Lola’s Ramblings: What do you like about Series?

Posted April 14, 2016 by Lola in Lola's Ramblings / 40 Comments


Lola’s Ramblings is a feature on my blog Lola’s Reviews where I ramble on about a book related or a non-book related topic. These are discussion type of posts where I talk about a topic and readers can weigh in on the topic in the comments. Usually these posts are everything that doesn’t fall under any standard header, like tours, cover reveals, memes, challenges, recaps or reviews. Lola’s Ramblings posts are discussions of a certain topic and my point of view on them. The banner for this feature is designed by Michelle from Limabean Designs.

I read a lot of series nowadays and when scheduling a review for a third book in the series this question suddenly popped into my mind, I started wondering what the things are in series that I enjoy. The things that make for a good series. I already wrote a post about series and standalones, but in this post I wanted to focus more on series specifically and aspects that I like about series.

What do I like about series?

  • Familiarity. Once you have read one book in a series it creates some familiarity with the book, setting, characters, story, world etc. So when you start a next book you aren’t completely new to things, but already have a measure of familiarity. It can be comforting to already have that feeling of familiarity and as you already know the setting, characters etc it can be easier to get right into the
  • Continuity. Continuity is one of the things I like about series, each book builds upon the previous one and wouldn’t have happened if not for the previous one. It’s great to see a series and plot line continue throughout the books. Paula Berinstein her Amanda Lester series is a great example of this, each book events are a direct result of what happened in the previous one. And even in series where each book focuses on a different problem or issue there is still a sense of continuity with how the plot moves forward and the characters learn more and change throughout the series.
  • Foreshadowing. While foreshadowing isn’t exclusive to series, it’s something I love about series. I love foreshadowing in general, but foreshadowing in a series can take it to a whole new level. There are authors who place hints in earlier books for things that will happen later and once those events finally happen it’s so amazing to look back and see how long the author has been building up towards that. One of the authors I know that does this very well is Siobhan Davis with her True Calling series. There were things that happened in the third book that she has been building up toward since the first book and you only realize once you read the third book, it’s awesome.
  • Longer Story. A series means a longer story, whether the series means multiple books that can be read as standalone or a series where each book follow the previous one directly I like getting more story and getting to spend longer with this story.
  • Plot lines that run multiple books and foreshadowing.
  • Complexity. I often feel with series there is more time to develop a storyline and often more complex storylines as they have multiple books to develop or set up the plot lines and intricacies.
  • Connected. I like how the books in a series are connected, they take place in the same world, some city and often even feature the same characters. There are connections between the books and like how the books don’t standalone but are connected to other books. Even with series where each book features a different couple you do hear what happened to the other characters or they make an appearance now and then, which connect these books.
  • More of a good thing. One of the things I like about series is that when you enjoyed the first book you know there is more of the same things you already like, whether that’s characters, a world or setting you’ve come to love, the good news is that there are more books you get to spend there or with them.

What do I dislike about series?

There isn’t much I dislike about series, except for maybe waiting till the next book is released or when a book ends in a really bad cliffhanger. When there’s a to long time between book releases in a series I sometimes forget things and that can make it hard to get back into the series, ofcourse this depends on the series. I can sometimes loose interest in a series for whatever reason, either because the books get less good or the time between releases is so long I forget what happens. It’s sad when you don’t finish a series and that’s a problem you never have with standalones. And sometimes a series gets dragged out too long. It’s a shame when a series starts out good and then goes downwards. Or when you get behind on a series and it can be hard to catch up on a series once you are behind. And series end, that’s always a sad thing, while with a standalone you feel the impact less as you know it’s a standalone. But overall I really like series and the dislikes are only minor things.

Do you read a series in order or not?

There are typically two types of series, series where each book is a direct continuation of the previous ones and often the same character or series where each book features a different main character and/ or couple and could be read as standalones. I like both of these types of series, but what they have in common for me is that I like to read them in order. I am pretty picky about this, I hate reading a series out of order. Often I feel like I am missing sometimes if I start with a book that isn’t the first book and I hate that feeling. With series that could be read as a standalone this effect is less bad, but even then I prefer to read the series in order. Why? Because the author has written the series that way and I like to experience it in the order it was written and also because even when the books serve as standalones there are often hints or appearances of the characters of previous books and I feel like I miss part of their history if I haven’t read those books first as most series do take place in chronological order, so in my opinion it always makes more sense to read it in order. A few times I accidentally requested a later book in as series on netgalley and I have read a series out of order a few times, but it’s just not how I prefer to read a series. Nowadays I always check goodreads before requesting a book on netgalley to make sure I request the first book or the next book in the series I should read.

