Now that we are in 2015, it is time to look back at the previous year and review the best and the worst that I have read and reviewed. I am breaking the awards down into a few categories this year.
Gavel Award for Best First Novel – This will go to best book I READ in 2014 that was a first effort for the author.
Gavel Award for Best Thriller – This will go to the best mystery or thriller I READ in 2014
Gavel Award for Best Fantasy or Sci-Fi – This will go to the best Fantasy or Sci-Fi novel I READ in 2014.
Gavel Award for Best Historical Fiction – This will go to the best Historical Fiction novel I READ in 2014.
Gavel Award for Best Indie Novel – This will go to the best self published or indie published book I READ in 2014.
Gavel Awards for Best Novel – This will go to the best Novel of Any Genre that I read in 2014 that was published in 2014. There will be Bronze, Silver and Gold Gavels awarded.
Gavel Award for Favorite New (to Me) Author – This will go to the best new to me author I discovered in 2014.
Broken Gavel Award – These will go to my least favorite books READ in 2014. There will be Bronze, Silver and Gold.
Finally, I will present my 2014 Top Ten List with my favorite reads of 2014. Let the show begin!
Gavel Award for Best First Novel
The Name of the Wind – I can hardly believe that this is the first novel by Patrick Rothfuss. It is written with such skill and grace you would imagine that this was written by a well seasoned author. Of all of the first novels I have read this year, none of them come anywhere close to this accomplishment. This is Fantasy meets Literary Fiction and should appeal to readers who generally avoid fantasy.
Gavel Award for Best Thriller
Rubbernecker – This was the most difficult award to choose. For me, it was the year of the Mystery and the Thriller. A large chunk of my reading was devoted to this genre. There was some good competition from The Faces of the Gone, Heartsick, Sworn to Silence , The Secret Place and The Facts of Life and Death. Rubbernecker stands out as the most memorable of the lot. The story told from the perspectives of a young man with Asperger’s and man in a coma which was both fascinating and entertaining. A highly recommended read.
Gavel Award for Best Fantasy or Sci-Fi
The Name of the Wind – This really was not a competition. Although I did read some excellent 5 Star Fantasy and Sci-Fi this year, very little can stand up to what will likely become a modern classic.
Gavel Award for Best Historical Fiction
An Officer and a Spy – As usual, I read some very fine Historical Fiction in 2014 but An Officer and a Spy distinguished itself from the rest. This one had me contemplating the story and the events for many days after I finished reading. This is really a Historical Fiction Mystery and Robert Harris wrote a masterpiece with this one.
Gavel Award for Best Indie Novel
Wool – This is generally an award I would not give out. Most years my experience with self published and Indie published books is dismal. This year I read a couple of good ones in Wool, The Warrior and Blood Song. I never did get around to reviewing Wool, but it has become a success story for the Self Published. The Author, Hugh Howey, was so successful in the sales of his work (This the first part of a Trilogy) that he eventually signed a publishing deal to re-release the books for a very hefty profit. Very excellent Science Fiction. I have linked this to the Goodreads site, you can see for yourself.
Gavel Awards for Best Novel (2014)
The Secret Place – The was easily my most anticipated new read for 2014. This novel, Published September 2, 2014 is the fifth book in Tana French’s bestselling series. Most fans of the series will enjoy and appreciate the fluid grace with which Tana writes and this engaging story.
Skin Game – This is the 15th book in Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files. It is fair to say that this one took me by surprise. The series had taken a sharp 90 degree turn as the author has been evolving a new story arc. Up to this point I “wasn’t feeling it”. Fortunately, Butcher wrote this amazing book which may stand as the best in the series.
The Facts of Life and Death – This wonderfully atmospheric novel was published in March of 2014. While many of my favorite authors published books in 2014, this one stands above the rest. I found myself transported into the world of little Ruby Trick. This is one of the best books that Belinda Bauer has written and a must read.
Gavel Award for Favorite New (to Me) Author
Belinda Bauer – I read many new to me authors in 2014 but none of them impacted me like Belinda Bauer. Her writing, style and characterizations are pitch perfect and after reading Rubbernecker, The Facts of Life and Death and Blacklands, she ranks alongside my favorite authors. I have been recommending her book wherever I go!
Broken Gavel Award
Unfortunately, not everything I read was a winner. There were certainly a few duds this year and a CLEAR Gold Gavel winning loser!
The Kite Runner – This is one in which it appears that I am in the minority. This story about a young Afghan boy’s childhood was a painful read for me. It was very emotional but not at all fulfilling. The main character was not likeable and the writing often felt manipulative. It did not work for me. That said, I don’t feel it completely lacks in merit. The writing is good and you may not share my dislikes.
The Valley of Horses – This one may go down as the worst follow up I have every read! I named The Clan of the Cave Bear as my #7 favorite read of 2013 and expected greatness from the second in the series. What I got is what people have referred to as “Ice Age Porn”. That is clearly over exaggerating but I cannot overstate how disappointing this one was. That said, this is one of my favorite reviews from 2014!
The Alchemist – There was no real competition for worst book of the year. The Alchemist easily made its way onto the list of worst books I have every read. While I did not enjoy the Kite Runner, I can understand why so many people enjoyed it. In the case of The Alchemist, I am baffled how this tale is loved by so many people. I will not repeat my rant in this post, you can read the review to feel my rage. This misleading, pompous and self important “morality tale” belongs in the trash, not your bookshelf. That said, it was also the most popular and searched for review on my website this year. Go figure!
