Best Books I’ve Read in 2014

This week long event is hosted by Two Chicks on Books, Rachel from Fiktshun, Mindy from Magical Urban Fantasy Reads, Rachel from Reading YA Rocks and Nancy fromTales of a Ravenous Reader!

Today’s topic is: Best Books I’ve Read in 2014 

 

I had never heard of this book when I picked it up at my local library. It looked interesting and so I did. What a wonderful book it was. The writing is so close to the culture and so inertly beautiful that I wanted to read it over and over again. The content is powerful and painful at the same time, it makes you think.

This book was so unpredictable and powerful. I loved the plot and the writing was beautiful as well. It was a page-turner and very different from what I have ever read.

Leo Tolstoy. Need I say more? Such a punch packed in this little essay. A must-read for everyone. Read my full review here.

I put this book down twice after having read the first few pages because I just couldn’t get into it. Third time I not only read past it but finished it way quicker than I should a 500-pager. Loved the story, the characters. It keeps the mystery intact and is very unpredictable.

This book was on a whole new dimension. The plot was very innovative, the story completely threw me off. I felt for the characters. It made for an interesting read.

I heard this one and it hooked me from the very first chapter and didn’t let go! The characters were to-die for. I laughed so much. This book was a riot. Loved, loved, loved the plot.

>Another audio. The location, the narration, the way the characters retraces her past – it was very exciting. Read my full review here.

After being disappointed by Hopeless, Colleen Hoover had me by this one. It makes for a very different read. Although, I’m really not into Colleen’s insta-love style, this book had so much more going for it that I had to decide to ignore it and move on.

Such a charismatic, slow-read this one. Once in a while, I love to savor these and let the taste roll around in my mouth.

This one’s again very different from what I have read. I love when stories take their time unraveling, keeping you waiting by the tenterhooks for that one moment. And sometimes that moment passes you by and you never know what did it. I love those, do you?
 
What are your favorite books of 2014? Let me know by commenting below or leave a link so I can check yours.

The Christmas Bake-Off by Abby Clements

Published: November 20, 2012
Publisher: Quercus
Pages: 25
Source: Owned
Format: Kindle ebook

Goodreads Synopsis: With Christmas just around the corner, the residents of Skipley village are gearing up for the annual bake off, and tensions are high.

Winning means a lot to everyone involved – talented cake-shop owner Katie dreams of baking stardom, Rachel wants to prove she’s more than a stay-at-home mum, and John hopes his culinary skills will impress the woman he loves.

But when the judges discover that some cakes have been tampered with, the villagers’ loyalties are called into question – whose ambition would stretch to sabotage, and why?

The Christmas Bake-Off is an exclusive short story from Abby Clements, author of Meet Me Under the Mistletoe. This ebook edition also includes bonus recipes for cinnamon cookies and vanilla and almond biscuits.

Buy it here – Amazon US (FREE!) | Add on Goodreads

My View: Yet another book I came across to read during Ho-Ho-Ho Read-A-Thon. This one was little as well but did have a story (finally!).

Wait, did you take a good look at the cover? Isn’t it beautiful? I think it’s absolutely gorgeous. I love it! It makes me get into the Christmas mode already. Ahh, glad that Christmas is almost here. Can’t wait.

I love books that involve food and if it’s baking, then it’s a double wow. Oh wait, did I tell you there are recipes in here? Oh yeah, doesn’t it seem like a great package?

There is a plot (thank goodness!) and some likeable characters. And a story that moves on and has something to say. But there’s nothing innovative as far as the plot is concerned. Also, some of the story bits might have disappointed me. But in such few pages, one must not go on expecting a lot.

Pick up for a quick read and bakes some goodies from the recipes given.

2/5 stars – It was okay but nothing special.