What do you like about series? Do you prefer to read a series in order or not?


40 responses to “Lola’s Ramblings: What do you like about Series?

  1. I love standalones, too, but a series is just like hanging out with a bunch of people you really really like listening, too. I usually like series that have an exact order. It feels nice to see characters grow and develop. Plus, it’s satisfying when their journey ends after a series of books, because I feel like I journeyed with them.
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    • I also like standalones, but in general I read more series so I thought it would be interesting to talk about why I love series. And that’s a good way to describe a series. Series enders are always a bit sad once it’s over, but also satisfying when well done.

  2. Ani

    I am very strict about reading a series in order, even the series with books that can be standalones. I’m like you–I prefer to read books in the order that the author has written them, even if a prequel is written later than a third book, or a something like that. I made the mistake once of not reading it that way and it really ruined the reading experience for me when I went on to read the rest of the books.

    While I don’t force others to read the same way that I do, I remembered that it HAD bugged me when my best friend picked up a book that was number 8 or 9 in a series and planned to read it first without looking at the first book in the series. But I know there is no rule as to how you read a series, so to each their own.

    I love series for a lot of the same reasons as you have listed, but one of my main ones is that I just love being able to continue following a set of characters in a series if I loved the first book. And in a series in a world I particularly liked, I love being able to revisit some old characters from previous books, if each book features a different set of characters in the same settings.

    Great post! I love these ramblings.
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    • I’ve had a few bad experiences as well where I read a series out of order and I felt lost. And once when I didn’t realize there was a novella before book 1 and didn’t understand as much of book 1 due to that.

      I’ve seen quite some bloggers who read a series out of order, it’s always interesting when they mention in their reviews whether it worked or not. But even if it is possible to read a series out of order I still prefer to read it in order.

      I think revisiting the characters and world again is one of the reasons I like a series too. And it’s just so easy to slip back into that world or town and into the characters their lives. And even if each book features a different set of characters there are common elements you see back in each book, which is fun.

  3. Ah, interesting. In terms of your last question, reading them in order, I tend to find that yes, I do read them in order, even if one book is a collection of novellas in between different books in series (it’s a really weird habit I find) BUT, I try with those types of books, UNLESS it’s a series of standalones, in which case, I definitely read in order, because there’s things that happen in the background that you can miss, like plot points mentioned in other books in the series, but plain old series, yes, I’ll read those in order, of course.

    ALSO, I tend to find one bad thing about series is that it makes you expect more from a standalone. Say for example you have a fantasy trilogy, and it has the room to explore the world and the characters and the side characters and the history and everything, but a standalone fantasy won’t do as good a job because it’s smaller, and people will criticise the standalone for not having enough of what the series have. Seems rather unfair to me.

    Great post though Lola, loved it πŸ™‚
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    • I usually try to read novella’s in between the books where they take place or sometimes after I’ve read the main novels, it depends a bit on when the novella’s are published and if they influence the main plot lines. I agree that series with standalone books do lend themselves better for reading out of order, but if possible I still prefer to read those in order if possible, but with series that follow each other I make sure I read them in order as else I just feel lost and confused.

      That’s a good point you make! Same with novella’s, it’s normal they can’t have as much depth and slow development as a full length book, so you have to keep that in mind when reading them. And with a standalone book there is less time to explore everything, that’s not to say you can’t still expect a good book, but it does make sense that it won’t do as good as a job in some parts as series as it’s simply isn’t long enough for that. I agree it is kinda unfair how we place the same expectations on series, standalones and novella’s, as each format is different and you can’t expect the same from all of them.

  4. If you CAN read a book out of order, I call these companion reads. I still like to read them in order though because the previous characters tend to be mentioned somewhat and it would be nice to understand all of that context. haha

    I do love a good series because you’re right, you get to know and the world or setting and characters. It’s nice to have more of that. At the same time, I have a difficult time keeping up with series and I tend to forget things easily, so it’s nice to binge read series when I can (when all the books are out or most of them are…) I don’t do this on purpose necessarily – I just don’t always have time to read things and then more and more books come out so I have to just binge it! πŸ™‚
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    • I agree even with series that can be read as standalone there is still some development or extra information you miss when you read a book out of order. And I like it when in later books you see the main character from a previous book return and you get a glimpse of how they are doing now.

