Virgins

Virgins (Outlander, #0.5)Virgins by Diana Gabaldon
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I enjoyed Diana’s usual repartee and humor here, but at 79 pages (Kindle version) I didn’t feel it gave me any added insight into the world of Outlander. Jamie and Ian are both quite young here and I had trouble connecting these characters to their older selves. I could picture Ian as Young Ian (John Bell) from the TV show, but I couldn’t picture Jamie at all. It’s a fun, somewhat erotic romp and nothing more. No particular lessons learned, or events that might shape later character. It does show how well educated Jamie was. But able to speak and understand Hebrew? Really?

Technically, this is a prequel, but it isn’t necessary to be read first. Start with Outlander and get to know the characters first.

Book description: Mourning the death of his father and gravely injured at the hands of the English, Jamie Fraser finds himself running with a band of mercenaries in the French countryside, where he reconnects with his old friend Ian Murray. Both are nursing wounds; both have good reason to stay out of Scotland; and both are still virgins, despite several opportunities to remedy that deplorable situation with ladies of easy virtue. But Jamie’s love life becomes infinitely more complicated—and dangerous—when fate brings the young men into the service of Dr. Hasdi, a Jewish gentleman who hires them to escort two priceless treasures to Paris. One is an old Torah; the other is the doctor’s beautiful granddaughter, Rebekah, destined for an arranged marriage. Both Jamie and Ian are instantly drawn to the bride-to-be—but they might be more cautious if they had any idea who they’re truly dealing with.

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The Nick Adams Stories

The Nick Adams StoriesThe Nick Adams Stories by Ernest Hemingway
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I liked these more than I thought I would. Especially the stories where Nick is a child. Some of the violence and macho-ness I can do without, but I loved his descriptions of nature. Obviously Hemingway was a keen observer of life in general, and his love of the outdoors, hunting, and fishing comes through in his descriptions of trout and animals and nature. Hemingway must have had a love/hate relationship with his father. He leaves much to the imagination, which I think is a feature of his style, and it was revolutionary at the time. I think it must have been in nature that Hemingway most allowed himself to drop his guard and let his inner poet shine through. Those glimpses are illuminating, but ultimately I think Hemingway is not for me.

Book description:
From one of the 20th century’s greatest voices comes the complete volume of his short stories featuring Nick Adams, Ernest Hemingway’s memorable character, as he grows from child to adolescent to soldier, veteran, writer, and parent—a sequence closely paralleling the events of Hemingway’s life. The complete collection of Ernest Hemingway’s Nick Adams two dozen stories are gathered here in one volume, grouped together according to the major time periods in the protagonist’s life. Based on Hemingway’s own experieces as a boy and as a member of the Red Cross ambulance corps in World War I. The collection follows Nick’s life as a child to parent, along with soldier, veteran, and writer and feature some of Hemingway’s earliest work such as “Indian Camp” and some of his best known short stories, including “Big Two-Hearted River.” Perfect for longtime Hemingway fans and as an introduction to one of America’s most famous writers.

Looking Through Lace

Looking Through Lace (Looking Through Lace, #1)Looking Through Lace by Ruth Nestvold
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I needed a title beginning with L for a book group challenge and had this on my Kindle. I had also tagged it Christmas – which is tomorrow – so I thought why not? It really has nothing to do with Christmas, except that it takes place on a planet called Christmas, named for the predominant red and green vegetation. It was a fun little diversion – a short story really – so I finished it in two sessions. It’s really quite a polished little piece. The author manages to create a believable world, complete with folk tales. I love languages, so I enjoyed the puzzle of why there is a secret women’s language on this world, and the process of learning about a culture through its language. Not everything is solved at the end (what DID happen to the first contact team?), and there is a sequel.

Description: As the only woman on the first contact team, xenolinguist Toni Donato expected her assignment on Christmas would be to analyze the secret women’s language — but then the chief linguist begins to sabotage her work. What is behind it? Why do the men and women have separate languages in the first place? What Toni learns turns everything she thought they knew on its head. Originally published in Asimov’s in 2003, “Looking Through Lace” was a finalist for the Tiptree and Sturgeon awards. The Italian translation won the Premio Italia for best work of speculative fiction in translation in 2007.

Miracle and Other Christmas Stories

Miracle and Other Christmas StoriesMiracle and Other Christmas Stories by Connie Willis

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I will generously give this 3 stars. It was okay, but nothing special. I kind of expected more from Connie Willis. It’s an interesting variety of stories, and even styles, but I think I will be hard-pressed to remember any of them two months from now. My favorite was probably “Adaptation” in which a book-store clerk encounters the ghosts from Dickens’ Christmas Carol. “Inn” was interesting – the plight of Mary and Joseph displaced out of time to the parking lot of a modern-day church. And “Newsletter”, which was a fun spoof of both Christmas newsletters and movies like The Body Snatchers.

Book Description: Connie Willis capture the timeless essence of generosity and goodwill in this magical collection of Christmas stories. These eight tales-two of which have never before been published-boldly reimagine the stories of Christmas while celebrating the power of love and compassion. This enchanting treasury includes:

“Miracle,” in which a young woman’s carefully devised plans to find romance go awry when her guardian angel shows her the true meaning of love
“In Coppelius’s Toyshop,” where a jaded narcissist finds himself trapped in a crowded toy store at Christmastime
“Epiphany,” in which three modern-day wisemen embark on a quest unlike any they’ve ever experienced
“Inn,” where a choir singer gives shelter to a homeless man and his pregnant wife-only to learn later that there’s much more to the couple than meets the eye