This is a Good Book Thursday October 29, 2020

So I have a question.
I was reading a book and got to a page where two people were going out to dinner . . . and the book ended. Turns out if I want to find out what happens next, I have to buy the author’s second book. And third. I think I read that there were five books in all. Please note: This isn’t “buy the next one if you want to find out the best friend’s story.” This is one book cut into five parts and sold as separate books. The other odd thing was that the heroine of the story was reading a book by the author who wrote the story. You know, like if Min was reading Jennifer Crusie’s Welcome to Temptation.. I know a lot of current authors are writing multiple books a year and doing other things I wouldn’t (which doesn’t mean they’re wrong, just not my cuppa), but both of these things seem . . . odd.
Is this common now, or is this author just strange?

I didn’t read anything else but the odd book and Anna this week. I’m WORKING. What did you read?

10+

125 thoughts on “This is a Good Book Thursday October 29, 2020

  1. I think, maybe? But I’ve never seen it as extreme as you describe. Usually each book is satisfying by itself. From the beginning of Patrick Rothfuss’s The Name of the Wind series was like this – you were warned bad things would happen, so I spent the whole time waiting for them. I’m still waiting, very annoying.

    KJ Charles’ new books are perhaps a little like this too (Sugared Game etc). It’s clear before buying that this is book one in a 3 part series, with HFN in book 1, but not HEA. At the end of book one I was satisfied, but I still wanted the next one.

    1. Yeah, with these you don’t get a HFN, the book just stops. It’s not even pretending to be a complete story.

        1. I may have read this exact same book. Either that or there is another author I have to designate Too Annoying to Read. I read 3 books of a series and instead of finding any kind of satisfactory conclusion, it just got more and more aggravating as I went on. NOTHING was satisfactory. The horrible people in the story never got their comeuppance. The heroine ended up with a totally different guy from the initial romance. I can’t even count all the ways this author ticked me off. I think there might have been one more book but I just couldn’t take it.

      1. I hate this sort of thing with a burning hatred. It’s like a trick. ‘I’m going to trick you into reading my next book.’ IMO every book should have a satisfying arc, and HFN is fine if it’s part of a series. But to just stop – total insult to the reader, and I wouldn’t go back to that writer.

        I take my feuds very seriously.

  2. I forgot!

    I want to recommend Consolation Songs: Optimistic speculative fiction for a time of pandemic’, a short story anthology edited by Iona Datt Sharma.

    All proceeds to the UCLH Charity’s COVID-19 appeal supporting the University College London Hospitals NHS Trust.

    I’m three stories in and have now decided to limit myself to one dose of Everything Will Be Alright a day, to make it last.

    In other news, in case there’s any confusion, NZ is not a fascist state with quarantine camps.

      1. Not that idiot American but an idiot American.
        Also some British woman named Suzanne Evans?
        Clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right . . .

    1. What idiot said that?

      Okay, I googled. Multi-national idiots. Not surprised to see that one was on Laura Ingraham.

    2. No, that would be Australia. (The quarantine camp, not the fascists. Mostly.) Will they ever not confuse us? You’re clearly superior.

      1. Oh wow, I really should have googled that first. To be clear, we’re not doing that either. Although we do have some international arrivals quarantining at a mining camp in the top end. But if a positive test is returned they don’t get locked in, they go to hospital. People are nuts, and on behalf of my country I would like to formally apologise for the Murdochs.

          1. When you find a place to ship the Murdochs, I have a couple suggestions for shipmates. My husband has warned me that depending on the election results, he may have to get some serious therapy. He has already planned a retreat for midweek, anticipating that whatever the result is, it will be accompanied by plenty of trauma. I’m trusting you all to get me through next week. My hair is already white, don’t even want to think what will come next.

        1. We don’t have any Murdoch media, which most of us are grateful for. Our media has its idiots, but they’re not Murdoch idiots. (Although we also have some very good media. This is an interview that has been going the rounds https://youtu.be/Zw5a2Cc5KtI).

          And we do have quarantine and isolation hotels (literally hotels, since we also have few international tourists), where those who test positive and their families are required to stay until they’re better, or for two weeks in arrival at the border (there are rules on who pays and who gets it free). Maybe we’re just delaying the inevitable.

          (PPS NZ is not utopia. You don’t want to know about house prices here, or rising inequality, racism in the health sector, the impact of dairying on our waterways, etc etc, we’re just not a fascist state).

        2. I am so oblivious. For years I never read anything that I could associate with the Murdochs. I missed out that Murdoch divorced wife #3 and the wife #4 was Jerry Hall, Mick’s ex-wife – well one of Mick’s ex-wives. I missed that Murdoch originally wanted to meet with Hilary to consider endorsing her and she wouldn’t meet with him. All of this I just discovered, years later than the rest of the world. My life is better for ignoring Murdoch.

        3. I stayed at Howard Springs in 1970 – it was a lovely caravan/camping ground, with a lake/dam that you could swim in, and a warm spring at one end – just outside Darwin. Lots of green tree frogs in the showers, jumping all over you. It was Dad’s Long Service Leave, and we did the Big Trip around Australia. So much has changed…

          I’m not sure how it turned into a mining camp, although I think it may have been some sort of defence camp during WW2.

