12/6/08

Are You Series-ous?

As I noted in earlier entries, I've been doing some light reading for the past few months. In these "light" forays, I've discovered the pleasure of the series.

I have been a fan of series books since my earliest years, when reading Encyclopedia Brown and the Chronicles of Narnia. I loved the characters and wanted to join them for yet another adventure. I trusted them — that is, I realized as I got older, I trusted the writers and editors who brought me those characters and stories.

There are some well-known and very popular series on the bookshelves today, and I have sampled at least a few of them: Harry Potter, Gemma Doyle trilogy, Twilight series, A Series of Unfortunate Events, Magic Treehouse, Dresden Files, Gossip Girls, American Girls, Spiderwick .... each with its own following.

I, lately, have found myself ensnared by a couple of series: Stephanie Plum and the Lytton trilogy.

I met Stephanie Plum in the emergency room of the busiest hospital in my region. It was in the wee hours of a Thursday, Medivac helicopters were bringing in the terribly injured and it looked like it would be a long night for David and me. Cindy dropped David and me off, and Alicia returned a while later in her own car and with a book in hand: Fearless Fourteen, a kind gesture from Cindy, who was rarely wrong about a good leisure book. Plus, when sitting with my foot elevated in a wheelchair facing "The Fugitive" on a snowy and tinny-sounding television, Fourteen looked better and better. Then, as David fetched cake and took a nap, and I battled to stay awake, I cracked open the book.

And was transported.

As you can tell from my review, I found it delightful. I didn't realize, however, that it was part of a series until Carole mentioned it later. ("A Stephanie Plum novel" meant nothing at 5 am that day, nor in the exhausting, trying, hazy days following.) During my convalescence, Carole brought me the first four Stepanie Plum novels, and I began anew.

So far, I've read the first six, and I will start Seven Up after I next see Carole. (She's my Plum dealer.) The characters are feisty and memorable, and rumor has it that some of my favorites will make appearances in books I have yet to read. I can't wait.

Another series in which I have found myself hip-deep is the Lytton trilogy. I had read the first book, No Angel, five years ago and was totally absorbed — and was thrilled when I learned Penny Vincenzi had written two other books. Carole, thankfully, had read all three, so as I hit different points in the story, I would call her. With no preamble. "This is Carole" would be greeted with, "Okay, Celia has just...." or "She's not leaving! Still! What is she thinking!?" Sometimes I would answer the phone with, "Hey, Carole, I'm at...." (Thank you, Caller-ID!)

It's a hefty trilogy, and not a quick read — which is good because it's too good to get through quickly. (I think the first book is nearly 700 pages, so it's not a quick or light anything.) I am about a third of the way through the final book, and I am afraid to pick it up. When I read during my convalescence, I had the luxury of napping and sleeping in. No such luck these days, so I have to pace myself — which is impossible with such a compelling book. Therefore, unless I plan to read until I hide the book in the other room and fall asleep, my eyes red-rimmed and scratchy, I have to approach with caution. I will have to see how Carole managed. It's too good a book to put down!

I foresee a few more series in my future: Spiderwick, which my friend Kelsey shared with me; the Gemma Doyle trilogy (reviewed by Carole and a favorite of her daughter); Twilight (because I wish to discuss it with my friend Corinne); Dresden Files (only because the television series is so enjoyable).

When I find the time, I will re-read a couple of my personal favorites:
  • The Chronicles of Narnia, which holds a special spot in my heart for the week I enjoyed it, holed up in my room as I devoured each book, forsaking sleep and sun until the end; and
  • Harry Potter, with thanks to Suzanne, for sharing the first book with me, as well as Carole and the kids, who managed to keep secrets until after I read each volume.

One warning: take a breather, no matter how beloved a series is. Don't risk Author Repeatitis! Chances are your series will not falter, but don't give it a chance to fail because of your own saturation. I remember my experiences with the original Dune trilogy and wince. Frank Herbert deserved better attention than a 19-year-old college student with time on her hands could give him.

1 comment:

Carole said...

Series are a real commitment--some you savor and others feel like an endurance contest. I'll always treasure the memories of reading Harry Potter, the Chronicles of Narnia, Lord of the Rings, Hornblower, and Redwall as a family.

My daughter and I have recently enjoyed the Gemma Doyle series and Twilight (new post to come on this soon).

The Lytton saga is one I'm so glad to have read and shared with others--everyone I know has really enjoyed it, even if it is a hefty one.

The Stephanie Plum series is one that doesn't seem to have an intended end, but is rather more open-ended. I enjoy them but can't read too many in a row.

Great post! I'd love to learn about other series out there.