Time for a guest post, and this time through I asked my friends to talk a little about their top five favorite reads of 2014! Because yes, we're getting that time of the year! Can't believe it!
Cayla's Top 5 of 2014
To be honest, I didn't read as many books this year as I was hoping (my unfinished 2014 challenge on Goodreads mocks me). Nevertheless, I did read a couple of great, memorable books this year. I should note this list doesn't include books that were re-reads (North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell would have made it, otherwise).
- Ripper by Stephan Petrucha: This is one of the few books in recent years that has thrown me totally for a look (minus Agatha Christie). I'd almost forgotten what it was like to be completely surprised by an ending and I enjoyed every minute of it. Even if the rest of the book sounds boring (and it isn't), you ought to try it just for the ending. ;) Still, there was much more to enjoy in Ripper, from the characters (Hawking is still one of my favorites from this year) to the intriguing mystery. This book definitely stood out in my year as a very memorable read. Now when is Petrucha going to write another book like it?! ;)
- The Shadow Within by Karen Hancock: I've been making my way through this series, slowly but surely. I'm always a little hesitant to pick up a book in it because they're so long with such tiny print, but I never regret it once I start. Hancock has a very beautiful way of writing with gorgeous descriptions and great dialogue. Plus, she has a wonderfully realized world with great characters. I find it very easy to lose myself in her stories, and this one was no different. It's one of those books that you just want to find a comfortable place to cuddle up in for a few hours and sink into the world you're reading. I'm a little hesitant to read the rest of the books in the series just because I don't want it to end! :)
- The Mirk and Midnight Hour by Jane Nickerson: In all honesty, I didn't enjoy this book as much as the author's first Strands of Bronze and Gold, but it was still a standout amongst all the books I read this year. This is another author who really has a beautiful way of writing. Her imagery and descriptions build palpable tone and I love it! :) Her characters also have surprising complexity and realism and develop nicely throughout the novel. The time period and location for this story was very unique for a fairy tale retelling (Mississippi during the Civil War) and it added a lot of charm. Probably one of the best parts about the book was that everything just seemed so vibrant and real. I did take a little issue with the theme of voodoo throughout, but I still enjoyed it.
- The Princess in the Opal Mask by Jenny Lundquist: I'll start right off by saying that this book is nothing spectacular when it comes to plot or prose, but I really enjoyed it. First of all, I'm a big fan of fairy tale and fantasy stories and sometimes I want to get away from the heavy and angst-y mood in a lot of YA books and just read something light. This book fit both of those qualifications to the bill. :) I loved the idea of a decoy queen and the use of masks and I found the main character (Wilha) both sympathetic and interesting. I'm really looking forward to the second book from this series!
- Dracula by Bram Stoker: I have a book club to thank for me picking up this one (I likely wouldn't have read it otherwise). More recent paranormal books (*cough* Twilight *cough*) have kind of turned me off vampires entirely, but this book reminded me of the dark, scary, monstrous potential that vampires have (you can keep your sparkly, angst-y teenagers, thanks). The second half of this book was especially good and Dracula, of course, was both creepy and despicable. There were also many other interesting characters that developed nicely and all had their own roles to play. It was a nice change of pace from my usual reading and it was interesting to read the book largely responsible for starting the legend of vampires.
Katherine's Top 5 of 2014
- In the Woods by Tana French: Actually, the entire Dublin Murder Squad series were the best mysteries I've read all year. The series concerns a special police task force in Dublin, Ireland. The characters are emotionally complex, and the writing style is beyond gorgeous, and the whole series is just the best!! My favorite has to be In the Woods (though my least favorite is Faithful Place).
- Gated by Amy Christine Parker: I have this weird fascination with studying different religious beliefs and cults. Problem is, most fictionalized versions portray either over-the-top antics or dumb down the cults actions. With this book, I got a realistic portrayal of the physical and psychological manipulation of a cult. This book follows a girl named Lyla who moves with her family to the Midwest to become part of a Apocalyptic cult. But after she meets an Outsider, she starts to question the beliefs she's been taught. Gripping and spellbinding, you won't want to put this book down.
- Blood of My Blood by Barry Lyga: The final book in the Jasper Dent Trilogy by Barry Lyga. I've made no secret of my love for this series; I seriously think it's the best YA mystery series of all time. And the final book was everything I could ever hope for and more. The characters were just as likable as ever, and the twist at the ending. . . .oh my lanta THAT TWIST!!! If you haven't picked this book up already, you definitely should.
