My Favourite Things: 2014

It’s time to collect all my favourite things and play show and tell! Highlighted entries point to reviews and rambles on this blog.

Books

BooksI read 292 books this year. That’s a lot. Consequently, I awarded many five-star ratings. 72, to be exact. Narrowing down a list of favourites that wouldn’t make your eyes bleed was really, really hard. In the end, I decided on the books that were the biggest surprises.

Science fiction was the most difficult field to narrow. I read a lot of great science fiction this year. I read a lot of great and surprising science fiction–books that did something different, or took an idea and twisted it. I also read a number of books that could be counted as instant classics. Maybe not so new and different, but just such a wonderful illustration of why I love the genre. Among these would be Memory by Lois McMaster Bujold, The Martian* by Andy Weir and Trial by Fire* by Charles E. Gannon.

But the book that did it all differently makes my science fiction book of the year.

Science Fiction: The Flight of the Silvers* by Daniel Price 

Super powers, alternate dimensions, cosmic cycles and beautifully flawed characters. The Flight of the Silvers has it all, and more.

Fantasy: Sword of the Bright Lady* by M.C. Planck and Control Point by Myke Cole

A tie, in which two authors took fantasy and finally did something new and different with it. In Sword of the Bright Lady, M.C. Planck fictionalised the table-top gaming experience, right down to how XP is earned and magic is used. It’s a damn good story too. In Control Point, Myke Cole militarised magic. Gathered sorcerers under the banner of the United States military and then f*cked with the formula until they bled. Both books feature top notch characterization.

Graphic Novel: East of West, Vol. 3: There Is No Us* by Jonathan Hickman and Nick Dragotta

Stunning art work and storytelling: The Four Horsemen are having a difference of opinion. Death’s not ready to continue the cycle of apocalypse that has claimed this world over and over. (My reviews of volume 1  and volume 2 have more detail.)

Non Fiction: A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers

An audio gem that captured me for weeks. A large part was due to the skillful narration by Dion Graham. He interpreted as he read, adding tone and inflection that personalised this memoir. By the end, I felt I knew Dave Eggers and his brothers. That I had grown up with them. Also, it’s just a damned good story.

Romance: Something Like Autumn by Jay Bell

The entire four part “Seasons” or “Something Like” series is wonderful. A tale of three men whose lives and loves intersect as they come of age and learn to navigate the world as adults, lovers, and gay men. The third book, Something Like Autumn, wrecked me. Even a month afterwards, just thinking about it put a lump in my throat. And yet, I don’t regret reading it because the author managed that ultimate surprise. Despite the ending, I felt hopeful. Despite my tears, I gained a sense of peace. That’s REALLY hard to do.

Young Adult: Red Rising* by Pierce Brown

I generally don’t have a high opinion of Young Adult books, that’s why this one is the surprise. I discovered it in the audio lending library and, because it was new—they don’t add speculative titles that often, I decided to give it a go. I was pretty much blown away by the end of the first chapter. Part of it was the narration by Tim Gerard Reynolds. He voiced every character with depth and emotion and even sang when the book required it. The greater part was that the character of Darrow and his story. It’s epic. It’s also complicated. Darrow makes so many mistakes, and he doesn’t always learn from them first time ‘round. The final part is the plot. It’s harrowing and clever. And it’s NOT bright young things against the crusty old establishment. Actually, it is, but not all the young are bright and not all the old are evil and/or stupid. There’s a good balance. Red Rising is more an illustration of a society that is eating itself from the inside out.

I just finished the sequel this morning. It’s stunning in it’s intensity and scope and I can’t wait to share my review.

(Books marked with a * were published in 2014)

Movies

MoviesIn Theatres: Interstellar

Until I saw Interstellar, Fury could have been my favourite film this year. I’m a fan of David Ayers as a writer and director. Just knowing he had a film coming out put Fury on my “must see” calendar. It’s the story of a five man tank team who complete a heroic mission behind enemy lines toward the end of World War II. It’s blood, gritty and very, very real.

What can I say about Interstellar? How about: at the end, my husband, daughter and I sat silently for about five minutes. We had to digest. Then, when we tried to pick it apart, we figured out a solution for every perceived hole. And they were elegant solutions. At the heart of it all, though, Christopher and Jonathan Nolan told a bloody good story.

The acting in both movies was wonderful.

On DVD: Draft Day, Lone Survivor, The Normal Heart, The Kings of Summer, Prisoners and Rush

Only six five star ratings, so they’re all listed here. Again, it’s a somewhat eclectic mix. 🙂

TV

TVWhile Marvel’s Agents of S.H.E.I.L.D. continued to enthrall me, my two favourite shows were watched via Netflix. Strike Back and Marco Polo. Strike Back follows a fictional division of British Intelligence into terrorist hot spots where they kick ass and take names. It’s shocking, violent and twisty, with the script and acting to pull it off. Marco Polo consumed Husband and I for eight days. Twice, we watched two episodes at once because we had to. The show is gorgeous, gripping and probably the best TV I’ve seen in years.

