Finishing Chagrin

Posted on February 18, 2010. Filed under: Books, reading, Style | Tags: , , , , |

I never want to finish reading a good book; it’s always such a sad moment when I realize I have less than half the book left to read. It’s always worse when I realize I have only a few chapters, and then only a few pages to keep me entertained.

It’s not that I don’t enjoy reading the ending; it’s just that it always feels so final to finish a book, even if it’s within a series of books. Granted, that sometimes depends on the series. If it’s a fantasy series where the characters will all be gathered together again in some form or fashion, then it’s not always as bad. However, if it’s a series that was designed to focus on a pair or a particular group of characters at a time and then move on to the next set, there’s always a sense of parting from the characters in particular.

I find if it’s a book I’ve enjoyed that I have a tendency to slow down my reading towards the end. Even if it’s only by a small amount. And, of course, I feel silly doing this because at the same time I still want to finish the book. It’s always with a bit of chagrin that I put the book down after reading only a chapter instead of reading several chapters in one sitting.

Like all good things, every book has its end. Perhaps that’s one of the reasons we like them so well? Even a series has a conclusion at some point or another. (The only exception being if an author discontinues a series or dies in the process of writing it.) But the point still stands: there’s an ending.

Maybe it’s not the happily ever after of fairy tales or the long, extrapolated interpretation of the book’s theme and main message poured into a quick, witty paragraph. But if the main character dies, there’s not much left to look forward to. If the whole town is wiped out by the plague, who do you want to hear about after that? If the evil villain escapes to wreak havoc on another unsuspecting group of heroes, does it matter? Sure, sometimes, it does. But it’s an ending.

And there’s something of a death in finishing a book. Especially a good book. You’ve become great friends, learned a lot about one another in the process. You know you don’t like mysteries, but somehow you’ve been caught up in the mystery of this or that person’s affairs in an almost tangible way. You’ve learned that the characters dialogue in such twisted double entendres that you feel you’ve been lost a hundred times during the reading. And then when it’s over? It’s like a death.

You close the book and set it on the shelf, wishing your time wasn’t up. And perhaps you go back to it again and again for a reminder of the characters you loved.

I love getting to the end of a good book. It’s an opportunity to reflect on how well an author has written and what aspects worked and didn’t work in my mind. It lets me savor the journey to that point, and it gives me a chance to decide whether I’ll be putting it on the shelf for good or taking it back down over and over again.

But still, as I’m coming to the end of this particular book, I’m feeling that finishing chagrin. Only two, possibly three chapters to go, and yet I read slower than ever. In my head, those are, of course, the signs of a good book.

What are your signs? Do you move faster or slower at the end of a good book? Inquiring minds want to know. 😀

-Rae-

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Ah, the Rereads

Posted on February 11, 2010. Filed under: Books, Historical Fiction, reading, Romance | Tags: , , , , |

I honestly don’t have much of a post today. I’ve been rereading one of Lauren Willig’s books in preparation for the newest one I purchased, and it’s been very pleasant going.

I tend to forget how she melds witty banter with excellent faculties of language to create these incredibly intense scenes with just one conversation. Generally I prefer to stay away from writing lots of conversation because I simply can’t find ways to justify it, especially since I’m not the best at it. But Willig has such an artful approach to it that I can’t help but be delighted.

I’m currently rereading the third in her series. The Deception of the Emerald Ring is full of light conversations with the excellent undertone of mischief, danger, intrigue, and illicit activities. It’s right up my alley.

In Emerald Ring, we get a closer glance at one of my favorite heroes: Geoffrey Pinchingdale-Snipe, whose last name is certainly a mouthful. Geoff is quite snippy, especially towards his recent acquisition, our heroine, Letty Alsworthy, the new bride to the heir of the Pinchingdale name and fortune.

Granted, it wasn’t her fault at all. Not one little bit. All she wanted was to prevent Geoff from ruining her older sister by eloping with her.

You can imagine how well that goes.

In short, the book follows Geoff after his impromptu wedding on an adventure to Ireland under the orders of the London War Office, but our dear spy simply cannot be bothered informing his most unwanted bride of this small detail. And that, of course, is where Letty comes in, deciding to follow dear Geoff to Ireland instead of wasting away in his cold, empty home and avoiding the ton as they gossip about her grabby attempts to usurp her sister’s position as rightful bride.

