the Little Red Reviewer

My Best Reads of the Year 2014

Posted on: December 19, 2014

2014 has been a pretty good year for me.  Personally, I’m damn impressed with how many of these books were actually published in 2014. As a bonus, there’s even a few novellas and short stories in here. In no particular order, here are my favorite reads of 2014!

Favorite Novels:

city_of_stairs-cover1

City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett (2014) – that this book is on my list should surprise no one. And if you haven’t read it yet, seriously, get with the program. This is one of those amazing books that defies genre categorization, it just *is*.  To give you a big picture without spoiling anything, it’s about watching your worldview dissolve before your eyes, and understanding that games can be played with many sets of rules. Also? it’s simply fucking amazing.

gemsigns

Gemsigns by Stephanie Saulter (2014) – This is probably the most important book I read in 2014. Remember when Cory Doctorow’s Little Brother took high school government classes by storm? I wish the same for this book.  Gemsigns touches on enforced marginalization, building (and breaking down) cultures of racism and classism and fear, and religiously and politically promoted hatred, and handles it in a blunt and emotional way. Also? fucking awesome. And for what it’s worth, I cried at the end.

vandermeer annihilation

Annihilation by Jeff Vandermeer  (2014) –  I’ve been a Vandermeer fan for a long, long time (yet somehow I can still eat mushrooms). Annihilation was strange, surreal, and seemed to be magnetically attuned to me. The words in the tunnel rang for me like a tuning fork. And there was just something about characters who don’t have names. I am a jerk, however, because I own but haven’t yet read the third book in the series.

california bones

California Bones by Greg van Eekhout (2014) –  If all Urban Fantasy was this good I’d read nothing but UF. I loved the characters, the world building, and it’s a caper/thief story! Also? an alternate southern California where Walt Disney is still alive (sort of), and water magic floods the place making it look like Venice. I can’t wait to read the next in the series, Pacific Fire.

defenders

Defenders by Will McIntosh (2014) – I remember staying up way too late at night to finish reading this. It was like 1am, and my husband was nagging me to come to bed. And I said I couldn’t, because if I didn’t finish the book I’d wake up the next morning and everyone in the book would be dead.  And come on, it’s McIntosh, you know it’s going to be good, and that he’s going to break you into a million little pieces.
the-broken-kingdoms-by-nk-jemisin

The Broken Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin (2010)  – This is the middle book in The Inheritance Trilogy. I loved, loved LOVED the first book, The Hundred Thousand Kindgoms, but I read that in 2013, so it couldn’t be on my “best of 2014” list, now could it? Good thing I enjoyed the middle book just as much! Again, fantastic characterization, one of the best epic fantasy worlds I have ever come across, gods who are angry, bitter, and regretful, and the petty short lives of humans. (not that book 3 in the series was crap, it was only eleven out of ten, whereas the first two books are twelve out of ten.)
three parts dead

Three Parts Dead by Max Gladstone (2012) – fantastic worldbuilding, dead gods, corporate lawyers, incredible characters.  Gladstone writes the book on how to make a magic based fantasy world feel alive and plausible. Dude is writing books faster than I can read them!

tropic of serpents

The Tropic of Serpents  by Marie Brennan (2014) – This book hit close to home for me. Even widowed, Isabella Camherst can’t help but go off on another adventure. But what to do with her young son while she’s away? There is a lot of painful honesty in this book. When I think of “strong female characters” whose struggles I identify with, Isabella Camherst is at the top of my list.

 

Book-Review-The-Martian

The Martian by Andy Weir (2014) – damn did I love this book. I cried a LOT at the end. Stranded on Mars and assumed dead, astronaut Mark Watney is going to run out of air long before he starves to death. Luckily he’s got plenty of water, and plenty of gallows humor.  One of the more optimistic hard scifi books I’ve read in a while.
bridge of birds

Bridge of Birds by Barry Hughart (1984) – Gloriously fanciful, and pure absolute fun.  Number Ten Ox and Master Li chase across ancient China in search of a cure for the ill children in the village. Along the way, they’ll meet lonely misers and forgetful goddesses, cheerful soldiers and bitter magicians. This book is a breath of fresh air, when i was in a slump, it gave me  back the joy of reading.

