Honourable Mentions of 2014

To come tomorrow, a post containing my favourite books that I read in 2014, (any that I had for judging have been omitted.)

So it seems from previous years that I order these by title. Strange, but I hate breaking tradition.

Books due out in 2015 (but read in 2014)

Goodhouse by Peyton Marshall

In Goodhouse, the families of convicted criminals are tested for a set of genetic markers (though this book seems to be set in 1980 or around-abouts). Boys who test positive become compulsory wards of the state and are removed from their homes to be raised on “Goodhouse” campuses, where they learn to reform their darkest thoughts and impulses. It’s not really said what happens to the females – perhaps it is thought that they remain good and wholesome.

What’s most powerful in this book is how the children are treated. James has zero rights – the school is run by different levels of ‘enforcer’ type characters, some who are even students themselves who have been given additional privileges. James is constantly attacked and victimised, but it doesn’t matter what he says to whom – he’s either ignored entirely, or there’s minor confusion as the culprits seem to never had existed.

Some Fine Day by Kat Ross

A novel that was originally due out in 2014 (and I received for review back then) only to then fall victim to Angry Robot cancelling their Strange Chemistry imprint. This book has been picked up again thankfully, and is due out in 2015.

This is a novel about a world where continent-sized storms called ‘hypercanes’ cause havoc on the surface, so everyone lives well below the Earth’s surface. For the rich and powerful there are holidays to the surface as if it’s the height of fashion, and this is what Jansin Nordqvist’s family do, along with her partner – it’s all amazing to see the sun for the first time and so on… until they’re attacked, and she’s taken prisoner.

And from there, Jansin begins to learn that perhaps all she’s ever been told about the world may not be strictly true. And if that’s the case, then can she really live her life the same again?

Vision in Silver (The Others #3) by Anne Bishop

This is a series that keeps getting better! Sometimes the first book in a series is amazing, and then they kinda trail off as the series gets longer and longer… but the second and third are only more excellent, and there seems to be many more books planned to come!

This book went into just how much the humans have stuffed up, and what consequences there shall be to come – which is spiraling out of control as the humans against the Others are getting more and more violent. The humans that are on the Others’ alliance are getting more airtime also, and we’re getting to know them better.

This book was a bit lighter on the Simon/Meg aspect, but it’s all very realistic and lovely. Bring on book four!

Books read and published in 2014

Admission (Pandora Jones #1) by Barry Jonsberg

A local author, I’m a bit fond of Jonsberg – it doesn’t hurt that he’s an excellent author. This is an interesting ‘the world is ending’ book that takes a certain group of people – kids mostly – into a camp in order to protect and prepare them for what the world has become.

Yet not everything is as it seems. Throw in a few abilities and you have a traditional YA novel that still manages to be gripping and interesting even if the plot points have all been done before. The characters are what drive this, so it’s good that’s one of the best aspects of the novel.

Falling into Place by Amy Zhang

This was a fast-moving novel that’s split into sections that show Liz Emerson’s life before she crashes her car, killing herself. It also shows a whole of other sections of her life and those around her with multiple perspectives, and manages to not be confusing throughout.

It’s a book that emotionally invests you but in addition to that, the writing is beautiful. It shows how characters in a novel can be interesting even if you don’t like them too much.

The Girl with All the Gifts by M.R. Carey

Now this was a book with a difference. Now that we’ve moved past the books of worldwide disaster and zombies and such, we’re getting these ideas with a twist and a difference. This is written with an almost literature sense to it, and really begs the question, what does it take to be considered human?

The only reason this book isn’t on my ‘best books’ post (books that got five out of five stars) was because while the ending was fantastic, the book didn’t always grab me throughout and there was something a little off about the characters sometimes. Ultimately though, Melanie was the character that drove this book home and really, any book with an excellent ending will do okay with me.

Landry Park (Landry Park #1) by Bethany Hagen

Honestly, this book has merged so much into The Winners Curse by Marie Rutkoski that I couldn’t remember a single thing about this one alone. I liked them both independently of each other at the time, but now it comes time to recall things about them separately, Winner’s Curse has overtaken this one. Whether it’s because I read it second, who knows.

