My Top 10 Books of 2018

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by The Artsy Reader Girl. The theme for today is top ten reads of 2018. 

10. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

I listened to this on audio and I know I missed some things, so I actually want to reread a physical copy in 2019. It was so magical and whimsical and I have a feeling I will love it more when I experience it again.

9. Goodbye Stranger by Rebecca Stead

This is a gem of a book, mature for middle-grade but not inappropriately so.

8. All the Crooked Saints by Maggie Stiefvater

I think a lot of people who didn’t love this expected something else. I had no expectations going into this and I found the story strange and mystical and ultimately endearing.

7. Second Chance Summer by Morgan Matson

Wow, this one gave me a lot of feels.

6. Legendary by Stephanie Garber

I liked Caraval but I enjoyed Legendary more. I had a harder time following the events in Caraval, but I was very intrigued by the Prince of Hearts and Donatella’s quest to discover Legend’s identity in Legendary. I’m very curious to see how everything will ultimately come together in Finale!

5. Stalking Jack the Ripper by Kerri Maniscalco

I was a little nervous about this one despite the praise, because I knew it was a little gruesome, and wasn’t sure if I had made an especially poor decision to listen to it on audio. But I quickly came to love Audrey Rose and Thomas and was actually able to stomach the gore. I found the ending a little predictable, though still heart-breaking and disturbing.

4. Escaping from Houdini by Kerri Maniscalco

It was fun to get to read the first three books so close together, and having Audrey Rose and Thomas trapped on a cruise where murder is prevalent proved for one wild ride.

3. Love, Life, and the List by Kasie West

I read three Kasie West books this year and while I enjoy all of them, this one quickly made it to my top three favorite Kasie West books of all time (along with P.S. I Like You and On the Fence). I liked the list aspect a lot and the romance really worked for me.

2. Letters to the Lost by Brigid Kemmerer

I remember at a certain point of this book being really engrossed in it, but not really thinking it was going to be a favorite. I couldn’t fully relate to the characters’, and I knew they would end up together and I just wasn’t seeing it or feeling it. But the further I got into it, the story unfolded into something really profound for me and I enjoyed it so immensely that it clearly became a favorite for the year.

1. A Hint of Hydra by Heidi Lang and Kat Bartkowski

The predecessor of this book, A Dash of Dragon, was one of my favorites last year. These middle grade books are absolute delights – fun and adventurous, starring a smart heroine and a solid cast of secondary characters. This book was just as fun as the first and I can’t wait for book three! Also, I totally ship Lailu and Greg, even if they are only 13. 😉

My top ten books round out to include on adult fiction, two middle grade fiction, and seven young adult fiction titles. Three of these books I listened to on audio, and the remaining I read. It was a pretty decent year for reads, and I hope I won’t get too slowed down in 2019 by a new little person entering my life, but if so, it’ll be OK. 🙂

What were your favorite reads of 2018?

What I Read in October & November + NEWS!

Audiobook reads:

The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater (reread – I actually started reading this one physically but switched to the audiobook when my library hold for it came through)

Etiquette & Espionage (Finishing School #1) by Gail Carriger

Curtsies & Conspiracies (Finishing School #2) by Gail Carriger

Waistcoats & Weaponry (Finishing School #3) by Gail Carriger

Physical reads:

Remember God by Annie F. Downs

These Vicious Masks by Tarun Shanker and Kelly Sekas

Escaping from Houdini by Kerri Maniscalco

(Set aside for now – Fawkes by Nadine Brandes – I want to try again later, but despite my best efforts I could not get into this one)

Emily Climbs by L.M. Montgomery

Its amazing how combining my two months of reads in this one post, the books I read in October feel like forever ago! I’m enjoying going through the Finishing School audiobooks right now. I don’t love everything about them, but they’re definitely entertaining listens for my work day. I also really enjoyed These Vicious Masks and Escaping From Houdini.

So NEWS! In case you missed it from my Instagram, I’m pregnant! As of right now I’m at 17 weeks, baby due in May just days before my wedding anniversary. My husband and I very excited and sometimes it still feels a little surreal. I’ll find out New Year’s Eve if we’re having a boy or girl. I’ll keep y’all updated. 🙂

The Scorpio Races Reread Review

It’s the first day of November and so, today, someone will die.

