The Series Conundrum

I recently finished a review book. The only other ARC I have on hand at the moment is for an April release, so I thought I’d reward myself by reading a book from my TBR pile first. So I started hunting. And I found either books from the middle of various series that I hadn’t even started yet or that I hadn’t caught up to, or books that started new series. I have so many series going that I feel like my head will explode, so I need to finish a few before I feel like I can start anything new.

It seems as though everything I find these days is part of a series. Sometimes I don’t mind this and I even crave sequels (Robin McKinley? I’d LOVE a sequel to Sunshine, if you please.), but it also overwhelms me a bit. I feel the pressure to keep up with so many series, and I just cannot do it. Or at least I can’t do it and still enjoy the reading.

Sometimes when I browse the racks at the bookstore, I am just looking for a nice afternoon escape. The array of books about the duke and his twenty brothers who all must find brides overwhelm me. Likewise the cozy series in which I swear not many people will be left standing in that charming small town after the likable heroine is done solving all those mysteries. I think this happens because I know all too well that I have started many a series excited at the prospect of reading, only to enjoy books 1 and 2, get a little tired after book 3, and then move on to something else.

There are a few series that I stay caught up with and pounce on any new releases. These are books that I just find too addictive to wait for. I might have a giant mound of review ARCs awaiting me, but the world will still stop while I read these series. The Gardella Vampire Chronicles come to mind in this category, as do the Laurien Gardner Wives of Henry VIII books, the Charles and Mélanie Fraser books (would someone give Tracy Grant a contract already? Please?) and Vicki Pettersson’s Signs of the Zodiac. The Steeple Hill Love Inspired Suspense series, Without a Trace, is getting mighty darn addictive for me, too. However, more and more I find myself buying the books and just putting them in the TBR pile. I get to them at my leisure, and if I happen to be finishing the series years after the last book was published, my enjoyment remains undiminished.

This has a downside, of course. I have to fight the urge to read spoilers on our discussion boards or on the blogs where I like to lurk and read. It’s also hard to be discovering books late when it means missing out on the discussion back when it was a new release. Still, one cannot keep up with every single book coming out each month, so I do what everyone else does. I prioritize. And I find that standalones get a certain priority simply because I know that I will be investing a few hours of my time all at once rather than feeling as though I will be committing to following a new trail of story across several books.

How do you feel about the plethora of series out now? Do you enjoy it? If so, what are your favorite series? Or, do you prefer to read the standalones?

-Lynn Spencer

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21 Responses to “The Series Conundrum”

  1. Lusty Reader says:

    Complete agreement from my corner. After the sadness that was the season finale of TrueBlood on HBO I couldn’t wait to find out what happened next and read all of Charlaine Harris’ Sookie Stackhouse books, 8 in 6 days! I was totally burnt out, but also confused because her “world” of vampires and telepaths was imprinted on my brain, and when I picked up the Twilight Series, or the Black Dagger Brotherhood Series, I became all confused as to what vampires are allergic to, who can read minds, can they smell/sense this, are there blood ties? So I’m taking a break from all paranormal series!

  2. Lynn Spencer says:

    >So I’m taking a break from all paranormal series!

    As overwhelmed as I sometimes get, I can’t really say the same here. I’m not reading them all immediately as they come out, but I am starting to amass a bit of a collection here.

  3. Katie Mack says:

    Lynn, I hear you! I love series novels too, but sometimes I just want to pick up a book without having to have read another 3 novels to get there. Fresh new characters, fresh new story, and when it’s done, it’s done. Sometimes that’s exactly what I need, and it seems like it’s getting harder to find.

  4. bungluna says:

    I’ve been feeling like that for a while, then I’ll stumble across something like Ilona Andrew’s world and get hooked on yet another series. What I’m missing are the straight contemporary romances. Most of my favorite authors in this genre seem to have gone to the paranormal side.

  5. Leigh says:

    I have always had a love/hate relationships with series. I remember how excited I was when I realized that These Old Shades & Devil’s Cub were connected. While I love to catch glimpses of characters that I have grown to love, it seems that my idea of where the series is going and the author’s at times are quite contrary. And that sets me up for a big disappointment, which is not why I read books.

