Monday, February 23, 2015

In Which I Read Some Great Books In 2014

I read a crap ton of books in 2014 - 140 or so. But a fair amount of those were picture books and graphic novels. Still, though, that's a lot of books.

I always like to pick the top 5 books I read in a year. It's extra hard this time, though, just because there were so many. But I think I've got it paired down to the ones that really just struck a chord with me.

There were plenty of runner ups, books I would easily recommend to others because they're fantastic. But I can only pick five.

Pretty much the only rules I used were, no PBs or Graphic Novels, just because of reasons and I wouldn't be able to limit it to 5 if I did include them, and no books I had read before. I mean, I LOVED reading HATCHET, HOLES and THE OUTSIDERS this year, but I've read all of those books before so they didn't count.

Also, these aren't necessarily books that came out in 2014, just that I read them in 2014

All right, here are the books I loved the most in 2014, in no particular order:


Gerald Faust knows exactly when he started feeling angry: the day his mother invited a reality television crew into his five-year-old life. Twelve years later, he’s still haunted by his rage-filled youth—which the entire world got to watch from every imaginable angle—and his anger issues have resulted in violent outbursts, zero friends, and clueless adults dumping him in the special education room at school.
In this fearless portrayal of a boy on the edge, highly acclaimed Printz Honor author A.S. King explores the desperate reality of a former child “star” who finally breaks free of his anger by creating possibilities he never knew he deserved

I really like A.S. King's books. I actually just got her newest one this week for my birthday and I can't wait to read it. But out of all of her books, REALITY BOY is my favorite.

I think I have to give props to Matt MacNish for this one. I believe he rec'd it to me or I saw it on his blog or something. Either way, I loved it. My sister and my mom both enjoyed it and I wrote 2, yes 2, critical essays on it for my MFA (one on a passive main character and another on POV)

THE REAL BOY - Anne Ursu

On an island on the edge of an immense sea there is a city, a forest, and a boy. The city is called Asteri, a perfect city that was saved by the magic woven into its walls from a devastating plague that swept through the world over a hundred years before. The forest is called the Barrow, a vast wood of ancient trees that encircles the city and feeds the earth with magic. And the boy is called Oscar, a shop boy for the most powerful magician in the Barrow. Oscar spends his days in a small room in the dark cellar of his master's shop, grinding herbs and dreaming of the wizards who once lived on the island generations ago. Oscar's world is small, but he likes it that way. The real world is vast, strange, and unpredictable. And Oscar does not quite fit in it.
But it's been a long time since anyone who could call himself a wizard walked the world, and now that world is changing. Children in the city are falling ill, and something sinister lurks in the forest. Oscar has long been content to stay in his small room in the cellar, comforted in the knowledge that the magic that flows from the trees will keep his island safe. Now, even magic may not be enough to save it.

Full disclosure, Anne Ursu was my first semester advisor. But I read THE REAL BOY before we did any work together. THE REAL BOY kind of changed my life. Most of the middle grade I read is fun and funny and lighthearted. And THE REAL BOY showed me that MG doesn't have to be only that. That MG can be darker and sad and serious but lovely and wonderful.

Seriously, guys, I cannot recommend this book enough. I love it so so much. The themes and the mysteries are so wonderful and some of them caught me off guard, which is difficult to do because I typically do figure out the mysteries before the big reveal.

MAGGOT MOON - Sally Gardner

What if the football hadn’t gone over the wall. On the other side of the wall there is a dark secret. And the devil. And the Moon Man. And the Motherland doesn’t want anyone to know. But Standish Treadwell — who has different-colored eyes, who can’t read, can’t write, Standish Treadwell isn’t bright — sees things differently than the rest of the "train-track thinkers." So when Standish and his only friend and neighbor, Hector, make their way to the other side of the wall, they see what the Motherland has been hiding. And it’s big...

I probably would have never picked up MAGGOT MOON on my own, but my above mentioned advisor Anne Ursu, asked  me to read it (and I ended up using it in the same POV paper as REALITY BOY). This book is so full of mystery and strange things going on and at first I was trying to figure things out. But somewhere along the way I realized I didn't actually care about the mystery, I just cared about what was going to happen to the main characters, and desperately hoping that things would turn out okay.

Every time I see this book in a bookstore now, I kind of gasp and remember how much I loved it.

THE SCORPIO RACES - Maggie Stiefvater

It happens at the start of every November: the Scorpio Races. Riders attempt to keep hold of their water horses long enough to make it to the finish line. Some riders live. Others die.
At age nineteen, Sean Kendrick is the returning champion. He is a young man of few words, and if he has any fears, he keeps them buried deep, where no one else can see them.
Puck Connolly is different. She never meant to ride in the Scorpio Races. But fate hasn’t given her much of a chance. So she enters the competition — the first girl ever to do so. She is in no way prepared for what is going to happen.

Another rec from an advisor, this one Laura Ruby, who, when we were discussing the horses in my manuscript, asked "have you read THE SCORPIO RACES? It has horses that eat people." And I knew right then and there that it was the book for me.

And it was. Holy crap I loved this book. And I gave it to twin because I knew she would, too, and she did. It's very much in the same vein as THE BLACK STALLION or KING OF THE WIND except, you know, the horses are monsters.
And I love monsters. Especially monsters that you try to tame but it really only works some of the time.


Sixteen-year-old Austin Szerba interweaves the story of his Polish legacy with the story of how he and his best friend , Robby, brought about the end of humanity and the rise of an army of unstoppable, six-foot tall praying mantises in small-town Iowa.
To make matters worse, Austin's hormones are totally oblivious; they don't care that the world is in utter chaos: Austin is in love with his girlfriend, Shann, but remains confused about his sexual orientation. He's stewing in a self-professed constant state of maximum horniness, directed at both Robby and Shann. Ultimately, it's up to Austin to save the world and propagate the species in this sci-fright journey of survival, sex, and the complex realities of the human condition

I mean, if you've read this book, you know. I like Andrew Smith's books quite a bit, though some more than others. GRASSHOPPER JUNGLE read very Stephen King-esque to me. (And from the bits I've heard of THE ALEX CROW I think that book will sound similar).
So it's a book about the end of the world with giant praying mantises, which, as I said, I love monsters.
But it's also a book about so much more.

And when you get to the last chapter, the last page, actually, it's so utterly satisfying for reasons that I can't quite put my finger on, though I suspect it has to do with a running thread/theme (the bison, for anyone who's read it). I cannot wait to see the movie.


Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Maggot Moon. Now that's an eye-catching title.

Matthew MacNish said...

Great picks! I really need to get on my need to read Anne Ursu.

Hart Johnson said...

Oh, good recommendations! I've just requested a couple of them from my library.

Josh said...

What a cool idea. I may have to steal it from you. Also cool? I've only read 1 of the books on your list, so now I have some good book recs.

DL Hammons said...

I've not heard of a single one of those titles. WOW...I got to get out more! :)

dolorah said...

That's a lot of books read. I don't think I could do that even in the years I was reading about one book a week.

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