Top 15 Books of 2018

Every year, for some reason, I dread writing this post. Part of it is that my memory for books isn’t that great, because I shove so many into my brain that it’s really hard for me to remember them all. And by ‘really hard,’ I mean I literally can’t. That means that, at the end of the year, I look back at all my high ratings, and I don’t remember some of them. Does that mean they were less good? Should I still put them in my round-up of my favorite reads for the year? Gah, the indecision, it burns.

After making a big ol’ list of all of my top-rated books of 2018, the ones that made me feel something, I made a second list of all the books I could not bear to leave off of my list of my top reads, and that came to fifteen. Not bad out of 310 books read. That said, I am cheating a bit, putting series together (even sometimes with a loose definition of series oops).

What I was left with were the books that had the biggest impact on me throughout the year, and I’m so surprised how many of those I read during the first half of the year, since usually it skews more recent. I did make a couple of selections between books of about equal enjoyment by prioritizing books that I believe need more hype. They’re also all books I would reread.

Ready to rock? Let’s go.

Hidden Legacy – Ilona Andrews

Don’t judge by the deeply unfortunate covers. My expectations were lower for this series, despite my love of Kate Daniels for that exact reason. But, if you love Kate Daniels, you will love Hidden Legacy. This series also excels in world building, badassery, and romances that should be questionable but just work. The husband/wife writing team are just about the only people who can write romances with alpha male heroes that I actually love. Technically the first book didn’t have a high enough rating to make the list, but I know I’ll love it on reread, and this whole series is in my heart.

After reading these, I so desperately wanted more Ilona Andrews books that I’m currently in the process of reading all the novels they’ve ever written. I REGRET NOTHING.

Brazen: Rebel Ladies Who Rocked the World – Pénélope Bagieu

Unfortunately, I missed reviewing this one out of laziness, but I was so incredibly impressed with this non-fiction graphic novel. The art’s fantastic and the writing is engaging. The features relate a surprising amount of information swiftly and effectively. There’s a great mix of cultures represented, and also a variety in the women chosen in terms of their cultural impact. Definitely a must for any school or public library!

This is pretty much the only book on this list that isn’t shippy af so you know it must be good.

Westcott Series – Mary Balogh

I’d read one Mary Balogh book before this year, and I really liked it, but I fell completely head-over-heels in love with the Westcott family. There are only (only because I want as many as possible) five books so far, and they’ve all been amazing. Technically only books one and five made my list criteria (by nature of being the shippiest), but I’m in love with all of the characters in this series.

This series has a classic feeling to it but with a modern sensibility, as though Jane Austen were writing today. Balogh tells unique stories in each volume and avoids traditional stereotypes. In Someone to Love, the hero is very ‘feminine’ in manner and rather short. In Someone to Hold, the hero’s a struggling artist and the snobby heroine chooses hard work over the easy life of privilege she always knew, and View Spoiler ». In Someone to Wed, the hero and heroine agree to a true marriage of convenience in a very realistic but open way. In Someone to Care, the heroine is a widowed mother (to the heroine of Someone to Hold, in fact) whose marriage was declared bigamous; she’s also a couple years older than her love interest. In Someone to Trust, the heroine is a widowed woman who hopes never to remarry because her husband had been abusive, who ends up falling for a man who’s about a decade younger than she is.

These books are not as sexy as most historical romance (and the sexiest one goes to the oldest heroine holla), but they’re so amazing. The character building is out of this world, and they feel perfectly fresh. I know this description is way too long but IDGAF because I loved them so much.

A Quiet Kind of Thunder – Sara Barnard

This romance between a girl with selective mutism and a boy who is deaf made me feel absolutely everything. It’s the ideal kind of contemporary for me, because the relationship evolves in this really natural and realistic way, and the connection between them builds so slowly and perfectly. IMO the best books make you laugh and also make you cry (whether happy or sad or laughed too hard tears), and this one did that. It’s also a book that really made me think and consider the world and my privilege in new ways, which is always an amazing thing.