Bring on the witty banter.

Yep, so that’s what I’m rereading now. I’ve caught myself, several times now, cracking up in the middle of a reading due to the prose, and I simply adore the characters Willig has created. I’ll admit, I’m hooked.

What books are you rereading? And what books do you put on your reread list? I have strict categories of rereads, which I’ll probably talk about at some point or another. For today, I’m just enjoying the story.

-Rae-

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Book Formulas

Posted on February 9, 2010. Filed under: Books, Fantasy, reading, Romance, Style | Tags: , , , |

Today I thought I’d talk a little bit about book formulas. It seems that different genres have these formulaic ways in which authors write their stories. And in most instances, if you’re an avid reader (or even if you aren’t), you’ll pick up right away on the formula.

For example: let’s take a typical romance.

Fairly normal female protagonist + handsome and charming male + male’s seduction and intrigue + sudden betrayal of trust + hot make-up sex = A romance that sells.

Okay, so that might not be the complete formula, but it’s pretty basic. Authors generally add and adapt these formulas to suit their whims and make sure all the bases are covered. In my opinion, it feels a little bit too structured.

However, I can’t deny that these books sell by the thousands. Even the shoddy ones that come from new romance authors who are literally following the template set up by thousands of their predecessors. I also can’t deny that I’ve purchased some in my day.

The same can be said for almost any genre you can think up. Fantasy has what feels like a different formula for each sub-genre of the main. But all the formulas seem to stem directly from the classic “high” or “epic” fantasy.

Pick a genre, any genre, and you’ll see similar themes. These things sell and sell well for publishers. And readers are eager to lap it up in most cases. (I’d say almost especially so for the romances.)

My book, too, uses the basic formula for fantasy. It’s something that’s difficult to get away from. And if you try something different, you’re most likely going to find it difficult to get published because agents and publishers are looking for things that will market well.

So I find it odd that I enjoy and sincerely appreciate some of these formulas (i.e. fantasy) and not others (i.e. romances). What’s strange is that I like both fantasy and romance, but I quickly find the norms in romances becoming tedious. The more I read them, the more predictable they become, and the more difficult it gets not to just flip to the end and decide that, yes, I knew this would happen from the beginning.

Do you find yourself doing something like that with a genre you really love? I’m not sure if it’s just me, but I honestly don’t get as excited with some of my romance fiction as I used to because the genre never changes. I may just be choosing my books without care, I’m not sure. Either way, I’m not as appreciative of it as I used to be.

Thoughts? Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear them. 🙂

-Rae-

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Book Research – How Thorough Should An Author Be?

Posted on February 8, 2010. Filed under: Books, reading, Romance, Style | Tags: , , , , , , |

I’ve been reading a book on my book list lately, and while I already know the ending (end reader thing again), I haven’t finished it. So I’m not going to post a full review or anything resembling that here. However, I am going to talk a little about the book in the context of research.

Authors of almost any genre have to research things for their books under most circumstances. I’m doing it, and I know a lot of other authors who are doing the same things. Unless you’re an absolute expert, there are always things to be researched.

So my question today is this: How thorough should the author be in researching topics for novels?

The reason I ask is because of the book I’m reading. It’s called Everyone Worth Knowing and is written by Lauren Weisberger. If you haven’t heard of her or her book, perhaps you’ll know her from another of her more popular novels: The Devil Wears Prada.

In Everyone Worth Knowing, Weisberger writes about life for Bette Robinson, a small town New Yorker who quits her job as a banker in New York City because it’s become tedious. She ends up working in public relations as an event planner for some of the biggest names out there.

It’s obvious to me that Weisberger’s done a lot of research for her story. She drops names left and right: Gwyneth Paltrow, Matt Lauer, Katie Couric, and Hugh Heffner to name a few. She knows her designers and labels, and she mixes it up with the clubs, restaurants, and companies of only the best areas of NYC.

I’m a fan of people who take the time to research things well, but I noticed something in Weisberger’s novel that irks me just a bit. I’ll admit it’s nothing big and probably not something most people would notice. In fact, there’s a possibility it’s done for effect more than anything else.

Despite all that, I read it and was a little disappointed. I’ll quote it here for you.

