Angel Picks: Best Books of 2018

Welcome to the 2018 Top Ten Angel Picks! (In no particular order.) Most of the covers are clickable to read my original review, and when they are not, the links and titles are provided under the covers in the description.

Tess of the Road

Rachel Hartman did not get half the credit or attention that she deserved for this triumph of a novel. It should have been on many of the year-end fantasy lists but I felt it was overlooked. The strong female lead was one of the best I read this year and Hartman seamlessly ties the story in with her other novels set in the same universe.

Blue Sky

Marisa de los Santos should know that she can have all of my money until the end of time. This novel centered around a safe house for battered women and children and its history will teach you things and pull on your heartstrings. If you haven’t picked up any of de los Santos’ books, you are missing out on deep, wonderfully written stories.

 

Rebel of the Sands (#1)
Traitor to the Throne (#2)
Hero at the Fall (#3)

With Hero at the Fall set to release in 2018, I decided to read the first two books before it came out. Alwyn Hamilton sets up a fantastic magic system rooted in the djinni of old, terrifying monsters that crawl up into the darkness, and the need for revolution to be in the hands of the next generation. This series had the most satisfying ending of a fantasy trilogy that I have ever read, making me feel like I understood the immediate ending, and how the kingdom survived into the future. Hamilton also didn’t pull any punches when it came to the violence and loss in the midst of war and revolution, and I really appreciated the fact that she did not sugar coat it. This trilogy is a must read for anyone who loves fantasy, magic, and good villains.

The Name of the Wind

True, The Name of the Wind did not release in 2018, but I read it for the first time in 2018 and it knocked my fucking socks off so here it sits. Very few books are able to pull me so completely out of my reality and into that of the story that I forget I am reading and believe I am experiencing the realm in which the main character finds himself. I raced back to this book each day because the magic system, the struggles of the main character, and the world itself was so compelling that I couldn’t wait to know more. I do not feel the same way about book 2 (The Wise Man’s Fear) and book 3 seems a long way off, but this first book was so amazing that I feel it’s still worth it to read just on merit.

On writing

I began writing a novel this year and hope to have the first draft finished by the new year so I can post and brag about 100,000 words on paper that are all mine. 🙂 One of the very first craft books (how-to) I read on writing was Stephen King’s memoir/writing manual. His writing on writing is split here between before and after his accident with the van that hit him as he was walking down a rural Maine road. Of all the books I have read on novel writing, this is the one that has inspired me the most and that I related to most closely. Again, this book wasn’t published in 2018, but I read it for the first time in 2018 so it gets to be on the list.

Song of Achilles

Madeline Miller’s retelling of the Achilles myth from the point of view of his lover Patroclus is one of the most beautiful stories I have ever let into my brain via my eyeballs. I made multiple attempts to read the book she actually published this year (Circe – a similar myth retelling) but it was always on hold so I couldn’t keep it long enough to finish it. I sobbed at the end of this book because the powerful emotions Miller communicates will wrap themselves around your heart and refuse to let go until you finish. This book was a work of art.

The Distance Home

I received The Distance Home as an advanced reader copy at the AWP Writer’s Conference in Tampa this year. This book wrecked me by mirroring my experience as a child raised rurally. The brutal nature of masculinity and the impatience with difference all wrapped up in unreasonable expectations and embarrassment – Paula Saunders created a book that offers a window into a life that too many people in this country never see. It hurt to read, but not so much that I wouldn’t recommend it as one of the best I read.

Bright We Burn

And I Darken (#1)
Now I Rise (#2)

I waited relatively patiently for the final book in Kiersten White’s And I Darken trilogy. Along with Leigh Bardugo, I will recommend White’s books always without hesitation. This trilogy was nonstop action and intensity. The female lead, Lada, is the most terrifying female main character I have ever read, and even just writing this small blurb makes me want to go reread the trilogy so I can live vicariously through her bloodthirsty adventures. GET YOUR REVENGE, LADA. If you haven’t read this trilogy yet make it a New Year’s resolution to do so.

 

The surprise on this list is Jasmine Guillory. She came into my life late in the year when I decided to finally pick up The Wedding Date off my shelf. I bought it for myself earlier in the summer and just hadn’t gotten around to it. It was luxury, sexiness, and fun wrapped up in an enjoyable long-distance relationship, so of course I decided to pick up her next one right when it came out. The Proposal wasn’t as intense romantically as The Wedding Date, but it was just as luxurious and I would say more complex in its exploration of romance and relationships. I can’t wait to read The Wedding Party next summer!

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That concludes our broadcasting year. Thank you for being with us and we hope you’ll stay with us as we barge into 2019 with torches and guillotines.

Read. Be brave. Stay angry.

Goodreads Challenges

Since learning about Goodreads and beginning to use it to track my reading and post my reviews, I have participated in the Goodreads Challenge. You choose an amount of books you would like to read within the year, and then log them as you go. I set a goal of 100 books each year, just to see if I can make it.

Last year I did pretty well considering everything that happened. I made it to within 13 books of my goal and read a ton of really excellent work.

2017 Goodreads Challenge

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Angel Picks: Best of 2017 (Read my favorites list from last year!)

This year I saw a dip in my reading due to my multiple changes in jobs and how difficult the jobs I took were. Despite this I feel like I put on a good show.

2018 Goodreads Challenge

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I might read a few more before the end of the year but honestly I’m knackered and just want to sleep the rest of 2018 away. I’ll set my 2019 goal back at 100 books and see if I can reach the bar next year. 🙂

My Angel Picks: Best of 2018 will be up tomorrow! Have a great day!

