Last year I wrote a post for the BiblioBitches blog detailing every 5-Star read I had enjoyed in 2017. I decided this should become a tradition, so let’s go through my top reads of 2018! This list will be compiled in the order that I read them, since choosing a favorite is nigh on impossible. I will only share books that were new reads for me, unless it’s a lesser known favorite I think is worth sharing.
I’ll give a brief plot summary (sometimes paraphrased by me, sometimes lifted straight off Goodreads), and then a review of each, taken straight out of my Book Journal. These will be MOSTLY spoiler free. I say mostly because some of my impressions could of course be constituted as spoilery, but only if you are really nitpicking, and because sometimes its unavoidable if I am discussing a sequel. I will attempt a spoiler alert where I deem needed.
As I had SO MANY 5 Star reads last year, this will be broken up into 2 parts to avoid a novel-length production! And now, without further ado, here is part 1 of my top reads of 2018.
Scythe – Neal Shusterman
Set in a futuristic Earth where humans have cured death, now the only way to keep the population in check is with Scythes – those who’s job it is to end life permanently. Everything is run by “The Cloud”, called Thunderhead, which is completely impartial and incapable of corruption. The story follows two MCs, Rowan and Citra, as they are chosen to become part of the next generation of Scythes – something neither asked for, and something only one of them can succeed at.
This was my second read of 2018, and I was jazzed to find a great book so early into the reading year. I was super blown away by how much I enjoyed this, and it was unlike anything I had read of late. Citra was great and showed she was capable of seeing things through the eyes of others, and often questioned what she thought she knew. For the most part she was non-judgmental and stayed very true to herself. Rowan is a bit more of a morally-grey character and in some ways becomes an anti-hero. This did not make me love him any less, and I was hard pressed to choose which I was rooting for! The supporting characters are just as great and fleshed out the plot so much. I am very excited for the next book.
(Note: I have had Thunderhead on my TBR for ages and still have yet to read it! I think I let what others have said about it color things for me, but I am determined to get to it soon!)
Warcross – Marie Lu
Warcross is more than just a game – its a whole world and a way of life. Nary a soul doesn’t play, becoming an elite player will make you a superstar, and the world’s economy has tied itself to the game and the technology surrounding it. Hacking into the Warcross Championship Opening Game was a way for Emika to make some quick money, but instead she finds herself being flown to Tokyo and meeting the creator of the game, Hideo Tanaka, young billionaire genius. He hires her to help stop infiltrators and hackers like herself, an offer than may be too good to be true.
SO GOOD. Emika is awesome and makes me want rainbow hair and a million tattoos. I love the Phoenix Riders (especially Ren) and the dynamic they have. Emika and Hideo were pretty much adorbs, and seeing Hideo let his guard down def brought on some tears. Then there is a HUGE plot twist and it’s all sorts of crazy! I am not usually super into Marie Lu’s writing, but this book sucked me right in.
These Broken Stars – Amie Kaufman & Megan Spooner
“Luxury spaceliner Icarus suddenly plummets from hyperspace into the nearest planet. Lilac LaRoux and Tarver Merendsen survive – alone. Lilac is the daughter of the richest man in the universe. Tarver comes from nothing, a cynical war hero. Both journey across the eerie deserted terrain for help. Everything changes when they uncover the truth.”
A great read! This book had some serious Illuminae vibes, minus the crazy formatting. It also made it more evident which parts of Illuminae were written in Amie’s voice. Lilac was a great character and I loved seeing how she grew throughout the book. Tarver was the perfect pairing for Lilac. I also really enjoyed the “magic” system and the world building, and know I will be anxious for their characters in the next book!
(note: as of the time of this post, I have yet to pick up the next book, although I own the whole trilogy. Yay 2019 TBR).
The Traitor’s Kiss – Erin Beaty
“With a sharp tongue and an unruly temper, Sage Fowler is not what they’d call a lady―which is perfectly fine with her. Deemed unfit for marriage, Sage is apprenticed to a matchmaker and tasked with wrangling other young ladies to be married off for political alliances. She spies on the girls―and on the soldiers escorting them.
