Looking Back at 2013

For the past two days I’ve been writing about my personal reading goals and the blogging goals I’ll be working on for 2014. Now, three days into the new year it’s time to take one last look back at 2013 and how things went. I sort of fell off the band wagon a bit in the second half of the year, really losing a lot of steam in regards to how often I was publishing new posts, especially book reviews. But, 2014 should be better.

Let’s start by taking a quick look at the last few books I finished before the new year. The weeks of the year saw me driving my way through six pieces of literature, just narrowly surpassing my total pages read mark from last year. They were:

The Daedalus Incident was an absolutely spectacular debut for Michael J. Martinez, so much so that I’ve added him to my “must read” list already. He took some amazing chances with his storytelling and put together a tale that is unlike anything I’ve seen. Abaddon’s Gate was a wonderful installment to the continuing story that is The Expanse and I can’t wait for the next book in a few months.

Stephen King’s On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft gave me a lot of motivation and hope for my own fledgling writing dreams and I’m hoping I can incorporate some of the insights and lessons I took from it into my routines this year at some point. The other three items on the list were all short stories written by the authors to add a bit of depth to the universes they exist in between the most recently released books and the upcoming ones. I enjoyed all three of them immensely. It was a good month of reading for me in the realm of quality writing.

As far as reading statistics go, here are a couple that might be interesting:

  • Total Books Read: 84
  • Total Pages Read: 31,512
  • Average Book Length: 375 pages

I had sort of hoped I could get all the way to 100 books read, but it just wasn’t in the cards for me. I had to navigate my way through some unexpected circumstances during the middle of the year that took my focus away from blogging and put it elsewhere.

In the world of blogging statistics, 20four12 saw 7,600 unique visitors over the course of the year for an average of about 20-21 visitors per day. That’s not too bad, but I would like to see it be significantly higher by the time this new year is finished.

And, last but not least, let’s take a look at two lists. In reading 84 books and novellas over the course of the year it is inevitable that I would find some favorites and least favorites. Part of me thought I should only list my favorites, but then I decided I was interested in seeing if any of the ones on my least favorite list would incite some discussion. Maybe some of them are favorites to other people, or maybe even some of the books I considered my favorite from this year are hated by others. I always find that to be incredibly fascinating. In no particular order:

Ten Favorite Books I Read in 2013:

Honorable Mention

Ten Least Favorite Books I Read in 2013:

I feel compelled to note that of the books listed in the least favorite category, I only find two of them to be absolutely atrocious, but I’m not going to tell you which ones. All of the others I just didn’t like as much as I wanted to, or they just simply were not my style when all was said and done. Take, The Great Gatsby for example. Widely considered to be a premier piece of fiction, I can’t stand it. It’s a matter of taste.

So, there you have it, a snapshot of my reading and blogging experiences from 2013. It was an interesting year for me as both a reader and as a blogger, but ultimately I feel like I did an okay job with both. Here’s to 2014 and making 20four12 really shine!

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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.

Book Review: “The Unincorporated Man” by Dani Kollin and Eytan Kollin

The Unincorporated Man is a provocative social/political/economic novel that takes place in the future, after civilization has fallen into complete economic collapse. This reborn civilization is one in which every individual is incorporated at birth, and spends many years trying to attain control over his or her own life by getting a majority of his or her own shares. Life extension has made life very long indeed.

Now the incredible has happened: a billionaire businessman from our time, frozen in secret in the early twenty-first century, is discovered and resurrected, given health and a vigorous younger body. Justin Cord is the only unincorporated man in the world, a true stranger in this strange land. Justin survived because he is tough and smart. He cannot accept only part ownership of himself, even if that places him in conflict with a civilization that extends outside the solar system to the Oort Cloud.  People will be arguing about this novel and this world for decades.

The Unincorporated ManI actually read The Unincorporated Man several months ago but due to my schedule I just never got around to writing the review. I have the time now, so I’m taking care of that problem because I feel like more people should know about this book.

