Category Archives: Locklear Library

Locklear Library: The Prince by Sylvain Reynard (@sylvainreynard)

Morgan and I recently benefited from good book release timing. As we were finishing up our year-long read of Dragonfly in Amber, we realized we would have the perfect opportunity to read the first novella in The Florentine Series before moving on to the next book in the Outlander saga. We read through The Prince in just a couple of evenings and found it an intriguing introduction to the underworld of Florence, Italy.

In case you haven’t read one of our Locklear Library posts before here is how it works. This will be a written conversation between us about our experiences and impressions of the book. We do our best not to disclose spoilers, but we will be talking about the story, and we have no idea what we’ll be asking each other about until now.

Jennifer will go first…

 

the prince

JENNIFER: We’re both long time readers of Sylvain Reynard’s stories, and I know you’ve been curious to see what SR could do with a supernatural series. After reading The Prince what are your first impressions? What do you think of SR’s vampyres and their world?

MORGAN: Did you spell vampyres with a ‘y’ on purpose? SR told me many years ago that he wanted to write a vampire novel and I knew then that he had a dark side just waiting to get out. The Prince was even darker than I had expected. The Prince is savage, and worse yet, unreasonable! I didn’t know if I liked him or loathed him and I tend to enjoy reading complicated characters like that. As you know, I am a fan of creating and re-creating lore. What did you think of how SR used established rules and the new ones we hadn’t heard of before?

JENNIFER: Yes. I did spell the word with a ‘y’ on purpose out of respect for the world created in the Florentine Series.

I remember that we both were excited by the idea that the Prince had the ability to keep others of his kind away from his villa by making them feel physically ill whenever they strayed too close to his home. I have to admit that power could really come in handy sometimes.

A lone figure lurked in the shadows outside the Prince’s villa, which overlooked the city of Florence. From the villa’s windows, one could enjoy an incredible view of the skyline – even at night.

Not that the figure was able to enjoy that prospect.

The Prince used strange magic to repel others of his kind, or so the figure averred. Half a block from the villa, which was more like a fortress, he felt nauseated and uneasy, his muscles twitching. No wonder the Prince had ruled the city for so long. No one was able to set foot inside his gates, let alone challenge him physically.

Much of the vampyre lore I observed in The Prince was not unfamiliar, but I did enjoy how SR put a special twist on some of the usual vampyre rules. The moment when the Prince visits Santa Maria Novella and the Spanish Chapel stands out in my memory. I found myself replaying that scene over and over as I read The Raven. To me, it was an outstanding opportunity to study the true character of the Prince.

I heard you chuckling quite a bit whenever the Prince offered his unsolicited opinions about my beloved Professor Gabriel O. Emerson. May I ask what was so funny?

MORGAN: It was clear to me that SR was making the conversation between the Professor and Julia sickeningly sweet and I liked how it annoyed the Prince. I related to his character in those moments by wanting to kill them myself. I’m glad you brought up the “warding” of places to keep other vampires away. It was a cool bit of writing that I had never encountered before. I get the feeling that Aoibhe will have a bigger role to play in future books. What do you think about her?

“How does it feel to be dead, my lord?” Aoibhe addressed him in English as she entered his private rooms near the Council chamber.

He was seated in a tall wingbacked chair, perusing a leather-bound volume of Machiavelli and listening to medieval music, which he found soothing.

“A better question would be how does it feel to be dead again?”

Aoibhe laughed.

“There are many kinds of death. The littlest of them is my favorite.” She gave him a heated look.

He lifted his eyebrows but said nothing.

“I see you have yet to go into hiding.” She regarded his lavishly decorated apartment with appreciation.

“I wished to retrieve a few items.” He pointed to some books and a couple of manuscripts that he’d placed on a nearby table.

“When was the last time you fed, my lord?”

“Why?”

“I have procured sustenance for you. Someone lovely.”

“This is irregular.” The Prince’s eyes narrowed. “To what do I owe your generosity?”

“I’m glad you’re still alive.”

The Prince took a moment to examine her features.

She was beautiful and strong and very, very ambitious. He wondered if she resented Niccolo’s elevation. At the moment, it seemed clear she wanted something: he simply wasn’t able to discern what it was.

