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?

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New Year’s Resolutions: Reading List for 2015 (Updated 3/13)

Hey everyone! It’s exciting to be back after taking a 2 1/2 week-break from blogging at All Eyes On Screen. I had a wonderful Christmas and fun New Year’s celebration with family and friends in both my hometown state of Illinois and my current residence in Wisconsin. While I was starting to take down all of my holiday decorations, I was thinking through all of the resolutions I have for this new year that has already started. Reviving All Eyes On Screen in 2014 was one of the most fulfilling and fun resolutions to accomplish. As I’m looking to the future, I hope to continue to update and improve All Eyes On Screen, from upping the quality of writing content, to publishing more posts on a consistent basis. I anticipate some major changes happening personally in my life over the next year, but I am hoping to learn to balance my time better, and regularly write for the site. With that all said, I do realize that breaks from writing will be inevitable and necessary to take from time to time; however, I will be aiming to publish posts as consistently and regularly as possible. Looking to the future of 2015, I have been composing lists of resolutions that will serve as an accountability and goal for me to work towards bettering myself and All Eyes On Screen. My first goal related to the site is to read more books. So many of the movies we see today are based on someone’s written work, and I think we often get a more well-rounded view and appreciation for source material when we read it. I’ll admit that I’m not a huge reader, but I’d like to change that. I read ten books in 2014, so I’d like to improve that number by reading twenty-five books over the year 2015. I’ve separated my list into sections that I can work towards. Note: I’ve starred all the books that have (or will have) a movie/TV adaptation (that I’m aware of) with one star. I added a second star for all of the movie/TV adaptations I’ve already seen.


 Rory Gilmore Reading Challenge

This past year, I just started watching the awesome show Gilmore Girls (2000-2007) from the beginning in order, after Netflix so graciously added the show to their streaming service. Gilmore Girls has become my current TV addiction, and with it, a desire to read more, given that Rory always has a book in her hands. I found this awesome list on Pinterest that states: “Over the course of seven seasons of Gilmore Girls, Rory Gilmore was seen reading 339 books on screen.” I selected five on the list that piqued my interest:

25. The Virgin Suicides** by Jeffrey Eugenides

24. Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach (Finished 2/16)

23. The Shining** by Stephen King

22. The Great Gatsby** by F. Scott Fitzgerald

21. On the Road* by Jack Kerouac


Finishing (or Continuing) Series

Here is my list of books that are part of series I’d like to finish. It’s embarrassing to admit that I haven’t finished the Harry Potter collection, but I resolve to conclude the series this year. And since we’re talking about J.K. Rowling books here, I decided to add the second book of her Cormoran Strike novels to my series list. Without apology, I also admit to never finishing Tolkein’s The Return of the King after struggling through the first two in the trilogy.

20. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix** by J.K. Rowling (halfway through)

19. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince** by J.K. Rowling

18. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows** by J.K. Rowling

17. The Silkworm* by Robert Galbraith

16. The Return of the King** by J.R.R. Tolkein


Five Personal Choices

Here are five books I’ve been looking forward to starting:

15. Game of Thrones (A Song of Ice and Fire)* by George R.R. Martin

14. The Count of Monte Cristo** by Alexandre Dumas

13. Very Good Lives: The Fringe Benefits of Failure and the Importance of Imagination by J.K. Rowling

12. Divergent** by Veronica Roth

11. The Bourne Identity** by Robert Ludlum


Book Club Selections

When I moved to Wisconsin halfway through last year, I joined a growing book club. Thanks to that club, I got back into reading. We usually have six meetings a year (one every other month). The future ones have yet to be determined, although talk of reading Laura Hillenbrand’s Unbroken has surfaced . . .

10. To Kill a Mockingbird** by Harper Lee (Finished 1/22)

9. Unbroken* by Laura Hillenbrand (Finished 3/12)

8. Call the Midwife: A Memoir of Birth, Joy, and Hard Times* by Jennifer Worth

7. To be determined

6. To be determined


Your Recommendations

I handed this section over to readers, commenters, and anyone who mentioned an idea via word of mouth, Facebook, or Twitter. These are the five books I picked, thanks to your recommendations:

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


Stay tuned for more New Years Resolutions posts this week and next, and don’t forget to check out my Reading Corner on the bottom left of the site, where I list what I’m currently reading.

I’ll be making the rounds on everyone else’s sites over the next three weeks in hopes of catching up to my lengthy feed of unread posts.

What are your reading resolutions for 2015?

