Top Ten Most Unique Books I’ve Read

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.

When it comes to unique books I’m not sure I have read very many that really qualify as truly unique because most of what I read is rather mainstream. However, there are a few books despite that which I think are pretty unique for various reasons. I’m not sure if I can come up with a full list of ten books, but I’ll try my best.

Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie
What makes Ancillary Justice so unique is how the author bends gender with everyone on the page being referred to with a feminine pronoun. It makes for an incredibly unique reading experience and to be honest, it makes things a little bit confusing for the first piece of the novel. You really have to force your brain to work a different way in order to make sense of the characters and their actions.

World War Z by Max Brooks
I loved this book because of its unique format. The choice to use imagined interviews with key players to create a chronicle of the events surrounding a zombie apocalypse was a fantastic storytelling device. I was glued to this book the entire time I was reading it because the interviews felt so real despite the fact that I knew they were fictional.

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
I’m sure there have been other books that tried the approach of featuring a player inside of a massive online game, but if I ever find another one worth reading I’ll hold it up in comparison to Ready Player One every time. Ernest Cline did a great job creating a virtual world for his characters to run around in and there was something exciting about having a fictional world inside of another fictional world be the main playground for the story to take place within.

The Maze Runner by James Dashner
There is a lot of post-apocalyptic YA fiction out there in the world to consume, but very little of it is so unique that it really grabs your attention. So many of those stories follow a very limited number of tropes, but The Maze Runner does a lot of things very differently and I’m very excited to see how the general public accepts the movie version later this year because I think it’s exactly the unique YA infusion the genre needs.

Gone with the Wind by Margaret Atwood
Most people might not thing Gone with the Wind is all that unique, but it was pretty unique for me to decide to read it. My wife loves the book and I’d never read it before so I took the plunge to see what it was all about. I had a very mistaken understanding of what the line, “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn,” was in reference to, so when I finished the book in the early morning hours one day I was very upset. I can usually accept just about anything in a book without getting angry, but this one got me.

Kraken by China Mieville
I’m not sure Kraken is unique in comparison to other books of its kind, but it was certainly unique to me when I read it. I had never read a book quite like Kraken before and it took a lot of brainpower for me to dive into that kind of writing style. I thought it was a great book and I’d like to read more of the author’s work someday.

The God Engines by John Scalzi
This is actually a novella, but I still think it’s one of the most unique things I’ve read in the past few years. There are some really interesting religious themes in The God Engines, and the end of the story is mind-blowing in not only its abruptness but in its intensity.

Legion by Brandon Sanderson
Legion is another novella, and I really liked how Sanderson took the main character and turned him into a cast of characters by having the supporting characters be manifestations of the main characters psyche. The interplay between characters is very unique as a result and it allows for some interesting plot developments. There is a sequel coming out later this year that I’m very excited to read.

Feed by Mira Grant
Zombie stories are a dime a dozen these days between comics, television, and books. The thing is, almost all of these stories deal with the actual outbreak of the zombies. What makes Feed so unique is that it deals with life after the outbreak when society has figured out how to survive and make a life in a world that has zombies roaming around. I think that’s pretty unique within the particular sub-genre.

The Daedalus Incident by Michael J. Martinez
It hasn’t been very long since I read The Daedalus Incident but I still love how it’s a wonderful mix of science fiction and fantasy all rolled into one. Most books only manage to focus on one of those two genres, but this one blends the two almost seamlessly to create something entirely new and exciting.

Look at that! I managed to find ten unique books after all!

Looking Back at 2013

For the past two days I’ve been writing about my personal reading goals and the blogging goals I’ll be working on for 2014. Now, three days into the new year it’s time to take one last look back at 2013 and how things went. I sort of fell off the band wagon a bit in the second half of the year, really losing a lot of steam in regards to how often I was publishing new posts, especially book reviews. But, 2014 should be better.

Let’s start by taking a quick look at the last few books I finished before the new year. The weeks of the year saw me driving my way through six pieces of literature, just narrowly surpassing my total pages read mark from last year. They were:

The Daedalus Incident was an absolutely spectacular debut for Michael J. Martinez, so much so that I’ve added him to my “must read” list already. He took some amazing chances with his storytelling and put together a tale that is unlike anything I’ve seen. Abaddon’s Gate was a wonderful installment to the continuing story that is The Expanse and I can’t wait for the next book in a few months.

Stephen King’s On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft gave me a lot of motivation and hope for my own fledgling writing dreams and I’m hoping I can incorporate some of the insights and lessons I took from it into my routines this year at some point. The other three items on the list were all short stories written by the authors to add a bit of depth to the universes they exist in between the most recently released books and the upcoming ones. I enjoyed all three of them immensely. It was a good month of reading for me in the realm of quality writing.

As far as reading statistics go, here are a couple that might be interesting:

  • Total Books Read: 84
  • Total Pages Read: 31,512
  • Average Book Length: 375 pages

I had sort of hoped I could get all the way to 100 books read, but it just wasn’t in the cards for me. I had to navigate my way through some unexpected circumstances during the middle of the year that took my focus away from blogging and put it elsewhere.

