Somehow 2018 is nearly over and I must say I am really proud of how many books I read this year! There have been so many amazing books published in 2018, but not all of my favorite reads of the year were new releases. I also managed to read a couple of books that have been on my TBR for ages! So when putting together this list, I knew I had to include both new releases and some older books too.
Without further ado, here are my favourite reads of the year!
This Cruel Design
by Emily Suvada
If you haven’t already read book one in this series, I beg of you, please pick up a copy of This Mortal Coil ASAP. There have been a lot of dystopian books lately, all with great hooks and a strong lead characters, but none are as good as this series.
Aussie born author, Emily Suvada, did what any good author should do – she wrote what she knew – which, in this case, was genetic engineering. With a background studying maths and astrophysics, she then moved on to teach herself about STEM research and coding. She has very broad interests and a fantastic talent for making a complicated subject accessible and thrilling.
This Mortal Coil ended on an epic cliffhanger, one I personally did not see coming. I had been eager to get my hands on This Cruel Design for a long time and happily dove back into the world of Catarina, Cole, Leoben … and Jun Bei. I don’t want to spoil anything in case you haven’t read this series yet but let me just say that the plot twist involving Cat and Jun Bei was shocking, memorable and totally cool!
This Cruel Design is just as fast-paced as book one and I was drawn immediately into the continuation of their story. Cat is struggling to come to terms with all she discovered at the end of book one. Her relationship with Lachlan is the most interesting hook for me. Mentor? Father? Manipulator? I feel just as confused about him as she does and I found myself itching for their reunion (whether it be good or bad) each step of the way.
Emily Suvada proposes a rather frightening world where humans are forced to result to cannibalism to survive because, if they don’t, they might explode. Pretty gruelling. As the virus warps and adapts and changes, Cat and her team barrel straight into a war for the survival, if not just themselves, but the entire world too.
Thrilling, high impact and completely addictive, This Cruel Design is a truly awesome read! I highly recommend this series for anyone looking to spice up their reading life!
The Girl on the Page
by John Purcell
As someone who works in the book industry, The Girl on the Page felt like an old friend the second I delved into it’s pages. The jargon, the authors, the book launches – everything felt familiar. Except it all felt new and exciting thanks to wise and torn Helen, lost and passionate Malcolm, and wild and unstoppable Amy.
It’s almost not even worth mentioning that I know the author – John Purcell – because I’d have picked up this book anyway. The gorgeous cover beckons you to its spot on the shelf, but it is the storyline that holds your attention long after the first page has been turned.
Amy was a challenging character for me to read. She is so wildly perplexing and foreign to me personally, yet that was the reason she held my attention so raptly. There is something so morbidly curious about watching a car crash in slow motion, which is exactly what it felt like reading Amy’s journey.
Helen and Malcolm, on the other hand, were a lovely offset to Amy’s self-destructive spirit. They are the older couple I wish I could have dinner with to pick their brains. These literary giants go through a tumultuous time of their own throughout the course of the book and I have to admit that John Purcell achieved something that is very difficult in my opinion: he made me care for these people as if they were my real friends.
Not to mention the extremely surprising and heart-wrenching ending, which I promise not to spoil. All I can say is: prepare yourself for a kick in the gut. It is the sucker-punch of all endings, which made me love it even more.
Smoke in the Sun
by Renee Ahdieh
The epicness that is Hattori Mariko continues in Smoke in the Sun, book two in the Flame in the Mist series by Renee Ahdieh! My favourite thing about this series is definitely Mariko and her unwavering strength. Renee Ahdieh has created a powerful, unyielding, kick-ass female protagonist who doesn’t give an inch, even for love. The sacrifices Mariko makes for her cause, her courage, and her conviction to do what’s best for the greater good are admirable, if not a little baffling.
In this second and final book, Mariko is trapped among cunning socialites and violent rulers inside Heian Castle, where she awaits her marriage to Raiden, the man she does not love. I love the progression of Raiden’s character. He is aggressive, detached, seemingly unloving… yet we start to see that Raiden himself has been trapped in his own way, perhaps his whole life. He’s a really interesting character and I enjoyed watching him develop throughout the book.
