Friday Feature: We Need to Talk About…

…reviewing books in a series.

What happened to #1???
What happened to #1???

I’ve been thinking about this for a while. In a similar way to how I find reviewing 5-star (or in my case 5-Unicorn) books difficult, I find reviewing individual books from a series just as difficult.

I’m wondering this as I try to write a coherent review of Monsters of Men, the final book in Patrick Ness’ Chaos Walking Trilogy. But I’m not even talking about trilogies here. They are hard enough, but what about say a book #6 or #10 in a series? How do you, as reviewers, tackle those? I tend to get vaguer with every sequel I talk about!

Here are the obstacles as I see them:

1. Spoilers: It’s pretty much impossible to review one of the books with enough depth without giving away any spoilers from any of the previous books. Depending on the complexity of the series of course, but it can be impossible to mention anything plot-wise that will not give away something that you wouldn’t want to know if you hadn’t read the previous books.

2. Content: And then there’s the actual content of the review. Do you give an overview of the story so far each time, or do you just concentrate on that one book? If you don’t give any background, will what you say even make any sense?

3. Audience: Which brings me to wonder if only people who have read, or at least started the series, will want to read the review? I must admit – I do it. If bloggers put one of those handy ‘about’ bits at the start of their review and it says ‘Series so and so’ #4′ I probably wouldn’t bother reading the review. I might see if it gives the name of the first book to check out, but 9 times out of 10 I wouldn’t read the main body of the post. Don’t get me wrong, blog stats are not the be all and end all for me at all. But what’s the point of spending time writing something and posting it on a public outlet for no one to read it. That’s why we blog right? Especially if you do that for 8 books that the majority of your readers won’t read.

Luckily for me, I am pretty rubbish at sticking to series. I have to be really engrossed by them read every book just because I don’t like to read the same kind of things back to back, and when I take a break from a series to read something else I usually forget to go back to them…and by the time I do remember I don’t feel the same need to read the next book any more. Madness, I know.

One I do want to continue with though are the Vampire Academy books by Richelle Mead. I really enjoyed the first book and I’m waiting for the next one to arrive. Early days yet, but if I do end up reading the whole series I’m wondering how to tackle it. I know I won’t read them all in one go so it could be forever until I finish them if I wanted to review the series as a whole. Or do I just do mini-reviews (I think I like this idea the most – anything to save a bit of time)…?

So I ask you lovely blogosphere…have you come across any of these obstacles? And, if so, do you have any tips to share?

Author: lipsyy

Creative Writing graduate. A Northerner in London. I probably love books a bit too much. Also enjoy vampires, unicorns, man love, tennis & can't get enough of trashy teen novels. I find myself thinking 'What Would Buffy Do?' way too frequently. HIYA!

10 thoughts on “Friday Feature: We Need to Talk About…”

  1. Mt very first review was from a book in a series πŸ˜€ I hate to include spoilers, so I did my best. I tried to look at it as an individual book, and judge it on that. It wasn’t too bad, as it was a great stand alone read anyway!

    But I can definitely understand your struggle πŸ™‚

  2. It is really hard to review books in a series, but it is possible.

    In the beginning of my blog post about a particular book in a series I have referred readers who haven’t started the series yet to a review/synopsis of the first book or so, so they can be introduced to the series, even if they don’t necessarily read your review.

    I know and understand that it is difficult. I don’t read reviews unless I am caught up with a series, but we can help our readers get caught up πŸ™‚

    1. Thanks Amanda! I like the idea of starting the post with a referral to the whole series or the first book. Maybe that will help!

  3. I’m actually mentally debating this right now. When I first started blogging, I reviewed Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy as a whole and I think I did pretty well with only writing about what I felt was necessary, but I’m not sure if anyone actually read it aside from the friend who recommended it to me. I’m currently in the middle of reading The Chronicles of Prydain by Lloyd Alexander, and I did review the first two books in this five part series, and am planning on reviewing the others once I read them, because luckily I’ve found new things to say and I keep them as spoiler-free as possible.

    However, what has me debating this right now is the William Shakespeare’s Star Wars series by Ian Doescher. Last night I finished reading the second installment which just came out this week, but I’m unsure if I should bother writing up a full review for it given that I feel I would be pretty much repeating myself in commenting on how it gives new insight into the movie and its characters, the different references to Shakespeare’s work Doescher has included, and how much I loved it. In this sense it feels like I should just write up a short little reaction about the characters/aspects not in the first book, and then redirect people to my review of the first installment.

    Another problem I recently encountered was with series where I had read the previous installments before I started blogging, and didn’t want to start reviewing mid-series. For those I decided I will only write small reaction blurbs for, and they’re more to help me keep my reviewing skills fresh (if that makes sense) and maybe start a conversation with other readers who have enjoyed that series and/or installment.

  4. Oh god I hadn’t even thought about series that I started before blogging – there is quite a few I would happily continue with at some point. Gah! I think the mini-review is the best solution in that case especially. Plus, I think it’s nice to just do a quick ‘this is what I thought about it in a nutshell’ review sometimes. Some of those have been my post popular reviews!

    Thanks for getting involved…I’m glad I made you mentally debate it πŸ˜‰

  5. I feel the same way! I think I over summarize because I’m trying to compensate for the first books, too. But usually it isn’t a probably because I also cannot stick to series. I think the only ones I follow are Heroes of Olympus and Lunar Chronicles. I’ve read some good first books of series, but I was never that into it to find the other books!

  6. I’ve been wondering a bit about this lately, but I think I’m going to stick with how I do it at the moment: book by book. I just feel that judging the series as a whole wouldn’t be representative enough for me. It’s very rare that I love (or dislike) each book in a series at the same level. My most recent example is a trilogy. Book #1: 4.5 stars. #2: 4 stars. #3: 5 stars. If I reviewed the series as a whole, it would then be about 4.5 stars, but that wouldn’t reflect how much I absolutely ADORED the last book in that series. So that’s why I like reviewing each book in a series separately. I feel it’s more fair to each book that way.
    As for what i include in my reviews … I don’t include spoilers for previous book/s, usually. Unless it’s something that may be integral to the following book. But I try to write the books of a series so that someone can come across the review and read it without getting major spoilers for the previous books if they haven’t read them!

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