Reviewing a Series: RITA Reader Reviews and Otherwise

A comic illustration of a woman with dark hair thinking, your text goes hereWhen we started the RITA® Reader Challenge this year, MissB2U asked me to write up a guide to reviewing – which is a totally obvious thing to ask for, and I'm surprised I hadn't thought of it earlier. When I wrote the list of suggestions for reviewing, I meant mostly to help people figure out how to articulate the way a book made them feel, or how it made them think. Reviews can be difficult to write.

Now that the RITAs® have been announced, I wanted to look back on the reviews for the RITA® nominated books, what worked for you as readers and what didn't. I also think there are some things to discuss – and I'm curious about your opinion.

In reviews for a book that was part of a series – especially if that book was the later part of a series, there was often some indication of rancor or objection in the comments from fans of that series if the person who reviewed the book hadn't read the previous six or eight or three or however many books in the series. It's an interesting question considering that there are usually at least one or two books nominated for a RITA® that are later books in a series.

Is it fair to judge a book as a stand-alone when it's clearly part of a series? Or should the books that are parts of a series be reviewed by someone who has read the prior books? (Setting aside the coordination struggle that would be to find a person or persons who have read all the other books.)

I'm of the opinion that a book in a series should also stand alone. When a book is nominated for an award, those who produce the award are likely in part hoping that more attention will be given to those books as nominees, and thus to the award itself. So a book that is part of a series that is nominated for a RITA® is likely to receive perhaps a bit more attention, and attract the curiosity of someone who hasn't read all the others.

Speaking solely for myself, I'll happily jump into a book in the middle of a series if the one in the middle is the one that caught my eye (and is also the green kangaroo) (LINK) and I do have the expectation that I'll be able to follow along. I also expect that there may be subtleties and references to prior books and characters that I may not understand as well as someone who has been reading since the first book, but I'm ok with that. I approach books in the middle of a series with the expectation that I can read them on their own.

That said, in romance and in genres closely related to it, there are series where the romance payoff comes later – like, book 6 or 7 later in the series. I can think of a few that were much more powerful because I'd read the prior books (Mercy Thompson comes to mind, for example).

I do look for reviews that say, effectively, “Look, with this series, you have to start in the beginning to really appreciate this book, as it's the culmination of a loooooong romantic development” and I appreciate those reviews. But I also know that, given that I'm easily exhausted by series books, I probably won't read a book that requires me to read six more to fully understand and appreciate it. Like I said, I expect that every book in a series can be read as a standalone even if it's part of a larger world development, and while I understand the challenge that presents for the writer, as a reader, I want to be able to enter with the book I discover, and not be told, “That's book 9, and you have to read these eight books before you really appreciate it.” I don't like being told there's a long-reading entrance exams to a series!

Much like people who insist a series be read in order, I think there are some readers who can't or won't start a series in the middle, either. (It's kind of the same thing, really). And there are readers (like me) who pick up a book in any part of a series and start there, and may even skip around, reading the second then the first and then the sixth. (I do that, and it makes my older son Freebird twitch if I even SUGGEST it to him. Series have to be read in ORDER, he says.)

But when it comes to the RITA® reviews, the question of reading a series in order becomes slightly different: is a review helpful and worthwhile if the person hasnt' read the prior books? For me – always. I like to know if I can also start in the middle. But there were some who thought that having a person who hadn't read any of the prior books review the nominated book that was late in the series order was inaccurate and wasn't fully fair to the book, or the culmination of plotting and characterization that it represented.

That's a hard question, really. That point of view isn't wrong – the nominated book may in fact be the culmination of a long-developing plot, and the payoff of a lot of slow-building tension (yum). Evaluation of that book in comparison to other books of its genre might be done more completely be someone who has read the others.

That said, I'm not going to start having requirements for selection of RITA® reader books, and tell people that you've got to have read all the others before you can review that one. That's not fair to anyone. But perhaps in the future, I will mark on the spreadsheet of nominees which books are part of a series, and see if anyone who has read the series (or most of it) will write one of the reviews for us.

