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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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.

Book Review: “The Rise of Nine” by Pittacus Lore

Until the day I met John Smith, Number Four, I’d been on the run alone, hiding and fighting to stay alive.

Together, we are much more powerful. But it could only last so long before we had to separate to find the others. . . .

I went to Spain to find Seven, and I found even more, including a tenth member of the Garde who escaped from Lorien alive. Ella is younger than the rest of us, but just as brave. Now we’re looking for the others—including John.

But so are they.

The Rise of Nine is the most recent installment of the Lorien Legacies series and it picks up just a few hours after the events of the previous installment, The Powers of Six. I was pretty excited to finally have this book to read because I’ve quite enjoyed the first two in the series and the characters have grown to a point where I’m starting to connect with them a little more.

In The Rise of Nine the biggest hurdle all of the characters are facing is finding a way to get everyone together into one group. Four and Nine have managed to stay together in the United States, but Six, Seven, Eight, and Ten start in one group over in Spain but end up scattered across the world. Eventually they all find a way to get together, but it takes the entire book to get to that point.

Far and away my favorite part of the book is the relationship between Four and Nine. They both think they are the biggest badass to walk the earth and yet neither of them can seem to find a way to prove it to the other guy. Nine is obsessed with demonstrating his powers while Four is intent on finding a way to save his friends he left behind at the hands of the Mogadorians. As a result, the two of them clash quite a bit even though it’s pretty apparent they can help each other much more if they would just shut up and work together.

Teenage testosterone at its best to say the least.

The end of The Rise of Nine puts all of the Lorien castaways in the same place at the same time, but the book doesn’t accomplish much more than that. I had hoped that Four would get a little more in the way of character development because he’s becoming a little one-sided and I also had hoped that Six would have something meaningful happen to her. Glimpses of things to come were pretty apparent, but I felt a little cheated at the end, almost like the author is toying with me as a reader and not in a good way.

Regardless, I’ll be waiting to see when the next installment arrives and when it does I’ll have to grab a copy and see what happens next.

Grade: C
Length: 416 pages

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50/2012 August Update

August was a massively successful reading month for me. I finished a record number of novels along with a sizable number of short stories and novellas. Only the novels are being counted towards my goal of 50 books by the end of the year, but that’s alright, the shorter fiction has turned out to be quite enjoyable in its own right. Sure, I might have been able to finish another novel or two if I hadn’t taken the side road to read the short stuff, but I think given that with this month I reached 49 books finished I have a little room to wiggle before I cross the finish line.

Here is the list of books I finished in August:

And, here is the list of the short fiction I read in August:

I told you it was a pretty impressive reading month for me. You’ll notice with the short fiction that almost all of it was penned by Christian Cantrell. I first read his novel, Containment, but then found myself devouring all the rest of his work I could find on Amazon to download to my Kindle. All of his work is superb and I find myself desperately wishing he had another novel or two I could read in the coming weeks. My wholehearted recommendation is that anyone interested should read Brain Box and Farmer One at the very least and if you are looking for a novel, definitely take a gander at Containment. You won’t be disappointed.

In regards to the full-length books all of them are excellent, but my favorites of the bunch were X-Wing: Mercy Kill, The Forever War, Containment, and Prince of Thorns. Those four stood just a little bit taller than the rest. I think it’s great that those four cover entirely different genres as a group. There is some fantasy, science fiction, and hard science fiction. I had been worried lately that I was focusing too much on dystopian and post-apocalyptic books, but I guess not.

For September my first goal is to get to 50 books read. That shouldn’t be a problem as I have John Scalzi’s Old Man’s War on tap to finish off my goal. After that I think I’m going to actually focus on getting all the way through The Way of Kings so I’ll be ahead on the posts I need for that BRICK series. Beyond that, I have no idea. I’ll have met my goal and so I wonder if I’ll read at the same frenetic pace or not.

Up Next: “The Rise of Nine” by Pittacus Lore

I’m rather excited for this book because I enjoyed the first two immensely. I haven’t the faintest idea if this is the final book in a trilogy or if the story is still open-ended on how many books it will take to finish. I feel like if this isn’t the last one that there can’t be too many more coming because the story has built itself up pretty far at this point.

Nine is a character that we met only briefly in the second book, The Powers of Six, but I think he’s one of the more interesting ones in the books so far. He has the power to manipulate gravity for pete’s sake and that is simply cool no matter how you slice it. Of course, Four is always cool and will likely be the main focus of the book once again.

Until the day I met John Smith, Number Four, I’d been on the run alone, hiding and fighting to stay alive.

Together, we are much more powerful. But it could only last so long before we had to separate to find the others. . . .

I went to Spain to find Seven, and I found even more, including a tenth member of the Garde who escaped from Lorien alive. Ella is younger than the rest of us, but just as brave. Now we’re looking for the others—including John.

But so are they.