Looking Back at June 2014

I’m aware that this recap of the books I read during June is literally a month late as of right now, but that’s just how the cookie crumbles sometimes. I mentioned in my post at the beginning of July that things were going to be a little slow around here for a few months while some other things got sorted out and taken care of, so I suppose this is the verifiable proof.

However, I did read books in June, and some of them were magnificent. I did not quite get caught up all the way to 50 finished books by June 30th like I wanted, but I got to 47 for the halfway point of the year and I think I can make that up in the final six months. There is still hope for my goal of reading 100 books this year! There is still hope I say!

In no particular order, here are the books I read in June:

A couple of other shorter works I also read in June:

I really hit the jackpot in June because I was reading only 2 books I was confident were not going to let me down. The rest of them were all gambles to a certain extent, but only one of them left me feeling disappointed. City of Heavenly Fire is the concluding volume for The Mortal Instruments series and as such I was expecting some serious fireworks both from the characters and the plot. As it turns out, the book had a rather mopey feel to it and by the end of the much too long 725 pages I felt really unfulfilled. I’m glad I stuck with it so I can have finished the entire series and tie it off with a bow, but it wasn’t the same as the previous books, not by a long shot. I think the author was already mentally moving on to other projects before she finished City of Heavenly Fire.

My absolute favorite book of the month was The Martian: A Novel by Andy Weir. I only grabbed a copy because other authors on my Twitter feed were raving about how good it is and I figured I should jump on that bandwagon sooner or later. The book is fantastic! I’ve been recommending it to anyone who will listen because while it might be a science fiction novel it appeals to a much broader audience than that. There is a little something for everyone.

Everything else from June was wonderful as well. Defenders was a wonderful discovery of mine that I’ve been recommending a lot as well. The Crimson Campaign left be desperate for the final volume of the Powder Mage trilogy. Prince of Fools was as good or better than Mark Lawrence’s award-winning Broken Empire books. Trilisk Ruins and Fool Moon were wonderful reads as well as they helped me break up the monotony of reading longer books. I heartily recommend basically everything on this list as something worth reading if you were on the fence about any of the titles previously. Give them all a shot, you won’t regret it.

In other news, I continue to do rather terribly at not starting new trilogies and/or series. I have been tying a few off as I either catch up to the current installments (and am now waiting for the next installment to be published) or finish them off entirely, but I’m also starting up new ones willy-nilly. I imagine it will never not be a problem for me to be honest.

For July I have another good lineup I think I’m going to enjoy. Some new authors, some established favorites, and a few choices I really have no idea what to expect from. July should be another quality month, I’m fairly certain of it.

Book Review: “A Sword Into Darkness” by Thomas A. Mays

A Sword Into DarknessTitle: A Sword Into Darkness
Author: Thomas A. Mays
Publisher: Stealth Books
Publication Date: January 10, 2014
Length: 302 pages

Obtained: I believe I grabbed a copy of A Sword Into Darkness because it showed up in an email from Amazon about books I might like. It looked intriguing so I gave it a shot.

The Plot: Gordon Elliot Lee is a genius aerospace tycoon with so much money he can afford to indulge in his obsession with outer space. One day he discovers what he believes to be some sort of alien craft approaching earth from a far away star. He tries to convince NASA about the “threat” of such a thing, but they laugh in his face. So, what does he do? He decides to bankroll the research, experimentation, and construction of his own spaceship. The thing is, his spaceship is going to be armed to the teeth because he is convinced that the aliens headed for Earth have no good intentions.

To assist him in his endeavor, Gordon Lee recruits Nathan Kelley and Kris Munoz to run point on all of the many spinning cogs involved in such a plan. They work for years and years putting together teams, funding projects, and discovering technological advancements that would put to shame the technology of the general public. They have a lot of time to get things right because while the mysterious aliens are making steady progress on their journey, they have a long way to go.

Eventually the military and NASA are forced to admit that Gordon Lee was right, so they jump in to assist, but that isn’t all they want to do and Nathan Kelley is forced to throw them out the door so to speak in order to make sure the mission happens as it was first envisioned, and not as some mockery of the original plan. What Nathan and Kris discover upon making contact with the aliens is so far gone from what they expected that they are unsure how to proceed. Events transpire that put the two of them in a position to make a very big splash when the climax of the story arrives.

The Commentary: To my understanding, A Sword Into Darkness is the debut effort of Thomas A. Mays. The best way to describe the book is as a mix of hard science fiction, military science fiction, and space opera. All of these pieces are woven together into a tapestry that for the most part, works pretty well. As a debut novel, it does have a few things here and there that could use some improvement, but oftentimes those kinds of things are distracting. In this book they are not distracting, and some of them are only noticeable to me as a result of just how many books I read. If I wasn’t so voracious in my reading a lot of those things would pass right on by.

