Best books of 2014

Similar to what I did with my “best albums of 2014”, I decided to do a top 14 picks. This was especially hard for books because of the 60+ that I read this year, less than half were 2014 releases. But here they are, in no particular order, with links to any relevant Fiction Friday posts (books that weren’t previously discussed for Fiction Friday have a blurb):

The Whispering Skull – Jonathan Stroud

Holy frack, that cliffhanger! Also, I heart Lockwood.

Made for You – Melissa Marr

If you want spine-tingly YA, pick this one up now!

The Enchanted – Rene Denfeld

Who would have thought that a book about a prisoner on death row would have this big an effect?

How to Build a Girl – Caitlin Moran

Funny, sassy, British – is there a better combination of words?

Station Eleven – Emily St.John Mandel

Don’t read this if you were even remotely afraid of being infected with Ebola…

The Miniaturist – Jessie Burton

A scandalous, well written historical fiction debut.

Hollow City – Ransom Riggs

The sequel to Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children – excellent for its use of creepy old photography.

Bird Box – Josh Malerman

There were moments when my heart actually started pounding with fear.

The Hangman’s Revolution – Eoin Colfer

Not the best Eoin Colfer book I’ve ever read, but yay time travel!

Shouldn’t You Be in School? – Lemony Snicket

I’ll probably read Lemony Snicket books forever. Quick, mildly complex, and with a hint of nostalgia.

Every Breath – Ellie Marney

Though technically released in 2013 in her native Australia, Marney’s Sherlock Holmes-inspired YA novel came out in Canada in October and I love it. I haven’t felt this way about a fictional character since Lockwood (see The Whispering Skull).

Comfort Food – Jamie Oliver

I don’t usually buy a cookbook and I certainly wasn’t expecting to include a cookbook in my “best books” list, but it’s Jamie Flippin’ Oliver, and this is a gorgeous book (food-wise, but also the actual design).

Edie’s Ensembles – Ashley Spires

Edie might actually be my spirit animal. I’m not super stylish, but I like putting colours together and when my outfit is particularly (in my opinion) stellar, I do feel a little sad if no one notices. Sidenote: Edie’s best friend Andrew’s cuteness kills me.

Chu’s First Day of School – Neil Gaiman/Adam Rex

Chu’s sneezes are so cute, I can barely stand it! Plus my two year old niece loves this book (and the first one, Chu’s Day), which makes them extra adorable.

BONUS:

Speaking of Neil Gaiman: hands down the best book I read this year, however, was Neverwhere. My interest in Gaiman’s work was renewed when I read The Ocean at the End of the Lane, but Neverwhere was the book that tipped me over into straight-up obsession.

The Rules of Gentility – Janet Mullany // Bird Box – Josh Malerman // The Graveyard Book – Neil Gaiman

The Rules of Gentility:

rules

“Regency heiress Philomena Wellesley-Clegg has rather strong opinions about men and clothing. As to the former, so far two lords, a viscount, and a mad poet have fallen far short of her expectations. But she is about to meet Inigo Linsley, an unshaven, wickedly handsome man with a scandalous secret. He’s nothing she ever dreamed she’d want—why then can she not stop thinking about how he looks in his breeches?

A delightful marriage of Pride and Prejudice with Bridget Jones’s Diary, Janet Mullany’s The Rules of Gentility transports us to the days before designer shoes, apple martinis, and speed dating—when great bonnets, punch at Almack’s, and the marriage mart were in fashion—and captivates us with a winsome heroine who learns that some rules in society are made to be broken.”

This is essentially Regency-era fluff, and it’s hilarious. I actually laughed out loud several times, though I’d be hard-pressed to tell you exactly what was so funny. Mostly, it was Philomena and Inigo’s relationship that made it so amusing, though some of the other characters also had their moments (spoiler alert: Inigo calls him older brother “Pudgebum”. That would never happen in an Austen book, and that makes it so much funnier).

For anyone who has ever read Austen or the Brontes, or anything else from that era, this is a must-read. You can’t take it seriously – it literally won’t let you take it seriously – but despite all the nonsense, it still has a great, Regency-era-typical plot. Read it for no other reason than to see Philomena’s reactions to Inigo and his evening breeches.

Bird Box:

“Something terrifying that must not be seen. One glimpse and a person is driven to deadly violence. No one knows what it is or where it came from.

Five years after it began, a handful of scattered survivors remain, including Malorie and her two young children. Living in an abandoned house near the river, she has dreamed of fleeing to a place where they might be safe. Now, that the boy and girl are four, it is time to go. But the journey ahead will be terrifying: twenty miles downriver in a rowboat-blindfolded-with nothing to rely on but her wits and the children’s trained ears. One wrong choice and they will die. And something is following them. But is it man, animal, or monster?

Engulfed in darkness, surrounded by sounds both familiar and frightening, Malorie embarks on a harrowing odyssey-a trip that takes her into an unseen world and back into the past, to the companions who once saved her. Under the guidance of the stalwart Tom, a motely group of strangers banded together against the unseen terror, creating order from the chaos. But when supplies ran low, they were forced to venture outside-and confront the ultimate question: in a world gone mad, who can really be trusted?”

I don’t often read scary stories, though I do have an odd fascination with them. But, in the spirit of Halloween, I figured I’d pick up a thriller.

Here’s a tip: don’t read it at night. At least, not if you have an over-active imagination like I do (which is why I don’t watch horror movies). It was creepy and spine-tingly, and I think I shivered a couple of times. It’s succinctly well written: you don’t need a lot of extraneous details to feel scared. There was one moment that I was reading while at work, and I jumped a mile when a co-worker came up behind me.

By the end of the novel, I had a few questions, but it still wrapped up enough that you weren’t left hanging. It could lead into a sequel, but I don’t think continuing Malorie’s story would work – it would have to take place years later, probably with her children.

The Graveyard Book:

“Nobody Owens, known to his friends as Bod, is a normal boy.

He would be completely normal if he didn’t live in a sprawling graveyard, being raised and educated by ghosts, with a solitary guardian who belongs to neither the world of the living nor of the dead.

There are dangers and adventures in the graveyard for a boy-an ancient Indigo Man beneath the hill, a gateway to a desert leading to an abandoned city of ghouls, the strange and terrible menace of the Sleer.

But if Bod leaves the graveyard, then he will come under attack from the man Jack—who has already killed Bod’s family. . . “

If you’ve been following my blog for the past few months, you’ll know how obsessed I am with Neil Gaiman. I think he’s a magnificent storyteller and The Graveyard Book was no exception.

I had read somewhere that it was inspired by Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book; I haven’t read The Jungle Book, but the Disney movie has been one of my favourites since I was little. So, for much of the story, I was trying to draw parallels between the characters of The Graveyard Book and what I knew of The Jungle Book (i.e. ghouls = monkeys, the Sleer = Kaa, etc).

Overall, I really liked it. I loved the way Bod had the Freedom of the Graveyard, and the way he interacted with the other inhabitants, especially Liza the witch-girl, who was probably my favourite character. I also really liked Silas, partially because he was so mysterious but awesome, and also because, for some reason, I kept imagining him as Benedict Cumberbatch (as Sherlock Holmes). Sidenote: BC would be AMAZING as Silas in a movie adaptation.

One of the great things about Gaiman’s work is that once you hit the climatic moment, you race to the end and it’s very hard to put the book down – but he still manages to work in enough details that you don’t feel like you’re missing anything.

I also read/flipped through the graphic novel adaptations – they were very well done, and didn’t leave out a lot from the book’s plot: