In 2014, I read 23 books, almost making it to an average of 2 books a month. Like last year, I wanted to share some of my favorites, but unlike last year, I’m only highlighting a few of them. I made one-liner descriptions for the rest of what I read at the end of this post, which might be my new style of reviews since it was so fun to do.
And The Favorite Is: The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
My favorite book of last year was The Book Thief. I was far behind (by nearly ten years!) on the fanfare for this novel, but it lived up to the hype. While I love WWII novels, the market for that kind of work is saturated, so it’s not every day that you find a really excellent work on the subject. I couldn’t help but marvel at the masterpiece Zusak created. It’s a book I plan to read again and again over the course of my life. As a writer, the two things I appreciated the most were: the language was beautiful and precise and the characters were complex and compelling. I was also impressed with the many stories within the story; the subplots were just as intriguing as the overarching story.
Many people, when they talk about this novel, will talk about the narration by Death, and I am going to join them. Death’s narration lends a somberly epic quality to the novel. The perspective of Death is so timeless and informed that you are both staggered and comforted by it. It is something familiar, something we all know we’ll experience, both personally and as a bystander, and yet something we all resist. And Zusak has a way of making you sympathize with Death and his terrible work, especially during war time.
Probably my only strike against the book was the occasional foreknowledge that Death provides. However, I could appreciate it because it also served to instill a sense of suspense. Because how can you dread something that you don’t even know is coming? Since it’s a novel about World War II, you know people will die; that’s inevitable. In some sense, receiving insight from Death is like someone telling you something you already know, but their confirmation of your fears just heightens your anxiety.
Most of all, I adore Liesel. She’s such a multi-dimensional character, and she leads you through as the heroine with grace, sass, flaws, strengths, and an intuitive sense of how to make the best of the worst possible situations. And I love watching her grow from a scared little girl into a tenacious woman. As I said in my goodreads review, “Liesel Meminger, the book thief, will steal your heart and soul as quickly and steathily as the books she takes, and you will love her for it.”
Now I just need to see the movie!
Runner-Up: Honor’s Lark (Volume 1) by Rachel Hamm
I don’t know how to explain this book to people, and that’s actually a good thing. Part fantasy, part mystery, part romance, it’s one of the most original spins on the timeless theme of finding love that I’ve read in a while. The premise alone will pull you in from the start, but the characters and the additional themes of family and finding your passion will carry you through to the end.
I’m also a big fan of this book because I know the author and she’s local to North Carolina! (I read her other book, Twenty-Five, too, and I mention it below.) And, good news: she’s planning a late summer release of the next book in the Lark series, Junie’s Confession. You can find out more about her on her Facebook page or on her website, if you love supporting indie authors like I do!
Runner-Up: Republic (The Emperor’s Edge Book 8) by Lindsay Buroker
Just when I thought the Emperor’s Edge (EE) series was over with Forged in Blood, Part Two, Buroker announces the true finale, Republic. When I found out, I was ecstatic. I’m on her email list, so when she offered advance copies in exchange for reviews, I was on it. As soon as I got my copy, I devoured it. The novel is about 200,000 words, and I finished it in under a week. Buroker does not disappoint in this farewell to the gang. It has everything that I love EE for: adventure galore, nefarious plots, suspense, kick-*ss heroines, funny dialogue, and swoon-worthy romances.
I detailed my love for the EE series in my roundup of what I read last year, if you’re curious about the rest of the series. The first book in what is now an eight-book series (plus novellas) is free, so there’s no reason not to give it a shot. You can also get the first 3 books in a collection. And if you love Emperor’s Edge already, then chances are very good that Republic will deliver for you over and over again. My full review of Republic is on goodreads, if you want all the details of what I liked, and just a smattering of things I didn’t.
Runner-Up: Ender’s Game (The Ender Quintet) by Orson Scott Card
Why I took so long to read this, I don’t know. I’ve heard about it for years, and I finally decided to read it. If you love science fiction or dystopias or both and if like me you haven’t picked this one up yet, then this is a must-read. Winner of some of the most prestigious awards in science fiction, it’s a classic. Eventually, I’ll get around to finishing the quintet so I can know the rest of Ender’s story.
Runner-Up: Wonder by R.J. Palacio
For a middle grade book, oh, you will laugh, cry, cheer, and cry some more, and then want to reevaluate your life and how you’ve treated people who are different from you. It’s rare that I say this, but this is a book that everyone should read, from elementary school students to adults. While it comes from the perspective of juveniles, I think anyone could see themselves in at least one of the characters in Wonder, if not several of them. And be sure to read The Julian Chapter: A Wonder Story, too. I feel like that part really completes the whole thing.
Mostly, I think the wonder of Wonder is that it will make you want to a better person. If you read it for no other reason, read it to see the world a little differently, and hopefully with more understanding.
Soon I hope to read the new Pluto: A Wonder Story, too.
The Superlatives, or The Rest of What I Read
As for the rest of the books I read, instead of doing any kind of serious review, I came up with superlatives like you see in yearbooks and at award ceremonies. While a few of them are a bit silly, they’re all true to my take on the book. The ones that are starred I wrote goodreads reviews for, so click the asterisk if you want my full take. These are in order of most to least favorite.
Wild by Cheryl Strayed
Most Likely to Make You Want to Go Outside
Morning Glory by Sarah Jio
Most Likely to Make You Want to Write a Novel on a Houseboat
Most Interesting Community
The Maze Runner Series by James Dashner *
Most Likely To Be Finished Just Because You Had to Know How It Ended
Most Disappointing Ending
Worst Romance That Had the Best Potential
What did you read last year? Tell me what your favorite book was that I should read. I love book recommendations! And if you’re on goodreads, let’s be friends — here’s my profile.
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