          Anyway, it’s a lovely place, and I’ve been to mining camps – they’re actually fine. Not five star, but perfectly decent places to spend a couple of weeks.

  3. I’ve never experienced that, nor heard of it, but I get my books from my local library (mostly) or from the used Friends of the Library bookstore (rarely now) or in every blue moon or so, by ordering a full price book from my sister’s tiny bookstore in coastal Maine.

    It seems to me that the book choices and hence reviews from people like me nearly always involve older books for exactly that reason. If I were buying or borrowing new books as e-books, I think it might be an entirely different story.

    So it might be useful for people to do more pegging of their good books by identifying them as paper books or e-books, and then we could make scientific hypotheses about trends like this one.

    Because to reach the end of a book like that, if you’d borrowed it from a library, would probably lead to heading to the lair of librarians with a sign on a pole, a bullhorn, and maybe a pitchfork or two. IMHO

    1. I think it is linked to self-publishing, and therefore ebooks. I suppose, being kind, it’s partly due to the difficulty of marketing yourself when you haven’t got a publisher behind you. Although I think the sensible approach is the one K. J. Charles takes, of publishing self-contained stories that form a tightly linked series, so people are satisfied at the end of each, but hopefully lured to buy the next one. (She, of course, has a background in fiction publishing.)

      1. I have also noticed this trend in some of the self-published e-books. And it seems like they are trying to force me to buy more of their books- essentially, you are buying a few chapters at a time.

        Personally, I find it immensely annoying and don’t bother with other “books” by the same author.

        Big fan of your books, btw. Was hunting around on the web to see if you have any new books being released and came to check out your blog. Take care and keep writing! I cannot wait time but your next book.

        1. I don’t mind buying a few chapters at a time (at an appropriately scaled down proportion of a normal cover price) if it’s clear that’s what it is – I get a chance to see what they’ve got and they get an appropriate recompense.

          But when it’s a surprise – I will never give them any money ever again.

        2. Gina. Is this your first post? If so, I hope you have as much fun on Argh as most of us do. And if it is not your first post, I have a new kitten and anything that is not kitten is escaping my attention and I should have said hello before.

      2. I think that it is also a way to compete, price wise, with the sea of cheap, fast fiction. I will pay 5-8 for a book that I know I want forever, in ebook format, but for a new author, I am usually unwilling to pay $3-5. So they try to keep at the $1 or $2 mark. It’s annoying though, if the author doesn’t tag it as a cliffhanger.

  4. After a couple of books that didn’t work for me, I’m having a lovely time rereading A. J. Demas. I’m on the last one (to date), ‘Sword Dance’. I love her world – a fictional version of the ancient Mediterranean – and the humanity and humour of her characters. Although the stories are set in the same world, there’s no other overlap: definitely self-contained.

    That sounds really annoying, Jenny. Also amateurish.

    1. Just read the Amazon review of ‘Sword Dance’ and it sounds lovely. How could a person go wrong with a book that includes “murderous philosophy students, sex acts named after fruit, and love blossoming in the midst of mayhem”? Naturally, my library doesn’t offer it. Rats! (as Charlie or Lucy might say…)

  5. I feel like the breaking the book into installments was very trendy in self-publishing a few years ago as a way to maximize sales, but it got a lot of push back in social media and reviews and faded a way for the most part.
    I’ve seen newer self-published books upfront say “no cliffhangers” b/c I think it became so unpopular. I’ve always steered away from it. I think I’ve bought one book that was broken up into 2 pieces and it was an author I’d already read a lot of and enjoyed, but I still don’t think it was quite worth the price point.
    I’ve never seen it in a traditionally published book.
    I really enjoyed THE DUKE WHO DIDN’T by Courtney Milan. It was kind of light on real conflict, but that was just want I needed.
    I’ve started a lot of good things, but it’s too early yet to recommend anything.

    1. It was published in August 2019.
      I’ve seen some dumb publishing ideas in my time, but this may be the dumbest.

      1. A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness did that. Carousel Tides by Sharon Lee also left me saying, “What??” There are others which I’ve purposefully forgotten.

        I don’t like series. But I’ve said that before. 😉

      2. It shows a total lack of trust in the reader, and (if you’re the writer) a total lack of trust in your own ability to craft a story that will bring people willingly to your next book. Instead, it tries to drag them by the scruff of their necks.

    2. Now that you say that, it being a thing rings a bell. I loathed it then, and loathe it now. Especially because of price hikes….

      And reading her own books feels…. like worse than a shameless plug. I usually get taken out of a book when they mention any real world author (whether I like or know their work or not), so making it yourself just seems worse.

  6. Lol. This is a personal pet peeve of mine.

    I loathed it in the one or two trad publishing books that I saw it in. If I remember correctly, the first was a fantasy novel I got from our library. I’ll have to think of the title and author. I know I’ve mentioned it here on Argh before.

    I remember that the male character was called Miach and I hated the name because I only ever read it as Micah! By the time I got to the end, I hated the book for abruptly.

    Lindsay Buroker does it with her series, and yup, I complained about that here too!

    Some authors do it more in the way of a TV show where the story of a single book is wrapped up, but the overarching Big Bad has yet to be defeated and the romance of the MCs is definitely NOT resolved.

