Amour et Florand: My Gateway to Contemporary Romance

Brandy of Random Musings of a Bibliophile is one of my trusted bloggers because we share similar tastes in young adult fantasy and contemporary (as evidenced by past guest posts that she’s done for EWein Special Ops and Marchetta Madness). I also think of her as an expert on middle grade fiction. I love what she has to say about Laura Florand’s books.

Here’s Brandy for Amour et Florand!

Random Musings of a Bibliophile2

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My Gateway to Contemporary Romance by Brandy

I began reading romance novels when I was in high school. They were an easy quick distraction from the heavier (often duller) required school reading. I was actually sort of known for it because they were the books I chose to bring to school with me every day for whenever I had a free moment to read-they were easy to slip in and out of-and it was quickly noticed that I had a different one every day. I read fast. I read A LOT of romances over those years. Most of them I don’t even remember, but they were all historical. For some reason I have always had a mental block when it comes to reading contemporary books. As a teacher I read plenty of them aimed for the elementary school set, but I never ventured into that genre in any other area. Melina Marchetta changed that in regards to YA literature. Laura Florand unlocked the world of adult contemporary romance for me.

What mainly attracted me to Florand’s books was Chachic talking about them constantly on Twitter. I know I can trust her. We have VERY similar taste in books. That in itself wouldn’t have been enough though. These books are about Paris. These books are about CHOCOLATE. And I love romance, but actually hadn’t tried a new author in quite some time. All those things worked together to make me want to read The Chocolate Thief. And then I really wanted to kick myself because what had I been missing out on? If THIS is what the world of contemporary romance was like, then I had been lacking some seriously good entertainment for years. It had been so long since found a new-to-me author I liked enough to want to binge read everything they had ever written, and boy did it feel good. At the time that was a total of three books, but I had found a new author to love and pre-order all the things she would write in the future. (Or buy as soon as she lets us know that’s possible.)

What is it about Florand’s books that captured me so fully? It is the way she combines all of my favorite elements into each and every one. Her characters are complex people. The have flaws and hard edges, weaknesses that are completely realistic. I love how she shows how difficult it can be to fit two strong people with all their baggage and life expectations together into a partnership that works for both of them. And she does it with it humor. There is excellent dialogue in her books. The banter is top-notch, and I truly adore it when the heroes of the previous novels are around to mock the newest one. (Sylvain is particularly good at this.) I love how she writes about married couples too, and shows how difficult marriage can be, but also how rewarding. Then there are the fairy tales she slips into the stories like special little presents you just give someone because you love it. All of that together is impossible for me to resist. And yes, they are sexy. Exactly the kind of sexy I like.

Thanks to Laura’s books I was willing to explore a whole new genre. And most of the exploring I’ve done has come at her recommendation. She is an excellent book pusher. She caused my book bingeing one other author too, and I can’t stress again how long it had been since I had wanted to binge books. It’s been a great feeling. It had also been quite some time since I had found books that I wanted to reread so much. Books that when I had a stressful day, were the perfect solution. I can’t tell you how many times in the past year I’ve reread all of these. For that, for all the new authors she’s introduced me to, and for giving me an excellent gateway into this genre, Laura Florand’s books will always have a special place in my heart. As I have explored this genre more too, I can also say she is my favorite author of contemporary romance and I don’t see that changing.

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Merci, Brandy! I also get romance recommendations from Laura. 🙂 Melina Marchetta was also my gateway to YA contemporary.

Amour et Florand

EWein Special Ops: Reading The Lion Hunters Post CNV

Brandy blogs about fantasy and realistic novels (both middle grade and young adult) at Random Musings of a Bibliophile. She read and loved Elizabeth Wein’s Lion Hunters novels this year and in this guest post, she gives her perspective on what it was like to read these Arthurian books after she’s read Code Name Verity.

Give it up for Brandy!

Random Musings of a Bibliophile2

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Being a member of Sounis (fan central for Megan Whalen Turner’s books) I had Elizabeth Wein’s Lion Hunter series recommended to me several times. And I tried. I tried so many times. I have to be honest though, I am not and never have been a huge fan of the Arthurian legend. There is too much that creeps me out. This was a huge obstacle for me when it came to reading The Winter Prince. I tried so many times, and each time I went a little further, but I always ended up not finishing.

