Hello friends and enemies! We are back to grace you with a list of books that were our personal ride or die reads this year. While most of these should come as no surprise, we hope you’ll be making a mad dash to your local library or bookstore to get a copy (or two) and adding them to your 2019 TBR.
- Always Never Yours by Emily Wibberley & Austin Siegemund-Broka // Young Adult ⋆ Contemporary Romance. Without a doubt, Megan Harper was my favorite YA heroine of 2018. She’s an ambitious, blunt lead who much prefers to stay out of the spotlight until she’s cast as Juliet in her school’s production of Romeo and Juliet. I feel completely in love with Megan’s story (I’m a sucker for “the girl before” related tropes) and the world Emily & Austin created. I mean, it made me FANMIX AGAIN after so many years of not doing so. I’m super excited to see the writing duo that is Emily & Austin have in store for us next…
- Reluctant Royals by Alyssa Cole // Adult ⋆ Contemporary Romance. Alyssa Cole is too powerful for me not to have not one, but two, of her books on my end of the year favorites list. I’m in love with the Reluctant Royals series. Honestly, it’s how I survived the first half of 2018.
- A Princess in Theory (Reluctant Royals #1) — Epidemiologist + “Spam” Emails about betrothal to an African Prince = the best formula I never though we’d get. It was fun, intense and a perfect series opener. Plus, the backstory of Naledi’s parents hit on some of my favorite tropes.
- A Duke by Default (Reluctant Royals #2) — Portia Hobbs is my reason for living… I’ve read a handful of books with heroines with ADHD, and in that handful, A Duke by Default clearly stands out. I don’t think it’s possible I’ll ever highlight the amount of internal dialogue with notes like “MEEE!!!!!” as I did in in this one. All of Portia’s thoughts were so exact to my experiences with ADHD, and I love that a book with an adult heroine discovering she isn’t just a “hot mess” but is truly wired differently exists (bonus points if you read Alyssa Cole’s Interview about it here). At this point, I try not to think about Portia too deeply cause otherwise I end up crying. Despite my constant cryfest, I do highly recommend A Duke by Default. It’s really special to me. And everything about this book is truly magical. Fans of silver fox heroes, Scottish armories, and people accidentally pepper spraying their bosses will love A Duke by Default.
- Ayesha At Last by Uzma Jalaluddin // Adult ⋆ Retelling. Ayesha At Last is my favorite Pride and Prejudice Retelling. As much as I love picking up retellings, it’s difficult to find ones that don’t fall short of the source material or verge into boredom by relying on it too much. Uzma Jalaluddin on the other hand knows what makes a good retelling. The story features Muslim main characters and is set in Canada where Jalaluddin is from. Ayesha At Last makes unique usage of scenes, dialogue, and characters from Pride and Prejudice by flipping and combining them in inventive ways (how about that Slam Poetry scene?). This is the first time I’ve truly felt like I was reading a new take on Pride and Prejudice because I wasn’t sure exactly where the story was going to go all the time. And, the development between Ayesha and Khalid, our Elizabeth and Darcy, was amazing. NOTE: I read the Canadian release of Ayesha At Last because I couldn’t wait. The book will be releasing in June of 2018 in the US from Berkley Romance.
- Malice by Keigo Higashino // Adult ⋆ Mystery. I actually went back to my roots as a mystery fan the past semester and it was such a refreshing feeling returning to one of my all-time favorite writers Higashino. Although I read the original and not the translation, I’ve heard the English edition is a faithful translation and while I’m not sure there are many mystery fans here, if you’re looking for character-driven mysteries that have layers that peel like onions, I highly recommend one of Higashino’s books.
- Not Even Monsters (Market of Monsters #1) by Rebecca Schaeffer // Young Adult ⋆ Sci-Fi. content warning: gore, blood, mutilation, body horror, other things associated with torture. Getting that pleasant warning out of the way, Not Even Monsters was a surprise favorite novel of 2018 and a solid debut novel. Set in a sci-fi dystopian near future where supernatural creatures are ostracized from regular mortals, it reads as a bit of a villain origin story for Nita, who starts out as a girl who dissects supernaturals for her mother to sell on the black market only to end up there herself after disobeying her mother and well…let’s just say the experience changes her. I loved the way shades of morality and conscience were explored in the novel as well as a nice change of pace in setting the book in Peru instead of good old US so we get some social commentary there as well.
- Ivan (Gideon’s Riders #3) by Kit Rocha // Adult ⋆ Dystopian Romance. In a few words this book is found family meets princess bodyguard >>> what’s not to like? Finding Kit Rocha in 2017 was a true gift for me and I have come to genuinely appreciate the level of politics and worldbuilding they include in their books, as well as how each character in the extended core cast feels fleshed out and real to me. The Gideon’s Riders series is Kit Rocha at their best and Ivan is no exception; I’m already dying for future books where I’ll get to see my favorite side characters fall in love and find their respective HEAs.
- The Heart Forger (The Bone Witch #2) by Rin Chupeco // Young Adult ⋆ Fantasy. You’ll notice the trend continues with anti-heroines for me with this novel, which I actually read back to back with the first book The Bone Witch. Told in two timelines past and present, the series traces the roots of villianized heroine Tea and her journey in becoming a fully fledged bone witch, able to raise the dead and tame daeva beasts. While the worldbuilding is modeled on different regions within Asia, there are such lovely whimsical fantasy details like hearts of glass hung on necks, fearsome beasts, and elite magical fighters. The Bone Witch series also has a lovable core cast of characters with several romances and a colorful set of personalities that is sure to charm you, I will let you know now that I will be writing a letter to Chupeco hurts them any more in the third and final book in the series.
Erilexis’s Joint Favs
- Diamond Fire (Hidden Legacy #3.5) by Ilona Andrews // Adult ⋆ Fantasy. I’m a new convert to the Hidden Legacy series who can’t get enough. Both Eri and I were really excited to get Catalina’s introduction as a heroine. I was particularly won over by the scenes of Catalina and Rogan’s mom bonding. Diamond Fire opened up a lot of interesting plotlines and addressed some.. backstory theories I had (which is all I will say). I’m dying to see how Catalina and Alessandro’s trilogy unfolds in the upcoming installments. – Alexis
- The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang // Adult ⋆ Fantasy. If you follow me on twitter, there’s no doubt you have heard me rave about The Poppy War, which I was lucky enough to read in January….where I proceeded to pester Alexis on a weekly basis to read as well as anyone who would listen. While the Chinese history inspired military fantasy has some brutal stuff (see content warnings from the author), if you are looking for shaman powers and ambitious anti-heroines, or a more fucked-up version of Avatar the Last Airbender, you’ve come to the right place. – Eri
- The Earl I Ruined (Secrets of Charlotte Street #2) by Scarlett Peckham // Adult ⋆ Historical Romance. Unlikable, gossip column writing heroine + Unrequited Love + an Adorable Dog + Fake Engagement = Erilexis’s wildest dream. The Earl I Ruined had Eri and I in raptures. We had so much fun reading it and loved all the angst. If you’re a fan of unlikable heroines like we are, then you can’t miss Lady Constance Stonewell. – Alexis