Bookish Musings: Reviewing Books in Ongoing Series vs. Finished Series


Sometimes we read each book in a series as they come out. Other times the books are all released, but we read them all spread out anyway. Other times we binge read all the books in a row.

So that means sometimes we write reviews before we’ve read the rest of the books in a series, whereas other times we write reviews after we finished them all.

What I want to know with this post is, do you write your reviews differently for each scenario? Should we be writing our reviews differently for each scenario? It’s something that I’ve been thinking about lately, so let’s discuss!

Why You Might Write Reviews Differently

You might be wondering why there would be a different way to write reviews whether you’ve finished a series or not, but I’m going to make up a little scenario here to explain.

Let’s say I read the first book in a series, and I love it. I give it 5 stars. Then I read the next in the series… but it’s not as good. I give it 3.5 stars. Then I read the last book, and it’s even worse. I give it 2 stars.

Now, if I had been reading those books and writing the reviews for them as they came out, then those would be my ratings, and the reviews would reflect them. I’d totally rave and fangirl over that first book. I mean, 5 stars! That’s an awesome book! Then when the second book came out, I’d write my 3.5 star review with significantly less fangirling. Then when the last book came out, well, you get my drift.

But if I binge read all three books, should I still give them those same ratings and reviews just as I would have? Should I give them the same ratings and reviews but also include a mention in the first one that the series goes downhill? Should I change my ratings lower and/or make my reviews more like series reviews to reflect how the whole series made me feel?

But if I’m going do that for series I’ve binge read, should I also do the same for series I read as they came out? Should I go back to previous reviews and edit them to reflect how the rest of the series turned out?

What about the other side of the argument, is it wrong to base a rating and review off an entire series or numerous books in a series when each review is really supposed to be about that single book?

Nobody panic, I’m not requesting that you actually answer all these questions, I’m just trying to make a point about how complicated this is. The real question is, is it my responsibility to tell other readers how the entire series turns out in my review of the first book? Or is just my responsibility to review each book individually?

My Thoughts

I’m leaning more toward the second. I don’t think it’s my responsibility to essentially include a series review in my review of an individual book, even if I have already finished the series. That just gets way too complicated because then, as I mentioned, it would seem like I also need to go back and change/add to my reviews for books I read as they were being released. I trust that anyone reading my reviews is adult enough to understand that sometimes series get better or worse as they go on and my review is merely a reflection of one single book (unless otherwise stated) and to make their own decisions based on that. I know that if I am worried or curious as to how a series progresses, if it gets better/worse/more emotional/darker/etc., then I will go glance at some reviews for the later books. It’s risky doing that because there could be spoilers for previous books, but, if it’s that’s important to me and it might actually make or break my decision to read the series, then I’ll risk it. Or I’ll just dive in with the first book and cross my fingers that the rest of the series will be good, and oh well, life goes on if it’s not.

However, if anyone ever wants to mention later books in the series or talk about the series as a whole, that’s totally fine too. I have done that in some reviews. Sometimes I want people to know that I didn’t love the first book but that the series got way better just so people won’t give up without giving it a chance. Sometimes I find a series that is way more than the sum of its parts, and talking about the one single book just doesn’t do it justice. Sometimes a series is just too cohesive for me to even properly separate the books in my mind. Or sometimes I might want to warn people about later books in the series. But I don’t always feel the need to do these things for every review, and I think that’s ok too.

So basically, I feel it’s ok for everyone to write their reviews for books in series however they want, but it’s not anyone’s responsibility to review books any differently depending on the situation or in any certain way. But of course that’s just my opinion, and now I want to hear yours!


Talk to me!

Do you write reviews differently for ongoing series vs. finished ones?
Do you think it's a reviewers responsibility to warn people if a series goes downhill or vice versa?


Your Thoughts


41 thoughts on “Bookish Musings: Reviewing Books in Ongoing Series vs. Finished Series

I'd love if you'd share your thoughts, too!