And Now…for my favorite part of the year. My list of my favorite reads of 2014. Some of these were published in 2014 and some of them well before. The list simply reflects what I most enjoyed reading this year across the genres. For 2014 I read a total of 107 book so I had substantial material from which to make this list. In decending order,
10. Genghis: Birth of An Empire by Conn Iggulden
Genre – Historical Fiction
Series – Conqueror #1
Stars – 5
This was some very exciting Historical Fiction. Going into this book, I had very little knowledge of Genghis Khan. I didn’t even know that Genghis Khan was his title, not his name. This first book details the early years of the life of Temujin, the man who would ultimately be known as Genghis. This one has everything you need for excitement. There is action, drama, romance and suspense. The author does an amazing job of making history come alive. I have read the first three books in the series and can recommend it to fans of Historical fiction and especially those who enjoy military aspects.
9. The Secret Place by Tana French
Genre – Mystery/Thriller
Series – Dublin Murder Squad #5
Stars – 5
I was looking forward to this book for well over a year and Tana French did not disappoint me. There is a reason I consider her to be my favorite author. Her style is second to none and her ability to dig into the minds of her characters always leave me intrigued and thinking well after the book is done. Generally, I would listen to the audio versions of this series but obtained an advance copy on ebook. The reading experience was just as good as the listening experience. I recommend this series as often as I can. While it is the fifth book in a series, the books are only loosely connected an you can read this one without having read the first four.
8. Skin Game by Jim Butcher
Genre – Urban Fantasy
Series – The Dresden Files
Stars – 5
I would not have expected to rate the 15th book in a series so highly. Before reading the Dresden files, I had never been able to read more that 8 books in a series. Jim Butcher is a master storyteller and manages to keep the series fresh. This installment took me by surprise and may be my favorite installment yet. He took good old Harry Dresden and tells a supernatural “Oceans 11” style tale. I really recommend you start this series from the beginning, so if you haven’t, what are you waiting for?
7. American Gods by Neil Gaiman
Genre – Urban Fantasy
Series – American Gods #1
Stars – 5
Apparently, I was one of the few people who had not yet experienced the phenomena that is Neil Gaiman. I rectified that in 2014 and I am glad that I did. This is a very unique story of an average Joe on a supernatural road trip. This is intelligent fantasy at its best. There are messages in the book and whether or not you accept Gaiman’s position on life, love, religion and United States of America, you cannot deny this is a masterpiece of Urban Fantasy. This is not a book everyone will enjoy. I suggest you read my review to determine if this one is up your alley.
6. The Bone Collector by Jeffrey Deaver
Genre – Mystery/Crime/Thriller
Series – Lincoln Rhyme #1
Stars – 5
I read this one at the end of 2014 and in fact, have not yet posted the review to the site. I have linked you to my unedited review on Goodreads. This was one of the most exciting books I read in 2014. The story is of a quadriplegic forensic expert and his newly minted partner. I found the setup to be fascinating and social issues dealt with to be fascinating. This one was first published in 1997 with a movie not too long after. I realize that I am quite late to this party but I suspect there is much more Lincoln Rhyme in my future.
5. The Facts of Life and Death by Belinda Bauer
Genre – Crime/Mystery/Thriller
Stars – 5
This may very well be one of the most atmospheric books I have read this year. Belinda Bauer is superb at making her setting a character in the story. The human characters are also quite compelling in this coming of age mystery. The combination of excellent writing, excellent characterization and superb setting are reasons why I made this my number 5 pick for 2014 and the best 2014 published book I read in 2014. Belinda Bauer is a can’t miss author in my opinion.
4. An Officer and A Spy by Robert Harris
Genre – Historical Fiction/Mystery
Stars – 5
This one was read on the recommendation of a Goodreads friend. At the time, it was only minimally on my radar. I am glad I took his advice. Of all the books I read this year, An Officer and a Spy is likely the one that kept me thinking the longest after reading it. It deals with an historical event that was unknown to me before I read of it in this book. It is filled with a complex mix of themes including duty, abuse of power, racism and corruption. While some may not enjoy the slow pacing of the book, you will be well rewarded by this excellent story if you chose to read it.
3. Rubbernecker by Belinda Bauer
Genre – Crime/Mystery
Stars – 5
For much of the year, I thought this would end up my #1 read for 2014. It certainly has the chops to take that place in most years. I found myself completely intrigued by this offbeat mystery told from the perspectives of a young man with Aspberger’s and a man in a coma. The story telling is a quirky but it is no one trick pony. I found myself fascinated with the characters and truly felt that I could not take my eyes from the story and the havoc created by the protagonist. The title of the book is quite apt as the reader takes the role of a Rubbernecker in the story as the disaster passes you by. A highly original and highly recommended read.
2. The Bottom of the 33rd by Dan Barry
Genre – NonFiction/Sports
Stars – 5
I picked this book up just before leaving on vacation to celebrate my 10 year anniversary. It was not on my radar when I bought it but I really just wanted to find a book about baseball. Without a doubt, this was one of the most emotional reads I had in 2014. Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t shedding any tears reading about a 33 inning baseball game but it stirred up all of the emotions I had felt in my 30 plus years of loving baseball. Feelings of friends, family, hopes and dreams all wrapped up into a game I love. This is best non fiction I have ever read and I highly recommend it to any fan who loves the game of baseball.
1. The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss
Genre – Fantasy/Literary Fiction
Series – The Kingkiller Chronicles #1
Stars – 5
After reading this masterwork of Fantasy Fiction, there was no doubt in would top my list as the best book I read in 2014. After reading it, it was quickly added to my list of 10 favorite books of all time. Patrick Rothfuss proves in this book that fantasy can truly cross the genre boundaries and the superb writing is not the exclusive domain of “highbrow” literary fiction. If you value superb prose, there is not much better than this. While this book is lengthy, you should not be disappointed with the amazing experience that is The Name of the Wind.