Book Thoughts: Hazards of Time Travel by Joyce Carol Oates

41gsbp8s2vl._ac_ul436_I’m hesitant to call this a “review” because I don’t usually post reviews on my blog. But I recently read this book and found it fairly interesting. When I looked on goodreads and amazon I saw that it had earned a lot of negative reviews. So I suppose that what I’m doing is laying out the reasons that I disagreed with those reviewers and found this book to be worth reading.

For the first third of the book I felt like I was reading a YA dystopia in the vein of Divergent,  Delirium, Matched, etc. The heroine, Adriane, is graduating from high school sometime in the 2040s (or thereabouts). The United States is now the North American States and is controlled by one political party. While lip service is paid to democracy it’s an autocratic state that’s downright Big Brother-ish. Adriane is her high school’s valedictorian and her speech asks questions of the audience that the state claims are subversive and treasonous. Adriane is sentenced to Exile. For four years she will be sent to Zone 9, otherwise known as Wainscotta Falls, Wisconsin circa 1959. She will live on a state university campus as student Mary Ellen Enright. She’s not allowed to tell anyone her real identity, she’s not allowed to leave a 10 mile radius from campus.

But once the plot is set up Oates diverges from the YA formula significantly. Because this isn’t really a YA book and I think that’s where a lot of other readers run into problems. I think the reader of Hazards of Time Travel is not expected to read it from a teenage point of view. We’re supposed to recognize that Adriane/Mary Ellen is naive and immature. When she falls in pure insta-love with Dr. Ira Wolfman, a young Assistant Professor and fellow Exile, we’re supposed to roll our eyes and cringe a bit. In fact I think the reason that it mimics the YA genre so closely at times is that we’re supposed to question our desire to classify and categorize.

The future, in this book, is chilling and based on total lockstep social control. The past of the 1950’s is also repressive in its sexism, racism, and Cold War paranoia. Oates draws parallels between the Cold War era and post 9/11 paranoia. She also looks at the rise of fascism, and the role of the self, and nature vs. nurture. It actually becomes rather heavy in the middle as an isolated Adriane/Mary Ellen explores these issues in her psychology class, and uses her knowledge of the future to complicate the questions.

The book ends somewhere ambiguous. We’re never told if the time travel really took place, or if it was all a dream, or if Adriane/Mary Ellen will stay where she is or return to the future. It’s unsettling. We’re left wondering if it’s a happy ending or a chilling one.

I wouldn’t recommend this book to everyone. I would actually suggest that the reader is at least somewhat familiar with one or two of Oates previous works before reading this one. I think an understanding of how she sometimes plays with genre is helpful in understanding what she was doing with this book. But also, I would hesitate to recommend it to people who like to know exactly what’s happening all the time. I think that expecting and appreciating ambiguity is important here.

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Genre Lists

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

ttt-new

June 4: Books From My Favorite Genre (You pick the genre, and give us your ten faves.)

Since I’ve done more than one “Favorite books in x genre” list, I decided to do a top ten list of past genre lists:

  1. Top Ten Tuesday: Gothic Romance 
  2. Top Ten Tuesday: Time Travel
  3. Top Ten Tuesday: “Girl”-ish Suspense Novels
  4. Top Ten Tuesday: Best Dual Timeline Novels
  5. Top Ten Tuesday: Best Lesser Known Romances
  6. Top Ten Tuesday: Hidden Gems of Magical Realism
  7. Top Ten Tuesday: Best Books About Books
  8. Top Ten Tuesday: Nonfiction That Taught Me Something New
  9. Top Ten Tuesday: Best Novellas and Short Stories
  10. Fairy Tale Retellings

Top Ten Tuesday: Time Travel

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

This week’s topic was

August 7: Books You’d Mash Together (pick two books you think would make an epic story if combined) (Submitted by Rissi @ Finding Wonderland)

But I wasn’t really feeling it, so I decided to do my own thing and look at some favorite time travel stories.

51usp91evll-_ac_us218_1. The Doomsday Book by Connie Willis– This novel is the first in Willis’ Oxford Time Travel series dealing with time traveling Oxford historians. It’s the only one I’ve read so far, but the others are very much on my TBR. Set in the near future, historians often time travel to observe the past. Kirvin, a historian specializing in medieval history goes to the year 1320. But she gets sick as soon as she gets there and is moved from her “drop point”  by rescuers from a nearby manor. Shortly after Kirvin travels, Oxford suffers an influenza epidemic. While she was traveling back time, a technician (who was ill) input the wrong code, sending Kirvin to the year 1348, during the Black Death. With illness overwhelming people in both timelines, a rescue mission is attempted to get Kirvin back where she belongs.

