Dec 29, 2014

2014 in Review: Best Books I Didn’t Blog About

2014 in Review: Best Books I Didn’t Blog About

Sadly I got to the end of the year without having reviewed many of the books I read, including some I really enjoyed. So, like last year, I thought I’d devote a Year in Review post to the best of these. To make this task more manageable, I’m setting myself the challenge of writing about them in 100 words or less (75 words last year was just too difficult), and I’ll also be following a “Read it if you like…” format. Here it goes:

Rilla of Ingleside by L.M. Montgomery:

Read it if you like: Anne of Green Gables, obviously, but also novels that approach WW1 from a domestic perspective and focus on women’s lives during this time. Montgomery wrote Rilla’s story in 1921, and it was fascinating to see the conflicting perspectives the novel captures. The feeling of patriotism many of the characters express is alien to me, but I was very interested in watching them negotiate their worldview in the face of mounting personal loss. The only pacifist in the novel is villanized, but, again, his presence allows views that might otherwise remain unheard to be voiced.

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black:

Read it if you like: Smart, sharp looks at gender, power, and the challenges of intimacy in a world that makes it hard for people to approach each other as equals. Tana is an excellent character: as Jenny so well put it, her tenacity is what makes her stand out. But the book’s willingness to examine the potential power differential between Tana and Gavriel was the main thing that won me over — that and watching their slow negotiation of closeness. I’ll always love stories in which we get to see characters set the terms of their relationship. Also, the ending gave me chills.

Isla and the Happy Ever After by Stephanie Perkins:

Read it if you like: Thoughtful romances that (again) get into the process of building a relationship whose terms work for everyone. Isla hit closer to home that Perkins’ previous works: it has her customary charm, heart and romantic settings, but it also delves into lack of communication, the corrosive power of mistrust and the difficulties of overcoming these in more detail than before. It’s more about long-term intimacy than the first spark of connection, and these are the love stories I generally prefer. I rooted for Isla and Josh from the start: it was lovely to see them find their way back to each other.

March: Book One by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin and Nate Powell:

Read it if you like: Moving accounts of the Civil Rights Movement. March Book One is a memoir by Congressman John Lewis, covering his youth in Alabama, his experience of educational segregation, and his initial involvement in activism through lunch counter sit-ins. His story is both historically resonant and very human, and I especially liked the compassionate analysis of the circumstances that make it possible — or impossible — for people to take stances. For example, Lewis’ parents feared the consequences of him challenging the Alabama Board of Education, and this is portrayed as an understandable fear born out of specific circumstances rather than as a personal failing.

A Game For Swallows by Zeina Abirached:

Read it if you like: Politically acute graphic non-fiction that (like March above) does a great job of combining the historical and the personal. A Game For Swallows — subtitled To Die, to Leave, to Return — is about Zeina Abirached’s experience of being a child during the civil war in Lebanon. When her parents fail to return home from a visit to the other side of Beirut (which involved crossing a dangerous sniper line), the neighbours gather around Zeina and her brother and do their best to create a safe environment while they wait out a night filled with anxiety.

Mars Evacuees by Sophia McDougall:

Read it if you like: Space adventures, diverse characters, resourceful girls, and interrogations of the gender binary seamlessly integrated into an action-packed plot. I had so much fun with this book. It’s about twelve-year-old Alice Dare and her friends, who, after being evacuated to Mars to escape the war with the aliens at home and to be trained as future soldiers, have to survive on their own when things go spectacularly wrong. That might make it sound like your standard militaristic sci-fi, but it goes on to interrogate the assumptions behind war stories in very interesting ways. It’s also really funny at times.

Murder Most Unladylike by Robin Stevens:

Read it if you like: Charming 1930s boarding school mysteries whose tone is absolutely perfect. You might remember that I failed to warm up to Beswitched because the voice felt extremely forced; I approached this one with caution, but luckily I had nothing to fear. Also, the novel initially establishes a Watson and Holmes dynamic between the heroines, Daisy Wells and Hazel Wong, but then it goes on to examine it — and it does the same with Daisy’s privilege and the racism Hazel sometimes experiences. The two have a close, complicated, and ultimately very satisfying friendship. I can’t wait for their next adventure.

