Friday, June 8, 2012

why the f*ck friday (6)

Welcome to WTFF. In which I attempt to answer a single question--normally a thought on a book or a bookish subject--that I've been pondering for the past week. This week it's "Why the f*ck isn't there an etiquette to series books?"

I think Harry Potter is responsible for this one. Or even Percy Jackson. I'm not going to mention the one about vampires. Maybe it started a while ago and I didn't notice. Maybe it recently started: but every YA book is now expected to be a series.

You would think that so many series books are a good thing. It's not. Reading a series book is the same as committing to a relationship. It means you've committed to a second date, and sometimes a third. In the case of Cassandra Clare's Mortal Instruments I've committed to four. And her Clockwork Angel series. 

I'm essentially entering into a relationship when I start a series. I've set aside time to read them. I've set aside time to think about them. I've spent my days stressing over when I get to see them again.

It can be a bit much when you're between Mortal Instruments, Knife, Shade, Delirium, Matched, Cinder, Legend, etc. Dividing time between all of them can be a hassle. And. Every. Day. There's. A. New. One.

What makes it worse is that recommending the first book of the series is actually recommending three books to that person. Is that fair? Could they give you three books to read in exchange? Is that acceptable? 

What if they don't like the first book? It gets tricky here. We either tell them it gets better in the second book or just admit failure and move on (hint: we always tell them the latter). 

"You didn't even finish book one?"
When it comes to not liking that first book it's an extra hard slap in the face. It's one thing for a friend to tell you they didn't like a certain book. But hand them a series they didn't like and all of sudden you're enemies. "You didn't even read book three!" 

"Of course I didn't read book three. The character was a slutty moron!"

I am proposing we develop an etiquette to recommending series books. We only really need one rule.

THE NO OBLIGATION TO BUY RULE.

The "No Obligation to Buy" rule means a number of things. It means the person reading the first book in a series should be borrowing it from you, not having to run out and buy it. If they want to buy it, fine, but if it sucks you're being blamed for a faulty purchase.

The "No Obligation to Buy" rule means that the reader borrowing the book is not required to invest in the series as a whole. They are not required to like the book. They are not required to read the second book if they like the first book. They aren't even required to finish the first book. Etc.

The "No Obligation to Buy" rule also applies to borrowing etiquette. It means that your friend can borrow the book/series for an undetermined amount of time. You are not allowed to b*tch about how long they've had the books. You are, however, allowed to ask how their progress is going (multiple times a week if you feel like it).

The "No Obligation to Buy" rule means that the person can outright refuse to read the series upon seeing the book covers. This part of the rule is helpful for the guys that would rather read a series on an ereader. Because some of those covers? Freakin' racy.

The "No Obligation to Buy" rule means that you need to contain your excitement. You are not allowed to be overly perky. This has psychological aspects to it as well. Don't allow yourself to get worked up. It means the possible let down won't be as harsh. "You didn't like it!? Why didn't you like it?"

The "No Obligation to Buy" rule also means that your initial question about the book is not allowed to be "Didn't you love it?" You should be asking "What did you think?" This applies to the perkiness part of this rule.

There we have it. One simple rule out in the open. People are not required to read series books just because you happen to like them. Hopefully this catches on.

That's it for this week's why the f*ck friday. Different opinion? Similar experience? Similar thoughts on this subject? Post it below in the comments. Feel free to berate me, praise me, or buy me some fancy coffee. You can even tell me to f*ck off and then buy me a coffee. I enjoy hearing the bookish and nerdy thoughts of others.

60 comments:

  1. Great post!
    I agree with most of the things you say but it's definitely annoying when a friend I let borrow a book calls me (a few minutes ago, actually) with the demand that I should buy the second book she just saw in the bookstore. The recommender deserves some rights as well!
    And another thing about book series? I hate it when I only like (or less) the first book but I really want to find out what's in the second.

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    1. I'm with you on not really caring much for the first but wanting to read the rest. I've read a few series where they have gotten better but I'm always weary of trying out a second book. Which is why I tend to wait for either the series to be out as with trilogies or 2 book series.

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    2. Thank Rose!

