Tuesday, December 30, 2014

My 10 Favourite Books of 2014

I was initially going to call this my "best books of 2014" post, but since what constitutes "best" differs depending on the reader I've instead chosen to focus attention on the ten books that made the biggest impression on me in 2014. Given I was in a review funk for the last half of the year, I've only reviewed six of the ten books on my list (click on the titles to link to the reviews).

(1) The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell (2014 - Contemporary Literature/Fantasy). Not having read Mitchell's previous novels, I wasn't sure what to expect from this one.  Well-written with a great cast of characters, I was disappointed that the book had to end.

(2) Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel (2014 - Dystopian). This is a beautifully written tale of survival in the aftermath of a global pandemic.

(3) The Lost Sisterhood by Anne Fortier (2014 - Historical Fiction/Time Slip). Successfully blending history and myth into a fast-paced tale, Fortier has delivered a winner with The Lost Sisterhood. The focus of this book is the origins of the legendary Amazons.

(4) Daughter of the Gods by Stephanie Thornton (2014 - Historical Fiction). Stephanie Thornton is quickly becoming one of my favourite historical novelists. Daughter of the Gods tells the story of Egyptian royal Hatshepsut.

(5) The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennet by Bernie Su and Kate Rorick (2014 - Modern Day Jane Austen Re-Telling). I loved everything about this modern-day retelling of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, and think any fan of Austen would too.

(6) A House in the Sky by Amanda Lindhout and Sara Corbett (2013 - Memoir). This is a beautifully written memoir conveying Lindhout's fifteen months held in captivity in Somalia. Although Lindhout endured horrendous abuse at the hands of her captors, making this book difficult to read at times, she managed to hold on to the hope that she would be freed.

(7) The Iron King by Maurice Druon (2013 re-issue - Historical Fiction). Druon's Accursed King's series of historical novels, set in the French Court during the 13th and 14th centuries, has been called "the original game of thrones" by George R.R. Martin.  The Iron King is the first novel in the seven book series.

(8) The Harlot's Tale by Sam Thomas (2014 - Historical Mystery). This follow-up to Thomas' debut, The Midwife's Tale (which made my list of 2013 favourite reads) is every bit as good as its predecessor. Bridget Hodgson is an engaging heroine and the mystery is a good one.

(9) Traitor's Blade by Sebastien De Castell (2014 - Fantasy). This is the first book in a new fantasy series. The characters are great, and I love the world De Castell has created. I can't wait for the next book.

(10) The Truth About the Harry Quebert Affair by Joel Dicker (2014 - Mystery). Fabulously told murder mystery that left me guessing about the identify of the perpetrator until the very end.

What were your favourite books from 2014?

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Sunday, December 28, 2014

2014 End of Year Book Survey

Jamie over at the Perpetual Page Turner is once again hosting the End of Year Book Survey.  I participated in the Survey last year, and it is my favourite of the various ways bloggers share thoughts on their favourite (or least favourite) books and characters of the year. 

1. Best Book You Read In 2014?

The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell. This was the first of Mitchell's books I've had the pleasure of reading. I loved the writing, the characters, and the story.

2. Book You Were Excited About & Thought You Were Going To Love More But Didn’t?

The Rosie Effect by Graeme Simsion.  I really enjoyed Simsion's first novel, The Rosie Project, and eagerly awaited its sequel. While The Rosie Effect had some funny moments, and Don Tillman remains a favourite fiction character of mine, it did not live up to my expectations.

3. Most surprising (in a good way or bad way) book you read in 2014? 

Station Eleven by Emily St John Mandel. I picked this one up based on all the buzz surrounding it. I, however, don't often get along with highly touted books. I was pleasantly surprised by this one, and it will definitely make my list of Top 10 Books I Read in 2014.

4. Book You “Pushed” The Most People To Read (And They Did) In 2014?

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. I didn't love this book as so many other readers seemed to, but it's definitely one that needs to be talked about. I successfully convinced a number of my co-workers to read it. 

5. Best Series you Started in 2014?

Cinda Williams Chima's Seven Realms novels
 (I will read the final book in the series early in 2015).

6. Favorite New author you Discovered in 2014?

Sebastien de Castell, author of The Traitor's Blade, the first book in a new fantasy series. 

7. Best book from a genre you don’t typically read/was out of your comfort zone?

Bird Box by Josh Malerman.  I don't generally read horror novels but this one sounded good and I wasn't disappointed.

8. Most action-packed/thrilling/unputdownable book of the year?

I Am Pilgrim by Terry Hayes.  A smart thriller that was hard to put down during the final few hundred pages.

9. Book You Read In 2014 That You Are Most Likely To Re-Read Next Year?

Maybe The Traitor's Blade by Sebastien de Castell.

10. Favorite Cover of a Book you Read in 2014?

Into the Blizzard: Walking the Field of the Newfoundland Dead by Michael Winter.  Anyone familiar with the Newfoundland Regiment and the memorial to it at Beaumont-Hamel, France, will know this cover is perfect for the book.

11. Most Memorable Character of 2014?

Pax from Michael J. Sullivan's Hollow World.

12. Most Beautifully Written Book Read in 2014?

Non-fiction: A House in the Sky by Amanda Lindhout and Sara Corbett
Fiction: The Enchanted by Rene Denfield

13. Most Thought-Provoking Book of 2014?

A House in the Sky by Amanda Lindhout and Sara Corbett. Lindhout, an aspiring Canadian journalist, was kidnapped in Somalia and held for 15 months. The abuse she endured while in captivity was horrendous, but through it all she managed to hold on to the hope that she would gain her freedom. This is an extraordinary book by a remarkable woman. Amanda's story will stay with me for a long time to come.

14. Book you can’t believe you waited UNTIL 2014 to finally read?

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. 

15. Shortest & Longest Book You Read In 2013?

Shortest: Whisper of Jasmine by Deanna Raybourn (Novella - 53 pages)
LongestThe Truth About the Harry Quebert Affair by Joel Dicker (640 pages)

16. Book That Shocked You The Most

(Because of a plot twist, character death, left you hanging with your mouth wide open, etc.)

Several things in Gone Girl by Gillan Flynn shocked me, but none more so than the ending.

17. Favorite Non-Romantic Relationship Of The Year

Definitely the friendship between Falcio, Kest, and Brasti from The Traitor's Blade.

18. Favorite Book You Read in 2014 From An Author You’ve Read Previously

The Lost Sisterhood by Anne Fortier.  I previously read Fortier's novel Juliet, which is a great read, but The Lost Sisterhood is even better!

19. Best Book You Read In 2014 That You Read Based SOLELY On A Recommendation From Somebody Else/Peer Pressure:

Bird Box by Josh Mallerman. When it was released it was promoted/recommended heavily on my Twitter feed so I thought I'd give it a try.

20. Newest Fictional Crush from a Book you Read in 2014?

William Darcy from The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennet by Bernie Su and Kate Rorick.  Darcy has never been my favourite of Austen's heroes (that honour goes to Captain Wentworth from Persuasion), but I must say I developed a little crush on Su and Rorick's version of Darcy :-)

21. Best 2014 Debut you Read?

Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen. Great debut fantasy novel that marks the start of a new series. I can't wait to read the next one. 

22. Best Worldbuilding/Most Vivid Setting You Read This Year?

Hollow World by Michael J. Sullivan. Sullivan never disappoints. 

23. Book That Put A Smile On Your Face/Was The Most FUN To Read?

The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennet by Bernie Su and Kate Rorick (click on the title to read my mini-review). While this book, which is a modern-day retelling of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, won't win any literary awards, it entertained me in a way very few books have lately.  I smiled the whole time I was reading it, and was so sad that it had to come to an end.

24. Book That Made You Cry Or Nearly Cry in 2014?

I admit to crying in the latest Bridget Jones' book, Mad About the Boy, by Helen Fielding.

25. Hidden Gem Of The Year?

Grist by Linda Little (click on the book title to read my review). A beautifully written historical novel set in 19th century rural Nova Scotia. 

26. Most Unique Book You Read In 2014?

The Bees by Laline Paul. As the  title suggests, this is a novel about a colony of bees.  Sounds odd, doesn't it? But the book is one of the most original and engaging I've read in a long time.

27. Book That Made You The Most Mad (doesn’t necessarily mean you didn’t like it)?

Gone Girl by Gillan Flynn -- that ending!!! 

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Sunday, December 7, 2014

Holiday Novels: Do You Read Them?

With the holidays fast approaching I've been trying to decide whether or not to read something set during the Christmas season. Of the novels already sitting on my shelves the obvious choice would be Charles Dickens A Christmas Carol, which I've never read but think I should. But there is also Lauren Willig's The Mischief of the Mistletoe (part of her Pink Carnation series) to consider, especially given that it has been sitting on my shelf unread since it was first published four years ago! I also have a Deanna Raybourn novella, Silent Night, which is a holiday companion to her Lady Julia Grey historical mystery series.

While I love the holidays, I've never been one to specifically read Christmas-related books at this time of year, but I've noticed that many of my fellow readers do.  So, I'd like to know if any of you make a point of reading Christmas/holiday-related fiction at this time of year? If so, what are some of your favourites?

Happy Reading!

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