My Year in Reading: Cassie-la’s Best and Worst of 2014 Wrap Up

Jaws the Revenge2014 shall forever be known as the year I failed my reading goal for the first time since deciding I was going to start setting them. Rest in peace reading goals.

Regardless, I still smashed my reading totals from 2008-2010, even if I couldn’t mimic the success of 2011-2013.

I suppose this is what happens when you’re juggling a full time job and a part time job. Reading 150 books in a year and still keeping your life in order just isn’t feasible.

Despite the change in circumstance, in 2014 I read a grand total of 96 books (see full visual list HERE), failing my 150 book goal abysmally. 21 of those were novels, 5 were anthologies, 1 was non-fiction, 35 of them were young adult novels, 26 were graphic novels and trades, 5 were middle grade books, 2 were children’s books and 1 was a poetry collection.

The Best of the Best:

WintergirlsWintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson

No one ever said Laurie Halse Anderson is shy about tackling difficult to read subjects (see also Speak). Wintergirls is a novel about a girl named Lia, who is currently struggling with anorexia and the death of her best friend Cassie. The novel is simultaneously painful to read and difficult to stop reading, thanks in large part to its lush and haunting prose. As Anderson writes, “We’re all afraid to talk about what stares at us from the dark.”

Stone MattressStone Mattress by Margaret Atwood

Margaret Atwood’s latest short story collection (her first since 2006’s anthology Moral Disorder) contains nine tales of horror and humor, with stories following literary greats, not-so greats, severed hands bent on revenge, vampires, long-dead groomsmen, tiny imaginary people in period garb and murder by stromatolite. It’s truly Atwood at her finest. Now if only she changed her mind about publishing that novel 100 years from now.

PerfectedPerfected by Kate Jarvik Birch

In a dystopian future (because what isn’t a dystopian future these days?) the government has legalized the creation and sale of genetically engineered human beings to be raised and kept as pets. Ella is one such pet, and she dreams of the day she will be brought to the home of her masters. Once there however she begins to wonder, is being a pet as wonderful as its supposed to be? Answer: obviously not. This is young adult, dystopian fiction silly.

The Iron TrialThe Iron Trial: Magisterium by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare

The Iron Trial (the first book in the Magisterium series) is a tale of magical children who go to boarding school and work on mastering the elements. Except it’s not Harry Potter, and it’s certainly not “Avatar: The Last Airbender.” The Iron Trial excels at playing with fantasy tropes and tricking you into thinking you know what’s going to happen, when in actuality, you really you know nothing Alastair Hunt.

The Girl with all the Gifts MR CareyThe Girl With All the Gifts by M.R. Carey

The best way to go into The Girl With All the Gifts is to go into it knowing as little as possible. I will tell you this: a zombie-esque plague has ravaged England. Having been born after the Breakdown, 10-year-old Melanie is aware that the ravenous hungries threaten humanity as we know it. But is humanity even worth saving? Is life locked away inside a military base even living? And honestly, who would miss the human race if we were gone?

City of Heavenly FireCity of Heavenly Fire: The Mortal Instruments Book 6 by Cassandra Clare

Despite not enjoying the last two books in The Mortal Instruments series (what was even happening in those?) I was over the moon with the series finale, which tied up loose ends in the prequel series The Infernal Devices and created future plots for Clare’s new Shadowhunter series The Dark Artifices, the “Angel” to The Mortal Instrument‘s “Buffy.” But with less puppets. And more cave sex.

In Real LifeIn Real Life by Cory Doctorow

Do you like feeling emotions? Well too bad, because the graphic novel In Real Life is going to make you feel them! Beautifully illustrated by Jen Wang, IRL follows gamer Anda, who while playing the online role-playing game Coarsegold Online, learns a big lesson about social constructs and politics to be found in the world beyond the screen in her favorite MMORPG. Plus there’s a dash of young love too. Who doesn’t like young love!?!