JENNIFER: This is probably a good time for us to mention that while I went on to read The Raven, you haven’t yet had the time to do so. There are a few things I know about Aoibhe now that you don’t, and yes I would say your instincts about her are correct. A few weeks ago, I mentioned online that I thought Aoibhe was a scene stealer (along with who knows what else). She is a fascinating character and, truthfully speaking, I’d love to see a novella that focuses on her. She is cunning and ambitious and I think she has a deeper hold on the Prince that he’s willing to admit to anyone, even himself.

Having read the Gabriel’s Inferno series, we’ve become more familiar with Florence, Italy over the past few years. What did you think of SR’s decision to expand on the setting by populating it with an underworld of vampyres?

MORGAN: He used his setting well, and didn’t just describe its beauty, but its grit. An historic and art filled city, Florence makes for a great place to tell any story; but this one in particular was aided by its magnificent backdrop. It was the Prince who stole the show, however, with his consuming arrogance and his insurmountable power. He captivated me. He is bloodthirsty, and not just because he’s a vampire. There is a rage inside him, a need for satisfaction even though his logic is unjustified. I’ve been wanting to ask you questions about The Raven and whether or not the Prince gets called out on his mindset, but since this is a post about the novella, I’ll restrain myself.

Do you like this new direction SR is taking as a writer, moving from romance to life and death supernatural drama? Does his exploration of evil up the ante for future books?

JENNIFER: I’ve been a fan of supernatural stories for most of my life, so I’ve been looking forward to The Florentine Series for a while now. Although it was tempting to devour the story, I forced myself to read The Raven slowly. There is so much I’d love to talk to you about, so I hope you get the chance to read it soon. I can say with confidence that if you enjoyed your introduction with The Prince, then you would definitely like The Raven. In the novella, the Prince witnesses a private moment between the Emersons that stays with him and this begins to influence his choices during The Raven. I find the complexity of his character absorbing. The Prince’s vampirism is a trait that cannot be ignored, but I see it as merely one aspect of a very complicated individual. There is still plenty of romance within the story, so fans of the Professor shouldn’t be disappointed in that regard; and yes, I think SR’s exploration on the themes of justice and mercy have made for a compelling read. I’m very much looking forward to the next two books.

If you’ve enjoyed our talk today and would like to look up Sylvain Reynard and his works, here is the Goodreads link for you to check out.

Please also feel free to friend us on Goodreads to see what else we’re reading and to share your recommendations with us.

Morgan  Jennifer

See you soon and thanks for reading!

Locklear Library: Dragonfly In Amber by Diana Gabaldon

It’s hard to believe but, it’s been a year since our last Locklear Library installment. We really enjoy this segment and have wanted to do much more with it than we have; but therein lies the problem. Those Outlander books are big!

We read books together, which is to say that Jennifer reads them aloud while Morgan plays stick figure golf on his phone. Dragonfly In Amber, the second book in the Outlander series, is big enough to be mistaken for a family bible and we also had our hands full with the editing and publishing or our own novel. Needless to say, it was a long year that went by in a short time but during that time we have made a ton of Outlander (and OutMANder) friends.

To refresh your memory (and ours), this post will be a written conversation between us about our experiences and impressions of the book. We do our best not to disclose spoilers, but we will be talking about the story, and we have no idea what we’ll be asking each other about until now.

Morgan will go first…

 

DIA

MORGAN: Before we began reading, you warned me that Dragonfly In Amber was written differently than Outlander. This is, of course, due to the fact that the story is bookended by narrative that takes place in two different times. How did you find this change in tone and tense served the novel?

JENNIFER: It was a bold, yet essential decision for the saga to include third person narrative in addition to the continuation of Claire’s first person perspective. The plot broadens so much in Dragonfly In Amber and goes far beyond Claire’s supernatural experiences and her love story with Jamie. Claire’s limited perspective couldn’t possibly cover all of the important plot points that occur in the second book. I also think the change in narrative style sets the perfect tone for Voyager, the third book in the series.

“Roger followed Brianna toward the front of the room, watching the curling tendrils that escaped from her braid to coil damply on her neck.

All that remained now at the front of the kirk was a plain wooden ledge above the hole where the altarstone had been removed. Still, Roger felt something of a quiver up his spine as he stood beside Brianna, facing the vanished altar.

