“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.

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I have seen the future baby, it is murder.

the-shining-girls

 

I read this book as part of the book club I run for fans of the My Favorite Murder podcast. This was our non-fiction selection for the month of January. Some people who started reading the book before me complained that book jumping around in time made for a confusing read. Perhaps the advance warning helped because I did not find the time jumps confusing at all. I was also concerned that the premise of a time traveling serial killer would wind up being silly but Lauren Beukes book is a gripping, fast paced read that never feels ridiculous despite its far fetched plot.

Harper Curtis is a serial killer who stumbles onto an abandoned house that opens into other times. Using clues from the house, Harper insinuates himself into the lives of pre-selected girls who “shine” at different periods in modern history. He visits them in their childhood, promising he will visit them later. When he does visit them in adulthood, he murders them brutally. Unbeknownst to him, Kirby Mizrachi, one of his “Shining Girls” survives and is determined to find the man who nearly killed her. Kirby teams up with former Homicide reporter Dan Valesquez to solve the case that has left police baffled.

One thing I really appreciated about this book is that (Possible spoiler?) at no point were there any great leaps of logic on the part of the investigators. Even when the evidence starts to mount, the theory seems fantastical. Additionally, Kirby has done her homework on serial killers. Watching her try to apply clinical criteria that won’t fit together is equal parts satisfying and frustrating (satisfyingly frustrating?) because she’s smart and she *should* be right but she isn’t because the reality is so unreal. The only reason I can’t give it a full five stars is that I’m not entirely sure if I like the ending. However, The Shining Girls is a nice addition to serial killer crime fiction that never feels stale or tired.