51xphws9jdl-_ac_us218_2. Outlander by Diana Gabaldon– When WWII ends, British combat nurse Claire Randall and her husband Frank take a second honeymoon. They’ve been apart for most of the war and need to reconnect. When Claire goes to pick some flowers near a circle of standing stones, she somehow ends up in 1743. She meets up with the Mackenzie clan, a group of highlanders traveling back to their home, and provides some much needed medical care. Suspected of being a British spy, the Mackenzies bring her back with them to their home. But when Frank’s ancestor, the sadistic redcoat, Jack Randall, wants to take Claire, prisoner, the only way to escape his reach is to marry a Scot. Enter Jamie Fraser. He’s got a price on his head and a back full of scars (both thanks to Jack Randall) and he’s willing to help her out.  Claire is conflicted (is it technically bigamy if Frank hasn’t been born yet?)  but desperate. She marries Jamie, planning to return to the stones and the twentieth century as soon as she can get away. What she doesn’t anticipate is the soul-deep connection she and Jamie form. By the time she finds herself back at the stones, she must decide where she really belongs.

51541s04lal-_ac_us218_3. Time and Again by Jack Finney- Si Morley is a thirty-something advertising artist, who is recruited to join a secret government experiment in time travel. Aside from the chance to get away from his fairly dull life, Si’s friend, Kate, has a half-burned letter from 1882 and he wants to find out the truth behind it. Si has no intention of changing the past, but he finds himself drawn into the lives of the people in the boarding house where he’s staying. Especially Julia, a young woman who is marrying a fellow whom Si suspects might be a nasty piece of work. While the government in the twentieth century is having conflicts about how time travel should be used, Si finds himself amidst ethical and romantic conflicts in both centuries. This book has a sequel called From Time to Time, which I haven’t read, but this book can definitely work as a standalone.

51brip0dil-_ac_us218_4. Somewhere in Time by Richard Matheson– Just to avoid confusion, this novel was originally titled Bid Time Return. The title was changed when it was adapted for a film (which is very different from the book, but I also recommend it). Richard Collier is a playwright who is staying in a historic hotel in San Deigo. He sees a picture of an actress, who performed at the hotel in 1897. Something about the photograph strikes him and he begins to research the life of the actress, Elise McKenna. As he learns about this woman’s life, he becomes sort of obsessed with her and travels back in time via hypnosis. He meets Elise McKenna at the hotel, and they fall in love, to the dismay of her manager who just can’t believe that Richard doesn’t object to Elise continuing to work as an actress after she marries Richard. But can Richard stay in the past forever?

51cmzm27jl-_ac_us218_5. Replay by Ken Grimwood– Jeff Winston is a forty-three-year-old man, who is a little bored with his life. Until he has a fatal heart attack and wakes up again at the age of eighteen. He still remembers his life until the age of forty-three, even though that hasn’t happened yet. So Jeff decides to live his life over again. He makes some very good bets on sports and in the stock market and becomes wealthy.  He rectifies previous mistakes. And then he reaches the age of forty-three, dies again, and wakes up at the age of eighteen. On each go-round, Jeff gains something that he’s reluctant to lose. Even more so when he discovers that he’s not the only person on this weird little carousel. In other hands, this could feel redundant, meeting the same characters and seeing the same events over and over. But Grimwood wisely keeps his focus on Jeff as a character and how he changes in each incarnation; the new understandings he gains and the things he can’t bear to leave behind.

51pclzvhwel-_ac_us218_6. The Time Traveller’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger- Henry suffers from Chrono-Displacement Disorder. Occasionally he finds himself pulled to moments in his life that have a strong emotional significance. He falls in love with Clare and they get married. Clare and Henry try to live normal lives with steady jobs and children, in spite of Henry’s condition.  A lot of Clare’s time is spent waiting for Henry. She meets a thirty-six-year-old Henry when she is only a child because Future Henry traveled back in time. She spends much of her childhood waiting to meet him in her own timeline. Though each chapter has the date on which it takes place, we often encounter Henry at a different age than the age he would be at that date. In some cases, we also encounter duplicate Henrys (his current self, meeting his future self) which can get a bit confusing. But if you give it time and thought it’s very much worth the effort.

