Happy New Year to all my lovely blog friends & followers, I hope 2015 brings you love, laughter & inspiration.
To start off my new year, I thought I’d review the best part of 2014 – the books that I read! I made an effort to record all the books that made up my year, & I’m posting them with short reviews. It’s just for fun but if anyone recommends any books for me to read in 2015, I am always open to literary suggestions :-) The ones I loved & recommend have little * beside them.
Books of 2014
1. The Wolf Gift by Ann Rice
This is one of those books that you just power through, get caught up in the storyline & find yourself buttering toast with one hand while still reading. I am a fan of werewolf books particularly the classics but this was a great modern legend. It begins fairly typically with a man transitioning into a werewolf & deciding to track down the creature who turned him. It leads him on a modern fantasy to learn about his new powers & kin. Worth a read if, like me, you’re a fan of the more classically based fantasy stories, rather than teen love stories.
2. The Wolves of Midwinter by Ann Rice
I had downloaded the sequel to The Wolf Gift at the same time, & was quite happy to flow directly on to the next part. This develops the storyline a lot more, mixing wolf legend with Rice’s version of the reality, while bringing the characters on a new journey, including our main character finding an unexpected mate & dealing with the ethics of turning her into a werewolf, or leaving her vulnerable as a human, while their enemies close in. I don’t want to give away the story, but I think if you read the first one, you will enjoy the next. I believe there’s a third in the works too.
3. First Shift: Legacy by Hugh Howey
4. Second Shift: Order by Hugh Howey
5. Third Shift: Pact by Hugh Howey (all three known as Silo #2) *
I am putting these together because they are part of a collection. If you have read Wool (the first stage of the story, Silo #1), you will know about Howey and the Silo Omnibus. Shift is the second stage (Silo #2) of the sci-fi story. Like Wool, Shift has a few different books in it – First Shift: Legacy, Second Shift: Order, & Third Shift: Pact. It precedes the story of the post-apocalyptic world where the population live in a sunken silo to escape the noxious air that now covers the surface. It is a prequel of sorts, explaining the actions that lead to how & why the human race are living underground. It is a fantastic series that I would wholly recommend, especially if you are a fan of the post-apocalyptic genre. I do enjoy them, but I am definitely not a zombie fan, so it was great to read one that did not completely terrify me!
6. Dust by Hugh Howey (Silo #3) *
The finale to the Silo Omnibus, Dust is put into one fantastic book, breaking away from the form of the first two. Our main character from Wool returns in the sequel to the collection, with the reader now informed on the secrets that led to the creation of the silo. Jules knows what her predecessors did, & why they are living as they are, and she is determined to change it. But time is running out.
It’s difficult to explain these books without giving away details! But they really are worth the time to read them. Full of twists & turns, heartbreak & hope for your favourite characters. I would highly recommend this series, they were a favourite of mine, & I was actually sad to finish it.
7. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
In a quietly terrifying book written in the 1930’s, Huxley explores a world set far into the future. Humans are genetically engineered in false wombs in laboratories & designed into one of five life ‘castes’. These people live & die in their castes & do not stray from the path that has been set out for them by the government. The lower castes (or class) are clones bred to do menial jobs. All humans are suppressed reproductively, and there is no such thing as ‘mother’ or ‘father’, but casual, recreational sex is encouraged. In certain pockets of the world there are places unregulated by such laws, & these people are viewed as savages.
A very interesting storyline, it gives an unsettling view of an ‘idealised’ society. Well worth a read, but I am a sucker for these types of classics. It always excites me to see different views of what people think will happen to humans with the advancement of technology & genetics.
8. Thief of Time by Terry Pratchett
Very little explanation is needed, it’s a Terry Pratchett book, just read it. The man is a genius.
9. The Last Hero by Terry Pratchett
10. Light Boxes by Shane Jones *
Given to me by my uncle who is an author & an editor, I generally read his recommendations because they are always vastly interesting. Light Boxes is about a town terrorised by February, who is a spirit who bans flying & gives them a perpetual winter. Depression hits the town & their children start to go missing, so the adults begin to fight back. This is a great book, vaguely surrealist, & refreshing in its unconventional storyline. I would recommend it to anyone looking for something a little different.
11. A Scanner Darkly by Philip K. Dick
Philip K. Dick in his sci-fi genius creates a story with the main character living a double life, as an undercover narcotics agent placed in a drug household to spy on the ringleader, he plays the part of one of the drug-addled members of the house. The drug of this world is known as ‘Substance D’, a psychoactive drug. The book depicts the conflict in the main character in his ability to do his job while functioning on the drug. It is, like all of his books, extremely interesting, hard to put down, but completely mad at the same time. Any fan of Dick’s books or the movies made from them should read this.