      I plan to delve into The Rights of the Reader (as I'm calling it) next week.

      I hate that as well. I wasn't a fan of Across the Universe, but I ended up reading the second one because I wanted to see where the author would take it.

      Amelia, I've stopped reading at the first book before. It gets really hard not to read the second one. I've never had the will power to hold myself off for more than a year or so.

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    3. I've done the unthinkable and have gone online to look up future books in a series if I didn't like the first one, but was curious enough to see what happens to the characters. Don't judge me!

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  2. YEEES. Although I will say that I have a hard time containing my excitement for a certain series (and I feel.."emotional" when people don't l-o-v-e it as much as I did). Soo, maybe I'll try to work on that one so as not to make peeps feel uncomfortable aha.

    ALSO, I have a series that I absolutely ADORE that is 5 books long, but I stopped after 3, not because I wasn't liking them but because, for me, I felt like that's where the story should end. It felt right to me. (Weird?)

    Love this post.

    -S

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    1. I only get worked up about authors. I've never really hounded anyone about a series (except maybe His Dark Materials).

      I don't think that's weird at all. See, I would've liked Delirium (and I have tons of love for this series) to end with the first book. Just completely open ended or something. The second book is great, but... part of me wishes Lauren Oliver would've wrote just the one. I still love the series, though.

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  3. I don't think I would recommend that people flat-out buy a book, just read it. Who knows if I ever have. Sometimes enthusiasm runs away with me but it's a good point to remember. Not everyone will like what you love.

    I agree with you that there are just so many trilogies and series in YA. When you don't like the first book, at least you can just let it be. When you do like it and there is a cliff hanger ending and "excuse us while we make you wait a year" it can be excruciating.

    Of course, I'm not against series - because who doesn't want more of something they love? - BUT it would be nice if it didn't feel like we were drowning in them, treading water and seeking that lone lifesaver that is that standalone novel.

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    1. I never recommend book buying for a series. I always offer to loan the first one. Of course, this is getting increasingly difficult because of the Kindle and other ereaders.

      Excruciating is the word for it alright.

      I am all for a well written series. Sometimes, though, they push it too far and the idea seems more tainted and watered down.

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  4. Clearly I am guilty of breaking a few rules by suggesting that you read a certain series involving a ghost and a Scotsman. Perky...check. Did you like it?...check. You will like book 2 more...check. BUT...I was fully supportive in your decision to get it from the library :)

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    1. There's an exception to this: I asked for recommendations from you guys. And btw I enjoyed it.

      I already have book two! It's in my TBR. No pressure to read it, right? Haha.

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  5. Overall, I think I agree with you. Unless the series is amazing, after the third book or so (sometimes the first) I start to question authenticity, sincerity, originality, etc. blah blah blah...

    I only have one bone to pick: borrowing etiquette. I do not think a friend should be able to borrow a series book for an undetermined amount of time. They should get a grace period of like...3 months.

    I let a friend borrow a book and its been in North Carolina for four years--last time I checked (two years ago) they still hadn't read it. Rude. What if I wanted to reread it? This normally doesn't happen very often, but what if. At this point they should send me my copy back, buy their own and let it sit on their shelf, until they feel like reading it.

    Another time,(this is a true story) I let a friend borrow a book and I got it back a few months later with fruit punch stains on the cover and spider guts smeared on the pages. Apparently the book was the only weapon they could find. On on top of that they didn't even finish it. I guess the last part didn't bother me that much. But still, rude.

    So yeah, 3 month grace period.
    Rant over.

    Great post.

    ps - Your point on toning done excitement is crucial.

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    1. I completely feel your pain on that one, Amber. I loaned my copy (the whole trilogy in hardback) of The Hunger Games out to a friend--who then loaned it to another friend. I haven't seen my books in two years.

      I once found a book I loaned someone behind a couch covered in cat urine. Fun fun.

      Ahhhh. Spider guts. I'm more offended that they didn't finish it. Yesh. Very rude. I like this grace period rule. I really do.

      P.S. Thank you.

