My Top Reads of 2018, Part the Second

Lets continue our walk down memory lane with my top reads of 2018, part 2!

princess of thornsPrincess of Thorns – Stacy Jay

“Though she looks like a mere mortal, Princess Aurora is a fairy blessed with enhanced strength, bravery, and mercy yet cursed to destroy the free will of any male who kisses her. Disguised as a boy, she enlists the help of the handsome but also cursed Prince Niklaas to fight legions of evil and free her brother from the ogre queen who stole Aurora’s throne ten years ago.”

I really loved everything about this story! Aurora -Ror- was an awesome MC and fed my love for badass female characters. Niklaaus was equally awesome and his whole curse situation was so cool. The author pulled from all sorts of fairytales and made them her own, which was fabulous and perfect. I always judge a book by it’s ability to instill real emotions in me, so when it got me crying, I knew this was a winner! The only bad thing is that this is a standalone, but I want more!!!!

lifel1k3LIFEL1K3 – Jay Kristoff

“On a floating junkyard beneath a radiation sky, a deadly secret lies buried in the scrap.
Eve isn’t looking for secrets—she’s too busy looking over her shoulder. The robot gladiator she’s just spent six months building has been reduced to a smoking wreck, and the only thing keeping her Grandpa from the grave was the fistful of credits she just lost to the bookies. To top it off, she’s discovered she can destroy electronics with the power of her mind, and the puritanical Brotherhood are building a coffin her size. If she’s ever had a worse day, Eve can’t remember it.
But when Eve discovers the ruins of an android boy named Ezekiel in the scrap pile she calls home, her entire world comes crashing down. With her best friend Lemon Fresh and her robotic conscience, Cricket, in tow, she and Ezekiel will trek across deserts of irradiated glass, infiltrate towering megacities and scour the graveyard of humanity’s greatest folly to save the ones Eve loves, and learn the dark secrets of her past.
Even if those secrets were better off staying buried.”

Jay Kristoff does it again; this book was absolutely amazing and just further solidified him as one of my favorite authors of all time! Eve was totally badass, and there aren’t enough heart-eyes emojis to describe my love of LemonFresh. Zeke was all sorts of yummy and swoon-worthy, and Cricket had me laughing out loud constantly! What I love about Jay’s books – and hate in equal measure – is how he is totally willing to just kill people off or go in for the shock factor. This book was full of so many amazing plot twists that just when you think you might have an idea of what is going to happen, everything you have ever known is ripped out from under you. In all the best ways. Then we get this nice cliffhanger ending to make us suffer until the next book releases! Thanks a million, Mister Kristoff. 😉

song of the currentSong of the Current – Sarah Tolcser

“Caroline Oresteia is destined for the river. For generations, her family has been called by the river god, who has guided their wherries on countless voyages throughout the Riverlands. At seventeen, Caro has spent years listening to the water, ready to meet her fate. But the river god hasn’t spoken her name yet—and if he hasn’t by now, there’s a chance he never will.
Caro decides to take her future into her own hands when her father is arrested for refusing to transport a mysterious crate. By agreeing to deliver it in exchange for his release, Caro finds herself caught in a web of politics and lies, with dangerous pirates after the cargo—an arrogant courier with a secret—and without the river god to help her. With so much at stake, Caro must choose between the life she always wanted and the one she never could have imagined for herself.”

Wow. Just wow. I have been reading a lot of pirate/siren themed books lately, and I went into this one with no preconceived notions – just the understanding that I had been approved to review the 2nd book and therefore needed to read this one first. Caro is such an incredible MC; she is fiery and sassy and bold, ready to do what needs to be done at whatever cost. Markos was pretty delightful himself, and I was totally rooting for the two of them. Bonus points for the fact that this book’s cover game is ON POINT. Not only is the art and color pretty, but it is GLITTERY! I can already tell this duology will be making it to the reread list!

whisper of the tideWhisper of the Tide – Sarah Tolcser

*Summary omitted to avoid spoilers*

This book lived up to it’s predecessor and was just as amazing. Caro and Markos continue to delight, and their chemistry is fabulous! Some of the more secondary characters from the first book are back and became much more central to the plot; something I loved! We also see Caro really come into her own, and (unlike many other heroines) start to figure out that she shouldn’t have to give up who she is for the sake of love. There’s some serious girl power in this book, and the ending is so so satisfying! This duology is a total win.

ana of californiaAna of California – Andi Teran

“Fifteen-year-old orphan Ana Cortez has just blown her last chance with a foster family. It’s a group home next—unless she agrees to leave East Los Angeles for a farm trainee program in Northern California.
When she first arrives, Ana can’t tell a tomato plant from a blackberry bush, and Emmett Garber is skeptical that this slight city girl can be any help on his farm. His sister Abbie, however, thinks Ana might be just what they need. Ana comes to love Garber Farm, and even Emmett has to admit that her hard work is an asset. But when she inadvertently stirs up trouble in town, Ana is afraid she might have ruined her last chance at finding a place to belong.”

