Today we’re recapping the best of the best from our 2018 reads and telling you why they made our list. We’d love to hear if you’ve read any of these and agree with us!
Overall Favorite Book Read in 2018
✩ KIM ✩ Goodreads tells me that my average rating for the year was 3.9. I rated 12 books (out of the 41 that I read) 5 stars in 2018. I feel like I’ve gotten pretty good at sussing out books that I know are going to be winners for me. I really try to be choosy in what I read because I only have so little time to do it. No one wants to waste time on a book they aren’t loving (hence I’ve also gotten less shy about DNFing books.) Choosing a top book out of my 41 read was extremely hard. I waffled about this one because I also read and loved Dear Martin, The Hate U Give, and Orphan Monster Spy. In the end, I chose this book because it spoke to me on a personal level. It’s about the dynamics of a group of girls who are friends at school and the, sometimes, tragic results of the things teenagers do and say and how they can influence each other. I have some first hand experience with this that shaped who I was for a very long time, so – my favorite book of the year is…
The Secret Place, Tana French
A year ago a boy was found murdered at a girlsʼ boarding school, and the case was never solved. Detective Stephen Moran has been waiting for his chance to join Dublin’s Murder Squad when sixteen-year-old Holly Mackey arrives in his office with a photo of the boy with the caption: “I KNOW WHO KILLED HIM.” Stephen joins with Detective Antoinette Conway to reopen the case. With the clues leading back to Holly’s close-knit group of friends, to their rival clique, and to the tangle of relationships that bound them all to the murdered boy, the private underworld of teenage girls turns out to be more mysterious and more dangerous than the detectives imagined.
✤ TANYA ✤ My favorite book read this year is pretty clear-cut – no other book touched me like this, nor held me in the story like this did. Perhaps it’s because I’m an immigrant myself, and know a LOT of other immigrants, so this story was familiar, or maybe it was just the great way the story was told, or maybe it was because I could so vividly picture this family, their apartment, their struggle, or maybe it’s because the audiobook narration by Prentice Onayemi was so spot on … or maybe it’s just all of the above. Either way, my favorite book of the year is …
Behold the Dreamers, Imbolo Mbue
Jende Jonga, a Cameroonian immigrant living in Harlem, has come to the United States to provide a better life for himself, his wife, Neni, and their six-year-old son. In the fall of 2007, Jende can hardly believe his luck when he lands a job as a chauffeur for Clark Edwards, a senior executive at Lehman Brothers. Clark demands punctuality, discretion, and loyalty—and Jende is eager to please. Clark’s wife, Cindy, even offers Neni temporary work at the Edwardses’ summer home in the Hamptons. With these opportunities, Jende and Neni can at last gain a foothold in America and imagine a brighter future. However, the world of great power and privilege conceals troubling secrets, and soon Jende and Neni notice cracks in their employers’ façades. When the financial world is rocked by the collapse of Lehman Brothers, the Jongas are desperate to keep Jende’s job—even as their marriage threatens to fall apart. As all four lives are dramatically upended, Jende and Neni are forced to make an impossible choice.
Favorite Speculative Fiction – Fantasy
✤ TANYA ✤
Children of Blood and Bone, Tomi Adeyemi
Zélie Adebola remembers when the soil of Orïsha hummed with magic. Burners ignited flames, Tiders beckoned waves, and Zélie’s Reaper mother summoned forth souls. But everything changed the night magic disappeared. Under the orders of a ruthless king, maji were killed, leaving Zélie without a mother and her people without hope. Now Zélie has one chance to bring back magic and strike against the monarchy. With the help of a rogue princess, Zélie must outwit and outrun the crown prince, who is hell-bent
Muse of Nightmares (Strange the Dreamer #2), Laini Taylor
I loved the first book in the series, Strange the Dreamer, and Muse of Nightmares is an excellent follow-up. Taylor spent a lot of time developing the characters, and developing a unique World. Although the romance was a little too much for me sometimes, it really didn’t detract from the author exploring the growth of the other characters and developing unique complex relationships.
In the wake of tragedy, neither Lazlo nor Sarai are who they were before. One a god, the other a ghost, they struggle to grasp the new boundaries of their selves as dark-minded Minya holds them hostage, intent on vengeance against Weep. As humans and godspawn reel in the aftermath of the citadel’s near fall, a new foe shatters their fragile hopes, and the mysteries of the Mesarthim are resurrected.