Not because it is badly written. Oh no. Yes, this was Wein’s (actual) debut novel, but Ms. Wein is an amazingly talented writer and her debut novel has more craft and skill in it than most people’s fourth or fifth. No, I couldn’t finish it because she is just too good at what she does, making you feel and know everything her characters do. As a result, Code Name Verity was the first of Wein’s novels I truly experienced. After that I could not imagine not going back and reading everything else of hers I could. I didn’t even care that I had to work to locate copies that were no longer in print. I did it happily.

And I still wasn’t able to finish The Winter Prince. I didn’t let it stop me this time. I just skipped it and went on to A Coalition of Lions. Then I devoured the rest of the series within a week. There is so much to love about this earlier series and it deserves far more attention than it gets. Even now after the popularity of Code Name Verity and Rose Under Fire, it still isn’t as widely read as it should be. Too many people still refer to Code Name Verity as Wein’s debut novel. That needs to change. If you are a person who loves Wein’s writing in her two latest novels, there is nothing that will stop you from loving these too.

What can you expect to get from these books? The same care and attention to character development you found in Code Name Verity. These are characters you will come to know and love, particularly Telemakos. I don’t know how any one could walk away from reading The Sunbird without him owning a huge chunk of their heart. The historical period is brought to life in such a way that you actually feel you are there. This is Ancient Ethiopian historical fiction too. No one can complain they have too much of that in their lives. Readers can also expect to see the same brilliant ability to bring hope and beauty out of despair and destruction.

You won’t even have to hunt them down like I did. They are now available as e-books. There are no excuses.

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The Winter Prince ebookA Coalition of Lions ebookThe Sunbird ebookThe Lion Hunter ebookThe Empty Kingdom ebook

Thank you, Brandy! No excuses indeed. Click on the covers above to grab copies of the ebooks.

EWein Special Ops

Marchetta Madness: Guest Post by Brandy of Random Musings of a Bibliphile

While I was planning Marchetta Madness, I knew I had to ask my good friend Brandy of Random Musings of a Bibliophile to do a guest post (FYI she’s a fellow Melina Marchetta AND Megan Whalen Turner fan). I was delighted when she said she’ll do one about Saving Francesca, one of Marchetta’s contemporary YA novels. Give it up for Brandy!


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How Saving Francesca Often Saves My Day

When people first began telling me I had to read Melina Marchetta’s books all the recommendations revolved around Jellicoe Road. I, in a completely typical move to only partially do what everyone was telling me, read Saving Francesca first instead. I of course followed it up quickly with Jellicoe Road and any other Marchetta book within reach, but Saving Francesca has remained my favorite and is the one I come back to most often. When I am in a bad mood or just feeling like life is working against me that is my go to book to feel better. Strange I know. It is not your typical “feel good” read. However books speak to us all in individual ways and that one never fails to make me feel better. Why is that?

I think it is mainly because I have had so many similar experiences to Francesca, but they are also different enough that reading her story doesn’t make me feel as though I’m reliving my own past. That is one of the aspects I appreciate most about Melina Marchetta’s writing, her ability to write such individual and complex characters that can still hold a universal appeal. I can see a little of myself in all of them, but they all have such unique personalities that I can never mistake them for myself and can therefore learn from them. Reading Saving Francesca is also the reminder I need on bad days that friendship is important and that the community we are a part of can make or break us. This is a common theme in all of Marchetta’s novels, but the ways it plays out in that one speaks to me the most. I have a tendency to want to seal myself off from the world and not want to deal with other people because it’s messy. Francesca’s story reminds me of the impact we have on each other as a group of friends and the way one small part of a community can change the greater community as a whole.

It should also be noted that I very much like Will and that plays a major role in my love for rereading this book. Of all the Marchetta boys he is the one I probably hear the least about, but it doesn’t get much better than him as far as I’m concerned. (Probably because he reminds me of my husband. You know that line where Francesca thinks, “I’m in love with a droid!”? I have this same thought at least three times a day.) I love the banter between the two of them and how the ways they are different from each other is what makes them so perfect together. Sigh.

And now I am feeling overcome with the urge to read the book again right this minute. And I’ll probably follow it up with a little bit of The Piper’s Son as well because how could I not?

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I agree, books speak to us all in different ways. Thank you, Brandy, for sharing with us why Saving Francesca means so much to you. Also for giving Will some love – I think he took quite a beating in some of the other Marchetta Madness posts/comments. 😛 You’ve convinced me that I need to reread both Saving Francesca and The Piper’s Son soon.