Monday, 11 April 2016

The End

All good things must come to an end, as they say, and recently I've been wondering how much of a place blogging still has in my life. I've learnt so much about books, writing and myself over the years, and met some truly wonderful people. I'll always be grateful to you guys for this time in my life, but I think now is the time to say: this is the end. 

Thank you and goodbye.

I'm kidding!


Ha, you are not going to get rid of me that easily.

But I have been thinking about endings, and I couldn't resist.

So, before I delight you all with more of my top-range humour (ha), I may try and actually come to the point.

Recently I've been considering series' endings. Last month (or something) I read Percy Jackson and the Last Olympian by Rick Riordan. This is the last book in the Percy Jackson and the Olympians cycle, and it confirmed a nagging suspicion I've had for years: ending series is really, really hard.

This is a bit of a secret, because (I don't think this is just me?) I find it hard to criticise the books I love. I feel the need to stand up for Harry Potter in every circumstance. When almost none of my friends have read Skulduggery Pleasant, I must PROCLAIM IT as the BEST BOOK EVER (as you know I do, frequently). If people are scared about tackling The Lord of the Rings, it's not great for me to admit that I got slightly bogged down in The Fellowship of the Ring. Basically, I try to fly the flag for my faves (check that alliteration) at all times.

And yet, I so often feel let down by series' endings. Why is this?

1. Can't Stand the Hype

You know when you're waiting for a book to come out, and you and everyone is like

Entire blogosphere about The Raven King, currently.
This is a fairly obvious reason, but when you've hyped yourself up so much, often your expectations outrun the book itself. This normally isn't the book's fault! It's just the tension! But the wait can lead you to so much excitement that the book falls short. This is why part of me hates reading series when they come out. Part of me loves it, because it means I'm actually current, and I love the feeling of community that will occur, for example, in May, when we're all discussing The Raven King. But it can lead to disappointment. I totally did this with The Hunger Games series. Truthfully, I don't think Mockingjay is a very good book anyway, but it was made worse by my excitement for it, my saving it for the perfect time and getting really keyed up. 

2. The Epic Battle


This is the biggest reason for me. A series has been building for three or four or seven or nine books, and it's all got to come to a climax. There have probably been encounters with the villain beforehand, and the hero has probably won small victories, but the villain is not really defeated; they are saving their strength for, as it were, The Last Battle. And I just never feel that the Epic Battle is epic enough.

This is especially prevalent in fantasy series, for example Harry Potter, Narnia, The Lord of the Rings, the Icemark trilogy, but it's also there in series such as The Hunger Games and Divergent. In those cases, Katniss and Tris are defeating the system/government more than one evil Dark Lord. Nonetheless, they must always reach a crisis point, and for me it never lives up to the tension. Of course, the author always kills one or two of the best characters (if you go through that list I gave you'll see what I mean) to show the horrible pain of the final war, and yet I always feel that the villain is too easily defeated. Of course, the writer can't spend chapters and chapters detailing the last struggle. But when it's been building for seven books, one chapter of fighting never seems quite enough. I don't know if there's a way to fix this. I kind of doubt it.

3. The Predictably Unpredictable

I have no idea what this is from but I kind of love it.
This is a very common, in fact, inevitable, Endings Trope. Basically, the hero has to be weaker than the villain. Of course the hobbits aren't a match for Sauron. Of course Voldemort is better at magic than Harry. Of course the White Witch could turn the Pensevies to stone. Of course Percy can't stand up to Kronos' power. If it was a straight-up test of strength, and the hero could win, you wouldn't need seven books to defeat the villain.

The reason we root for heroes is because they're underdogs; because they screw up and get scared and sometimes feel they can't go on. On the surface, the villain is always stronger. Therefore, there always needs to be A Twist.

