Finally, Some Fiction

It’s been a moment, hasn’t it? As I’ve said before, for some reason, this whole end-of-the-world shit-show that is 2020 has made me lean heavily into non-fiction, with the odd horror novel thrown in. But apparently I am still actually able to get through some fancy fiction when the occasion calls for it, and so today, I’m reviewing what has been one of the most omnipresent books of the year, at least in my corner of the internet: The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett

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Cover Talk

I hate it, and I don’t know why. Or maybe… yep. Too many colours!

Old Man Yells At Cloud GIFs | Tenor

The Summary Heist

The Vignes twin sisters will always be identical. But after growing up together in a small, southern black community and running away at age sixteen, it’s not just the shape of their daily lives that is different as adults, it’s everything: their families, their communities, their racial identities. Ten years later, one sister lives with her black daughter in the same southern town she once tried to escape. The other secretly passes for white, and her white husband knows nothing of her past. Still, even separated by so many miles and just as many lies, the fates of the twins remain intertwined. What will happen to the next generation, when their own daughters’ storylines intersect?

Robyn Says

I get the hype, because the idea is a banger and the writing is *chef’s kiss* fucking awesome. But boy howdy did I have some problems with 1. pacing and 2. the goddamn ending, IF YOU CAN CALL THAT AN ENDING.

Another quibble – I didn’t feel connected to any of the characters. I find this is something that I frequently experience when reading “literary” fiction. It’s all very distanced. If that’s a deliberate decision, I think it’s unwise, and if it’s accidental, I think it’s a huge oversight.

That ending though… I hated it beyond description, and while I enjoyed many portions of the book, that really soured my overall feelings about the book as a whole.

Nods to inclusivity and the many diverse points of view included in the novel, but I had the uncomfortable feeling that the trans character, who I really loved, may have been “used” slightly, as a rhetorical device to emphasize the novel’s central question of identity and belonging. Not sure how I feel about that, but also recognizing that this is not an issue I am qualified to examine. Just throwing it out there, though. Complicated issues all around, to be sure.

Uncomfortable GIF - Find on GIFER

I dunno. This is a tricky one for me. Gonna be honest with you guys, I probably wouldn’t recommend this book. That FUCKING ending though.


Like, I wouldn’t read it again. And I guess if I went back in time to tell past Robyn what books I should spend my time on, this book would not be one of them. So, um, don’t read it? Jesus it’s been a while since I had a don’t read it that wasn’t a one star. 2020, you are a year.

Best Lines

“It was enough to know. She was lucky to spend her days like this, knowing.” 

This one stuck with me.

Fancasting couch

Not for this book.

Book Boyfriend material

No one, bro, these characters are all so messed up lol. It’s literary fiction, so let’s not pretend we’re surprised.




This world can be so beautiful, once in a while, but mostly, it’s nothing but one nightmare after another, isn’t it? I hate that this will be the lesson I took from this book and from this year.

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– xo, R

Mask Police

Just an update, I’m no longer a Youth Hub Librarian, I’m Chief of the fucking Mask Police, because some motherfuckers seem to think they’re the only ones who can’t breathe in a fucking mask so they don’t have to wear one. I DIDN’T WRITE THE FUCKIN BY-LAW, BRO, AND I SURE AS FUCK DIDN’T ENGINEER THE GODDAMN MOTHERFUCKING PANDEMIC OF WHICH WE ARE CURRENTLY IN THE MIDST, SO PUT YOUR FUCKING MASK





Bruh. Some people.

– xo, R

Thursday Thoughts: Reading Positions

Oi oi. In the library, supervising an empty youth hub. This is probably the worst I’ve felt since this whole nightmare started. What is a youth hub without youth? It’s a thirty-something librarian too melancholy to even work on her erotic fan-fiction, that’s fucking what. God help us all.

Anyway. Might as well blog, since it’s not like I’m getting any reading (or writing) done. Back to Thursday Thoughts, I guess.

So. This week’s question(s): Do you have a preferred reading position? What is it? Are there any reading positions that you don’t like?

