The Otissito Review

Category: Goals

Total 5 Posts

Taking Stock of My Reading Loose Ends

Last year was a hell of a year for me in regards to reading, but as a result, I now have a very long list of books that I need to read so I can tie off the loose ends of series that I haven’t finished. Somewhere along the way I got caught reading the first or second books of a bunch of series without reading all the way through. It might have had to do with trying to keep things fresh while reading 100 books, or it might have been laziness. It’s probably a little bit of both if I’m being honest.

Going into 2014 I had series I hadn’t finished, then I added a bunch more, and now I’m sitting on a pile of… 24 separate series where I have at least one book, often more, that I need to finish in order to finish things. Some of these series are ones that are not fully published yet, but I want to be caught up with the most current book so it will be more manageable to stay current in the future. Across these 24 series are a total of… 67 books. Reading nothing but the books in this backlog could fill my entire 2015 on their own, leaving me with no room for new releases by my favorite authors or new books in series I am actually caught up on. It’s a very large conundrum for me. I don’t like leaving things unfinished in this regard, especially when I’ve enjoyed the books I’ve read so far.

The real question is how I go about tackling such a bit list of books. I don’t really want to add to the backlog of unfinished series, so I’m working really hard at not starting any new ones that have more than one book currently published. So far I’m doing okay with that, but at some point I’m really going to want to read things like The Gentleman Bastards books, or the Malazan Book of the Fallen series. I think the only feasible solution is to find some sort of middle compromise. If I can decide on some of the backlog I really want to read first and work to mix one or two of them into every month this year I think I can make some serious progress. For example, the following 11 books would catch me up or finish ten lingering series:

  • The Pillars of Sand by Mark T. Barnes
  • The Mortal Heart by Robin LaFevers
  • Fairest: Levana’s Story by Marissa Meyer
  • Symbiont by Mira Grant
  • Fragments by Dan Wells
  • Ruins by Dan Wells
  • Dragons of Spring Dawning by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman
  • iD by Madeline Ashby
  • The King by David Feintuch
  • The Mortality Doctrine: Rule of Thoughts by James Dashner
  • The Revenge of Seven by Pittacus Lore

If I were to focus my initial efforts on those ten books I would cut my unfinished series number by nearly 30% over just a few months. Sure, it isn’t like reading the last five books in a single series, which takes a lot more effort, but it would be measurable progress and put me in more comfortable position as far as numbers are concerned. After taking care of these one-offs I could just randomly pick a series with three or more books left and start methodically working my way through them.

Now, beyond the one-off books on the series backlog, there are a few series I’m very eager to actually get finished sometime soon.  Some of them have been on this list for a really long time, a couple of years in some cases:

  • The Unincorporated War by Dani Kollin and Eytan Kollin
  • The Unincorporated Woman by Dani Kollin and Eytan Kollin
  • The Unincorporated Future by Dani Kollin and Eytan Kollin
  • Glamour in Glass by Mary Robinette Kowal
  • Without a Summer by Mary Robinette Kowal
  • Valour and Vanity by Mary Robinette Kowal
  • Of Noble Family by Mary Robinette Kowal
  • The Third Lynx by Timothy Zahn
  • Odd Girl Out by Timothy Zahn
  • The Domino Pattern by Timothy Zahn
  • Judgment at Proteus by Timothy Zahn

Those books are ones that definitely got left behind because I was rushing to read other things and then never managed to circle back. I’m an unabashed Timothy Zahn fan and I loved the first book of the Unincorporated series much more than I thought it would be.

However, there are some series in my backlog that will simply take forever to catch up on, things like the entire The Dark Tower series after the first book and the entire second half of the Dresden Files from the eighth book onward. I really like the Dresden Files books, but they all melt together when I read multiple in a row and I’m still rather skeptical of The Dark Tower books after having read the first one, but I sort of want to see what happens as the series progresses.

I think my end goal for 2015 is going to be to trim the backlog by about 50% if I can manage it. That would leave me with about 10-12 series left to finish and most of those would be the bigger ones and I’d feel a lot better about tackling them more slowly. If I can pull off that type of a reduction in series backlog this year I will be so happy with myself. Maybe I’ll even have the chance to start one or two new series that only have a couple of books and be current with them so I don’t add back to the list at any point.

