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Monday, December 22, 2014

Best Books/Shows of the Year, 2014

I know people who read more than me. I know people I read way more than. Same goes for shows and movies. Whatever relationship I have with you in that regard, here are my top discoveries for the year. Please note that these aren't necessarily books and shows that came out this year, just books and shows I read or watched this year.

Top Reads

(In no particular order. With each of these books, I was thinking about them when I wasn't reading them, always a good sign)

Hero of Ages by Brandon Sanderson

Hero of Ages is the last book in the Mistborn trilogy, so I'd rather not give you a synopsis that spoils the other two books. All I want to say is that this is one of the most epic conclusions I've ever read ever. I don't think I've seen a conclusion to a series that was this epic since Lord of the Rings. Given, if you read more than me, you might disagree. Hero of Ages was fresh with surprises but with an ending that still ties everything together. The characters, world, history, and abilities are awesome. Definitely recommend this series for the high fantasy reader. The second book was just okay. The first was great, and the third was amazing. Read my review of the first book Mistborn here.

The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman

Here Earth is one of only five planets in the solar system, every human has a daemon (the soul embodied as an animal familiar) and, in a time similar to our late 19th century, Oxford scholars and agents of the supreme Calvinist Church are in a race to unleash the power that will enable them to cross the bridge to a parallel universe. The story line has all the hallmarks of a myth: brought up ignorant of her true identity, 11-year-old Lyra goes on a quest from East Anglia to the top of the world in search of her kidnapped playmate Roger and her imprisoned uncle, Lord Asriel. Deceptions and treacheries threaten at every turn, and she is not yet certain how to read the mysterious truth-telling instrument that is her only guide. (Publisher's Weekly).

Okay, this book was made for me. It took me ages to pick it up because of all the "anti" people said it had: anti-catholic, anti-religion, anti-God. I didn't want to support something like that. But I read it and I'm in love it with. One of my fave books of all time now. You can hear me blab on passionately about it all in my review that will be up next month.

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

Despite the tumor-shrinking medical miracle that has bought her a few years, Hazel has never been anything but terminal, her final chapter inscribed upon diagnosis. But when a gorgeous plot twist named Augustus Waters suddenly appears at Cancer Kid Support Group, Hazel’s story is about to be completely rewritten. 

Insightful, bold, irreverent, and raw, The Fault in Our Stars brilliantly explores the funny, thrilling, and tragic business of being alive and in love.

I know just from this book that John Green is an excellent writer. The Fault in Our Stars has got a nice characteristic voice expressed in a story that balances reality with romance, wisdom with youth. You can read my full review of it here.

Trigun/Trigun Maximum (Series) by Yasuhiro Nightow

A Western set on a desert planet, this series begins two years after the finale of the original Trigun and chronicles the return of retired super-gunslinger with a heart of gold Vash the Stampede. Vash’s skills are so destructive that he is officially classified as a natural disaster, and once his return is made public, all manner of ordnance-wielding scum come out in an effort to claim the obscenely high bounty on his head. With a priest who carries a human-sized crucifix/machine gun, Vash makes his way from one bullet-riddled conflict to another, each exploit marked with humor.

More on foreign stuff later. This was the first time I've read a comic/manga from beginning to end. We read American Born Chinese in my college YA lit class, but outside of that, I haven't read really any graphic novels. I'm a huge die-hard fan of the show Trigun, so I finally sat down and read the books. The first two volumes (just called Trigun) are pretty similar to the early episodes of the show. But the plot of the books has so much more depth, backstory, characterization, and frankly, epicness than the show. Like way more. Think book-to-film adaptations. The book is always better. It took a while for me to get the hang of reading the comic format, but I ate it up.

Other books I enjoyed

Every year, Blue Sargent stands next to her clairvoyant mother as the soon-to-be dead walk past. Blue never sees them--until this year, when a boy emerges from the dark and speaks to her.

His name is Gansey, a rich student at Aglionby, the local private school. Blue has a policy of staying away from Aglionby boys. Known as Raven Boys, they can only mean trouble.

But Blue is drawn to Gansey, in a way she can't entirely explain. He is on a quest that has encompassed three other Raven Boys: Adam, the scholarship student who resents the privilege around him; Ronan, the fierce soul whose emotions range from anger to despair; and Noah, the taciturn watcher who notices many things but says very little.