The book is a rather quick read at 300 pages, so it isn’t something that’s going to bog you down as a reader. I liked that. I think more debut novels need to be that way, long enough to tell a decent story, but short enough to leave the reader wanting a little more to entice them to read that author’s next project. I was really impressed with Nathan Kelley as a character, but a little bit less so with Gordon Lee. The former had a lot more development as the story moved along and with the later I was left filling in a lot of gaps.

I’m glad I took a chance on the book though. I enjoy hard science fiction every so often and having that element mixed in with a more traditional science fiction tale was a nice perk for me as a reader. Balancing between the two could probably use a little work by the author, but that’s something I think can be worked out easily enough.

Needs More: Character development. The hard science portions were spot on and very well put together, but I think due to the length of the novel the characters suffered a little bit in order to fit in the science. That is something I expect the author can easily remedy in future projects without much trouble.

Needs Less: Repetition. I loved the science in the book, but in a few cases the same science was repeated over and over and it would have been nice to use that space for a little more character development, or some more action added to the scenes.

Worth It? Yes, I think A Sword Into Darkness is worth it. The science is interesting, at least a couple of characters mesh well, and the others that don’t still hold up okay. I liked that it was short and didn’t try to do more than what it was claiming to be. That worked really well in the end.

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Looking Back at April 2014

Another month, another look back at how my last month of reading went. April was a pretty busy month for me personally as I made trips to Denver and Los Angeles to see family for various reasons, but thanks to a couple of plane rides, I still managed to stay on pace towards my 100 books read in the year goal. This month I had a book to read provided by a publisher, the chance to finally finish one of my incomplete series, a couple of unknown authors, and a couple novels by a favorite.

The list of books I finished in April:

Somewhat surprisingly, Fortune’s Pawn was probably my favorite book of the month. I love all of the books in The Seafort Saga, but Fortune’s Pawn was an awful fun time while I was reading it. I think I really had been starved for some light-hearted sci-fi action and didn’t really know it. The same could be said for Crimes Against Magic, it was good fun, exciting characters, and off the beaten path for me personally. Looking back on the month, I have to say none of the books were disappointing, which isn’t always the case. Usually I have one or maybe two that really didn’t do it for me, but not this time.

I was really happy that I managed to finish the final books of The Seafort Saga after so long of trying to get that series completed. Those books might not be for everyone, but I really liked them a lot, and now I can say I’ve read them, and that I’ve finished off one of the bigger uncompleted series on my list. It’s all smooth sailing from here now, right?

Looking Back at August 2013

Anyone who’s been paying attention has probably noticed a distinct lack of posting for the past month. The explanation is simple: I was burned out and didn’t want to post. All of the sudden I had found myself dreading the idea of reading a new book because it meant I had to write a new review. All the joy of reading was gone; it was suddenly an obligation for some reason, not something fun to do on the side. So, I stopped blogging for a little bit and just read a bunch of books instead.

Will I write any reviews for the books I read? I don’t know, but probably not. I needed a little time to recharge and take away the stress of blogging. I also did a lot of thinking about what I want 20four12 to be, but I’ll talk about that another day.

For now, in no particular order, here are the books I read in August:

As far as the books are concerned, by favorites were The Broken Empire trilogy (Prince of Thorns, King of Thorns, and Emperor of Thorns) along with Christian Cantrell’s Kingmaker. The trilogy was exceptionally written and I had to give serious credit to Mark Lawrence for having the guts to end his story where he did. It would have been so very easy for him to just keep the series going, but he made the tough decision to finish it off where it stood. As for Kingmaker, I just love Cantrell’s writing style. It’s hard science fiction that always manages to teach me something new. His books may not be for everyone, but I think they are a great change of pace from the science fiction norm these days.

I was not very impressed with the World of Warcraft novel, Arthas: Rise of the Lich King. It felt incredibly haphazard with its plot and like it was trying to do too many things at once and failing at all of them. For the time being I think I’ll just read the new novels attached to World of Warcraft rather than going backwards.

Moving forward into September I think I have a legitimate shot at finally finishing all the books on my Kindle right now. It includes a non-fiction book, another Stephen King novel, and the rest of the David Dalglish books I’ve yet to read as well as several others. If I can make it all the way through the stuff on my Kindle I’ll then be tackling the Percy Jackson and the Olympians books by Rick Riordan that I’ve borrowed from a friend. I’ve always wanted to read those and they should be fun.

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.