My Year in Reading – 2021

It was just this year, back in June, when I finally decided to diversify my content here on Time to Loot to include more than just games and gaming related subjects. Specifically? Books! Reading! Next to gaming, this would be my greatest leisure activity. And unlike gaming — I tend to finish essentially everything I start. Although if I’m particularly not enjoying myself with a book that can manifest by way of really dragging my heels. Watching a show to fall asleep instead of reading and other means of not reading when the option arises.

By default, my reading speed is not the greatest either. At least not when reading for leisure. Sure, I’ve started trying to find my footing in reviewing books again (so far, quite shakily at that) — but they aren’t the lifeblood of the blog and so I’m content for them to be a once per month or even slower cadence if need be.

So, I’m keeping my reading challenges on what would probably be the more mild side of things compared to what almost any other book blogger would set for themselves. In fact, compared to the Goodreads userbase at large, too. Goodreads says that the average number of books pledged to be read for the year is 53. Fifty-three. What the heck. I guess, it isn’t saying anything about the actual success rate there — but still.

I landed on attempting 15 books over the course of 2021 — and while it came down to the wire, I made it! :D

15 books read, with 7,321 pages between them. The longest book I read this year — Brandon Sanderson’s Rhythm of War (The Stormlight Archive #4) — was 1,088 pages of that all on its own. At the other end of the spectrum, the shortest book I read was Kevin Hearne’s Scourged (The Iron Druid Chronicles #9) weighing in at 304 pages.

This year’s mix of epic fantasy (my mainstay in reading), urban fantasy and the introduction of a little young adult by way of Sanderson’s Skyward series meant the average book-length of what I read in 2021 was 488 pages.

I don’t have a lot to compare to — it looks like late 2019 was when the Kindle received the update that started allowing shelving and rating of books on Goodreads directly from the Kindle itself. Or at least, that appears to have been when I finally logged into it. … It might’ve been that latter point actually. I hadn’t been manually updating Goodreads for quite sometime before that, either. End result being I have 2020 as a point of reference — but no more.

Using that point of reference though — I appear to have been tougher on books this year than before. This year, my average rating was 3.7 out of 5. Last year, 4.3. I also read significantly less last year though — only 8 books (out of a 10 target), 4,035 pages with an average book length of 504 pages.

In any case, moving on from the stats…

My Favourite Book of 2021

Author: Mark Lawrence
Series:
 Book of the Ice #2
Genre: Fantasy
Publisher: HarperCollins
Pages: 448
Published:  April 29th 2021
Source: Personal Copy
Read: May 1 – May 31, 2021 (on Kindle)
Rating: 5 of 5 stars (It was amazing)

First Sentence:
There had been a great fire and there had been a great flood.

Mark Lawrence has, over the years, risen very near to the top of my list of favourite authors. Where once sat the likes of George R. R. Martin and Patrick Rothfuss, now I would place Mark Lawrence and Brent Weeks.

I had a bit of a rocky start with Lawrence’s work, too. His first book — Prince of Thorns (The Broken Empire #1) — was very nearly too dark even for me. I don’t mind a fair degree of grit and rough times in my books, but this one pushed things incredibly close to the line if not out and out over the edge and off the cliff on occasion. The main protagonist was entirely unlikeable with essentially no redeeming features in the first book whatsoever.

But there was a promise in the setting — a unique twist to the fantasy elements of it all (which I consider to be something of a spoiler, so I shan’t mention here) — that kept me intrigued enough to keep going. That demonstrated Lawrence as an author had potentially a great deal to offer.

Things were turned around even by book #2 of The Broken Empire and this promise started to shine through. His works ever since — no matter which series you’re talking about — have been incredible. If you’re unfamiliar with Lawrence, I have no hesitation in recommending him to you. Depending upon your ability to tolerate some exceptionally rough going and a protagonist you will likely hate though — you may contemplate skipping The Broken Empire entirely and moving on to Prince of Fools (The Red Queen’s War #1) where while the world is the same, the protagonist shifts to someone else entirely.

April 2022 sees the release of The Girl and the Moon (Book of the Ice #3) which I’m exceptionally looking forward to. :)

My Least Favourite Book of 2021

Author: Kevin Hearne
Series:
 The Iron Druid Chronicles #9
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Publisher: Orbit
Pages: 304
Published:  April 3rd 2018
Source: Personal Copy
Read: February 24 – March 18, 2021 (on Kindle)
Rating: 2 of 5 stars (It was OK)

First Sentence:
I had a cup of wine with Galileo once.

Ugh. What an ending to an otherwise pretty OK series.