For as long as she can remember, Blue has been warned that she will cause her true love to die. She doesn't believe in true love, and never thought this would be a problem. But as her life becomes caught up in the strange and sinister world of the Raven Boys, she's not so sure anymore.

A book with psychic readings and tarot cards is not a book I would generally pick up, but I'm a pretty open person and will add most recommendations to my to-read list, and I heard such good things about this book I had to give it a go. Maggie Stiefvater has a gift for creating interesting characters, and not only interesting characters, but interesting character-relationship dynamics. She touches on some relationships that echo familiarity, but are yet completely original. That was probably my favorite aspect of this book. But that's not all you get, you get a good story with witchcraft, murder, mystery, and adventure that, coupled with paranormalcy, is unique itself. Check it out.

Beatrice Prior's society is divided into five factions—Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). Beatrice must choose between staying with her Abnegation family and transferring factions. Her choice will shock her community and herself. But the newly christened Tris also has a secret, one she's determined to keep hidden, because in this world, what makes you different makes you dangerous.

While I liked this series, I didn't like it as much as everyone else. With that said, I liked the ending of it more than everyone else. I thought the ending was great while everyone else strongly disliked it. Veronica Roth did some great things with the plot, but for some reason this series just didn't sink its teeth into me. Check it out.

Books on Writing I Read

This ultimate insider's guide reveals the secrets that none dare admit, told by a show biz veteran who's proven that you can sell your script if you can save the cat!

This is a very popular book in the writing world. It was worth the read and money, but not as awesome as I had anticipated. Check it out. 

Part memoir, part master class by one of the bestselling authors of all time, this superb volume is a revealing and practical view of the writer’s craft, comprising the basic tools of the trade every writer must have. King’s advice is grounded in his vivid memories from childhood through his emergence as a writer, from his struggling early career to his widely reported, near-fatal accident in 1999—and how the inextricable link between writing and living spurred his recovery. Brilliantly structured, friendly and inspiring, On Writing will empower and entertain everyone who reads it—fans, writers, and anyone who loves a great story well told.

Also very popular. Okay, technically, I'm still reading this one, but it's good so far. Check it out.

"Show—don't tell." How many times have you heard this standard bit of writing advice? It's so common in writing courses and critiques that it has become a cliche. Writers are often told to write scenes, dramatize, cut exposition, cut summary—but it's misguided advice. The truth is good writing almost always requires both showing and telling. The trick is finding the right balance of scene and summary—the two basic components of creative prose.

Showing and Telling shows you how to employ each of these essential techniques in the appropriate places within a narrative. 

You'll learn how to:
Write scenes and cut exposition
Compress time and summarize background information
Create graceful transitions
Effectively inject interpretation
And more!

Complete with examples from bestsellers and interactive exercises, this comprehensive guide offers an in-depth look at scene development, the role of reflection in storytelling, the art of summarizing, and how to bring it all together.

This book definitely helped me better understand when to tell instead of show. Check out my review of it.

Top Shows

In case you don't follow me all that closely, my goal has been to branch out into more foreign stories in order to learn new storytelling techniques. So I got back into some anime (haven't watched anything new in that genre in like 8-10 years). I'm trying out some Korean Drama right now, and then I'm going into Bollywood. 

Some people shy away from anime because it's "geeky" and all that, but here's the thing that everyone should understand. Animation is how Japanese do storytelling. It's the equivalent of our t.v. shows. Saying you hate all anime is like saying you hate all music or all movies or all t.v. Anime ranges from kids shows like Pokemon to adult shows and even erotica.

So, my top pick for the year is definitely Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood. Hands down one of the best shows I've ever seen. The twists and surprises blew my mind, not to mention the way the writer played with Alchemy was fascinating. The starting of the series does wander a bit, the protagonists are young, and some of the animation is a little cartoon-y at times. I don't mind it, but thought I'd give the warning for people who might have a tough time getting into it at first. 

If you watch it, make sure you watch the one that has "Brotherhood" in the title. There are two versions, and Brotherhood sticks to the written story. (Think book-to-film adaptations.)

Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood

After losing their mother to a terminal illness, [two brothers] try to resurrect her using alchemy - a science which allows you to transform physical matter from one form to another. However human transmutation is strictly forbidden as it cannot be carried out successfully. The resurrection of their mother failed causing Edward to lose his left leg and Alphonse his entire body. Edward manages to save Alphonse's soul by bonding it to a suit of armor by sacrificing his right arm. Determined to recover their bodies, Edward joins the military as a state alchemist and the brothers begin their search for the philosopher's stone. During their journey they discover the truth about the country's history, and the conspiracy at the higher levels of the military and take it upon themselves to save the country's future. (IMDB)

Last I checked, you can watch most of the series on Netflix. You can also find it online. In fact, I liked this show so much, I rewatched the whole thing after I was done--back-to-back.


In this modernized version of the Conan Doyle characters, using his detective plots, Sherlock Holmes lives in early 21st century London and acts more cocky towards Scotland Yard's detective inspector Lestrade because he's actually less confident. Doctor Watson is now a fairly young veteran of the Afghan war, less adoring and more active. (IMDB)

Like how I treated Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, my brother liked Sherlock so much, he went back and rewatched them as soon as he finished.

For the record, neither of us do that. He never does that.

We can't wait for the next episodes. The acting is awesome. The characters are awesome. And of course, the cases are awesome. Sprinkle in some great humor, and you've got Sherlock. Find it on Netflix.

Other Shows I Watched

Attack on Titan

After his hometown is destroyed and his mother is killed, young Eren Jaegar vows to cleanse the earth of the giant humanoid Titans that have brought humanity to the brink of extinction. (IMDB)

Currently one of the most popular anime. I've never seen anything quite like it, so it definitely has some originality. It's got violence, blood, and non-genitalia nudity (I guess?). (The monsters have butts, but nothing else, and they don't wear clothes cause they're monsters so. . .). Titans are like a cross between giants and zombies. They move and behave like zombies, but they aren't the undead and they're huge. The animation is great, and like I said, it's fresh. It's war against monsters with an underlying conspiracy going on, so it has mystery, all served up with a horror undertone and a dark overtone. Personally, I think the intro to the show does a good job of letting you get a feel of it. I liked it, but definitely not a fave of mine.

Rooftop Prince

A prince from the Joseon era travels to present-day Seoul with a special team he put together, in order to solve the mysterious death of the woman he loved. To his surprise, when he arrives, he meets a woman that looks exactly like her. However, it's not only the princess who has a modern-day doppelganger—everyone seems to have one, including the prince himself. Popular singer-turned-actor Micky Yoochun (Sungkyunkwan Scandal) stars in SBS's newest romantic comedy. (DramaFever.com)

This is the first Korean Drama I've ever seen. It's fun, light-hearted, and has some good pinch points.

Shows I revisited (couldn't help myself): The Office and Trigun

Books on my To-Read-Soon List

Wool by Hugh Howey
The sequels to The Golden Compass
Behemoth by Scott Westerfield

Shows on my To-Watch-Soon List

Dr. Who (UK)
The Gu Family (Korean Drama)
Knights of Sidonia (Anime)

Help! Give me Bollywood suggestions!! I have no clue where to start.


  1. There are a couple of Bollywood movies I am highly interested in checking out. Krrish is the title of one of them. Upon further research it is a sequel to Koi...Mil Gaya. There is a Krrish 3 as well. The other Bollywood movie is called Ra One. Also, I would like to suggest some movies of Chinese origin as well. The IP Man movies with Donnie Yen are amazing. The Four is a great supernatural film and Tai Chi Zero is fantastic. I loved the Korean movie Snowpiercer too despite some of the bad reviews it has received.

  2. I have a really love-hate relationship with Bollywood. More on the side of hate actually. But there are two movies that I would definitely recommend.
    P.K, about an alien who came to Earth and is confused by the concept of God. It is hilarious, but the theme is really strong.
    Ek Villain, a murder mystery kind of story about a serial killer. I haven't read or watched this genre much, so can't say much about either you find it fresh or interesting. But it did hold my interest to the end, I especially liked it's music. ;)
    And I am also a big FMA fan. One of my most fav fiction of all time.


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