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Uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuugh. Like anyone cares. But hey, I guess blogging is really just narcissism any way you frame it, might as well lean right the fuck in.

Listen, I’ll read anywhere, anyhow, any way. But my favourite position – reading position, get your mind out of the gutter – is in bed, on my side, with the book so close to my face I can smell the pages. Reading lamp on, blankets half-supporting the book, especially if it’s a hardcover, pillow scrunched up so my head is angled perfectly to get both sides of the spread. Preferably with husband snoring beside me and cat snoring on top of me. Even better if there’s rain outside, falling on the windows.

But like I said. Anywhere, any time. At breakfast, in the car, waiting in the line, walking by the beach, sneakily during a hang-out with friends, blatantly while watching reality tv. Doesn’t matter. The only position I most definitely can’t read in is that 80s teen book cover pose, lying on your front, weight on your elbows, book in front of you. Nah-uh, ain’t happening. NO ONE reads like that. Unless they’re a pod person. Pod persons read in that position, fight me if you disagree.

That girl is a pod person, clearly.

Anyway. Blog post over. But PS-fucking-A, wear a fucking mask and stay 6 ft away from each other and stop fucking socializing for fucksssake. I miss the goddamn teens, I need this quarantine to fucking die already. If you can, stay the fuck home and read a fucking book. And if, like moi, you need to work outside of your home because capitalism’s greed is greater than the widespread health threats posed by an ongoing pandemic, just wear. the. fucking. mask.


– xo, R

Book polygamy

Or “Why I Have No Book to Review This Week.”

Yes, I am that kind of reader. I can rarely read one book at a time. I need to have at least two, usually three, books on the go at any given time. The reason isn’t that I have no attention span, believe it or not – no, the real reason is all about the mood. Or, to put it in 2020 terms, the vibe.

Because first of all, you need the Main Book. Your go-to book. The one you’re really really into. Also known as the Head Book In Charge. It’s probably new, probably a book you secretly bought but pretend is from the TBR so your husband doesn’t realize the extent of your book-buying addiction.

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But then you also need a Breakfast Book (usually also serves as the Lunch Book and Dinner Book but not always!), and it has to be a hardcover, because there is no way to eat and also read a paperback. Ebooks work but do you really want to be staring at a screen during breakfast? Breakfast books and meal books in general should be light fare, so as not to disturb digestion.


Then there’s the Sneaky Book, and this one has to be an ebook, no question. It’s the book you read on your break at work or when you’re on the reference desk and there’s a lull or when you’re waiting for your husband to realize that if he spends one more minute on his video game you’re gonna absolutely lose it. Let’s face it, this book is probably fantasy. Or smut. Or better yet, fantasy smut.

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You also most definitely need a Smart Book, something you can read and hopefully learn something from. Always nonfiction, usually a hardcover, probably from the library, in which case it is definitely full of questionable stains, water damage, and (gasp) dogeared pages. Smart books are the slowest to read and may take months to finish, since you’re probably tearing through the Sneaky Reads.

The YUNiversity | Adventure time gif, Adventure time, Library books

And, of course, the Bedtime Book, which is essential and must be pristine, since it’s coming into your actual bed – so it’s definitely not a library book. The only other requirement for this one is that it is any genre but horror, since if you’re like me, reading horror before bed will give you fucked up night terrors. Sorry, ghouls, my days are hellish enough, you’re not having the nights, too!

Which Book Should Every Horror Fan Read?

And this is how one finds oneself reading four books at a time, and this is also why one has no book review to offer up on one’s blog.

Mea cupla etc. See you when I finish a goddamn book.

– xo, R

I’m still alive (and I hope you are, too!)

Because this blog is a no-ghosts zone. Sorry, my translucent friends. Meat-sack-encased skeletons only from here on in.

sad ghost (animation) by TEAHUSKY on DeviantArt

In another stunning example of this blog’s grand tradition of non-apologies for months of silence from yours truly, I offer you a non-apology for my months of silence. I was busy, get a life, why don’t you. Jeez.

