Cheers, friends, and welcome to our Best of 2018 reviewer picks!!! We’re continuing the countdown to the end of the year with Jules’ fave reads, so enjoy and be sure to enter the Giveaway!
2018 was somewhat of a roller coaster for me personally, and that may have been partly why my year in books felt somewhat hit and miss as well. As always, though, there were some high points! :) When I was compiling my list for this year’s Best Books post, I noticed that many of my selections were books that made me laugh, which was so important for me this year. But, every book on this list warmed my heart in some way and definitely stuck with me. So, here are some of my favorite books of 2018!
Somewhere Over Lorain Road by Bud Gundy – Bud Gundy’s Somewhere Over Lorain Road is riveting. There’s just no other word for it. I was absolutely enthralled with the story from the opening paragraph until the final moments, and went through a small rollercoaster of emotions in between. Gundy keeps the reader guessing up until the very end as to what really happened that long-ago summer in North Homestead, Ohio, but it wasn’t only the mystery that had me on edge throughout the book. Somewhere Over Lorain Road is as much a portrait and study of human behavior and small-town dynamics as it is a murder mystery. And, it’s almost more a survival story than anything else. It’s about the Eskers surviving the onslaught of ill will and ridicule and small-mindedness they endured back in 1975, and coming out the other side.
I loved this book so much. It was moving, gripping, and unforgettable. This was my first read from Bud Gundy—from this publisher too, in fact!—but I will, without a doubt, be keeping my eyes open for more of his work.
Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli (narrated by Michael Crouch) – I can’t adequately voice how wonderful this book is…how important and special this book is. Becky Albertalli tells Simon’s story with so much love and humor and care. It’s obvious how much she loves not only Simon but every character in the book. Simon’s parents are amazing. I loved his family dynamic. I loved his friends, and their individual and collective relationships. Every scene in the book, whether it was a scene at school, or a moment at home with the Spiers, or anywhere else, was so incredibly genuine I felt like I was right there in Shady Creek. Albertalli has a fabulous voice, and a true storytelling gift.
And, I can’t possibly end the review without talking about Blue, who I also totally adored. Simon and Blue’s relationship takes place almost entirely over email; we don’t find out Blue’s identity until almost the very end of the book. The not knowing is both torture and genius—but, mostly torture! Would I have liked more of Simon and Blue together in person? Of course. They’re adorable! But, the way it’s written is truly perfection. The emails between Simon and Blue are a huge part of the story and are impeccably narrated by Mr. Crouch.
A Wish Upon the Stars by TJ Klune – A Wish Upon the Stars is the final book in the saga of Sam of Wilds, and as such, has a lot riding on it. The excitement and expectation level of Klune’s dedicated fan base is certainly through the roof on this one. As one of those fans myself, I’ve been eagerly awaiting this book for months. I said in my review for The Consumption of Magic, the previous book in the series, that this book was undoubtedly going to blow us away, and I was right. I was so happy with how Klune ended things. It was every bit as emotional, and epic, and, yes, ridiculous, as I hoped it would be. It’s packed full of awesome, and I can tell you that I experienced just about every emotion while reading it. A Wish Upon the Stars is a story of love and friendship, of faith and trust, of the importance of choices and listening to one’s heart. It’s one of those books you can’t put down, because you have to get to the end.
Things were pretty bleak at the end of the last book. Sam was lost and grief-stricken and had followed the Great White into the Dark Woods to do what he needed to do to be ready to face Myrin. To face his destiny. And, yes, he still hates that word. Of course, being away from those he loves is miserable, but he has this prophecy hanging over his head.
Running with Lions by Julian Winters – I loved our main characters a ton, of course, but this was also very much an ensemble piece. Mason, Willie (I love Willie SO MUCH), Hunter, Grey, Coach Patrick—they all had very important roles to play and added so much to the story. The writing is very laid back and relatable yet is also beautifully poetic and mesmerizing in places. The author uses some gorgeous imagery to describe everything from sunsets and areas around the camp, to the game of soccer itself. Winters does an amazing job of placing the reader firmly in the setting. Whether it was camp life, a practice, or the big game, I found myself entrenched in every scene. And, he also has such a great handle on portraying teenage boys. The voice felt really authentic.
You know what? I’m gonna leave it there. Don’t walk…Run! to pick up a copy of this book. You definitely don’t want to miss this wonderful story!
Whisper by Garrett Leigh – There are so many wonderful moments and lines in this book. Leigh never ceases to leave me in awe with how seamlessly she can transition between scenes that are tender or heart-tugging to those that may be filthy or even suspenseful, and then back to swoony and romantic.
This book is fantastic, guys. Harry and Joe are so beautiful together. I love how Joe dares to dream of a future for them, even though things in his life have seemed so bleak for so long. I highly recommend this one! Also, I’ve never promoted anyone’s Patreon before, but Garrett Leigh posts some of the most fabulous content. All kinds of exclusive extras, deleted scenes, and sneak peeks. If you’re a fan of her work, I absolutely recommend checking it out and seeing if it’s something you might be interested in. But, for sure get caught up with the Skins series before Believe comes out. I can’t wait for Rhys and Jevon’s story!
Ravensong by TJ Klune – This book is very much Gordo’s book. I LOVED being in his head and having his POV. And, it was so great getting to delve into his and Mark’s story at last. Mainly, though, Ravensong is about Gordo’s anger toward the wolves. We knew he was an angry, grumpy asshole—but, in Ravensong we find out why. That anger, righteous though it may be, along with Gordo’s stubbornness, has kept him away from a huge part of his life for far too long. The majority of this book is about him making his way back. He has so much he needs to let go of, to forgive, at times he still feels impossibly far away from putting the pieces back together. But, time is running out and a dark magic that is infecting some of the omegas hits way too close to home.
Klune steps it up even more in this one in terms of writing action sequences. There were scenes that absolutely took my breath away with their imagery and the way they dropped me directly into the fray. And, there was SO much badassery in this book. Gordo is such a fucking badass. And there were so many badass chicks. Elizabeth, Jessie, Rico’s new girlfriend…all kicking ass and taking names.
Less by Andrew Sean Greer (narrated by Robert Petkoff) – Arthur Less is at a crossroads of sorts. Nearing his fiftieth birthday, having just found out his latest novel was not accepted by his publisher, and that his ex-boyfriend is getting married to someone else, Less decides to accept a few small speaking appearances in Europe as well as an unexpectedly open spot on a trip to Morocco, spend some time on a solo writer’s retreat in India to finish his book, and end with a food critic gig in Japan. This impromptu trip around the world is meant to keep his mind off the wedding invitation from his former lover, Freddy Pelu, and mask the fact that what Arthur is really doing is running away from his life.
Throughout the journey, Less endures humiliation after humiliation, yet somehow presses on and makes it through each leg of the trip. Through a short love affair, a number of missed travel connections and language barriers (I still laugh when I think about Less’s terrible attempts at speaking German), Less plunders on, gaining tiny bits of clarity along the way. Arthur is a bit arrogant, a bit pretentious, perhaps, definitely more than a bit clueless about certain things…but, despite all his foibles, he is utterly endearing. I found myself rooting so hard for him throughout the entire book.
The Wolf at the Door/The Wolf at Bay by Charlie Adhara – Charlie Adhara’s writing is so sharp and intelligent and filled with a dry wit that I love. I also found myself immediately caring about Cooper Dayton—even though it maybe took a little minute before I actually liked him—and Oliver Park, and I knew I was going to love them together from their very first interaction on the page.
I am absolutely LOVING this series, you guys. I fell in love with Cooper Dayton and Oliver Park in Charlie Adhara’s first book, The Wolf at the Door, and fell even harder in the sequel. The new book, The Wolf at Bay, picks up about four months after the first one ended. Park and Dayton are still partnered up, working for the BSI, solving cases involving werewolf crimes, and working together seamlessly, but as they also grow closer in their personal relationship, Cooper begins to struggle with how to label what’s going on between them. Or, to be honest, with figuring out what it even is that’s going on. Are they just fuck buddies? Boyfriends? Possibly more? Cooper is pretty sure he wants more. He’d love to take their partnership to a new level outside of work, but isn’t sure what Oliver wants, and he’s such a goofball he can’t even figure out a way to just talk to Park.
Pisces Hooks Taurus by Anyta Sunday – I loved, loved, loved both Zane and Beckett. Zane is such a tender heart and so endearingly self-conscious of his lack of book smarts, my heart ached for him in so many places. And Becky is so kind and smart and patient. He really had no choice but to go along with Zane’s bromance plan once he got the idea in his head. I also adoooored Zane’s brother Jacob. Their relationship was so, so special. And, I one million percent LOVED all the smart, punny, fantastic dialogue. There’s too much goodness packed into this book to break down. You honestly just need to go read it. Immediately.
Pisces Hooks Taurus reminded me why I love Anyta Sunday’s writing, and why I love this genre. Zane and Beckett are going to stick with me for a very long time. In fact, I’m sure I’ll be rereading this one soon, just to keep them close.
Rend by Roan Parrish – Roan Parrish’s writing is exemplary. She knows how to deliver a story that will grab you and not let go, and characters that lodge themselves in your heart. But, what I really loved about this book in particular was the uniqueness of the story structure itself. The prologue—which is beyond gorgeous—shows us how Matt and Rhys met and sets up the love story, but then, rather than following along with the typical romance formula, where the end game is so often the wedding or at least a proposal, chapter one opens with Matt and Rhys already married and living their lives together. And what follows is them learning what it truly means to be married, and to tie yourself to someone else.
