Looking Back at August 2014

I knew going into August that it was going to be a very busy month outside of reading and blogging, so I have to say I’m rather proud of myself for still getting seven books read at the same time I was starting a new job with not nearly as much downtime during the day and moving into a new house. I really wish I could have gotten all ten books on my list for the month finished, but it just wasn’t meant to be I think. Without the new job and the move I probably would have pulled it off, but it is what it is and I’ll spread those three books into the remaining four months of the year.

Here are the things I read during August:

My favorite book of the month was Lock In, followed closely by The Circuit: Executor Rising. I also felt like Hounded was a really interesting book and I’m interested in continuing that series at some point in the future. I really feel like Lock In is doing something new and interesting with the genre while at the same time calling attention to some compelling social commentary that often goes unnoticed in the background of everything else society thinks to talk about. The Circuit: Executor Rising hearkens very closely to my love of The Expanse series, and so it hit me in just the right spot at the beginning of the month.

Anthem’s Fall was decent, but still a bit rough round the edges and a little too reliant on some typical cliches and plot tropes. I will likely read the sequel because I think the author has some potential and he gave a few glimpses into an interesting world he didn’t quite reveal with the first book. The Trilisk AI is the sequel to a book I read earlier this year and I also found it to be engaging and fun, if not anything overly unique. There is a special place in my heart for books that tell a fun tale without getting too fancy about things from time to time. I bought the remaining three books in the series to keep on hand for when I want something light and fun over an afternoon or lazy evening.

Blood Moon and Black Moon were the real curveballs for me this month. I was asked by the publisher to review Black Moon for it’s impending release in a couple of weeks, which meant I needed to read Blood Moon first so I wouldn’t be lost in the story by starting with the second book. These books fit into a relatively new genre space known as “new adult” and they definitely sit on the fringes of my reading habits. However, Teri Harman does a few interesting things with them and her characters are all very grounded and real, so I think I’ll probably read the final volume in the trilogy when it comes out.

At the moment I’ve completed 61 books out of my 100 book goal. I’m still behind pace by about six books, give or take, which means in order to hit the mark I’m really going to need to buckle down and make up some ground. I may even need to see if I can convince my wife to let me take a Saturday or two and shut myself off from the world to push my way through two or three shorter books all in one day and make up some ground accordingly. If I don’t make it all the way to 100 I still think I’ll easily beat last year’s mark of 84 books read, which is impressive in its own right.

Looking forward to September, I’ve got some good books on deck. One of the highlights is the first new book in the official Star Wars canon reboot, Star Wars: A New Dawn by John Jackson Miller. I’m also excited to read Sarah J. Maas’ newest installment to the Throne of Glass series, Heir of Fire. There are a total of 9 books on my list for September, and now that I’m settled into the new job and the move is complete my hopes are high I can get all 9 finished and maybe sneak in an extra.

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Blog Tour and Book Review: “Black Moon” by Teri Harman

Black Moon Tour BannerTitle: Black Moon
Author: Teri Harman
Publisher: Jolly Fish Press
Publication Date: September 16, 2014
Length: 416 pages

Obtained: The publisher provided me with an advance copy for review.

The Plot: Following the events of Blood Moon the characters of Willa and Simon are spending a lot of their free time training as hard as possible to pass the first test to becoming a True Witch. The Covenant they have joined have taken up residence in Twelve Acres so that they can all be close together as Willa and Simon continue realizing their full potential.

The trouble is that Simon is plagued by nightmares and other secrets he either doesn’t know the truth about or that he doesn’t want to share with Willa. On the other hand, Willa has been delving deeper and deeper into the mystery that is Simon and his multiple schools of magic when other witches are only gifted with a single school. The answers she uncovers are startling and reveal that Simon may have a destiny much more grand than anyone in the Covenant had dared to imagine in the short time they have all been together.

Meanwhile, Archard, the Dark witch from Blood Moon is not as dead as everyone had hoped and he’s delving into some twisted, dark, and intensely powerful magic from the old teachings of Bartholomew the Dark, the last Dark witch to successfully form a Dark Covenant, the same one that brought about what the common folk know as the Dark Ages.

The Commentary: After my reading of Blood Moon, the first book in The Moonlight Trilogy, I was on the fence about whether or not I really wanted to continue with the second book. These books are treading ground in the very new genre of “New Adult” and it sits far to the side of my usual reading habits. However, the publisher very kindly asked me to review the book and a longtime friend of mine happens to be the editor for these books as well. Thankfully, my friend was able to tell me my misgivings about Blood Moon were something that I would not have with Black Moon if I just sat down and got to reading.

As it turns out, he was completely right.

My biggest misgiving previously was feeling that the Light witches had no real sense of danger surrounding them. It felt like it was a forgone conclusion that they were going to win and none of them were going to come to any harm. In Black Moon all of that changes. The danger the Light Covenant faces is much more real and the consequences of their actions are not always immediately apparent. With that out of the way, the book really slid into place for me and I was able to get into the story much more thoroughly than before.

I was also very impressed with Black Moon’s treatment of the relationship between Simon and Willa. In the first book it was immediately established that they are soul mates, but relationships in real life are a lot more complicated than that even if you have found the person you want to be with for the rest of your life. Teri Harman does an amazing job making sure that Simon and Willa aren’t just love-struck, star-crossed lovers. They may only be around twenty years old, but they are mature enough to realize that they don’t actually know everything about each other; that they will actually have to sit down and talk about things instead of just taking each other’s actions for granted because they are in love.

