The Best Books in 2014 + Five Books I’ll Be Reading in 2015

Although we’re a solid three weeks into January, I am still wrapping up all of my lists for last year. I have a flurry of “Best of” posts waiting to be published, with my top ten list of movies post coming out sometime near the end of this month. I’m still holding out to see Selma and Foxcatcher, although I’m unsure if I’ll be able to make both before I need to publish my list. All of that said, let’s get back to the point of this post.

Here’s my ranking of the best five books I read in 2014:

5. Son (2012)
by Lois Lowry

I really enjoyed Lowry’s YA quartet of stories that all started with The Giver, a book that has inspired countless popular dystopian stories today. While I think all four books are well-written, I enjoyed Son the most out of the three sequels because it concluded the stories and tied together all of the primary characters we got to meet in The Giver (1993), Gathering Blue (2000), and Messenger (2004). Lowry intertwines the overall themes of sacrifice and love, with good overcoming evil in the end. I’m thankful that I didn’t discover the series until last year, because I’m not sure how much I would have wanted to wait 19 years for a conclusion.

4. The Giver (1993)
by Lois Lowry

No doubt The Giver is the strongest, and perhaps most thrilling book in Lois Lowry’s quartet of stories that start with a boy named Jonas. Bestowed upon him at the transitional age of twelve, the title and job of being the Receiver of Memories casts a burden on the shoulders of a boy who starts to question the world in which he lives. An unsuccessful and inferior film based on the book was released in 2014, starring Jeff Bridges and a misplaced Meryl Streep. I’d recommend The Giver because its simple plot keeps you thinking after you’ve read the book. After reading multiple popular dystopian YA books over the past few years, I realized that The Giver stands apart from the mass not only for being published in the early ’90s, but also for its unique position in having inspired so many other stories.

3. Ready Player One (2011)
by Ernest Cline

Given the premise, I originally thought Ernest Cline’s first book would appeal more to gamers than the average person. And I imagine that in some sense, it does. But it’s a fascinating story that takes place in a virtual world, yet asks a deeper question that proves relevant for any person today. If you appreciate the pop culture of the 1980s, then I suggest you read Ready Player One immediately. If the past gets you nostalgic, if you have a soft spot in your heart for the Back to the Future films, or if you have a deep love for RPG games, then Ready Player One is the book for you. If you like adventure stories, underdog tales, superheroes, and squeal when the smart guy gets the girl, then you should probably get your hands on a copy of Ready Player One. If none of those reasons apply to you, and you enjoy a good book, then download Ready Player One on your device and start reading it. Need I give you more reasons?

2. Gone Girl (2012)
by Gillian Flynn

“Thrilling” and “dark”: those are the best two words to describe Gillian Flynn’s novel. Most people are familiar with both the title and the story by now, after the novel was adapted into a critically-acclaimed film last year. Having read the book and then seen the movie, I would no doubt admit what most people would: the book was better. The film was good, yes, but there’s something much creepier when you are alone in discovering the mystery behind Amy Elliott Dunne’s death. While I would have preferred less language, and could easily chalk up Gone Girl to a whodunnit mystery thriller starring Mr. and Mrs. Sociopath, what makes Gone Girl so engaging is the order in which Flynn makes her reveals. Not only are we terrified to find out what happens next as we see what happens through Nick’s eyes, but we also have our belief suspended on Ms. Flynn’s impeccably-written order of events. Thanks to her brilliant timing, as readers we get to experience the rush of solving a mystery, only to nervously proceed to find out what’s happening next. Suffice it to say the movie experience did not compare.

