Best Books of 2014

Books due out in 2015 (but read in 2014)

I Was Here by Gayle Forman

Another one of those books you devour in an afternoon that really does make you ‘feel all the feels’, to borrow a ‘net saying.A novel of those left behind when someone commits suicide, this is set after a college-aged Meg takes her own life. What this novel does fantastically well is present people in a very well-rounded manner and it seems to handle suicide in a very careful, good manner.

What I really appreciated in this novel is the protagonist – the friend who was left behind – doesn’t always have nice thoughts. The characters were refreshing even though this TA plot has been done and done and done before.

Mr. Kiss and Tell (Veronica Mars #2) by Rob Thomas and Jennifer Graham

This continues after the movie left off, and the first book – running mostly back to back, so I would suggest this book is better suited to those who’ve followed the series and got their hands on everything so far. Which probably means regardless, you’ll enjoy the book if you’re a devoted fan.

As always, Veronica puts herself in danger, has some angst with Logan, solves some crime by being an excellent female, capable lead, and as stated earlier, interacts with all of favourite characters which makes this simply a nice, reminiscing read. The authors have done well by their fans giving us new content of the characters we know and love and really, what more can we ask than that? The writing is also excellent, which is a bonus – not always something we get with fandom tie-in books.

Books read and published in 2014

Choose Your Own Autobiography by Neil Patrick Harris

First I had this on my eReader but it simply can’t be read easily electronically – not if you want to ensure you’ve read the whole book, in any case. I was on holiday at the time it came out, so it wasn’t too hard to treat myself to a print version also.

This was a lot of fun to read – I enjoy NPH’s work, and I do like reading autobiographies (kinda my book-snob version of reading tabloids in a way I guess?) and I do love the way he presented this – choose your own adventure with a few little surprises tucked away between the chapters. Well written, interesting and highly recommended.

A Darker Shade of Magic SAMPLE by V.E. Schwab

So the sample came out in 2014 so it’s placed down here, as I haven’t got my hands on a copy of the actual book, sadly. Thankfully, it’s coming out very soon so I don’t have long to wait for this magnificent piece of work! How does Schwab manage to only get better and better with each book?

This is going to be so excellent (having read the first 130 pages we received in the preview) and I can’t wait for the actual book to arrive. Kell, Holland, Lila – it’s going to be impossible to choose a favourite character!

Drowned Vanilla (Café La Femme, #2) by Livia Day

I’m getting to be a bit spoilt helping out my publisher friends – I got to read this a few days early as a final proof while at a convention. I read the whole thing on my phone in pdf format, squinting and loving every damn minute. (And then I got to help code the ebook version which wasn’t as fun as I usually did it while hungry, and only got more hungry while doing so! I have heaps of respect for people who create ebooks now. Coding takes ages!)

But enough about all this – this is such a fabulous and fun book. We have a sassy cafe owner who happens to find herself in the perfect position to solve crimes. It helps she has crazy-excellent friends and a kinda-boyfriend who works for the police. Throughout the novel you get mouth-watering recipes and the dialogue and witty narrative are just to die for.

Fool’s Assassin (The Fitz and The Fool Trilogy #1) by Robin Hobb

This one was listed for review on NetGalley, but not for my country. I requested it anyway and crossed my fingers… then shrieked, literally (quietly, I hope) in my hotel room when I woke up to find I’d been approved. I was at the CBCA judging conference and begged my awesome boss/mentor/friend Tehani to let me leach some of her wifi to get it on my kindle. Out of books I got to read early, this has to be the best one of the lot.

It’s SO awesome to have Fitz and the Fool back with us, and what a heart-breaking novel it was too. How Hobb puts out epic books so quickly I have no idea, I’m just so thankful we don’t have overly long to wait until the second book comes out.

H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald

This is a special book, as Helen is a friend of mine. It’s doing exceptionally well and won The Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-Fiction and is on allll these recommended lists and Helen’s going everywhere for book events and aaaahh it’s so cool!