The Truth About Forever / Lock and Key / What Happened to Goodbye / Saint Anything / Once and for All – Sarah Dessen

Yes, I know, technically these books are not a series, but Dessen does occasionally reference past characters in newer books, so they’re companion enough that it counts to me. During 2018, I finally completed my goal of reading all of Dessen’s published works. The early part was rough, but her later books are fantastic. Of them all, Saint Anything may have been my favorite. Her books can skew a bit to the dramatic side for me, but her characters and ships tend to be on point enough that I’m along for the ride. These five are my favorite Dessen novels, and I will absolutely be rereading them in the future.

The Kiss Quotient – Helen Hoang

If you haven’t bought into the hype and picked up The Kiss Quotient, you absolutely should. This is, hands down, one of the best contemporary romance novels I’ve ever read along with The Hating Game and a couple titles further down this list.

The Kiss Quotient is one of those romance novels that sounds like it’s going to be problematic and terrible, but Hoang deals with all of those elements so it works. The chemistry is sizzling, physically and emotionally. My very favorite romances feature atypical heroes and heroines (as you may have already gathered in this list), and The Kiss Quotient has a heroine with autism (own voices!) and a Vietnamese/Swedish hero. Even the tropes in this romance that usually don’t work for me were magic in this book. I cannot wait for The Bride Test.

Beautiful Bastard Series – Christina Lauren

Probably my biggest reading success story of 2018 was reading all of the adult contemporary romances Christina Lauren have written in one month at the beginning of the year. My expectations were so low going into Beautiful Bastard; I fully expected to hate it based on everything I’ve ever heard, but I loved it so much. I chose this series out of all the Christina Lauren I loved for this list, because I loved every single book, and they’re the ones I most want to reread already.

The first two Christina Lauren adult romance series (Beautiful Bastard and Wild Seasons) are erotica. That means there’s lots and lots of sex. Most of them also center on a particular kink, which I’ll admit isn’t necessarily something I’m usually into, but I loved how they did it here; the characters were enjoying themselves so much that I enjoyed it too. These books are FIRE. Their books got more mainstream when they left erotica for softer contemporary romance, but I’ll admit I missed the over-the-top sexiness. All of the characters and ship dynamics from book to book are completely different, which is tricky when they have so many books already. There are elements to Beautiful Bastard especially that are problematic, but it worked for me because of the balance to their power dynamics (despite him being her boss, she’s pretty much the one in charge) and how well they work together.

My other top Christina Lauren faves are: Dark Wild Night, Wicked Sexy Liar, and Love and Other Words. I’m pretty sure my Christina Lauren opinions are backwards from most people’s, but I don’t care.

A&B (Mechanical Hearts #2) – J.C. Lillis

Oh how I wish a cover and title makeover for this book so it can attract the number of readers it deserves. To date, A&B is one of the best f/f ships I’ve read. Also, it’s set around a reality TV show that’s basically if Tyra Banks did a show for top musicians. I didn’t know I needed that, but I did. Really fun but with some powerful messages underlying the humor and fluff, particularly the way that getting angry feelings out can be healthy but that you can go away overboard and poison yourself if you live up in there.

Sofia Khan Is Not Obliged (Sofia Khan #1) – Alisha Malik

If I were making a list of the books I read this year with the most powerful narrative voices, Sofia Khan Is Not Obliged would come tops without question. Sofia Khan’s a modern, Muslim Bridget Jones, with all the snark and secretive cigarette smoking that you would expect. As a bonus, she works in publishing and dreams of being a writer!

I mentioned earlier how much I love books that make me laugh and also make me cry, and omg this one wrecks me. There are so many amazing lines that had me cackling or pumping my fist in the air, but it also made me weep. There’s a romance and an amazing secondary cast, as well. This book is BOSS.

Fair warning, however, that I personally didn’t care for the sequel. Though it’s also well-written, I prefer book one as a standalone than the two as a duology.

Blood Water Paint – Joy McCullough

As a reader, I struggle with verse novels, so I’m super grateful that Penguin Random House did such a great audiobook for Blood Water Paint. This is the feminist rage book that you need to get through 45. Though historical, Artemesia’s struggles are all too relatable to a modern audience. Despite its brevity, the book packs a massive feminist punch and clearly highlights the difference between male and female gaze in artistic endeavors.