      I think having more of the world, characters and story you already love is a good thing. I also have some trouble keeping up with some series, but more because I have so many books I want to read. Luckily my memory is pretty good, but even then I forget things that happened in previous books. It is nice when you’re able to binge read a series when possible or at least soon after another.

  5. I love reading series. I love catching up with the characters from the previous books and I love learning more about secondary characters that captured my attention. What kind of draws me away from a series is if an author decides to make a 4 book series and book 1 is amazing but 2 and 3 sort of fall flat because they’re mostly filled with fluff yet book 4 is amazing.

    As for reading order, it just depends on the genre. If I’m reading historical fiction, then yes, I try to read it in order. Cozy mysteries, I generally try to stick to the reading order, although I’m okay with skipping around. I generally skip around with romance books.
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    • It sure is sad when a book has middle book syndrome or the few middle books are less good than the first and last ones. I’ve also seen series that start meh and get better with each book or those series that start out great and get less so. It’s best when a series already starts out well and stays on the same level or even gets more enjoyable with each book.

      I still feel like I don’t know enough about the characters and their past. I guess I just hate that feeling of missing something and knowing I don’t know what has happened before or like I miss a piece of backstory. And even with romance books I try and stick to the order as then in later books you might see the main character of a previous book again and it’s more fun if you have read their story already. Although I do agree that with romance it’s usually easier to skip around than some other genres.

  6. I mostly like to read a series in order but if I win a book in the middle of the series and really like it, I’ll go back and read the other books too. There are a few series that I’ve been reading for about 20 years. Sherrilyn Kenyon, Christine Feehan and Laurel K Hamilton all have series that I’ve been reading for what seems like forever. I like that the story continues with each new books, that I get to know the characters more and that most of the characters get their own books.
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    • I make a few exceptions to read a series out of order when I win a book or sometimes get one from netgalley, but usually I prefer to read a series in order. It’s great when series run so long and stay interesting. I have few series I follow so long, also a few that I eventually stopped or got behind on. And with series that feature another couple or character as main character it’s fun to get to know everyone more and look forward to everyone getting their own book.

  7. I do love series. Most of the books I read are part of series. My favorite part are the time we get to spend with the characters. With a standalone, you only have the one book with them. In a series, you have several books to spend with the characters that I love.

    The majority of the time, I read the series in order. There are a few times where I’ve read series out of order. If it is a romance where someone has really recommended a book to me, I’ve read a later book. I bet I can only think of maybe 2-3 times that has happened.

    What I dislike about series, when they run on too long and get stale. I’ve quit a few series this year because I didn’t like the direction the authors were going. One series was on book 24 (Anita Blake) the other is Black Dagger Brotherhood (which I quit on book 13). Both of these series have taken a huge turn from where the series was at the beginning series. I’ve read some series that are long and worked, but I say it is the exception rather than the rule. I love the Psy/Changeling series by Nalini Singh, which has book 15 coming out this year. Elemental Assassins series by Jennifer Estep has a book 15 coming out this year too. I’m still enjoying that series as well Great topic.
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    • Same here, I read more books that are part of a series than standalone. It’s nice to be able to spend more time with the characters or in the world you’ve come to care about than only have that one book.

      I only rarely read a series out of order, sometimes when I don’t know better or one book in the series really appeals to me more than the others. I just think overall it’s more fun to read a series in order if possible.

      I agree that especially with long series they get a bit stale sometimes. I think authors shouldn’t drag out series too long. I am always a bit hesitant to start such long series. Although it is great when you have along series and the author keeps things interesting. I am behind on the elemental assassin series, but it’s great to know it keeps going strong.

    • I also like standalones, but I also love series and overall read more series than standalones. I haven’t finished the Daughter of Smoke and Bone series yet, but I did enjoy the first two books.

  8. My first thought when I saw the topic was, EVERYTHING! I LOVE EVERYTHING ABOUT SERIES!

    I series-ously (haha, I’m so punny) am a series girl. The thing about me is, it takes me a while to REALLY get into characters, to get invested in them to LOVE them. I’m usually not too invested in just one book. But then, by the time I’m in the third book, I’ll suddenly realize I’m so deep that the characters are REAL and I can’t live without them. That’s how it works for me (when the books are good) because I get to know them better and better the more I read about them. And that ties right into the complexity and continuity you mentioned. The stakes get higher as things build up, so emotions get stronger, etc.

