Looking Back at January 2015

From the time I finished my 101st book of 2014 to the writing of this post I confess to taking a very big break in regards to reading. I walked away from my Kindle, walked away from the blog for the most part, and generally just let my brain decompress. The last three months of 2014 were an absolute grind in order to meet my reading goal and I needed some serious time off.

So, what did I do? I picked up a book I had been wanting to read for months and read it at the most leisurely pace I could manage. Some days I didn’t read at all, some days I read for ten minutes, some days for half an hour. Not once did I force myself to read unless I was in the mood. I have no specific “number of books” reading goal for 2015, so making January a very light month mattered little in the grand scheme of things.

Here are the books I read in January:

As I tend to do every so often I also read some short fiction in January:

Despite reading only two full-length novels in January I feel like I got to read two really wonderful books without rushing my way through the pages. I had heard fantastic things about The Mirror Empire and wanted to wait until I could really focus on it before picking it up to read. Firefight is the sequel to Steelheart that I’ve been waiting eagerly to read.

Hindsight really is 20/20 and if I’m honest with myself I should have waited a little longer to read The Mirror Empire as it is a dense, deep, and very elaborate tale. I read little to no true epic fantasy in 2014 and making The Mirror Empire my first foray back into that realm was probably a poor decision. The learning curve on that book is immense for the first 100 pages or so, especially if you are out of practice with that kind of huge world building and cast of characters. I loved the book though, so all is well that ends well.

For February I’ll be trying to get back on the horse with a  book per week in order to keep myself in a pile of enough material to begin writing reviews again. I’m hoping to find the time to read Golden Son, The Autumn Republic, and The Mortal Heart if I can.

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Looking Back at October 2014

At the beginning of October I wrote a post regarding whether or not I would actually manage to read 100 books this year like I wanted. I mention in that post about October needing to be the “make or break” month in the process because if I didn’t reach a certain threshold it would be very difficult to reach my goal. I took that thought to heart and really, really pushed myself hard to reach 85 books completed by the end of the month.

There was a stretch of October for about 10 days where I read a book a day, which is both amazing and disorienting at the same time. Over the course of the entire month I read 16 full-length novels as well as five issues of Bastion Magazine and two novellas. I suppose I could have traded the magazine issues and novellas for another two books, but I used the shorter works as a way to cleanse my palate between novels and as a way to bring the number of unread items on my Kindle back down to a reasonable level.

All in all, I managed to make up all the lost ground from earlier in the year when I had months where I didn’t meet my quota. I am not officially back on pace with 85 books completed, leaving me with 15 remaining to be read. That puts me in a very good place as I head into the last two months of the year. I’d like to get six or seven books finished before the World of Warcraft expansion on November 13th, and then another three or four finished in the last two weeks of the month. It would be wonderful if I could arrive at December 1st with only four or five books left to read and be stress free with the goal.

Here are the books I read in October:

Here is the list of short fiction I read in October:

As you can see, that list is enormous compared to the lists from all the previous months in 2014. It did help that I chose books I was almost guaranteed to enjoy for the entire month, which meant none of them turned into a big drag that lost me time. I also focused on catching up with and/or finishing series so I don’t have so many left open-ended.

I think my favorites for the month were the Shadow Ops books by Myke Cole, and the two books by Marko Kloos: Terms of Enlistment and Lines of Departure. Of course, I also very much enjoyed Ancillary Sword by Ann Leckie as it’s a wonderful follow-up to the first book in that trilogy. And, while I have not “caught up” with the entire series of The Dresden Files, I am now at least halfway through after finishing all the books I had purchased via a Kindle Daily Deal a few months ago.

Steampunk is a sub-genre that fascinates me, but I haven’t found the time to read. The two Romulus Buckle books were wonderfully written and very vibrant in their world building and characters. I’ve had those books sitting on my Kindle for nearly a year and decided it was high time I got them read. I’m glad I did because they were spectacular. I hear the third book is due out sometime in the first few months of 2015. I’ll be sure to grab it.

For November I have some good stuff on deck. There is the second of the new Star Wars canon being released, as well as the final book in the His Fair Assassin trilogy, both of which I’ll be reading immediately when they load onto my Kindle. There is also the second book of a series about superheroes from a self-published author I’m looking forward to diving into and then I’ll be walking back into the Dragonlance books I exposed myself to earlier this year to try and make some progress on catching up.

Review: Bastion Magazine, Issue #1

Bastion #1About six months ago I happened across a blog post that featured the very first issue of Bastion Magazine. For a long time I’ve wanted to find a science fiction or fantasy magazine to read so I could expose myself to new writers and to more short fiction within those two genres. Part of the reason I want to read more short fiction is because I would like to get back into creative writing at some point and I think my strengths might point more to that format rather than full-length novels.

At the time I said to myself, “A brand new science fiction magazine! This is perfect! I can jump in on the ground floor with this!” Then, as seems to be the usual case with me, life got busy and I was trying to stay on track with reading my 100 books for the year, then I was starting a new job, then I was moving to a new home, and now it’s October and the year is almost over. I guess that time has a problem of just getting away from me sometimes, although I’m fairly certain I’m not the only person who suffers with that problem in life.

