Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Books I Read in 2014

Well, I can't believe this year is almost over! It's really flown by, but I did manage to read more this year than I did last year, and I completed half of my resolution from last year! I did actually start a book journal, and kept reviews of what I read. I did NOT read 1 non-fiction for every 5 fiction books, though, but I am pleased that half of my book resolution was successful, and I hope I'll read more non-fiction this year. As usual, I did read the Bible and my two small devotionals every day, and I've been reading in my tuning text book, and selections from the other books required for the course, but I'm not counting those.

Missing 15 and 17 on the list, the flowered book is my journal.

1. Tomorrow by Maria Edgeworth (1823) - Recommend
     I started the year off with a book that shows you the devastation that can occur from procrastination. It was frightening to see what happened to the procrastinating hero due to his bad habit of procrastination about EVERYTHING. Very motivational beginning to the year for me.

2.   Emma by Jane Austen - Recommend
     I've read Emma several times before, of course, this time I was reading it with my younger brother as he was studying British Literature. I'd never noticed before how truly unlikeable and flawed Emma is, I've always forgiven her mistakes and liked her anyway, but this time I was struck by how talented Austen is to create such a realistic and annoying character, and yet make us love her anyway, and even believe that Mr. Knightley could love her. 

3. The Screwtape Letters by C. S. Lewis - Recommend
    Sometimes amusing, often sobering, I always enjoy this eye-opening fictional imagination of how demons may try to influence our lives. It's a short book, I read it in one afternoon babysitting while my little charge was napping, and I think it's worth rereading often, as a very useful reminder that "we wrestle not with flesh and blood."

4. Divergent by Veronica Roth - Undecided
    Even though I saw the movie first, and that perhaps gave the movie an unfair advantage in my opinion, I liked the movie better. I couldn't help but compare Roth's style of writing to Suzanne Collins's, and it came up quite inferior. The movie cuts some of the uncomfortable romantic scenes, makes more sense, flows more concisely, has a better characterization of Tris (didn't like book Tris at ALL) and much better personalization of Four/Tobias. Thankfully, I read it so quickly that it wasn't too much of a waste of my time.

5. Insurgent by Veronica Roth - Do NOT recommend
    Yes, okay, I disliked Divergent, but I couldn't get the interesting world out of my head, and I wanted to know what happened next without waiting for the movie. It got me through a tedious day in the car. I was disappointed by the lack of character development, and dizzied by the confusing, whirlwind tour of their city. I definitely felt that Roth's already lacking writing abilities took a further decline in this book. 

6. Allegiant by Veronica Roth - Do NOT recommend
   I am ashamed that I caved and read the 3rd book. I had a spoiler for the end, and I didn't enjoy the writing in Insurgent, but I only lasted a week before giving in. I didn't think the writing could get worse, but it did. I didn't think the characters could get worse, but they did. Besides that, she ruined the cool world, threw all kinds of mess in, wrote way too many inappropriate scenes for Tobias and Tris, and did the ending in the absolute worst way possible. It was horrific. I don't think she had a plan for this series past the first book, and I sometimes wondered if she'd even had an editor.

7. Little Dorrit by Charles Dickens - Recommend
   After all that awfulness, I decided to read a good classic. We watched the lovely miniseries, which is what finally inspired me to plunge into another Dickens. Well, actually, it inspired Sarah, and I had to wait for her to finish before I could read our copy. I've read Dickens before, and had begun to think that I would rather just read Austen. Well, Austen may be easier to digest, but after LD, I fully appreciate Dickens! This was a very good read, and in spite of the daunting length, a good intro book for someone just starting Dickens, I think. Great Expectations is shorter, but I didn't enjoy it nearly as well. Little Amy was a wonderful character. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it, even though I expected to like it in the first place!

8. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green - Undecided
    I actually took a short break in between book 1 and book 2 of Little Dorrit to read this, because Sarah wanted to see the movie, and she insisted that I read the book first. I wasn't even sure I wanted to read or see a story about two cancer patients who fall in love (I could tell from the trailer it was going to contain death and sadness) and if it weren't for Shailene Woodley, I probably wouldn't have. I went in steeled against any tear-jerking, and not one tear did I shed. I enjoyed the funny parts, but the sad parts didn't touch me, not even a lump in my throat. (The movie was different, that did wrench some emotion from me...) It was well-written, but definitely not very appropriate, and one I won't likely read again.

9. Death by the Book by Julianna Deering - Recommend
    My fun summer read! I enjoy Deering's vintage-style murder mysteries very much. I was a little disturbed by the motive for the murder, and who the murderer was, but I guess murder should always be disturbing. The Christian additions are nice, not too preachy, and it's pleasant to have a good, Christian character to rely on in one's hero.

10. Murder at the Mikado by Julianna Deering - Recommend
      Second fun summer read! I enjoyed the mystery better in this one, but the characters got a little stale, and the conflict was mostly irritating, and seemed like nothing more than a silly plot manipulation, because I knew it would work out fine in the end. Looking forward to more!

11. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen - Recommend
      Can't let a year go by without reading P&P at least once! This time I was taking notes on income, numbers and signs of social status (servants, etc.) as research for a post I hope to do soon about why the 2005 P&P makes the Bennets look too poor and the wrong social status. I also noticed more of what was happening with Mr. Collins, and also Elizabeth's interest in Wickham and Colonel Fitzwilliam. I hadn't really realized before that Wickham and Colonel Fitzwilliam were almost sort of suitors, and that Elizabeth would possibly have entertained the notion of accepting one of them, had they asked her! I still can't choose a favorite Austen, but I do love P&P.

12. The Romance of the Forest by Ann Radcliffe - Recommend
      Though it has only the dubious recommendation of Harriet Smith, I enjoyed Udolpho last year and decided to read another Radcliffe. I was amazed at some of the scenes that were clearly parodied in Northanger! For some reason I felt that it was mostly Udolpho being parodied, but clearly it was the entire genre, and there is actually a scene in Romance that nearly exactly appears in Northanger - when Catherine discovered the papers and then her candle is extinguished! Except, of course, in Romance is actually a tale of woe and horror, and not just laundry lists. So much fun to read! And it makes Northanger SO much funnier to understand the gothic novel! Anyone who likes Northanger at all should read at least one gothic novel.

13. The Giver by Lois Lowry - Recommend
      Yet another on my list of dystopian fiction this year. This one was written a while ago, and it's a nice, short book. The background, whys and reasoning aren't explained really, but it's an interesting commentary on humanity and feelings. It made an interesting movie, too.

14. The Maze Runner by James Dashner - Undecided
      I guess I could label this year as "the year of dystopian addiction in which no story was quite as satisfactory as the Hunger Games." Maze Runner is basically for guys... a little too sci-fi for my taste, very lacking in character development, the monsters are ridiculous... and that's saying something compared to the HG creatures. Another book where the movie was better, I think, sadly. I liked the main character better in the movie, anyway.

15. Death on the Nile by Agatha Christie - Recommend
      I am a little ashamed to announce that this was my first Christie. I grew up reading all kinds of mysteries, Nancy Drew, Hardy boys, Boxcar kids, Mandie, Bobbsey twins... and I've watched a lot of Marple and Poirot, but never read it until now. Oh my goodness, what I was missing out on! Christie isn't called the queen of mystery for nothing! It was fabulous, and the characters are amazingly realistic. Must read more!

16. Scorch Trials by James Dashner - Not recommended
      Even with Christie fresh in my mind, somehow my weird addiction to dystopian drew me back to the uncompelling Maze Runner series. This book has a terrible case of middle book syndrome, where the world and plot got more ridiculous and tedious. As if the first book wasn't distasteful enough for me, this one throws in a zombie-like element. I wondered the whole time why I was even reading it.

17. The Death Cure by James Dashner - Not recommended
      You're not surprised. I finished Roth's series, why not find out how this ends? It was a very unsatisfying finale. New levels of gross were reached, one of the characters that I was finally starting to like met a gruesome end when I was hoping he'd be saved, and the plot was tired and uninteresting. I thought there would be a twist, but there wasn't. I may not even watch the movie, thankfully I have a few years to get over my dystopian addiction. 

18. Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie -Recommend
      Nothing much to say since I don't want to spoil the mystery, again, a truly enthralling mystery. I really enjoy Christie's writing style, and hope to read every single one, eventually!

19. Dumb Witness by Agatha Christie - Recommend
      In an interesting change for me, this book was from Hastings's perspective! Christie's writing talent can handle many switches I imagine, this book was just as delightful as the others. I can't believe I waited so long to start, thinking they would be boring! Oh my!

20. Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen - Recommend
      Taking a little break from Christie to read some less mind-exercising literature... I can't let a year pass by without reading S&S any more than I could P&P. I can't choose a favorite book, but one thing I have decided, Elinor is my Austen role model. I think I am naturally too much like the negative parts of Lizzy, and I wish to be more like Elinor. Her strength, and effort for serenity through her suffering is inspiring.

21. Stepping Heavenward by Elizabeth Prentiss - Recommend
      I love the growth and alteration in the heroine as she becomes more and more like Christ. Her early days are much like I tend to be, willful, defiant and fiery, and through the grace of God becomes a sweet, faithful, totally surrendered woman of God. It's so inspiring, and I hope that I may grow to be so changed. I intend to read this book more often.

22. North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell - Recommend
      This was my second time reading N&S, and I enjoyed it so much better! The movie, while very enjoyable, did not give me a good opinion of Margaret, so it took the second read for me to develop my own character for her, and I found that I liked her very much! But Mr. Thornton is still my favorite. Richard Armitage did a great job in the movie, but the script really didn't do his character justice either. The book is so much better!

23. Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen - Recommend
      I decided to round out the year by another read through of what is definitely the funniest Austen. It was funny enough the first time I read it, some of Mr. Tilney's lines make me laugh out loud, and Catherine is such a funny heroine, but it is even funnier now that I understand the gothic novels it's parodying! Such fun.

How many of these books have you read? What's on your To-Read list for 2015? Happy New Year!