The sheer intensity of his feelings seemed to echo in the empty space. He hoped she couldn’t hear them. They had known each other barely a week, after all, and had had scarcely any private conversation. She would be taken aback, surely, or frightened, if she knew what he felt. Or worse yet, she would laugh.”

As we progressed through Dragonfly In Amber, I noticed your attitude toward Roger (Mackenzie) Wakefield shift significantly throughout the story. You definitely had varying reactions to his character, so I’d like to hear your thoughts about him.

MORGAN: I was getting pretty bored with the first several chapters of Dragonfly In Amber. I wanted to get back to the story in the past, and Roger’s character didn’t exactly jump off the page at the beginning. However, when Claire told her tale to Roger and Brianna, and then revealed how his own past was wrapped up in the story, I was thrilled to see the future world of the story finally connect with the past. Roger is a dry fellow, and I wonder how much more we are going to see of him and his ancestors.

Speaking of ancestors, I was surprised to see how Geilie fit back into the story. Dragonfly In Amber ended well with her having a big moment that (for me) changed everything. What do you think of her? Does Claire finally get a BFF?

JENNIFER: Having read a bit further into the series than you, it’s possible I already know the answer to that question. And you know me; I don’t like to post spoilers. I would simply say that all the characters (Claire included) held a certain level of distrust for Geilie and that should probably be kept in mind going forward.

It was fun watching your reaction to Geilie’s re-appearance in Dragonfly In Amber. As someone who doesn’t know happens after the end of Book Two, I’m curious to hear what your theories are about her?

MORGAN: Well, I am currently processing the fact that when Geilie went through the rocks in 1968 she arrived in the past BEFORE Claire got there, even though Claire went through in1947. I predict that both Claire and Brianna will go back together and Roger might even accompany them, owing to the perceived bad parenting decision to take one’s daughter to Rapeville.

No matter what happens, I know I’ll be hooked because the author, Diana Gabaldon, has really found her voice and is crafting some of the most interesting historical fiction I’ve read since Ken Follet’s, Pillars of the Earth. Has Outlander become your new favorite series, outstripping even Twilight and Harry Potter?

JENNIFER: I have so much personal emotional investment in my Twilight reading experience that I think I just have to put that series aside completely in order to objectively answer your question.

I loved reading the Harry Potter books, but I could finish them and walk away not worrying too much about what else I might be missing out on. I do think Outlander will stand out as one of the best books series I’ll ever read simply because I was immediately willing to go back and re-read these books with you. And this is no slight commitment. It took us over a year to finish reading the first two books and we’re only a quarter of the way done with the series. So, I think it’s fair to say we’ll be investing a lot of quality time reading this saga together. That’s bound to be a far reaching memory for both of us.

During Dragonfly In Amber, we were introduced to more of Jamie Fraser’s family. I noticed that Simon Fraser (Lord Lovat) to be of great amusement to you. Do you want to comment on some of the ways in which humor was effectively used by Diana Gabaldon to craft a more compelling story?

MORGAN: Ah yes, Lord Lovat, the old false teeth wearing bastard that dared to blackmail Jamie with threats about his new wife’s continued virtue. Jamie burned him good with his reply, and it was only one of the many good belly laughs I had while reading this book with you. I always think that a bit of humor is valuable in a story, and the Outlander series is almost as funny as it is everything else. Most of the light moments come during Jamie and Claire’s disagreements, but there was some political humor in this book as well as some snarky observations of historical irony.

I raised my arms, reaching behind my head to gather my hair into a bun. Suddenly Jamie leaned forward and grasped my wrist, pulling my arm into the air.

“What are you doing?” I said, startled.

“What have you done, Sassenach?” he demanded. He was staring under my arm.

“Shaved,” I said proudly. “Or rather, waxed. Louise had her servante aux petits soins – you know, her personal groomer? – there this morning, and she did me, too.”

“Waxed?” Jamie looked rather wildly at the candlestick by the ewer, then back at me. “You put wax in your oxters?”

“Not that kind of wax,” I assured him. “Scented beeswax. The grooming lady heated it, then spread the warm wax on. Once it’s cooled, you just jerk it off,” I winced momentarily in recollection, “and Bob’s your uncle.”

