Sunday Salon: Books in series

The Sunday Salon

I have been thinking recently about how I review books in a series. I have not exactly been consistent up until now. Do you guys have any rules that you follow?

The thing is, different series throw up different problems. In some cases it is near impossible to discuss sequels without giving away spoilers from the earlier books. I found this a little with The Alexandria Quartet but I had so much to say about each book that I still gave each a separate post.

Sometimes spoilers aren’t an issue. For instance, the Claudine books reveal plot developments in their titles! But then the plot is hardly the point here.

In some cases there isn’t much new to say about successive books in a series, other than the new plot, so reviews get progressively shorter. I suspect this will be the case with the Philip Marlowe books, but I’ve only read the first two so we’ll have to see. It’s one of the reasons I haven’t yet published a review of the James Bond books (which I’m halfway through reading). I’ll probably write about one of them but I see no point discussing every one separately. (For exactly this reason, I have reviewed just one of the Modesty Blaise books I have read.)

Line up

With comic books/graphic novels I have tended to write a single post about the whole series. With Scott Pilgrim, I was so eager to read the whole series that I didn’t want to stop to make notes in-between. With Echo I would have run across the problem of spoilers, so my review really concentrated on the first book and overarching themes (I had both of these problems with Y: the Last Man, a review of which is coming later this week). With Southland Tales, I just didn’t think they were very good and so, though I had a lot to say, I saved myself from writing three separate negative reviews by just doing the one!

I am thinking about this because in the past couple of years I have read a fair few first titles in a series, and in some cases I really really want to read the rest (Tales of the City, for example) but I’m not sure I’ll be able to write much about it so I put it off. I know that’s silly, that this blog shouldn’t stop me from reading great books, but there we are.

Do you have any favourite book series? And do you review every book you read?

7 thoughts on “Sunday Salon: Books in series

  1. Laurel-Rain Snow June 17, 2012 at 2:30 pm

    I don’t read a lot of books in a series, but off hand, I’d say my favorite ones are the Sue Grafton alphabet books. And each book can actually stand alone, although it helps to know a bit about the character.

    The same is true of the Stephanie Plum books.

    I do write individual reviews of each book.


  2. Karen @ Scobberlotch June 17, 2012 at 2:36 pm

    I never thought about this unique problem with reviewing series before. I don’t review many books, but I can see how that would be a challenge. My favorite series of recent years has to be Tob Rob Smith’s Russian thriller trilogy, starting with CHILD 44. Have a great Sunday!

  3. Gwen June 17, 2012 at 3:14 pm

    Series can be a pain, can’t they?

    For me, it depends on how I have read them, as they come out, or like you are doing with the Marlowe books and they are all out already.

    Last year I had fun with a series/author. I read all of the books in order in that one month. Then I wrote one post, focusing on the author and the main character. Didn’t give the plots, just blathered on about how the main character developed and what appealed to me about him.

  4. Nose in a book June 18, 2012 at 7:20 am

    Gwen Yes, the one post answer probably makes most sense in that case. Maybe I should do that more often. I hardly ever splurge on one author these days.

  5. dan gusset June 18, 2012 at 8:39 am

    “I haven’t yet published a review of the James Bond books (which I’m halfway through reading). I’ll probably write about one of them but I see no point discussing every one separately.”

    If you are planning to read them all, and they are good enough to be worth reading them all, then I’d say it’s important to cover them all in a review, but with a series that large a single review of the whole lot is best. Maybe pick out one or two for more detailed analysis but ensure the context covers the whole. For example, refer to and quote from your favourites in the series, discuss over-arching trends through the series, point out outliers or things that don’t seem to fit with the others, discuss whether the progression gains or losses anything as you work through it due to its size?

  6. Nose in a book June 18, 2012 at 9:25 pm

    dan To some extent I turn to the Bond books when I’m not feeling well and want a plot-heavy easy read. And I’m reading them over a multi-year time period without making any notes. So I’ll do my best but an analysis of the whole series might be a bit ambitious!

  7. dan gusset June 20, 2012 at 10:16 am

    Fair enough.

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