The first line of The Scorpio Races has captured my attention since I first read it a few years ago. I’ve always wanted to reread it in November, and this year when I picked up the book just to read the first little bit, I found myself reading further (even though I had already started another book… and I don’t do multiple fiction books at once unless one’s on audio).

In full disclosure, I did want to reread it this year via audiobook, but while it had been readily available from the library suddenly wasn’t right before November 1 when I checked again. I put a hold on it and figured I’d probably finish reading it before it became available, but I actually had not gotten very far and switched over a couple days later.

I found my review from when I read The Scorpio Races the first time, and it was interesting to see both the similarities and differences of opinion I had this second time.

The short version: I loved it more this time.

The Sean & Puck Relationship 

The first time I read The Scorpio Races, I didn’t really feel the developing relationship between Sean and Puck was all that romantically inclined, and when they kissed for the first time (pretty late in the book), it felt sudden to me. (At the time, I was still kind of a newbie to the modern age of YA and I was floored by the lack of a define-the-relationship talk before the kissing.)

This time, the opposite was true. The romance is really subtle, but there is such a sweet, slow development between them that makes the reader really long to see something happen. When Sean grabbed Puck’s wrist and her heart was racing, I was so ready for them to kiss! But they didn’t! It happened later! It’s so funny to me now that before I thought they kissed too soon, and this time it was later than I wanted (though not later than I think it actually should have been, to be clear).

While I had remembered a decent amount of the book from before, one scene I had completely forgotten about was when Sean comes over for dinner. I super loved that scene this time around and doubt I’ll be forgetting it again.

I say, “I will not be your weakness, Sean Kendrick.”

Now he looks at me. He says, very softly, “It’s late for that, Puck.”

Secondary Characters

In my first review, I touted my love for George Holly and I definitely stand by this after my second read. What’s interesting, however, is that the other secondary character who stood out to me in my first read was Dory Maud, but this time it was Sue Gratton instead. I’m not sure if this was due to reading the book in another format or if she’s just who I connected with more this time around, but regardless, it’s interesting to see the shift nonetheless.

“I think you’re right, Mr. Kendrick,” George Holly says, eyes closed. His face is to the wind, leaning forward slightly so that it doesn’t tip him. His slacks are no longer pristine; he’s tracked bits of mud and manure up the front of them. His ridiculous red hat has blown off behind him, but he doesn’t seem to notice. The wind has its fingers in his fair hair and the ocean sings to him. This island will take you, if you let it.

I ask, “What am I right about?”

“I can feel God out here.”

I brush my hands off on my pants. “Tell me that again,” I say, “two weeks from now when you’ve seen the dead bodies on the beach.”

Holly doesn’t open his eyes. “Let no one say that Sean Kendrick isn’t an optimist.”

Pacing

The Scorpio Races is a very slowly paced book. That was definitely harder for me the first time, but it didn’t go unnoticed the second time. I think both times I was really ready for Sean and Puck to meet, so it could feel like their story together could begin, but they do have very important individual arcs, which is part of what makes this book so rich. This slow pacing also really matches the tone of the island and helps set the atmospheric aesthetic of it. Maggie Stiefvater says she wants readers to feel like they’ve visited Thisby and weeks later still feel like they need to shake salt from the water out of their hair. I think she did a pretty good job with that.

Shhh, shhh, says the sea, but I don’t believe her.

The Audiobook

So I ended up listening to at least 3/4 of the book on audio, and it took me a moment to get used to the narrators who clearly sounded like adults instead of teenagers. But over time, I really warmed up to the narrators and thought they did a wonderful job of portraying their characters. I think Sean’s voice specifically is going to stick in my mind over time.

Author’s Writing Style

The only other book I’ve read by Maggie is her other standalone, All the Crooked Saints, and upon rereading The Scorpio Races I was surprised to find more similarities between the two stories than I would have expected. They’re most definitely two very different books in many respects, but having read them both definitely gives me a sense of Maggie’s writing style. She writes very clever and beautiful metaphors that I only dream I could one day concoct. Her main characters are often misunderstood but they feel deeply, even if they’re trying to hide those feelings from others and sometimes even themselves. There are religious references and broken-down cars and other little things that feel just distinctly Maggie to me (because in addition to reading these two books I have also heard her speak on a panel).

Rating

My original rating for The Scorpio Races was four stars, but after this reread I would bump it up to 4.5. It’s beautiful and quiet and raw, and I find very little to complain about it.