“My uncle Bob wouldna countenance any such goings-on,” said Jamie severely. “What in hell would ye do that for?” He peered closely at the site, still holding my wrist up.

“Didn’t it hur … hurt … choof!” He dropped my hand and backed up rapidly.

“Didn’t it hurt?” he asked, handkerchief to nose once more.

“Well, a bit,” I admitted. “Worth it, though, don’t you think?” I asked, raising both arms like a ballerina and turning slightly to and fro. “First time I’ve felt entirely clean in months.”

“Worth it?” he said, sounding a little dazed. “What’s it to do wi’ clean, that you’ve pulled all of the hairs out from under your arms?”

A little belatedly, I realized that none of the Scottish women I had encountered employed any form of depilation. Furthermore, Jamie had almost certainly never been in sufficiently close contact with an upper-class Parisienne to know that many of them did. “Well,” I said, suddenly realizing the difficulty an anthropologist faces in trying to interpret the more singular customs of a primitive tribe. “It smells much less,” I offered.

“And what’s wrong wi’ the way ye smell?” he said heatedly. “At least ye smelt like a woman, not a damn flower garden. What d’ye think I am, a man or a bumblebee?”

What did you think the relationship between Jack Randall and Claire, and how it changed from Book One to Book Two? I didn’t expect them to even want to be in the same room but they enter into a kind of uneasy agreement for peace. Do you think it will make a difference in the end?

JENNIFER: As a writer, I can answer that the truce in their relationship was absolutely elemental to serve the overall story. As a reader, it certainly created a new layer of drama and it allowed me to appreciate the complexity of both characters just that much more. No matter how we feel about Black Jack Randall, we know he must exist and do certain things to ensure the existence of Claire’s first husband, Frank.

Speaking of poor Frank, the TV adaptation of Outlander debuted while we were reading Dragonfly In Amber, and I was so pleased to see how Frank’s character evolved on the show for a couple of reasons. Unlike many readers, I didn’t find his early scenes with Claire in Outlander boring or off-putting. I always believed Frank loved Claire, but that due to the extraordinary circumstances their marriage was forced to endure, they simply didn’t know one another like they should have.

I liked that the television series shows us the agony that Frank goes through when Claire disappears through the stones at Craigh na Dun. I also think that when you compare Frank’s character to that of Black Jack Randall, it makes Jack’s treachery all the more evil in contrast. I think by shining a bigger spotlight on Frank in the TV show, it ultimately makes Jack Randall a more effective villain.

Were there any elements of the TV series that you felt enhanced the story as you know it?

MORGAN: Like you, I’m thrilled that Frank Randall has been better developed. Tobias Menzies certainly has landed himself a juicy dual role. It took me a while to get used to Jamie, but I really love the casting. It helped me keep some of the clansmen straight as well. I’ll also admit I was pleased that the TV show was just as sexual and exposed as the book was.

Didn’t you say Book Three has been your favorite so far? Care to give me a hint as to why?

JENNIFER: Well, since we read the first chapter of Voyager together last evening, I don’t think it won’t spoil anything to say that we get to know more about Jamie Fraser in Book 3.

We’ll experience Jamie from something other than Claire’s perspective, and as a result I think there will be some truly eye-opening moments. I really can’t wait to have that discussion with you. You’ve already experienced so much by reading the first two books, but you haven’t seen anything yet…

MORGAN: I remember a scene from Outlander where Jamie got his first real thrashing from his father and afterward he was told to go into the house to let his mother comfort him. When he protested, his father told him something like “It’s not for you Lad, it’s for her.” I liked the parts we read about Jamie’s life before Claire and if book three is going to dip us into that again I will no doubt like it as much as you.

As Jennifer mentioned, we have already begun Voyager, (7% complete according to the Kindle), and will write up our feelings in another edition of Locklear Library as soon as we’re done.

In the meantime, we will be posting another discussion on Sylvain Reynard’s novella, The Prince, in the next few weeks. We read it to cleanse the palate between Books Two and Three of the Outlander series.

If you’ve enjoyed our talk today and would like to look up Diana Gabaldon and her works, here is the Goodreads link for you to check out.