1. Cuckoo’s Calling
by Robert Gailbrath

It is for books like Cuckoo’s Calling that we have a list of inspiring characters and stories to thank, and in this case, I would start with Sherlock Holmes and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Multiple adaptations and inspiring and visionary TV shows, films, and characters have been crafted from Conan Doyle’s best known crime solver and detective. Cormoran Strike, the protagonist of Cuckoo’s Calling, is not much like Detective Holmes, but the similarities in both what they do is apparent in reading the first of J.K. Rowling’s crime fiction novel series. As Rowling peels back the layers of the man who is Cormoran Strike, I found myself sympathizing with his personal circumstances and curious about the case surrounding Lula’s death. Rowling has a way of drawing in readers and keeping them compelled the entire time. I haven’t read The Silkworm, the first of multiple sequels in the works, but I’m planning to in 2015. Truly, the credit has to go to the creative mind of the author, because it is with explicit detail that Cuckoo’s Calling is fashioned, and it unfolds much like a TV mini-series would, where you can’t help but watch the entire series in one sitting. Whether or not one is a fan of the Harry Potter series, which made Ms. Rowling a household name not only in her home country, but also across the globe, one who enjoys an intense and thrilling crime mystery would have a hard time putting down Cuckoo’s Calling. Of course, I speak from my own experience. I found Cuckoo’s Calling to be the best book I read in 2014. It stayed with me long after I finished reading it.


A week and a half ago, I wrote a few New Year’s Resolutions posts for 2015, one of which is to read more books. I read only ten books in 2014, so I mentioned how I’d like to improve on that number by reading twenty-five this year. I picked twenty of them, and then I asked the rest of you for suggestions for my last five. Per your recommendations, these are the five I chose:

5. And Then There Were None
by Agatha Christie

4. The Night Circus
by Erin Morgenstern

3. High Fidelity
by Nick Hornby

2. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
by Stieg Larsson

1. The Fault in Our Stars
by John Green

To view my entire reading list for the year (twenty-five books total), or to see an update on where I am in my reading, check out my New Year’s Reading post here.

Stay tuned for the “best of” in music, TV, and movies this week and next. Thanks again to everyone who offered recommendations for my reading list this year! 🙂

What were the best (and worst) books you read in 2014? What are you planning to read this year?

My Go-To Movies

There is a sense, one must admit, that when a person goes through any major time in life, that that person searches for inspiration or encouragement or any major emotion in the different seasons life offers. For me, I’m one to look to the movies. Movies is not my answer to problems, but I will say that movies certainly ease pain, distract, and act as an excellent escape from the demons in my mind at times.

Here’s a list of some of the movies I go to first when I need a laugh or a little inspiration.

Go-To Funny Flicks

Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog
The Hangover

Happy Gilmore
Jim Carrey anything
School of Rock
She’s the Man

Go-To Chickflicks

(500) Days of Summer
Elizabethtown
The Holiday
Never Been Kissed

Notting Hill
The Wedding Date

Go-To Inspirational Films

50/50
The Artist
Cast Away
Good Will Hunting
Jerry Maguire

Go-To Psychological Thrillers

Anything Christopher Nolan directed
The Matrix
Vanilla Sky
Equilibrium

Go-To Action Flicks

Back to the Future 1 & 2
Inception
Lord of the Rings trilogy
Mission Impossible
 1, 3 & 4 

 

Out of all those movies listed, Elizabethtown is probably the movie I go to the most in all different times and seasons of my life. There are zillions of other movies that I love, but these are the ones that immediately came to mind for me when I need a “go-to” movie. Go-to movies are different for everyone–we all gain inspiration, get a good laugh, or find ourselves mesmerized by different films. These are mine.

What are your go-to movies? Which movie have you rewatched the most? Do you ever get more out of a movie the 10th, 18th, or 39th time watching?

Love Week: Singing Bits I Love in Film

With only a few hours left in the day, I’m struggling to get a second post out during my “Love Week” here at All Eyes on Screen. Multiple things have kept me MIA from AEOS lately, so I’m going with the thought, better late than never, right?

So yesterday, I posted about my 10 favorite romantic movies. Tonight I’ll be including a few singing bits I love in various films, which happen to be all over the place. The list isn’t conclusive, but a few favorites I really enjoy.

“Johnny B. Goode” in Back to the Future (1985), sung by Michael J. Fox

When I was thinking about writing this post, Fox’s performance of “Johnny B. Goode” was the first one to pop in my head. Back to the Future is one of my favorite movie trilogies, and this is one of the most memorable scenes. He starts off by announcing that “this song is an oldie . . . um, from where I come from,” suddenly realizing that it’s not considered old in 1955. He kills it on the guitar, and it’s completely entertaining in both the first film and when it’s revisited in the second film.