In the world of blogging statistics, 20four12 saw 7,600 unique visitors over the course of the year for an average of about 20-21 visitors per day. That’s not too bad, but I would like to see it be significantly higher by the time this new year is finished.

And, last but not least, let’s take a look at two lists. In reading 84 books and novellas over the course of the year it is inevitable that I would find some favorites and least favorites. Part of me thought I should only list my favorites, but then I decided I was interested in seeing if any of the ones on my least favorite list would incite some discussion. Maybe some of them are favorites to other people, or maybe even some of the books I considered my favorite from this year are hated by others. I always find that to be incredibly fascinating. In no particular order:

Ten Favorite Books I Read in 2013:

Honorable Mention

Ten Least Favorite Books I Read in 2013:

I feel compelled to note that of the books listed in the least favorite category, I only find two of them to be absolutely atrocious, but I’m not going to tell you which ones. All of the others I just didn’t like as much as I wanted to, or they just simply were not my style when all was said and done. Take, The Great Gatsby for example. Widely considered to be a premier piece of fiction, I can’t stand it. It’s a matter of taste.

So, there you have it, a snapshot of my reading and blogging experiences from 2013. It was an interesting year for me as both a reader and as a blogger, but ultimately I feel like I did an okay job with both. Here’s to 2014 and making 20four12 really shine!

Book Review: “Under the Dome” by Stephen King

Under the DomeIt’s taken me a fair amount of time to really begin to appreciate the books Stephen King writes. It wasn’t even until late last year that I even picked up my first Stephen King novel, and that was Insomnia, which I’m not sure was the best choice when it comes to my first exposure to him as an author. Even reading the very widely loved book of his, The Gunslinger, didn’t have me entirely convinced. As it turns out, the book I really needed to read was Under the Dome.

My motivation for reading Under the Dome was threefold: I got a copy of the book for $1.99 as a Kindle Daily Deal, shortly after that I realized there was going to be a television show based on the book, and lastly, I was looking to read a longer book because I’d been reading lots of shorter works at the time. I also figured I would give Stephen King one more chance to convince me he was worth reading again and the premise of a town being trapped underneath a giant invisible dome was intriguing to me on a lot of levels.

In my previous experience with Stephen King I felt like his novels were driving down a long road and to start they were moving at 45 miles per hour. A decent clip, certainly enough to keep you interested in what’s happening, but not so fast as to lose you right at the start. Then those novels would slow down to what felt like a crawl of around 15 to 20 miles per hour for the middle 800 pages or so before ramping up to 90 miles per hour and accelerating from there through the end of the book. I found that frustrating. With Under the Dome it felt like I was cruising at a nice, brisk 60 miles per hour the entire time until the end when King began to accelerate the story at a nice, smooth rate right through to the last page. That kind of pacing was much more enjoyable to me personally and I hope some of his other books work that way too so I can read them in the future. The start, stop, rush format of the earlier works of Stephen King I read just didn’t do it for me.

Under the Dome is also free of the more typical spooky vibe I’ve found in other Stephen King novels and instead features a more science fiction and/or alien twist to explain the existence of the dome and how it’s changing the way the people in town behave towards each other. When the revelation of why the dome is in place was made (very late in the book by the way) I felt like it was a really interesting premise. It took me back to some things I’ve thought about before as well as some things I used to do as a kid with a magnifying glass. It almost felt like the entire story came about because King had seen a group of kids with their magnifying glasses over and anthill and things just grew from there when he started writing. I enjoyed the premise in this story much more than the others I’ve read.

However, by far the most interesting thing about Under the Dome was the impact being cut off from the world in that fashion had on the inhabitants of the town. Sure, there were some strange things going on with why the dome was there to begin with, but the things like looting, martial law, enormous suicide rates, etc were all portrayed in what I felt was a very realistic and raw manner. Having a dome slam down over a town that traps all pollutants in the air has massive ramifications if people aren’t paying attention. A small town official can easily set up his own dictatorship overnight if people aren’t focused on the right things. There were so many little details about the goings on around the town that had me fascinated as I watched the story unfold before me.

There were also some very strong political themes woven between events which I’m not sure were so much Stephen King’s personal political opinions as much as they were his attempt at showing how modern-day politics fit into a disaster situation like the one he was writing about.

If Under the Dome hadn’t worked out for me as a reader I probably would have walked away from Stephen King for good and felt I had done my due diligence in trying to see why so many people love his work. However, Under the Dome won me over because of a variety of things and now I’m willing to give him a few more chances before I walk away from his work entirely. I might just need to pick which Stephen King books I read very carefully so as not to get frustrated in the future.