    I have read numerous series over my reading career, and finally figured out that I enjoy a sense of closure. . . of THE END. . So series with the same couple or same individual don’t meet this need in me because there has to be book after book showing the couple or individual facing new adversity or challenges. (Into the Wilderness -Donati, In Death books, J.D. Robb). I like the idea of thinking that a character lived happily ever after. And too many times with mystery books the romance need is not met because the author introduces a couple in book three, and then few books later they are no longer a couple and both have moved on (Sandford, Connelly, Child, Haig, Grafton).

    So, after getting burned more than once, in main stream mysteries, and fiction I allowed myself to drift back into reading series in the romance genre. And again found that a guaranteed HEA doesn’t mean that I am not disappointed.

    As of right now, I have no plans to start any new series books that are open ended. I still will read connecting books as long as there is an actual end to the series. Also, I have a new appreciation for authors that have stand alone books.

  6. library addict says:

    I love series novels when the series is well written and the characters don’t morph into pod people :roll:

    JD Robb’s In Death series is probably my favorite — and one I never tire of rereading — because we get to explore Eve & Roarke’s marriage. So we see the ups and downs, but KNOW they are in love and will work out whatever problems they have. I don’t see it as lack of a HEA, but rather that we get to read the actual HEA. I’ve been reading the series since the very beginning and still eagerly anticipate each new release (just bought Promises today). The great thing is that even when the mystery aspect of one of the books isn’t up to par, there’s always at least the E&R moments and interactions between the other characters that make all the books keepers for me.

    Most series I read are connected more loosely and feature different main characters for each new release. This often makes the books hit-or-miss for me, depending upon how much I like the characters who are the emphasis for that particular book.

    I don’t think I’m actually reading that many open series books in the grand scheme of things. In addition to the In Death series, I have Marcia Evanick’s Misty Harbor series; Christine Feehan’s Ghost Walkers and Drake Sisters (which only has one more title to go since it’s about 7 sisters); Cindy Gerard’s Bodyguards/BOIs (not all of which were keepers for me, but the ones I like I really like), Carla Neggar’s US Marshals, The Arcane Society which Jayne Ann Krentz is also writing under her Amanda Quick and Jayne Castle pennames, and on-going category series by Justine Davis and Merline Lovelace. I also read Roxanne St Claire’s Bulletcatchers, but they’re strictly get-from-the-library for me.

    I’ve recently started reading Karen Rose and must say it’s rather fun to discover a series late and have a bunch of books to read. I‘ve just read the first three titles back-to-back and am looking forward to the rest.

    What I don’t like is when books aren’t clearly labeled as being part of a series. I’m one of those people who likes to read series books in order, but I’ve read more than my share of books without knowing the title was part of series. Often times this leads to confusion, particularly in books with multiple characters the reader is supposed to “know,” but you don’t have a clue who they are.

    Then there are the open-ended series that have stayed too long. I loved the initial books in Rachel Lee‘s Conard County series, however the latest entries have been lacking IMO. But I continue to hold out hope they will get better again. The only series I’ve actually given up on is the Troubleshooters one. But rather than let that whole kerfuffle turn me off series books, it seems to have done the opposite. I am actively looking for existing series books. So, my TBR is currently a mix of stand-alone and new-to-me-series books. I plan to try Robyn Carr’s Virgin River series some time soon. And I also want to try Kay Hooper’s Bishop books and Allison Brennan’s interconnected trilogies.

    I like getting to know characters over multiple books. I like the anticipation of when-will-so-and-so finally get together. And I like catching glimpses of couples after they’ve gotten together. That’s the attraction of series books for me. It doesn’t mean I don’t also enjoy stand-alone novels. That’s why I read both.

  7. KristieJ says:

    This is a really tough one! If I read a stand-alone book and really enjoy it, I’ll hope for a sequel somewhere down the road – yet at the same time it seems there are way too many sequels.
    With very rare exceptions though – I say stick to 4 books at the very most. Many more then that and I get tired of them. The exceptions – the In Death series and the Stephanie Plum series – though I haven’t read Fearless Fourteen yet and I hear it isn’t so good.

