To offer their opinion on what the best books of the year were, we called on someone with a huge amount of knowledge when it comes to the literary world. Head of the learning resource centre at Gateshead’s Throrp Academy, Beth Khalil who also sits on our Board of Trustees covers a variety of genres in this list.
Giving a great insight into just a minute amount of books that have left a lasting impression on her during the course of the year, check out what made the cut on Mrs Khalil’s list below.
1. My absolute favourite book so far in 2014 is a YA thriller called Web of Darkness by Bali Rai.
It is about a girl called Lily who befriends a boy over the internet called Benedict and they correspond with each other, sending pictures and messages. Lily completely opens up to him even though her friends get increasingly more worried about her and how much she is changing. At the same time a spate of suicides occur at her school and her life starts spiralling out of control.
This book is fantastic. Very dark, disturbing and absolutely thrilling. I read this book in two sittings because I literally had to force myself to put it down for any length of time. It is definitely for YA readers because of the content but it will keep you totally gripped from beginning to end!
2. Shattered by Teri Terry is the final book in the Slated trilogy.
This series is about a girl called Kyla who, in the first book Slated, has had her mind wiped and is made to adapt to life in a dystopian society with a new family. Kyla struggles to fit in with her new life and she starts to see images in her dreams of memories she shouldn’t be able to remember. The story in Slated, Fractured and then Shattered tells of Kyla’s fight to survive against a corrupt government and a group of dangerous freedom fighters who both want to use Kyla and she finds it increasingly difficult to know who to trust.
Shattered is one of the best endings to a trilogy I have read. I preferred this series to Hunger Games and definitely to Divergent. The writing style and story is unique and the action scenes are fast and powerful. I loved the twists and turns of these great characters as it rushes to the conclusion. I will most definitely read this series again in the future and have recommended it to everybody!
3. Exposure by Kathy Reichs is the 4th book in the Virals series.
Kathy is the creator of Temperance Brennan (Forensic novels & Bones TV series) Virals is her YA Sci-fi suspense series starring Temperance Brennan’s niece Tory. Tory and her four friends live on a secluded island. Tory’s Father whom she has just been sent to live with when her Mother dies works in a lab on the island. When the four kids find a pup in the lab that is going to be experimented on, they steal him away. What happens from there brings the fantasy/sci-fi element into the books. Tory and friends and the pup (whom they name Cooper) start to become involved in mysteries which occur on and around the island.
I love this series. I read the Tempe novels as soon as they come out and I am just as obsessed with this series now. I try to read them as slowly as I possibly can but find them very hard to put down as the stories are so fast and interesting and exciting. I love Tory as a character and the dialogue is so witty and funny, perfect for YA readers.
4. The Sleeper & the Spindle by Neil Gaiman.
This author is an absolute genius. Every book he writes is unique, quirky and undeniably brilliant. The Sleeper & the Spindle is no exception. It is a stunningly beautiful book illustrated by Chris Riddell and is based on the fairy-tale Sleeping Beauty. The dark magic woven into the story is compelling and rich and there are parts to the book which are fairly disturbing because of the suitors caught in the thorn bushes and the walking sleeper-like zombies. The words of the story are wonderfully written and it is so much more interesting than your average fairy tale.
5. Armageddon Outta Here by Derek Landy has to be one of the best Skulduggery books yet. It is a book of short stories which the genius who is Derek Landy has put together superbly, linking the stories from the rest of the Skulduggery series. There are one or two stories which have already made an appearance at the end of a couple of the other books but there are original ones as well. My favourite out of the whole book has to be Get Thee Behind Me Bubba Moon which was very dark, creepy and still laugh out loud hilarious because of the fantastic dialogue which never fails to amuse me in every book of his. You don’t have read the whole series to enjoy this book as each short story is perfectly formed and can easily be read without knowing everything about the characters. I can guarantee though that if this is the first book you try by Derek Landy then you will absolutely want to go to the beginning of the series and devour every book!
6. Allies and Assassins by Justin Somper.
I read this book as part of the North East Teenage Book Awards shortlist. It is not my usual preference of genre but I am so glad I tried it. The book is set as a historical mystery in a Prince’s court and when the reigning Prince Anders is found dead, his younger 16 year old brother Jared takes over to rule the land.