Please also feel free to friend us on Goodreads to see what else we’re reading and to share your recommendations with us.

Morgan  Jennifer

See you soon and thanks for reading!

Locklear Library: Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

Last summer, I noticed many of my online friends were discussing a series of novels and becoming quite frenzied over it.  Knowing their collective great taste in books, I followed up and asked them about it during our vacation together in September. Seeing their enthusiasm was high and knowing a television adaptation of the story was in the works, I sat down in October to immerse myself in the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon.  Before I could finish the first book, I knew I’d found something exceptional and issued a reading challenge to Morgan.  There was no way I was going to leave him out of this incredible reading experience. I loved what I was reading so much, that I read the book a second time, out loud to Morgan.

outlander

Jennifer: I knew right from the start Outlander was your kind of book. When trying to describe it to you, I hesitated to call it paranormal, or fantasy, although both elements are present. So I went with my instincts and told you it was a great historical fiction utilizing time-travel.  How do you feel this book compares to others you’ve read in this genre?

Morgan: I bet it won’t surprise you to learn that this book is totally unique in its approach to time-travel.  Most of the books I’ve read, and indeed my own narrative when I tackle the subject as an author, focus on the technical aspects of the phenomenon.  Outlander was told in first person, so we got to FEEL the time-travel from the inside out, and from the point of view of someone who had no idea what was happening to her at the time.

Jennifer:  I vividly remember when we reached that point in the story when Claire travels through time. It was the moment I saw your excitement for the book ignite.

There was a deep humming noise coming from somewhere near at hand. I thought there might be a beehive lodged in some crevice of the rock, and placed a hand on the stone in order to lean into the cleft.

The stone screamed.

I backed away as fast as I could, moving so quickly that I tripped on the short turf and sat down hard. I stared at the stone, sweating.

I had never heard such a sound from anything living. There is no way to describe it, except to say that it was the sort of scream you might expect from a stone. It was horrible.

The other stones began to shout.

Morgan: Of course, this book is only about time-travel in the most basic of descriptions. The core of the story is a witty and staggeringly poetic romance amidst cultural chaos.  I have agreed to continue reading the series with you, and it’s been one of the highlights of my day to lie on the bed and listen to your cute Scottish pronunciations.

Here’s my question for you. I know that women love a well-written leading man, and I’ll admit that Jamie is as dreamy as a walk through Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory.  Is he an especially tortured, but loveable protagonist?

Jennifer: From the moment Claire meets Jamie, we can see he’s suffered physically. He’s been through some terrible experiences which come to light as Claire gets to know him better. But one of the things I personally found attractive about his character is how he didn’t close in on himself, or become angry with the world for the things he’s been through. Jamie is as strong in spirit and in mind as he is in body. He’s also intelligent, educated and possesses the best sense of humor I’ve ever experienced in a fictional male character, bar none. Without giving anything away about the overall story, I would say that a reader’s inclination would be to resist falling in love with Jamie, but I defy anyone to  succeed in that.  I think it’s next to impossible.

“Before I tell ye, Claire, there’s the one thing I’d ask of you,” he said slowly.

“What’s that?”

“Honesty.”

I must have flinched uncomfortably, for he leaned forward earnestly, hands on his knees.

“I know there are things ye’d not wish to tell me, Claire. Perhaps things that ye can’t tell me.”

You don’t know just how right you are, I thought.

“I’ll not press you, ever, or insist on knowin’ things that are your own concern,” he said seriously. He looked down at his hands, now pressed together, palm to palm.

“There are things that I canna tell you, at least not yet. And I’ll ask nothing of ye that ye canna give me. But what I would ask of ye – when you do tell me something, let it be the truth. And I’ll promise ye the same. We have nothing now between us, save – respect, perhaps. And I think that respect has maybe room for secrets, but not for lies. Do ye agree?”

Since we’ve disclosed that Jamie is a character who experiences some awful things, I’d like to hear your thoughts about the author’s fearlessness.  Once you read Outlander, it becomes clear that she’s willing to put her beloved characters through more than their fair share of suffering. Without giving away spoilers, how do you feel about this?

