I’m sure you’ve all seen plenty of these posts in recent weeks, but I figure I may as well add my own favourites post to the list!
2018 has been a funny old year for me in terms of reading. In June I started experiencing anxiety and panic (more on that here), which meant I had to drastically change my reading and blogging habits in order to find something that worked for me. This involved changing up my genres, so while most of my previous Top Reads posts are predominantly crime/thriller books, this one has some non-crime 🙂
I found it hard to try to pick my favourite reads of the year this year if I’m honest. Not because I didn’t have a year of great books, moreso because I had a year of dodgy headspace and it changed my perspective a little. In saying that, I am pretty happy with my choices. The books on this list are books that I still think about and recommend on a regular basis, or books I get all shouty about on Twitter 🙂
As always, these are books that were my favourites, but reading is so subjective, so I wouldn’t expect anyone to agree with all of my picks. I’m also popping in a couple of books that are not out yet as 2019 recommendations, and an eBook that will be released in paperback in 2019 too. Hopefully you’ll discover a book here that you may not have heard about and decide to read!
So, without further ado, here are the books that I loved in 2018….
Don’t Make A Sound by David Jackson
You guys! YOU GUYS!!! THIS BOOK!!!! It definitely nearly broke me. I have such a grá (love in Irish in case you want to know!) for Nathan Cody. I never want to stop reading when I pick up any of David’s Cody series, and Don’t Make A Sound was no exception.
But I had to put it down… to catch my breath, because THINGS HAPPEN! And I wasn’t prepared for how it made me feel!!! I picked the book up again after a few deep breaths, but I was super tense until I turned those last pages.
What a bloody thrill ride!!!
There is no doubt that David Jackson is an awesome writer, but he is also a master manipulator after this one (Love you really, Dave!) because it really messed with my head, heart and emotions. I am NOT complaining though, because this knack that Dave has means that his books will keep me gripped from start to finish.
EVERY. DAMN. TIME.
Don’t Make A Sound, for me, is the best book in the series so far. Without a shadow of a doubt. The plot is pitch perfect. The atmosphere is dark and nervy. The characters are so well-drawn (goodies and baddies) that the reader becomes immersed almost immediately and that denouement, perfection.
I can’t praise Dave or his books highly enough. Firmly on my favourites list for life, this series just keeps getting better and better.
Raw, dark and with an emotional gut-punch, Don’t Make A Sound is one thriller you DO NOT want to miss.
Previous reviews for the series:
The Darkness by Ragnar Jónasson
Regular readers of my blog will know that I am a huge fan of Ragnar Jónasson’s writing, so when I heard we were finally going to meet Hulda Hermansdottir in The Darkness, I jumped at the chance to read it, and I was definitely not disappointed.
Hulda is a Detective in the Reykjavik Police, and at sixty-four, is almost ready to retire. When she takes on the last case of her career, Hulda finds out that all is not what it seems. The case, a cold case, involved a young woman seeking asylum from Russia, who was found murdered on an isolated beach in Vatnsleysuströnd. Hulda thinks that if she can solve this one last case, she’ll go out on a high as she finishes her career, but life is never really that easy.
The Darkness is another fine example of Ragnar Jónasson’s ability to transfer the chilling Icelandic landscape into a character in the book. Unforgiving, dark and more than a little unsettling, I found myself thinking it sounds like a very harsh place to live. But I could easily conjure up the images he created.
Speaking of character, I really enjoyed reading about Hulda. It seems she is a little misunderstood by her colleagues, but when you get a glimpse into her thought processes you see she is lovely, just a bit standoffish. Her gruff demeanour does little to endear her to many of the people around her, but I warmed to her immediately.
By the end of the book, I genuinely didn’t want to have to turn that last page, so I’m really glad this is only the beginning. Or the end, because the books are going in reverse order.
To sum up, for me, The Darkness was a haunting portrait of the Icelandic landscape, with brilliantly drawn characters and a thoroughly chilling plot. It takes the reader on an unexpected journey, and I loved every minute of it.
Highly recommended, as always!
To Kill A Kingdom by Alexandra Christo
Buy the damn book.
Can I just leave it at that?! Because I can’t seem to find the words to describe how much I enjoyed To Kill A Kingdom…
I’ve been switching genres lately because I find I get sick of the same kind of stuff if I read a load of similar books, so when I saw To Kill A Kingdom on my kindle I figured I would give it a go. It is a YA fantasy with sirens, mermaids and pirates. It sounded like it would be a fun read, and its safe to say it was that and more!
To Kill A Kingdom kept me company on a flight to Prague recently. I spent the entire plane journey reading it, and found myself over halfway through by the time we landed, I just couldn’t stop reading.
Princess Lira is a siren. She collects the hearts of princes by ripping them from their chests. When Lira has to kill one of her own, her sea queen mother punishes her by making her into something that her kind hate. A human. Enter Prince Elian. A siren hunter, heir to the most powerful kingdom in the world. Lira must kill Prince Elian in order to be returned to the sea. And there begins the real story.
