Saturday, January 3, 2015

2014: My Year in Books

Well, it's that time of year again. Goodreads has been especially useful in helping me track the books that I've read this year. I didn't read quite as many as last year, but considering most of them were bonafide adult books this year, it's not too shabby a list.

This was a year that I really went through some books that I didn't feel like finishing too - but don't judge too harshly. I have come to find that I have far and away too many books on my to-read list to bother with things that don't interest me, or just aren't my thing. I give most of them a fair shake, but if I've tried and it doesn't hook me, I'm okay with letting it go. This is something I haven't been great at thus far, but I'm getting to that point where I'm alright with it. I'll explain why in the short synopsis.

  1. Wonder by R.J. Palacio
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    • Awesome - loved seeing different sides of the same story, the perspective in this really cinched it for me. 
  2. The Great Unexpected by Sharon Creech
    • Having loved Creech growing up, I was slightly disappointed. This was fine, but weird. Not in my typical love of weird. But weird.
  3. Insurgent by Veronica Roth
    • This was fine. Still wishing it was the Hunger Games...
  4. Keeping the Castle by Patrice Kindl
    • Great for young adult Jane Austen fans - fun and light reading. 
  5. Me Before You by Jojo Moyes 
    • First Jojo Moyes book and now I'm hooked. Great for fans who like moral dilemma in a British-Picoult kind of way, but a little more romance. Nothing gushy though, and I liked that. 
  6. The Last Letter from Your Lover by Jojo Moyes
    • Incredible love story spanning decades. Great sense of place. Obviously, I needed another of Moyes' right away.
  7. Allegiant by Veronica Roth
    • I am not allegiant to this series. Boring. Dull. Characters going totally against their character (here's to looking at you, Four). Also, Tris? I don't care. 
  8. Winger by Andrew Smith
    • Great for John Green fans - especially Looking for Alaska. Maybe a little too much, but still good for a boarding school book. 
  9. Thirteenth Child by Patricia C. Wrede
    • Alterate history of the west with DRAGONS and other magical beings. I was duped - this book turned out to be SO BORING and didn't do any of the cool things it could have done. None of my teens liked it for book club either. So disappointed - I loved her Enchanted Forest series growing up. 
  10. The Circle by Dave Eggers
    • Freaked me out that this is what our world is coming to, with Google and the Internet taking over our lives, and us just sheep letting it take all of our information. Still gives me chills.
  11. The Crane Wife by Patrick Ness
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    • Amazing - a beautiful retelling of a Japanese folk tale, this reminded me of Gaiman's American Gods, but had it's own unique style and telling. Gorgeous! Need more Ness now.
  12. Matched by Ally Condie (DNF)
    • Wanted to like it, but didn't, so I stopped. The main character bugged the bejesus out of me, and I wanted to throw her back down that stupid hill. 
  13. True Grit by Charles Portis (Big Read)
    • LOVED THIS. Funny western with a spunky girl main character who doesn't take crap from anyone. Love the new Coen Brothers film of it too - and the western theme was really fun for the Big Read.
  14. My Friend Dahmer by Derf Backderf (graphic novel)
    • Awesomely creepy illustrations bring this graphic novel of Jeffrey Dahmer's childhood to life, written by a guy who knew him in school. Whoa.
  15. Archetype by M.D. Waters
    • Ahh! I was so hooked on this. A little amnesia. Adult dystopian setting. Lots of action. Great characters. Not forced! Loved everything about it. 
  16. The Spellman Files by Lisa Lutz
    • Disappointed by this - thought it was supposed to be funnier, but it plodded along and nothing really happens. Liked the weird family, maybe the rest in the series have more plot? 
  17. Will & Whit by Laura Lee Gulledge (graphic novel)
    • Gotta love any graphic novel with Charlottesville places in them. Fun graphic novel - I think those that like Raina Telgemeier will like Gulledge too. 
  18. One Zentangle a Day by Beckah Krahula
    • I'm kind of obsessed with this art book. If you like doodling, it's totally for you. I checked it out a billion times before I realized that I should probably just buy it. So I did! I worked straight from page 1 to the end. 
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  19. Murder at the Vicarage by Agatha Christie (book group)
    • Started a book group and had to pick a mystery, which isn't really my genre. We picked this, and I'm really glad I did. She's iconic, and I'm glad I read this mystery. 
  20. The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion
    • Quirky guy with Asperger's seeks a wife. I don't think that anyone who really has Asperger's would really pull off most of what this guy does, but I still liked this book for it's eccentric characters, funny dialogue, and cute premise.
  21. The Wishing Thread by Lisa Van Allen
    • Tried to get my mom to tell me the end, but she wouldn't. I didn't like the book much, but needed to see where it went. Picked it up as a readalike for Sarah Addison Allen, but the writing is shoddier and very contrived. Wrapped up too cutely in the end, and I wish I had just left it. 
