Top Ten Tuesday: The best books I read in 2018

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Happy New Year! Welcome to 2019! 

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl, featuring a different top 10 theme each week. This week’s topic is Best Books I Read In 2018.

According to Goodreads, I gave a 5-star rating to 73 books in 2018, and a 4-star rating to 83. That makes 156 books that I pretty much loved. Yowza, what a year! I don’t think I can limit myself to just 10 books here… so I’ll highlight a few, include a few others by category, and see how it all works out…

Here are (just a few of) my favorites from 2018:

1) Powerful family drama set in Alaska: The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah (review)

2) Two views of an an ancient classic: The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller and The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker (review)

3) Terrific historical fiction that I read because of my book group: The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane by Lisa See (review) and The Chilbury Lady’s Choir by Jennifer Ryan (review)

4) A surprising moving short novel by Stephen King:  Elevation (review)

5) Amazing woman-power science fiction:  The Calculating Stars by Mary Robinette Kowal (review)

6) Action/adventure with THE BEST heroic duo: Hope Never Dies by Andrew Shaffer (review)

7) New books in beloved series:

8) Deliciously fun contemporary romance: 

9) Intriguing story collections:

10) A couple of classics that I finally read!

 

What were your favorite reads of 2018? Please leave me your link!

♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

Wishing one and all a terrific new year filled with wonderful books!

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The Monday Check-In ~ 11/19/2018

cooltext1850356879 My Monday tradition, including a look back and a look ahead — what I read last week, what new books came my way, and what books are keeping me busy right now. Plus a smattering of other stuff too.

Life.

Still in the midst of family stuff, but all is well. How’s that for vague? The upside of the semi-craziness of the past week is that I ended up with a lot of sit-around-and-wait time on my hands, which of course translates to sit-around-with-a-book time for me.

What did I read during the last week?

The Human Division (Old Man’s War, #5) by John Scalzi: This is a set of interconnected stories rather than a novel, but it’s still set in the Old Man’s War universe and quite fun. I have one more book left in the series, and then I’ll write up some thoughts to wrap things up.

Pulp by Robin Talley: A terrific YA story set in both contemporary and historical time periods. My review is here.

Elevation by Stephen King: A surprisingly moving novella. My thoughts are here.

In graphic novels:

Saga, volume 9: Wow, this one really hurt me. That ending! And I’m more than a little heart-broken that the creators are taking a one-year break before returning to the story. I need more Saga, now!

Runaways: Best Friends Forever: The new Runaways run, written by Rainbow Rowell, continues to be light and fun.

Outlander, baby!

I’m writing reaction posts for each episode of season 4:

Episode 401, “America the Beautiful” (aired 11/4/2018) – check out my thoughts here.
Episode 402, “Do No Harm” (aired 11/11/2018) – my reaction post is here.
NEW: Episode 403, “The False Bride” (aired 11/18/2018) – my reaction from last night is here.

Pop culture goodness:

I saw TWO movies this weekend!

Quick take: I loved the music and the performance scenes, but wish there’d been more actual insight into Freddie as a person. A lot, whether about Freddie himself or Queen as a band and family, felt too surface-y. Actually, this movie made me realize that I’d be perfectly happy with a 2-hour long movie of Queen’s performances! *scurrying off to watch Queen videos on YouTube*

Quick take: Hmm. Quite a lot of spectacle, but I’m not sure what the movie was hoping to achieve. It’s pretty dark, losing most of the quirkiness of the first Fantastic Beasts movie in favor of dark-wizard doings. My copy of the screenplay book arrived this week, but I didn’t want to read it until I’d seen the movie. And now that I have, I’ll pick up the book and see if reading the story gives me a different feeling. Overall, my issue with the Fantastic Beasts franchise is that they’re kind of kids’ movies (or so it would seem), but since all the characters are adults, we lose the sense of wonder that the Harry Potter films provided as we saw this incredible world through young, unjaded eyes. The Hogwarts scenes in this new movie stand out as lovely little moments, but they’re really just minor snippets. (But hey, it was fun to see a different take on Hogwarts robes!) Overall, the movie is very dark and crowded, and definitely the middle of a story that’s still has plenty left to unveil. Maybe it’ll take a repeat viewing to find the charm that must be there.