 

And in the Short Fiction category:

 

“The Crows her Dragon’s Gate” by Benjanun Sriduangkaew (Beneath Ceaseless Skies April 2013) –  If you purchased her novella, “Scale-Bright”, this short story comes along with.  It’s a pre-pre-prequel to “Scale-Bright”, and follows Xihe, the Goddess of the Sun. The story follows Dijun’s courting of Xihe, and how their marriage didn’t quite work out, even though he twice gave her the most precious of gifts. I love Sriduangkaew’s poetic and lyrical language. This story absolutely glows.

 

“Walkdog” by Sofia Samatar (Kaleidoscope anthology 2014) – this one is funny because it creeps up on you. Presented as a teen’s school paper, Yolanda doesn’t quite know what the point of her paper is.  This is a story about bullying, and hope, and regret, and not knowing how to ask for help, and finally realizing you care for someone even if it’s too late, and even if you don’t know the right words to use.

 

“muo-ka’s Child” by Indrapramit Das (Clarkesworld, Sept 2012) –  Intensely weird, which gives it instant brownie points. A lone colonist lands on a planet to learn it’s a horrible place for a human colony, and that she most likely won’t be rescued. She’s adopted by one of the local creatures, and it of course has no idea what she is or how to keep her alive, so they must learn to somehow understand each other.

 

“Knotting Grass, Holding Ring”, by Ken Liu (Long Hidden anthology, 2014) – When I first read this, I thought Sparrow was the main character. She might be, but the story is all about Green Siskin, an expensive entertainer. It’s no secret what Green Siskin does with her clients, and it’s no secret that the other women look down their nose at her, expecting her to be ashamed. Green Siskin knows exactly what she’s doing, and she knows exactly how to manipulate people, and in the process, she’ll save a good many lives.

 

“Moving Past Legs” by Jamie Lackey  (Bast10n Magazine, May 2014) – what a strange but effective story. It’s a little sick to think about getting high off of cognitively connecting yourself to an octopus, but doesn’t that sound alluring? To understand how they think? I could be convinced to try it. But once the high of a new experience wears off, what then? And what if it turns out this practice is abusive to the octopus?

 

“The Awakened Kingdom”, by N.K. Jemisin – a fairly recent read, but I can’t get it out of my head. A new godling has been born, and she doesn’t know what her nature is. She also doesn’t know how to tell a story, or why adults grieve, or that it’s never as simple as being a replacement for a missing sibling. If you loved the Inheritance Trilogy, I’ve got great news for you: this novella is being published as part of the new omnibus, and it takes place in Yeine’s homeland.

 

Fun question of the day: what would happen if Shill visited Bulikov? Would Shill and Jukov have gotten along?

 

26 Responses to "My Best Reads of the Year 2014"

Fun to see your list. Most I have heard of, but there were a few newbies that I’ve not seen previously.

The Martian and Annihilation are going to be on my list as well. I’m a bigger jerk because I haven’t read book 2! I’m about 20% of the way through Defenders, and I suspect that book is going to be on my list as well. Wow! It is a page-turner.

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Defenders was a lot of fun (as was Annihilation)!

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when you get to the 50% mark of Defenders, just expect to read the rest of it straight through. because, yeah.

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I was separated from my Kindle for a long weekend when I left it at work, so now I need get back to it. I’m gearing up to read some classics for Vintage SF Month right now, so I may keep it on hold for a bit longer. I’ve enjoyed what I’ve read of it.

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Great list! We have four books in common on our lists, and I have Max’s latest on my list. He’s made my list for the past three years, in fact:-) And if I can’t manage to read a Will McIntosh next year I’m going to be very disappointed in myself!