- Prisoner of Night and Fog by Anne Blankman: Without a doubt, the best historical fiction book I've read this year. This new series follows Gretchen Mueller and her quest to find out what really happened to her father the night he died. With the help of a Jewish reporter named Daniel, Gretchen has to get close to the people her father worked with, the Nazi party. The author did a brilliant job portraying the characters in this book, especially Adolf Hitler and Gretchen's psychopath brother Reinhard. They're personalities are truly terrifying. And Daniel is the ultimate book boyfriend to read about.
- Every Breath by Ellie Marney: This book series is a runner-up in my "Best YA Mystery Series." A reimaging of Sherlock Holmes set in Australia, it follows James Mycroft (Sherlock) and Rachel Watts (Watson), as they try to solve the murder of a homeless man they called their friend. I personally thought the reimagining was done wonderfully, though fellow Sherlockians will probably disagree with me, hehe!!
Hazel's Top 5 of 2014
The Reading Hedgehog's Top 5 of 2014
- Jackaby by William Ritter: Victorian era, mystery, amazing heroine, quirky detective, and faeries - what is not to like, I ask? Probably my favorite 2014 release and possibly my favorite read of the year. I can't say enough about this one!
- Blue Lily, Lily Blue by Maggie Stiefvater: Continuing to love The Raven Cycle, and this one did not disappoint. In fact, it was better than I expected and less painful, too. As always, Maggie manages to write something so strange, yet so perfectly amazing, and once again leaves us with many questions and a terrible cliffhanger to boot. But I can't stop loving these books all the same.
- I Hunt Killers by Barry Lyga: I read the whole trilogy this year, after a long time of it being on my TBR and loved it. So dark, so intense and addicting. It's been a long time since I read a book that really got into the psychology of a killer like this one did. Not books for the faint of heart, but my dark side loved it.
- The Shadow Throne by Jennifer A. Nielsen: I have loved this trilogy since the beginning, and the last book was no exception, very much everything I hoped for, and tied up the end perfectly. The only problem was that it was hard to let go of Sage, who has become one of my favorite fictional characters.
- Vicious by V. E. Schwab: I love me a good revenge story, and this one was totally awesome. I read this at the beginning of the year, and I still say it's one of the best reads of 2014. Villains done right are ones you actually find yourself caring about. This was a dark story, but wonderful as well. I have a feeling I'm going to be talking about this one for a while yet.
The Reading Hedgehog's Top 5 of 2014
To be honest, picking only 5 was hard. Thank God that in my Reading Wrap-Up at the end of the year, I don't limit how many I can choose! For this, though, I had to only narrow down to five. And bloody hell, I've read a lot of good books this year!
- Jackaby by William Ritter: Anyone who has been following my blog and Youtube channel saw this coming. I have raved about Jackaby to anyone who will listen (and even a few who won't) ever since I got an ARC and sped through it in one evening. Sherlock meets Doctor Who is as perfect a description as a person can give. Don't think it would work? Trust me; it does. Abigail becomes the assistant to R. F. Jackaby - investigator into the paranormal, supernatural, magical, and all things bizarre. The characters in this are amazing, the setting is amazing, the writing is amazing - this book is just amazing. Please, read it now!
- Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge: I am alone in loving this book so much. But it seriously is the best retelling of Beauty and the Beast I've read. It was unique and dark. The characters were flawed, but I loved them. The world building was different and sometimes confusing, but it all came together at the end. The writing was gorgeous. I just loved this book so much.
- Vicious by V. E. Schwab: Want a book where absolutely everyone in it is a villain on one level or another? Maybe I'm weird, but I like reading about villains. A lot. And this book is filled to the brim with them. And in some weird way, you start to sort of side with a few of them. This is a dark story, filled with dark characters, and it's awesome.
- The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern: Another book I have been raving about nonstop and I'm sure a lot of people want to tell me to shut up. But it was so good! Seriously, if words were food, this book was a proverbial banquet. Every word and description just melted, and drew you further and further into this incredible world. I never wanted to leave.
- The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud: I loved, loved, loved this book! The scariest thing I've read all year. My hair was standing on end, and there's also a healthy dose of humor thrown in between. Very dark humor, mind you, but humor nonetheless. I loved the characters and the writing and the setting. Way, way awesome!