Games

GamesA lot of fun was had as the family continued our co-op play through of Borderlands 2.  We’ve started the Prequel-Sequel. The game I wanted to break into tiny little pieces was Assassin’s Creed III. I’m so scarred, I’ve yet to play Assassin’s Creed IV. I enjoyed Thief up until the end. I still don’t understand what happened at the end, but this game called to the loot hound inside me. DMC Devil May Cry has one of the most tightly encapsulated plots I’ve ever seen. And it’s freaking gorgeous. The most anticipated game was Dragon Age: Inquisition, and so far, it’s living up to the promise of all those years of waiting. Likely, it will top my personal chart in 2015. For this year, however, my favourite game was another surprise:

Favourite Game: Saints Row IV

Downloaded on a whim over a free preview weekend. Ten hours later, I was totally hooked. The surprise was everything I didn’t expect: story, heart and soul. And fun. Tank Mayhem FTW. I had an idea the Saints Row games were all about pretending to be a “gangsta”. They’re not. While some folks might think the inherent violence in the game is an issue, really, it’s a hell of a lot more tame than may others I’ve played. And there are plenty of quests that have nothing to do with being the fastest draw. But, let me just say that after a long day of edits, running a tank over a few pixelated souls is good therapy.

Music

MusicI didn’t listen to a lot of music in 2014. I spent a lot of time writing and I don’t listen to music when I write. Not usually. Listening to audio books while doing chores and driving also cut into music listening time. But I did discover a new artist and an album I was able to rave about.

Favourite Album:  Hozier by Hozier

If you haven’t listened to “Take me to Church”, click through and give it a listen. Then come back and tell me if that voice gave you chills.

Favourite Song: “A Sky Full of Stars” by Coldplay

Like a lot of Coldplay songs, this is one I will be able to listen to for years without getting bored.

Food

A trip to New Orleans served up the best burger, ever.

Favourite Dish: Tableau Cheeseburger

Three 2 oz. grass fed beef patties from Gonsoulin Farms. topped with American cheese, housemade pickles, and sliced onion on an onion bun. Served with Housemade ketchup. Crystal aioli and pommes frites. Served by Tableau Restaurant, French Quarter, New Orleans.

Activity

When not tweaking my blog theme, I read a lot and wrote a lot. Both continue to be my favourite activities, because both take me on a journey. Also, this year, for the first time, my writing interfered with my reading. While writing the male-male science fiction romance series I’m co-authoring with Jenn, I found I couldn’t read any other male-male romance because my head and heart were consumed by our own story and characters.

So, I could say writing was my favourite activity, but instead, I’m going to dig a little deeper.

Favourite Activity: Collaborating with my co-writer, Jennifer Burke.

Chaos Station is not the first book we’ve written together, but this is the journey that’s taken us the farthest so far. We live and breathe these boys, their lives and their story, and I can’t wait to share it with all of you.

Chaos Station is available for pre-order and is due to be released on March 2, 2015. We just handed in the final line edits for Lonely Shore (book 2) and that is scheduled for some time in May 2015. Up next is developmental edits on Skip Trace (book 3).

I also wrote two solo novels and two short stories, all of which feature romantic themes. I’ve a few projects in development for next year. Jenn and I need to write books 4 and 5 of the “Chaos Station” series. I also want to delve into a world I’ve been putting together for a while now, start developing and telling stories there. I have a couple plotted out, I just need to see which set of characters starts talking the loudest.

That’s it, my list for 2014. I hope you all had a great year. 2015 has a lot of exciting stuff in store for me (three scheduled book releases and a bunch of conventions!). I hope it’s a good one for all of you.

10 thoughts on “My Favourite Things: 2014

  1. Jenn Burke December 31, 2014 / 10:29 am

    D’aww. I’m touched that co-writing with me is your favourite activity. *hugs*

    Here’s to all the adventures we had in 2014 and all the ones we anticipate for 2015!

    • Kelly Jensen December 31, 2014 / 10:30 am

      It’s like gaming together, only better!

    • Kelly Jensen December 31, 2014 / 6:01 pm

      Thank you. 🙂 Best wishes to you too!

  2. Carl V. Anderson January 1, 2015 / 9:07 pm

    Glad you had a good year. You got a lot of books read! Wow!

    I loved The Martian as well. I’m wanting to read the Gannon book as I thought it sounded interesting earlier this year when folks were talking about it.

    I’ve held off getting the Thief game as I’m a HUGE fan of the other games and I’ve heard disparaging things about it. I’d love to rebuild my PC at some point and replay those old Thief games. They remain among my favorites of all time.

    • Kelly Jensen January 2, 2015 / 11:44 am

      I usually prefer to play games on my PC. For RPGs in particular, I find the combination of keyboard and mouse easier to navigate. I do own an Xbox and a Playstation and a Wii as well. Because we must have ALL the consoles. The Wii is fun for party games and the Xbox and Playstation are great for games like Assassin’s Creed where you need to do a lot complicated single player combat.

      Also, there’s something to be said for being able to recline on the couch and play a game at the same time.

      • Carl V. Anderson January 2, 2015 / 9:59 pm

        I used to be a die-hard, down on consoles, PC gamer. Built my own computers, had the latest stuff I could afford. And then went through a period of being frugal and getting out of debt and started gaming on a 360 that friend gave me. Now I plan on consoles more for convenience, I think, though the graphics have gotten much better. But I still want to get to the day of building my own PC again as I miss gaming with keyboard and mouse.

    • Kelly Jensen January 2, 2015 / 11:45 am

      I forgot to comment on Thief. I really enjoyed the new game. The graphics were gorgeous. And there were some really creepy/scary moments. The story didn’t quite have the depth I’m used to, though, and I found the ending bewildering.

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