So! 2014 has been a pretty good year for my bookshelf, and I’m glad to say I smashed the goals I set at the start of the year: Initially, 50 new reads (and 50 re-reads, total: 100), which I then upped to 60 when I got to 50 too early in the year, and finally finished at 93 new reads as the year’s total! I didn’t keep track of how many I re-read, though―no help from Goodreads on that end―but since I was doing that between reading every other new book, it’s safe to say I finished more than 50 too. (I learned to love re-reading so much, honestly. Dunno why I didn’t do it as much before; it feels lovely to experience good books again and again!)
The problem with intensive re-reading, though, was that I re-discovered how truly excellent some of my old books were, and a lot of the new 2014 reads paled in comparison. I keep thinking my 2012/2013 list had way better books. But maybe that just means I should expand my horizons more…? See, another thing my 2014 list was: Safe. I was constantly falling into depressive cycles throughout the year―just offer me a tiny bit of sadness and it would be enough to tip me over into the hole again. So, considering my easy attachment to fictional characters and worlds, I chose to stay away from emotionally-taxing books to preserve my sanity. Ha. (In fact, the most notable Did Not Finish for the year was Laini Taylor’s Dreams of Gods and Monsters, a book I tried valiantly to read, but it was so tense, so heavy that I had this literal ache in my chest that got more pronounced the more I read―I got reminded of strings wound so tightly they might break any second. So I decided to stop, and pick it up when I’m in a much better state.) So most of the books I read were safely within my comfort zones, still predominantly belonging to the young-adult genre. And a lot of them were devoured for purely escapist reasons (i.e., romance books, haha, which I will get to later). So, you know, in retrospect, there wasn’t a lot of ~excitement~ in my year’s list all in all.
That said, of course there were a notable few that still made me feel all the feelz (hysterically sob in the wee hours of the morning, suffer days of existential crises, etc) which brings me to this list: The Best Books I Read in 2014.
Just to put things into perspective, my best book of 2012 was Melina Marchetta’s Jellicoe Road (a book I have not yet dared re-read, because it will most likely kill my heart again; also the book that introduced me to the gift to young-adult literature that is Melina Marchetta’s writing) and of 2013 was Elizabeth Wein’s Code Name Verity (a book that, if you have a best friend you love as your own sister, will be guaranteed to make you cry for hours and hours, although I advise you not to read it while you’re living in a dorm room with eleven other people because then you will have to perform pillow crying acrobatics, trying to not make noise so as not to wake the other girls as you ugly-cry because of fictional characters yet again―sigh). For 2014, I have a top three:
- Finnikin of the Rock (Book 1 of The Lumatere Chronicles) by Melina Marchetta. “Some books you read. Some books you enjoy. But some books just swallow you up, heart and soul.” This perfectly sums up my reaction to this novel. In fact, it’s why I am placing it on top of the next two books in this list―the effect this book had on me was so crazy that it was, well, alarming. Here’s what happened: I read Finnikin,
died a little bit from awe, then re-read it right after finishing, then quickly read the next two books in the series, then re-read Finnkin again―all of that in less than three days. (!!!) (In the days that followed, I was in a trance, with no will to sleep or eat, even, just lost in Lumatere for nearly a week, not wanting to think about my own life, before I finally went online and saw John Green link this video on his Twitter account. I watched the entire thing and cried and cried [esp. about the way down deep darkness that is you], and it finally snapped me out of my hungover state. But months later, I just had to visit Lumatere again, and so I read it again, and I was still awed, and in fact I still think about it some nights and I am still in awe.) I can’t even explain why―it’s just, UGH. Marchetta is brilliant at stories that start out very confusing, each chapter an intriguing puzzle piece, and finally when the whole picture is revealed―bam! Your heart = DEAD. This is a dark and haunting medieval high fantasy story (well, series, although the story of the first book is my fav, obvs) with just amazingly complicated characters (Evanjalin, holy cow. Strong doesn’t even begin to describe her. I don’t know if I want to stab her or kneel at her feet!) (And Finnikin: hellooooo fictional crush) (But honestly, ALL. THE. CHARACTERS’. JOURNEYS. HERE. I swear), and a beautiful, beautiful setting, but really, what I love best about it is how it’s not about the fantasy elements, but the people and what they go through. There’s love in all its forms, and family and friendship and romance and coming-of-age and loyalty and adventure and magic and prophecies and murder and intrigue and SUFFERING. God, a whole lot of suffering. It’s AMAZEBALLS, basically. And it gets better (and more painful) the more you think about the story! GAH. I saw a copy of this at Fully Booked Davao last December, and I honestly wanted to take it off the shelf and shove it to the stranger next to me, “BUY THIS ONE! TRUST ME!!!!!” Hahaha. (Read my full review)
- Medieval fantasy series I also recommend: Jennifer A. Nielsen’s The Ascendance Trilogy (The False Prince is SUPERB) and The Queen’s Thief series by Megan Whalen Turner (so intelligently written!!!)
