Best Books of 2018

Hey Readers!

I’m here to talk to you about some of my favorite books of 2018! I read 80 books this year so narrowing it down to my top 10 was HARD. However, I was able to do it. Two books fought it out for the top spot but other than that, organizing them from ten to 2 was too difficult so other than my number one I don’t have them listed in any particular order! Anyway… on to the books!

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I’ll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman’s Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer – Michelle McNamara

I loved this true crime mixed with memoir novel about Michelle McNamara’s hunt for the Golden State Killer. I was finishing this book the day that it was announced that they had made an arrest finally after all of these years and that just made the reading experience so much better. This is one of the best true crime novels a “murderino” like me has ever read. If you like true crime this one is for you.

“You’ll be silent forever, and I’ll be gone in the dark,” you threatened a victim once.

Open the door. Show us your face.

Walk into the light.”

Call Me By Your Name – Andre Aciman

This book was such a beautiful coming of age story of Elio and his relationship with Oliver. Call Me By Your Name was an intoxicating read, filled with romance, intimacy and was an absolutely stunning, perfect experience even when I was ugly sobbing and miserable at the end of the story. This is not the story for you if you’re looking for a love story that will fit all of your cliches, complete with a happy ending, but if you’re looking for two characters to fall in love with and then have your heart broken, Call Me By Your Name will satiate those desires.

“We rip out so much of ourselves to be cured of things faster than we should that we go bankrupt by the age of thirty and have less to offer each time we start with someone new. But to feel nothing so as not to feel anything – what a waste!”

An American Marriage – Tayari Jones

An American Marriage was the heartbreaking story of Roy and Celestial, a young African-American couple whose lives are forever changed when Roy is arrested and convicted of a crime Celestial knows he didn’t commit. This was a heartbreaking story of love, loss of love, and the search for freedom and happiness. You can read my review of this book here!

“Sometimes it’s exhausting for me to simply walk into the house. I try and calm myself, remember that I’ve lived alone before. Sleeping by myself didn’t kill me then and will not kill me now. But this what loss has taught me of love. Our house isn’t simply empty, our home has been emptied. Love makes a place in your life, it makes a place for itself in your bed. Invisibly, it makes a place in your body, rerouting all your blood vessels, throbbing right alongside your heart. When it’s gone, nothing is whole again.”

Rebecca – Daphne Du Maurier 

This is a romance that has never gone out of print in over 80 years of print. This book took me by surprise, I wasn’t expecting to love this as much as I did. The mystery of Rebecca and what the new Mrs. de Winter is learning swept me away and I could not put the book down. I’m already looking forward to rereading this.

“I believe there is a theory that men and women emerge finer and stronger after suffering, and that to advance in this or any world we must endure ordeal by fire.”

A Darker Shade of Magic – V.E. Schwab

This whole series blew me away. I loved all of the characters, my favorite Slytherin, Lila Bard, peculiar coat wearing Gryffindor Kell, and cinnamon roll Rhy. And honestly, most of all – my sweet baby Holland. This series only gets better as you move through the trilogy so when you start it, make sure you have the next two on hand ready to go. Trust me.

“For the ones who dream of stranger worlds.”

A Little Life – Hanya Yanigahara

This book absolutely destroyed me. I fell in love with all of these characters so hard. This was full of really difficult emotions and while I think this is on my list of all time favorite books I don’t think I’ll be able to read it again. It was hard to get through but it was so worth it. The destruction of my heart was just so worth it. You can read my full review for this book here!

“Friendship, companionship: it so often defied logic, so often eluded the deserving, so often settled itself on the odd, the bad, the peculiar, the damaged.”

Where the Crawdads Sing – Delia Owens

This book is the stunning story of Kya, a girl growing up in the swamplands of North Carolina. This book was a debut novel and I honestly don’t understand how it is that because this book was AMAZING. It was full of lush and beautiful descriptions of the swamp that my favorite heroine of the year loved so much. If you want to know more of my thoughts, check out the review here.

“Autumn leaves don’t fall, they fly. They take their time and wander on this their only chance to soar.”

