Looking Back at October 2014

At the beginning of October I wrote a post regarding whether or not I would actually manage to read 100 books this year like I wanted. I mention in that post about October needing to be the “make or break” month in the process because if I didn’t reach a certain threshold it would be very difficult to reach my goal. I took that thought to heart and really, really pushed myself hard to reach 85 books completed by the end of the month.

There was a stretch of October for about 10 days where I read a book a day, which is both amazing and disorienting at the same time. Over the course of the entire month I read 16 full-length novels as well as five issues of Bastion Magazine and two novellas. I suppose I could have traded the magazine issues and novellas for another two books, but I used the shorter works as a way to cleanse my palate between novels and as a way to bring the number of unread items on my Kindle back down to a reasonable level.

All in all, I managed to make up all the lost ground from earlier in the year when I had months where I didn’t meet my quota. I am not officially back on pace with 85 books completed, leaving me with 15 remaining to be read. That puts me in a very good place as I head into the last two months of the year. I’d like to get six or seven books finished before the World of Warcraft expansion on November 13th, and then another three or four finished in the last two weeks of the month. It would be wonderful if I could arrive at December 1st with only four or five books left to read and be stress free with the goal.

Here are the books I read in October:

Here is the list of short fiction I read in October:

As you can see, that list is enormous compared to the lists from all the previous months in 2014. It did help that I chose books I was almost guaranteed to enjoy for the entire month, which meant none of them turned into a big drag that lost me time. I also focused on catching up with and/or finishing series so I don’t have so many left open-ended.

I think my favorites for the month were the Shadow Ops books by Myke Cole, and the two books by Marko Kloos: Terms of Enlistment and Lines of Departure. Of course, I also very much enjoyed Ancillary Sword by Ann Leckie as it’s a wonderful follow-up to the first book in that trilogy. And, while I have not “caught up” with the entire series of The Dresden Files, I am now at least halfway through after finishing all the books I had purchased via a Kindle Daily Deal a few months ago.

Steampunk is a sub-genre that fascinates me, but I haven’t found the time to read. The two Romulus Buckle books were wonderfully written and very vibrant in their world building and characters. I’ve had those books sitting on my Kindle for nearly a year and decided it was high time I got them read. I’m glad I did because they were spectacular. I hear the third book is due out sometime in the first few months of 2015. I’ll be sure to grab it.

For November I have some good stuff on deck. There is the second of the new Star Wars canon being released, as well as the final book in the His Fair Assassin trilogy, both of which I’ll be reading immediately when they load onto my Kindle. There is also the second book of a series about superheroes from a self-published author I’m looking forward to diving into and then I’ll be walking back into the Dragonlance books I exposed myself to earlier this year to try and make some progress on catching up.

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Book Review: “Paradox Series: Heaven’s Queen” by Rachel Bach

Heaven's QueenThere is nothing better than a satisfying ending to a well-written and enjoyable science fiction trilogy. Heaven’s Queen is exactly that, and it finds a way to fulfill the story in a way I expected while still throwing in a few plot twists that I didn’t see coming. Devi and Rupert continue to be wonderful, compelling characters, and Rachel Bach crafts an ending to a fantastic science fiction tale that can satisfy just about anyone if you ask me.

A lot happens in Heaven’s Queen as Devi continues on her mission to take down the Eye organization and stay one step ahead of everyone trying to track her down to capture her or kill her, whichever is more convenient for them at the time. Unlike in the previous two books, the reader is treated to Devi and Rupert on screen as the main focus for almost the entire book. A couple of times they get separated briefly, but they are a team now, a somewhat dysfunctional team at times, but a team nonetheless. I liked how their relationship manages to come full circle and return to being a romantic one while still showing that the two of them have grown and matured about the reality of their situation. Their romance still creates a few tough decisions and maybe they make the wrong decision a time or two in order to protect one another, but ultimately they know what has to be done even if they don’t like it all that much.

