Looking Back at November 2013

The year is drawing swiftly to a close and it won’t be much longer before I turn the page on 2013 and begin working on my 2014 reading goals. But, it’s still 2013 as of today, so it’s time to take a look at what I read during November. A quick glance at the list reveals I was a little bit wild in my reading selections for the month. I have some middle-grade fiction mixed in with young adult, sequels to books I read last year, and some recommendations I received from co-workers and friends. There was even one novel I read which had been on my Kindle for over a year waiting for me to get to it.

The books I read in November:

Of these eight books, I can easily divide them into two groups: ones I thought were fantastic, and ones that were just okay. The books from November that I thought were fantastic are Crown of Midnight, Caliban’s War, Lot Beta, and Storm Front. All four of these were everything I hoped for and more. In the “just okay” category fall Allegiant, The Eye of Minds, Year Zero: A Novel, and The Fall of Five.

Crown of Midnight was a magnificent example of how an author can learn from their writing and improve immensely. Everything I found lacking in the first book of its series was fixed in Crown of Midnight. The characters were more balanced, the story more grounded and believable, even the general quality of the writing. I went into reading Crown of Midnight thinking it would be similar to the first book, Throne of Glass, and that was okay because the first book was a good bit of fun. Instead I was blown away by the growth Sarah J. Maas demonstrated in her writing and her ability to tell a story. At this point I absolutely cannot wait for the next installment of the series.

Caliban’s War was simply a terrific sequel to an already very strong first book in a trilogy. I enjoyed it much more than I enjoyed Leviathan Wakes, and I’m expecting the concluding volume, Abbadon’s Gate to keep the trend alive. As for Lot Beta and Storm Front, they were books recommended to me by my brother-in-law and co-worker. I realized they weren’t very long so I gave them a shot and wound up loving them.

As for the other four books, they were all decent enough, but they just didn’t impress me in particular. James Dashner’s The Eye of Minds was solid work, but in my opinion doesn’t live up to the same level as his first offering in the genre, The Maze Runner. The trouble I had with Allegiant isn’t that its a bad book, it’s actually the best of the trilogy it serves as the end for, but as a result of that, it sort of fails because the entire trilogy should have been written at that level, not just the final book.

With December already halfway done, and the holidays fast approaching I’m not sure how much more reading I’ll get through before the new year. I’m almost finished with The Daedalus Incident, and after that I’m hoping to get through the final four books in my “Waiting to be Read” pile: Abbadon’s Gate, On Writing, Promise of Blood, and Dragon Wing: The Death Gate Cycle. Two of those are quite short, the other two are around 500 pages in length. If I can get that list finished before New Year’s Day I’ll be sitting pretty having beaten last year’s books read and total pages read marks.

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Looking Back at October 2013

October was a really, really good month for me in regards to getting books read. I may not have enjoyed all the books I read, but I finished 10 books in the month again for the first time in a long time, which makes me pretty happy. I read some older books, some long books, some short books, some bad books, and some brand new books that blew my mind. It feels really good to be back on the reading horse so-to-speak after having several months where I felt like it was a bit of a chore.

I even managed to reach 70 total books read for 2013 by having such a great month and now I get to see how far I can push that number by the end of the year. If I were to get 10 more books in November and December respectively I’d be at 90 which is a pretty big number if you ask me.

So, here are the books I read in October:

My favorite book of the month was Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie. She did some amazing things with gender assignments regarding the characters and told a very vibrant story that had me racing to finish the book. I’d heard lots of great things about Ancillary Justice for weeks before I started reading it and I’m a little disappointed I didn’t pick it up earlier because it was so good. Parasite, which I just finished last night, was also really good. I’m glad Mira Grant has a new novel out and I’m excited to see where she ultimately winds up taking things with this new story. Although, part of me wishes she would write another book in the same world as her Newsflesh trilogy again. I loved those books so much.

Getting a chance to finally see what Dragonlance was all about was a lot of fun. There are some fun characters in Dragons of Autumn Twilight and I’m sure I’ll be revisiting that world again soon. Shattered Soul left me with a really bad taste in my mouth, but I’m not going to discuss my issues with it in this post. There are a lot of things I want to say about it but I need to decide how I want to say them first. Suffice it to say that I don’t recommend the book to anyone.

Coming up in November I’ve got some really good books I’ve been waiting to read for a long time. A co-worker wants me to try my hand at a Dresden Files book or two, I’ve got Caliban’s War and Abbadon’s Gate to read, and I’ve got the last few David Dalglish novels I haven’t read yet on deck as well. My goal is to get another 10 books read, but the holiday season is approaching fast so we’ll see if I can hit that goal or not. Ultimately, I’d like my Kindle to be 100% empty by January 1st if I can manage it just to say I did it.

Book Review: “Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief” by Rick Riordan

The Lightning ThiefI read a book a few weeks ago that put a really sour taste in my mouth and as a result I needed to cleanse my reading palate before I could read some of the other books on my reading list. Rick Riordan is an author I trust to have quality characters, moving plot, and a general quality hand when it comes to writing. As such I felt it would be good for me to read the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series really quick before moving on to other things. Naturally I started with The Lightning Thief because it’s the first in the five book series.