Reading your comments makes me a very happy blogger!

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. Greg

    I don’t think I do. Write them differently I mean. I see your point though. I think I’m more likely to note, for example, in that first review that the later books drop off a bit, if I’ve binge read them or read them all previously. Whereas if I’m reading one at a time and reviewing, I doubt I’d go back. I would just note in the reviews for books two and three that they were a step down. I lean more towards reviewing each book- I mean of course I’ll mention certain things vis a vis the series as they’re relevant, and in the past I’ve sorta summarized my overall feelings in the last review- but I tend to review individually.

    Having said that, I’ve reviewed series where I rave about a book, them my review of later books is more lukewarm, and I think people get the impression the series sucks- I’ll get comments like “too bad it sucked” or whatever, and then I realize people are getting the impression that I’m not recommending the series- when maybe I am, it’s just that maybe the book isn’t as awesome as the first one. Ya know? That may be a whole nother discussion- how people perceive our reviews vs how we intend them. Or maybe I’m just not being clear lol. Maybe I need to SAY more effectively that this book was a step down but I still think is a great series- or whatever.

    Now I’m thinking about this. 🙂 But I agree, reviewing books individually is more my preference.

    1. Kristen Burns

      Yeah, I think only once did I actually go back, and that was because I gave 3 stars to the first book in a spin-off of my favorite series, and since I love it so much I wanted to make sure people would still give it a chance since it did get better. But I do sometimes mention things if I’ve binge-read. And yeah, I sometimes summarize my feelings in the last review too.

      Ugh, yes! It’s like, I write a review that isn’t crazy raving but for a book or series that I do still recommend, and people are like, “I’m sorry it wasn’t good, I definitely won’t read this,” and I’m like, “Wait, no, come back, that’s not what I meant!” So it’s not just you not being clear. It happens to me too. Though that would make a good discussion, the way people perceive our reviews. It also often makes me sad when people read my review and automatically write a book off just because *I* didn’t like it. Like, just because I didn’t like it that doesn’t mean others won’t!

      1. Greg

        Ha ha “wait come back”- no doubt! I’ve said that so many times!! then I second guess the review (and I’ve even gone back and edited shit out of the review) which of course upsets the whole flow, but I don’t want to rewrite whole damn thing you know? Ha ha book blogger problems. 🙂

        1. Kristen Burns

          Lol I tend to just leave the reviews how they are. And it totally does upset the flow when you start changing things lol. But also I’ve noticed there are some people who always seem to only notice the negatives you point out in reviews, whereas there are others who seem to try and focus on the positives, etc., so you’re never going to write a review that perfectly conveys how you feel since everyone is still going to interpret it differently no matter what.

  2. Di @ Book Reviews by Di

    Hmmm. Interesting points! I generally rate book by book – I mean, if the first one is amazing and the rest just get worse and worse and worse, I’d still like people to know that the first one was a great read.

    I have definitely gone in though and re-read a book and then changed my rating and when re-reading a series sometimes the latter books probably (definitely) have had an impact on the way I re-read the first book and influenced the rating… Oops. But knowing what you know that has happened in later books can really make you appreciate the foreshadowing and planning that came before and that really makes me pleased with a book. 😉

    I *think* that book by book is the way forward, especially as a lot of series suffer the dreaded ‘second-book-syndrome’.

    1. Kristen Burns

      Thanks! And that’s a good point, just because the series got worse, that doesn’t change the fact that the first book was great. Although if I binge-read a whole series and it get *really* bad, I just won’t review any of the books because how do you write that? Hey everyone, Book 1 was fantastic but the series was awful so don’t read it? Lol.

      I get what you’re saying because I’ve done that too. I’m actually planning to rewrite reviews for my favorite series next year when I reread it again, but part of me is concerned and wondering if maybe I should just leave the original since it shows how I felt just after one read. I mean, I still loved it even then, but I have been affected by the rereads and come to love each book even more because of all those details and foreshadowing things and how much I already love the characters.

