Up Next: “Hollow World” by Michael J. Sullivan (Advance Reader Copy)

Hollow WorldA couple of months ago I was contacted by Michael J. Sullivan about writing a review for his upcoming novel. I was more than happy to oblige and just this past week he sent me an advance copy in the mail. I’ve got it sitting here at my desk with me as I write this, ready and waiting to be opened up and read. I’m always a willing participant when it comes to a good time travel story so I’m cautiously optimistic that this book is going to be a good fit for me.

My guess given all of the good things I’ve heard about the book so far is that I’m not going to be disappointed with the adventure Michael J. Sullivan is about to take me along for the ride on. I will be posting my review in April closer to the actual release date.

Ellis Rogers is an ordinary man who is about to embark on an extraordinary journey. All his life he has played it safe and done the right thing, but faced with a terminal illness he’s willing to take an insane gamble. He’s built a time machine in his garage, and if it works, he’ll face a world that challenges his understanding of what it means to be human, what it takes to love, and the cost of paradise. Ellis could find more than a cure for his illness; he might find what everyone has been searching for since time began…but only if he can survive Hollow World.

 

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Favorite Books Covers from the Past Year

I do most of my reading on a Kindle so I don’t often spend a lot of time looking at the cover of the book I’m reading at the moment. I use the list view on my device, not the cover view, and even if I used cover view it would be in black and white. The only time I really see the cover of a book is when I’m ordering it on Amazon, or if I’m reading a blog post somewhere else about a book and the blogger has included a picture of the cover.

So, tracking down which book covers from the past year were my favorites took a little more time than I thought it would. First I had to remember the one or two that really stood out to me, and that wasn’t too hard, but then I had to go back through the 84 books I read last year and look up all the covers to find a few more I thought were particularly noteworthy. It was an interesting exercise to be honest. I might make sure to pay a little more attention to the covers on books I read from now on.

As a result, I’d like to share with you my five favorite book covers from the books I’ve read over the past year or so. I hope you enjoy!

ancillaryjustice

gravemercy

daedalus

calibanswar

abaddonsgate

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.

Up Next: “The Eye of Minds” by James Dashner

The Eye of MindsI’ve been waiting a decent amount of time for a new book by James Dashner. I picked up The Maze Runner several years ago and absolutely loved his ability to tell a story and drive suspense through the roof. When that trilogy was finished I was eager for some new material of his to read, and now I finally have that chance.

The Eye of Minds is the first book in a new series by James Dashner known as The Mortality Doctrine. It’s a little on the short side, clocking in at about 320 pages or so, which means it’s not going to take me a very long time to finish. However, what interests me the most is how it centers around a character who considers himself a gamer, and consequently the story revolves a great deal around gaming, technology, and other things of that nature. I’m reminded a little bit of Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One when I read the cover description for this book, and that’s a good thing because Ready Player One is one of the best books in this vein I’ve ever had the chance to read. It was a fresh entry into young adult science fiction and I’m hoping this book can be the same sort of thing.

Michael is a gamer. And like most gamers, he almost spends more time on the VirtNet than in the actual world. The VirtNet offers total mind and body immersion, and it’s addictive. Thanks to technology, anyone with enough money can experience fantasy worlds, risk their life without the chance of death, or just hang around with Virt-friends. And the more hacking skills you have, the more fun. Why bother following the rules when most of them are dumb, anyway?

But some rules were made for a reason. Some technology is too dangerous to fool with. And recent reports claim that one gamer is going beyond what any gamer has done before: he’s holding players hostage inside the VirtNet. The effects are horrific—the hostages have all been declared brain-dead. Yet the gamer’s motives are a mystery.

The government knows that to catch a hacker, you need a hacker. And they’ve been watching Michael. They want him on their team. But the risk is enormous. If he accepts their challenge, Michael will need to go off the VirtNet grid. There are back alleys and corners in the system human eyes have never seen and predators he can’t even fathom—and there’s the possibility that the line between game and reality will be blurred forever.

Book Review: “The Dresden Files: Storm Front” by Jim Butcher

Storm FrontOnce again I’ve let myself get sucked into starting a new book series without having finished all of the other trilogies and series I’m still in the middle of reading. This time it came about because a co-worker brought me a copy of the first book in The Dresden Files and told me I could probably read it before I went home that night if I really wanted to because they are quick reads with fast pacing. Well, I didn’t finish it all in one sitting, but it did only take me about three hours to read Storm Front from cover to cover over the weekend and now I’ve got yet another lengthy (this time 13 books and counting) series to keep track of reading.

Storm Front (and The Dresden Files in general) is the story of a private investigator, Harry Dresden, who just so happens to be a wizard. This is a world where magic is real, but most people aren’t really aware of its existence. Even if they do know about it, they really don’t know the true ramifications or scope, so it’s pretty easy for them to ignore unless they are the target of a fireball or possession spell.

Everything about Storm Front is true entertainment. Harry Dresden is exactly what you want a down on his luck private investigator wizard to be. He’s got charm, a bit of snark, some ineptitude that constantly get him in a bit of trouble, the ability to improvise, and a sharp wit to bring it all together. He’s got interesting and compelling contacts he uses to get his information, he works with the local police department despite a general feeling of disdain about his work on their part, and he’s an all around interesting guy. I could not get enough of Harry Dresden and his antics. He is a powerful wizard in his own right, but he’s rather misunderstood in the magical community. He has a staff he uses to help focus his magic, but he often manages to lose possession of it at the times he needs it most. He has a small mischievous spirit living inside a skull in his basement that helps him remember how to make potions. How awesome is all of this? Very awesome!

Storm Front is packed full of great laugh out loud moments and one-line zingers that will keep you turning the pages until you reach the end. One of my favorites is right near the beginning:

Paranoid? Probably. But just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean there isn’t an invisible demon about to eat your face.

I was hoping I would like this book, but not like it so much that I felt compelled to continue reading the series instead of reading the other books on my reading list. Turns out, that certainly didn’t happen. I’ve got the second book on hand and plan to read a little bit of it here and there between other things so I can keep myself inside the vibrant world of The Dresden Files. My co-worker promises me that I won’t be disappointed with the direction the series takes and he even confirmed the rumor that at some point a dinosaur shows up. How can I resist that sort of thing? That’s right, I can’t.

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