"Outside a dog a book is man's best friend, inside a dog it is too dark to read!" -Groucho Marx========="The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid." -Jane Austen========="I don’t believe in the kind of magic in my books. But I do believe something very magical can happen when you read a good book."-JK Rowling========"I spend a lot of time reading." -Bill Gates=========“Ahhh. Bed, book, kitten, sandwich. All one needed in life, really.” -Jacqueline Kelly=========

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Books in a series. What should I do? What do you do?

As a high school librarian I often only read the first book in popular series because I wanted to get a feel for their plots and the writing, to be able to make recommendations and to determine future purchasing decisions. I would tell my students, when asked, that I didn't want to spend all my time on the same series but preferred to explore a new author or genre to widen my knowledge of the books in the collection. Now that I am retired I no longer have to hurry onto the next great book or author and can linger on a series if I want. And I can go back and read more books in each series that I liked, even completing those old series if I see fit.

That, however, is the rub. When I go back for the second of third book in a series and attempt to read on I usually find myself in a muddle, not remembering crucial details from the first book. I, unlike many of my past students, do not want to reread the first to go forward in a series. Which begs the question: Is it time to let these series go and/or not start future series?

Let me talk specifically. The following series are ones I consider myself still 'working' on.

The Flavia de Luce series.  I just finished the fourth book in the series, I Am Half-Sick of Shadows by Alan Bradley. What I found charming in the first three books started to irritate me in this one. Flavia, a precocious child, is always up to some project involving chemistry or poisons. She ends up being instrumental in solving the murder through her inquisitive and pushy ways. The murder in this story occurred on page 150, or half-way through the book. Too much pre-story before finally getting to the action. Perhaps it is time to let this series go. What do you think?

The Dreamer series, a side series The Raven Cycle series by Maggie Stiefvater---
Another recently completed book, Call Down the Hawk, is the first book in the Dreamer series by a favorite author. I loved The Raven Cycle series so much that I had to try this one. I enjoyed it very much but now I will be trapped waiting for the second and third books to be published. I will probably forget critical details before that time.  I was in the same position with the Stranger the Dreamer series by Laini Taylor. I was in a holding pattern having finished the first, waiting for the second book in the duology to published and forgot many details of the first before reading the second. (Thanks for the correction, Proseandkahn.) Do you start series knowing that the subsequent books won't be published for several years?

Speaking of waiting for the next book in a series, how do you cope with books that end on a cliffhanger? That is what I am dealing with in The Secret Commonwealth (The Book of Dust, #2) by Philip Pullman. Though I am committed to finishing this series, I love the writing and the characters so much, I just wish I hadn't started the whole series until the last book was published. The cliffhanger left me pining for days after I completed book #2. My daughter will not start a series until it is complete for this reason, among other things. I still want to finish the Arc of a Scythe series.  by Neal Shusterman. The second book ended on a huge cliffhanger but enough time passed before the third book, The Toll, was published that I didn't rush out and get it right away. And now even more time has passed...you get my point.

Other times I read a book as a standalone and don't hear until much later that it is actually a book in the series. I am never sure if I should read on or just be satisfied with my reading experience of the first. The Testaments, #2 of The Handmaid's Tale series by Margaret Atwood was one such book but I am so glad that I read it. I was surprised how much of the first story I remembered. The Cemetery of Lost Books series by Carlos Ruiz Zafon is another series I am eyeing. I just learned that it is a four book series. I read the first book, The Shadow of the Wind, years ago and loved it. But should I keep going since I was satisfied and loved the book as a standalone?

Some series just seem too daunting to try and go back and catch up. The No.1 Ladies Detective Agency series is a case in point. There are something like 19 books in that wonderful series by Alexander McCall Smith. I stopped reading about nine or ten books back. The same goes for The Thursday Next series by Jasper Fforde. It has seven books in the series. I tried reading the third book after a substantial hiatus and couldn't do it. It is time to say enough and wipe the sequels off my TBR pile, don't you think?

