Comfort Reads with Sonya Bates: Outlander

Thank you very much to Sonya Bates for this week’s comfort read. I’m a big fan of the Outlander TV series but I haven’t read the books yet … I think I need to do something about that soon!

Comfort Reads with Sonya Bates Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

A comfort read means different things to different people. Nostalgia perhaps, humour or a happy ending. Classics, memoirs, books from your childhood, romance. For me, it means escape.

When I’m feeling anxious or overwhelmed (like when a pandemic sweeps the globe), I don’t want to have to work too hard. My brain is already in overdrive, thinking about other things – worrying. It doesn’t need another workout. What I want and need is something soothing, something I don’t have to concentrate on. The book has to pull me in right from the start and hold my attention. I need to be able to gloss over paragraphs if my mind gets distracted and not lose the thread of the story. And I need to be able to put it down and pick it up on a whim, even if days or weeks have passed.

I have several books that fit the bill, so it was hard to choose just one. In the end I chose Outlander by Diana Gabaldon – a book I’ve read several times but never seems to disappoint. On the first read, it might not qualify as there’s a lot going on, but escapism doesn’t come any greater than this. A young woman travelling through time via a stone circle and ending up in the 1700’s? It takes you away from the troubles of the 21st century in a heartbeat. It’s adventure, it’s time travel, it’s a love story. The characters are larger than life and encounter (and survive) almost insurmountable situations – even try to change history. It suspends belief at times, but hey, the premise itself suspends belief. It’s the kind of story that can help you forget about pandemics and isolation and second waves, if only for a little while.

It’s a familiar read for me, so perhaps somewhat nostalgic, and I know the characters and the story well enough that I can put it down and pick it up again without a hiccup. It is one of my go-to comfort reads, the only caveat being that the first in the series is followed by seven very large sequels. It can be hard to stop at just one, so I need to be prepared to be immersed in the land of Outlander for quite some time if I start that first chapter.

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About the Author 

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Sonya Spreen Bates  is a writer of adult and children’s fiction living in Adelaide, South Australia. She was shortlisted for the inaugural Banjo Prize in 2018 for the unpublished manuscript for Inheritance of Secrets, and several of her children’s books have been commended by CCBC Best Books, Resource Links, or the Junior Library Guild in the USA.

Born in Iowa City, USA, Sonya grew up in Victoria, Canada. She studied Linguistics at the University of Victoria before moving to Halifax, Nova Scotia to study Speech-Language Pathology at Dalhousie University. She worked in paediatric Speech Pathology for 25 years, first in rural British Columbia, and then in Adelaide, South Australia when she moved there in 1997, and currently works as a casual academic in clinical education.

Sonya’s first children’s book was published in 2003. Her short stories and novels have been published in Canada, Australia and New Zealand, and foreign rights to her chapter book, Wildcat Run, were sold to a Chinese publisher. She started writing for adults in 2015 and her debut adult novel Inheritance of Secrets was published by HarperCollins Australia in April 2020.

Read my review of Inheritance of Secrets

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June Wrap-Up

June has been a bit of a study in contrasts. I’ve had periods where I’ve had a lot of work to do and a couple of weeks where I could have won a gold medal in the couch potato Olympics. I think it balanced out to be successful month overall, although I would have liked to have been able to read more books.

I wrote an article for HelloCare Carepage that describes my experiences of the Australian aged care sector with my Pop who suffers from dementia, calling for mandated staff ratios to be introduced. It’s a sad, but increasingly common, story and I’ve been overwhelmed by the support I have received for this article, particularly by aged care staff across the country. I’m so relieved that my respect and support for aged care professionals came through loud and clear. I’m in the process of working on some more articles for HelloCare Carepage, including dementia communication tips and strategies I have learned over the last few years. I feels like an enormous weight has been lifted off my shoulders to be able to make something positive out of such a crappy situation.

The other sort of non-bookish activity that has taken up a good chunk of my time has been watching the Outlander television series. I usually prefer to read the books before I watch the film/series, but I knew I would never find time to read the entire series in a hurry. I’ve just began the third season and I’m hooked and desperate to visit Scotland after seeing so much of the breath-taking scenery of Scotland.  I really admire the fighting spirit of the Scottish who fought the British Empire at its peak for so many years and hope a dash of that courage was passed down to me by my Scottish ancestors!

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Books I read in June

I only read three books in June, but I enjoyed them all in different ways. Hopefully the worst of the chilly Melbourne winter nights are behind us so I can find more energy for reading and blogging! I’m the kind of person who would totally sleep through winter if I could get away with it.

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P IS FOR PEARL by Eliza Henry-Jones

Goodreads 

From the talented author of the celebrated novels In the Quiet and Ache comes a poignant and moving book that explores the stories we tell ourselves about our families, and what it means to belong.

Seventeen-year-old Gwendolyn P. Pearson has become very good at not thinking about the awful things that have happened to her family. She has also become used to people talking about her dead mum. Or not talking about her and just looking at Gwen sympathetically. And it’s easy not to think about awful things when there are wild beaches to run along, best friends Loretta and Gordon to hang out with – and a stepbrother to take revenge on.

But following a strange disturbance at the cafe where she works, Gwen is forced to confront what happened to her family all those years ago. And she slowly comes to realise that people aren’t as they first appear and that like her, everyone has a story to tell.

‘P is for Pearl is a complex, authentic exploration of grief, friendship, mental illness, family and love, sensitively written by a writer whose voice will resonate with teen readers.’

My Review 

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THE RULES OF BACKYARD CROQUET BY Sunni Overend

Goodreads

Disgraced fashion prodigy Apple March has gone into hiding, concealing herself within the cashmere and silk folds of a formerly grand fashion boutique – the hanging of blouses and handling of difficult patrons now her only concern. But when her sister Poppy needs a wedding dress, old passions are reignited … along with threats from her past.

As Apple finds herself falling for someone she shouldn’t, her quest to re-emerge becomes entangled in a time she wants forgotten, and life unravels as quickly as it began to mend.

From the cool heart of Melbourne to Paris and New York, in an effervescent world of croquet, Campari and cocoon coats, can Apple prevail over demons past to become the woman she was born to be?

My Review 

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THE STORY OF OUR LIFE by Shari Low

Goodreads

Unwind, laugh, cry … but feel uplifted with this bittersweet love story. Perfect for the fans of Jo-Jo Moyes and Marian Keyes.

So what would you do if your ‘happy ever after’ was stolen from you?

Colm strolled into my life fifteen years ago. If there’s ever such a thing as love at first sight, that was it for us both. A few weeks later we married, celebrating with those who cared, ignoring the raised eyebrows of the cynics.

We knew better. This was going to be forever. The dream come true. The perfect ending. Until it wasn’t.

Because a couple of months ago everything changed. We discovered a devastating truth, one that blew away our future and forced us to revisit our past, to test the bonds that were perhaps more fragile than they seemed.

So now I ask you again, what would you do if your ‘happy ever after’ was taken from you?

Because this is what I did.

I’m Shauna.

And this is the Story of Our Life…

My Review