Top Five Books of 2018

2019 has rolled around, and you must know what that means. It is officially time for me to rant about all the books I read in the past twelve months.

Despite the fact that I haven’t read as many books this year, I went through well over five, and obviously liked each of them a lot. So saying that the following are the top five out of all of them isn’t completely truthful on my part, but if I were to go into depth about why I liked every book I read in 2018 we would be here a while.

I have picked a handful of the books read to be featured in this post. The order isn’t quite exact, but I tried my best to choose my “favourites.” First up, we have a (surprise, surprise) fantasy and fractured fairy tale novel.

5: The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale

This one I read early on in the year, so forgive me if I’ve forgotten a few things. Or, more likely, if I’ve forgotten the majority of the book. Long story short, The Goose Girl follows the princess Anidori-Kiladra Talianna Isilee. A mouthful, yes, however she goes by Ani/Isi for most of the novel. She is forced to work as a goose girl in a foreign country when her lady in waiting convinces half of the guards to kill her on their way to have Ani married to the Crown Prince of Bayern. The lady in waiting, Selia, plans and succeeds in taking Ani’s place once they arrive in Bayern, while Ani flees.

Ani spends her time in Bayern trying to find a way to prove that she is the true princess and get out of her predicament. Oh right, and there’s a lot of communicating with animals.

I used to read the Ever After High books written by Shannon Hale, and I had been meaning to one day get around to reading some of her other works. Armed with an Indigo gift card, I bought this book (along with two others) in January, and enjoyed it thoroughly.

It’s no secret by this point that I love fantasy. The Goose Girl did a great job at exploiting that love, with world building and strange powers and the classic royal turned pauper. I haven’t read any of the other books in The Books of Bayern series as of yet, but here’s another great thing about this novel: it can be read as a stand alone. Most of the plot is tied up at the end, even when several books come after it.

Again, I can’t put my finger on why I liked this book since I don’t remember it all that well. Still, it doesn’t stop me from knowing that it was a good read and I would pick it up again, if only to recall what the heck happened.

4: The Blackthorn Key by Kevin Sands

Technically speaking, I’ve been reading this series since around when it first came out. The only book that was new out of my read through this year was the fourth edition, Call of the Wraith. I’m just calling it by its first book because I wouldn’t know which one to choose, and the first is usually the best.

Christopher Rowe is the main character and narrator, telling us of his adventures in Europe during the 1660s. It’s full of codes, apothecaries, murders, and fun little friendship moments. Honestly. His best friend Tom should get a medal for not fainting every five minutes because of Christopher’s schemes.

Coming from someone who doesn’t usually go for historical fiction, The Blackthorn Key is a must read. Kevin Sands obviously does his research (not a surprise, considering he was literally a researcher and a teacher), and there’s a bunch of interesting information that I had never heard about. The stories make for good mystery books and good laughs.

A little word of advice, though; if you decide to read this series, avoid eating at the same time, mainly in the first and second books. Burnt dismembered limbs, loosing eyes and the side of one’s face, and the plague itself aren’t fun images to go with your meal.

3: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams


I wasn’t really sure where to put this one on the list, mostly because I’m still not completely sure how I feel about it. Douglas Adams was a good author, and was amazing at wording things. It was a funny collection. It was enjoyable. It was also possibly the weirdest thing I have ever read.

This one counts as all five books, because I did read them all in one book. Over eight hundred pages, and it was mind twisting for the whole experience. Between the nature of the Hitchhiker universe, the way some of the events/things/characters are explained, and the random information given at different times, it was the epitome of a wild ride. Don’t even get me started on the chapter with the Improbability Drive in book one.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy trilogy of five-don’t ask, I don’t have an answer-is unlike anything I’ve ever seen, but that’s part of what makes it so great. This universe is strange, confusing, multidimensional, and still makes sure that you have a fun time along the way.