As the girls’ military escort senses a political uprising, Sage is recruited by a handsome soldier to infiltrate the enemy ranks. The more she discovers as a spy, the less certain she becomes about whom to trust―and Sage becomes caught in a dangerous balancing act that will determine the fate of her kingdom”
I really loved this book! Sage is an awesome character and Alex is allll sorts of great. The plot twist here was one that I didn’t see coming AT ALL, and I had some serious HOLY SHIT moments in regards to characters. I will definitely be grabbing the next book as soon as it drops!
(Note: I did, in fact, grab the next book. It is still on my TBR. Do you sense a trend here?)
Traitor to the Throne – Alwyn Hamilton
“Gunslinger Amani al’Hiza fled her dead-end hometown on the back of a mythical horse with the mysterious foreigner Jin, seeking only her own freedom. Now she’s fighting to liberate the entire desert nation of Miraji from a bloodthirsty sultan who slew his own father to capture the throne.”
The sequel to Rebel of the Sands. SOOOOO good. I adore Amani and her total inability to contain her sass. I had also forgotten about the great relationship between her and Shazad, who is another totally BA character. I loved getting to know Rahim and Sam, and def hope we see more of them in the next book. The ending was totally unexpected and heartbreaking, but definitely sets the stage for the next book.
Legendary – Stephanie Garber
*Spoiler Alert if you haven’t read Caraval*
“After being swept up in the magical world of Caraval, Donatella Dragna has finally escaped her father and saved her sister, Scarlett, from a disastrous arranged marriage. The girls should be celebrating, but Tella isn’t yet free. She made a desperate bargain with a mysterious criminal, and what Tella owes him no one has ever been able to deliver: Caraval Master Legend’s true name.”
I was super lucky to get an eARC of this so I got to read it months before it dropped. And it was AMAZING! I liked Caraval, but didn’t LOVE it (although it led me to The Night Circus so I will be forever grateful), so I may not have picked up Legendary if I hadn’t has the chance to read the ARC. What was a total game changer for me was that this book was told from Tella’s POV rather than Scarlett’s. Tella is a way more interesting character, since she is so much more spirited and adventurous. Plus Dante is all sorts of yum. This book had more intrigue, more magic, and more mystery, and I soaked up every word! I am stoked that we are getting a book 3 and I already have it on pre-order!
Gemina – Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff
*Spoiler Alert for those who have not read Illuminae*
“The sci-fi saga that began with the breakout bestseller Illuminaecontinues on board the Jump Station Heimdall, where two new characters will confront the next wave of the BeiTech assault.” <– kept brief to minimize potential spoilers.
Let me start by saying Illuminae was not a home run for me the first go-round. The formatting was whack, and that made it a little hard for me. BUT I did enjoy the story and my love for Jay Kristoff made me give this series another chance, and I am SUPER glad I did. I found the formatting way less distracting this time around, and was sucked into the story from the get-go. Hanna is absolutely badass, and Nik is just a smartass piece of fabulousness, and then we have Ella!! Sass mouthed, snarky, brilliant, wunderkind Ella.
The intensity level turned up to 11 on this one, so many people died, and it became even MORE sci-fi, if that is even possible for a series set in space with a cray-cray AI as an MC. It is also worth noting that this series is, hands-down, the best audiobook I have ever listened to. I’ll write a post focusing on that later, but suffice to say everything about Gemina is amazing, and if the format of the book is a deterrent for you, go listen to the audiobook and thank me later.
Iron Gold – Pierce Brown
*Spoiler warning if you have not read Red Rising, Golden Son, or Morning Star*
“A decade ago, Darrow was the hero of the revolution he believed would break the chains of the Society. But the Rising has shattered everything: Instead of peace and freedom, it has brought endless war. Now he must risk everything he has fought for on one last desperate mission. Darrow still believes he can save everyone, but can he save himself?”
I was super excited to get back into the Red Rising universe after inhaling the original 3 books in 2017. Darrow was exactly as I remembered; super troubled and trying hard to do the right thing, but definitely digging himself into a war he probably won’t recover from. We spend 3 books seeing him as the hero, but Iron Gold bring us some new characters including Lysander, who sees Darrow as the villain. We also get to see things from the POV of a Red, Lyria, as she deals with the post-rising aftermath. This book had a pretty serious cliffhanger, so I can’t wait to jump into the next book! Howlers forever!