  22. The Girl in the Road by Monica Byrne (DNF)
    • Tried to read this but had absolutely no interest in it. I put it down - no regrets. 
  23. The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
    • Different than I thought it would be. It's my first Atwood, and I'm not sure I love her style, but maybe it takes getting used to. 
  24. This One Summer by Mariko Tamaki (graphic novel)
    • Very realistic adult graphic novel about a girl's summer. Seems like it should be young adult by the character's age, but it's adults who will connect more with the characters I think. 
  25. The Serpent of Venice by Christopher Moore (part audiobook)
    • AMAZING. Best thing I've read/heard all year, and so funny. I want more of this in my life. Also the audiobook is fantastic.
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  26. The Internet is a Playground by David Thorne
    • Mostly stories via ridiculous email exchanges - funny at first, but reading about what a huge arse this guy ran its course after awhile.
  27. I'll Go Home Then, It's Warm and Has Chairs, the Unpublished Emails by David Thorne
    • More of the same. 
  28. Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan
    • Loved this book. It's fun, fast-paced, it proves that the Internet is an awesome place (I do still believe this, even after The Circle) but that books still have something magical about them. It's the hijinks that make this book worth reading. 
  29. The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd
    • Great historical fiction - left me thinking for so long after, about slavery, about the abolitionist movement, and about the women's rights movement. Love stuff like that. Hetty's story was much more enthralling than Sarah's for me though - I guess you can make it that way with fictional characters.
  30. One Plus One by Jojo Moyes
    • More Jojo! I LOVED this one, maybe as much as Me Before You. I tend to love stories where people who don't like each other are stuck in the same vicinity for a while together. Those are always fun. 
  31. My Real Children by Jo Walton (DNF)
    • Great premise but UGHHH. If you made one decision and were able to live out both of the outcomes (think Gwyneth Paltrow in Sliding Doors, but old and now with dimensia in one body in a nursing home). I hated all of the people. I gave it a true effort, I really did. But after awhile, I was just like - you know, I really don't care about what happen to these people. 
  32. The Graveyard Book Volume 1 by P. Craig Russell (graphic adaptation of Gaiman's book)
    • Amazing adaptation by the designer, who coordinated all of the illustrators for each chapter beautifully. Woot! Made me want to re-listen to Gaiman reading it on audio.
  33. Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline
    • Another historical fiction that I loved. I liked hearing a side of history that almost never gets told, and Orphan Train does that. Kline does a great job of recreating this story, and tying it to a story in the present. Love when they do that. 
  34. Midnight Crossroad by Charlaine Harris (DNF)
    • Tried this first in a new series by Harris, but got bored. Blah.
  35. S.E.C.R.E.T. by L. Marie Adeline
    • Steamy! This is great erotica writing right here. A downtrodden woman finds a group that helps women to explore their sexuality through a series of steps. It's actually quite empowering, and was just my speed. 
  36. Flight Vol. 5 ed. by Kabu Kibuishi (graphic novel)
    • Short graphic novel stories that just take a few minutes to read. Perfect for lunchtime! Kibuishi always draws great illustrators into his anthologies.
  37. The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken
    • Picked this up because she graduated from William and Mary at the same time as me, and knows one of my good friends. I thought it would be silly, but reviews on Goodreads were phenomenal! This is great - futuristic world where a disease wipes out most children and leaves the rest with psychic powers - now adults are afraid and put them in camps. This is excellent, and the series is great for fans of Hunger Games and the like, especially since this is so much better than most of the copycats out there.
  38. One More Thing by B.J. Novak (DNF - audiobook)
    • I liked this at first, but got tired of it after awhile. Awesome actors read different stories, and I liked them a lot better than Novak's voice. But I do end up recalling these stories from time to time, so some of them really did stick. 
  39. Still Foolin' Em by Billy Crystal (DNF - audiobook)
    • Wanted to see what this was like. Crystal is funny, but not as funny as I thought he'd be, and his material is centered around aging to a point where I don't relate yet. Oh well. 
  40. Through the Woods by Emily Carroll (graphic novel)
    • The best graphic novel I've read this year. Delightfully creepy stories that were perfect around Halloween. They read like a mix of Grimm's fairy tales and urban legends. I loved it, and the art was FANTASTIC.
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  41. The Gunslinger (The Dark Tower #1) by Stephen King