What do you think? Do you think when reviewing a book that is being compared as one of the best in its genre a familiarity with its series is helpful? I personally value the opinion of both those who are familiar and those who pick up the nominated book as their entrance to the series, but I'd like to hear what you think, too.

Comments are Closed

  1. 1
    Elyse says:

    I jump around in series a lot. Especially when I’m reading mysteries, I often start with the third or fourth book in a series, which I realize is weird. For me, the first book is usually the weakest, and if I start there I may not continue on. If I start later in the series and like the books, then I’ll go back and re-read. I did this with Kathy Reich’s Tempe Brennan series, Tess Gerritsen’s Rizzoli & Isles, Karin Slaughter’s books, etc.

    I don’t think reading in order is necessary. It does build context, but the book should be able to stand by itself.

  2. 2
    Lammie says:

    I agree that the first book in a series is not always the strongest, but I am OCD in this and I really *have* to start reading a series with the first book.  I always appreciate it when a reviewer states that a book is good to be read as a standalone, although I will usually go back and read the series in order if I am really tempted.

    I am not a fan of series where the books seem mainly connected to have the reader buy them all, instead of showing us more of the HEA or lives of the people from the books before, even if they are not the main character in the current book.  We still interact with people in real life, not just our love interest, so it is nice to see that in books as well.

    I think it would be good if the reviewer had read all of the previous books, but if that is not possible the reviewer should state they have not read them.

  3. 3
    Ren says:

    “wasn’t fully fair to the book”

    God forbid we should hurt the book’s feelings by judging it by its own current actions without first thoroughly investigating its entire life history to provide context.

    Maybe we should go to couple’s therapy with the book until we can love it unconditionally for its beautiful soul.

    That’s much more sensible than people learning to accept that perspectives other than their own exist and are equally valid.

    I absolutely want to know from a review if a book can’t stand on its own feet because I expect a book to be a full story, subject to all the rules and regulations thereof, not a fragment of something I can’t enjoy until I collect all the other pieces. I damn sure will downgrade for absent worldbuilding, characterization, orientation, and any other fundamental storytelling elements omitted with the expectation I’ll happily shell out another $7.99 per fragment in my desperation to get what’s missing from this book. If I don’t see a demonstration of those skills in what I’m reading, I assume the writer lacks them, and I walk away instead of investing further in the hope that the evidence before my eyes is wrong.

    I know. I’m so unfair. I make books cry all the time.

  4. 4


    I would think a book from a very long series (e.g. 12 books) that contained a great deal of world building might prove more difficult to read as a standalone. I’m interested in what others think. Interestingly, that reminds me that I read Diana Gabaldon’s Dragonfly in Amber before reading Outlander. I recall that I wasn’t confused… well, anymore than I generally am.

  5. 5
    MissB2U says:

    As a reader I like to start with the first book in a series because when I run across those “subtleties and references”, as you so nicely put it Sarah,  I get distracted and want to go find out what I missed.  That’s just me.  But there is a difference between what you describe and not being able to make sense of the plot due to gaps in the writing.

    I believe that a book should be able to stand on it’s own while being part of a series.  Authors like Kim Harrison, Eloisa James, Jim Butcher and many others show how this is possible.  I like it when a reviewer offers an opinion on whether or not a book can stand on it’s own; that is part of what helps me make a more informed decision on whether or not to read the book. 

    As for the RITA awards, if a book is nominated it must be able to stand alone, and if it doesn’t that should be mentioned in the review as another area to critique along with plot, prose etc.

  6. 6
    CarrieS says:

    I don’t have any problem with a book series consisting of closely related books that you have to read in order, but I wish every series would come with a label saying whether its related stand alines vs an arc.  Some books, whether in a series or not, are like a movie – they tell one story.  And I love those (The Bridgertons are a great example of a series of stand alone but related books, and I adore them because I get the long lasting feeling of a series combined with the satisfaction of a complete ending to each book).  But a series can also be like a TV series that has an evolving mythology and an arc, like Lost or the re-imagined Battlestar Gallactica (an example of this is in a book would be The Lord of the Rings Trilogy).

