eighteen awesome books I read in 2018

2018 isn’t over yet and I’m definitely not done reading books for this year, but the chances of reading an utterly fantastic book between now and 2019 is pretty slim (though not impossible!).  I’ve read over 200 books this year and I thought I’d share eighteen of my favorites. (Because lists are life.) (I got the idea for this list from the title of this video – haven’t watched it yet though.)

__________________________________

~Heartless by Marissa Meyer – Easily my favorite book of 2018.  I read it quite early in the year and then reread it in June and it stood the reread test against so many other fantastic books.  This book has my heart in a way I don’t fully understand, especially as the ending is so horrible.  But I still love it.

Image result for heartless marissa meyer

~Fawkes by Nadine Brandes – Every time I reread this book, I adore it a little more.  Nadine knows how to create deep, rich characters and worlds that fascinate.  And I want to steal her faith-weaving writing skills.

~Jane Fairfax by Joan Aiken – Rewatching ‘Emma’ (2009) made me remember how much I enjoyed reading Jane Fairfax a few months ago.  Aiken captures Jane Austen’s writing style allllmost exactly and since I love retellings and Emma, I was pretty much destined to like this book.

~God on the Streets of Gotham by Paul Asay – *mind blown*  Paul Asay does a fabulous job of unearthing spiritual truth in Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy.  I was intrigued and inspired, no question about it.

~Room by Emma Donaghue – One of the most gripping, engrossing books I’ve ever, ever read.  Loved it.  I have a five year old brother and Donaghue perfectly captured the thought processes of five year old boys.  The movie was good, too, but I definitely prefer the book.

Image result for room book

~Rogue One (novelization) by Alexander Freed – Some people might not think that novelizations count as ‘real’ books but Rogue One amazed me.  I’ve read hardly any movie novelizations because the bad writing annoys me, but this book was written incredibly well.  I was sucked right back into Jyn and Cassian’s world.

~Cataylst by James Luceno – Yes, this is a prequel to a prequel (Rogue One) but, again, super well written.  My science fiction-loving heart gobbled it up like candy.  I believe I would have loved it even if I hadn’t known Lyra, Galen, and Krennic.

~For the Glory by Duncan Hamilton – The story of Eric Liddell’s life from beginning to end.  Comparable to the beauty, rawness, and power of Unbroken (in fact, I’m not sure which book I like best).  This book cemented Eric Liddell as one of my favorite historical heroes and I’m so grateful.

~Do Hard Things by Alex and Brett Harris – The message of this book is crazy good.  Just read it!

Image result for do hard things book

~Transgression by Randy Ingermanson – This is a Christian novel that I picked up for free on my Kindle and I LOVED it.  The writing was excellent (unlike so many Christian novels), the time travel aspect was the best (time travel is a Favorite Thing of mine), and the fact that the whole plot focused around the Apostle Paul and one of the best romances everrrr?  Yes please.

~Jane of Austin by Hillary Manton Lodge – Can I just say that I LOVE RETELLINGS.  Sometimes they’re not so great, but most of the time I can’t get enough.  Jane of Austin is one of the latter.  It’s a delicately written retelling of Sense & Sensibility that works on every level.

~A Song Unheard by Roseanna M. White – To be honest, it’s been a while since I read this book and I don’t remember many details.  But what I do remember is that it’s my favorite of the Shadows Over England trilogy, I love the two mains (as their own characters and as a couple), and the bits in ?France? with Lukas’ sister were excellent. (Also, I really like the name Lukas!)

~The Silver Branch by Rosemary Sutcliff – Oh my goodness, I loved this book so much.  Justin and Flavius’ friendship, the intricate and interesting plot, that Christian centurion…ugggggh.  So, so good.  Also, honorable mention to Warrior Scarlet and Eagle of the Ninth because those two are also great Sutcliff books that I read this year.

Image result for the silver branch book

~Scythe by Neal Shusterman – Finally!  A dystopian that isn’t focused on romance, one that has clear, sharp world-building and fantastic characters that hark back to the characterization in the Hunger Games trilogy. (Though Scythe is very much its own book.)  This book (and its sequel, Thunderhead) influenced quite a bit of my NaNoWriMo novel.

~The Railway Children by E. Nesbit – My mom actually read this book aloud to my siblings and I and, while I knew the basic story, it was nice to get more detail.  The ending is something that can make me cry just, you know, thinking about it. *sniffles*

~The Cross and the Switchblade by David Wilkerson – Powerful, moving, and inspiring.

~Life of Pi by Yann Martel – For some reason, this book and Room are forever linked in my mind.  Maybe because the experience of reading both was so similar – breathless turning of pages because the story’s world sucked me in so completely.  Plus, they’re both semi-recent bestsellers that I read in the same year.