Foolish Hearts – Emma Mills
“The day of the last party of the summer, Claudia overhears a conversation she wasn’t supposed to. Now on the wrong side of one of the meanest girls in school, Claudia doesn’t know what to expect when the two are paired up to write a paper—let alone when they’re both forced to try out for the school production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
But mandatory participation has its upsides—namely, an unexpected friendship, a boy band obsession, and a guy with the best dimpled smile Claudia’s ever seen. As Claudia’s world starts to expand, she finds that maybe there are some things worth sticking her neck out for.”
This was an Owlcrate book that I accidentally shelved instead of putting with my TBRs, and therefore forgot about for several months. I am very glad I realized, because the book totally exceeded expectations. SO much of this book spoke to me on a soul-deep level: drama/tech crew (my HS stomping grounds!), MMORPGs with family and bffls, geeky yet adorbs guys, boy band obsessions. Claudia is who I wish I had been self-aware enough to be in my HS years (I still wish I had stepped into the world of total geekdom back then and not waited another decade). She is sarcastic and witty and I love her. Iris was a character that I grew to love, and she definitely hides behind her meanness. Gideon was amazing and is easily the best part of it all. I laughed a lot, I cried a little, and I was totally invested in the story. Very much a win!
Children of Blood and Bone – Tomi Adeyemi
The land of Orïsha once flourished with magic, but then a ruthless king began killing maji, and it disappeared. Zélie has the chance to restore the hope of her people and bring back their gifts, striking back at the monarchy that took everything from them. Accompanied by an unlikely ally, she has to out run a vengeful prince to bring back magic once and for all.
Such an amazing and powerful read! The story sucked me in and even influenced my dreams while I was reading it. I loved the multiple POVs and how it expanded the story as we went. Zélie is tough and broken and wants badly to save her people. Amani may have been my favorite and she’s just awesome and lovely and grew so much throughout the story. Inan is definitely our loose cannon and I still don’t know if I trust him. Tzain has the whole big bro thing going on, and it works for him. He + Amani = I ship it. I can’t wait for the next book!
To Kill a Kingdom – Alexandra Christo
“Princess Lira is siren royalty and the most lethal of them all. With the hearts of seventeen princes in her collection, she is revered across the sea. Until a twist of fate forces her to kill one of her own. To punish her daughter, the Sea Queen transforms Lira into the one thing they loathe most—a human. Robbed of her song, Lira has until the winter solstice to deliver Prince Elian’s heart to the Sea Queen or remain a human forever.”
Fairytale retellings are my favorite sub-genre, and we are getting a whole slew of mermaid themed books right now, so it’s a great time to be alive. This retelling was so well done, and just a little bit dark (which I LOVE). Lira is tough and sarcastic and totally unforgiving in who she is; she never tries to play the damsel and just stays true to herself even when its hard. Elian is everything you want in a pirate prince, with his sardonic and witty humor and badassitude. This story is like Daughter of the Pirate King and A Darker Shade of Magic had a baby, and I could not be happier with the result. The ONLY downside is that this is a standalone and therefore we won’t get more of these awesome characters. This went straight into the reread pile!
Obsidio – Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff
*Spoiler warning for those who have not read Illuminae and Gemina*
“With time running out, a final battle will be waged on land and in space, heroes will fall, and hearts will be broken.” <– very brief to avoid spoilers.
Holy Balls. This.was.so.good. Not only did we get the return of our old faves (Katy, Ezra, Hanna, Nik, & Ella) but we added in Rhys and Asha and it was all so epic. AIDEN was all sorts of creepy and scary and also very human. “Every story needs a monster” hits the nail right on the head. I also have a new favorite character in the form of Issac Grant, Katy’s dad. I had some SERIOUS feels and I am tearing up a little right now thinking about some specific moments I won’t spoil here. This was a brilliant ending to the series and I actually listened to the audiobook within a month of finishing my first read. Let me tell you, there’s nothing quite like showing up to work all red-eyed because the audiobook made you sob on your drive in. SO GOOD.
The Plastic Magician – Charlie N Holmberg
“Alvie Brechenmacher has arrived in London to begin her training in Polymaking—the magical discipline of bespelling plastic. Polymaking is the newest form of magic, and in a field where there is so much left to learn, every Polymaker dreams of making the next big discovery.”