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Pt. 2

With a lot to live up to, (think Return of the King, Dark Knight, etc.), Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Pt. 2, does not, in fact, live up to its far superior predecessors. It does, however, bring a grand ending to the series while incorporating some humorous and heart-breaking moments. We see the best acting squeezed out of the main characters as well as some surprising nuggets of humor and strength from unsuspecting characters, such as Mrs. Malfoy (Helen McCroy), Mrs. Weasley (Julie Walters), Neville Longbottom (Matthew Lewis), and Professor McGonagal (Maggie Smith).

This movie was pretty good. It had some great moments, but overall, it was just pretty good. Big moments that could have been built up better were rushed through. The huge battle scene at the end lost part of its excitement when Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) and Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) jump off the cliff and start flying around with their hands around each other’s faces. What was the point of this? The book certainly didn’t write the end happening this way.

Ron and Hermione (Rupert Grint and Emma Watson), the two lead supporting actors in the film, played just that in this film: supporting roles. So supporting, in fact, that their kiss was the only significant and enjoyable moment that either actor had on screen. Professor McGonagal and Neville stole scenes with witty dialogue and heroic actions, while Harry’s two best friends seemed to just fade into the background. In Ebert’s review, he mentioned how the adult actors also owned the scenes. Voldemort was the ultimate bad guy, played with such an enjoyable evilness, that you almost wanted to laugh a couple times.

As the protagonist of the series, Daniel Radcliffe might have given his best performance. After he puts his face into the pensieve and sees Snape’s (Alan Rickman) memories, he learns for the first time that he was born to die. This comes as a hideous shock to both him and the audience. In the book, he doesn’t see Ron and Hermione for a last time, because he realizes he might not be able to go through with dying (by Voldemort) if he sees one of them. Instead, he ends up running into Neville and makes Neville promise him to kill the snake, the last horcrux, which would inevitably kill Voldemort. Instead, in the movie, Harry shares a last moment with Hermione and Ron that is rushed through, and then walks to his death while they stand still with jaws dropped. I can’t help but think that this scene could have been much more powerful had the screenwriter/adapter stuck to the true story.

Another scene that lost its power due to the adapted story is when Harry opens the snitch and the Resurrection Stone appears. There, he meets the deathly shadows of his father (Adrian Rawlins), mother (Geraldine Sommerville), Sirius Black (Gary Oldman), and Professor Lupin (David Thewlis). This is a powerful scene, but it’s so rushed through, that it’s immediately forgotten when Harry walks further into the Forbidden Forest. The book has these dead relatives walking with him through the Forbidden Forest, right up to Voldemort and his army, right before Harry dies. J. K. Rowling’s writing dismissed here is another huge disappointment.

But possibly the biggest disappointment of this film is the flurry in which Snape’s character is killed and forgotten. Although Snape does die, his moment is quickly lost to move onto the next. Alan Rickman gives his best performance, as short as it may be, his last words being to Harry: “You have your mother’s eyes.” When Harry views Snape’s memories through the pensieve, we see the past that closes many holes that the series has created since we started watching the films. Why has Snape bullied Harry for so long? Why does Snape seem to hate Harry? Why did Snape kill Dumbledore? These questions are answered, and more is revealed. Unfortunately, Snape’s memories last only a short while. We, as viewers, lose perspective despite the huge demons that have been pulled out of the closet. We have mixed feelings on Snape now, but no time to focus on them. Snape’s death was so rushed through, that we, the audience, missed out on a grieving opportunity. In the past, Cedric, Sirius Black, Dumbledore, and Dobby have passed away. Huge moments were given to these characters; after all, each of their deaths served as a climax to the films in which they died. Fred (James Phelps), one of the twins and Professor Lupin pass, yet we hardly realize how sad this is because we must keep pushing forward with the film’s agenda.

The end bears the most touching scene, the adulthood of the three main characters. Nineteen years later, we see an adult Harry and Ginny (Bonnie Wright) ushering their kids to platform 9 3/4. Harry shares a moment with his son, Albus Severus Potter. He reminds him that he is named after one of the best wizards he knows – Severus. This special tidbit is included in a perfectly subtle, yet honorable way. There’s just a slight moment where we catch an adult Draco Malfoy (Tom Felton), where we conclude that the relationship between he and Harry is now friendly. Last, we see married couple Ron and Hermione with their kids. The ending scene pictures Ron, Hermione, and Harry standing there, grown up and happy. It’s a moment where you can do nothing else but smile. It serves as a grand, but not over-the-top end to the amazing franchise.