Saturday, January 17, 2015

My Favorite Books of 2014

My Favorite Books of 2014

I had a great reading year in 2014.  I read a total of 112 books!
Listed below are the books I hug and love and hold dear to my heart.

Adult Fiction
1.  The Ghost Bride by Yangsze Choo

This was the first book I read in 2014 and I loved it all year.  The Ghost Bride takes place in colonial Malaya in 1893.  Li Lan is 18, beautiful and the daughter of a bankrupt opium addict.  She has zero marriage prospects until her father is approached by the wealthy Lim family with a proposal. A proposal to marry their dead son and to become his ghost bride.
This book is AWESOME!

2. We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler

Don't read the back cover of this book or any reviews.  Just start reading it and by about page 75 you will be jolted out of your reading consciousness and be completely beside yourself.  My book club read this and we spent the ENTIRE two hours discussing this book.

3.  Parnassus on Wheels by Christopher Morley

This little novella is a gem. It was written in 1917 (hard to believe, I know) and I loved every sweet word. It is about Helen, a homemaker who has baked over 6000 loaves of bread in her lifetime and has impulsively decided to buy a traveling bookshop called Parnassus and have a little adventure. Helen while on her great adventure, finds herself and the purpose of her life on the open road, selling books to farmers. LOVED IT.
4.  Vacationland by Sarah Stonich

Stonich will dazzle you with her storytelling skills. As a reader you will discover that Stonich is a great writer that is descriptive and crafts her sentences with precision. Each word seems carefully chosen and placed. Sarah Stonich deserves a prize for Vacationland to hang on her wall with the deer antlers because this book is stunning.
I laughed and I cried and discovered I don't want to go home, I want to live in Vacationland forever.

5. The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd

Based on the Grimke sisters who risked, life, love and family to travel around the world teaching about Abolition and women's rights in the 1830's.   Hetty (Sarah's slave when she was a child) also has a strong voice in the novel as each of the women come to take control of their lives. POWERFUL!

6. The Martian by Andy Weir

This book is seriously super awesome! It easily made my top favorite reads of 2014.
I give it 5 stars with all ten of my fingers pointed straight to Mars. Mark Watney is a cool character. He taught me survival skills, ingenuity, botany, chemistry, engineering, technology, space speak and so much more. This is a character to admire and he is like the Energizer Bunny, so full of energy and ingenuity that the reader is constantly kept on the edge waiting to see if Mark will survive the latest turn of events. Quite simply, The Martian is a page turning thrill ride in outer space. I have never read anything like it.

Audio Books
I listened to 15 audio books this year and many, many podcasts.
My favorite audio books of 2014

1.  On Writing by Stephen King

Loved this memoir on the craft of writing. Stephen King narrates the audiobook version and it was supercool to hear him read his own book. On Writing chronicles how King came up with many of the story ideas for his iconic books as well as great writing advice for anyone who wants to enter the field. Even if you don't want to be a writer, anyone who likes King's books would benefit from this memoir. I thought the writing advice was valuable even though he wrote this book 14 years ago now.

2.  Rotters by Daniel Kraus

This audio book was creepy and dark and darn good.  The narrator has amazing skills and was able to transform the landscape of my drive home with stories of grave robbing and school yard bullies.

3.  Leaving Time by Jodi Picoult

I love this book. I listened on audio and couldn't wait to get in my car to listen or clean the house with my head phones on. This is a great book about love, grief, motherhood, spirit and elephants. I loved learning about the elephants and I listened on audio to The Elephant Whisperer this year as well and Picoult references this book in Leaving Time. I enjoyed so many aspects of this book. Well written and narrated by multiple narrators. I'm gushing and raving. This may be my favorite Picoult book.

I read 4 Ebooks in 2014 and many others I started reading as an Ebook but finished in paper.  Ultimately paper books are my first choice.  I love real, physical books. So, out of the four I read completely on my Ipad or phone, I chose this one as my favorite.

