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  • Rebecca Jane Stokes 1:09 pm on 2015/06/15 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , , , time after time,   

    10 Reasons We Love Outlander 

    There are so many reasons to love Diana Gabaldon’s epic Outlander series, which has been expertly adapted into a gripping television show on Starz and is a certified cultural phenomenon. Part of the beauty of this series is its broad appeal. History buffs, romance fans, lovers of all things Scottish, and readers who simply enjoy phenomenal storytelling and beautiful prose—all these types and more have been jumping on the expansive Outlander bandwagon (which was already pretty full to begin with, since the first book in the series was published in 1991, and it’s been winning die-hard fans ever since). Still, if we were forced (or, even just asked nicely) to choose the most compelling reasons we love Outlander, there would be at least ten, and they would most certainly include the following:

    1. Because time travel is the greatest
    Show me a person who does not secretly dream of being able to travel anywhere throughout time and I will show you someone whose pants are thoroughly ablaze, what with all the lying he is doing. When Claire’s hands first rest on the stones and she is transported, we all get goosebumps—because the idea of being able to do that is simply amazing.

    2. Because Scotland is intriguing
    I was recently listening to a podcast in which some folks from Glasgow were being interviewed and I was all, “LOL, they sound rough and charming and I have NO IDEA what they are saying.” As it turns out, they were discussing Glasgow’s historic gang violence, so I maybe missed the mark as far as the “charming” thing. Still, Scotland is a romantic place, the Highlands even more than other regions. And author Gabaldon presents us with a Scotland we can understand, a Scotland we love, but not a Scotland that’s romanticized. She shows us the dirt and the violence and flaws, and that makes it even easier to picture—because it’s real.

    3. Because gingers are sexy
    Let’s be honest. He might not be able to blink without closing both eyes like a solemn owl, and his back might be a tapestry of scars, but Jamie Fraser and his red hair are the epitome of sexiness. Oh sure, he is forever getting into serious trouble, but the man is good, kind, and funny, a hero we’d all gladly fall through time to be with. And then some.

    4. Because of the clothes
    I do not exactly know off the top of my head what a fichu is, but I know that I am sad that we do not wear them (while leggings continue to be a thing!). And in Outlander, we don’t just get the greatest clothing of the 18th century, we also get the greatest clothing of the 1940s! Bring on the corsets, bring on the plaid, bring on the wool cloaks! Were any of these clothes Downy fresh? Not in the least, but that doesn’t rid them of any of their historic allure.

    5. Because we all secretly wish the Loch Ness monster were real
    Look. I’m not saying I’m crazy, I’m just saying that the world would be a significantly better, more interesting place if, in a Scottish loch, there dwelled a serpentine sea-beast of ancient lore. I’ll take my magic where I can get it. Even if that magic is essentially a very shy water snake.

    6. Because of Claire
    It’s a rare thing to find a smart, funny, curly-haired, heroine who also totally owns her sexuality and her sense of self. I love any book in which we are given a strong female protagonist, and Claire is one of the strongest out there. She is mistreated and underestimated and never once lets the obstacles she encounters shake her sense of self.

    7. Because of powdered spiders
    There is something deeply appealing about reading about all the borderline insane and almost always disgusting tinctures and tonics used back in the day to treat illnesses. We love reading about sheep dung remedies because it brings to life a time that seems out of reach, and because it’s fun to marvel at how far we’ve come (just as future generations will feel smugly superior when they read about our toxic nail polish).

    8. Because of olden times
    There’s something inherently fascinating about a book set during a time outside of your own. With this one, we get to travel back to two different times, which we can revel in and explore in our imaginations—an ideal way to poke around, considering the lack of the internet and penicillin back in the 18th century.

    9. Because of sword fights
    It takes skill to write a dynamic and engaging sword fight. Skill that Gabaldon has in spades. Every fight, be it with fists, knives, or anything else is gripping and dangerous, she turns into edge-of-your-seat worthy reading. These scenes are so good, they’ll have you Googling “cheap fencing lessons.”

    10. Because of love
    At its core, this series is a love story, and a good love story is transformative. It elevates the spirit, feeds the mind, and inspires the heart. A love story can be an escape or can incite hope in the belly of the reader. The story of Jamie and Claire does that, and so much more.

    Time travel with Outander on July 5 >

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  • Rebecca Jane Stokes 7:59 pm on 2015/03/30 Permalink
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    Outlander is Back April 4th: A Guide to Everyone’s Favorite Romantic Time-Travel Adventure 

    It seems like only yesterday the first half of season one of Outlander ended in a serious cliffhanger, leaving fans staring at their televisions in horrified disbelief. We would have to wait until April for the season to continue?! Unthinkable! Unconscionable! What were we supposed to do until then? Fortunately our immense patience has been rewarded, and the return of Claire and Jamie on Saturday, April 4th is nigh.

