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My Top Ten of 2014 - Jessie J.

SagaKeeping the Top Tens going (and your request lists growing), we present Jessie J. of RCL - Roseville's Top Ten of 2014:

Once again, dear reader, its that time of year. I have worked tirelessly this year to bring you only the suitable, nay, the worthy to your attention. From the 105 possible books I read this year - I give you the top 10! And so without further ado!

1. Saga Volumes 1-4. Brian K. Vaughan. Fiona Staples.
You've heard all the hype. And yes, it really is just that good. I mean I read Gaiman’s Sandman and Willingham’s Fables this year and this is the one I can’t stop thinking about. That’s how good this is. The art, the characters, the humor...the everything of it.

Star-crossed lovers Alana and Marco go on the lamb and soon find they have more to protect than just one another. Their family is growing. Pursued across space by rival governments, these young parents seek to find a safe place to raise their baby girl, Hazel, also our narrator of this epic. If you take only one suggestion of mine seriously. THIS. IS. IT.The Name of the Wind

2. The Kingkiller Chronicles 1 & 2. Patrick Rothfuss.

The Name of the Wind (Audio - UK edition). Read by Rupert Degas.

The Wise Man's Fear (Audio - US edition). Read by Nick Podehl.

Yes, yes I know I'm frontloading this with amazingly wonderful things. But fear not, I will not let you down 'ere you come to entry number ten. I promise!

Patrick Rothfuss you beautiful, beautiful, bearded man! I could never tire of your exquisite word-smithery. It is superb and divine madness breathed into life through ink and tree pulp. This poor attempt at flattery can never compare the the deft skill with which you weave a tale. But endeavor I shall. Forgive this poor reader for her crudeness - what it lacks in skill I shall attempt to make up in heart.

Kvothe, musician, scholar, arcanist, and all around rapscallion. Here, he recounts his life story to Chronicler. His parents were of the Edema Ruh who lived tragically brief, shining lives. Living by his wits on the streets of Tarbean, he eventually makes his way to the University where he becomes the youngest student admitted to the Arcanum. He makes friends as readily as enemies, and finds himself in inconceivable situations: Drug addled dragons; dangerous, politically powerful, school bullies; a talent and intellect unheard of in mere mortals; and in a library to make library employees envious. And yet these impossible things, they’re utterly believable - that is the force of Kvothe’s personality.

For those of you readers jaded by the market’s inundation of poor quality high fantasy and cheap Tolkien knock-offs: This is the cure.

*A note on the audio - Rupert Degas is by far superior to Nick Podehl. But as the UK one can be tricky to come by stateside... well, I won’t hold it against you. Podehl is fine and I grew accustomed to his tenor (which Kvothe is quite plainly a baritone, but never mind that). Bottom line (IMHO) if you have the option go with Degas’ reading.Wintersmith

3. Tiffany Aching #3 & 4. Terry Pratchett.

Wintersmith

I Shall Wear Midnight

The adventures of Tiffany Aching continue in the 3rd and 4th installments. I know I implored you to read the first one (The Wee Free Men) last year. I can only hope that you have followed my carefully crafted advice and have done as instructed (and then proceeded to devour the rest of the series ravenously). If not, there’s still time to catch up on the whole series before the 5th one (The Shepherd's Crown) is published at some as yet unknown date. I warn you though, if you fail to heed my advice for a second year Rob Anybody, fearsome leader of the Nac Mac Feegles, will be verra displeased, ye ken? And I wouldn’t wish a displeased pictsie on my own worst enemy.

In Wintersmith, Tiffany accidentally interrupts an ancient dance to mark the changing of the seasons and becomes the center of an infatuated Wintersmith’s attentions. Unless something is done quickly it’ll always be winter and never Christmas (oh, wait - that’s The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe). Actually, if the Wintersmith isn’t stopped and the Summer Lady returned to her rightful place the consequences will be far worse.

In I Shall Wear Midnight, Tiffany is granted a village of her own. She does the unglamorous day to day duties of caring for the townsfolk and needy as her station requires. But there’s a canker and its causes ripples of unease throughout the land. Tiffany must find this source of evil and prejudice before it consumes her village and claims her life and the souls of the townsfolk she cares for.Cinnamon and Gunpowder

4. Cinnamon and Gunpowder. Eli Brown

Pirates and foodies! Honestly, I could leave it at that - there’s hardly anything I could add that will provide any more clarification. But if you need another taste...

A masterful chef, Owen Wedgwood, is taken captive by pirate captain Mad Hannah Mabbot after she raids his employer’s home and ruthlessly murders him in front of Owen. Owen earns his continued survival one week at a time by providing a superb dinner for Captain Mabbot. Certainly not the easiest task in a ill-equipped galley.

5. A Turn of Light. Julie Czernada.

I’m eagerly awaiting its sequel, A Play of Shadow, to complete its cataloging so that I can devour it in a single sitting. But until that happy day I am very pleased to send more readers to the first installment.