As you probably know, the world has been a little pandemic-y, which is throwing me off just a tad, and while I promised in a previous post that I would be shortly back to the bloggery of books, there has been an unexpected obstacle: the frequent lack of a computer on which to execute said bloggery. With social distancing (and may God strike that phrase from the face of this accursed earth when all this shit is over) firmly in place at my library, we’re down to three working reference computers. And friends, that is just not enough goddamn computers, not when there are eight or nine indescribably bored and unspeakably stressed librarians prowling through the closed stacks of a public library. Blood has been shed! (Okay not really, but it’s been close.)

Cats computer GIF - Find on GIFER

But today is your lucky day, because I finally managed to snag a computer for longer than ten minutes, and your prize, dear readers, is this hastily composed missive from the front-lines of a pandemic-struck public library.

Shall we talk books? Let me tell you, I have read some BOOKS, bro. That, at least, is still possible in this dystopian hellscape that is 2020. Somehow got my shamefully monarchy-obsessed little hands on a copy of Finding Freedom: Harry and Meghan and the Making of a Modern Royal Family by Omid Scobie and Carolyn Durand – and I hated it, just like I kind of hate the royals AND MYSELF for needing to read everything about them. Read Vasily Grossman’s The Road, a collection of his early stories as well as some pieces of his journalism – fucking brilliant. DNF’d The Book of X by Sarah Rose Etter, despite the hype and the awards. Was lukewarm about Alexis Coe’s George Washington biography, You Never Forget Your First, because meh, Washington. Had complicated feelings about Esther Safran Foer’s exploration of her family’s history during and after the Holocaust, I Want You to Know We’re Still Here: A Post-Holocaust Memoir. Vaguely amused by Horrorstor, the IKEA-ish horror novel by Grady Hendrix. Re-read Cottonwood, my favourite R. Lee Smith novel that is definitely not District 9 fan-fiction wink wink nudge nudge. I am 90% done with my Goodreads challenge, and my new goal is to have read all 125 books by my birthday in September.

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Anyway. That’s all I have for you today because I think I’m about to get shanked with a golf pencil if I don’t sanitize this goddamn keyboard and let my colleauge have a turn playing candy crush or whatever the fuck it is that other librarians do when there are no fucking programs to run. See you soon maybe, but really, who the fuck knows 😘

– xo, R

Thursday Thoughts: Series

Okay, it’s actually a Friday thoughts, but whatever, days of the week are so 2019 anyway. Time is a flat circle!

Today’s question: How do you read series books?

Um… what? How is this even a question? WITH MY EYES. Or my ears, if I’m using audiobooks. Okay, I’m being too literal, but still.

Well, sorry, folks, there is only one right answer to this, and that is IN ORDER, and, depending on the quality of the series, GLUTTONOUSLY.

For me, there is no possibility of reading out of order. Even if the cover description claims a series book can be read without prior knowledge of previous installments, for me it’s a big no. I want to catch every single detail and reference, I want all the world-building and character development I may have missed, I want it all, baby, ALL.

The only exception I’ll make – veryyyyyyyyy rarely – is for romance novels. Each book is usually about a new couple, so it’s okay to skip back and forth in order.

God, it’s been so long since I had a good series to binge. Someone give me some series to binge.

– xo, R

Spooky times

So much for blogging more. There’s actually so little to do that I’m somehow getting less done?? Anyway, I’m having a string of meh reads, but since those are still a part of the reading game – it’s not all 5 stars and 1 stars – I might as well review one of the more interesting 3 star reads I’ve had. It’s horror, because I’m reading a lot of horror lately… to prepare for my own inevitable life crisis that will arise from dealing with the (probably) haunted house I’ve just moved into.

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Last week, I read Kill Creek by Scott Thomas, and it was okay.

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Cover Talk

Horror books always get the short end of the cover design stick. What is this even supposed to be? Is this supposed to scare me? Fill me with dread? Make me afraid to keep this book in eyesight? FAIL. This is just one of those very sharp-angled line doodles dads sketch on envelopes while they’re talking on the phone.

The Summary Heist

At the end of a dark prairie road, nearly forgotten in the Kansas countryside, is the Finch House. For years it has remained empty, overgrown, abandoned. Soon the door will be opened for the first time in decades. But something is waiting, lurking in the shadows, anxious to meet its new guests…

When best-selling horror author Sam McGarver is invited to spend Halloween night in one of the country’s most infamous haunted houses, he reluctantly agrees. At least he won’t be alone; joining him are three other masters of the macabre, writers who have helped shape modern horror. But what begins as a simple publicity stunt will become a fight for survival. The entity they have awakened will follow them, torment them, threatening to make them a part of the bloody legacy of Kill Creek.

Robyn Says

I really enjoyed the first quarter of this book. I thought it had an excellent premise, and I really enjoyed  quite a few things: the set-up of the plot, including the history of the house and the overnight interview with four horror writers, the characters themselves, whom I thought were all very well-rounded, and the meta aspect of the story – a horror novel starring the writers of horror novels, and the subtle digs at every horror subgenre. But as soon as the writers get to the ostensibly haunted house, all of my interest evaporated.

It just wasn’t scary enough.

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Yeah, that’s it. But really, that’s also kind of everything, for a book about horror. I also thought the ending was a cop-out, too predictable, too easy. But I will say, as disappointed as I was, I read this pretty quickly in a desire to know what would happen. And I would definitely read a sequel (or prequel, for that matter)… so a solid meh for me. Didn’t love it, didn’t hate it, just an okay read. And that is okay!

Cristal Crowley's Blog, page 14


Read it, don’t read it, you do you. We are all dust.

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Best Lines

“Sebastian ran a finger over the spines of the books on the shelf. It did not matter to him what the titles were. They were books. They were filled with thoughts. Their relevance was debatable; he was sure some were exceptional while others were the works of lesser minds. He was not above calling a book unreadable. But their literary merit wasn’t important at this moment. They were words strung together to represent the firing of neurons and the transferring of information through synapses. They were human minds set into paper, and Sebastian loved every single one of them, even the ones he found disposable.” 

Hard agree.

HBO's 'Fahrenheit 451' remake starring Michael B. Jordan gets first ...

Fancasting couch

Sam – Joel Edgerton

Joel Edgerton Joins 'Underground Railroad' Series (EXCLUSIVE ...

Sebastian – Ian McKellan

Ian McKellen - - Biography

Moore – Rooney Mara

Rooney Mara - Wikipedia

Daniel – Sean Astin

Sean Astin fighting the good fight for mental health advocacy ...

The Irish guy – Cillian Murphy

Cillian Murphy tipped to play Joe Exotic in Tiger King movie

Kate – Issa Rae

Issa Rae balances busy, booked career as 'Insecure' returns

The House – An abandoned home in Mississippi

16 scariest haunted houses in America - Business Insider

Book Boyfriend material



Five out of ten idiot horror writers who somehow don’t realize that maybe it’s not actually the best idea to sleep in a haunted house on Halloween night even though it is literally their gottdamn business to know that exact. effing. thing.

TSA Officer Rod Williams From "Get Out" Is The Real Hero


I have been preparing my whole life to deal with a paranormal situation, but all of my plans failed to account for a mortgage – the scariest thing of all, really. Like bruh, you can’t just up and leave a haunted house if you’ve got a mortgage. The bank don’t care about that spooky shit!

Best I can do is charge these spectral moochers rent I guess.

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Time to bust out the holy water!

– xo, R

Take me back, back to the stacks

Yes, that title is a Weezer reference, and no, I will not be apologizing for it – and nor will I be apologizing for my extended blog leave, which is a Grand Tradition and shall not be besmirched by me or anyone, by gad!

But as the Weezer reference should have told you, I am indeed back in the stacks, rockin out like it’s ’94, and as my library is currently offering limited services at full staffing capacity, I am also back to the blogging. Expect the first blog post when the clock strikes twelve! (Or whenever I finish a book     ha  ha   ha).

Anyway. Hi from the library. It’s good to be back.

– xo, R


Nonfiction Benediction: Le Déluge

Hello, hello, and how d’ye do? Hope you’re well, etc etc, crazy times, the whole thing. MOVING ON.

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Still in this weird half-slump of reading, can’t shake it, but there is light at the end of the tunnel – nonfiction! (?) (I’m as surprised as anyone ngl.) Without further ado, let’s have a ramble. Today, it’s another edition of NONFICTION BENEDICTION. Today’s book is Queen of Fashion: What Marie Antoinette Wore to the Revolution by Caroline Weber. Sacré bleu!

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Cover Talk

Non, don’t like it. Massive missed opportunity. Think of the possibilities! This is Marie mother-fukkin Antoinette we’re talking about.

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The Summary Heist

In this dazzling new vision of the ever-fascinating queen, a dynamic young historian reveals how Marie Antoinette’s bold attempts to reshape royal fashion changed the future of France

Marie Antoinette has always stood as an icon of supreme style, but surprisingly none of her biographers have paid sustained attention to her clothes. In Queen of Fashion, Caroline Weber shows how Marie Antoinette developed her reputation for fashionable excess, and explains through lively, illuminating new research the political controversies that her clothing provoked. Weber surveys Marie Antoinette’s “Revolution in Dress,” covering each phase of the queen’s tumultuous life, beginning with the young girl, struggling to survive Versailles’s rigid traditions of royal glamour (twelve-foot-wide hoopskirts, whalebone corsets that crushed her organs). As queen, Marie Antoinette used stunning, often extreme costumes to project an image of power and wage war against her enemies. Gradually, however, she began to lose her hold on the French when she started to adopt “unqueenly” outfits (the provocative chemise) that, surprisingly, would be adopted by the revolutionaries who executed her.

Weber’s queen is sublime, human, and surprising: a sometimes courageous monarch unwilling to allow others to determine her destiny. The paradox of her tragic story, according to Weber, is that fashion–the vehicle she used to secure her triumphs–was also the means of her undoing. Weber’s book is not only a stylish and original addition to Marie Antoinette scholarship, but also a moving, revelatory reinterpretation of one of history’s most controversial figures.

Robyn Says

Well, this was not what I was expecting AT ALL. Wayyyyyyy more scholarly than I anticipated – and yes, that’s a good thing (a fucking great thing, actually). Just as the blurb says, this book is an exploration of the relationship between Marie Antoinette’s apparel and the great events of her life. The two are intricately connected, and the author posits that in some cases, the fashion choices of France’s last queen quite directly set in motion a number of incidents that would ultimately result not only in her untimely end, but the end of the French monarchy itself. This case is made beautifully, and omigod, if you are a fashion buff or a history buff, this book is gonna make you feel all the good book feels. And good gawd, if you’re both kind of buffs, this is so painfully on point that I quite literally can’t even.

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I learned so so much from this book. I am so grateful that it landed on my ereader when it did, because losing myself in this incredibly researched, well-written, idiosyncratic look at a chaotic, world-changing time in history through the lens of one messy, complicated, fascinating woman and her choice of gladrags was EXACTLY what I needed… you know?


Read it, and then when you’re done, rewatch Sofia Coppola’s 2006 film Marie Antoinette, which is pretty perfect, and then when you’re done that, check out Antonia Fraser’s 2001 biography Marie Antoinette: The Journey, which is also perfect.

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Best Lines

I’ve got nothing, I read this book on my ereader (okay, my phone), and I tore through it so fast there wasn’t time to take notes. I am a glutton. Mea culpa.

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Fancasting couch

Marie Antoinette

Maria Antonietta - Wikipedia

Louis XVI

Louis XVI - Tatiana Arevalo - John William Bailly

The French populace

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Book Boyfriend material

Honestly guys, I gotta be honest with you, my book boyfriend is without a doubt Joseph II, Holy Roman Emperor, brother of Marie Antoinette and kind of a hilarious mofo. That bitch was saucy.

Okay, and Marie Antoinette, too. Gotta love a girl who likes cake.