My favorite part of Heaven’s Queen is when Devi faces down the Lelgis queen and makes it clear in no uncertain terms that humanity will not tolerate being used as the Lelgis’ test subjects and/or guinea pigs any longer. The last portion of the book when Devi faces them down might have been some of the best writing in the entire series. I know that as I was reading those scenes I wasn’t convinced that Devi was actually going to pull things off in the end, but she does and I was pretty happy with the result.

I also really liked how Caldswell, despite knowing that Devi has actually managed to fix the underlying problem with the phantoms continues to see her as a traitor and somehow who took unnecessary risks to reach her end goal. He’s dedicated to the organization he is a part of and he does not want to admit that her approach was actually the better one.

However, the most satisfaction I got from Heaven’s Queen and from the entire Paradox Series on the whole was that it has a happy ending. If you ask my wife, she’ll tell you that I really have a hard time with sad or open-ended endings when I am reading a book or watching a television show or movie. I still find those things enjoyable even if the endings are satisfying to me, but I always like it when the endings have more sunshine and flowers than moral lessons and hardship. Heaven’s Queen ends in a way that kept me smiling all the way to the end of the last sentence and I can imagine the wonderful things that Rupert and Devi are going to accomplish together as they move on to the next stages of their lives, happy to be together, and happy they are alive.

To my knowledge this is the last book of the series, but I very well might be wrong about that in the end. Rachel Bach has tied things off nicely so that another book is not necessary, but at the same time it could be done. If I had my wish, I hope she leaves it where things stand at the moment, but I’ll readily admit that if a fourth book shows up someday I’m going to snatch it up right away and get to reading.

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Book Review: “Paradox Series: Honor’s Knight” by Rachel Bach

Honor's KnightTitle: Paradox Series: Honor’s Knight
Author: Rachel Bach
Publisher: Orbit
Publication Date: February 25, 2014
Length: 374 pages

Obtained: I purchased my copy via Amazon.

The Plot: Following the event’s of Fortune’s Pawn, Devi knows she is missing some of her memories and she also knows that Caldswell is not who he claims to be. What she doesn’t know is why. As the ship she’s working on continues it’s mission Devi quickly discovers that she holds within herself something very important and very deadly. She also learns that she may very well be the only source of victory against a hidden foe most of civilization doesn’t even knows exists.

The Commentary: The first book in this series was very tight and very satisfying as a reader. I was a little worried that Honor’s Knight would suffer a little bit from “second book syndrome” and let me down in some ways, but my worry was pointless. Rachel Bach is creating a very rich universe with these books, a universe that she is specifically revealing piece by piece rather than dumping it all on the reader at once in a big brick of exposition between action scenes.

Devi continues to be a very compelling, strong, and dynamic protagonist in a role of mercenary most often left to male characters. Rather, Devi is the female protagonist that many authors and readers alike might be searching for as an example of how female characters can be done well in science fiction without having to give up personality traits and tendencies that make them what they are: women.

Honor’s Knight picks up immediately following Fortune’s Pawn and I imagine that will be a practice that holds true with any further books in the series as well. In some cases that doesn’t work very well, but in this one it does. Devi very quickly begins to realize she holds a lot more power in her fingertips (quite literally in some cases) than anyone imagined she did and on top of that, she uncovers a hidden group of agents that have supposedly been protecting civilization from an unknown horror. The problem is, those agents have a means of providing that protection that very much goes against Devi’s personal morality. That is going to be a problem for her, and for Caldswell, a very high-ranking member of that group of secret agents.

Left Me Wanting… More backstory about Caldswell and his past. I feel like he is a very dynamic character that the reader is only just beginning to see in this book compared to the limited knowledge revealed in the first book. I want to know more.

Worth It? Yes, especially if you enjoyed the first book, Fortune’s Pawn. This book is a solid continuation of the story begun in the first book and sets up the third book for what I assume is going to be some very exciting action.