“I’m getting a coffee, and then we can figure out the event details. Can I get you something?”

I shook my head and pointed to my coffee cup.

“No grande sugar-free vanilla extra-hot no-whip skim latte?”

This is from page 153 of my copy of the book, and I read it again last night. In fact, I read it twice.

The scene takes place inside your favorite and mine: Starbucks. And our heroine, Bette, is talking with bouncer Sammy. Aside from the fact that I feel his little comment deserves a few extra commas, I have to give Weisberger some credit.

I used to work as a Starbucks barista, and one of the things you learn rather early on is how to call an order. If you’ve ever sat down and looked at the boxes on the sides of the cups, you’ll notice there’s a certain order to them. The trick to properly reading them is starting from the top and working your way down. So, for example, when I order one of my favorites, I ask for a “grande three-pump-vanilla, breve, extra caramel, caramel macchiato.”

Weisberger gets props in my book for knowing the lingo and structure of an order. However, she does something that bugs me just a bit. I won’t harp on it for long, so bear with me.

It’s the “no-whip” part of this quote that gets me. I’m a perfectionist, and this might be a stylistic thing, but lattes do not get whipped cream. Period. Sure, you can order them with whipped cream, but they are not normally made that way. The trick to making a latte is to steam the milk and create a bit of foam at the top. When you’ve finished pouring the milk into the cup, you scoop a bit of whip out of the pitcher with your spoon and place a dollop on top.

That’s a latte.

Ordering it with no-whip is redundant.

Ah well, I’m not here to really argue the point. I’m really just curious how much everyone else thinks an author should research for a book. And let me point out that I’m not claiming Weisberger didn’t research enough. Just, in general, I would be interested in how much authors put into their research and how much their readers think the authors should know.

Thoughts? Comments? Snide remarks? Let me know!

-Rae-

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Question about Fantasies

Posted on February 6, 2010. Filed under: Books, Fantasy | Tags: , , , , , |

This is going to be a rather short post as my grandparents are due here in less than fifteen minutes. My poor mother has been in her “panic mode,” which is normal for a day like today. Thus the reason I’ve been up since 9 a.m. but have not managed to do much beyond vacuuming. Not that I mind; I promised I’d help. I just didn’t realize my grandparents were coming over today.

With that said, let’s jump right into my tentative post for the day.

I was thinking last night as I wrote about how the fantasy genre has developed. And perhaps I’m a bit limited in my scope because I must point out that I’m no expert. My jaunt through the fantasy world has been rather underdeveloped, I must admit.

By the way, if anyone wants to offer opposing viewpoints on this post, I’d be happy to hear them because I’m genuinely curious.

Most of the fantasy books I’ve read have been a part of a series. In fact, I’d almost wager that all of the fantasies I’ve read have been in a series of some sort. This brings me to examining my own story that I’m writing. (Yes, I’m going to talk about it some more, so forgive me if it’s boring.)

The novel I’m writing is nearly completed in its initial rough draft form. I’m going to tentatively say that I’ll finish it this evening sometime because that was the original plan. However, the story is by no means “completed” in any way, shape, or form. It begs a sequel, possibly two.

So I’m wondering: is fantasy unique in the fact that it is quite possibly the only genre that nearly requires authors to think in terms of sequels, trilogies, and series?

Perhaps my limitations come from the fact that series fantasy is what I’ve been exposed to. And I’ll admit I hadn’t really considered sci-fi because a) fantasy and sci-fi can almost fit into the same niche, and b) I haven’t read much sci-fi (though what I have read is a series).

So here are the questions I want to leave you with:

1. Do you have any recommendations for fantasies that are stand-alone novels? I’d like to be introduced to some new authors and books that might be intriguing. If it’s “high fantasy,” I’d be even more interested as that’s mainly where my interest lies. (Though steampunk is something I haven’t read, I’d be willing to try it.)

2. If you can’t think of stand-alone fantasies, do you feel that the fantasy genre has developed into one that begs for sequels and series? Or do you simply think it’s something readers have begged for?

Okay, those are my questions. As it’s almost noon, I believe I need to end this post. We’ll have company soon. Feel free to comment and tell me your thoughts on the matter. I look forward to hearing them!