      But yeah, book by book is always a good plan when in doubt, I think!

  3. Geraldine @ Corralling Books

    Reviewing is so complex :O I’ll be honest, I don’t think too much of how I review anymore, but you’re right – there is deifnitely a difference in reviewing books in ongoing series compared to finished series. For one, I know that anticipation for the next book might set my standards a bit higher, and if I’m disappointed…well that leads to worse ratings – and that’s no fault of the book or the author!
    Including a series review for individual books though, that’s too much effort >.< Gah, it's so hard! Ultimately it is up to you/the reviewer, I reckon!
    Wonderful discussion post – I think you tackled a lot here!

    1. Kristen Burns

      It really is! People don’t realize how hard it is! Lol. But yeah, it’s way too much effort to go back and add to reviews I’ve done for individual books in the past. It should definitely be up to each reviewer though 🙂

  4. Toady

    I really just review as I go along, but I have to say, I love full series reviews. It’s great to get the full picture on an entire series before deciding if I want to wake the big commitment. I have seen them done as “This is why I like/don’t like the series” in one package with little detail to individual books. I quite like it. I don’t expect that every book with rock my world, but it is nice to know if I will be happy with the big picture.

    1. Kristen Burns

      I never technically do series reviews, but if I’ve read an entire series before writing my reviews, then my review for the first book often ends up being a series review lol. But I figure that probably helps people in the ways you mentioned.

  5. Grace @ Rebel Mommy Book Blog

    Interesting discussion!! I don’t read a ton of series and if I do I think I usually write the reviews one at a time. I do like when I see full series reviews and I know whether to bother starting it. If a series goes downhill I want to know because then I won’t start it.

    1. Kristen Burns

      Thanks! That’s the thing, I too would probably like to now ahead of time if a series is going to completely go downhill, but since most of us read books spread out it makes sense to write them as we go. But series reviews definitely have their advantages!

  6. Kate @ Opinionated Book Lover

    I just wrote a review that will go up tomorrow for the 4th book in a series, so this is very timely. I discussed the series as a whole in my review, and I didn’t say very much about this last book because I love the series, and I want people to start at the beginning. I can’t say much of anything without spoiling the series, ya know? If I did binge a full series and hadn’t reviewed any of them yet, then I’d probably do an overall review of the series, but to date, I’ve only reviewed books separately because that’s how I’ve been reading them.

    1. Kristen Burns

      Yeah, sometimes that happens for me with series. I kind of end up saying the same things and just talking about the series as a whole since I don’t want to spoil and just want people to start at the beginning. But it definitely does make sense to review books separately if we’re reading them separately.

  7. Lola

    I can’t remember the last time I binge read a series, so I’ve only ever done the review each book in a series. But sometimes I do think I would like to do reviews of a while series. I have done a series review of some sort once or twice, I’ve read the Debt Collector seasons as they released one episode at a time and reviewed each episode, then once the box set for the whole season was released I wrote a separate review for the season as a whole. And while each episode got a 4 star, I gave the series as a whole got a 5 star. As I thought the series as a whole was awesome, but each episode just wasn’t good enough in and of itself to get that 5 star rating. I think we discussed this once before how you can like a series as whole more than each individual part.

    Okay back to the topic. I usually think reviewing each book as you go works out great, if you’ve read later books and want to mention that in your review I see no problem with that. Or even in reviews for later books mention how it’s less good/ better than previous books.
    But how I usually see is that a review is your opinion for that book at that time, if your opinion of the series diminishes afterwards, it still doesn’t diminish how much you enjoyed book 1 at that point when you wrote your review. And if someone wants to know how much you enjoyed later books they can read your reviews for those. Although from a reader/ reviewer point of view I can see how a series that goes downhill puts a bit of a damper on the whole series. And it would be nice to give an opinion of a series as a whole in some way sometimes and emphasize which books were better or if the series went downhill or not.