~Batman: Nightwalker by Marie Lu – It’s Batman!  Need I say more?

Image result for batman nightwalker

__________________________________

What are some of your favorite books of 2018?

Eva

Advertisements

among the stacks: life as a library-loving kid

Image may contain: one or more people

Little Eva reading

During those warm Canadian summers when I was in my tweens and early teens, I practically lived at the Pickering Public Library.  I remember lugging gigantic, ridiculously heavy bags of books back and forth between the library and my house (and back again).  The library was a twenty minute walk away and sometimes it felt like my arms would fall off but I still persevered.  I loved that library.  I can still remember the layout, still remember how I felt whenever I’d go there.  I remember everything.  Since those exciting days, my family has moved a bunch of times but I still have a library card from PPL in my wallet.

Anyway, I thought I’d share memories of some of the books I read over and over and OVER again all those years ago.  They’re almost all book series because I hardly ever read stand-alones (for some reason).  Without further ado…

// Geronimo Stilton //

Image result for geronimo stilton

Okay, the books are trash now (the newer ones I mean).  But back when my siblings and I first discovered them, they were seriously the best.  I still remember the very first one I read – The Mysterious Cheese Thief – and my favorite in the series was always Wedding Crasher (because weddings, even though no wedding takes place).  I know the books are silly and cheesy (HAHAHAHA) and meant for very little kids, but they still hold a special place in my heart.  As do the Thea Stilton books.

// Roman Mysteries //

Image result for roman mysteries books

Ohhhh man.  These books destroyed me because even though they’re supposed to be for tweens, they are really heavy and intense (especially the farther you get in the series).  I loved the characters so much and was always frustrated that the library didn’t have the whole series.  My favorite was always The Gladiators From Capua (maybe setting me up for my love of ‘Gladiator’?).

// The Lady Grace Mysteries //

Image result for the lady grace mysteries

Like a lot of tween girls, I was slightly obsessed with books told in the style of a diary and I must have read the Lady Grace books a gazillion times. #best  I tried reading one or two a few months ago but they didn’t grip me as much and I was actually kind of shocked to find out that Grace is only thirteen when the series starts – she always seemed so mature!  But the mysteries were good and still hold up today…plenty of fun twists and turns.  My favorite book is definitely Exile.  It was the first one I read and I still think it’s the most interesting.

// The Royal Diaries //

Related image

Basically, ask any book-loving tween from the early 2000’s who their favorite historical princess is and they’ll probably come back with a really obscure one…all thanks to the Royal Diaries series.  Sure, the various authors cover more well-known princesses like Anastasia (who was actually a duchess?), Princess/Queen Elizabeth I, and Marie Antoinette. (My personal favorite book was the one about Cleopatra.)  But there are plenty of wild cards in the series as well.  It’s actually super fascinating.  Like, who but Royal Diary readers have ever heard of Jahanara or Kaiulani or Nzingha?

// Nick of Time //

Related image

Finally a stand-alone!  Oh my word, this book was my life.  Seriously.  I’d always skip the pirate bits because they bored me and the Nazi chapters were SO nerve-wracking.  Even though Nick’s little sister was quite a bit younger than me, I probably developed more than a bit of a crush on Hobbes because he protects her so well and is so kind to her (and I put myself in her shoes).  Love that. (I seriously thought that if I could marry a guy like Hobbes, I’d die happy.  Or something.)

There are more books of course, but those are the Big Five (the Girls of Many Lands series also deserves a mention).  You’ve got to understand that when I was younger I’d read for hours upon hours every. single. day. and those books were so vivid and real for me.  I can’t remember the plot details of a book I read two months ago but I’ll never forget those heady hours of plots against royalty, humanoid mice, Cleopatra’s innermost thoughts, Nazis and amazing British dudes, and gladiators dying gruesomely.

What books absolutely captured your imagination as a child?

Eva

my favorite composers #4 – Hans Zimmer

Image result for hanz zimmer

There isn’t a Hans Zimmer score that I don’t love.

Of course, there are loads that I haven’t listened to but he’s a musical genius so I don’t expect my opinion will change even if I listen to ALL of his soundtracks.  The main thing that prompted this post (besides the fact that I’m overdue to write another favorite composer thingy) is that I watched some of ‘Driving Miss Daisy’ and his score was the bomb.  Really unique for his style (based on the music of his that I’ve heard so far) and very, very fun.  At this point, I can’t over-listen to it!

Besides creating some of my favorite soundtracks, Hans Zimmer has also scored some of my favorite movies – ‘Prince of Egypt’, ‘Rain Man’, ‘Gladiator’, ‘Batman Begins’ (with James Newton Howard; Zimmer scored the Batman scenes and Howard did Bruce Wayne’s parts which I think is so COOL, the way they split it up), the Kung Fu Panda franchise, ‘The Amazing Spider-Man 2’, ‘The Dark Knight Rises’…and then there are other soundtracks of his that I enjoy even if I haven’t watch the movies.  Like the Pirates of the Caribbean movies.

