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: “A Sword Into Darkness” by Thomas A. Mays

A Sword Into DarknessTitle: A Sword Into Darkness
Author: Thomas A. Mays
Publisher: Stealth Books
Publication Date: January 10, 2014
Length: 302 pages

Obtained: I believe I grabbed a copy of A Sword Into Darkness because it showed up in an email from Amazon about books I might like. It looked intriguing so I gave it a shot.

The Plot: Gordon Elliot Lee is a genius aerospace tycoon with so much money he can afford to indulge in his obsession with outer space. One day he discovers what he believes to be some sort of alien craft approaching earth from a far away star. He tries to convince NASA about the “threat” of such a thing, but they laugh in his face. So, what does he do? He decides to bankroll the research, experimentation, and construction of his own spaceship. The thing is, his spaceship is going to be armed to the teeth because he is convinced that the aliens headed for Earth have no good intentions.

To assist him in his endeavor, Gordon Lee recruits Nathan Kelley and Kris Munoz to run point on all of the many spinning cogs involved in such a plan. They work for years and years putting together teams, funding projects, and discovering technological advancements that would put to shame the technology of the general public. They have a lot of time to get things right because while the mysterious aliens are making steady progress on their journey, they have a long way to go.

Eventually the military and NASA are forced to admit that Gordon Lee was right, so they jump in to assist, but that isn’t all they want to do and Nathan Kelley is forced to throw them out the door so to speak in order to make sure the mission happens as it was first envisioned, and not as some mockery of the original plan. What Nathan and Kris discover upon making contact with the aliens is so far gone from what they expected that they are unsure how to proceed. Events transpire that put the two of them in a position to make a very big splash when the climax of the story arrives.

The Commentary: To my understanding, A Sword Into Darkness is the debut effort of Thomas A. Mays. The best way to describe the book is as a mix of hard science fiction, military science fiction, and space opera. All of these pieces are woven together into a tapestry that for the most part, works pretty well. As a debut novel, it does have a few things here and there that could use some improvement, but oftentimes those kinds of things are distracting. In this book they are not distracting, and some of them are only noticeable to me as a result of just how many books I read. If I wasn’t so voracious in my reading a lot of those things would pass right on by.

The book is a rather quick read at 300 pages, so it isn’t something that’s going to bog you down as a reader. I liked that. I think more debut novels need to be that way, long enough to tell a decent story, but short enough to leave the reader wanting a little more to entice them to read that author’s next project. I was really impressed with Nathan Kelley as a character, but a little bit less so with Gordon Lee. The former had a lot more development as the story moved along and with the later I was left filling in a lot of gaps.

I’m glad I took a chance on the book though. I enjoy hard science fiction every so often and having that element mixed in with a more traditional science fiction tale was a nice perk for me as a reader. Balancing between the two could probably use a little work by the author, but that’s something I think can be worked out easily enough.

Needs More: Character development. The hard science portions were spot on and very well put together, but I think due to the length of the novel the characters suffered a little bit in order to fit in the science. That is something I expect the author can easily remedy in future projects without much trouble.

Needs Less: Repetition. I loved the science in the book, but in a few cases the same science was repeated over and over and it would have been nice to use that space for a little more character development, or some more action added to the scenes.

Worth It? Yes, I think A Sword Into Darkness is worth it. The science is interesting, at least a couple of characters mesh well, and the others that don’t still hold up okay. I liked that it was short and didn’t try to do more than what it was claiming to be. That worked really well in the end.

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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?