This is the Anne of Green Gables retelling we didn’t know we needed! I don’t know why I am always surprised when I LOVE a contemporary, but this book took me by surprise! It was the perfect AoGG retelling that hit all of the classic moments from the original (remember when Anne dyes her hair?) and added a modern flair to it. I laughed out loud, I cried big tears, and I finished it in one sitting! The only downside is that this is a standalone; I would have loved to see the author continue with the rest of the series!

playing her secret crushPlaying Her Secret Crush – Casey Griffin

“All her life, Katie has been chosen last for everything: the last picked on the playground, the last picked by her absent father, and definitely the last picked by boys—even her secret crush, Alex, friend-zoned her. This senior year, Katie is determined to come first.
But then Alex asks her to help him find a date?!
Alex has been living life in the fast lane, but he’s ready to slow down—with a girlfriend. The last person on earth he’d consider? The girl his brother developed serious feelings for before he died: Katie. The only way Alex is going to get over Katie is by falling for someone new. And who better to help him find his new crush than the girl he can’t stop thinking about?
What can possibly go wrong?”

This book hit all of my favorite contemporary favorites right on the head: Secret BFFL Crushes? Check. Geeky gamer hobbies? Check! Angsty forbidden love? Check!!! I would 100% read this again, which is always a hallmark of a great book for me. The MCs were both excellent and the dual POVs just made the heartache bits of the plot even better! The part where they love gaming is also a big draw for me, and I love that more and more books are making that a mainstream hobby. The geeks will inherit the Earth! All-in-all, I loved it and would totally read more from this author.

ruleRule – Ellen Goodlett

“Three girls with three deadly secrets. Only one can wear the crown.
The king is dying, his heir has just been murdered, and rebellion brews in the east. But the kingdom of Kolonya and the outer Reaches has one last option before it descends into leaderless chaos. Or rather, three unexpected options.
Magic, mystery, and blackmail abound in this sensational and striking fantasy debut.”

Let me start off by saying that despite the description making this sound EXACTLY like Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake, it is in fact completely different. The marketing team missed the mark on that one. It was an AWESOME book that did not read like a debut novel at all! The three MCs were vibrant and brought such a wide range of personalities to the table. Akeylah is my favorite so far, but Ren and Zofi are also great and I loved reading all three POVs. The best part of this has to be the magic system; as someone who reads 90% fantasy, I find that magic generally fits into a few different categories and there is rarely anything new. But this was so unique and unlike anything I have encountered before, and was extremely well thought out! Add in lots of intrigue and plenty of plot twists, and I am sold! I can’t wait for the next book!

from twinkle with loveFrom Twinkle, with Love – Sandhya Menon

“Aspiring filmmaker and wallflower Twinkle Mehra has stories she wants to tell and universes she wants to explore, if only the world would listen. So when fellow film geek Sahil Roy approaches her to direct a movie for the upcoming Summer Festival, Twinkle is all over it. The chance to publicly showcase her voice as a director? Dream come true. The fact that it gets her closer to her longtime crush, Neil Roy-a.k.a. Sahil’s twin brother? Dream come true x 2.
When mystery man N begins emailing her, Twinkle is sure it’s Neil, finally ready to begin their happily-ever-after. The only slightly inconvenient problem is that, in the course of movie-making, she’s fallen madly in love with the irresistibly adorkable Sahil.
Twinkle soon realizes that resistance is futile: The romance she’s got is not the one she’s scripted. But will it be enough?”

Another great contemporary from the author of When Dimple Met Rishi! Twinkle was such a well written character; she made me mad half the time, but I still understood why she was that way and why she acted how she did, and it really just made her more realistic to me. I also ADORE Sahil. He’s just a total cinnamon bun and would totally have been someone that 16-year-old me would have been friends with (and probs crushed on). What I love about Menon’s books is that she doesn’t fall into the typical YA rut of making sure all of your characters never share their feelings and so no one knows what the other is feeling and everyone gets their feelings hurt through misunderstanding. Her male MCs in particular are always very open and share how they feel upfront when they like a girl. None of those guessing games. Its so refreshing! I love Contemporary YA, but sometimes I need a little less of the teen angst. I lived it myself, so I don’t need to revisit it all the time. 😉 Manon delivers just what I want for this genre, and I can’t wait for more from her.