I don’t want to go into too much detail. Partly because I don’t want to spoil the story for you guys, but also because I’m still struggling to find all of the good words to explain how much I loved this book.
To Kill A Kingdom hooked me from the beginning. It has a great cast of characters, way more action than I was expecting, and Alexandra Christo has created a truly wonderful world for this book. I loved the story, how it all played out, how beautifully drawn the book is as a whole.
Captivating, magical and haunting, To Kill A Kingdom is definitely one of my favourite books that I’ve read recently. So much so, that I am actively looking for books that even come marginally close to this engaging gem, so if you know of any, shout at me in the comments!
Also, I raved about it so much that my husband (who isn’t actually a big reader) read it and he really liked it too! 🙂
I’ll end this review the same way I started it…
Buy the damn book!
🙂 🙂 🙂
Furyborn by Claire Legrand
I’m months out from reading Furyborn and I’m STILL having trouble trying to formulate a review decent enough to convey just how much I loved this book. It has got everything I look for in a book. Strong main characters, a truly epic story line and excellent world-building. Once I picked it up, I knew I was on to a winner, and I could not stop reading!
Rielle and Eliana are two of the best female characters I’ve read in a fantasy book this year, and I found myself thoroughly invested in their fates throughout the course of the book. I am still thinking about them and its been two months since I read Furyborn!
I am reminded of the addictiveness of Sarah J. Maas’s Court books when I think of Furyborn. It evoked much the same feelings as I had when I picked those up, and its safe to say that I NEED MORE from Claire Legrand. More Eliana, more Rielle, more Corien, who reminds me of both Rhysand AND the Darkling (Leigh Bardugo’s creation).
I don’t know what else to say. No amount of raving can convey how I actually feel about this book. It left me breathless. Gasping for more. Bereft when I finished it. Lots of feelings, basically!
I absolutely loved Furyborn. Right from the beginning I knew it was going to be a great read. Excellent characterisation, clever magical-type aspects, great world building, I just loved it all. The power struggles, the action, the dual timeline narrative, it all worked really well for me. A perfect foundation for a trilogy. It left me with questions, and wanting more to read, but that’s the beauty of the first book in a series. I can’t wait for the next!
Aftershock by Adam Hamdy
If you follow my blog, you’ll know I’ve read and loved the previous books in the trilogy (review links are left below) so I had been eagerly awaiting Aftershock since I finished Freefall last summer. Which feels like a lifetime ago! So you can imagine my delight to find a copy waiting for me after I got home from Harrogate. I literally turned the last page of Aftershock a half hour ago, and I am shook, in the best possible way of course.
I’m mindful of the fact that I don’t want to go into too much detail in this review, so I will try to keep it relatively short because if I start rambling about the book, I probably won’t stop too easily!
Aftershock starts with a bang, and I swear the pace doesn’t let up for the entirety of the 500+ pages. If you’ve read the first two books, you’ll recognise Adam Hamdy’s innate talent for writing extremely cinematic thrillers, and this one is no exception!
We are back with the usual suspects, Wallace, Ash, Bailey as they try to deal with the fallout from the events that took place in Freefall. Each is trying to battle their own demons, and the internal guilt/struggles they are experiencing make for tough and emotive reading at times. The journeys that each one goes on, and the arc of their respective characters is so well plotted, and I found myself really rooting for them at various points in the book.
The Foundation has claimed so much of these people’s lives, and in Aftershock they try to claw back something for themselves. Destruction and force are The Foundation’s weapons of choice, but murder seems to be the order of the day and its up to Wallace, Ash and the rest to try to finally put a stop to this wide-reaching organisation.
I swear the tension and pacing in these books is designed to get your adrenaline pumping, but not in a bad way. I kept my reading of this one to daylight hours, but even then I was on tenterhooks while the action was unfolding. Lets not even mention the bits that made me tearful!!!
Aftershock is a pitch perfect ending to what has been one of the best action series I have ever had the pleasure of reading. Cleverly plotted, excellent characters and a truly terrifying reality made Aftershock a truly gripping read.
If you like your thrillers with real heart, then I highly recommend you pick up Aftershock, and its equally impressive predecessors.
You will not be disappointed.
All the stars for this one!
Skin Deep by Liz Nugent
I love a bookish baddie. You know the kind. Self-centered, narcissistic, just hateful in general. Well, yet again, Liz Nugent has created a truly terrible fictional human being in Cordelia Russell. Right from the beginning of Skin Deep I found myself disliking her as a character.
But. And there is definitely a but. When we are taken through Cordelia’s early life, the reader learns why she is the way she is. No excuse, I know, but it is a very insightful and eye-opening character development that left me wondering how many more layers Liz Nugent could possibly add to her character.
Skin Deep is a masterful exploration of character and circumstance. It is graphic, raw and unashamedly honest in its portrayal of the lengths to which someone will go to get what they need from others. Selfishness and greed are front and centre in this book, and as we learn more about Cordelia, it is difficult to not have some very real and often angry feelings towards her.
I had been eagerly awaiting this book, and it was most definitely worth the wait. A savage look at the depravity of the human condition, the lengths to which people will go for their own gain, it is a triumph.
The Caged Queen by Kristen Ciccarelli
The Caged Queen is one of the books I read during my hiatus from reviewing, so I don’t have an actual review to share for this one. What I will say is that I LOVED it. It’s the second book in the Iskari series, book one being The Last Namsara, and even though I hadn’t read the first book I became completely immersed in it. So much so that I immediately went and bought The Last Namsara so I could read it.
Superb characters, a great plot and excellent world-building made this one a firm favourite. If you like fantasy, dragons and Young Adult fiction then I would highly recommend adding The Caged Queen to your TBR.
Next up, a book that is already available on Kindle, it will be released in paperback in January 2019. To be fair, Matt has featured on all of my Top Reads posts since he released Six Stories, so a list isn’t a list without my fave goth 🙂
And I’m going to get real here, nestled in the list, this book is the one.
It was one of my most anticipated books, and it didn’t disappoint, so it’s only right that it’s my top read…
Changeling by Matt Wesolowski
We’re beneath different trees this series, but our feet are sounding against the same darkness and once again we’re facing our fears head-on.
If ever a quote summed up the experience of reading Matt Wesolowski’s books, this chiller from Changeling is perfect.
I had been dying to read Changeling ever since I saw the beautiful cover on Twitter a few months back, and let’s face it, being a superfan means I have literally NO PATIENCE when it comes to waiting for these things. So huge thanks to both Karen and Matt for letting me read an early copy.
Reader, it does not disappoint.
In Changeling, Scott King is back investigating again. This time it is the disappearance of Alfie Marsden from his father’s car in the Wentshire Forest Pass on Christmas Eve 1988. Alfie disappeared without a trace and was officially declared dead seven years and three months after he disappeared. Scott sets out with his usual investigative zeal in search of answers.
I read Changeling over the course of today, making notes as I went, which I never do. And even with these notes, I still feel like I can’t do this book the justice it deserves.
Changeling is by far, my most favourite of the Six Stories books, and I love them all, I mean I REALLY love them. So just know I am not saying that lightly. Changeling got under my skin in a way the others didn’t.
The tension and sense of menace is there from the outset. It builds steadily, rolling like waves in a storm, until it crashes around your consciousness and leaves you almost breathless. Hidden and implied horror help to make Changeling a thoroughly bracing read, leaving the reader more than a little unsettled in its wake.
Much like the Changeling in old folklore, this book itself goes through a metamorphosis. But the author does this slowly, almost imperceptibly, and it creeps up on you gradually that what you are reading is a little different to what you started reading.
I PROMISE I will do a more in-depth review, but for now, know this;
Changeling is an intense, dark and utterly absorbing book. The pages crackle with tension, the characters have real depth and the writing is truly stunning.
Matt Wesolowski has to be one of the most imaginiative and talented young writers out there at the moment. His ability to make his writing current in terms of style, while still managing to write the perfect kind of crime/horror/psychological thriller mash-up, astounds me more with every book of his I read.
Highly, highly recommended.
Previous Matt-related posts:
Another 2019 release coming up next, I managed to read this one way back in February:
The Nowhere Child by Christian White
The Nowhere Child is simply unputdownable. I absolutely devoured this exquisitely written thriller in a couple of sittings. This is the kind of book that makes me want to shout about it from the rooftops.
It all started with the disappearance of 2-year-old Sammy Went in the 90’s. Gone without a trace, Sammy has never been found. Fast forward twenty eight years to where we meet Kim Leamy, who is approached by a man investigating little Sammy’s disappearance all those years ago. This meeting leaves Kim with enough questions to make her travel to Sammy’s hometown of Manson, Kentucky in the United States.
What follows is by far one of the best stories I’ve had the pleasure of reading in a long time. Packed with tension that winds its way towards an unexpected conclusion, The Nowhere Child is a triumph. A riveting tale of secrets and lies, and the lengths to which people will go to keep them hidden. Thoroughly engaging, you won’t be able to put it down until the bitter end.
And last, but by no meas least, a 2019 YA release that I may have been shouting about a little on Twitter…
A Curse So Dark and Lonely by Brigid Kemmerer
This book had been languishing on my kindle for a while so I picked it up a month or two ago to read and I ended up absolutely loving it. It is billed as a retelling of Beauty and the Beast and I AM HERE FOR THAT! It was such a great read. I loved the characters, the whole idea, the premise, everything! I love anything to do with BATB so this book was everything for me. I can’t wait to get myself a hardcover for my shelves because I plan on reading it again in 2019. Can’t recommend it highly enough!
And that’s it. Just like that, I’m done.
Have you read any of my 2018 faves? Would you? Do let me know in the comments!
Thanks for taking the time to read this post, and my blog over the past year!
Until 2019, happy reading!