Most authors aren’t willing to have their two characters have a big fight and let it simmer for a while. They all want an immediate makeup scene. Teri Harman is willing to let Simon and Willa be mad at each other. She’s willing to let them act like people do in real life where they get pissed off and have to leave the house for an hour or two to calm down before coming back and still being angry, but finally calm enough to talk about things. It’s a very fresh change of pace compared to most relationships in books.

There is a pretty big plot twist toward the end of Black Moon that I had figured out around the halfway point, but while I may have had the twist figured out, I absolutely did not have the person it was going to happen to figured out. That spun me for a loop and I have to give props to Teri Harman for taking me by surprise. I pride myself on my ability to pick up on foreshadowing and other similar things rather well, so pulling a fast one on me is always impressive.

Worth It? Yes. If you have read Blood Moon, the first book of the trilogy, you will certainly want to read this one because it continues the story in a very satisfying fashion. If you haven’t read the first book, you could probably still pick up Black Moon and not find yourself too lost because the author does a good job of keeping the reader up to speed. Black Moon is carving into new ground genre-wise, so it might be a little different from what the average YA reader is expecting, but that isn’t a bad thing, I promise.

Left Me Wanting… Just a little bit more action. The very fresh genre of “new adult” is something that sits on the fringes of my typical reading tastes, and I understand why Black Moon isn’t packed with action like my typical fare, but I felt the story lent itself to just a little bit more. Black Moon does have much more action than Blood Moon, and that made me happy, but it still fell just a tiny bit short of the perfect amount in my opinion.

The Book:   Amazon   |   Goodreads
The Author:   Facebook   |   Twitter   |   Author’s Website

Want a chance at a free copy of Black Moon to read for yourself? Head on over to the Rafflecopter Giveaway the publisher is hosting and see if you can get lucky!

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!

Top 10 Tuesday: Best Books I’ve Read So Far in 2013

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

I’ve read about 30 or so books so far this year. Some of them have been really, really good and some of them have been pretty not-so-great. This week for Top 10 Tuesday the topic is the best books we’ve read so far this year. Here’s my list:

first-covers

The Wheel of Time: A Memory of Light by Brandon Sanderson
The final chapter of The Wheel of Time did not disappoint. A battle scene that lasted nearly 180 pages on its own was just one of the major highlights to this concluding volume. This book was everything I had been hoping and praying for over the past 15 years.

The God Engines by John Scalzi
Lots of books have an impact on me. Not very many books make me question things as much as this one did. The entire world this novella is set in blows me away.

The Seafort Saga: Midshipman’s Hope by David Feintuch
The first in a series that I’m almost positive I’m going to enjoy more than most series I’ve read in the past, Midshipman’s Hope gave me moments of pause when I really wasn’t sure what the author was going to do with the characters and as a result I read in fear for what was coming next.

The Emperor’s Soul by Brandon Sanderson
Another novella that touches on a culture on the other side of the planet from one featured in a different Sanderson novel. I’m certainly hoping that Sanderson has the time to come and revisit these characters sometime in the future.

second-covers

The Ghost Brigades by John Scalzi
I’ve read the entirety of the Old Man’s War library by John Scalzi and this book, the second in the series, stands alone as my absolute favorite of the bunch.

X-Wing: Starfighters of Adumar by Aaron Allston
This is, and will forever be, the greatest book ever written as part of the Star Wars Expanded Universe collection. It shows sides of beloved characters that we rarely get to see and sets the tone for so very many books that follow.

Shades of Milk and Honey by Mary Robinette Kowal
Jane Austen mixed with a little magic is the best way to describe this book. There is romance, plot twists, some witty dialogue, and a dash of mystery. I enjoyed this book far more than I expect to when I picked it up.

third-covers

The Unincorporated Man by Dani Kollin and Eytan Kollin
If you have ever read Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged and enjoyed it, then you should read The Unincorporated Man. It shares a lot of themes, but is set in the future. It even adds a little more action than one would think from a book full of political intrigue.

World War Z by Max Brooks
Terrifying, bewildering, compelling, and provoking. World War Z is easily in my top ten books I’ve ever read, ever, let alone just in 2013. Anyone who wants to see what a zombie novel really should look like needs to read this book.

Scarlet by Marissa Meyer
The follow-up to Cinder from last year, Scarlet keeps the trend of retold fairy tales moving with a vibrant and compelling retelling of the Little Red Riding Hood theme. These books are a bit of a guilty pleasure of mine and I can’t wait until the next one.

February 2013 in Review

It’s been a busy year for me so far with reading. At the end of February I’ve reached 20 books completed so far for the year, 8 of those in February. I was really all over the place with my book selections this month for some reason. I had a couple by a favorite author, one for the work book club, a short one sent to me by an author, one I was anxiously awaiting to be released, and an old favorite.

Here’s the comprehensive list of the books I finished in February:

I think I was most impressed by The Unincorporated Man and by Scarlet as the two best ones that I read this month, but as always Starfighters of Adumar will continue to be one of my favorite books of all time. The concepts in The Unincorporated Man were really very interesting to me despite the fact that the writing was a bit stiff most of the time. Scarlet was simply a superb follow-up to Marissa Meyer’s great book, Cinder.

The book that gave me the most difficult time was Lotto’s Super-Awesome Unbelievable Park Adventure because I had a really hard time deciding if I liked it or not. To be honest I’m still not really sure my end decision on that and need to figure it out before I finish writing the review for later this month. I think the difficulty I had with that book comes from having a hard time getting into the right mindset to read it as it was meant to be interpreted by its intended audience.

Throne of Glass was more enjoyable than I felt I should have found it as a grown man. I have no problem admitting that I will likely read whatever sequel eventually arrives.