The Best of 2014: Books I read

I began this series of posts yesterday by telling y’all about the best bloggers I know. Today we’re going to talk about the best books I read in 2014. Although not over yet, it’ll be my worst reading year since high school. I’ve only made it through seven books. Seven. Oh well. But there were some standouts among those seven that I do want to talk about. Remember these are NOT books released in 2014 but books I read in 2014.

#1 The Diary of a Young Girl – Anne Frank

9780553296983_custom-ed84c8c0711821bd2740ad0d64c5ff57c46455b8-s6-c30

I read this book as part of my journey to read every book on Amazon’s 100 Books to Read in a Lifetime. I thoroughly enjoyed this book. This isn’t really a book. It’s her diary, as you well know. And maybe that’s why it really hit me like it did. She takes you through every emotion imaginable and she does so in such an eloquent manner that you can’t help but be impressed by her grasp of the written word. She’s able to take you back to one of the worst periods the world has ever known, and she does it while in hiding. It’s a remarkable work that everyone should read.

I currently have this book ranked #1 on my list of the best books I’ve ever read. There’s no doubt that it will stay there for some time. Here’s the post I wrote the day after finishing it.

#2 The Drop (Harry Bosch #15) – Michael Connelly

4d_10410069_0_MichaelConnelly_TheDrop

Michael Connelly is right near the top of my favorite authors and I’ve never once been disappointed by one of his Bosch novels. The Drop is no exception. Bosch is working two cases at once. One is the death of a city councilman’s son and the other is a cold case. That’s all I’ll say. It’s vintage Bosch and I already have the next book in the series on my shelf.

I currently have this book ranked #13 on my list of the best books I’ve ever read. One spot ahead of the third and final book on the list.

#3 The Fault in Our Stars – John Green

The_Fault_in_Our_Stars

I don’t need to tell you anything about this book because you’ve probably already read it and made up your own mind about the story itself. This was the first time I’d read any YA title since Mockingjay in 2012. I really enjoyed this book. Yeah I thought Gus was too perfect and I thought the way he talked to Hazel was a little too much for a couple of teens, but those are pretty minor things. I loved them both as characters and John Green got millions of people to read about a tricky subject.

I currently have this book ranked #14 on my list of the best books I’ve ever read. Here’s the post I wrote about it earlier this year.

So that’s it! Those are the three best books I read this year! Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone just missed being included in the list. I won’t ask if you’ve read these titles because you’ve almost certainly read at least two of them, but I would like to know what your top reads of the year were. Tell me now.

Judging Books by Their Movies

I’m starting to forget what I’ve written about over the last few months. I think this is post number 270 or 271 and the vast majority of those have come from February until now. But I’m confident I haven’t touched on this topic just yet. I don’t think.

Okay. We all know about judging books by their covers because everyone does it. We also are likely familiar with judging books by their authors because we do that too. But what about judging books by their movies? What do you think? Think you judge books by their movies? Or maybe you view them as separate entities?

This is where I tell you which side of the fence I fall on. Hm. Interestingly enough, I’m actually okay with this. Don’t go gasping away before giving me the chance to explain. There have been a number of wildly successful adaptations in recent years, but we should all know of the even greater number of films that have been flat out horrible. As in, what-kind-of-studio-would-ever-want-to-adapt-this-for-film horrible. But literary adaptations aren’t going anywhere.

The Hunger Games movies have been adapted quite well, in my opinion. As were the Potter films and John Green’s mega-bestseller The Fault in Our Stars. The LOTR films are probably my favorite adaptations ever. Gone Girl was released just last week to critical acclaim.

But you know the movies that are good and those that aren’t, so I won’t continue with my little list there. But am I the only person who thinks there may be a correlation between the quality of the book and the quality of the theatrical adaptation? I know not everyone loves every book or movie, but it seems to me that books that are nearly universally liked adapt well into film. Not because people like the book, but because it’s high quality. Sometimes the book is higher quality than the movie, but only once can I think of the movie actually being better than the book.

For instance, the Twilight movies were not very good at all. I’ll admit to having seen every one of them, but come on. The Hobbit movies are not on par with the book. Bad movies can come from bad books. And bad movies can come from great books. But great movies do not come from bad books. It just doesn’t happen. That’s the point that I’m trying to make.

