I’m having a hard time right now coming to terms with it being the end of the year already! Not that there are not numerous reasons for celebrating the end of this year at all (politically, it’s been rough all over) it’s just that I’m honestly overwhelmed we’ve already reached this point in time. Too much of this year seemed to whizz past in a quick blip and blur, certainly the months between October and December. Did November even happen? So to find that it’s time to compile my Year End in Review list has taken me aback a bit!
I’ve already written my Top CanLit and Top Audiobooks lists. I read a lot of CanLit this year so those truly deserved their own list! Earlier this year I was hitting the wall with my reading, and it seemed to be constant dud after dud, which I wrote about, but for the rest of the year I feel that it picked way up and there wasn’t the overwhelming feeling anymore of floundering and flopping as I was feeling earlier.
Let’s start with the pretty!
Florals were all the rage this year! Those had some of the most striking and beautiful covers. It’s a shame you can’t see the cover for Tin Man with it’s gold foil glowing and shimmering on the sunflowers. The insides of The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart, The Convict Lover and The Overstory were all beautiful and it’s a real treat when publishers put this much attention and care into their books! (I’ve only saved a picture of The Lost Flowers to show here, sorry)
Can I have runners-up here too? I do have to say that when I was reading these three, I kept looking at their covers, holding the books and flipping back to the cover, and just holding and touching them. (I’m not sorry about this nerdy book behaviour either!) There was just something about these three. I don’t know if it was their heft, the feel of them, their covers. Maybe it was the nostalgia factor that each seemed to have…anyway, these need an honourable mention:
All three are published by Canadian independent publishers too. I love that. 1. Breakwater Books 2. ECW Press 3. Biblioasis
Least Favourite Covers
Not all were stunning and eye-catching (and such a shame when that happens)! These below were particularly bland and feature some exceptionally basic and boring cover designs! :-(
Most Beautifully Written Book
There are many, and most will be repeated on my favourite books of the year:
- The Lonely Hearts Hotel by Heather O’Neill. You could open to any page, blindly point your finger down onto it and find exceptionally stunning prose. So clever and beautiful!
- Songs for the Cold of Heart by Eric Dupont. Both the writing and the translation were flawless! I’ve gushed a lot this year about Songs for the Cold of Heart because it is a must read.
- Dear Evelyn by Kathy Page. Such a beautifully written story about a long marriage with a heart-tugging ending.
- The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart. An enchanting story!
- The Burning Chambers by Kate Mosse. I was enthralled by page 3 because of its gorgeous writing within!
- The Overstory by Richard Powers. Lyrical and beautiful.
- In the Shadow of 10,000 Hills by Jennifer Haupt. I wrote that this book was beautiful. How a story about genocide in Rwanda could be beautiful is beyond me, but this one really was.
- An Unremarkable Body by Elisa Lodato. Even though it was melancholic at times, there were a lot of incredibly poignant and beautifully written moments too.
- Tin Man by Sarah Winman. She’s a gift, she truly is. She is so spare with her words, but they are all gorgeous and leave you in awe with their beauty.
- The Very Marrow of our Bones by Christine Higdon. Loved it. What a beautifully written debut!
- Most Anything you Please by Trudy J. Morgan Cole. That ending. Really the whole story, but that ending is one of the best endings ever written!
After a bumpy start to the year, more books came along with words that flowed effortlessly and left me marvelling in their greatness. I’m not going to be listing books that didn’t work out for me following my floundering and flopping post. After writing about that, there really was only a couple more that were great disappointments, but I won’t dwell on those at all!
Most Memorable Characters
Like each year, there were so many characters that will forever be imprinted on my heart. I actually still tear up a little when I think of some of these listed here. So many great fictional people came into my life this year. *Sniff.
- Harry and Evelyn from Dear Evelyn by Kathy Page. I really, really should write an entire review about this book! Page has written about these two people and their long lives and marriage so brilliantly. We are taken on this incredible journey through Evelyn’s life and through the entire journey of Harry’s life as well. Harry will rip your heart apart – in all the most excellent ways. Wow, I miss Harry! And Evelyn, she was such a pill but such a great character though! I keep saying Harry and Evelyn forever because I just love them so!
- Doris, Lulu and Bette from The Very Marrow of Our Bones by Christine Higdon. I was at a complete loss as to what to do without Doris, Lulu and Bette when I finished this book. I want to go back and read about them all over again.
- The Holloway women from Most Anything You Please by Trudy J. Morgan Cole. Three amazing women.
- The Major from Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand by Helen Simonson. So many great lines he delivered! And his heart was in the very best of places. (When is Simonson gifting us with a new book???)
- Sunday from Malagash by Joey Comeau. She was such a great kid, my heart swelled so much for Sunday!
- Lane Winslow from It Begins in Betrayal by Iona Whishaw. A fantastic heroine, former spy, excellent gal! I’m so excited to be reading more of her in 2019!
- Cormoran Strike. Robert Galbraith series. I’m quite in love with Strike.
- Ian Rutledge. Charles Todd series. I’m also in love with Inspector Rutledge.
- Michael from Tin Man by Sarah Winman. The book is lovely all along, but then in the 2nd half you hear from Michael and you’ll never be left the same. Oh my how I wept uncontrollably for and about Michael.
- Charley, Lydia and Jean-Philippe in Bellewether by Susanna Kearsley. I loved Charley for her tenacity and I also loved Lydia and Jean-Philippe’s historical romance.