Despite the ending, it’s fair to say that I enjoyed the trilogy. I did when I finally began to get used to it halfway through Life, the Universe, and Everything, at least. Similar to the first book I wrote about on this list, I’ll definitely have to read this one again, in this case so I can understand it a bit better than the first time through.

(42.)

2: Monstrous Regiment by Terry Pratchett

I’m ashamed to say that I hadn’t read a single Terry Pratchett book for a whole year before I picked this one up. I went on about how great the Discworld books I read were in my last list, and then never read another one until the end of 2018. That’s just me for you.

Terry Pratchett’s works are fairly weird, but after Douglas Adams, coming back to it is strangely comforting. I don’t know if I found this book less odd than the others ones because I had just finished the Hitchhiker’s trilogy or because it’s genuinely less odd than most of the series. Either way, as shown by the fact that it came in second place, you can tell that I think highly of it.

Spoilers ahead, Monstrous Regiment takes place in a small country on the Disc which is at war and recruiting soldiers. The main character, Polly Perks, cuts off her hair and dresses as a boy so that she can join up and find her missing brother.

The thing is, everyone that signs up after that turns out to be a girl too. Even some of the people up high in the military are women. It was like Mulan times a hundred (of course, historically this has happened in our own world).

What can I say, though? Terry Pratchett was a wonderful writer, and I enjoyed this installment as much as the others. The story was great, the character dynamics were fun, and of course the humour was present and accounted for. Even though I read it closer to the 2019 area, Monstrous Regiment deserves its place on the list.

1: Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

This book, guys…Oh, this book.

Like with Heroes of Olympus to Percy Jackson and the Olympians, I hadn’t realized that there was a series set in this universe that came before the Six of Crows duology. Unlike Percy Jackson, however, order didn’t matter as much and I was mostly safe.

How to describe it? It was a fantasy heist. That’s literally what it says on the cover: heist. You have this ragtag team of teenagers in the fantasy world of the Grishaverse that break into the highest security prison. No one has ever done it, but they have been promised a whole lot of money if they can bring back a valuable prisoner.

I loved the world building Leigh Bardugo has. Ketterdam is in no way a city that you would want to go to in real life, but you grow fond of it. Fjerda was certainly cool as well, along with the snippets of other areas in the Grishaverse we hear about during the book.

The characters and their interactions are amazing to read, too. You learn bits about them as you go along, and alternate between their POVs several times. Not to mention the heist itself. That was a good one.

I got the sequel, Crooked Kingdom, for Christmas, and I was thrilled because I had loved the first one so much. I’ll probably end up reading the original series when I find the time.

All in all, I found it to be a great book and would definitely recommend it. Looking at you, Mom.

Honourable mentions: Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard by Rick Riordan, Renegades by Marissa Meyer, The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner, Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow by Jessica Townsend, The True Meaning of Smekday by Adam Rex (reread), The Unwanteds Quests: Dragon Bones by Lisa McMann (I liked the original series better, but still), and The Lost Property Office by James R. Hannibal (also a reread).

Welcome Back! Would You Like a New Excerpt?


It’s been three months since I last did a post, and I’m as at a loss for what to do as I was then. Not to mention school, countless other things I get working on, and life in general. I will put up a top five books of the year, and I’m sure I’ll find other things to talk about, but for now, I’ll show an excerpt of my latest endeavour.

In August, I started a story by the name of Oleander (which was never featured on the blog, or else maybe you would know what the heck I’m talking about). I may pick it up again when I get around the road block my own brain cheerfully lobbed my way, but in the mean time my brain has also cheerfully plopped a new world in my head. This world came almost fully formed, but without characters or a solid plot. It took up residence and said, “work with it.”

Then I ignored it for a while.

Funny thing about new ideas, they don’t like being ignored. Not even necessarily creative ideas. They take to you like a leech that can’t be gotten rid of with something as simple as sunlight or salt, and nag at you day and night. This imaginary world has been running on background in the tabs of everyday life for months.