✩ KIM ✩
Spinning Silver, Naomi Novik
This was a follow-up to Uprooted, although most consider it a stand-alone. It’s completely magical complete with 3 strong female leads, mythical fae creatures from the land of the Staryk, and the terrifying Chernobyl demon. I loved this story with all it’s complications and plot twists. Novik manages to include a bit of unexpected romance in the story without making it cliche. I thought I was kind of over fairytale retellings, but not after this!
Miryem is the daughter and granddaughter of moneylenders, only her father isn’t a very good one. Miryem steps in and takes over the business. When her grandfather loans her a pouch of silver pennies, she brings it back full of gold. But having the reputation of being able to change silver to gold can be more trouble than it’s worth–especially when her fate becomes tangled with the cold creatures that haunt the wood, and whose king has learned of her reputation and wants to exploit it for reasons Miryem cannot understand.
Favorite Speculative Fiction – Science Fiction
✤ TANYA ✤
BINTI (Series), Nnedi Okorafor
I didn’t read a lot of science fiction this year, but this 3 part series of novellas was excruciatingly beautiful, and could not go without mention on my top books list. And the covers are gorgeous. The hardcover edition of the trilogy actually comes out in Feb. 2019 … but each novella s currently available separately.
Her name is Binti, and she is the first of the Himba people ever to be offered a place at Oomza University, the finest institution of higher learning in the galaxy. But to accept the offer will mean giving up her place in her family to travel between the stars among strangers who do not share her ways or respect her customs.
✩ KIM ✩
All Systems Red, Martha Wells
This is a novella but man, does it pack a punch. 150 pgs just wasn’t enough to cover the scope of this book. I wanted to know more about what made the SecUnit tick and how the Humans really felt about it. You can bet that I’ll be reading a lot more of Martha Wells in 2019.
On a distant planet, a team of scientists are conducting surface tests, shadowed by their Company-supplied ‘droid — a self-aware SecUnit that has hacked its own governor module, and refers to itself (though never out loud) as “Murderbot.” Scornful of humans, all it really wants is to be left alone long enough to figure out who it is. But when a neighboring mission goes dark, it’s up to the scientists and their Murderbot to get to the truth.
Favorite Speculative Fiction – Magical Realism
✤ TANYA ✤
Someone Like Me, M.R. Carey
M.R. Carey wrote – The Girl With All the Gifts, The Boy on the Bridge and Fellside – all of which were engrossing reads … the dude can write! And Someone Like Me is no different from the rest. He will pull you in with the characters – they have a lot going on, most of it’s tragic … and keep you reading to hear more about their story. In case you haven’t guessed it, this book takes it’s time and doesn’t rush … the hardcover is 500 pages … and I like my fast paced action as much as anyone, so don’t worry – you’ll get plenty of that too. This book is just all-around good in every way possible.
Liz Kendall wouldn’t hurt a fly. She’s a gentle woman devoted to bringing up her kids in the right way, no matter how hard times get. But there’s another side to Liz—one which is dark and malicious. A version of her who will do anything to get her way, no matter how extreme or violent. And when this other side of her takes control, the consequences are devastating. The only way Liz can save herself and her family is if she can find out where this new alter-ego has come from, and how she can stop it.
The Outsider, Stephen King
If you’ve read GXO for any period of time this year, you’re not surprised to see this book on my list of faves. I’m going to mention the audiobook specifically because the narration by Will Paton is amazing – he portrays the characters, the emotions, the suspense in a such a masterful way that you will be transported by this novel.
An eleven-year-old boy is found in a town park, hideously assaulted and murdered. The fingerprints (and later DNA) are unmistakably those of the town’s most popular baseball coach, Terry Maitland, a man of impeccable reputation, with a wife and two daughters. Detective Ralph Anderson, whose son Maitland coached, orders an immediate and public arrest. Maitland is taken to jail, his claim to innocence scorned. Maitland has a foolproof alibi, with footage to prove that he was in another city when the crime was committed. But that doesn’t save him either.
Fave Contemporary Fiction
✤ TANYA ✤
An American Marriage
, Tayari Jones
This book is on every “Best of the Year” list and rightly so. The author takes a heavy subject like race and the injustices perpetuated against black males that lands them in the prison system – and makes us look at the effect on the family relationships. It’s an interesting, character driven plot which dives deep and pulls us in. Highly recommended!
Newlyweds Celestial and Roy are the embodiment of both the American Dream and the New South. He is a young executive, and she is an artist on the brink of an exciting career. But as they settle into the routine of their life together, they are ripped apart by circumstances neither could have imagined. In this deft exploration of love, loyalty, race, justice, and both Black masculinity and Black womanhood in 21st century America, Jones achieves that most-elusive of all literary goals: the Great American Novel.
