My Top Indie Reads of 2018
As always, I had an awful time making this list. I am, admittedly, one of the pickiest readers I know, but I'm also really aware of the fact that a lot of things I like are based on weird preferences and quirks that are just things like, "I LIKE TALKING SQUIRRELS SO SUE ME!" or "That book dared to do a thing I don't see done often. It's my friend now. This book and I are friends ..."
But I also-also know basically what writing is "supposed" to be like. I'm very aware when a book breaks rules or takes short cuts and my editor brain is always going, "Well, should they have done that... wouldn't it have been better at if ... a lot of readers won't like ..."
So yeah I over think these things to death, which is a reason that even though these are clearly my favorites, I haven't actually left reviews for a lot of them yet (something I hopefully will remedy here, at least in short).
So here we go ... and yeah, I'm still moving some of these books around trying to figure out the order and not quite sure whether 2 should be 2 or maybe should be 3 but 4 was really good too, so maybe IT should be 3 and 2 should be 5 and ... I'm just a mess. Where's my coffee?
Also-also-also, as always with my yearly top ten, I am focusing on INDIE books (here defined as self-published and/or small press published). I did read some great traditionally published books here (quick mention of The Girl Who Drank the Moon, a re-read/audio listen of The Hobbit, and Rhett & Link's Book of Mythicality ...), but as I've said before, if you haven't read that classic, that best-seller, or that award winner yet, I'm not likely to be the one to convince you. My goal in these posts is to focus on hidden gems that you might not have heard of yet, and maybe get you to try a new author who needs your support.
So without further ado (and quick mention that, yes, this includes Amazon affiliate links because I, also, am a starving author type, and I like getting Amazon gift certificates if you happen to click through to buy something you see here) here are my... (drumroll)
(also-also-also-also, apparently I can't count because my top ten is actually a top eleven ... whoops?)
TOP ELEVEN INDIE READS OF 2018
This book took forever for me to get through because I am LOUSY at being consistent with reading aloud before bed time, and I was determined that was how we were going to read this, as a family gosh darnit. That said, it's got great humor and for a middle grade book surprisingly high stakes. There's some gritty action and while there's no graphic violence, you believe these characters are in serious danger, which had my daughters absolutely thrilled (these are the girls who were delighted when Beowulf ripped off Grendel's arm. I have weird kids). The humor is also really good, which my daughters also appreciated.
This is a fun, quick-paced, light steampunk read with some really imaginative tech and world building. I especially liked the robots. I wouldn't have minded a tad more depth to some of the character relationships, but this appears to be the start of a series, so I'm hoping things get explored in greater detail later in the series, but if you're looking for an adventure with a touch of mystery, this will definitely give you a good dose of enjoyment.
Two words (or one hyphenated word ... it really depends on your point of view) CAT-DRAGON!
Honestly, if that's not enough to get you running to Amazon, I don't know what is.
However, if I must expand, this is a fun adventure with a romance with some heat, a dose of mystery, and a creative world.
I already posted a much longer review of this (that did include some nitpicks), but overall the strength of the writing and the way this dream-like fairyland was presented overwhelms any complaints I had about the book, so it strongly deserves this place.
I'd much rather a unique, memorable book with some flaws than a pristine but "by the book" ... er ... book.
I have a hard time reviewing this because it's a little more difficult than the books I usually read. The subjects of human sacrifice, the death of a child in a horrible way, and themes of betrayal ... all very accurate to the mythological source material, but not an easy read, and I will fully admit I have a preference for easy reads. However, it's well-written, keeps you reading, and is very much a book I'd recommend (not for younger or sensitive readers because of the just mentioned dark content and some briefly touched upon sexy times), and I think it deserves to be on this spot because it kept me reading in spite of not being not my normal thing.
This book receives high style points. A lot of wit, a clever mix of weirdly disparate world-building elements that somehow combine very well, interesting characters, and just a lot of fun.
Minor complaints about the mystery elements I can't get into without spoiling, but I find that I have the same complaints about the mystery elements EVERY time I read a mystery, so I guess I just have a hard time with mystery books in general (Maybe I've watched too many episodes of Psych ... nah, who am I kidding. It's impossible to watch too many episodes of Psych).
But yeah, fun and stylish. Definitely a good one to read.
This book would've probably won me over just by being a fairy tale retelling+dragons, but then you get the addition of Snow White's raven hair being LITERALLY feathers and OMGOSH THE TALKING SQUIRREL IS AWESOME!
Just ... squirrel!
This is a short read but fun, and I like fun ... and dragons ... and squirrels, apparently.
I think I mentioned that weird things make me like a book? Well, this one was, "OMGOSH, THIS MC IS KIND OF AN AWFUL PERSON ... I think I love her."
It's really hard to pull off a main character who is so obviously wrong-headed and unsympathetic. The MC of this book is a snob who gets punished for using a magical object to meddle in her little sister's love life and discourage her from interest in a "less desirable" suitor, and she does not learn her lesson right away. This is an interesting side-story to Beauty and the Beast more than a direct retelling. You honestly see very little of the original fairy tale, but I think that works for it. It gives you the trappings of the familiar from a completely new viewpoint which I very much enjoyed. Well-written and recommended.
I read a LOT of short stories, and if I included shorts in this generally, there would be a risk of most of this list being shorts (specifically Fellowship of Fantasy anthology shorts because I spend a LOT of time reading those), so I tried to keep this mostly longer books ... However, I really really really wanted to include this one. It's a breezy romantic read with a fun concept and some really poetic writing, and I just overall really have fond memories of it, so, yep, going to put it here at number 3.
This continues to be one of my favorite series for fast, funny reads, but this installment hit me with a surprising amount of feelz, and it takes a lot to do that. I'm very particular about what makes me feelzy (usually has to involve a dragon or a very tall guy ...), but this installment made me very excited about where the series was headed next.
AND FINALLY MY FAVORITE BOOK OF 2018 IS ....
It's really hard for me to articulate why this book is my favorite because what I take away from books is very personal, and I'm not even sure what it is sometimes, but this one left an impression. It also happens to have a talking squirrel (which is a weird thing to double down on in a top ten... er... eleven list, but apparently I'm into that). I like that it didn't go the way I didn't want it to go. I like the writing style. I like the world. I like the kind of bittersweet ending and the new but old take on various familiar tropes/stories. I just really liked it, and I think most readers of fantasy will too.
So there we go, my top eleven (I totally intended to make it a top ten, but after carefully counting out ten books I was almost done typing it up when I realized I had eleven and dang it, it took me a long time to whittle it down to just the ... what I thought was ten. So eleven it is).
I hope you get a chance to check some of these out.
What was your favorite book/s of this year?