Morgan:  I’ll admit I was shocked at times.  As you know, I read post-apocalyptic men’s adventure books in between my more “learned” novels and seldom have I witnessed the depths of human suffering like I endured in Outlander.  It was not graphic, of course, but it was dramatic and deepened my concern for the characters.

We have been talking a lot about the romance and the serious nature of some scenes, but I was delighted to find that I was laughing my way through nearly every exchange between Jamie and Claire.  This book is as funny as a Christopher Moore novel while maintaining the passion of something by Sylvain Reynard.  I don’t know of any other author who can have her cake and eat it too.  She is deeply detailed without an ounce of superfluous information.  She has more swordplay than The Princess Bride and more tits than a Vegas stage show.  I don’t get jealous reading other authors very often, but I am as green as Kermit the Frog half the time I’m reading this masterpiece.

How do you keep from laughing when you are reading such funny scenes?  What do you think of the other Scottish men?

Jennifer: It really helped that I’d already read the book when I started reading it out loud to you. Even so, Gabaldon has that special gift that makes a reader laugh out loud or burst into tears or fume in rage right along with the main characters.  It’s not always easy to maintain my composure while reading to you, but I tend to release those feelings in the moments when you stop my narration so that you can react to something. Thankfully, you seem to interrupt my reading at all the perfect moments.

As far as the other Scottish men in the story go, I’ve found every character in Outlander to be fully-drawn and to serve a specific purpose. There are no aimless wanderers in this story and I really appreciate that the author took the same careful precision with every “minor” character we meet as she does with her main cast of characters.  As a result, I hate to gloss over any interaction in the story because they all seem to have meaning for the bigger picture.

I mostly discuss this book with female friends, and they’ve all been curious about your impression of Claire as a leading lady. I think it’s safe to say that my friends and I find her to be one of the strongest women we’ve read about in any novel. Would you agree with our assessment? And as a male reader, what are your favorite things about Claire?

Morgan:  Well, she undresses a lot, that’s a plus. But seriously, she is a great personality – a sassy 1940’s war nurse who gets sucked back in time two hundred years and immediately starts pulling leeches off of sick people.  She is the kind of person who is determined to make a difference wherever she goes and I admire that about her.  She is as stubborn as the tides, but that only makes her a perfect match for someone like Jamie.  Claire can sure get herself into trouble also, which happens to be another reason she’s a perfect match for Jamie, who excels at problem-solving.

We were almost nose to nose by this time, shouting into each other’s face. Jamie was flushed with fury, and I felt the blood rising in my own face.

“It’s your own fault, for ignoring me and suspecting me all the time! I told you the truth about who I am! And I told you there was no danger in my going with you, but would you listen to me? No! I’m only a woman, why should you pay an attention to what I say? Women are only fit to do as they’re told, and follow orders, and sit meekly around with their holds folded, waiting for the men to come back and tell them what to do!”

He shook me again, unable to control himself.

“And if ye’d done that, we wouldna be on the run, with a hundred Redcoats on our tail! God, woman, I dinna know whether to strangle ye or throw ye on the ground and hammer ye senseless, but by Jesus, I want to do something to you.”

At this, I made a determined effort to kick him in the balls. He dodged, and jammed his own knee between my legs, effectively preventing any further attempts.

“Try that again and I’ll slap you ‘til your ears ring,” he growled.

“You’re a brute and a fool,” I panted, struggling to escape his grip on my shoulders.

Jennifer: I’m pleased to say that Morgan and I have already started reading the second book in this series, Dragonfly in Amber, and we’ll be continuing our discussion of  the Outlander books in future posts.

If you’ve enjoyed our talk today and would like to look up Diana Gabaldon and her works, here is the goodreads link for you to check out.

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3617.Diana_Gabaldon

Please also feel free to friend us on goodreads to see what else we’re reading and to share your recommendations with us.

Morgan’s: https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/5033084-mog

Jennifer’s: https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/4482712-jennifer

Locklear Library: Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

It’s no secret that Morgan and I were high school sweethearts during the 1980’s.  After several trusted friends insisted I read Eleanor & Park  by Rainbow Rowell, I was happy to follow their advice.  As soon as I was done,  I knew I’d found the perfect story to pass along to my husband.

eleanor&park

Jennifer:  One of the things made clear by looking at cover of this novel is that Eleanor and Park enjoy their music.  In many ways, their relationship is built around educating one another about their favorite bands.  This vividly took me back to my high school days and to the beginning of our courtship.  I knew this particular aspect of the story was likely to draw you in, but since you’re the musician in this relationship, I’m curious to hear your specific thoughts on the use of music within this story.