Typically, the villain, in their thirst for power, has overlooked love/kindness/morality/some other virtue. There are a few ways the author finds to exploit this:
~ the power of love/selflessness/whatever that the hero had inside themselves all along is enough
~ the villain realises their wickedness, and we realise they are the way they are because of their tragic backstory. At the last they see their dead lover's/sister's/goldfish's face floating above them and decide not to go through with their evil plan
~ the villain's disillusioned servant/sidekick realises the evil isn't worth it and conveniently kills the villain so the hero doesn't have to

There's almost always a twist of this nature, and the unpredictable, therefore, becomes predictable. We know that Hero isn't going to straight up stab/shoot/banish Villain. There has to be a bit of extra, and I feel like I'm always expecting it.

4. The Clean-Up


Catharsis is absolutely necessary. Very very few books can pull off ending that finishes right on the lowest low. You never end with the hero at last sinking a knife into villain. You show some of the consequences. You show the hero's exhaustion, their grief at the loss of those who've died. You also show the world beginning to come right again. Consider the last Harry Potter; we get the aftermath of the battle, and then the famous epilogue.

The reader needs this! When we are in shock, the post-battle end-y bit (professional literary term, that) is the blanket we require. And some writers do it so, so well. But it can sometimes lead to a sense of anticlimax. I have to say, I found the return to Hobbiton a bit ... meh. And I guess that's kind of the point: that real life isn't all epic struggles and mortal combat and heroically throwing away the Ring. It's also home life and domesticity and the smallness (physically demonstrated by the hobbits) of the day to day. This is important! But I think it's really hard to balance this with the Final Battle.

What do you think? I really don't want you to read this as a post slating the endings of my favourite series, because it isn't! I think that LotR, Narnia and Harry Potter are all nearly perfect, and I'm not bothered about finishing Percy Jackson and the Olympians, because it's only the first of a pair of series, so it's not the end at all, really. But do you agree with me that series' endings can be problematic? (And more importantly, are you panicking about The Raven King?)

34 comments:

  1. EMILY THAT WAS NOT FUNNY. I actually freaked out for a second there. DON'T EVER QUIT.

    I actually usually like the ending to different series. Percy Jackson was good (although it's been several years since I've read it so that could have changed), loved the Artemis Fowl ending even if it nearly killed me, Narnia was excellent, Mockingjay was tragic and cruel and fitting for the story even if I hated it, and, well, I didn't like Divergent much anyways and I didn't like the ending, even if a certain person should have and did die.

    I usually quite enjoy the final climaxes. I think they fit and the wrap up ending thingy helps bring me down to a oh-goodness-the-series-is-ending-what-do-I-do-with-my-life-now type thing.

    HAVE FUN IN SINGAPORE. (I'm not 100% sure why I have so much caps in this comment. *shrugs*)

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    1. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA ~falls off chair laughing so much~

      I'm really looking forward to continuing with the Blood of Olympus series. I do love Narnia, it gives me goosebumps, but I guess I found that final chapter a little rushed? But it *is* perfect. But when you consider it's a description of eternity and it gets one chapter vs seven books for mortal events? But of course he's not going to write a *book* about heaven. So. I don't know? I'm talking myself in circles here, I guess.

      I think the Mockingjay death was appropriate, but I found the book as a whole badly paced. Personally I felt it worked much better as a film because over two films I thought they had more time to pace it properly. But that's not a very popular opinion. As for Allegiant, I don't think X should have died, personally. I didn't think the last book was as good as the first two, and I wasn't keen on the ending. I think Roth had made her points well enough without that. But again, not always a popular opinion!

      Trying to find ways to continue with life post-series is SO HARD! Ugh. What are we all going to do after TRK? WHAT I ASK YOU, WHAT?

