It's that time again. =)
A continuation of my favorite reads post for 2014, here are my superlatives for the year. Just in case you missed the previous posts of former years, here they are for your perusal:
To start this list, I should note that since I didn't read *as* many books this year (though I certainly wouldn't consider 168 a low number, it's just low for me), my choices were more limited as far as books were concerned. So fewer categories and selections this year than previous years.
Best Audiobook Narrator: Male and Female
It was very easy for me to choose one favorite male and one favorite female for audiobook readers this year. For male audio narrator: R.C. Bray takes the title for his superb narration in Andy Weir's "The Martian". Truthfully, I think his humored voice and candid portrayal of Mark Watney made the book even more enjoyable for me personally. I'll give an honorary mention to Tim Gerard Reynolds for his narration of Pierce Brown's "Red Rising", because he gave such a potent performance in Darrow's voice, and I found that really enhanced my enjoyment of the story - both his narration and vocal performance in the work (he sings, man! Very well in fact!)
My favorite female audio narrator was Kathleen McInerney for her performance of Jennifer Brown's "Hate List". I'm really late picking this book up for reading, but having read it this past year, it blew me away. I didn't have a dry eye finishing this book, and I thought her delivery emotionally and narratively fit the book very well. Special mention goes to Julia Whelan for her joint audio narration with Kirby Heybourne for Gillian Flynn's "Gone Girl" (both of them were superb, but I give the mention to Whelan because she got Amy's voice spot on in the narrative.)
Best Food for Thought Reads:
I have three mentions for the food for thought reads I picked up this year. First is "Vital Face" by Leena Kiviloma, who did an excellent articulation of various facial exercises for health benefit as well as cosmetic - I learned/reaffirmed so much through this read and give it high recommendations. Carlen Lavigne's "Cyberpunk Women, Feminism, and Science Fiction" was a book I picked up after researching various academic literature in the cyberpunk genre, and I loved it. It was such a thorough examination of issues pertaining to portrayals of women in cyberpunk literature, as well as female writers who were key to cyberpunk's movement (Pat Cadigan included). My final mention goes to Brett Weiss's "100 Greatest Console Video Games: 1977-1987", as it was an enlightening list on the history of the videogames featured, as well as an interesting compilation to see in sequence and for Weiss's preference. I'm looking forward to reading more of that compilation as they are released.
I'll feature three couples from adult lit reads I've perused this past year. First is from Cara McKenna's "Her Best Laid Plans." It was a very short read, but Jamie and Connor made an impression on me, and I loved watching their brief chemistry. Probably also because I have a thing for Irish guys (Psst, I'm part Irish in heritage).
For full novels, I'll cite Kristen Callihan once again for crafting two very strong characters in Will Thorne and Holly Evernight in "Evernight", part of her "Darkest London" series. It wasn't my favorite book of the series, but I did enjoy watching their chemistry and banter throughout the book. And lastly - this is a surprise even for me - I'll cite K.A. Tucker's "Five Ways to Fall" as an honorable mention. Yeah - shocking because I don't often mention couples from New Adult as being those that are strongly asserted, but Reese and Ben actually worked for me. I know! I'm surprised too - I didn't expect them to click as well as they did - for development or chemistry. If you had asked me the same of the previous books in Tucker's series, I wouldn't have said the same, but something about that book worked for me in retrospect.
I mentioned it before, and I'll say it again - Andy Weir's "The Martian" was a fun journey into space exploration on Mars if I've ever seen it, very well researched and written. And with a charismatic, intelligent, and hilarious leading character to boot. The collective cast of this novel is so much fun to watch and well developed. I love the science in it. I still say Mark would be my BFF if he were a real person. Maybe even a character crush because I like smart, funny characters - and he fits it to a tee.
Book that Made me Weep Buckets in 2014:
I've mentioned "Hate List", but I'm going to give a special spotlight mention to Jody Casella's "Thin Space". This book hit a nerve with me because it not only features a character grieving over the loss of his twin, but features a very effective twist that stayed with me long after I closed the book. Casella's one of my favorite newer YA writers, and I'm looking forward to seeing more of her writing in the future.
Reading this hurt, man. In more ways than one.
Favorite Covers of 2014:
Self explanatory. I decided to give myself a break considering I didn't get to many of these reads this year, but the ones I was able to peruse, I did enjoy. And many of these are reads I'm highly looking forward to reading quite soon.
Favorite Series of 2014:
Hands down, Kara Taylor's "Prep School Confidential" is my favorite series for the year. I love the intelligent, funny heroine, I love the overarching mysteries, and I adored these books overall this past year. It's one of the best YA series I've picked up in a long while. I still have yet to read the last book in the series, but man - to me this is what the best of YA represents, and I'd like to see more YA authors take after Taylor's example.
