Wednesday, December 31, 2014

My favorite reads of 2014

It's that time of year again when all the "best of" lists arrive. I do those over on my music site, but I do something a little different here.

Because my reading time is limited, and there's really no possible way that I could read every book in every genre that I enjoy, I don't believe it's really reasonable for me to say what the best books of the year are. Instead, I simply offer up my favorite reads of 2014.

Not all of them will be from 2014. There are a couple from 2013, one that's nearly 20 years old, and even one from 2015. They're also in no particular order. The first three or so stand out as the ones that had the biggest impact, but after that things get a little muddy and, if I rewrote this list 10 times, the order would likely change every time.

Enjoy, and I'll see you next year.

"Boy's Life" by Robert McCammon: This book has been recommended to me time and again when I ask for horror recommendations, so I finally decided to give it a shot. I was really surprised by what I discovered and sorry that I hadn't taken the suggestion years ago.

"Promise of Blood" and "The Crimson Campaign" by Brian McClellan: When it comes to fantasy, I'm definitely a swords and spells kind of guy. Guns are a tough sell for me, not because I'm opposed to them, but because I wonder what else they open the door for. McClellan, though, creates a brilliant magic system around the guns and weaves a top-notch tale. If I were ordering this list and limiting it to 2014, "The Crimson Campaign" would be my top pick.

"Red Rising" by Pierce Brown: This was a surprise to me. A short way into the book, I thought it was going to be a bit of a "Hunger Games" clone, but Brown hooked me with high drama and fantastic storytelling. I'm currently about a quarter of the way through the sequel, "Golden Son," and happy to report that it's just as good so far.

"Skin Game" by Jim Butcher: Butcher is nothing if not reliable. Though no book in this series has disappointed me in the least, it's been in a bit of a lull for the last few years. This installment brings the Dresden Files fully out of that lull.

"Doctor Sleep" by Stephen King: Simply put, the best horror book that King has written in years. I scoffed a bit at the notion of a sequel to one of his classic novels at this point, but he proved me wrong. It has all of the hallmarks of my favorite King works.

"The Emperor's Blades" by Brian Staveley: Another fantastic debut novel in what has been a good run of them in recent years. Staveley weaves together a few classic archetypical fantasy story lines into a great story that goes well beyond those archetypes.

"Hollow World" by Michael J. Sullivan: I'm an admitted fanboy of Sullivan's Riyria adventures, but what happens when he tries to do something different? Great things. "Hollow World" delivers a science fiction tales that presents a lot of big questions for readers to ponder.

"Prince of Fools" by Mark Lawrence: Lawrence's tales of boy who would be emperor Jorg Ancrath were incredible. In this first installment of his second trilogy, he turns his attention from villain to scamp, introducing us to avowed coward Jalan Kendreth, who may be given no choice but to show some courage.

"Fool's Assassin" by Robin Hobb: I thought the tale of FitzChivalry Farseer was done, but Hobb reopens it in an entertaining way with plenty of possibilities for the future.

"The Golem and the Jinni" by Helene Wecker: I succumbed to the hype from late 2013 and discovered that this book was not at all what I expected. It's a fantasy tale to be sure, and a historical novel, a bit of a literary novel, and even something of a romance. A book that really reminds me of nothing else that I've read.

"Owl and the Japanese Circus" by Kristi Charish: My final read of 2014 -- and technically first of 2015 -- was also one of the most entertaining, breathing life into the often-stale urban fantasy genre. Charish's story uses most of the conventions of the subgenre, but has the fun and excitement of Butcher's Dresden novels and a few twists that make it fresh and appealing. Pick it up and give it a try when it hits shelves in January.


Bob/Sally said...

Great list. The Emperor's Blades and Prince of Fools made my list as well, with Owl and the Japanese Circus a strong 4-star contender. Fool's Assassin I didn't care for, but I'll still follow up and see if the sequel delivers later this year.

Haven't read Doctor Sleep yet, but as a lifelong King fan I can't hold off forever. :)

Fred Phillips said...

"Fool's Assassin" was not all that I'd hoped it would be, but I still enjoyed it. I think it's a very interesting setup since Bee is so much like Fitz. It will be interesting to see how he deals, basically, with himself. :)

I was very impressed with "Doctor Sleep." I went in not expecting much, and it ended up being my favorite King book in a long time.