Tuesday, July 15, 2014

The Best (and Worst) Reads of My Year (So Far)

Since it's July 15th I'm a bit overdue for this kind of post, but better late than never. I'll be judging in different categories and by star rating, but some categories will have more entries than others, because of my reading habits.
Note: Not all of the books on this list were published this year. This list is based on the books I've read (so far) in 2014.

Total Books I've Read (So Far) in 2014: 55 Books
My Goal: 88 Books, but I'm shooting for 100 Books

The Best of Fantasy

Cover from Goodreads
Words of Radiance (Stormlight Archive #2) by Brandon Sanderson (the Benevolent)
See My Critique of it Here.
Rating: 5 Stars
This one is at the top of my list, because it is the only book I've rated 5 stars in 2014 (I'm very stingy with my five stars). It fulfilled the promise of the first book, and managed to exceed it in the rating. If you're looking for chunkier books with a beautiful fantasy world, you should try the Stormlight Archive.

Honorable Mentions (Fantasy)

Cover from Goodreads
A Thirst For Vengeance (The Ashes Saga #1) by Edward M. Knight
See My Critique of it Here.
Rating: 4 Stars
This is a relatively small book (about 200 pages), with a big story. If you like edgy fantasy that keeps it short and to the point, this is your book. It's pretty impressive work for an indie author debut.

Cover from Goodreads
Chasers of the Wind (Cycle of Wind and Sparks #1) by Alexey Pehov
See My Critique of it Here.
Rating: 4 Stars
One of my first ARC reads, Chasers of the Wind is different from most of your usual fantasy fare. With a married couple who are retired assassins and female antagonists, this book isn't your usual male-dominant fantasy, which I loved.

The Best of Urban Fantasy

Cover from Goodreads
The Wolf Gift (The Wolf Gift Chronicles #1) by Anne Rice
My Critique is Not Available (Yet)
Rating: 4 Stars
I really struggled with where to put this book. It has elements of just about everything I read (Fantasy, Magical Realism, Paranormal Romance), but I decided to put it here due to its content (werewolves in the modern world is the whole plot). People really dislike this on Goodreads, but I tend to like anything with a lot of author-constructed mythology and prose. Some other urban-fantasy-esque werewolves have made me frown, but I really like the werewolves this book has to offer.

Honorable Mention (Urban Fantasy)

Storm Front (The Dresden Files #1) by Jim Butcher
See My Critique Here.
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Most people seem to love this series more than I do. Maybe when I catch up with book number 15, I'll get it, but so far (3 books in) I've felt it's a great, but not excellent, series. I do like the characters, but the characterisations of women in the series seem a bit off: either they're super-hot or they're old or pregnant, and they don't seem that strong (other than his fairy godmother, who is a villain). I need a realistic heroine I can root for to make this series an excellent one. If you like action-packed urban fantasy with trademark humor, this series (and book) could be your next read.

The Best of Sci-fi

Cover from Goodreads
The Mad Scientist's Daughter by Cassandra Rose Clarke
See My Critique Here.
Rating: 4 Stars
This is very sad- I've only read one sci-fi book this year, and it's a robot romance. However, it's a really good robot romance, with lots of sci-fi elements and an intriguing look at a futuristic society (that isn't all rosy). The Mad Scientist's Daughter truly excels in its genre by adding a human element, as well as a robot one.

The Best of Fairy Tale Retellings

(The cover for this book must be used only with permission- and I'm too impatient to get it)
Entreat Me by Grace Draven
See My Critique Here.
Rating: 4 Stars
A Beauty and the Beast retelling done just right- the plot wasn't predictable, and the Beast was anything but tame. With witty banter and a hero/heroine pairing that isn't sickly sweet, this is one of the best Beauty and the Beast renditions I've come across.

The Reflections of Queen Snow White by David Meredith
See My Critique Here.
Rating: 4 Stars
It isn't very often you come across a retelling of Snow White, and this was an excellent one. While not an action/adventure sort of book, The Reflections of Queen Snow White is exactly as its title says- an older, aging version of our beloved Snow White looking back at her past- the lovely memories as well as the terrible ones. Once past the first fifty pages, this book is almost impossible to put down.

The Best of Historical (Romance)

Cover from Maggie Fenton's Blog
The Duke's Holiday (Regency Romp Trilogy #1) by Maggie Fenton
See My Critique Here.
Rating: 4 Stars
It's also very sad that I haven't read any historical fiction this year besides this romance, but this romance truly deserves its place in the historical category. Filled with funny characters and humorous moments, The Duke's Holiday has a true historical feel in addition to its laughs.

The Best of Paranormal Romance

The Scribe (Irin Chronicles #1) and The Singer (Irin Chronicles #2) by Elizabeth Hunter
Critiques: The Scribe and The Singer
Rating: 4.5 Stars for Each Book
When I read the first book of the Irin Chronicles, I wasn't expecting it to be good. I was expecting it to be a clinical case of cover lust, with the same old paranormal romance thrown in on the pages. I was wrong. I was so incredibly wrong about these books. They're an awesome angel-centric paranormal romance, and you can really judge these books by their covers.

Honorable Mention

The Lycan Hunter (A Gardinian World Novel) by Kelsey Jordan
See My Critique Here.
Rating: 4 Stars
This is a paranormal romance with a mythology so vast that the book could almost be called urban fantasy. It really exceeds the genre in an age where what passes as paranormal romance could be almost considered a contemporary romance with fangs involved. If you're looking for a romance with an interesting take on werewolves (and a whole new world of mythology) consider this for your next read.

The Worst

I really hate to do this category, but it's based on my honest (and very verbose) opinion. Keep in mind that other people have loved these books. I clearly did not.

House of Bathory by Linda Lafferty
See My Critique Here.
Rating: 1.5 Stars
Writers should write about what they know. What they really love, and are a part of. Linda Lafferty has made a bad mistake when she wrote a main character as a Goth, and butchered it. The author is very lucky that Lisbeth Salander is not an actual person, or she would hack this book and delete it. The weird historical and modern stories colliding only works well when both stories make sense together, and much of their collision in this book was so unremarkable that it would've been better if the author had stuck to only Countess Bathory's story. I'm sure this author worked very hard on this book, but in the end, her hard work didn't show through for me.

The Color of Light by Helen Maryles Shankman
See My Critique Here.
Rating: 2 Stars
In a rare twist of fate, if I could rate halves of this book, I really would. The first half is four stars. The second half ruins the beauty of the first half. I can't go into detail without getting spoilery, but the heroine goes back and forth with her love of the hero, as if she's pulling petals off a daisy. There are more plot happenings in the second half than this book needs.

What's on your best and worst list? Do you have similar books on your list? Has 2014 been a good reading year for you so far?

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