Top Ten Books I Read in 2014

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and The Bookish. This week we’re to list our favorite books of 2014, which was exceedingly difficult (as always):

72355331. The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson

The kickoff to this fantasy epic and its sequel, Words of Radiance, gave me the book-hangover to end all book-hangovers. I finished Words of Radiance in the first week of July and to this day, I still pick up one of them pretty much every day. I love the world that much. And I love Sanderson’s writing so much that I took a quote from this book and painted it on a canvas and stuck it on my living room wall. (proof). I’m just a tad obsessed.

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2. Mistborn: The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson

Yes, Brandon Sanderson again. The Mistborn trilogy is a masterpiece. If you like fantasy even a little bit, you need to check it out, especially since I think it’s probably easier to get into this than it is The Way of Kings. Also, if you’re a dystopian fan, this is a must read as it explores a dictatorship, a rebellion and what comes after it.  It also doesn’t hurt that this has one of my favorite romance plot-lines of the year. It has everything I at least could ever want in a story and executes extremely well.

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3. Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz

So spectacular. This book is written in such a simplistic style, and yet it conveys so much. It’s a diverse book, with a solidly formed, relatable main character. Reading Ari made me remember what it felt like to be a teenager, for all that my actual life and experiences were so different from his.

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4. Saga (I think Vol. 2 was my favorite, but it’s all good) by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples

I heard people heaping praise on Saga and decided, somewhat skeptically, to check it out. I hadn’t read a graphic novel or comic book series ever before and Saga was truly a wonderful introduction. Fiona Staples’ art is gorgeous and expressive; I was in awe of her talent. The world of the story is expansive and imaginative and the characters are as varied as the settings they roam in. It’s space opera at its finest, pictures and all.

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5. Legend by Marie Lu

I think this is my favorite YA dystopian book. Ever. The Hunger Games is great, Divergent with its action was fun (until it decidedly wasn’t) but this had a solid political story in with the action, multi-layered characters, complicated romances, friendships and family relationships. It explored a lot, and it still delivered a wildly entertaining, action-packed ride.

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6. Rosewater (Then They Came for Me) by Maziar Bahari

This one surprised me. I didn’t love it right away, but after I was done reading it I felt the weight of its importance to me. It’s part a true to life story of political activism in an oppressive place and that alone was fascinating. But it’s also a story of personal fortitude and the bonds of one family. Highly, highly recommended.

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7. Vicious by V.E. Schwab

This book was a lot of things (can you tell that I value complexity?) It was really funny and really thoughtful. It was morally ambiguous: you change your mind about which characters are good and which are evil. You think deeply about what good and evil mean in a world where everyone everywhere is a mix of both.  And  you explore what power does to the human psyche.

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8. Please Ignore Vera Dietz by A.S. King

Couldn’t make this list without including at least one A.S. King book. I discovered her this year, and I think her books are some of the best YA literature out there today. I read Everybody Sees the Ants and Ask the Passengers this year as well, but I think Vera was my favorite of her characters and the pagoda the funniest of her magical elements, so this one makes the list. I love the way King writes teenagers; and that she’s writing teenagers that are quite diverse; not only in terms of race or sexuality, but in economic and social status. I think she’s excellent, and I’m secretly glad I have at least two more of her books to read before I’ve caught up to her publishing schedule.

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9. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

This was one of several audiobooks I listened to this year and I don’t know if it was WIl Wheaton that made this so much fun, or if it was just the book itself. But I’m thinking it’s both. The premise was great, the puzzle of the hunt was so much fun to follow and the awkward, snarky main character was  a joy to read.

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10. Stolen by Lucy Christopher

I went into this book expecting one thing and got another. It is composed so well with its single, unreliable narrator and striking setting. I really got absorbed into this story, it was interesting and intense and it really makes you consider complicated and sometimes uncomfortable ideas.

November Reviews

So it’s been three months since my last post. I knew it had been a little while, but I hadn’t realized I hadn’t written anything all fall. But since blogging is something you can do while wrapped in a blanket on the couch, maybe now that it’s colder I’ll actually get back in the swing of things. And end of the year wrap up posts are really fun to read and to write, so let’s all look forward to that (Spoiler alert: The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson is my favorite book of the year, hands down).

