Another a year, another almost impossible task trying to each choose our Top 10 Reads of the year! And since it’s the end of the reading year, don’t forget to enter our “Twelve Days of Christmas” Giveaway! Today I’m going to countdown my favorites reads, ten to six.
Pick Number 10: “My Plain Jane” by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows
The unexpected companion novel to the unexpected joy that was “My Lady Jane,” this story tackles a re-imaging of “Jane Eyre” with all of the twists, humor, and nonsense that I’ve come to expect from this author trio. The twists pile on top of each other right from the beginning when we are introduced to not only Jane Eyre, a girl who sees ghosts, but her school mate, Charlotte Bronte, a girl who likes to write. What made this unexpected addition all the better, was the fact that I ultimately ended up enjoying Charlotte’s story even better than Jane’s! All of the required pieces from the original are present, but almost only if you squint. And that’s a compliment! “My Plain Jane” feels completely fresh and original, and the fact that these authors somehow pulled this little stunt off for a second time is pretty incredible. I hear there’s a third book “My Calamity Jane” in the works, and you all know I’m already lined up for it even though it’s not slated for publication until 2020.
Pick Number 9: “Jane, Unlimited” by Kristin Cashore
Not only do I include this book because it is fully deserving, but I do it in the same mode that I wrote my review: as a service to a book that has been criminally overlooked or DNF’d by fantasy fans who were disappointed that it wasn’t the next “Graceling.” As I said in my review, I understand that reaction (I, too, loved Cashore’s first trilogy), but I also feel that because of the massive popularity of her first books, “Jane, Unlimted” didn’t get a fair shake of it. This book is so completely new, so completely unique, that it’s a true shame that it has gone by so unnoticed. Cashore described her writing experience as trying to essentially create a “choose your own adventure” novel for adults. And it’s that and so much more! This genre-defying story follows the twists, turns, and choices of Jane, an average girl who likes to make umbrellas, as she explores a mysterious house and all of the wonders, and horrors, it contains. Not only did I thoroughly enjoy reading this book, but it left me thinking long after I turned the last page. And now, just re-reading my review, I feel compelled to re-read the entire book to try and remember exactly how this complicated story played out. I’m sure I missed many little nuggets that would be great to discover on a re-read!
Pick Number 8: “Strange the Dreamer” and “Muse of Nightmares” by Laini Taylor
Can you believe that I read both of these this year?? In my mind, it was FOREVER ago when I read “Strange the Dreamer.” Probably because it ended on a killer cliffhanger that tortured us all until the sequel and conclusion came out this fall. But man, I loved them both. The beautiful writing, the sharp characterizations, the increasingly complex look at what makes up who we are and why we do what we do. Grief, family, love, retribution. It’s all there! Looking back, I think I enjoyed “Muse of Nightmares” even more than the first book, preferring its deep-dive into some pretty dark topics over the heavy focus on romance in the first book. But, of course, you couldn’t have the sequel without the first, and I loved that one as well, so they both get a shout-out and the duology as a whole should be a “must” for all YA fantasy fans.
Pick Number 7: “Thunderhead” by Neil Shusterman
Speaking of cliffhangers, beware this next book unless you want to live through the waking hell that is counting down the days until “The Toll” comes out…sometime in 2019? Ugh. I loved “Scythe” and the uptopian world that Shusterman created where people live in a perfect world where death doesn’t exist, except when doled out by a select group of people whose job it is to keep the population under control. “Thunderhead” takes the concepts introduced in the first book and expands them exponentially. We get an even greater look behind the curtain into the corruption that exists in this seemingly perfect system. And our two heroes, Rowan and Citra, are coming at the situation from very different angles: one as a rebel, trying to blow up the entire system, and the other working from withing, attempting to gather the power and influence necessary to steer the course of the future. The events at the end of this book are huge, effecting not only our main characters, but also the entire world. I have no idea where the story will go from here, but I can’t wait to find out! Soon, hopefully!
Pick Number 6: “The Defiant Heir” by Melissa Caruso
“The Tethered Mage” came out of nowhere and blew me away, so it was with much excitement that I got my hands on “The Defiant Heir” as soon as possible. And, again, this sequel proved that even good things can get better with time! No mid-trilogy slump here! What I loved most about the first book, and continued to love here, is the incredible female friendship that operates at the core of the story. Not only are Amalia and Zaira cautious friends, though. Their complicated relationship bound up in the restrictions placed on those with magic is being constantly challenged by the different forms of power and restraint they each face. This second book also expands the world out even further and we get a look into the massively crazy power of the Witch Lords whom we had heard about so much in the first book. Amalia and Zaira spend much of the book behind enemy lines and in tremendous danger. It’s definitely a more action-packed take than the more politically-focused first book. The third one comes out in April, and I’m already scheming up ways to get my hands on an early copy!
So that’s ten through six. Next time I will give a countdown of my top five. What have been some of your favorite reads of 2018?