12. The Amazing Maurice & His Educated Rodents by Terry Pratchett
I am under the opinion that Pratchett’s books need no introduction or recommendation, but should be read by everyone. This is no exception, set in his Discworld with a talking cat & troop of rodents who team up with a child who can understand them. Brilliance.
13. The Abominable by Dan Simmons *
By chance I found this in a bookstore & I have been obsessed with Simmons ever since. His books are fantastic. The Abominable is set in 1924 & the race to summit Mount Everest leads to the disappearance of George Mallory & Sandy Irving. The following year, a new group sets out to attempt the summit & to find another climber who has gone missing there. But everything is not as it seems on the mountain. I won’t give out any more information on this because you really need to read it for yourself. I knew nothing about mountain climbing before I began this book, but learned as I went along. It is a brilliant book, Simmon’s has a way with words that is eloquent & captivating. There are more of his works along my list, I guarantee if you read one you will want to read them all.
14. Night Watch by Terry Pratchett *
Again, a Pratchett. This is one of my favourite characters in his Discworld – Sam Vimes. It gives an amazing journey through the Watch. I won’t explain, just read it.
15. The Wee Free Men by Terry Pratchett
The characters in this are the Nac Mac Feegles, the tough miniature men of the Discworld. A laugh a minute with these guys.
16. Children of the Night by Dan Simmons
This is a refreshing modern take on vampirism without giving in to tired clichés & rehashed ideas. I found this gripping and so interesting. It is set in modern times, when an immunologist, Kate, working in a Romanian orphanage with sick children discovers an abnormality in an infant’s blood. She adopts the child & takes him back to America, but the child is kidnapped by agents of Vlad Tepes, the original Dracula. Kate returns to Romania to find her child, not knowing what she’s stepping into.
17. Monstrous Regiment by Terry Pratchett
A small town girl poses as a boy to join the army, with hilarious Pratchett-esque results.
18. A Hat Full of Sky by Terry Pratchett
Tiffany, our lovely young witch, continues her story in no 32 of Pratchett’s series.
19. A Winter’s Haunting by Dan Simmons
Another of Simmon’s fantastic tales, this is a spooky haunted house tale. A college professor with his life in tatters returns to the town of his childhood to write a book. But he finds himself followed & haunted by his demons, & he is cut off on a remote piece of land. This is a great book, faintly Stephen King-like in how it sends goosebumps down your spine if you’re reading it with the lights off! well worth a read.
20. Thud! by Terry Pratchett *
Another one with my favourite Sam Vimes. This is a brilliant Pratchett book, dark & humourous, with an elaborate storyline.
21. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley *
I have seen several movie versions of this but only this year realised that I hadn’t read the book. What a treat. Honestly, if you’re a classics fan, this is a must. Shelley wrote this book as part of a bet with a group of friends to see who could create the best scary story. For a book written in 1818, it is one that will prevail through time. Everyone knows the story so I won’t explain it, but I found myself overcome with this book. It is so emotional, so raw, and should be a must-read for everyone’s list.
22. Wintersmith by Terry Pratchett
Right, we’ve established I’m a Pratchett fan & that I’m just going to say to read them, all of them. This one is about the young witch Tiffany and her dance with winter.
23. Making Money by Terry Pratchett
Moist von Lipwig from the post office takes over the city bank to turn it into a success.
24. Carrion Comfort by Dan Simmons
Another horror from Simmon’s, this follows a group of individuals who use their influential ‘ability’ to convince regular people to perform horrible acts. They then meed to compare, in a sort of game. A chilling story, but gripping all the same. I did enjoy this book with a rather unsettling premise.
25. Hyperion by Dan Simmons *
26. The Fall of Hyperion by Dan Simmons *
27. Endymion by Dan Simmons *
Now, I could gush about this series for a long time. I have read three out of four of this series, and that’s why I’ve put the three together. It is very sci-fi, with humans having several terraformed worlds that they live on, & can travel between instantly by means of ‘farcasters’. A team is picked to travel to a world in conflict, but discover a prophecy of a legend come to life, in the form of a terrifying creature. This series is amazing, I am really looking forward to getting the last book read & tying the story up. A truly elaborate sci-fi fantasy.
28. The Most Dangerous Game by Richard Connell
We’re back to the classics with a brilliant short story that has been the basis for several movies & books. I enjoyed reading this because I had already known the basic storyline, well worth a read.
29. Unseen Academicals by Terry Pratchett
One of the funniest Pratchett books, about the wizards in the Unseen University.