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Looking Back at September 2014

The year is very quickly rolling to a close as September comes to a close and Fall begins to chill the temperatures and change the color of the leaves. I’m still playing catch-up with my goal to read 100 books, but now that I’ve settled into my new job and my new house I think there is a chance I can now focus on making a real run at that goal. I might still fall short, but it isn’t going to be from a lack of trying.

As of this post I’ll have finished 69 total books for a substantial 28,320 pages read. Regardless of where I finish this year I’m almost certain to break last year’s mark of 84 books and 31,512 pages. I suppose with that in mind I can’t really complain.

Here is the list of books I read in September:

In a bit of a surprise, I think that Ink Mage wound up being my favorite book of the month. I’m not sure I would say it did anything spectacularly unique, but its pacing was out of this world amazing. Victor Gischler did an amazing job piecing the story together into small pieces that really made me not want to put the book down. As a bonus, as soon as I finished reading Ink Mage I discovered Gischler just signed a contract to write a second and third book that continues the story. I’m glad because I didn’t want to leave those characters behind when I was finished.

The two books by Michael McCloskey, The Trilisk Supersedure and Force Cantrithor, were enjoyable as always. His writing continues to be like bite-sized morsels of science fiction fun when compared to the hulking 600 page tomes I often read. I have to be careful though as it won’t be too much longer and I’ll run out of his work to treat myself to between bigger books.

The rest of the books (excluding one I’ll get to in a moment) were all solid and enjoyable. I was very pleased with Star Wars: A New Dawn as the first new (and official) canon to the Star Wars Expanded Universe now that all the others were removed from canon. It’s a great launching point for the future I think. Honor’s Knight was a lot of fun as well with Rachel Bach continuing to surprise me with her female protagonist. Soulminder by Timothy Zahn was not like most of his work, but really had me hooked from start to finish in a way I wasn’t expecting.

Throne of Glass: Heir of Fire is the latest book from Sarah J. Maas and it continues the trend of each book of hers displaying her massive growth as a storyteller. These books started out as a bit of a guilty “assassin barbie” pleasure for me, but now they are books I hold up in esteem with some of the other major authors I regularly read. Sarah J. Maas deserves all the praise she gets for this series.

The one book that left a very sour taste in my mouth was Soulrender, written by a co-worker at my new job (although he left last week for another employer). The book started out innocently enough, but then devolved into a lot of misogyny and sexism that I simply cannot abide in the material I read. I never would have finished Soulrender except that my son was awake most of the night sick and I needed something to keep me awake and the rage I felt while reading it was the solution.

October looks to be a month where I’ll have lots of extra time for things. Having settled into the new home and job frees up my evenings once more and World of Warcraft is in a pre-expansion lull, so I’m not spending much time on that right now. I hope to finish off a couple of trilogies in October as well as enjoy Ann Leckie’s Ancillary Sword, the sequel to the award-winning Ancillary Justice that I loved so much.

Looking Back at April 2014

Another month, another look back at how my last month of reading went. April was a pretty busy month for me personally as I made trips to Denver and Los Angeles to see family for various reasons, but thanks to a couple of plane rides, I still managed to stay on pace towards my 100 books read in the year goal. This month I had a book to read provided by a publisher, the chance to finally finish one of my incomplete series, a couple of unknown authors, and a couple novels by a favorite.

The list of books I finished in April:

Somewhat surprisingly, Fortune’s Pawn was probably my favorite book of the month. I love all of the books in The Seafort Saga, but Fortune’s Pawn was an awful fun time while I was reading it. I think I really had been starved for some light-hearted sci-fi action and didn’t really know it. The same could be said for Crimes Against Magic, it was good fun, exciting characters, and off the beaten path for me personally. Looking back on the month, I have to say none of the books were disappointing, which isn’t always the case. Usually I have one or maybe two that really didn’t do it for me, but not this time.

I was really happy that I managed to finish the final books of The Seafort Saga after so long of trying to get that series completed. Those books might not be for everyone, but I really liked them a lot, and now I can say I’ve read them, and that I’ve finished off one of the bigger uncompleted series on my list. It’s all smooth sailing from here now, right?