-Rae-

P.S. I’ll get around to commenting on pretty much everyone’s blogs who commented on any of mine, hopefully tonight after I’m done with the rest of my day, so don’t think I’m not paying attention! (And thanks for being patient with me! 😀 )

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The Favorites Post

Posted on February 5, 2010. Filed under: Books, Classics, Fantasy, Historical Fiction, reading, Romance, Suspense/Thriller, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , |

So I’m a bit later to post today. In fact, it’s the latest I’ve posted since I started NaBloPoMo, but I think that’s okay. On a more personal note, I actually had a friend, Desteni, over today for a breakfast that extended to 2 p.m. (See the “Adventuring Solo” link on my blogroll for more info about Desteni.) To celebrate my actual social tendencies, let’s take a look at our favorites today!

Yes, this is a cop-out post because I’m struggling with blogging about anything writing or reading related; however, it does fit the theme. With no further ado, I’ll tell you a little about my favorites.

"The Scarlet Pimpernel" by Baroness Orczy

Favorite Book: The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Orczy

Wow, what a concept! I actually have a classic as my favorite? Yes, that’s right. I love the swashbuckling tale of the ever elusive, ever daft Sir Percy Blakeney and his dear, sweet wife. The Baroness’s tale became my favorite in middle school when my English teacher showed us the 1934 version of the movie. I read the book for the first time in high school and was in love.

Favorite Author: Baroness Orczy

I am on a mission to eventually read all the novels within the Pimpernel series to be quite honest. I have only found the first in print at bookstores, but will be on the lookout for others in the future. The Baroness has a true fan in me!

Favorite Genre: Too close to call

I’m eclectic, a word most people (me included) use to describe their music tastes. However, I refer to genres. I’ll read historical fiction, romances, fantasy, general, classical, and a few others. Right now it’s a toss-up between fantasy and romances.

Favorite POV: Third person omniscient

I’ll admit I’m not a fan of first person unless it’s done incredibly well. Third person is my standard, and if it’s omniscient, it’s even better. I like getting an overview of all the pertinent players instead of sticking in one person’s head.

Within the genres–

"The Hawk and the Jewel" by Lori Wick

Favorite Romance: Toss-up between The Hawk and the Jewel, The Princess, and Donovan’s Daughter all by Lori Wick

Honestly, I love a ton of romances. But these three represent three very different things to me. The Hawk and the Jewel represents my adoration for historical British fiction. The Princess represents my introduction to the romance genre. And Donovan’s Daughter represents all the good things I love in romance.

And, yes, these are all Christian romances. Perhaps I should add a Christian subcategory, but I don’t want to go into that much depth!

"The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe" by C.S. Lewis

Favorite Fantasy: Toss-up between Lord of the Rings/The Hobbit by J.R.R Tolkien, Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling, and The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis

Anyone else seeing the pattern here? I don’t know about you, but I’m curious. Why do all these authors only use their first initials? Is that the mark of a good fantasy author? (If so, I’m in trouble!)

That’s beside the point. Lewis introduced me to the world of fantasy as a child. Tolkien made the fantasy come to life. And Rowling reminded me of what it is to feel childlike faith in a fantasy again. I think they offer a good mix.

"The Secret History of the Pink Carnation" by Lauren Willig

Favorite Historical Fiction: Any of the books in Lauren Willig’s series

I won’t rant and rave here. Honest. I’ll just point out that Lauren Willig not only revived my faith in authors trying to channel the classics but she also channeled the one classic I adore: The Scarlet Pimpernel. Willig’s series of bumbling, dangerous, deadly, and humorous French Revolution spy novels is lovingly coupled with the young woman who sets out in modern times to discover their secret identities.

Plainly put, I love this series of books, and I plan to write about them in due time. I just have to do them justice, which will not happen today!

Favorite Classic: Outside of The Scarlet Pimpernel, I am a Jane Austen fan.

Simply put, Austen’s classics do not bore me to tears, make me want to burn the books, fill me with despair, or leave a bad taste in my mouth. Instead, they make me smile with amusement at the antiquated wit and whimsy she writes into her tales, and I find myself feeling light and cozy. It’s the perfect pairing for a rainy day (like today).