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Max Gladstone needs to give me some time to catch up, he is writing too fast!😉 I like his numbering scheme in the titles. I’m pretty sure Will McIntosh and RJB made my list last year too…

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The only one I’ve read is City of Stairs. I think at times I struggled with it, but I still think it was really good! I convinced a friend to read it by saying, “Well it’s like part traditional fantasy,part murder mystery and part geopolitical power struggle.”

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i’m happy to hear you enjoyed it in the end. and i hear he’s working on a sequel!

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I admnit I loved Broken Kingdoms despite not being all that in love with the first of the series. The only one I read but didn’t enjoy as much as you this time around was Annihilation, didn’t resonate with me at all. But I agree with City of Stairs and Gladstone is awesome.

Now that I look, the best of fantasy explores Gods and their human relations recently, ya?

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Annihilation is a damn weird book, and seems like most people either really liked it, or really didn’t like it.

“Now that I look, the best of fantasy explores Gods and their human relations recently, ya?”

for sure. and it’s a trend I’m really enjoying!

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So many of these books have been on my list! Well, we all have lists, don’t we? So glad you enjoyed the 100,000 Kingdoms trilogy. NK Jemisin is one of my favorite authors. I’ve been eyeballing The Martian and your recommendation definitely moves it up on my list.

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thank you for getting me hooked on NK Jemisin! i’d be a very happy camper if she published a new work ever 6 months.

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My favorites this year include:
Half A King by Joe Abercrombie
Afterparty by Daryl Gregory
Abyss Beyond Dreams by Peter Hamilton
Academic Exercises by KJ Parker
Station 11 by Emily St John Mandel
Three Body Problem by Chiun Liu

Enjoyed City of Stairs and The Defenders also.
Loved the first book in Vandermeers trilogy. Not so much the followups.

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Nice! I’ve heard great things about Afterparty, and the Peter Hamilton!

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There will be some overlap when I make my list. Not all though, because I still need to read several of yours. Also, I have to get through the new William Gibson before I make my list. Sadly, I lost my place in line for Three Body Problem while in Japan, so that will get bumped to next year.

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The Gibson looks promising, but I think i’ll wait until it’s in paperback. I’m torn on Three Body Problem, worried I don’t have the attention span for it.

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Thanks Andrea, it looks like a great reading list for me in January! I’ve only read McIntosh – what an amazing book – and I’m now with the Martian. I will definitively give the others a try.

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how are you liking The Martian? grabs you and doesn’t let go, doesn’t it!

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You’re so right…! Going to post a review shortly🙂

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I’m looking forward to reading your review! 🙂

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“Walkdog” was maybe my favorite short story of 2014, though it’s hard to pick. And your review of The Martian got it on my to-read list!

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Both Walkdog and The Martian will be going on my Hugo ballot. I read a LOT of short fiction this year, but I wish I’d made time to read more. gah! so much good stuff, not enough time!

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Love your list! I’ve read a couple but also bought a couple on the strength of this – treating myself using my vouchers!!! Looking forward especially to the Gladstone one and Defenders.
Ta and Happy New Year to you and your hubby.
BTW – was thinking (I try not to but…) after looking at your recent manga post Q&A – you and your hubby should do more of that – particularly if you read some of the same books (and I don’t just mean sticking to one type) – it would be good to have a joint/split opinion?
Just a thought.
TTFN
Lynn😀

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I’ve got some giftcards and vouchers that’ll be used towards books that made everyone else’s best of year lists. Also, the 2nd Gladstone book. Dude writes way too fast, I can’t keep up!

Hubby and I have plans in that exact direction.😀 I’ve been bugging him for a while to do some guest posts, and we both really liked how the Q&A came out.

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I got City of Stairs for Christmas and am super excited to read it. It seems to be on everyone’s lists this year!

I loved “Annihilation” and plan on reading the rest of the trilogy in 2015 as well. 🙂

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some of the books reviewed here were free ARCs supplied by publishers/authors/other groups. Some of the books here I got from the library. the rest I *gasp!* actually paid for. I'll do my best to let you know what's what.
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