Tuesday, December 30, 2014

My Favorite Books of 2014

My 2014 reading year didn't start out very well so by June I thought I wouldn't have enough books to make a top ten list. Everything changed after I read Dear Sugar by Cheryl Strayed. For a while almost every book I read after that was just wonderful.

I read many 2014 releases and some of them were good but then again not quite good enough to make the cut. Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel was a sometimes compelling read but it inevitably pales when I compare it to Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood. And though they've received glowing reviews, I honestly didn't enjoy Us by David Nicholls and We Were Liars by E. Lockhart was just ok. Meanwhile, Colorless Tsukuro by Haruki Murakami, Malice by Keigo Higashino and Boy Snow Bird by Helen Oyeyemi were all interesting reads and if I could list more than ten they would surely have made this list. One classic that almost made it was The Collector by John Fowles, a creepy and well-written psychological crime novel.

However, I want to limit myself to only ten books. Three of them are by the same author, Elena Ferrante who I cannot rave about enough. Six of the books on this list were released in 2014. There's one non-fiction book, one YA, one Victorian vampire novel, two thrillers and one horror/fantasy graphic novel. Surprisingly nine of the books were written by women.  It's certainly a mixed bag of books so here's my list in order (drum roll please)...my favorite books of 2014.

1. to 3. The Neapolitan Novels by Elena Ferrante (My Brilliant Friend, The Story of a New Name and Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay) - Words can't describe how I was completely swept away by these novels of two friends growing up in Naples, Italy. I'm still suffering from Ferrante Fever and quite happily at that. I loved all three books and I can't wait to reread all three again just before book four will be released in late 2015. These three novels not only made it to the top of this list but they now have a permanent place in my My Reader's Table, my favorite books of all time.

4. The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters - Sarah Waters does it again this time with a crime story set in London in the 1920s. The pacing was excellent, the characters were well drawn and the writing was brilliant as always. This was a fabulous read from start to finish.

5. The Quick by Lauren Owen - I loved reading this stylish debut novel about vampires and vampire hunters in Victorian England. Pure escapism. I'm hoping there'll be a sequel.

6. Belzhar by Meg Wolitzer - This is the last book I read this year and it's also the only YA novel on the list. Read this if you love Sylvia Plath, The Secret History by Donna Tartt and Looking for Alaska by John Green. A wonderful book about fragile teenagers at a boarding school and their very special teacher who helps them deal with grief and loss by reading The Bell Jar and writing in their own journals.

7. The Secret Place by Tana French - I will read anything that Tana French produces and though this wasn't her best, I still enjoyed it very much. The Dublin murder squad is back and this time they are trying to solve a murder at a girls' boarding school.

8. Locke & Key by Joe Hill - This graphic novel written by Stephen King's son is completely addictive and immersive. Kids, a strange house, magic keys, an unsolved mystery and an evil being - all the elements for a thrilling read.

9. Tiny Beautiful Things, Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar by Cheryl Strayed - I don't think I'll ever forget some of the letters I read in this anthology. I highlighted so many lines so I know I'll be dipping into this again and again in the future. She's certainly a wise one, Ms. Strayed.

10. Euphoria by Lily King - This novel is loosely based on anthropologist Margaret Mead. It covers just a short span of time in her life and in fact my only complaint is that at 256 pages it was too short! Just when I was beginning to get into the characters, the love triangle and the setting, the story ended. This was a fascinating read not just for the story but for the close look at the work of anthropologists in the 1930s.

So that's it. My 2014 list. I'm looking forward to more reading in 2015 and hopefully (cross my fingers) more blogging. I've been using Twitter and Instagram more than my blog but would love to know if there are still any of you out there who read The Literary Stew. Happy New Year to all of you and happy reading in 2015!

Monday, December 29, 2014

Books Read in 2014

Every year I aim to read 50 books and every year I always fall short. 2014 was no different. I only read 46 books but there were a lot of good ones especially in the latter part of the year. Stay tuned for my best of 2014! Coming soon.

1. Apple Tree Yard by Louise Doughty
2. The Sea of Tranquility by Katja Millay
3. Locke & Key, Volume 1: Welcome to Lovecraft (Locke & Key #1) by Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez
4. Locke & Key, Volume 2: Head Games  (Locke & Key #2) by Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez
5. Locke & Key, Volume 3: Crown of Shadows  (Locke & Key #3) by Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez
4.  Locke & Key, Volume 4: Keys to the Kingdom  (Locke & Key #4) by Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez
5.  Locke & Key, Volume 5: Clockworks  (Locke & Key #5) by Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez
6. The Signature of All Things by
7.  Locke & Key, Volume 6: Alpha & Omega  (Locke & Key #6) by Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez
8. The Giver by Lois Lowry
9. Six Years by Harlan Coben
10. He Died With His Eyes Open by Derek Raymond
11. Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand
12. Donners of the Dead by Karina Halle
13. The Weight of Blood by Laura McHugh
14. The Collector by John Fowles
15. The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down by Anne Fadiman
16. Cannery Row by John Steinbeck
17. We Were Liars by E. Lockhart
18. Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel
19. Serena by Ron Rash
20. The Humans by Matt Haig
21. Boy, Snow, Bird by Helen Oyeyemi
22. Guilt by Association by Susan R. Sloan
23. Love Life by Rob Lowe
24. Joyland by Stephen King
25. Everything I never Told You by Celeste Ng
26. Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar by Cheryl Strayed
27. The Quick by Lauren Owen
28. Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and and his Years of Pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami
29. My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante
30. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by JK Rowling (reread)
31. The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters
32. Dwellers by Eliza Victoria
33. Broken Monsters by Lauren Beukes
34. The Secret Place by Tana French
35. The Turn of the Screw by Henry James
36. The Story of a New Name by Elena Ferrante
37. Us by David Nicholls
38. Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay by Elena Ferrante
39. The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater
40. Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
41. The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson
42. Malice by Keigo Higashino
43. The Julian Chapter by RJ Palacio
44. The Devotion of Suspect X by Keigo Higashino
45. Eyes that Watch You by Cornell Woolrich
46. Belzhar by Meg Wolitzer
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