51tyxvqweyl-_ac_us218_7. The House on the Strand by Daphne DuMaurier– Professor Magnus Lane is spending the summer in London, so he gives his friend, Dick Young his Cornwall house to stay in. Dick arrives a bit before the rest of his family and Lane persuades him to take an experimental drug that will send him back in time. When Dick takes the drug, he witnesses a drama in the same Cornwall location 600 years earlier. This drama is compelling enough for Dick to disregard the danger and take the drug again and again, in order to see more. His addiction begins to take a toll on his twentieth-century life. Eventually, he comes to confuse the two eras, which has a destructive effect on Dick’s marriage and his family. The reader is aware that the drug is detrimental, but we’re in a similar position to Dick. We also want to know how events in the 14th century will play out, so we want Dick to take it “just one more time” to see what happens.

51t3kmsupxl-_ac_us218_8. The Valley of the Moon by Melanie Gideon– In 1975, single mother Lux Lysander is overworked and underpaid. When her five-year-old son goes to visit his grandparents Lux decides to take a vacation herself. She goes to Sonoma Valley. One night, she sees a point of light in the distance. She goes to see what it is and finds herself in a sunlight field. The people she meets dress and speak like they’re from another time. Because they are.  Greengage is cut off from the rest of the world and from time itself. They are stuck in the early twentieth century. Unlike the residents of Greengage, Lux seems to have the ability to come and go. She is drawn to Greengage and the people who live there. It’s the only place she’s ever really felt completely at home. But her beloved son is very much a child of the modern world.

51islkdgaql-_ac_us218_9. The River of No Return by Bee Ridgeway– In 1815, Lord Nicholas Davenant dies on a Napoleonic battlefield. Or so it seems. He actually went forward in time 200 years, and finds himself in the early 21st century, being taken care of by a secret society called The Guild. Told that he can’t return to his own time, Nick makes a life for himself. But several years later, he’s contacted by The Guild again and told that he needs to return to his own time and find a mysterious enemy who has a device that controls time. In the nineteenth century, Nick’s childhood acquaintance Julia Percy’s grandfather dies. Julia’s grandfather had a secret. He could stop time, and Julia seems to share that ability. This will bring her back into Nick’s life as they find themselves caught up in a historical conspiracy.

51uj1ebhu0l-_ac_us218_10. Lightning by Dean Koontz– Laura Shane was born on a  dark and stormy night in 1955. A mysterious stranger showed up and prevented a drunk doctor from attending the difficult delivery, thereby indirectly saving Laura’s life. This same stranger turns up at several points during Laura’s life, saving her each time. When she grows up, the man, whose name is Stefan, once again saves the widowed Laura and her young son, Chris. Now he tells Laura who he is and where he’s come from. She and Chris and the world they live in are in terrible danger. At first, the explanation seems like a letdown (it did to me at least) but the time travel paradoxes provide an additional twist, that made things more interesting.

 

 

Top Ten Tuesday: 10 Book Recommendations for Outlander Fans

For the Broke and the Bookish‘s Top Ten Tuesday:

August 15:  Ten book recommendations for ______________: (Skies the limit here…examples: for Hufflepuffs, for fans of Game of Thrones, for people who don’t normally read YA, for animal lovers, for video game lovers, etc.

Maybe it’s the fact that the 3rd season of the TV series is coming up, but lately I’ve been looking for read alikes to the Outlander series. If you haven’t read Outlander, the series is 8 books in at the moment with a ninth in progress (the author says she expects it to be 10 in all) and it follows the adventures of Claire, a WWII combat nurse who falls through time, and her 18th century husband, Jamie Fraser.  Even though the premise is fantastical, these books are really well researched from a historical perspective. Jamie and Claire find themselves caught up in the Jacobite rebellion of 1845 and later in the Revolutionary war. They interact with actual historical figures and at real events. After eight books, the characters start to feel like old friends. So once you finish the series it can be hard to jump into something else. Here are some suggestions:

