As previously mentioned, I read a lot of books in 2014. 85 books in total and way more than necessary to complete my 52 Book Challenge. You can view the complete list here if you’d like, but I thought that I would try and break that down a little further for the curious. The following list includes my Top 10: Books I Read in 2014.*
*Note: As a perpetual re-reader, I feel compelled to mention that 13 of the 85 books I read this year were re-reads. They were excluded from this list. However, if I could include them, Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card and Insignia by S.J. Kincaid would have been at the top of the list. I love everything about those books and I wish that more people would read them.
Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
Goodreads Summary: Cath is a Simon Snow fan. Okay, the whole world is a Simon Snow fan… But for Cath, being a fan is her life—and she’s really good at it. She and her twin sister, Wren, ensconced themselves in the Simon Snow series when they were just kids; it’s what got them through their mother leaving. Reading. Rereading. Hanging out in Simon Snow forums, writing Simon Snow fan fiction, dressing up like the characters for every movie premiere. Cath’s sister has mostly grown away from fandom, but Cath can’t let go. She doesn’t want to. Now that they’re going to college, Wren has told Cath she doesn’t want to be roommates. Cath is on her own, completely outside of her comfort zone. She’s got a surly roommate with a charming, always-around boyfriend, a fiction-writing professor who thinks fan fiction is the end of the civilized world, a handsome classmate who only wants to talk about words… And she can’t stop worrying about her dad, who’s loving and fragile and has never really been alone. For Cath, the question is: Can she do this? Can she make it without Wren holding her hand? Is she ready to start living her own life? Writing her own stories? And does she even want to move on if it means leaving Simon Snow behind?
Thoughts: Cath was an amazing narrator and I felt like I could relate to her on so many levels. I felt her anxiety like it was my own and followed every crazy path her brain took when it came to fanfiction, writing, and even her fears about intimacy. And yet there were also many deeper aspects to her character that I enjoyed learning about, particularly her family dynamic and the relationships that she has with each of her relatives. And of course I adored Levi, too. He’s a literal ball of sunshine and I think every moody girl (myself included) should have a Levi in her life. And a Reagan. What a terribly perfect friend to have made. Not all roommates are like that and Cath was very lucky to have someone like Reagan (and by extension also Levi) in her life, someone who was honest to a fault, but also very kind in her own way.
Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
Goodreads Summary: Like most of humanity, Wade Watts escapes his grim surroundings by spending his waking hours jacked into the OASIS, a sprawling virtual utopia that lets you be anything you want to be, a place where you can live and play and fall in love on any of ten thousand planets. And like most of humanity, Wade dreams of being the one to discover the ultimate lottery ticket that lies concealed within this virtual world. For somewhere inside this giant networked playground, OASIS creator James Halliday has hidden a series of fiendish puzzles that will yield massive fortune — and remarkable power — to whoever can unlock them. For years, millions have struggled fruitlessly to attain this prize, knowing only that Halliday’s riddles are based in the pop culture he loved — that of the late twentieth century. And for years, millions have found in this quest another means of escape, retreating into happy, obsessive study of Halliday’s icons. Like many of his contemporaries, Wade is as comfortable debating the finer points of John Hughes’s oeuvre, playing Pac-Man, or reciting Devo lyrics as he is scrounging power to run his OASIS rig. And then Wade stumbles upon the first puzzle. Suddenly the whole world is watching, and thousands of competitors join the hunt — among them certain powerful players who are willing to commit very real murder to beat Wade to this prize. Now the only way for Wade to survive and preserve everything he knows is to win. But to do so, he may have to leave behind his oh-so-perfect virtual existence and face up to life — and love — in the real world he’s always been so desperate to escape.
Thoughts: This was by far my favorite book that I read in 2014. I don’t feel like you have to be a geek to get this book, the author does a lot of helpful explaining to build the world of OASIS for all readers, but you probably have to be a geek to really LOVE this book. There were so many pop culture references and little Easter eggs tied up in a story I believe that many people of the digital age could sympathize with. If you’ve ever made a friend online, then you can understand what it’s like to wonder about your friends’ IRL lives. You wonder if they’ve lied to you about their appearance, their gender, and maybe you wonder if they edit out the parts of themselves that they don’t want you to see. But over time you begin to recognize that the emotions involved in your friendships are real. Just because you can’t hug someone or talk to them in the same time zone, doesn’t mean they can’t be there for you. It is a terrifying but beautiful thing to see those relationships legitimized and Daito and Shoto’s characters embodied this struggle beautifully. I found myself sympathizing with the main character, Wade/Parzival, but I never felt sorry for him. Even after everything that he’d been through, he remained a beautifully selfish character who was also loving and fierce and passionate about the things and people he cared about. I believe he deserved his ending and I was glad to have been able to read his story. I would recommend this book to anyone looking for a little escape. There’s a whole new world in these pages, with a little of the past and present to ground you in an unimaginable future.
