Friday, January 9, 2015

2014, Year in Review: The Best and The Rest

The Best:
In no particular order, cause I hate making the tough calls of 'this book was just slightly better than this other one', when they're all totally worth reading.

City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett
      Seriously, I need more books like this in my life.  Where has Robert Bennett been hiding all my life?  Oh, Texas, yeah, that explains it.
       But seriously, this was amazing.  And if it wasn't quite a perfect book, it was still one of the best things I've read in recent years. Special bonus points:  There's another book in this world coming.

The Southern Reach Trilogy by Jeff Vandermeer
      I know where Jeff Vandermeer has been hiding, and it's in Florida.  Seriously, don't fuck with Florida, they have all kinds of crazy, and it shows in the Southern Reach, which is basically all the freaky and strange of Florida distilled and printed out in a new form, with all-new ADDED AWESOME!

Waistcoats and Weaponry by Gail Carriger
       Oh Gail Carriger, I want to go to a bookstore and just have a whole shelf of new books by you to read all of the time when I am needing some wit and sparkle (and really, when don't we need some wit and sparkle?).

The Broken Eye by Brent Weeks
        Oh Brent, what are you doing to me?!?  Seriously, I'm beginning to think that you are going to GRRM me and kill off all the characters I like.  Mortal Peril barely begins to describe where you are leaving everyone, and that ENDING!!!  Ugh!  You're a magnificent bastard! Like basically Andross Guile, without the crazy. And no drafting ability.

The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison
        A book I've seen on a lot of best lists, and most over-rated lists already, and I can see why.  This is an excellent example of a 'not for everyone' book.  There is a plot, if a rather basic one, but the real richness of this book, is the deep examination of the main character's character. It's a superb piece of writing, and if you're the reader who enjoys falling into a character, and watching them grow into a role they're not prepared for, then this is a great book for you.

Prince of Fools by Mark Lawrence
        I've already posted my review of this, but oh my god Mark Lawrence, this was awesome! Can I have the next book already? Is it time? How bout now?

Broken Homes Ben Aaronovitch
         WHAT ARE YOU PEOPLE DOING TO ME!?! Seriously Ben, we need to talk, because I love the way you ramp up the story in unexpected ways. Well done.

Words of Radiance by Brandon Sanderson
          I love to see Sanderson loosening up a bit and making some jokes, and having fun in his writing, and that the world is starting to feel unimaginably weirder than it did in 'Way of Kings'.

Valour and Vanity by Mary Robinette Kowal
        Mary's series has grown so far beyond  the fun if obvious (and acknowledged) Austenian pastiche of 'Shades of Milk and Honey' into a fantastic series in it's own right.  This book contains swashbuckling and a continuation of Jane and Vincent's adventures, and adventures in marriage. Their marriage might be the most realistic I've ever seen portrayed in fantasy, as they are both very realized characters, and the conflicts between them as spouses are a logical conclusion of their differences.
How can I not love a book when I can say 'added swashbuckling'?

Best Debut:
Red Rising by Pierce Brown
      I posted yesterday about Pierce's signing at Powells for his second book, which I'm really looking forward to. Do yourself a favor and give this book a few chapters to really get under your skin, I bet it does.

The Rest:

Slow Regard of Silent Things by Patrick Rothfuss (Novella)
          I can't quite bring myself to rank a novella as one of the best books of the year, but I did really enjoy this glimpse into the daily life of Auri.  While it is not a story that stands alone at all, it's a great chance to see the world from eyes that aren't Kvothes, and has some great groundwork for where Rothfuss may go on Day Three.

California Bones by Greg Van Eekhout
      This did everything I love in a novel, and I'm really looking forward to the second book later this month. If you want something new and different, this is a great book for you to try.

Dreams of the Golden Age by Carrie Vaughn
         I think Carrie Vaughn can read my mind.
         The first book in this series, 'After the Golden Age' was a bit of a disappointment to me, as I just wanted more.  More twists, more surprises, and most of all, I wanted a more engaged character.  There was something just slightly lacking from Celia that I can't quite define.
          Carrie clearly read my mind and fixed all of that in this book.  Anna is fantastic, and troubled, and I was deeply engaged in her story. And now... I wait for book three!

Jack in the Green by Charles de Lint
I really liked this novella, as I said in my review, and I adore Charles de Lint, but I wanted the book to be a little more even, and I enjoyed it for de Lint's prose as much as the story. And that's not enough for a book to make it into the best for me.

Underworlds Daughter by Molly Ringle
            So, first a little secret.
            I've read the earliest draft of what eventually evolved into this series, through a Byzantine and roundabout fashion, long ago, and I loved the ideas, even if the actual story was very rough.  So I am hardly an unbiased reviewer.  Molly and I have been Facebook friends for ages, and she had written several books, and I kept asking and wondering about that long-ago read draft.  And FINALLY she delivered the first book in the Chrysomelia Stories in 2013.  The ideas I loved about the original draft were there, and a whole host of amazing new characters.
            This second book is a great continuation,and expansion on that earlier story, and I enjoyed it almost as much as the first book.

The Paper Magician by Charlie Holmberg
         So this was a VERY short novel (I haven't seen a print version, but it felt like a longish novella) that I got as part of the Amazon 'First Look' program.
         And actually, I really liked it. It was fun, and I felt engaged by the character.  I loved the idea of the different types of magic.  It's not a doorstopper story, but it's a fun light read that sucked me in.