- I Am the Messenger by Marcus Zusak. Well, my Goodreads review for this starts with the words “Holy fuck, this book,” so, you know: Holy fuck, this book. Also: “…but after I finished the last page I was just awash with a powerful sense of recognition: This is why I love reading. This. Books like this are why everyone should read.” GO READ IT, YOU. (Read my full review)
- Wonder by R.J. Palacio. I can’t even be reminded of this book without wanting to dissolve in a puddle of tears. This isn’t a sad book, by all means, but, just… “I love books like this. Quiet. Lovely. Real. They’re my favorites out of my favorites. Because really, there’s no need to have, like, fast-paced action sequences or an out-of-this-world plot to make a great story. Sometimes it can just revolve around one special-but-ordinary kid, and the special-but-ordinary people around him. How the universe may or may not have been kind to them. How kindness and meanness and love and hatred matters. Because that’s how life is for each of us, isn’t it?” (Read my full review)
That’s it for my top three, but here’s the next set (in no particular order)…
- The Dream Thieves (Book 2 of The Raven Cycle) by Maggie Stiefvater. You know, my Goodreads reviews for this series are mainly just exclamation points and repetitions of two words: “THIS” and “BOOK.” LOL. Not very helpful, I know, but trust me (and my inability to render my avalanche of feelz into words), you’d want to read this. I highly recommend the entire series, although my favorite (so far, of the three that got released) is this one, because it’s like…an exploding ball of intensity. HNNGHH. And it’s so funny and witty, gah. There’s a chapter there that contains only one sentence, but it was so good it made me laugh my ass off. (Also: I am in love with Richard Campbell Gansey III. But all the other Raven boys and Blue Sargent are also fantastic characters, individually! Characterization is crazy good in these books, you guys.) Actually, Maggie Stiefvater is probably my breakthrough new-favorite-author of 2014; I basically want to steal her brain. (And her art skills.) I’m not the biggest fan of the genres she writes in―I don’t much enjoy supernatural books―but she makes me like them. In fact, another book of hers, The Scorpio Races, was another one I really liked (read my full review) and should also be in this list of Best Books; I just don’t want to give two spots to the same author. Hee.
- Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. Do I even need to describe how brilliantly twisted/twistedly brilliant this book was? It’s “WTF?!” in the best way possible. Such a ridiculously fun read. (They also did a stunning job with the movie adaptation!) (Read my full review)
- The Vigilante Poets of Selwyn Academy by Kate Hattemer. This is the last book I read in 2014 so I haven’t gotten the chance to order a physical copy yet, but you betcha I am buying one, because this book was so much fun. “Can’t even count how many times I legit laughed out loud because of this book. I sounded like a hyena.This is light YA the way I like it—youthful, witty, sharp, snarky, and stomach-achingly funny. (And with not much emphasis on romance. THANK YOU!) Plus: ART!!! (With emphasis on literature!) Fantastic characters! Secret missions! Tricolons! And a heroic gerbil! Need I say more?” (Read my full review)
- More light YA reads I enjoyed: Love and Other Perishable Items by Laura Buzo (gave this 4.5 stars, actually, super cute and one of my fave YA contemporaries), Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz (my heart was smiling when I finished this), To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han (v. cute light romance, and that pretty cover, man!)
