Category Archives: up for discussion

I’m just gonna say it, “I hate prequels and serials.”

I am zen...It is apparently a week for complaints. I promise I’m not always so negative. Actually, I’m usually pretty easy going. But I have my moments of, Jeebus, just stop already!

Earlier, I wrote a post about how I’m noticing a downward trend in the quality of the books I’m receiving to review. I heard from a number of readers that I wasn’t alone in this observation and one person mentioned in a tweet that this was not limited to self or indie publishers, but that she’d had to DNF yet another book by a traditional publisher because it was so poorly edited. In fact, that publisher has a reputation for providing very little in the way of editing.

Today I’m going to have to have a few words about serials and prequels. Some of you might know that I’ve set a goal of clearing off my short story/novelette/novella shelf (basically anything under 100 pages that isn’t part of a longer series that I happen to also have). Most of these were purchased without realizing their length, because I’m not a huge fan of shorts. But however they came to be on my TBR, I have a TON of them.

I’m currently about halfway through writing my sixth such post. I’m reading them in order of length and am currently reading those that are between 70-79 pages long. And it would appear this is about the length that authors feel is appropriate for short serials and prequels to series. Which is fine…except that I hate them both and reading so many back-to-back is really highlighting this fact.

Now, lets be clear, I’m about to go on a little rant that is solely mine. I’m not talking with any particular knowledge of the industry or any voice of authority. I am espousing my opinion. But since I have a platform to do so, I get to write it up on a blog and post it for the world (or roughly six random people) to see.

With very few exceptions,* I HATE SERIALS AND TEASER PREQUELS. I just do. This is a fad that cannot die fast enough for me. And let me tell you why. I generally consider them pointless wastes of time to read, and it all comes down to one of my very strongly held beliefs about books. EACH ONE SHOULD BE A COMPETE PIECE OF WORK. This doesn’t mean it can’t have a cliffhanger ending, but it does mean the story has to have a feeling of completeness. Some aspect of the arc contained in it needs to wrap up.

Hate def

As an example, contrast this with the prequel I just read (and I won’t shame it by calling it out). It started out with a girl being dragged away by a mysterious entity, no idea if she lives or dies, she’s just dragged off. (In fact, you never even learn her name with any certainty.) The story then moves backwards through the day leading up to that point. You see people arrive in their cars, get off work, meeting up with their rides, etc. You never quite make it to, “she woke up,” but you do get to getting dressed to go out and putting makeup on. So, the only exciting thing to happen happens in the first pages and the story gets progressively less interesting with every page read. There is nothing about it that is anything but a beginning.

It turns out that this “prequel” is literally just the first chapter of the first book of the series. It’s not meant to be a stand-alone piece of fiction. It is not meant to be read as anything but a lead-in to the series. And though many such prequels aren’t actually contained in other books, many are just the very tippy-top, beginning of a larger story.

But suppose I don’t want to read the series. Suppose I just want a 71 page story, say enough for my commute,  how am I to know which I’m getting when I open it up? I can’t. It’s a game of literary roulette in whether a prequel will feel like a satisfying read of just leave me feeling cheated out of an hour or two of my time.  And you know what, I very rarely feel tempted to continue the series, because I don’t like to be manipulated and that’s what it feels like to me, like a bait and switch. “Oh, you thought you were gonna get a story?  Ha, think again and one click.”

And yes, that particular example is particularly egregious, but it’s often just various degrees of the same problem with any prequel you pick up. There is always the question of, “Is this a complete piece or work and worth my time or is this just an anchorless snippet with no sense of completion?”

Some people will argue, “Well, it’s a prequel, part of a series. It’s not meant to be read on its own. You can’t criticize it for being what it’s supposed to be.” To which I answer, “In my opinion, if it’s given its own ISBN/ASIN, its own cover, then it is its own piece of work and I should be able to read it as such. At the very least I should be warned if I can’t.” And I guess that’s the crux of the problem. There is no way to tell which is which.

