2014 in Books

I don’t know how this happened, but it’s 2015. 2014 has been a year of huge changes for me – mainly because I left for college in August. And I only read 89 books this year, 44 fewer than 2013 – the first time since I started tracking my reading in 2010 that the number has dropped below 100. A little disappointing, but still not bad.

So, to start the new year, I’ve put together two lists: My top 5 favorite books of 2014 (since I can never decide on just one), some 2014 reads worth mentioning that didn’t make the top 5, and the 5 books I’m most excited to read in 2015. None of the lists are in any particular order.Jalyn at jalynely.com's 5 favorite reads of 2014: BLACKOUT by Madeleine Henry, ETIQUETTE AND ESPIONAGE by Gail Carriger, NEW SIGHT by Jo Schneider, WIN THE RINGS by K.D. Van Brunt, and THE RITHMATIST by Brandon Sanderson

  1. Blackout (Darkness #1) by Madeleine Henry. I had a deadline of one week to read and review this book, which I agreed to against my better judgement … and ended up devouring the entire book during the busiest week of my year. The characters, concept, and amazing execution blew me away, and I would be happy to read book two with a yesterday deadline if that means I get it soon.
  2. Etiquette and Espionage (Finishing School #1) by Gail Carriger. Steampunk is my current obsession anyway, but steampunk, in high-class Victorian England, at a finishing school, that teaches girls to be spies? Absolute perfection.
  3. New Sight by Jo Schneider. Giving a new twist to the idea of psychic powers, this Indie urban fantasy added beautifully dark, gritty tones of insanity and addiction to the traditional master-your-powers-help-the-good-guys plot.
  4. Win the Rings (Cracked Chronicles #1) by K.D. Van Brunt. Despite a vague blurb, bland cover, and seemingly nonsensical title, this Indie book was amazing. Tense, action-packed, amazing concept, and told from two perspectives that gave the best of both worlds – the hunter and the hunted.
  5. The Rithmatist (The Rithmatist #1) by Brandon Sanderson. This is the second year in a row a Sanderson book has made my top 5, and for good reason. Fascinating and original magic systems, great characters, a delightfully complicated plot, and I never could decide on a prediction for the bad guy.

Jalyn at JalynEly.com's books worth mentioning of 2014Reviews of the mentioned books:

  1. Ballad of the Northland by Jason Barron
  2. Theory of Mind by Jacob Gorczyca
  3. Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones
  4. Liberty Frye and the Witches of Hessen by J.L McCreedy
  5. My Imaginary Jesus by Matt Mikalatos
  6. Tea Cups and Tiger Claws by Timothy Patrick
  7. Confessions of the Very First Zombie Slayer (That I Know Of) by F.J.R. TitchenellJalyn at jalynely.com's top 5 books to read in 2015: FIREFIGHT by Brandon Sanderson, EXPOSURE by Kathy Reichs, UNWHOLLY by Neal Shusterman, THE SHADOW THRONE by Jennifer A. Nielsen, and DATA RUNNER by Sam Patel
  1. Firefight (Reckoners #2) by Brandon Sanderson. The first book, Steelheart,was amazing (honestly, anything Brandon Sanderson writes is amazing), so I’m really looking forward to reading more of this fabulous series.
  2. Exposure (Virals #4) by Kathy Reichs. I’ve loved the Virals series since I discovered it, and after the way Code, the third book, ended, I need to know what happens.
  3. UnWholly (Unwind #2) by Neal Shusterman. Unwind has been a favorite for a while, so I was thrilled to find it was first in a series (I actually just bought this book – now I have to get around to reading it).
  4. The Shadow Throne (Ascendance Trilogy #3) by Jennifer A. Nielsen. I absolutely loved the first two books in this series, even though it’s middle grade, and I’m looking forward to finishing the series.
  5. Data Runner (Data Runner #1) by Sam A. Patel. Couriers running information in a high-tech world, including cool aliases and conspiracies – sounds like a fun, action-packed ride.

So that’s my year in books. What were your favorite books of 2014? What books are you looking forward to reading in the coming year?

Blog Tour + Review: Confessons of the Very First Zombie Slayer (That I Know Of) by T.J.R. Fitchenell

Zombie fiction was never really my thing – but Confessions of the Very First Zombie Slayer (That I Know Of) won me over. Which is why I’m thrilled to be part of its blog tour!

The absolute best thing about this book is it has something for everyone. Zombie fan? There’s lots of zombies! Not really a zombie fan (like me)? Bold, snarky Cassie is worth the read.

So what are you waiting for? Keep reading! (Then go buy this book!)

About the Book

Confessions of the Very First Zombie Slayer (That I Know Of) book cover

Image from F.J.R. Titchnell; used by permission

Title: Confessions of the Very First Zombie Slayer (That I Know Of)

Author: F.J.R. Titchenell

Genre: Horror

Releases: May 6, 2014

The world is Cassie Fremont’s playground. Her face is on the cover of every newspaper, she has no homework, no curfew, and no credit limit, and she spends her days traveling the country with her friends, including a boy who would flirt with death just to turn her head.

Life is just about perfect—except that those newspaper headlines are about her bludgeoning her crush to death with a paintball gun, she has to fight ravenous walking corpses every time she steps outside, and one of her friends is still missing, trapped somewhere in the distant wreckage of Manhattan.

Still, Cassie’s an optimist. More prone to hysterical laughter than hysterical tears, she’d rather fight a corpse than be one. She won’t leave a friend stranded when she can simply take a road trip to impossible new places to find her, even if getting there means admitting to that boy that she might just love him, too. Skillfully blending effective horror with unexpected humor, this diary-format novel is a fast-paced and heartwarming read.