51byrmqnal-_ac_us218_1. Into the Wilderness by Sara Donati (the Wilderness Series) In 1792, Elizabeth Middleton, a 29 year old spinster, arrives in upstate New York. Her father brought her there with promises that she could be a school teacher, but the real motive was to marry her off to Richard Todd, a physician who is more interested in her inheritance than her. Elizabeth finds her attention drawn to Nathaniel Bonner (son of “Hawkeye” Bonner, hero of James Fenimore Cooper’s Last of the Mohicans). Nathaniel has a strong connection to the Mohican (Mahican) people. His wife was a Mahican woman who died years earlier. The Mahican want to buy part of their land back from Elizabeth’s father. Richard Todd wants it for his own purposes and Elizabeth finds herself sympathizing with the Mahican claim. Meanwhile, her relationship with Nathaniel leads to more conflict between the Mahican and the European settlers.  This kicks off the start of a six book series (it’s followed by Dawn on a Distant Shore, Lake in the Clouds, Fire Along the Sky, Queen of Swords, and The Endless Forest) that follows Elizabeth, Nathaniel and their family.  Outlander fans should be on the look out for a cameo from some Outlander characters in the first book.

“Elizabeth Middleton, twenty-nine years old and unmarried, overly educated and excessively rational, knowing right from wrong and fancy from fact, woke in a nest of marten and fox pelts to the sight of an eagle circling overhead, and saw at once that it could not be far to Paradise.”

51omzinvtpl-_ac_us218_2. The Bronze Horseman by Paullina Simons (the Bronze Horseman trilogy) -On the day that WWII begins, Russian, Tatiana Metanova goes out to buy some food. On the bus, she meets Alexander Belov, a young soldier in the Red Army. Alexander and Tatiana are drawn to one another immediately, and he helps her bring her packages back to her family’s apartment. That’s when Tatiana discovers that Alexander is the same man that her sister, Dasha, had been talking about falling in love with. Tatiana is very devoted to her sister and refuses to steal her boyfriend. So she tells Alexander that nothing can happen between them. Complicating matters further is the fact that another soldier, Dmitri, has information that could destroy Alexander. And Dmitiri is romantically interested in Tatiana. In order to protect Dasha’s feelings and Alexander’s life, Tatiana and Alexander find themselves draw into a romantic quadrangle, as German forces siege Leningrad.  As the brutal Russian winter begins, Tatiana, Dasha, Alexander, and Dmitiri face starvation, deception and danger. This is the first in a trilogy (it’s followed by Tatiana and Alexander and The Summer Garden). There are also two prequel books that tell the story of Alexander’s parents; Children of Liberty and Bellagrand.

“Tatiana lived for that evening hour with him that propelled her into her future and into the barely formed, painful feelings that she could neither express nor understand. Friends walking in the lucent dusk. There was nothing more she could have from him, and there was nothing more she wanted from him but that one hour at the end of her long day when her heart beat and her breath was short and she was happy.”

515yocsadl-_ac_us218_3. Lord John and the Private Matter by Diana Gabaldon (The Lord John series)- Maybe this is cheating, because it’s technically an Outlander spinoff series, but I’m counting it anyway. We meet Lord John briefly in Dragonfly in Amber, and start getting to know him better in Voyager. The events of this series take place during the events of Voyager, usually while the main Outlander characters are doing other things. Lord John is an interesting character. He’s a good man, and honest by nature, but the reality of the world he lives in forces him to live a lie every day. He’s involved in several mysterious events in this series. There are a few full length novels in addition to this one; Lord John and the Brotherhood of the Blade, and The Scottish Prisoner (Jamie from Outlander is the title character, and a co-narrator in this one) as well as a number of novellas. You find find some information about the books and the suggested reading order here and here.

Tom gave him a look of mingled bewilderment and suspicion, obviously suspecting that Grey had made up the word upon the moment for the express purpose of tormenting him.

51fbqr8a2jl-_ac_us218_4. The Pirate Captain: Chronicles of A Legend by Kerry Lynne (The Pirate Captain series)– This series has faced accusations of being an Outlander rip off (with no time travel) mixed with a bit of Pirates of the Caribbean, but it’s still a fun read in it’s own right. It takes place in the years after the battle of Culloden. Catherine MacKenzie is the widow of a Scottish rebel. She has survived for several years living secretly London. She gets passage on a ship away only, to be kidnapped in a pirate raid. Captain Nathanael J. E. Blackthorne wanted revenge against the men who destroyed his life. He ended up with Cate MacKenzie as a rather inconvenient hostage. They fall in love but have both been hurt in the past, and are both hesitant to trust. They’re also facing several external threats. This series continues in Nor Gold, and Treasured Treasures (coming in late 2017).

