Rachel Neumeier

Fantasy and Young Adult Fantasy Author

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Top Ten Books of 2014 So Far

Good heavens, it’s halfway through June. Also, after an extra month of spring, all of a sudden, it’s summer! Hot and humid, people, HOT AND HUMID, and am I ever glad I have air conditioning. I’m taking the dogs out at six in the morning now because after that it’s too hot for Dora, who agrees with me about the virtues of air conditioning unless she’s chasing dragonflies, in which case it can’t be too hot. (I do watch her for heat stroke when she gets into dragonfly mode.)

Anyway! I took a week off while waiting for a) Michelle at Random House to get back to me about KERI; b) Caitlin to get back to me about KEHERA, which btw she thinks has good commercial potential and she wants to try to place it with a traditional publisher; and c) Caitlin to get back to me about the 100 pp of WHITE ROAD, my other possibility for Random House.

I’m still waiting for all those comments, BUT I have had a quick unofficial note from Michelle that she hasn’t finished the KERI partial but loves it so far. So that looks good! And that means that my break is over. I wrote 1000 words of KERI this morning and need 1000 more tonight. That’s a pace that should get me to a finished work by the beginning of August, which is the goal. IF I don’t let myself get distracted by reading! I got three new cookbooks to help me avoid fiction (THAI FOOD and THAI STREET FOOD by David Thompson, and THE NEW BOOK OF MIDDLE EASTERN FOOD by Claudia Rhoden).

Meanwhile, I have actually managed to read a reasonable number of books this year so far. I don’t know, about 40? A good many have been re-reads, including all the Shadow Unit books in April, when I was working hard on KEHERA and didn’t read anything else. Anyway, here are my picks for this year so far. It’s a WAY more diverse list than it was last year — last year, the top ten list included only five authors (Martha Wells, Andrea K Host, NK Jemisin, Laura Florand, and one by Maggie Stiefvater). This year, no repeats in the actual list, though actually plenty of repeats from last year.

TOP TEN IN THE FIRST HALF OF 2014, in rough (very rough) order:

1. Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie — an amazing, ambitious debut SF novel that you have probably already all read, right?

AncillaryJustice

2. Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein. My comments.

CodeNameVerity

3. The Fall of the Ile-Rien trilogy by Martha Wells, which I loved even more on a re-read than I did the first time around. My comments.

WizardHunters

4. Jinx, by Sage Blackwood, one of those outstanding MG stories that works for any age. My comments.

Jinx

5. The Castle Behind Thorns by Merrie Haskell, which ditto, and I really do not know which of these two MG works I would put first, but they are both definitely on my top ten list for the year. My comments.

Castle

6. The Chocolate Touch by Laura Florand, which on a re-read is still my favorite of her Chocolate romances. My comments.

ChocTouch

7. Airs Above the Ground by Mary Stewart, which I have read many times, though not recently. This time, I really appreciated the structure of the story in ways I couldn’t when I first read it (in my teens).

AirsAbove

8. Dolly and the Bird of Paradise by Dorothy Dunnett, another one which I first read many years ago (reissued as Tropical Issue btw). I will have to write a review eventually — these “Johnson Johnson” mysteries are thoroughly interesting from a writer’s perspective, as well as being great fun. Incidentally, this one was published sixth but is set slightly earlier than the other “Johnson Johnson” stories, so you can read it first or last if you want to try the series.

Dolly

9. Kindred of Darkness by Barbara Hambly. An excellent addition the the Ysidro vampire historicals, though in my opinion, Ysidro himself is a less complex and less interesting character in this particular book. Lydia shines, though.

Kindred

10. Across a Jade Sea and the sequels by L. Shelby. My comments.

JadeSea

Let’s see, that’s one SF, one historical, one romance, two MG fantasy, two adult fantasy, one historical/UF, and two mysteries, every work by a different author. As I said, a more diverse group of titles this year than last year! Still fantasy-heavy, which is normal for me.

Okay, yes, I would like to write reviews for AIRS and BIRD OF PARADISE and KINDRED, but, hey, I just read (or re-read) these recently and I’m busy! There’s a lot to say about them, though, and for that matter I have recently read several books I enjoyed that aren’t on this list and there’s a lot to say about some of them, too. I’ll just have to see how it goes with KERI. Sometimes writing something quick and casual and above all short is a nice break from putting words in a row for the actual WIP.

Now, on the theory that one can never have too many books stacked up on the TBR pile, what if anything has particularly stood out for all of you so far this year? Any of these on your 2014 lists so far?

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5 Comments Top Ten Books of 2014 So Far

  1. Maureen E

    The Goblin Emperor, definitely. Cuckoo Song, by Frances Hardinge–I can’t praise her books enough, and this is a favorite. The Bren Cameron books, whichever ones I’ve read this year. Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry. And All the Stars (which reminds me that I need to buy the rest of her books!). Imperial Purple. Engines of the Broken World by Jason Vanhee. Jinx’s Magc. Chocolate Temptation. And Black Dog. :)

    I had been thinking of this year as not as stellar as others, but looking at that list, I’m not sure that’s actually true.

  2. Cheryl L

    I also loved THE GOBLIN EMPEROR. Other recent highlights include THE KINDRED OF DARKNESS, Marie Brennan’s TROPIC OF SERPENTS, Martha Wells’ EMILIE & THE SKY WORLD and Felix Gilman’s THE REVOLUTIONS (an interesting mix of Victorian-era pseudo-science and science fiction). I’m eagerly waiting for my bookseller to call and tell me that CUCKOO SONG and Jo Walton’s MY REAL CHILDREN are ready to be collected. While I’m waiting, I’m enjoying the pleasures of McKinley’s SUNSHINE. :-)

  3. Rachel

    The Goblin Emperor/Tropic of Serpents/Emilie and the Sky World: Really looking forward to them!

    Foreigner series/And All the Stars/Chocolate Temptation/Kindred of Darkness/Sunshine/Imperial Purple: Two thumbs up!

    Cuckoo Song/Revolutions/My Real Children/Engines of the Broken World: I guess I should add those to my wishlist.

    I’ve read just one book by Hardinge (Fly Trap). It was good, but it wasn’t on my top ten for the year. I know everyone raved about A Face Like Glass, but somehow the description never appealed to me, though I suppose I should just trust you all and try it anyway. Maybe Cuckoo Song is one I should try first. Let me know what you think of it if you get a chance, since I expect you’ll get to it way before I do.

  4. Cheryl L

    If you want to try another book by Frances Hardinge, I’d suggest THE LOST CONSPIRACY. It’s funny and sad and exciting, and I thought the ending was amazing.

  5. Rachel

    Estara, that’s right! I’d forgotten that. I think I may be sticking to standalones or short series this year. Maybe. (My mind is made up! For the moment.)

    Cheryl, thanks, I think I will try The Lost Conspiracy next for Hardinge.

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