    As a romance reader, I like to know that my story will at one point wrap up with an HEA, so my preference is for stand alone books.  But I think to make a blanket statement that all series have to consist of books that work as a stand alines does a huge disservice to some great stuff.  What I do demand in an arc series is that it actually be an arc, with a conclusion, not an endless parade of contrivances that serve to keep the book machine running, and that within that arc characters develop in response to events.  If I’m looking at an arc series, I want to know if the author has planned a certain number of books, which suggests some sort of conclusion in sight, and I look for interviews in which the author suggests that they know where things are going.  And I do consider a trilogy to be a series, so that may be skewing my perspective.  Are we really going to say that The Lord of the Rings sucks because you can’t read The Two Towers as a stand alone?

  7. 7
    Cait says:

    There are Series and then there are SERIES.  One surely skip about in the Plums,  And Catherine Coulter – FBI.  It can be helpful toi have a bit of background,, but not necessary.  May I suggest “fantactic’ to find out if you landed in the middle of a series.  I am eagerly waiting for the next Julia Spencer-Fleming Claaaaaaaaaair and Russ book out soon.  Also Miss Gwen in the ‘Pink Carnation’. 
    But the OUTLANDER!    Forget it!  The last one ended with – TO BE CONTINUED…find out what happens to Claire, Jemmy, John and Jamie in the next book…BYW it’ll be years until I (Diana) get done with it…AND THEN, I(Diana) still won’t be done…MY THEORY——JAMIE CAN’T DIE AND SHE’S ALREADY SAID HE CAN’T TIME TRAVEL   Boxed herself in on that one, didn’t she.
    I’m not driven to go back to the very first, but some writers make it easy, like Nora Robert..Irish tril, Born in, 3 Sisters, Key, etc.  They come out close together and She announces – TRILOGY COMING!!!  always a resolution
      That said, I’m rambling…Series, Stand alone. If it’s a good book, I’m there..As long as it has a HEA.
        I’m listening to TRUE LOVE, by Jude Devereux..It’s Montgomery, but definately a stand alone.

  8. 8
    library addict says:

    I think any book in a series should work as stand-alone and it is fine for someone who hasn’t read the previous books to review it. But I am also a firm believer that the reviewer in question should say so in the review. That allows people who are familiar with the series to understand the POV of the reviewer better and/or ignore the review if they feel the reviewer “just didn’t get it.”

    A person picking up JD Robb’s New York to Dallas to read as a stand-alone could understand the book perfectly well (and I think enjoy it), but their reading experience would lack the emotional punch that long time readers of the series got. There are several key turning points in the In Death series where I am so glad I didn’t know details beforehand (I won’t name them to avoid spoilers, but anyone who has read the series will know which events/books I mean).

    I read the Psy/Changling series somewhat out of order. I read Kiss of Snow first then Tangle of Need and then went back and read the others in order all in the 10 days leading up to the release of Heart of Obsidian. And while I greatly enjoyed the series as a whole, knowing the events in Kiss of Snow I’m sure affected my interpretations of the earlier books in the series. How much I cannot say as that’s the way I read the series and I can’t change it.

    I do think books which have been anticipated by series fans where the main characters change from book to book can often work better as stand-alones as a new reader or one who hasn’t kept up with the series doesn’t have any built in expectations for the characters. Take Brockmann’s Dead of Night, part of her long running series (sold as romances), where many fans (and former fans) feel the author pulled a bait-and-switch by building up expectations and marketing that certain characters would get together as a romantic couple only to have said characters end up with others for their HEAs. This happens in other types of series books outside the romance genre (and I feel for those fans, too), but as a romance reader we have certain built in expectations. I know the reviewer at AAR loved the book but she hadn’t read many of the previous books so she didn’t have the same sense that many of the characters had undergone total personality changes. (I won’t get into the accusations from the author that disappointed fans read the previous books wrong or the other stuff she said, suffice it to say I’ve never read another Brockmann book).

