As 2018 draws to a close, I want to take a step back and reflect on all the books I’ve encountered this year. I always look forward to seeing my Year in Review for Goodreads, and I’m hoping to do a similar thing here. I’ll be doing this in two parts: 2018: A Year in Books, and Top 10 Books of 2018 (Link to come… maybe!). This one will be my favourite books of 2018, by the month I’ve read them.
And so we start!
Truly Devious by Maureen Johnson
“Albert Ellingham said knowledge was his religion and libraries were his church, so he built a church.”
I very helpfully didn’t write a review beyond “4 stars!!!!” for this one, but I remember not being able to put it down. While I’m languishing away waiting for The Shades of London Book #4, I got the chance to enjoy another of Maureen’s funny, heartfelt, complex mysteries. In Truly Devious Johnson tells the story of our quirky protagonist, a crime and yet another fancy boarding school. It’s full of Johnson’s signature humour and loveable (and hateable, and love-to-hateable) characters. Johnson does pepper her work with a bit of pop culture, and I enjoyed the shoutouts to True Crime throughout. It does come across a bit cringy at points, but that’s no great sin. This is one I’ve been recommending to my students all year and I’ve only had one not enjoy it. Those are good odds!!
For fans of…True Crime Comedy.
Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynn Jones
“Interesting things did seem to happen, but always to somebody else.”
Now, this is one I’ve read more than a few times. There’s something so comforting about an old-school bonkers fantasy. If you loved the movie, prepare to love this book for entirely different reasons. Sophie Hatter has never had an interesting life, but that’s fine. Adventures are the sort of thing that happens to other people. But when Sophie inadvertently clashes with the world of magic and Demons, she sets out to find her place. If you’ve seen the film, you’ll know that Jones’ story is populated with amazingly colourful characters. The book gives a great lot of depth to the cast, and answers questions you didn’t even know you had. Sometimes (well, most of the time) the book is better than the movie but sometimes, it’s just as good. Thankfully this is one of those cases.
For fans of… murder magic and mayhem!
Gap Year in Ghost Town by Michael Pryor
“You should give up sarcasm. People could get the wrong idea about you.”
What a cover, right? This book is another of those ones that’s pretty good, but because it takes place in Melbourne, it gets the big thumbs up from me! Gap Year in Ghost Town tells the story of Anton Marin, the Latest in a long line of Melbourne Ghost Hunters. Ghosts have always been a problem, but there are people with a special set of skills equipped to deal with them. Anton has always done this solo until Rani Cross comes to town and the ghosts become a little more complicated. I found Anton a bit of a chore as an MC at times, but I did enjoy the local flavour throughout. This is a great younger Halloween read – Shame I read it in March!!
For fans of… Ghost and girls with swords!
Dreamer’s Pool by Juliet Marillier
“Part of me has turned wild, and another part’s turned dark as endless night, and I’m not going to change back just because someone says I must.”
I’d never read anything by Marillier before, but that cover was just begging to be read! While undoubtedly a fantasy, Dreamer’s Pool, and indeed the entire Blackthorn and Grim series, plays out as a kind of CSI: Fantasy story and it’s not like anything I’ve read before. Marillier crafted such intricate and flawed characters. The titular Blackthorn and Grim, wholly broken and thrown together by circumstance, make a complex and heartwarming duo. This wasn’t always an easy read, but I thoroughly enjoyed every second of it and it’s two sequels. Blackthorn and Grim are unforgettable.
For fans of… high fantasy, crime and the Fae.
The Cruel Prince by Holly Black
“If I cannot be better than them, I will become so much worse.”
Oh boy. I’ve found Holly Black’s books to be a bit hit or miss in the past, but The Cruel Prince is a big ‘ole HIT. I said in a review at the time that The Cruel Prince felt like a Shirley Barber piece brought to life and given fangs and I stand by it. There’s an undeniable sense of whimsy and sparkle amongst the violence. Spirited away to the land of the Fairie as a child, Jude has to learn to survive their cruel and beautiful games. I’m so excited for the next book that I’m currently re-reading this in preparation!
