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Wednesday, August 4, 2010

From the Beginning (or How to Read a Series)

I paid a visit to my local bookstore yesterday. It was new release day and I did pick up Heather Webber’s latest, Deeply, Desperately (which I’ve already finished - great read) but I also picked up three other books that were not new releases. I’m one of those readers who, when I find a new author or series I’m interested in, likes to go back to the beginning and read them in order. Sometimes that calls for a marathon read…I discovered JD Robb’s In Death series when she was on book twenty-something. Took me almost six months to catch up.

This time out, I bought Endangered Species by Nevada Barr, Suspense and Sensibility by Carrie Bebris, and The Surgeon by Tess Gerritsen. A friend introduced me to the Anna Pigeon novels (Barr) but the book she gave me was the eighth in the series. I liked it and went out and bought number one. I’ve finished the first four; Endangered Species is number five.

Suspense and Sensibility is the second of the Darby Mysteries. I read the first one, Pride and Prescience, before attending Carrie Bebris’ class at the Antioch Writer’s Workshop last month. There are only three in series so far so I won’t have far to go to catch up.

Three guesses what prompted me to buy The Surgeon. Yup, I watch TV. There’s a whole bunch of books out in the Jane Rizzoli series, so if I get hooked on these, it could mean another marathon.

What I find very interesting is the way different authors handle writing series. Some develop story arcs and relationships from book to book (which makes reading them in order more important). Others carry very little from one story to the next. Some try to include explanations for things that were established in precious books while others give only vague references.

How about you? If you’re a writer, how do you handle carrying a series from book to book?

As a reader, do like to read a series in order or are you happy jumping in anywhere? Why?

I'm currently enjoying: Just finished Heather Webber's latest - Deeply, Desperately.

Quote of the day: The difference between fiction and reality? Fiction has to make sense. ~ Tom Clancy


Dru said...

I did the same thing with J.D. Robb when I discovered her work. It really made me appreciate the characters who I love, love, love.

I just finished reading the 8th book in the Rizzoli & Isles series.

I love series and I like to read them in order; however if the series is a long-time series (like 15+) and I've read the 15th book, I have to LOVE it to read the first 14 or I'll read the preceding five.

I've read an ARC of Deeply, Desperately and it was an awesome book. I can't wait to read the published book.

Have a good Thursday. It's Burn Notice night.

Heather Webber said...

I went back and read the Spenser series from the beginning, so I understand about JD Robb (whose characters I also love, love, love).

Personally, I like to carry over storylines in a series, but having a book stand on its own is also important--so those people who start a series in the middle aren't completely lost.

Thanks for buying DD! THRILLED you loved it.

Linda Leszczuk said...

Hey - Dru and Heather - two of my favorite commenters!

I'm glad to know we all love JD Robb's characters. It's like having mutual friends. (I especially adore Peabody and her smart mouth.)

Sometimes I think it's more fun starting an established series from the beginning because you can go directly from book to book without waiting six months or a year or whatever.

Dru, have you read all of the Rizzoli & Isles books or did you just start on number eight?

Heather - Deeply, Deperately would stand on its own just fine but it was more fun reading it after Truly, Madly. What I really loved was the way you had a half dozen story lines (all mysteries at some level) beautifully interwoven by about the fifth chapter. It was such a fun read. I love Lucy. (Why does that phrase sound so familiar?)

And I have my DVR set for Burn Notice tonight. (Heather, do you watch this, too?)

Maria Zannini said...

I am one of those heathens who will read the end of a book (just to make sure it will be worth my time).

So, reading a series out of order doesn't bother me too much. A lot depends on the author and if they can tell the story well enough that a new reader won't get lost.

I prefer reading in order, but if I happen to come across a book that looks interesting, I won't hesitate to read it even if it's not the first book in the series.

Linda Leszczuk said...

Maria - I been a "heathen" that way myself more than once although I try not to. And never with mysteries.

So what to you do if you enjoy a book that's in the middle of a series? Try to go back to the ones before it or just go forward from there?

Dru said...

I've read all of the Rizzoli & Isles series.

Maria Zannini said...

Ref: So what to you do if you enjoy a book that's in the middle of a series?

If I really like the book, I'll hunt down the first book in the series. If it's just an okay book, I'll pick up wherever I left off.

Linda Leszczuk said...

Dru - I'll look forward to exchanging opinions with you.

Maria - you do better than I do. If it's only "okay" to me, I probably won't read any of the others. Or maybe I'm more of a black and white, either I like a book or I don't. I'll have to mull over that one.

MaryC said...

Hi Linda,

I've been thinking about how to answer this post. The short answer is that yes, I do tend to go back and read the rest if I like one I found. Carolyn Hart's Death on Demand series is one I discovered this way.

I can happily say I started J.D. Robb's In Death when Naked in Death was published and I've pretty much kept up with them. I used to read Tess Gerritson's early work but I haven't tried the Rizzoli & Isles series.

The problem I have with this whole "catching up with series" thing though is that sometimes I find myself losing interest in them if I read too many in a row. What seems unique and fun becomes old hat when you read it in five books in a row. Am I explaining that well enough? I've learned not to try to read an entire back list at once lest I lose interest in the entire series.

I also have a pet peeve when an author uses a similar opening to catch the reader up in a series. I have empathy as a writer, but there are only so many ways to describe the backstory before it gets annoying. I can't think of the series off hand, but there's one that I got into the habit of skipping most of the first chapter because I could have recited it.

Linda Leszczuk said...

Hi Mary,

You make some good points. One of my concerns when I was reading all the back to back Robb's was that some of those characters would start leaking into my WIP. Especially since my lead has some similarities to Dallas (and I had created her long before I read the first In Death). But it was fun to read the series that way and watch the development of the characters and their relationships.

I have noticed in just the recent ones, that Robb is having to force in dialogue to explain history. Sometimes it's noticeable. I guess when the series runs that long, it's inevitable. I still really enjoy them.

Do you read the Anna Pigeon series (by Nevada Barr)? Anna's a park ranger and every book is set in a different location so there's very little carryover of characters from one to the next. At least, not so far. It's different to read a series where you know the central character but everything else is new.

Thanks for your insights. I appreciate your being one of my regular commenters.

mary kennedy said...

Very nice blog!! Glad you mentioned the Jane Rizzoli series because that reminds me I want to TIVO the tv series. I'm dying to see it, and am trying to imagine the characters. I know Angie Harmon is in it, can't wait to see it.

Linda Leszczuk said...

Thank you, Mary. I'm enjoying the Rizzoli and Isles series so far (also an Angie Harmon fan). If you want to catch the ones you've missed, TNT has the full episodes available on line though their web site. (Oh Lord, did I just admit I go back and start from the beginning on TV shows, too? I do, but only if I've just missed a couple.)

Anonymous said...

I like to read them in order. I'm writing a trilogy (one is released), but each book needs to be written as a stand alone book. Most people don't like to be left hanging and waiting 1-12 months to see if the hero makes it.

Stephen Tremp

Linda Leszczuk said...


Oh Lord, I certainly couldn't handle a cliffhanger ending. TV shows have started doing that with their season finales and it makes me crazy.