      I AM, THANK YOU. (You don't have that much, DON'T WORRY. Also this is me you're talking to who ALMOST NEVER STOPS WITH THE CAP LOCKS, so I DON'T MIND. XD )

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  2. OKAY THAT WAS NOT FUNNY AND NOT HUMOUROUS. AND I NEARLY ZOOMED DOWN TO THESE COMMENTS TO SCREAM AT YOU THAT YOU COULDN'T LEAVE. And you're not. BUT I'M STILL SCREAMING. *breaks a plate*
    ahem.
    Okay.
    But I actually totally agree about series endings. ;_; I avoid them SO MUCH. I avoid them because I don't want it to end too??? Like, if I don't read that final book, the characters haven't FINISHED yet and that makes me feel better? hehe. But also because, like you said: anti-climatic oftentimes. Or it just ends wildly with weird plot twists that make me feel cheated. Like I'm not a huge romantic, but if a series spends 3+ books shipping two people and then either changes the ship or kills someone -- I ALWAYS feel cheated. Or if they fail the goal. Like, sure, plot twist...but now the series feels pointless and I leave feeling like I've wasted my time. *cries*
    OR IF IT'S TOO PERFECT. I'm so fussy I know...but I hate it when everything wraps up in the most perfect little bow. Real life isn't like that!!
    ahem. So basically I'm fussy.
    But I will be reading The Raven King as SOON as it comes out absolutely definitely. And I shall cry. And hopefully I won't be disappointed. *SCREAMS*

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    1. ~sweeps up plate~ SORRY NOT SORRY.

      Right, totally! They leave me feeling bereft, so I put them off (and off and off and off). Weird plot twists are the worst ~looks hard at Allegiant~ And YES ABOUT THE TOO-PERFECT THING.

      I DON'T THINK WE'LL BE DISAPPOINTED BUT IT'S REALLY HARD TO SAY. ~screams with you at an alarming pitch~

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  3. I was worried there for a second! Whoo glad you're sticking around!

    I'm sooo excited for The Raven King that I hope it lives up to my expectations, but I'm trying not to question Stiefvater's abilities.

    Also that turkey gif is from Invader Zim which is a great series by the way! :)

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    1. Thank you ;)

      SO MUCH TRAUMA/EXCITEMENT/WHAT EVEN HOW WILL WE LIVE?!??!

      I love that gif! XD

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  4. AH! Such a great post! I know even with my own writing, it is hard for me to write endings because I have such high expectations and want to perfectly communicate "all the feels". I know what events I generally wish to have occur, but it's actually writing them in the proper manner. Ack. Life of a writer. There's always something.

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    1. Thank you! I've only written one book thus far, and the ending was OK because it's only the first in a trilogy. But the thought of ending said trilogy (though it's far in the future) is FREAKING ME OUT. There is always something ;)

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  5. Ooo, The Last Olympian is one of my favorite books. Definitely the best MG.

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    1. It was very good. I do love Lightning Thief as well, though. I think they've been my two favourites of the MG ones. Can't wait to read the second series!

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  6. EMILY. You almost had me there. XD

    Endings are tricky things, for all the reasons you mentioned. Hype can ruin an entire book or series for me, not just endings. Maybe that's part of the reason I tend to avoid the really popular books? Like it was only last year that I read The Hunger Games and the Divergent trilogy.

    EPIC BATTLES, YASSSS. (This is why my plans for a fantasy trilogy long ago exploded into a four book series. I need an entire book for the battle. XD)

    I like twist endings. Usually. It depends if the twist WORKS and if it doesn't make me feel cheated. Unlike a lot of people, I kind of liked the ending of Allegiant. My feels did NOT, but afterwards I could see how it was the ultimate expression of bravery and sacrifice. But poor Other Character Who Was Left Behind... :'(

    And I also usually like the calmer final moments--the breather after the battle, the time when the characters recover and grieve and are rewarded for their efforts. But I wasn't too sure about the Shire ending, either, and I feel terrible for saying that! Like you, I hate to criticize my favorite books. It feels disloyal.

    Great post! Now I hope that my own books' endings turn out to be satisfactory and properly epic but not too drawn out and... Yeah. XD

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    1. I AM MORIARTY.

      (Basically.)

      Hype is a friend and an enemy; it obviously is good for some authors because it promotes their books, but it can turn lots of readers away. I feel you on putting off popular books. So many I've still not read!

      THAT SOUNDS GOOD. A book for the epic battle sounds good because then you give the battle enough time and show how it is a REALLY BIG DEAL.