The Hearts Invisible Furies – John Boyne

This book was so hyped when I first started my bookstagram and my book blog, and let me tell you it did not disappoint. This was the story of Cyril Avery, starting in the 1940s and going all the way through to the present day and once I started reading it I was sucked into the story and was invested right away. I laughed, loved, and cried with him as he lived his life. All of the triumphs and stumbles that he went through felt real as I was reading them and it blew me away.

“Maybe there were no villains in my mother’s story at all. Just men and women, trying to do their best by each other. And failing.”

A Place for Us – Fatima Farheen Mirza

This book was the book that contended with The Way of Kings to be my all time favorite book of the year, and honestly, it didn’t lose by much. This was the beautiful story of an Indian-American Muslim family on the day of their oldest daughters wedding. Told through a series of flashbacks and present day, it told the heartbreakingly beautiful story of each of these characters, and as I read it I fell in love with each and every one of the characters. Because of this book, I will insta buy any book written by this author in the future. For more of my thoughts, click here for the full review!

“But Imam Ali said two things: first, that we must imagine for one another seventy excuses before landing on a single judgment, and also, on that night, he told his companions to refrain from condemning a man, even as he staggered by showing proof of his sin, because they could not know if he would repent when alone, or fathom what existed in his heart.”

The Way of Kings – Brandon Sanderson 

This was my favorite book of the year, and honestly my favorite series. This book also solidified Brandon Sanderson as my all time favorite author. I loved everything about this book and this story, I loved it so much I wrote a full review of the whole Stormlight Archives series that you can read here.

“Words aren’t meant to be kept inside, you see. They are free creatures, and if locked away will unsettle the stomach.”

So those were my top 10 best books of 2018. What were some of your favorites?

– Hannah

 

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December Wrap Up

Hey Readers!

It is the end of December and almost the end of the holiday season. With the holiday season came a lot of family events, cleaning, and the end of my school term… this resulted in having less time to read and to blog but I was able to finish up my year with some great reads. And while I wasn’t able to blog as much as last month, I was able to get a little bit of blogging done this month as well.

Here are some of those posts that you should check out if you missed them:

A review I posted about a book Atria Books was kind enough to send me, a historical fiction/thriller novel that was an ode to storytelling.

A review of a beautiful magical realism story of a boy raised by wolves, full of hope and whimsy.

A list of what I was lucky enough to receive for Christmas!

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Now for an overview of the books I read this month:

FullSizeRender 3.jpg Once Upon A River by Diane Setterfield

This was an atmospheric fantasy, mythology, folklore, and an homage to storytelling all wrapped up in one novel. This was my first Diane Setterfield novel and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It had as many twists and turns as the river at the heart of the novel.

IMG_4223.JPG The Oyster Thief by Sonia Faruqi

This was Monsters and Stranger World’s second book pick. It is almost a retelling of The Little Mermaid, but with our male lead character turning into a mermaid instead. With the themes of ocean conservation, the first fantasy novel set fully under water was an enjoyable read but not my favorite.

IMG_5279.jpg Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance by Ruth Emmie Lang

This was my favorite book of the ones I read this month. This tale of a boy raised by wolves filled my heart with hope and love. The writing is gorgeous and the story filled with whimsy. I immediately handed my copy to my mother to read the minute I was finished.

*bonus book I’m currently reading*

IMG_5272.JPG Elantris by Brandon Sanderson

I am about half way through Elantris, Brandon Sanderson’s debut fantasy novel. While I am enjoying it, it is obvious it is a debut novel. It is harder to get through and has an overwhelmingly political plot. For someone who enjoys politics this is a great story but if one is looking for more fantasy this may not be the pick for you.

 

What books did you round out the year with? Stay tuned for a 2018 wrap up post where I’ll talk about all of the things I did this year and all of the books I read!

– Hannah

 

 

Huge Christmas Book Haul

Hey Readers!

Happy holidays and a Merry Christmas to those of you who celebrate! I got spoiled this year with books for Christmas and I wanted to share with you a list of all of the books that I got this year!

