Thursday, January 1, 2015

Top 10 Books of 2014

2014 was a really great reading year for me; I read a lot of great books and read more than I have in a long time. Since 2014 is over I wanted to look back at all of the books I’ve read this year and pick out the ones that I enjoyed the most. And here they are! The top ten books that I read in 2014:

Synopsis: Kestral a general’s daughter and lives in a beautiful estate that used to belong to the conquered Herrani nobility. Kestral has two paths in life; join the military and please her father or marry and live the restrictive live of a noblewoman, yet she’s not sure she wants either option. When Kestral surprises herself by purchasing an enslaved Herrani boy she begins to question the roles people are expected to play in her society.

Why it’s on my list: One of the things that annoys me most about Young Adult books is when heroines are portrayed as overly violent and aggressive in order to make them seem strong. The Winner’s Curse, thankfully, does not have that kind of heroine. Kestral relies on her intelligence and cunning to see her out of tricky situations and while she is encouraged to develop her martial skills, she has no love for or finesse with weapons. The writing in this book is also very strong and manages to be modern without being so modern that it detracts from the regency-like historical setting. This story is a good blend of plot and romance too. Overall The Winner’s Curse manages to be engaging without resorting to clichés, and for that reason I found it to be one of the best Young Adult fantasy books I read this year.

Synopsis: It’s Lincoln’s job to monitor company emails and catch employees who are abusing their IT privileges, but he has a problem; reading the personal emails between two colleagues (who he hasn’t met) is the best part of his job. He’s supposed to give them a warning, but then the emails will stop and he’s become so invested in their lives, he might even be falling in love.

Why it’s on my list: I read Fangirl and (listened to) Landline also by Rainbow Rowell and both of those were great books. Attachments is my favourite of the three as I found the characters to be the most relatable since Beth and Jennifer (like me) are in their late twenties, work in an office and send too many personal emails. Much of this book is written in email correspondence between the two women and their writing is funny and addictive. The book lightly addresses the moral dilemmas of getting to know someone from their private correspondence, but it is primarily a cute and funny romance. I had a few little issues with the conclusion of the book but for the most part I loved this story and already want to reread it.

Synopsis: Todd comes from a world where all the women are dead and men can hear each other’s thoughts. He is days away from becoming a man when unexpected events send him fleeing into the wilderness where he will discover the truth about the world he lives in.

Why it’s on my list: I couldn’t put this book down. Todd’s voice took a little getting used to, but once I had I was hooked on his story of discovery and was flying through the pages. The setting of this book is part western, part dystopian future. It’s hard to talk about the plot without spoiling it, but the concept of the Noise, the thoughts of the animals and men in the book, is very unique. I love how it’s depicted on the page too; in wobbly, chaotic fonts which are different for each character. I have the rest of the series sitting on my shelf and I’m looking forward to reading them soon and continuing with Todd’s journey.

Synopsis: The Lord Ruler conquered the Final Empire a thousand years ago and forced most of the population into slave labour. A group of thieves with a rare ability to internally burn metals to achieve a range of different abilities are plotting to overthrow the Lord Ruler. A young street urchin named Vin is unexpectedly swept along with events that may change the Final Empire forever.

Why it’s on my list: I’ve heard a lot of good things about Brandon Sanderson’s writing and The Final Empire, Book One in the Mistborn trilogy, did not disappoint. The book is fast paced for an epic fantasy and has a great cast of characters. The magic of burning metals, known as allomancy, is really unique and allows for awesome action and fight scenes. The book has several twists and turns to keep things interesting too. I’ve heard the rest of the series is just as good and I will be getting to those as soon as I can.

Synopsis: Two best friends, Victor and Eli, are exploring the possibility of extraordinary humans when their discoveries have horrible consequences. Years later, Victor breaks out of prison in order to seek revenge upon his old friend.

Why it’s on my list: This book is an interesting twist on superheroes with superb (haha) plotting. The story switches between the present where newly escaped Victor is digging up a grave with the help of a young girl named Sydney, and the past, when he and Eli are researching extraordinary people. The book aims to show a morally grey depiction of superheros and their motives and does this very well. I really admire Victoria Schwab’s writing which is gripping and elegant (she’s also really funny on Twitter – you should go follow her!). I’m looking forward to reading more of her work, particular the upcoming release A Darker Shade of Magic.