Okay, It’s Time To Get Back To Business

Let’s be honest, I haven’t made any posts here that were very compelling since October, nearly a fourth of a year. All things considered, that’s probably not a wise way to go about keeping a book blog that for reasons I still don’t understand has a decent readership. I’ve probably lost at least a few loyal followers over the past three or four months, and it’s nobody’s fault but my own.

I need to fix things by getting back on the horse and writing some reviews, a few topical essays, and maybe branching out into some interviews or other types of content. I don’t really have an excuse for why I went dark with posting for the last few months other than I was trying hard to get those 100 books read and started a new job. Blogging just sort of took a back seat out of the blue and I’m just now realizing I need to get going again.

There were a few weeks, I admit, where I seriously considered just shuttering the blog altogether, calling it quits, and just walking away. I felt like I was stagnating in my reviews, lacking any sort of really compelling content, and that I was unable to do the structural things I really want to do with the site on the whole. Added to that was the sheer number of books I was finishing and not able to find the time to write reviews for when I was done. Some of which I may have to actually read again in order to write a worthwhile review. That had me a little frustrated as well.

But, I seem to have emerged from the funk! The time off to just read, adjust to my new job, and enjoy the holiday season without the pressure of blogging seems to have renewed my batteries and now I’m ready to get back to work.

Here are my current thoughts on things that need to be done or improved around here:

A serious number of reviews need to finally be written. I read 101 books last year, but I managed only 41 reviews written. That’s less than half of the books I read. Some of those reviews will require me to at least skim through the books again to refresh my memory before I can write anything of worth, and some of them I could still write on the fly. At the very least I need to get reviews written for The Mirror Empire, Red Rising, Gemini Cell, Ancillary Sword, and the two new Star Wars novels, Tarkin and A New Dawn. In an ideal world I will at some point get all 101 reviews written for the 101 books I read, plus reviews for everything I read in 2015. That should keep me in content for a long time.

Lots of topical essays and posts I am very interested in writing need to be written. I never got around to doing a post that reviews my year of 2014. I also want to write about what I learned in the process of reading 100 books in a single year. There are some posts about science fiction and fantasy as genres on the whole I want to write, and a variety of other things on top of all those I just mentioned. There are probably at least two dozen essay type posts floating around in my head somewhere.

The reviews listing needs to be updated and improved. I’d love to have a listing by author, by title, and by series, but I need to just sit down and do it. I may need to dive back into the custom CSS of the website to make them work like I really want, and that’s okay, I just need to make it happen. I spent a little time making sure the listing as it stands now is updated.

Once and for all I need a regular posting schedule. In my grandest dreams I’ll someday figure out how to effectively blog every single day, but for now I would settle on just being consistent instead of haphazard. My goal is to post a review every Monday and some kind of topical post every Thursday. If I can manage additional posts during the week, great. If not, I want to meet that minimum schedule.

Guest writers and interviews. I think there is a lot of opportunity for me to allow others who have enjoyed science fiction and fantasy novels a place to let their thoughts be known. I’d almost like to entertain the idea of putting out a call for submissions in some fashion where people who don’t want to run their own blog could drop me a line when they want to review something they think fits the audience here. On top of that, I’d really like to get started with the author interview game. I think that could provide some compelling content.

And lastly, maybe a bit of creative writing. Here in the very near future (as in the next month) I’ll be joining a writing group to get back on the writing horse like I’ve wanted to do for a long time. Maybe if I find myself having put together something of decent quality I might share some snippets here and there.

So, you can see there is a lot I want to do, and I’ve spent a lot of time over the past three months really thinking about how I want to get it done. Now I need to implement some of the plans, so expect to see some housekeeping type posts over the last two weeks of this month and then if all goes well I can hit the ground running in March.

An Update on the 100 Books Read Goal

A week or two ago I wrote a post that discussed whether or not I would actually manage to read 100 books this year. I laid down several statistics, a few arguments for and against my accomplishing the goal, and provided a list of the 28 books I had “planned” to read and get me to the finish line. I also mentioned that October was basically going to be the “make or break” month regarding my progress. I need to reach about 85 or 86 books read by the time November 1st rolls around because I have a full November and I promise I won’t have time to play catch up in December.