    I feel blindsided and taken advantage of if I’m not warned that there is a cliffhanger. My thoughts are “I didn’t come here to buy book one at $3.99 and books 2 to 5 for $6.79, each; I came here for a good story with a clear HFN or HEA.”
    That’s what I thought the emotional contract was upon paying for book 1.

    I’m now at the point where I ask authors on twitter if the new book has a cliffhanger. If not, I one-click so hard it gives whiplash!

    1. Are you talking about Lynn Kurland? One of her Nine Kingdoms series characters is nicknamed Miach. I think some of Kurland’s storylines involving a particular twosome can spread out over 2 or 3 books. But I like this series, and the individual books are pretty thick so I don’t feel as if I am getting cheated. Certainly, I prefer to have a resolution to all story lines at the end of a book but I don’t mind waiting for one. However, everyone else’s mileage may, and clearly does, vary! I guess the first 2 books of the Lord of the Rings would fall into the cliffhanger category. 😉

      There is one other author I’m thinking of whose publication strategy bothers me, though. I enjoy her writing and the storyline that runs through her series. But the individual books are pretty darn short, and the entire series is something like 13 books. She charges $14 per book, which, if you do the math ends up being well over a hundred dollars. Which is far more money than I want to pay to find out what happens. So I’ve reluctantly stopped buying her books. I might be more willing if the individual books were longer or the prices substantially lower, so I felt I was getting more value for my money.

      But I’ve certainly never seen an author stop a book mid-scene like yours did, Jenny. That is way over the top and would result in an automatic DO NOT BUY or read ever again from me.

      1. Yes, it was Lynn Kurland. And oddly enough, the fact that it was a lot of story to get to the cliffhanger offended me more. I felt as if I’d done all this work to get no reward!

        I know that I actively avoided picking up another of her books ever again.

        1. I won’t read The Nine Kingdom series but I love Lyn Kurlsand’s Time travel.
          Robin McKinley used to be one of my favorite authors but when she did a cliffhanger ending I stopped reading her. Jude Devereaux did one with a co- author which released in September. I won’t be buying any more of that series. I appreciate any warnings about unfinished books.

          1. What got me about Robin McKinley’s book was that there was no indication anywhere that this was the first in a series (or a duology or trilogy). It was presented as a stand alone book, so I read it that way. And as I got closer to the end I thought – I don’t see how she can wrap this up in the space she’s got left. And of course she didn’t. And there was STILL no indication that there would be another book.

            I blame the publisher as much as the author. They should know better.

    2. I know Robin McKinley was infamous for writing a fantasy, Pegasus, that ended mid-adventure. Is that the one you’re thinking of? But that was completely unintentional on her part. It was supposed to be one book which turned into two after it expanded exponentially while she was writing it. The first got published with the understanding that the second was supposed to follow immediately after. But then, from what I recall, her husband got really sick and I don’t think Robin was ever in the right headspace after that, much as she wanted to be. It’s unfortunate.

      1. Oh no — I love Robin McKinley’s books and didn’t realize that’s why Pegasus was so incomplete. What a sad story.

      2. But there was no indication on the book that it wasn’t a standalone. That’s what bugged me. I understand life getting in the way, but you need to tell people.

    3. The only person I’ve tolerated it from is Robert Rankin, he of the Far-Fetched Fiction genre (one he made up so he gets his own shelf at the book shop).

      He’s weird and very funny and just does what he wants. He’ll actually put in a book, ‘so this is where the big action scene happens, and let me tell you, it was thrilling, gripping and everything you could imagine it to be’ or similar. I know I make it sound awful, but I love him.

      He once wrote in a book a scene of himself at the local pub writing that scene in the book.

      But I think he’s the only person I’d accept this kind of thing from.

  7. *abruptly = abruptness. Lol.

    Jill Q, I agree it seems to be a self-pub thing.

    It’s enough to turn me away from the author because I really HATE being manipulated.

    1. You know, even if they were subtle about it.
      This one set up the premise, the protagonist met the antagonist, then there was this heading that said something like “Two weeks later” and there was a sex scene between them, then there was a heading that basically said “And now back to the original timeline,” and picked up where the book left off. I remember thinking, “WTF?” and the the book ended as the protagonist and antagonist went out to dinner, nothing resolved. I realize now, she wanted a sex scene in the book, but since she was essentially ending this at the end of Act 1 on a turning point, she had to flash forward for no reason except to get to a sex scene. It was awful.
      I’m pretty sure it was a Book Bub freebie. I wonder how many people kept on buying? Like everybody else who’s mentioned it, I thought, “How stupid does she think I am?” and decided never to buy a book from her.

  8. As for the author having the characters read her books, I think the most famous is the Bones TV show with the character of Temperance Brennan writing books with a character called Kathy Reichs.

    I’ve never read Kathy Reichs’ books so I don’t know if this appears in print in her Temperance Brennan series.

    1. I have read the series and it bears very little relation to what appears on screen. And, no, there are no self-referential mentions in the books. By the way, while we’re talking about the books, I’d recommend reading them. I enjoy seeing a writer who is an actual forensic anthropologist in real life write about it in her books.

    2. Well there was Castle, the character, who wrote books during the TV series – which actually were ghost written and published, so you can read about Nikki Heat if you want to.