If you see a bad movie adapted from a book, then you may or may not choose to go read the book to compare the two. But if you see a truly great movie adapted from a book, then you absolutely need to read the book because you’ll likely enjoy it even more than the movie. Even though you’ve likely already read it.

Have you ever judged a book by its movie? And do you agree that great movies typically come from great books?

Read a Banned Book This Week

HT_banned_books_week_jt_130921_wmain_16x9_992

Photo Credit: EventKeeper

I think Banned Books Week actually began yesterday, but I was too busy writing about candlelight to remember that I wanted to write a post about it. Whoops.

So, it’s officially Banned Books Week 2014. Don’t you think this week should be a bit more celebrated than it is? I mean, I would be willing to put a whole lot of money on the fact that no one in my family even knows about it. I wish someone would give me that opportunity so I could become an instant millionaire. But no, no one has asked me to bet any money. It’s an unfortunate occurrence. But now you get to hear about it from me.

Each year the American Library Association releases its annual list of most challenged books. These challenges are not astronomical numbers, but they do happen and come from religious groups, parents, and sometimes even teachers. Don’t be misled by the name of the annual list or by the name of the week itself. These books aren’t banned, just challenged. Well I guess technically some books are actually banned in other parts of the world where banned books is a real thing, but that has nothing to do with what I’m writing here.

So the ALA releases its list relatively early in the year and then celebrates Banned Books Week a little later on. Now I know what you’re wondering. How can you celebrate? Simple, read a book from the list. Or two. Or the top ten. Here’s a refresher of the current list of the most banned books.

1. Captain Underpants (series) by Dav Pilkey

2. The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison

3. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian bu Sherman Alexie

4. Fifty Shades of Grey by EL James

5. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

6.  A Bad Boy can be Good for a Girl by Tanya Lee Stone

7. Looking for Alaska by John Green

8. The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

9. Bless me, Ultima by Rudolfo Anaya

10. Bone (series) by Jeff Smith

So there you have the top ten. And if you’re in a celebratory mood and feel like reading one of the books listed, then I’d suggest tackling #5. But that’s just me.

How are you celebrating Banned Books Week?

Also, if you’re interested in my thoughts about each book on the list, check out this post from earlier this year in which I discuss each book.

Can you Name a Single Favorite Author?

imagesooo

Photo Credit: 3rd Grade’s a Hoot

In the last few months I’ve talked about my favorite series of books and also my favorite protagonist, but does that necessarily mean that the author of those books is my favorite? I don’t know. Actually, I do. No it doesn’t. If you missed that post I’ll link to it at the end of this, but let’s just say that my favorite series revolves around my favorite protagonist who sometimes goes by the Girl on Fire. I sincerely hope that you know who she is. If not, your life is probably a mess. Just kidding. Not really.

Okay. So now I have to dive into who I think is my single favorite author. If it’s possible to have a single favorite. This is one of those questions that always depends on when you ask. I’d be willing to bet that many people today would name John Green or Veronica Roth as their favorite. Understandable, but I don’t think one’s favorite author should always be changing. I’ve had just two books make the top of my best books read list since I first started it. I think the list has over 120 titles. See, I think one’s favorite author should be treated similarly. If they are truly your favorite, then they should remain so for some time. Not two weeks until you read the next book you deem to be the best ever.

So now that I’ve eliminated Suzanne Collins from the competition, let me see who else might make the top of the pile. Robert B. Parker. I think by the time I’m 35 or 40 I’ll have every book he ever wrote. The number is around 70 divided between several different series. But I don’t think he’s my favorite. Marcus Sakey. He has a handful of books that were truly great. I actually remember the story of every one. Somewhat. But his two most recent books are part of a trilogy that I’ll never read. Much too sci-fi for me when he’s a crime writer. I think there are only two more authors who are seriously in the running for the coveted title of John Guillen’s Favorite Author Award.

Michael Connelly. This guy just does not know how to write a mediocre novel. Harry Bosch is probably the best detective series I’ve read. I’ve also read one of his Mickey Haller novels, great. I really have nothing negative to say about his writing style or any of his books.

Robert Crais. He’s here because of Elvis Cole, who heavily influenced my own Andrew Banks. Again, nothing negative to say about any of his books I’ve read. It took me a long time to start the series because of the title of the first book. I kept hesitating to take a chance, but the climax of that first one was so intense that it was one of those rare times when you can’t read the words fast enough.

