Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Best things I've read and watched in 2014

Although it felt like I hated a lot of things this year, according to my stats I actually loved more books than I hated. These lists are based mostly on my 4.5- and 5-star ratings, although there are a few 4-star ones I felt deserved a mention. Everything is listed in no particular order, and I've chosen not to list everything I rated highly, for reasons that mostly boil down to "gut feeling." I also opted not to force myself to list a certain number of works.

Books and stories:
  • Nine Goblins (e-novella) by T. Kingfisher - This Pratchett-esque story about a war, a bunch of goblins, and an exhausted elven veterinarian was wonderful.
  • First Test (book) by Tamora Pierce - This one was a reread. I adore this book. It's a fantasy middle grade (?) novel about Keladry, the first female page of Tortall (not counting Alanna, who had to pretend to be a boy).
  • Kei's Gift (e-book) by Ann Somerville - A m/m fantasy book featuring slowly developing relationships and romance. A healer and a general invading the healer's country fall in love.
  • Code Runner (e-book) by Rosie Claverton - I loved this book even more than Binary Witness, although I have yet to review it and will probably need to reread it (such a hardship). It's a mystery starring an agoraphobic hacker and her ex-con assistant. Their relationship is wonderful, although they're going to have to sit down and have a good, long talk about things if it ever develops from a loving friendship into a romance.
  • A Lily Among Thorns (e-book) by Rose Lerner - A historical romance starring an ex-prostitute turned inn keeper and a chemist with a passion for dyes and clothing. I'm still a little surprised I liked this one as much as I did, considering how off-the-wall some aspects were.
  • Happy Snak (e-book) by Nicole Kimberling - This science fiction book featured a fabulously interesting look at an alien culture, from the perspective of a capitalistic snack bar owner.
  • Sea of Wind (book) by Fuyumi Ono - This was a reread. My favorite book in the Twelve Kingdoms series.
  • The MacGregor Grooms (book) by Nora Roberts - Another reread. This one is odd - the individual novellas aren't really all that strong on their own, but, taken as a whole, they become this warm, fuzzy blanket in book form that makes me ridiculously happy each time I read it.
  • Liege-Killer (e-book) by Christopher Hinz - This violent sci-fi thriller had me at the edge of my seat. Sadly, the next two books in the trilogy didn't live up to the promise of this first one.
Honorable mentions:
  • 14 (audiobook) by Peter Clines, read by Ray Porter - The ending had moments that struck me as being somewhat silly, but overall this was still a wonderful book to listen to.
  • Queen of Roses (e-book) by Elizabeth McCoy - A sci-fi book with an AI main character. I really enjoyed this one and hope McCoy writes something else starring an AI, even if that AI isn't Sarafina. If she announced another book with Loren in it, my poor little heart would probably explode. 
  • Be With You (book) by Takuji Ichikawa - This is a lovely book that seems like it might be a ghost story but is actually sort of science fiction. A widower trying to raise his young son while dealing with severe anxiety stumbles across an amnesiac woman who appears to be his dead wife.
Manga and graphic novels:
  • Saga (graphic novel series) written by Brian K. Vaughan, art by Fiona Staples - I read two volumes of this, and both were excellent.
  • Chi's Sweet Home (manga series) by Konami Kanata, translated by Ed Chavez - If you love cats, you really need to try this series. It's full-color and has been flipped for left-to-right reading, so Japanese manga newbies should be just fine.
  • Skip Beat! (manga series) by Yoshiki Nakamura, translated by Tomo Kimura - I suppose this is technically a romance series, but it has an almost shounen manga feel. It's long, and still ongoing, but it's totally worth it.
  • Naoki Urasawa's Monster (manga series) translated by various people - A complicated thriller in which a doctor inadvertently saves the life of a killer and then devotes himself to trying to stop him. This one is best read in big gulps, so you don't start thinking too much about how terribly convenient it is that nearly everyone seems to be connected to Johan.
  • What Did You Eat Yesterday? (manga, vol. 1) by Fumi Yoshinaga, translated by Maya Rosewood - A food manga focused on the daily lives of Shiro and Kenji, a gay couple. I really wish I could try Shiro's cooking - it all looked and sounded so delicious.
  • Olympos (manga) by Aki - This one was bittersweet enough that I don't see myself ever rereading it (even glancing at my review was tough). However, I'm glad I at least read it once.
Unfortunately, this year I completely slacked off on my practice of privately giving grades to TV shows and movies, so I don't have ratings for any of that. However, I looked through my blog at what I reviewed in the past year, and here are the ones I still feel pretty good about.

TV series:
  • Natsume's Book of Friends (anime TV series) - Just thinking about this series makes me want to give Natsume a hug.
  • My Girlfriend is a Gumiho (live action TV series) - Every time I talked to someone about this series, they laughed at the title. ::sigh:: Anyway, it takes a few episodes to get going, but, once it does, it's lovely.
  • The Great Doctor (live action TV series) - This may have ruined me for other K-dramas. I'm watching City Hunter right now, and, although I'm enjoying it, I kind of wish I could just erase The Great Doctor from my brain and watch Lee Min Ho as Choi Young for the first time all over again. In addition, once you make it past the first four episodes, Eun Soo is a wonderful, mature, and strong heroine.
Honorable mentions:
  • Inu x Boku Secret Service (anime TV series) - This series has many, many problematic aspects, but the last two episodes are incredibly good. I wish the characters had been as complicated and wonderful throughout the whole show as they were in those final two episodes, although that still wouldn't have erased the age-gap issue.
  • Noragami (anime TV series) - I didn't review this one, although I wrote briefly about it. It was a bit too short, but I'd now really like to read the manga.
  • Maleficent (live action movie) - I was surprised at how much I liked this one, considering that I don't really like Angelina Jolie. It definitely has its problems (the cheek bone CGI; Aurora will forever and always be the most boring Disney princess), but it's honestly the best movie I've seen all year - which isn't really saying much, since my movie-watching this year was bad-to-mediocre.

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