Murder of Crows (The Others #2) by Anne Bishop

Well 2014 must have been a pretty good year if I got two books from the same series within months of each other. Yay for reviewing!

‘Murder of Crows’ is the second book in The Others series, written by Anne Bishop. It picks up quite soon after where the first book, Written in Red, left off, and notes just how long Meg has now been living in Lakeside Courtyard. It’s a surprisingly little amount of time, yet we already know so much about them all and can see how far she has become part of, and invested in, the lives of theterra indigene.

Overall this is a strange second book to a series, because they’re usually lacking or full of information and not much action, whereas this one expands on everything – world building, characters, and has its own distinct plot while also tying securely into the first.

It probably shouldn’t be a surprise to get such a strong second book in a series, but there we go. It was excellent!

The Wizard’s Promise (The Hanna Duology #1) by Cassandra Rose Clarke

Another book I loved so much that fell victim to Angry Robot closing down Strange Chemistry! Hopefully it’ll find another deal along with the second in the series sometime soon. Other than that, she has another book coming out in 2015 called ‘Our Lady of the Ice’.

This was a wonderful and strange book that reminds me a bit of Laura Lam’s writing. This was about a young witch who is stuck as an apprentice to a strange fisherman. Trouble and mysterious things keeps finding her, and what’s wonderful about this book is the description and characters that carry us there. I’m hungry for the next book, dammit!

Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy by Karen Foxlee

This was such a pretty story. Ophelia is a witty young sassy protagonist who doesn’t believe in anything that can’t be proven by science. Their father takes a job in a strange museum in a city where it always snows after their mother dies, and they’re all still in mourning, losing themselves in lonely, antisocial ways rather than banding together in their grief. Ophelia explores their new home, and on her very first day in the museum Ophelia discovers a boy locked away in a long forgotten room, locked there by his step-mother, Her Majesty the Snow Queen.

It’s a middle grade book with a difference. The plot seems over-done, yet the novel is anything but. It really is magic.

Otherbound by Corinne Duyvis

Yet another entirely different novel. This is no simple love story, set worlds apart. Because of tropes, one almost expects Amara and Nolan to find a spark together, but throughout they remain stoic and barely able to work together. Throughout the novel we come over unexpected things, which leads the author as someone to be watched closely for what they come out with next. As a debut novel this is a fantastically strong book, with only a few, very minor quibbles. I would have loved to see more of the world, as it wasn’t one of the usual white-person filled medieval style fantasy. I would have loved to see more of the magic that binds them all. You don’t need to see more of either in order to enjoy and believe in the story – as I said, they’re very minor quibbles, and I should add in ‘selfish’ there, too. It’s what I would have loved to see, personally.

The author has another book set to come out in 2016 – On the Edge of Gone. Can’t wait!

Prisoner of Night and Fog (Prisoner of Night and Fog #1) by Anne Blankman

Set in the 1930s in Munich, just after World War I (then called The Great War) when Germany is in turmoil. Gretchen Müller is a young adult, and a proud member of the National Socialist Party – that is, until, her own conscience begins to show what seemingly no one else can. Their close family friend was one a badge of honour, and now she’s feeling incredibly ashamed. One guess to who it is.

In this fast-paced historical fiction, we see what Germany was like at the time and how desperate things became. We see another side to Hitler, with how he liked to draw, eat simple foods, and gave insightful and philosophical encouragement to those who surrounded him.

This is quite an excellent historical fiction novel, bravely written. Highly recommended for those who love Elizabeth Wein.

The Slow Regard of Silent Things (Tales from Temerant) by Patrick Rothfuss

Where to start with this book. It’s a strange piece of work and if I’m perfectly honest, it isn’t something I entirely loved depending on my mood. The author himself warns you off reading it in the first few pages.

At times when reading it I was a little disappointed. Or a little bored. It was sometimes easy to put down – though I did always pick it up again quite soon after. And all in all it’s a lovely book, it’s a good read but… This is only a book for those who have read his Kingkiller Chronicles series and have time for a little whimsy.