So, now Bastion Magazine has released its sixth issue in October and I’ve just managed to read the first one. Luckily for me, I have all six of them sitting on my Kindle waiting to be read as soon as I can work them in. I may still have 30 books to read towards my goal for the year as of the writing of this post, but I decided it was time to pause on that and see what Bastion Magazine has to offer me. At the very least, they have magnificent cover art, but I have a feeling the stories in each issue are going to entertain me just fine.

Let’s start with a few comments on the individual stories in Bastion Magazine, Issue #1:

That World Up There by Kurt Bachard
It isn’t often nowadays that you read something written with a second person point of view, but this story took the leap and gave it a try. As a result, I had to reread a few sections to make sure I was following the story correctly because I’m not used to reading in that viewpoint. I did like how the author left it ambiguous as to exactly what the character was, especially given that it can apparently jump bodies at the end.

The Dead Channel by David Galef
I suppose there will always be a debate about whether or not the soul exists and by extension what happens to the soul after a person dies. The idea that families could have a television set that allows them to see and/or hear the person that has recently deceased is something I find both fascinating and a little bit creepy at the same time. Is that something I would want to have for my children if my wife died prematurely? I’m really going to have to think about that before I can settle on an answer.

The Trial of Avery Froelich by Eric J. Hildeman
This was my favorite story of the issue. It had just the right amount of personality from the author leaking through the words and the dialogue was wonderful. Besides, I’m a big fan of the whole “big and unexpected plot twist” thing, which this story had plenty of to go around.

The Dreamcatcher by M. Justine Gerard
I’ll admit, I had to read this one twice. The first time I don’t think I was paying close enough attention to the details and that left me a little bit lost. The second time through I was paying attention and when I was finished I felt a bit creeped out. In a good way. Unexpectedly, this story is the one that made me the most uncomfortable in a “well, that’s definitely something to think long and hard about” sort of way. Stories should do that sometimes.

The Last Repairman by David Austin
This story had me thinking a lot about Hugh Howey’s Wool as I read it. I know it wasn’t really the same thing, but the idea of someone having to “go outside” and everyone being worried about it really sent me back to when I read Wool. I think there is a bigger story inside of this one that I really want to see on the page someday.

Shale by David Jack Sorensen
I think Shale was the shortest story in the issue by a big margin. It’s really only one scene that incorporates a bit of a flashback and then leaves the reader to their own devices as to deciding what happens next. I’m not generally a fan of that sort of thing, but it worked pretty well.

The Crystal Forest by Kurt Heinrich Hyatt
The most humor in the issue came from this story. I’ve read several books lately that deal with sentience being transferred to robotic bodies or held in limbo until physical bodies can be repaired, but I hadn’t come across one where the transfer to a robotic body led to a switch in gender, a switch that for all intents and purposes is permanent. I really, really wanted another 10,000 words of this story to magically appear when I was finished. It hooked me in hard.

Shock by Samuel Marzioli
I’m not really sure how I feel about this one. The manifestation of healing powers that save a life is a little bit of a reach for me personally, but given the short fiction format, I’m not sure there is much else one can do about it. It was well written, but might have just not been my personal cup of tea in the end.

Lighthouse to the Depths by Nicholas Mazmanian
When I finished Lighthouse to the Depths I was reminded of some of the older science fiction I’ve read for school in the past. The kind where not everything is explained and you really have to sit back and fill in some blanks on your own.

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.

Looking Back at May 2014

May was a strange month for me. I had a lot of work that arrived on my desk very unexpectedly and it took me away from most of the time I would normally have spent reading. I also turned thirty in the middle of the month and for whatever reason that had a more adverse impact on my mood than I expected it would. Combine all of that with the usual routine of keeping up with the kids and being a functional adult with responsibilities and the end result is getting a lot less reading done. When I started the month I was right on track with my goal for reading 100 books by the end of the year. At the end of the month I found myself four books behind schedule.

Four books is not the end of the world. Spread out over the final seven months of the year I’m sure I can make up that many books if I pick the right ones, but I also really want to be on track again by the mid-point of 2014, which means 50 books completed by the end of this month. That’s a milestone I really want to hit. So, I’ve finished two books so far in June, and that makes 41 for the year. I need 9 more this month to hit my milestone. It’s going to be tough to make that happen, but my wife and kids will be on a vacation to California for a couple of weeks this month, which frees up my evenings a little bit. If I combine that with picking the right books I know will suck me in so I don’t put them down I might just pull it off. So, wish me luck.

In May I read not only full-length novels, but a handful of shorter works as well. Here is the list of full-length novels I finished in May:

As far as short fiction is concerned, I read a lot of short stories and novellas related to some of the other book series’ that I enjoy:

My favorite books of the month were The Enceladus Crisis and The Mad Scientist’s Daughter. Both of them were fantastically written and had some very compelling moments for me as a reader. I really didn’t know what to expect from The Mad Scientist’s Daughter. I knew it was a critically acclaimed book, but I had it sitting on my Kindle for a very long time. I know a book has done something special when it’s a science fiction or fantasy novel that I will heartily recommend to my wife as something she would be interested in reading, which is exactly what The Mad Scientist’s Daughter did for me while I was reading.

All of the short fiction was fantastic as well. I especially liked the additional depth I got for some of the characters in Promise of Blood that I read a few months ago. Going into the second book in that trilogy later this month will be much more interesting now.