    I don’t care for the series in which each book has different main characters. I mean, I read them sometimes, but they basically feel like separate standalones to me, not a series. There is kind of one exception—one of my favorites series is 5 books long, then a spin-off series started with a different MC. But the old characters still have such a big role that it feels like one big story.

    Anyway, there’s nothing I dislike about series πŸ™‚
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    • lol at that series pun ;). And I love almost everything about series too. Series are pretty awesome.

      I see your point, usually I might like the characters, but with each book I feel like I get to know them better and then only later in the series you’re even more invested in them and their lives. And even if I already like a character in the first book it usually only gets more so as the series progresses.

      I do like the series with different main characters, especially when they are done well and you also hear what’s going on with the previous main characters and they keep playing a role. Or you see the city or community change around them as you progress through the series.

      I also know a series like that which had the first series form one main character their point of view and then a spin-off with another main character, but the old character still play a role there too, just a different focus. Some side characters become way more important while the main characters of the first series get less important. That reminds me I still need to read the last book in the spin-off.

    • Yes there’s more time to get engrossed into the storyline and characters. I really like foreshadowing and continuity.
      I do agree with you on the middle book syndrome, it’s really a shame when that happens or when a series starts off good and then gets less so.

  9. Great article, Lola! I am a huge fan of series because there are so many good ones out there these days! I do love stand alones, but I gotta say I’m getting hooked on series and for all the reasons you outlined. The only downside is waiting for the next in the series. Fortunately, there are many series out there completed!
    Happy Friday everyone!

    • Same here, I also love a good standalone book, but I read more series. The wait for the next book in a series can be difficult, but I actually prefer that sometimes to starting an already concluded series. Especially with longer series it’s easier to keep up when you read each book as it releases, instead of starting the series and knowing how long it is.

  10. I prefer reading series for all the reasons you mentioned: familiarity with the world and characters, continuity, a longer story arc (in trilogies etc.), a chance to revisit characters from earlier books (in romance series), and above all the opportunity to spend more time in a world and/or with characters I’ve come to like or even love.

    As for reading in series order, it really depends on the series. If it’s the sort with an over-arching storyline — like The Lord of the Rings, or Harry Potter — I will absolutely read it in order. On the other hand, there are series where the order is less important; many mystery series fall into that category, where each mystery is essentially a standalone, although the detective character(s) may have an ongoing subplot having to do with their personal and/or professional life. Agatha Christie’s Poirot series has recurring characters, for instance, but each story stands by itself. On the other hand, the ongoing story and character arcs for Deborah Crombie’s Duncan Kincaid and Gemma James (British police detectives with an evolving personal relationship who eventually marry) are almost as important as the mysteries they solve, so it’s better to read that series in order.

    The biggest downside to series? Waiting for the next book, especially for series that are basically one very long story with a planned ending. I’d hate to be a George R. R. Martin fan right now. As it is, I’ve been waiting for the next Patrick Rothfuss “Kingkiller Chronicles” novel for about 4 years, and it doesn’t look like we’ll get it in 2016 either. Oh, well, better a great novel later, than a disappointing novel sooner!
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    • Its great to be able to spend more time in the world and with the characters you’ve come to care about.

      With cozies so far I also preferred reading the books in order due to the main characters and relationship plot lines. yes each mystery is solved in that book, but I still like the sense of continuity the other plot lines can give a series. So I prefer to read them in order as I enjoy the series more. I get frustrated when I notice those hints to past books and haven’t read those.

      The waiting for the next book sure can be annoying at times, especially when you have to wait really long. Sometimes I lose interest in a series and never finish it for that reason. I do agree that it’s better to wait longer than to have a disappointing novel, but I also think that if the wait is too long some fans will not read the next book simply because they forgot about it or lost interest.

  11. I like my series and I like them in order thank you very much [nuh hu I ain’t messing with my already messed up brain!] πŸ™‚

    All the reasons you listed work for me with the exception of familiarity maybe.
    Continuity would be my favorite because I get very excited about the worlds and plot moving forward and unraveling. Foreshadowing is a very close runner up. I too enjoy the anticipation of seeing how it gets revealed. And definitely more of a good thing! I don’t think there is much I dislike either. Not even waiting for the new release because it makes it even more exciting πŸ™‚ Great post Lola!
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    • I am a big fan of continuity as it’s fun to see a plot move forward and change. And foreshadowing is great too, especially with those hints you might not realize are hints at first. I usually don’t mind the wait as much either, I am pretty patient usually. But sometimes when you read a great book it can be a bit sad you can’t read the next book already. Then again I think I do start more new series when they are released than I start series that are already released, as somehow it’s less daunting when a series only has one book that’s out yet.