For fans of… court intrigue, Darcy-esque protagonists and the Fae.
An Enchantment of Ravens by Margaret Robinson
“Walking along a blade’s edge was only fun until the blade stopped being a metaphor.”
I was a tad unfair to An Enchantment of Ravens, as I found myself unfairly comparing it to the above Cruel Prince. While both books deal in ensorcellment and the world of faerie, there is little to connect the two. On its own merits, An Enchantment of Ravens is itself a dark and whimsical fairytale. Painting prodigy Isobel must pay the price for committing the crime of painting human emotions in the eyes of the Prince of Autumn. Of course, mixing in with Fairie royalty is never simple… I loved the haunting autumn imagery Robinson used throughout and felt it really captured the spirit of the season. Also, THAT COVER!!
For fans of… stubborn protagonists, haunting walks through the forest and … the Fae.
Yes, I’m starting to see a pattern here.
Murder, Magic and What We Wore by Kelly Jones
I scoured library services far and wide through my state to get my hands on a (digital) copy of Murder, Magic and What We Wore (Thank you Victoria Public Library’s Search)!. I love a good regency fantasy, and this was certainly a good Regency Fantasy. Set in the ever popular year of 1818, MM&WWW tells the story of Annis Whitworth, a young woman left without a house, home or prospects after the death of her father. After giving it a bit of thought, Annis naturally decides that her time could be best used by becoming a spy for the Home Office. After all, she’s pretty sure that is what her father did. Leaving London, Annis styles herself as a mantua-maker, making use of her newly discovered skills in the art of glamour. Scattered throughout MM&WWW are fun little references and appearances of much-loved characters that fans of the genre will easily recognise. This gives the story a lot of re-readability and the fun prospect of a shared universe between my beloved Kim and Richard (more on them later!!) and the titular Newt of Newt’s Emerald.
For Fans of … Regency Fantasy, historical fashion, espionage.
Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik
But I had not known that I was strong enough to do any of those things until they were over and I had done them. I had to do the work first, not knowing.
Spinning Silver was one of my first reviews on this very blog! You can check it out here! Spinning Silver is a retelling of the story of Rumpelstiltskin set in Novik’s world of Uprooted and through the eyes of three young women – Miryem, Wanda and Vassilia – as they fight to save their people when the Staryk come to town. I listened to this as an Audiobook from Audible, read by Katy Sobey who was AMAZING as the voice of the story. She did such a great job differentiating each of the characters, which was often a tad confusing as perspectives chage. Novik has written a perfect companion to Uprooted in Spinning Silver, artfully weaving together both earth-shattering magic and quiet interpersonal pieces to create a compelling and heartfelt story. I’d like to make a special mention to the relationships within Spinning Silver! Each of the relationships between the girls and their families were so lovely and beautifully written and had me a bit misty-eyed at times.
For fans of… fairy tales, battles between not-so-good and not-so-evil and cold forests.
A Matter of Magic: Mairelon the Magician and The Magician’s Ward by Patricia C. Wrede
Come one, come all! Prepare to be amazed by the one, the only – Mairelon the Magician!
If you know me, you know I love Mairelon the Magician. I first read it during my final years in High School, and I’ve made an effort to read it regularly since. There’s something very comforting between the pages. Silly banter, latin magic and a snarky cross-dressing thief of a heroine – what’s not to love? When Kim is caught with her hand in the proverbial magical cookie jar, her mark, the titular Mairelon the Magician, offers her a deal she can’t refuse; if she can help clear his name for a theft, he’ll train her in the art of stage magic. Of course, there’s more to Mairelon and Kim than first meets the eye, and the odd pair naturally fall headfirst into adventures with an order of druids, a botched elopement, magical criminals, and the lost treasures of a circle of mysterious French wizards. I personally find so much joy in this book, and the humour that Wrede brings to her world is greatly appreciated.
For fans of… regency thieves, cross-dressing heroines and historical heisting hijinks.