  9. Cliffhangers and serializations … I have a love/hate relationship with them.

    Faye Kellerman’s “Killing Season” was originally released in e-book as “Killing Season: Part 1”, “…: Part 2”, etc, so anyone who didn’t know it was a serialization just wasn’t paying attention. I waited until the entire book was published under a single cover and bought that, though it’s still on my TBR pile. Likewise, Deborah Coonts published one off her Lucky books in parts and that was o.k. because it was right there in the title, and you can’t really be surprised when the story stops in the middle if you knew you only had half a book before you even started it.

    Dana Stabenow, on the other hand, lost me forever as a reader when she left her main characters in a life-or-death situation with no warning at the end of a book.

    Connie Willis also did it with “Blackout” / “All Clear”. I forgave her because she’s so wonderful and it wasn’t that long to wait for the next installment.

    1. I know what you’re talking about, and fortunately I already had the next Stabenow book in hand so I didn’t have to wait long to satisfy my curiosity. For what it’s worth, she didn’t do that again, so you’re safe to return. The bigger problem for me is when she left the characters in a really dark place at the end (I don’t enjoy grim). But thankfully she lightened up in the following books, and now the characters are in a good place, so I can continue reading the series.

    2. I don’t know about any of those, so this is NOT in reference to any of the authors mentioned, but I really think part of the contract with the reader is a satisfying ending. I don’t need to have all the loose ends tied up, but I need the major questions answered and that move from “stability destroyed” to “stability attained.”

      Plus the whole ploy seems crass.

      1. Either that, or they’re upfront before you get into it that it’s in parts. There’s a financial gotcha there if they don’t, as well as the reader’s emotional and time commitment that’s being played.

    3. The Connie Willis book was originally supposed to be one book, but it got so long, that her publisher made it into two books. It was sort of known to be, in effect, a two-part novel. However, I remember staying up all night reading Blackout, and as rosy-fingered dawn peeped through my curtains I came to the last page and went “What? No No! Don’t stop there!” And yes, part 2, All Clear, was already in the library (but with a waiting list…).

      But I love Connie Willis and have re-read Blackout/All Clear a few times. It’s an amazing tale.

      1. Speaking of Blackout/All Clear, I read it when published and enjoyed it although I agree that it needed a tighter edit. I hadn’t thought about it for a while and then I read a fanfic this year that looked at the events of those books from Colin’s perspective as he tried to find everyone. It’s a book in itself but I really loved it from Colin’s side and ended up doing a reread. I found it came together much better the second time around. I’ll link the fic here but please remove if not allowed. https://archiveofourown.org/works/2709983

    4. I was very very annoyed to get to the end of Blackout and find out it was a cliffhanger. Then I was very very annoyed to slog through All Clear as I felt it mostly reiterated the first book for several hundred pages (characters repeating thoughts and actions. Time may have been passing, but much too slowly to suit me). This is a case of ‘author everyone else seems to love’ who, for me, was a massive hit once (To Say Nothing of the Dog) and hasn’t pleased at all otherwise. Alas.

      1. That was how I felt on my first reading of Blackout/All Clear, Chacal. I felt as if it would have been better for a good edit that cut it down to one book. But I reread it this year and liked it a lot more.

    5. Connie Willis was the one I was thinking of too. She even introduces the audio version of “All Clear” by saying, if you haven’t read “Blackout” stop right now, and start at the beginning. They are both quite long books, so I might even argue that two installments is better in this case.

      I keep waiting for the 4th volume of the Agatha H. series. “Agatha H. and the Voice of the Castle” left Agatha conked out and kind of doomed.

  10. I think there are some authors who serialize stuff on their Patreons, but they are upfront about it and they do it for a low price per installment.

    1. It’s the upfront bit that makes it ok. And, having a mini story with a mini conclusion that gives you some satisfaction with a desire to return.

  11. Installments, like how Dickens was originally published?

    I don’t think I like that idea at all. We are living in a Netflix world. We need to consume all at once and not wait for the next chapter!

    1. Just what I was thinking. If you bought a magazine with a Dickens or Trollope (or forgotten author) story in it, you knew you were getting a serial. If you wanted to wait a year or two and buy the book all together, you could be patient.

  12. I’m fine with overarching plot lines taking more than one book to finish if I know from the get-go that it’s a series but just stopping a book on the equivalent of page 146 and then needing to buy pages 147-300 separately is just not okay.

    I’m listening to Carrie Vaughn’s Kitty’s Mixtape collection of short stories and really enjoying being back in that world.

  13. I must admit to having a friend who years ago wrote a 175 chapter epic called Dance of a Lifetime. There were places where you could logically have broken it into multiple books, but he never took the effort. There were also digressions where we followed characters other than Sophia and Warren for a stretch, that should have been struck from the book. But he tells a good story, so we forgive him.

    But that’s not what I read this week. This week, I finished the Murderbot Diaries again, only the second time. I’m four of six books into rereading Drake and Flint’s Bellisarius saga. I’m in the third book of the Alexis Carew series. There were others. It was a good week.

  14. I started Ben Aaronovitch’s novel “False Value” – so far, so good.

    I think if the author had only mentioned her character reading her own book as a kind of ironic wink at the reader, I’d be okay with that. But cutting it into little morsels instead of giving the reader a complete story seems so conceited – it’s like “my writing is so great, you can’t help buying the instalments even if you must shell out much more than you intended”. Complete no-go for me.