Raiden’s mother is one scary lady. Kanako has always been second best in the eyes of the emperor and everyone at court. She wasn’t chosen to be the wife, merely the consort, and her son, although the eldest, would never been chosen as reigning emperor. Kanako has plans and we see her lighting the first spark of these at the end of book one, Flame in the Mist. Things only get more intense from there. She is ruthless and single-minded to such an extent that her actions can only be described as selfish and evil. Considering how she bends the dead and the living to her will in order to get what she wants: her son as emperor.
Every time one of her chapters came up, she was shrouded in this spooky imagery of magic and a smiling fox and men who lose hours to mindlessness… they were some of my favourite parts!
One really interesting concept Ahdieh plays with is the idea of loyalty. Does loyalty to family always trump love, friendship or yourself? Mariko is tested throughout the book by her disagreements with her brother Kenshin. When does it stop mattering that they are family? When is it ok to walk away?
Kenshin treats Mariko with mistrust the second she is ‘rescued’ at the end of book one and he battles with whether or not he can trust her. As I’ve said before, Mariko’s strength is impressive. Even the love for family, for her brother, cannot trump the loyalty she feels for the Black Clan and what they, as a team, stand for.
All in all, I loved this series! It really is Mulan meets Throne of Glass and trust me when I say, this is one for the collection.
Eve of Man
by Giovanna & Tom Fletcher
The second I read the description of this book – I was hooked! The best part? Eve of Man did not disappoint. Welcome to a bleak reality where, for the last fifty years, only boys have been born. No girls. Until Eve, their saviour. She is whisked away to a high tower filled with ageing women – her ‘mothers’ – until she comes of age and can bear girls of her own. At least, that’s the hope. A hope that burns in every single person on the planet.
Everything is on track and Eve is set to meet three potential ‘partners’ to start a family with. Enter Bram, the son of genius Dr Isaac Wells, who works closely with Eve. He is her best friend. Her confidant. Her soulmate. Only Eve doesn’t know this. Bram has never actually met Eve in person. Instead, Bram interacts with Eve as a hologram called Holly.
Of course, chaos ensues, bringing Bram and Eve face-to-face. Then everything goes pear shaped. Now that they’ve met, their attraction to one another in undeniable. No one can blame Bram, as Eve is the only – literally! – young girl on the planet. The two have spent countless hours bonding, laughing and trusting.
With Eve’s coming of age also comes a realisation that her ‘safe haven’ is actually a prison. Eve is like any young person whose world has come crashing down around them, who has suddenly been exposed to a harsh and painful truth. The Fletchers do a fantastic job of making this unique girl in an incomprehensible situation suddenly extremely relatable for the readers.
Eve can’t deny the truth anymore: that those who swore to ‘protect’ her don’t actually have her best interest at heart. What she wants more than anything is to be free to live her life outside the tower. With Bram, if she has anything to say about it.
The Fletchers hooked me straight away and from page one I found myself on whirlwind ride of love, freedom and justice. I can’t wait for book two!
Don’t Believe It
by Charlie Donlea
The first thing I did when I finished Don’t Believe It by Charlie Donlea was message my friend.
“WHAT A GOOD BOOK!” I exclaimed – and that wasn’t the half of it.
Charlie Donlea knows how to keep his readers on the edge of their seats for the entire ride. Protagonist Sidney Ryan is producing a true-crime documentary about a woman named Grace Seabold, who was convicted of murdering her boyfriend while on holiday. Grace has spent the last ten years in an overseas prison.
Grace’s story will strike fear in the heart of any reader who has ever travelled and worried about something going wrong. I couldn’t help but be reminded of Schapelle Corby. Not only to be imprisoned, but in a foreign land far from everything and everyone familiar to you. A holiday gone horribly wrong. A nightmare.
Donlea is a master when it comes to sowing doubt. He made me doubt my suspicions, regardless of what Sidney herself believed. This book asks all the questions that so often plague people when faced with these extraordinary cases. What if she didn’t do it? What is she did? What was her motive? Could someone else have done it? We inevitably put ourselves in the same position and wonder if, even if we were guilty, would we deserve that level of isolation and fear? Does the punishment fit the crime?