- We Were Liars by E. Lockhart. Aw, shucks. This one. I get stressed just thinking about it. See… “BAM. The chapter of truth. Gunshot to the chest. And at 2:26 in the morning, I curled into a ball on my bed, suffocating. Actually gasping for breath. Scolding myself, ‘You wanted to know why? How? What happened? Well now you know. And you wish you didn’t.’ What a book.” (Read my full review)
- Landline by Rainbow Rowell. I’m going back and forth with this choice because the book’s protagonist was a little too problematic for me, and there’s really not a lot of plot, just Georgie being troubled over her marriage, which may or may not be in tatters, with a serving of a vintage telephone that may or not be magic on the side. But the chapter flashbacks on how her love story with Neal started… Guh. Kilig pls. Rainbow Rowell is excellent at making me feel like I want to be in love, if love is the way she writes it to be. So it’s earned a spot on this list, because feelz. (Read my full review)
- The Isle of Blood (Book 3 of The Monstrumologist series) by Rick Yancey. So, okay, this is inferior to the first two of the series, but it is still brilliant. Why isn’t The Monstrumologist more mainstream, though? It’s so good. SO. GOOD. So creeptastic and intelligent. And it will actually give you goosebumps. I swear. (Read my full review) Rick Yancey is another author that continues to amaze me; his prose is just brilliant, and he likes to go deep, like, existentially deep, with his writing, and I love it. Another of the best this year is his The Infinite Sea (Book 2 of The 5th Wave series) (Read my full review), although The 5th Wave (Book 1) was far better and definitely one of the stunners I’ve read in 2013. (I’m crossing my fingers for the movie.) But basically, yeah, these series and this author: highly recommended!
- Scarlet (Book 2 of The Lunar Chronicles) by Marissa Meyer. The Lunar Chronicles is a series I really didn’t expect to like but I’m now a fan of, and this book was the clincher. The books are each a scifi take on classic fairytales, and they’re actually quite unique and creative. Cinder (Book 1, a twist on Cinderella, obvs) was a little boring, but Scarlet (The Little Red Riding Hood, yep) was just sizzling and fun! (Read my full review) I’ve also already read the third book Cress and am v. v. excited for the final installment.
- Percy Jackson’s Greek Gods by Rick Riordan. This is mainly just here because I feel bad that I don’t have Uncle Rick on my list, when it’s been, like, five years now of his Percy Jackson books always being on my yearly favorites list. I have in fact five-starred his Heroes of Olympus releases in 2011, 2012, and 2013, respectively (The Mark of Athena and The House of Hades still blow my mind, honestly), so I was expecting an epic five-star finale for 2014 (especially knowing how amazing The Last Olympian, the original series‘s finale, was), but man, The Blood of Olympus was an epic disappointment. It’s a good thing he released Greek Gods in August, a retelling of the main Greek gods’s myths from Percy Jackson’s point of view, so I still got my Percy fix for the year. And it was still hilarious and fun. (Read my full review) (Percy is the POV Rick writes best in, and he’s clearly the fan favorite, so why Uncle Rick chose to release BoO without even a single chapter from Percy’s POV, and even kind of shoves him to the side, without closure from the torture he and Annabeth went through in Book 4, in what could be the last book of their adventures…it’s beyond me. Ugh. Still bitter about it.)
So. That’s it for this list! I guess I should add the little fun fact here that I’ve dipped my feet into adult historical romance books in 2014, and found that I liked em (or what I’ve read so far—the lighter ones). There’s nothing like chicklit and happily ever afters to make you temporarily forget about your own problems in life. (Escapism at its worst, lol.) Julia Quinn (her funny dialogue is the BEST) (try her The Bridgertons series), and Sarah MacLean (I enjoyed the first two books of The Rules of Scoundrels) are great; for contemporary, try Julie James (her FBI/U.S. Attorney series are pretty smart) and Susan Elizabeth Phillips (her The Chicago Stars series were a little on the dramatic side, but otherwise enjoyable). So now you know my recent guilty pleasures. Hahaha.
Anyway! For this year, I’m going for the 50 new reads + 50 re-reads goal again, but I am expecting a slower reading pace, what with work being crazy now and all. I’m also feeling a little tired of the young-adultness of my library, to be honest, so I’m hoping to try more of adult literature. And maybe more nonfiction and poetry. I just hope my frustratingly fragile heart can cooperate so I can tackle more ~serious~ and heavy novels again without crashing and burning. Sigh :3
Oh! I’m also in the middle of transferring my Goodreads reviews into a more organized Tumblr book review blog. I plan to finish bringing it up to date within this month, so watch out for that soonish!
Happy reading, guys! 🙂