It feels a bit rude to be so flaily over such a sad and serious book though. It’s about how she dealt with the death of her father – by buying a goshawk. She’s raised, trained and handled birds of prey throughout her life but a goshawk are the most violent and difficult… so throughout the novel we read of her grief and of Mabel, and she also includes information on the author TH White, known for his books based on Arthurian legend – for he also tried to train hawks and was part of her childhood obsession.

This is a beautifully written book, and so vivid for me as Helen’s shown us around the college grounds in Cambridge where she used to fly Mabel (among other things referenced) and I’m just so glad her book is doing so well!

I Am Juliet by Jackie French

I’ll always love Jackie’s writing, no matter what she does. Romeo and Juliet isn’t my favourite piece of Shakespeare, but I loved what she did with this novel, giving Juliet a voice that fits in quite well with everything canon around it.

As always, it ties in a few different streams of consciousness (a young man who has to play the role of Juliet a very long time ago) and although it sounds disjointed, Jackie manages to make it all work well together.

Kaleidoscope: Diverse YA Science Fiction and Fantasy Anthology edited by Alisa Krasnostein and Julia Rios

Kaleidoscope is an anthology of diverse contemporary YA fantasy and science fiction stories that are  fun, edgy, meditative, and feature diverse leads. These twenty original stories tell of scary futures, magical adventures, and the joys and heartbreaks of teenage life.

This anthology is going to win all the awards so just you wait until nominating for the Hugos begins!

To Love a Sunburnt Country (The Matilda Saga #4) by Jackie French

This book was incredibly lovely and sad at the same time, set in Australia and Malay at the time of the war, showing members of a very large, sprawling family that we’ve seen through the generations in previous books in this series, and how the war has affected (effected? I never know which to use!) them in particular. I love the remote places Jackie mentions through this novel. She was so excellent when she came to our little town to give workshops and book talks, and has only cemented the fact she is one of my favourite authors of all time. She gave me great joy as a kid with ‘Somewhere Around the Corner’, and still does the same as I get increasingly closer to my 30s. Jackie’s books are special.

Moriarty (Sherlock Holmes #2) by Anthony Horowitz

Moriarty opens from the view if a man known as Frederick Chase, a senior investigator from America from a firm known as Pinkertons. He has come to Reichenbach for reasons fans will know well, and it’s here that he meets a fellow from Scotland Yard – Athelney Jones – an ardent fan of Sherlock Holmes who is becoming quite an excellent member of the police thanks to his faithful learning of our favourite detective.

This was such a dang good novel – highly recommended for anyone who likes any Sherlock Holmes stuff. While this doesn’t really focus on Sherlock and John, it’s so well done and that ending – my goodness, I wanted to throw things.

Phantazein edited by Tehani Wessely

From the very first piece in this anthology I was swept away. This is a collection of wonderous fantasy, the kind that don’t always have a happy ending… Prepare to expect the unexpected as several of the tales take a sudden turn that even the most voracious of readers shan’t be able to expect.

This is one of FableCroft’s best anthologies to date, and I don’t say that lightly. Get it now!

The Protected by Claire Zorn

I instantly snatched this book up from the bookstore as soon as it was available. When I was a judge for the Children’s Book Council I discovered Claire Zorn through her book ‘The Sky so Heavy‘, which did damn well in the awards. Quite different from her last, this book follows a young girl who gets bullied in school, and is utterly realistic in every way. When her sister dies the bullying stops, but it doesn’t mean her life is instantly okay.

What I loved about this book was that the sister wasn’t exactly nice. This plot is quite common, but the sister was always so perfect in every way and missed terribly by everyone… and in this, she was just a typical older sister who’s just as desperate as any other teen to be accepted by her peers. Very, very well written. I’m not a CBCA judge this year, but I expect it to do very well.