30. The Land That Time Forgot by Edgar Rice Burroughs
I love Rice Burroughs, in my opinion he is up there with Verne in his writing. This is an amazing elaborate tale of the discovery of a continent that has been untouched by modern society (or science if we’re honest), & has it’s own eco-system, hierarchy and inhabitants. An amazing classic, really interesting. If you like Verne, you’ll love this.
31. The Humans by Matt Haig *
I kind of stumbled across Haig accidentally on twitter, but I have to say this book has stayed with me since I read it during the summer. It is about an alien who comes to earth posing as a mathematician who has discovered a secret of the universe & must be silenced as humans are an inferior race who don’t have the rationality to hold this information. While here among the humans, however, the alien discovers the human condition, & how complex but amazing it is to be one. A life-affirming, beautiful book. I have been recommending this left, right & centre.
32. Blood and Beauty by Sarah Dunant *
I love Dunant, she’s a fantastic writer of period dramas. In this, she tackles the life & legends of the Borgias family, & does an amazing job of weaving their lives around you. There is a sequel promised because of how elaborate & deviant the Borgias were supposed to be. A fan of period dramas should definitely read this.
33. The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera
This is a strange novel. It follows a few different lives, but the underlying focus is more on the emotions behind humans, & why they do what they do. It is a really interesting read, but I found that it ends rather abruptly, as if there is a part missing.
34. Out of The Silent Planet by C.S. Lewis *
I found this book in an outdoor market in Paris when I was interrailing. I didn’t know before this that Lewis had written a few sci-fi books & I was very impressed with this one. Much like Verne, it’s set further back in time but the technology in it is quite advanced. A man gets tricked into travelling to a distant planet with someone akin to a mad scientist, & discovers a utopia there. Very very good novella.
35. Letters from an Age of Reason by Nora Hague *
I found this book in a second-hand book store while I was interrailing. There was an insane bookstore in Brussels that had a massive English-language section at €1 apiece. It was difficult to pick only enough that I could carry, but this one was a winner. It is a historical novel, set during the Civil War in America. It’s story is about a young lady from upper class New York, dealing with being a thinker in a society that frowns upon ladies learning anything outside of the home; & a young man growing up in the soon to be war torn South as a ‘high-yellow negro’ in an affluent household. It follows the two of them through a completely heart-wrenching story, when their fates meet. I really enjoyed this book, was totally engrossed in the story while I was travelling. Anyone who enjoys historical dramas will like this. & I will admit an ignorance of a lot of the civil war in America until I read this.
36. The Farmers of An Líonán by Kevin O’Cuinn *
I am biased, because this short story is written by my uncle. It was published as non-fiction, & depicts some of the stories that he heard in a cozy pub when he lived in Connemara. Like I said, I could be biased, but I really enjoy his writing. It is fresh & clean, & seems to cut through your mind & plant it’s story deep into your brain, never to be forgotten. That is all of his short stories, not just this one.
37. Baby Leg by Brian Evenson
A recommendation by my uncle again, he has quite a few copies of this. One of the most surreal pieces of work I have ever come across. Evenson created a whole new genre, something that I believe is called amputation fiction (don’t quote me on that!). It is about a man who has dreams of a woman with one normal leg & one baby leg, suffers paranoia that ‘they’ will be coming to get him. Surreal adventure ensues in the strangest novella. If you are a fan of something completely out there & different then definitely read this. Although I understand that copies are hard to come by.
38. The Cider House Rules by John Irving *
I saw the movie version of this several years ago & remember enjoying it. This was another purchase in the second hand store in Brussels, & one that I took home with me (among the six or seven books my uncle gave to me to lug back!). It is beautiful, heartbreaking, sometimes gruelling, but always enticing. This was one of those books that I needed to sit with for a while, needed about a week after reading it to process, I was still too involved to start another one. Very much a recommendation.
39. Divergent by Veronica Roth
40. Insurgent by Veronica Roth
41. Allegiant by Veronica Roth
All three together again because it’s a series. It was recommended to me by a few friends as similar to The Hunger Games. I found it very good, an interesting idea of life in a town where people are part of one of five factions, depending on their personal attributes & personality traits. It follows Tris when she is chosen into a faction because she most relates to it, but she also relates with other factions, a dangerous game in this society. A very interesting series, I found myself reading them one after the other within about a week because I was engrossed. I haven’t seen the movie but I’m perfectly happy with the book.
42. Land of Terror by Edgar Rice Burroughs
One in the series that Rice Burroughs wrote about a fictitious continent named Pellucidar. I have read a few of the others in the series & they are fantastically interesting. One of which you would definitely have heard of (or at least a derivative of the same) is At The Earth’s Core when two men accidentally burrow into the earth’s core & discover the land of Pellucidar. It is interesting, a real classic sci-fi novel. If you like this genre you will like this.