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  • The Tiger and the Wolf by Adrian Tchaikovsky
  • Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow by Jessica Townsend
  • Predator’s Gold by Philip Reeve (Mortal Engines, Book Two)
  • Infernal Devices by Philip Reeve (Mortal Engines, Book Three)
  • One Day in December by Josie Silver
  • The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater (The Raven Cycle, Book One)
  • The Kiss of Deception by Mary E Pearson (The Remnant Chronicles, Book One)
  • The Heart of Betrayal by Mary E Pearson (The Remnant Chronicles, Book Two)
  • The Beauty of Darkness by Mary E Pearson (The Remnant Chronicles, Book Three)
  • Scythe by Neal Schusterman (Arc of a Scythe, Book One)
  • Unwind by Neal Schusterman (Unwind Dystology, Book One)
  • The Odyssey translated by Emily Wilson
  • Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson (The Reckoners, Book One)
  • Firefight by Brandon Sanderson (The Reckoners, Book Two)
  • Calamity by Brandon Sanderson (The Reckoners, Book Three)
  • The Alloy of Law by Brandon Sanderson (Wax and Wayne Series, Book One)
  • Skyward by Brandon Sanderson (Skyward, Book One)
  • The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
  • The Hobbit by J.R.R Tolkien
  • The Poppy War by R. F. Kuang (The Poppy War, Book One)

 

If you’re interested in a short description of each of these I have some exciting news! I started my very own Booktube channel and my first ever video is showcasing my book haul! I’ve linked it here, so go check it out!

What books did you get for Christmas?

– Hannah

Review: Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance

Hey Readers,

I went into Ruth Emmie Lang’s Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance not knowing very much about it and I have to say I’m kind of happy I went into it that way. I knew that it was about a boy who was raised by wolves who seems to have some magical abilities and that it was a mix of fantasy and magical realism and with that, I was sold.

“Don’t leave anything you can’t come back to.”

Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance is the story of Weylyn Grey told through the perspectives of some of the people in his life who love him. Each chapter rotates between different perspectives however the novel is also split into books, and each of those books only focuses on two of the characters. I feel like that’s a convoluted way of saying what I’m trying to say, but I felt that while there were a lot of different perspectives in the novel, the fact that we were only focusing on two at a time helped keep it from getting overwhelming, and helped the story flow.

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This novel has a classic “once upon a time” feel to it. It reads like it is a modern day fairy tale with the different relationships that Weylyn Grey has, not only with humans but the animals that become his family, like Merlin the magical pig.  Lang writes Weylyn’s story full of vivid and beautiful descriptions and brimming with hope. It made me cry all of the happy tears.

“Actually, it’s kind of a love story.”

I will say that the only reason I didn’t give this book a full 5 stars was that I wish that we had gotten some more depth when it came to the magic that Weylyn had.

My Rating: 4.5/5 Stars

– Hannah

Review: Once Upon A River

ONCE UPON A RIVER
BY DIANE SETTERFIELD
http://onceuponariverbook.com/
Atria Books Hardcover | 480 pages | ISBN: 9780743298070| December 4, 2018 | $28.00
eBook: 480 pages | ISBN: 9781501190230| $13.99

 

Hey Readers,

I was lucky to receive an advanced reader copy of Once Upon A River by Diane Setterfield this month from Atria Books in exchange for an honest review.

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Once Upon A River by Diane Setterfield is fantasy, mythology, folklore, and an homage to storytelling all wrapped up in one novel. It is the story of three missing children, and when one is returned under mysterious circumstances, three families are left wanting to claim her as their own. I had never read any of Setterfield’s works before, I had no idea what I was getting into but with words like atmospheric, magical, and fairy tales, being used to describe it I knew that I had to read it.

There are a lot of characters in this book, and they all are interwoven in some ways. Some are there for you to dislike, others like Robert Armstrong and Rita whom you can’t help but love. I also loved how the river felt like it was in itself its own character. Not only did the river guide the story along but it almost seems to react to what is happening in the story, ebbing and flowing with the changes and twist and turns of the story.

One of my favorite aspects of the story was its quiet discussion about grief. Without going too much into it for fear of spoiling anything, all of a sudden we are talking about grief, and the hard ways in which we do and don’t process grief, and I was shocked that I had not noticed it until that point.

At first, I thought this was a book that I was going to fly through, and I think I made an error for the first half of the book in not slowing down as I was reading it. As I started getting towards the middle of the book, I slowed down significantly, I took my time with the prose and the language and let the words wash over me. This book has a river at its center, and just like a river, the turns and courses that it might take and the changing currents, I never knew where this book was taking me. This is a slow burning novel, more character than plot driven, it’s a novel that is worth slowing down and letting the story guide you.

Overall, I wish I had gone into the novel with the awareness that it was a slow burn and not a book that one should devour and binge. Skimming will be your worst enemy when it comes to Once Upon A River, you may realize that you’ve missed something important tucked away in those beautiful descriptions. This is a novel that I would recommend if you’re in the mood for allowing yourself to be swept away in the magic of the river that is and is not the river Thames and if you love rich and traditional storytelling.

And now, dear reader, the story is over. It is time for you to cross the bridge once more and return to the world that you came from. This river which is and is not the river Thames, must continue flowing without you. You have haunted here long enough, and besides, you surely have rivers of your own to attend to.

 

My Rating: 4/5 Stars

– Hannah

  

Grab your copy of ONCE UPON A RIVER:
Amazon: https://amzn.to/2Osmegh
Barnes & Noble: https://bit.ly/2NLDxDy
Books-a-Million: https://bit.ly/2pVMjFI
iBooks: https://apple.co/2P3BQpX
Indiebound: https://bit.ly/2PCzriX
Kobo: https://bit.ly/2P3QFIV
Google: https://goo.gl/iQtXgG
Nook: https://bit.ly/2CkjJp3

November Monthly Wrap Up

Hey Readers!

I can’t believe that it is already time for another monthly wrap up. This month/this year seems like it has FLOWN by. I honestly don’t know where the time has gone. I had an amazing reading month and a pretty good blogging month too. Despite being crazy busy, spending about a week sick, being halfway through my second to last class for my bachelor’s degree, and with the holidays, I read eight books and wrote four (five if you count this one) blog posts!

Here are some posts that you may have missed that I suggest you check out:

A review on a dark thriller read I read in October.

My dream cast for an upcoming Amazon TV show for a fantasy series that I am currently reading.

A (spoiler-free) review on my favorite fantasy series… ever.

A review of another book I read in October which also happens to be one of the most depressing and beautiful novels I have ever read.

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Now, for some brief thoughts of the books I read this month:

IMG_3527 Sawkill Girls by Claire Legrand

I read this as the first pick for my book club, @monstersandstrangerworlds, which is run on Instagram with some of my favorite book friends (@worldswithinpages, @booknerdnative, and @fictionalflowerday – check them out!). I will have a full review once we’ve had our discussion on our Instagram page but this was an enjoyable read. I read it in about two sittings.

IMG_3946 The Proposal by Jasmine Guillory

I spent about a week sick this month and I read this cute and sexy romance in one day. It was the perfect light reading that I needed. I didn’t love it as much as I loved The Wedding Date, Guillory’s first novel, but I really enjoyed it.

IMG_3967 The Perfect Stranger by Megan Miranda

This was the second book I read in a day when I was sick. It is a quick thriller that is good enough to keep you turning the pages, however, I didn’t connect with the main character and a lot of what she did bothered me.  I also didn’t *love* the ending.

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The Shadow and Bone Trilogy by Leigh Bardugo

I really enjoyed this trilogy, I flew right through the series in about a week. It was by no means my favorite fantasy series, there are some problematic tropes in the novels but I had fun reading them. Also, at what point do you become old enough not to fall for the bad boy? Because I’m here for the Darkling, not gonna lie.

IMG_3768 Friday Black by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah

So in truth, I snuck this one in right under the radar because I just finished up this collection of short stories today. This is Adjei-Brenyah’s first book and I really hope that it isn’t the last because these stories were something else. The stories are razor sharp, deep, dark and captivating. These stories look at racism and capitalism and with Adjei-Brenyah’s unique voice they should be considered mandatory reading.