The Thousand-Dollar Tan Line (Veronica Mars #1) by Rob Thomas and Jennifer Graham

Took a while to get into, but then it gets really quite engaging and a very quick read. It’s so good to have our series back! First a movie and now this, and a second book out soon also – LoVe fans rejoice! (Yes, Logan and Veronica really do get the OTP name to end all other OTP names, I must admit. Even if my OTP is John/Aeryn from Farscape.)

This was the crime and characters we know and love, written with quite an excellent touch that’s above the usual fandom tie-in novel. Though this one could have had a bit more Logan in it, please.

The Tropic of Serpents (Memoir by Lady Trent, #2) by Marie Brennan

This was such a quick read after I failed to pick it up all year! Reading Temeraire by Naomi Novik got me in the mood for it and then I devoured it within a few hours.

I have to admit, I didn’t like it as much as the first, but I’m still quite invested in the series and shall probably continue. The events of the first book leave everything in quite sad, dire straits and in this book you see the protagonist struggling on all sides (and accomplishing epic magnitudes to be sure) in order to find her own place in the world and hush all the nay-sayers.

Valour and Vanity (Glamourist Histories #4) by Mary Robinette Kowal

After Melody’s wedding, the Ellsworths and Vincents accompany the young couple on their tour of the continent. Jane and Vincent plan to separate from the party and travel to Murano to study with glassblowers there, but their ship is set upon by Barbary corsairs while en route. It is their good fortune that they are not enslaved, but they lose everything to the pirates and arrive in Murano destitute.

Apologies, I took the above from the goodreads profile – these books are hard to sum up! From there, we see the Vincents battle through injustices and manage to get by on their wit alone. These books are such a rollicking good ride, each as good as the last!

The Very Best of Tad Williams by Tad Williams

Tad Williams is an author I’ve been meaning to try for a long time. I own most of his books and they look pretty fantastic on my shelves, but I haven’t yet actually started one of his novels.

This was a very enjoyable collection with most shorts earning a four or a five out of five from me. They work and fit together very well, with most having religious overtones, and cleverly taking tropes or well worn steps in fantasy and using them to their strengths.

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

Ahh, one of the most spoken about books in YA to come out this year. This is the type of book you need to know nothing about before going in, so I’ll keep it short. The prose is pretty excellent, lyrical in parts and beautiful in others. It’s weird and uncomfortable in others and the ending will certainly … well. Just read it. It’s a quick read, and can easily be done in an afternoon, so get to it.

While We Run (When We Wake #2) by Karen Healey

So I was a judge for the Children’s Book Council Awards. One of eight across Australia (one from each state/territory) who had to read 380+ books and then spend a week discussing them out to choose the winners. You’d think after that I’d take a few days off reading – or even a week, maybe.

Nope. I inhaled this series instead. Literally the first afternoon we had free, a few of the other judges and I went directly to a bookstore. Go figure.

This was SUCH an engaging series and I keep checking around to see if there’ll be a third book. Come on, Karen! I need more!

Tegan Oglietti is no ordinary girl – she died in 2027, only to be frozen and brought back to life 100 years later. That alone should be enough to get you interested – does it help that the characters are dang interesting?

The Winner’s Curse (The Winner’s Trilogy #1) by Marie Rutkoski

Kestral has two choices in life – either join the military (and follow her father’s footsteps), or get married. Neither choice seem enticing to Kestral. (This is the novel I just can’t keep separate in my head from Landry Park by Bethany Hagen.)

It’s good to see a main character who has strength in intellect and strategy. Though Kestral has been brought up to be a fighter, it also stresses that she’s simply not that good – she can hold her own, and she’s competent in many subjects thanks to years and years of training, but she lacks the natural flare. Unfortunately, while this book was quite entertaining, my ARC of the second in the series has been quite dull and suffers heavily from middle book syndrome.

Yesterday’s Kin by Nancy Kress

This novella is mostly about Dr Marianne Jenner. She’s at an age we don’t see too often in speculative fiction – she’s old enough to have three children of her own, a deceased husband, and as we see throughout the novel, two grandchildren.

We see her being congratulated for a paper and suddenly threatening men from the government burst into the room and escort her away – because aliens have landed, and they’ve requested her presence specifically.

Nancy’s writing is engaging – you can’t put the book down at all. It’s quite short (I’d say it’s a novella rather than a novel) so you could get through it in an afternoon.

