There we have it; the year is almost up and we are all preparing to make 2014 our respective bitch. As a Christmas present to you, dear reader, I’d like to recommend some of the best books I have read this year. I read all genres, so no matter who you are or what kind of lit you’re into, there’s a good chance you might find something to try from my top 10. Be sure also to check out a post I collab’d on over at Insatiable Booksluts with book-buying recommendations from your friendly neighbourhood booksluts just in time for the Christmas shopping season (maybe). I, as always, am always open to hearing your book recommendations; it’s not like I have half a book shelf of unread paperbacks waiting for me…
#10 – The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
Genre: Historical Fiction
Published: 2005 – Black Swan
World War II, a world seen through the eyes of Death, an emotional story about the importance of words…I adored this book. It’s not without its problems unfortunately, but it’s one of those books that would be perfection if it weren’t for one or two flaws that were so fundamentally wrong that the book completely ruined its own chances. But otherwise, the book was beautifully written, its characters lovable and its plot remarkable. My heart broke on half a dozen occasions, not least when the book suddenly slammed to a halt; I was not ready for it to end. I would recommend this book for anyone who loves a tragedy and who wants to be engulfed in a world where the stakes are high and the meaning of love is explored in a beautiful and gut-wrenching manner. Full review here.
#9 – Sins & Needles (The Artists Trilogy Book #1) by Karina Halle
Published: 2013 – Metal Blonde Books
I am not a big fan of romance novels, yet I stayed up until the wee hours reading this one in its entirety. An excellent anti-hero, eye candy love interest, a thrilling plot and some decent sex scenes – yep, it just worked for me. I have a love-hate relationship with Karina Halle; whenever I’ve picked up the first book in one of her series, it always turns out to be exactly what I am looking for at the time. However upon picking up the next instalment, I inevitably find it to be lacklustre and ultimately disappointing. That is definitely what happened with this series: cracking start for me, but the second book was not at all what I was looking for. However, if you are a regular reader of the romance genre and you like a good plot, sizzling sex and anti-heroes, have a crack at this one.
#8 – The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCollough
Genre: Historical Fiction
Published: 1977 – Virago
This sprawling, sweeping, epic saga is the lengthy tale of the Cleary family who live in the red sands of Australia at the turn of the century. Their hardships, battles, relationships and tragedies are detailed at length here and by golly it’s a good read. The characters are so well written, so beautifully flawed, there’s no way you can escape this one without falling in love with some and finding yourself fuming at the arrogance of others. My reading updates on Goodreads consisted of a lot of “OH MY GOD WHAT ARE YOU DOING TO ME?” and “YOU CANNOT DO THAT IN THE FIRST SENTENCE OF A CHAPTER!!!!!!!!”. It’s poignant, it’s emotional, it’s one of those hefty books that you do not want to end. If you love an epic family saga and do not mind the tears that accompany them, this book is for you.
#7 – NOS4R2 by Joe Hill
Published: 2013 – Orion
Couldn’t put this one down! I haven’t read a book like this since my obsession with Dean Koontz when I was fifteen, and as much as I still love the pants off the man, Joe Hill knocks the socks off Dean Koontz. NOS4R2 is about a young girl who an travel long distances at the blink of an eye while riding on her bike. She uses her ability to find lost items, but she’s not the only one with this extraordinary power. A dangerous man with a penchant for small children is lurking, and if you want a clue as to who he is, the clue is in the title. It’s not a particularly terrifying tale, though it is creepy as hell and so fantastically written it’s quite chilling to imagine some of the places and the characters. Bing Partridge was a particular favourite of mine, and quite a scary one as he felt the most real out of everyone. If you want to be terrified, I’d suggest you go watch a horror move. The Conjuring is quite good, and Insidious. But if you’re looking for an all-engulfing read with fantastically flawed characters and some dark intentions, here’s one for you.
#6 – Captive in the Dark (The Dark Duet Book #1) by C.J. Roberts
Published: 2011 – Neurotica Books
Erotica = not really my thing. Captive in the Dark = totally my thing. It is the story of a young women who gets kidnapped and trained to be sold into the sex slave industry. She develops a serious case of Stockholm Syndrome aaaaaand enter the addiction. I couldn’t get enough of this one. It was dark as fuck and the most fascinating portrayal of Stockholm Syndrome I have ever seen in literature. And of course, need I mention, it was damn hot. The second book in the series is just as good as the first (if not better), but the third one…I do not speak of it. My enjoyment of the series was entirely tarnished by it and I would have been a lot happier if I had never picked it up. However I do still recommend the first two if you’re looking for a dark taboo to explore. One word of warning, at risk of spoilers, if you appreciate the Stockholm Syndrome aspect of these books, do not pick up the last instalment. Full review here.
#5 – The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
Genre: YA Fantasy
Published: 2013 – Headline Review
This is the first and so far only book of Gaiman’s that I have loved. Yes, I know, it’s Gaiman. Yes, I know, he’s wonderful. But recently I’ve had to face up to the fact that Gaiman is just not my cuppa tea. I enjoyed his Doctor Who episodes, I enjoyed the Stardust film, but everything else I found to be lacking, or just not for me. He’s the Tim Burton of literature, and however much I respect his work, he just doesn’t do it for me. The Ocean at the End of the Lane, however, was incredible. And I got it on audio book too, narrated by Gaiman, which was a double-whammy of awesome as his voice is just hypnotic. It’s the story of a young boy and his encounter with a mysterious farm girl called Lettie Hemstock and a terrifying unlocked force they have to face. It’s a magical adventure, and no matter how old you are it was scare you on a very primary level. It will tap into your inner child and make you remember feelings that everyone experienced as a kid. Even though I’m not Gaiman’s biggest fan, I love his characters, his simplistic yet incredibly effective writing style, and by god the way he describes food makes me hungry. If you haven’t read Gaiman before and are considering it, this is the book I’d recommend. It’s a short, easy read, and it gives you a really good idea of what he’s capable of.