In all that time this idea has been around, I have constructed a bit of plot. A few characters as well, here and there. Still, I didn’t act on it until I was sitting in class after finishing a test and boredom aided the leech in finally getting me to write.

There isn’t much you need to know going in with this excerpt, except the fact that this story is what comes to my mind when sci-fi fantasy is involved. Just plug your nose, dive, and hope there isn’t a shark.

It was a lovely night for something catastrophic to happen. There was a storm, for one thing, and everyone knows that storms are never a good sign in theses situations. Lightning licked the sky in long, illuminating bolts and thunder rolled throughout the lands. Rain was pattering against bulletproof windows.

It was truly a wonderful night for something to escape the facility.

Abram Cadmus could sense the ominous atmosphere in his bones. He shivered, and began making his way down the main hall past bustling scientists and agitated guards. They feel it too, he thought. Great. A splendid development. He held the statistics package close to his chest and kept moving.

The main hall of this facility, which will not be named for secrecy reasons, was an amazing sight to see. All polished marble surfaces and golden archways. There’s no point in describing it, however, because Cadmus was there for a mere few seconds before he took a quick left into a much less interesting elevator.

Cadmus had a five second trip to get to the bottom of the building. When the elevator reached his stop, the man riding with him, sitting on the floor with a gleeful expression, looked up at him.

“You going to see the big man?” he asked.

“Well, yes,” said Cadmus. “I-” He was cut off by a burst of laughter.

“Ooh, you’re in trouble, pal. The last guy that went to him came back with a black eye and a limp. Statistics, eh?”

Cadmus nodded wordlessly. He was mostly focused on planning a trip to the infirmary.

“This should be good, then. He’s gotten himself into a horrible state of anger.”

“Has he ever gotten himself out of one?” Cadmus asked in a far away voice. “Look, do you even work here?”

The man flashed a grin, and held out his grubby hand. “Stuart Wilson. I work in testing. Uh, and by testing,” Stuart said, and winked, “I mean Operation Dragonfly.”

Cadmus went through a few stages of reaction: first was surprise, next was disbelief, and finally he landed on placidness. The man was obviously mad. He might as well humour him a bit. He shook Stuart’s hand firmly, and tried to resist wiping his palm on his shirt afterwards.

“I see. I’ve heard it’s quite something.”

“Ah, you don’t believe me, do you?” Stuart leaned against the elevator wall. His sardonic cheerfulness was beginning to unnerve Cadmus, as if he wasn’t already on edge. “That’s fine. I wouldn’t believe me either. Now, run along to the big man, and good luck to you.”

As Cadmus stepped out of the elevator, Stuart’s cackling followed him. Yes, that man was definitely mad. Cadmus had half a mind to call security, but there were more important matters at hand. He tugged at his collar, and continued on his route.

The room he arrived in had only three occupants. One stood against the wall, and had the distinct air about her that said ‘I don’t want to be here.’ There was another person with a gaunt face who hovered near the third life form like a hummingbird. He flitted around, fidgeting with a large load of nervous energy. The man he stood near was none other than Laric Stunfyr. Honestly, he wasn’t much to look at, except for the constant blaze in his eyes. It was the same blaze that refocused on Cadmus the second the door swung shut behind him.

They all stood there in silence. Cadmus couldn’t handle the staring contest with Stunfyr, and let his eyes drift away. He examined the table, the large tubes mounted in the walls that bathed them in green light, whatever was being read on the holoscreen, and ended up staring at Laric again. For reasons he didn’t understand, Cadmus decided to salute.

“The statistics package is in, sir,” he announced. The sir was a nice touch, very formal, although he would have to be careful not to lay it on too heavily…

“Great,” said Laric. “And who are you?”

“Cadmus. Abram Cadmus, sir.”

Laric straightened from his bent position over the table. “Ah. Well, let’s see it, then. This had better be something good that you’re interrupting me for.”

Cadmus realized he was still saluting, and quickly pulled his arm back down to his side. He really didn’t want to go over and show Stunfyr what he was interrupting him for. It didn’t seem like he had a choice, however, because Laric went over to him instead. Sweat beaded at his brow. With jerky movements, he handed the package to Laric.