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Nine out of ten spectacularly-attired monarchs marching jauntily into the sunset. The sunset of IMPENDING DOOM.

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I’d like to think that I wouldn’t make the same mistakes as Marie Antoientte, but I’m all about the self-awareness and I gotta admit, if I was an absolute monarch (or the spouse of one), I would definitely spend so much money on clothes, hair, and jewels that I would cause the First and Third Estates to rise up is righteous fury and depose me (and my spouse) in a bloody, world-altering revolution that would change the course of history.

Picnic Blanket Patterns That Will Get You Ready for Spring ...

– xo, R

bröther may i have some bööks: a pandemic quarantine nightmare reading list

Hey hey, it’s me again. Yeah so I know I said I was focusing on rereading old favourites during the FUCKING INSANE time we’re all living through, but I also have a list of some doorstoppers I’m gonna try to get through, since I really can’t think of a better time than now, when we’ve got literally nothing else to do and nowhere else to be, amirite.

The Shining Wtf GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

SO ANYWAY let’s get right to it.

1. Kristin Lavransdatter by Sigrid Undset


In her great historical epic Kristin Lavransdatter, set in fourteenth-century Norway, Nobel laureate Sigrid Undset tells the life story of one passionate and headstrong woman. Painting a richly detailed backdrop, Undset immerses readers in the day-to-day life, social conventions, and political and religious undercurrents of the period. Now in one volume, Tiina Nunnally’s award-winning definitive translation brings this remarkable work to life with clarity and lyrical beauty.

Medieval Norway? Um, HECK YEAH. I’ve actually owned this book for, oh, I dunno, a goddamn decade, but it’s been collecting dust on the heavy books shelf since that day. Time to dig it out.

2. A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara

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When four classmates from a small Massachusetts college move to New York to make their way, they’re broke, adrift, and buoyed only by their friendship and ambition. There is kind, handsome Willem, an aspiring actor; JB, a quick-witted, sometimes cruel Brooklyn-born painter seeking entry to the art world; Malcolm, a frustrated architect at a prominent firm; and withdrawn, brilliant, enigmatic Jude, who serves as their center of gravity.

Over the decades, their relationships deepen and darken, tinged by addiction, success, and pride. Yet their greatest challenge, each comes to realize, is Jude himself, by midlife a terrifyingly talented litigator yet an increasingly broken man, his mind and body scarred by an unspeakable childhood, and haunted by what he fears is a degree of trauma that he’ll not only be unable to overcome—but that will define his life forever.

Soul-crushing stories are perfect for this upbeat and positive time, no?

3. Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke

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Sophisticated, witty, and ingeniously convincing, Susanna Clarke’s magisterial novel weaves magic into a flawlessly detailed vision of historical England. 

Massive beast of a historical fantasy, filled with footnotes that go on for pages. My ultimate jam.

4. The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Brontë


This is the story of a woman’s struggle for independence. Helen “Graham” has returned to Wildfell Hall in flight from a disastrous marriage. Exiled to the desolate moorland mansion, she adopts an assumed name and earns her living as a painter.

The only Brontë I’ve never read! The SHAME.

5. Blood of Elves by Andrzej Sapkowski (and the rest of The Witcher series)

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For over a century, humans, dwarves, gnomes, and elves have lived together in relative peace. But times have changed, the uneasy peace is over, and now the races are fighting once again. The only good elf, it seems, is a dead elf. Geralt of Rivia, the cunning assassin known as The Witcher, has been waiting for the birth of a prophesied child. This child has the power to change the world – for good, or for evil.

As the threat of war hangs over the land and the child is hunted for her extraordinary powers, it will become Geralt’s responsibility to protect them all – and the Witcher never accepts defeat.

Hmm Geralt GIF - Hmm Geralt Witcher - Discover & Share GIFs

Need I say more?

Anyway, that’s my list. God only knows if I’ll get through even one of these, but hey, who cares. No one. Why? Because nothing matters! It’s all chaos and confusion. So let’s do our best and get through it, and maybe read some books.

Happy reading, my dudes.

– xo, R