Books I loved in 2014

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Can you believe that 2015 is almost upon us? It seems like yesterday that I promised myself that I would be more productive as part of my silly New Year's resolution. I'd like to say that I did have a productive Twenty-Fourteen; I turned sixteen, passed my GCSEs, (I've made a recap which you can find here) and I read a ton of amazing books.
Because 2014 was such a key year for me and I feel rather bittersweet that it's come to an end, I want to share with you my top favourite books that I read this year. These books had me hooked from start to finish whilst making me fall in love with brand new fictional places and characters.

Update: I made this post before I read the breathtakingly beautiful The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin which went on to become  my favourite book of 2014. You can find my review for it here

City of Heavenly Fire (The Mortal Instruments, #6)
In this installment of the series, darkness returns to the Shadowhunter world. As their society falls apart around them, Clary, Jace, Simon and their friends must band together to fight the greatest evil the Nephilim have ever faced: Clary's own brother. Nothing in this world can defeat him - must they journey to another world to find the chance?
(left; I'd just woken up and nearly attacked the postman with hugs because I was couldn't wait to get started. below right; my complete collection of all the TMI books)

What I loved about it:

You know a book is good when it's over 700 pages and you still don't want it to end. I felt that it was absolutely beautiful, action-packed and cleverly put together. The only thing I was quite disappointed at was that Cassandra Clare had promised the fandom six deaths of characters we know and love. You can imagine while reading it that I was anticipating the worst and eager to find out who would die, but I was left feeling a mix between somewhat crestfallen and a sense of relief as the deaths that occurred in the novel (but one) were all minor characters.

It was a bit confusing at times with the introduction of Emma, Julian and that whole clan in this series. Regardless, I enjoyed it. I especially enjoyed the little twist with Simon at the end. It made me sob more than I am willing to admit. The ending with Sebastian was perfect, but emotional as a part of me did like Sebastian even if at times it seemed like there couldn't possibly be a bone in his body that wasn't evil. And having Tessa and Jem featured was beautiful and caused me to cry and infinite amount of tears when they mentioned Will. Actually, one of the standout points of this book to me was meeting Magnus' father, the great Asmodeus. I can see where the High Warlock of Brooklyn got his sass.

Despite this, CoHF was a fantastic ending to a brilliant series. I'm sad to see The Mortal Instruments end.


Flowers in the AtticI would like to thank 2014's Season four of MTV's Teen Wolf for introducing me to this book. How? Season four featured a new and sadly short lived assassin character played by Mason Dye. Much like the luck of his character, I had a short lived crush on Mason Dye and quickly searched up his filmography. I saw he'd been in the Lifetime adaptation of popular and controversial novel Flowers in the Attic which I'd never heard of until that day. I watched the Lifetime version, swooned over Mason Dye and was quickly intrigued to read the book after being so completely enthralled with the plot.

The Dollangangers were a perfect family until a heartbreaking tragedy shatters their happiness. Now, for the sake of an inheritance that will ensure their future, the children must be hidden away out of sight, as if they never existed. Kept on the top floor of their grandmother's vast mansion, their loving mother assures them it will be just for a little while. But as brutal days swell into agonizing months and years, Cathy, Chris, and twins Cory and Carrie, realize their survival is at the mercy of their cruel and superstitious grandmother, and that this cramped and helpless world may be the only one they ever know.

What I loved about it:

This book isn't solely suspense, thriller or horror. But the notions and plot that runs throughout it makes you question everything you know it to be. It's racy, thrilling and has more drama than an episode of Keeping up with the Kardashians. It is simply a haunting novel that you should read for yourself and make judgments of your own. The reason I say this is because right off the bat, we can say that incest is wrong, but in this story, you question what happens to rationality when we're isolated from humanity. When the Dollanganger children are forced to live up in the attic for years on end with no contact with the rest of civilisation and with their bodies changing as they grow and develop, can we really blame them for their 'sins'?

This is not one of those books you read to feel happy and warm and fuzzy inside. To warn others, there are things in this book that are a little disturbing, and the sexual content was definitely not for the faint hearted. With that being said: I thoroughly enjoyed it from start to finish. By the third chapter, I was invested and I could actually feel myself getting angry with certain characters and frustrated with others mainly know-it-all Christopher and not-going-to-win-any-awards-for mother of the year Corrine. Whatever your stance on the controversial plot lines that this book tackles, Flowers in the Attic has a way of absentmindedly making you root for the Dollanganger children as you don't want to see their cold, cruel mother or terrifying grandma win.

While a lot of people will focus on the relationship between Christopher and Cathy that they believe drives the plot, I can say there's a lot more to Flowers in the Attic than the incest and if loving this book is wrong, then I don't want to be right.

I will definitely look forward to picking up Petals on the Wind in the new year and seeing what lies for Cathy and Christopher in the future.

