“If you had the time to lose, an open mind and time to choose.”

outlander

 

I avoided this book for years because I was told it was a romance novel and I have a prejudice against romance novels. Perhaps it was the seemingly endless supply of Harlequin books my mother seemed to devour. The closest I ever got was a minor obsession with V.C. Andrews which take a decidedly darker turn than the average “bodice ripper.” While I’m still not a fan of a straightforward romance novel, I have included books that fall under the “romance” umbrella into my TBR pile. This was the first and mostly like the most hefty in foray into the genre. The fact that there’s time travel, adventure and historical fiction definitely helped ease the transition.

For the five of y’all that haven’t read this book. It centers on Claire Randall, a combat nurse who is enjoying a late honeymoon in the Scottish Highlands with her husband Frank after the end of World War II. While wandering through the stone circle at Craigh na Dun, Claire places her hand on one of the stones and is transported back about 200 years. Her accent and strange attire immediately cast her under suspicion. Due to some complicated circumstances, Claire is forced to marry Jamie Fraser a Scottish Laird/outlaw who is, of course, also terribly handsome. Naturally the two begin to fall in love and of course there are complications. The main complication being a sadistic English Captain named Jack Randall, who is a distant relative of Claire’s husband Frank and bears an uncanny resemblance to him (this sounds ridiculous when I describe it but…it works). Jamie and Claire run afoul of him more than once with some pretty awful consequences for both of them.

This book is…looooong. I’m in favor of giant books but since I bought this one in Kindle bundle of the first 7 books in the series I had no way to gauge just how far I was in the actual book. So just when I thought things were wrapping up, a whole new section started. So while enjoyed the heck out of Claire and Jamie’s adventures (though the last half of the book may need a trigger warning), I was ready to be FINISHED by the time I got to the last page. I may save the sequel, Dragonfly in Amber for when I have a long stretch of reading time to invest.

Put on some lipstick and pull yourself together

the angry therapist

 

I’m of the opinion that in a perfect world, therapy would be treated like any other kind of health maintenance. Some of us only need to go once or twice a year to make sure everything is still functioning like it should, and others might need a little more frequent fine tuning. But until that magical time occurs, we Americans are pretty much on our own as far as mental health. While John Kim’s book is by no means a replacement for a good counselor, it’s a great little guidebook for the basics of living your life honestly and truthfully.

John Kim’s approach is honest, direct and to that point as the title suggests. This is a bare bones guide to living your truth. He shares his own failures with you, which makes his advice much easier to swallow for the average person. Despite the brevity of the book, I think an editor could have been used. It could do with a few more paragraph breaks and spell checks, but such are the perils of small publishers. Otherwise, The Angry Therapist is an eminently readable book that I immediately passed on to a friend.

“And how many times have I prayed, that I would get lost along the way.”

the gunslinger

 

Coincidentally, I started reading this book the day the movie trailer dropped. I first read The Gunslinger as a twelve year old who was blazing my way through Stephen King’s works. Like many preteens, I was overly fascinated with sex and violence but had no real appreciation of the consequences of either. I did not care for this book at the time. It was too abstract and had the feel of the old westerns that my dad and grandpa favored, which I studiously avoided as “old guy stuff.” As an adult, I recognize that The Gunslinger is a cut above Mr. King’s already excellent body of work.

The book’s universe seems to take place in a parallel or alternate timeline. Characters make reference to historical and pop cultural items that mirror our own but this world is an unforgiving wasteland in which, as the protagonist says “the world has moved on.” Roland of Gilead, the titular gunslinger trails a mysterious man in black across a barren landscape. Along the way he encounters a town that has been tainted by the man in black and later picks up a companion in the form a of a young boy named Jake Chambers. Along the way, we learn a little about both Jake and Roland as they travel together toward a fate of which they are both increasingly fearful.

This book was hard to put down. Like many of Stephen King’s best works, you know something horrible is going to happen but you can’t stop reading. I have already added the next two books in the series to my TBR pile. and made The Gunslinger part of my permanent book shelf rather than passing it on like I typically do with books I’ve finished. I’m glad I finally started filling in this gap in my Stephen King library.

“Believing the strangest things. Loving the Alien.

dawn

 

Octavia Butler is a name that pops up frequently in searches for sci fi writers who aren’t white and male. Naturally when the first book in the Xenogenesis Trilogy popped up on Kindle for sale, I grabbed it up. While Dawn contains many of the same ingredients as a lot of sci fi classics (alien races, the destruction of humanity) the finished product is very different.

Lilith Iyapo has lost everything. Shortly after her husband and son are killed in a car accident, humanity destroys itself in a great nuclear war. She awakes on an alien spacecraft hundreds of years later. She and the other remnants of humanity have been rescued by an alien race called the Oankali. They have restored earth into liveable habitat and will be sending the humans back to start society from scratch. The catch, because of course there is one, is that the Oankali have survived by genetically bonding themselves with other more primitive species. So Lilith’s generation will be the last true humans to exist.

Butler maximizes the “otherness” of the Oankali. These are not the sexy green ladies favored by Captain James T. Kirk. They are grotesque to the human eye; a mass of tentacles and sensory fibers that seem to change with their mood. Lilith is the first human who does not immediately attempt to kill them at first contact. It is because of this that she is made a leader of one of the human groups that will return to to Earth. She will act as a liaison between the disoriented humans and their alien “rescuers.”

The discomfort level is high throughout this book as Lilith bonds physically and emotionally with her “rescuers.” She is clearly conflicted about her new role but she acts decisively with little waffling. The book posits the question, “Does humanity truly survive if its descendants are not completely human?”

“Back at the hotel, Lord we got such a mess.”

heads in beds

 

I love traveling though my sad little bank account rarely allows me to do it. Travel memoirs are much more within my budget until I’m more financially solvent. So when I came across Jacob Tomsky’s memoir about what goes on behind the scenes at luxury hotels, I immediately added it to my TBR pile. While it’s not technically a travel memoir, it’s definitely travel adjacent and it was a nice light read that fueled my luxury travel fantasies.

Tomsky is a veteran of the hotel industry who started off as an eager valet shortly after graduating college. Since that time he has worked in all sections of the hotel, from valet, to front desk to housekeeping. He speaks frankly about the challenges of working in luxury customer services and the conflicts and camaraderie between himself and his fellow employees. He’s served multiple celebrities but don’t ask him to name drop.

His tips for not being “That Guest” and for getting employees to give you extras aren’t exactly groundbreaking for anyone who’s worked in the service industry. They are, in short: treat service personal like actual humans and and tip early and often. However the book is a fun engaging read especially if you enjoy “behind the scenes”memoirs.