Off The TBR’s Best Reads of 2018

Well it’s time for another best of list. You didn’t think the year would end before having to read mine did you? You could skip it I guess…but that would make you a sucky person and you’re not a sucky person right? I mean if you’re really tired of these then go ahead and skip it, but I’m taking the time to compile it so yeah I’d love for you to at least skim for the results and pics.

This was another great year for speculative fiction. Unfortunately for me I didn’t get to read as many as I would have liked and I reviewed even less. You’ve read all my rants and moans about my schedule this year so I won’t rehash it, but I’m disappointed I didn’t get more reviews posted. That being said here’s my “Best Of” list for 2018. This isn’t strictly a best of books published in 2018, but rather the my best reads for the year regardless of publication date.

If I’ve kept an accurate count I read 40+ books so far this year. One was a Beta read that I can’t talk about yet. The first five books in this list are my five star reviews that I actually wrote up. The last six are books that either were a 4.5 – 5.0 most of which were read during a time I didn’t have the bandwidth to post a review. Finally I have a couple of short-stories I fell in love with that I have no choice but to add to my best of list.

And as you scroll down notice how many self-pub/indie books made the list. Yep…I’ve become a fan.

5 Star Reviews

ForeverWar

The Forever War, by Joe Haldeman
Thomas Dunne Books
1974 (my edition 2009)

So. Damn. Good.

That’s was my first response to this amazing sci-fi classic. The Forever War was my first read in 2018 and set the bar high for everything that followed. It’s not only a great science fiction novel, it’s a great war novel as well. Beyond that it’s a story about humanity, our base desires, and what it means to leave and come home…if you ever can. Haldeman created something special with this book and I can’t recommend it enough. My review was long and had a few spoilers but I couldn’t help it.

You can read it here (The Forever War Review)

SenlinAscends

Senlin Ascends, by Josiah Bancroft
January 16, 2018
Orbit

Senlin Ascends is simply wonderful; a fantastic, page turning debut masterpiece!

That was the intro to my review for the first book in Josiah Bancroft’s The Books of Babel series. And oh was it ever so good. Whether it was Bancroft’s exquisite prose, the wonderful characters, or the fantastic world-building I couldn’t get enough of it. After getting some great exposure in the Self Published Fantasy Blog Off #SPFBO hosted by Mark Lawrence, Senlin Ascends and the rest of the Books of Babel series was picked up by Orbit and Bancroft has received the exposure he and his work deserved. I read The Arm of The Sphinx as well but Senlin edged it out for me, though many other readers would disagree. Read both and then The Hod King after that. You’ll be happy you did.

You can read my full review here (Senlin Ascends Review).

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Gedlund: A Tale of The Verin Empire, by William Ray
December 2014
Self-Published

Black powder weapons, railroads, steamships, spear chucking goblins, zombies, vampire lords, lightning giants and magic.

That was a list, not a sentence, but did it get your attention?

In Gedlund, William Ray takes blackpowder fantasy and merges it with sword and sorcery. What he produced is a war story set in a fantasy world that seems almost real. You know, except for the goblins and vampires and whatnot.

Ray sent me a copy of Gedlund early in the year and I admit I was hesitant. I hadn’t read many self-published books and still had a negative stereotype bouncing around in my head about them. Gedlund took that stereotype, ripped it to shreds, and made me thirsty for more great self-pub fantasy. More than just a fantasy war novel it explores themes of social barriers, social mobility and equality, gender equality, economic disparity, industrialization, imperialism and more.

Check out my full review here (Gedlund: A Tale of The Verin Empire Review).

TheHalfKilled

The Half Killed, by Quenby Olson
August 2015
World Tree Publishing

The Half Killed will seduce you. It will whisper and draw you gently into its pages. Before you know it you’re in its clutches. This isn’t a wanton sexual seduction, all about the eyes and desire. No, this is the kind that entices your mind, playing on your emotions of safety and fear, telling you its going to be all-right while you know for a certainty something evil lurks around the corner but you can’t help but trust and follow into the shadows. It is a dark, intimate, and immersive Victorian horror story that will keep you turning pages.