My favorite Ebook of 2014

Burial Rites by Hannah Kent

Burial Rites is based on the story of Agnes Magnúsdóttir, the last person executed in Iceland.  This book captures the sad, misunderstood story of Agnes and the harsh landscape of Iceland.  Historical fiction at its finest.  Highly recommend.

Graphic Novels

I read 20 Graphic novels in 2014.  I Love Graphic Novels.
My two favorites of 2014

1.  March. Book One by John Lewis

March is a powerful graphic novel on the early life of Civil and Human Rights Activist and current Georgian congressman, John Lewis. This memoir begins with John's childhood growing up on a farm in rural, Alabama. His job was to tend to the chickens. He wanted to be a preacher and the chickens were his first congregation. Right away he started to protest the treatment of his chickens and as they became food for dinner, he refused to eat.

2.  My Friend Dahmer by Derf Backderf

Backderf grew up with Jeffrey Dahmer and was his friend.  This book describes their high school years and Dahmer's descent into madness.  Wonderfully drawn and told, it gives you a lot to think about, like what if a teacher or another adult in Dahmer's life noticed his troubled life and reached out and helped him.  Would history have been different?

Young Adult

I love YA and I'm not sure how many YA novels I read in 2014 but it was not enough, that is for sure.  Here are my favorites of 2014.

1.  The Fifth Wave by Rick Yancey

The 1st wave is Lights Out. Goodbye electricity and anything battery operated.
The 2nd wave is Surf's Up. A giant wave takes out the coasts and all the people who live there.
The 3rd wave is a Pestilence and disease spreads like wildfire. No family is untouched.
The 4th wave is a Silencer. A silencer is a sharpshooter who shoots to kill.
The 5th Wave is what you least expect.
It is action packed, full of courageous characters in the midst of an alien attack. You won't know what hit you and that is just what the aliens want.

2.  Brooklyn, Burning by Steve Brezenoff

The story is narrated by Kid whose gender is undefined, in fact for both Kid and Scout, you don't know whether they are boy or girl, gay or straight. Brooklyn, Burning is written without pronouns for the main characters. It is an interesting way to read a novel and I loved it. I love how Brezenoff experiments with gender and makes a statement about love and transcendance. At its heart Brooklyn, Burning is a love story. Yet this love story makes you think about gender stereotypes and how teens and people define themselves.

3.  If You Find Me by Emily Murdoch

I devoured this book in one sitting.  I just loved everything about it.  I loved the language and writing style Murdoch uses, I loved the characters, the setting (the Hundred-Acres Wood), the love story, the survivor story.  I was just sucked into the story and could not let go of the book.  I cried, I smiled, and I cringed.  I even tweeted the author.  I felt such a communion with these characters and their story.  It was healing for me.

Quote:  “I answer her with my silence, understanding the full power of it for the first time. Words are weapons. Weapons are powerful. So are unsaid words. So are unused weapons.”

4. Split by Swati Avasthi

The storyline of Split is unique because many stories deal with abuse but not many deal with what happens after you get out. Split starts the day Jace gets out. Split is a page turning, nail biting, amazing first novel. It is raw and edgy and gripping to the very last page.

5.  The Shadow of Blackbirds by Cat Winters

In the Shadow of Blackbirds takes place in 1918.  1918 is a momentous year, it is the last year of World War I, and the Spanish Influenza is killing more people worldwide than the war.  People are living in grief and no family is untouched by the war or the flu epidemic.  Spiritualism and having a seance is all the rage because people want evidence their loved ones are on the other side and that their is a reason for all the madness.
The main character is named Mary Shelley Black after the author of Frankenstein.  She is 16 and doesn't believe in ghosts or spirits until her true love joins the war and ends up dying.
This is a awesome, page turning ghost story and historical novel about WWI and the flu epidemic.
Very enjoyable and creepy at the same time.

There it is. All my favorites in one place.  What were your favorites from 2014?  Have you read any of the books on my favorites list yet??  Give one of them a try.

Happy Reading.