The story itself is so easy to get into and he creates a small world of excellent characters, each with their own agendas and secrets. The intrigue of the murder keeps you reading frantically and I did not guess who the murderer was until right near to the end because of how brilliantly the twists in the story keep you focused on the main characters. My favourite character is absolutely Asta because she is so brave, honest and loveable. I would recommend this to any reader who likes a great mystery or who loves historical stories as it was gripping!
7. Half a Creature from the Sea by David Almond.
This is again a short story book from the amazing North East author of Skellig and Clay. This is more than just a regular book of short stories though because it has biographical chapters about David’s life at the start of each story telling you where the story came from and bits about his life growing up in the North East. The stories are really well told as you would expect from David and they also make you want to go back and study them again because they are so clever and wonderful.
I read anything by this author as I find his books uniquely wonderful and comforting, made more so by the fact that they are written about places I have visited and known about all of my life. There are very few writers who write their characters with Geordie dialogue and it is so lovely to read. My favourite story from the book is Harry Miller’s Run because the images of the boys running from Newcastle to South Shields in the hot sun are just lovely and Harry is such a great character – this little old man remembering his story and Davie sat at his side just listening and imagining, being drawn in to Harry’s past which shows what the power of storytelling is all about.
8. Salvage by Keren David.
This is a very engaging family/suspense novel from the excellent author of the When I was Joe trilogy. I waited a long time for this to come out and started reading it the day I bought it. It is about a teenager called Aidan and his sister Cass whom he has not seen since they were children. Aidan has not had the most successful life because of his childhood and he now lives with his girlfriend and her baby son. Cass however is living with her adoptive parents in a lovely home and her Father is a very well know politician. She has a younger brother whom she is very protective about and when Aidan and Cass re-connect she is thrilled but a bit scared of where their family relationship will lead. There are secrets in their past that neither she nor Aidan are ready to face.
I loved this book and found it to be gripping, raw and powerful. The style of writing which was so strong in the Joe trilogy comes through brilliantly in this. The characters were great and really drew you into the story while at the same time the dark underlying suspense element made you race to the last page to find out what happens. I would absolutely recommend this to any YA reader.
9. I Am Pilgrim by Terry Hayes.
This book is the only adult fiction book on the list which I have really enjoyed from this year. Pilgrim is a codename for a man who doesn’t exist. Scott used to head up a secret espionage unit for US intelligence. When he retires, he disappears from the grid but before he goes he writes a definitive book on forensic criminal investigation. Ben Bradley is a NYPD detective trying to solve a murder of a young woman in a NY hotel without any identification. He is aware of the book and wants to find the man who wrote it so he can enlist his help. As the story unfolds it becomes a race against time involving a religious fanatic who is plotting to bring down the USA with a fierce terrorist attack.
This took me a while to read (almost 624 pages) and I did read other books at the same time but I found it fascinating, brutal, intriguing and exciting. I loved the short chapters which kept the story from being tedious and Scott’s character was so likeable and solid compared to the Saracen whose twisted views and religious fanaticism drive his part of the story. The story is genius the way it unfolds bit by bit and how Ben digs deep into Scott’s life to try and find out about him. A definite read for suspense fans of Lee Child or Dan Brown.
10. The Child’s Elephant by Rachel Campbell-Johnston.
This book is set on the plains and villages of Africa and is about a young boy called Bat. He comes across an orphaned baby elephant and takes her back to his village to raise her. Bat and his friend Muka take Maya to a nearby elephant herd one day to try and integrate her back into the wild, but are captured by soldiers and forced into the children’s army where they have to fight to survive. This book was published at the back end of 2013 but was on the shortlist for the Carnegie Awards this year.
This was such a gorgeous book to read. The characters, the setting, the storyline was all so intricately woven to make an exciting and memorable read. The descriptions of Bat’s home in Africa, of his Grandmother and his village are stunning and really draw you in. I loved the elephants, especially Meya and my heart broke for Bat when he has to let her join the herd and then he and Muka leave her. The brutality and cruelty of what happens to the children is horrendous yet gives the story a grittiThis was such a gorgeous book to read. The characters, the setting and the storyline are all so intricately woven to make an exciting and memorable read. The descriptions of Bat’s home in Africa, of his Grandmother and his village are stunning and really draw you in.
There are some brutally violent bits in the book but so much hope at the same time that those chapters are not too hard to cope with. I would recommend this book to readers from age 12 to adult as I think that every reader will get something unique from reading this. I really loved it!