Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Best Books of 2014

And by "year in review" what I really mean is "review-of-the-books-I-read-while-I-wasn't-writing-blog-posts." Cause, ya know. If you look, I'm pretty sure I've only written like THREE since 2013's "year in review." Pa-thetic. 

On the brights side though, wanna know what ISN'T pathetic? These top five books I'm a gonna share with you. Nope. Not even a little! So without further adieu, I give you, my top five (as always, in no particular order):

Angelfall, Susan Ee

It's been six weeks since angels of the apocalypse descended to demolish the modern world. Street gangs rule the day while fear and superstition rule the night. When warrior angels fly away with a helpless little girl, her seventeen-year-old sister Penryn will do anything to get her back.

Anything, including making a deal with an enemy angel.

Raffe is a warrior who lies broken and wingless on the street. After eons of fighting his own battles, he finds himself being rescued from a desperate situation by a half-starved teenage girl.

Traveling through a dark and twisted Northern California, they have only each other to rely on for survival. Together, they journey toward the angels' stronghold in San Francisco where she'll risk everything to rescue her sister and he'll put himself at the mercy of his greatest enemies for the chance to be made whole again.

The Aviator's Wife, Melanie Hauser

For much of her life, Anne Morrow, the shy daughter of the U.S. ambassador to Mexico, has stood in the shadows of those around her, including her millionaire father and vibrant older sister, who often steals the spotlight. Then Anne, a college senior with hidden literary aspirations, travels to Mexico City to spend Christmas with her family. There she meets Colonel Charles Lindbergh, fresh off his celebrated 1927 solo flight across the Atlantic. Enthralled by Charles’s assurance and fame, Anne is certain the celebrated aviator has scarcely noticed her. But she is wrong.

Charles sees in Anne a kindred spirit, a fellow adventurer, and her world will be changed forever. The two marry in a headline-making wedding. Hounded by adoring crowds and hunted by an insatiable press, Charles shields himself and his new bride from prying eyes, leaving Anne to feel her life falling back into the shadows. In the years that follow, despite her own major achievements—she becomes the first licensed female glider pilot in the United States—Anne is viewed merely as the aviator’s wife. The fairy-tale life she once longed for will bring heartbreak and hardships, ultimately pushing her to reconcile her need for love and her desire for independence, and to embrace, at last, life’s infinite possibilities for change and happiness.
Drawing on the rich history of the twentieth century—from the late twenties to the mid-sixties—and featuring cameos from such notable characters as Joseph Kennedy and Amelia Earhart, The Aviator’s Wife is a vividly imagined novel of a complicated marriage—revealing both its dizzying highs and its devastating lows. With stunning power and grace, Melanie Benjamin provides new insight into what made this remarkable relationship endure. 

The Stranger and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender, Leslye Walton

Foolish love appears to be the Roux family birthright, an ominous forecast for its most recent progeny, Ava Lavender. Ava—in all other ways a normal girl—is born with the wings of a bird.

In a quest to understand her peculiar disposition and a growing desire to fit in with her peers, sixteen-year old Ava ventures into the wider world, ill-prepared for what she might discover and naïve to the twisted motives of others. Others like the pious Nathaniel Sorrows, who mistakes Ava for an angel and whose obsession with her grows until the night of the Summer Solstice celebration.

That night, the skies open up, rain and feathers fill the air, and Ava’s quest and her family’s saga build to a devastating crescendo.

First-time author Leslye Walton has constructed a layered and unforgettable mythology of what it means to be born with hearts that are tragically, exquisitely human.

Until the End of the World, Sarah Lyons Fleming

Cassie Forrest isn't surprised to learn that the day she’s decided to get her life together is also the day the world ends. After all, she’s been on a self-imposed losing streak since her survivalist parents died: she’s stopped painting, broken off her engagement to Adrian and dated a real jerk. Rectifying her mistakes has to wait, however, because Cassie and her friends have just enough time to escape Brooklyn for her parents’ cabin before Bornavirus LX turns them into zombies, too. 

This is difficult enough, but Cassie’s tag along ex-boyfriend and her friend’s bratty sister have a knack for making everything, even the apocalypse, more unpleasant. When the two attract a threat as deadly as the undead to their safe haven, Cassie’s forced to see how far she’ll go to protect those she loves. And it’s a lot farther than she’d anticipated. This, coupled with Adrian’s distant voice on Safe Zone Radio and, of course, the living dead, threaten to put Cassie right back into the funk she just dragged herself out of. 

