Wednesday, December 31, 2014

2014 in Review

Best Books
1. Grasshopper Jungle, Andrew Smith
This novel was the best thing I read all year--a really touching, precise, painful examination of teenage sexuality and the end times. It put Andrew Smith on my radar, and I'm so glad: I read three of his books this year, and none of them was like the other. I'm eagerly anticipating the two books of his scheduled for 2015, which promise to be equally as wacky and true.

2. The Bone Clocks, David Mitchell
A masterwork from the master. David Mitchell is the king of voice, and he explores six different ones in this book with such dexterity and grace that you'd swear he is actual a cabal of writers using a pseudonym--each character breathes and blinks and batters you with their pure, imperfect humanity. Perhaps it's a little heavy on the sci-fi battle toward the end, but I didn't mind. I'd follow David Mitchell anywhere.

3. The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender, Leslye Walton
This is the saddest, most beautiful book I read all year, the story of a girl with wings and love and loss. Magical realism at its finest in a delightful showcase. A word that gets tossed around too often when reviewing books is "lush," but it's definitely one of the words I'd choose for this book, along with "delicate," and "glittering." A stunner of a book.

4. The Riverman, Aaron Starmer
Childhood, secrets, love, and fear--Starmer can conquer them all. This is the first in a trilogy (and I've already read the second!), and it's potent book that scared me and made me feel old and young all at once. I can't wait to finish this group of books, which is simultaneously like learning and remembering. This book wins "most likely to crawl up your nose and inside all your organs to haunt you forever."

5. Man V. Nature, Diane Cook
Short stories that thrilled me and chilled me and mined me for all of my deep, personal inside feelings. I have read few short story collections as good as this one, with every story a total knockout victory.

6. Station Eleven, Emily St. John Mandel
The only post-apocalyptic novel I've ever loved, this one slides in and out of time and characters in a head-spinning mix of storylines. It's a beautiful creation, almost like an Escher painting because of how many ways all the characters' lives commingle: it seems impossible, but it's life and it's real and it's gorgeous.

7. We Were Liars, E. Lockhart
This book punched me in the stomach when I finished it, and I was grateful. That's all I will say.

8. The Whispering Skull, Jonathan Stroud
Yes! Stroud is one of the best, and this book was funny and sweet and genuinely unnerving; I don't do series often (anymore), but I'm willing to if Stroud is at the helm. You're not going to find many novels that are as fun as these--this is a reading experience of sheer joy (and fright).as fun as these.

9. The Hundred-Year House, Rebecca Makkai
A banger of a tale, with four different plotlines in reverse chronological order, taking us back further and further into the history of an estate. I am lately very into novels that experiment with narrative structure, and this is one of the best examples I have found with unconventional plotting choices. Well worth the adventure for the humor and characters, even if you're not as intrigued by a backwards-history as I.

10. Ant Colony, Michael DeForge
A depressing, delightful graphic novel about ants. And about you and me. This is one that glommed up my insides. :( / :)

I have, in the past, included a list of five books that disappointed me this year. I thought about doing it again this year, but then discarded the idea: it was too hard. I read 151(!) books this year, and I really enjoyed almost all of them: I read only 4 books that I rated with 2/5, and only 19 with 3/5. That means I enjoyed 83% of books I read this year. Yay!

Favorite Movies
1. Grand Budapest Hotel
2. The Lego Movie
3. Gone Girl
4. Birdman
5. Edge of Tomorrow

There were a lot of movies I didn't get to see this year that probably would have appeared on this list: Big Eyes, Boyhood, Snowpiercer, The Babadook, The Tale of the Princess Kaguya, Foxcatcher, Nightcrawler. Oh well.

Favorite Albums
1. 1000 Forms of Fear -- Sia
2. That's Christmas to Me -- Pentatonix
3. The Golden Echo -- Kimbra

2014 was, as far as I was concerned, all about Sia. "Chandelier" came out and I knew that I needed the album to which it belonged, and when it was released, it was all I could listen to for months. Kimbra's album is one of the most beautiful sound collections I've ever heard: very diverse soundscapes that bleed together and rewire your brain circuitry. Christmas albums are always iffy for me, because there's too much of a tendency to pack them with so-so songs, but Pentatonix's latest is a non-stop hit parade that has been on repeat for almost 3 months solid.

As I said earlier, I read 151 books this year: I'm tired. That's the highest number of books I've ever read in one year, and it burned me out. 2015 is going to be a much slower year for me, and I'm not sure how much review=blogging I'm going to do. It's become more work than fun, a "do-I-have-to" instead of a "I-can't-wait-to." I already have several ARCs for 2015, so if I read them, I'm obligated to review them here, but other than that? I'm not so sure.

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