- Laura from An Unremarkable Body by Elisa Lodato. I really liked Laura a whole lot! I loved learning about her and the journey she took us on to find out about her mother, but also her own personal journey as well.
- John Shakespeare from Martyr by Rory Clements. I liked John Shakespeare! I’m looking forward to continuing with this series.
- Poornima and Savitha from Girls Burn Brighter by Shobha Rao. These are two remarkable girls that endure and survive and fight through so much with fierceness!
- Rose, Son and Sister Evangeline and all the other girls from St. Elizabeth’s Home for Unwed Mothers in the Patron Saint of Liars. This is Ann Patchett’s debut and already her gift for creating memorable characters was alive here.
- She not’s fictional, but Tara Westover (Educated) is one remarkable woman that overcame a tremendous amount of adversity and came out way on top!
See?! So many people, both fictional and real, that were tremendous to read about and spend time with.
Discovery of New Series
This year I discovered a whole lot of new series, whether mystery or historical or historical mysteries and/or thrillers, these were definite highlights in my reading year! Five great new series for me to dig into! I’m thrilled!
- Let’s start with the first series I read – the Cormoran Strike series by Robert Galbraith. For so long a book club friend has been telling me to read this series, that it’s really very good. I found the audio CDs were available for Cuckoo’s Calling and not only did I fall in love with Strike but I found an audiobook narrator that was a delight! These books become progressively longer as the series goes on, but I felt no fatigue at all when listening to these books! Robert Glenister is an excellent narrator and for me, he is Strike!
- DS Alexandra Cupidi series by William Shaw. The Birdwatcher is a prequel to the Cupidi series and it was a great boost to my reading. I quickly followed up with the next, or really “first” in the series, Salt Lane. Both were excellent and it’s another series I’m keen to continue with.
- John Shakespeare series by Rory Clements. There are 7 books in this series and I quite enjoyed the first Martyr so I’m happy to have more to read and continue with John Shakespeare. Great historical mysteries!
- Lane Winslow series by Iona Whishaw. Holy crackers I loved the 4th book I read in this series! I’m delighted to know there is 3 from the backlist and 2 more going forward in the series to read. Lane Winslow is a fantastic and snappy character! I’m really looking forward to the three previous in the series, because Winslow was a spy and there were hints of it It Begins in Betrayal. I’m giddy to read about her exploits!
- Deverill Chronicles by Santa Montefiore. I adored Songs of Love and War – the first in the series. I have two more to indulge in and I’m definitely going to make time in 2019 to read them both!
- Finally I just finished reading a new to me series by Charles Todd, the Inspector Ian Rutledge series. I have read many of the Bess Crawford series by Todd but nothing in their Rutledge series. I jumped in at #20, and I’m jumping back to #10 now. But it doesn’t matter, I’m just excited to read more Rutledge.
So we’ve come to the list of Best Books Read in 2018. I will focus only on the ones where I fell complete head over heels in love. There are many runners-up for sure, but I’m going to try and keep this to the ones that I completely, utterly loved, loved – the 5-star ones (with a few 4 or 4.5 star ones thrown in!). ;-)
Best Books Read in 2018
In no order mind you:
- The Burning Chambers by Kate Mosse. Said to be a trilogy, I’m therefore eager for the next one! Mosse has tweeted that she’s currently writing it. The Burning Chambers was a total doorstopper at over 600 pages and after reading this one, I went out and purchased her Languedoc series (Labyrinth, Sepulchre, and Citadel, each also huge chunky books!)
- The Overstory by Richard Powers. Another excellent chunkster, it was such a special book. I was in love with the first half more than the last, but such a tiny quibble because it was such an excellent and lyrically beautiful book! I savoured it when I was reading. I was in no rush to power through it at all.
- Another doorstopper, Songs for the Cold of Heart by Eric Dupont. Good lord I loved this one!
- It Begins in Betrayal by Iona Whishaw. It’s such a great series! Whishaw is so great with her characters, their banter, the mysteries, the plot — everything!
- Dear Evelyn by Kathy Page. This one stays with you, and the appreciation for what Page accomplished in it grows the longer you’re away from it.
- Tin Man by Sarah Winman. I was a puddle and a mess at the end of this one.
- The Very Marrow of Our Bones by Christine Higdon. I was truly at a loss after reading this one. Suffered from a serious book hangover.
- Songs of Love and War by Santa Montefiore. I did give this one a 5-star rating. I remember staying up late to finish because I just had to know how it ended! It’s packed with ghosts, betrayal, castles, the fight for Irish Independence.
- Most Anything You Please, by Trudy J. Morgan Cole. It’s that ending that did it for me. It’s so perfect and the 3 generations of women were so great.
- To make it an even top 10, I’ll include these two here for a tie. They were truly excellent and like the tie I included in my CanLit list, it would be wrong if they were left off:
- In the Shadow of 10,000 Hills by Jennifer Haupt. Truly a beautifully written book, the cast of characters and their stories was wonderful to read. I do highly recommend!
- An Unremarkable Body by Elisa Lodato. This one continues to stay with me. It’s haunted me. I really found it to be clever and haunting – I’ll use that word again.
So, for the most part, it was chunky books for the win this year! Those were truly the most satisfying and grand tales that I was deeply immersed in when reading. There is a lot of repetition in my Best Books and Most Beautifully Written books I know, but that’s okay! You know they left a mark then!
What were your favourites from 2018? Did you read any from my favourites?
Happy End to 2018 that is hurtling its way towards us all!
I wish you all the very best and happiest of reading experiences in 2019!