This was supposed to be an easy one. I called my sister, Emilie, and asked if she would Read an Entire Book Series with me. She seemed like an obvious choice. We share book recommendations, a love of reading, and an understanding that audiobooks succeed or fail based on the narrator. Foreshadowing.
I read all kinds of books, but I love British mysteries, all of which have the same protagonist in each book and are, therefore, part of a series. But, each book could be read independently, with only the characters back-stories as the through line. We wanted to make sure we chose a series that requires that you read all books to get the complete story. Additionally, we didn’t want to read a series with a lot of books, or any books that were overly long. We both like to listen to audiobooks and didn’t want to sign on for 20+ hours per title. Emilie crowd-sourced her book group and got a list of suggestions. We both did a bit of additional research. To help us choose, we put a couple of guidelines in place:
- No more than three books
- All books in the series need to be read in order to make sense
- No overly long books
- Nothing we’ve read or watched before
We made a short list of finalists and then started the real discussion.
Our list of finalists:
- Sword of Shannara: an epic fantasy series by Terry Brooks. First book was published in 1977. Pro: something different from our regular reads. Con: each audiobook has a running time of 26+ hours.
- Six of Crows: YA fantasy, first in a trilogy by Leigh Bardugo. Pro: only three books Con: e-audiobook is an Audible Original, only available on Audible-not through the library. We both have Audible subscriptions but I have another beef with Audible originals*.
- Wildwood Chronicles: children’s fantasy series by Colin Meloy, illustrated by Carson Ellis. Pro: three books Con: target audience the youngest on the list.
- Caraval Trilogy: YA fantasy series by Stephanie Garber. Pro: 3 books, average audiobooks time 11 hours. Con: Confusing premise.
*Soapbox: I’ve had an Audible subscription since 2004. At that time, we actually burned a lot of the audiobooks onto CDs! Now, I get 90% of my audiobooks from the library using the Libby app but there are some books that I don’t want to wait on the holds list for or that just aren’t available through the library. My main issue with Audible is the Audible Original. Books with the “only from Audible” label are literally only from Audible. While that sounds obvious, it means that other bookstores and libraries can not sell or distribute those titles. If you’ve ever wondered why you couldn’t get e-audiobooks of The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood or Born a Crime by Trevor Noah through your library, now you know. It’s not because they don’t want to offer them. By limiting distribution Audible makes those titles inaccessible to communities and users who are unable to pay. This is antithetical to basic library principle of free access to books for all. Plus, I’ve found that a lot of Audible Originals just aren’t very good (foreshadowing). They used to give a lot of them away for free, and Emilie and I still didn’t want them.
We pretty quickly decided that 70+ hours of listening to complete a series seemed like a huge commitment, especially for two newbie epic-fantasy readers. Sword of Shannara was out. While we’ve both read and enjoyed our share of children’s books, we wanted to stick with something YA or older. Sometimes books for kids are great for everyone and sometimes they are great books for kids. We crossed off Wildwood Chronicles. Deciding between Six of Crows and Caraval took some time. Neither of us leaned toward one series or the other. Neither of us regularly read YA Fantasy, nor had we heard much about either series. At some point, Emilie realized that she actually already had Six of Crows in her Audible library, although she’d never read it, and didn’t even remember getting it. That made the decision easy. Six of Crows it was.
If you read Six of Crows and liked it, I’m sorry for what’s coming up. It’s not personal. Unless you are Leigh Bardugo. Then it’s personal. Initially, we thought it might be the voice acting. If you don’t listen to audiobooks, you might not be aware of the difference between full-cast audio and regular narration. Full-cast audiobooks use multiple voice actors to play the different roles vs only one person reading the book. They can often sound like radio-style productions. Full disclosure, I’m not usually a fan of the full-cast format, and I’m not going to bury the lede…I hated this one. I need you to know we tried.
The beginning was intriguing: a strange drug, characters with magical traits, an heist-style plan. We continued on hoping that we’d get used to the voice acting and that the story would make up for the narration. We were in the first stage of reading grief, DENIAL. That point early on in a book when you know it’s not good but you continue on in hope that it will change.