Some broad stroke spoilers follow.

The series had been working its way toward a modern-day occurrence of Ragnarök — the Old Norse prophecy of the death of the Gods and the end of the world. This book was the culmination of this path and… To say the least, it was underwhelming. The characters were split from each other much of the time, each doing their own thing.

Refreshing myself on why this one didn’t sit with me so well, I came across this comment in a review which would’ve made me spit coffee had I had any with me at the time:

“I learned to read 57 years ago. In those years I’ve read many thousands of books. Never have I hated one as much as I hate this.”
Sandra

Now, I didn’t feel quite as strongly about it as Sandra there clearly did, but I will say if any book in the history of my reading was ever going to teach me that the least reliable review is that of one published author on the work of another — it is this one. Seeing a 5 out of 5 rating by Peter V. Brett caused an involuntary eye roll so hard the optical nerve almost broke.

The other aspect which soured me before I even began was how much crucial, mainline plot, happened in novellas. Life-changing stuff that dramatically shifted the situation we left our characters on from the eighth book to this one. I could scarcely believe it — mandatory DLC for a book! A book! And it isn’t like these books are particularly heavy doorstoppers (if you buy them in physical form) to begin with.

I’m glad to have this series behind me to say the least and if Hearne ever does start anything new — I’ll certainly be taking more of a wait and see approach as to what happens with the DLC novellas before I jump in again. (Sidenote: I actually don’t mind Novellas existing — sometimes I’ll even engage and read them. But I do feel a line has been crossed when they go from expanding the world to progressing the mainline plot.)

Goals for 2022

Hmm. I don’t think I’ll push for more than 15 books just yet — I think 2021 might be the first year I ever hit the target I set for myself. Although it isn’t the most books in a year I’ve ever done. That, so far as I can tell, goes back to 2011 when I read 28 (of a 30 target), some 16,412 pages worth. The average length of books that year being 586 pages.

But I digress — goals! For NEXT year!

  • Read 15 books
    With 15 reviews to match!
  • Get better at actually writing book reviews
    Comparing what I’ve done this year to even just what I’ve done in the past — let alone bringing other, much better review writers into the picture — it isn’t a very flattering image. This is going to be a practice that requires some external research and guidance rather than just continuing to wing it as I have been, I think.
  • Take another look around the book blogging community
    I did do a couple of scans this year — but it seems to be a bit difficult to find what I’m after. So many of the prolific book bloggers these days focus so heavily on genres I’m not interested in. Worse (for me), it feels like the book-blogging world is much more of a business focused blogging world. I’m really not sure that group- reads/readalongs even happen any more.

    If I’m wrong on this though — and I sincerely hope that I am — I would quite like to jump into a readalong in 2022. Heck, I wouldn’t even mind hosting one. But I feel that hosting one myself would make for a very lonely experience at this point, lacking the connection into that space as I do. ;)
  • Take another experimental step in broadening reading horizons
    This year, I read something in the Young Adult catalogue for the first time since I tried out Harry Potter many years ago.1

    Perhaps in 2022 I could put a toe into the indie-published world. I mean, I am reading Michael J. Sullivan’s Theft of Swords (The Riyria Revelations #1-2)2at the moment. Sullivan started out as an indie author, but I can’t really count it as I didn’t pick up his work until well after he broke into the more established publishers and was re-released by that avenue.

    So… I’m open to suggestions! So far, I’ve mostly kept Indies to the side because… Well; with the exception of 2011 perhaps, I don’t exactly read a lot in any given year. And, I’m pretty terrible at being able to mark something as DNF. Between these two truths, I really needed to be fairly confident I would enjoy that I read. That I wouldn’t be irked every second page by poorly edited copy. But — indie published work has been a fact of life for a very long time now. Perhaps there’s something older out there with the benefit of revisions and reviews I might be able to find and latch onto for a try.

And that’s me!

I’m glad I introduced the element of reading to the blog this year. I sat on the decision for quite a while, tossing up the options between bringing it in here, creating a standalone blog, or just not doing it full stop — and I think this was the best option. Creating a standalone blog for it, I think, would’ve led almost certainly to the demise of that blog. And in the worst-case scenario, put my drive for this one at risk, too.

Footnotes

  1. OK, yes, yes — I know more accurately HP fits into the Middle Grade area — but hey.
  2. Oh hey, I have actually finished the first book in this — can I count it as hitting 16 books this year then? ;)

Naithin

Gamer, reader, writer, husband and father of two boys. Former WoW and Gaming blogger, making a return to the fold to share my love of all things looty.

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