Favorite Books of 2014

According to Goodreads I read 71 of my wanted 75 books in 2014. But what Goodreads doesn’t know is that I also read 6 full manuscripts for friends (not to mention the number of times I read my own books, but M said mine don’t count!). So, I’m considering my reading challenge a total win.

There were books that I enjoyed, there were books I honestly didn’t care if I finished, and then there were books that blew my mind with their sheer brilliance. Books that I will push on friends and strangers just because everyone needs to read them. Books that inspired me, tortured me, made me laugh, made me cry and, most definitely made me grateful for so many different kinds of characters and stories. Below are the ones that I still can’t get out of my head.

Books

A Corner of White and Cracks in the Kingdom by Jaclyn Moriarty

Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins

The Walls Around Us by Nova Ren Suma

Ruin and Rising by Leigh Bardugo

The Raven Boys, The Dream Thieves, and Blue Lily, Lily Blue by Maggie Stiefvater

The Retribution of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin

Unmade by Sarah Rees Brennan

Strange Sweet Song by Adi Rule

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

Daughter of Smoke and Bone, Days of Blood and Starlight by Laini Taylor (I’m not finished with Dreams of God and Monsters yet, otherwise it would be on here too!)

Landline by Rainbow Rowell

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Accepting the Magic in Magical Realism

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One of the things I love most about magical realism is that there does not have to be a reason for the magic. It just is. People in the stories know about it, they accept it without question (or at least with very little question), and they go on about their lives without getting too caught up on the why or the how of it.

As a reader, I know sometimes our analytical brains take over and want a reason. We want explanations of where it came from and how it works and why it’s there at all. But isn’t the point of reading fiction to get lost in another world (whether realistic or fantasy) and just enjoy the ride?

As a writer, I struggle with how much to explain and how much just to let be this nebulous magical thing. I think about what does the reader HAVE to know for the magic to work within the confines of the story? What MIGHT the reader want to know that adds an additional layer of complexity to the story and makes it feel more organic to the setting, characters, and plot? What detail pushes their ability to suspend disbelief too much so that all they can do now is pick holes in the magic until the story itself is pushed to the wayside?

I think about all of these things. I have answers to them and long drawn-out explanations of how the magic works and how it started for that particular character. All of these things are what make the story to work, even if not all of them show up on the page. In my mind, the reader needs just enough background that they aren’t confused and believe that this particular magic is real for these particular characters.

I think Rainbow Rowell said it very well recently when promoting her latest book, Landline. The following is bits of what she had to say about the magic phone in her book at her launch party on July 8. (I pulled the quotes from Twitter, so I’m not claiming they are 100% word for word what she said since I wasn’t in attendance, but you’ll get the point.)

“There’s a magic phone in this book. Try not to get too hung up on it—I didn’t!…And then I decided not to explain the magic phone at all. So this magic phone shows up—and don’t be that guy. Don’t be the person who’s like ‘Yeah, but…how did the magic phone get in there?’ Don’t be that person. Nobody likes that person. Ever.”

Not everybody is going to be okay when a magical element turns up in an otherwise realistic story. And that’s okay. If everyone read only the same types of books, the world would be so very boring. All I’m saying is try to give the magic a chance. Accept that it’s a part of the story for a reason and it just might surprise you.

This post is part of the Magic Realism Blog Hop. Twenty blogs are taking part in the hop. Over three days (6th – 8th August) these blogs will be posting about magic realism. Please take the time to click on the link below to find out about the other posts and remember that links to the new posts will be added over the three days, so do come back to read more. And Check out the #magicrealism tag on Twitter!

Reading Rewind: Landline

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After finishing a TON of edits on my own books last week, reading a new book I’ve been waiting for since January was my reward. And holy hell, was it a good reward…

Landline

Goodreads Summary:

Georgie McCool knows her marriage is in trouble. That it’s been in trouble for a long time. She still loves her husband, Neal, and Neal still loves her, deeply — but that almost seems besides the point now.

Maybe that was always besides the point.

Two days before they’re supposed to visit Neal’s family in Omaha for Christmas, Georgie tells Neal that she can’t go. She’s a TV writer, and something’s come up on her show; she has to stay in Los Angeles. She knows that Neal will be upset with her — Neal is always a little upset with Georgie — but she doesn’t expect to him to pack up the kids and go home without her.

