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.

Reading List Update: David Feintuch

It’s been a pretty long time since I updated my personal reading list and added a new author to the fold. But, after having read Midshipman’s Hope a few weeks ago I’d be remiss to not include David Feintuch on my list of authors and their books I want to read. The Seafort Saga is going to be too good to pass up, I’m sure of it.

Here are the books in the series:

DAVID FEINTUCH – THE SEAFORT SAGA
Midshipman’s Hope
Challenger’s Hope
Prisoner’s Hope
Fisherman’s Hope
Voices of Hope
Patriarch’s Hope
Children of Hope

As I mentioned, I’ve read the first installment of the series already and found it to be superb. The balance that the author found between military tradition, religious fervor, and personal obligation was outstanding. I truly wish that when I read Midshipman’s Hope I hadn’t had so many other books to read right after I finished. It would have been great to read the series from start to finish. Something I will certainly do when I pick up the second book in a couple of months if things work out.

If you are looking for a military space opera, this series is a must try.

Book Review: “The Seafort Saga: Midshipman’s Hope” by David Feintuch

In the year 2194, seventeen-year-old Nicholas Seafort is assigned to the Hibernia as a lowly midshipman. Destination: the thriving colony of Hope Nation. But when a rescue attempt goes devastatingly wrong, Seafort is thrust into a leadership role he never anticipated. The other officers resent him, but Seafort must handle more dangerous problems, from a corrupted navigation computer to a deadly epidemic. Even Hope Nation has a nasty surprise in store. Seafort might be the crew’s only hope…

Midshipman's HopeFor the past few days I’ve been trying to remember why I put Midshipman’s Hope on my Kindle to read. I want to say it had something to do with a daily deal, but it might also have been because the publishing house that sent me a free copy of another author’s book also had this one and I read a catchy synopsis. Regardless, now that I’ve finally taken the time to read the book I’m extremely glad I made that decision.

As the first in a series of seven books, Midshipman’s Hope has to go through a fair amount of world-building and setup for the reader. The author relies heavily on the naval rules of obedience, punishment, and reward, as well as chain of command to get the reader to a place where they can understand the importance of what’s going on. To be honest, the change in pace was refreshing. Usually an author keeps trying to out-do themselves as the plot progresses to keep a reader entertained. Feintuch has one very big twist (right at the end, mind you) that turns everything on its head, but leading up to that point he focuses very much on the impact events are having on the very young protagonist, Nick Seafort.

The very idea of a seventeen-year-old taking over command of a naval vessel is absurd in this day and age, but in the days of wooden navies it was very much a possibility due to sickness, accident, or even death. Feintuch takes us back to those days but does it while wrapping the entire story in a space navy outer shell. Rules must be followed, orders are absolute, and even if you’ve been friends with the new captain yesterday, you are now his whipping boy today once a change of command happens.

Nick Seafort is one of the most amazing characters I’ve read in a long time. The stress of what’s happening to him threatens to break him on several occasions  He has to make split second decisions, some of which cost people their lives, sometimes people he holds very, very dear. Even more, he often finds himself expecting to be let off the hook as the new commanding officer only to find that the strict naval rules simply won’t let him. His sense of duty and honor is rock solid so he does what is required of him, but it changes him. Both for better and for worse.

I imagine as I find the time to read the following books in The Seafort Saga that some of the repetitive reminders about naval rules will taper off and new things will take their place. At least, I’m hoping that’s how it goes. The twist in the final pages of the book really turns things upside down and the danger felt very real to me as a reader. I bought in completely on the small ship-board world that Feintuch created in this book and when he pulled the rug out from under me, he got me good.

Finding the time to read the remaining books will be difficult in the next few months, but when I do nothing will be interrupting me from reading them all in sequence with no distractions. If you like quality science fiction that doesn’t let itself get too wild with its premise, you might want to give Midshipman’s Hope a try.

Length: 403 pages

Amazon   |   Barnes & Noble   |   Goodreads

April 2013 in Review

I’m officially behind now. Ideally I would have at least 35 books finished with reviews already written by the last day of April. Instead, I have 30 books complete and probably not even half that number in reviews written for them. It’s been a rough start to the year for me and blogging. Moving, work, life, everything seems to get in the way right now. I hope it’s just a minor funk that I can break out of soon when stuff begins to slow down a little bit.

But, despite the fact that I’m behind on both reading and blogging I finished a decent pile of books in April and even discovered a couple of new series that I’m anxious to get back to in the near future. Perhaps that will provide me with the motivation I need to get back on track.

Here’s the comprehensive list of the books I finished in April:

I hit just about every point of the spectrum with these books. There were some I loved, some I had a hard time finishing, and some that I’m simply on the fence about. The ones I loved were Midshipman’s Hope and Gabriel: Zero Point, two science fiction offerings that are the first books in an already established series. I have pretty high hopes for where those authors are going to take me when I get back to the rest of their work.

Breathe and Mind Over Monsters really left me hanging. Both of these books had good concepts, both of them had great ideas, but my honest thought after finishing each of them was, “Dang, if only this had been the fifth book this author wrote instead of their first. Then their writing would have been more polished and up to the task of really doing the concept/idea justice.” A somewhat arrogant thought to be sure, but that’s how I felt. Like they had all the right pieces but either inexperience or something else was just enough to keep them from sliding them together correctly.

I was 50/50 on Scalzi’s The Human Division over the past couple months reading the weekly episodes. Some of them I absolutely loved, some of them I found entirely uninteresting, and the rest I was simply comfortable with. I’ll get into my thoughts on how his experiment with an episodic format worked or didn’t work for me in another post down the road.

And, as far as 11/22/63 goes, I just don’t know. I’ve now read two Stephen King novels and I really can’t tell you if I like him or not. He’s got good ideas, good writing skill, but part of me says something important is missing in how he presents his stories. On the other hand, I wouldn’t be surprised if I’m simply missing the point entirely with his books. I’ll keep giving him a chance until I can firmly plant myself on one side of the fence or the other with him.

For May I have big plans to both get caught up to where I’m supposed to be for the reading challenge as well as to get 100% caught up on my reviews written. Beyond that I’d love to get everything on my Kindle read and have a chance to plan out what I want to read next. I want to start focusing on finishing one series at a time for the rest of the year with a few standalone novels mixed in between series as my interest warrants.