    On that topic i do think knowing if a series gets better or darker/ more emotional/ lighter etc can play an important role in whether you start a series or in other cases continue a series, but reading reviews of each individual book still seems like the best way to get that answer. I have seen points like how a series progresses or if it goes downward or becomes better come up in conversations or comments of a review a few times, which also seems like a good way to handle it.

    Nowadays I always reviews each book right after I read it, so I never have had it happen that I want to mention things about later books in earlier books, but I have had some reviews where I mention the earlier books in a series and how a series gets better or keeps going strong or compare it to previous books in a series when something really changes. Like how Damned If I Don’t is quite darker than book 1. Great topic!

    1. Kristen Burns

      We probably have talked about series before since I am constantly saying that series are more than the sum of their parts, and that always plagues me because for all my favorite series none of the individual books have gotten 5 stars from me, but the series as a total would definitely be 5 stars, and I always kind of want to just give the books 5 stars but not really? Reviewing each one and then the box set makes sense, but the problem is that a lot of people might just see the review for the first book and never see the review for the box set. Which is also what I feel is the problem with series reviews—people who follow our blogs will see them, but random people who stumble upon the first book won’t.

      But yeah, that makes sense. Even if the series goes downhill, that doesn’t change how much you enjoyed a particular book at the time when you read it. But it also would be nice to get a warning sometimes, you know? So there are pros and cons to both sides. And yes, knowing how a series changes can definitely impact a decision to start it or not.

      See I do still do the occasional binge-read, or I read books separately but don’t get around to posting my review until after I’ve read further into the series, which means I still could change the earlier reviews. But I do think reviewing books one at a time is completely fair. Thanks!

  8. Let's Get Beyond Tolerance

    Interesting topic! If all the books in a series are out, sometimes I just wait to review the series as as whole because I’m planning on reading them all around the same time. This way I can talk about the whole series, mentioning if it got better or worse for me. If I’m reading/reviewing them as they come out? I wouldn’t go back and change a review or add something about the new book. I would assume people would realize that I loved the book when I read it, but obviously I can’t say if they will love it too or that either of us will love the next one or the last one, etc.


    1. Kristen Burns

      Thanks! I never do actual series reviews, but if I end up binge-reading, then my review for the first book usually just ends up being a series review lol. Or if the series gets horrible, I just won’t review the books at all. But yeah, it’s way too much work to go back and add to previous reviews for me too. I too assume people understand that our opinion for a book only applies to that book.

  9. Jessica

    That’s a tough question to answer. I do think the reviewer should say it’s only their opinion that the series is going downhill. Because people might not see it that way. I keep hearing that the Anita Blake series goes downhill (crazy) and people have stopped reading them. But I am determined to read as many books I can in the series.

    1. Kristen Burns

      Oh, yeah, it’s definitely just opinion since review are subjective! That’s why it helps when people explain *why* they think the series is going downhill. And if you’re enjoying the Anita Blake series, then yeah, keep reading regardless of what the other reviews say!

  10. Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction

    I agree that you can pretty much do this any way you want and that you don’t even need to necessarily stick to one method. You do what works for you for that particular book. If I read a full series all at once (or close together), I tend to post a series review instead of individual reviews. I DO think that those reviews are going to read slightly differently than a review where I talked about each book individually. But in the end I don’t feel like I have an obligation to do it any certain way. I’m a hobbyist blogger, so I treat my blog that way.

    1. Kristen Burns

      Exactly! I don’t even stick to one method, I just do whatever I feel like for each book. And yeah, the only obligation we have is that our reviews should be honest, however we write them!