Sidney’s approach to the documentary is really fascinating – she is producing a real-time documentary, presenting her findings on air as she investigates. Her audience discovers what she discovers as she discovers it. As do we, the readers! I felt as though the book was the documentary. Donlea cleverly stages each discovery and positions each plot twist so that we feel like Sidney is taking us along for the ride. The format is varied – with grabs from the documentary itself, interviews, flashbacks and present-day scenes – which kept it interesting the whole way through. The pace was so snappy, I felt the urgency of Sidney’s enormous and daunting task as conflicting information piled on top of her.
And nothing prepared me for that ending. I actually sat bolt upright, took off my glasses and stared at the page saying: “NO. WAY.”
I want to watch this documentary. I want to meet these people and interview them myself. I want justice for these characters. My own questions were arising with each page. I was itching with the need to be involved in solving the mystery and in a way, thanks to the author, I was.
King of Ashes
by Raymond E. Feist
Magician, Talon of the Silver Hawk, Rides a Dread Legion… you may have heard of one, if not all, of these epic adventure stories from fantasy author Raymond E. Feist. And that’s not even mentioning them all! If, like me, you’re a little obsessed with all things fantasy, then heads up: King of Ashes, the latest from international bestselling author Raymond E. Feist, is out today.
Get ready for something unforgettable. Meet Hatu, the only surviving member of the legendary Firemanes family, the royal family of Ithrace who were betrayed and murdered by the ruthless and cold-blooded Lodavico, the King of Sandura. Only Hatu doesn’t know this, since he was only a baby when this all went down. Hatu is raised by a secret society called Quelli Nacosti, whose purpose is to infiltrate, spy and occasionally kill… basically Hatu is being taught to be an unstoppable killing machine. And if anyone has a debt to settle, it’s Hatu.
The world of Garn once had five great kingdoms, until the Firemanes were slaughtered. Now the remaining four kingdoms are teetering on the edge of gruesome war once again. Lodavico has teamed up with a fanatical religious group called the Church of the One and together they are sweeping across Garn, brutally imposing their laws and beliefs upon everyone they meet.
Bring on book two! It’s not just Hatu’s story that hooked me, I’m also keen to see what’s going to happen with Declan, a master blacksmith learning the secrets of producing a mythical type of steel worthy of kings… *hint hint*
These two character’s stories are told separately in book one, the two only meeting briefly at the end. Their stories are played out with many landscapes, oceans and enemies in between… for now. I’m desperate to see what happens when the two join forces and together I see them as the next King Arthur and his Merlin. At least, that’s my hope!
Basically what I’m saying is that you need to get yourself a copy ASAP.
Navigating the Stars
by Maria V. Snyder
To say that Maria V. Snyder means a lot to me is an understatement. Her Poison Study series was one of the first fantasy series to get me hooked on the genre and I have never looked back. This time, Maria has me looking to the stars with her new epic novel Navigating the Stars!
Our lead is a girl called Lyra – smart, witty, a little bit of a cyber-delinquent… what’s not to love about that? Lyra’s parents are the galaxy’s leading Archaeologists – another huge draw in for someone who used to want to be an Archaeologist – and Lyra has grown up jumping from planet to planet, following the whim of her parents’ desires. An Archaeology-brat, if you will.
Her parents jump for joy when there’s a new discovery on another planet. They are ready for new adventures. All they need is each other and their work. Lyra, however, needs more. While her future should be undecided, open to a million possibilities, it seems as though her parents have decided her path for her.
I love reading science-fiction for many reasons and one of those reason is that I love to be awed by space! Maria did a fantastic job at this. Space is incredible and it is scary. As a reader I felt so much for Lyra’s predicament – each time her parents move her, she loses friends. Due to the mind-boggling space/time difference (don’t ask me to even attempt an explanation), when Lyra leaves one planet for another, they hold ‘funerals’. By the time she reaches her new destination, she might only been a few weeks older but many of her friends will be long gone already. It makes total sense then that Lyra makes the bold decision to stop making friends.
Enter Niall. Hah! Good luck resisting that boy’s charm. Niall is the brooding, quiet, regimented boy. Lyra is somewhere on the opposite side of the room, illegally worming into the Q-net with her mad hacker skills and really annoying Niall, whose father just happens to be head of security. The second Niall came onto the scene, I was having Valek/Yelena flashbacks (the epic couple from the Poison Study series) and could not wait to see these two come together to become what would undoubtedly be an unstoppable duo.