"House" by Ted Dekker and Frank Peretti

Favorite Suspense/Thriller: Three by Ted Dekker and House by Ted Dekker and Frank Peretti

Ted Dekker knows the art of suspense. His books are chock full of it. He weaves the art of storytelling with the art of suspense-writing and creates vivid worlds where the best response I can give is to turn the next page until I’ve reached the end. Combine Dekker’s suspense with Frank Peretti’s art of addressing the supernatural, and you get chill-inducing fiction which thrills and frightens.

In conclusion…

I do believe that is quite enough of my favorites for today. I’m planning a later post with my least favorites (which will hopefully gain a more entertaining title by then), but I want to hold off on that for a while. So we’ll see how that goes.

Feel free to let me know what your favorites are! I’d love to hear about new authors that I can check out and books that you enjoy. (Come to think of it, I’ll have to make another post on my nonfiction favorites as well.) And if you have any comments about my favorites, I’d like to hear it.

-Rae-

P.S. In case you’re curious but don’t want to spend money, you can read the e-book version of The Scarlet Pimpernel here.

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Write What You Know

Posted on February 4, 2010. Filed under: Books, Fantasy, My Writing, writing | Tags: , , , , , |

Pen

It’s a simple piece of advice echoed in thousands of ways. “Write what you know.” That’s what I’ve heard, read, and seen in people’s writing over the years. And it’s the single piece of advice I’ve heard most from others who write.

So I have a question.

How many writers actually do this?

Yes, of course, I understand there are elements of truth in all fiction. That’s quite obvious. And I know writers tend to put a little bit of themselves into what they write. That’s one of the reasons so many authors are passionate about what they do.

But if you take apart the elements of the story, how much of what authors write do they actually know?

Since I’m asking the question, I’ll use myself as the example. (It works well considering I don’t want to make claims on another author’s behalf.)

For NaNoWriMo, I planned, outlined, and wrote a majority of a fantasy novel. Like most fantasies, my novel was written entirely in a made-up world. The countries I created were not based off the United States in any real way. Nor was the continent based off North America (though I could certainly argue that my inclusion of three countries within my continent is similar to N.A.).

My fantasy elements are all based off elements in nature, so perhaps I’m writing what I know there. However, instead of using a typical four-element society, I dreamed big and wrote a ten-element society, which I’m still getting the hang of.

For the most part, my fantasy world is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced before. I’ve never experienced a world where the most advanced form of transportation is through horse-drawn carriages, nor have I experienced a journey through a wild forest on foot that lasts more than a day.

I don’t know what it would be like to wield an element in nature, nor the extent to which a person would have to practice in order to control that element. And I don’t know what it’s like to watch a very close friend tortured to death.

These are just a few of the elements I’ve thrown into my world. Now I’m not trying to generate interest in my novel; I’m just explaining why I wonder how much writers actually know about the worlds they write in.

I do understand some of my world, for sure. My characters have become my friends, and I understand and know them. I know the friendships and relationships I’ve created, and I see the web I’ve weaved to tie them all together.

And as a great portion of what I write is in some way, shape, or form loosely based on others’ works that I’ve read or watched, I know those things, too. But it makes little sense to me to claim that I’m writing what I know.

I’m curious. Are there any other writers out there who have similar problems? And is it related more to the experience the author has? I’m relatively new to the art of writing a novel as this is the first one I plan to finish. So maybe I just don’t understand because I haven’t really been there yet.

Thoughts? Comments? I’d love to hear others’ perspectives. Let me know what you think.

-Rae-

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How do you read books?

Posted on February 3, 2010. Filed under: Books, reading, Style | Tags: , , , , |

Instead of talking about Twilight and all the ways ‘Twihards’ are making me angry, I thought I’d try a new tack. So today let’s talk books. Specifically let’s talk how we read.

It sounds simple, doesn’t it? Most people pick books up, start at the beginning and read through to the end.

I don’t.

Let’s just say that I’m an end-reader. It’s not on purpose, either. As a matter of course, I know some people will pick books out in the bookstores or libraries, read the back cover, and then flip through to the end to see what the ending is. My great-granny was one of those, and I blame her for my peculiarities.

See, my problem isn’t that I want to know the ending before I read the rest of the book. It’s just that I have relatively little self-discipline when it comes to books. I’m afraid I’m way past the days when I could stay up all night reading without feeling ashamed of the lapse the next morning, but at the same time, I get so excited about reading that I just have to know what comes next!