2stars

Christmas in Venice: A Short Story by Meadow Taylor

Published: December 4, 2012
Publisher: Harper Collins Canada
Pages: 18
Source: Owned
Format: Kindle ebook

Goodreads Synopsis: Olivia’s Christmas trip to Venice, Italy should be a holiday dream come true. But when she’ s confronted by a handsome Italian cop about her unattended luggage, she worries she won’t even make it out of the Marco Polo Airport…

Buy it here – Amazon US (FREE!) | Add on Goodreads

My View: I was sifting through my owned books to read during Ho-Ho-Ho Read-A-Thon when I came across this. But well, I didn’t realize it was that short! It finished even before it began. At 18 pages, it was too short to pack a punch.

It did make for an interesting prologue though but where’s the book? Lol. Amidst confusion and Christmas and some hilarity, the book hints at romance to follow but well, the book ends there.

There was no time/ pages to hint at the beginning of a plot or development of characters but perhaps the author was testing the waters before jumping in.

Read for a feel-good holiday book peek.

2/5 stars – It was okay but nothing special.

2stars

A Very Holly Christmas by Sheila Roberts

Published: November 15, 2011
Publisher: St. Martins Press
Pages: 19
Source: Owned
Format: Kindle ebook

Goodreads Synopsis: Shelia Roberts is back with the hilarious short follow up to On Strike For Christmas. This short story will bring you right back to the spirited town of Holly, one year after the big strike! For even more Christmas (this time with a touch of romance) don’t miss The Nine Lives of Christmas, coming November 2011.

Buy it here – Amazon US (FREE!) | Add on Goodreads

My View: Another one I picked up for a short, quick read for Ho-Ho-Ho Read-A-Thon but I didn’t realize it was THAT short! It ended before it even began. I think this was meant as a little quickie by the side in collaboration with another book. So reading this on its own doesn’t really make much sense.

But had it been a murder mystery instead of romance, I might have liked it better. Lol. Yeah yeah, I know expecting murder in a Christmas-y read. But well, wouldn’t that be a great thriller surprise? Just imagine!

In so short a story, you, of course, can’t go looking for a plot or in-depth characters. So that’s about it.

Pick it up at your own risk.

2/5 stars – It was okay but nothing special.

2stars

Holiday Sparks by Shannon Stacey (Audiobook Review)

Narrator: Savannah Richards
Date Published: July 23, 2013
Publisher: Carina Press
Pages: 65
Source: Purchased at Audible
Format: Audiobook

Goodreads SynopsisA short story from Naughty and Nice: A Holiday Romance Collection

House-sitting for her parents seemed like a good idea, until the microwave blew up and the lights went out.

Now Chloe Burke thinks upgrading the electrical system of her childhood home while they are away would make the perfect Christmas gift. Fortunately, there’s an electrician in town who can get the job done by the holidays.

Scott Quinn has wanted to get his hands on the Burkes’ wiring for almost as long as he’s wanted to get his hands on their daughter. Chloe didn’t notice Scott back in high school, but she’s noticing him now, and soon they’re indulging in a little festive fun: no strings, no expectations. After all, Chloe plans to get out of this goldfish bowl of a town and back to her real life in Boston by New Year’s.

But Chloe and Scott discover they enjoy each other’s company just as much out of bed. Could their holiday fling turn out to be the real thing?

Buy it here –  Amazon USAdd on Goodreads

My View:  I listened to this free little audiobook during the Ho-Ho-Ho Read-A-Thon. Spanning about an hour, it’s quite short. I do love myself a good edited book instead of one that goes on and on with no end in sight.

The book makes for a cute little, Christmas-y romantic read. It has a decent plot (albeit, not very innovative) and two relatable characters. The holiday, romantic feeling is what I liked the most.

The narrator does a good job of making the book sound interesting. The emotional tones are nicely brought about.

But I may have a bit of a problem with romantic short stories. I do not like insta-love. In a short story, you can’t go on building the love. So there lies my problem.

Also, physical intimacy or sex stepping in too soon and on multiple instances just puts me off at times. What is wrong with love expressed through words and some cherished cuddle moments, I wonder. Well, perhaps I am too old-fashioned at times. *snort*

If you are looking for a short, smoky holiday read, you may want to give it a try.

2/5 stars – It was okay but didn’t do wonders for me. 2stars

Drowning by Rachel Firasek

Series: Tears of Sin #1
Date Published: October 26, 2013
Publisher: Naedge
Pages: 263
Source: Borrowed
Format: Kindle ebook

Goodreads Synopsis: *Drowning is a New Adult Contemporary Romance suited for 18+ due to some violence, language, and sexual content*

“I dare you.”

Those words would change adrenaline junkie, Alice Harrison’s life forever. She’s a party girl that doesn’t believe in love until she meets a man that only writes about it.

Seth James escaped his overbearing father and moved into one of the James family’s vacant condos, hoping to create the music he loves in peace. But the fragile calm he’s envisioned shatters when a tiny woman with a world full of energy bounces out of the elevator and nearly takes him out.

With the patience of a saint, Seth seeks the dark that keeps Alice from enjoying life. He challenges her to exorcise the demons in her past in order to discover the true meaning of love. But when the walls fall down, the hidden deceptions will bare the ugly truth about a woman drowning in sorrow and a man who may not know how to be her hero.

Buy it here – Amazon India | FlipkartAmazon US (99 cents only!)| The Book Depository | Add on Goodreads

My View:  Having read The Last Beginning by Rachel Firasek (and having liked it okay – read my review here), I was of the opinion, this book would fare the same if not better. Woah, was I wrong? And let me get this straight, going by GR reviews, I am probably the only one who didn’t like this book.

I dived in with a lot of expectations, considering the author. But I figure I might have a problem with New Adult because all those books seem like a copy of one another to me. A guy with a problematic past. A girl with past troubles. They meet, fall in love, want to make each other’s life better. Oh, please. I am so done with these. Alright, even if you want to bring the same idea again and again, better make it innovative but realistic. Most authors lose me there. It’s either the same, boring thing all over again or something different but way off the reality mark for it to be believable.

I would applaud the author for the fact that the sexual scenes don’t enter the book for the first half, which is a major feat in itself in a New Adult book. Well done, Ms. Firasek. But apart from that, everything else is a mumbo-jumbo.

The book showed some promise to begin with and I was hoping for good things to follow. But nope. Guy sees girl and vice versa and they fall in love. They know something just clicks. I am so pissed with this. This does not happen in real life (atleast not that I know of). You are writing a 300 page book, devote 10 to let them fall in love. But no, that doesn’t happen. It’s love at first sight, you see.

And then some things just fall in place – James’ family and friends love Alice from the very beginning, even his father likes her. While some keeps on repeating – Alice’s father, for instance, will be after her life for something he wants from her but will not tell her what it is (‘You know what you took. Give it back!). Are you kidding me? And this happens not once but twice. I just lost my nerve there.

Also, the fact that the main characters would try and stay away from each other (because they are idiots) and find themselves in each other’s arms again and again. Are you serious? Like Whaaatt??

The only reason I kept going on with the book was my adamant self that refuses to leave books unfinished. I struggled so much for it to finish and was glad when it did. This book was a mess for me. Nothing made sense, some things were unbelievable, the characters unpredictable (read inconsistent).

Perhaps you should check out the 4-5 star reviews on GR before deciding if or not you want to read it. I, most likely, am an anomaly in this case.

1/5 stars – Struggled to finish, just not my cup of tea.1 star

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Date Published: May 24, 2012
Publisher: Weidenfeld & Nicolson
Pages: 466
Source: Owned
Format: Paperback

Goodreads SynopsisWho are you?
What have we done to each other?

These are the questions Nick Dunne finds himself asking on the morning of his fifth wedding anniversary, when his wife Amy suddenly disappears. The police suspect Nick. Amy’s friends reveal that she was afraid of him, that she kept secrets from him. He swears it isn’t true. A police examination of his computer shows strange searches. He says they weren’t made by him. And then there are the persistent calls on his mobile phone.

So what did happen to Nick’s beautiful wife?

Buy it here – Amazon India | FlipkartAmazon US | The Book Depository | Add on Goodreads

My View: Early 2013, I was dabbling with the idea of getting an Audible Membership. I could take two freebies for my trial version. In my search for those two free books that would hopefully make me addicted to Audible, I went around my favorite Goodreads Group asking for suggestions. And Gone Girl came up as one. I grabbed it right away. I started listening to it on March 10, 2013. It was going good but then it became too slow for me (yeah, can you believe that?). I was almost 2/3rd into the audio when I quite gave up on it.

In the meantime, I bought a paperback as well. A year and a half down the line, with the movie coming up in theatres, I was adamant to give it another try if nothing else than to see what the hype was all about. And here I switched to paperback and started from scratch. Although I could not finish the book in time and ended up watching the movie first. The movie was pretty good, I would say. I had read 1/3rd of the book, remembered the second part from the audio so it was only the last one that was unknown to me. I think they did a decent job of getting it on big screen.

This is how my reading progress looks like on GR.

03/10/2013 page 16 3.0%
05/08/2013 page 200 42.92% “Slow but it’s taking a massive turn now..hmm..interesting, very interesting.”
11/04/2014 page 1 0.21% “Starting over again. Switched from audio to paperback now.”
11/16/2014 page 335 71.0% “”Come home so I can kill you.” Classic!”
11/17/2014 page 340 72.0% “‘One should never marry a man who doesn’t own a decent set of scissors.’ Quite profound, eh?”
11/17/2014 marked as: read

After I had seen the movie, it did seem a bit senseless to finish the book but I kept at it until I was done.

So what are my afterthoughts? Well, to begin with, I would say too much hype really kills a book for me. Perhaps I would have liked it had my expectations not skyrocketed with all the good reviews. The book started off well, got a bit slow, then turned interesting again but somewhere down the line, I lost interest. I agree the plot is mind-blowing, the characters quirky and absolutely insane and the book has all details taken well care of. It was a thrilling and unpredictable ride. But somehow the last part of it didn’t go down well with me. I would have rather had a different chain of events to end the book with. It’s difficult to say much about the book without giving it away.

It’s not bad at all, worth giving a shot. Maybe the editing could have been tighter and the end different but that would have changed the book completely. Just my opinion as a reader/ listener.

What did you think of Gone Girl – the book/ movie?

3/5 stars – I liked it.download (8)

The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro

Date Published: 2005
Publisher: Faber & Faber
Pages: 258
Source: Local Library
Format: Paperback

Goodreads SynopsisIn 1956, Stevens, a long-serving butler at Darlington Hall, decides to take a motoring trip through the West Country. The six-day excursion becomes a journey into the past of Stevens and England, a past that takes in fascism, two world wars and an unrealised love between the butler and his housekeeper. Ishiguro’s dazzling novel is a sad and humorous love story, a meditation on the condition of modern man, and an elegy for England at a time of acute change.

Buy it here – Amazon India | FlipkartAmazon US | The Book Depository | Add on Goodreads

My View: After reading Never Let Me Go  (read my review here) by Kazuo Ishiguro, I was of the opinion that we two didn’t get along and hence I kept my distance from his books.  I guess there was too much hype about the former book and it did let me down. But when a friend of mine got this book issued from the library and I saw a close friend had given it a 4 star rating, I decided to give Ishiguro yet another chance. Was it worth it? Let’s see.

First 15 pages and I knew this book was as doomed as the first one I read of his and this would probably be the final strike in our relationship (me and Ishiguro) but I kept reading on (can’t leave books unfinished and to be fair, I give  each book a minimum 80 pages chance except for extraordinary circumstances where I might be frustrated enough to fling it at the wall sooner than 80 pages).

After the first 30 pages, things begin to change. I started getting used to his writing style and the story though slow-moving, caught my attention to keep going way past the 80 page mark. And then I read on and on to see what (if) would happen next.