I’m not going to spoil the end but let’s just say that things escalated and there’s an unknown big bad causing our cast a lot of issues and getting in the way of the galaxy’s greatest mystery – the origin of the Terracotta Warriors (not the ones on Earth, the ones in space!), and solving the mystery just so happens to be Lyra’s parent’s lifetime goal.
I cannot wait for more! Lyra and Niall are bound for epic space adventures and I want to be a part of them. Bring on book two!
The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart
by Holly Ringland
It’s been a long time since a book has made me cry. Not sob hysterically because a character has died or even from a painful ending – I cried because The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart is heartbreak and beauty walking hand in hand.
From the very first word, I was lured to Alice like she was the sun and I was the flower. You can feel Alice’s pain, confusion and anguish crying out at you from the pages. So often I had to stop and take a deep breath before continuing.
Don’t let this scare you off. The heartache in this story is what makes Alice so beautiful. She is determined, powerful and resilient. She charges into life, not letting her painful past smother her spirit.
Then there’s Thornfield. Thornfield is the place we all hope we don’t need but, at the same time, the place we hope exists should we ever have need of it. The land, the river, the flowers, the hard work, the people… all ingredients Alice needs to do a lot of healing.
There’s an incredible line from the book that describes “the past gathering around her”. These women are burdened by their pasts but they are fighting back. They will not let it consume them. The Flowers, and Alice, are inspirations. Holly Ringland, can I just say, bravo. This book made me think and feel as I needed to and, after all, isn’t that the point?
by Tim Winton
This was my first Tim Winton book! Finally, I can say that I have read Tim Winton. It’s only Tim Winton, after all – the iconic Australian author who has written incredible books like Breath, The Shepherd’s Hut and Cloudstreet. I am pleased to say that my first experience with Tim Winton lived up to the hype! Breath is an incredibly moving novel about a young boy living through his youth in a small Australian town, learning about lust, excitement, bravery and determination.
Pikelet is nothing like Loonie or their mentor Sando. Which is what makes this story so interesting. Watching Pikelet tackle his fears and reservations (where it seems that Loonie and Sando have none) is a fascinating process to witness. Loonie and Sando seem to think they’re indestructible and I found myself constantly worrying about the damage Pikelet would do to himself during his attempts to be more like these two wild influences.
The imagery is beautiful, the words evocative and the story is one I will remember forever. This may be the first time I have read a Tim Winton book, but it certainly won’t be the last!
La Belle Sauvage
by Philip Pullman
I wasn’t sure what I was expecting when I opened La Belle Sauvage but it seems author Philip Pullman knew exactly what I wanted in that moment. This book is pure adventure!
Young Malcolm has always lived a pretty standard life but his ordinary world is swept away by a rushing flood. His boat, La Belle Sauvage, becomes the vessel in which he escapes not only the floods but the also the man seeking to kidnap baby Lyra.
Now Malcolm doesn’t even know this baby but what he does know is that Lyra must be protected at all costs. What comes after the flood is this epic tale of two children and their magical daemons on an quest to protect this baby with a mysterious past!
I am eagerly awaiting the next book in this series, ready to be swept away once more by this unforgettable story. Obviously this is the perfect read for fans of Pullman’s His Dark Materials series. however, I also think it would be a good book to start with for readers who haven’t read any Phillip Pullman books before.
About the Contributor
Before entering the exciting world of books, Bronwyn served in the Royal Australian Air Force, travelled extensively and worked (still does!) as a barista on the weekends. Books are her true passion. Bronwyn's debut fantasy novel Relic is coming out in 2019 with indie publishing house Talem Press. They are to publish her entire trilogy called The Relic Trilogy. In her spare time, Bronwyn writes, reads and enjoys keeping fit (which she undoes by eating loads of chocolate) with Martial Arts and personal training. She can't answer what her favourite book is but she has a soft spot for Peter Pan (J.M Barrie), Outlander (Diana Gabaldon), Stardust (Neil Gaiman), The Illuminae Files (Jay Kristoff and Amie Kaufman) and Six of Crows (Leigh Bardugo). Fantasy, sci-fi and YA make up the majority of her bookshelves.