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!


May and June 2013 in Review

May and June were very slow reading months for me. I’ve pounded that home plenty over the past few posts. But, even though I didn’t read as much, I still read some. I’m looking forward to getting back on the reading wagon in July. I’ve got big plans, big plans I say!

The books I read in May and June:

My favorite book of this batch was far and away World War Z. Everything about it had me hooked from the first page all the way to the last page. I loved the format and I loved the way that format forced me to imagine the world around the characters being interviewed on the fly as I was reading.

My least favorite? Oh, that’s easy. The Great Gatsby, hands down. The book was boring, flat, pointless, and even now, weeks later, I can’t figure out what the point of writing it was. Yet, it’s considered one of the greatest books ever written. Sure…

What’s on tap for July? Well, I want to keep working down the pile of books on my Kindle, most assuredly all of the David Dalglish books I’ve yet to read. I may also try to sneak in Caliban’s War and Abbadon’s Gate if I can find the time for a couple of lengthy books. I might also see if I can plow through the Percy Jackson books.

My end goal is 15 books read in July, which is a pretty meaty goal. It would go a long way towards catching me up though.

Book Review: “The Great Gatsby” by F. Scott Fitzgerald

The mysterious Jay Gatsby embodies the American notion that it is possible to redefine oneself and persuade the world to accept that definition. Gatsby’s youthful neighbor, Nick Carraway, fascinated with the display of enormous wealth in which Gatsby revels, finds himself swept up in the lavish lifestyle of Long Island society during the Jazz Age. Considered Fitzgerald’s best work, The Great Gatsby is a mystical, timeless story of integrity and cruelty, vision and despair.

The Great GatsbyMost of my family and friends read The Great Gatsby during high school or during one of their early college courses. I, however, did not. I’m not sure why or how I managed to get so far in life without reading the book, but it happened and last weekend I decided I might as well read it because so many people say its such a great book.

Well, guess what? I found it to be completely lacking any sort of point or worthwhile plot. It only took me a couple of hours to read (it isn’t a long book), so I was able to capture the entire picture all at once from start to finish. When I turned the last page I sat up and said to myself, “Well, I must not be getting something about this book because I found it to be pretty unremarkable and forgettable.” There was absolutely nothing in The Great Gatsby that felt even a little bit compelling for me.

Now, we all know I tend to have trouble understanding the “deeper meaning” often hidden in the pages of classic books everyone thinks are amazing. So, I’m willing to admit that I have probably missed the point while reading this one. Someone will have to explain to me why a forgettable viewpoint character who hangs onto high society through his association with the supposedly mysterious Gatsby while Gatsby reveals his true intentions of winning back a lost love is such a great story.

There is nothing interesting about Nick Carraway. He’s the guy who lives next door to Jay Gatsby. That’s about it. He knows various people around town and spends a lot of time hanging around at their homes, but that’s it.

Gatsby is only a mystery for about the first half of the book and then he devolves into nothing more than a guy who is using ill-gotten means to steal a married woman from her husband. He even goes about doing so in the most illogical way possible, thinking that his social status and endless money will just make Tom Buchanan accept what Gatsby has decided. For me all of it felt forced and contrived.

Not even the ending could save the story from mediocrity. It was telegraphed from a mile away what the ultimate fate of Gatsby and the other characters would be. There was no surprise and no hook that made me sit up and think.

I just don’t get it. The quality of the actual writing is great, as would be expected from someone of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s pedigree, but the story just seems pointless. Was it the time period in which it was written that gave the book such weight for people? That’s the only explanation I can come up with.

Length: 193 pages

Amazon   |   Barnes & Noble   |   Goodreads   |   Audible

Up Next: “The Great Gatsby” by F. Scott Fitzgerald

The Great GatsbyI absolutely plowed through World War Z in the past couple of days and now I need to pick a new book to read. It’s been a little while since I read any of the classics and because I’m a little behind on my reading goals for the year I figured The Great Gatsby would be a good choice. It’s widely considered to be one of the best books a person can read, and, on top of that, it weighs in at just about 200 pages. I should be able to finish it pretty quickly and make some headway on my goal.

Granted, I know nothing about this book. It might be a romance, a thriller, a mystery, or all of them rolled into one. We didn’t read this book in high school like so many other people and I’ve never had anyone explain to me what it’s about. So, I’m going in blind and hoping that I don’t regret the decision.