Books of 2014
Payment in Blood, by Elizabeth George – This book was just as good as her first, and in some ways, even better, as you had far more potential suspects. You got a bit more background on the main protagonists, which also kept things interesting. Either I somehow missed this series as I was growing up, or I was not paying attention enough. Either way, I have a lot of fun ahead of me as I play catch-up. I might have to read a second one of these this year.
The Fellowship of the Ring, by J.R.R. Tolkien – I decided that I was going to read the trilogy in the entirety for the first time in my life. I discovered it decades ago, and while I have read individual chapters to the point of being damn near memorized word for word, I had never read everything, start to finish. The chapters I mentioned still have their same hold over me that they always have, but this time, I had whole new chapters I could appreciate. I might not have ever left Tom Bombadil’s house, truth be told, had I been fortunate enough to go there.
Con Man, by Ed McBain – My continued sojourn through the fifty-plus novels that this author did in his lifetime. As usual, second to none for straight police procedural. Set the standard, in all probability, for authors of today. And if not, then he should be considered as such.
Carrie, by Stephen King – I was going through my notebook of authors and realized that I did not have him in it. Then, when I compiled the list of his works, I realized that he had produced such a volume of work, that I had not read vast tracts of it. And for several of the works that I had read, it had been years, if not decades since I had read them. Hence, my starting here. I had never read this one, and now I wish I had done so years ago. A simple and straightforward tale, and who knew that King would write an entire book about bullying decades before it would become a social awareness phenomenon? Because that is what this book is, when you get right down to it.
Killer’s Choice, by Ed McBain – See previous entry
The Two Towers, by J.R.R. Tolkien – I was under the mistaken impression that having this book divided up into two sections where there was no alternating the characters would bother me. It was a more extreme case of books four and five of George’s series, really. I had no problem as it turned out, of course. Enjoyed it more than I thought I was going to, particularly with how much JRRT had the orcs conversing with one another. Unexpected bonus, that. I should not have been surprised.
Night Shift, by Stephen King – Despite this being one of his oldest books, and that I have read individual stories so many times I have no idea of the frequency of them, it did not change the fact that I have never read this book cover to cover before. So, naturally, I should not have been surprised to learn that I enjoyed the majority of them, and even the ones that I did not like so much, at least now I can say that I have read them. This book is my brother’s favorite of his work, I believe. If not, it is at the very least my brother’s favorite collection of short stories by King. I can see why.
Diamonds are Forever, by Ian Fleming – While I have been enjoying the man’s work, I have to say that this is his weakest book of the bunch so far. Still minimalistic, still enjoyable, but more mundane and less enjoyable. I am aware of other work of his with this series that I am not optimistic about when I get to them, but so far, this is easily the worst of the lot.
The Moonshine War, by Elmore Leonard – I had never read a book by this particular author before, and I decided that I was long overdue, particularly since I knew that he had had several movies made based on his novels, as well as the television show Justified. I enjoyed the book, as it was simple and straightforward. A little predictable, but that was due more towards my prolific reading resulting in my being able to figure out things faster. I have another one of his on my to-be-read pile, so he cannot be doing that bad.
The Dirty Duck, by Martha Grimes – Another winner from this author; she is very consistent, and I have yet to encounter one of this series that disappoints me. Having now cursed myself, I am sure I will now come across one in short order. Or, maybe I will luck out and it will be a few books yet. I do know that the newer books get ever thicker, and I never know if that is a good sign or not. In the meantime, however, I still enjoy this series.
Purple Cane Road, by James Lee Burke – I always enjoy this author’s stories, but I also keep hoping that one of the two main characters, who is described constantly as about the same size and demeanor of a mountain gorilla, will get into a decent one-on-one fight. Alas, no such luck. But it is nice to read about what the author thinks Louisiana is like. I hope to be able to compare it for myself in a few more years. In the meantime, I will keep enjoying these. Not mysteries quite so much as, what? Suspense, maybe, or crime, at least. It doesn’t matter.
The Return of the King, by J.R.R. Tolkien – The pace of this novel is distinctly faster than the other two. The trek across the plains of Gorgoroth was nowhere near the drudge that I remembered, or thought that it had been. The author really does leave a great deal to the imagination of the reader, and I still appreciate the man’s brilliant use of language. I read far more of the appendices than I have ever done before, but I still cannot say that I technically read this one cover to cover. The appendix on languages I could not get through. At least I can say I read all of the rest, though, which I could never say before.
Watership Down, by Richard Adams - I know that I have read this at some point since I started doing these lists, but to hell with it. I watched the animated movie on DVD not long ago on a whim, and that got me wanting to read the book again to do a comparison. It is still a classic, and everyone should read it. I do have to say that I think the cartoon General Woundwort comes across as far more scary than he does in the book, however. This might be influenced by the fact that I saw the movie on television decades ago before I had read the book. It does not matter; I love them both. The cartoon movie is faithful, but whomever decided that it should be rated PG should have to explain their justification for it.
Digger, by Ursula Vernon – This was an omnibus of a comic that was done online first, then printed in twelve volumes, and finally in this massive tome. It was awesome. The lead character is a female wombat; the majority of the lead characters are females; it has a very dry sense of humor which I loved; it was very different (attack shrew!); and included morals, ethics, and religion besides. It also features one of the best tragic characters I have come across in a long time. Unless something comes along after this, this is the best new thing I have read this year. If you have not read this, correct this lapse immediately.
The Black Echo, by Michael Connelly – This was the first book that this author wrote, and I was very happy with how good it was. Chalk up another mystery writer whose works I need to collect. At least I have no lack of reading material in this genre. It was not suspense, nor police procedural. I am not really sure how to describe it, to be honest, but as long as I enjoyed it, that is the important thing, I suppose.
A Serpent’s Tooth, by Craig Johnson – Another book in the Longmire series, which has had a television show based on this author’s books for about three years now. Inexplicably, despite the show being the highest rated show the specific television station has, they did not renew it, and I really hope it gets picked up by someone else. In the meantime, I actually read this book out of sequence from the others, but I did not care, and I enjoyed it as much as all of the others I have read in the series so far. I am wondering how long the author can have his protagonist do this, despite the fact that the stories are fiction. He is not depicted as a young man by any means, so I sometimes wonder what, if anything, the author will do with this fact. I can only wait.
From Russia, With Love, by Ian Fleming – The best book written by the author so far, although I found it ironically far more interesting throughout the book before they finally get on the train. It lags a bit from there, but it is easy to see why the film version is one of the closest the producers did to the actual novel. And if you didn’t have so much Bond knowledge prior to the books, the last page ends on a really good frustrating note, if there can be such a thing.
Firestarter, by Stephen King – I had not read this one for a while, and I was happy to discover that it holds up very well. King has a certain amount of minimalism here, and the story is streamlined, compared to some (okay, most) of his later works. While there is a credible job of depicting the problem that a child with pyrokinesis causes, the idea that a federal government organization has the power and/or authority to dictate what an eight year old girl can and cannot do works wonders at making the organization the villain. Or, let me put it to you another way – any federal government that cannot come up with better methods than the ones used against a child as depicted in this book, is not a government that I support, or one that I want to obey, or be a citizen of.
The Black Lung Captain, by Chris Wooding – The short version is that this is a very good variation of Firefly, and an enjoyable second book in the quartet that the author has done regarding this particular cast of characters in this world that he has created. I am looking forward to the next one.