the faceless womanThe Faceless Woman – Emma Hamm

“A town will only suffer the presence of a witch for as long as she is useful. Aisling watches the flames lick her thighs and prays for a quick death. But when an Unseelie prince appears through the smoke, she does what any self respecting witch would do.
She curses him.
Bran should never have traveled to the human realm, and is shocked when a witch binds them together. His life is hers and he refuses to die. He saves her from the fires, casts a hex on the townsfolk for good measure, then whisks her away to safety. His only stipulation? She has to remove the binding curse.
Unfortunately for them both, she can’t. Witch and Unseelie must travel across the Otherworld to break the ties that bind them. Secrets and lies stand between them, but both will stop at nothing to save themselves.”

Emma Hamm was my favorite newly-discovered author in 2018! The Faceless Woman is the next edition in her Otherworld setting, and is easily my favorite one so far! The best part about Emma’s books, besides the magic and the fairytale influences and the sexy menfolk, is that all of her books can be read on their own, but each one pulls in characters from the others! This means that those secondary characters we all enjoy get their chance to shine! Bran is back after his brief appearance in the Heart of the Fae duo, and he is in fine form! He has that smoldering sassy fae thing going on and I’m all about that. Aisling is amazing and is just so utterly fearless and Unseelie. This book had plenty of twists that I didn’t see coming but relished as they happened. Rumor has it we will see more of this pair, and I am so ready!

a reaper at the gatesA Reaper at the Gates – Sabaa Tahir

“Beyond the Empire and within it, the threat of war looms ever larger.”

*Abbreviated summary to avoid spoilers*

It is almost impossible to discuss my love for this book without giving away spoilers for those who haven’t read the series or just haven’t made it this far, so I will keep it brief. This. was. epic. We got to see more of Helene than ever before, Lila was still being awesome, Elias is over here breaking our hearts as usual, and we got some great new secondary characters, my favorite being Harper! There were some serious OMFG moments in this book, and the ending left me SO READY for more.

smoke and ironPaper & Fire, Ash & Quill, and Smoke & Iron – Rachel Caine

“Ruthless and supremely powerful, the Great Library is now a presence in every major city, governing the flow of knowledge to the masses. Alchemy allows the Library to deliver the content of the greatest works of history instantly—but the personal ownership of books is expressly forbidden.”

I had read the first book in the Great Library series back in 2017 and loved it. But then it fell into that abyss where I seem to put all first books where I totally forget to read the sequel(s). I got the chance to read an advanced readers copy of Smoke & Iron and realized, oh shit, I am like 3 books behind in this series! And so began my binge-read of the whole series thus far.

These books do not disappoint! I love the central plot of this world and how the Library is like its own country/entity/religion. This story reads more like a new adult fantasy rather than a YA, not because it contains smut or anything, but just the style of writing strikes me as more complex than most YA. This is not a bad thing, of course. The main character, Jess, is the perfect person to drive this story, and its always nice to see a male MC in the slew of badass females the genre usually delivers. The intrigue and plot in this book is so lush and well fleshed out, and I really got to love the characters and the world. I am super excited that we are getting another book! Sword and Pen is out in 2020, and I am not prepared to wait that long!

my plain janeMy Plain Jane – Cynthia Hand, Jodi Meadows, & Brodi Ashton

“You may think you know the story. After a miserable childhood, penniless orphan Jane Eyre embarks on a new life as a governess at Thornfield Hall. There, she meets one dark, brooding Mr. Rochester. Despite their significant age gap (!) and his uneven temper (!!), they fall in love—and, Reader, she marries him. (!!!)
Or does she?
Prepare for an adventure of Gothic proportions, in which all is not as it seems, a certain gentleman is hiding more than skeletons in his closets, and one orphan Jane Eyre, aspiring author Charlotte Brontë, and supernatural investigator Alexander Blackwood are about to be drawn together on the most epic ghost hunt this side of Wuthering Heights.”

This book lived up to all of my expectations! The Lady Janies delivered another hilarious, fast-paced, and fabulously written novel. Oddly, Jane herself was my least favorite character; she was just less engaging than some of the others. Charlotte was easily my favorite and I am so glad much of the book focused on her! This book had tons of awesome references and jokes; everything from Mary Poppins to HP to LoTR, and even in referencing Pride & Prejudice as Jane’s favorite book (it as a little like book-ception). Add in the parts that poked fun at dark broody males and pre-Victorian sensibilities, this had it all! I eagerly await the next book from the amazing trio of authors!

the falloutThe Fallout – Everythursday

“When does redemption begin? She likes to believe it is at the top of a tower, when a boy lowers his wand, his power, his control, his future in the ranks he had been promised and walks away to never be the same again.
The question for Draco Malfoy, of course, was when it ended.”