    For those who have not yet had the pleasure of watching the adventures of one of literature’s steamiest couples come to life on Starz, it’s not too late to catch up. The first half of season one was tantalizingly short, although it packed quite a punch, so don’t be afraid to pick up the DVD and bingewatch the whole delightful clutch of episodes. It’s a good move whether you’re jumping in and watching from the beginning, filling yourself in on the episode or two you missed, or just getting the story fresh in your mind before the show’s return. Best of all, when you reach the cliffhanger, you will be secure in the knowledge that you have very little time to wait until the show resumes.

    The second half of season one is set to pick up right where we left off. For the uninitiated, beautiful, happily married WWII nurse Claire Randall has mysteriously traveled through time while on holiday in Scotland and has found herself in the year 1743. After escaping myriad dangers and winning admirers thanks to her quick wit and steely spine, for her own safety and well-being Claire is compelled to marry a handsome Scottish stranger in order to be adopted into his clan. (We should all have such problems.) Although she is desperate to flee her newfound kinfolk and find a way back to her own time, Claire also depends on them to protect her from the hazards of the 18th century—including thieves and redcoats. As the first half of season one reaches its heart-stopping conclusion, Claire has potentially found a way to travel back to the 1940s and be reunited with her modern-day husband, Frank. One thing is for certain: Whether you’re new to the tale or a longtime fan, you’re likely already on the edge of your armchair wondering where the show is going to take us next.

    If you’re a fan of this gorgeous, beautifully done adaptation but have not yet given the books a whirl, I challenge you to take your fandom to the next level by digging into the beloved novels that started it all. If you think the world presented to you on screen is captivating, prepare to be gobsmacked by the splendor and richness of what author Diana Gabaldon has created in eight mesmerizing books (and counting). Not only will you enjoy the books, but watching an onscreen adaptation of a novel or series is always better when you have read the source material—and everyone loves being the person bellowing, “That’s not how it happened in the book!” Each novel in the Outlander series is long—but trust me, it’s still never long enough. They are enormously readable, and if you’re worried about lugging around a massive tome, there’s always the magic of ereaders. Do yourself a favor and get reading—or get caught up with the first part of season one! April 4th will be here far too soon (and not soon enough)!


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  • Rebecca Jane Stokes 6:31 pm on 2014/12/16 Permalink
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    10 Gifts for The Outlander Lover in Your Life 

    Diana Gabaldon's Outlander seriesLike many of you, when it comes to Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series, I just can’t get enough. I’m currently rereading the saga from the start and enjoying it even more the second time around. It boggles my mind that when I was 14, I found a copy of the first book in my high school’s Lost and Found and gave it only a cursory glance before deciding it seemed “boring.” Oh, what a foolish fool, teenaged Becca. When I rediscovered the series and gave it a shot, I was in my twenties and still had a bit of a crush on William Wallace (how you doin’, man who liberated Scotland?).

    There are dozens of reasons to dig Outlander. You can be into time travel, herb lore, Scottish history, witchcraft, World War II, the 1960s, medicine, France, wine, Jamaica, piracy, Colonial America—sex in the outdoors, even! There is nothing these books do not contain. It might be tempting to buy the Outlander lover in your life another Scottish romance novel for the holidays—and by all means, go ahead and do it, I like a kilt-based romance as much as the next girl—but don’t be scared to think outside the box. Here are 10 gifts for the Outlander fan in your world.

    The 7 Book Nook Bundle!
    A true Outlander fan should never be with quick, easy access to this, their favorite (and arguably the greatest) book series of all time. Give them the gift that keeps on giving: the seven-book series bundle for their Nook! All the story, less of the weight to lug about.

    The Scottish Kitchen, by Christopher Trotter
    It took me until book two, but when the craving for Haggis and parritch struck, it struck deep. Surprise the nerd in your life with this cookbook that will temporarily convince them that, should they wake up in 18th-century Scotland, they might stand a chance at winning the stomach and thus the heart of a Highlander warrior.

    The Scottish Ale Brewing System, by Thomas Thomson
    I issue this challenge to each and every Outlander fan out there: Should you be lucky enough to get this book as a gift this holiday season, please see what brilliant names you can come up with for your new ale line. Currently I’m deciding between The Redheaded Giant, Sassenach’s Sip, or Fraser Ridge.

    Whiskeypedia: A Compendium of Scottish Whiskey, by Charles MacLean
    If you’re a fan of Outlander and still can’t tell your whiskeys apart, or worse still, they all make you grimace and sneer, then you’ve got some learning to do! Let this book open up a world of peat, moss, and alcohol content for you.

    A Midge In Your Hand Is Worth Two Up Your Kilt: Scottish Proverbs, by Stuart MacLean
    Get your mind out the gutter and into the wacky world of Scottish proverbs. As a fan of strange proverbs (“in the dark all cats are grey,” “stranger things happen at sea”), I’m a huge advocate of amassing as many of them from all over the globe as I can. Bring on the Scottish phrases, me lads!