  15. I read a book a while back that resolved part of the plot at the end of the first book, but left several critical parts unresolved, so you would need to read the next book(s) to get the whole story. I hate that and the author is on my “you no longer exist” list.

    Setting up minor characters for a book of their own, or having an overall storyline that covers multiple books is one thing, but telling 75% of a story in order to drive a reader to the next book is not for me.

  16. Fortunately there are no cliffhangers in Winnie-the-Pooh, which I finished re-reading this week, after starting it almost two years ago when I was about to move, and packing it somewhere apart from most of the books so that I just now found it. That was a happy!

    I tried and failed to read Novik’s Deadly Education. I could not keep the characters straight in my head, or care whether they lived or died. So different for me from Tangled and Spinning Silver. I was able to read several books of the Temeraire series before I lost interest for the same reason, in a lesser way. Losing track of characters from one book to the next is one thing, but from one page to the next?

    I am in the middle of several new books that may receive the same treatment.

    1. Ha! I came here to specifically recommend ADeadly Education. I *LOVED* it. I will admit that it starts a little slow and there is some info-dumping, but by the middle I couldn’t put it down. The basic premise: what if you were going to Hogwarts, only the school was out to kill you. And the main character is pre-desttined to be an evil sorceress, but doesn’t want to. I’m really looking forward to the next one.

  17. So as I understand it, for Amazon exclusive kindle books, the pay for an author used to be based on how many titles users read, so books got shorter and shorter. There was a backlash from readers, and now payment is based on how long readers spend reading it, so now works are getting longer again.

    So I think the super short cliffhanger trend is kind of going away?

    This week I read a romance anthology, He’s Come Undone. I haven’t finished it yet, but so far I enjoyed all of them. My favorite was definitely the one about a straightlaced math teacher who is supposed to “mentor” the new art teacher. The story is simple enough that it wouldn’t work in a more extended form, but for a novella it’s perfect.

  18. Someone last week recommended Machine by Elizabeth Bear. I like some of her stuff so I checked it out. And it turned to be/have an homage to one of my favorite series of all time, the James White Sector General hospitable space station series. It was very good in its own right so you don’t need to have any familiarity with Sector General at all. But if you might be interested in a far future medical spaceship action mystery I highly recommend it.

    It turns out it’s the second book set in that universe, and I’m now halfway through the first one, Ancestral Night, and it’s pretty good as well with completely different main characters very little overlap

    1. Wonderful! I had bought Machine but got distracted by rereading K F Breene’s excellent Warrior Chronicles. I loved Sector General (an eon or three ago) so Machine has just hit the top of my “to be read” pile. Also must reread Sector General. Thanks so much for reminding me.

    2. Homage to Sector General! I must hunt this up. ( I have mixed reactions to Elizabeth Bear, the full spectrum from Love to Bleah.)

  19. I don’t know if I can recommend this book yet because I’m only as far as chapter 9, but there is a book called “You Deserve Each Other” I just got from the electronic library and features a relationship that has gone WAY downhill since the couple got engaged, to the point where the couple seem to mostly hate/resent each other (and especially his demanding mother). It’s full of vicious snark and it certainly has a point of view and you get why the heroine is feeling this way, but in her mind it’s turned into Engagement Chicken and she thinks they are trying to force the other one to call it off. It’s very bizarre. Interesting but bizarre. We shall see how this turns out, I guess…

  20. Aaaand that’s why I’m not going to buy anymore books from the new author I found a few weeks ago. The book ended with the main character riding with a reckless driver. “Watch out!” As they head for the trees. Nope. Since there’s 4 more books in the series, I’m not worried about her. Also, the book wasn’t interesting enough to overlook the crappy cliffhanger.

    A series is ok, and when my brain is flailing about looking for something interesting, kinda a good thing. But I like them when they wrap up the individual story. Julia Quinn’s Bridgerton’s series is good they way. Each story wraps up, but you get to know and follow the characters.

  21. I read Other People’s Books this week!

    ‘After Words’ by Brenda Margriet – liked this Canadian later-in-life romance. Worked at a mall bookstore for a while myself, one that was closed down, so that stuff was a flashback. 🙂 I did feel there was an awful lot taken from the female MC which made her fast fall for the man seem a little ‘well no wonder, she needs something to hold onto,’ but they had enough of a bond over the WWII soldier’s journal that I bought it.

    Three from Amy Jo Cousins: ‘Off Campus,’ ‘Nothing Like Paris,’ and ‘Real World.’ All NA M/M romances with college settings and plotlines.

    Started reading ‘The Lost Concerto’ by Helaine Mario and chucked it (metaphorically) across the room 20% in when the heroine got TSTL.

    ‘Single Malt’ by Layla Reyne, a fast-paced M/M romantic suspenser with two FBI agents as leads. Trilogy starter and I’m definitely reading the other two.

    ‘Agnes and the Hitman,’ by someone we know. It was time to give that a re-read. 🙂

    ‘The Kinsey Scale’ by C Jane Elliott, another M/M NA college romance, this one a novella.

    And finally, ‘Restored’ by Joanna Chambers, fifth in her Enlightenment series, which gave me a happy sigh and will probably be re-read over the weekend.