I am a huge sucker for Dramione fanfiction, and this is such a dark and gritty read. The book is unique in that it is not split into chapters; instead it is divided by days and hours since The War began with the death of Dumbledore on the Astronomy Tower. It gives a very real portrayal of life inside of a vicious war, and the way is leaves scars on people. Some of the sections are mere sentences; quick moments of peace or death or quiet or insanity. Others are many pages detailing missions and failures and the daily upheaval of running from safe house to safe house. While this is not my favorite version of the Draco/Hermione relationship, it really fits the story perfectly and kept me sucked in from Hour One to Day 1572, Hour 12. And then Hour One again. I cannot suggest this enough for my fellow Dramione Shippers. And for those who have yet to jump into this ship, hit me up and I’ll point you to the best “gateway drug” fics for the fandom 😉

Dance of Thieves_FINAL 9.18Dance of Thieves – Mary E Pearson

“When the patriarch of the Ballenger empire dies, his son, Jase, becomes its new leader. Even nearby kingdoms bow to the strength of this outlaw family, who have always governed by their own rules. But a new era looms on the horizon, set in motion by a young queen, which makes her the target of the dynasty’s resentment and anger.
At the same time, Kazi, a legendary former street thief, is sent by the queen to investigate transgressions against the new settlements. When Kazi arrives in the forbidding land of the Ballengers, she learns that there is more to Jase than she thought. As unexpected events spiral out of their control, bringing them intimately together, they continue to play a cat and mouse game of false moves and motives in order to fulfill their own secret missions.

SO GOOD. First off, I adore Kazi. She is smart and funny and so quick on her feet! I loved that she reacted to each situation with a sort of careful calculation and managed to be successful in all of her endeavors (even if in a roundabout way). And Jace? Sooooo many heart eyes! He is the perfect pairing for Kazi; he’s genuine and caring but also tough and willing to do what he needs to in order to get something done. It was great stepping into this world again and seeing how it has changed since Lia took over Venda. I love when an author comes back to a well-loved world. Book 2 is due out in August 2019!

the queen's risingThe Queen’s Rising – Rebecca Ross

*Mild spoiler alert in the review portion*

Brienna desires two things: to master her Passion and to find a patron. But when her seventeenth solstice passes and she is passed over by all patrons, she is devastated. Months later her life suddenly changes when a disgraced lord suddenly offers her his patronage. Suspicious, but at the urging of her headmistress, Brienna accepts. Suddenly she finds herself in the middle of a plot to overthrow a king and restore rightful queen, from a long hidden bloodline, in his place. With war brewing, Brienna must choose her loyalties, because the queen is destined to rise.

I really enjoyed this book for a multitude of reasons. Not only was Brienna a great MC, but I loved the idea of Passions – a nice alternative to the usual magic systems found in fantasy. While actual magic was very much present, it was much more of a background item than a topic of necessity to Brienna. I found that super refreshing! There were also some serious Celtic vibes which I am all about. The very best part is that Brienna was not The Chosen One! She was just a brave girl ready to help the rightful queen regain her place, helped along the way by some great side characters. Book 2 should be awesome!

hero at the fallHero at the Fall – Alwyn Hamilton

*Summary omitted to avoid spoilers. Review has some mild, vague spoilers, so skip it if you want to be completely surprised*

An amazing ending to an amazing series. I don’t know why I waited 6 months to read this other than perhaps I wasn’t ready for it to be over. Amani was just a total badass as usual, and I adore that she never fails to do the right thing, even when the right thing is the hard thing. I am also always a little stunned at just how many important characters get killed off in this series, but it really just adds to the reasons to love it – it doesn’t pull punches. This is firmly on my reread list!

storm glass - jeff wheelerStorm Glass – Jeff Wheeler

“Theirs is a world of opposites. The privileged live in sky manors held aloft by a secretive magic known only as the Mysteries. Below, the earthbound poor are forced into factory work to maintain the engine of commerce. Only the wealthy can afford to learn the Mysteries, and they use their knowledge to further lock their hold on society.”

