Wednesday, 14 January 2015

2014 in review

A look back at the best reads of 2014 seems to be something many bloggers do... or did; I didn't manage to write this in any sort of a timely fashion – in fact, I forgot all about this idea... actually, I completely forgot I have a blog and was supposed to write something. Anyway, I thought it was a great idea (yeah, I can easily forget ideas, even great ones). The results were not what I expected.

Of the 59 books that I read last year, according to Goodreads (there are a number of books I never marked as “read” in Goodreads, so the total number is some 10-20 books higher), not a single book got a five-star rating from me. Only nine (9) books got a four-star rating.

That's just sad.

There are possible reasons. 1) It may be that I simply didn't come across a really, really great book, a book that I'd love, last year. 2) I fear that as I grow older, I become more... I was going to say critical, but that's not really it. Or perhaps that's a part of it. But above all else, I'm an emotional reader: I want a book to make me feel. And the older we get, the more we've seen and the more we've experienced, the harder it is to truly move us. 3) My rating is extremely subjective. If I'm not feeling too good in general, I'm more unlikely to give a good rating than I am when feeling good about my life. That's not fair, I know. However, low ratings do not happen just because I'm having a bad day. They happen when I've been having a bad 6 months or so. And last year really wasn't one of the best years ever. It probably will not have been the worst, either. I don't know whether that's comforting or depressing.

Looking on the bright side, I didn't give a single one-star rating! That's probably because I'm trying to learn to give up on a book when it fails to interest me. That's something I need to work on!

But let's focus on the top nine. One thing they all have in common is that they're historical fiction. Except the first one, but it's often called historical fantasy and reads, for the most part, much like historical fiction.

Guy Gavriel Kay's “River of Stars”. I've explained briefly before why I love Kay's novels, and the same goes for this one.

Veriruusut by Anneli Kanto. Also something we've seen before.

Next, two books by Kaari Utrio (Isabella and Saippuaprinsessa), which is not surprising, seeing that she is one of my favourite authors (mentioned before here and here). Splendid historical fiction, and I particularly enjoy the ones set in the Medieval times. It's somewhat surprising, however, to find these two books among the best of last year, since neither of them are among my favourites by her.

“Bring up the Bodies” by Hilary Mantel. Great historical fiction, Tudor court and all that. When I was finishing this book, I couldn't quite decide whether to give it three or four stars, but then Mantel made me cry... and what did I say about wanting a book to make me feel?

And here's a surprise: a graphic novel! It's volume 2 in the series titled Pakanat (“Pagans”) by Tuomas Myllylä. This, too, I've mentioned and sort of reviewed before.


And finally... three books from the same author! Now that's really something. Robert McCammon's “The Wolf's Hour”, “The Hunter from the Woods” and “Speaks the Nightbird”. The first is historical fiction / werewolf story (there should be a short review here somewhere... found it!), the second is pretty much the same but a collection of short stories, and the third is historical fiction set in the very late 17th century, if I remember correctly. McCammon tells a great story, he knows how to keep you turning those pages! But that's not enough for me. I want the writing to be beautiful or lyrical or evocative – it's not just about the story, it's also about the language – and McCammon does have a way with words.

So. My 2014 may seem like a poor year, reading-wise. But I discovered a few authors whose work I enjoyed and really look forward to reading more. That's not bad, in my book.

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