So did something happen next? Well, to be frank, if the book didn’t have those last 20 pages or so, this book might have done it for me. I would have broken up with Ishiguro forever and ever. But he knew just how to press the right nerve and strike a balance. He made me smile and I have to applaud him for that. His quirky (not in the normal sense of the word) main character is something to hear the book narrated from.

The thing that did irk me a bit was the slow narrative but I guess that’s Ishiguro’s style. And to be frank, it wasn’t that slow as to turn uninteresting. He does gets his point across. What I must appreciate is the way he creeps things in so smoothly that you won’t even know it’s there until he points it out and then you are like ‘Woah! When did that happen?’ Smooth, real smooth, Ishiguro. You got me there. And the last few pages turned this book around for me. So from 2 to 2.5 to 3.5 stars, this book sure was a journey in itself. And I might have made up with Ishiguro yet again. Which one of his should I pick up next? Any suggestions?

3.5/5 stars – I liked it.images (25)

November 2014 Update and Quick Recap

This month has been busy reading and blogging wise.

I participated in

  • Ho-Ho-Ho Read-A-Thon
  • Blog Ahead!
  • Netgalley November
  • The 5th Annual Christmas Spirit Reading Challenge

     
    Reviews in November

    Insanity by Lauren Hammond
    My Life as a Silent Movie: A Novel by Jesse Lee Kercheval (Audiobook Review)
     

    Books I read in November 2014

    Total – 18 books read!

    A recap of books read in last few months-

    October 2014

    September 2014

    August 2014

    July 2014


     

    June 2014

    What have you been reading?

  • For One More Day by Mitch Albom

    Date Published: September 26, 2006
    Publisher: Hyperion
    Pages: 197
    Source: Owned books
    Format: Paperback

    Goodreads Synopsis: “Every family is a ghost story…”

    For One More Day is the story of a mother and a son, and a relationship that covers a lifetime and beyond. It explores the question: What would you do if you could spend one more day with a lost loved one?

    As a child, Charley “Chick” Benetto was told by his father, “You can be a mama’s boy or a daddy’s boy, but you can’t be both.” So he chooses his father, only to see the man disappear when Charley is on the verge of adolescence.

    Decades later, Charley is a broken man. His life has been crumbled by alcohol and regret. He loses his job. He leaves his family. He hits bottom after discovering his only daughter has shut him out of her wedding. And he decides to take his own life.

    He makes a midnight ride to his small hometown, with plans to do himself in. But upon failing even to do that, he staggers back to his old house, only to make an astonishing discovery. His mother, who died eight years earlier, is still living there, and welcomes him home as if nothing ever happened..

    What follows is the one “ordinary” day so many of us yearn for, a chance to make good with a lost parent, to explain the family secrets, and to seek forgiveness. Somewhere between this life and the next, Charley learns the astonishing things he never knew about his mother and her sacrifices. And he tries, with her tender guidance, to put the crumbled pieces of his life back together.

    Buy it here – Amazon India | FlipkartAmazon US| The Book Depository | Add on Goodreads

    My View: I love Tuesdays with Morrie by the same author. I have also read The Five People You Meet in Heaven but can’t remember what I thought of it, it’s been too long.

    Well, going by the blurb, I thought I needed this book right now. To spend a day with a loved one you have lost, such an interesting premise. But even though this book didn’t handle the subject as I thought it would, it did make for a good read nevertheless.

    It has been a while since I have become more sensitive to my mother’s words and needs. Although I do falter every now and then, I try to make up for it. I don’t think I am still doing my best though. This book conveyed in a few words what all a mother does for a child and how easy it is for the child to brush it off until much later when it’s too late to make amends.

    I like the themes Mitch Albom picks up, they are relevant and heartfelt and you end up with a message, something to learn and live by. His writing is simple and precise. The book is of just the right length, neither too short nor too huge. I finished it within a sitting. He writes simply and it makes for an interesting, effortless reading.