The hummingbird man winced in sympathy. Maybe he was thinking of the guy who received the black eye and the limp. The woman leaning against the wall, who presumably was thinking of the same thing, snorted.

Laric returned to the table, and slid Cadmus’ statistics package into the slot in the side. Whatever he had been looking at before flickered away and was replaced by a group of awful graphs and numbers. The silence from before returned with a vengeance. Cadmus swallowed, and edged his way towards the door. Laric’s voice, dangerously quiet, was enough to stop him in his tracks. He had been so close to the handle, too.

“Come here, Mister Cadmus.”

And that was it. Everything had been leading up to that point. The storm, Stuart Wilson, and even that soggy sandwich Cadmus ate at lunch. His life flashed before his eyes as he took step after step in Laric’s direction. Most of it was of school, which roughly meant the disapproving looks of teachers, hiding at the library at lunch, and descending dodge balls in elementary PE classes. Cadmus regretted never learning how to catch one of those things with his hands instead of his face. Maybe Laric would let him do so as his dying wish.

“I know a guy up in the infirmary that can patch people up like no one else,” the hummingbird man whispered when he passed, and Cadmus felt a card slip into his hand. “Just show him this and tell him Ty sent you.” Cadmus glanced down at the card. It appeared to be a coupon for healing services. What kind of a person made coupons for healing services?

Finally, he was standing face to face with the Stunfyr, and there would be no more stalling. Laric jabbed a finger at the screen. “Tell me what you see here, Mister Cadmus.”

“Well, sir, we’ve been spending most of our money on Operation Dragonfly,” Cadmus replied, staring at the space just beside Laric’s head. “And we now owe the government about fifty million Enchaelian dollars.”

“How interesting. What else?”

“There have been, erm, several more close calls with sightings by civilians. Not just human ones, either. The Otherlings are beginning to suspect us too, sir.”

“Your abilities of observation astound me, Mister Cadmus,” said Laric, to which Cadmus flinched. Stunfyr turned to the sole person there who had yet to speak. “Let everyone know that we’re to be on top security. No one gets in or our without close inspection. How is it coming?”

Laric switched topics so fast that Cadmus nearly received whiplash, but the woman against the wall took it in stride. “There are still a few bugs that need to be worked out. It won’t be ready when you want it to be.”

“All right, Miss Flynn, then when will it be ready?” The way Laric spoke to her was different from how he spoke to anyone else. Cadmus could swear there was some respect there. Flynn, likewise, spoke to Laric differently from the rest of his employees. For example, she glared while she did it.

“I don’t know, Mister Stunfyr. Our top scientists are up to the seventh experiment for Operation Dragonfly, and they simply can’t tell when it will be completed. Personally, I believe quality is more important than a due date, sir.”

“Not if there’s fifty million Enchaelian dollars on our back.” Laric rubbed his chin, growing lost in thought. Cadmus saw this as the perfect opportunity to make a break for it, and jerked his thumb back at the door.

“If you don’t mind, sir, I have things…to do…”

“You’re not going anywhere, Cadmus.”

He froze. That time he was going to die, for sure. Laric removed the statistics package from its slot. The holoscreen winked out of existence, and with it all evidence of their troubles.

“Set up a team to deal with the money,” Laric said to Ty. “I want to have a meeting with them in an hour. On the dot.”

Ty paused. “But, sir-”

“On the dot, Murray!”

Ty practically squeaked, and zipped to the table to begin sending out messages, further enforcing the image of a hummingbird in Cadmus’ head. Next, Laric directed his attention back to Cadmus.

“You. I don’t see why you don’t deserve a good old fashioned punishment.”

“I, well, I,” Cadmus stammered. He took a step back for every step Laric took forward. “In all, err, fairness, sir, I was just delivering the package.” The two came to a stop when Cadmus’ back hit one of the green tubes, and suddenly Laric was only inches away. “Don’t shoot the messenger!”

