Monday, December 22, 2014

Favorite Reads of 2014!

Here, for your general perusing, is a spattering of reviews for some of the books I read and loved over the past year, complete with if-this-book-was-a-movie ratings (not all books listed here were published in 2014, it's just when I read them).

Sorrow's Knot by Erin Bow
I read and adored Erin Bow's Plain Kate a few years ago, and one of my first reads this year was Sorrow's Knot. This book is PHENOMENAL. It's exquisite and fresh and beautifully, beautifully written. It's filled with poignant, well-drawn characters and a wonderfully realized world. It's eerie and sad and lovely and terrible. It will make you cry. It will creep you out. It will make your heart beat faster. It will make you FEEL ALL THE THINGS. Just sit down with a cup of tea and a box of kleenex and read it NOW.
If this book was a movie I'd rate it: PG-13, mostly for sadness and creepiness (I know they don't rate movies for things like that, but whatevs, I do!)

 Ultraviolet and Quicksilver by R. J. Anderson
Ultraviolet begins with the instantly-intriguing line: "Once upon a time there was a girl who was special. This is not her story. Unless you count the part where I killed her." A completely fascinating book, the story starts in a mental hospital, where Alison is trying to come to grips with how and why Tori disintegrated before her eyes. Everyone thinks she's a murderer, and crazy. Hence the mental hospital. I don't want to spoil anything, so I'll stop my review there. Suffice it to say, this is the kind of book that begins one place, and takes you somewhere amazingly wonderful that you were not at all expecting by the end. Intriguing and lovely and filled with well-drawn, unique characters. Its companion novel, Quicksilver, is also quite good, but I can't say a thing about it without ruining Ultraviolet. In any case, do yourself a favor and go read these books NOW.
If this book was a movie I'd rate it: PG-13, for some disturbing subject matter.

Shadow and Bone, Siege and Storm, Ruin and Rising by Leigh Bardou
I gotta say it was super smart of me to wait until all three books were out before starting this series! I adored Shadow and Bone—the story was intriguing and well-written, and I thought it had ABSOLUTELY PERFECT PACING. Seriously, it left me in awe. I LOVED the third-person prologues/epilogues in all three books (the one at the end of Ruin and Rising had me in tears!!). I thought both Siege and Storm and Ruin and Rising were a liiiiiiitle slow in the beginning, but once they picked up, BOY DID THEY PICK UP. You should have heard the noises I was making in the last quarter of Ruin and Rising. Oh. My. Gosh. From GoodReads I've gathered that the ending to R&R was kind of divisive. Myself, I thought it was COMPLETELY PERFECT, though you can bet your sweet patootie I was experiencing Extreme Trauma and ALL THE FEELINGS. I really enjoyed this series, and look forward to re-reading it. (I realize none of that is actually a review. Sorry. Just read the series, okay??)
If this book was a movie I'd rate it: PG-13, for violence.

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making, by Catherynne M. Valente
I adored this book. It read like a modern-day classic, was inventive and beautifully written, and was filled with endearing characters and amazingly-quotable sections. It follows the exploits of a plucky girl named September, who travels to Fairyland with the Green Wind and has lots of adventures, including meeting an adorable dragon who man-or-may-not be part Library.

If this book was a movie I'd rate it: G, and you'd better believe I'd be first in line to see it!!

If I Stay by Gayle Foreman
I thought this was a really special, beautiful book, and liked it a lot better than The Fault in Our Stars, which I also read this year and kind of occupies a similar space in my mind (YA books about death, I guess). Gayle Foreman does a masterful job weaving in non-sequential flashback sequences into the main story (I've dubbed her the Flashback Queen), and her writing is beautiful. She really makes you feel things. I also enjoyed her refreshing portrayal of a loving, close-knit family, and thought she absolutely nailed the classical music aspects of the story. I haven't seen the movie yet, but it's on my list.
If this book was a movie I'd rate it: PG-13 for strong language and some mild sexual content (I'd bet real money they cleaned up a lot of the language for the actual movie.)

Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Lani Taylor
I don't normally read angel/demon books, (generally I find the concept deeply annoying), but this one intrigued me—I got a mix of Howl's Moving Castle and The Bartimeus Trilogy vibes, and absolutely tore through the pages. The story and characters were fascinating, and I loved the world-building, the details, the magic system. I loved Brimstone, the teeth-collecting wish-giver, I loved the creepy-but-fascinating idea of revenants. I loved Karou's spunk and her friendship with Zuzana. I loved the idea of the star-crossed romance, and really enjoyed the flashback sequences, though the actual romance happened too fast for me. I needed a scene or two more of establishment before the OMG-I-love-you-more-than-breathing-I'm-gonna-risk-everything-for-you-because-you're-so-hot thing happened. It was just a little bit too much love-at-first-sight, and I needed more to make it believable.
Still, an enjoyable read overall (and that ENDING!!). I'm partway through the second book, and will let you know my thoughts by the end of the trilogy. :-) 
If this book was a movie I'd rate it: PG-13, for sexual references and content, and some language.

The Winner's Curse by Marie Rutkowski
I read a lot of awesome books this year. This one is my favorite. It felt like it was written specifically for me, and I already read it twice and I need more people to read it so I have someone to discuss it with and AHHHHHH THE SEQUEL DOESN'T COME OUT TILL MARCH!!!!! Ahem. Anyways, it's filled with intrigue and a slow burning romance and music and duels and rebellion and I JUST LOVE IT SO MUCH I CAN'T WRITE A PROPER REVIEW. Like, I've reached Queen's Thief series-level adoration with this book, which is awesome because it has sort of a similar Greco-Roman setting and feel.
But if I was really trying to properly review it, it would go something like this: Ten years ago, the Valorians conquered the Herrani peninsula, seized their houses and property, and enslaved the Herrani people. Kestrel is the Valorian general's daughter, used to a life of luxury, and expected to either enlist in the army or marry by her 18th birthday. Then one day Kestrel finds herself at a slave auction and purchases a young Herrani man on a whim. And they slowly build this tension-filled reluctant friendship, and I'm not saying any more than that because SPOILERS. (ha. You thought you were getting a proper review and I fooled you!!)
If this book was a movie I'd rate it: PG-13, for some violence.

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