I had been planning to do a big year-long wrap up of my reading list already this year, so when I saw Jaime’s survey at The Perpetual Page-turner, it just seemed like fate (note: slightly edited to suit my own reading habits). I don’t talk about it much on this blog, but I do love to read when I can. I read hardly anything the first part of this year due to having to read so many textbooks from school instead, but later in the year I had a lot more time on my hands and was able to read a significant number! Here’s an overall view of what I loved, hated, laughed at, cried at, and thought about.
Number Of Books You Read: 30
Number of Pages Read: 10 622
Genre You Read The Most From: Mystery
1. Best Book You Read In 2014?
Oh gosh. This one’s hard. I will have to say Sacre Bleu by Christopher Moore. It was between that, When the Day of Evil Comes, and Tuck (all of which I will properly introduce later), but Sacre Bleu was just so well-written and clever. I think it’s a book everyone should try and pick up next year.
2. Book You Were Excited About & Thought You Were Going To Love More But Didn’t?
The Swan Thieves by Elizabeth Kostova. I read The Historian last year (her first book, a tasteful, non-romantic, perfectly mysterious and horrifying account of Vlad Dracul), and found it really interesting. The travel, the main relationship, the weaving of history into the plot and making it all relevant. I thought it was well-researched and engaging. It wasn’t a literary masterpiece or anything, and it was a slow read, but I liked it, and I thought Swan Thieves would be right up my alley with historical painting. I just finished studying paintings on Leda and the Swan, which are beautiful and mildly disturbing once you know the story, and that’s the subject of the main artwork in the book. I thought this was going to be perfect.
Meh. It was… kinda boring. I didn’t really like the main characters, and I felt the plot dragged on. I was bored, and really gutted that I was bored. Someone needs to rewrite a book with the same title about the same kind of painting so I can read it and feel fulfilled!
3. Most surprising (in a good way or bad way) book you read in 2014?
The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher by Kate Summerscale. This one started out oh-so-promising. It was a non-fiction book following one of the first highly publicized Victorian family murders of the century, one of the first cases to inspire the whole cozy mystery genre. You know the one. A certain number of people in the house, someone is murdered suddenly, all of the people in the house swear it was “a maniac” but the detective knows it was someone in the house at the time and has to riddle it out of them. The case itself was interesting, as was the detective. It was a country estate in England, where a little boy was murdered. There were suspects and a trial, but the murder was never really solved.
The first fifty or so pages describing the case and the evidence were great. The last 200-odd were nothing short of disappointing. The author clearly did a lot of research and knew her stuff, but never once did she offer up any hints of a reasonable, satisfying conclusion. Who did it? Nobody knows, and clearly, the author doesn’t care to speculate, despite the fact that she has all the evidence. Was it the sister? Was it the mother? Was it the nanny? How did he die? Why did he die? What was the detective’s full theory and how did he explain the gaps? I like my books to have endings, even if we will now never know for sure. It’s like someone left out a few chapters. Surprisingly disappointing.
4. Favorite new author you discovered in 2014?
David Tallerman. He’s a refreshing break from epic fantasy series that drag onnnnnnnnnn and onnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn. Sometimes, I don’t want 6 500-pagers. Sometimes, I want a story over and done with in less than 350 pages, and I want it to be funny and heartwarming and not make me think too hard. David Tallerman delivers. His Giant Thief was reasonably short, inventive, and adorably witty- all without being cheesy or forgettable. I think I’ll be reading him in between long, dark books for a bit of brain-bleach from now on.
5. Best book from a genre you don’t typically read/was out of your comfort zone?
Heart of Steel by Meljean Brook landed in my book bag going home from the library one hot day in July. I’m not sure how it really got there. I never ever ever read romance novels. I don’t watch chick flicks, I don’t like going to weddings. I feel like other people’s relationships are nobody else’s business but their own, and quite frankly, I don’t really care about the details. This is probably not helped by the fact that I’m chronically single, either. Romance has never tickled me, really, unless it’s my own.
This book was different, though. It was well-written, with relatively relatable, lovable characters and a conflict that couldn’t be resolved simply by talking it over. Plus, it had explosions! And airships! And zombies! Actually, I probably picked it up just for the airship zombie explosions, but came to really like the book as a whole. It was fun, and didn’t make me roll my eyes with the utter cheesiness of it all. The characters may have been tropes, but they were lovable tropes. And did I mention the zombies? If you like romance novels and/or steampunk-ness, you’d probably enjoy Heart of Steel.
6. Most action-packed/thrilling/unputdownable book of the year?
When the Day of Evil Comes by Melanie Wells. It’s the first in a trilogy, following a slightly quirky professor of psychology as she discovers she has to fight the sudden appearance of a demonic presence. I read it in about three sittings and slept with the night light on afterwards. It wasn’t gruesome, or gory, and there were no ghosts or psychics or hysterics. It was subtle, and awesome and I can’t wait to read the next one.
7. Book you can’t believe you waited UNTIL 2014 to finally read?
Tuck by Stephen Lawhead was the series ender to the King Raven trilogy that I’ve fallen in love with over the past three years. I finally got around to reading the last book and I am so happy I did. King Raven is a Robin Hood inspired trilogy set in Wales just after the medieval French conquest of most of the UK. It was historically fascinating and well-researched, and enhanced the tales I already love about Robin Hood rather than defacing them as some retellings tend to do (I’m looking at you, Gregory Maguire, who killed it with Cinderella, but then just plain killed Snow White’s story in your retellings). The ending was both satisfying and realistic given the historical context and characters, and I will definitely re-read.
8.Shortest & Longest Book You Read In 2014?