Beset by a chill reminiscent of the more sour days in the Highlands, Cate hunched on the trunk, listening to the gale tear at the windows and doors, clawing to violate her solitary bastion. The ship lurched to dizzying heights, and then sickeningly pitched downward, disorienting one to the point of doubting which way was up. The rain a hammering drone, the wind screaming through every crevice, and the grind of planking combined into a din that battered one to numbness.

31mezqr7t8l-_ac_us218_5. Exit Unicorns by Cindy Brandner (the Exit Unicorns series) – In 1968 Belfast, Northern Ireland, the lives of three very different characters intersect. Pamela O’Flaherty just arrived in Ireland, after the death of her father, looking for the man that she fell in love with as a child. James Kirkpatrick is a wealthy industrialist who has lost everything he cares about. Casey Riordan is a member of the IRA who just been released after five years in prison. As the lives of these characters intersect, love for people comes into conflict with love for country. Ireland itself is on the brink of revolution. A civil rights movement is building. The changes threaten the lives of these characters and extend them possibilities  they never imagined. There is also a connection to Ireland’s mythical past that skirts the edges of this story; a sense of a lost magic. The series is continued with Mermaid in A Bowl of Tears,  Flights of Angels, and In the Country of Shadows. Brander is working on the next book in the series.

“From the time I was born, I’ve been surrounded by people who had to be strong everyday just to survive. They had to be hard in mind an’ in heart to get from one year to the next. An’ ye’ve seen my back, I’ve known hatred, come to understand it well an’ promised myself I’d never be vulnerable to it again. But I’d no idea that love could make ye ten times more open to destruction. I’ve had men beat me until I was certain there was only a minute or two left between me an’ the grave an’ yet the fists an’ the knives never hurt the way it does when I think of losin’ ye.”

51f5bryehbl-_ac_us218_6. Lady of the Glen by Jennifer Roberson- In 1682, Catriona (Cat) Campbell first meets Alasdair (Dair)  Og MacDonald. They’re little more than children at the time and even though they know they’re supposed to be enemies, they like each other. As they get older that turns into something more. By 1691, King William offers the Highland clans a pardon for their part in the Jacobite Rebellion, as long as they take an oath of allegiance. The Chieftain of the MacDonald takes the oath. Later, when a regiment of soldiers led by the Campbell clan arrives at the MacDonald  household, Highland hospitality demands that they offer them a place to stay. They believe it’s safe, since both clans took the same pledge.  But the Campbells were under orders from Captain Campbell, to slaughter the MacDonalds,  supposedly to show what happens to those who only took the oath under duress. What followed, became known as the brutal Massacre of Glencoe. The longstanding feud between the two clans threatens to tear Cat and Dair apart as they become pawns in the fight. There are times when it feels a bit like a Scottish Romeo and Juliet plotwise but it’s actually very rooted in real history. Alasdair Og MacDonald was a real person, and he did marry a Campbell (though her name was Mary, not Cat).  It’s good for readers who want a well researched historical romance in Scotland with very little bodice ripping!

Such plain, simple words, and so eloquent a declaration. In that moment he shared all the pain, all the insecurities of an awkward lass made to believe she was worthless to any man but a feckless father who preferred whisky and wagers to pride in himself and his daughter.

51em7j9uqel-_ac_us218_7. A Knight in Shining Armour by Jude Devereaux- Dougless Montgomery had been on vacation in England with her boyfriend, when he ditched her in a churchyard with no money, no car, and no passport. She sits down near the grave of Nicholas Stafford, an earl who died in 1564, to have a good cry. When the earl himself shows up Dougless is shocked to say the least! He says that he’s been falsely accused of treason, and he wants to clear his name. Dougless agrees to help. As he falls in love with Dougless, Nicholas realizes he doesn’t want to leave her and go back to his own time. But when he’s pulled back into his own time anyway, Dougless heads back to the 16th century to find him. I’m not usually a “romance” genre reader but I do make exceptions. This was highly recommended and I enjoyed it. Another book by Deveraux that Outlander fans may like is Remembrance.

