You may wonder at my long silence, or you may think that I have been too busy with holiday preparations and a baby to read of late. And while I have indeed been busy, I have yet been diligent in seeking out yummy books for my friends and myself. My latest effort, as seen below, was well over 900 pages and thus took me nearly the entire three-week lending period to read.
A Breath of Snow and Ashes by Diana Gabaldon The saga of Jamie and Claire Fraser continues with this sixth book. As the story picks up, Jamie and Claire are living in their house on Fraser’s Ridge in North Carolina, with their daughter Brianna, her husband Roger, and their son Jemmie. They are all transplants, Jamie from the Highlands and Claire, Brianna and Roger from the twentieth century. The year is now 1773, and the Revolutionary War is brewing. In the back of their minds, too, is the newspaper clipping that sent Brianna back, saying that Claire and Jamie Fraser were killed when their house burned down. Claire and Jamie have always had a powerful romantic relationship, and in this book, Brianna and Roger’s marriage also comes into its own. Gabaldon manages to capture amazingly well the small details of eighteenth century life and the human relationships. The war comes into being in the small chaos and conflicts of local politics, the outcome known for certain only by our heroes. They are not permitted to watch from the sidelines, but suffer from multiple kidnappings, murders and robberies – a genuine roller-coaster ride before their invention. Since the genre-spanning series was first published as a romance because that was the best-selling of all possible genres, Gabaldon keeps romance clichés firmly in mind – at one point the kidnapped Brianna thinks that if this were a romance novel, she would lower herself out of the window with the sheet, except that the window is barred and they didn’t leave her a sheet.
If you haven’t read any Gabaldon yet, I’d recommend starting with the first in the series, Outlander. And don’t be scared by the length of the books or the series – we’re mostly following our characters and the progression of history here, not the progress of the One True Ring, so if you just want a taste, you can stop after the first one. On the other hand, since becoming a librarian, I’ve become the queen of reading only the first book of popular series, and I’ve read the whole series voraciously. If you’ve been following the series, too, you won’t want to miss this one.
Romance! Action! Intrigue! Sex! Humor! Men in kilts! What are you waiting for?
And a brief mention of three fun books for children, which I picked up based on starred reviews in Booklist.
Once Upon a Time, the End: Asleep in 60 Seconds by Geoffrey Kloske. Illustrated by Barry Britt Once upon a time, a tired father was reading to his child, who wouldn’t go to sleep without “one more story”. So as time went on, the father started cutting bits out of the stories to make them shorter, so his child would go to sleep and he could go to bed himself. Goldilocks decides that her bed is more comfortable after all, Sleeping Beauty wakes up refreshed, and the fallen Goliath looks like he’s sleeping. This one made all the staff in the break room giggle when I read bits of it aloud.
Winter Friends by Mary Quattlebaum. Illustrated by Hiroe Nakata This one (and the last one) In this series of linked poems, we follow a little girl on her journey through a snowy day trying to find the owner of a lost mitten. I’m not usually much for poetry, but the imagery here is just delightful – dawn comes up in a pink bathrobe and striped pajamas, and Mama’s whistle is “a kiss that sings”. Even Mr. Froggie Pants enjoyed the sound play of the words. The luminous watercolors tie the story together beautifully.
Three French Hens by Margie Palatini. Illustrated by Richard Egielski Three French hens are sent as a Christmas gift from a cat to her lover Phillippe Reynard. But the package goes astray; they find themselves in New York and track down one Phil Fox. He’s alone and hungry and ready to dine on the three fat chickens on his doorstep – until they give him a Queer Eye-style makeover. Since dinner is now impossible, he invites them to join his Christmas celebration, only to find out that their holiday is Hannukah.