      I also love twists but I always feel like I'm expecting them? I think? But obviously if they're good that doesn't matter. I was not on team with Allegiant, but then I didn't think the book was that good as a whole (I preferred the first two).

      It's really tough because obviously you need the calm at the end, but ... ugh, I JUST DON'T KNOW. I love Sam/Rosie and I love A LOT the elves leaving etc, but I think I wasn't keen on the little battle in the Shire? (You know, when the nasty hobbits have moved in or ... something. I can't wholly remember.) Because it felt really weird to be describing more fighting after they'd destroyed the Ring. But the ending itself was still perfect. Hmm. I need to reread the book.

      I'M REALLY NERVOUS ABOUT MINE. That's mostly the genesis of this post, I'm increasingly panicky in case I can't get the trilogy to end right. But we'll be fine! XD

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    2. Hype can go both ways, that's for sure. If not for hype, there would be a lot of great books I missed. But on the other hand, it does make me cautious of some books that everyone raves about.

      That's what I hope to do, yes! ^_^ (And my brain has recently been toying with the idea of making it a FIVE book series instead of four. *groans* As if four wasn't enough work already...)

      Yeah, that's true, we kind of expect twists to happen and then... they're not as twisty? Sometimes? It's been a while since I read the trilogy, and I think I should reread them to form a more solid opinion on the actual *writing*, but yes, I liked the first two books better as well.

      That's the part of the Shire ending (the little battle) that threw me for a loop too. It does make sense that unpleasant folks would move in and whatnot, and it does add some realism (because home is never the same when you've been gone on an adventure like THAT one)... but it wasn't my favorite way to end things. Another series to reread!

      I'M SURE YOUR ENDING WILL BE FANTABULOUS. ^_^ With your amazing writing skills, I know you'll figure it out eventually. But I totally empathize with that panicky feeling.

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    3. I just read We Were Liars, which was hyped to the millionth degree, but it was SO GOOD! I loved it!

      Five books?! WHY NOT?! Which one are you on?

      I doubt I'll ever reread THG. I don't think I've got the time, frankly. But tell me what your reconsidered opinion is, if you do!

      Same, exactly. But yes I'm desperate to reread. (And I do think the ending ending, with the ships, is perfect. Pippin and Gandalf's conversation. I'm dead kay thnx bye.)

      THANKS FRIEND. You are very kind! <33

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    4. Some hyped books are hyped for a reason!

      I'm redrafting the second. I technically have a partially written third book lying around as well, but the first two have changed so much they've rendered it obsolete. :P

      The Hunger Games? I thought we were talking about Divergent. XD Either way, I want to reread both trilogies, and then maybe I'll be able to articulate my opinions better in a blog post or something.

      YES THAT CONVERSATION MANGLES MY HEART. <////3

      I want to read your stuff one day, you know. :) Are you hoping to publish TCATT?

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    5. Ha, most of my first draft was obsolete by the time I was done with it. How's redrafting going?

      Oh my gosh, I've just reread the thread and we were! Oops! ~facepalm~ Ha. Good one. Well, I also doubt I'll ever reread Divergent, but tell me about that too! XD

      Ehhh, I'm not sure about publishing TCATT. Potentially? But I'm trying to take things one step at a time right now. I would love for you to read it, though! I will be looking for betas in a few months .... !

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    6. That's how it goes. XD Redrafting is going decently, I think. Drafting something this big still feels uncomfortably new (considering I've only ever drafted one novel...I've done 3 novellas too, but that's different), but I'm trying to give myself permission to be messy. :)

      Haha, it is a rather longish thread. Will do!

      Taking things one step at a time sounds wise. *nods* Beta reading? YES PLEASE. Though I must warn you that I likely can't deliver super immediate responses. Hopefully I won't be frightfully late, but there's this thing called work... :P Anyway, I would love to read it!! Let me know when you're planning to send it out!