I have long loved the world Charlie created in the Paper Magician trilogy, and I was super excited to get back to it with a new character and a new skill form. It did not disappoint. Alvie was a wonderful MC and I adored how awkward she was and her total lack of filter. She had me laughing out loud on several occasions! I also loved the story and how they are using plastics magic to make the world a better place through things like prosthetic limbs. I really hope we see more from this story arc because I am not ready to let Alvie go; I need more of her story!
Olivia Twist – Lorie Langdon
“Olivia Brownlow is no damsel in distress. Born in a workhouse and raised as a boy among thieving London street gangs, she is as tough and cunning as they come. When she is taken in by her uncle after a caper gone wrong, her life goes from fighting and stealing on the streets to lavish dinners and soirees as a debutante in high society. But she can’t seem to escape her past … or forget the teeming slums where children just like her still scrabble to survive.”
An unexpectedly great read! Think regency romance with a retelling twist (no pun intended) and you get this! Olivia was just fabulous as the MC. She was full of sass – exactly how I like my MCs – but not afraid to be feminine. Seeing her get into a fist fight, which she won, was pretty hilarious, and just one of the many moments I laughed out loud during this book. Jack was totally swoon-worthy and the perfect pairing for Olivia. Just a great book that I can’t recommend enough.
Ready Player One – Ernest Cline
“In the year 2045, reality is an ugly place. The only time teenage Wade Watts really feels alive is when he’s jacked into the virtual utopia known as the OASIS. Wade’s devoted his life to studying the puzzles hidden within this world’s digital confines, puzzles that are based on their creator’s obsession with the pop culture of decades past and that promise massive power and fortune to whoever can unlock them. When Wade stumbles upon the first clue, he finds himself beset by players willing to kill to take this ultimate prize. The race is on, and if Wade’s going to survive, he’ll have to win—and confront the real world he’s always been so desperate to escape.”
This book got so much hype because of the movie, so I knew I needed to give it a go. There were a LOT of moving parts in this book, but the thing that tied it all together were the 80’s pop-culture references. Wade/Parzival is awesome and he made for a very interesting and engaging MC. I loved the treasure hunt aspect of the story and The Oasis world building was great. Everyone says the movie deviates greatly from the book, so I am in no rush to see it, but this title will go firmly onto my “would totes read it again” list.
Daughter of the Siren Queen – Tricia Levenseller
*Spoiler alert if you have not read DofPK yet*
“Alosa’s mission is finally complete. Not only has she recovered all three pieces of the map to a legendary hidden treasure, but the pirates who originally took her captive are now prisoners on her ship. Still unfairly attractive and unexpectedly loyal, first mate Riden is a constant distraction, but now he’s under her orders. And she takes great comfort in knowing that the villainous Vordan will soon be facing her father’s justice.
When Vordan exposes a secret her father has kept for years, Alosa and her crew find themselves in a deadly race with the feared Pirate King. Despite the danger, Alosa knows they will recover the treasure first . . . after all, she is the daughter of the Siren Queen.”
A great second book! Alosa was back at it being her awesome badass self, and Riden was right there alongside her being equally BA. I am all about them together. Seeing Alosa come into her powers was great, and I loved how Riden played into that. His love for her was definitely a driving force here. This had some pretty shocking moments (meeting the Siren Queen, for instance), and it was so engaging. I finished it all in one sitting, it was that good! I’m just sad this is a duology and we won’t get more!
Bride of the Sea – Emma Hamm
“Saoirse dreams of land. Her father has other plans, and intends to marry her off as soon as possible. When a ship sinks near her home, she carries the only surviving sailor to a faerie blessed isle and plans her escape. Who better to help her than a man with few scruples and little cares in the world?”
Continuing with the trend of mermaid/siren books, I was very excited about Emma’s new release. Emma is one of my favorite newly-found authors and her retellings are always enchanting. I love how this standalone novel ties into her other works and how it fleshes out the world even more! Manus was good, but Saoirse was the star of the show; brilliant and heartbreakingly fae. I loved the friendship between her and Declan – yes please leprechaun – and the story was just perfect. Rumor has it Declan will get his own story soon, so I am all about that!
Heart of Iron – Ashley Poston
“Seventeen-year-old Ana is a scoundrel by nurture and an outlaw by nature. Found as a child drifting through space with a sentient android called D09, Ana was saved by a fearsome space captain and the grizzled crew she now calls family. But D09—one of the last remaining illegal Metals—has been glitching, and Ana will stop at nothing to find a way to fix him.
