Friday 2 January 2015

My Top Five Reads for 2014

A new year is upon us and as is traditional on a reading and writing blogs I'd like to reflect upon my year's reading. Since purchasing a Kindle a couple of years ago my reading habits have changed. I now tend to read more indie authors than traditionally published ones. Although there's a few big hitters that I'll always pick up their books, like Clive Barker, Neal Asher, Peter F Hamilton and Terry Prachett.

There's a few reasons for this, price is one consideration. Indie novels tend to be around £2 and at that price point it's worth taking a chance. Traditionally published titles are typically three or four times that price so I tend to stick to the authors I know.

It's been a good year for readers (certainly for my reading at any rate) and the first two books on this list were clear winners. As I read them I knew that they would be on my list at the end of the year and I suspect they will both be on other people's lists as well. For the remaining slots it was a bit trickier as there were many good candidates to choose from.

Anyway, with no more preamble let's look at my top five reads for 2014. Note that they're books that I've read for the first time in 2014, not necessarily one's published last year.

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1. The Martian by Andy Weir

There are two broad types of science fiction - soft and hard. Soft sci-fi is generally just the setting or technology but doesn't pay too much attention to the scientific realism. Hard sci-fi is the opposite and is known for attention to detail with realism. The Martian falls into the hard sci-fi camp but that shouldn't put you off reading it. At its heart this is a survival story and one carried by an immensely likable character.

The hard aspect comes from the research the author has clearly undertaken to get everything right. And he does get it right. The story has an authentic feel to it that supports the story. It's a tale full of peril and I kept turning the page to see what obstacle he would have to face next and what he would come up with to overcome it.

The book is also an example of an indie published book doing well. There will apparently be a film, which I'm looking forward to. An excellent book and one well worth checking out whether you're into science-fiction or not.

Click here to buy The Martian from Amazon US / Amazon UK

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2. FAG by Jonathan Hill

I'd enjoyed the author's previous work, but they hadn't prepared me for his debut novel. It's fair to say that this story was out of my usual reading comfort zone. It's an emotive and often uncomfortable read that had me transfixed.

The quality of the writing is superb and you really feel for the characters. He tackles two difficult subjects - bullying and homosexuality and he tackles them well.

If you've not read this yet then I heartily recommend it - it's books like this that make the indie published scene shine.

Click here to buy FAG from Amazon US / Amazon UK

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3. A Gathering of Ghosts by David Haynes

David Haynes is one of my favourite authors. I first discovered him through his Victorian era horror stories (his other books are just as great) and he made last years top five twice. He only receives one spot this year, but he did receive five star reviews for both of his released books last year.

I'm a big fan of short stories and this collection of horror stories is a fine example of the craft. The author excels in taking a familiar idea and working something new from it. His style of writing captures the era magnificently.

The collection is worth reading for The Waltz alone, a sublime and heartrending tale that really stood out for me.

Click here to buy A Gathering of Ghosts from Amazon US / Anazon UK

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4. 100 Nightmare by K. Z. Morano

We continue the horror theme with this next book it also leads on to one of my favourite forms of short fiction - drabbles. If you're not familiar with drabbles then they are stories that are exactly 100 words long and this author demonstrates her mastery of the form.

As the name implies this is a collection of 100 horror tales and the author has a deliciously dark imagination. It's no easy task to write an effective story within so few words. As well as the quality of her writing craft there's a rich diversity in the stories. Mention should also be made of the illustration throughout the book. They provide suitable accompaniment to the stories.

Click here to buy 100 Nightmares from Amazon US / Amazon UK

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5. Necropolis by Guy Portman

This was a surprise read for me and provides an excellent example of why I enjoy reading indie authors so much. This is the tale of a psychopath working in a council department. Usually story is king for me but here it's the main character that stood out. Of course it helps that the story is good as well!

The book puts the reader inside the mind of this man and it's one hell of a journey. It's dark and funny in places and the quality of the writing really elevates the story. The almost banality of the setting provides a good contrast for what goes on inside his mind and also some of the opportunity for the humour.

Click here to buy Necropolis from Amazon US / Amazon UK

And there we have my top five reads for 2014 - what were yours?