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    7. You're ahead of me, I've only drafted (thrice) one novel, so when I start the first draft of the sequel I can imagine it'll be a weird feeling. I see you've posted about your book but I've not read it yet, I'm excited too, though! (PS I just read your survey answers, you're a babe! <33)

      OH MY GOSH! That's so exciting! Yes please please get onboard! Right now I've got two irl friends and one online friend beta-ing but from what I'm told, having four betas is a good number? who even knows, to be honest, but I guess I'll find out! I will tell you when I've done draft 4. Thank you sooo much! And don't worry about immediacy of responses, seriously, I totally get it. Thank you! :D :D

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  7. Ending series is the worst! I'm still traumatized about Harry Potter ending and that was almost 10 years ago (crazy!) I love Percy Jackson as well, do you know about The Heroes of Olympus series? It's kind of a continuation of Percy :)

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    1. 10 years, that is crazy! I wasn't reading them as they came out, fortunately, else I'd probably have died somewhere in between books.

      Yes, I own 4/5 of them and can't wait to start reading! :D

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  8. This is a really interesting discussion. I feel like a lot of the movie adaptions have redeemed endings to me like Finnick's death in the Mockingjay film was way better than in the book. He was more sacrificial in the movie instead of just randomly dying. I also liked that in the Return of the King movie the Hobbits came back to the Shire being okay instead of wiped out. It felt like more of a sigh in relief. You know?

    storitorigrace.blogspot.com

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    1. It's been so long since I read Mockingjay, I can't really make a comparison, but I did think the film was excellently done. I've not actually seen the LotR film! I like the feeling of homecoming, I just wasn't keen on the second “battle" for the Shire because it felt so anticlimactic compared to Mordor. I should probably have made that clearer in the post :S

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  9. I hate it when a series' ending leaves you unsatisfied. Like, c'mon guys. It's not like you have to entice us back for the next book: THE SERIES IS OVER. So give us an ending that makes us sigh with relief and satisfactions! I WANT WARM FUZZIES!!! XD

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    1. I know! Normally I quite like cliffhangers etc (provided I'm not going to forget everything before the sequel, which to be honest I probably will) but there's so much pressure to end a series well. Bit scary for writers! D:

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  10. For a second, I was like nonononononono, I'm not ready for Ink Inc not to be a thing! Lucky for me, I get to keep reading your posts (better late than never right?).

    As for endings, you hit the nail on the head. Totally agree with all your points. The predictably unpredictable is a real thing and kind of annoying! Also, if I read one more adventure book/dystopian that kills off the main character in the end, I'm going to scream. It's not original anymore.

    Also, yes to forever defending my favourite books like Harry Potter.

    Really great post!

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    1. Definitely better late than never! XD

      Glad you liked the post (not everyone is in total agreement!). And YES that someone else has noticed predictably unpredictable, because I really feel like it's becoming unoriginal. But I guess there's not much of an alternative? Because if it just ends with the hero killing the villain, no strings attached, no funny business, nothing too tricky, just do it ... it wouldn't be very interesting, either? ????

      MUST FLY THE FLAG!

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  11. Okay, the way you started this post. That was awesome! I was thinking, "Oh, no you are not!" And that SHERLOCK GIF! Perfectly placed!

    And that gif for The Raven King hype was spot on too. It's even worse if you're on bookstagram. Everyone is rereading the series and posting photos galore. You can't even blink without out hearing Raven this, or Raven that, or OOOOOH GANSEY! XD

    Ahem, but to actually talk about the topic itself. Endings are difficult. Especially with the hype going on. I mean, Winter from the Lunar Chronicles was hard to pull off and I know some of it requires some suspension of disbelief. The whole rebellion and Last Battle is very haphazard. There's zero military brilliance which makes sense consider those who are rebelling don't have military background. But you know, they still win without mindblowing plan of attack.

    As a writer, I have a fear of writing the end. I want it to live up to the rest of the series. I don't want it to be some lame ending with everyone scratching their heads thinking, "Well, that wasn't as hard as we made it out to be."

    On the flip side, I've come across some endings that are lacking for specific reasons. For instance, in The Mentalist, this guy (the mentalist) has teamed up with the police because he wants revenge on the serial killer who's murdered his family. When my mom and I finally watched the episode where he gets his revenge, my mom was like, "Well, that was very anticlimactic." And it was. It was very under dramatic and there was nothing particularly poignant about the MC getting his revenge. I told her, "It's supposed to be anticlimactic. It's revenge." You think revenge is going to be this huge satisfactory moment but when its finally enacted, it's really not that great. In fact, it's a little disappointing. I can deal with endings like that. That are supposed to fall short for. . . reasons.

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    1. I AM THE MASTER OF SUSPENSE AND MYSTERY! (Kinda.) I love that gif. Although it does make me think of the context, which makes me really angry with him ...

      I didn't know you were on bookstagram! And is that a complaint?! Because OOOOH GANSEY sounds awesome. Just saying.

      I'm still looking forward to the Lunar Chronicles (I haven't forgotten my end of the deal!). But yes, I am so terrified of the ending. I reallly don't want it to be lame or not enough of a climax, or easier than we thought, as you say. I HAVE FEARS!

      Totally, I can think of examples of that, too. There are sometimes those Endings with Reasons, which can be really good. The Mentalist was on my plane to Singapore, actually, and I thought of you, but it was like Season 6 or something so I watched copious amounts of Brooklyn 99 instead. (No regrets.)

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  12. I wasn't *exactly* complaining about the OOOOH GANSEY! I just find it amazing that EVERYONE is doing it. I love The Raven Boys, but generally I find hypes amusing. Fun.

    I am on bookstagram! At first I just kind of posted whatever I wanted (which I still kind of do because, I do what I want?). But then I stumbled onto bookstagram and it's a lot fun!

    Yay! I'm so glad you haven't forgotten! It's a really great series and. . . I'm trying to write a review forever. But DON'T FEAR! It's good. It's a fairytale retelling, just remember that bit when you come to the end.

    Oh, The Mentalist! *screeches* You wouldn't be lost if you started it in the sixth season, I guess. But you'd have a better appreciation, I guess, for the characters and storyline if you started at the beginning. Plus, it's just fun having seven WHOLE SEASONS of a great TV show for the watching! (Okay, so my mom and I rewatching the whole series before I go to university.)

    But I do think I need to see this Brooklyn 99. It sounds like good fun!

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    1. I'M ON P152 OOH GANSEY ASHLEY I'M NEARLY DEAD.

      “I do what I want." HECK YEAH! But will you link me to your page? I am v interested in instagram even though I'm a non-participant. (For now.)

      I have not! I've told you before about the Ten Series Rule, but I'm close to being able to read Cinder, I promise!

      I would love to watch it. Happy rewatching! (Rewatching is like rereading, aka the best thing ever.)

      IT'S SO CUTE IT'S THE CUTEST THING EVER, ANDY SAMBERG = MY ONE LOVE.

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  13. XD DON'T DIE YET, OKAY?! I'm reading The Dream Thieves now. (It made it alive out of my car.) But I do rather like: "No, you used nouns and verbs together in a pleasing but illogical format." I think I could adopt that into my everyday vernacular. *nods* (And I had no idea it was prefaced with Coleridge's What if you slept!)

    No prob. And let me know if you decide participate! https://www.instagram.com/ashleygdnw/

    Rewatching = rereading. Hm, quite true.

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    1. P304, WILL I MAKE IT OUT ALIVE THOUGH!??!??!?!!!!! Ha, I remember that line. Who says it? And yessss! I first came across that poem on Pinterest but it's so perfect in that book. Oh my gosh. That book!

      I'm going to have a look :)

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    2. Gansey said it to Ronan when Ronan was trying to explain how he takes things out of his dreams. The poem is sooo perfect for the book. It blows my mind!

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    3. I'M SO DESPERATE TO REREAD THE SERIES! Having desperate post-TRK withdrawal, I can't tell you.

      I love your insta, esp your #shelfie (those old shelves are lovely) and the most recent TDT one (how's TDT going?) and the Emily ones. I'm reading Anne's House of Dreams at the moment <33

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Thanks for commenting! :)