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  6. Amen! I have committed myself to so many series, I don't have time to try new authors. I have also found myself buying the next book in a series, but not reading it right away (or ever in one case) because my to-be-read pile is too big. Some of my friends and I have also started saying things like, "I would read that, but I really can't start another series." Are we missing out on good books by being afraid of another series?

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    1. Probably. There was a book I wanted to read recently but it turned out it was a series book. So I just completely avoided it. It's like to pop up in my TBR in the future, but for now it needs to be avoided.

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  7. When someone recommends a book that happens to be first in a series I normally ask if they have all of them and can I borrow them. Otherwise I check the first book out at the library.

    When making recommendations I make sure I have the books and will be buying them. Or if I know they are in the same library system I work in (or my local branch) I just put the books on hold for them.

    Added on to this can I complain about a few series that I finished reading as a teen but now that they are popular again there are more books being written, like the LJ Smith series. I don't want to read more, it changes everything!

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    1. That is something that I have failed to ask in the past.

      I know! I hate it when old books get new sequels. It kind of defeats the purpose. Like Philip Pullman's plan to add on to the His Dark Materials series. I love HDM. But I want it to end like how it ended.

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  8. I completely agree. It always seems like everyone has a different favorite book within a series as well. There should be a rule that says that there is no hating on other's favorites.

    One of the things that always gets me a DNF for a series is when nothing really happens in the first book; it's all set up. That happened to me recently. You can usually find someone who dislikes a series as well as liked one so there's hopefully someone on your side to discuss things with either way.

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    1. There should be. It could also crossover to movies. I always tend to like the middle books best. Idk why. But I get sh*t for liking The Two Towers as the best LOTR movie.

      I hate that. I hate setup books. That was my primary complaint against Divergent if I recall correctly.

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    2. Um, The Two Towers is obviously the best movie in the series because the best story in the bunch is not about the Ring, it's about Aragorn.

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  9. I see these as two distinct issues that make each other complicated. (Yeah this is long, sorry!)

    1. Unless it’s Contemporary, every YA book is part of a series. The standard is 3 books, but it can be as many as 6 (or more). There are a very few exceptions to this.

    I both love and hate this.

    If multiple books in a series are out, I try to read them all at once. Then I get invested in the story as much as possible – this is helpful because most books are written as larger story arcs so you don’t get much in the first one. I also read so many books/series a year that it helps me not forget what is going on in the series. But if only one book is out so far, I start thinking “it’s going to be at least 2 years before I can find out what happens in this series!” And sometimes that is daunting and depressing

    When I saw your relationship analogy, my first thought was: “you think 3 dates constitutes a relationship?” But I guess if you’ve just read the first book of a series and the final one doesn’t come out for another 2 years, then, yes, you’re committing yourself to two more years with it. Granted, I believe in long-term relationships, but I’m not into polygamy, except where books are concerned.

    However, if I hate the first book, I won’t continue the series. There are so many books that I want to read, that I don’t want to waste my time on something that I’m not enjoying.

    I don’t see this issue going away anytime soon. It’s a great tactic to sell more books!

    2. Expectations when recommending books to friends. As an avid reader I fall on both sides of book lending expectations (as the reader and recommender).

    Reading is very personal to me. I don’t like to be told what to read and when to do it. It feels too much like school. And I dislike feeling pressure to read a story because a friend recommended it to me. Your rule of the person asking you constantly how your progress is going freaks me out, however. Because once I start a book, I’m going to finish it soon. Thus, if I’m not making progress, it means that I have yet to start the book. And I may not want to divulge that information to the recommender. And I think it's rude to keep someone else's book for a long time, especially if I don't really want to read it.

    As a recommender, it’s a great feeling when your friends love the books you love. And if it’s your favorite, you want to share it with everyone! However, because books are so personal, I think it’s possible to fall into the trap of “they don’t like my favorite book, therefore, they must not like me!” which is a dangerous thought and could lead to some very expensive counseling sessions.

    I would change your lending rule to “The No Obligation to Read Rule.” I think we should see recommendations as unconditional gifts, meaning that whatever the receiver of the recommendation wants to do with that book suggestion is up to them. This is hard to do, but it cuts down on disappointment and hurt feelings.