Lastly, and I can't believe I am saying this, I am contemplating three classics series. I want to read at least the first book in The Dune series by Frank Herbert, The Foundation series by Isaac Asimov, and The Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan. I want to see what all the fuss is about and, I pray, that I don't feel a strong compulsion to read all the hundreds (exaggeration) of sequels.

On my Goodreads account I have listed 155 books as books-in-a-series, of those I have only completed 13 series in the ten years of keeping records. Not a very good track record. How do you cope with sequels? Do you usually find yourself reading on or can you stop mid-series?

All this stay-at-home business has got me thinking that maybe it is time I read on...

-Anne



14 comments:

  1. The Flavia de Luce books are spotty; some are loads of fun, and others overwritten and outlandish. I loved "Shadow of the Wind" but didn't bond with the second book. (can't remember the title) I'm a few books behind in the #1 Ladies Detective series; they're comforting to read, although somewhat forgettable and follow a predictable pattern, as many series do.

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    1. I was so irritated by this last Flavia book I thin I'm done. Originally Bradley said he was going to write five books. I think there are eleven now. I'll never make it. I think I'll skip the sequels to The Shadow of the Wind. I have a good taste in my mouth with the first book. I don't want to spoil that taste. There are too many books in No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency for me to go back. I am thinking about trying his new series. I do love McCall Smith's writing.

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  2. Wait. There will be more Strange the Dreamer? I thought it was a duology. Yay! I think. I agree! If too much time passes between installments, I get really hazy on details. This happened with the fourth, and final book in the Diviners series. I honestly couldn't remember wide swaths of plot points and even characters from the earlier books.

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    1. Oh, oh. Maybe you are right. Now I can't remember if Strange the Dreamer is a Trilogy of Duology. Which makes my point how we forget....

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  3. I use Follett to make sure that I have all of the books in the series, and I do read them all. Han's To All the Boys series had a second book that was not quite as middle grade appropriate as the first book! I often go back and check the review on my blog to refresh my memory, but I generally just plunge right in. This is a good test of whether the author recapped in an effective way, and I find that I can follow the story closely enough. I do hate it when the sequel comes out TEN YEARS after the first (think the prequel to Levine's Two Princesses of Bamarre). That makes it hard! If the series sounds good, read it. If you can't get excited about it, don't!

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    1. I don't think Atwood planned a second book to Handmaid's Tale. She was just pestered by fans for so many years she decided she would write a second book.

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  4. The comment about Follett was mine. Don't know why it posted as Test.

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    1. Ha-.I thought, well maybe the person is testing like a person does to a microphone.

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  5. I love Flavia and have never gotten tired of her! But that’s just me... The only other series I’ve read is Foundation, and it was a long time ago, but I enjoyed it. I read the first #1 Ladies Detective Agency, and never went further. I didn’t hate it, just didn’t grab me.

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    1. Apparently Alexander McCall Smith has published a No.1 Ladies Detective Agency book one per year since 2001. It is too late for me to go back and read ten years woth, though i did like the ones I read years ago.

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  6. I really enjoy reading the Flavia de Luce series, but my philosophy is if a series doesn't make you happy it's okay to stop in the middle. And Zafon's Shadow of the Wind, which I did love, is only loosely linked to the other books in this 'series'. If one of the other plots/books appeals to you, definitely read it, but otherwise... I really liked The Angel's Game. The others were good, but not quite as good as his first two. Happy reading1

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    1. Oh that is good to know about that the books in the Shadow of the Wind series are only loosely attached so I can read one without worrying that I won't remember things from the first book.

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  7. I also find series a tough question. I definitely need breaks between the books (except Harry Potter) so I don't OD on the characters/storyline. I usually like the first book most and the second book least for trilogies. I'm not really answering your question, but I would stop reading the really long series. I do intend to read the Handmaid's Tale sequel.

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    1. Yes, read The Testaments. Don't go back and reread The Handmaids Tale. The text helps you remember what you need to remember fromt ehfirst. Excellent book.

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