Synopsis: There has always been something strange about Ava Lavender’s family; her grandmother talks to ghosts, her mother has an unnaturally acute sense of smell and Ava was born with wings. Ava tells the story of her family and the strange ways that they have all been touched by love.

Why it’s on my list: This is a beautiful book. Leslye Walton’s writing is so touching and lovely and haunting. The story is character focused and is less about plot and is more of an exploration of the ways in which people are marked by one another. The book can be described as magical realism, so when characters are changed emotionally in some way by their experiences, it is manifested physically in the story, such as turning into a bird or literally fading away. The whimsical, fairy tale tone makes it easy to accept the magic realism elements and enjoy the story. I highly recommend this book. It is a short and beautiful read which you are likely to remember for a long time after finishing it.

Synopsis: Princess Elisa is born with a Godstone in her navel that signifies her important destiny. She isn’t too comfortable with her supposed destiny and would rather study scripture and eat pastries. When Elisa is married off to a foreign King she begins a journey that will uncover the mystery of the Godstone and reveal her inner strength.

Why it’s on my list: This is one of the best examples of Young Adult fantasy that I have read. Elisa is a very likeable and relatable character; she is compassionate and brave, despite having issues with her self-confidence and a tendency to comfort herself with baked goods. The story has adventure, romance and action, making it very easy to read. It is also very well written and surprised me several times. I’ve heard that the rest of the trilogy is just as strong, if not stronger than the first book, and I’m excited to continue on with Elisa’s story.

Synopsis: James Halliday, the creator of the virtual reality world the OASIS, has died and promised that whoever can solve the clues hidden inside the OASIS will inherit his vast riches. Wade, a young boy living in near poverty, is the first to solve a clue and kick-starts a race to claim the hidden prize.

Why it’s on my list: This book is a must read for any gamer. Not only does the story largely take place inside a video game, it is full of references to gamer culture. James Halliday’s obsession with 1980s culture has been embraced by Wade’s generation who have cultivated an expansive knowledge of 80s games, movies and TV shows in order to help them find Halliday’s prize. At times this book reads like an exploration of obscure 80s references which won’t appeal to everyone, but for the most part the book is driven the exciting treasure hunt plot set in a dystopian future. I’m not a huge fan of the 80s (being a child of the 90s) but I still loved this book and found it difficult to put down.

Synopsis: Paige is a member of a criminal gang in futuristic London with a rare clairvoyant ability to touch other peoples’ dreamscapes. Clairvoyants are hunted and captured by the Scion government because of their dangerous abilities. The story follows Paige as she uncovers the mysteries behind Scion and her clairvoyant powers.

Why it’s on my list: The Bone Season is so different from anything else I've read in a long time. I think it is best described as paranormal science fiction. The book is set in a future version of London, yet the clairvoyant aspects of the book take inspiration from 19th century spiritualism including spirit mediums, tarot card readings and séances. The two ideas blend really well together and create a unique and intriguing setting. The first half of the book continued to surprise me with the complexity of the world Samantha Shannon has created and the remainder of the book was filled with action. I have high hopes for the rest of the series which continues with The Mine Order early in 2015.

Synopsis: A dual narrative following debutant author Darcy Patel’s introduction to the world of Young Adult book publishing and the paranormal romance she has written about a young girl who can cross over into the afterlife.  

Why it’s on my list: I loved this book. It’s the first book that I’ve loved enough to sit down and write a review for (which you can read here). As a reader and writer of young adult fiction, the subject matter of this book is very close to my heart. You don’t need to be a writer to appreciate this book though. Both Darcy and her heroine’s story are compelling and fast paced and I would recommended the book to any fan of Young Adult fiction. This was one of those books that I dreaded finishing but couldn’t stop reading. It is without a doubt my favourite book of 2014.

I hope you enjoyed my list of the top books I read in 2014. I’ve love to hear what your favourites this year were :-)

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