When her husband and the kids leave for the airport, Georgie wonders if she’s finally done it. If she’s ruined everything.

That night, Georgie discovers a way to communicate with Neal in the past. It’s not time travel, not exactly, but she feels like she’s been given an opportunity to fix her marriage before it starts . . .

Is that what she’s supposed to do?

Or would Georgie and Neal be better off if their marriage never happened?

My Thoughts:

Oh, my God, y’all, this book. THIS BOOK! To say I loved it, is an understatement. It is beautifully written and has a voice that draws you in from the first sentence, just like all of Rainbow Rowell’s writing. But these characters burrowed so deep into my heart, it almost hurts. Georgie and Neal’s story is so effing epic it makes me want to curl up with this book and cry. From all the pain and frustration they suffered through, but also from the love between these two that is absolute, so far deep inside them it has merged with their DNA and physically changed who they are and made it impossible for them to live without each other. They’re not perfect, and they’re definitely not always nice to each other, but that’s what makes them so real, so relatable. This could be me and my husband (minus the kids) and if something ever happened between us, you can bet I’d buy every old school phone I could get my hands on in hopes that one of them would be magic and save us too.

Reading Rewind: Attachments

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So, I read three books this week and am halfway through a fourth, but only one actually counts for my Reading Rewind post (or towards my Goodreads reading challenge, which is a damn shame b/c it looks like I’m 2-3 books behind schedule, when in fact I’m not!). This week I read a revised version of one of my CP’s novels. And the changes are so, so good. I also read The 5 Love Languages because M and I were required to read it for his job. Very interesting concepts and I can see it helping out in lots of ways, both personally and professionally. And then I also devoured this (in one day)…

Attachments

Goodreads Summary:

“Hi, I’m the guy who reads your e-mail, and also, I love you . . . ”

Beth Fremont and Jennifer Scribner-Snyder know that somebody is monitoring their work e-mail. (Everybody in the newsroom knows. It’s company policy.) But they can’t quite bring themselves to take it seriously. They go on sending each other endless and endlessly hilarious e-mails, discussing every aspect of their personal lives.

Meanwhile, Lincoln O’Neill can’t believe this is his job now- reading other people’s e-mail. When he applied to be “internet security officer,” he pictured himself building firewalls and crushing hackers- not writing up a report every time a sports reporter forwards a dirty joke.

When Lincoln comes across Beth’s and Jennifer’s messages, he knows he should turn them in. But he can’t help being entertained-and captivated-by their stories.

By the time Lincoln realizes he’s falling for Beth, it’s way too late to introduce himself.

What would he say . . . ?

My Thoughts:

I read both of Rainbow Rowelll’s YA books before trying out her adult book, which published before the other two. Even though Attachments is an adult book, it still feels like a Rainbow Rowell book. It’s funny, like laugh-out-loud-and-hope-nobody-is-giving-you-the-stink-eye-for-being-so-obnoxious-while-you-read funny, with characters you wish were real so you could hang out with them and moments where she just stomps all over your heart for good measure. The technique of only seeing Beth and Jennifer through emails was brilliantly handled. I fell in love with them right along with Lincoln because they were so real, their personalities so vibrant, even without seeing them in the flesh. And the way they talked to each other reminded me so much of one of my friends, whom I also happen to work with, I couldn’t help but feel like I was a part of their email conversations too. And Lincoln’s story interspersed with theirs was a lot of fun. It was great to see him finally grow up and take charge of his life. Like all of his D&D friends, I wanted to shout “About damn time, man!” I wouldn’t have expected a romance to work without the main characters actually interacting with each other for most of the book, but this book totally proved me wrong.

I Read YA Week

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This past week was I Read YA Week (hosted by This Is Teen), and I’ve been thinking all week about some of my all-time favorite YA books. I know I’m a little late to the bandwagon, but that’s kinda fitting with the fact that I didn’t like to read until I was 17 (yes, I know how terrible that is, but I swear I’ve more than made up for it since then!)

So here are some YA books that I would push on anyone who likes a good read, regardless of the target audience.

IReadYA

Feeling Sorry for Celia by Jaclyn Moriarty

Rats Saw God by Rob Thomas (yes, the VMars creator himself!)