Seven Days of Joyeux by Tansy Rayner Roberts

Tansy is currently writing Musketeer Space, a web serial novel where a chapter is released most Wednesdays. We’re now just on halfway and the patreons raised enough money for a Christmas special! Originally we were promised a short story and then suddenly we get a 100+ page novella! It really is Christmas!

This is so much fun, and is an excellent sampler of Tansy’s work you can have a look through before you get hooked and start reading along. Who can resist a gender-bent version of The Three Musketeers? Tansy’s been one of my favourite authors for years now and her work is only getting more and more awesome.

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

‘Station Eleven’ by Emily St. John Mandel is easily one of the best books I’ve read this year, and for the past few years. Split across different timelines, we see Toronto as disaster strikes, as well as the lives of the characters involved well before this incredible time, as well as the aftermath, and then also 20 years afterwards. Much like Nancy Kress’s ‘After the Fall, Before the Fall, During the Fall’ (also brilliant), but Station Eleven mixes it up and takes you here, there and everywhere in perfect balance – at no time do you sigh when there’s a change and think ‘Nooo, I want to keep reading about that character, then!’, instead of you ‘Ahh, excellent!’ This seems to be a hard thing to pull off, and yet Mandel achieves it triumphantly.

This book takes the almost-overdone dystopian plot, but presents it in a literature sense – this is a beautifully written novel, and I would love to see more, whether it’s novellas or even more novels continuing on, or filling the gaps. I’ll surely be keeping an eye out for Mandel’s other books in the future.

The Silkworm (Cormoran Strike #2) by Robert Galbraith

This was just as, if not more, enjoyable than the first. What I love most about Galbraith/Rowling’s writing is that it’s warm. It’s comforting. You see London through Strike’s eyes, for how lovely it is in parts but also how cold and relentless. She does an amazing job at capturing different characters so easily, as well as describing what life is like for Strike with his prosthesis. Now, where is the third book and can I have it now, please?

Also, I know it’s not how he’s described in the novel, but Idris Elba for the main character, please! Maybe it’s all the Luther I’ve been watching but I think he’d be perfect. If he has time now he’s totally going to be the next Bond.

The Unbound (The Archived #2) by Victoria Schwab

This is possibly even better than the first. I’m a sucker for books that include academy-style schools, and it has the bonus of showing more of the world and its ‘magic’ system. And the characters. These are characters you just want to yell at (though I won’t say why, for the sake of spoilers.)

I’m so eager for a third book in this series, but everything else Schwab is doing is just as good so I don’t quite mind much when there’s another book coming out instead!

Words of Radiance (The Stormlight Archive #2) by Brandon Sanderson

This was a book that took me a damn long time to read for some reason, even though I loved every darn bit about it. There was so much more of Shallan in this book which pleased me, even if other plot points broke my heart. The world and the magic system only get bigger and brighter in this addition to the series, and the very last chapter? SUCH a reveal and yet now I must curse Sanderson because I have no idea how I’m going to wait until the third book. But again, his other books that come out are just as good, so it’s not too bad having to wait!

Yoko’s Diary by Paul Ham

This was a book shortlisted in a part of the CBCA judging I wasn’t part of, so we’ve received copies to do our judges talks, but I wasn’t actually part of the judging committee. Which I think means I can say personally I loved it. It’s the actual diary of a girl who was 12/13 in 1945 during the war, then the journal abruptly stops on the 5th August, as the nuclear bomb took out Hiroshima, where she was working to clear rubble very close to where the bomb hit. The book also contains recounts of people who knew her, and was put together by her brother. It’s a very humbling book, and very interesting to see what life was like in Japan, during that time, from her eyes.

Books read in 2014 (yet published earlier)

Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians (Alcatraz #1) by Brandon Sanderson

Yet another book I’ve been meaning to read since I fell in love with Sanderon’s books, and then the lovely Sam gifted me a copy when I took too long to read it! And now that I have, I’m kicking myself that I took so long! No one should let the fact this is middle grade delay why you would read it – the voice Alcatraz has is witty as he speaks directly to the reader, and the joy in this book – how zany and odd it all is – makes it such a joy to read. Honestly, if you haven’t read it yet but you’re a Sanderson fan – GO AND READ IT!