    3. When the two issues meet it can become complicated, but helps if the reader remembers #1. That way, if a book is recommended to them, they will know whether to expect it to be part of a series or not.

    And nearly every book can be found at a library so if the reader doesn’t want to buy it, than they can almost always hunt it down for free. Or get their friend to lend it to them on their kindle.

    Unrelated NOTE: Cassandra Clare’s TMI series is 6 books. I would either read 3 or finish the series. If you stop at four, you’ll surely be disappointed.

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    1. Oh dear. That's excessively long. Sorry! I tend to be long winded.

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    2. You are one of my favorite commenters (is that a word?). You put so much thought into your comments so make them as long as you want! I appreciate it!

      1. Or a crossover. Stephanie Perkins is guilty of this.

      I have learned not to read them all at once. Sometimes the books have backstory written into them within the first few chapters. So I like to wait a month before picking up the sequel so that the backstory bits don't bother me as much.

      You know, I'm avoiding every episode of Fringe because I want to watch it all at once. That whole watching Lost for seven years thing nearly killed me. Instead I'm waiting for the show to end. Then I'll read it. I like this idea for books as well. I think you're onto something.

      Yes! I was including the years between waiting for the next book as part of the relationship. I should've clarified on this. I apologize.

      2. “they don’t like my favorite book, therefore, they must not like me!” This is very true and I did not consider it. There probably is some underlying psychological part to this that we're not aware of. We tend to connect best with the characters we share more traits with. Or with the series that excites us with ideas that we haven't had before that end up becoming our own. So it's understandable that someone else wouldn't have the same love for it, so we would get insulted in injured by it (this has happened to me before).

      "No Obligation to Read" I like the way you define it. You do a better job of it than me. I just called it the "No Obligation to Buy" rule because it was the first part of the list: someone shouldn't have to invest in the series you're recommending. Next week's WTFF will be about "The Rights of the Reader".

      Unrelated NOTE: I'm on book two. My mother read the entire series in a week and told me to read the entire series and Clockwork. Me and her have similar taste, so I trust her judgement. I'm going to be reading them all (gradually).

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    3. Yes, the backstory thing is annoying. Though I’ve also faced reading the next book in a series a year later and completely forgetting what happened in the last book. But I’m usually too lazy to re-read.

      Don’t get me started on tv series. I can’t stand them, because they drag out tiny bits of information and never end. And you can tell when the writers start adding crazy things to keep the story going.

      I’m excited to read your Rights of the Reader! And I agree, recommending a book should not mean that you’re asking your friend to invest $50+ dollars in the series.

      As for TMI, I really enjoyed the series. I got more and more invested as it went along. Basically, I had to find out whether Jace and Clary were related??

      I saw one of your comments above about books you love. I'd be interested in reading your thoughts on His Dark Materials. Have you reviewed them? I read the series a couple years ago. I enjoyed it overall, though honestly wasn't my favorite (it got a bit weird). I do think it would be good for a discussion though. And this is the difference between us, I do not like open endings! SPOILER: WHAT? Lyra and Will can’t be together?????? Now that is just unacceptable. Okay, I get that the series was not about their relationship, but still.

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    4. LoLs, I like what you're saying here, longwinded and all. Don't be afraid to be wordy! Note: I stopped at the His Dark Materials bit because I've read books one and two but not three. I'm saving myself for the right time for that one. But yeah, I like what you say and to go through and list it all in Asheley fashion would be to double the length of your comment.

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    5. I also like the idea of a No Obligation to Read rule. As an English teacher, I get and give lots of recommendations, but none of us have the time to read them all! I do think though if you or a friend borrow a book, you should commit to reading it. Great post!

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  10. I enjoyed reading all the comments. I very rarely loan my books to people unless I know they treat their own books with respect ie. no bent pages, using bookmarks, not spilling food on books, and they are always people who want to talk to me about the book(s) no matter what they think. I think open dialogue is important and even if I don't like something I will tell them why and see what they think (if I borrowed it from them) or hear them out if they didn't like it.

    Also, this post reminded me that about a month ago I created a list on my phone of ALL the series I am in the middle of reading, because I kept forgetting to look for the next book in the series. I have over 20 series listed on my list.