This is one of two books without romance to make my favorites list. It’s the only verse novel I read last year, and I loathe verse novels. It’s dark and angry and not at all fluffy ever, which also isn’t my thing. I shouldn’t have loved this book, but oh how it spoke to the anger and frustration in my heart about the country right now.

After the Wedding (The Worth Saga #2) – Courtney Milan

Courtney Milan is one of the most talented romance novelists writing today. If you haven’t read her, please don’t judge her books by the generally unfortunate covers (this one’s especially bad), because you will miss out. I’ve read all of Milan’s books and short stories, and I haven’t been impressed with all of them (partially because she takes so many risks and tries so many different things), but her best are far and away tippy top favorites. After the Wedding stands out even among Milan’s strong catalog.

First and foremost, this historical romance is between a white woman and a black man. Historical romance has a diversity problem, in that there basically is none; for the most part, Spanish or Italian people have been as ‘exotic’ as it gets (and they always got described that way ugh). The ship is amazing, with the two of them trapped together and seeking divorce for the marriage they were forced into. They work amazingly as a team, and the entire cast is a delight.

Trade Me / Hold Me (Cyclone #1-2) – Courtney Milan

Courtney Milan’s the only author to hit the list for more than one series (if you abide by my companion theory on Dessen), and it could not be more deserved. I fucking love her historical romance, but her contemporary romance might be even better?!?!

Both of these novels feature interracial romances (and only one of the four is white), and the heroine of Hold Me is transgender. Hold Me is my particular favorite, because it’s hate-to-love but also falling in love over emails and bantertastic. Trade Me is a bit of a sweeter romance. Both make powerful impacts above and beyond the romance too.

There are supposed to be a bunch more books in this series, and I really hope Milan gets back to it soon because I NEED.

Veronica Speedwell – Deanna Raybourn

I’ve desperately wanted to read these books since the redesign, because MY GOD JUST LOOK AT THEM. I feared they wouldn’t live up to the shiny covers, but I swear they’re even better. Veronica Speedwell is for everyone with a Phryne Fisher-shaped hole in their heart. The slow burn ship between Veronica and Stoker is one of my new OTPs. Each book is full of mystery, humor, shenanigans, sexual tension, and humorous quips. My absolute favorite thing is that Veronica’s a logical woman who pursues sex without feelings to meet her physical urges and who doesn’t want children; you never ever get this in historical romance, and it makes me so happy I could cry.

These Vengeful Souls (These Vicious Masks #3) – Tarun Shanker & Kelly Zekas

Reading the books in this series I truly felt like they were written for me. All of the humor was exactly my sort of humor, and the darkness speaks to my soul. These are the sorts of characters who laugh in the face of danger, and the blend of humor and intensity has been perfection throughout. Though less overtly dramatic than the second book in the series (which is painful perfection), the conclusion satisfies emotionally (though I do want more kissing scenes). Shanker and Zekas debuted with this powerful trilogy, and I’m so looking forward to whatever they write next, either separately or together.

Love à la Mode – Stephanie Kate Strohm

All of Stephanie Kate Strohm’s books sound like such Christina-bait, and I’ve liked most of them, but this is the one that really got me in the heart. (Sidebar: I only just noticed the ice cream cone is the Eiffel Tower omg how did I miss that?) Ever since I got into MasterChef a few years ago, I’ve wanted a romance set in MasterChef, and that is this book! Though technically they’re at a prestigious, tiny school for chefs not on a reality show, the challenges and feedback are so MasterChef. The character arcs are great and the interracial romance is adorable, albeit occasionally frustrating in a really realistically teen way.

What were your favorites of 2018? Did you love any of these too?!?

3 responses to “Top 15 Books of 2018”

  1. Those Andrews covers really are unfortunate (although I’m glad that Rogan finally found a shirt by book 3) but I also adore the shit out of that series. The Kiss Quotient is still on my TBR but I’m really intent on getting around to it soon. And ahhhhh! The Beautiful Bastard series. I’m running out of CL books so that’s definitely going to have to happen. So many books on my TBR are because of your recs. lol
    Bonnie @ For the Love of Words recently posted…Waiting on Wednesday – The Gone Dead: A Novel by Chanelle BenzMy Profile

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge