Best of 2014 – My Favorite Books

2015 is already here and I still owe you the obligatory Best of The Year List!

This year, more than ever before, work has taken over my life. I didn’t read as much as I wanted to, and I read a ton of comic books simply because their lower page count made it possible to finish them within a few days. My brain and patience were not up to the doorstopper-like challenges of Brandon Sanderson’s Way of Kings (although I did enjoy the half I read) or even another China Miéville.

I hope to find some sort of balance this year and I’m confident that the gigantic fantasy bricks on my shelves won’t be left unread for much longer. But on to the books. It was a good reading year. I read tons of books that were good and quite a few that were absolutely fantastic. I’m also happy that I managed to read so many new books (published this year) although by now I am quite behind on reading and reviewing the ARCs I got. First resolution for 2015: Read those damn ARCs right when you get them!

My favorite books published in 2014

in no particular order

My  single most-beloved, standout, wonderful, favorite book of 2014 was The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison. I had never read anything by Sarah Monette (pseudonym of the same author) and didn’t know what to expect. The book blew me away, slowly at first, then all the way.  It’s tough to get into, what with huge made-up fantasy language words, but it is oh so wonderful to follow Maia, the naive young goblin emperor, as he learns to rule a country and stay a good person at the same time.

My favorite comic book was Rat Queens for most of the year. Then I got Sex Criminals for Christmas, and picking a favorite became more difficult. I’d say, Sex Criminals has the potential for a fantastic but more serious comic book series while Rat Queens is just pure fun, wrapped in bright colors and trope-defying characters.

Two literary fantasies made it onto my best of the year list. Helen Oyeyemi’s Boy, Snow, Bird was so perfect in composition, language and theme that I went and bought all her other books right after reading this one. With Genevieve Valentine, this was more expected. I knew I loved her voice and I fully expected to love her retelling of “The Twelve Dancing Princesses” set in the Roaring Twenties. The Girls at the Kingfisher Club isn’t exactly speculative fiction and neither is Boy, Snow, Bird – but they both retell fairy tales and they both break your heart time and time again.

In the horror/weird fiction area, two books clearly stood out (not that I read a lot of books in that sub-genre). Jeff Vandermeer’s Southern Reach Trilogy has been buzzed about all year. I have yet to read books 2 and 3, but Annihilation was creepy and weird in a strangely satisfying way – and it makes you want more of the same. Lauren Beukes stole my heart with last year’s The Shining Girls and cemented my high opinion of her writing with the new Broken Monsters. Not only does she delve deep, deep, deep into her characters’ personalities but she also depicts modern media in a believable (and believably scary) way. The murder story was almost an added bonus to what was already a riveting family tale.

Lastly, a short story and a short story collection. Returning to Califa in Ysabeau S. Wilce’s Prophecies, Libels & Dreams was truly like coming home. The Flora Segunda books grow ever more dear to me and my fingers are itching to return to the city of Califa where magic, house spirits, shape-shifting houses and brave rangers live side by side with a short, red-headed girl of spirit and her dandy friend Udo. The Book Smugglers became publishers of fiction this year and while I liked all of their stories, one stood out to me especially. “In her Head, in her Eyes” is a retelling of a story I hadn’t known but have read by now (A Girl With a Bowl on Her Head) and its atmosphere, the characters and especially the twist at the end were just amazing. (P.S.: The collection of their six published stories – Retold – is only 2$ at the moment, so go and buy yourself a copy!)

My favorite books NOT published in 2014

I read a lot of new publications this year (yay for me!) but the “oldies” must not be forgotten. My favorites crystallized pretty quickly because they are all stories that left a little something behind. When I look at the cover art, I remember reading the books, I remember how I felt and – unlike some “blockbuster fiction” – I remember the names of the characters that I loved.

I read Will McIntosh’s Love Minus Eighty right at the beginning of the year and couldn’t find fault with it. A love story, a discussion of morality, a depiction of what social media might hold in store for us in the future – every aspect of it was done beautifully!  My other adult book crush of 2014 is Bill Willingham’s Fables series. I have a long way to go yet but my shelves are now graced with the first 8 deluxe hardcovers and the entire Jack series. Fairy tale characters in modern New York was just too good to pass up. Plus, the sort-of-prequel Telltale Game The Wolf Among Us has great re-play value and tells a fantastic story too. It’s a large universe to get into but it is absolutely worth it.

