey, the reader can begin to understand how the legacy of the war and loss, and the legacy of the old mythology can unleash secrets and lies which will affect and effect a family for generations to come.  How guilt, secrets, omissions and childish beliefs can harm others and separate families and futures; how the actions of wars keep on destroying well into the future.

These secrets nearly cost the life of the newest baby and Marjorie must work diligently to figure out what the message is being sent to her in her dreams then find and interpret her Grandfather’s notebooks.   Marjorie was destined to shed a light on these old stories and clear out the ghosts and myths which defeated family unity.

THE ANGEL OF LOSSES includes whole sections of the story of the Wandering Rabbis and that can be very interesting reading to those who do not know them. The argumentative and competitive nature of the brother in law was a bit hard to pinpoint until I started thinking of him as mildly autistic and focused on nothing relevant to the current times.  He was a disappointment trying to be significant. I too had a hard time with the negativity of the grandfather’s stories and there was not enough balance about the good times they shared like pancakes at a café and park visits.  These myths truly ruled his life from childhood to his death.

tlc logoTHE ANGEL OF LOSSES was a good read and I was very happy that TLC online book tours  sent me an uncorrected proof copy for me to read.

Stephanie Feldman is a graduate of Barnard College.  She lives outside Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, with her husband and her daughter.
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LEFT TURN AT PARADISE: A Rare Book Mystery ~Thomas Shawver

“The more I observed, in fact, the more  I thought Professor Middleditch’s instincts were correct – the marae was nothing more than a Potemkin village established to fool the Inland Revenue and the Ministry for Maori Development; a ruse to grant Ivo Mackin full title to the land.”  (At 64% on Kindle –unproofed copy)

Michael Bevan’s at it again trying to make his Antiquarian bookstore in Kansas City his main business enterprise. His friend Josie is certainly helping him make the best of a tough situation, and yet they both hope the bookstore will find it’s prize treasure.  Wouldn’t you just know it; Bevan’s finds a hidden journal by a mariner who was on Captain James Cook’s voyages to the South Seas and Hawaii. The bookstore may just make those dreams come true if a buyer can be found at the California International Book Fair.  This certainly could be the turning point.

In California, Bevan’s discovers that there are actually three journals and a British bookseller owns journal #2 – until both journals are stolen and a young man disappears.  The adventure begins and takes the reader to New Zealand and into the mountains, to rugby games and to meet scholars galore all of whom are hoping to cash in and own the whole set.  The pace is fast and steady, with many of the most interesting pitfalls and distractions one can imagine happening on boat rides and in the mountains with the natives attempting to protect their leader, the multimillion dollar mining expert, rescuer of the Maori youth and owner of the third journal.  There is never a dull moment and lots of surprises along the way.

I once again enjoyed learning about rare books and I loved looking up words and geography of New Zealand’s National Parks and Mountainous regions.  I brushed up on my Hawaiian legends and myths, I took a small detour to read more about Captain James Cook and his travels, and I thought about the rich and the poor in many communities and how they are acting out in various ways – including with violence towards each other and certainly towards Caucasian people.

I was happy to read LEFT TURN AT PARADISE because I had also reviewed THE DIRTY BOOK MURDER  by Shawver earlier this year.  It was a good days read maybe for a hiking trip, although I was glad to be home and looking up extra research on the work, and it is an ebook and quite inexpensive with an e – reader.  Books will not be available until after August 26th, 2014 so I should not have put a quote on this review because I cannot check it against the final copy of the printed material.

tlc logo Thank you to TLC online Booktours  for choosing me to review this fun book.  I know many of my readers will enjoy the adventure in this mystery – LEFT TURN AT PARADISE.

Book #3 – THE WIDOWS SON is on the way in the Rare Book Mystery Tour

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2 A.M. AT THE CAT’S PAJAMAS: A Novel ~Marie-Helene Bertino

“GIRLS, thinks Ben.  Flutelike, gauze-filled, late-afternoon sunshine.  Rainbow bracelets on the carpet.  They use their tongues to wet their lips. Girls.  They pretend to like each other.  Dotting their i’s with hearts, arching their backs, manipulating their confusing hair with flat irons, curling irons, glisten, extra, ultra hold, hold my purse, hold me close, no duh, bubble gum, gym socks, tube socks, tubes of gloss, tube tops, purrs, pert collars, full hair, full tits, just the tip!  Their sound, the upper notes of an xylophone.  Their legs, downed in fur, Girls.

“The one from Ben’s Advanced Lit class says, ‘That dress is vintage.  You can totally tell.’”  (From location 66% on unproofed Kindle Copy- highlighted)

2 A.M. At the CAT’s PAJAMAS is a unique and driving debut novel that I am sure will capture your imagination and turn the pages not “even” fast enough for your desire of finding out what happens next.  Do not even think about speed reading this book, because you will miss the magic and delight captured within every word on the page.  It is wonder FULL and does not miss a beat, you will be sorry if you do not know this book; you will want to share this with you friends right away even if the speed confuses you – I am sure you will read it again to capture the whole experience.

Philadelphia on Christmas Eve Eve at 7am in the morning, we are introduced to nine year old Madeleine Altimari practicing her shimming and heading off to her last day of school before the holiday.  Madeleine is an amazing little girl and her mother has recently died of cancer; her father has given up and just sits in a chair listening to music. Madeleine just wants to sing, she is anticipating making and tasting her first caramel apple at school  and that which starts out as an okay day goes from cockroaches to worse, until the most amazing experience  of a lifetime becomes hers.

Serina Greene is Madeleine’s fifth grade art teacher and she has just moved back to Philadelphia after a divorce. She is re-connecting with high school “friends” this evening for a dinner party. She is apprehensive about the event when she discovers Ben her high school prom date will be attending.  Serina’s father has abandoned her also just a few days before that prom.

Lorca is the current owner of the CAT’s PAJAMAS the second best jazz club in the Fishtown section of Philadelphia.  He has just a few hours to come up with $30,000 to pay off the fines against the club and keep it open.  He is having troubles with his 16 year old son who wants to play jazz guitar with the Cubanistas the current band of the establishment.

The quirky and interesting other characters in the story just keep arriving at the correct moments in time and then are all pulled together by “all that jazz!”  The reader will want to get to know each and every one.

2 A.M. AT THE CAT’S PAJAMAS is a unique and sparkling novel which will refresh and release your spirit.

Marie-Helene Bertino Blog   
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You and I will have to discover Bertino ourselves…She is winning awards and Oprah approves of this book!

TLC online book tours ent me an unproofed copy of this book for review on my Kindle.  Wow, am I very happy that they did – What a sweet treat.  Thank you

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