Saturday, December 27, 2014

The Best of 2014

Every year I compile a list of the best books that I read in the previous year.  2014 was a year, like most others, with it's literary highs and lows.  These are the books, in no particular order, that stood out for me.

I am a HUGE fan of all things Oz.  I loved the original story by Frank L. Baum, I loved Gregory MacGuire's take on the friendship between the witches, but this.... this retelling is entirely fresh and new.  I loved every second of it.  I have started reading the prequels to understand why Dorothy returns to Oz in the first place and I am - quite literally - counting the seconds until the March release of the sequel called The Wicked  Will Rise.  If you love Oz or just enjoy a truly original retelling, this book is a must. 
This book by Rainbow Rowell is pure magic.  I love everything about it from the running soundtrack in my head to the absolute reality of the characters that she created.  Love is hard when you are a teenager because you feel everything so fiercely and yet, it's all so new and confusing.  Eleanor and Park isn't some sweet little teen love story - it is a gripping story about real problems and the way that people choose to face them.  

Ever since the Joy Luck Club,  I have absolutely loved Amy Tan. She has such a magical way of putting words together and painting pictures for her reader.  I love that she introduces me to strange cultures and yet makes her characters relate-able somehow.  This one sort of reminded me of Memoirs of a Geisha.  The first couple of chapters are a little difficult for some to get into, but this one is, in my opinion, well worth the effort.

I admit it.  I'm a dog lover and I'm a sucker for a book like this one.  It's typical early Sparks - it's a sad story with so much love in it.  I don't know why I hadn't read it before.  Probably because in his later works, Sparks has started to feel like a formula writer to me, but this one is still fresh and new.  I laughed and I cried.  It was just a wonderful, light and fluffy read that, in case you, like me, missed it the first time around, is well worth checking out.

This book was a book club selection - definitely something different for me.  It is the story of two young girls that have tragedy strike their lives.  As a result, they create a list of things that they will never do which should, statistically ensure that nothing ever happens to them again.  But, as we all know, life just does't work this way.  This is a gripping and compelling mystery.  The first and third chapters were difficult for me to read, but I was glad I did as they provide important clues to the rest of the story.  I read this in October.  It is truly the perfect Halloween read.

And from Halloween, we go to one of the two perfect beach reads that I gobbled down this summer while sitting by the beach or pool.  This one does have a bit of the supernatural to it.  E. Lockhart was a new author for me,  but I have since added four more of her books to my to be read list because I enjoyed this one so much.  It was quick and easy to read but there was just that something about it that made it memorable.

Ender's Game is one of my favorite all time novels.  I didn't know until recently that there were companion novels which told the same story but from the perspective of another main character, Bean.  As much as I loved Ender's Game and still do,  Ender's Shadow provided depth to all characters including my beloved Ender.  If you haven't read Ender's Game, what the hell are you waiting for?  If you do read it,  I highly suggest also reading Ender's Shadow.  Both books are brilliant.

This was the surprise breakout of the year for me.  My first Jojo Moyes book certainly won't be my last.  This book is a fantastic story about what makes a family and what a mother will do to help her children. I believe that truly great stories always make you feel something and boy, this one does that and then some.  I loved all the characters and found something about each one that I could relate to.  Norman is my favorite.  Don't know who Norman is?  Well you will definitely have to check this one out to find out.  I love how the story didn't go in the foreseeable way that I expected.  In the end, we all save ourselves.  :)

For all you thriller lovers out there, this book is a code ten heart attack.  It keeps you guessing from start to finish and never lets you off the hook.   I read this one during the height of the Ebola scare and it really had me going.  If you like spy stories and thrillers, this book is for you!

This book is the story of what happens to a beautiful, popular high school girl when she gets involved with Crank ( aka Meth)  It is told entirely in prose but beautifully written.  Everyone should read this book because it really demonstrates how drug use changes a person and effects every aspect of their lives and the lives of their loved ones.

My mother recommended this one and she never leads me wrong.  I loved this one because it is written about a time period - the 1920's just as the economic collapse is occurring - that I don't know much about.  It was a fascinating read and again - very quick, very easy to get into and the plot line keeps you guessing.  If you are looking for something different to read - definitely give this one a try.

These books were my top reads of 2014.  What were yours?

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