  22. Quite a few writers now are publishing books as “serials” not “series” which is more like what are describing, Jenny. Personally, that better be front and center in the blurb for me to NOT be ticked off about it. Often the author will publish the bits and pieces and then collect them together as a complete “book,” but I still don’t like the idea.

    I read a number of books I can no longer recall, but am currently re-reading “A Desperate Fortune” by Susanna Kearsley. Love her dual timeline stories!

    1. I think that’s key along with the price.
      That is, if you want to sell a book in six parts, the parts better not be more that two or three bucks each because at that point, you’re gouging. In this case, the first one was free, the next three were five bucks and the last two were six. That’s $27 for an e-book, full hardcover price. No.

  23. Having your characters read books that you wrote is highly annoying. Kristen Ashley did it with the Rock Chicks as I recall and it really took me out of the story and pissed me off.

  24. Abrupt endings:

    Well, my first thought was “That’s just mean!”, so it would lose me as a reader.

    I suppose it could be argued to be a savvy marketing ploy (tho if it puts readers off, maybe not so much), and I suppose I might react differently if it was clear from the start that this was not a ‘whole’ book. With that a lot would depend on my past history with the author and how good the actual (partial) book was.

    I mean, there’s cliffhanger, and then there’s panhandling partway down…

    Self referencing:

    Too cutesy to work for me as a reader. As Kelly said, it throws me out of the book.

    1. Oh gosh, those dolls are creepy, grrr.
      Never was a doll person myself (cuddly toy animals instead), I definitely couldn’t stomach trying to rehome those ones… would feel like rehoming nightmares.
      Sorry.

  25. Thoroughly enjoyed ‘A Wizard’s Guide to Defensive Baking’. Thank you for the recommendation. And am now into book 3 of the Bareknuckled Bastards series; also recommended here.

    I don’t mind series but the books have to be able to stand alone. And I do enjoy Robyn Carr’s work. Mostly her books just flow one into the other but are each able to stand on their own.

    (7:50 pm and my mail just arrived. I feel for the postal workers.)

  26. Thank you to whoever suggested the Enola series. I have read two and my sister and BIL both like them too.

    We also watched the movie. It was great if you hadn’t read the story. If you had read the book, there was just enough similarity to be annoying. Making her 16 instead of 14, ok whatever…… making the missing person be a young adult (and love interest) instead of a 12 year old boy….. nope. Relationship with mother – not even close. The production values and costumes were great though.

  27. I’ve run into ‘books’ like that, where it is just a part of a book. It is unfortunately common among self-published-as-ebook authors. Amazon makes it easy to hide the length of a manuscript, when it’s download-only and they don’t have to tell you page count or word count. And a significant chunk of self-pubbers looked at the economics of novel-writing, decided they wanted to make $40 per book, realized no one would pay that, so they started selling incomplete story chunks as pretend-novels.

    I call that fraud.

    When I buy a book, I expect a complete story, with beginning, rising action, climax, and resolution. If I run into an author who thinks they can coerce me into buying the rest of the story in chunks, each the price of a whole novel, because the first installment was not complete, I will not even open anything by that author ever again.

    The “character was reading a book by Their Author” I have never seen.

    1. I can’t believe people do crap like that. I mean, sure – it would be great to see more pages read, or get a royalty payment that is in the double digits. But deliberately faking out the reader to try and force sales of installments of what should be a single title … no.

      I try to make it as clear as possible what’s a novella, what’s a full-length novel, that it is part of a series but that each title stands alone, etc. It is one thing (a completely different thing) to publish a book that is #whatever in a trilogy when you come right out and say so. Not delivering a conclusion to the story the reader signed up for is … bullshit.

  28. I agree you find it regularly with self-published books. You also find it with Kindle Unlimited books regularly, including books which seem to have gone through a publisher. I suppose some are thinking serialization of the old type, but mostly I don’t think that’s it. A good chunk of the time I don’t think they know how to do plots, although they sometimes do trouble. The lack of plots, incomplete endings and generally poor writing has turned me off much of bookbub, kindle unlimited and self-published books.

    I have run into one well respected author who has been publishing regularly through a publisher for about 20 years who suddenly came out with a book which was clearly a book fragment. It was immensely disappointing and all I could think is that the world is getting used to it. (Another pet peeve is editors who stop editing books in successful series. Hello publisher! Did you really not notice the author basically repeated the same 50 pages with substantially the same verbiage 3 times in a row? )

    This is why your books are a treat. Even when you claim you don’t have a plot yet, you usually have one which is far more complete than most other books. And your writing is never repetitious or boring.

    I haven’t run into anyone referencing their own book though.

    1. Now I kind of want to have Anna reading a Crusie and saying, “This book is completely unrealistic” and throwing it against the wall.

  29. I am reading Mary Oliver before bed. It’s lovely and I don’t have the focus for fiction. Usually I struggle with poetry, but she says things I wish I could.

    And Kristen Ashley has a series where the characters are in the books that are written by another character in the same universe. But it’s not Kristen Ashley. That’s just the characters pen name. She is using their lives as material secretly. It’s odd, but also rather tongue in cheek and breaking the forth wall with humor, so I am okay with it.