“Not a super fan of voice acting while narrating.”Emilie
“I’m getting interested the story but the narrator’s voices are hard to like.”Valerie
There were glimpses of promise. A prison break with fantastical creatures was a highlight but then just pages and pages of teenage angst, unbelievable interactions and irritating dialogue. The New York Times recommended Six of Crows because there are pages of “crackling dialogue and sumptuous description.” I would like to know who the reviewer was, and did we read the same book?
“Now I am doing the voices myself in my car as I listen to see if perhaps I can do a better job.”Emilie
“I hate the dialogue. All of it. No talking to each other.”Valerie
As our listening continued our text messages increased in volume and intensity. We had entered the next stage of reading grief: ANGER.
If we had not been on this journey together, we would not have reached this stage. We would have just stopped reading. I gave myself permission years ago to stop reading books that I am just not that into, for whatever reason. Sometimes I try them again at another time, often I don’t. And yet, we continued. We looked up reviews that we should have looked at before, questioned whether we’d have liked it more if we’d just read it and not listened to it, wondered who could actually like this book, and were constantly thankful that we both felt the same way. If one of us had liked it and the other hated it, whew, this might be a different post. We live-text-hated this book in real time. And although we hated the book, the narration, the story, the author, we were having a great time.
I can’t express my appreciation for Emilie and her willingness to forge ahead on this challenge. I also can’t express how fully sorry I am for putting her through this challenge. We realized that this book is written for teens but apparently a lot of adults like it, too. Who are you? Please identify yourself. We had reached the next stage of reading grief, BARGAINING.
“It’s pretty sad because this morning I started listening again when I was getting ready and thought, OK, 8 more hours. I can do this.”Valerie
“Haha yes! I’m driving to Tulsa today and thought, God, I hope I can just knock this out on this trip and be done!”Emilie
A never ending boat journey filled with no action, two sets of star-crossed teen couples, insipid banter and no end in sight. Reading grief stage: DEPRESSION.
“I’m on 22 of 46 chapters. Not sure I can finish it! It’s such a dog!”Emilie
“I’m on 19. It seems like a death sentence.”Valerie
In the end, even the laughs we’d had over our shared pain wasn’t enough to keep us going. We reached the last stage of reading grief, ACCEPTANCE.
“So we cry mercy and pull the plug. We gave it more than enough chances.”Valerie
“Definitely, I fought hard to stay in but it beat me down. I’ll never get that time back.Emilie
“Agreed. They owe us money.”Valerie
So, we started all over again. What to read? Perhaps, we would have been better off not worrying about how many books were in a series. We went to the restaurant on a diet, made our choices based solely on calories, and regretted the decision as soon as we took our first bite. Turns out, there were only two books in this series, (shows how much research we actually did!) but it would have felt like ten if we’d have forced ourselves to finish. We did what we probably should have done to start with. Referred back to the 100 Things To Do Before You Grow Up.
Of this list of book series, the only one that neither of us had read was Sea of Trolls, by Nancy Farmer. We are currently listening, me through my library, and Emilie through Audible (come on, Metropolitan Library System, this is a series you should offer for kids!). We just got started and it’s already better. The down side of a good audiobook is that although the book is better, there isn’t as much to bond over. Sadly, the family that hates together, texts more.
Now it’s your turn! We are just starting our Sea of Trolls journey and you are welcome to join us. Or, start reading an entire book series of your own choosing. I’d love to hear what series you’ve loved or plan to read. If you have read or choose to read Six of Crows, I want to hear your take on it. I promise, I won’t judge you if you liked it, but I will have many questions. This is just part one of this challenge. Can’t check this off the list yet, Emilie and I have three full books to go! Next challenge: Watch a Black and White Movie
Before you go…I grew up going to the Moore Public Library, part of the Pioneer Library System, in Moore, OK, a suburb of Oklahoma City. I have such great memories of my childhood library experience that I became a librarian! I must have had a library card for the Metropolitan Library System of greater OKC because I remember going to a couple of branches in south OKC as a teenager. I love the comic book feel and the ultimate arrogance of naming your library system Metropolitan. For a state that has endorsed the motto Oklahoma is OK! it’s a bold move to claim to be the only Metropolitan Library System in the US! (It’s a great system, by the way, not throwing shade.) Thanks for reading!
- Grew up in North Bend, NE and Moore, OK
- Liked playing with Barbies and her doll, Velvet
- Currently preoccupied with genealogy