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.

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: “Confessions of the Very First Zombie Slayer (That I Know Of)” by F.J.R. Titchenell

Confessions of the Very First Zombie SlayerI was provided a copy of Confessions of the Very First Zombie Slayer (That I Know Of) by the publisher in return for an honest review just before the book becomes available for purchase. According to Amazon the book becomes available on May 6th, but perhaps it will roll out a little earlier if readers are lucky.

With a lot of young adult zombie thrillers the author tries to do a little too much and sometimes things get a bit convoluted. With this book, F.J.R. Titchenell seems to dial back the extra plot lines and spends her time focusing on the characters. To be honest, at times she dials things back a little too far and I felt like I was reading just another zombie book that did not offer me anything unique, but just as I began to feel that way she would fix it and get back on track.

The book is written from a first-person viewpoint and in the style of a running memoir or journal. That is something you don’t see all the time, and it worked rather well. Cassie, the main character, has a lot of spunk and she has an edge to her that works well within the confines of the story. As the zombie outbreak gains steam and she and her friends are thrust into survival mode as they try to make it from California to New York to rescue a family member, Cassie has to make some tough decisions. She also has to deal with trying to keep the group rolling along with as little tension as possible. At the beginning of the story a character known as The Boy Scout takes charge of the group, using is rather obsessive Boy Scout training to try and keep them all safe. He knows what he is doing for the most part, but he still buckles under the pressure from time to time.

Confessions of the Very First Zombie Slayer (That I Know Of) moves fast as it is not a very long book, but it does not move so fast as to leave the reader feel like they are missing out on some important piece. It did move fast enough that even though it isn’t the absolute best zombie thriller I’ve read I had a hard time putting it down. The story is strong enough to hold up on it’s own, and the characters are developed well. I feel like it is a strong entry into the young adult zombie thriller genre and I’m interested to see if the author has more in store for these particular characters or not. If not, the book holds up well as a standalone piece anyways.

My only regret about the book was The Boy Scout. I don’t want to give away much in the way of important plot developments, but I found him to be one of my favorite characters. He had an edge about him that was not fully explained and I liked trying to figure out for myself what was really going on inside of his head. I wish he would have had a little more screen time when all was said and done.

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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!

Book Review: “Burn” by Julianna Baggott

9781455502998_p0_v1_s260x420I’m so glad I waited to read Fuse and subsequently Burn until the later was available. If I had read Fuse and then had to wait I would have been very frustrated. I just wanted to see the ending of this story without sitting around for months.

Partridge is firmly entrenched inside the Dome with all of the other Pures and he’s having a tough time making any progress on his supposed revolution. His feelings for his father, mixed with his feelings about what the right thing to do about the Pures are making things really difficult. He’s discovered another official undermining his every move and he’s fighting a two or three-way battle at all times. He can’t be with the woman he loves, and he can’t accomplish his mission without forfeiting his personal morals.

Pressia, Bradwell, and El Capitan are dealing with the fallout of traveling to Ireland to find the missing piece of the cure Pressia’s mother was working on when she died. Bradwell has six gigantic wings on his back now instead of three small birds, El Capitan is struggling with a head injury and his love for Pressia, and Pressia is stuck in the middle of just about everything. It’s a tough situation for all of them.

Soon enough, through a series of more and more intense events the entire cast is put together one last time at the Dome. Partridge is on the inside trying to overthrow the government, but soon realizes that because the Pures have no immune systems anymore if he lets the Dome down they will all die. Pressia and her crew have arrived at the Dome and she sneaks inside to confront him. Bradwell and El Capitan take part in a siege that will hopefully use a bacterium they procured in Ireland to destroy the Dome from the outside with the help of an army of wretches.

As one might imagine: chaos ensues.

Going into this final book of the trilogy I kept my expectations on how things would end very low. I could see elements of the story leading me towards another happy ending where the Dome comes down, the Pures integrate with the wretches, and a cure is found that helps fix the fusings. Then everyone would begin the process of rebuilding the world together. You see that sort of thing a lot with these types of books.

I also could see the plot weaving me towards a very bittersweet ending where main characters are killed, love is lost, and hope is very fleeting for a brighter future. My gut was telling me to be prepared for this as the most likely outcome. There are pieces of these books that are downright brutal and a happy-go-lucky ending just seemed like it was going to be entirely out of place.

When the dust finally settled, things fell right in the middle of those two outcomes. There is some happiness for some characters, but there is a lot of sadness for others. Things don’t turn out the way that Pressia is expecting them to after all the hard work she’s put in, but they also don’t turn out anything like Partridge, El Capitan, or Bradwell hope they will either. There is a lot of hard justice at the end of these books, very similar to the Broken Empire trilogy by Mark Lawrence. As a matter of fact, I’m hoping that Julianna Baggott has the same fortitude to leave things be with these books and doesn’t fall to any pressure to write just one more book. The ending might be bittersweet and a little bit brutal, but it was a solid ending. Very realistic given the world that had been built.

This trilogy was worth the time I spent reading it and I’ve already recommended it to a few other people who I think will appreciate what the author has done with these books. Give this trilogy a chance if you are looking for some dystopian fiction that really puts the intensity of how that kind of society would be in real life into play.

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