Ana’s desperate effort to save D09 leads her on a quest to steal the coordinates to a lost ship that could offer all the answers. But at the last moment, a spoiled Ironblood boy beats Ana to her prize. He has his own reasons for taking the coordinates, and he doesn’t care what he’ll sacrifice to keep them.”
I was lucky enough to see Ashley Poston on a panel at the Boston Teen Author Fest, where I learned she’s an awesome human being who is just as obsessed with fanfiction as I am! As such, I was very excited to read Heart of Iron, which she toted as “Anastasia in spaaaaaaace” (specifically long and drawn out like that). This book delivered. Ana was a delightful MC, but Robb is where my heart truly lies. Jax was great supporting cast, Di was awesome, and Captain Siege was heart eyes. This story had so much happening and there were unexpected twists and turns with every new chapter! However, as fabulous as all of those things are, what made this book was little E0S. This wee robot was ADORBS and brought in so much comic relief. I can’t wait for book 2!
State of Sorrow – Melinda Salisbury
This book is set in a kingdom that’s in a perpetual state of mourning, mandated by the king, after the crown prince dies. Princess Sorrow has been running the day-to-day workings of the kingdom, trying to hide the fact that her father is literally insane with grief. But enemies come knocking before too long, and distrust is everywhere.
This FairyLoot book was a UK only release that has yet to make it to the US, even in digital format. I’m hoping it gets picked up before book 2, because this was so good! Sorrow herself was a lovely character, full of flaws and very real. This story was so unique and had lots of twists to catch you off guard. Fortunately for those US readers who don’t get FL, you can get this book through Book Depository!
The Raging Ones – Krista & Becca Richie
In this world everyone knows the exact day they will die, and the whole class system is built around that. But then we meet 3 characters who shouldn’t be alive, because each of them has lived past their death date. Court, Franny, and Mykal have not only done this impossible thing, but they are also linked telepathically and physically – feeling the emotions, and pain, and even tastes of the others’. In an attempt to escape their planet before their abilities are discovered, they apply to be chosen for a space mission to a nearby inhabited planet.
I have long since been a fan of the Richie sister’s romance novels (if you like smutty romance with great plot and sexy characters, check them out!) but was extra excited about their debut fantasy novel! I was fortunate enough to get an eARC of this, so I got to read it months ahead of it’s release! This book shocked me at every turn and left us with a HUGE cliffhanger. Book 2 doesn’t drop until August 2019, and I cannot wait!
Love Songs & Other Lies – Jessica Pennington
Vee has landed herself a great internship touring with a battle-of-the-bands style reality TV show where the bands tour the country as they compete. Her best friends will be competing so she is looking forward to 3 months of music and travel and good times with her favorite people. Unbeknownst to her, Cameron, the boy that broke her heart, will also be on the bus.
I really loved this book! This story is told both in real-time and through flashbacks, coming together to show is what happened to Vee and Cameron and why Vee is so broken from it. Vee also grows immensely throughout the story, and we get to see her own musical dreams blossom. Cameron is swoon-worthy and I spent the whole book rooting for him, even when he was being stupid. A really great contemporary that had me up all night to finish it!
The Wicked Deep – Shea Ernshaw
Penny lives in the cursed town of Sparrow. 200 years ago, 3 sisters were sentenced to death by drowning after being accused of witchcraft, and now each summer they return, possessing the bodies of 3 girls and using them to lure 3 boys to their death in the harbor.
I originally bought this book for the cover and the fact that all the 1st editions has stars embossed on the cover under the jacket. I’m superficial like that. But since I make myself read any books I cover buy (I have to justify it somehow *wink*), I was very happy to find the insides are as great as the outside! I was enraptured by this story from page one. I loved the writing, the characters, the story; all of it.
Everything about this book is super atmospheric and shiver inducing! Penny is a wonderful character and drives the story. Bo is a total cinnamon roll and so easy to love – this would be worth reading for him alone. The plot takes a MAJOR turn near the end and I was completely caught off guard. I love when that happens! This may be a standalone novel, but it certainly makes me want to read more by this author!
And this concludes Part One of my Best of 2018 list! I would love to hear which of these books you read and enjoyed (or didn’t) in 2018, or what ones you are now inspired to read! Please share in the comments, and stay tuned for Part Two.