My soul will find yours.

51dpf3jtk7l-_ac_us218_8.  Green Darkness by Anya Seton– I think many Outlander fans would like most of Seton’s work. It’s well researched historical fiction with a strong focus on human relationships. I would also recommend Devil Water, which deals with a Jacobite rebellion about 30 years prior to Culloden.  This one is a bit different from Seton’s other work though because there’s a supernatural element. In the 1960’s, Richard brings his new wife, Celia to his ancestral lands. Almost immediately the couple begins to act differently. Richard begins to be cruel and Celia has strange fits and visions. It’s a Hindu guru who eventually figures out what’s wrong with the couple. As things begin to get dangerous, it’s obvious that Richard and Celia need to resolve something that happened in their previous lives in order to be happy in this one. Celia goes back to her past life in Tudor England, where she was a young woman in a forbidden love affair with a monk.  Only by resolving this couple’s tragic end can Celia and Richard find peace in their 20th century lives.

“As there were no real answers in her life. She was in abeyance. Stuck in a pattern of waiting for a future she could not guess.”

51kvyusq41l-_ac_us218_9. The Rose Garden by Susanna Kearsley– Once again I think Outlander fans would enjoy a lot of Kearsley’s books. I also recommend Mariana, The Firebird, The Shadowy Horses, and A Desperate Fortune. I chose this one for the list because it’s features time travel in a more prominent way than some of the others. Eva Ward returns to Cornwall following the death of her sister Katrina. It’s the place that Eva remembers being Katrina being happiest, and where she wants to spread Katrina’s ashes. She renews some friendships, but the Cornwall house just isn’t the same without her sister. When she slips into 1715, and then back to her own time, she worries for her sanity. Eventually her trips to the past get longer. But no matter how long she stays in 1715, no time passes in the 21st century. She returns to the same moment she left.  Eva bonds with Daniel, the 1715 owner of the house where she’s staying, and Daniel’s friend Fergal. Daniel is a widower, a smuggler and a Jacobite. As she falls in love with Daniel, Eva begins to question where, and when she belongs. But even if she chooses to stay with Daniel, how is she supposed to handle her knowledge of the future? And how does she avoid getting pulled back to her own time?

“Whatever time we have,” he said, “it will be time enough.”

61wblmzijl-_ac_us218_10. The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett (Kingsbridge trilogy)- In the 12th century, Prior Phillip of Kingsbridge decides to build a cathedral. He hires Tom Builder to accomplish the task, which eventually falls into the hands of Tom’s stepson, Jack.  Meanwhile, Aliena, the daughter of the Earl of Shiring promises her dying father that she’ll see her brother, Richard, installed in his rightful position as Earl. But she and Richard are soon cast out of their own when their castle is seized. They end up in Kingsbridge, where Jack falls in love with Aliena. But pursuing a future with Jack might mean abandoning her promise to her father.  The “sequel” World Without End takes place about 200 years later. The cathedral is still in the process of being built, though the characters and events of the first book have become the realm of legend. The third, A Column of Fire, will be released in September. It takes place in Kingsbridge Cathedral in 1558. Just a note, Outlander fans may also enjoy Follett’s A Place Called Freedom, which is a love story that begins in Scotland in the 1760’s and eventually moves to the American colonies.

She looked at his young face, so full of concern and tenderness; and she remembered why she had run away from everyone else and sought solitude here. She yearned to kiss him, and she saw the answering longing in his eyes. Every fiber of her body told her to throw herself into his arms, but she knew what she had to do. She wanted to say, I love you like a thunderstorm, like a lion, like a helpless rage; but instead she said: “I think I’m going to marry Alfred.”

Honorable Mention

The Clan of the Cave Bear by Jean M. Auel (Earth’s Children series) I was hesitant to include this series in the list, because while the first book (Clan of the Cave Bear) was great, and the second, The Valley of Horses was very good, and the third, The Mammoth Hunters was pretty decent, the second half of the series showed a steady decline in quality. The Plains of Passage (book 4) was alright, but a bit redundant. The fifth, The Shelters of Stone was fairly dull and the sixth, The Land of Painted Caves, was hard to finish. So I would suggest that Outlander fans read the first four books which brings the characters to a decent leaving off place. Then ignore the last two books.