My problem with serials is exactly the same. They are often poorly labeled, so I’m not even always aware if what I’m picking up is the first book in a serialization or the first in a series. And even if I do manage to find a “part one” that clues me in to the fact that it’s a serial, I still can’t know if each part, volume, episode, whatever will be a complete arc or not.

I read one yesterday that was just basically the first 75 pages of a larger work (and I have read many such pieces). Well, if it’s one larger work, why break it up? I just honestly don’t even understand the logic behind it. If you have several arcs or characters with their own storyline, sure fine, make them serials. Because it’s logical that each such part, volume, episode, whatever can have an ending of some sort.

But if you’re writing a book and then think, “Hmm, I think I’ll just chop it into four pieces”….I have to ask why? What do you hope to accomplish? Because the only thing you accomplish with me is to piss me off and increase the likelihood I’ll refuse to read anything else by you. I’m absolutely, 100% not going to go out and spend money on the next couple chapters of what is in effect a single book. Not gonna happen.

I realize that I may be alone in these opinions. After all, someone is buying enough of these works to support the authors and continue the trend. Heck, I know of one publishing house that specializes in episodic literature, in other words, stories that are written like TV shows. They have no pre-determined length or events. Parts, volumes, episodes, whatever keep getting written as long as people keep buying the serializations. Think this to it’s logical conclusion…as long as you buy the next part, volume, episode, whatever you will never be given an ending. Personally, endings to stories I’m invested in are the most satisfying parts. Why would I want to be denied that?

So I ask the authors who are writing these, the editors, the publishers to find some way, any way, to let readers know what they are in for; because I am becoming increasingly jaded with the whole industry at this point. I am so sick of reaching the end of a “book” and finding that nothing, nothing at all has concluded.

I'm slowly giving up

*Exceptions largely being when a magazine or blog or some such is publishing a story over time, as a feature. But I don’t see that those should be separated from their source and for sale on Amazon or B&N or Kobo without any explanation of what they are.  

Don’t mind me. I’m just having a strop.

This post is a little bit of a rant, a little bit of me being confused and a little bit of an FYI. For those of you paying attention, you may have noticed that I haven’t posted a single review of a book sent to me as a review request yet this year. You might be tempted to think I’ve stopped reading such books all together. But you’d be wrong.

Granted, part of the reason is that I broke my wrist mid-December and quit reading novel-length books for a while. I did make a huge dent in my short story/novella shelf though. But that was only a couple weeks and not the whole reason behind my lack of request reading.

DNFThe primary reason I haven’t posted any such reviews isn’t that I haven’t read any such books. In fact, I’ve started several. The problem is that I couldn’t finish any of them! I’ve examined myself and my behavior to see if I’m being harder on requests than I am on other books, but I honestly don’t think so. I think this is something originating outside myself.

I keep a very open acceptance policy, so it’s no surprise that I receive a lot of books I’m not interested in reading. Now, it should be remembered that the reason my policy is as it is is because I can’t get authors to read and follow my policies. If I state I don’t accept short stories or Christian fiction I can GUARANTEE I will get a request (probably several) asking if I’m interested in reading their short Christian romance. I got so tired of fielding requests that I had stated in advance I didn’t want that I just stopped bothering.

This is almost certainly a minority ruining everything for the majority. I, of course, can’t know how many authors saw my disinterests and decided not to submit. But enough either thought they were the special snowflake exemption or (more likely) never even read the policies to know that their novel was outside my preferences.

I mention all this because that explains me having to wade through a river of requests that I have no interest in. But as I’m clear that this is the process in the policies (for those who read them) I don’t feel too bad about it. It’s the reason I only accept ebooks. This keeps it cost free for the authors and they’re out nothing but time if I don’t read their book.

This still leaves the question of why I’m having trouble finishing the books I do pick out of the pile. I don’t want this to be any sort of Indie or self-published bashing. I love such authors and have read a ton of such books that I loved. Similarly, I’ve read and raved about some books I received as requests. For example, The Bone Road, Murder Takes Time, The Guest of Honor, The Seraph Contingency, The Nirvana Plague, and The First Noble Truth were all requests and all received high praise from me. I recommended each one, both online and to people in real life. Heck, I tried to get my book club to read the last one.