43. The Lost Continent by Edgar Rice Burroughs
Another hit by Rice Burroughs, similar in storyline to the others I’ve mentioned but with further adventures, great sci-fi writing.
44. Peaches for Monsieur le Curé by Joanne Harris *
Part of the series which began with Chocolat, Harris is a few years (& books in between) down the line with this book. If you have read any of her books, I’m sure this is on your list. Harris has a way of making you taste her words in an exquisite way.
45. The Five People You Meet In Heaven by Mitch Albom *
An amazon recommendation led me to this book & I’m glad it did. An elderly carnival engineer dies at the beginning of the book (that’s not a spoiler I promise!), & goes through the stages of death – meeting five people who touched or were touched by his life. A beautiful representation of how everything we do in life is linked to others, I really enjoyed this quite sad tale.
46. Daniel Fights A Hurricane by Shane Jones
We are back to Jones, another one given to me by the author uncle, it is not as enjoyable as Light Boxes in my opinion. Along the same lines of strangeness, it brings us on a journey with a man trying to save his town from a hurricane by connecting a pipeline to the sea. It is very unusual, I did finish the book & was happy at the ending, but there was a section in the middle where I wasn’t completely sure what was happening. I think I perhaps just missed the point!
47. The Giver by Lowis Lowry
Recommended to me by a colleague, I was at first put off by the fact that it is practically a children’s book, but I was sucked in fairly quickly. Along the lines of Divergent but simpler in it’s presentation, it shows a society where your career is picked for you. The character we follow is given a special assignment that changes his whole world. A beautiful book with a lovely but sad message at the end. Read it if you liked Divergent.
48. Paper Aeroplanes by Dawn O’Porter
Ok, I admit I bought this out of a bit of a grá for DOP but I enjoyed it so much that I bought the second book! An almost gritty truth of being a teenage girl, you will laugh, cry & cringe along with the two girls.
49. Goose by Dawn O’Porter
The sequel to Paper Aeroplanes obviously, it is as enjoyable & heartfelt as the first. If you like the first one, you will definitely read this. Definitely worth the read.
50. Oranges are not the Only Fruit by Jeanette Winterson
One of those books I’ve been meaning to read forever, I finally got around to it in 2014. A moving & somewhat scary look at the treatment of a girl in a strictly religious house when she realises she is in love with another girl. A beautiful but hard look at the attitudes of religious parents. I definitely recommend it.
51. The English Monster by Lloyd Shepherd
I found this by chance in a bookshop & really enjoyed it. Set across a wide historical timeline, it begins with the gruesome murder of two families in London & the hunt for the monstrous killer. It sets a great scene of how London looked before most of the swamp was claimed from the Thames, & does have a vaguely familiar monster at the centre. A very interesting book, I really enjoyed it.
52. I Shall Wear Midnight by Terry Pratchett *
Another one for Tiffany, & another fabulous one by Pratchett. I won’t prattle on!
53. Snuff by Terry Pratchett
A Sam Vimes adventure, when he is forced to God forbid, take a holiday.
54. If I Stay by Gayle Forman *
I had heard of the movie, seen the ads & hadn’t really been interested. But I then found the ebook & decided to give it ago. I was completely blown away. I thought this was going to be a tearjerking run-of-the-mill book, but I was wrong. Forman has a fantastic writing skill, I could taste her sentences in my brain, & often had to read a sentence twice because I liked how much it felt so much the first time around. It is definitely a tearjerker, but in a refreshing way. This was another one of those books that I needed some time to get over, I think it was a week before I picked up my next one. A beautiful book.
55. Love Story by Irving Cox
Very short story with a kind of trophy husband society going on, where men are bred as prizes for women. Very entertaining.
56. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep by Philip K. Dick
I had seen the movie Blade Runner without having read the book so I missed a lot of the point to it. On reading the book though, I need to see the movie again! It is a brilliant book, with a dystopian society in which androids are manufactured to be almost imperceptible from humans. The main character is a hunter of these androids as they are illegal on earth. A sub-plot in the book is the fact that there is a big societal pressure to own an animal, the equivalent of owning a television now possibly. A complex & very interesting book, definitely worth a read.
57. The Disintegration Machine by Arthur Conan Doyle
A short story by the Sherlock Holmes master, about a scientist who, you guessed it, invents a disintegration machine. Almost a funny short story but very entertaining.
So that’s my list of books from 2014! It’s a long blog post I know but it’s been a really fun one to do. Here’s to the books of 2015! :-)