I am an avid book reader. Ever since I was little I’ve loved the possibility of running away to the magical world that exist in stories. Nowadays we are surrounded by devices. It’s easy to get distracted by your phone or your laptop. We can see what our friends are up to by the click of a button. Notifications whenever something happens, important or not. You constantly feel the need to see what’s going on in the world. And it all can get a bit overwhelming sometimes. So I like to take time away from the internet now and then to read a magnificent book, fall in love with imaginary characters and travel to new pretend worlds.
I read quite a few books last year and admittedly enjoyed some more than others. Because that’s what it is like with books, some stories aren’t meant to be loved by everyone. Someone’s unique experiences makes them relate to a certain novel more than another person would. That said, I still love reading and giving book recommendations as it’s a great way to learn about new authors and become enchanted with their stories. As I did last year, here’s my yearly round-up of my favourite books I read in 2018. May they bring you lots of joy in 2019!
01. The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden
I had been wanting to read The Bear and the Nightingale for a while but I couldn’t find an English version anywhere. So when I walked into an English bookstore in the Netherlands a good few months ago, I had to snap it up. I’m so happy I did! It’s every bit as magical and enchanting as the reviews told me it’d be. Vasya, the brave and fierce main character is an exquisite hero in my opinion. I quickly fell in love with her character and can’t wait to finish the books I’m currently reading so I can start the sequel, The Girl in the Tower. The Bear and the Nightingale is the first of three in the Winternight Trilogy.
I realise this novel isn’t going to be for everybody. It’s a rather dark fantasy novel with hints of sorcery and mythical creatures. It takes place in medieval Russia, somewhere in the wilderness which is, in my opinion, the perfect setting for the start of a magical adventure. I don’t want to give away too much but I promise you, if you love reading fantasy novels, this one should be on your ‘to be read’-list too. It is every bit as whimsical and spell-binding as it promises to be!
02. Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
When starting Little Fires Everywhere I was a bit apprehensive. I had seen this book everywhere. Every book blogger, book store owner, Goodreads contributor and bookstagrammer was talking about Little Fires Everywhere. And hypes make me sceptical. But when I saw this on sale in another English bookstore, I decided to pick it up anyway. And since you’re reading about this book in my 2018 favourites, it’s save to say it did not disappoint!
In Little Fires Everywhere, we get to know 2 very different families who live in a little suburbain town called Shaker Heights. Artist Mia and her daughter Pearl move into a little house rented out by the seemingly perfect Richardson family. The mystery of this mother and daughter pair, that the neighbourhood knows so little about, becomes very alluring for the Richardsons. But no matter how perfect a family may seem on the outside, everyone has secrets to hide. I have fallen in love with Celeste Ng’s writing and Little Fires Everywhere is a true masterpiece to me. I am looking forward to reading more of her books in 2019!
03. This Could Change Everything by Jill Mansell
To me, Jill Mansell’s novels have always been a hit or a miss. I either devoured every single page in a few days or I can’t seem to get myself to finish it. Luckily, This Could Change Everything was a positive find to me. I read this, probably exactly a year ago, when I was at a not so great point in my life. It was the perfect feel-good story, with enough differently relatable characters to fall in love with.
In This Could Change Everything, Jill focuses on the lives of multiple people who all seem to be struggling in a different way. By mere coincidence their lives seem to collide and bonds begin to form. As the story is set over multiple months and seasons, it gives you the opportunity to see the characters evolve and find new paths in their lives. This Could Change Everything is a delightful story with charming characters. If you’re looking for a comforting and cozy read, this is the one for you!
04. My Sister Rosa by Justin Larbalestier
My Sister Rosa is one of those ‘fast reads’, that you just can’t seem to put down. 17-year-old Che Taylor and his family have been moving around their whole lives. His parents are hardworking business people and he doesn’t get on with them that well. But it’s his sister Rosa, he’s really worried about. She is a psychopath. He’s the only one who sees her the way she really is, dangerous. Che loves Rosa, but he knows it’s only a matter of time before things go terribly wrong.
The building suspense and the exploding end make this book an exciting read. I quite like reading the occasional young adult novel and this one was a nice surprise for me. I must admit that it didn’t blow me away as much as the YA novels of last year’s round-up did, but I devoured the book in no time nevertheless.
05. Far from the Tree by Robin Benway
Every year there seems to be at least one book that I picked up because of its pretty cover. I know, I know, but sometimes I do judge books by their covers. Therefore it’s safe to say I didn’t really know what I was getting into with this novel. What an amazing surprise it was! Far from the Tree is one of those rare emotional finds. I don’t often cry while reading a book, but I did shed a tear or two while reading this one.
Far from the tree tells the heartbreaking story of 3 siblings who have been put up for adoption when they were little and have since gotten separated. Although, biologically, they have the same mother, their lives could not have been more different. Told through the eyes of each of the 3 siblings, you get to know their stories and follow them in the search for answers to the riddles of their past. Far from the Tree is a brutally honest story about the lasting effects of childhood trauma. I seriously cannot recommend this one enough.
06. The Seven Imperfect Rules of Elvira Carr by Frances Maynard
This book is sold as ‘perfect for the fans of Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine’ which is totally untrue in my opinion. I found Eleanor Oliphant’s story to be rather tedious and just plain boring. I tried finishing it multiple times but after restarting 3 times, I gave up. Unlike this book I did finish and enjoy The Seven Imperfect Rules of Elvira Carr. It was a rather fast read, enjoyable and emotional at times. Elvira is an interesting main character and the author handles her character traits, those that maker her uniquely different, very well.
Elvira Carr has always lived with her mother until one day her mother has a stroke and has to be transferred to a nursing home. Suddenly Elvira finds herself all alone in her childhood home, having to fend for herself for the first time in her life. It is difficult but Elvira, tries to find her own way in a confusing world so that she is not send away herself. She creates a list of rules that help her navigate this complicated world. The reader gets to discover the world through Elvira’s eyes.
07. The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd
From the author of The Secret Life Of Bees, I did not expect anything less than magnificent. Luckily, The Invention of Wings lived up to all my expectations! A powerful novel that tells the story of slaves in a turbulent 19th century. Handful is such an admiring main character, headstrong and brave, and she makes you root for her happiness right from the start. The story alternates points of view between Handful a slave on the estate of the wealthy Grimke family and daughter Sarah Grimke who’s actually given Handful as a slave for her birthday. An unlikely bond develops between the two girls as they both struggle, realising their bodies and minds are not their own.
Sue Monk Kidd does an amazing job of showing both Sarah’s and Handful’s point of view. Their story takes places over multiple years and it is therefore such a remarkable pleasure reading about the lives of these two girls and see them grow up into remarkable women. I’m convinced this is one of those books that will stay with me for a very long time. It was just phenomenal! And although this is a fictional novel, some of it is based on the lives of real people. So once you’ve finished The Invention of Wings I highly recommend you do a little research about the real Grimke sisters and their story.
I can never keep this yearly round-up posts short, now do I? If I don’t stop myself, I could keep on talking about books for hours! Remember to give my other book posts a read too. What books are you excited to read this year?