Jeff Wheeler has built such a great world here. The book had a Dickensian vibe, with the extreme class divides, that also felt Steampunk but without the gears, goggles, or steam. The magic system was very unique and, while we didn’t learn much about it in this book, future books promise to give us a deeper look. The story follows two awesome and completely opposite main characters. Cettie comes from the darkest slums and finds a loving adoptive family in the clouds. She is really so sweet and tries so hard to make her new family happy. She certainly sees herself as lesser, and she grows immensely as the plot progresses, coming more into her own confidence as we go. Sera is the future ruler, raised in complete privilege, but with complete assholes for parents. She also takes a firm grip on her self-worth and starts to realize she needs to drive her own life since her parents certainly won’t do it for her. I am excited for more from this series!

(Note: at the time of this post, 3 more books have dropped and I have yet to pick any of them up. Sound familiar?)

the darkest starThe Darkest Star – Jennifer L Armentrout

“When seventeen-year-old Evie Dasher is caught up in a raid at a notorious club known as one of the few places where humans and the surviving Luxen can mingle freely, she meets Luc, an unnaturally beautiful guy she initially assumes is a Luxen…but he is in fact something much more powerful. Her growing attraction for Luc will lead her deeper and deeper into a world she’d only heard about, a world where everything she thought she knew will be turned on its head…”

It was so nice to get back into the Lux universe again! I hadn’t realized how much I missed this series – and this sub-genre – until I started reading it again. I am so happy we got a Luc story because man oh man that boy is the best! He’s just the right mix of sass and sarcasm, wry and frustrating, kind and awesome. And abs. Oh the abs. Evie was also great and I really enjoyed their story. There were moments where I became frustrated because I NEEDED to know everything RIGHT NOW, but realistically it was perfectly paced to keep me turning the pages. In fact, I read the whole thing in one 5 hour sitting because I NEEDED TO KNOW! In typical Lux fashion, we got some major reveals and shit is going down. Book 2 is coming in October 2019 and that’s too far away!

deviationDeviation – Christine Manzari

“Being a Sophisticate of the Program seems like it’d be a pretty sweet deal: a little genetic alteration and anyone can be smarter, faster, and stronger. It’s a dream come true. All you have to give up is your freedom.”

I really enjoyed this story! I have long followed Christine on Instagram and have had her books on my TBR for ages. Fans of the Darkest Mind series will definitely want to check this out! Cleo was a great MC and I liked that she was not “the chosen one” or anything like that; she was special in that she had powers, but she had support and equals with the rest of her “Dozen”. Ozzy is the perfect partner for Cleo and I loved seeing their relationship grow. Arabella and Sterling were both super funny secondary characters. I loved the world building and seeing the development of the teams’ powers, and the twist at the end was super unexpected! Great cliffhanger ending.

muse of nightmaresMuse of Nightmares – Laini Taylor

*mild spoilers in the summary*

“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.
Lazlo faces an unthinkable choice—save the woman he loves, or everyone else?—while Sarai feels more helpless than ever. But is she? Sometimes, only the direst need can teach us our own depths, and Sarai, the Muse of Nightmares, has not yet discovered what she’s capable of.”

THIS BOOK! I cannot adequately express how amazing this was. I have long been a fan of Laini Taylor’s writing (she is a wordsmith!) and this was no exception. From start to finish, I could not put it down, and read it in one sitting. I loved the new characters, the deepening of the storyline, and -above all else- how it tied into Daughter of Smoke and Bone. Laini Taylor is pure magic and I will 100% be rereading this duology in 2019. This just may be my favorite book of 2018.

kingdom of ashKingdom of Ash – Sarah J Maas

“As the threads of fate weave together at last, all must fight, if they are to have a chance at a future. Some bonds will grow even deeper, while others will be severed forever in the explosive final chapter of the Throne of Glass series.”

I am SO FULL OF FEELS after this. I read the entire 992 pages in one 11.5 hour sprint, only stopping for bathroom breaks and to replenish snacks. I finished at approx 1:30am the day after release day, and I was emotionally drained. SO MUCH HAPPENED. First off this book was MASSIVE and all of this mind blowing stuff kept happening and there was still so much book left! I did make some predictions going in, and while a few came true, a great deal of them didn’t come true in the most unexpected fashion. I am fairly certain my heart broke at least 13 times (*sob*). BUT I have to mention that there is one GLORIOUS moment…no more than a few sentences…that had me freaking the fuck out and bursting with pure joy. If you have read it, you will know. There will be a very spoiler-filled review of this soon so I can fully discuss. This will be high on the 2019 reread list!

And that concludes my 2018 5 Star reads!! I read some seriously amazing books over the year, 179 to be exact, and had an average rating of 4.3/5 stars! That did not include the 13 audiobooks I listened to, all of which were 5 stars, and which I did not feature in this wrap-up. I cannot wait to see what 2019 brings for amazing 5 star reads! Please share your most anticipated 2019 releases in the comments below!

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