If I Stay by Gail Forman
Goodreads Summary: Choices. Seventeen-year-old Mia is faced with some tough ones: Stay true to her first love—music—even if it means losing her boyfriend and leaving her family and friends behind? Then one February morning Mia goes for a drive with her family, and in an instant, everything changes. Suddenly, all the choices are gone, except one. And it’s the only one that matters.
Thoughts: I LOVED this book. It was heartbreaking and so painfully beautiful. I loved how it wasn’t really about life and death in the cleanest way, but about all the people in our lives and all the experiences that we have. They become a part of who we are and make our lives worth living, make our lives worth fighting for even in the darkest of times. 200 pages of beautiful words, this book gutted me in the best way.
Daughter of Smoke and Bone (Complete series)
Goodreads Summary: Around the world, black handprints are appearing on doorways, scorched there by winged strangers who have crept through a slit in the sky. In a dark and dusty shop, a devil’s supply of human teeth grows dangerously low. And in the tangled lanes of Prague, a young art student is about to be caught up in a brutal other-wordly war. Meet Karou. She fills her sketchbooks with monsters that may or may not be real, she’s prone to disappearing on mysterious “errands”, she speaks many languages – not all of them human – and her bright blue hair actually grows out of her head that color. Who is she? That is the question that haunts her, and she’s about to find out. When beautiful, haunted Akiva fixes fiery eyes on her in an alley in Marrakesh, the result is blood and starlight, secrets unveiled, and a star-crossed love whose roots drink deep of a violent past. But will Karou live to regret learning the truth about herself?
Thoughts: This series impressed me way more than I thought it would. The first book was slow, introducing so many layers to the story that at times I felt like I wasn’t getting anywhere. But I loved how the plots from all three books were interwoven together in the end. What I thought was just going to be a story about Karou and Akiva, became first the story of the seraphim and chimera and then so much more. This series was by far the best that I read this year and the final installment deserved its Goodreads nomination for Best Fantasy Book of 2014.
Bossypants (Audio Book) by Tina Fey
Goodreads Summary: Before Liz Lemon, before “Weekend Update,” before “Sarah Palin,” Tina Fey was just a young girl with a dream: a recurring stress dream that she was being chased through a local airport by her middle-school gym teacher. She also had a dream that one day she would be a comedian on TV. She has seen both these dreams come true. At last, Tina Fey’s story can be told. From her youthful days as a vicious nerd to her tour of duty on Saturday Night Live; from her passionately halfhearted pursuit of physical beauty to her life as a mother eating things off the floor; from her one-sided college romance to her nearly fatal honeymoon—from the beginning of this paragraph to this final sentence. Tina Fey reveals all, and proves what we’ve all suspected: you’re no one until someone calls you bossy.
Thoughts: I listened to this book on a long car drive and it was exactly what I needed. Tina Fey, who does her own narration in the audio book, is hysterical. And the way that she looks back on the formative years of her life is undeniably relatable. If you’re looking for a laugh that also impresses you with its sincerity and girl power, then this audio book is for you.
Feast of Crows by George R.R. Martin
Goodreads Summary: How does one explain A Song of Ice and Fire in a paragraph? You can’t.
Thoughts: This is the fourth book in the series and I’d been told repeatedly that it wouldn’t be fun to read. I was told that it was slow and boring and that I wouldn’t enjoy it, that I would need to just power through it. In the end, the last 200 pages or so proved to be a chore. However, I loved the first 700 of them. True, this book didn’t have half the plot that the third installment did, but the character development was on point and I learned a lot about characters I otherwise would not have paid significant attention to.
To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Hann
Summary: This is the story of Lara Jean, who has never openly admitted her crushes, but instead wrote each boy a letter about how she felt, sealed it, and hid it in a box under her bed. But one day Lara Jean discovers that somehow her secret box of letters has been mailed, causing all her crushes from her past to confront her about the letters: her first kiss, the boy from summer camp, even her sister’s ex-boyfriend, Josh. As she learns to deal with her past loves face to face, Lara Jean discovers that something good may come out of these letters after all.
