What I Read In 2018

Yes, I know these posts usually come out in January, but that time of year is so over-saturated with lists and I figure you’ve probably just finished all the books you got for the holidays and are ready for something new.  So here we go… what I read in 2018. 

I read 17 books in 2018. Well, 17 fiction books in 2018. 

I read a few nonfiction books, but I’m not going to include them in this list here. They have to do mainly with writing and the craft of storytelling and various lifestyle and health and nutrition things, that don’t really have a place in this particular post. Maybe at some point, I will write a blog about that if you guys are interested. So leave me a comment saying ‘hey, what nonfiction did you read last year?’ and I’ll post about it. : )

So today’s blog will be focused entirely on the fiction books I read in 2018 and my personal favourite. ‘Personal favourite’ seems like a somewhat redundant title, I mean it’s my favourite, how is making it ‘personal’ add more favourite-ness? Sigh, a quandary for another time.

So since I read 17 books, I’m going to keep the reviews/comments on said books reasonably brief.  I’m going to review them in the order I read them AND I’m not going to go back and refresh myself as to their respective plots. I’m going to discuss these books based solely on my memory of them at this present moment. Which, if you think about, it’s the best way to review a book.  If it doesn’t stick with you, why bother?

So without further adieu here is what I read in 2018.

The Beautiful Mystery by Louise Penny

This woman is one of my favourite authors, and the Gamache series is absolutely fantastic. If you are a fan of any kind of crime fiction/detective thrillers, you need to be reading this series.  They are not standalone novels.  In this is series you cannot really appreciate book ten without reading books one through nine.  That’s just how it is, and it’s worth it.  So I’m not going to tell you the plot, just go check out the series if you want impeccable thrillers. 

City of Endless Night by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child 

Again, another excellent crime/thriller series with a little bit of the supernatural thrown in for good measure.  The Aloysius Pendergast series is one of my all time favourites!  If I ever get a dog, a King Charles spaniel to be exact, I’m going to name him Diogenes after the main character’s evil brother.  We’ll call him Dio for short, after the late great singer Ronnie James Dio.  So it works on a lot of levels.  I digress.  The Pendergast series could be read as stand-alones, and if you’re going to do that start with Still Life with Crows, so freaking good. They’re fast-paced reads, and the whole series is excellent. I have just finished reading their latest book which came out early 2019.  So good.  The authors are promoting their mailing list right now and have a free short story coming out soon for those on the list.  You can sign up here if you want to check it out.

Further Tales of the City by Armistead Maupin

I have a huge soft spot in my heart for the Tales of the City series.  I first heard about the series back in 2001.  I had just graduated from college and found myself in a lacklustre resort in Cuba on a trip that had started out as a big group of people but ended up just me and one couple.  Yeah, it was, um, not a great time for me.  Anyway, I stumbled on the tv show one night when I was holed up in my hotel room, and it was exactly what I needed.  So when I got home, I went out and immediately bought all the books. I just burned through the series.  It’s set in1970s San Francisco and focuses the lives of people living in a big house full of tiny apartments and the family they become.  The characters are edgy and real, and the short chapters make dipping in and out of the different plot lines easy to manage.  There’s even a hint of the macabre when a possible Jim Jones connection develops. ‘Further’ isn’t the first book in the series, so I’ve linked to the boxset. : )

Flowers in the Attic by V.C. Andrews

Yes, I know this is a weird choice for a seconds-away-from-forty-year-old woman. That I really should have read this when I was 12, but I did not. So out of curiosity and because I had seen a peculiar TV movie version of the book, I wanted to read the novel and see what all the fuss was about. And I can tell you this: this book is bizarre. It is utterly compelling but at the same time is kind of brutally written. As I was reading it I would say to myself; ‘this is terrible. Okay, just five more pages.’ There’s something about the story that is just so bonkers you are compelled to turn the pages. And yes, the incest storyline is there, but when it happens, when you finally get there, because this book is loooong, it kind of makes sense, bizarrely.  And they deal with it in a very understandable and dare I say it, reasonable way, considering that they’ve lived their entires lives IN AN ATTIC! This is actually a good book, and I would recommend it if you were looking for something titillating and thrilling that didn’t require a lot of thought.

The Darkest Secret by Alex Marwood

Okay, the title does not disappoint, this book is dark. I believe I picked this up because Stephen King mentioned it in a tweet. The Darkest Secret is about a child, a twin, that goes missing from a vacation home full of people and you don’t know until the very last page of the book what actually happened. The book opens fifteen years (ish, I can’t remember exactly) and from page one we know that the missing child’s father has just died and now his estranged older daughter has to pick up the remaining twin and travel to the funeral. And the web of lies surrounding the other twin’s disappearance untangles slowly from there.  It’s really well written and very compelling, but dark AF. If you don’t want to feel good for a couple days or weeks, for as it takes you to read it and then a few days afterwards if my experience is anything to go by, then give this book a try. : D

How The Light Gets In by Louise Penny

The Long Way Home by Louise Penny

See? I told you I loved this series. One of these books, I can’t remember which, was beautiful and bittersweet, it made me bawl my eyes out.  Seriously.  The cat was very freaked out. I’ve linked here to a boxset of books 1 to 3.

Knots and Crosses by Ian Rankin 

This was recommended to me by a friend who loves Ian Rankin, and we read a lot of similar books so I thought I’d give it a try. It was a good book. It’s really well done, but it didn’t light my fire.  I like my crime and thriller stuff to have a paranormal or a horrific element and this book was just straight up crime thriller.  Yes, the crime at the centre of the novel was horrible, but I like a little bit more blood, guts woo-woo kind of stuff in my fiction.