    Learn Scots Gaelic, by EuroTalk
    I’m sure your fave Outlander fan is with me on loving it whenever Jamie says something dark in Gaelic and Claire doesn’t understand. Let’s beat Claire at her own game and get our Gaelic up to snuff! Look out, Beauchamp Randall Fraser, we’re coming for ya!

    Cardinal and Pine Plaid Candle Tin
    Give the ultimate fan in your life this candle, a fuzzy blanket, and permission to spend a handful of hours imagining that they are being sucked into the world of Outlander as the scented candle and vivid descriptions of Jamie’s eyes take them away.

    Any Album by Haggis Rampant
    Get in the Scottish spirit with any album by this band. Not only does part of their name include the word “haggis,” but they are also a three person bagpipe band. *Drops mic, river dances away*

    Natural Herbs Guide, by Rebecca Baxter
    Claire has a much, much, much more exhaustive and comprehensive memory than I do. If I were ever to time travel and practice medicine, a guidebook like this to instruct me as to what plants might be useful and which might, you know, kill me, could be exceptionally useful.

    The Newlywed’s Guide to Sex, by Richard Smith
    I initially ran a search for a book that could instruct you on helpful ways to have safe, comfortable sex in the out of doors (something every fan knows features prominently in these books). Since there wasn’t a book that really dove into the subject, and the Kama Sutra seemed slightly advanced, I figure this newlywed’s guide to sex will help guide all those would-be Claires as they usher their Jamies into the sack for the first time.

  • Rebecca Jane Stokes 3:30 pm on 2014/11/25 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , , , dysfunctional families, , , , , , , , , ,   

    10 Fictional Families We’d Love to Spend The Holidays With 

    Little Women movie castThe holidays are about spending time with your family. They’re also about drinking more wine than usual and stuffing your face with stuffing, various types of brittle, and all-of-the-cheese-there-is in a bid to keep you from throttling said family within an inch of their lives. That’s what family is: food and resisting the urge to sucker punch your brother for asking you why your new haircut makes you look like George C. Scott. Instead of adding another mountain of calories that no holiday sweater (no matter how ugly) could hide, why not spend this holiday season with some of fiction’s most interesting families? From kindly to eccentric, feuding to nerdy, each family listed below has one splendid thing in common: They aren’t yours.

    The Cratchit Family
    To be clear, I don’t want to bro down with the Cratchit family in that one scenario where Tiny Tim has been killed due to Scrooge’s lack of altruism. That would be one epic bummer of a holiday fete. But the Cratchit family throwing down and giggling over a Christmas goose? Bring. It. On. That said, I don’t think I’d want to be there the day Scrooge invites himself over for Christmas dinner, because yes, brilliantly kind gesture dude, but also dining with one’s boss is almost always ten shades of awkward.

    The March Family
    Spending the holidays with Jo, Laurie, Beth, Amy, Meg, and Marmie would be the greatest. Sure, you’d have to stomach a lot of religious instruction and hear lectures about kindness, but you know that nine times out ten their family meals end with them braiding each other’s hair in front of a fire while Jo wears a top hat and practices her gentleman walk.

    The Weasley Family
    Reason number one I’d kill to spend the holidays with the Weasleys: Magic. Powers. Reason number two: Gingers are the best and greatest breed of people who exist currently on our planet. Reason number three: You know they’ve got dirt on Potter. Reason four: At least three of the foods served will probably involve magical properties, and there is nothing un-awesome about that.

    The Quimby Family
    If you’re at a meal with Ramona Quimby and her parents and her sister Beezus, you don’t need to worry about being the center of attention or putting on a good performance as a host, because everyone will be in a tizzy about Ramona cutting her hair with pinking sheers or dying her entire body with bluing. As different folks yell and Beezus glowers, you can get blitzed on rosé and be all, “Ramona you lovable buffoon!” and then eat all the rolls free of fear of censure.

    The Capulets/Montagues
    Admittedly, this dual-family affair would be mad tense, but that’s only until ale has been quaffed and swords draw—then the drama kicks in! If you like reality TV, than dinner with Shakespeare’s dueling families should be right up your alley. Just avoid that Mercutio character: he talks, like, a lot.

    The Murry Family
    When I was a kid I wanted the Murrys to adopt me. Admittedly, I would not have done well in this math- and science-loving clan, but I get the feeling they would at least have been kind about it. Though frankly, if grasping math meant I got to travel through time and the universe, I’d probably be down. I like the idea of eating a big meal with the Murrys, because you know it would be served at least partially out of beakers and test tubes.