#4 – All Our Yesterdays (Book #1) by Cristin Terrill
Genre: YA Sci-Fi
Published: 2013 – Bloomsbury Childrens
Sometimes you stumble on a book blurb that it just right down your alley. The only trouble is it’s not out yet and it’s by a debut author. No one’s read it, it could be a huge disappointment, there’s no way of knowing. It’s a hard feeling having to wait months for the release, hoping to high hell that when you finally get your hands on it you won’t have to experience that crushing feeling of a realizing the book you’ve been waiting for doesn’t live up to your expectations. Luckily All Our Yesterdays was worth every minute of ants-in-my-pants anticipation. It’s about two kids who go back in time to save the world and it is everything a dystopian time-travel story should be. It’s dark, it’s deep, filled with flawed characters, complex relationships and high stakes. It’s cleverly written, with the narrative switching between the past and the present so that you’re kept guessing until the end. It may not be an original premise, but it’s what Cristin Terrill has done with the story that matters. It’s an easy read, fast-paced and utterly unputdownable. If any of these adjectives are checking your boxes then go read this book now. It’s not perfect, but by the Holy TARDIS of Gallifrey it will take you on a ride! Full review here.
#3 – Daughter of Smoke and Bone (Book #1) by Laini Taylor
Genre: YA Fantasy
Published: 2011 – Hodder & Stoughton
Oh dear sweet Moses this book is beautiful. I think Laini Taylor is the author that taught me that purple prose is actually awesome when served up in bite sized morsels, that are easy to digest and don’t overpower the main course. It’s the story of seventeen-year-old Karou with blue hair and tattoos. In one life she is an art student in Prague, and in another she is the adopted daughter of Brimstone, a Chimera who collects wishes and buys teeth from hunters and murderers. I can honestly say it is the most stunningly magical, beautifully descriptive and all-engulfing book I have read since my childhood days of reading Harry Potter and His Dark Materials. I wouldn’t say it’s groundbreakingly original, but it’s so brilliant that originality doesn’t even matter. I loved the characters, I loved the world-building, I loved the magic and I loved the romance. At the moment the book series is comprised of books one and two and a short novella about Zuzana and Mik (the former, by the way, is probably my favourite secondary character of any book I have ever read. Ever.). The final book comes out in April 2014 and it’s probably the book I am the most anxious to read in 2014. Do not wait another day to buy these books. I highly recommend it for the Harry Potter generation who are all grown up and experiencing withdrawal symptoms because, seriously, it’s for you.
#2 – The Bone Season (Book #1) by Samantha Shannon
Published: 2013 – Bloomsbury
I was so impressed by this book. Samantha Shannon makes a stunning debut; she is only 21 and she’s already got a six-figure book deal with friggin’ Bloomsbury. It’s not hard to see why. It’s the story of Paige Mahoney, a clairvoyant who works in the criminal underworld of Scion London. In this reality there are many different kinds of clairvoyant and their very existence is an act of treason. When she is captured and sent to Oxford, Paige encounters creatures from another world and fights to expose their dark purpose. Sound good? I thought so, and I was not disappointed. I was hooked from the first chapter – the second we got into freaking spirit combat I was just gone. It’s such a great book; dark but not too dark, a brilliantly original magic system, a host of interesting characters and never a dull moment. It’s what The Black Magician Trilogy would be like if it was
actually any good fast-paced, plot-driven, perhaps with a slightly more complex magic system and just a lot more oomph from the get go. It’s the first in a seven-book series, and I can tell Samantha Shannon is going to continue to wow me for many years to come. Full review here.
#1 – Angelfall (Penryn and the End of Days Book #1) by Susan Ee
Genre: YA Post-Apocalyptic Dystopian Fantasy
Published: 2011 – Hodder & Stoughton
This book did things to me that I cannot explain. It’s a rare book that I could not find fault in. It’s a beautiful gem that still does not have the recognition it deserves. It’s gaining momentum, but it should really be a literary phenomenon by now. All this hype over the Divergent series and City of Bones…no way, folks. Angelfall can step into a cage fight with those two and pummel them into submission with nothing but two words (and those words are Pookie Bear). The blurb goes as follows: “It’s been six weeks since the angels of the apocalypse destroyed the world as we know it. Only pockets of humanity remain. Savage street gangs rule the day while fear and superstition rule the night. When angels fly away with a helpless girl, her seventeen-year-old sister Penryn will do anything to get her back…“.
I have made six people read this book (so far) and every single one of them has loved this book. It has everything. A terrifying dystopian landscape, dry wit that gets me every time, some absolutely gruesome and gory horror elements and the best book romance I have ever read. No word of a lie, Raffe is the only book character who has ever made me swoon. Penryn is one of the best and most kickass heroines in modern-day literature, only rivalled by her own sister Paige who I cannot wait to see more of as the series continues. Every other secondary character in the book is fascinating and well-developed, the angels are scary and sexy at the same time, the plot is dark, twisted and gripping, there is no part of this novel that I do not adore. Better still, the second book in the planned pentalogy is equally as amazing as the first (a tough feat to pull off!) and I’m still getting over how fantastic it was. I read Angelfall on January 1st 2013 and World After was the most anticipated book of the year for me, only having been released mid-November. As soon as we get a synopsis and cover for the next instalment I will probably get just as antsy for its release as I have been all year for this one. If you haven’t already headed out to buy these books and feel you need some more convincing, read my gushing reviews here and here.