But what they all also have in common is that none of them were read particularly recently. I’ve run this blog for three years and in that time there seems to have been a change either in the quality of books seeking independent blogger review or a change in the authors seeking such reviews. Because I am noticing a precipitous reduction in the quality of books I’m receiving.

Qualifiers: This is obviously subjective and is based on the books I have attempted to read. There could be gems in and amongst the ones that I haven’t. This is not meant as a sweeping statement about all indie/sp books and authors in general. It also isn’t directed at any particular individual(s) who has sent me a book. I am talking trends here.

And obviously, I can only guess at the cause, but here is my guess. I call it the scattershot method of review request. It is incredibly hard to find bloggers who are open to self-published authors. Things are a little better for indie authors, but it’s still a limited playing field if you’re seeking reviews of your own book.

Authors are told to expect large numbers of rejections and bloggers who will accept their book but never actually read it, not to mention just being ignored. So, for a lot of authors, it doesn’t seem time efficient to research bloggers and pair their book to appropriate ones. It is easier to simply send their book to every single blogger willing to publish a contact method and hope something sticks.

keep calm and read my bookThis is of course why I gave up trying to get authors to pay attention to my preferences in the first place. Sometimes authors never even make to the blog, let alone the policies. I’ve been propositioned on Twitter, on Goodreads, in friend requests, by contact page, in the comments of other books’ reviews (on the blog, Amazon and GR), on Facebook and my personal email. Authors are desperate to get their book before a reading audience.

What’s more, I think this same sense of desperation sometimes carries over into the production of the book itself. It creates a sense of needing to rush. As if there is a fear that if they don’t get their book out and in front of bloggers soon they’ll miss the self-publishing bubble or be further down the reading list. And I think there is an overlap here. Those authors willing to skip researching a blogger before sending their request are often the same who are willing to skimp on the services that would result in a higher quality product.

So, what bloggers like myself often end up with is worse than a slush pile. It’s a flood of ill-conceived, poorly edited, weakly plotted books that are of no interest to ourselves. And somewhere mixed in and among them are stellar reads, books so well-written, meticulously plotted, developed and put together that they really should be hitting big six selves. But those same books are too often hidden in the refuse. (I’m sorry, I know that sounds harsh, but I hope you take my point.)

On the upside, as an intrepid author with one self-published book under my belt, I have learned a TON about what not to do as both an author and a review requester. There are a certain number of writing mistakes that I know I’ve been guilty of in the past that I am painfully aware of now because I’ve seen them in other such books. As a review requester, I know I fouled up when I sought reviews of TWE. I’ve admitted that before. But scattershot was never one of my sins.

So, the question becomes, other than shutting the door to requests, what can be done about the problem? While I think that I recognize some of the causes of it (and I imagine there are others), I don’t have answers. But I’m putting this post out in the world partially as an explanation for the tapering off of the number of requested reviews I’m posting but also to ask authors to do better. The blunderbusses are ruining it for those who are trying to be conscientious. Conversely, I’d love to hear from other bloggers. Do you have similar experiences or is it just me/coincidence somehow?

Wrapping up 2015


I set so many challenges for myself this year! What was I thinking? Arggh, not so much for the challenges themselves, but because that leaves me so much to cover now. I guess the only thing to do is dive in.

GoodReads Challenge

goodreadsThis was my primary challenge in 2015. I set a goal of 200 books on Goodreads, not including short stories, and I succeeded. Good old Goodreads did a cool graphic this year. Feel free to click on it and explore mine.

I read a solid 200 books, but (as I’ve mentioned in previous posts) on December 16th I broke my wrist and since then I’ve been reading only short stories and novelettes, which skews me GR number toward more like 250 ‘books.’

