Tuesday 23 December 2014

Bookish Reflections on 2014

This is not my annual Books of the Year post; that is still to come, but I wanted to express a few thoughts about 2014. It has been a funny old year as far as my reading and blogging is concerned. 2014 started with me wading almost waist deep in the books I had to read as a member of Booktrust's Bookbuzz panel, so whilst there was plenty of reading going on I just did not have the time to do a great deal of blogging. Of course, I fully intended to throw myself back into blogging once my work with Bookbuzz was complete, but more than ever before work has completely taken over this year, and this hasn't left a huge amount of time for much else and something had to go, and sadly that something was the time I had previously spent on this blog. I have come perilously close to quitting on a number of occasions, but it all honesty this blog simply means too much to me.

That isn't to say that I haven't found the time to read though, and I've read as much if not more than ever over the past twelve months. However, ironic as it may seem in a year when UK YA really exploded, I have read less YA books than in any of the previous years that I have been blogging. In fact, the number of YA books I've read this year probably barely creeps into double figures, and of those only a very small minority of these linger in my memory as being outstanding, all of which are sequels or books in ongoing series, and three of which are by writers who have previously been Book Zone Book of the Year. 

Department 19: Zero Hour by Will Hill (now my favorite YA series of all time and the final book in the series, Darkest Night, is my most anticipated read of 2015. In fact, I have not been so excited about a book's release since Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows in 2007); 

Our Lady of the Streets by Tom Pollock (the final instalment of a truly mind blowing urban fantasy trilogy); 

Zom-B by Darren Shan (the continuing series, now up to nine books and still going very strong);

The Shadow's Curse by Amy McCulloch (the second book in Amy's outstanding fantasy duology)

This doesn't mean that there haven't been a huge number of brilliant British YA books released in 2014, it just means that I haven't read them. When I look at other bloggers' lists of their favourite books of 2014 I see a huge number of contemporary YA, by which I mean teen 'issues' stories. And I just have no interest in reading these kind of stories. I spend a large part of my job dealing with, or hearing about, teen 'issues' and I don't need to go home and continue reading about them in novels. For me, reading is about escapism. And this is why I really love Middle Grade.

Middle Grade is a term that some people in the UK turn their noses up at, but it works well for me as a category, and not only has 2014 been a great year for UK YA, but it also the year that Middle Grade in the UK reared its head and started to strike back. For too long YA has hogged the limelight as far as the media attention, both mainstream and social media, is concerned. However, in 2014 there seems to have been a shift in the balance of power and more and more UK publishers have been releasing outstanding Middle Grade titles. 

The totally brilliant, put-it-in-your-calendar-worthy #ukmgchat also started for the first time back in March, and now more and more people are chatting on Twitter about the Middle Grade books that they have read and loved. Seriously, if you have not yet discovered the #ukmgchat then you should check it out - the next one is 8pm GMT on 14th January with special guest Robin Stevens. The UK Middle Grade book boom looks set to continue next year, and I have already read three MG books to be published in 2015 that I've given five stars to on Goodreads, and I have a pile I can't wait to dive into over the holidays. It's a great time to be a lover of Middle Grade fiction, and I will be mentioning some of my favourites of 2014 in my Books of the Year post, so watch this space.

As well as a large amount of Middle Grade fiction, in 2014 I have also read a huge number of comics and graphic novels. Some of these have been long available titles that have been sitting unread on my shelves, others have been brand new in 2014. If I have time I might also write a separate post about these.

I hope you all have a fantastic Christmas. Thank you to those of you who have stuck with me through this difficult year, and I hope you have not found my lack of posts disappointing. I would love to promise that 2015 will be better, but I would hate to break a promise, so all I will say is that I will try to do my best.


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