WRITER’S SHELF: THE POPSUGAR 2015 BOOK CHALLENGE! – Book #1 Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

For 2015, I added a writery blog feature and christened it with the Popsugar Book Challenge. I know a bunch of you were excited to join me in this reading treasure hunt. For those who missed it, we’ve got a list of book categories we need to complete before the year is out. It’s not too late to join us, so if you want in, head over here for a printable list.

For my first book I decided to tackle the category of “A book based on or turned into a TV show”. I’d heard so many amazing things about Outlander (both the book and the show) so I was certain I would love it (which is almost always the setup for disaster). I mean romance, time travel, and a hot ginger hero, what’s not to love?
Book Cover

Now before I begin, if you love Outlander, and Diana Gabaldon is your favoritest author to ever author, then look away now. Come back when I’m talking about awesome mascara, or the latest Birchbox. Seriously, I’d like to be friends when this is all over.

Now for those of you left, here’s what you should know going in. This book has more attempted rape in it than a maximum security prison. Attempted rape pretty much sums up the entire plot, except when we get to the successful rape. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

First let’s start with the most unlikeable heroine I have ever encountered in a romance novel. Claire is cold and detached and at first I thought this was a set up so that we would see her blossom as she time travels from her boring 1940s life with her kind, (but unexciting), husband to 1700s Scotland and the younger, hunkier Jamie. But once again I was wrong. Claire’s reaction to time travel is the following: “They must be doing a reenactment. Oh wait, no one would use real bullets in a reenactment. I must have traveled back in time.” The end. That’s it. Imagine for one damn second, that you just went poof and were back in time. YOU WENT BACK IN TIME. MAGIC IS REAL. YOU ARE ALONE WITH NOTHING IN THE 1700s. What the hell is running through your mind? What is the first thing that hits you? The smell. IMAGINE IT. There is no running water. There are no regular toilets and you can die of gangrene faster than you can blink. Where is the panic? Claire is very, very (very!) frequently almost raped and she reacts to this with as much alarm as you might reserve for a hang nail.

Now, putting aside these issues a romance novel lives and dies on its sex scenes. An awesome first kiss or steamy sex scene can totally transform an otherwise mediocre book. The scenes in Outlander move from clinical disinterest to violence with not much in between. I don’t need the flowery language that pervades too many romance novels, but no sex scene needs the word “testicles” in it. Ever. Sorry, it’s just not sexy and it never will be. Also, I mentioned Claire is married before she time travels from the 1940s, right? Because she forgets this 99.999% of the time. In fact she marries the hunky Jamie, bangs him like a billion times and doesn’t feel guilty until halfway through the book. Halfway through a 642 page book. So it took her over 300 pages to feel bad about cheating on her husband with her new husband. (And yes, I actually read all 642 of these terrible pages, for you people, just for you).

You know the best part of time travel books, where you watch the main character struggle to deal with the dramatic changes in the world? Yeah that never happens. She just easily adapts. We never hear much about her difficulties with hygiene or anything she misses from her old world. After 300 pages she finally does freak out about the possibility of bedbugs. But at this point she’s been living in the 1700s for months. I mean just think of how much you miss your own bed after a trip? Imagine losing your entire world? For example, I caught the Vh1 show Hindsight the other day that also features a time-traveling heroine, except she’s only going back 20 years (from 2015 to 1995). It was gloriously entertaining to watch her try to explain to her best friend that you can watch anything on your phone at any moment and listening to her friend ask if we finally have flying cars in 2015. The fish out of water experience is the BEST DAMN part of a time travel story. And we get 642 pages and none of it. Sigh.

Okay so back to the rape, which you will never leave for long in this book. We also have many many many many (did I say many) whippings. And our villain, well, he’s a homosexual and it portrays being gay with this type of gleeful evil that is hard to stomach. And don’t worry you’ll get lots and lots of details about that successful rape. You know, because graphic, violent rape is why we all pick up romance novels.

Because this is my writer’s feature I figured I’d include some writer extras with each of my reviews including: a book suggestion, interesting quote and something I learned about writing. Thankfully you can often learn more from books you hate than ones you love, so no story is ever a waste.