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    1. Do you point out to people how to treat your books? I have found myself telling people to be careful with a few of my hardbacks, but a few of my paperbacks I'm like "go to town".

      If it weren't for Goodreads I'd have no idea where I was at in each series. I am in the middle of 17 at the moment.

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    2. Oh man Goodreads is my best friend. I definitely need it to tell me what I'm reading and thats where I went to figure out how many series I was in the middle of! I made the list because I knew I was missing books....if only Goodreads could alert us to the next book in a series we are reading.

      Yes I do. I tell people to use bookmarks because pages should not be bent. I ask them to please keep my book in nice condition because I treat my books well so they don't fall apart. :)

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    3. Besides Goodreads I would suggest Fictfact.com I love it for keeping track of series, and when the next books are coming out.

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    4. This is amazing! How have I never heard of Fictfact before? I'm in the middle of well over 25 series, and it's getting pretty ridiculous to keep track of them all. Thx for sharing.

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    5. You're welcome!

      I had the same reaction when I read about it on a blog a few years ago.

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  11. I think recommending books is troublesome in and of itself. Our tastes are often so varied that it is difficult to clue into someone's reading proclivities. For example, I recently joined a real-life book club. The deal is, whoever is hosting that month gets to choose the book. Thus far, I have cringed at every suggestion made by my fellow clubbers. One loves high fantasy, one loves non fiction and another (who is choosing the book next month) loves chick-lit and I swear, if she picks Shopaholic I will puke into my non-Prada (more likely Wal-Mart purchased) purse.

    That being said, recommending a series is even MORE difficult as you have to be tuned into a person's preferences and still run the risk of them a)not liking the first book or b)committing to the series only to have it fall apart after 2 or 5 or 10 books (I'm looking at you Anita Blake!)

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    1. I will join you in your barfing. I was the member of a book club for a while. Thankfully we met in bars (I hope yours does too).

      Yes! There's a lot of consideration that needs to go into reading a series. For instance, I love YA and science fiction, yet people recommend Stephanie Plum to me. Wtf?

      (I am glad that I've never had anyone ever recommend Anita Blake to me).

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  12. Do you (or anyone) find yourselves dropping out after book two, or midway through book three, of trilogies? I did this with LOTR and His Dark Materials. I also skipped the poetry, but that's a different topic.

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    1. I think everyone skipped the poetry in LOTR. I was in it for the battles.

      How could you skip HDM? Ahhh. <---see, I need to contain my excitement.

      But yes. I do. I did it with a few fantasy series (Dark Elf, A Song of Fire and Ice, etc).

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    2. But you're talking to another bookish person, so the excitement is okay. I think "know your audience" is a good mantra when recommending books and being all excited and such. As for HDM, it's been about 7 years since I tried, but I think I just got bored with Lyra. I really liked the *ideas* in the book, but not enough to get over being annoyed with her.

      Also, there's a big difference in my mind about getting into series where the books average 700 pages versus 300 pages. I stopped SFI after Game of Thrones because I was starting school again (and because I was mad that he killed off Ned so soon). I also got four books into the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon before giving up. I just got bored with Jamie and Claire (sacrilegde, apparently, but true).

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    3. I found myself reading the Cassie Clare books, the first series? And got to book 3 before I couldn't read any more. So many things annoyed me I had to stop reading that series.

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    4. You got on further than I did, Mel. I stopped after book one on that. The only series I'm super looking forward to reading are Maureen Johnson's Shades of London, Deborah Harkness's series and Michelle Cooper's Fitzosborne series.

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    5. haha Well I'm glad I'm not the only one. I seriously see twitter blowing up at times about those books along with everyone blogging about them. I am not sure of the draw.

      I did buy the first Shades of London book...pre-ordered actually but have yet to read it. Have you read it?