The Book Thief
This has been on my to-read list for a long time. I love a good fiction novel that has been set in a key period of history and as I have been studying Nazi Germany for almost three years, this book definitely was a must for me. What also drew me to the book, aside from its settings, was the fact that it was narrated by Death himself. I found that concept interesting and wanted to see how Zusak approached this. I am in complete awe of not just this book, but Markus Zusak and his talent. 


The Book Thief is a cleverly written, heartfelt masterpiece that follows Liesel, a nine-year-old girl, who lives with a foster family on Himmel Street. Her parents have been taken away to a concentration camp. Liesel steals books. This is her story and the story of the inhabitants of her street when the bombs begin to fall. It's a small story, about: a girl, an accordionist, some fanatical Germans, a Jewish fist fighter, and quite a lot of thievery.

What I loved about it:

There are so many parts of this book that stand out to me and that I love dearly. But perhaps the part that made me emotional the most was when Max Vandenburg, the Jew hiding in the Hubermann's basement, paints white over the pages of Mein Kampf and makes a surprise book for Liesel. Then, in black, he paints a 13-page story with words and drawings. He paints himself as a bird since he remembers Liesel saying his hair is like feathers. The book is the story of his friendship with Liesel and he titles it The Standover Man, the pages of which are included in the novel. Max leaves it in Liesel's room when he is finished. Inside the book, Liesel finds the story and illustrations of Max's journey to Himmel Street, his anxiety during this trip, his bad dreams. You can view this beautifully illustrated part here

Before I initially read 
The Book Thief, I had heard so much praise for it and had gone in expecting a LOT from this book. The best thing? I wasn't even slightly disappointed. I've never got to read a book like this one, it was so different and yet so wonderful.

It is full of incredible characters and I've developed a particular affection for Hans and Max. And of course, I loved Liesel and Rudy. They both were something. Sometimes I felt that they didn't want to show it, but we all could see that their friendship was powerful and that they were so special to each other. Then we have Liesel and Hans. I can't find words to explain how amazed and moved I was to read about their relationship. Hans was such a kind and heartful man, he was so protective and he literally changed Liesel's life. She has grown to love him so much and she felt safe around him and that is something that not everyone is able to do. I was completely dazzled about this father/daughter relationship. And then, we have Max. He was the kind of character you want to protect and help no matter what. Everyone just instantly cares for him.

The Book Thief made me laugh, cry and think different about of a lot things. It is a true masterpiece that I think everyone needs to read. Everyone should read it!!! It broke my heart and put it back together again. I loved everything about it. Liesel, our dear book thief. Papa and his accordion, his kindness. Mama, her cursing and her silent love. Rudy, this boy who just wanted a kiss, this huge heart and such a stubborn boy. Max, the Jew, the world shaker, the fist fighter, the artist, the sky stealer. The narrator, Death, and his love for colors, humans and book thieves. This book has taught me so much and I will never forget the people from Himmel Street and its book thief.

Heroes
Heroes is a book that I was assigned to read in comprehensive (high school) for my GCSE exams. (I got an A, if you're wondering!) While the majority of people in my year will probably roll their eyes and groan at the mention of the book, I have to admit that I found Heroes rather interesting. The novel makes you question if "one sin wipes away everything good a person has done." 

It is about a young man named Francis Cassavant who wants to avoid the memory of what he thinks he could have prevented to the girl he loves, Nicole, so he goes of to war hoping to die. In an unsuccessful attempt to take his life Francis falls on a grenade, he loses most of his face in the process, and saves many men in his battalion is he fighting for. When he returns to his hometown, there are very few people that recognize him and many are scared of him. He only has one simple mission: to find and kill the person who tormented his life and caused him to lose the girl he loved. Larry LaSalle.

What I loved about it:


It really makes you think about what motivates people to behave and do the things they do. It's not so much a novel about war, whilst it does touch on how war effects people mentally and physically, but more about how we look up to people and how they can let us down.
The novel's climax is perfectly understated and while I did find it heartbreaking, I think that what happened in the end exactly was exactly what had to happen to set everything right. I was really surprised by how much I enjoyed this. This book made me think about my definition of what a hero is. For even heroes make mistakes. Are heroes mainly made out of our idealistic perceptions of them? 
This book was more than a world war taking place and how people are effected by it. Heroes is about the internal war a young man faces when he doesn't do something he know he should have done.


The Maze Runner (The Maze Runner, #1)
The Maze Runner 
The Scorch Trials (Maze Runner, #2)
The Scorch Trials
I'm aware that I am little late to the The Maze Runner party and while I did have this book on my to-read list for a long time, the film adaptation news did act as an incentive to get me to bump it up to the top of my list and get round to reading it. After finishing the first novel, I made it my job to the read second . If being a Runner involved reading books at lightning speed as opposed to actually running then I would be definitely be up there with the likes of Minho and Thomas.
Movie tickets!