Miss Congeniality of 2014:
So, in light of the previous mention, I choose Anne Dowling from Kara Taylor's "Prep School Confidential" as my Miss Congeniality character for 2014. She's smart, she's hilarious, she might've accidentally burned down part of her previous school and gotten the boot into another private school, but she made it work for her. I love her narrative voice and eye for detail.
Most Disappointing Reads of 2014:
So you guys knew this was coming. So I have several disappointing reads on my list this year, probably not up to ten titles, but enough to convey my dismay over some books with potentially great premises, but ended up dropping the ball harder than expected (while others just never got off the ground for me).
I'll mention one book off the bat that's not featured in the cover array: Jamie McGuire's "Apolonia". Dude, I don't know if that was an instance of author trolling or what - but there was so much wrong with that narrative that it's hard to know what to point out in this brief summary. The sexism, racism, glorified NA stereotypes coupled with a dull love triangle and mix of dull sci-fi and romance made me wonder where on earth this was going. It was just a complete miss and bad call, man. The title's namesake isn't even a primary focal character in the book, that should tell you something.
"Dorothy Must Die" by Danielle Paige was unfortunately a disappointing read for me. It had such a cool premise and imaging of "The Wizard of Oz". Problem for me was that it was trying to do too much and force its hand. I don't think it came together well in the end, especially with many parts of the narrative that dragged on and on, despite some very interesting depictions and moments. It's unlikely I'll pick up this author's other work because of her support of another author stalking a blogger in real life (i.e. Kathleen Hale), but this was one series I think had the potential to move and grow in more ways than one, despite its stumbles.
I really wanted to like Colleen Hoover's "Maybe Someday" much more than I actually did, in retrospect for this year. At least for the promises of what it offered. A music/lyrical theme? Check. Depicting a character with a disability in a positive light? Double Check.
Subtly making fun of said character's disability while following common NA cliches? Absolutely NOT cool. I did like the fact that the book linked its featured songs with an actual person singing them, though I don't know if I liked how that was incorporated in the work itself. Nonetheless, I think Hoover could've done a better job with this one.
Amanda Grace's "No One Needs to Know" really disappointed me this past year. WTF man? For a love triangle with a same-sex theme, I thought it was sadly lacking and even offensive the way the couple was portrayed. I found it hard to sympathize with either character, especially with how entitled the teens seemed to be, and it had the potential to have so much more depth than it actually had. I guess it was one book that made me realize that Amanda Grace/Mandy Hubbard is not my cup of tea stylistically as an author overall. I may still try her work in the future, but dude, I'd like to see more depth in her narratives for a change, and while I'm okay with reading about unlikable characters - the portrayal of those particular characters and themes wasn't cool at all.
On Claire Wallis's "Push" - worst ending and portrayal of an NA narrative I've seen so far. It already tested me for its over-the-top problematic characters, which I didn't think were portrayed with enough sensitivity or maturity to be able to carry them, but then the ending's congratulatory portrayal of violence against women and non-ending (pretty much looping back to its inconclusive beginning)? No thank you.
"Rellik" by Theresa Mummert had the potential to be a decent thriller, but you know, it's New Adult, it's a genre/age group that has more misses than hits. It disappointed me in more ways than one - with poor editing, poorly constructed characters, and contrived scenarios. It was my first read from the author. I'm not sure if I'm picking up another title by her, but I'd hope that the next work I'd actually bothered paying $4.27 for on Amazon has less than 100+ grammatical and spelling errors in the final copy. (For the record, I returned the book after I finished it.) That was a shame and inexcusable, dude.
Finally, Becca Fitzpatrick's "Black Ice" - I've seen premises similar to her's that have the potential to be awesome thrillers. Unfortunately, considering this is the same author who thought a selfish, stalker/killer angel like Patch is a romantic hero - doesn't surprise me that the romance in this features a girl loving one of her captors. In YA, this is not the kind of idea you want to glamorize. Granted, Fitzpatrick might've made mention of how wrong it was, but the depiction wasn't very well done at all. Plus, much of this book came across as very silly for suspenseful reveals, with very few instances of actual tension that was done well. I will give credit to the audiobook narrator, though. She was very good. Unfortunately, the story was little more than D-grade horror movie fare.
That's all for my superlatives this year. I'm hoping 2015 is a more fruitful year for reading in terms of the diversity and amount of books I'll get to peruse. It's been a long year (2014) and an eventful one, but I totally enjoyed the experiences I've had in my reading journeys, and have learned much from them.
See you in the new year, guys!