Morgan:  Well, since we met at a dance, I should say so.  You and I exchanged music as well, which made me smile when I read about their mix tapes.  If I remember correctly, you got me into Erasure, Information Society, The Outfield and a-ha.  I got you into The B-52’s, The Smithereens, and R.E.M.  This part of the story sucked me right in as did their sweetly written personalities.  I genuinely like these two people and like spending time with them.   Since I lived close enough to walk to school most of my life, I didn’t ride the bus to and from like you did. What was life like on the bus?  How did the book do when describing the atmosphere? 

Jennifer: Riding on the school bus is an experience all it’s own.  If you can imagine taking all the social dynamics that are contained within the school and compressing them all inside the bus, you can see how intense things can become.  Some of the strongest memories of my time in school took place there.  I can remember the bus driver pulling over on more than one occasion to restore order to the chaos.  I usually tried my best to stick close to certain friends and ignore the rest, but sometimes trouble would come calling no matter what I did.  This book captures those moments so well that I was instantly taken back to those days, even though I’d hadn’t thought about them much since the day I stopped riding the school bus.

“Even if Eleanor could avoid the bus today, even if her fairy godmother showed up with a pumpkin carriage, she’d still have to find a way to get back to school tomorrow morning.

And it’s not like the devil-kids on the bus were going to wake up on the other side of their beds tomorrow. Seriously. It wouldn’t surprise Eleanor if they unhinged their jaws the next time she saw them. That girl in the back with the blond hair and the acid-washed jacket? You could practically see the horns hidden in her bangs. And her boyfriend was possibly a member of the Nephilim.”

Personally, I found several things about Park and his approach with Eleanor that reminded me of  you.  As a character, I fell in love with him pretty quickly.  What are your thoughts on Eleanor?

Morgan: About the bus…I keep thinking of Sixteen Candles, complete with kazoo.  I thought Eleanor was the most fully realized of the characters in the book.  Even though the POV went back and forth with almost Germanic precision, I felt that it was truly Eleanor’s story.  That especially intrigues me since the book begins with Park as an adult seeing her in nearly every distant woman he observes.  Eleanor had a heartbreaking story, it was the one filled with the most drama.  Having said that, what did you think of Park’s mom?

Jennifer: (laughing) I was this close to incorporating the Sixteen Candles bus scene into my answer.  We really are meant to be.

Park’s mom was a great character.  Just when I thought I’d figured out everything about her, she would pleasantly surprise me.  I think Park learned a lot about his mom as a result of his relationship with Eleanor, and it was a joy to sit back and watch her interactions with both of them.  It was clear that Park’s home was a happy and secure place to grow up in.

I haven’t read much Young Adult Romance since I was in high school, but over the past year or two I’ve read some exceptional stories in this genre. I chose Eleanor & Park for you as a test to see what your thoughts were on YA Romance.  What was your overall impression of this story? And would you be open to reading another YA if I suggested one?

Morgan: You know, I never really considered that this was a book written for young adults. I have read one other before, Demon Keeper by Royce Buckingham whom I then interviewed for the radio show I had back when it was published in 2007.  I love both books, tons of wit and emotion while realistic and captivating.  I think I might just become a YA junkie.  My first book: 50 shades of Lip Gloss!

If you’ve enjoyed our post today and would like to look up Rainbow Rowell and her works, here is the goodreads link for you to check out.

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4208569.Rainbow_Rowell

Please also feel free to friend us on goodreads to see what else we’re reading and to share your recommendations with us.

Morgan’s: https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/5033084-mog

Jennifer’s: https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/4482712-jennifer

Locklear Library: The Shadow Year by Jeffrey Ford

For our first post in the Locklear Library, I have challenged Jennifer to read a book that greatly influenced my current writing style.  Since we collaborate on writing projects, I thought she would be particularly interested in what was shaking my monkey tree so hard.

