Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Books I Read in 2014

toptentuesdayTop Ten Tuesday is an original meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. Head over there to see more lists like this one!


My list, I’m afraid, is in no particular order. I loved all of these books like children – individually and with no favorites.

nk_wwHow to Run with a Naked Werewolf by Molly Harper (2013)

Molly Harper is definitely one of my favorite light-reading authors, mostly for her deliciously snarky humor. This Alaskan werewolf romance is one of her best offerings yet.



farthingFarthing by Jo Walton (2006)

If you’ve never read alternate history fantasy, this is a great place to start. It’s set in a post WWII Britain where “Peace In Our Time” really lasted… at a price. Now the government is friendly with the victorious German Nazis, and Jews, homosexuals, and other “undesirables” fear for their lives. Farthing is the first book in a loosely related trilogy.


rithmatistThe Rithmatist by Brandon Sanderson (2013)

Although such comparisons are usually shallow, unfair, or both, I’m going to describe this to you like I did to my girlfriends with reading children: Harry Potter. With magic math.



w_girlsThe Wicked Girls by Alex Marwood (2008)

This is the “not my usual” pick on this list – I don’t normally read crime. This one really worked for me, though – strong characterization, an unusual setting, and a mystery I couldn’t figure out. I originally got the recommendation from A Work In Progress, and so her review is linked above.

3tenses Take Three Tenses: A Fugue in Time by Rumer Godden (1945)

This short, somewhat stylized novel explores the life of a house over 100 years. Although it was written in 1945, I also found it to be very modern in the way it examined women’s roles in society.

wildroseA Wilder Rose by Susan Wittig Albert (2013)

What was the relationship between Laura Ingalls Wilder and her author daughter, Rose? This book is a fictionalized account of the years after Rose returned from Albania and settled down (or didn’t) to working with her mother on the Little House books. Albert does an amazing job of capturing Rose’s voice and filling in some missing years in these fascinating womens’ lives.

 bloodflowersThe Blood of Flowers by Anita Amirezzvani (2007)

This unusual piece of historical fiction is about a Persian village girl who dreams of working as a rugmaker in the big city. The story line of finding your place in a world that is not always friendly to women was so true that it resonated with me as a current-day woman engineer in heavy industry. There’s also some light romance and intrigue, and the setting is absolutely wonderful: richly and lovingly detailed seventeenth-century Persia.

imageMy Salinger Year Joanna Rakoff (2014)

This memoir successfully opens a window into another life & another world: in this case, mid-90’s  literary New York. Like most window-gazing, this book will satisfy your inner book-nerd voyeur.



Wisp of a Thing by Alex Bledsoe (2014)

Although you could easily read it as a standalone book, Wisp of a Thing is the second installment in Bledsoe’s rural fantasy series about the Tufa, a mysterious group of people — or ?? — living in the hills in Tennesee. The books are infused with music and Appalachia and magic, and are the most wonderful antidote to too much urban fantasy.

ench_starsEnchantress from the Stars  by Sylvia Engdahl (1970)

Sylvia Engdahl gives us both fantasy and science fiction in this classic YA novel: a story of three brothers who try to slay a dragon with the help of an enchantress and a sorcerer, and science fiction about three anthropologists from an advanced race of humans that travel to a less developed planet to help the locals resist colonization.


Readers: What were the best books you read in 2014?


Review: The Blood of Flowers by Anita Amirrezvani

bloodflowersIs reading an author’s books in reverse publication order a good idea?

I read Anita Amirrezvani’s second novel, Equal of the Sun, earlier this year. It followed the real-life story of a Persian princess from the Sufi dynasty who tried to rule her country after the death of the shah. Similar to a Jeanne Kalogridis novel set in renaissance Italy, and set at about the same time, it was a well-written tale of intrigue and politics with a rich historical setting. The admirable yet largely unlikeable princess was viewed from the perspective of a more sympathetic servant, reminding me strongly of Kalogridis’s The Scarlet Contessa. In the end, it was a good book, but heavy politicalsun historicals are really not my thing: I read the whole thing, liked it, didn’t review it, and never planned to read another of Amirrezvani’s again.

This is why I’m so thankful for randomness and used books.

I ended up with a used copy of Amirrezvani’s first novel, The Blood of Flowers. Like Equal of the Sun, it is set in 17th century Persia, but follows the story of a simple village girl who is very good at tying rugs. She has two loving parents and expects a wonderful life married to a local boy and surrounded by the close network that is her village. When her father dies unexpectedly, she and her mother must depend on the charity of a distant uncle in a large city. She finds that she loves city life, and her uncle is kind – but he is also a rug maker to the Shah. This awakens longings in the girl to be more than just a home crafter: she wants to be an artist, a rug designer, and a business owner, longings that are not easily fulfilled in her time and place.

This book works on so many levels. Of course, there’s the self-actualization of the village girl (who the novelist does not name) finding her place in a world that is not always friendly to women. That story line was so true that it resonated with me as a current-day woman engineer in heavy industry. There’s some light romance and intrigue, foreshadowing what Amirrezvani manages with her second novel. And the setting is absolutely wonderful: richly and lovingly detailed in a very unusual setting.

(Really, historical fiction readers, aren’t you tired of England and Italy all the time?)

I also appreciated the way the character’s perception of the world around her was handled. She was, appropriately, a seventeenth-century Persian girl with all of the beliefs and attitudes that come along with it. She had all kinds of misconceptions and fears about Christians, and in fact the one Christian in the novel is not a good guy. Yet all this is handled with a light touch, and I felt the author was describing the main character’s perspective rather than trying to force a point.

I originally started listening to this book on audio, and that was almost the best part. Compared to my experience with reading Equal of the Sun, I got a much richer sense of Persia, as well as a better understanding of the place names and some of the common sayings of the main characters. However, I liked the book so much that the audio wasn’t fast enough, and I finished reading in print.

Overall, I could recommend The Blood of Flowers to many different readers: historical fiction lovers, for sure, but also those who enjoy women’s fiction or romantic subplots, audio book fans, and anyone looking for a diverse read. Then, if you enjoy heavier political historicals and want another dose of Persia, follow up with Equal of the Sun.