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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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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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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