Tuesday, December 30, 2014

2014 End of Year Survey

2014 End Of Year Book Survey
This is my second year to jump on the end of year survey hosted by Jamie at Perpetual Page Turner and has quickly become one of my favorite posts of the year to write, right up there with my out of control best of lists.  December is such a fun blogging month all around!  I'm pleased to present you with my answers to this year's survey:


Number Of Books You Read: 


Number of Re-Reads:

 2 - both Shakespeare

Genre You Read The Most From: 

Graphic Novels, oddly enough.  I think it's skewed that way because I counted each entry in a series, which means the entirety of Y: The Last Man counts as ten books, even though it read faster than most others.  I also read a lot of literary fiction and more YA that I would have guessed.


1. Best Book You Read In 2014?

I have to start by pointing out that I finished the last two books in the Harry Potter series this year, which seems almost unfair to any other book ever written.  The experience as a whole was so amazing that it's hard to compare anything else.
That said, outside of Harry Potter, my favorite was probably either:

2. Book You Were Excited About & Thought You Were Going To Love More But Didn’t?

 3. Most surprising (in a good way or bad way) book you read in 2014? 

The Good Girl by Mary Kubicka - I didn't expect a literary masterpiece but I was super surprised with just how bad it wound up being.

 4. Book You “Pushed” The Most People To Read (And They Did) In 2014?

First, I just have to brag about my reading community.  I have an amazing group of Reader Friends from the blog world, from my real life book clubs, and from my online book club group (Yay Nesties!)  They not only give great recommendations, but they are completely awesome about actually reading the books I try to force on them in their own best interest.  There are more than one that I think went over well this year:
The Martian by Andy Weir
The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker - I had a great opportunity to push this at the library too, and was thrilled every time a student checked it out.

 5. Best series you started in 2014? Best Sequel of 2014? Best Series Ender of 2014?

Best series started would be a tie between Y: The Last Man and the Southern Reach Trilogy.

Best sequel is Dreams of Gods and Monsters to finish out the Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy

And, of course, Harry Potter wins for best series ender

 6. Favorite new author you discovered in 2014?

Helene Wecker, Roxane Gay, John Scalzi, Maggie Shipstead

7. Best book from a genre you don’t typically read/was out of your comfort zone?

A Rogue By Any Other Name by Sarah MacLean - this was my first adult experience with regency romance and I was totally a fan

 8. Most action-packed/thrilling/unputdownable book of the year?

 9. Book You Read In 2014 That You Are Most Likely To Re-Read Next Year?

I almost never reread, so I doubt I'll reread any this year.

10. Favorite cover of a book you read in 2014?

11. Most memorable character of 2014?

 12. Most beautifully written book read in 2014?

In close second, I'll Give You the Sun and The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender - interesting that with all the lit fic I read this year, two YA books kind of stole the show.

13. Most Thought-Provoking/ Life-Changing Book of 2014?

Reality Bites Back by Jennifer L. Pozner - it's kind of ruined reality tv for me, honestly.  I can't watch without dissecting the gender and race issues. 

 14. Book you can’t believe you waited UNTIL 2014 to finally read? 

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

 15. Favorite Passage/Quote From A Book You Read In 2014?

No answer - I don't really keep track of quotes.

16.Shortest & Longest Book You Read In 2013?

Longest: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (759 pages)

 17. Book That Shocked You The Most

Summer House With Swimming Pool by Herman Koch - just the absolute ickiest characters and most shocking choices I read this year.  I loved it, obviously.

18. OTP OF THE YEAR (you will go down with this ship!)

My dog Chief and his loyal sidekick, the green rubber fork squeaky toy.
I can't really get into the whole OTP thing with books.

19. Favorite Non-Romantic Relationship Of The Year

Karou and Zuzana in the Daughter of Smoke and Bone series

20. Favorite Book You Read in 2014 From An Author You’ve Read Previously

21. Best Book You Read In 2014 That You Read Based SOLELY On A Recommendation From Somebody Else/Peer Pressure:

The entirety of the Harry Potter series, of course.  Also, the Daughter of Smoke and Bones series and The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender.

22. Newest fictional crush from a book you read in 2014?

Kind of like OTPs, this is just something I don't tend to do.

23. Best 2014 debut you read?

24. Best Worldbuilding/Most Vivid Setting You Read This Year?

The Daughter of Smoke and Bone Series, The Martian, I Want to Show You More by Jamie Quattro (set in the area where I live and I LOVED it)

25. Book That Put A Smile On Your Face/Was The Most FUN To Read?

26. Book That Made You Cry Or Nearly Cry in 2014?

I'll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson - I almost never cry during books, so the fact that this one made me tear up is impressive.

27. Hidden Gem Of The Year?

28. Book That Crushed Your Soul?

29. Most Unique Book You Read In 2014?

30. Book That Made You The Most Mad (doesn’t necessarily mean you didn’t like it)?


1. New favorite book blog you discovered in 2014? 

They probably actually started last year, but they're still my favorite, so We Still Read wins for me, as always.  In fact I even think I picked them last year.  But whatever, I love them and you should read them.