Skin Game by Jim Butcher 
          I've enjoyed the growth of Butcher's writing by leaps and bounds, and 'Changes' and the two books since have been on a roll of increasingly good.  This book was not.
          That's not to say it was a bad book, exactly.  It's just that he uses a plot device to ramp up tension that just didn't work for me, And I'm getting tired of Harry acting like an ass just because he can.  Yes, yes, I get that he's the Winter Knight now, and is going to start becoming more cruel the longer he's under the Mantle, but shouldn't he be getting more devious too?

The Young Elites by Marie Lu
          'The Young Elites' wasn't even on my radar really, until I popped into Powells one random night and Marie Lu was there talking about her book, so I sat and listened. And oh my, is she engaging and interesting, if you get the chance to see her speak, I do recommend it. She sold this book to me without even trying, with the simple words 'it's told from the villians POV.' OHHHHH!! This is my wheelhouse!!
            It starts out interestingly enough, but I never felt that the main character's quandaries felt real.  Instead, they felt like the plot needed these things to happen, so that's what happened, in defiance of reason.  As much as I wanted to like this book, and in places, I really did like it, I just never quite felt immersed and invested.

Maplecroft by Cherie Priest
        I really came close to putting this in the best of category, I really did. But the longer I was away from the book, the more I thought of ways it could have been cooler. I still really loved the book, and I can't wait for the next one.

Next of Kin by Dan Wells (Novella)
Oh did I love this story! Dan Wells has me so ready for the the John Cleaver book coming in 2015 that I can hardly wait.

What I Missed:
Sadly, there's not time to read everything that came out this year, and here are some of the books I haven't gotten to yet, including some by favorites of mine, if you read them, let me know what you thought!

Lock In by John Scalzi
The Mirror Empire by Kameron Hurley
Full Fathom Five by Max Gladstone
The Shadow Throne by Django Wexler
The Crimson Campaign by Brian McClellan
Clariel by Garth Nix
The Hollow City by Ransom Riggs
Ancillary Sword by Ann Leckie
The Three Body Problem by Liu Cixin
Unwrapped Sky by Rjurik Davidson
Child of a Hidden Sea by AM Dellamonica
Of Whimsies and Noubles by Matthew Hughes
Dreamwalker  by CS Friedman
The Fool's Assassin by Robin Hobb
Cibola Burn by James SA Corey
Seven Wild Sisters by Charles de Lint
The Gospel of Loki by Joanne Harris
The Serpent of Venice  by Christopher Moore  
Thornlost by Melanie Rawn  
My Real Children by Jo Walton
The Brothers Cabal by Jonathan Howard
Sworn in Steel by Douglas Hulick
Boy Snow Bird by Helen Oyeyemi


  1. I have decided to enlighten you by giving you the real list of the best of 2014. My list is longer than yours, since I read better books. To offset this advantage, I'm only listing books published in 2014 in the USA. That means I am precluded from including such obvious good choices as Smiler's Fair. But that's only fair: North Star Guide Me Home (Jo Spurrier), Full Fathom Five (Max Gladstone), Veil of the Deserters (Jeff Salyards), The Tower Broken (Mazarkis Williams), The Seat of Magic (J. Kathleen Cheney), The Waking Engine (David Edison), Child of a Hidden Sea (A. M. Dellamonica), The Prince of Fools (Mark Lawrence), The Shadow Throne (Django Wexler), American Craftsmen (Tom Doyle), Shotgun Arcana (R. S. Belcher), Unwrapped Sky (Rjurik Davidson), The Godless (Ben Peek), Steles of the Sky (Elizabeth Bear), The Magician’s Land (Lev Grossman), The Silk Map (Chris Willrich), Scarlet Tides (David Hair), Iron Night (M. L. Brennan), Tainted Blood (M. L. Brennan), California Bones (Greg van Eekhout), Valor (John Gwynne), The Fell Sword (Miles Cameron), The Emperor’s Blades (Brian Staveley), The Pillars of Sand (Mark T. Barnes), Age of Iron (Angus Watson), Daring (Elliott James), Scarlet Tides (David Hair), The Free (Brian Ruckley), The Crimson Campaign (Brian McClellan), The Future Falls (Tanya Huff), The Mirror Empire (Kameron Hurley), Yamada Monogatari: To Break the Demon Gate (Richard Parks), The Blasted Lands (James A. Moore), Jinn and Juice (Nicole Peeler), Cursed Moon (Jaye Wells), Broken Souls (Stephen Blackmoore), Gods and Monsters: Mythbreaker (Stephen Blackmoore), We Are Not Good People (Jeff Somers), Maplecroft (Cherie Priest), Traitor’s Blade (Sebastien de Castell), The Oversight (Charlie Fletcher), Sworn in Steel (Douglas Hulick), The Barrow (Mark Smylie), Dreamer’s Pool (Juliet Marillier) , The Boy with the Porcelain Blade (Den Patrick).

  2. Hey, I put David Hair's "Scarlet TIdes" on my list twice. Obviously, this was because it was "two good."

    1. Thanks Simon! I promise not to disregard your list because you failed to proofread and catch that. I mean, not completely.

  3. It's because I proofread that I caught it. And you are correct when you say "I mean."