IMG_3700 The Eye of the World by Robert Jordan 

This is my one re-read of the year, and I can not tell you how much I had forgotten about this book. SO much happens in this first book, and I am completely in love all over. As I’m reading it I just keep remembering details I had completely forgotten about and I’m sitting here just waiting for Nynaeve and Lan cause I ship them HARD.

 

What books did you read in November? Let me know in the comments!

– Hannah

Review: A Little Life

Hey Readers,

A Little Life is a modern day classic that everyone should read. It is an immersive and dark novel set in the present day about four friends who meet at college and have now moved to New York to find success. Throughout the reading of this novel, as I hurtled towards the devastating ending of A Little Life I texted a friend saying that I was in shock and that I honestly didn’t know how I was supposed to read something else after that.

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While A Little Life was harrowing and traumatic, it is one of my favorite books I have ever read. To be timely, if I was going to sing “thank u, next” about anything it would be A Little Life. It taught me patience, it taught me love, and boy did it ever teach me pain. We follow four friends: Jude, Willem, JB, and Malcolm as they find success in New York. We focus on Jude and the unspoken trauma that has caused him to have difficulty walking, to self-harm, and live a life full of secrets. These friendships, while they are tested as each of them struggles with betrayal, addiction, and pride, are held together by Willem, JB, and Malcolm’s complete dedication to Jude.

The true, lifelong friendships that were in this novel were the love story that I needed but never knew I wanted. I’ve read a lot of love stories about a lot of different kinds of relationships, family relationships, romantic relationships, I have never read a story about friendships as deep as the friendships Willem, Malcolm, JB, and Jude share.

“Why wasn’t friendship as good as a relationship? Why wasn’t it even better? It was two people who remained together, day after day, bound not by sex or physical attraction or money or children or property, but only by the shared agreement to keep going, the mutual dedication to a union that could never be codified. Friendship was witnessing another’s slow drip of miseries, and long bouts of boredom, and occasional triumphs. It was a feeling honored by the privilege of getting to be present for another person’s most dismal moments, and knowing that you could be dismal around him in return.”

With A Little Life, there is the need to set aside your disbelief when it comes to some of the fantastical elements of the story. For example, each character finds extreme success, JB in the art world, Malcolm as an architect, Willem as an actor, and Jude as a lawyer. The idea of all four of the friends finding success in the ways that these characters do is unlikely in reality. There is also no mention of any significant world events taking place which helps keep this novel in the present day for eternity with nothing to separate it from any other time. The lack of world events like 9/11 or the War on Terrorism, is poignant since all of the themes that are present in this novel are present in real life, in the past, and will be in the future. There is also not a steady movement of time, months come and go without being mentioned, we read about things that happen only in a few days, and then we read about years as they fly by. It reads like life does, time flying by us without us being able to stop it.

A Little Life contains scenes of extreme violence and trauma. I am one who doesn’t like trigger warnings generally, I think that in our day to day life we don’t get trigger warnings and so I tend not to use them in my reading life. I do this because I don’t want to stay away from a book because of its trigger warnings. I think A Little Life is one of those books that I would have stayed away from if I had read all of the trigger warnings. And while I can understand to some extent the want and need to stay away from topics that can be difficult, to stay away from A Little Life is taking away an experience from yourself that is worth having. It is gut-wrenching, emotional, and hard to read, Jude suffers from unspeakable traumas that he will never recover from, however, the story of his life, and the people who are a part of it, is a beautiful one.

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I’ll be honest, I read A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara in October and I needed this past month to really reflect and think about the novel. A Little Life is the most difficult book I have ever read. It is “too much” in all aspects of that term. Everything in this novel is exaggerated, love, pain, success, trauma, etc – however, because everything is exaggerated the story itself doesn’t feel exaggerated. I cried for hours after finishing this book. It left me feeling raw and empty, but I am truly grateful for having read it. A Little Life will be a novel that will stick with me for a very, very long time.

 

My Rating: 5/5 Stars

– Hannah