Shortest: A Study in Scarlett by Sir Arthur C-D. Last Christmas my favorite uncle got me a special edition of the story all told in newspaper clippings and diary entries and cool stuff like that. It included all the materials and clues you would need to solve the mystery for yourself- before Holmes. I really loved it, but it was only about 100 pages or so.
Longest: A Song Of Swords by George Martin. 936 pages, people. I’ve read 3 of the Game of Thrones books this year, and have already started the fifth. I originally got sucked in by peer pressure to read and watch the series, but I’ve come to be just as much a fangirl as everyone who got me into it now. I read the first two books before watching, and am now ahead of the tv series in the fourth/fifth ones again. The books give so much more depth to the stories, and despite their length, they’re easy reads. I had a hard time getting through series like Lord of the Rings (don’t shoot me!) because Tolkein’s writing style just seemed to go on… and on… and on… Mr. Martin isn’t as technically skilled of a writer as Tolkein, but I find I enjoy the books a bit more since he doesn’t dwell on the rolling hills and new species.
9. Book That Shocked You The Most
A Feast for Crows by George R. R. Martin. We all know he’s the king of shock value, and I did hear myself go “no! really?! no! don’t you dare leave me a cliffhanger like that you bastard!” a couple times. In the interest of protecting people from spoilers I won’t give any specifics, but I’m racing through the fifth book to try and find some answers- knowing I may not get any until the sixth.
10. OTP OF THE YEAR (you will go down with this ship!)
I have a confession to make: I still sometimes read children’s books. Not teen books, just specific ones from my childhood that make me feel all nostalgic. Redwall books by Brian Jacques are in that category for me. It’s an idyllic setting, with predictable but engaging stories and characters, and it’s just satisfying and comforting to read about the good guys winning and the bad guys running away. It’s not all sunshine and rainbows- good guys sometimes die tragically, and not everyone gets what they want- but it’s the kind of book I gravitate towards when I’ve had a really bad day.
So, my OTP is definitely Martin and Rose, from Redwall. They are epic, and nothing can ever break them apart for me.
11. Favorite Non-Romantic Relationship Of The Year
In The Proper Treatment of Blood Stains, I fell in love with the relationship between the cook and the protagonist, as well as the cook and the butler. The novel follows a young female private detective in Victorian times (and the novel recognizes outwardly how ludicrous that idea would sound in its respective time period), going undercover as a lady’s maid in a house where the lady thinks her husband might murder her. Downton Abbey fans? This one’s for you.
The cook is just such a lovable creature. Not too warm, not too hard, always smelling of mince pies. And boy, is the cook-butler relationship juicy once you get to the end! I’d definitely suggest this as a good cozy murder mystery for stormy nights.
12. Newest fictional crush from a book you read in 2014?
Will Scarlett from Tuck. He’s witty, got a hot British accent, rippling muscles and isn’t afraid to stand up for what he believes in. Hell to the yes, please, I would like a slice of that.
13. Best Worldbuilding/Most Vivid Setting You Read This Year?
Sacre Bleu by Christopher Moore. As an art history geek, this excelled in every way that The Swan Thieves failed me. It was incredibly clever and well-researched, following nothing but the personification of a rare colour. It’s set in Impressionist-era France (think Monet, Manet, Degas, Van Gogh…), and it’s absolutely genius how he interweaves historical fact and art with his elements of fiction. It made me think deeply about art, and it was also laugh-out-loud funny with characters you will adore. It’s even educational! Seriously, go read this book. Right now. Do it.
14. Book That Put A Smile On Your Face/Was The Most FUN To Read?
Since I’ve already mentioned my Redwall series addiction, I’ll toss in Victoria Laurie’s books for this category. I read What a Ghoul Wants and Ghouls Ghouls Ghouls this summer, about a paranormal investigator and her team. They’re really quick chick lit reads, and parts of them were laughably bad- but I enjoyed them, and will continue to read her series when I want a break from life.
15. Book That Made You Cry Or Nearly Cry in 2014?
I read Venetian Art from Bellini to Titian (no, not the delicious kind of bellini with fruit and vodka, either) early this year. It nearly made me cry on multiple occasions, and not because it was heartwarming. If you’re reading this, Professor Sherman, you suck for making me read the entire thing for that essay- and fractions of about 50 others on the exact same topic.
Here is a pretty picture by Titian, to prove that I learned an appreciation for art (or whatever she was trying to instill in me through force and angry stares). It’s the Venus of Urbino– and yes, she is doing what it looks like she’s doing. That’s some of the most expensive pornography you’ll ever see.
1. One Book You Didn’t Get To In 2014 But Will Be Your Number 1 Priority in 2015?
I’m in the middle of a series by Gregory Keyes. He is a wonderful writer and I love his books and characters, but for some reason, I never pick up his books once I stop reading the last one or I get out of the habit of reading for a month or two. I’m determined to finish the series this year!
2. Book You Are Most Anticipating For 2015?
I really want to love Never Have I Ever– about a twenty-five year old who’s never really had a boyfriend. I also want to get the next too books in the Melanie Wells series I mentioned earlier. Oh, and Stephen Lawhead has a King Arthur series I want to check out.
So many books. So little time.
4. Series Ending/A Sequel You Are Most Anticipating in 2015?
Book 6 in the Game of Thrones series, anyone?
5. One Thing You Hope To Accomplish Or Do In Your Reading/Blogging Life In 2015?
I want to top last year’s reading with 50 books. Almost a book a week! Now that I don’t have to do 300-500 pages of reading a week for school anymore, I think I can definitely beat last year, at least.
Did anyone else read the same books/authors? Let me know in the comments- or link me if you did the book survey on your blog too!