If William Ray’s Gedlund made me thirsty for more self-published/independent fantasy, Quenby Olson made that thirst unquenchable with The Half Killed. I described Olson’s prose as smooth and rich like chocolate syrup, which I know is an odd description for a supernatural/horror story but trust me it fits. Olson has a gift for creating atmosphere that grabs hold of you; that you can feel pressing down around you. I became an instant fan and can’t wait for more from her. I even read some of her supernatural short fiction, two of which she published this year that accompany The Half Killed in her Sundered Veil series.

Read my full review here (The Half Killed Review).

BloodyRose

Bloody Rose, by Nicholas Eames
August 28, 2018
Orbit

Oh my God Becky look at that book…it’s so…fucking good!

I really can’t express how much I truly loved Bloody Rose. It’s hand’s down one of my favorite fantasy reads of all time, and my favorite to come along in years. Yes it edges out Kings of The Wyld and that’s a huge statement. Eames managed to write what my be my favorite passage in fantasy literature because it turned on the waterfalls:

“She never sang about what happened beyond that threshold, nor spoke of it to anyone who wasn’t present themself. What was obvious, though, to those who knew her before and after that morning, was the woman who emerged was distinctly changed from the girl who entered.

Her smiles were shorter. Her laugh was louder. She became distracted at times, and would stare at nothing with a look of shattered sorrow that passed like a cloud the moment someone spoke her name.

She loved less quickly, but more fiercely, and made certain those she cared for knew it well.

Sometimes she wept when it snowed.”

Yep I cried. Not ashamed to admit it. Then I cussed at Eames on Twitter and he laughed at me. Sometimes I cry when it snows now.

If you want a great fantasy full of action and adventure, humor and sadness (lots of sobbing sadness) this is the book for you. Those emotions won’t be as strong if you haven’t read KoTW first, but damn they are powerful. Take my word for it, pick up this book and take another walk on the Wyld Side.

Read my full review here (Bloody Rose Review).

4.5 – 5.0, Non-Reviewed, and/or Best In Category

BloodofAssassins

Blood of Assasins, by RJ Barker
February 27, 2018
Orbit

RJ  Baker delivers an action packed, mystery filled adventure in Blood Of Assassins. If you were worried about a sophomore slump following Age Of Assassins put your concerns aside and pick this one up immediately. Blood Of Assassins is even better than its predecessor.

This was one I actually did manage to review and you can read it here (Blood of Assassins Review).

TheArmoredSaint

The Armored Saint, by Myke Cole
February 20, 2018
TOR

One goal this year was to branch out and read more books in categories I don’t normally pick up off the shelves. One of these was the novella. I read the Armored Saint late in the year and OMG it blew me away. Novella’s and short stories have always been difficult for me because they have to do so much with such little page count to really draw me in. The Armored Saint hit the right note on so many levels; great story, a character to fall in love with, great writing (was on the edge of my seat for one particular battle scene), pacing, atmosphere, and the feels…I love when a book gets me in the feels. I can’t wait to read book two in The Sacred Throne series. Myke Cole has made me a fan.

Link to Goodreads here.

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Kingshold, by D.P. Woolliscroft
April, 2018
Self-Published

Kingshold was another  book that proves how good the self-pub market is today. A political fantasy novel set in a land where the king and queen have been deposed and the mage who did it decides to set-up a republic in place of the monarchy. As contenders emerge to vie for power plots and intrigues and murder ensue. I’ll admit it started a little slow for me but it picked up steam and before long I couldn’t put it down. Loved the story, characters, humor, and world-building. Can’t wait for book two in the Wildfire Cycle.

Goodreads link here.

