At the beginning of 2014 one of my goals was to read more books.
Indeed, I’ve been setting this (very vague) annual goal the past few years, because my reading habits were deteriorating to the point of being embarrassing. And I really missed the joy that comes from complete immersion in a novel.
So after my pathetic 2013 tally of a mere four books read on the page, I set myself a goal of one book a month for 2014.
I am most pleased to announce I exceeded this. Considerably.
What a turnaround!
Regular readers of this blog will be aware of my reading journey last year, because I posted monthly on the books I read in 2014. (I’ll include links to each of these monthly posts at the bottom of this one.)
Without stopping to work it out, I’d estimate 80-90% of these books were from what is loosely termed the male/male or queer romance genre.
Not what I would have predicted either.
But somehow I became completely captivated by these stories about all different kinds of men being vulnerable and emotional and falling in love.
Most of them are a lot more than simply ‘romance’ novels, though. They have a great deal of extra dimension and come in all manner of genres — crime, fantasy, paranormal, supernatural, mystery, or simply the everyday travails of life.
So… now for my most memorable reads of 2014. I’ve selected these based on how much I’ve thought about them, how many times I read them, or how they impacted me in general. They are listed in the order I read them, and as such represent a potted history of my 2014 reading journey.
Winter be my shield – Jo Spurrier
This was the second book I read in 2014 and I reviewed it at length here. It’s an Australian fantasy novel, and was the first fantasy in a long time that gave me a thrill of anticipation when I started it. It kicked off my reading year with a bang! I subsequently read the sequel (Black sun light my way) and have just started the third in the trilogy (North star guide me home).
Once upon a haunted moor – Harper Fox
This is the book (novella) that started me on what I’m affectionately calling the ‘year of queer’. I came across it in March (see link below) and was attracted by the fact it was a crime novel set in a little town on Bodmin Moor in Cornwall, where I’d only recently been holidaying. Indeed, it is predominantly a crime novel with a side-plot of queer romance. I loved Harper Fox’s writing — her lyrical prose and evocative settings. Thus began my love affair with Harper Fox’s books.
Scrap Metal – Harper Fox
This is the first novel-length book of Harper Fox’s I read, and it’s probably the best written of all her books. Stunning. Magnificent. The imagery and poetic prose in this book take my breath away, as do the deep and complex relationships between several of the main characters. There is so much love in this book. Throw in the wild and rugged setting of a struggling sheep farm on the Scottish isle of Arran and you have perfection. (More comments in the March post.)
The Salisbury Key – Harper Fox
It’s less perfect than Scrap Metal, but I love The Salisbury Key even more — this is probably my BOOK OF THE YEAR. I’ve read it three times and every time I finish any book I contemplate reading The Salisbury Key again. It hits me in the gut every time. It’s the setting around an archeological dig on Salisbury Plain. It’s the character of Lt Reyne, who remains my favourite of all Harper Fox characters, even though he’s not a viewpoint character. It’s the desperate mission of Daniel and Reyne to solve an old conspiracy/mystery… It’s so many things. I love this book so much. (More comments in the April post.)
I went on to read Harper Fox’s entire backlist (except, oddly, one), most of them twice.
Stranger on the shore – Josh Lanyon
Eventually I started reading some of the other popular authors in the genre. Josh Lanyon is one of the stalwarts, writing mainly a mix of crime/mystery with queer romance subplots. He has a massive backlist extending to 2001. Stranger on the Shore is one of his most recent. I didn’t say much about it when I read it in September, but it has stayed with me and I did read it again almost immediately. It’s a contemporary mystery about a young journalist who is writing a book about a true crime, and researches it while a guest of the socialite family to whom it happened. It has Gatsby references and feels like a part-homage to that novel.
Think of England – KJ Charles
The author is better known for her Charm of Magpies series, but for me Think of England stands head and shoulders above them. I read this book all night… right through until 7am and the birds were singing. And then I read it again. It has a good espionage style mystery set in an early 20thC English house party. The setting is fabulous, but it’s the two main characters, and their growing awkward-yet-caring relationship, that captivated me in this one. (More comments in the October post.)
Smoky Mountain Dreams – Leta Blake
Finally, Smoky Mountain Dreams was a surprise, because it’s the first book I’ve ever downloaded based simply on an Amazon recommendation. It was exactly what I needed for my post-Christmas reading immersion. I love it for the way the relationship between two slightly damaged yet real men evolves in such an authentic and natural way. The conflicts are real and understandable. And the love between these two men just grows and grows and grows with every twist and turn. It’s not a perfect book, but it has so much heart. (More comments in December post.)
There were a bunch of other great books I read across the year. Some other notable mentions in no particular order were A companion to wolves (Sarah Monette and Elizabeth Bear), Hainted (Jordan L Hawk), Knight errant (KD Sarge), Song of the fallen (Rachel Haimowitz), Liesmith (Alis Franklin), Half Moon Chambers & Life after Joe (Harper Fox).
I also thoroughly enjoyed — relished — reliving Jacqueline Carey’s wonderful Kushiel’s Dart, Kushiel’s Chosen and Kushiel’s Avatar as audiobooks (from Tantor Media). These are the first three in her popular Kushiel’s Legacy series and (in my view) stand above the others. I also listened to her novel Santa Olivia, which was very different, but also fabulous.
Links to monthly reading posts in 2014
January | February | March | April | May | June | July | August/September | October | November | December
And that was 2014. I haven’t really thought about my reading goals for 2015 yet. The main thing is I want to make sure I keep reading.
Although I do need to pull it back somewhat. It seems to be either all or nothing with me. Plays havoc with work if I keep reading all night!
But I do know I want to read more contemporary fantasy, which was supposed to be a goal for last year until I got, ahem, diverted. I’ve got a bunch on my bookshelves I haven’t touched, so perhaps I should start there.
3 thoughts on “Reading highlights from 2014”
We’ve paralleled each other fairly closely this year, so it’s fun to see what you came up with for your “best of” list. So much good stuff! I look forward to seeing what you come up with next year.
I cannot deny I’ve been strongly influenced by you in the past year. 🙂
This year should be interesting.
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