Survival’s great and all, especially when you have leather armor, good friends and home-brewed beer, but there’s something Cassie must do besides survive: tell Adrian she still loves him. And to do that, Cassie has to find faith that she’s stronger than she thinks, she’s still a crack shot and true love never dies. 

We Were Liars, E. Lockhart

A beautiful and distinguished family.
A private island.
A brilliant, damaged girl; a passionate, political boy.
A group of four friends—the Liars—whose friendship turns destructive.
A revolution. An accident. A secret.
Lies upon lies.
True love.
The truth.
We Were Liars is a modern, sophisticated suspense novel from National Book Award finalist and Printz Award honoree E. Lockhart. 

Runner up (Because seriously, its painful picking only five… I gotta give myself a LITTLE leeway…)

Wonder, R. J. Palacio

You can't blend in when you were born to stand out.

My name is August. I won't describe what I look like. Whatever you're thinking, it's probably worse.

August Pullman wants to be an ordinary ten-year-old. He does ordinary things. He eats ice cream. He plays on his Xbox. He feels ordinary - inside.

But Auggie is far from ordinary. Ordinary kids don't make other ordinary kids run away screaming in playgrounds. Ordinary kids don't get stared at wherever they go.

Born with a terrible facial abnormality, Auggie has been home-schooled by his parents his whole life, in an attempt to protect him from the cruelty of the outside world. Now, for the first time, he's being sent to a real school - and he's dreading it. All he wants is to be accepted - but can he convince his new classmates that he's just like them, underneath it all?

Narrated by Auggie and the people around him whose lives he touches forever, WONDER is a funny, frank, astonishingly moving debut to read in one sitting, pass on to others, and remember long after the final page.

And, like the Razzies, my year round up just wouldn't be the same without giving a big shout out to my Biggest Disappointments too. Here's to you, my face-palming, eye-clawed-out, head-banged-against-the-wall books… Give it up for:

Into the Still Blue, Veronica Rossi
Fever, Lauren DeStefano 
The Darkest Minds, Alexandra Bracken

Better luck next time, dearies ( ;

And there ya have it: my literary year. It's a wrap.

Also, you may or may not have noticed a bit of a pattern in my reading (don't worry if you didn't… it took me all of 28 years to realize this about myself)… 

I like sad books. 

I mean, it's not like I don't like happy ones too, but as I was perusing my collection for happy books to lend my sister-in-law (who's daughter is undergoing cancer treatments), I found that the number of truly happy books in my collection was LITERALLY in the single digits. 

What does that meeeeeean??! It's like I'm in love with human tragedy or something!! Ack!! Even my top five did not escape unscathed! With the exception of maybe Angelfall and Wonder, ALL of them are pretty weepy books. (And even Angelfall and Wonder could be classified as sad in their own rights). 

Sheesh. Despress-o-bot here. 

But you know what? I'm gonna go out on a limb here and say that it's okay to like sad stuff. Because, lets be honest… so many of "The Greats" are filled with melancholy and gloom. I mean, they aren't called the "Greek Tragedies" for their humor, right? Also, I'm pretty sure Shakespeare didn't have a happy bone in his body. (An over exaggeration, I am aware. But you get the idea). The Great Gatsby . . . Scarlet Letter . . . Uncle Tom's Cabin . . . sheesh, my entire AP high school reading list was one, long, tear-stained tragedy. 

And yet, here we are… WE LOVE THIS SAD SHIZ!!!!

Maybe there's just something in human nature that is drawn to tragedy. Like a car accident on the side of the road, or the news we just can't pull our eyes from. Sad books makes us FEEL. They speak to our souls and leave scars on our hearts. They stick with us until the end . . . haunting us with "What if's" as we lay our heads on the pillow at night. They are the best because they are timeless. In reading them, we recognize our own deepest struggles. Reflections of ourselves. And we discover company in traveling those roads with our dear characters, perhaps making us feel not-quite-so-alone in our own private struggles. So maybe that's why the saddest stories are the ones that stick with us the longest. We can relate to them, because just to be human, is often times one great tragedy. 

Then again, maybe it's just me. And maybe I do need psychiatric help. You be the judge ( :

And on that deep note, I shall leave you! Please, feel free to leave comments about YOUR favorites from 2014… the best, and--if you feel so inclined--the worst, too! I always love a good recommendation!