Friday, December 26, 2014

2014 Books

I haven't  been doing a hell of a lot of writing this year, so obviously my goal of posting more regularly on this blog went out the window months ago. I've decided to overcompensate by taking advantage of some free time now in these last few days of 2014 and just sharing a bunch of lists about what I've been loving.

While writing my post with thoughts on movies, I noticed that a lot of the ones I saw this year were based on books I had read. And it really hit home that I spent quite a bit of my free time in 2014 reading not just magazines and things on the internet, but actual books, many of them digitized. The following are my some of my thoughts on what I read this year. Not everything was released in 2014, but they were new to me. :) I've put my favorites in bold.

  • Yes Please by Amy Poehler - I love books by funny ladies, and this did not disappoint.
  • Landline by Rainbow Rowell - I enjoyed this quirky and insightful book about a long-term relationship, a magic phone, and pugs.
  • Outlander, Dragonfly in Amber, Voyager, Drums of Autumn, The Fiery Cross, A Breath of Snow and Ashes, An Echo in the Bone, and Written in My Own Heart's Blood - all by Diana Gabaldon. Before the TV series started, I decided I wanted to read the first book in the Outlander series, since it had been recommended to me before. Well, once I started, I could not stop, and I think I basically spent the summer reading about the adventures of Claire and Jaime. Reading all the books back-to-back meant I skipped over the "previously on Outlander" recaps Ms. Gabaldon puts in the books to help readers remember all the soap opera plot points from previous books, but even so, those books are looooooooooong. I enjoyed the first few more than the later books, mostly because as the cast of characters grows, the focus shifts away from the main duo a bit, and I don't much care for all of the supporting characters. If you enjoy historical romances, I would definitely recommend.
  • The Beginning of Everything by Robyn Schneider- this was a "if you love this, you'll like this" book recommendation, and I have to say I think the algorithm was a bit off here. I mean, I love a good coming-of-age novel, but this one didn't really grab me like some of the others I read this year. It was fine, some interesting characters, some dark humor, but not really a thumbs up for me. I think I have a minority opinion here though, because a lot of people seem to love it.
  • Boy Proof by Cecil Castellucci - boy, did I relate to Egg. This book really nailed what's it's like to be a teenager, at least for me. The whole pretending you don't care about fitting in but secretly wishing you did, the awkwardness and false bravado. Really liked it.
  • Kindred by Octavia Butler - I don't know why I had not heard of this book or Octavia Butler before this year, but boy do I feel dumb for not having jumped on the bandwagon sooner. Powerful and of several books I read this year than really stuck with me.
  • We Were Liars by E. Lockhart - this one also stuck with me, and I have been recommending it to basically anyone and everyone. This story about a girl from a wealthy family trying to piece her memories back after a mysterious accident 2 years ago is twisty and beautiful. 
  • Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity by Katherine Boo - heartbreaking, smart, and with more drama than a soap opera, only it's nonfiction.
  • Hold Still by Nina LaCour - another book that stuck with me. This story of a teen girl trying to cope after the suicide of her best friend feels so honest and raw and it was just lovely. Warning: tears will be shed.
  • Mad World: An Oral History of New Wave Artists and Songs That Defined the 1980s by Lori Majewski and Jonathan Bernstein. Reading it helped inspire this post, so yeah, I enjoyed it. (The book's website has some great 80s "mixtapes" which I recommend, if you like 80s New Wave.)
  • Where She Went by Gayle Forman - the follow-up to If I Stay, a book I enjoyed which was made into a movie I have not yet seen. It was sweet.
  • Shades of Grey by Jasper Fforde - the latest in my dystopian future young adult reads. I liked it, but it didn't hook me as much as others I've read in the genre.
  • Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell - I got to see Rainbow Rowell in person earlier this year, and I feel we could be friends. Maybe part of it is that she writes characters I feel I could be friends with. This sweet coming-of-age story (the second Rowell book on this list) about a college freshman obsessed with fan fiction completely charmed me. (My favorite Rainbow Rowell book remains Eleanor and Park.)
  • Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler  - a book about the end of a first love. I enjoyed the narration technique, and saw some of my old high school friends in characters. I liked it.
  • Winter's Tale by Mark Helprin - I hated this book and its meandering story. Is there some meaning of life crap crammed in somewhere between stories of ladies with magic fevers, seemingly immortal weirdos, and flying horses? Again, I think I'm in a minority because a lot of people seem to love it, but I seriously tossed it aside with a loud "UGH" when I finished it. Basically, I have concluded that I only enjoy magic realism written in Spanish.
  • The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern - wait, I take it back. I do enjoy some magic realism in English. This book lost points at the end, but overall, the magic in this one worked for me. (Maybe because it involved magicians and not people whose mystical powers only manifest in the snow, or some crap like that. I really hated Winter's Tale guys. And I hear the movie is even worse.)
  • How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff - more young adult dystopian future! I've really read a lot of this stuff, but surprisingly only 2 this year. This one was made into a movie I did not care for much. I did like the book, even if the romance between cousins thing kind of grossed me out.
I'm probably forgetting something - I did read quite a bit this year, but I didn't keep a good tab of it. I'm pretty sure there are some older books I'm forgetting, but perhaps I'll write more at some other time.

Any books you've read this year that you would recommend? Have a differing opinion than me on any of the above? Please, do share! I'm always looking for new book recommendations. Except if you loved Winter's Tale - I might have to take that recommendation with a grain of salt. ;)


  1. Thanks for the list, Jeanne! Of these I have only read Outlander (LOVED), Dragonfly in Amber (quite liked), and Night Circus (LOVED). I really like Jasper Fforde but have only read a couple of his books. I think I tend toward your taste in books, (I believe the only exception is Time Traveller's Wife), so these are great recommendations and not-recommendations!

    1. Well, now I have some more Jasper Fforde to read. :) When you have the time to read any of these Lisa, let me know!