It occurred to Cadmus too late that Stunfyr probably didn’t understand the meaning of that saying. He followed one that went more along the lines of ‘shoot everyone, no discrimination.’ His life flashed before his eyes once more, if only to make him more miserable. The man glowered down at him, his height making up for what he lacked in bulk. Cadmus looked away.

He yelped about a second later, but not because he’d been hit. A horrible blaring sound rang in their ears. The green lights of the tubes were then flashing red, as was the screen Ty had been working with. There was a brief gap in time where none of them knew what was happening or what to do, and then they sprang into action with the arrival of an automated voice.

“Sector breach. Sector breach. Code Alpha. Initiating lock down within five seconds.”

Cadmus had always thought that five seconds was not enough time. While it made sure that whoever, or whatever, was running around where it shouldn’t be wouldn’t have the chance to get away, it also meant that no one else had the chance to do so. Cadmus very much liked the idea of getting away. It was Code Alpha going off, and they all knew far too well what that meant.

Something in the facility had escaped. Outside, lightning cracked again as if to mock them.

Following his own survival skills, Cadmus bolted for the door. The other three fell in close on his heels, with Stunfyr shouting instructions to Flynn and Ty. They ran the entire length of the hall, until Cadmus was at the elevator where Stuart was still seated. He surveyed them all with nothing more than mild curiosity.

“Mister Wilson, there’s been a breach,” Laric said. Flynn seemed determined to stay by his side, but Ty kept going. Cadmus would have happily done the same, yet his feet remained rooted to the spot in response to Stuart’s behavior.

“Oh, yes,” Stuart said, and pointed at the flashing lights. “I’m aware. Hey, if it isn’t the statistics guy! Looking well and healthy, I see.”

Cadmus frowned as Laric pressed on. “Well, man? What are you doing sitting on the floor!”

“There’s really no need for alarm, Mister Stunfyr. The kid’s harmless. Give her a juice box and send her back to the capsule, it’ll be fine.”

“The kid?” Cadmus repeated, gaining looks from Laric and Flynn. Stuart shrugged, and grinned.

“Yeah. I mean, she’s probably around sixteen at this point, given that she hasn’t had much time to mature and all.”

“You’re telling me that you think experiment seven is what escaped,” Laric said bluntly.

“I don’t think it, Stunfyr, old pal.” Stuart leaned forward with gleaming eyes. “I know it. Code Alpha wouldn’t be triggered for anyone else.”

“You work on Operation Dragonfly! It’s your department that needs to make sure things like this don’t happen!”

“Wait,” said Cadmus. “That’s actually his job?”

Stuart put his arms behind his head. “Mistakes are impossible to avoid entirely. Just do what I do, and relax. The guards will catch her, c’mon, she hasn’t even been conscious before now. I bet you she barely knows how to walk!”

“He actually works here? Are you serious?”

Laric opted for ignoring them both, and marched away from the elevator with Flynn in tow. The second they were out of sight, Stuart’s grin dropped. It was a strange transformation. Suddenly the easy going, slightly insane man was gone, and the man that had come to take his place meant all business. His intense stare was enough to make Cadmus wish he was anywhere else in the world but there.

“Get on the elevator,” said Stuart. The words made a long trip through Cadmus’ one ear and out the other, and he blinked.

“What?”

“It is crucial,” said Stuart, slowly that time, “that you get on the elevator. Now.”

“I rather think the elevator is the worst place to be in an emergency.” That, and Stuart was really creeping him out.

“There isn’t an emergency. At least, there won’t be if you do exactly as I say.” Stuart finally stood up, and Cadmus realized he was tall, even taller than Laric. Reality itself seemed to get out of the way to make room for his height. Stuart walked to the center of the elevator, and stood there with red light pulsing all around him.

“I don’t understand.”

“I’m not asking you to. I’m asking you to get in the elevator already, and to stop making things difficult.”

