2014 Book Wrap-Up (Part 1/4)

2014 has been a brilliant year for me in terms of reading. I feel like I’m now beginning to branch out from YA dystopian fiction in order to explore literature from genres such as sci-fi, contemporary, and even some works in Spanish. In 2014 I read 29 and a half books (I wish I could round it up to 30 but that would feel like cheating!) and 6 plays. I still have an enormous TBR pile of books which I am hoping to tackle in 2015. I feel like I’m growing out of YA, and I need to move on. So I really want to have read all my remaining YA novels before I start university, and I’d also like to be even more adventurous when I do my next Amazon book haul! 

My 2014 book wrap-up comes in 4 parts. Parts 1- 3 each list 9 or 10 books that I’ve read throughout the year (in chronological order). They will provide my personal ratings* as well as pros and cons. For Part 4, I will turn this video (by one of my favourite Book Tubers, Ariel Bissett) into a tag, and will write my response rather than film it. 

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1) Requiem by Lauren Oliver

Series: Delirium (book 3)

My rating: ***

Genre: Dystopian

What it’s about: A protagonist who is in hiding whilst trying to find out who her true love is, and her best friend who has been set up to lead an elite lifestyle in a family with bad morale.

Pros: The description is very detailed and imaginative; Hana is given a bigger part as she narrates alternate chapters; the plot follows on well from the previous two books.

Cons: The ending is inconclusive; sometimes the story gets boring; the action is lacking until the final part.

Would recommend to: A fan of Lauren Oliver’s other works

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2) Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

Series: Stand-alone

My rating: *****

Genre: Contemporary

What it’s about: A beautiful relationship between a girl with a difficult family situation who is trying to fit in, and a Korean boy from school who accepts her for who she is.

Pros: There is so much character development; the protagonists are charming and endearing; the story is interesting and delightful; the chapters are short and this makes it a fast-paced read; it’s easy to relate to the characters and the awkwardness of being a teenager.

Cons: The ending is heart-wrenching.

Would recommend to: Teenage girls

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3) The Spectacular Now by Tim Tharp

Series: Stand-alone

My rating: ***

Genre: Contemporary

What it’s about: An unlikely relationship between a popular guy at school and a smart, sensible girl in his year group.

Pros: The writing style is very informal and conversational; the narrator’s voice is full of comedy.

Cons: There is no real substance to the plot other than the relationship; the characters at times seem 2-dimensional; the subject matter is sometimes too graphic; the ending is hardly inspiring.

Would recommend to: Someone looking for a casual summer read

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4) Elsewhere by Gabrielle Zevin

Series: Stand-alone

My rating: **

Genre: Fantasy

What it’s about: A girl living in the after-life, who ages backwards until she is reborn into another body again.

Pros: It’s very creative and the concept is interesting.

Cons: The style of writing is quite basic; the romantic element of the story is not developed well enough and seems unnecessary.

Would recommend to: Children and tweens (I didn’t realise this wasn’t YA)

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5) Splintered by A. G. Howard

Series: Splintered (book 1)

My rating: *****

Genre: Fantasy

What it’s about: A girl who inherits the ability to travel to Underland to end a curse, whilst encountering magical creatures, falling in love, and trying to save her mother in an asylum.

Pros: The description is phenomenal and the fantasy world that’s been created (to mimic Lewis Carroll’s Wonderland) is a vivid and flourishing setting; the action scenes are intense and well crafted; there is a clear plot and character development throughout the novel; the fantastical and magical aspects are fascinating and creative; Alyssa (the protagonist) is bad-ass, quirky and strong; the Underland symbols in Alyssa’s real world are eerie and mysterious.

Cons: The comedy is great – there should be more of it.

Would recommend to: Anyone looking for some escapism

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6) When I Was Five I Killed Myself by Howard Buten

Series: Stand-alone

My rating: ***

Genre: Drama

What it’s about: A misunderstood 8 year old boy who is put into a mental hospital for a disturbing act he did not initiate.

Pros: The suspense runs right until the point of discovering the reason why Burt is in the mental hospital; the author effectively voices the perspective of an 8 year old; the novel is interesting from a psychological point of view; the manipulative nature of the other protagonist is unexpected and shocking.

Cons: It is supposed to be a ground-breaking novel but I didn’t engage that deeply with it (did I miss something?)

Would recommend to: Someone interested in childhood studies and psychology.

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7) The Language Of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh

Series: Stand-alone

My rating: ****

Genre: ?

What it’s about: An orphan who becomes homeless but is lucky enough to secure a job as a florist and fall in love with a marketplace flower-seller.

Pros: The idea of the language of flowers itself is so original and intriguing; this book made me seriously think about wanting to become a florist!

Cons: The very beginning was misleading (I thought it was a fantasy/sci-fi novel in the first few pages and couldn’t quite understand the situation); the protagonist is hard to sympathise with at first because of her bitter perspective; it felt like a very long book and it dragged on towards the end – the content could have been reduced dramatically to make it a shorter, punchier plot.

Would recommend to: Someone who likes romance with a twist.

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8) The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey

Series: The 5th Wave (book 1)

My rating: *****

Genre: Post-apocalyptic

What it’s about: Humans trying to save their race under the horrific invasion of aliens on planet Earth, with the plot focusing on a a girl fighting for survival and a group of teens being trained for combat.

Pros: I can’t begin to describe how much I love this book! It has comedy, sarcasm, action, war, sci-fi, romance… what more could you want?! The characters are brilliant and the individual storylines are woven together magically. Oh, and it’s going to be released as a film adaptation, starring Chloë Grace Moretz (she’s amazing)!

Cons: Knowing it’s about aliens is annoyingly off-putting before you start reading; the ending is a little weak.

Would recommend to: All teens (especially those skeptical about aliens)

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9) Como Agua Para Chocolate by Laura Esquivel 

Series: Stand-alone

My rating: ****

Genre: Magic realism

What it’s about: Three sisters living on a ranch in Mexico with their oppressive mother, and their personal, physical suffering with reference to relationship issues and illnesses.

Pros: The magic realism is a wonderful aspect of the novel and gives the story another dimension; you get to learn about the expectations of women in that era and how this affects the characters.

Cons: The characters are extremely 2-dimensional; the recipes can be boring to read through at the start of each chapter; it’s easy to become angry and annoyed with the characters at times!

Would recommend to: Someone who enjoys studying Spanish literature

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10) Champion by Marie Lu

Series: Legend (book 3)

My rating: ****

Genre: Dystopian

What it’s about: Teenagers with political power who try to save their country from war and corruption.

Pros: A new, exciting setting is introduced as June and Anden meet with political leaders to negotiate; the novel is jam-packed with action sequences and intense escape scenes; health becomes an increasingly important factor as the characters’ lives are threatened by disease – and this makes the plot even more gripping.

Cons: Although this is still a great read, it doesn’t meet the exceptional standard of Prodigy.

Would recommend to: Fans of dystopian fiction

*My rating system:

* means it’s really bad

** means it’s not that great

*** means it’s mediocre 

**** means it’s really good

***** means it’s amazing

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