Rachel Neumeier

Fantasy and Young Adult Fantasy Author

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2014 End of Year Book Survey

I can hardly believe we’re already at the end of 2014! This year has really dashed by, especially the last couple of months. But here we are, nearly at 2015. Wow.

I’m glad I started keeping a reading list a few years ago, because otherwise there would be no hope of remembering what I read way back in January, much less deciding on standouts. But as it is, I can actually provide statistics! Actually making choices for my personal favorites from 2014 is much harder, but I’ll try.

1. Number of books read per genre in 2014:

Contemporary: 6

Science-Fiction: 10

Fantasy: 42

Urban Fantasy / Paranormal: 11

Historical Fiction: 2

Mystery: 4

Romance: 9

Middle Grade: 5

Young Adult: 15

Independently Published: 14

All the MG, YA, and Indie titles are also included in the genre categories above, so that is 34 books that are double-counted. That means the total number of books I read in 2014 is . . . 84. This is *terrible*. By far the smallest number since I started keeping track. Even if you add the 13 Shadow Unit books I re-read in April, that’s only 97! Less than a hundred books read in the whole year! !!!

On the other hand, this low number of books read is because I spent a lot of time writing, including the huge hack-it-up-and-rewrite of KEHERA in April — that’s why I re-read all the Shadow Unit books that month, and nothing else. And then KERI took a lot of my free time for most of the summer. I may still read a few more books this month, but not many, because I do need to seriously tackle the revision of MOUNTAIN. One project after another!

So, moving on. Where I wrote a review or comments about a particular title, I linked to that.

2. Favorite books read in 2014:

Middle Grade: Jinx by Sage Blackwood

Jinx

Young Adult SFF: The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary Pearson

Jenna Fox

Contemporary YA: Fangirl

Fangirl

Contemporary Adult: Blessings

Blessings

Now, I never wrote a review for this one, because, you know, I just didn’t. Sometimes that happens. But I liked it a lot. Here’s what Goodreads says about it: Late one night, a teenage couple drives up to the big white clapboard home on the Blessing estate and leaves a box. In that instant, the lives of those who live and work there are changed forever. Skip Cuddy, the caretaker, finds a baby girl asleep in that box and decides he wants to keep the child . . . while Lydia Blessing, the matriarch of the estate, for her own reasons, agrees to help him. “Blessings” explores how the secrets of the past affect decisions and lives in the present; what makes a person or a life legitimate or illegitimate and who decides; and the unique resources people find in themselves and in a community.

What I particularly liked was how warm and nurturing Skip is in this story, and how reserved and even cold Lydia is. I loved the reversal of the normal gender stereotypes. Quindlen weaves together past and present as well as different points of view and it all works beautifully. A bit heartbreaking at the end, but then one can see how far both Skip and Lydia have come in their personal journeys by that time, not to mention many of the secondary characters, and the whole story is satisfying — more so than if it had been too saccharine. And how Lydia sorts things out at the very end — so characteristic: both cool and kind at the same time.

Science-Fiction: Ancillary Justice

Ancillary

I never reviewed this one, either, but then everyone else has. And you’ve all read it yourselves already, right?

Fantasy: The Goblin Emperor

Goblin

Urban Fantasy / Paranormal: Written in Red

WrittenInRed

Historical Fiction: Code Name Verity

CodeName

Mystery: Sinners and Saints

SinnersAndSaints

I met someone who beta reads for Eileen Dreyer, and so I tried this book, and I liked it a lot even though I never quite got around to reviewing it. Goodreads says: Forensics specialist Chastity Byrnes is trying to put the past behind her. It has been ten years since Chastity made accusations against her father that shattered her family…and ten years since she’s seen her sister, Faith. First, Chastity gets a call from Dr. Max Stanton, the brother-in-law she never knew she had. Then she finds out that her long-lost sister is officially missing. Even though Faith never wanted to see her sister again, Chastity decides to go to the Big Easy to find her.

What I liked: The writing was good and Chastity’s voice was clear and engaging. I really liked how the stuff that happened in the past was not just shaken off by anybody, but remained intensely important to everyone involved. I loved how *plausible* all the effects of the past were, too. It felt psychologically real to me. The setting is evoked well, the romance is handled well, the story is good if a bit predictable in some ways. I expect I will be picking up more stories by Dreyer.

Romance: The Chocolate Heart

Chocolate

Fairy Tale Re-Telling: Castle Behind Thorns

Castle

Independently Published: Across A Jade Sea

JadeSea

3. Book I thought I was going to love but was disappointed in:

Under the Light by Laura Whitcomb
Discount Armageddon by Seanan McGuire

For the former, I was driven mad by how the issues resolved by the characters in the first book turned out to NOT REALLY BE RESOLVED, thus negating the characters’ arcs from the first book and imo ruining the second book. Phooey.

For the latter, I just could not get over what seemed a sharp drop in sentence-level writing quality from the author’s work as Myra Grant. Also, the intense ridiculousness of the story. I get that this was supposed to be light, but it was *too* light for me.

