There are two main Fantasy authors who I admire and whose books I simply love to read. The first I found was Mercedes Lackey who sometimes co-writes with her husband Larry Dixon. She has two main 'worlds' in which she writes - the 'Valdamar' books and the 'Bard' books. I prefer the first. Her books are an easy read without being too light and have enough of both depth and length to keep me satisfied. She tends to write in trilogies which nicely splits up what would otherwise be an epic for each character's story. Her sets of trilogies require a timeline in the beginning of her books in order for the reader to appreciate the book's place in the time line, but each set can pretty much be read on its own. Lackey apparently pumps out about four or five books a year so it's pretty surprising that she achieves a decent read. She's well written and I enjoy her tales. I am trying to collect the entire Valdemar chronicles.
The other fantasy author I'm enraptured with is Robin Hobb. My flatmate first lent me the Liveship Traders trilogy and I am so very glad he did. For years I have seen her books in the Sci-fi & Fantasy sections of the bookshops and have never been interested in giving her a go. Talk about judging a book by its cover! Hobb's tales are masterful tales which use the plot not so much as a driving force as a backdrop to intricate and competently written character development. People I started of hating - wanting to shake them, slap them, smack them - turned out to be some of my favourites; and people whose side I took themselves take steps which were logical and believable according to their characters, but which I did not see coming. Hobb is also a talented writer, and I have to admit that in many areas she outshines Lackey with little to no competition. I began to read to my sister from the middle of the third book in the Farseer Trilogy and I actually had to hide the book from her so that she would not read the end before she had read the beginning. That's how good Robin Hobb is.
In the area of non-fiction, well... I don't really read non-fiction. But I do enjoy reading the travel novels by Bill Bryson and love my copy of A Short History of Nearly Everything. I also love my Reverse Dictionary, does that count?
I also read a lot of rubbish. I read trashy novellas and stories on the internet. I pick up $2 fantasy novels from the second hand book store and put up with poor language skills and un-artistic writing for the sake of the gripping plot. I think my writing is similar to this b-grade stuff but I'll keep working on it. The more I read the more I should be able to see what won't work.
I like Mills & Boon (etc). Forgive me if you feel you have to but they are also an easy read and I like the tension, the expulsion of the tension, the character interplay and, yes, the sex scenes. (Why deny it?) But I wouldn't say that anything from Mills & Boon is worth reading twice. And that's what it comes back to isn't it? Is that the real definition of 'favourite' ? Something which is enjoyed over and over again without tiring of it? I suppose it is... I just never thought about it. I do really enjoy Ken Catran's novels, but I can't say I really read them more than twice at the maximum. Some of Mercedes Lackey's works are worth reading many times - but not all of them. To be fair though that's probably true of most authors. Hobb I will definitely read again but since I am still going through her work for the first time I cannot yet include her in the running. As an author she will definitely be included in my list of favourites. Non-fiction... sorry, it just doesn't cut it for me at the moment. Maybe one day when I'm older.
I included the Mills & Boon 'romantic fiction' up there because it follows the same basic framework of what is my favourite book. This book (which hopefully both my Loyal Followers will have guessed at already) is a very typical story which follows the standard romantic fiction structure. There is a girl and a boy. The girl hates the boy with a passion and the boy is slowly but surely falling in love with the girl. The boy expresses his love but she rejects him cruelly, (and the reader would be forgiven for thinking that she has really burned her bridges there). But they are thrown together again by fate and circumstance (mostly circumstance), and the girl begins to realise the boy is really quite dashing and wonderful and perhaps she could like him.. just a little bit.
Then fate sideswipes them this time and something prevents them from ever being together. This is the point at which the girl realises the boy is really the only one she could ever love.
Fate is left out of it at this point, although the girl doesn't know it at this stage. The boy does everything in his considerable power to overcome the obstacle between them - not knowing for sure if it will even bring them together. When she discovers what he has done she starts the conversation which brings them together forever. Hurrah!
Have you guessed it yet?
What sets this romantic novel aside from trashy fiction is not just the depth and character development of both the main characters, but the side plots and stories, the rest of their families and acquaintances, the interaction between main and supporting cast I mean characters and the free-flowing and natural seeming dialogue of an intelligent and witty young woman and a man who won't be goaded. I read it again and again. Every time I am gripped by the tension.. each time I pretend I am she. I pretend other characters are able to listen into conversations and wonder what their reactions would be if they had. I wonder who I would be and how I would know them if I were in the book too. And my heart never fails to ache and break when that ultimate moment comes.
This book is possibly only surpassed by this one:
(which has all of that and zombies)