So, here is that list of 28 books I planned to read with the ones I’ve read so far crossed out as a way to show my progress:

  1. Shadow Ops: Breach Zone by Myke Cole
  2. The Dresden Files: Grave Peril by Jim Butcher
  3. The Dresden Files: Summer Knight by Jim Butcher
  4. The Dresden Files: Death Masks by Jim Butcher
  5. The Dresden Files: Blood Rites by Jim Butcher
  6. The Dresden Files: Dead Beat by Jim Butcher
  7. Ancillary Sword by Ann Leckie
  8. The Trilisk Hunt by Michael McCloskey
  9. The Trilisk Revolution by Michael McCloskey
  10. Insidious by Michael McCloskey
  11. Industrious by Michael McCloskey
  12. Ingenious by Michael McCloskey
  13. Terms of Enlistment by Marko Kloos
  14. Lines of Departure by Marko Kloos
  15. His Fair Assassin: Mortal Heart by Robin LaFevers
  16. Star Wars: Tarkin by James Luceno
  17. iD by Madeline Ashby
  18. vN by Madeline Ashby
  19. Dragon Wing: The Death Gate Cycle by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman
  20. Elven Star: The Death Gate Cycle by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman
  21. Fire Sea: The Death Gate Cycle by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman
  22. Romulus Buckle & the City of the Founders by Richard Ellis Preston, Jr.
  23. Romulus Buckle & the Engines of War by Richard Ellis Preston, Jr.
  24. The Killing Moon by N.K. Jemisin
  25. Dragons of Winter Night by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman
  26. Dragons of Spring Dawning by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman
  27. The End is Nigh (Anthology) edited by John Joseph Adams and Hugh Howey
  28. Autocorrect Stays by Holly Flanagan

As you can see, I’ve managed to cross 10 books off the list, leaving me with 18 remaining. I stand at 82 books completed as I write this post and hope to have at least 85 complete in the next nine days. I’ll be tackling the two Romulus Buckle books and then hope to have enough time left in the month to enjoy Ancillary Sword without having to rush.

It’s been a long month of reading for me in October, completing one book every 36 hours on average for the most part. That’s a very strange zone to be in I’ve discovered. However, if I get to that magic number of 85 books finished I’ll upgrade myself to an 80% chance of reaching my goal as planned.

Will I Actually Read 100 Books This Year?

At the beginning of 2014 I set a goal for myself to read 100 books by the time 2015 rolled around on the calendar. My previous best was in 2013 when I read a total of 84 items over the course of the year, but a portion of that number was short stories and novellas. For this year I really wanted to set a goal that focused on only novel-length works. That means anything that counts towards the total needs to be at least 150 pages long (it’s an arbitrary number, I know, but it works as a decent cutoff point).

So, am I going to accomplish the goal? The short answer is: I really don’t know.

The longer answer requires a little bit of digging, so let’s take a look. At the time of my writing this post I have 72 qualifying books completed. That leaves me with 28 books remaining as of October 8th. Along with those 72 books I’ve read 8 items in the short story, novella, or magazine categories which don’t count towards the total. I could easily argue that reading those additional non-qualifying items has made reaching my goal more difficult, but the total page count for them is 432 pages, or basically the length of one book, so the impact reading them had on my goal can be considered rather negligible in my opinion.

Having read 72 books I am confident in declaring that I will at the very least beat my total from 2013 of 84 items read. Regardless of how close I get to 100 books finished, I’ll definitely manage to complete another 13 to beat the previous mark by at least one. On top of that, all of them will have been novel length, which means I’m even more well off.

As a side note, in 2013 I read 31,512 total pages and at the time of this writing my count for 2014 clocks in at a healthy 29,709 pages read. It’s apparent I’ll also easily beat my pages read mark from last year as it will only take about five or six more books to do so. I did have a secondary goal for 2014 to read at least 40,000 pages, which may possibly be within reach (I do count the short fiction, etc as part of the page count as is it seems fair), but I’ll need to average at least 367 pages per book for the remaining 28 books. I know at least a few of the books I have on deck meet or exceed that number, but there are also a few that fall just short. Reaching 40,000 pages is secondary to reading the 100 books though.