The book I’m speaking of is The Shadow Year by Jeffrey Ford.

okl-Shadow-Year

It’s a simple story really about a simpler time, but the way the narrative paints scenery as well as inner emotion was exceptionally focused.  I became a fan of Mr. Ford’s writings upon reading this book, and have since read several of his other novels with a few more waiting patiently on my library shelf.

So, Jennifer, what did you think of the writing? The story? Can you tell why I love this guy?

Jennifer: Let me begin by saying not only did you ask me to read this book, but you’ve asked me repeatedly over the last two years to do so. I remembered your enthusiasm for the novel as you read it over the course of a one week vacation, and that excitement still shows through today.  I can’t say there was any particular reason why I kept putting off reading The Shadow Year, but once I finally pulled it off the shelf and peeked at the opening sentence, I understood immediately why it connects with you.

“It began in the last days of August, when the leaves of the elm in the front yard had curled into crisp brown tubes and fallen away to litter the lawn.”

The description of the leaves as crisp brown tubes is exactly the kind of thing I would expect to see in your writing, and this book is full of amazing descriptors like that one.

As far as the story goes, I have to admit that at first I struggled. The writing itself was very good, but I was having trouble finding the same kind of connection you experienced. In the beginning I could only read a chapter at a time (and the chapters are fairly concise). But then after about thirty or forty pages, I began to realize all the seemingly separated characters and moments I’d been reading about were beginning to meld together into a bigger story. Once I hit that point, I really became invested in the book.

One of the questions I’ve wanted to ask you about Jeffrey Ford’s writing is how you think it compares to Stephen King’s? I’m particularly referring to King’s novels that focus on the world of children in mid-twentieth century America. Personally, I found myself thinking a lot about stories such as It and Stand By Me as I read The Shadow Year.

Morgan: YES!  Now that you mention it, it reminds me of the very first book we read together, SK’s gigantic awesome and super scary, ItThe Shadow Year has that kind of vibe only a bit more edited.  It was sweet and creepy at the same time.  Since it was you who got me into Stephen King, (and the Seattle Seahawks) I knew you would appreciate a passage like this:

“The days sank deeper into autumn, rotten to their core with twilight. The bright warmth of the sun only lasted about as long as we were in school, and then once we were home, an hour later, the world was briefly submerged in a rich honey glow, gilding everything from the barren branches of willows to the old wreck of a Pontiac parked alongside the Hortons’ garage.”

Do you find that there is a fine line between poetic and distracting?  I think Ford nails it, but SK sometimes has diarrhea of the word processor.  (I mean that in the nicest possible way, Stephen).

Jennifer: Absolutely. Some of the books that end up losing me are ones where the author is so focused on the poetic narrative that other elements of the story suffer.  As a result, the intended message can be lost in the overly flowery language or the character development is neglected or the dialogue exchanges are rushed or forced. There’s always a balance that needs to be maintained in all facets of storytelling. In my opinion, the best authors are the ones who not only maintain this balance, but also make the writing appear effortless (which I doubt it rarely is).

Who was your favorite character in The Shadow Year and why?

Morgan: I like Mary, the little sister. She had a Wednesday Addams quality that I rather enjoyed.  She was wise, mostly quiet but usually had the solutions to problems.  I liked her relationship with her brothers too.  They treated her like a girl, but still one of them.  I remember being scared along with those kids while they waited for a big white car to turn around in their direction, or for an eerie noise in the backyard to be just their dog, George.

Would you ever consider reading another Jeffrey Ford book?  I have several that are actually short story collections. (His claim to fame is short fiction, actually).

Jennifer: Now that you say that about short fiction, I can see that. The Shadow Year is a small novel (less than 300 pages) compared to most of the books I read, but he managed to put a lot of story into it.  So yes, I would definitely read other works by Jeffrey Ford.  Thanks so much for your persistence in getting me to read this one. Your determination paid off.

If you’ve enjoyed our post today and would like to look up Jeffrey Ford and his works, here is the goodreads link for you to check out.

 https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/19305.Jeffrey_Ford

Please also feel free to friend us on goodreads to see what else we’re reading and to share your recommendations with us.

Morgan’s: https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/5033084-mog

Jennifer’s: https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/4482712-jennifer