Favorite Books of the Year: 2014

Most of the books on this list are part of series. I read mostly fiction, and lots of weird stuff. For the books on the list that I previously wrote a review of, I have supplied links to the reviews below, in case you’re curious.

Also, the first four books on this list are self-published fiction by new or first-time authors. I tried to branch out with my reading this year, and I’m very glad I did. Don’t believe everything you hear about self-published books: there’s more than enough quality out there if you take time to sort through the incredible number of titles available.

Titles that are preceded by an asterisk (*) were not new releases in 2014, but I read them this year, so I’m putting them on the list.

Necromancer Awakening: Book One of The Mukhtaar Chronicles by Nat Russo

Nat Russo is one of my favorite new authors.  After reading the first book of his Mukhtaar Chronicles, I immediately added his other title, The Road To Dar Rodon, to my TBR list. Necromancer Awakening tells the story of Nicholas, an archeologist from a modern-day Earth, who gets sucked out of his apartment and transported to a realm of magic and fantastical beings, where he discovers that he’s the scion of an empire and learns to channel the force known as Necropotency.

Russo’s skill as a writer and worldbuilder is evident, and I was impressed by the ways that he brought a fresh feel to some of the most familiar elements of the fantasy genre. He tells a very well-known kind of story, but his characters, setting, and the language he uses all combine to make for a very refreshing read.

Necromancer Awakening is proof that self-published works can be equal to, or in this case above, the quality of traditionally-published books. This novel was better than many of the fantasy novels I have found being sold in bookstores. Great characters, exciting magic and lots of promise for future entries in this series. I might have to go back and give this one a full review soon, because there’s a lot to be said about it.

The Soul and the Seed by Arie Farnam

You can read my review of The Soul and the Seed here.

The short version: I loved this book. I’ve read the first two of this series, and I will be diving into the third soon.

Whatever you want to call it, Urban/Modern Fantasy or Dystopia, the story pulled me in and repeatedly impressed me with its refusal to use cliches or get stuck in genre tropes. The focus here is on characters, and each one enriched my experience of the novel. It’s packed with emotion and some very important musings on the nature of our world, hidden in between the lines of Arie Farnam’s haunting vision of a world where no one can be trusted.

*The Beam by Sean Platt and Johnny B. Truant

You can read my review of The Beam here.

This one has a little bit of everything, and it’s crazy fun. Known for releasing their stories in serialized form, authors Sean Platt and Johnny B. Truant write their stuff the way they want to, and the results are great. I couldn’t do the plot justice here if I tried, but here’s the basics: a super-internet, known as The Beam, has become the foundation of the North American Union, and it controls every aspect of life. Every citizen is given a Beam ID, a unique signature that is part of their body, and every six years there is a period known as Shift, when people are given the choice to choose which party they’ll be a member of for the next six years. Choose Directorate and have all of your needs taken care of by the NAU, whether you work or not. Choose Enterprise and you’re own your own, but there’s no limit to the wealth and power you can attain. It’s a dark, timely vision of what the future might look like, and it’s got a great cast of characters with a little something for everyone.

The one caveat here: the authors have chosen to write this series in the form of “seasons.” The first volume is not entirely self-contained, but instead an introduction to a much larger world.

Vacationland by Greg Letellier

Vacationland is not a very long read, but the short stories in this collection are full of the things that make up dense fiction, the kind of prose that asks to be taken in slowly. Unlike most of the books on this list, Vacationland isn’t full of action or fantastic settings. No, the power of these stories lies in their explorations of the mundane and everyday, and in the ways that they delve into their characters’ average but profound experiences. A promising start from a debut author.

*NOS4A2 by Joe Hill

If you haven’t heard of Joe Hill yet, I’m guessing you’re not a fan of horror. NOS4A2 is Hill’s most ambitious novel to date, and I enjoyed every word of it. Trust me, you’ve never read a vampire story like this one before.

*The Gazetteer Writer’s Manual by Deborah Teramis Christian and Bruce A. Heard

This one will probably only appeal to my fellow writers, especially those that work in the science-fiction and fantasy genres. The Gazetteer Writer’s Manual is a book for authors and gamers that takes you through the process of creating a fully-fleshed out gazetteer, or guide, to a fictional setting. Some of the advice inside is tailored specifically for those designing RPG settings and other gaming materials, but the vast majority of it is useful to any author that’s looking for questions and exercises to help develop their fictional settings. Rather than attempt to tell you exactly how to create a setting, the book centers around an extensive series of questions and prompts that will allow you to stretch your fiction-muscles and put together a resource that can be kept as an author’s aid or turned into a companion piece that will help introduce readers to a fictional world.

It’s stuffed full of material, almost to a ridiculous point, but if you’re anything like me, you’ll appreciate that. A lot of what’s in it might seem like common sense if you’ve spent any significant amount of time creating settings for tabletop games like D&D, but even still, I’d argue that it’s worth the price for the sheer amount of solid advice inside. I read a variety of different books on the subject of worldbuilding this year, and this was the best of the bunch by far.

Next up here on the blog, I’ll be telling everyone about my resolutions for 2015 and giving some updates about what I’ve been working on lately.


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