So, let’s look at a few numbers involved with the home stretch of 2014 and how it impacts my ability to reach the 100 book goal. Not counting today I’ve got 84 days left in the year. With 28 books to go, that means I need to average… one book every three days to succeed. That is a pretty tall order no matter what I’m reading. Now, for me to even come close to getting one book finished every three days, I’m going to need a very specific list of books to read because anything over 400 pages is going to be tough while still working, doing husband/father things, and other life time sinks. If I get in a groove every so often for a few days at a time when I have extra time I can easily read a book a day, which can leave me a little bit of wiggle room, but no matter how much I do that, it’s still going to be tight at the end of the year.

On top of that, October is my month to make or break this goal for a couple of reasons. At the moment I’m basically done with World of Warcraft until the expansion in the middle of November. I have no family coming to visit, I’ve settled into the routine at my new job, and our new home is pretty much all set up. So, not a whole lot in the way of distractions. November is going to be full of distractions however, what with my family coming into town for a week and a half at Thanksgiving and the new World of Warcraft expansion being released. As much as I’d love to have the self-control necessary to ignore WoW until January 1st, I don’t. I just don’t. So, while 28 remaining books makes it seem like I could just read 10 books each month for October, November and December, I don’t think November is going to work out that way as it currently stands.

How do I overcome this? By reading my tail off between now and November 12th. I’m thinking if I can get myself to the point where I’ve only got 12 books left to go after that I can make it work. That means 16 more books over the next few weeks. If I can hit that mark, my confidence in reaching the 100 book goal will go up a fair amount, to the point where I’ll be about 80% sure I can get it done. If I don’t reach that 16 books before the WoW expansion, things are going to be pretty bleak and I might be tempted to throw in the towel early. On top of all of this is the return to blogging I’m trying to make by getting a post up on the blog for MWF of every week again. That’s a lot of stuff to pack into the remaining weeks of 2014, trust me.

So, how do I feel at the moment? A little overwhelmed, but also rather determined to at least make a good run at completing my goal. Right now I feel like I have about a 50% chance of getting it done, but with every book I read in less than 3 days that percentage will creep up a little bit. I may not have blogged as often as I planned for this year, or written as many reviews as I wanted, but if I can still make a run at reading 100 books, I’ll give it a shot. Will I do it again next year? Good heavens, no! But, it will be a pretty cool bragging point for me personally if I do pull it off this year.

If you are interested in following along with my progress as December 31st rolls nearer, feel free to keep track on the Books Read in 2014 page, or follow along with daily updates I’ll be posting to Twitter at 20four12.

Oh, and because I’m the kind of guy who likes to advance plan things to death and make a bunch of lists, if anyone is curious as to what I plan to be reading over the final 28 books, here is a somewhat lengthy and possibly handy list:

  1. Shadow Ops: Breach Zone by Myke Cole
  2. The Dresden Files: Grave Peril by Jim Butcher
  3. The Dresden Files: Summer Knight by Jim Butcher
  4. The Dresden Files: Death Masks by Jim Butcher
  5. The Dresden Files: Blood Rites by Jim Butcher
  6. The Dresden Files: Dead Beat by Jim Butcher
  7. Ancillary Sword by Ann Leckie
  8. The Trilisk Hunt by Michael McCloskey
  9. The Trilisk Revolution by Michael McCloskey
  10. Insidious by Michael McCloskey
  11. Industrious by Michael McCloskey
  12. Ingenious by Michael McCloskey
  13. Terms of Enlistment by Marko Kloos
  14. Lines of Departure by Marko Kloos
  15. His Fair Assassin: Mortal Heart by Robin LaFevers
  16. Star Wars: Tarkin by James Luceno
  17. iD by Madeline Ashby
  18. vN by Madeline Ashby
  19. Dragon Wing: The Death Gate Cycle by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman
  20. Elven Star: The Death Gate Cycle by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman
  21. Fire Sea: The Death Gate Cycle by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman
  22. Romulus Buckle & the City of the Founders by Richard Ellis Preston, Jr.
  23. Romulus Buckle & the Engines of War by Richard Ellis Preston, Jr.
  24. The Killing Moon by N.K. Jemisin
  25. Dragons of Winter Night by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman
  26. Dragons of Spring Dawning by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman
  27. The End is Nigh (Anthology) edited by John Joseph Adams and Hugh Howey
  28. Autocorrect Stays by Holly Flanagan

