December 31, 2014

21 Books I Read and Loved in 2014

I wasn't gonna do it. I wasn't gonna write a list of my favorite books from 2014, because I didn't think I'd do it justice. I read a lot of good-to-great books, but there are even more I think stand a chance of making the cut as a fave of the year. Well, screw it. I'd rather highlight the books I actually did read, than hold back because of the books I haven't read yet.

In the past, I've put out fave five lists for novels, novellas, and anthologies. This time around I'm just making one big list of 21 books that I read in 2014--not necessarily published in 2014--and leave it at that. So take a look, genre mutts,  and let me know what you read and loved this past year.

I Am the New God by Nicole Cushing - This novella came out in the late spring and is just about as unsettling as you could ask for from a psychological thriller. You think it's weird to start, but wait ... it gets weirder.

The Cormorant by Chuck Wendig - It's not strictly urban fantasty, but it is strictly one of my favorite series. The idea of a protagonist that sees how someone dies just by touching them might be a one-trick pony to most, but Wendig keeps finding new vantages from which to tackle it. Not to mention how Myriam Black keeps evolving as a character. I really hope there's a fourth book in the works.

The German by Lee Thomas - A post-WW2 mystery novel set in Texas with one of the most gripping coming-of-age tales you are likely to find. This was one of Brian Keene's faves from a couple years back, and it's easy to see why. A phenomenal book.

Dark Forces: The 25th Anniversary Edition edited by Kirby McCauley -
Cemetery Dance brought this one back a couple years ago, and lemme tell ya, it lives up to the hype. Wanna get a sampling of some of the best horror stories from yesteryear, with stories from the likes of Joyce Carol Oates and Ramsey Campbell (as well as Stephen King's The Mist), then this is it.

The Blonde by Anna Godberson -
A bit of a surprise release for me, as it wasn't on my radar, but as soon as I started into it I was hooked. Marilyn Monroe as a Soviet spy out to get the Kennedy's? Oh yeah. It's a slow build that wrings every drop of turmoil and tension it can. Makes me wish Marilyn did more dark roles during her heyday. 

The First One You Expect by Adam Cesare -
A short, sharp read from Broken River Books. My favorite of Cesare's books so far, but there's a couple more from this year on my TBR pile that could knock it off its pedestal. An ambitious, if amoral, indy filmmaker finds a way to fund his latest slasher after a sexy psycho signs on as his star and assistant.

The Bitch by Les Edgerton - One more conviction and Jake gets the bitch (habitual offender), but that threat doesn't stop him from doing one more job to finance his new career and family. One of my first reads in 2014 and stands high among my favorite from the year. Just top notch noir.

Jane Carver of Waar by Nathan Long -
Forget Edgar Rice Burroughs. Gimme more Nathan Long and his ultimate biker babe turned Martian warrior. I am not a devotee of the John Carter stories, but I certainly appreciate the winks and nods along this thrillride.

The Troop by Nick Cutter -
I'm not great with body horror, but this novel did have the Maritimes as a backdrop with a Lord of the Flies meets Cabin Fever vibe going for it. And I've just finished Nick's new novel coming out in 2015, The Deep, and that's even better.

Deceiver by Kelli Owen -
Your wife is murdered, but as you dig deeper into the mystery of her death, questions arise about who she really was. This book is somewhere between novel and novella as far as length goes, but it is top-notch with a Hitchcockian setup that leads down a path only Kelli Owen could cook up.

Devourer of Souls by Kevin Lucia -
Coming-of-age horror is a domain ruled by the short stories of Stephen King and Ray Bradbury, but Kevin doesn't shy away with some small town horror in this book, accentuated by a connecting narrative that makes it a real gem in the Ragnarok Publications library.

The Spectral Book of Horror Stories edited by Mark Morris -
Spectral Press is a bit of a vanguard for British horror, but this anthology offers stories from some authors beyond England's borders. What it doesn't do is stray from the mission of offering top-notch stories. If there's a second anthology in the works, it can't come soon enough.

A Swollen Red Sun by Matthew McBride -
Holy moly, this was a stellar year for noir and dark crime fiction, and boy howdy, this novel just might take the cake where that's concerned. A stash of cash found in a trailer turned meth lab leads to a kind of southern gothic odyssey into the desperate and the depraved. This book will leave scars.

Cold in July by Joe R. Lansdale - One of my favorite writers saw one of his novels re-released to coincide with the premier of its film adaptation. If you like revenge tales, you need to read this novel. One fateful home invasion forever alters the lives of two fathers. Seriously, read it.

Devouring Milo by Tonia Brown - Tonia's Skin Trade, and Lucky Stiff for that matter, did a great job offering a new twist on zombies, and this book does just as great a job on werewolves. The setup behind this one is almost Shakespearean in its execution, if not its language.

Savage Species by Johnathan Janz -
Monsters in the woods. So many monsters. If you have a fondness for those 80s-era monster flicks with people running every which way in the darkness, trying not to get torn to shreds, and doing an all-round terrible job at it, then you should really check this one out.

Borderline by Lawrence Block -
An oldie, but a goodie. The sentiment applies to the author as well as the book. I listened to the audio version narrated by Mike Dennis, who was about as perfect a casting choice as you could ask for with a voice tinged by bourbon and barbed-wire. Pitch perfect for a Mexican crime thriller.

Lock In by John Scalzi -
Not a whole lot of scifi this year, but I managed to check out this one. It was my first Scalzi novel, and I kind of see why so many like this guy. A great plot, with a murder mystery set around a near-future society dominated by victims of an epidemic and thee technology that lets them continue to live their lives.

Kaiju Rising: Age of Monsters edited by Tim Marquitz & Nickolas Sharps -
Give me all of the giant monsters. Godzilla was a bit of a disappointment this year as far as movies go. So much hype and misleading trailers just sabotaged any chance the actual movie had. This anthology, however, lives up to its potential and then some. Kaiju fans rejoice.

Ceremony of Flies by Kate Jonez -
Natural Born Killers meets Leaving Las Vegas. Or something like that. The third and maybe the best of the DarkFuse titles to appear on this list, Kate managed to take a crime thriller and turn it into a descent into madness ... almost literally for the protagonist. Just fantastic stuff.

The Wrong Man by Matthew Louis - Where Les Edgerton's The Bitch shows an ex-con making the choice to go back into a life of crime to benefit his new family, Matthew Louis' novel shows a former thug with a new family dealing with trouble when it shows up at his doorstep through no fault of his own ... well, except for having really lousy friends. It starts good, but ends great.

So there. A bunch more books came out this year that are sitting on my shelf that I ain't read yet, and a fair number of them could just as easily have a spot on this list given the praise they've received elsewhere. John Llewellyn Probert's Hammer of Dr. Valentine, Bite Harder by Anonymous-9, Joe Clifford's Lamentation, Eryk Pruitt's Dirtbags, Lee Thompson's A Beautiful Madness, the benefit anthology for James Newman called Widowmakers, Mark West's Drive, Lauren Beukes' Broken Monsters, and the list goes on and on.

So what great books did you read this year? What should I be adding to my bookshelf heading into 2015?

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