Loki Agent of AsgardLoki Agent of Asgard Vol. 1: Trust Me by Al Ewing

Move aside child Loki (and kid Loki’s bacon divination) because sexy teenage Loki is in town! Can you legally say that? Sexy teenager? Anyway, straight off the pages of Young Avengers, a brand new Loki (albeit still a Norse god version of Loki) who wants nothing more than to be good is in town to make amends by working for the All-Mother as an agent of Asgard, writing his wrongs by performing secret missions in this hilarious spin-off.

Sleeper and the SpindleThe Sleeper and the Spindle by Neil Gaiman

The newest Neil Gaiman take on a well-loved fairytale combines the stories of Snow White and Sleeping Beauty, creating one superbly written twist on the genre, complete with a strong female lead and an equally satisfying ending. Buy The Sleeper and the Spindle for its intriguing take on the fractured fairytale and its beyond gorgeous artwork. Trust me, pictures you see online do not do it justice in the least. Buy. It. Seriously? Why are you still reading this and not buying the book?

The Wicked + the DivineThe Wicked + The Divine Vol. 1: The Faust Act by Kieron Gillian

The premise is not so simple: every 90 years, 12 gods reincarnate in young, beautiful human bodies to be loved, hated and die a mere two years later. Such is the price of immortality in this new ongoing series by the man who brought us the fabulous Young Avengers. The artwork is beautiful, the story quirky and the characters easy to both love and hate, plus, how can you say no to a series that uses such a fabulous pun in its very first trade.

The Wraith Welcome to ChristmaslandThe Wraith: Welcome to Christmasland by Joe Hill

Author Joe Hill is a horror master, excelling in both prose and comics, and his limited run comic series/prequel to his novel Nos4a2 is no exception to the rule. Wraith follows the sympathetic villain Charlie Manx and his 938 Rolls-Royce Wraith, explaining just what would drive a man to become a serial killer and possible vampire with ties to another dimension known as Christmasland, where formerly souled children can live forever and ever.

Cress Marissa MeyerCress: The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer

The third book in The Lunar Chronicles retells the story of Rapunzel, although this time Rapunzel (Cress) is a hacker trapped aboard a floating satellite and forced to serve the whims of the crazed Lunar (read: moon) Queen Levana. I say crazed because she has plans to destroy humanity, take down the android Cinder and create a false union and alliance with earth by forcibly marrying New Beijing Emperor Kai. It’s the best kind of mess.

Kick-Ass 3Kick-Ass 3 by Mark Millar

It was a great year for finales, and the final arc in the Kick-Ass trilogy (tetralogy if you count Hit-Girl) was one such finale. Full of fun, humor and an explosive ending, Mark Millar perfectly ties up the epic run of regular kid Dave Lizewski and his quest to become a super hero. Just do me one favor world and don’t turn it into a painful to watch movie like you did with Kick-Ass 2. Honestly? That was a little uncalled for you guys.

Dorothy Must Die Danielle PaigeDorothy Must Die and The Witch Must Burn by Danielle Paige

I must admit, I was skeptical about this darker look at Oz, which had Dorothy returning as a megalomaniac despot drunk on magic and power. But I was pleasantly surprised by the extremely rich world building and the intriguing character development, which takes these much-loved characters and morphs them into something truly horrifying. Cannot wait to see where the series goes in The Wicked Will Rise.

The Unbound Victoria SchwabThe Unbound: An Archived Novel by Victoria Schwab

Victoria Schwab’s dark and imaginative paranormal series that began with The Archived continues! In the series, Mackenzie Bishop is a Keeper, a person tasked with returning the shells of the dead, Histories, when they escape the Archive, where they are kept dormant on shelves like books in a library. In book two, Mac heads off to school, all while dealing with continued grief over her dead little brother and a brand new mystery with Roland, a Librarian based on David Tennant’s 10th Doctor.