Best of all, I have rediscovered my love for YA fiction. Alethea Kontis’ fairy tale retellings, Enchanted and Hero, may sound fluffy at first. That’s because they are, but there is much more to them than a teen romance with fairy tale creatures. What made me fall so hard for these books is the Woodcutter family and how they stick together through the good and the bad. These are books that you can cuddle up with and that make you feel good and happy about the world in general, and Kontis’s world in particular.
But my current absolute YA star is Maggie Stiefvater. I read The Raven Boys, based on several recommendations but especially Renay’s (of ladybusiness fame). What I got was a careful, detailed look at a group of young people with their own struggles. Being rich does not automatically solve all your problems. A dash of mystery and magic just makes these books even more interesting. In The Dream Thieves, Stiefvater outdid herself. I cannot put into words how much I love Blue and her Raven Boys.

So you see, it was a pretty good year for me with a variety of favorites. Once my graphics are done, I’ll give you all the dirty details about how much I read, how well I kept the balance between male and female authors (spoiler: I did pretty well) and whether I read as diversely as I set out to. That post will be up by the weekend if everything works out.

And to finish this off, here are some books I didn’t manage to read yet but want to – and soon:

  • Robert Jackson Bennett – City of Stairs
  • Emily St. John Mandel – Station Eleven
  • Jeff Vandermeer – Authority and Acceptance
  • Andy Weir – The Martian
  • Ann Leckie – Ancillary Sword
  • Rebecca Levine – Smiler’s Fair

I love these end-of-year lists (or, in my case, beginning of next year list) and reading what everybody else loved, so if you wrote your own feel free to link to it in the comments. Maybe there are some wonderful books I have completely overlooked and you want to nudge me gently towards them?

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9 thoughts on “Best of 2014 – My Favorite Books

  1. Carl V. Anderson says:

    Always wonderful to see Love Minus Eighty on people’s lists. It was such a great book. Ended up being my favorite of 2013. Annihilation was also on my list this year. It was indeed a very creepy book, one that slowly draws you in until there is no turning back.

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  2. lynnsbooks says:

    I love this post. So many good books. Off the books you’ve not yet read I definitely (and highly) recommend City of Stairs, Martian and Smiler’s Fair – so very good.
    Lauren Beukes is turning out to be one of my ‘must read’ authors. Such good writing.
    Lynn 😀

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    • Nadine says:

      Right? Lauren Beukes always seemed to have great ideas to me, but that woman can write!

      I’ve heard nothing but praise for City of Stairs and I even started a chapter a few months ago. But when you don’t have more than 10 minutes at a time to read, it’s hard to get into a book, especially secondary world fantasy.

      The Martian will be read very soon. People tell me it’s a real page-turner. 🙂

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  3. nikki @bookpunks says:

    Ooo lala! Judging from the things you’ve read (many of which I have read and loved) and the fact that my new-future to-read list is EXACTLY the same as yours, I am going to have to start watching this blog for further recs.

    My most pressing questions currently: Fables. So, I am only just discovering my love of comics, and that happened via The Unwritten. In Issue 9 they do an Unwritten/Fables mash up, and it just didn’t work for me. Until reading that I thought Fables was something I should check out, but now I am not sure. SO. Do I dismiss that as just one bad issue written for people who were already fans, or do I risk needing to spend 100s of bucks once I fall in love and just try starting it?

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    • Nadine says:

      I haven’t gotten to the crossover part yet (from a Fables perspective) so I can’t tell you if you just read one bad issue. The quality varies, of course. But overall, I fell into the Fables universe and don’t mind one bad issue in between the brilliant ones. I’d say if you try the first two trade paperbacks or the first big deluxe hardcover, you can judge fairly well whether it’s for you or not.

      Also, I just went to check out your blog and there is a lot of stuff that interests me. Reading them will now fill my evening. 🙂

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