  11. Puput @ Sparkling Letters

    Interesting post, though I admit I never thought about it hahaha 😛 I mostly write review individually even when I binge read the whole series, mostly because I can’t delay writing review. I mean, I don’t take notes/highlight/ anything so if I don’t review books immediately, I’ll forget what I want to say. And also because I don’t binge read series that much. Buuuut there’s also time when I binge read the whole series and the problem is so complicated I feel weird reviewing each book. Like, I feel like I need to know more about said problems to form definite opinions. Does that even make sense?haha example was when I binge read The Raven Cycle. It was a bit bizarre and I found it easier to review the whole series rather than individually.

    1. Kristen Burns

      Oh, yeah, when I binge read all the books start to mush together usually and then I can no longer remember exactly what happened in each one or how I felt for each one. So it is harder to write the review after finishing them all. But I also get what you’re saying about how sometimes you want to wait until the next book since it might affect your opinion of the previous one.

  12. Kei @ The Lovely Pages Reviews

    I often read books back to back in a series, I’ve done it more times than I can count and lucky for me they all got the same rating when I reviewed it as a series. But when I review them separately (especially when it’s those series that deal with different characters in each book instead of being sequels) I review them differently. Recently I binge read the Pucked series by Helena Hunting and I still haven’t reviewed it because the books deal with different couples and it’s too much work sometime, and the same thing applies to the Hashtag series by Cambria Hebert. Both series I waited till they were complete to review them all and now I just can’t LOL. A trilogy I can review together or separately but when there’s more than 3 books I get lazy and maybe one or two books don’t inspire me to write a whole review about them. Maybe do mini series reviews? I do mini reviews for books I don’t have much to say, could do the same for series that I can sum up in a few paragraphs… Nice topic!

    1. Kristen Burns

      Yeah, I used to binge a lot, and I still would if I were able, except now I get a lot of books as they come out because of ARCs. But yeah, once you read a whole bunch of books in a series, it does become daunting to then have to write a review for each one, especially once the books have started to blend together in your head. Or sometimes you really have the same thing to say about each one, the same things were good/bad, and that just gets repetitive. A mini series review isn’t a bad idea! Thanks 🙂

  13. Lexxie @ (un)Conventional Bookviews

    Most of the series I read are those I read each book as they are released. Sometimes, I have four books to read in more or less one go, and then, I have to wait like everybody else before I can continue the series.
    And I, personally, don’t do series reviews. I may say something about the series, of course, especially as I progress through it. Suddenly, something that happened in the first book only comes into fruition in book 11, and that is definitely something I’ll point out when I review book 11.
    And If a series I read has more than three books out, and the 3rd only gets 2 stars from me, I will just quit the series, and say so. (And this has definitely happened before – even on book 6!)
    Great topic this week, Kristen 🙂

    1. Kristen Burns

      Yeah, I used to binge read more but now I’m usually reading books as they come out, so it makes sense to review them as they come out.

      I don’t do series reviews either, but sometimes when I read a whole series my review for the first book ends up being kind of a series review.

      Yikes, you’re harsh! Haha. If I were enjoying a series enough to read 6 books I think I’d probably continue. But it definitely makes sense to say in your review that you’re stopping. I sometimes mention in my reviews whether or not I plan to continue after reading the first book in a series.


  14. Pingback: Bought Bagged and Wrapping it Up #160 | (un)Conventional Bookviews

  15. Becky @ A Fool's Ingenuity

    Reviewing series is difficult, I completely agree. I never know what I should and shouldn’t reveal in later reviews and when I’m reading when I don’t like the second book as much it can really affect how I review. It’s just a nightmare. And then when the series gets better you kind of want to go edit the review for the first book because I haven’t done it justice for the series as a whole. There should definitely be a disclaimer for series that improve after the first book. Or series that have a shocking ending but is good up until that point.

