I’ve run into a reading issue lately that’s beginning to bug me: the book I’m not really enjoying, but I want to know how it ends, so I keep reading, and then it ends on a cliffhanger, so to find out how it ends, I’d have to read the next book. But I was barely enjoying it enough to get to the end of one book and I’m not really up for reading another book.
This has made me realize that this makes a good rating system:
Wouldn’t read the next book if it was free
Might flip through the next one in the library or bookstore to find out what happens, but wouldn’t want to actually read it
Might get the next book from the library just to find out what happens but wouldn’t buy it
Might buy the next one at the used bookstore or library sale or get the e-book if it’s cheap enough, but wouldn’t pay full price for it.
Would pay full price for the next book
Where it gets frustrating is if the book is in the “might get the next book from the library” category but the library doesn’t have it. I’m curious enough to read it, but not enough to pay for the privilege, and I don’t know that I want to encourage the library to add it to their collection (I might suggest it if they have book 1 but not book 2, but not if I got book 1 some other way).
In my recent reading, I ran into a “wouldn’t read the next book if it was free.” It was one I checked out of the library because the description sounded similar to an idea I’ve been playing with and I wanted to see what the author did with it. It ended up being totally different from what I have in mind, and it was a frustrating book because it was supposedly an adult fantasy, but it read like all the clichés of YA fantasy. That’s probably actually a good strategy, since a lot of the YA fantasy readers are adults, and appealing to them is smart, but it isn’t to my taste. I was skimming through the book because I found the characters annoying, and fortunately I was also bored enough to flip ahead, so I found that the ending was a cliffhanger and there was a preview of book 2. I could see that it was going even further into something I wouldn’t like, so I stopped reading at a point where things were okay for the characters and didn’t get to the cliffhanger.
Then I pulled a book off my To-Be-Read shelf. I actually liked this one for most of the book. I liked the characters, and the worldbuilding was quite good. I was thinking about recommending it. Then it took a horrible turn near the end, going from fantasy to horror. It lost all the wit that had been in the first part of the book. Terrible things happened to the characters I liked, transforming them into something I didn’t like. And then it ended on a cliffhanger. The preview for book 2 suggested that it was going to continue like that. There’s a chance that in the rest of the series it might have ended up bringing the characters out of all that and re-transforming them into something better, but I’m not sure I want to go on that journey with them. I might have checked it out of the library and at least flipped through the book, but the library doesn’t have this series. I got the book at a conference more than ten years ago, so the print version is out of print (which means no requesting that the library add it to the collection). I’m not sure I’d even be able to get it at a used bookstore. And the e-books are ridiculously priced, as though they go with hardcovers instead of mass-market paperbacks (which this book was). That’ll teach me to let books sit on the TBR pile for too long. If I’d read it sooner, I might have been able to get the second book more easily. At least there was some resolution to the main plot before the cliffhanger that drives the story into the next book, unlike that other book, where the whole book was essentially setup for the cliffhanger.
Now that I think about it, earlier this year there was another one like this. It had been sitting on my TBR shelf for a decade or so. I kept slogging through it, only to find that the whole book was pretty much just setting up the sequel. The main plot didn’t even show up until near the end. I was curious enough that I might have read the next book if I’d found it in the library, but they didn’t have this series, the paperbacks seem to be out of print, the e-books are more than I want to pay just for curiosity, and the only book I’ve found used is the first in the series that I’ve already read. Fortunately, there’s a Wikipedia entry on this series that summarizes the plot, so I know what happened, and I don’t think I’d have enjoyed it much.
I don’t mind a cliffhanger, but I do like for each book in a series to have some kind of beginning, middle, and end, so that something is resolved even if something new comes up at the last minute to set up the sequel.