The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly by Stephanie Oakes
This Bitch is going to Heaven
Ah, another of my early blog entries! You can read my original review for The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly here. Minnow Bly lost everything when her family joined a religious group in the wilderness, and lost it again when she manages to walk away. After a brutal attack on a stranger lands her in Juvenile Detention, she finally has a chance to start again. This was a funny one for me. I read it on a single train ride home after visiting my grandparents, and it was a really heavy book to take in all at once. It covers all the nasty little realities for children who grow up in extreme religious cults and within juvenile detention. Minnow Bly was a rollercoaster story of heartbreak and hope, told through the refreshing lense of our protagonist, Minnow. I would highly recommend reading this book with a box of tissues present.
For fans of… true crime, female friendships and explorations of existence and religion.
Midnight Thief by Livia Blackburne
She was a professional, not some giddy farm girl.
Oh, Midnight Thief. You weren’t at all what I was expecting, but boy were you fun. After being approached by a mysterious stranger with an even more mysterious job, orphan and thief for hire, Kyra, stumbles into the world of assassins, royalty and barbarians with a secret. On the other side of the palace, City Guard Tristam is struggling to adjust after a barbarian attack left his brother-in-arms dead. When fate throws Kyra and Tristam together, the fate of the city will lie with them. Despite suffering from a bit of BLIS* (Boring Love Interest Syndrome), Midnight Thief is an exciting adventure with enough twists and surprises thrown in to keep you on your toes. I found it to be very much in the vein of Thief Errant or Empire of Talents.
For fans of… Skilled thieves, unskilled assassins, and discovering REALLY BIG SECRETS
*Ok so here’s the thing: I don’t know why I hate Tristam so much. He’s not a bad character. He’s actually pretty interesting and has his own arc going on. I just could. not. like. him. I just found myself rolling my eyes at him constantly. Sorry man. This is absolutely a case of “it’s not you, it’s me”!
Bonus November entry!
Keep your eyes peeled for The Beckoning Shadow by Katheryne Blair! It’s an AMAZING urban fantasy out mid-2019! My review will be posted around the release date.
This Mortal Coil by Emily Suvada
When you love someone for their mind, you can’t expect that their heart will belong to you too.
Somehow, This Mortal Coil was somehow only the second Sci-Fi I read this year. In a world where a line of code can change your face, hacker Cat has been surviving on her own in the American Wilderness. Since the plague spread and a tech organisation kidnapped her geneticist father, she’s kept to herself, just trying to survive. Everything changes the day a heavily mechanised government soldier shows up at her door, claiming to have been sent by her father. This Mortal Coil is a wild ride, with so, so much technobabble that I’ll have to assume was real. This book was recommended by one of my students, and I’m so glad I picked it up. Despite the book’s length, there was never a dull moment, and I found myself constantly blindsided by revelations and twists! I cannot wait to pick up the sequel, This Cruel Design!!
For fans of … GATTACA, nerdy coding poetry, and BIG SCIENCE
So that’s it! I will probably be back with the part 2 I promised. May 2019 be a kinder year to us all! Happy reading 🙂
Except don’t because it’s time for…
The following are honourable mentions that
- Aren’t the first in a series or,
- Were a very close runner-up to the chosen book for the month.
I read 75~ books this year so it was extremely hard to narrow it down to 12. Here are some extras!! In order of reading!!
- The Hating Game (Office Romance, Paintball, Smurfs, NOT YA)
- Everless & Nevermore (Time travel, blood magic, royal intrigue)
- Mortal Engines (Dieselpunk, badass scars, weird London)
- The Dark Days Club, The Dark Days Pact, The Dark Days Deceit (Regency London, Demons, Badass Hunter)
- The Leaf Reader (Missing Persons, Teenage Psychic, Amature detectives)
- The Coldest Girl in Coldtown (Cold Vampires, quarantine, eternal parties)
- Every Heart a Doorway (Portal fantasy, murder mystery, magical schools)
- The Trouble with Kings (Old school fantasy, AMAZING female friendship, unexpected romance)
- The Invisible Library Book 4: The Mortal Word (Portal Scifi/Fantasy?, political intrigue, BADASS LIBRARIAN)
- Dumplin’ (Fat Angry MC, cute romance, affirming story)