Granted, this list may change on a whim if something catches my eye, but that’s my rough plan for now on how to get through the final 28 books I need. The last one on the list is actually not a science fiction or fantasy novel, but rather is the book my wife wrote and self-published this year. I’ve avoided reading it because a lot of her influences while writing it came from life experiences we’ve shared and that I’m very familiar with which makes it difficult for me not to get thrown out of the story and I’m a staunch supporter of the “family and friends are the worst people to give you opinions about your book” camp, but I’m going to do my wife a solid and read it as the last book of the year if I manage to get that far with enough time.

The Crossroad of Blogging and Reading

I’ve been blogging about books here since March 2012 and I’ve had a lot of fun for the past two and a half years. My hope is that I’ll continue having fun blogging for many years to come, but right now I’m dealing with lots of things pulling me in a lot of different directions. As much as I wish this blog were a cash cow that pays all the bills with money left over, the fact of the matter is that I make nothing off of my endeavors here.

You know what? I’m entirely okay with not making any money off of my blogging because I started 20four12 as a way to fill time when nothing else was going on during slow days at the office. It seemed like a great way to get all of the great things I had in my head about the books I read down somewhere I could share them with others and for years I had been wanting to give blogging a try anyway. Making money from blogging would be great, but it’s not something I currently plan on doing here.

However, because I don’t make any money from 20four12, it’s also very difficult to put it ahead of other things that need my attention. I’ve got a wonderful wife and two young children need me to spend time with them as any good husband and father should. I’m also making a lot of adjustments in my career as a web developer at the moment as I try to take on more responsibilities at the office as well as improve my skill set for future projects I’m thinking about. Add all of that to the general hustle and bustle of everyday life and right now the time I have to spend writing, planning, and posting blog entries seems to be dwindling more and more.

Why is any of that important? I suppose in the grand scheme of things it really isn’t, this is just a book blog written by an amateur who reads a lot of books. I’m not changing the world or anything here, but I do like to do things right and not halfway. There are people who read this blog regularly through their RSS feeds, visiting the site directly, or in some other fashion, and for whatever reason I feel like if I’m not going to be blogging as much for the next little while I should at least give them a heads up, even if fewer posts here won’t be the end of the world for anyone.

So what am I going to do?

First, I am going to focus on one particular goal I set for myself this year. The one I set to read 100 books for the year. As of right now I’m three books behind pace, which should be easy enough to make up with six months remaining in 2014, but I need to stay very focused to make it happen. I set a lot of goals at the beginning of the year and some of them were a little to ambitious, but the one for reading 100 books is the one I really don’t want to give up trying to accomplish. With that in mind, writing a review about every single book I read is something I’m probably not going to have the ability to do.

Why can’t I write a review for every book? Because I need to free up some time. Why do I need time? That’s easy to explain: I want to move 20four12 away from being hosted on WordPress to being self-hosted. That’s the second thing I want to do in the last six months of this year. I have the requisite skills needed to make the change, but finding the time is a much more difficult proposition. If I back off on the actual blogging for a little while I might just be able to find those slices of time I really need to make it happen.

So, the end result of this decision is that my posting on 20four12 is probably going to be a little sporadic over the coming months. I’ll still be writing my monthly update on which books I’ve read to keep both myself and any interested parties up to speed on my goal for completing 100 books. I will also write an occasional review, but likely just for the books that really speak to me as I’m reading them. This is me giving myself permission to keep the blog going but also to get some other things done that have been piling up.

Perhaps none of this will mean a thing and I’ll somehow find myself with all the time in the world to get the new projects finished and still read all of the books and blog about them, but I have a feeling 20four12 will be a little less busy for a little while, and while I wish that didn’t have to be the case, I’ve accepted that it’s okay and nobody is going to go screaming through the streets in despair while I step back for a bit. I’ll blog when I can and I’ll make sure those posts are as amazing as they can be when I write them.