Have you read The Scorpio Races once or multiple times? Did your feelings change with rereading?

What I Read in September

Audiobook reads: 

Not If I Save You First by Ally Carter

Two Summers by Aimee Friedman

Kind is the New Classy by Candace Cameron Bure

The Wish Granter by C.J. Redwine

Sky in the Deep by Adrienne Young

Physical Reads: 

The Crimson Skew (The Mapmaker’s Trilogy #3) by S.E. Grove

One of Us is Lying by Karen McManus

Little Women (reread – finished October 2) by Louisa May Alcott

I don’t know what it was about this month, but pretty much every book I read this month, even including my Little Women reread, I started out feeling invested in but was kind of over by the end. Two Summers and One of Us is Lying did hold my interest throughout more than the others, but they did have some story things that bothered me that left me only mildly satisfied in the end. I’m wondering if I just took too long to read everything as opposed to there being actual pacing problems with all these books.

I’m hoping October will pick back up for me… I’m almost finished with a non-fiction book I just started the other day.

What did you read in September? 

My Top 10 Episodes of Star Trek

The time has come for me to unveil my top 10 favorite of all Star Trek! Well, all minus the animated series and Discovery. While I do have some fan favorites on my list, I know this isn’t a typical top 10 of Star Trek, and you see my deep personal bias towards DS9. But this is about my personal favorites and I believe all these episodes are truly great, so I stand by my choices.

I quickly came up with a top 12 so it felt proper to share my two honorable mentions that I sadly had to cut from the final top 10 list.

Honorable Mentions: Yesterday’s Enterprise (TNG) and Similitude (ENT)

Both of these episodes are fabulous and easily belong among the best of Star Trek. Yesterday’s Enterprise is a fantastic alternate timeline story, and Similitude explores ethics in a way that makes you squirm a little, but also makes you really think. Now, on to my top 10!

10. Bride of Chaotica! (Voyager)

This episode is a pure fun homage to classic science fiction, perfectly saluting the campy, black-and-white melodrama that paved the way for Star Trek.

9. Stratagem (Enterprise)

There’s just something about this episode for me. It almost has shades of DS9’s Pale Moonlight, but explores the question of what we would do to save our people from war in a different way. This episode has even affected my own writing.

8. Best of Both Worlds (The Next Generation)

The first time I saw Best of Both Worlds Part One I was completely stunned. They went there! They turned Picard into a freaking Borg! How could things ever go back and it still be a satisfying story? Well, all I can say is they delivered. This two-parter is still quite epic in my mind.

7. Chain of Command (The Next Generation)

I’ve said before that this is a very dark horse choice for me as my favorite of all TNG, but the psychology of this episode has truly impacted me. I think exploring the psyche of a person is one of the, if not the, most powerful tool of storytelling, and these two episodes certainly utilize it.

6. Far Beyond the Stars (Deep Space Nine)

This episode is so freaking important that I think every human being should probably watch it. It covers racism but also talks about ideas and storytelling, all in a very poignant way. Even though this isn’t my top episode, I think if an individual was to only watch one episode of Star Trek, this should be the one.

5. The City on the Edge of Forever (The Original Series)

This is one of the most beloved and heralded episodes of Star Trek, and for good reason. I feel this episode really sets up a lot of the reoccurring themes we find in Star Trek and science fiction, like allowing things to happen as they should of the betterment of humanity.

4. It’s Only a Paper Moon (Deep Space Nine)

This episode is the culmination of a character arc that I absolutely adore, exploring the loss of dreams and what could have been. It’s a tear-jerker for sure and it holds a very special place in my heart.

3. The Trouble With Tribbles (The Original Series)

This episode is just so stinking fun. I love it. And it’s made even better by…

2. Trials and Tribble-ations (Deep Space Nine)

This episode is a perfect homage to the previous episode, and seriously, can we ever have enough Tribbles?

1. Pale Moonlight (Deep Space Nine) 

As brilliant as every episode on this list is, this one, in my opinion, is the most powerful exploration of what mankind is capable of. “So… I lied. I cheated. I bribed men to cover the crimes of other men. I am an accessory to murder. But the most damning thing of all… I think I can live with it. And if I had to do it all over again – I would.”

I’m curious what would be on your top 10 list of Star Trek episodes! So please tell me what yours are and how many we have in common. Or, if you still haven’t watched Star Trek yet, what are you waiting for? Check out this post I did several years ago about how to get started