2. Favorite review that you wrote in 2014? 

Definitely my review for Bad Feminist - which is linked on Gay's blog!

3. Best discussion/non-review post you had on your blog?

I got a great response and enjoyed putting into writing my thoughts on working in for-profit education.

4. Best event that you participated in (author signings, festivals, virtual events, memes, etc.)?

I almost always say Decatur Book Festival, but it really let me down this year.  Unmanageable lines, hottest weekend of the year, and no shade made it kind of miserable.  Next year I think I'm going to try Nashville's festival instead since it's later in the year and less likely to fry me.  So for this year, I'll say vacation with my BFF's that I met through books.  It's kind of a stretch but whatever.  We read on vacation so it counts.

5. Best moment of bookish/blogging life in 2014?

Being linked on Roxane Gay's blog was kind of a big deal.  I also got some fun tweets from authors.  I didn't participate in a whole lot this year in terms of bookish stuff - mostly just kept up my reviewing.  Hopefully I'll find something bigger to get involved in this year.

7. Most Popular Post This Year On Your Blog (whether it be by comments or views)?

8. Post You Wished Got A Little More Love?

My series on working at a for-profit school was my favorite and it did well, but I'd love to see more people read it and comment on their own experiences or thoughts.

9. Best bookish discover (book related sites, book stores, etc.)?

I got to make a trip to Parnassus in Nashville for the first time and fell in love with the store.  I just wish they had more readings on weekends, since it's hard to make the drive on a school night.

10.  Did you complete any reading challenges or goals that you had set for yourself at the beginning of this year?

 I did!  I had hoped to read 150 books and wound up reading 182.  I didn't complete my serendipitous reading goal, but I've kind of given up on that.  I discover so many books online that it's hard to find something I want to read that I haven't already heard of.


1. One Book You Didn’t Get To In 2014 But Will Be Your Number 1 Priority in 2015?

Probably one of the ones I have out from the library right now - maybe Is God A Moral Monster by Paul Copan?

2. Book You Are Most Anticipating For 2015 (non-debut)?

Confession: I am terrible about knowing in advance what books are coming out.  Unless it shows up on NetGalley, I can't tell you when the next Ann Patchett or Brandon Sanderson or Stephanie Perkins is coming out.  I just get excited when I start to hear buzz.  Nothing comes to mind right now.
I'm skipping the next few since they're pretty much the same answer...

5. One Thing You Hope To Accomplish Or Do In Your Reading/Blogging Life In 2015?

I'm super excited to be reading the Penguin Drop Caps series with Jacki (We Still Read) - we're reading one book every month, which means we'll get in some classics we've been meaning to read and be rewarded at the end with a gorgeous new collection.

If you participate, I'd love to see your answers!  I'll be stalking The Perpetual Page Turner's linky page, but feel free to leave a link in my comments too, and I promise to check it out and leave you a comment!  Thanks again to Jamie for creating the survey!

Monday, December 22, 2014

Biggest Disappointments of 2014

I'm happy to report that this year I didn't read many duds this year and read so many amazing books.  That said, there were a few that completely let me down and least favorite lists are kind of my favorite, so enjoy this list of my biggest let-downs of 2014.

I had looked forward to this one for so long and was so excited to finally get my hands on a copy.  And then so disappointed to realize that it was less of a literary paranormal story and more of a heavy-handed political metaphor.

This got mixed reviews on Goodreads, but excellent reviews from sources I usually completely trust.  I, however, found it to be chaotic and full of strange subplots and characters that never wound up meaning anything.  It's got beautiful artwork going for it, but the story did nothing for me.

A story in verse with a fair amount of potential but that wound up being largely generic and without any particular skill.  The poems read like prose that was randomly divided into lines making it look like poetry.  Not impressed.

This was a dud that I expected ahead of time.  I read it years ago and hated it, and didn't really expect it to improve any with rereading, but I did it for my FYA book club and, yep, still hated it.

This one got amazing critical reviews and great reviews on Goodreads as well.  I wanted to love it so much, but I just couldn't get into it.  It contained way too much psychobabble and not enough about the author's life, which is what I really wanted to know about.

Probably the worst book I read this year.  The writing, the plot, the characters - all left a lot to be desired.  

Friday, December 19, 2014

Best Short Form Works of 2014

Best Essay Collections:

Another one that ranks in the top five overall for me - I devoured this collection and can't wait to read it again.  Gay is one of my favorite internet personalities and ties with John Scalzi for person I'm most likely to disagree with but still respect and love.

Beautifully written and completely engrossing.  My favorite essay from this collection is also included in this year's Best American Essays and it was thoroughly enjoyable both times I read it.

The whole issue of vaccinations and how our culture views them, why we need them, and why some people are afraid of them is fascinating to me, so it should come as no surprise that I devoured this collection over the course of a few hours.