    For the record, I usually like to read series books in order, though with so many series languishing in my TBR pile I have been trying to talk myself into reading more of the later books which actually caught my eye. The Psy/Changeling series is a good example (I wanted to read Heart of Obsidian and felt I could familiarize enough with the world building if I just read the few books leading up to it. I should clarify I was already somewhat familiar with the world having long-time reading friends I’d discussed the series with over the years). I recently read Trust in Me by Dee Tenorio and thought it worked well as a stand-alone. But I just bought all of the other books in this series over the weekend. So I guess my plan to just read a later book in a series doesn’t really work out for me – lol.

  9. 9
    Genghis Mom says:

    The RITA issue is interesting because the book has to win as a stand alone. Doesn’t it? I mean, the judges don’t have to read the entire series before judging the book. I reviewed the books I did under what i considered the same conditions as those judging it for the RITA. Perhaps, I misunderstood that.

    The three books I reviewed for SBTB were all series books but none were in a series category. One was first in a series (and clearly a series that just involves related characters and books don’t need each other), One was toward the end of a series (and apparently needs the other books to work successfully), and one was a novella that seemed to me to be way too incomplete. And my reviews reflected that.

    If there was a category for Best Historical Fiction within a Series, then that would be a whole other ballgame. But, if a book is nominated for Best Historical Romance (such as the Recruit which I reviewed) then it needs to be judged as a stand alone book.

  10. 10
    SB Sarah says:

    I am now envisioning a television series about couples therapy for books. Me and, well, six other people will like it, but it will be AWESOME. Thanks, Ren! :)

  11. 11
    Rebecca says:

    @SB Sarah: Have you read Jasper Fforde’s Thursday Next books?  The second one (“The Well of Lost Plots”) has a group therapy session for the characters in Wuthering Heights.  (“So let’s all start with how we’re feeling about Heathcliff right now and why…”)  If ever a scene deserved the acronym ROFLMAO it’s that one.

    Re: Series: I like to start at the beginning of series as a personal preference, but I can tell you that publishers have a strong preference (for obvious reasons) for books that not only can be read as stand-alones but also inspire people to go back and read the author’s back list.  I think this is easier in mystery and fantasy genres than in romance, where the story focuses on a central couple of necessity.  In other genres it’s easier to have one story arc – a mystery or a quest or something – wrap up as in a classic standalone, while other arcs, like the characters’ romantic relationships, or decision to adopt a dog, or estrangement from their father or whatever, are ongoing and develop slowly from book to book.  A romance dynamic can grow and change over the course of the long-term (say, a marriage, kids, work, retirement, etc.), but once you’re into tracing the dynamics of a marriage you’ve moved away from the classic romance formula.  (Would be interesting to have previous characters be secondary couples not just showing off their wedded bliss but actually maybe bitching a little to the main characters in later books, about the little adjustments in marriage.  It could be a source of conflict for the main couple and also a secondary romance as the previous characters rediscover what brought them together in the first place.)

  12. 12
    cleo says:

    I have to admit to some RITA review fatigue. I wrote a review the first year and really enjoyed doing it. And I really enjoyed reading all the reviews. The second year I signed up for a review but got busy and didn’t write it. I still read a lot of the reviews but was less active in the comments. This year I decided not to sign up and I was less consistent in reading them. I liked having longer reviews. I enjoyed learning about books I would have never looked at before and I bought at least one based on the review (and sale price). I really enjoyed reading conflicting reviews. But I also found it to be a little overwhelming (and all I did was read).

    As for reviewing series. I like the idea of noting in the sign up that a book is part of a series so potential reviewer knows that. Personally I read series out of order so I’m ok with a reviewer doing the same as long as they’re upfront about it.