  30. I just finished Happiness for Beginners (Katherine Center) and Always the Last to Know (Kristan Higgins). Am now reading Forget About Me (Karen Grey).

  31. Read Bujold’s latest Penric/Desdemona installment because of course. I also re-read a book from a series we tracked down for youngest reader, This Can’t Be Happening at MacDonald Hall by Gordon Korman. Looks like only 2 of the 7 books in the series are available as ebooks, but it was very fun to re-read a book without horrible trauma in it, just kids being kids. Can’t wait to re-read the rest of the series. Glad I remembered these books because it is not easy to keep a 9 yr old who reads at 12th grade level stocked with material.

    1. I loved those Korman books. My favorite was A Semester In The Life of A Garbage Bag. And I started reading them as an adult. 🙂

  32. I’ve been reading AN AGREEABLE TYRANT Fashion After The Revolution, which is basically an exhibition catalogue. They’re often one of the best ways to get current information about the specialty, whatever it is, because often major experts write a succinct entry about the individual object . . . anyway, they’re really informative, and this one has told me a surprising amount about late 18th and 19th-century fashion. After innumerable Regencies, I learned this morning exactly what a “round gown” is!

    Also working my way through THE LOST FAMILY, How DNA Testing is Upending Who We Are, which it certainly is. Some people want to find out about their ethnicity — “I swapped my lederhosen for a kilt!” Some have a specific question — a distant cousin and I are trying to determine his male-line ancestry beyond our great-great-grandfather, who was adopted. Some people are in for a real surprise . . . .

  33. I’ve never encountered this kind of ending, but then I don’t read a lot of self-published stuff or do any subscription services. So it may be more common there and I just don’t know it. I hate cliffhangers. My reaction to them borders on irrational, the anger is that strong. Exception in some cases if it is made clear up front; springing it on people without warning is something else. This author’s approach seems especially strange, though. It doesn’t sound like there’s even enough there to make people care about the rest. For cliffhangers to work as a cruel marketing ploy, the reader has to be invested in the action, right? So the first part needs to go far enough into the story to hook people, and it doesn’t sound like that’s the case here. Weird.

    1. The book was odd. It seemed like it was going to be a Fifty Shades Lite (never read the real Fifty Shades) and then spent most of the pages on her relationship with her toxic mother. The romance part of the book was awful; the family dynamics stuff was good. Every time the hero showed up I thought, “Go away,” especially when the sex scene just appeared abruptly in a flash forward, but I kept reading to find out how she was dealing with her awful mother.

      But yeah, never again for that author.

  34. Think my last cliffhanger experience was with THE FALCON AT THE PORTAL. Barbara had plotted four books as an interlocked arc, and FALCON was number three. Of course, FALCON was out a year before the final book was released.

    Of course I read it, because Amelia Peabody, and it did also lure me into the world of online Communities, including the Cherries, because about three hundred and fifty other people were equally cliff-hung and ended up in a group where we stewed for a while and then dissected the whole series from CROCODILE ON THE SANDBANK, with timelines, chapter by chapter, sentence by sentence, plot point by plot point, and occasionally omission by omission. We’d probably nearly exhausted the possibilities by the time HE SHALL THUNDER IN THE SKY was released. My Dealer — of literary crack! — slipped it to me the night before. And THUNDER wound up the four-book arc pretty satisfactorily.

  35. I purely hate cliffhangers, a writer who does that to me will lose me as a reader.
    I was lucky to read reviews of Pegasus before buying it, so I’ve still not read it, and probably never will. She’s written a few shorter stories since her husband died, but I don’t expect she will ever finish the second half of Pegasus.

    Several of Debbie Macomber’s romance novel series had an irritating twist on that incomplete ending, which in the end got to be too much for me. She did end the current romance arc of her current book satisfactorily, but in the last chapter where the book’s arc was wrapped up, she’d also kick off the new arc for the new couple in her next book. That meant those endings still felt unfinished and cliffhangery, pushing readers to buy the next book… it felt very manipulative and unsatisfactory to me.

    If a book is extremely long, I can understand the need to cut it into two or three books, especially if it will be published on paper as well as digitally.
    The lord of the rings, The sharing knife, and several of Michelle West’s series/books are like that. But a good author will still make sure to write towards a natural resting point in the long arc (like HFN, working towards HEA), so the separate books have sufficiently satisfactory endings.

    1. Also a long-ish book in translation — they often go multi-volume because other languages tend to be less succinct than English.

  36. Argh !!! I live in the Philadelphia suburbs & I just can’t escape the media – I did vote & put it in a county drop box.

    Got an email from my county that it has been received, but I am escaping to Ocean City MD.

    I’m going to burrow in with books and keep my fingers crossed that (he shall remain nameless) is no longer in office.

      1. I have followed Pete Souza on Instagram since the beginning & watched ‘The Way I See It’ twice.

        So ‘Individual 1’ is in my lexicon.😃

      2. Ha. I misread that as ‘Individual I’, which (to me) seems appropriate.

        (It should be noted that I have not read either the Mueller Report or heard of Pete Souza, so I’m coming at this from a position of ignorance, lol)

        1. Pete Souza was President Obama official WH photographer (he also worked for President Reagan) and he likes to use his photos as a contrast to ‘Individual 1’.