So, it seemed as though Stuart was still insane. As such, Cadmus didn’t get in the elevator, and stared at him blankly. Stuart got tired of waiting. He made as if to grab Cadmus, and Cadmus panicked, slamming the button that would close the doors. Then he ran without chancing a look back. Even while he left, he could hear Stuart trying to wrench the doors back open and cursing.

“Don’t go down hallway C-Five, you hear me?” he shouted after him. “Don’t go down C-Five!”

Too late, Cadmus thought. C-Five was the closest hallway with stairs, and he wanted to get to the main hall as soon as possible. Where there was a lot of people. A lot of people with guns. A lot of people, in short, that could protect Cadmus from a rogue experiment better than he could. Cadmus skidded around the corner, and tumbled full force into the space Stuart had obviously not wanted him to tumble into. For what reason, Cadmus couldn’t be sure. The hall was completely empty.

It was a quick walk from where Cadmus stood to the stairwell. He tread quietly and cautiously, Stuart’s words echoing in his head. Cadmus was only half way across when he heard footsteps sounding from the joint hallway to the end of C-Five. They echoed off the walls, growing closer to Cadmus with each passing second. He felt his mind go blank.

The legs, recognizing that the brain had turned to mush, prepared to run as instructed by the backup of Cadmus’ conscience. This backup was called, plain and simple, animal instinct. He never actually got the chance, though. The moment Cadmus was about to bolt, a figure came zooming around the corner. It spotted him and froze like a deer caught in the headlights.

A few things became apparent to Cadmus as the newcomer stared him down. One, it appeared to have a female build. Two, it was in a white nightgown like a hospital patient. Finally, its eyes were glowing a freakish purple and it was beginning to advance. Cadmus gave it a rather undignified scream in response.

There was a flashing button near Cadmus. He jammed it quickly, to alert the guards to his coordinates as well as the coordinates of experiment seven. Next thing he knew, it had him pinned against the wall with his arm at an awkward angle. It started applying pressure. Cadmus whimpered as it kept pushing and pushing, right up until the shoulder popped out of its socket. It’s to be assumed that Cadmus screamed again.

The experiment let go and allowed him to fall to the floor, where he hit the side of his head. Cadmus had thought for sure that he would die at the hands of Stunfyr that night, but it seemed he would perish because of a haywire teenager. It dropped down in front of him in a crouch.

Cadmus tilted his head up and searched its face. Eyes bright, nostrils flared, mouth drawn in a neutral line. There was no humanity, not even anything Otherling, to be found there. It took a hold of his legs, and Cadmus closed his eyes in resignation. He listened to the frantic thrumming in his skull like it would calm him down, and tried very hard not to think about the fact that the thing was probably going to break his limbs.

For a second time, footsteps echoed down hallway C-Five. Hope flared in Cadmus’ chest. He looked to the staircase and shouted. “I’m over here! Help, it’s crazy!”

The experiment promptly smothered Cadmus’ mouth with its hand. It looked a little startled, he realized, with its eyes focused on the end of the hall. A moment later the expression was gone, replaced with a calculating one. Before Cadmus fully knew what was happening it had slammed his head against the wall and was sprinting away.

Good riddance, you filthy duck, Cadmus thought. After a second, he added, I am definitely not okay. He reached with his good arm to feel where his head had met brick, and his fingers came away sticky with blood.

There were people yelling at him. They sounded concerned. They were asking him what had happened, but Cadmus only managed to point where all of Operation Dragonfly’s hard work had run off before he slipped into unconsciousness.

I remember the good old days when the first chapters were only about two pages. Oh, well.

The title, if you hadn’t already guessed, is still pending. I do have a few ideas, though. As for Cadmus, I’m sure he’ll be all right. He’ll be in the infirmary for a bit (maybe using the “coupon” from Ty) but won’t be featured for most of the story. It’s a shame, really, because I found that I actually liked his name a lot.

I’m pretty excited to play around with this world; this excerpt has barely even scratched the surface.