Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013 Review, Part One: Reading


If not for the birth of my son Cooper, I'd almost say this was a pretty crappy year. His birth actually makes up for a lot of the crappy things that happened this year.

Now, let me say, I don't generally like making blanket statements about something. (Like I just did.) But it wasn't a great year for me and I'm looking forward to 2014.

I'm going to avoid talking too much about school (2012-13 School Year: Meh, 2013-14: Worst Ever so far), personal issues (I'm really not destined to own nice things) or health (hip replacement was a miracle but tweaked back and stress have undone some of the progress I made from June 2012).

Let's focus on the things that this blog was supposed to be about: writing and reading.

Reading first.

I read 64 books this year. I intended to read 75, but such is life. I gave a "rest" to my WHEEL OF TIME read and will pick it up next year. I read a lot of graphic novels and limped my way through some good and mediocre novels. Here's my top five for the year of books released in the last 12-15 months (in no particular order):

  • Fortress Frontier by Myke Cole: Control Point, the first book of The Shadow Ops series made my list last year, so this was a natural. It's better than the first by far and it was my favorite treadmill read of the past summer. He ramps up the stakes while giving us a broader view of the world that he'd built. Myke is on the precipice of being one of the important voices of my generation of fantasy writers. Now, if I could just get him to appreciate team sports...
  • The Republic of Thieves by Scott Lynch: Lynch is a genius and Jean Tannen is one of my favorite characters in the modern fantasy canon. (Come on, a smart, strong fat guy that wears glasses? Yes, please.) Lynch juggles three different stories here and the flashback and the play they are performing are vastly more interesting than "A" story revolving around the elections, but THIEVES returns us to what makes Lamora and Tannen tick, a rollicking con with bigger repercussions than anything they've ever done. Lynch plants some nice seeds for the bigger series in this one and I can't wait for THE THORN OF EMBERLAIN.
  • Boxers & Saints by Gene Luen Yang: I am fascinated by idea of "Imperial America," in particular American foreign involvement and the conflicts created therein, so this book was a natural for me. And I loved it. Beautiful, vivid and an amazing tale that mixes history, legend and mythology while asking some pretty tough questions.
  • The Red Knight by Miles Cameron: A big sweeping epic with a huge cast of POVs focusing on the siege of a keep on the border of civilization and the Wild. Great characters, great plot and talk about painting a vivid picture with words!
  • Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas: A loose retelling of the Cinderella myth (very, very loose) that is absolute genius. A rollicking fantasy adventure with hints at bigger repercussions for later books. Action, romance, love triangles, elder magic, tragic backstory (read the novellas), etc...it's like Sarah put all the tropes into a giant pot and made a damn near perfect pot of sauce. 
Honorable Mentions:
  • Bomb by Steven Sheinkin: A thrilling nonfiction account of the race to build the first atomic weapon.
  • The False Prince by Jennifer Neilsen: Hidden heirs and succession conspiracies. Feel like the 1st person POV hurt this book. Could've been a real Game of Thrones for teens if it were 3rd person close with multi POVs would've made this book top 5.
  • The Crimson Crown by Cinda Williams Chima: Good ending to a great series.
Top Older Books I Read:
  • Batman: The Killing Joke and Year One: Fantastic stories that I couldn't put down. Classics.
  • The Blind Side by Michael Lewis and Friday Night Lights by Buzz Bissenger: Read quite a bit of nonfiction this last year in prep for the change over to the Common Core and these two stuck out as brilliant.

Biggest Disappointments:  
  • Falling Kingdoms by Morgan Rhodes: Billed as GAME OF THRONES for teens, it reads like a bad pastiche by someone that just read the Wikipedia entry on Game of Thrones and decided the most compelling thing about GOT was the incest part. It was just bad and it made me sad as someone that wrote a YA GAME OF THRONES type book.
  • The Hero's Guide to Saving Your Kingdom by Christopher Healy: What could have been a fun, rollicking adventure story about the Princes in your favorite fairy tales got caught up in it's own gimmick (a real problem in YA and MG right now). Healy plays with every trope all wrong and it comes across mean and not fun or silly at all.
  • Tome of the Undergates by Sam Sykes: I was really disappointed that I was so disappointed with this one. Sam is one of the coolest guys out there right now, but UNDERGATES was a big let down. I understand the appeal and there are some flashes of "what could've been" in it, but overall it didn't live up to the hype for me. 
  • Kick-Ass 2 by Mark Millar: Gratuitous, pointless and over the top for the sake of being over the top. It had none of the weight or point of the first one.
Books I'm looking forward to in 2014: Avalon by Mindee Arnett, Dare Me by Eric Devine, Joe the Barbarian by Grant Morrison, Landry Park by Bethany Hagen, Frostborn by Lou Anders, Breach Zone by Myke Cole, The Fell Sword by Miles Cameron, The Shadow Throne by Jennifer Nielsen, The Thorn of Emberlain by Scott Lynch and Crown of Midnight by Sarah J. Maas.

So, there's my 2013 in reading.  I'm aiming for 75 books in 2014 again. I think I can do it.

Writing post will be up a little later on.

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