Sunday, August 23, 2009

Monday Musing..Hey, I Am Not The Only One With an Imaginary Friend!

I do enjoy, come Monday in Blogland a nice muse, so let's check out this weeks question from Just One More Page,

Today’s MUSING MONDAYS post is about book series…

Do you prefer to read stand-alone books, or books in series? Do you stick with a series the whole way through or stop after the first installment? Are there any particular series you enjoy?(question courtesy of Elena)

That is an interesting question, especially since just today I was reading an article about that very question by the writer Laura Lippman. Now, she has written a quite successful mystery series with the character Tess Monaghan, set in Baltimore. But she has also written a number of very successful stand alone books. One point that I found interesting from the article is that it is one of the stand alone books that has been her most successful, both commercially and critically. It seems she is often asked when she is going to kill poor Tess off, as if these series books are not as good, as serious, as the stand alones. It seems that often series do not get the same respect that a stand alone gets, undeservedly I think.

I have read many books in series, usually in the mystery/thriller genre. I prefer to start at the beginning and usually do. But sometimes I have also jumped in the middle and, in my opinion, if it is a well written series, that should not be a major problem. It just offends my inner OCD-ness to read books out of order.

Do I read the whole series? Well, that depends on the quality of the writing. I am loyal, but not silly. I could be wrong, but from a readers point of view, it sometimes seems that some writers see writing a series as being easier than writing a stand alone book. They get repetitive, they get lazy, they fail to keep developing the main character. Those obviously would be the ones I stop reading. The series just runs out of steam and should be put aside by the author. Why don't they? Well, something Ms. Lippman says may explain a few reasons. Speaking about her character Tess she says,
"She has literally kept a roof over my head and even thrown in the kitchen of my dreams. I spend more time with her than almost anyone in my life, with the possible exception of my spouse. She is the childish thing that too many adults are duped into putting away: a very satisfactory imaginary friend."
If you are kind, you might say that the author becomes fond of the character. They enjoy writing about them, putting them in new situations, new challenges. If you are not so kind, you think is it more that issue of keeping a roof over their head.

People seems to like the comfort of the familiar, and, even when the books go south, so to speak, many keep buying them. One that comes to mind immediately is the Scarpetta series of Patricia Cornwell. To early fans of the series, this is no surprise. The early books were quite good I thought, but the series should have ended several books ago. About the time that Dr. Scarpetta's boyfriend...I forget his name...came back from the dead. A bad sign when a writer resorts to cheap tricks like that. Coming back from the dead is bad, unless you are writing sci-fi or vampires books maybe. A few of the later books in that series are to say this in a nice way....they are awful. Not only the plot, but the writing. And still they have been NY Times best sellers, for reasons beyond me to understand. Oh well, it's their money to spend on what they want, even less than great books.

Favorite series...hmmmm...well, just picking a couple (with the help of my beloved Library Thing. I say that just because I know my LT love annoys a few of you, my dear there is Tess Gerritsen's Jane Rizzoli/Maura Isles series, Lisa Gardner's Pierce Quincy and Rainie Conner series, P.D.James's Adam Dalgliesh books, Laurie R.King's Kate Martinelli mysteries, Chelsea Cain's rather gruesome Gretchen Lowell serial killer books...I love a serial book about a serial killer..
and then just to break from my love of mysteries and killers, Dean Koontz's Odd Thomas series. Oh wait, they are full of killers and mystery too, with an added dash of the supernatural.
I could go on and on, listing series I have enjoyed, but I imagine you have other things to do. So ok, run along now.....


  1. I enjoy a lot of mystery series too--Nero Wolfe, Kurt Wallander, No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency...I'm sure there are others--but I often feel sort of overwhelmed by the idea of starting a new series. A single book, I know I can read, but the idea that I'm sort of committing to a whole set of books seems daunting.

    Actually, I think that's why I'm able to do series when it comes to mysteries and less so with other genres. When it's just a matter of more cases solved by the same detective, you can take or leave them. It's the more sort of "integrated" trilogies or whatever that I get put off by--I want the option to stop with a satisfying story after the first volume.

  2. Your discussion of that author's series v. stand-alone books got me wondering if certain genres have a tendency to support series more than others do. Are genre fiction (mystery, SciFi, romance) more likely to have a successful series than literatary fiction?

  3. nicole, I think it is best not to look ahead at books that 'need' to be read. It will drive you insane! I get overwhelmed if I just consider the size on my TBR pile.

    Literature Carzy...can I just call you Crazy? ;-)...I do think that the books in a series have to be quite character driven. And certainly series seem to be much more common in certain genres...

  4. I have a thing with series...once I glom onto them, it is hard for me to stop buying and reading them. You make a very brilliant point here about the Kay Scarpetta series. They WERE great in the beginning, but they are just plain horrible now. I have walked away. I have so many mystery/thriller series I follow, it is amazing I get anything else done.

  5. Mysteries series are really good too! Like Her Royal Spyness. Here is mine

  6. Well, I can see I'm not alone in the Scarpetta opinion. The first ones were so edge of your seat reading but she did lose me and I've stayed gone! There are too many other good books out there. The last one I read was Black Notice and not even too sure why I finished it.

  7. from the other kaye--

    nice discussion, I mostly enjoy fantasy series. I just read my first Patricia Cornwell book. I had mixed feelings about it, but I don't think I'll read another one.
    my musings

  8. hi kik! we got back to school ok. i was just taking a gander at your blog and mom saw it and wanted to comment - talk to you soon, here she is:

    i like to read series but i also find it sort of repetitive. the stephanie plum series - as amusing as it is - is just WAY too hard to read back to back. all the plots are pretty much the same with different character names.

    the twilight series, however, was terrific!! : ) i think thats because the whole series was just like ONE BIG ACTION PACKED BOOK with a definite beginning and ending.

    ...i dont think evanovich will ever have a definite beginning or ending. in fact, i often read the books out of order! gasp!!!

  9. wait a sec...i thought bandit was logged in? did he get confused again!?!?! lol

  10. yes, poor bandit is often confused about blogging...but then he is a

    I liked the early Plum books, thought they were pretty fun, but at some point I had just had enough. Same old, same old, too cookie cutter ...but another example of a series that still makes it to the top of the NYT list every time.

  11. I agree with all of you about the Kay Scarpetta series. Boy was that disappointing when those books started the downhill slide....actually I found it to be a big crash...anyway, it was a bummer. I love reading everybody's opinion on this issue. I'm not much of a series reader or I haven't been. If I like an author's books I'll read them series or not, but I definitely haven't read all of the series that Caite named for instance so one day I may change my mind!

  12. I'm one that has to read series books in order. I forgot about the Pierce Quincy and Rainie Conner series!

  13. I always read series books in order - my OCD coming out :) There are some books we get to see a development in the hero or heroine's character whether it be a romance or their career, I hate to come in the middle. I want to see the whole thing develop from the start :)

  14. Amy, I actually read about half of Cornwall's latest. Half because I was on vacation and read it on a friend's e-reader. It was not awful but I have to desire to get the book and finish it. Bad

    Nise', I love Rainie!

    Yvonne, I am all for reading in order...but if you should fall into the midst of a series, look at it like meeting a new friend. you don't know all their history, their past, but with a series you can go back and read it!

  15. I enjoy the Quincy and Rainie series too. Good choice. She does a good job of not overwriting them and not putting out too many and using the daughter too.

  16. Yes, there is a problem when a series gets too popular and the writer just cranks them out too fast.

    Beside the fact that I just don't have time to read them all!


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