  8. MaryK says:

    “reading a book from my TBR pile first. So I started hunting. And I found either books from the middle of various series that I hadn’t even started yet or that I hadn’t caught up to”

    “I feel the pressure to keep up with so many series, and I just cannot do it. Or at least I can’t do it and still enjoy the reading.”

    “more and more I find myself buying the books and just putting them in the TBR pile.”

    Oh, man! You hit the nail on the head. There are several series that I want to read, but the sheer number of books in them keeps me from making any progress – In Death, the Laurie King books, the Falco books. I’m also way behind on Nalini Singh and Charlaine Harris. I know it’s just a mental block; I wish I could figure out how to get over feeling intimidated.

  9. MaryK says:

    Oh, and Lora Leigh. I like her, but she’s got so many different series going that I’m thoroughly confused about which books go where and where I am in the progression.

  10. LinnieGayl says:

    I began reading mysteries long before I started reading romances, so am very used to series. However, I find myself now hesitating to start many more mystery series, particularly if the series is already long; I just don’t want to commit to adding yet another series to my already existing ones.

    I am totally committed (and currently reading), the In Death series, and am still sticking with Charlaine Harris’ Sookie Stackhouse series. But, I find myself hesitating to take on any more paranormal series, no matter how rave the reviews.

    That being said, I’d echo Lynn in that I would pick up in a second another Tracy Grant. To quote Lynn, “Charles and Mélanie Fraser books (would someone give Tracy Grant a contract already? Please?)”!!!!!

  11. Lynn Spencer says:

    KristieJ and MaryK – I think you hit on a really good point. The sheer number of books in some series can be intimidating. And if the series starts to flag a bit, it can also be a bit boredom inducing. I have to admit that I was full of enthusiasm when I started the Stephanie Plum books, but I ran out of steam about 7 or 8 books in. Trilogies or even 4 books aren’t so bad, though. Surely not every hero has 10 brothers whose stories we all need to hear about in detail!

  12. Leigh says:

    Lynn Spencer stated:I have to admit that I was full of enthusiasm when I started the Stephanie Plum books, but I ran out of steam about 7 or 8 books in. Trilogies or even 4 books aren’t so bad,

    That is exactly how I feel. The books to me just run out of steam. I know that the In Death books have tons of fans (Library Addict- Hi) but after 10 books (and yes I lasted a lot longer with these books then most) I just got tired of the sameness.

    And I am with you on the 10 brothers. It wouldn’t be so bad, except by the time we get to the tenth brother, we have 9 couples to keep track of. And of course the author usually has them all in the last book.

    Sometimes I feel like I need to make up a family tree to keep all the characters straight in my mind.

    And the cynic in me comes out too. . Why does the author need to tell the story on so many family members, buddy groups/ communities? Is it that she feels compelled to do so, or is it because she knows that she has a built in audience.

    In a way, I look at series books the same way that I look at movie sequels. Does this add to the series, or is the author just using her previous success to sell books. I tend to give the benefit of doubt to authors that have had to do world building. It definitely takes more than one book to create a new world.

    However, looking at the authors’ sales I suspect that I am in the minority. Sue Grafton, J.D.Robb, Charlaine Harris, Janet Evanovich have very lucrative careers from writing series books

  13. library addict says:

    Leigh said:
    That is exactly how I feel. The books to me just run out of steam. I know that the In Death books have tons of fans (Library Addict- Hi) but after 10 books (and yes I lasted a lot longer with these books then most) I just got tired of the sameness.

    I guess I just don’t see the sameness in the books the same way since there is character and relationship growth from book to book as well as the different cases Eve handles. Even going back for rereads I pick up different things each time as the characters are very layered. I enjoy reading about them all.

    The In Deaths are the only series I red with the same characters all the time. The ones based on a town (like I understand Robyn Carr’s Virgin River series is) or workplace scenario (Gerard’s BOIs, St Claire’s Bulletcatchers, Feehan’s GhostWalkers) don’t always have the same characters in all the books like the In Deaths or series based on a family. And as I said those types are all hit-or-miss for me.