Fresh Catch:

This week’s new book arrivals:

What will I be reading during the coming week?

Currently in my hands:

The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker: I’m at about the half-way point. It’s fascinating to read this book about the Trojan War so soon after reading The Song of Achilles.

Now playing via audiobook:

Squire (Protector of the Small, #3) by Tamora Pierce: I do most of my audiobook listening while out walking, and there just hasn’t been much of that this past week… hence a lack of any real progress with this book, despite loving it. I hope to get back to it this coming week.

Ongoing reads:

Book group reads — getting close to the end for both!

  • Classic read: My book group’s current classic read is Middlemarch by George Eliot.  We’re reading and discussing two chapters per week, aiming to finish in January.
  • The Scottish Prisoner by Diana Gabaldon. An ongoing group read, two chapters per week — we’ll be finished in December.

So many books, so little time…

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Saga and Neverwhere: Cool-looking stuff that I read this week

Instead of writing lengthy reviews (as I have a tendency to do), I thought I’d share quick looks at two of my reading obsessions from this past week.

SAGA by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples:

I love Lying Cat. And that’s the truth.

What can I say about the glories of the Saga series? In a nutshell, this comic series tells the story of two star-crossed lovers, Alana and Marko. Their worlds have been at war for generations, and when they desert their respective armies and begin life on the run together, they’re hunted and despised by both sides. The world of Saga is utterly wonderful, with bizarre beings such as Lying Cat, a race of robots with TV screens for heads, an adorable little seal-like creature who’s dangerous AF, and so much more. The artwork is astounding, with a mind-blowing array of gorgeous, strange, and often disgusting creatures and people and planets. The storyline is intense and always surprising, with plenty of danger and violence, but also some truly funny dialogue and situations.

Take note that Saga is definitely NSFW — between gory violence and explicit illustrations of sex acts and genitalia, this isn’t something you want your coworkers reading over your shoulders. (Unless they’re very cool coworkers, but you might be at risk of violating some company policies… )

Saga is available as standard comic editions, but I prefer to wait and read the trade-paperback editions. The 8th paperback volume just came out this month, which is what prompted my Saga binge this week — I re-read #5, then continued straight through 6, 7, and 8. There are also deluxe hardcover editions available, and if I’m ever feeling super rich, I will absolutely treat myself to those as well.

Saga is amazing, people! Don’t miss out.

NEVERWHERE by Neil Gaiman, with illustrations by Chris Riddell

Neverwhere is a classic Neil Gaiman fantasy, originally written as a teleplay for BBC in 1996 before being turned by Gaiman into a novel… which he then continued to tinker with over the years, until now, more than 20 years since its inception, Neverwhere has been published in the author’s “preferred” version of the text, with gorgeous, haunting black-and-white illustrations by the talented Chris Riddell throughout the book.

Neverwhere is the story of Richard Mayhew, an every-man who stumbles out of his normal life and into the dark, hidden, magical world of London Below. Swept away from everything and everyone he thought he knew, Richard finds himself embarking on a quest with the Lady Door, a bodyguard named Hunter, and the mysterious yet dashing Marquis de Carabas. As they avoid the deadly assassins Mr. Croup and Mr. Vandemar, Richard and his comrades journey through sewers and non-existent underground platforms, meet angels and beasts, and visit the Floating Market. Finally, when Richard has a chance to return to his former life, he has to decide whether he really wants “normal” after all.

I originally read Neverwhere years ago, and gave it only 3-stars at the time. To be honest, I’m not entirely sure that I even finished it, since the last half of so of the book seemed completely new to me. The illustrations here really add to the story, bringing the strange characters to life and adding interest and intrigue to practically every page.

At its heart, Neverwhere is a portal story, where a character steps from our world into something new and different, facing dangers but also encountering wonders beyond imagination. Perhaps my appreciation for this type of tale has grown over the years, but I did enjoy the story a lot more this time around — and the illustrations definitely helped me get into the strange world of Neverwhere in a new and marvelous way.

For more on the artist’s process of illustrating Neverwhere, see this article. And below, enjoy a few snippets of pages from the book. (Click to view larger versions).

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