  13. 13
    cleo says:

    One more thought. I do think that you get a different type of review based on whether or not the reviewer is familiar with the author – it may be much more obvious with a series but I think it’s there with stand alones too. Sometimes if you know and trust an author you can have a totally different experience than a first time reader – whether you’re more critical or more forgiving kind of depends on the book.

    Frex, I think I’d have liked Natural Born Charmer by SEP much more if I hadn’t read ALL if her previous books first because it’s so derivative of earlier books, IMO.

  14. 14
    rayvyn2k says:

    Add me to those who *have* to read a series in order. (Hence my having to take a break from the Cynster series which nearly killed me by book 8.)

    Having said that, I do think a book should stand on its own, as well.

    One thing I would love to see is the series number on the book, or in the blurb somewhere—especially the looong series. It would make ordering the next book in the series so much easier. :)

    through21 Someday, I’ll get through 21 Cynster series books. ;)

  15. 15
    Sandra says:

    @CarrieS: “Are we really going to say that The Lord of the Rings sucks because you can’t read The Two Towers as a stand alone?”

    But LotR isn’t a series. Tolkien always envisioned it as one book. It was just published in three volumes. They were never meant to be read as stand-alones.

    I’m a firm believer that series books also need to stand on their own two feet. Sometimes, it’s difficult to pull off without rehashing everything that came before. And that’s a very fine line authors have to walk. They have provide enough detail to bring someone coming into the middle of a series up to speed, without boring the pants off readers who have been with them from the beginning.

  16. 16
    azteclady says:

    Ideally a book should stand alone and succeed or fail on its own merits—character development, plot, world building, language, etc.

    I’m not sure this is possible with series longer than say, three or four books.

    Many authors writing long/longish series (six books or more) have to balance how much information about previous books to include so that both readers new-to-the-series and readers who keep spreadsheets and track every event and development in the world and individual characters, can be satisfied.

    If the worldbuilding is truly intricate and if the current story depends heavily on events/facts/fill in the blank from several of the previous books, either the latest book will be bloated with info dumping (which neither type of reader will appreciate, I would think), or some of those key events/facts will be obviated for brevity’s sake—which may result on new-to-the-series-readers feeling slightly lost.

    And then, as cleo says, there’s being familiar with the author even if not familiar with the series—I believe it does change the experience. With authors I trust, I’m much more willing to suspend my disbelief and go where they lead me (unless/until they betray that trust beyond redemption, that is—library addict, now I want to read whatever Brockmann said about those reviews)

    erm…back to the question.

    Personally, I prefer that the reviewer makes it clear from the get go to which group s/he belongs, and whether s/he feels how this informs the review if at all.

  17. 17
    Vicki says:

    I don’t read the books themselves in any particular order so I am more than willing to start a series in the middle. If it doesn’t stand up but seems good, I’ll look for earlier books.  When I read a book, I will usually read the first couple chapters to get names straight, then skip around. I just finished a book that I read backwards. There are some I read straight through. Others I will read some from the front, a bit from the middle, then the end, then go back on work ont he beginning, etc. Series should work that way, too. BTW, am I the only one who reads this way?

  18. 18
    Vicki says:

    Oh, and I started LOTR with The Two Towers because I could only afford one book at a time when I was in high school and I figured I know from that if I wanted the others. It is fine as a stand alone until your allowance catches up with what you need/want.

    captch through11 – how far I got with Stephanie Plum

  19. 19
    bookbug says:

    While I agree that in a perfect world each book in a series would be able to stand on its own, I have to say that it annoys the shit out of me to get info dumps in later books.  I’m also OCD about reading them in order so the info dumps drive me batshit crazy.  I already know that stuff!  I prefer authors to come up with better ways to let latecomers in on the previous action.  I guess it comes down to the technical ability of the author to include the info in subtle ways – or in a completely separate bio section on the characters outside of the narrative that I can skip.

    As for reviewing them without having read the entire series, as long as I know the reviewer hasn’t read the previous books and therefore may not understand some of the nuances I’m good with it.