Saga Vol 4 by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples:

Read it if you like: Suffering at the hands of cruel writers. There’s a heartbreaking panel early on in the book, and then you spend the rest of it trying to work out whether it’s actually leading where you fear or whether the writers are playing some sort of horrible trick on you. I won’t give away the answer — suffice to say that this volume is too painful to be my favourite Saga instalment so far, but at this point I’ll follow these characters anywhere. Also, I’d have liked more Gwendolyn and Sophie. Bring on Volume 5.

Avatar: The Last Airbender - The Rift by by Gene Luen Yang and Gurihiru:

Read it if you like: The Avatar universe, of course — but especially if you miss the kind of political nuance the series so often had. Once again, Gene Luen Yang writes with subtlety and insight and does an excellent job of capturing the multiple sides of a conflict even-handedly. In this book, we watch the characters attempt to bridge a social and political rift (embodied by Aang and Toph and their opposing views) and strive for understanding, equality, and a new form of balance. The politics of these comics are everything I kept wishing for (and being heartbroken over) in The Legend of Korra.


  1. There are a few here that are new to me and Murder Most Unladylike is going on my list. Oh I have but haven't read Isla and the Happy Ever After yet.

  2. This is a nice list. Murder Most Unladylike looks particularly intriguing. Rilla of Ingleside is one of my favourite of the Anne books.

  3. RILLA is on my list of all-time favourite books - it gets me every single time. Story aside, I find the then-contemporary views and emotions re WW1 really interesting and they add this extra depth to the book - like you, it's something that is pretty alien to my experience, so yeah, fascinating.

    And MURDER MOST UNLADYLIKE is also going on my list!

  4. I'm still terrified of the latest SAGA, but I'm pretty sure I'll make it my first read of 2015 (in conjunction with a reread of the first three volumes). I need mooooooore, even if it causes me extreme pain.

  5. Beth F: They were both very happy-making, Enjoy!

    Belle: It was the perfect cozy mystery!

    Li: Yes, exactly! It was a glimpse into a different mindset, and I appreciated that a lot.

    Memory: There isn't much I can say without spoilers, so just read it soon! (And then come and find me.)

  6. I nearly bought the fourth volume of Saga at the bookshop last week, but then the Marvel comics were all 2 for 3, so I ended up getting three volumes of The Unwritten instead. SO I am now depending on my library getting Saga in quickly, to satisfy my Saga cravings.

  7. I love the "read it if you like" angle. :-) I was madly in love with the Anne of Green Gables series when I was young, but for some reason I didn't know Rilla of Ingleside existed. I hope to read the series with my almost 11-year-old daughter soon, so this will give me something extra special to look forward to. :-)

  8. I haven't read the fourth Saga yet, but I did glance at what you said and now I kind of want to rush off and read it!

  9. Rilla of Ingleside is my favorite of the series, too. I absolutely love the last line, which I remember so well to this day. I should read it again - I am sure I would take away different things from it.

  10. I've put in a request at my library for a couple of these! Great list!

  11. Rilla of Ingleside is one of my favorites in the Anne series. It was such a beautiful way to say goodbye to the Bythe family.

  12. I loved The Coldest Girl in Coldtown - I listened to the audio book and it was very well done. I've also heard great things about March.

  13. You're the second blog I've read today that has rated Isla and the Happily Ever After so highly. I'm wondering if I have to read the preceding two books first or if it works as a standalone?

  14. Jenny: I'm so behind on The Unwritten. I should catch up. *remembers book buying ban* *weeps*

    Irene McKenna: Enjoy Rilla! It's so interesting and bittersweet. And I'm sure rediscovering Anne with your daughter will be wonderful :D

    Kelly: All I can say is BRACE YOURSELF :P

    Aarti: It was really interesting to read it during the WW1 centenary and think about it in that context.

    Iliana: Happy reading!

    Melissa: It really was.

    3goodrats: Definitely do get March! I can't wait for the second part to come out soon.

    Christy: Yes, you can start with Isla. The novels are all standalones - the only thing is that there are cameos by characters from previous books, and I guess those scenes are more fun if you know who they are. But they're in like one chapter in the book, and they still make perfect sense on their own. And then you can go back and read all about who those characters are and how they met.


Thank you so much for taking the time to comment - interaction is one of my favourite things about blogging and a huge part of what keeps me going.