          His documentary ‘The Way I See It’ was an excellent

        2. Individual 1, or Organization 1, and so on, is the format our federal prosecutors use to identify people, or organizations, or whatever, in legal documents that will be filed publicly, if those people or organizations have not been formally charged or indicted. The idea is that it’s improper to say that John Doe is involved in criminal activity if John hasn’t been charged (yet) or may even be an innocent bystander. In this case, Michael Cohen pled guilty to several federal crimes, most of which involved someone identified, very properly, as Individual 1 who a) hadn’t yet been charged, and b) at the time of the criminal acts was a candidate for President of the United States, and c) was later elected. So his identity was not exactly a secret!

  37. I’m often satisfied with just the first book in a series: Murderbot, Harry Potter. I mostly like to read about the biggest, most character-challenging and -changing time in a protagonist’s life, so I’m not open to having the character go through that suffering more than once in a lifetime. (Sometimes the “ante” gets “upped” so much that the first book is the threat to the community, the next to the country, the next to the world — it eventually goes over the top for me.)

    But, I’m inconsistent. I remember way back in the 60s-70s committing to the Lord of the Rings. The Hobbit had been perfect in and of itself. I do like the Lord of the Rings as well. I remember back then coming to the conclusion that the second book in a trilogy is difficult to read.

    I’ve been running very low on things to reread and I’m not ready for new books. A Surfeit of Lampreys is a pleasure for me. The first time I read it I wasn’t impressed. But now I like it because it isn’t a murder mystery so much as a fun time with a histrionic family. The point of view of orphaned Robin from New Zealand suits the story perfectly.

    I really want to reread Brat Farrar, but I lent my copy to a friend and then ordered a used replacement. The used book is taking a long time to arrive.

  38. I do have a writing friend who has been writing this type serial romance with sf/f elements and dragons. Shapeshifters and so on. It’s self published ebooks and she works with other writers on marketing and pricing structures. Their hope is to build a loyal readership. Several published authors have started that way. I’ve found that they have a compelling plot but they usually are self edited. A lot of folks get super annoyed at the ‘if you want to know what happens, but the next book’ strategy. The ultimate goal is to have a body of work to show a print publishing house. Amazon and Amazon Unlimited are good avenues for them but can lead to heartburn/break. I will support my fellow writers if they go this route. But to be honest, I might download the first free then buy one but if it’s not good, that’s it. I’ve seen many boast of no cliffhanger/HEA/clean/smokin etc. For some it’s this or give up.

    1. I think they’re missing the point. If the only way they can get people to buy the second book is to make it the next part of the first book, they’re not good enough for people to pay for their work.

      That is, if they offer the first chapters/act for free, saying up front, “This is a free sample, it’s not the whole book,” that’s not a bait and switch, that’s giving reader’s a taste first. Readers will understand that and not feel swindled when they get to the end.

      But to say, “This is a book,” and then to get to the end and say, “You’ll have to buy another book to get another part of the story,” that’s a swindle, a bait and switch.

      I could also see selling the first act for $1.99, and then the next three acts in three parts for the same price, making the whole book $7.96, which is reasonable, but you’d have to sell it as Part One, Part Two, etc. You can’t promise readers something and not deliver on it and then justify it as “this is the only way I’ll have a career.” Because you won’t have a career.

      It’s just such a basic betrayal of the reader, and that’s death because the reader is not your mark, the reader is your partner. The reader is the guest you invite to the party, not somebody with money you mug on the internet. It’s a basic misunderstanding of the unstated publishing contract.

      And beyond that it’s crass. All paid publishing is “Give me your money,” but it’s not “Give me your money, you stupid mark.” It’s a trade, money for a good time.

      Smarter path: Write good stories, publish them for free or for not much money, build a readership, slowly increase the pricing as you become more popular. I got the first Murderbots for free which was a good thing because I wouldn’t have bought them based on the genre and the regular pricing. Then, of course, I fell in love with them, went back and bought them at full price to support Wells, and preordered her next one. There are fan fiction writers who got good contracts because people love their writing. It really comes down to that: write great stories and put them out there for people to find (I know, that’s really difficult) and build that way.

      I’m really annoyed by that writer on so many different levels, and I didn’t even pay for the one I read, I got it free through Book Bub. It didn’t matter, she tried to play me. I’m done with her.

  39. There have been long discussions/disputes about this topic on writing boards such as KBoards. There’s a contingent of authors who claim it’s a spoiler to tell the reader upfront that the book was a serial. Others said it was fun to provoke a reaction from the reader.

    Notably, most of the authors who simply cut a book in mid arc were ones who had complained on other threads that sales were down.

    Personally, if I read a book that stops in the middle of the story, that author is on my Never Again list.

  40. Stephen King did this with The Green Mile, in a modern attempt to revise the serial book, so Dickensian of him.

    I read the latest in Sherry Thomas’ Lady Sherlock series, which I adore, plus the last book in Megan Whalen Turner’s Thief of Attolia series which I double double adore and am now somewhat ploughing my way through The Windup Girl, a dystopian post climate change disaster book, not sure where it’s headed.

  41. I hate cliffhangers so much, esp. when not warned ahead of them. I enjoy a series from a NZ author, and one of her recent books ended on a cliffhanger. It was really annoying.

    If the publisher had advertised it as part one of two, at least I’d have known going in.

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