Battle Royale by Koushun Takami

Another book I’ve been meaning to read for countless years. It was even better than I was expecting. I read most but not all of the manga series, but other than that I haven’t seen anything else from the countless adaptions/versions out there (such as the tv show/movies etc). The book wasn’t as disturbing as I thought it would be, and I loved how it focused more on the Japanese psyche as well as the ideas of nationalisism (or is it patriotism?) and the Government’s force/influence. It was fascinating.

Bridget Jones’s Diary by Helen Fielding

I meant to read this back in year 12 (ten years ago now, my goodness) for my ‘compare two texts’ study (but then instead went with ‘My Brilliant Career’ compared with ‘Looking for Alibrandi’. I have to say, I was surprised by how much I loved this, seeing as I’ve always snobbily avoided chick lit (which is unfair of me, anything can be well written!) I loved the characters in this, and it was really quite fun!

It was also quite fun with how it was set out with the things she measured throughout her life (wine intake, her weight and measurements, etc)…

The Cloud Roads (The Books of the Raksura #1) by Martha Wells

This was a gift from the lovely Tehani and the best boss I have – out of five, that’s saying a lot! – when she read it and loved it so much she started nudging others into reading it asap. It was EXCELLENT and I can’t wait to read the rest of the series. I love how the characters had serious thought put into them, and how there’s a range of sexual orientations yet no big deal is made of it – this is just natural and accepted and it’s such a relief.

Dangerous Girls by Abigail Haas

This was read in an afternoon – I just couldn’t put it down, even when I really should have. At the time of reading I was recovering from minor surgery which has made it hard to stare at screens or concentrate on anything other than podcasts in a dark room… but this book demanded to be finished, so I decided the headache was entirely worth it!

Just like ‘We Were Liars’ by E. Lockhart, this book leaves you wondering until it punches you in the stomach with the conclusion. The characters and plot are compelling throughout, and it jumps around from varying degrees in the past to the present which keeps you right on the edge of your seat. Fantastic!

Debris (The Veiled Worlds #1) by Jo Anderton

Jo is so lovely in person and I love alllll her work – just you wait until you can see what she currently has brewing, I got to beta read and wow-za! I really enjoyed this once I got into it and the rest of the series is just as good. It’s really accessible science fiction, and has fantastic world and magic building within.

The F- It List by Julie Halpern

This was a book read for fun – a strange thing this year! I noticed that both Sam and River had it marked on goodreads as five stars each, and as our tastes often align I wasn’t surprised when I loved the book. This is another young adult book that perfectly captures how teenagers talk to each other and interact. It caught the depth of feeling you have when you feel lost or like you’ve lost control of your own life.

Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes

This was picked as my genre book of the month – a classic novel in May. This was a book I’ve been meaning to read for 10+ years if not longer, but kept putting it off… only to kick myself when I finally read it, because it was utterly fantastic. Loved every page, though it was so tragic.

The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker

This is the book that’s lasted with me throughout the year. I keep on gifting it to others as the chance comes up, and I can’t recommend it highly enough, even though it’s a bit hard to describe. It’s about a Golem and a Jinni (no, really?) who come to New York at the time of heavy immigration, and shows them trying to find their place among the humans. It’s such a beautifully achieved book, the kind you wish you could read for the first time again and again.

Havenstar by Glenda Larke

This was Glenda’s first novel, released in 1999 and then falling fate to the closing of the publisher. She re-released it herself on smashwords in 2012, editing it up a bit and such. It follows a young woman (Keris) who lives in a world where religion rules strictly, everything has an Order, and to go against the Order is to bring chaos and suffering and simply isn’t done. So she’s supposed to wear skirts, can only do certain trades, and is expected to marry and do good.