Find it on Amazon

My Review

I’ve never really read an actual zombie book before (unless you count the disappointment of Boneshaker, which I don’t). But I am a huge fan of characters with strong, interesting voices, and even from the synopsis, I was pretty sure I’d like Cassie.

I was right. Cassie was smart and brave and a bit of a tomboy, with just enough snark to make her fabulous without going overboard. She did take a lot of the deaths a little lighter than I think was realistic, but overall, I really loved her.

Norman and Hector, Cassie’s friends, were both good. Norman was a goofball, but the kind of goofball friend I’d like to have. I liked Hector, but his homosexuality bothered me. It didn’t add anything to the character dynamics (and is so unimportant it doesn’t come up in the first half) so I wish he was either not homosexual or one of those super-fun gay best friends that I enjoy despite their sexuality.

This story was exactly what I expected from a zombie novel: race to get to somewhere somewhat safe, traveling with/making friends, and lots of zombie-bashing action. It got a little gory at times, but that’s to be expected. There was plenty of action, a semi-scenic road trip, struggles for food and supplies, and a cast of great characters. And it ended on a surprisingly happy note.

Confessions of the Very First Zombie Slayer (That I Know Of) was a fabulous zombie book. The plot seemed pretty standard from what I know of zombie fiction, but Cassie’s amazing voice was exactly the boost it needed to make me love it. There’s no sequel room here, but I would definitely be interested in another book by F.J.R. Titchenell.

I received a free review copy of Confessions of the Very First Zombie Slayer (That I Know Of) from the author. Her generosity in no way influenced, or sought to influence, this review.

About the Author

FJR Titchenell

Image from F.J.R. Titchnell; used by permission

F.J.R. Titchenell is an author of Young Adult Sci-Fi and Horror fiction. She is represented by Jennifer Mishler of Literary Counsel and currently lives in San Gabriel, California with her husband and fellow author, Matt Carter, and their pet king snake, Mica.

The “F” is for Fiona, and on the rare occasions when she can be pried away from her keyboard, her kindle, and the pages of her latest favorite book, Fi can usually be found over-analyzing the inner workings of various TV Sci-Fi universes or testing out some intriguing new recipe, usually chocolate-related.

Confessions of the Very First Zombie Slayer (That I Know of) is F.J.R. Titchenell’s first novel. Her first novel coauthored with Matt Carter, Splinters, will be available fall of 2014.

Find her on:

Bonus:

F.J.R. Titchenell answers the question: Where do you get your ideas and how do you stay motivated to finish a book?

Ah, the eternal question, “Where do you get your ideas?”

Short answer: Everywhere. That’s part of how I process every bit of information I encounter. Everything goes in a mental file for later use in stories. Everything.

More specific short answer: My husband.

It’s tough to admit sometimes, but it’s true. He’s my muse, my sounding board, and my brainstorm partner, and while inspiration can and does come from anywhere at any time, nothing else gets my gears turning as well and reliably as he does. When we’re working together, most of the big ideas are usually his, and I get to focus on my favorite parts, playing with our characters’ poor little psyches and getting their dialogue just right.

Confessions of the Very First Zombie Slayer (That I Know of) was my idea (though I do owe my love of zombies to Matt in the first place). The concept for this one leaped into my head seemingly out of nowhere. In other cases, when I’ve been more pressed for a new idea, I’ve often flipped through my favorite stories that have inspired me somehow, mixed a few unlikely co-influences together, added a completely new setting, and – this is the most important part – found a way to ask myself, “Why hasn’t it been done this way yet?”

Often I get there by doing things like changing up gender roles or turning common lapses in characters’ logic on their heads. That’s how you avoid being a simple rehash.

Even in my solos, though, many of my best ideas start with Matt tossing out a passing notion that I have to dig into and build on and run with.

Perfect example, one of the touches to Confessions of the Very First Zombie Slayer (That I Know of) that a lot of people get a kick out of, one of my favorite details too, is Norman spending most of the book dressed as a clown. That was Matt’s idea… sort of.

When I told Matt I was working on a YA zombie book, he made a joke about a character staying dressed as a clown all the time so if he became a zombie, he’d at least get to be a zombie clown.

I loved the idea and knew I had to use it for the male lead. I think Matt thought I was insane when I told him that. He’d meant it as a background gag, a wacky sidekick at most, not someone who would ever need to be taken seriously, but I fell so in love with Norman once I got him in costume, he was so perfect for Cassie to bounce off of, so right for the tone of the story, I knew I could never allow him to be upstaged by some straight-faced pretty boy.

Exploring why Norman wears the costume, beyond the joke explanation, was one of the things that got me deepest into his head, his friendship with Cassie, and it helped me develop the theme of keeping sanity through laughter that became much of the book’s core.

As to where I get my motivation to finish books, that’s all mine. Not that Matt isn’t amazingly encouraging and supportive, he is, and I can’t overstate how lucky I am for that, but while he’s the kind of writer whose constant rush of ideas sometimes exceeds his motivation to use them, I’m the opposite way.

One might as well ask where I find the motivation to breathe.

Motivation will never be my problem just like inspiration will never be his. He’ll work on a story and sometimes have trouble getting through without being distracted by other ideas. I’ll have a harder time getting an idea I like and getting started, but once I’m in a story, it’s like nothing else exists. It’s one of the many ways we balance each other.

I love working on something I’m already in love with. I love that feeling of needing to bring a story into being and make it as good as it can possibly be. Not all parts of the process are fun or easy, but there’s never a question in my mind about whether it’s worth pushing through any creative blocks, tricky edits, etc. to continue writing books. That’s how much I love it.