Amazon   |   Barnes & Noble   |   Goodreads   |   Audible

Reading List Update: Lee Child

I recently spent some time visiting my parents and while I was there I asked my Dad what books he had been reading lately. I distinctly remember as a kid that I wanted to read the same things my Dad was reading. The problem with that was he tended to read things written by authors like Clive Cussler and Tom Clancy. Things that had some very adult themes that a seven or eight year old shouldn’t be reading at that age.

Fast forward to today where I’m 29 and finally remembered to ask him for some recommendations. He gave me a list of nearly 20 authors and explained why he liked each one, but the ones he told me to read first were the Jack Reacher books by Lee Child because he really thinks Jack Reacher is a pretty interesting character.

So, I’m going to add the entire Jack Reacher series to my list:

LEE CHILD – JACK REACHER
Killing Floor
Die Trying
Trip Wire
Running Blind
Echo Burning
Without Fail
Persuader
The Enemy
One Shot
The Hard Way
Bad Luck and Trouble
Nothing to Lose
Gone Tomorrow
61 Hours
Worth Dying For
The Affair
A Wanted Man

Now, I normally don’t read much fiction written in a modern, present-day setting, so these might take some adjusting on my part to really get into them, but I think I can do it. I also don’t read much in the “crime drama” realm of things, so that will be new.

Here are a few cover descriptions to give you an idea of what the series is about:

Cover Description from Killing Floor:
After hopping off a Greyhound bus to pursue a whim (finding out what happened to a musician, “Blind Blake”), Reacher is arrested and charged with murder. After an attempt on his life while being held over the weekend in a state prison, Reacher is interested in just clearing his name and getting out. Later he finds out that the person he was framed for murdering was Joe Reacher, his brother. Unknowingly, Jack Reacher had stumbled into one of the biggest counterfeiting schemes in the United States. Subsequently, he takes on the vicious and ruthless butchers of a well established town gang operating a massive counterfeit notes racket. This novel is set in the fictional town of Margrave, Georgia.

Cover Description from Nothing to Lose:
Based in Colorado, travelling from the town of Hope to the town of Despair, it soon becomes clear that Reacher is an unwelcome visitor in a town with a lot of secrets to hide. Reacher cannot resist the opportunity to explore these secrets further, especially the peculiar town owner who has employed the majority of the population to work within his recycling factory.

Top 10 Tuesday: Most Intimidating Books

Top 10 Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.

There really aren’t many books that I classify as “intimidating” when it comes to reading them because after you’ve read a few 1,200 page books length doesn’t really scare you much anymore. To be honest, classic books are more intimidating to me than anything else because I often just don’t get why everyone else finds them so good.

Here’s my list of intimidating books I have yet to read.

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A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
People talk about this book all the time when the topic of classics you “must read” comes up. I’ve never read it and despite thinking Dickens is a decent enough author I have a sneaking suspicion that I’m not going to like it as much as everyone else.

Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
Just like A Tale of Two Cities, this is a book everyone says book readers should read, and I just need to buckle down and do it so I can say I’ve done it. Then perhaps I’ll be able to speak more intelligently about classic literature to some extent.

The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexander Dumas
This is a classic book that I’m almost certainly going to enjoy. I love the story, I’ve watched the movies about a billion times, and I love every other television show or movie based off the same concept. It’s long though, very, very long. Also, I know the language style is going to be a bit rough for me to get through which is why I keep putting it off instead of picking it up.

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Gardens of the Moon by Steven Erikson
This is the first book in a really, really long series which is why I’m scared to pick it up. I have in my mind that if I read this book I need to be prepared to read all the rest of them immediately after and that is a huge time investment.

The Gunslinger by Stephen King
Oddly, I just read this book last week, but I’m still going to include it on the list. Lots of friends have told me this book would determine if I was going to like Stephen King or not and that is a lot of pressure to put on reading one 300 page novel. Not to mention it also is the start of a pretty long and involved series.

Red Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson
I am a bit of a closet hard science fiction fan and this is supposedly considered one of the best hard science fiction books you can read. I’ve seen it in bookstores and on bookshelves at friends homes for year and have always wanted to read it but just can’t seem to find the gumption to pick it up and do it. I think I might have built up in my mind how good it could be to a point where it won’t be anything other than disappointing when I do read it.

Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson
I’ve held this one in my hands at least a hundred times at local bookstores. As a teenager I wanted so badly to read this book but never bought it because there was always another book I wanted more. Years and years later I still haven’t read it but I keep on looking.

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Dune by Frank Herbert
Dune is a classic that just seems a bit larger than life for someone like me. It’s supposed to be this great book, but what if I don’t like it? Will my nerd card be taken away and never given back? Will my friends who think it’s the best book ever written shun me forever as a result?

1984 by George Orwell
I just need to read this. It isn’t that long, and it’s sort of a rite of passage for a science fiction fan to be honest. I don’t really know why I haven’t read it yet.

The Road by Cormac McCarthy
I’ve heard great and terrifying things about this book which makes me want to read it but it got so much great press over the years that I worry I won’t appreciate it the way it was intended to be appreciated because I enjoy things on a surface level so much rather than a deeper philosophical level.