    P.S.  Been lurking for a bit.  First post here.  Love this site and all the commenters!

  20. 20
    library addict says:

    @azteclady – You can read a bit about it here

    Though I’m not sure if the entire B&N chat was archived or not. At one point she asked fans to post a video of them crying and was amused by the controversy. When I told her I felt her mocking her readers wasn’t very professional I got one of those non-apology kind of apologies saying she was sorry I felt that way. Honestly, I’ve tried to block the whole thing out of my mind :p

    As for the RITA reviews, I kept mine very short again this year due to habit (plus I sent it in very early). Next year I will definitely go into more detail.

  21. 21
    PamG says:

    I wrote several reviews this year, my first year doing so.  All were for books in series, and only one was for a series I hadn’t read.  I found that my reviews had to be sort of double-barreled in that I looked at qualities that I considered important to any book, e.g., characterization, world-building, etc., but I also tried to place the books in the context of the series.  I reviewed both Kresley Coles and found one to be a pedestrian entry in the series and the other to be first class entertainment.  Ironically, the former got a C+ grade from me and won the RITA, while I gave the latter an A- even though it was my late introduction to a long running series. 

    Entering a series in the middle really only works for me if the book stands on its own.  I loved Lothaire even though I missed half the references; once I’d read it, I found I had to go back and read the series. Many years ago I picked up Dunnett’s The Ringed Castle from a newsstand for a casual read, didn’t understand more than half of it, but found it so inherently fascinating that I sat on it for a couple of years until I got up the courage to read the rest of the series. 

    I guess my point is that I don’t expect a book from mid-series to necessarily be a complete standalone, but I do expect it to have the qualities that define a good book.  Gaps in the world-building wouldn’t worry me, but sketchy characterization could be a deal breaker. 

    As far as reviewing a series entry is concerned, I like reviews from new readers as well as series aficionados.  As a series reader, I suspect that I cut at least one of the books I reviewed more slack than it deserved.  All I require as a review reader is that the reviewer be upfront about their biases and their familiarity with the author or series.  If I know where the reviewer is coming from, then I can fairly assess how useful the review will be to me.

  22. 22
    Iola says:

    I agree with your son in believing a series should be read in order. It’s particularly annoying when books aren’t marked as part of a series and I accidentally read book 3 first. Of course, if I don’t like book 3, that saves me time and money in not having to read the earlier books…

    But I also believe each book should stand on its own, and a reader shouldn’t have to have read the earlier books in order to enjoy this story. In that case, there is a strength in having a reviewer who hasn’t read the earlier books.

  23. 23
    Kelly S. says:

    I am another person in Freebird’s camp.  A series MUST be read in order.  (I was once really annoyed with a Laura Kinsale book I got from the library.  It was first in the series, but the hero had a role in a previous series.  I nearly stopped listening to it when I figured it out but I had 2 more days of long commutes.  This was 3 years ago and I’m still annoyed.)

    But to your actual question, a person who can read a series out of order has ever right to review a series book.  Also, if their expectation is it should stand alone and they felt it didn’t, well that will be important information to other people who can read stories out of order, so it is worth mentioning.  If it affects the grade, that’s fair too because for that reader, the expectations were not met.  (For me, if the cover is off – the dude on the cover is a brunette but in the story he’s blond & on the cover she looks all sweet & has brown hair but in the story it’s purple & she dresses all in black – then I felt lied to & my expectations are not met and it would affect the grade even though the poor author had no say in the cover.  Not fair to the story or author but honest.). So, let anyone review any book based on what they thought.  Heck, depending on my mood, life circumstances & whatnot, sometimes a fabulous book will irk me & sometimes a horrid novel will be glorious.

  24. 24
    Emily A. says:

    I generally think when possible you should read them in order. It’s not always possible.  However I think reader should try when possible. That being said we have limited time crunch and limited budget and I think other readers should be patient towards reviewers about that. I also think if you love a series that much you should write your own review for the book (and submit to the site) or just clarify but not be angry at the reviewer that there is more to be understood from reading the whole series.
    @Literary Addict I have not read New York to Dallas, but no you can’t just pick a random place in thar series (In Death) and start reading. I tried that and was frustrated since a lot of the secondary characters popped and I didn’t care about them and they didn’t seem to add much to the plot, but if I had understood who these characters were I would have. I since then have a read them in order except I skipped ahead last year was able to folllow having read the first 4 or 5 in order. I do think you can skip some (especially if read some at the beginning in order but to start more than 7 or 8 books in would be trouble. And to start with the 30th In death book or which ever does not work.

    I think some books work as stand alones and some don’t. In Death is series that needs to be read in order.  The Kowalskis by Shannon Stacey don’t seem to be.  I like to read a series in order, but do think it is valuable to know whether one can and keep up or can’t? I see every book advertised as standalone and I wish people would be more forthcoming about whether that is true.

    One final reason not to read a whole series before you review them is that books read in a series can benefit from the cheerleader effect (HIMYM).  Each book in the series is made stronger by reading the whole set, so it can throw off the review.

    Should84 Maybe I should read all 84 prequels, but who has the time?

  25. 25
    library addict says:

    @Emily A – Normally I would agree with you (that you can’t pick up a random In Death book). However, NY2D is a rather unique story in that it revolves around Eve & Roarke by themselves much more so than others in the series (being vague to avoid spoilers).

    So out of the books in the second half of the series, I think it actually could work as a stand alone. I wouldn’t recommend it. I always tell people to read the series in order as there are so many payoffs to doing so.

    got42 – Yes, the In Death series has got 42 books & novella actually more ;)

  26. 26
    Jen says:

    I’d go as far as to say that I think these RITA reviews are *especially* for people who haven’t read the series, or at least not the whole one. If you’ve already read an entire series, chances are pretty good that you’ll read the newest book too. (Yes, if it gets universally terrible reviews you might skip it, but that probably means you were already feeling dissatisfied with the books were ready to abandon them.)

    I do love reading reviews for books I’ve read, but a review does serve a different purpose than a book discussion (though there can obviously be some overlap). Therefore, I think reviewing without reading a series is going to be the norm for the readers of your review, not the exception. I think as long as the reviewer states that they haven’t read them all, it’s very valuable.

    On the flip side, I think reviewers who HAVE read an entire series should state that clearly too and explain how that impacts their opinions of the book. If I need to appreciate slow, slow, SLOW build up over a half dozen books to “get” this most current one, I’d like to pass because that’s not my thing.

  27. 27
    Deanna says:

    I like your solution of marking books in a series on your spreadsheet and requesting at least one review from someone who has read the whole series and then indicate that when their review is posted. Great idea!

    Myself, I prefer to read a series from the beginning, but since I usually borrow from the library before I buy a book, that’s not always possible. My frustration with series is when they try to stand-alone and are annoyingly repetitive for those of us who have read from the beginning. Jennifer Estep’s series featuring Gin Blanco comes to mind. I am taking a break from that series because I can’t stand how repetitive they are.

  28. 28
    kkw says:


    I prefer to read a series from the beginning but am not obsessive about it, and I give extra weight to a review from someone who has *not* read the series. She can judge the book as an individual, which seems, not more valid exactly, but less partisan. Then again, I don’t really mind biased reviews, although I prefer to have the bias stated upfront.

    Do I read about this Brockmann debacle? On the one hand I want to be able to judge for myself. On the other, I was so much happier not knowing that, for example, Sean Connery beat his wife, or what a tool Picasso was, or what a flatulent pestilential toad Henry James was – all perfectly obvious in retrospect, but I can’t enjoy their art as much. Or at all, depending on the nature and egregiousness of the offense. I don’t want to know about artists as people, unless maybe they’re fra angelicos. And then their bios are a bit dull. So much easier to respect Anonymous as an artist than someone wrangling in a public forum.

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