So clearly this is going to be an excellent book of misrule and adventure. Keris is an excellent protagonist and all the other characters are wonderful and varied and interesting. Glenda’s work is always character-driven (my favourite!) and the world-building in this is also astounding.

The Near Witch (The Near Witch #1) by Victoria Schwab

Children are disappearing in the town, along at the same time as a mysterious boy appears. The townspeople are harsh and desperate and acting towards completely the wrong thing, so it’s up to young Lexi to ensure the right thing happens, possibly to save a life.

I love Schwab’s work, and this was just as excellent as her others. A very beautiful book that I heartily recommend to Juliet Marillier fans in particular. Once I’d read this, I’ve now devoured everything Schwab has out and now I’m waiting eagerly for more.

Nexus (Nexus #1) by Ramez Naam

Mindjacking – the ability to read another’s mind and, if you want to, force them to move and speak as you wish. This is an exciting, past-paced novel that follows a young scientist who is caught improving Nexus, who then finds himself thrown into a world of danger and international espionage – for there is far more at stake than anyone realises.

This was engaging and fun and I really hope the rest of the series is just as good. It is a bit problematic with a few dating issues when they explore what Nexus is capable of, but at least it’s realistic I suppose.

Night by Elie Wiesel

Like most people out there, I’ve read Anne Frank’s Diary, though I’m unsure whether at the time it was only possible to get the edited version her father changed… but even Anne Frank’s diary pales in what it describes compared to this. Though short at a little over 100 pages, it’s a powerful window into what life was like in concentration camps at Auschwitz and Buchenwald during 1944–1945.

The Raven Boys (The Raven Cycle #1) by Maggie Stiefvater

I’m so glad I finally read this – once I picked it up, it was devoured within a few hours and now I want to throw aside everything else and finish off the series. If nothing else, it’ll help me get a whole lot of other books done that I need to read for reviewing and judging so I can get back into the rest of this series! Gaaansey!

Sabriel (Abhorsen #1) by Garth Nix

This was another book I’ve owned for over ten years, but never got around to reading. Another fantastic book I’m kicking myself for not having read earlier! My book-buddy-Bethwyn joined me co-reading spree and we flailed about it as we went, updating each other to what chapter we were at. It helps we read at pretty much the same speed. We quickly devoured the whole series and now we’re ready to judge the new fourth book that’s just come out – excellent holiday reading to be had!

Seer of Sevenwaters (Sevenwaters #5) by Juliet Marillier

Oh how I wish I’d read these books in order! You don’t need to, but I really should. This was an excellent book, just like her others, and I can’t wait to read the one remaining book in this series that I haven’t yet had time to. Ah well. One day soon, I hope. The characters in this one were oh so stunning, and I wish there was a follow up of the same characters, two or three years later.

When We Wake (When We Wake #1) by Karen Healey

This is a book I bought as soon as we were released from our judges conference. What a fantastic book! Dystopian set in Melbourne, Australia. Excellent characters who have a wide range of believable skills, who you really come to care for. I read this book so damn fast because I just couldn’t put it down. The second book is almost-nearly as good as the first, and I’m so damn eager for the third. If there’s going to be a third. There better be!

Wildlife by Fiona Wood

Look at all the awards this won! And oh so worthy – this is easily one of my favourite books of all time and is kinda the second book in a series – Six Impossible Things has a few of the same characters that are present in this one, but otherwise aren’t really connected and both can be read separately. But they’re both excellent, so get them anyway!

Boarding for a term in the wilderness, sixteen-year-old Sibylla expects the gruesome outdoor education program – but friendship complications, and love that goes wrong? They’re extra-curricula.

Enter Lou from Six Impossible Things – the reluctant new girl for this term in the great outdoors. Fragile behind an implacable mask, she is grieving a death that occurred almost a year ago.

Fiona Wood handles teenage characters SO well. Everything was so spot on and written magnificently that it’s a joy to read. Seriously. Get them both.

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