Sharp and Sweet

Lately I’ve been reading a lot of the top books lists and seeing a lot of Kirkus Reviews stars, and I got to thinking that I needed a rating system of my own so you could know when a book really knocked my socks off. Two thumbs up is taken, 5 star systems are overused and not clear, and of course stars in general are used across different platforms.

This May I shared an embarrassing story involving my misunderstanding of how pineapples grow. I got to thinking that the pineapple is a perfect representation of me: spines, round in the middle, and relatively sweetish-sour on the inside, and so it might be a great symbol to use for my reviews as well.

pineapple

In the new year, I will be applying a “pineapple” to any book that is fucking spectacular. Books that made me feel something, whether it be sweet or sharp, that I devoured because they were delicious. Pineapple reviews will be filed under favorites and can be accessed anytime by clicking on that tab in the menu.

If you see any books being released in 2019 that you would like me to test out first, please feel free to email me the title at angryangelbooks [at] gmail [dot] com or connect with me on Twitter. I can’t wait to read with you into the new year!

The Incendiaries

The Incendiaries

R. O. Kwon’s book can be found on many of the year-end “best of” lists. When I kept seeing the title pop up again and again, I reserved it at the library and began reading it right away. It’s a love story of two people in passing – one on his way out of the grip of religious extremism, and another on her way in as a way of coping with the fact that while she was driving she got into an accident that killed her passenger, her mother. The book is constructed as a kind of eclipse, we see them as separate entities, we see them overlap, and then we see them coming apart again, with Will trying desperately to hold on to a woman that is heading into a universe from which he has already escaped.

You could read the description on the book jacket and be okay never reading this book. It describes what happens perfectly, and the only mystery that remains is what happens to Phoebe after the bombings organized by the North Korean cult led by John Leal, the third member of our story’s triangle.

This is yet another circumstance in which I find myself bored and baffled by a book that other people are raving about. I read all 214 pages and I felt nothing. Phoebe is a woman who is wrestling with the grief and guilt that has festered since the night of her accident. She is looking for explanations and a definition of who she is if she is in fact a murderer. She is looking for forgiveness from someone, because she will not find it from herself. And she is slowly sinking into a terrifying cult because in her time of desperation, it’s the only structure and love that she can find that makes her feel needed and loved in equal portion to the punishment she feels she deserves. I should feel something in reading this character. This is deep and emotional and heart-wrenching and yet I come away feeling nothing.

This book did not make me cry, but it should have on several occasions. So many of Will and Phoebe’s interactions should have been moments where we feel desperation, clinging, and loss – maybe a sense of emptiness, like biting into a decadent chocolate rabbit only to find that it’s hollow inside. When we feel Phoebe slipping away from Will toward John Leal, I should feel Will’s anxiety, longing, and despair. When he tries to go to the cult meetings with her to pull her out, I should feel him gasping for air, diving into a world that threatened to drown him before but that he’s willing to risk entry into in order to save the woman he loves.

This book should have grabbed my heart, wrung it out, and then thrown it on the ground. Instead I just finished it in two days and asked why I took the time to read something that unmoving. Don’t get me wrong, you should give it a try too. It was flawlessly written and the themes are very well presented. But if you’re looking for the experience of the characters and the feelings brought on by those themes, you may find yourself, like me, disappointed.

The Proposal

The Proposal

The Wedding Date

I have been thoroughly charmed by Jasmine Guillory. The Wedding Date was absolutely delightful (if a bit heavy on the sex!) and so I had to get her next book as soon as I could after it was released.

The book starts with Nikole (Nik) watching a Dodgers game with her hippie douchebag boyfriend. She’s not really into it and is looking forward to getting together with her friends later, when suddenly her name comes up on the Jumbotron (spelled incorrectly mind you) asking her to marry someone. The boyfriend sitting next to her suddenly gets down on one knee, pulls out a hideous ring, and waits for her response. She turns him down (of course, they hadn’t even been dating four months and hadn’t talked about getting married) and he storms out of the stadium.

Everything that follows links to the fact that a few rows back Carlos (the best friend and doctor from The Wedding Date) and his sister decide to run up and pretend they know Nik and save her from the oncoming cameras and attention. Sparks fly, Carlos and Nik find reasons to meet up again, and suddenly we have a relationship.

I like the feminist vibes in this particular book. The hippie douchebag sends her threatening texts so she changes her locks and signs herself and her two friends up for self-defense classes at a local gym. She works to get past the social media firestorm surrounding the event. Unlike Alexa she works from home as a freelance writer so she has more flexibility with her time.

Her relationship with Carlos is one of my favorite situations: strangers turned friends turned lovers “with no strings attached” and then one of them falls in love and creates conflict because the other one thinks it was no strings attached…until they discover they fell in love too and didn’t notice. LOVE THIS.

There’s so much more to this book, but that’s the basic info. Guillory’s writing wraps you up in a warm blanket and changes the channel to a slightly less corny than Hallmark/Lifetime channel and brings you a warm beverage to drink while you watch (or a glass of wine if you prefer). She’s even nice enough to include a decadent snack in each of her books: frosted doughnuts in The Wedding Date and cupcakes in The Proposal.

I can’t say enough about her writing. Please go get you some and enjoy.

Her third book (of what I assume is a trilogy) was just announced. The Wedding Party will be out next summer. You better believe I’ll be waiting for its arrival in my mailbox!

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