I don’t use stars here on the blog, but if you’re curious, 2015 breaks down like this when I cross post to sites that do. Plus, 55,363 pages isn’t too shabby, though it’s about 20k short of last year. But I managed a lot more writing this year than last year. So, I’m not disappointed.

all books

I appear to have what statisticians would likely call a central tendency bias (at least if this was a true likert scale). But I also read a lot of pretty middle of the road books this year and this is one of those moments when a picture is worth so much. It really brings that point home.

Blogger Challenges

I did an Author Alphabet Soup challenge and succeeded. OK, X got read on Dec 30th, but that counts. So, at least one author for every letter of the alphabet, success. You can double check me here, if you really want to.

I also challenged myself to clear off some of the books that had been on my To Be Read list for more than two years, not including shorts. This last bit was added in two weeks ago, when (again) I broke my arm and concentrated solely on short stories and novelettes in order to avoid having to type anything longer than a sentence or two in review. (Like this post.) A lot of the short stories had been on my shelves for a long time, but they weren’t counted in the challenge. Several reads this year were close to qualifying for this challenge, but short by a mere month or so. I didn’t count them either, though they’d be 2+ years old now (in Dec.).

I wasn’t great about going back and checking in with the Evie-Bookish blog, where the challenge originated, but I feel like I was quite successful in this challenge.

tbr challenge

I signed up for the Mad Reviewers review challenge to read & review at least 104 books (not counting audiobooks). I finished with more than 150, so I’ll call that a success.

Lastly, I signed up for two challenges with  book r3vi3ws: Indiefever and Firstreads. I was good about tagging these, but failed miserably at keeping the list on book r3vi3ws up to date. I did however, succeed at both challenges, reading indie books and authors new to me. In fact, the vast majority of the books I read were either indie or self-published.


I’m a bit disappointed in the number of requests I got to this year, though I shouldn’t be. I started the year with a goal of 3 a month (36 total), but later opted to concentrate more on my own writing (which I did) and cut it back to one a month. I read 25 books sent to me by authors. There were a couple that I didn’t finish and not everyone was reviewed on the blog, or at least not in an individual post. I tend to cluster shorter works. But here is the list.

2015 requests

Sorry the list and pictures aren’t in the same order. I couldn’t be bothered to redo it all.


It addition to the books I took on request, I also accepted a number of books from Netgalley, meaning publishers offered them free in exchange for a review but I had to request them. This wasn’t a challenge per se, but it didn’t feel quite right to include them with the requested reviews either. There were and additional 19 books here.

Netgalley 2015

Pop-up Challenges

I like to mix things up on occation and sometimes mini-challenges grab my attention. I did two this year. In March, I noticed that I had 4 books titled Blood Lust. So I opted to read them all back to back. It did not go well. The average star rating didn’t even reach 2! But here they are. I just basically find it amusing to see four of the same titles in a row.

Blood lust coll

Then, later that same month, I noticed that I kept scrolling past the same unattractive picture in my TBR list on Goodreads and realized that I had four books with essentially the same cover. Thus was born the Annoying Close-up Guy Challenge. I read all four of them back to back. It went a bit better than the previous challenge and seeing four almost identical covers in a row really tickles me. (I Know, I’m easily amused.)

Annoying closeup guy

Top Picks

Lastly, and I think most importantly, what were my favorite books of the year? This is a difficult choice. After agonizing and hair pulling, I chose the following as my stand-outs of 2015:

They are in no particular order and I did a list of six, rather than the standard top-five, just because it makes a better box. See?

I would eagerly recommend any of these books to fellow readers. In fact, I do. Go, go forworth and read them.

Edit: You guys! You guys, I owe the Mad Reviewer a huge thank you. I forgot to report back to the challenge page at the end of the year and she went above and beyond to track me down for my final review count so that I could be entered in the drawing for a prize. And in the end, I won a $50 Amazon gift card and paperback copy of The Carnelian Legacy by Cheryl Koevoet, an ebook of The Carnelian Tyranny by Cheryl Koevoet and an ebook copy of Aranya by Marc Secchia. That is super cool. Thank you!