4. Most surprising (in a good way!) book of 2014:

Written in Red by Anne Bishop

I have found Bishop’s work catchy and engaging but flawed. This story was catchier and *extremely* engaging, and also good. Sure, the world has plausibility issues. Those issues didn’t bother me a bit while reading the story or the second book. I can’t wait for the third.

5. Book I most often recommended to people in 2014:

Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie

Probably. After all, I read Ancillary Justice way back in January, which gave me lots of time this year to recommend it to everyone.

6. Favorite series I discovered in 2014:

The Emperor’s Edge by Lindsay Buroker

Catchy, engaging, charming, I zipped right through the whole series.

7. Favorite new author I discovered in 2014:

Sage Blackwood. I’m really looking forward to the finale of her JINX trilogy, and to whatever she writes after that.

8. Most thrilling, unputdownable book in 2014:

The Martian by Weir. What a page turner!

9. Book I am most likely to re-read next year:

The Goblin Emperor by “Katherine Addison”. I’m already looking forward to reading this again.

10. Favorite cover of a book I read in 2014:

The Republic of Thieves by Scott Lynch.

Republic

The book was pretty damn good, too.

11. Most memorable character in 2014:

Maia in The Goblin Emperor. Awww. Maia. I am *dying* for a sequel. My brother points out that Maia’s wife would make a good pov character, which is true. I hope this book sweeps the awards next year and “Katherine Addison” changes her mind about not writing a sequel.

12. Most beautifully written book read in 2014:

Jonathon Strange and Mr Norril My God, this was long. But without question beautifully written, both on a sentence-by-sentence level — that turns out to be especially important to me in an audiobook — and overall. Watching everything finally come together at the end was fantastic.

13. Book that had the greatest impact on me in 2014:

The Goblin Emperor. I want to write that book. Only different.

14. Best alien species in 2014:

A Darkling Sea by Cambias. Fabulous job.

15. Favorite romance from a book read in 2014:

Amaranthe and Sicarius from The Emperor’s Edge for new-to-me authors. Luc and Summer from The Chocolate Heartfor re-reads.

16. Favorite friendship from a book read in 2014:

Maddie and Julie from Code Name Verity. I know, everybody says this. But it’s true.

17. Best 2014 debut I read:

Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie. I hear that’s the first-ever novel-length work Leckie ever finished. Whoa.

18. Most vivid world/imagery in a book I read in 2014:

Stories of the Raksura by Martha Wells. For me, no one does more vivid, cinematic worldbuilding than Martha Wells.

19. Book I read in 2014 that made me cry:

Code Name Verity, but only at the very end. And, fine, The Chocolate Heart, and not just at the very end, either.

20. Book read in 2014 that was published earlier but that got way too little buzz the year it came out:

The Fall of Ile-Rien trilogy by Martha Wells. Seriously, if you still haven’t read this, you should pick it up. It’s even better re-read than it was to read it the first time.

LOOKING AHEAD

1. One book I didn’t get to in 2013 but will be my #1 priority in 2015:

Hild by Nicola Griffith

2. Book I am most anticipating for 2015:

Black Dove White Raven by Elizabeth Wein

3. 2015 debut I am most anticipating:

So, apparently Greg Manchess wrote a book inspired by this painting of his:

polar-bears

He said at the World Fantasy Convention that he expects this book to come out next year. If it does, I’ll be looking for it, because WHAT A GREAT PAINTING.

4. Series ending I am most anticipating in 2015:

The fourth Raven Boys book by Maggie Stiefvater … if that comes out next year? Not sure it’s going to. But if it does, I will finally be able to go back and read the wholse series.

5. One thing I hope to accomplish in my reading in 2015:

Read more nonfiction. This will probably happen, because I sure didn’t read much nonfiction this year — just a couple of books for the whole year. I’m pleased that this year I managed to read a lot more indie-published work than usual, which was one of my goals, and a lot more MG than usual, which ditto. The imbalance toward fantasy was pretty extreme, though. Maybe I can even it out more in 2015.

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1 Comment 2014 End of Year Book Survey

  1. Rachel

    Craig tried to say, but encountered A Comment Problem: Does that include rereads? It doesn’t seem like it can, since the 13 Shadow Unit books by themselves are more than your Urban Fantasy total.

    My answer: I’m not perfectly consistent about it, but no, I don’t usually count re-reads, especially if I skim at all. If I read a book for the first time in years and re-read it straight through from front to back, then I may count it. For example, DECLARE, if I do wind up re-reading that.

    Craig also said: Yes, I do think that if “Katherine” wanted to write a sequel to The Goblin Emperor, she could do worse than to focus on Ceredin, starting with some of the same events from a different POV and then moving on.

    My answer: I would love that. I hope her editor calls her agent and says, Look, we’ve got to have a sequel to The Goblin Emperor, how about Ceredin’s pov?

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