The Maze Runner is about this boy who wakes up in an elevator with no memory of his past other than the fact that his name is Thomas. When it the elevator doors open, he is pulled into a huge glade by a bunch of teenage boys who also have no memories besides what they should be called. They all share a strange vocabulary, a fondness for capitalizing words to make them special, and the same mysterious fate. Thomas gradually discovers that the Glade is run by two boys, Alby and Newt, who maintain order by enforcing strict rules and keeping all of the boys busy harvesting food and whatnot. This is important because outside the Glade is the Maze, a terrifying labyrinth of high walls covered in ivy that houses strange, lethal creatures known as Grievers. The boys are stuck trying to stay alive as well as "solving" the Maze by running through it as fast as they can while tracking movements of the walls and trying to find an exit. A day after Thomas's arrival, a girl is delivered through the elevator into the Glade. The boys are stunned, perplexed, worried, and perhaps a little excited to have someone who doesn't smell like day-old socks. However, unlike each of the boys, she shows up mumbling strange prophetic words and then lapses into a coma. To make matters worse, her arrival triggers everything in the Glade to change: the sun disappears, the deliveries of supplies stop coming, and the doors stay open at night which allows the Grievers to pick kids off one-by-one.  

I had mixed feelings when I started The Maze Runner because most reviews I'd seen of this book seemed to gravitate towards the more negative side, so I was hesitant going in - but boy, was I wrong! The Maze Runner proved to be a real page-turner in my eyes and it was so addictive. I couldn't put it down. 

What I loved about it:


Both suspense and tension are built up quite nicely, all the characters have unique, distinct voices to tell them apart. I loved how visual it was and it didn't hold back (especially when it came to the Grievers). You never knew what was around the corner and what obstacle would be thrown at the characters next. You didn't even know who was going to survive in the end because Dashner is definitely not scared to kill characters off. That just made everything that much more intense, added to the shock value and made the book as a whole impossible to put down. 


I definitely wish I had read this book so much sooner. The story is definitely unique and I loved how all of the little details about the Maze and the Glade all added up and fit together at the end with the revelation of who WICKED are. Alas, that doesn't mean that there weren't even more questions when the story ended. What's going to happen to all of them next? What's really going on with their world?





The Scorch Trials picks up where The Maze Runner left off. The Gladers have escaped the Maze, but now they face an even more treacherous challenge on the Scorch, the open roads of a devastated planet. And as usual, WICKED are on hand to adjust the variables and stack the odds against them.
As I thoroughly loved the first book, I was worried that The Scorch Trials would fall victim to the 'second book curse' but it didn't. If anything it is on the same level as its predecessor, if not better. I loved the way Dashner wrote this sequel. Sometimes sequels tend to be differently written from the first book, but this one was consistent with the first.

What I loved about it:

I actually enjoyed the almost twisted lightheartedness of the characters. It showed how people actually learn to cope in a disaster world like this. 
The Scorch Trials was far more action-packed than the first book and a little more dark and sinister too. I would've liked more development with the idea of the Crankland and Thomas and the Gladers fighting to survive. I found the Cranks quite frightening and was disheartened when there was less about them than I had originally thought there would be. I really, really loved the parts with the Cranks. They were just so horrifyingly sinister and added to the action to the book.

That being said, I loved the addition Jorge and Brenda. Although, I did spend a lot of time wondering just how Jorge was pronounced (It's "Whor-hay" apparently) . Brenda was everything I have ever wanted in a character and I loved how Dashner brought in another love interest for Thomas. But I think by the end of the novel and through subtle hints along the way we begin to learn that we can't trust her as much as previously thought.

There were twists, turns and you start to question if you can really trust any of the characters at all. While The Scorch Trials leaves you asking more questions, than having any answered, I was blown away. I devoured the book in around two and a half days which is probably the quickest I've read a book in years. Dashner has really outdone himself with this one! I have my fingers crossed that The Death Cure, which I will be reading in 2015, continues to be as exciting and hopefully answers all my questions on WICKED.

So, there we have it! Those are my top books that I read and absolutely adored in 2014. I look forward to reading some more amazing books in 2015 which I will be reviewing here as the new year commences. 
What were some of your favourite books that you read in 2014? And what are some books that you just can't wait to get reading in the new year? Feel free to leave a comment, tweet me or send me a message. All the links to my social networks are just under my blog header! 

Until next time,
Samantha
All pictures featured in this post were taken by me. Please send a e-mail to samkilfordblog@gmail.com if you wish to use these photos elsewhere outside of my blog, I will be expecting credit. All opinions featured in this post are my own and not that of anyone else.

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