12 February 2010

Nose re-emerges from books

I am still here. It's been a bit busy recently, and I've been indulging a little bit with a couple of new books... An Echo in the Bone by Diana Gabaldon and The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown. Echo was out from the library on the "Hot Picks", which meant I had to deal to over 800 pages in less than 2 weeks. Around fulltime work, study (well, this was a bit shrunk) and family.

So, spoilers? Well, Echo picks up the story of Jamie and Claire Fraser exactly where A Breath of Snow and Ashes left off: their place in America burnt out in the 18th century, their daughter Bree and her family having gone through the stones back into the 20th century in order to save the life of Bree and Roger's daughter Mandy, who has a congenital heart defect which can't be treated in the 18th century. Jamie and Claire's story gets them all tied up in the American War for Independence and we meet some familiar characters, including Lord John Grey and his family. She also mentions in passing the good ship HMS Indefatigable and Midshipman Pellew, who of course became Captain Pellew of Hornblower fame!

This story differed from some of the earlier ones in that the two time periods overlapped a lot more, and the two timelines and stories were very cleverly interwoven - reminded me a lot more of the first one, Cross Stitch (called Outlander in the US), although Gabaldon is a lot more comfortable in her period and place, and her writing is much more assured here. Score: 4 1/2 stars. Superb - but definitely start at the beginning and work through the series. You could pick up with Echo but it will make much more sense from the start.

After finishing Echo on a colossal cliffhanger that drives me absolutely insane, knowing we won't find out what happens to everyone for several years (grrrr!) I found myself in dire need of something else, so wandered down to my favourite second hand bookshop in the hope of finding something light and fun. When I spotted a pristine copy of The Lost Symbol that looked as though it had never been opened - still with its original pricetag on the back - of course I couldn't resist!

I loved Angels and Demons and liked The Da Vinci Code (I enjoyed the movie but it wasn't nearly as good as the book!), but The Lost Symbol was a real page-turner. I started it at lunchtime yesterday: by midnight last night I had finished it. I seriously couldn't put it down. He uses symbols like others use chocolate - a temptation that people cannot resist. One chocolate here ... and over here is another chocolate .... and another one - come on, kiddies, follow the trail..... and suddenly its way past bedtime and I'm too close now not to finish it!

There were a couple of really interesting ideas: some reflections on numeric symbology, including around the number 33, got me thinking a lot, and I loved the way he ended it (I won't tell you in case you want to read it and I spoil it for you). Score: 4/5

Brown's characters are much more flat than Gabaldon's - but he's writing a thriller not a history. However, he handles them well. Overall, although I really enjoyed The Lost Symbol, I think that An Echo in the Bone is a more enduring story and one I will return to (of course, I have to buy the thing first!).

So: two good ones if you're looking for something to dig yourself into and don't mind losing rather a lot of time!

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