    I gave up on the Plum series after a few books. But that was because I was tired of the Joe/Stephanie/Ranger love triangle. There never seemed to be a lot of character growth and I did feel the books had a sameness about them. So I totally get what you’re saying.

  14. library addict says:

    I read, not red. Sorry.

  15. RobinB says:

    All of the comments on this thread have struck various chords with me. Like many of you, I have a huge TBR pile, and there are many times when I pull a book from the pile, look at the back cover and the first couple of pages, and then put the book back because it’s Number 3 in a series, and I don’t want to read the books in the series out of sequence! I did that with Mary Jo Putney’s “Fallen Angels” series, and while I enjoyed the various books in the series very much, I have a feeling I would have liked the series even more had I read “Thunder and Roses” first instead of “Shattered Rainbows”!
    The other problem with series that has been mentioned is the fatigue factor, and unfortunately that happened with me and “The Fiery Cross”, the fifth book in the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon. I’ve been trying to finish the book for a very long time because I would like to read “A Breath of Snow and Ashes”, #6 in the series which by all accounts is much better than “The Fiery Cross”. It’s really sad when reading a beloved series becomes a chore rather than fun, and that’s what’s happened with me and the Outlander series!

  16. Anne Gilbert says:

    I, too, have a “love-hate” relationship with series books, whether or not they’re romances, or some other genre. I guess for me, it comes down to this: Does the series have a beginning, a middle, and an end? Or does it just go on and on and on? It’s the latter type I hate, because there’s no real attempt to develop the characters the series is built around. And after, perhaps the fourth or fifth book, it’s often obvious that the author is telling the same old story. This is one or the reasons I stopped reading the Outlander series. Diana Gabaldon just kept going on, And on. And on, though it seemed to me after the third book, that this was the logical place to stop and do something elese. This has happened with other authors and other genres, too.

    OTOH, one of the reasons I think the Harry Potter series, and the Stephanie Meyers vampire series were both so successful, is that they didn’t go on forever. They had a storyline that developed through several books, characters who grew and changed, and there was a resolution at the end of both of them.

  17. Anne Gilbert says:

    All(continued):

    There was a resolution, as I said, and this, to me, is more satisfying than something that’s so “open ended” that the author starts to tell the same story, over and over and over. And yes, I agree with those others who say an author who does an endless seried, often flags by the third or fourth book.
    Anne G

  18. Amy says:

    I don’t mind an on-going series if it is good. Sometimes if it’s in HB I will skip it and wait for it to come out in PB. That means I get a long “break” between books and am ready for more. One author I have read for years and view as the queen of trilogies/continuing books is Nora Roberts. But the last 2 trilogies of NR have driven me batty. I know they got good reviews, but I found them so lacking and formulaic. She had already written the characters before and much better in previous books. Her paranormal kick does not appeal to me, but I love it in others’ works (Gardella series, Patricia Briggs). The In Death series (which I do not consider paranormal) continues to appeal to me because I really love the characters and they reach/touch me in a way that her recent trilogies have not. I also really love her world-building in that series. It’s familiar, but with a nice and creative twist.

    I guess one of the things I am finding with authors is that I have fewer on my auto-buy list. I’m more inclined to wait and read a review (so you better get reading and posting, reviewers! :) and am also more willing to wait until I can check a book out from the library. That is partially due to the economy, but also because I read so many books I can’t keep buying marginal ones. There’s no more room!

  19. Amy says:

    Just another comment… I used to watch Siskel and Ebert and Roger Ebert would drive me crazy by giving a good movie a lesser grade because the movie’s director had done a better job with a different film. And he would talk about the other film that was so much better. What I’m realizing is that I’m getting to that point with my reading. So I’m seeking out new authors and genres that I didn’t used to read, partially because I’ve started doing an Ebert with romance novels.

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  21. Joni Mutters says:

    Thanks for the read, but I have a question, where do you see it in about one years time, do you see it changing at all, for the better or worse?

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