The first thing I noticed about The Lightning Thief were the ages of the main cast of characters. For whatever reason I had it in my head that they were all in their middle to late teens. As it turns out, in the first book Percy Jackson is a rather young 12 years old. Overall, that’s okay because the author does a pretty decent job of writing the characters to match those ages. There are a few times when for the sake of the story the characters, especially Percy and Annabeth, need to make choices using a more mature mindset than you would expect from 12 or 13 year olds, but those instances are rare and they work well enough.

I loved reading The Lightning Thief for more than just the story though, I loved being reintroduced to the old Greek gods and their pantheon. I remember back in middle school and high school when we would discuss those gods from time to time and how interesting I thought all of them were. I think choosing to make Percy the some of Poseidon was an excellent choice, just like I thought the choice of making supporting characters the children of other Greek gods was amazing as well. I especially like how the Half-Blood camp was set up with houses for each group of children from each god.

There are a lot of interesting tidbits of information about Greek mythology scattered through the pages of The Lightning Thief. Some of them are obviously based in fact, and some of them seem like they might be made up to make the story more interesting or to drive home a particular plot point. Regardless, they all mesh together really well and I had a lot of fun reading the book.

Pacing of plot in The Lightning Thief was absolutely spectacular. Sometimes I read books like this one that are targeted towards the middle grade or slightly older audience and the pacing is really off. Things will take too long to develop, characters will languish in particular plot points, or the villains will drag their plans out for ten chapters too long. Rick Riordan doesn’t make those mistakes with this book. He lets the plot move, the characters breathe, and the villains get on with their general villainy. It was really fresh to move through a dynamic story and never feel once like I was being presented with frivolous or pointless prose.

If you are looking for something to read that won’t take you long to get through and will keep you engaged for an afternoon or a weekend, you might want to give The Lightning Thief a try. I consider it one of the better books of its type I’ve read in years and would heartily recommend it as an equal to Harry Potter in its entertainment value.

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Up Next: “Percy Jackson & the Olympians” by Rick Riordan

The Lightning ThiefI know I’m well behind the times in reading these five books, but I finally finished reading all of the so-so books on my Kindle and I want to smash my way through this series before I dive into all of the really awesome books I have left on my list. I’m expecting that I’ll really enjoy the Percy Jackson books because I’ve already read another series written by Rick Riordan, The Kane Chronicles, and enjoyed it well enough. However, the Percy Jackson books deal with a group of gods that are much more interesting to me than the pantheon of Egyptian gods.

These will be the first books in a while I’ve read without using my Kindle. A friend of mine had the entire five book series sitting on their bookshelf and I figure I’m only going to read them once so I might as well read them for free instead of spending money to buy my own copies. I’ll probably do the same thing with the copies of the Fablehaven series that same friend has in a couple of months as well. I’m trying to be better about not buying books I’m not going to read more than once or that aren’t written by one of my favorite authors.

The Percy Jackson & the Olympians series consists of five books: The Lightning Thief, The Sea of Monsters, The Titan’s Curse, The Battle of the Labyrinth, and The Last Olympian. The entire series is about 1,760 pages in length and will put me at 67 total books read for the year so far, easily within striking distance of breaking last year’s total of 70. I’m hoping to have them all finished by this time next week.

Percy Jackson is a good kid, but he can’t seem to focus on his schoolwork or control his temper. And lately, being away at boarding school is only getting worse-Percy could have sworn his pre-algebra teacher turned into a monster and tried to kill him. When Percy’s mom finds out, she knows it’s time that he knew the truth about where he came from, and that he go to the one place he’ll be safe. She sends Percy to Camp Half Blood, a summer camp for demigods (on Long Island), where he learns that the father he never knew is Poseidon, God of the Sea. Soon a mystery unfolds and together with his friends — one a satyr and the other the demigod daughter of Athena — Percy sets out on a quest across the United States to reach the gates of the Underworld (located in a recording studio in Hollywood) and prevent a catastrophic war between the gods.

May and June 2013 in Review

May and June were very slow reading months for me. I’ve pounded that home plenty over the past few posts. But, even though I didn’t read as much, I still read some. I’m looking forward to getting back on the reading wagon in July. I’ve got big plans, big plans I say!

The books I read in May and June:

My favorite book of this batch was far and away World War Z. Everything about it had me hooked from the first page all the way to the last page. I loved the format and I loved the way that format forced me to imagine the world around the characters being interviewed on the fly as I was reading.

My least favorite? Oh, that’s easy. The Great Gatsby, hands down. The book was boring, flat, pointless, and even now, weeks later, I can’t figure out what the point of writing it was. Yet, it’s considered one of the greatest books ever written. Sure…

What’s on tap for July? Well, I want to keep working down the pile of books on my Kindle, most assuredly all of the David Dalglish books I’ve yet to read. I may also try to sneak in Caliban’s War and Abbadon’s Gate if I can find the time for a couple of lengthy books. I might also see if I can plow through the Percy Jackson books.

My end goal is 15 books read in July, which is a pretty meaty goal. It would go a long way towards catching me up though.