The Outsider by Stephen King 

This was my hands down favourite book of the year! It is one of the best books I’ve ever read. Period. And one of my top three favourite Stephen King books. You get all that awesome super long Stephen King goodness in a book that reads super fast. This book freaked me out so much and was so compelling that I filled every free moment I had with reading it. If I were waiting in my car for some reason, I’d whip out my phone and start reading. Waiting for an appointment? I was reading. Standing in line? I was reading.  I could barely tear myself away from the pages. It gave me nightmares, it made me laugh, it made me cry. It is a phenomenal book and needs to be made into a movie now.

Books of Blood – Volume One by Clive Barker

This was another reread for me, but the last time I read it, I was about 14 or 15 years old. I had just started high school and was at a different high school from all of my grade 8 classmates (it was a performing arts, high school, like Fame the movie but Canadian and set in the 90s) and I didn’t know anybody at my new school. So, I was lonely, and I did what I usually do when I’m lonely, I pick up a book. I went to the school library and picked up Clive Barker’s Books of Blood – Volume One. I would also like to note that my high school had every single volume in the series which in retrospect is totally bizarre because these stories are definitely not appropriate for young teens. They are terrifying works of literature. The mood that Clive Barker sets up in every story is just…just…it’s hard to describe. There is an undercurrent of dread that is palpable and riveting. If you like horror, you need to read these books. I don’t know what compelled me to pick them up again, curiosity perhaps, to see if the stories were actually as scary as I remembered? I’m glad I did, they were just as excellent and terrifying as they were all those years ago.  They also gave me nightmares, which I don’t really mind. I’ve had nightmares pretty much my whole life. I’ve talked to people about it so don’t worry about me. I’ve been told it’s just a function of the subconscious working out things that the conscious can’t during the day. So as far as I’m concerned nightmares are totally fine as long as they’re not so bad you can’t go to sleep after. As I’ve gotten older I’ve had fewer bouts of nightmares that keep me up all night, now I can usually have a nightmare wake up, go ‘Wow, that was pretty cool,’ maybe write some notes down and then go back to sleep. Progress.

Brimstone by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child 

Another book in the Pendergast series. It’s one of the earlier ones, and I read it because honestly, after reading Books of Blood I wanted something comforting. Which makes this a strange choice considering the book is about possible possessions by the devil and spontaneous human combustion.  But there you go.  I am what I am.

The Death of Mrs Westaway by Ruth Ware

A good locked-in mystery with a solid dose of creepiness.  Ruth Ware is very good at writing atmosphere. You feel the room, you feel the weather, you feel the tension, so you get this sort of multi-sensory experience in a classic page-turner.

Books of Blood – Volume Two by Clive Barker 

Okay, okay, yes. I went back for more.

Ghost Story by Peter Straub 

I’ve read a lot of good things about this book, but I didn’t dig it and honestly gave up about 75% of the way through, just skimmed to the end.  I think that the e-book copy I purchased was poorly formatted because it was tough to read. The spacing and dialogue seemed off. Also, the writing felt very masculine, almost to the point where I felt excluded.  Which was a strange feeling.  Again, maybe this was a result of the formatting issues, I don’t know. Nothing felt overtly sexist or misogynistic; however, most of the characters were male, and the secondary female characters didn’t feel as fleshed out. I also kept waiting for the ghosts to show up. Maybe they got lost in the formatting.

Man, lousy formatting can really destroy a book.

Lethal White by Robert Galbraith a.k.a. JK Rowling 

I really loved the first three books in this series, the second book in particular but I couldn’t get into Lethal White. It’s felt a little long for me, and I didn’t need Robin to go through as much crappy stuff as she did. I just wanted her to have a better time. So maybe I like the character of Robin so much and want her to have a nicer life, that it coloured my experience of the novel as a whole. I will definitely read the fourth book, whenever that comes out.

Slade House by David Mitchell 

I’ve picked this book up several times, electronically that is, and put it down. But when I picked it up again late last year, I really got sucked in. It’s almost a collection of short stories nestled within a novel and all taking place in and around Slade House, a house that seems to operate outside the laws of time. It is creepy and weird with lots of almost ghost entities. There is a metaphysical element to the story, and I can’t really say more without giving the big stuff away.

Mr Mercedes by Stephen King 

Ah, the last book I read in 2018.  I chose it because one of the characters in The Outsider came into the world of Stephen King through this book and I loved her so much in The Outsider that I wanted to know her origin story. Holly. Awesome, ass-kicking, aware of her self, Holly. She’s the best. Go read The Outsider, please.  Anyway… Mr Mercedes is a really excellent read also. Is it one of my favourites? No. But it is incredibly well done, again a couple nightmares, and there is one chapter in this book that was one of the saddest things I’ve ever read. It brought me to tears. There’s a reason why Stephen King is one of the biggest selling authors of all time. He really is a master storyteller. Maybe one day he’ll do a masterclass on that masterclass website! That would be so cool.

: )

So that’s is my rather long blog post about all the books I read in 2018. I hope one or two of them sparked your interest and will bring you some reading joy over the next year. Please note that all of the links above are affiliate links so if you do end up clicking through to Amazon and picking up a book I get a teeny tiny fraction of a penny or something like that. So thank you, it will no doubt go to good use here in at Château Rockwood. 

Please tell me in the comments below what your favourite book of 2018 was. It doesn’t necessarily have to be one that came out in 2018, just something you read in 2018 that shook you up a little bit, made you go ‘hot damn! that’s why I love reading!’ 

Drop it in the comments below and inspire a bunch of other people’s reading lists, including my own.