Imaginary Girls by Nova Ren Suma

Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

Strange Sweet Song by Adi Rule

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin

Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

Death by Bikini by Linda Gerber

Unspoken by Sarah Rees Brennan

Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea by April Genevieve Tucholke

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

Fangirl Reads in 2013

If last year was my epic rock concert year, this year was my YA novel love affair year. I read some seriously amazing books this year. Books that inspired me. That made me cry. That invaded my sleep and caused me so much anxiety I could barely function for days on end. Books that I pushed on friends and co-workers and my sister because I needed people to talk to about them.

Not all of the books on this list are from 2013, but this is the year I found—and fell in love with—them. And there are dozens of other books that I read and loved, and dozens more that are still on my TBR list, because even though I managed to read 3-5 books/week on multiple occasions this year, I still had to do things like work, and talk to my husband, and, you know, write my own stories. All things I love, so sacrifices had to be made.

But for the books I did make time for, these were my favorites…

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The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer (2011) and The Evolution of Mara Dyer (2012), Michelle Hodkin – Why I love it: A phycological thriller/paranormal romance series that is so expertly crafted you don’t know what to believe. Oh, and Noah Shaw, my favorite book boyfriend ever.

GrishaBooksShadow and Bone (2012) and Siege and Storm (2013), Leigh Bardugo – Why I love it: An epic fantasy series that sucks you into the world in the first few pages and refuses to let you go. There’s on-the-edge-of-your-seat action, and super swoony moments with multiple boys, and a girl who kicks serious ass. Also, the Darkling.

UnspokenBooksUnspoken (2012) and Untold (2013), Sarah Rees Brennan – Why I love it: Jared. He’s the ultimate bad boy who would do anything for the girl he loves. You know, except tell her he loves her. (Warning, these books may make you want to throw them across the room in agony.)

PivotPointPivot Point (2013), Kasie West – Why I love it: It’s like Sliding Doors but with teens with abilities and super swoony Texas boys and a little murder thrown in to complicate things.

Anna and the French KissAnna and the French Kiss (2010), Stephanie Perkins – Why I love it: All the feels. This books captures friends falling in love so perfectly, it made me fall in love with my husband all over again.

Imaginary GirlsImaginary Girls (2011), Nova Ren Suma – Why I love it: The writing is so f-ing gorgeous and the bond between the sisters is so powerful that it I’m pretty sure that if I went to the reservoir I would actually find Chloe waiting by the water for Ruby.

ShatterMeShatter Me (2013) and Unravel Me (2013), Tahereh Mafi – Why I love it: A girl, who can’t touch anyone because her skin kills them, meets the one boy who (seemingly) isn’t affected by her. I’m not even going to talk about the other boy. Even thinking about him makes my anxiety flare up, which is part of the brilliance of Tahereh Mafi.

AcossTheUniverseAcross the Universe (2011), A Million Suns (2012), and Shades of Earth (2013), Beth Revis – Why I love it: This sci-fi series set (mostly) on a spaceship felt like I was reading in a world based on so many TV shows I love. It’s this awesome mix of Futurama, Firefly, and Doctor Who with some teenage angst and love thrown in.

Devil_SeaBetween the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea (2013), April Genevieve Tucholke – Why I love it: It’s creepy, and dark, and not at all what I normally read. But River is another (redeemable) bad boy I just couldn’t resist. And because of his powers, neither could Violet, which made it a whole helluva lot of fun.

SelectionBooksThe Selection (2012) and The Elite (2013), Kiera Cass – Why I love it: It’s a love triangle that made me switch which boy I was rooting for partway through. That NEVER happens.

TFiOSThe Fault in Our Stars (2012), John Green – Why I love it: The humor and frankness in a story about kids with cancer. Don’t get me wrong, it’s heartbreaking, but So. Damn. Lovely. Also, the diagram of virgins vs. 17 year old guys with one leg.

FangirlFangirl, Rainbow Rowell – Why I love it: It’s about a girl who would rather live in a fictional world than deal with the people around her. Enough said. (Well, not quite. Also, Levi.)

AllegiantAllegiant, Veronica Roth (2013) – Why I love it: Veronica Roth wasn’t scared to do what was right for the character of Tris, even if it did break my heart. It’s not the ending I wanted for Tris or Four (or for me, for that matter!). But as a writer, I have to respect how much guts it took to do what she did.