The Best Books of 2014 So Far

It’s time to take a look back at my favorite reads so far this year, divided into a couple subcategories. You can see my 2013 list here.

This post is linked at “Top Ten Tuesday”, a weekly book list meme hosted by The Broke and Bookish. The cover images take you to GoodReads.

Favorite Fantasy Books

The Name of the Wind Whispers Under Ground
The Name of the Wind (The Kingkiller Chronicle #1) by Patrick Rothfuss
A great fantasy story that has it all: a legendary hero, a coming of age story, and a magic school. It made me at turns excited, sad, and laugh out loud. The best book I’ve read so far this year.

Whispers Under Ground (Peter Grant #3) by Ben Aaronovitch
Yep, the first book, Rivers of London, was on last year’s list. I still love Peter Grant, and all the other characters in this series!

Favorite YA novels

All These Things I've Done The Summer Prince
All These Things I’ve Done (Birthright #1) by Gabrielle Zevin
I breezed through this futuristic crime story in one day. Anya was a great main character – not everyone will like her, but I really did.

The Summer Prince by Alaya Dawn Johnson
I loved the atmospheric writing in this book, and liked the focus on art performances.

Favorite Re-Reads

Velho ja Leijona Shades of Milk and Honey_bigger

The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe (The Chronicles of Narnia (Publication Order) #1) by C.S. Lewis
I was in a nostalgic mood, and read the first Narnia book in Finnish, the language that my mother first read these to me. Now I want some Turkish delights (although they were translated simply as a box of chocolates in this book, I always think of the BBC adaptation’s box of Turkish delights when I read this.)

Shades of Milk and Honey (Glamourist Histories #1) by Mary Robinette Kowal
A fun magical Regency fantasy of manners novel. A quick, fun, if a bit predictable read.

Favorite Graphic Novels

Young Avengers Vol. 1 Yotsuba Vol. 12
Young Avengers, Vol. 1: Style > Substance by Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie & Mike Norton
This was so much fun! I definitely want to read the rest of the run from these creators.

Yotsuba&! Vol. 12 by Kiyohiko Azuma
Yes, Yotsuba makes it to the list again. I can’t fight it! She’s adorable! I love her enmity with Yanda, it always makes me laugh.


Magical Schools in Fantasy

Tough Traveling

Each Thursday, The Fantasy Review Barn uses Diana Wynne Jones’s The Tough Guide to Fantasyland, and tours the mystical countryside looking for adventure and fun (and tropes) from all over fantasy.

This week’s tour topic is Invisible College. I chose to highlight all kinds of magical schools, since I could think of only three that are hidden in some way! All the links take you to GoodReads. The picture of Hogwarts is from Harry Potter Wiki.

1. Unseen University
From the Discworld series, by Terry Pratchett
I love how institutionalized these wizards are! Well, they are mostly old men who are very set in their ways. Once in a while, though, a newfangled type of magic or wizard makes its appearance, and the staff has to deal with some changes. While the university is called Unseen, it’s not actually hidden. It’s in Ankh Morpork, and the core part of it is a tall tower, so it’s pretty difficult to miss.

2. The Tower of High Sorcery of Wayreth
From the Dragonlance universe
I have to admit that it’s been a long while since I’ve read a Dragonlance novel, so I can’t remember if the Tower was actually the place were the mages studied. Well, at least they went there to take the Test of High Sorcery. There are other towers, too, but Wayreth’s is the only one in “modern day” Krynn that still holds the Test (it’s the place where a certain Raistlin Majere took it). It is also a hidden tower, which can appear in different locations, only showing itself to the people it chooses. All the Towers of High Sorcery are surrounded by a magical forest of their own, through which only mages can find their way.

3. The University
From The Kingkiller Chronicle, by Patrick Rothfuss
The University that Kvothe attends is a huge complex with a lot of different fields of study. It has its own campus and shops, and is basically a mini-town. It’s a place of higher learning, and not only for magic: you can study medicine, languages or mathematics. Then there are the magical fields of study, like Sympathy, Alchemy and Naming. There is some pretty weird staff on board, and you’d better not get on their bad side. This university isn’t actually hidden, but it is pretty hard to get into, especially if you do not have a rich backer.

4. The School for Wizards on Roke
From the Earthsea Cycle, by Ursula K. Le Guin
Again, another fantasy book that I read so long ago, that I can’t remember much about the school itself. Ged studied here in A Wizard of Earthsea. It is situated on an island that is protected by magic, which makes its impossible to travel there if you are not welcome.

5. Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry
From the Harry Potter series, by J.K. Rowling
You can’t leave this one out. We’d all want to visit it, right? Along with the Tower of Wayreth and the school on Roke, this University is actually hidden, at least from Muggles. There are also magical schools in other countries than Great Britain, like Beauxbatons in France, and Durmstrang in Bulgaria.

Which of these schools would you most like to visit? I think the University from the Kingkiller Chronicle might be the safest choice if you don’t want a magical accident to befall you… but I’d still like to visit the Unseen University, although I think the accident rate is pretty high, there. And of course I’d visit Hogwarts, because, come on.

Current Reads: How to Be A Victorian

This post is linked at “It’s Monday, what are you reading?”, a weekly meme that tells us what the blogosphere is currently reading. It is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey. The links in the cover images take you to GoodReads.

I am currently reading

How To Be A Victorian
How to Be A Victorian
By: Ruth Goodman
Genre: Non-fiction
First published in 2013

We know what life was like for Victoria and Albert. But what was it like for a commoner like you or me? How did it feel to cook with coal and wash with tea leaves? Drink beer for breakfast and clean your teeth with cuttlefish? Dress in whalebone and feed opium to the baby?

Moving through the rhythm of the day, from waking up to the sound of a knocker-upper man poking a stick at your window, to retiring for nocturnal activities, when the door finally closes on twenty four hours of life, this astonishing guide illuminates the overlapping worlds of health, sex, fashion, food, school, work and play.

I saw this at a bookstore and instantly went and – ordered it from the library! :D I’ve been pretty successful with buying less books. This non-fiction book seemed like something I’d really enjoy. It tells about the day to day lives of ordinary British people, focusing on the poor to upper middle class, I think. I was really sold by the structure of the book, with chapters starting from waking up and washing up, then going through the various daily activities, such as meals, and ending with going to bed.

I’ve read the first chapter, and it was very interesting. I learned for example that most Victorian people slept with their bedroom window open, even though their houses were cold, since they thought that carbon dioxide from their breath could fill up the room and end up poisoning them in their sleep! (It might have actually been a good practice because of the gas lamps and coal dust in their houses, though, you never know.)

I’m also reading

The Three Musketeers Ship of Magic
The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas
Ship of Magic (The Liveship Traders #1) by Robin Hobb

I’m still in the middle of The Three Musketeers – I put it down at one point and now I should really pick it up again and finish it. I also started Ship of Magic as part of my 2014 High Fantasy Challenge.