51BwLUtcqUL._SY346_

The Wolf of Oren-Yaro, by K.S. Villoso
January 29, 2018
Liam’s Vigil

Oof…K.S. Villoso apparently has a knack for writing really good character driven novels. Novels that make you fall in love with a character and make you want to beat them over the head. You also apparently can’t read one of her books without wanting to yell at her for what she does to them or what she makes them do. I was drawn in from the beginning and didn’t want to set it down. I’ve only read this first in the series of The Annals of The Bitch Queen (great series title btw) and once again I became an instant fan. I also loved that The Wolf of Oren-Yaro is non-western fantasy, something I wanted to read more of this year. It’s Asian cultural setting really came alive for me. I plan on reading The Ikessar Falcon (book two of The Annals of The Bitch Queen) in early 2019.

Goodreads link here.

AncillaryJustice

Ancillary Justice, by Ann Leckie
October 1, 2013
Orbit

I went to a book signing for Ann Leckie when her latest novel Provenance was released. I picked up Ancillary Justice at that time because I wanted to start reading that universe where the story started. Wow. This book won a ton of awards including the Hugo, Nebula, Arthur C. Clarke, Locus, and BFSA, and I understand why. Leckie’s approach to gender and identity in particular was fascinating. I loved the story, the sentient hive-mind ships, the use of time, approach to gender (I’m still trying to decide if Justice of Toren is male of female, or if it even matters), and so much more. If you’re looking for a great sci-fi novel definitely pick this one up. I’ll be putting book two of The Imperial Radch series on my to read list for 2019.

Goodreads link here.

NOS4A2

NOS4A2, by Joe Hill
April 30, 2013
William Morrow

I read NOS4A2 as part of my Halloween reads in October and boy was it creepy as hell. It is now one of my favorite horror reads. With this book there is no doubt Hill is a talent in the genre. It’s hard not to compare Hill to his father, I mean you can see the influence, but he really makes his own mark with this one. I’m really at a loss what to say about it other than how much it really did creep me out (which I loved). Creepy, sad, disturbing, yet achingly beautiful at the same time. Just trust me on this one, if you want a good horror read pick this one up.

Goodreads link here.

Short-Stories

Another category I wanted to read more of this year was short-stories. Like I mentioned above about The Armored Saint, novellas and short-stories have always been difficult for me because of how much the author has to do with such limited space. Historically I haven not been a fan of either. This year I wanted to explore more in these categories to see what I’d been missing. There were two short-stories I read that stood out to me this year both from Apex Magazine, and I highly recommend them.

Apex105

A Witch’s Guide to Escape: A Practical Compendium of Portal Fantasies, by Alix E. Harrow
Apex Magazine, Issue 105, February 2018

When I came across this story I think I read it like three times in a row. This is easily one of my favorite short-stories I’ve ever read. Harrow’s prose and style sucked me in, and the narrative kept me scrolling down the screen. It’s beautiful, sad, poignant, and simply an amazing piece of writing. I hope you’ll read it and fall in love with it too. Harrow has a full-length portal fantasy novel The Ten Thousand Doors of January coming out in 2019 that I can’t wait to devour.

ApexMag99b

Welcome to Your Authentic Indian Experienceby Rebecca Roanhorse
Apex Magazine, Issue 99, August 2017

Many of you will recognize Rebecca Roanhorse because she published the popular Trail of Lightening earlier this year which gained a ton of positive reviews. Before that she wrote this little story which went on to win the Hugo and the Nebula awards for best short-story, and once you read it you’ll know why. She reaches for your gut and doesn’t let go. When I finished reading I had to sit with it a while. I literally didn’t move for like 30 minutes while I attempted to process what I’d read. That’s damn good story telling. Full of pain and longing, and questions of identity and culture this one still has me thinking. Read it. Trust me.

Well there you go…my best of list for 2018. I hope you’ll find something above you hadn’t read yet and give it a try. If you’ve already read them let me know your thoughts in the comments. Now…what to read in 2019…?

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5 thoughts on “Off The TBR’s Best Reads of 2018

  1. Pingback: 2018 Year In Review | Off The TBR

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