  12. I’m going to be in the minority here. I haven’t read many “proper” series. The very few I did read were good and I enjoyed them, but in general, I prefer standalones.
    I don’t like cliffhangers, I don’t like waiting, and I cannot stand a dragging storyline written just to milk the cow and get more money from fans.
    On the other hand, if a series was complete, I wouldn’t mind giving it a try.
    But I need a satisfying ending now, now, now. If I can’t have it, I’m not sure I would even start a series. I’m too impatient.

    • I actually have trouble remembering the last standalone book I read. It’s not that I avoid them as I also enjoy standalone, but I seem to read more series. I also don’t mind waiting and I usually don’t mind cliffhangers too much. I rarely get so invested in a book that I can’t wait for the next book. And even if I have that feeling at first it will go away.

      I do dislike it when a series gets dragged out just for the sake of more money and the books don’t add anything, but only very few of the series I read are that way. I rarely have time to binge read a series and I actually find it less daunting to start a series as soon as book 1 releases as then I know I can keep up at least.

      So why did you decide to write your first book a series then if you personally prefer standalones? Just curious. Or is that the reason why you give each book an ending for that couple even though it’s part of a series as well?

      • LOL, I am writing a series, even though I prefer standalones, true! But as you said, I give an ending to each of the couples, so each volume can be read by itself. I do have recurrent characters, who will get their own book at some point *hint hint* but the sad truth is that I do this because I would be incapable of writing a continuing series: I do not have the
        patience, imagination or talent needed to write one.

        • I agree each book can be read as standalone easier in those type of series, although I still want to read them in order. I like recurring characters in series like that. And with the same world/ theme it still has that continuity feel.

  13. oh you know, I LOVE and ADORE series. I think what I love most is the connection and seeing the same characters through out the books. Especially if it deals with family members or a group of friends. I think the only time I have issues with series, is when its focus is one couple, and I don’t know if there will be a good ending or not. I am a romance buff, so happy endings are a must for me.

    • I agree there’s something fun about seeing the same characters throughout multiple books. And when each book features a different couple you still see the previous main characters as well.
      I also prefer Happy Endings or at least where the romance is concerned, but I don’t think I’ve read a lot of romance books without happy endings.

  14. I love series for all the same reasons as you, Lola! Another series where the foreshadowing / plot-points were planted in the first book, only to come out much, much later in a full story was Kim Harrison’s The Hollows, and Ilona Andrews’ Kate Daniels. It’s always amazing to me that a small thing that happened in the first book can be a major plot point and even game changer later.
    The familiarity with the universe and the characters is another thing I love. If I connect with the characters, I want to stay with them for much more than one book.
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    • I’ve only read the first Kate Daniels book and wasn’t a big fan, although everyone says the series gets better late on, so maybe I will continue it one day. I haven’t tried The Hollows series. I love series with foreshadowing where the plot points get planted early one and only come out much later. It’s impressive when authors can pull that off!
      And it’s great when you connect with the characters and can stay with them for a few more books! I like the familiarity series build and how easily I can usually slip back into a series again.
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  15. Oh, this is a great topic, Lola! I love series but I like how you laid out reasons for loving a series. I especially like the fact that with a series, you typically get ‘more’ of the story you love. And I love the complexity that typically comes along with that longer story – the overarching plot line along with the smaller plot lines and sub-plot lines within each installment, along with the world building make for a meatier and satisfying read. I’m with you on having to wait for the next installment though…I am usually a patient person but I sure don’t like waiting on the next book in a series. It’s one of the reasons I get so far behind in series even though I love them. I move onto other books/authors while I’m waiting and sometimes it’s hard to find my way back. I do tend to read series in order – I’m kinda anal about it, actually. I know authors say that (sometimes) the books can be read standalone but I’m always afraid of missing something. πŸ™‚
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    • Getting more of a thing you love is one of the best things about series. And the extra complexity that a larger can provide is also a good thing. I usually don’t mind the wait, but if I had to name one bad thing about series that would be it. Sometimes it’s nice to be able to read the next book right away or I can get a bit impatient when waiting for a book I really want. And indeed I read so many other books in the meantime and then have to find time to make my way back to the previous series. And same here I am always afraid of missing something and will always read a series in order if possible, although I have made an exception now and then.

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