Friday Book Club #19 - 2018 Favorites!

Friday, December 28, 2018

So when I decided to start on this list I thought I was going to be screwed by my own hubris - how could I possibly pick favorites out of what (I think) were hundreds of books I read in 2018? And then I started looking, combing through my Amazon and Google purchase history, double checking against my other Friday Book Club posts, and surprisingly it turned out not to be that hard. It also made me want to re-read some of the books I talked about earlier in the year, but I digress.

This list is full of books I loved, that stayed with me and got reread, over and over again. I decided to include books that might not have been published in 2018 as long as they were new to me, so hopefully that won't skew the numbers too much.

Have fun and happy reading!

Every Heart a Doorway/Beneath the Sugar Sky by Seanan McGuire (Fantasy/~Urban Fantasy Light)
I might not be current with her Toby series (things in that world got real dark for me y'all) but McGuire's Wayward Children series is memorable for the same reasons that series is. Happy endings don't always happen for anyone, let alone children who are coughed back onto Earth after adventures in a multitude of "somewhere elses" and McGuire makes each of their stories incredibly compelling. On their own and also as ensemble casts, which are the books I'm choosing to focus on here. The casts are diverse by design but never come across as forced, instead as true representations of the types of people that might be better served by a world not this one - as least as it is right now. It's dark and beautiful and mesmerizing and familiar while still being brand new, which isn't surprising when a lot of the other worlds sound like the homes of the fairytale stories we read as children. Read them, you will not regret it.

Hot and Badgered by Shelly Laurenston (Paranormal Romance)
Shelly Laurenston gives me almost the same things in every book and I say that as an incredible compliment. She continues to feature kick-ass heroines who are independent but loyal, with bonds to friends and family that are unparalleled. This book kicks off a new series featuring Charlie and later her other Honey Badger sister, but it includes the best and most whacky characters from her entire Shifter world. Which means this is both a great stand alone for someone who hasn't read all her previous books AND a fun/familiar continuation for those who have been along for the whole ride. Part of the reason 2018 felt like the longest year ever was because everything seemed to be so unendingly awful. But you know what's not awful? Beta-blocker taking, jaw-breading, bear-shifter loving women and the sisters who drive them crazy. 

Magic Triumphs by Ilona Andrews (Urban Fantasy)
I can't even tell you if this was my favorite book in the Kate Daniels series, because it was the last and the last of a series that's been going on for so long I can't remember when I did before reading them. The first two books in this series are ones I accidentally kept for so long from the library system in North Carolina that I just had to pay them for the damn books, which means I've officially been reading Andrews for almost 15 years. Kate and Curran have gone through innumerable challenges on the way to their own Happily Ever After, and collected friends who have become family in their own right. While I'm sad to see these two go, I'm also happy to have one of my favorite series end on a note that is so well done and leaves room for the supporting cast to get their own time in the spotlight later (Hugh's time has already started).

A Little Familiar by R. Cooper (Paranormal Romance)
In my quest to convince BlerDCon we need some serious book focused content, I deliberately tried this year to read some romances out of my comfort zone, and R. Cooper hit it out the park with this one (& the sequel to be honest). I've already gone on about how much I love quiet but emotionally intense heroes who need time to adequately communicate the depths of their feelings (see my love for Laura Florand), but it's the connection between Piotry and Bartleby that stayed with me, which is especially wonderful to say about a romance book. They grew beyond what they thought they knew about each other to find a connection that was authentically theirs, and it was just freaking great, ok? The magic is a part of it but it's a supporting part to the emotional bond and everyone who loves a truly satisfying HEA should pick this up.

A Girl Like Her by Talia Hibbert (Contemporary Romance)
I'm not gonna lie, I was being a total punk about this book. It went around the Twittersphere like fire and I have this weird perverse tendency that if a book gets too much love there has to be something "off" about it so I don't read. Plus this heroine (Ruth) has some sexual assault in her history and I was concerned that it would get too descriptive, not because the story didn't call for it, but because everything is so awful I don't like reading about that (and because these sorts of things often give me nightmares). ALL THAT TO SAY, yes, Ruth has been through some shit but it's referenced to and not explicitly detailed, her sister is a fucking BAMF (and also has an awesome book you should read), and I loved Evan (the hero) who has recently been described as Chris Evans-like. Would not disagree

Tsumiko and the Enslaved Fox by Forthright (Fantasy/Alternate World Urban Fantasy)
When a great author (Ilona Andrews) recommends a book you pay attention, and while not everything they've shared has worked for me, Forthright and their work really really has. I loved Tsumiko, which is a slow burn romance in a fantasy world where humans are just being introduced to Amaranthine, otherworldy creatures that can appear as humans or the animals their Clans claim as namesakes. This particular story focuses on Tsumiko, who recently takes command of an estate she never knew existed, and responsibility for an Amaranthine who's been bound into service of her family for generations. You would expect some very tricky conversations about consent with that setup, and they happen, but Argent (her new Amaranthine servant) isn't nearly as helpful as he appears, or as clear about his emotions as their connections develop. So the whole story is a song and dance between them and where they'll ultimately end up - it's awesome. The payoff is slow but so worth it (plus there's great supporting characters who appear in book two).

Miss Fortune Mysteries by Jana DeLeon (Romantic Suspense)
And rounding out the year is a series I've fallen in love with because it's just so damn comforting. It combines all the best bits of mystery, action, a small-town setting and the characters you'd expect there, and a romance. So far the good guys have always won, and at the point of the series I'm in, Fortune might be finally lining up her own HEA with the local law. WHAT IS THERE NOT TO LOVE ABOUT THIS? It takes me back to when I first started reading the Aurora Teagarden series by Charlaine Harris, but this is even more low angst. I am not complaining - I love that while I don't always know (or care) whodunnit, I am invested in the happiness of the characters I'm reading about. Seriously, some of the best supporting characters are in this book, and it's what makes every new installment I buy more fun. These are probably the closest what I consider beach reads, because they don't stress me out and are very soothing, while also being a lot of fun to read.

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