Us Against You (Beartwon #2), Frederik Bachman
There is absolutely nothing I could say that hasn’t already been said … so, this is a fantastic book – go read it! The plot, the characters, the setting … all described and designed to take us into the story. You don’t need to read Beartown first – but it would help – and it’s also an excellent book. The description may lead you to believe these are books about hockey – they are not! They are about a town, and it’s people – adults and kids – and life in a small town and hope and love and loss.
After everything that the citizens of Beartown have gone through, they are struck yet another blow when they hear that their beloved local hockey team will soon be disbanded. What makes it worse is the obvious satisfaction that all the former Beartown players, who now play for a rival team in Hed, take in that fact. Amidst the mounting tension between the two rivals, a surprising newcomer is handpicked to be Beartown’s new hockey coach. Soon a new team starts to take shape around Amat, the fastest player you’ll ever see; Benji, the intense lone wolf; and Vidar, a born-to-be-bad troublemaker. But bringing this team together proves to be a challenge as old bonds are broken, new ones are formed, and the enmity with Hed grows more and more acute.
ELEANOR OLIPHANT IS COMPLETELY FINE, Gail Honeyman
When I like a book, I try to mention it as many times as possible. And Eleanor Oliphant is one I’ve forced on many people. It’s one of the best character driven novels I’ve read. Eleanor is not really fine … she’s a little odd, has her quirks, has suffered severe trauma and is trying to make it through life.
Meet Eleanor Oliphant: She struggles with appropriate social skills and tends to say exactly what she’s thinking. Nothing is missing in her carefully timetabled life of avoiding social interactions, where weekends are punctuated by frozen pizza, vodka, and phone chats with Mummy.
Washington Black, Esi Edugyan
I don’t read much historical fiction … actually only this book, which is why this is here as “honorable mention” but this Scotiabank Giller Award Winner is one of the most memorable books I read this year. This novel set during the times of slavery – from the Caribbean island of Barbados, to the US, (near the) North Pole, Canada, England, Amsterdam and Morocco. Sounds like a lot … and it does require some suspension of belief … but the author takes us along fairly swiftly and holds our attention with the drama and intrigue. Washington Black, “Wash” is the main character – and one of the things I wished this book did, was go into more depth and detail of the other characters. We get a sense of them, but other than maybe Tanner, there’s not really much depth to the rest. Nevertheless, Wash is the reason why we read, and Wash is the reason I loved this book.
In 1830, two English brothers arrive at a Barbados sugar plantation, bringing with them a darkness beyond what the slaves have already known. Washington Black, an eleven-year-old field slave, is horrified to find himself chosen to live in the quarters of one of these men. But his new master is not as Washington expects him to be. He is the eccentric Christopher Wilde, naturalist, explorer, inventor and abolitionist, whose obsession with perfecting a winged flying machine disturbs all who know him. Washington is initiated into a world of wonder: a world where the night sea viewed from a hilltop explodes with light, where a simple cloth canopy can propel a man across the sky, where even a boy born in chains may embrace a life of dignity and meaning—and where two people separated by an impossible divide can begin to see each other as human.
But when a man is killed one fateful night, Washington is left at the mercy of his new masters. Christopher Wilde must choose between family ties and young Washington’s life. What follows is a flight along the eastern coast of America, as the men attempt to elude the bounty that has been placed on Washington’s head. Their journey opens them up to the extraordinary: a dark encounter with a necropsicist, a scholar of the flesh; a voyage aboard a vessel captained by a hunter of a different kind; a glimpse through an unexpected portal into the Underground Railroad.
Fave Historical Fiction
✩ KIM ✩
Orphan Monster Spy, Matt Killeen
I’ve read a lot of books set during WWI/WWII but this is the first that is entirely from the perspective of a teenager. I found the premise for this book fascinating and the actual plot was thrilling.
After her mother is shot at a checkpoint, fifteen-year-old Sarah–blonde, blue-eyed, and Jewish–finds herself on the run from a government that wants to see every person like her dead. Then Sarah meets a mysterious man with an ambiguous accent, a suspiciously bare apartment, and a lockbox full of weapons. He’s a spy, and he needs Sarah to become one, too, to pull off a mission he can’t attempt on his own: infiltrate a boarding school attended by the daughters of top Nazi brass, befriend the daughter of a key scientist, and steal the blueprints to a bomb.
Have you read any of these books? What was your favorite book read this year? And if you’re participating in #AMonthofFaves, add your post to the linky below.