Friday, May 29, 2015

Yearly Round-UP: My favorite books from 2014

For newcomers to the NI, I tend to get most of my reading material from my libraries (books and comic books) so there's usually at least a small delay between a book coming out and me actually being able to check it out (although it is getting shorter in some cases especially manga weirdly enough). So I always do my favorite books of the year post halfway through the next year to give myself additional time to actually read everything. There are still some books I haven't been able to get a hold of yet but I actually got to a fair number of books this year, the full list can be found here but here are the most notable ones that I read.

To start with, there were a number of very good books I read that I don't have extra effusive praise for but fully enjoyed nonetheless. The Story of Owen, with it's alternate history take on a world with dragons and wonderfully realized characters is one, The Strange Maid which had a great individual story but worries me about how the larger series story is coming together is another, and the flawed Earth Star, with semi-flat characters and a plot that varied between being cool and being suspiciously favorable towards the characters, is a third.I enjoyed them but don't think I have anything to add onto their reviews (especially since all of them have a sequel coming out in the US sometime this year). For Afterworlds and City of Stairs there probably were some things I missed in that review but given the length of it people should just go ahead and read it and discover what I didn't mention. I also have some middle grade titles for once like Children of the King and Nightingale's Nest which are two wholly different stories, one mixing English history with WWII and the other a fairy tale with all-too-cruel modern day life, which are both wonderful with deep, nuanced characters in books that I feel like should be taught in schools not necessarily for the stories but because of what you can teach along with them, but again I feel like I covered those two well enough in their respective reviews.

So, onto the extra special ones starting with another middle grade novel, The Greenglass House. Kate Milford has such a lyrical style of writing that I would love for this to be taught in schools as well in comparison with a similar book just to start showing kids how writing styles even exist, I certainly didn't quite realize that until high school. The ending is a bit weak but before that it wonderfully captures a nostalgic feeling of the adventures of childhood, regardless of whether or not yours was spent exploring old houses, and she manages to describe a wide, similar but subtly different world without ever leaving the house. It's a fantastic work and reminded me that I really need to reread her other books when I've got a chance.

The Girls at the Kingfisher Club was also amazing and completely unexpected but I am now keeping my out for anymore of Genevieve Valentine. It's the exact kind of fairy tale retelling that I want to read more of, it's a lesser told story, completely different setting and the plot is more thematically similar than faithful story wise. Of course it also helps that Valentine balances all 12 girls and several male side characters brilliantly, making them all feel real and fleshes out the setting just enough to make it work but realizes that with all of that character focus you can't also do a let of setting building without drowning out the course of the story. I believe that she also has another book out this year so expect a review of that in the next twelve months!

And finally, my favorite book this year, Blue Lily, Lily Blue from Maggie Stiefvater's The Raven Boys quartet which is a book I keep thinking about months after I've finished and I'm sure I would have been even more head over heels for if I had read it when I was also in high school. My high school life wasn't like any of the characters' lives in the book, the normal parts not the supernatural aspect, but those alternating feelings of being trapped by a place without a future larger than the people who pass through and enjoying the little moments as the happen are amazingly familiar. Reading this book doesn't just make want to recommend this book to other people but to also write my own works that are just this good and it's a special thing when one book inspires you to write (and not in a "this was terrible I could be better way", that's a different kind of special). Sad that The Raven King was pushed back to early 2016 but oh well, I'm sure it'll be worth the wait!