Jenn Naylen has wanderlust. Bad. Despite having an invisible dragon, Wisp, for a best friend. She lives in the isolated pioneer community of Marrowdell where her only way out is through marriage. None of the village boys appeal to her and they haven’t had newcomers in ages. So she does the next best thing. She makes a husband with a spell. Except that’s where things go wrong. Wisp is suddenly a man, newcomers arrive and not all of them with benign intentions. Marrowdell overlaps with another world, The Verge, and unbeknowst to Jen - she’s a creature of both and as such if she were to leave her home the consequences would be dire and far reaching.

It’s charming and delightful. Slow moving but not sluggish. The care put into building Marrowdell and its inhabitants is first-rate.Written in My Own Heart's Blood

6. Written in My Own Heart's Blood. Diana Gabaldon.

The, what is it, eighth? Yes, the eighth book in her gigantic doorstop of a tome Outlander series. So if you’ve never heard of this series - where have you been for the last twenty five years?!!? There’s even a TV adaptation airing on Starz! (And I impatiently await the DVD release so that I can watch past the first episode.)

If this is the first you’ve heard of the epic adventure, time travel, romance, historical fiction chimera known as Outlander... Start with book one, Outlander. Enjoy the next six months of 2015 as you voraciously devour the subsequent books in this series.

Well written, well plotted, full, wonderfully complex characters, incredible attention to historical detail. Oh and Scottish. Very, very, Scottish. This series quite literally has it all.The Late Starter's Orchestra

7. The Late Starters Orchestra. Ari Goldman

Ari Goldman’s memoir of his studies with the cello is delightful. He talks wittily of the trials of learning and re-learning an instrument while he is nearing 60. He also reminisces on his son’s musical development and outpacing his father on that same instrument. At its heart it’s a book about never being too old to try something new. It inspired me so much that as part of my 1/3 life crisis (I’m too young for a mid-life crisis...but I see 30 looming nigh) I started cello lessons! No really, I did. I’m not joking. I sound terrible - but it’s great fun!

8. Fables vol. 1 - 4. Bill Willingham. Mark Buckingham.

Vol. 1 Legends in Exile

Vol. 2 Animal Farm

Vol. 3 Storybook Love

Vol. 4 March of the Wooden Soldiers

I mean, I’m certain that all of the Fables series is worthwhile - but I’ve only managed to read the first four volumes this year. And so can only recommend these first installments. I eagerly await my turn with volume five (The Mean Seasons) so that I can continue recommending the rest of the series.

The Fables have sought refuge in The New World and have created a new home, Fabletown, after being ousted from the Homelands by the Adversary in a long and continuing war. But between dealing with their own inner politics, keeping the mundy’s of New York unaware of Fabletown’s existence, and the spectre of being banished from the Homelands... life in Fabletown is never dull. Plenty of action, intrigue, witty asides, fantastic evocative art. You can’t go wrong with this series.Heart-Shaped Box

9. Heart Shaped Box. Joe Hill.

This was my Halloween read for the year. And man, oh, man did it deliver. I could only read the first half during broad daylight. (Then I made myself stop being such a chicken and plowed through the rest of it). For you horror aficionados this ought to do the trick.

Judas Coyne, rock star, has bought a ghost. Well, a dead man’s suit that is haunted. He collects things of a macabre nature and this seems like a novel addition to his collection. Except that the suit actually is haunted. Now Judas and his girlfriend, Georgia (actually Marybeth), are barely keeping one step ahead of the malevolent spirit who seems to have a connection to Judas’ former flame, Florida (actually Anna). It’s gritty and terrifying. But could you expect any less from the son of Stephen King?The Book of Life

10. The Book of Life. (audio) Deborah K. Harkness. Read by Jennifer Ikeda.

I’ll be honest with you. I almost gave up on the first one, A Discovery of Witches. It felt like a Twilight for academics. I’m glad I didn’t. It is so good that I feel guilty for even making the comparison. The plot went places I never could have imagined. I haven’t read a vampire novel so good since Anne Rice!

Diana uncovers a palimpsest, an unusual manuscript called Ashmole 782, in the course of her research on the ancient study of alchemy. This simple tome unleashes a flurry of activity as it holds the answers to the origins of witches, vampires, and demons. Each race wants the book - and they are all willing to go to great lengths to acquire it. Diana has had an uncomfortable relationship with her witchy heritage, but she is going to have to confront, master, and even make peace with it before this adventure is over.

Also, the audio is phenomenal! Jennifer Ikeda has an incredible range of of character voices and does innumerable accents spot on.

If you're looking for an excellent urban fantasy that raises the bar on the genre this one’s for you.

Bonus: Anti-recommendation: And if you pick one book to stay far, far away from: The Magicians. Lev Grossman. I read 2/3 of it so you don't have to.

There you are. I sorted through the chaff of 2014 so you can more thoroughly enjoy your leisure reading time of 2015! Many happy books to you in the New Year!

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