Dreams of Gods & Monsters Laini TaylorDreams of Gods & Monsters by Laini Taylor

Another series has come to a close, this time the inventive tale of alternate dimensions, romance and reincarnation penned by pink-haired authoress Laini Taylor. While speaking to Taylor at a conference, she told the Bibliomantics that her goal was to create a third book that ended very differently than Mockingjay. In other words, an ending that was both satisfying and hopeful to her legion of readers. She definitely achieved her goal.

Veronica Mars the Thousand Dollar Tan LineVeronica Mars: The Thousand-Dollar Tan Line by Rob Thomas and Jennifer Graham

Good news Marshmallows, Veronica Mars is back (even more back than she was in the TV show turned movie) with a brand new case to solve written by “Veronica Mars” creator Rob Thomas, so you know it has to be good. And boy was it. The novel itself was steeped in mystery and read just like a much-loved “Veronica Mars” episode, now with a more appropriate level of cursing. Welcome back Veronica, we missed you!

SagaSaga Vol. 3 and Vol. 4 by Brian K. Vaughan

Brian K. Vaughan’s character driven science-fiction series about literal star-crossed lovers (from a warring moon and planet) continues going strong. Our heroes Alana, Marko, daughter Hazel and their dismembered ghost nanny continue to live a life on the lamb, or rather on a rocket ship tree, trying to keep their lives and their family in order. Beautifully illustrated by the wonderfully named Fiona Staples, Saga is the series everyone should be reading.

A Certain Slant of LightA Certain Slant of Light and Under the Light by Laura Whitcomb

Ghost girl meets boy. Boy admits he’s actually a ghost boy possessing a human boy’s body. Ghost girl possesses a human girl’s body so they can be together. You know, that old story. Taken from the Emily Dickinson poem of the same name (the one which also contains the words “an imperial affliction”), A Certain Slant of Light is a ghost love story, and Under the Light is about the aftermath their possessions have on the human world.

Rat QueensRat Queens Vol. 1: Sass & Sorcery by Kurtis J. Wiebe

The funniest and simultaneously most adorable new comic series of 2014 is hands down, Rat Queens, about a group of ass-kicking medieval fantasy warriors who have magic, sass, strength and alcohol tolerance in equal measure. Basically they’re the fellowship of the ring, but with way more shenanigans. If you read any new comic book series this year, do yourself a favor and let it be Rat Queens.

The Worst of the Worst:

Etiquette & Espionage: Finishing School Book the First by Gail Carriger (Not even a vampire professor could save this clunky plot set at a steampunk boarding school. I blame the werewolf.)
Divided by Elsie Chapman
(Another disappointment in the dystopic series that could have been so much more. Much disappoint.)
The Word Exchange by Alena Graedon
(Had the potential, but completely lacked in executing a world in which the spoken and written word is destroyed by advancing technology.)
Fourth Comings and Perfects Fifths by Megan McCafferty
(A dissatisfying end to the annoyingly tumultuous relationship between Marcus Flutie and Jessica Darling.)
Panic by Lauren Oliver (A high stakes game undertaken by high school students sounded exciting, but ended up being plodding and underwhelming.)
Landline by Rainbow Rowell (Bizarre romance that does not make good use of a magic, time-traveling phone.)
Jaws: The Revenge by Hank Searls (A shark follows a widow to the Bahamas because her son ruins a witch doctor’s magic gourd in this novelization of Jaws IV.)

My 2014 reading resolutions included reading 150 books (which became near impossible after once again gaining full time employment) and eliminating the multiple to-read piles scattered around my home.

To be fair, I actually accomplished the latter, but only because I took those multiple to-read piles and converted them into one towering to-read pile. But considering my other failed resolution, I’ll take it!

For 2015, I plan to focus less on quantity and more on quality. While I would love to read more than 100 books in the New Year, if it doesn’t happen I don’t plan to beat myself up over it.

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