“I Put a Spell on You” in Hocus Pocus (1993), sung by Bette Midler

Every year around Halloween, I make it a priority to get a viewing of Hocus Pocus in, because it’s a holiday classic. It might be the only film I can handle Sarah Jessica Parker in too (exception: Sex in the City [only the first one!]). This part is exceptionally hilarious, because while the kids are trying to convince their parents that these three witches are, in fact, real witches, Bette Midler decides to work with the line “Put a spell on you,” and turns it into a performance at a Halloween party.

“Grow Old with You” in The Wedding Singer (1998), sung by Adam Sandler

I did include this scene in my last post. However, I had the most difficult time selecting a song I love most from The Wedding Singer. Adam Sandler sings several times throughout the film, but I think “Grow Old with You” is his most heartfelt performance. Other hilarious songs include his rendition of “Love Stinks” after he’s been left at the altar, and “You Spin Me Round” at the opening credits of the film. The ’80s Adam Sandler knows how to sing, and what better way to woo a girl than to start singing to her.

“Can’t Take My Eyes off of You” in 10 Things I Hate about You (1999), sung by Heath Ledger

Speaking of singing for women’s affections, Heath Ledger is fantastic in the little stunt he pulls to win back Julia Stiles in 10 Things I Hate about You. He pays off the marching band to accompany him while he half dances, half runs away from the cops trying to hustle him down. This is a favorite of my favorite singing bits in a movie, partly because Ledger is so charming singing “Can’t Take My Eyes off of You.”

“Only Hope” in A Walk to Remember (2002), sung by Mandy Moore

I used to wonder if Mandy Moore was recruited for A Walk to Remember just to deliver her song “Only Hope” in the film. This is her shining moment in the film, when she surprises everyone, especially Shane West, by stepping out and singing beautifully. She lends her voice to the film’s soundtrack as well.

“The Edge of Night” in The Return of the King (2003), sung by Billy Boyd

I’ve been reading The Fellowship of the Ring, and I noticed something familiar as I was reading a poem in the third chapter titled “A Walking Song”–the lyrics from the song “The Edge of Night” that Billy Boyd sings in The Return of the King matched parts of the last stanza in the poem. Another cool thing I learned from reading about it on its Wikipedia page is that Billy Boyd actually composed the beautiful melody for the song.

“Teacher’s Pet” in School of Rock (2003), sung by Jack Black

After reading this post, I learned that my film friend, Castor of Anomalous Material highly dislikes Jack Black, even in School of Rock. I, however, can’t get enough of Mr. Black, especially in School of Rock. It’s one of my favorite comedies, and I love this end scene where the students rally with Jack Black and perform “Teacher’s Pet” at the Battle of the Bands. The lyrics are well-written and pretty funny, and who better to lead a band of elementary school kids than Jack Black?

“Run and Tell That” in Hairspray (2007), sung by Elijah Kelley

There are multiple songs I would pull from this remake of Hairspray to claim as favorites, but I decided to go with “Run and Tell That” because the choreography is great and the lead singer, Elijah Kelley, is relatively unknown, especially in a film that included so many big names. Kelley’s voice is exposed multiple times on the soundtrack and throughout the film, but his solo “Run and Tell That” really reveals what an incredible voice the singer-actor has. I much prefer to listen to Kelley over Michelle Pfeiffer or Christopher Walken.

“Pop Goes My Heart” in Music and Lyrics (2007), sung by Hugh Grant

Although Music and Lyrics was certainly no hit, it did include some entertaining songs from a fictional 80s band with lead vocalist Hugh Grant. Although Grant certainly doesn’t possess booming pipes, he really pulls off the facade and sound of an 80s leading man fairly well. I had to include “Pop Goes My Heart” over “Way Back into Love” because the music video is hysterical, but well-made.

“Stu’s Song” in The Hangover (2009), sung by Ed Helms

And of course, I couldn’t forget “Stu’s Song” from The Hangover. The great part about the song is that it fit in so well with the rest of the film. The random uncertainty and spontaneity of the movie was its ticket to success, and Ed Helms delivers on all funny levels necessary, especially for a light break from the “drama” of the movie. The neat thing about this song is that the musically-talented actor actually just sat down and starting singing and playing the song, coming up with it on the spur of the moment. The director liked it so much that he put it into the movie.

What songs do you guys love in movies? Do you like any of the same as me?