    1. Kristen Burns

      It really is a tricky thing sometimes. And yes! When I love a series, I might not have LOVED the first book but I still love the series as a whole, and then I feel like my first review isn’t doing it justice. That’s actually the main reason I do end up mentioning whole series sometimes. And I actually did go back and add something once because my favorite series started a spin-off, but Book 1 of the spin-off only got 3 stars from me, but then Book 2 got 4.5 stars so I wanted people to know they should definitely continue despite the 3 stars lol. But I’ve never gone back and edited a review to talk about how a series got worse, so I don’t know.

  16. suzanna

    I generally review a book as I’ve read it but if it’s a second/third book in a series I might mention the previous books. I’ve never done a whole series review. Maybe I should try it.
    Interesting discussion.

    1. Kristen Burns

      I’ve never technically done a series review either, but for some books in which I did already read the whole series, my review for the first book ended up kind of being a series review lol. But other than that I review them as I go too. A series review might be fun though!

  17. Bookworm Brandee

    I typically review books in ongoing series rather far apart so those reviews are always about that particular book. However, I did just write a review (hasn’t posted yet) on the 12th book in a series and I did mention how much I’ve enjoyed watching the characters mature over the course of the series because I felt it was relevant. I’ve also recently reviewed a trilogy which I essentially binged on but I think that my review of the first and second books were about those books whereas in the review of the third book, I discussed some things that were specific to the entirety. Honestly Kristen, I didn’t realize I wrote my reviews differently until I was typing out my comment! LOL So I don’t think I’ve ever given any real thought to how I’m reviewing a book that’s part of a series but you have my brain spinning this morning. 😉 I like your thoughts on this though – I can write my reviews how ever I want. 😉 Great post!

    p.s. Sorry I’m MIA so much. NaNo is eating up most of my free time. I AM reading your posts (they come to my inbox) even if I’m not commenting. And I’ll be back SOON!

    1. Kristen Burns

      That makes sense, to mention how characters have changed throughout a series. And yeah, usually in the final book of a series I’ll talk about my feelings for the series as a whole. I guess for me it’s just that I usually can’t separate my feelings for one individual book for my feelings for the series once I’ve read, like, more than one book in it. Haha, I’m sorry for making your brain spin in the morning! Did you at least have some coffee before I bombarded you with thoughts? Lol. Thanks!

      No worries! I’m happy to know you’re reading them 🙂 Good luck with what’s left of NaNo!

  18. Annemieke

    If I write a review for just one book then I don’t take into account the books afterwards. I focus on just that book. Usually that review will also already be written before I read the next book. I am not a big binge reader even if a series has already been finished. Sometimes I do write series reviews for series that I started before the blog or series that I didn’t have as much to say about the first book but I do want to share some things about the series as a whole. I do often mention in reviews at the start how I felt about the previous book(s) so they get an idea about that in any case.

    1. Kristen Burns

      Yeah, if the review is written before you read the next book, that makes sense. For me it’s just sometimes confusing if I have already read the next one. But see, I *am* a binge-reader. I’m binge-reading a series right now, actually, haha. But come to think of it, I’ve been writing each review individually after I finish and then starting the next book. Series review are a good idea though if you just have some things to say but not enough for individual reviews.

  19. verushka

    I don’t think I do write them differently… I thought I might, if plot points went into the next book in the series, but then I realised, the next book in the series would probably still have its own main plot it would have to execute well.

    1. Kristen Burns

      Yeah, there are some series that are more like one big book and the plot carries over, and those are the hardest to review individually. But even those sometimes have their own plots too.

  20. La La in the Library

    High profile series I always wait until I finish them all and then intend to review them as a whole on the blog (which I have not managed yet, ha ha) , but I still review them individually on Goodreads. I don’t take the time to go back and add what I thought about the later books though. You made me think. Thanks for the post. 🙂

    1. Kristen Burns

      Lol don’t you love how we all have these plans for things but then never manage to actually do them? But yeah, it would be an awful lot of work to go back and add things to every series, though I do do it on some occasions if there’s something I think might really affect people’s decision. Glad you liked the post!