Best Poetry:

Billy Collins is always a pleasure to read and one of the few poets that I can pick up with complete confidence in my ability to read and understand.  This contains a lot of previously published poems, but was still a joy to read.

Creepy Joyce Carol Oates stories about "love gone wrong".  I enjoyed all of them and would recommend them to any fans of her writing or of psychological thrillers.

Thanks to TLC Book Tours for introducing me to this one.  I probably would have missed it if it weren't for the tour email, and I'm so glad I discovered it.  It's just my kind of story - slightly off-kilter, leave you thinking for days stories.

Another collection I discovered through TLC, this one sticks to a more traditional contemporary literary fiction feel.  Some of the stories are linked, which doesn't always work for me, but it was perfect here.

Another creepy collection, this one set in Vietnam, but with a slightly more supernatural twist than the psychological suspense of Oates.  It was a great mixture of Eastern superstition and literary depth.

Similar to The Frangipani Hotel, this is another set of short stories, set in Japan this time, with a slightly twisted version of reality.  Less supernatural in tone than Kupersmith's collection, but still delightfully bizarre and creepy.

This read is so recent that I haven't even had a chance to review it yet.  It's been on my list for a while and once I realized it's set in my neck of the woods I had to read it immediately.  It didn't disappoint on the local-interest, of course (my husband's and my favorite restaurant gets a mention!), but the real highlight here is the quality.  It's been on my mind daily since I finished - there are several stories I just can't stop thinking about.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Book Review: The World of Post Secret by Frank Warren

From the publisher:
A decade ago, Frank Warren began a community art project that captured the popular imagination and became a worldwide obsession. He handed out postcards to strangers and left them in public places—asking people to share a secret they had never told anyone and mail them back to him anonymously. More than half a million secrets, 600 million hits to the award-winning PostSecret blog, and five huge bestsellers later, the PostSecret phenomenon is bigger than ever. By turns funny, heartbreaking, thoughtful, and moving, this compendium of graphic haiku offers an intimate glimpse into both individual private lives and into our shared humanity.
Included in this compelling new book are dozens of the best archived secrets from the original PostSecret app; inside stories about the most controversial secrets Frank Warren has received; moving text from the new PostSecret play, foreign secrets, "puzzle" secrets, and much more!
If you've somehow missed out on the PostSecret phenomenon, you'll definitely want to click here to check it out. Once you've seen it, I'm pretty sure you'll be as hooked as I am.  This collection is the (maybe) last in a series of books that collect the post card secrets sent to Frank Warren, as well as some secrets submitted to the app.  In addition, it contains several short essays that describe significant moments in the project's history, controversial posts, and how the app influenced the project.  You can read it slowly and savor each secret, or, you can do like I did and devour it in one sitting.  It's definitely earned its spot on my coffee table, and I'm looking forward to seeing future guests pick it up and thumb through - I know they won't be able to resist.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Best Speculative Fiction of 2014

This one is definitely in my top five overall for the year.  It may even be the best.  I struggled with putting this in adult fiction or in speculative fiction, because it reads more like an adventure/survival book than it does a science fiction book.  But it's also set on the surface of Mars, so I wound up deciding to feature it here.  Basically, an astronaut is trapped on Mars and has to figure out how to survive until NASA figures out a way to rescue him.  

You can also find this one on my list of audiobooks, but it deserves a place here as well.  It's about a terrifying post-apocalyptic world where opening your eyes can drive you to suicide and murder and a mother who wants something better for her children.  

Another post-apocalypse story, this time in a world whose population and culture has been decimated by a plague.  It was particularly harrowing to read this fall during the panic surrounding ebola.  I can't say enough good things about the writing and the plot itself.

I don't usually read straight-up paranormal horror, but this one was absolutely impossible to resist.  The book is designed to resemble an Ikea catalog and features illustrations of progressively disturbing products.  It's worth reading for the design alone, but the story is also compelling.  I'll be so disappointed if I don't get a sequel next year.

Not really a dystopia and not really a post-apocalypse, this is really just a somewhat bleak imagining of our world's future, particularly in the East.  We move from India to Africa and follow a young girl's search for her birth mother.  It's one of the more difficult books I read this year, but also one of the most rewarding.

I'm not even going to try to describe this one because of spoilers, but trust me when I say that it's a must-read if you're fans of post-apocalyptic settings, horror, or suspense.  It fits all three categories quite well.

Another candidate for top five overall, this is probably the most beautiful writing I read this year.  It fits into the speculative category because the main characters are mythical immigrants to New York City (a golem and a jinni), but it would work just as well in literary fiction.  The story is moving but the real star is the writing.

The first in the Southern Reach series, this one is honestly hard to sub-classify within speculative fiction without having finished the series (the second two books are waiting for me at the library right now).  It has adventure and conspiracy and mysterious disappearances from Area X, where our main characters are sent to try to discover why all other expeditions have failed.