After a lot of thought, I can’t pick a winner. These two are the best of the best when it comes to crime fiction today. I deem the competition a tie.

But maybe you can. Do you have a single favorite author who isn’t just whomever is in the spotlight at the moment?

What’s That one Series of Books You Won’t Forget?

Recommending Books

indexllllll

I’ve written posts about all things books. Writing. Reading. Publishing. And just general news. The one thing I’ve tried stay away from doing is actively recommending books. I’ve written a few posts about the books I’ve read this year from the Amazon 100 Books Everyone Should Read List, but even then I don’t think I recommended any of those to my readers.

You may be wondering why I try not to recommend books. Well, because there is no “if you liked this, then you’ll definitely like this.” Just because you did doesn’t mean I will. For example, most of you know that I’m obsessed with Katniss and all things THG, and yes I would recommend those three books to anyone, no matter what they say their genre of choice is because I think those books transcend the YA dystopian genre, but those are the only ones.

I won’t tell you that if you enjoy reading crime novels that you should read every book on my shelf since it’s about 90% detective fiction. I won’t tell you to read my most recent read because I liked it so much. One thing I’ll  never do is gift someone a book. Because what the heck do I know about their reading habits? Nothing.

One other quick example. I thoroughly enjoyed reading The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. I thought it was a great book, but it doesn’t mean I’m suddenly going to buy all of his previous books or that I’m going to delve deeper into YA. I don’t think either of those is going to happen right now. I read what I read and if it happens to be mystery or YA or sci-fi, then so be it. No single book or recommendation will be changing that.

If you’re wondering, the one book that doesn’t belong in a series that I’d recommend to any person is Anne Frank. But that’s it.

Amazon’s List of 100 Books Everyone Should Read: The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

The_Fault_in_Our_Stars

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

First off, I KNOW you guys didn’t believe my whole thing yesterday about going to the World Cup. Come on. I work weekends. I don’t have anything remotely resembling a rich family or girlfriend/wife. So where the heck would I get the thousands of dollars I’d need to be traveling for two months? The lottery? No.

Back to this post. You guys might have forgotten that I decided to tackle all the books on this list when it was first released in February. This will be the fourth book I read from the list since then and the seventh book I’ve read from it overall. But enough with the pleasantries, you guys probably want to know what I thought of the book.

Fault in Our Stars

I know I don’t need to waste time telling you guys what the book is about because who hasn’t read this book, so I’m not. Hazel Grace Lancaster and Augustus Waters meet at their cancer Support Group and everything that follows is nothing short of wonderful.

My Thoughts

I’m writing the rest of this under the impression that you’ve read the book, if not, this is your warning to turn your eyes away from the screen. Well, this book has a huge amount of hype going right now. For me, I think it was able to live up to it. Let me tell you the million and one things that I liked about it. LOVED Hazel and Augustus as characters, as a couple, as thinkers, basically everything about them. Loved Hazel’s approach to everything. Loved how they both could quote An Imperial Affliction like no tomorrow. Excuse the language, but I loved how amidst everything that was going on between her and Augustus and her illness, Hazel was able to call Peter Van Houten on his shit. Yes, of course it’s later revealed that he had a daughter who died of cancer at the so very young age of eight, and Hazel changed it up a bit from constantly yelling at him.

I realize my thoughts are just spilling out at random, but that’s okay. I thought it was seriously fantastic that Augustus Waters called her Hazel Grace throughout the entire book even though at the very start she told him just Hazel. And I thought it was great to see that Hazel rarely broke down for any reason during the book. I’m thinking when she lay in her backyard in front of the swing set and of course after Augustus died. Both times guess who ultimately cheered her up, Gus.

Lastly, you all are probably wondering if I cried even though I’ve mentioned that I’m a notorious cryer when reading books. Yes. Just once, at the very end as Hazel is reading what Gus sent Van Houten before he died. This was the line that got me for some reason. I was at 98% on my Kindle.

“-I was wondering if you could write a eulogy for Hazel. I’ve got notes and everything, but if you could just make it into a coherent whole or whatever?”

He was dying and he knew it, and he STILL couldn’t stop thinking about Hazel. I mean, seriously, how freaking great is that? So yes, I cried the whole time as Hazel read what Gus so eloquently wrote to Van Houten about her.