    With Mitch’s books, I sometimes find myself wondering how fiction and non fiction they truly are. He does seem to be set off by a real life incident and perhaps fills in the gap with fiction although the books do seem like telling a real story, what with letters and invitations to boast of.

    Although I would say it didn’t come up to the standards set by Tuesdays with Morrie, I render it’s not possible for an author to one up his books all the time. Give this book a read when you have some time on your hands to read as well as reflect.

    3/5 stars – I liked it.download (8)

    My Life as a Silent Movie: A Novel by Jesse Lee Kercheval (Audiobook Review)


    Date Published: March 3, 2014
    Publisher: University Press Audiobooks
    Source: Review Purchase from Audible
    Format: Audiobook
    Narration: Rosemary Benson

    Goodreads SynopsisAfter losing her husband and daughter in an auto accident, 42-year-old Emma flies to Paris, discovers she has a twin brother whose existence she had not known about, and learns that her birth parents weren’t the Americans who raised her, but a White Russian film star of the 1920s and a French Stalinist.

    A story about identity and the shaping function of art, My Life as a Silent Movie presents a vividly rendered world and poses provocative questions on the relationship of art to life.

    Buy it here – Amazon IndiaAmazon US | The Book Depository | Add on Goodreads

    My View:  When I saw this audiobook up for review, there was something that appealed to me about this book (if you know me well, you know I don’t read book blurbs, so all my good books are usually either by fluke or recommendations). Well, it certainly could have been that Eiffel Tower on the cover (Side note: I love travelling and I am in love with the idea of Paris, still to visit though).

    Okay, let me warn you upfront, this audiobook is almost 10 hours long. I know some are like 40 hours long but since I prefer short audios, this was huge for me. But wait, did I feel all 10 hours of it? Nope, not at all. And why would that be? Perhaps because the book pulled me in from the very first word and did not let go. The narration is good enough. But the major meat is the book! Just wow!

    First, the author draws a background and you are interested in what’s going on. Mmm hmm… And then there comes the twists and the turns. And Paris! And the walks around Paris. Surprise upon surprise. I was totally overwhelmed (happily!) by the plot, the unraveling of it, the characters who I found myself rooting for. Giggling at times, wanting him to be @%^&$ alive! Woah, a gamut of emotions, all in one book.

    There’s some history in there. Something I don’t really like but when you dish it out in a book, I’m all for it. A woman taking a trip across the world to unravel her past – now there’s some magic in that, right? History, art, travel, mystery, a solid plot, a good narration and there you have it, a brilliant book.

    A must listen I would say.

    4.5/5 stars – I really, really, really liked it! Highly Recommended. 4.5 stars

    The 5th Annual Christmas Spirit Reading Challenge: Goals & Updates

    I am joining Christmas Tree level for this challenge (5/6 books) and might catch a couple of Christmas movies (Fa La La La Films) and I will absolutely be participating in the Read-a-Thon! Wish me luck! Are you participating? Drop a link in the comments and I will come visit.

    Details and sign up:
    • challenge will run from Monday, November 24, 2014 through Tuesday, January 6, 2014 (Twelfth Night or Epiphany).
    • cross over with other challenges is totally permitted AND encouraged!
    • These must be Christmas novels, books about Christmas lore, a book of Christmas short stories or poems, books about Christmas crafts, and for the first time…a children’s Christmas books level!
    • Levels:
                –Candy Cane:  read 1 book
                –Mistletoe:  read 2-4 books
                –Christmas Tree:  read 5 or 6 books (this is the fanatic level…LOL!)
              Additional levels:
                –Fa La La La Films:  watch a bunch or a few Christmas movies…it’s up to you!
                –Visions of Sugar Plums:  read books with your children this season and share what you read
              *the additional levels are optional, you still must complete one of the main reading levels above

    The Christmas Spirit Read-a-Thon is back again this year. I’ll be hosting once again over at Seasons of Reading and it’s a WEEK LONG this year! Monday, November 24 through Sunday, November 30! Details and sign-up can be found HERE.