Books read in 2014 (yet published earlier)

2012 by Alisa Krasnostein and Ben Payne

This anthology takes eleven of Australia’s best known speculative fiction authors and allows them to present unique ideas for the near future (at least at the time of writing it was the near future!) It will be interesting to see in ten years how these stories and ideas stand – to see if the issues of terrorism and climate change still stand, or how they’ve since developed.

Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor

This was quite a fun, lovely and vivid book. Some parts felt it dragged a little, but overall this was a three and a half star read (out of five, going on the goodreads rating scheme), with excellent characters and a really fascinating magic system.

The Archived (The Archived #1) by Victoria Schwab

This is a character-driven novel, my favourite kind! Schwab writes characters that are just so good and become instant favourites. Like Wes. She’s also so good at describing worlds and magic and it’s kinda set in a fancy academy-style school, and also in a massive library – so what’s not to love here?

Attachments by Rainbow Rowell

Beth Fremont and Jennifer Scribner-Snyder know that somebody is monitoring their work e-mail. (Everybody in the newsroom knows. It’s company policy.) But they can’t quite bring themselves to take it seriously. They go on sending each other endless and endlessly hilarious e-mails, discussing every aspect of their personal lives.

Meanwhile, Lincoln O’Neill can’t believe this is his job now- reading other people’s e-mail. When he applied to be “internet security officer,” he pictured himself building firewalls and crushing hackers- not writing up a report every time a sports reporter forwards a dirty joke.

Another book that’s hard to sum up. I really quite liked this – the characters were interesting, and it managed to take a kinda creepy idea and present it in an almost-acceptable way.

The Lives of Tao (Tao #1) by Wesley Chu

Another fun book! This was is such a different series, that combines humour with the slight desperation of an overweight geek who is pretty miserable with life who hasn’t dreamed, even if it were only once or just for a few moments, of being discovered by someone or something and trained up for Something. In this case, it’s to be a secret agent. Aliens are involved and they’re pretty sassy. We have female characters who are worthwhile and competent, and we have a main character who is hard to dislike.

Nanberry by Jackie French

This book is set at the very start of Australia during the first waves of convicts being dumped on the shores, and it presents an extraordinary view of what life was like them from multiple points of view – how beautiful but also how terrible and hard it all was, what it was like from the point of view of an Indigenous person, from that of a well-off doctor (one of the most highly respected people of that time), and that of a convict-turned-house servant.

I’ve loved Jackie French’s work since I was in primary school and she’s just such a damn good writer that her book for children remain utterly readable no matter how old you get.

The Real Boy by Anne Ursu

This one was recommended to me by my book-twin Sam. I picked this to be the first book read for the year as I like to start the year with a very enjoyable book, and I wasn’t disappointed! This is a juvenile book, but goes to show that as long as it’s well written you can enjoy anything. This was a lovely tale with a very effective magic system, delicate prose, and engaging characters – everything was so easy to visulise that I didn’t want this book to end!

Six Impossible Things by Fiona Wood

So this book is set before ‘Wildlife’ – one of my favourite books of all time now, but you can read the books utterly separate. Both books capture teenage life so well, and depict social pressures as well as dating, drinking and so on with perfect clarity, never seeming over dramatic or unrealistic.

Steelheart (Reckoners #1) by Brandon Sanderson

This was a very, very slow book to get into. I forced myself through it a bit knowing at least I could rely on Sanderson that it would probably eventually be good. It eventually paces up to be an enjoyable novel overall, and it leaves you very, very interested for the second. Again, characters drive this one.

The Strain (The Strain Trilogy #1) by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan

So I finally picked this one up after meaning to for ages, thanks to the television show – as I imagined a lot of people have. The show followed it quite faithfully in a way and both were engaging enough – I do love seeing how a city reacts to a disaster. I probably won’t be continuing with the series though – I feel I’ve got enough from this book, and there are probably other books that do the same thing enough to keep me entertained.

The Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers

This was a quick, sad read where you see the terror of war in much more of a stark way – this book was written from a solider’s point of view so it was pretty depressing the whole way through. You can see why it’s won awards.

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