    • So much raving over this series, but I just didn't like it. I was not at all invested in where they were going or why, and it all seemed like it was trying too hard to be vague, until the last chapter where the Man in Black pretty much describes the world and it gets all existential. Cheap way out, Mr. King. I mean, I know this was early on in your writing career, but jeez. 
  42. The Shape of Water by Andrea Camilleri (DNF)
    • Again, mysteries aren't normally my thing but I tried. I thought I'd like the setting, etc, but I got bored and never picked it back up. 
  43. Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
    • Surprised at how slow this was. It's definitely a first year at college, but nothing special for me really. I think she could have cut out a lot of the actual Simon Snow fan writing and cut back to the story.
  44. In the Woods by Tana French
    • Really liked this mystery - not your light and fluffy Miss Marple case that gets wrapped up neatly with a bow. Actually, that part was disappointing because neither of the cases in this really have good resolution, and the main character Ryan Adam becomes a complete dipshit. I liked him so much! And what about Cassie? Ugh. Boo. 
  45. What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty
    • Again, I LOVE amnesia books. I can't tell you why, but I do. Moriarty's style reminded me a little of Jojo Moyes, but Australian, so this was great fun for me. I didn't actually love Alice too much, but loved everyone else around her, so that worked for me, and I loved seeing how her life spun out around her. Awesome. 
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  46. First Frost by Sarah Addison Allen
    • Digital ARC of this let me delve back into the Waverley world before it was actually released. Win! This was fun - a fast, easy read that was very comfortably Sarah Addison Allen. It lacked something for me that the first one had, but it was still good over all. See the full review here
  47. Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James (DNF)
    • The writing stinks. Barring that, there were some parts that were sexy, but I was definitely not riveted. I had it checked out as an eBook for several weeks, and even renewed it. But once it expired, I let it go. I think I'll pick up the second in Adeline's S.E.C.R.E.T. series instead.... 
  48. The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin
    • Stellar. I loved this. The characters are amazing, and it moved at the perfect pace. I loved grumpy AJ and his adorable island bookstore. For some reason, when I think of readalikes I think of Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore, but it's really not. 
  49. Flora & Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo
    • Adorable story of a vacuumed squirrel who gains the ability to understand speech and loves to type on Flora's mother's typewriter. I love the kookiness of this story, and that Flora's homelife (or Flora herself) isn't cookie-cutter perfect. 
  50. Explorer: The Lost Islands ed. by Kabu Kibuishi (graphic novel)
    • Another great anthology of short graphic stories by Kibuishi - this time centered around the theme of lost islands. Great artists abound!
  51. The Truth is a Cave in the Black Mountains by Neil Gaiman (sort of graphic?)
    • A story that reads like an old Irish folktale, Gaiman really sells me on this. I liked the paintings that go along with it somewhat, but I hear that he read this out loud with music written specifically for this, and the powerpoint of the art played in the background. Now THAT'S how I'd like to experience this book on the next go-round.
  52. Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson
    • This is incredible. Woodson is amazing, and I really felt like her ability to tell her story through verse was exceptional, and actually more typical of how we really remember our own stories - with snippets of words, senses, and emotions. Gorgeous.
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  53. Just Draw It! by Sam Piyasena
    • I haven't drawn from it yet, but I pored over each page and each activity in this book. It's a great book of exercises to get back in the habit of drawing, which maybe I should set as  a goal for the new year.
  54. The Rock and the River by Kekla Magoon
    • A side of history I wasn't as familiar with. I wish we'd learned more about the Civil Rights Movement in school. This is 1968 Chicago after MLK is shot, and the Panthers are on the rise. 13-year-old Sam's father is a nonviolent activist, while his older brother, Stick, joins the Panthers, and Sam feels pulled in two directions as he struggles with who he wants to be. At times, I got frustrated with Sam's decisions - but those decisions also show his progression as a character. I also learned a lot about the Panthers I didn't know before, and that was also awesome. 

Feel free to share what you read this year in the comments below! If you'd like to stay up to date on the things I'm reading at any particular moment - check out my Goodreads page.

1 comment:

  1. Great synopses of all those books! Gives me lots of ideas for what to read next. And I completely agree about dropping a book that doesn't hold your interest. There are far too many books out there that I'll never be able to get to, to waste my limited reading time on something that doesn't do anything for me, After all, I'm reading for pleasure! It took me a while to accept that too, but it's very freeing! Happy 2015!