This book really is tough at times. The weight of Matty’s sadness is a lot to bear, and feeling his struggle is hard. But there is a massive amount of love in the book as well.
Where Do I Start? by Chase Taylor Hackett – Hackett’s storytelling style is different, but in such a good way. It’s fast-paced and fun, with dialogue that is at times hilarious, and at other times very touching and insightful. There are inside jokes, and ongoing bits in the story that are fantastic, and work so well, like Fletch’s nickname for Roger, and my new favorite term, ‘f-hole.’ And, I loved the way he used the different POVs to move the story along and take us from how everything started between Fletch and Roger, to their current situation of finding their way back to each other. The narrative also jumps seamlessly from moments and dialogue that are absurdly funny, to moments that are so moving and heartfelt, like Fletch talking about his childhood, or Roger’s meeting with his dad—which was actually both touching and funny.
I truly loved reading this book, and can’t wait to read more from this author.
Alaska by Cate Ashwood – These guys have such fabulous chemistry—both when they’re beyond annoyed with each other in the beginning, and when they can no longer deny the attraction between them and things get physical. They were sexy as hell together.
The writing overall is so, so good. I’ve always enjoyed Ashwood’s books, but Alaska felt like it was a notch above. There were some high-intensity scenes at the hospital that were done incredibly well, and I loved how the whole story flowed. The characters were well-developed, and I loved all the interactions. Gage’s best friend and colleague, Logan, was so great, and Holden’s friend Frankie stole several scenes. And, as I said, the sex scenes were steamy and well-written. I wasn’t even close to being tempted to skim! 😉
I will for sure be reading this one again at some point.
Waiting for Clark by Annabeth Albert – I absolutely LOVED this story. I can’t believe I’m so tardy to the party with this one. Released almost exactly three years ago as part of the Goodreads M/M Romance Group’s Love is an Open Road event, Waiting for Clark is an adorable and well-written friends-to-lovers and second-chance romance about two best friends finding their way back to each other after a five year separation.
Waiting for Clark is clever, sexy, sweet, fun, and about a hundred pages too short! Heh. I kid. It’s actually exceptionally well fleshed out for a short novella. The character development is excellent, and I was totally feeling both their friendship and their romance. Their connection is utterly palpable throughout the entire story. I loved their backstory and how perfectly Albert laid out what the guys meant to each other during college. I loved all the comic con, cosplay, nerdy, hipster stuff, and I loved all the settings and how detailed Albert is with everything. In short, I loved it all.
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17 thoughts on “Simply the Best 2018: Jules’ Fave Books and a Giveaway”
Some of my favorites for this year were Point of Contact by Melanie Hansen and At Attention by Annabeth Albert.
I reread Simon Vs. The Homosapien Agenda this year as well, after watching Love, Simon. If you want more of them together, pick up Leah on the Off-Beat (his bestie’s story) as they appear in there as well, and are super adorable. Becky’s cowriter of What of It’s Us? Adam Silvera had a great one out this year, too, They Both Die at the End, and he wrote my favorite book of last year, History is All You Left Me.
I also loved Leah on the Off-Beat, and What If It’s Us. <3 I haven't read any of Adam's books yet, but have them on my Kindle! I plan to get to them this year for sure. :)
Picked up all of Anyta Sunday’s books this year! So fun!
Yes!! I adore her books. <3
Such a great list of books and more for me to buy! My favourites were “A Wish Upon the Stars” and “Ravensong” by TJ Klune.
anything by Hailey Turner, Macy Blake, Sheena Himes, Jex Lane and Cole McCade’s Criminal Intentions serial is amazing
I plan to read some Hailey Turner this year! :) I’ve yet to read her.
I finally got to read Red Dirt Heart and of course it was as wonderful as everybody said it was!
This year I’ve been slowly working through Anyta Sunday’s books. Agent Bayne, Baelfire and All I Want For Christmas is My Sister’s Boyfriend.
Balefire by Jordan L. Hawk
Ravensong by TJ Klune
Upon a Western Shore by Harper Fox
A Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee
A Love Song for the Sad Man in a White Coat by Roe Horvat
Battle Scars series by Charlene Newcomb
Southernmost Murder by CS Poe
I have Somewhere over Lorain Road and Ravensomg to read
Have really.enjoyed the Death and the Devil series and the Seven of spades
Kiked Less and Simon also. The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai, A Faithful Son by Michael Scott Garvin.
Riven and Rend by Roan Parrish were two of my favorites.
Riven and Rend by Roan Parrish were two of my favorites this year.
I liked Crocus by Amy Lane and Power Play by Cara Dee.