I've had mixed feelings about my blog this year. Reading back, there are some posts that I'm super happy with, but there are some periods where I feel like it could have been better. But one part that I really loved about my blog this year was the books posts. Books mean an awful lot to me, and asking people to post about their favourites every month was a wonderful chance to get some insight into the books that mean a lot to other people.
I am stealing back the limelight for December though, and wanted to talk about the books that I read and loved in 2014 because I really enjoyed talking books last year. I've actually managed to read a lot more than usual this year, which was great - the older I get, the less time I seem to have for it, and it makes me really sad as I used to read several books a week. On my holiday to the US though I read 5 books in 10 days, so I'm getting a bit of the old me back... and I like it.
1. The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
For a long time I've said that Neil Gaiman was my favourite writer, but I'd started to doubt myself. It's been a while since I'd read something of his that I absolutely adored, although to be honest, it's also been a while since he's written something new. The Ocean at the End of the Lane reminded me why I loved him so much. It's beautiful and dreamy and sad and dark and you really, really must read it.
2. The Raven Boys and The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater
I read The Raven Boys after reading this post and I just completely fell for it, and the sequel - The Dream Thieves - is just as wonderful. This YA series is about a group of private school boys and their friend Blue, but there's so much more to it than that. There are Arthurian legends, leylines, prophecies, ghosts and most of all, an underlying feeling that these books are going to tear my heart into a million pieces when they're over. I checked out her Shiver trilogy after reading these and was SO disappointed - she's come so much further as a writer since then.
3. N0S4R2 by Joe Hill
Joe Hill is Stephen King's son, and you can tell, I think, in his writing. It's very scary (Heart Shaped Box was equally terrifying) but I actually think he's a better writer. He's more concise and less samey. This book is about a sort of vampire who steals children away to Christmasland and it scared the freaking life out of me. But it was also really, really good with a strong female lead who I really rooted for. I highly recommend, unless you scare easily, in which case you will get very scared. Horns is also excellent, and a bit less horror-like.
4. Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris
One of the coolest things that we did in New York was to see a reading at Carnegie Hall by David Sedaris and Lena Dunham. Both of them read extracts from their books of essays. I've read Sedaris before (reviewed here, actually) and he's a really great writer. This is, I think, his best known book and it paints a fascinating picture of his life. Sedaris isn't actually the nicest guy, but he's pretty unapologetic about it and that sort of makes him more likeable. It's very, very funny but sad at the same time. If you want a taster, this is one of the essays he read out at Carnegie Hall - Now We Are Five. Beautiful, hilarious and devastating.
5. More Than This by Patrick Ness
The Chaos Walking trilogy by Patrick Ness was one of my literary highlights of 2012, so I couldn't wait for his followup novel. It's entirely different to his trilogy, set in a different world and rather more scifi than Chaos Walking. But it's great. It's about a boy who dies, and wakes up in his childhood home, but how he got there is entirely unexpected. It's very clever and sad and brave.
6. The Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith
Actually, this isn't one of the best books I've read this year, but I wanted to talk about it. Everyone knows by now that it was JK Rowling behind a pseudonym and honestly, I wouldn't have read this book if I hadn't known it was her as crime novels aren't really my thing (they're fine, I just don't really seek them out, you know?). Anyway, this is pretty good. Rowling is, as ever, very good at creating well rounded characters and is so visual with her descriptions, and while I was reading I wanted to find out what happened. But now it's over, I'm struggling to remember much about it, which is how I felt about The Casual Vacancy. In the Harry Potter books, I never noticed how she'd write speech in a character's accent because it wasn't used a lot (I really only remember Hagrid doing this), but in both this and The Casual Vacancy it's very noticeable and jarring, particularly when used on characters who are supposed to be poorly educated. It took me out of the plot and just felt unnecessary, and made the characters who spoke this way seem less real somehow. I feel like she's trying out different genres but hasn't found a natural fit, which may be why she is going back to Harry Potter in terms of screenplays and stage plays. But I admire her for trying to challenge herself - it's not like she has to ever work again, after all!
7. The Diviners by Libba Bray
I really feel like Libba Bray needs to be way more popular than she is. Her Gemma Doyle trilogy is absolutely fantastic and this, the first in a new series, looks like it's going to be just as awesome. It's also totally different to the Gemma Doyle books, set in the roaring 20s in New York and about a group of teenagers with different powers. As it's a YA book, I was expecting this to be an enjoyable romp, and it was, but it was also really quite scary in places which I wasn't expecting. The sequel is apparently due in August, and I can't wait to see what happens next to Evie.
8. Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta
I kept hearing about this book from my friends and eventually tracked down an ebook of it so I could read it on my iPhone. It's about a girl called Taylor who is trying to find out where she came from, in simple terms, but the book is more complex than that. The narrative is split between the present and the past, and it's not clear at first how it ties together, but by the end it all slots together perfectly and manages to be heartbreaking and wonderful.
9. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
So many of my friends recommended this book, I had to check it out. It's about a future world that's lived almost entirely online, packed full of pop culture references. It's a really interesting read, and I really enjoyed all the references, but it's not a book that I would rush to recommend to everyone. I feel a little like there could have been more to it, by the end, but I enjoyed getting there.
10. Unbearable Lightness: A Story of Loss and Gain by Portia de Rossi
This book is about the Ally McBeal and Arrested Development actress and her battle with an eating disorder. It's a sad, brave memoir about how hard it is to have insecurities, particularly in Hollywood where you're expected to be perfect. Portia nearly killed herself through starvation and the scary part is, her unhealthy eating habits were often encouraged and enabled by nutritionists. There's a happy ending though as she regains control and finds herself again. I understand this kind of book could be triggering for some people, and of course I wouldn't recommend it in those circumstances, but it is a very well-written, honest book that was really interesting.
At the moment I'm reading Where'd You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple which is really good so far and next it's going to be one of my Christmas presents from Laura, Wool by Hugh Howey.
I'm planning to continue the series into 2014, so if you want to contribute, please do let me know and drop me an email! You don't have to be a blogger to contribute, you just have to love books. If you don't love books, then I just don't get you. I don't. Shoo.