WRITER’S LESSON:
This book is written in first person, where the viewpoint is of a character writing or speaking directly about themselves. This is a great perspective to use when you want to put the reader right into a character’s thoughts and emotions. Unfortunately, it means that when you don’t give us a character’s feelings/ reactions it can make that character unlikeable and distant. If this book had been written in a third person view, it might have been far more successful at creating likeable, engaging characters. I think that stories really have a will of their own and each one has a perspective that works best for that particular tale. If you can’t figure out if your story should be in first or third person, try writing a page in each format and see what feels like home.

QUOTE:
This book has some pretty prose from time to time and I thought this quote was lovely.
“Those small spaces of time, too soon gone, when everything seems to stand still, and existence is balanced on a perfect point, like the moment of change between the dark and the light, when both and neither surround you.”

BOOK SUGGESTION:
If you’re looking for a time travel romance that has a bit more well, romance, try Jude Deveraux’s Knight in Shining Armor.

So what did you choose for your first book of the Popsugar Book Challenge and what did you think of it?

Once upon a time, long, long ago, Lisa attended Syracuse University where she studied singing in a giant castle surrounded by ice and snow. After she earned her music degree, she headed to the island of Manhattan, down to the West Village, to a place called the New School. There, she earned another degree in the great art of writing stories for children. She currently works on that same island, in the dungeon of an old building, making up stories while she sorts through endless stacks of papers, just dreaming of working somewhere with windows. She is currently working on several novels and hopes to write her way to that aforementioned windowed place. Her first book, “The Ice Maiden’s Tale,” a fairy tale adventure was released on May 30, 2017 and is up for sale on Amazon. In the meantime, she keeps herself occupied by obsessing over subscription boxes and home renovations.

7 thoughts on “WRITER’S SHELF: THE POPSUGAR 2015 BOOK CHALLENGE! – Book #1 Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

  1. Ummm I’m just wondering if you read the same book I did? ………I’m also wondering how a basically unknown blogger has the “testicles” to try to tell a BEST SELLING, AWARD WINNING Novelist how to write?? Seriously? As far as Claire “not feeling guilty”..think back to the timeline of events. Most of the 1st half of the books takes place within a two to four week period, during much of which she is 1..in shock from her “travel thru time” 2…trying to stay alive….3 plotting a way to return!! She is also amongst NON English speaking peoples who view her as an enemy and with suspicion!! I really REALLY question if you DID read the book!??
    Now, while I loved Jude Deveraux’s Knight in Shining Armor ( when I was 17 ) I grew up, and began reading a realistic, down to earth, meticulously researched HISTORICAL novel. You cannot compare LIGHT romance novels to Diana Gabaldon’s Epic stories.

    I sincerely hope that whomever reads your trite, inaccurate review, picks up the book and decides for themselves.

    • Isn’t it amazing how different people can have different opinions? There are plenty of terrible best selling novels and tons of amazing ones that only sell a few copies. Thanks for reading.

  2. While I enjoyed Outlander (both the book and the tv series) I h agree with a lot of the points you make in your review – but I enjoyed it anyway (ah, Outlander, my guilty pleasure!) I’m following along with the Popsugar reading challenge and look forward to your updates and recommendations 🙂

    • Thanks! The story premise itself was so intriguing (time travel from the 1940s to the 1700s) that I can really see why people would get so excited by it. My next review is a Young Adult book so definitely a big change from this one. 🙂

  3. Outlander is my favorite book of all time, and I’ve read a lot of books in every genre. I still read your review even with the warning. While I don’t share your opinion of Diana Gabaldon’s writing, it was entertaining to see how someone else thoroughly hates the book. I like character driven, historical fiction. Outlander plays with being a romance novel without following any of the romance novel rules, so if you’re expecting it to be a romance novel you will leave disappointed. Years ago, this book was sold in romance sections, then it was moved to the fiction one. The second book in the series, Dragonfly in Amber, is my favorite of the series, but I certainly wouldn’t suggest you give it a go if you hated Outlander so handedly.

    • Thanks so much for reading. I can totally agree with you that if I hadn’t found this in the romance/time travel section on Amazon and in the historical fiction instead, I probably would have had much different expectations. I think putting aside the romance I was more disappointed in the time travel aspect. I really wanted more fish out of water experiences and comparisons/contrasts to modern day life. But I can see how if someone just wanted to immerse themselves in the historical aspect they would really love the book.

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