You guys may or may not remember that I rank all the books I read. The books from the Amazon list rank as follows: Anne Frank is #1, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone is #22, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is unranked, and this one comes in at #13 just behind The Hunger Games on my list.

Now if only I could find a girl who’s read this book, then maybe I might go see the movie.

Oh, and tell me Hazel Grace Lancaster isn’t the greatest name in the history of ever.

And the Most Banned Book of 2013 is…

ImagePhoto Credit: AbeBooks

Actually, I’m not sure if this list is 2013 or 2014, but let’s just say 2013. Eh. Before we delve into the list let me first say that I see no point in banning books at all. Actually, I do have one exception. I apologize beforehand if you happen to be a fan of this author or her writing, but there’s an author on WordPress who writes a series of stories that follow a stepbrother and stepsister who are involved with each other. Sexually. Yeah, ban that. Ban it here. On Amazon. Everywhere. And the titles of the books are so horrible. Ugh. I’m leaving it alone. Other than that, I’d say most everything else is fair game.

10. Bone (series) by Jeff Smith

I honestly have never heard of this series of books. But the reasons listed for its placement on this list were political viewpoint, racism, and violence. I won’t comment because I simply am unaware. I will say that the cover shown in the article I’m referencing looks to be aimed at children. I think it would be understandable for a book aimed toward a younger audience to be included on this list if it has racism and violence.

9. Bless me Ultima by Rudolfo Anaya

Another book I’m unfamiliar with. The reasons given were Satanism, offensive language, religious viewpoint, and sexually explicit. Hmm. Okay.

8. The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

I haven’t read the book, but I have seen the movie. I thought it was great. But I also find its placement on this understandable. I mean, this is geared toward teens, right? Well the nature and things discussed in the book are definitely serious in nature. The reasons given were drugs/alcohol/smoking, homosexuality, sexually explicit, unsuited for age group. Can’t say I disagree with any of those. Though this is a book I want to read at some point since I’ve seen the movie.

7. Looking for Alaska by John Green

Hasn’t John Green become something of a superstar recently? I’ve never read his books but I hear his name all the time and see blog posts about him just as often. I assume this is a YA book? The reasons given were drugs/alcohol/smoking, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group. And here I thought YA was all about vampires and paranormal romances. Guess not. But then again I have no earthly idea what this about.

6. A Bad Boy Can be Good for a Girl by Tanya Lee Stone

I’m starting to see a patten here. The reasons given were drugs/alcohol/smoking, nudity, explicit language, sexually explicit. Never read this. Never will. Moving on.

5. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

WHAAAAAAAATTTTTTTTT?! Last I checked Katniss isn’t running around having sex with everyone or drinking or smoking or anything besides trying to stay alive! This is stupid. Do I agree with this making the list? No. Do I understand it making the list? No. Do I want to find someone who helped come up with the list and punch them in the face? Yes. The reasons given were religious viewpoint and unsuited to age group. Shut up. Before I get angry.

4. Fifty Shades of Grey by EL James

I can honestly say that there was not single tidbit of surprise in me when I saw this book made the list. I mean, it doesn’t get any more self-explanatory than this, right? I’m not going to list the reasons given because you all know them already. If you don’t, good. Stay away from the internet!

3. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

Never read, Reasons given were drugs/alcohol/smoking, offensive language, racism, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group. I’m assuming that this is another YA book or geared toward even younger audiences because that seems to always be the case when you see “unsuited to age group.”

2. The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison

I thought Toni Morrison was one of those authors who everyone loves today? I’ve never read her books, but I swear I’ve read plenty about her. Hm. Reasons: offensive language, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group, violence. What’s with all the sex and drugs in these books? I guess someone’s got to write about it all, right?

1. Captain Underpants (series) by Dav Pilkey

Ha. Seriously, this just tells me what a joke this list is. I mean, most of the books are so understandable that explanations aren’t necessary when you see the content you’re dealing with. But this? Really? I remember EVERYONE reading these books when I was in elementary school. I never read one, but everyone else did. Because they were pretty funny, I assume. Reasons: offensive language, unsuited to age group, violence. I’m done. This is no longer relevant. To find this book on the same list as some of the other titles. And I’m seeing here that it’s not the first time it’s made it. Oh well.

So there you have the most banned books of 2013. What do you think? If you’re anything like me, about a third of the list is a laughing stock.

You can read an article about the list on The Huffington Post here.