So what do I do? Many times I’ll tell myself I’m stopping at the end of this one chapter and headed to bed or off to work or whatever task awaits me. When I get to the end of said chapter, I find myself torn, unable to resist the pull to see what’s coming up next. I flip just a few pages, ignoring the beginnings of the next chapter, and look ahead to the next scenes.

The next thing I know two hours have passed and I now know how the book ends because I’ve managed to read all the way (sparingly–meaning without reading every word) to the end.

Some people (my mother included) find this practice abhorrent. But, ironically, it doesn’t leave me wanting to stop reading. In fact, it makes it a little bit easier to go back and really read the book. I pick up on little details I normally wouldn’t have and find myself just as enthralled as if I never read the ending in the first place.

And apparently this little quirk of mine is no respecter of genres because I do it to all books. (This is why, unfortunately, I know the endings to a number of books on my current to-read list, actually. Shh! Don’t tell anyone!)

Is anyone else plagued in this way? I can’t imagine I’m the only one out there who does this. I’d honestly like to quit, but it’s become almost a habit. I can read a good book for a couple of days and not flip ahead, but eventually it becomes too much to bear, and my hands start moving before I really realize what I’m doing.

So with that said, does anyone have any tips and tricks on quitting? I’d love to hear them! And while we’re at it, how do you read books? Any quirks like mine out there? Feel free to comment and let me know!

-Rae-

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The Story Behind The Name

Posted on January 29, 2010. Filed under: Books, Fairy Tales, Fantasy | Tags: , , , , |

I haven’t really joined NaBloPoMo yet, but I still plan to. It’s only a matter of time before I do. Before that, however, I wanted to update my blog with a short story about the blog title.

“The Book Wyrm” is something that I totally did not come up with on my own. It’s actually a concept introduced by an author who writes a fantastic fantasy series. Mercedes Lackey is the author of the series, and in a short bio, she is a fantasy author with more than 100 titles to her name. For myself, I’ve purchased most of her books from Wal-Mart, of all places, because they sell them there at a nice price.

Her series “The Five Hundred Kingdoms” began in 2004 with a rather amusing and quaint tale about a Cinderella wannabe who becomes a fairy godmother in a twist of fate that leaves her full of magical power, new tricks to learn, and kingdoms to watch over.

The sequel to that story is the book One Good Knight, which is, by far, my favorite in the series. Perhaps it’s because I like dragons. Or perhaps I have a penchant for genre-bending series. Either way, this particular story was both light-hearted and amusing with a plot that I loved.

I get my title from this book. Here’s an excerpt to explain:

“Instead of adding to that, Periapt looked back to them. ‘You know that all dragons collect treasure of one sort or another, correct?’ he asked, looking straight at Andie.

“‘That’s The Tradition, of course,’ she replied, ‘I don’t know how you could possibly escape that particular compulsion.’

“‘Well, our family does that, too, of course,’ he said. ‘But our treasure is a bit different. We’re librarians.’

“He held up his fore-claws and she saw that they had been blunted; looking closer, she saw that what was covering the talons were sheaths of some sort with blunt tips. Well, if they were librarians…they’d have to keep from damaging the books, wouldn’t they?

“‘Librarians,’ she said aloud, then grinned as she got it. ‘Good gods. You are Bookwyrms, aren’t you?'”

Mercedes Lackey's Second Book in the Five Hundred Kingdoms Series

My personal favorite of the Five Hundred Kingdoms series

Obviously, Andie is talking to dragons in this particular excerpt. I laughed so hard when I first read it. The wit behind it was perfect, the concept entertaining enough to keep my attention, and the writing impeccable.

So I adopted the title for myself. Not only do I love a good book, but I have a rather enormous library (similar to Periapt, the dragon Andie spoke with) that I’ve generally read through at least once.

In any event, if you’re entertained enough by the concepts introduced in this particular post and at all interested in fantasy, I’d suggest picking up Lackey’s series. It’s delightfully humorous and usually a very quick read.

I’ll be updating again soon since February is fast approaching. I’m going to join NaBloPoMo to keep up with my progress, but I hope you’ve enjoyed the posts so far.

Feel free to leave any comments or questions! Enjoy your reading!

-Rae

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