Tuesday 30 December 2014

The Book Zone Books of the Year 2014

As I mentioned the other day in my Bookish Reflections of 2014 post, there are very few YA books tat have rocked my world this year, and every one of them was a 'next in series' book. Apologies for the repetition but in the interest of keeping this list in one place they were:

  • Department 19: Zero Hour by Will Hill 
  • Our Lady of the Streets by Tom Pollock 
  • Zom-B by Darren Shan 
  • The Shadow's Curse by Amy McCulloch 

As I mentioned in the last post, for me and my reading 2014 has been all about Middle Grade and in this respect it has been a truly glorious year. So much so that for the first time since I started blogging I'm not going to be able to name a specific Book of the Year. Last year I twisted the rules to have a YA and a Middle Grade Book of the Year, but with four or five titles vying for that MG spot this year I just cannot make up my mind, and even when I do I find I have changed it an hour later. I will leave my absolute favourites of the year until the end of this post, so if you are impatient please feel free to scroll down to the fanfare! And so, in no particular order:

The Tornado Chasers by Ross Montgomery

I loved Ross's debut, Alex, the Dog and the Unopenable Door, and The Tornado Chasers was just as fabulous. Both books are unlike anything else I've read for this age group in recent years (or ever?), in the best way imaginable. I can't wait to read his third book, Perijee and Me, due out in July.

The Tin Snail by Cameron McAllister

A heartwarming story of the little people being victorious against the Nazi war machine in France during World War II. It is charming and funny and would make a fabulous family TV drama for a Christmas Day evening.

Murder Most Unladylike by Robin Stevens

As I mentioned in my review earlier this year, this is "like Holmes and Watson, but set in a girls' boarding school in the 1930s, and with a soupçon of Jeeves and Wooster thrown in for good measure". Although not a modern setting, it goes a long way towards making mystery stories for kids cool again. I can't wait to read Arsenic and Tea, the next Wells & Wong story due out in January.

Boy in the Tower by Polly Ho-Yen

At times frightening and claustrophobic but ultimately heartwarming, Boy in the Tower is a modern take on the Day of the Triffids/nature fights back scenario. Narrated by Ade, a young boy who has to care for his agoraphobic mother, it is a wonderful story about friendship and hope, when all the odds are satcked against you. 

Compton Valance by Matt Brown

In 2014 we have been treated to two books by Matt Brown featuring his wonderfully named time-travelling hero, Compton Valance. The Most Powerful Boy in the Universe was laugh out loud funny from beginning to end, and then 
The Time-Travelling Sandwich Bites Back raised the bar even higher. I even delayed reading David Walliams' Awful Auntie as both books arrived at the same time (and then only realised last week that I still hadn't read said Walliams book). Matt Borown is more than ably abetted by Lizzie Finlay and her fabulous illustrations, but it looks as if we have to wait until July for the next Compton valance outing, Super F.A.R.T.s versus the Master of Time.

The Sword of Kuromori by Jason Rohan

An action story with a great reluctant hero and a kick-ass (literally) female character in the form of Kiyomi, this fast-paced and exciting book is full of spirits and monster from Japanese mythology. What more could you ask for?

Magisterium: The Iron Trial by Cassandra Clare and Holly Black and Archie Greene and the Magician's Secret by D.D. Everest 

Although by different authors, published by different publishers and not in any way at all related I have put these two together for good reason. For a while I have been craving for a new Harry Potter-style story, set in a magical world that the protagonist did not realise existed, and in 2014 two came along at pretty much the same time. Publishers and writers have obviously decided that enough time has passed since the Harry Potter series came to a conclusion, and I am in complete agreement. Both of these books were fabulous starts to their respective series and I'm really looking forward to following their characters' further adventures.

The Map to Everywhere by Carrie Ryan and John Parke Davis

This one very nearly made it into my Top 5 of the year. It is a brilliant fantasy adventure story with a set of characters that are so well developed that they make the story so believable, even though it is set in a bizarre fantastical world. This is not a book to be hurried, nut is one for confident MG readers to luxuriate in reading.

The Luck Uglies by Paul Durham

The Luck Uglies is another must-read from 2014. It is another fab debut fantasy story, with an original setting and some fabulous characters. It is a fast-paced adventure story with some great humour, but also some really dark moments. I loved it!

The Imaginary by A.F. Harrold and Emily Gravett

Beautifully written and beautifully illustrated, this is a book that will stay with you long after you have turned the final page, and may also haunt your dreams. It's a funny and moving story of an unusual friendship, and is also pretty damn scary at times.

It's almost time for me to reveal my Top 5 MG books of 2014, but before I do there are a handful of others that deserve honorable mentions. A couple of these are aimed at a slightly lower age group, but certainly deserve to be mentioned in this post. 2014 has not only been a great year for Middle Grade in the UK, but also for funny books, and a handful are shown below (and yes, I know that SF Said's Phoenix was published in 2013, but I only read it recently and felt it deserved a belated mention as I loved it so much):



My Top 5 Books of 2014

And so, in no particular order, because that order seems to change by the hour, these are my very favourite books of 2014:

A Boy Called Hope by Lara Williamson

When I read this towards the tale end of 2013 I genuinely thought I had already found my 2014 Book of the Year. I truly loved Lara Williamson's debut, that I described at the time as being a "captivating and inspirational story that pulls mercilessly at the heart strings, whilst also having the reader crying with laughter". 

Infinity Drake: The Sons of Scarlatti by John McNally

For me, this book ticked every single box (see my review if you don't believe me), but I am more than a little confused as to why I have not heard this book mentioned far and wide. It is probably the best action book I have read all year and should be pushed into the hands of any action-loving reader. Perhaps it was the fact that publisher HarperCollins put a 9+ age rating on the back cover that has put off older readers. Seriously, this book is bloody brilliant for anyone aged 11 and above.

Ironheart by Allan Boroughs

This is a perfect old school action/adventure story. Need I say more? Oh, alright then. It has a great post-apocalyptic world with none of that gloomy, yawn-inducing dystopian rubbish, and a superb female protagonist. And also the female protagonist's ass-kicking mentor just also happens to be female. How refreshing! And here's a little something to whet your appetite: the sequel, Bloodstone, is even better and it's due out in just a couple of days!

Urban Outlaws by Peter Jay Black

Back in March I described this high tech actioner as "Leverage for kids" and I stand by that statement. I loved its brilliant action set-pieces and its team of fearless young characters, and just like with Ironheart I found myself longing to read a sequel. Thanks to the fabulous Peter Jay Black I have been able to do this and Blackout is even better than its predecessor.

The Forbidden Library by Django Wexler

This truly is a brilliant fantasy story that is perfect for book lovers of all ages. Imagine being able to enter books, and use them as portals to other worlds. Surely that is every book lover's dream? Every bibliophile feels that books are magical items, but in Django Wexler's world they literally are. Another book whose sequel I simply cannot wait to read, although it looks as if we might have to wait until May in the UK.


As I have already said, 2014 has been an amazing year for Middle Grade fiction in the UK and it looks as if this trend will continue at least for another year. Not only have we got the aforementioned brilliant sequels that I have already read (Bloodstone and Urban Outlaws: Blackout) and many other sequels to the stunning debuts mentioned above, but there are also a plethora of other debuts currently on my radar. one of these I have already had the good fortune to read, and that is the brilliant The Dreamsnatcher by Abi Elphinstone (review coming soon). Simply put, if all of the new MG books in 2015 are even half as good as The Dreamsnatcher then 2015 will eclipse 2014 for quality of Middle Grade books. 


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