When I look around Amazon for new books to read I often start by clicking through some of their “recommendations” they put forward as a result of the other books I’ve previously purchased or browsed around looking at. Doing this usually provides me with a good starting place to find authors that I’ve never heard of before or books that other people seem to think fit in with my tastes and preferences. The Unincorporated Man is a book I found using this method. I noticed that there were four books in the series and then decided to start reading their descriptions. It didn’t take me long to decide that I was interested in reading at least the first book.

In the past I’ve always been intrigued by stories of people who wake up in the future and have to adjust to all the changes in the world. For example, a favorite movie of mine when I was younger was Mel Gibson’s Forever Young, which, if you haven’t seen, you really should. This book was that kind of story, only it seemed to me at the time it was going to take the whole “slept through time and woke up to find a new world” theme to a new extreme. This time the main character, Justin Cord, had been asleep for over 300 years and when he wakes up, not only is the world different, it seems like humanity itself has evolved into something new entirely as well.

The major theme in The Unincorporated Man is that due to various economic and social collapses throughout the civilizations on Earth every human being is now incorporated in some fashion. They don’t actually own the entirety of themselves any longer. I believe that at best a person could own 95% of themselves (the government always owns a few percent), but a more realistic goal was to own 60-70% of yourself, giving you the freedom to live life however you saw fit. The problem is that very few people own a “majority” of themselves and as a result have to work jobs or live lives that are controlled by whomever has the largest controlling stake.

Enter Justin Cord. He’s been asleep in his capsule since before this system was in place, so when he wakes up, he’s not incorporated and nobody can force him to be. As you can imagine, this causes all sorts of interesting problems for the world because he quite literally has the freedom to do anything. Especially since he buried himself with piles of treasure and has untold amounts of wealth as a result.

Justin spends the entire book marveling at the changes the world has undergone and trying to sort out his feelings for the scientist who woke him up, Neela Harper. I actually quite enjoyed the back and forth between the two of them because she comes from a world where she doesn’t own her own majority, but he has more majority than anyone living. It causes some interesting relationship problems for the two of them but they find a way to get past it (well, sort of).

The repercussions of Justin Cord being completely unincorporated are wide-ranging and sometimes frightening, even dangerous to a certain degree. I found myself entirely lost inside the world the authors had created and spending a lot of time outside of when I was reading thinking about what life would be like if things in the book were real in the modern world today.

Scattered in between all of the exposition about incorporation and its ramifications are wonderful details of a world dominated by nanotechnology, devices that do amazing things, and travel between continents that takes mere minutes. The authors spent a lot of time coming up with cool things for the reader to admire along with Justin Cord as he discovers all of the mind-blowing things invented while he was asleep.

I haven’t had the chance to read the three books that follow The Unincorporated Man, but I do hope to find the time to read them before the year is out because I enjoyed this first book in the series so much. Seeing what happens following the closing scenes of this book will be very interesting.

Length: 496 pages

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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.

Up Next: “The Unincorporated Man” by Dani Kollin and Eytan Kollin

The Unincorporated ManThis book selection is one of the ones on the list for my office book club and I first discovered it while perusing through the “recommendations” on Amazon one day looking for books I’d never heard of to add to my potential reading list. After reading the short synopsis on Amazon I added it to my list, but then I kept thinking about it all the time because I wanted to read it immediately.

However, I had a bunch of other things I desperately needed to get finished first. But now, now I have the time and no other books I needed to get finished first. There are apparently four books in this series (to this point) so I’m hoping this first installment is strong enough to make me want to work through the others.

The Unincorporated Man is a provocative social/political/economic novel that takes place in the future, after civilization has fallen into complete economic collapse. This reborn civilization is one in which every individual is incorporated at birth, and spends many years trying to attain control over his or her own life by getting a majority of his or her own shares. Life extension has made life very long indeed.

Now the incredible has happened: a billionaire businessman from our time, frozen in secret in the early twenty-first century, is discovered and resurrected, given health and a vigorous younger body. Justin Cord is the only unincorporated man in the world, a true stranger in this strange land. Justin survived because he is tough and smart. He cannot accept only part ownership of himself, even if that places him in conflict with a civilization that extends outside the solar system to the Oort Cloud.  People will be arguing about this novel and this world for decades.