Welcome to Smugglivus 2014! Throughout this month, we will have daily guests – authors and bloggers alike – looking back at their favorite reads of 2014, looking forward to events and upcoming books in 2015, and more.
Who: Rebecca Hahn, debut author of the incredible A Creature of Moonlight, one of Ana’s top ten reads of 2014.
Please give a warm welcome to Rebecca, everyone!
Five books I read this year
I hate these things. Not reading them — I love reading all sorts of lists and meanderings and questions about the universe and ponderings of breakfast foods and what they say about us as a people.
But when I try to come up with a year’s-best list myself, I start wondering how anybody does it.
There are too many books to choose from (and shows and movies and games). At the same time, the moment I ask myself what I’ve read this year, my mind goes blank. Surely I read something? Something that wasn’t internet articles and emails?
To be truthful, I haven’t read a lot of 2014 releases. The waiting lines at the library are so long, and there are so many older books I haven’t gotten to yet that are patiently murmuring on their shelves, with no waiting lines, no buzz, no zeitgeist surrounding them like fuzzy auras, informing me that “Everybody is reading this! You had better read it too! And then you had better have so many interesting opinions about it!!!”
So I can only think of one new release I got to this year. Everybody was reading it. I don’t know that my opinions are interesting, but the book certainly was. Here it is:
Dreams of Gods & Monsters by Laini Taylor (Book 3 in the Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy)
Oh, Laini Taylor. Your creativity, your gorgeous prose, your wrenching emotionality. This series is so original in the way it uses portal fantasy, and it raises the stakes in such huge ways, colliding worlds and painting its characters and all their struggles with strokes of destiny. This book is brilliant, the series is brilliant, Karou and Zuzana and Ziri are brilliant. It’s epic in every sense of the word: huge character cast, world-changing plot, transformative love, hidden secrets. Beautiful, clever, funny, and altogether worth every moment.
Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie
This 2013 release won the Hugo and the Nebula Awards. It’s hard to talk about it without revealing major plot points, but these are the top three reasons this book blew me away:
1)It’s narrated by a multiple-consciousness. As in, one central mind with several hundred bodies. Except, as the book goes on, the question of how central and in control that mind is becomes more and more interesting.
2)Everyone is a “she.” Not because everyone is biologically female, but because in one of the book’s alien societies, people are not differentiated based on gender. Everybody is just a person, not female or male.
3)Woven with this fascinating narration/gender-bending is an edge-of-your-seat space drama with jumps from cliffs and other extremely exciting things.
A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness, illustrated by Jim Kay
Here’s a book I’ve been meaning to read for some years now. I’ve heard so many great things about Patrick Ness, and I finally got around to pulling this from its shelf and diving in. And I am very glad I did. I had no idea what to expect; I hadn’t read the description. It’s not epic; it doesn’t have lots of battles or political maneuverings or quests.
It’s a story about a boy and his dying mother. It is wonderful and heartbreaking and true. It’s fantasy; there’s a monster, but only the boy knows it is there. It’s lyric and breathtaking. And the illustrations sent shivers down my spine. I loved this book.
Midwinterblood by Marcus Sedgwick
Another book I’d been meaning to read, and another which I knew very little about. This is a book about deep sacrifice and connections across time. It takes place on one isolated island through many centuries, and you can piece together what is/was/will be happening bit by bit. Not every mystery is solved, but most of the clues are there, and this is a dark, dreamy, sweeping story. An utterly original, beautifully-structured novel.
A Countess Below Stairs by Eva Ibbotson
And now for something completely different. This book isn’t anywhere close to recently released. I had read several of Eva Ibbotson’s middle-grade fantasies, but I had never picked up her romances. This one came highly recommended, and now I can highly recommend it to you!
This book is not quite like anything I’ve read before. It sparkles, in its language and its characters and its optimism about love and society. The main character is a Russian countess who flees to England during the Russian Revolution and takes up work as a maid in a country estate. There’s love, of course, and obstacles to overcome. The villainous characters are Dickensian, a bit over-the-top in their villainy, and the heroic characters are a bit over-the-top in their goodness. But it’s not a didactic story; it’s having so much fun with the form, and it just swept me away with its lovely determination that in this story world, things would turn out right.
Whew. There, that wasn’t so horribly hard: five books I read this year. Not all of them 2014 releases, but soon enough those will be perched on the shelves, their buzz faded to murmurs, their waiting lines dwindled. I’ll walk by, and my fingers will twitch toward their spines. I’ll open their well-creased pages. I’ll remember that I wanted to read them once, when everybody was reading them, and I’ll realize that this is my chance; this is their time. They’ll pile up eagerly in my arms, excited to spin their tales again. I’ll fill my bag to bursting with their beauty and their brilliance, and then I’ll bring them home with me.
Happy Smugglivus!!! 🙂