November was  a touch slower of a reading month than usual, mostly because I attempted NaNoWriMo again this year. I failed at 50k this time around, only getting 12,500 words, but I had a  lot of fun spending my Sunday afternoons in various coffee shops at write-ins with my WriMo friends from last year. My ML was constantly seeking advice on her time travel-heavy plotline, which lead to some fun discussions, and I learned that I am not a pantser. The endless possibilities of the blank page was utterly terrifying. Anyway, I read six books this month: two YA fiction, three nonfiction, and one graphic novel:

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Y The Last Man: Book One (Issues #1-10) by Brian K. Vaughan and Jose Marzan Jr.-4.5 Stars

I absolutely adore the comic book series Saga by Brian K. Vaughan and when I heard about this series, which is also by Vaughan and is also raved about in the comic book world, I knew I had to have it. It did not disappoint. The premise–one man and his monkey alone in a post-apocalyptic world dominated by women–sounded fascinating and it was. Fascinating and well-executed; the characters are complex and the world is built in a way that makes sense. The women face not only a population crisis, but power outages and food shortages (power and truck driving being careers dominated by men). The only thing bothering me thus far is Hero, the main man’s sister. Her actions and their motivations make so little sense to me at this point, and I hope her arc gets fleshed out a little better in the next installments.

Mortal Heart by Robin LaFevers-3 stars

I was so excited for this final installment in the His Fair Assassin trilogy. The second book, Dark Triumph, was spectacular: full of action, intrigue, unique and unconventional romance, and lots of heart. This book, though, was a bit of a let down. It was ok, not great, not terrible. Annith was an interesting character; her back story was good and the plot in the wider world was good as well. But the romance was odd and the conclusion was a bit of head-scratcher. It was my least favorite in an otherwise amazing series.

Boston Jacky by L.A. Meyer-3 stars

I have been reading the Jacky Faber series for ages. I distinctly remember reading Bloody Jack in Algebra class when I was a freshman in high school which means I’ve been reading this series for nine years. And for the first five or so of those years, I hotly anticipated each new release because the previous book had invariably ended on some sort of crazy cliff-hanger with Jacky and her first and best love Jaimy just out of each other’s reach. But then I got a little older and the books got a little repetitve and my excitement waned. Boston Jacky is the eleventh book in the series and it came out over a year ago, so it had been almost two years since I touched a Jacky Faber book. I was consequently a little lost at first, but caught up fairly quickly. In the end, this was another book I neither loved nor hated. It took on a bit of a slower pace than previous installments, which I view as a positive. I reread my Goodreads review of the tenth book and my biggest complaint was its too fast, jumpy plotlines. In this installment Jacky’s facing some new challenges on land rather than at sea and I really enjoyed that aspect. However, the romantic plot was extraordinarily irritating. Jaimy was keeping himself away from Jacky this go-round and I felt like it was due to the need to stretch the romantic plot line out another book rather than out of any genuine motivation of his as a character. Basically, I was pissed that the book crush of my teenage years was reduced to being an asshole for no justifiable reason.

Yes Please by Amy Poehler-4 stars

This autobiography by the SNL alumna marked my triumphant return to the wonderful world of audiobooks. I more or less quit listening after I moved closer to my workplace, but I’ve begun having to drive about an hour or two a few times a week for work and I rediscovered the fun. And this book was especially fun. Poehler narrates it, with appearances by special guests (her parents are on it, Seth Meyers reads the chapter he contributed, etc.) and there’s plenty of banter to go around on the audio track as well. Nothing in this book was earth-shaking or profound. She gives some good advice, there are heavier moments mixed in with the jokes and funnier stories, and it was entertaining but not life-changing. I don’t think it was trying to be, at least not most of the time, and so I definitely give it a hearty recommendation.

Rosewater (And Then They Came for Me) by Maziar Bahari and Aimee Molloy-4.5 Stars

This is the book/true story that Jon Stewart made a movie out of. I got interested the movie while it was filming–Stewart took a break from The Daily Show last summer to shoot it (John Oliver stepped in and he was wonderful)–and even more interested in the story when The Daily Show did a whole episode on it a couple weeks ago and I saw this interview with the author and the actor who plays him in the film:

http://thedailyshow.cc.com/videos/a4m6u1/maziar-bahari—gael-garcia-bernal

Then I found the book on a feature table at the bookstore and bought it and read it over Thanksgiving weekend. I was only mildly interested by it in the beginning where Bahari details political background and the events leading up to his arrest in the summer of 2009, but I quickly got into it after those first 80 or so pages and overall I think it’s a must-read. It’s thought-provoking. It’s a perfect mix of good journalism and good story-telling with clear, concise and relatively unbiased background, simple but moving composition, and strong voice and universal themes. It’s sticking with me and I think it will continue to for a long time.

Several Short Sentences About Writing by Verlyn Klinkenborg-4 stars

I picked this one up at the end of October, whilst trying to get inspired for NaNoWriMo. It was definitely a thought-provoker, and a book I think I’ll be revisiting, as I skipped over the exercises at the end and technically didn’t actually finish it. I would have loved to have read this while I was in school, still plugging away at assigned writing, but it applies well to fiction writing too. Definitely recommended to students and to writers in particular.

That’s all for November; I’ll see you all in a few weeks at the latest for the book blogging extravaganza that is the end of the year!