Asking me to pick my top 10 books that I read in 2014 (no one did, by the way. It's fine. I'm not gonna hold it against you. Probably.) is like asking me to consign all but ten people on earth to hell (guess where you're going, buddy).
Most of these books have already been mentioned or reviewed in some form or other in this blog, and if they haven't, it's because I'm a lazy ne'er do well who shirks obligation. For fun, I decided to present them in the form of their various categories! Because why not!
Favorite Read of 2014
The Tokaido Road, by Lucia St. Clair Robson (reviewed!)
A snotty Japanese lady with a good sword arm, a penchant for trickery and disguise, and a heart of gold! A world-weary mercenary ronin who is hired to track her down and eventually falls in love with her legend! A story with lovingly researched details of historical Japan, chock full of delightful idioms and jokes!
What's not to like, I ask? What? No, really, you have to tell me because I am madly in love with this book and on the way down the slippery slope which probably ends with me tattooing it on my face (which might not be a good idea because there's not a lot of space for a novel on it).
Favorite Book Published in 2014
Everything I Never Told You, by Celeste Ng
Do you want some of the feels or all of them? I was like, hit me, and then I woke up in a sloppy little puddle of my own tears. Because Celeste Ng does not hold back in her tale of an Asian-American family that falls apart when their golden child Lydia is discovered dead.
The novel deals with the issues of a mixed race family growing up in a community that neither condones nor approves of it, and the fragile bond of a family that rested all its hopes on a girl who couldn't handle it. It's beautifully written heartbreak.
Bird Box, by Josh Malerman (reviewed!)
In Bird Box, going outside with your eyes open could kill you--or drive you to kill yourself. Nobody knows why or how it happened, or what people actually see. All they know is that they have to survive without ever seeing the outside world.
Despite the palpitations, though this is definitely one of my favorite books of the year!
Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, by Susanna Clarke (reviewed!)
Apparently this behemoth of a novel will be turned into a television series by the BBC, and I for one cannot wait. This also proves that I am something of a clairvoyant, because I'd predicted this very thing, but my misgivings remain.
Part of the charm of this story of two rival magicians reviving the ancient mysteries of magic in delightfully fussy London is the wonderfully snooty prose, which may not translate very well to film. Also, I've seen the actors they cast, and regretfully, Jonathan Strange is no longer a ginger. Outrageous!
Angelmaker, by Nick Harkaway
Nick Harkaway is to words what a ringmaster is to a circus -- it's wildly colorful and almost too much to take in, but the result is a zany, hilarious masterpiece.
This is the story of Joe Spork, grandson to one of the greatest criminals to ever rule London's criminal underbelly--but he'd rather just fix clocks. It's also the story of Edie Banister, the most badass old lady to have toppled empires in her heyday and who still hasn't lost her touch. When a mysterious contraption comes across Joe's workbench, it sets a series of sinister events in motion that positively set this book afire with genius.
Cinnamon and Gunpowder, by Eli Brown (reviewed!)
Somehow, this book has found its way into a fair number of my Top 5 Wednesday lists, and anyone who knows my tastes will not be surprised. Adventure on the high seas, with nearly all my favorite pirate tropes (I don't recollect a parrot in the story, however, so I suppose I must dock some points)! Swashbuckling pirate queens who have as much courage and honor as they do impeccable style! A prim, proper hero who is nothing at all like a hero and would in fact just prefer it if he could be clean again until the sweet lure of adventure washes over him like a high tide at noon! Food descriptions that leave your mouth watering! Everything, basically, everything!
The Chocolate Temptation, by Laura Florand
The true and rightful winner of this category really should be The Tokaido Road but I'm told it's not good for you to play favorites among your children. So have The Chocolate Temptation. The whole series is pretty great, and also very delicious to read.
Sarah has worked her perfectionist little butt off to become a pastry chef in one of the most prestigious kitchens in Paris, which makes it insanely frustrating for her when she sees the laid-back, lazy sous chef Gabriel toss off difficult dishes like he's making Pop Tarts. Personalities clash! Chemistry is explored! Pastries (and sexy kitchen metaphors) are made! (Also, can I get a hell yeah for non-token Asian heroines?!)
To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
Kicking myself in the face for never having read this book in spite of all critical acclaim (curse my book hipster tendencies)! In addition to his being a beautiful specimen of DILF manhood, I now have to thank Gregory Peck for getting me to finally pick this up.
When her father Atticus Finch is called to defend a black man in a rape case, the idyll of Scout's small-town childhood spent playing with her brother and speculating about their mythical neighbor Boo Radley is shattered. Sidebar, if there were a literary fathers award, everyone else should go home because Atticus Finch would take the trophy home every damn year.
Stray Souls, by Kate Griffin
This book about the more magical denizens of London participating in a support group for Magical Beings had me guffawing, chuckling, and outright giggle-snorting.
Pint-sized Sharon Li, whose literary genre of choice is Self-Help and who firmly believes in the principles of Middle Management, leads a group of hygienically conscious vampires, highly allergic druids, gourmet trolls, artistically-inclined banshees, and other mythical oddballs. Together, they tackle their personal problems inadvertently end up saving the spirit of London from sinister forces of corporate evil.
Enchantment, by Donald Spoto
I make no secret of my shameless admiration for Audrey Hepburn. If I could have even a fraction of her style and grace, I would lord it over everyone for the rest of my life. No one would like me, but I would be so constantly amazed at myself it wouldn't matter.
I tend to eat up everything written about her, but what I love about this biography is that it paints Hepburn as painfully human. Far from letting her successes blind her, she remained deeply insecure and very conscious of how easily it could all go away. Despite this, she lived a life of courage and integrity and great generosity and even though I know I'll never ever reach her level I just really love her okay.