Thoughts: I really liked this book. Mostly because Lara Jean reminds me a lot of myself. I’m scared to drive a car, I’m scared of my feelings, and I spend a lot more of my time thinking about how things could be instead of actually making them happen. But I have to say, the ending of this book was excruciating. It was the kind of frustrating that made me want to just scream at the unfairness of not knowing what it was that I wanted to know. I loved it, but it still hurt. I’m including this book on my list because it was probably the one that surprised me the most. I didn’t expect anything from it, but it still turned out to be amazing. Also, thumbs up for diversity!
Sisterhood Everlasting by Ann Barashares
Goodreads Summary: Tibby, Lena, Carmen, and Bridget have grown up, starting their lives on their own. And though the jeans they shared are long gone, the sisterhood is everlasting. Despite having jobs and men that they love, each knows that something is missing: the closeness that once sustained them. Carmen is a successful actress in New York, engaged to be married, but misses her friends. Lena finds solace in her art, teaching in Rhode Island, but still thinks of Kostos and the road she didn’t take. Bridget lives with her longtime boyfriend, Eric, in San Francisco, and though a part of her wants to settle down, a bigger part can’t seem to shed her old restlessness. Then Tibby reaches out to bridge the distance, sending the others plane tickets for a reunion that they all breathlessly await. And indeed, it will change their lives forever—but in ways that none of them could ever have expected.
Thoughts: I adored this throwback book. I didn’t reread any of the previous four installments before diving into this new addition and I’m really glad that I didn’t. It was written to be read reflectively, to return ten years later as if to an old friend, and see what’s changed. That’s exactly what I did and I was not disappointed. It was beautiful to see these “sisters” come together one last time, to see their stories ended securely and safely and to see myself in them as they grew up. I loved this book and would recommend it to all fans of the original series.
Throne of Glass (series) by Sarah J. Maas
Goodreads Summary: After serving out a year of hard labor in the salt mines of Endovier for her crimes, 18-year-old assassin Celaena Sardothien is dragged before the Crown Prince. Prince Dorian offers her her freedom on one condition: she must act as his champion in a competition to find a new royal assassin. Her opponents are men-thieves and assassins and warriors from across the empire, each sponsored by a member of the king’s council. If she beats her opponents in a series of eliminations, she’ll serve the kingdom for three years and then be granted her freedom. Celaena finds her training sessions with the captain of the guard, Westfall, challenging and exhilarating. But she’s bored stiff by court life. Things get a little more interesting when the prince starts to show interest in her… but it’s the gruff Captain Westfall who seems to understand her best. Then one of the other contestants turns up dead… quickly followed by another. Can Celaena figure out who the killer is before she becomes a victim? As the young assassin investigates, her search leads her to discover a greater destiny than she could possibly have imagined.
Thoughts: This series is so much fun! At first I read it only because the summary reminded me of Maria V. Snyder’s Poison Study (an old favorite), but as I got into it I realized that there was so much more going on than I’d planned for. There are layers of different things happening in the kingdom and none of them expected. The world is thrilling and dangerous and Celaena is an ideal narrator to lead us through the complexities of the world. The series is classified as young adult, but I’m including it on this list because it reignited my love of fantasy as a whole. I’ve been reading so much contemporary and dystopian fiction in the last few years that I’d forgotten my roots. Turns out, all I needed was a bad-ass fantasy series like this one to bring me back.
Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn and David Levitan
Goodreads Summary: “I’ve left some clues for you. If you want them, turn the page. If you don’t, put the book back on the shelf, please.” Lily has left a red notebook full of challenges on a favorite bookstore shelf, waiting for just the right guy to come along and accept its dares. But is Dash that right guy? Or are Dash and Lily only destined to trade dares, dreams, and desires in the notebook they pass back and forth at locations across New York? Could their in-person selves possibly connect as well as their notebook versions? Or will they be a comic mismatch of disastrous proportions?
Thoughts: This book was hilarious! Dash and Lily had a fantastic mix of dry humor and sarcastic wit that I loved, plus an adorable awkwardness that made them easy to fall for. They also found themselves in some seriously ridiculous situations, all of which were so obviously fictional that you not only accepted them as such, but were forced to laugh, too. I adored their friends and family, particularly Lily’s cousin Mark and Dash’s friends Boomer, Dov, and Yhonny. I honestly wish that I could meet them all. Even Langston and Benny would undoubtably be fun in real life. I will definitely be rereading this book at some point in the future. It’s going to become a staple pick me up read, I just know it. Recommended to anyone feeling silly and smart and in need of a good, wit-induced laugh.