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  13. I absolutely adore a series and prefer a series to a standalone almost everytime. I have learned that this makes me a minority in the YA world, or at least I feel like it does, but I'm totally cool with it and I suspect everyone else probably is too. I am not really in the middle of many series because I tend to find out about them after they are completed or at least wait to start them when they are completed because I do not like cliffhangers at all. I also don't mind the length of a series. (For example, the Black Dagger Brotherhood has something like 11 or 12 books out so far and I'm all over that one and will read every one of them. And re-read them.) But I'm just as thrilled about a trilogy. I don't tend to roll my eyes when I find out a book is part of a trilogy like I find so many people doing, and frankly I don't really understand why people get so bent out of shape about it - truthfully, they're gonna read the books anyway. So their actions are unwarranted and merely used cause a ripple effect sometimes that I don't buy into, although I do believe most everyone has good intentions with regard to their supposed feelings on a series. I just don't mind them and I really don't think that deep down other people mind them as much as they lead us to believe either. (People in general, not necessarily people on this blog. I haven't read all of the other comments so I'm not speaking on anyone specifically.)

    I always suggest to people if I'm recommending a series that either they start the series now or wait until it is completed and I will give them the date of completion if I can. This has worked marvelously for me in the past and had great feedback from my IRL reading friends on this.

    I'm not thrilled about the thought of loaning books out to people for just an indefinite amount of time unless it is a totally trusted person. There are a very small group of people that I could name on one hand that qualify for this. Otherwise, I would have no problems politely asking for the book back because I'd like to read it again or asking when said person thinks they might be done with it because I'd like to plan to read it again. Perhaps that might sound rude, but I can usually make myself not sound rude and this has always worked like a charm for me in the past as well. I've never had any negative feedback. But then again I am careful about who I loan books to because I don't have all that many and cannot really easily replace them. So, there's that.

    Also as far as recommendations go, I try really hard to get to know the people that I'm interacting with. The readers, I mean, both in real life and thru my blog. In this way I feel pretty comfortable most of the time when I'm making recommendations that they'll at least be able to appreciate the genre or something about the book, if not like/love it, instead of it being something totally off the wall that I just liked myself. I would never just randomly suggest to you, for example, a book that I just read and loved (OMG I just read **** and you just HAVE to read it too!) knowing full well what your reading tastes are. I just find that a little rude, particularly knowing that if I don't loan you the books you'll have to do the work to find them in your library or buy them. So I try and make good recommendation matches, which has worked out well for me in nearly every case, I think. I can't speak for when someone comes to my blog and decides on their own a book that they'll try, but when I make a recommendation myself or am asked for one, I usually am able to make a good match. But again this comes with trying to know the readers as well as I can.

    Honestly, I can't remember if I'm on the topic or not and I'm a little bit too lazy to keep scrolling back to the top. So I commented something, but I don't know if it has anything to do with your question or not. Fa la la la

    :) :) :) :) In case I'm off topic, there are a bunch of smilies.

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  14. I really need to stop reading series until I finish the ones I have already started. Anyways, I try not to tell anyone they have to read anything just that I liked it and they might possibly like it too. Then pray if they decide to read it they don't hate it lol.

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    1. I like that you leave it up to chance by just hinting that they should read it. That way it doesn't come back on you if they're disappointed with it.

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  15. You're hilarious -- I just have to point that out. I wholeheartedly agree. Aside from the Harry Potter series, I believe that the perfect series (if it must be one) is a trilogy. Every good story has a beginning, a middle and an end, right? So a trilogy is just the perfect length. I have City of Lost Souls, and it's been sitting on my shelf for a month now, but I just haven't pushed myself to read it yet. And I LOVED the first three. But, that's where the series should have ended. Three is perfect.

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    1. I can't wait to get to book three then! I'm on City of Ashes right now and I'm enjoying it. I agree on the Harry Potter. Sometimes a book needs to be spread out. I think authors know when that's the case, and when not to do it.

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  16. I don't have problems with NOT committing to a series. In fact, I often do not finish a series. Reviews will post this week of two books in a series, of which I am not even going to read the third. I like your rules on recommending a series, but I think it could also be applied to ALL book recommendations.

    In agreement with your pondering on why all YA books become a series. I miss the days of stand-alones, but do enjoy a good series. If it is truly GOOD.

    Excellent WTFF!

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    1. Thanks Richard!

      I think there's been a few series that I've committed to only to abandon. Probably because I just wanted it to end that way. At least most of the time it's for that reason.

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