    The Cuthbert Family
    Being a part of the Cuthbert family means you’re probably getting blitzed on elderberry cordial and attempting (and failing) to color your hair for the big party. That said, while I wouldn’t necessarily want to be Anne of Avonlea, living on Prince Edward Island and hanging out with two dope as hecks old folks eager to impart wisdom and love sounds like the perfect way to spend the holidays.

    The Everdeens
    If I had to pick any family with whom to dwell during the holidays in an apocalyptic version of earth, it would have to be the Everdeens. That’s mainly because if I overindulge in my food rations, Prim or Mama Everdeen would be able to brew up some sort of herbal tincture to treat my indigestion. That being said, the “cornucopia” utilized in the Games themselves is a cruel mockery of the symbol of a day when the only battle to the death should be over the last piece of pumpkin pie.

    The Bennet Family
    You know what? I’d like to have my holidays with the Bennets because I think poor, homely Mary gets a raw deal! I’d go hang out with them, wear a dress that makes me look pregnant and a severe center-parted hairstyle, and listen attentively while she played the piano for hours and hours and hours. I’d also wisely impart to Kitty and Lydia the virtues of the single life, all the while being thankful for the opportunity to ogle Mr. Darcy to my heart’s delight.

    The Sedaris Family
    Anyone familiar with David Sedaris’s writing knows that holiday dinners are when his eccentric family comes most colorfully to life. Remember when Amy wore just the bottom half of a fat suit, sending her dad into a veritable fit? The idea of breaking bread with David Sedaris and his entire clan sounds unmissable. Though there’s always the chance you’d make it into one of his essay—a thought that does not rest easy in my mind.

    The Mortmain Family
    A family cool enough to move into an abandoned castle, ruled over by a writer-father and an artist stepmother: how can their parties not be epic?! Cassandra and her sister, Rose, are forever weary of their family’s artistic inclinations and bohemian life, but I’d gladly trade with them, especially on the holidays. You know Topaz makes excellent crafts.

     What fictional family would you love to visit this holiday season? 

  • Rebecca Jane Stokes 10:34 pm on 2014/10/29 Permalink
    Tags: , , , funny things, , national cat day, Pets   

    7 Books That Would Be Better with Cats 

    Jane EyreBooks are great, and so are cats. It is thus pure logic that we determine combining books with cats will yield something truly remarkable. Sure, these great works are all just fine on their own, and will doubtlessly remain classics even if left cat-free. But wouldn’t the addition of some furry heroes, villains, or even authors elevate their already sure place in the literary firmament? We think so. In honor of National Cat Day, here are just a few example of great books that could become even greater…with cats.

    The Hobbit, by J.R.R. Tolkien
    Bilbo Baggins should be replaced with Tilbo Tabby, a fat, lazy cat with a love for food and not adventures. No matter how stridently Gandalf insists, you know Tilbo will just lick himself and fall asleep. Though this would make for a very short book, it would still be adapted into three movie epics.

    Les Misérables, by Victor Hugo
    In this adaptation, the justice-obsessed Javert is replaced with a farting but vigilant aged persian cat (mine is available). Rather than take his own life, he allows Jean Valjean to adopt him, and tenderly pet his belly. There will be no musical adaptation, which is really for the best.

    Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Brontë
    This is basically the best idea I’ve ever had. Jane Eyre is my favorite non-picture book. I’d let Jane stay human, Rochester stay human, little Adele could stay human—even Mrs. Fairfax and Blanche may maintain their humanity. But let’s be real, how great would it be if Rochester dragged everyone to the attic to dramatically reveal to Jane that he could not marry her…because he was already married to a cat! Bertha Meowsan! For added scandal she would be wearing a tiny nightgown and a long flowing wig.

    Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain
    Though Huck’s winsome and sly boyishness and good humor would be replaced with hissing and scratching, I can think of nothing more amusing than a cat attending his own funeral.

    Of Mice and Men, by John Steinbeck
    Maybe this one is too obvious, but sub out Lennie and George with two cats, and Curley’s Wife with…a mouse. That way it’s not a tragedy, but rather, cats doing what they do. In the words of Tim Rice, that’s the circle of life.

    Beowulf, by Anonymous
    People are notoriously fearful of dragons. But you know who’s not afraid of anything? Cats. I present for your consideration, CATOWULF. He’s got no time for this nonsense. He’s got mead to drink, and catnip littering the great hall that must needs be rolled around in.

    The Prince, by Niccolo Machiavelli
    Machiavelli’s classic tome on strategy, conniving, and politicking could for sure have been written by a cat. In fact, we have no actual proof (other than portraits and accounts from the time in addition to his apparent literacy) that Niccolo wasn’t a cat! If that was the case, I’m pretty sure he left out some key chapters, including, “Spurn The Hand That Would Feed You But Twice a Day, Spurn It With Fire” and “Cuddling As Psychic Torture.”

    What classic book could be EVEN BETTER with cats?

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