(I will point out that quite a few of Zimmer’s scores are collabs with him and at least one other composer.  But he is still a great composer in his own right.)

Definitely check out Hans Zimmer’s soundtracks on Youtube or Spotify – you won’t be disappointed!

Eva

introducing ‘The Truth About Us’!!!

(Yes.  I did just use three exclamation marks.  Because even though it might seem Unprofessional I’m very, very excited to share this with y’all.)

I published a thing, you guys.  On Wattpad.

the-truth-about-us-wattpad

*screams and flails because THAT COVER*

(Confession: I made that cover on Canva.  So maybe I shouldn’t pat myself on the back so much.  But I LOVE IT.)

Story blurb:

Ava Taylor’s plan for the summer: die of boredom right after her best friend moves away. Sure, Kai set her up on a blind date before she left so Ava won’t be completely alone. But Ava has known loneliness before and she knows how tough it is to shake. Going out with a random guy can’t change how she feels…or can it?

Beckett Reese’s plan for the summer: stay invisible. But when a case of mistaken identity pushes him into Ava Taylor’s life, invisible isn’t an option anymore. Not when you’re dating the richest girl in Mason. But will secrets tear them apart before they can really know each other?

A story perfect for fans of The Fill-In Boyfriend and To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before.

(Let me tell you…writing story blurbs is HARD.  And I’m still not completely satisfied with this one, but it gives you the bare bones of the story, y’know?)

I’m serializing The Truth About Us on Wattpad, a chapter a week (each Friday).  I mainly wrote it for fun but I’m always serious about editing/catching typos/etc. so I’m hoping that it’s pretty good quality.  Anyway, I hope that you’ll at least check out the first chapter to see if it’s your cup of tea and let me know what you think either on the site or in the comments below!

Eva

“even a traitor may mend.”

Image result for quotes about redemption

I haven’t properly fangirled on this blog in a while, so today I’m going to be talking about a favorite character trope (and favorite characters to go along with said trope).  The trope is ‘traitor/antagonist/villain/generally dislikable character turned awesome and sweet and perfect’.  It’s a thing and it’s the best.  Might even be my favorite trope of all time.  In this post I’m going to list seven characters who left the dark side and talk a little bit about why I love them so.

  • Dan Kean (Little Men/Jo’s Boys) – Dan was the first character to make me fall for this particular trope.  When he first came to Plumfield he was surly, antagonistic, and generally a bad influence.  But then everything changed through a series of interesting/sad events and I love it and I love him.  I’m going to write an article about Dan for Feminista where I’ll explain more about why he’s my favorite fictional character evah.  So stay tuned for that.
  • Edmund Pevensie (The Chronicles of Narnia) – EDMUNDDDDD.  I kinda wish Lewis had spent more time diving into Edmund’s angst and emotions but the Narnia books aren’t really suited to that (I guess).  That’s what fanfiction’s for!  Honestly, though, Edmund is great and you can read more of my thoughts on him in this post.
  • Ben McKenna Morgan (The Adversaries) – The Adversaries is a book by Jack Cavanaugh which you’ve probably never heard of.  Ben is an officer in the Union army who hates several of the book’s main characters, for various reasons.  But by the end of the story he’s found out that he’s actually related to those main characters he’s hated and he gets saved and his personality completely turns around.  The transformation always makes me tear up.
  • Chris (Shane) – It’s been a while since I read Shane, but Chris always stood out to me because of his switch from mindless lackey to a maturing young man who thinks for himself and chooses the right path (mainly because of Shane himself).
  • Phillip (The Candymakers) – Phillip is one-third of the reason why The Candymakers is one of my favorite books of all time (the other thirds are Miles and Logan).  At first glance you think he’s a spoiled rich kid who’s basically the definition of ‘snobbish’.  But there’s soooo much more to him and it’s great.
  • Allan (BBC’s Robin Hood) – First season Allan is a trickster whose loyalties are shaky at best.  Second season Allan is a traitor (up until the last episode or so).  But third season Allan is brave, loyal, and smart.  He grows and changes and matures AND THEN THE WRITERS HAD TO KILL HIM OFF IN THE MOST AWFUL WAY.  I will never get over the injustice of Allan’s death.
  • Julian Albert (CW’s The Flash) – I believe I’ve already fangirled over Julian – a lot.  But still.  He was Doctor Alchemy for the first few episodes of Season 3 but that wasn’t really his fault because he was brainwashed.  But he also disliked Barry (for understandable reasons) and it was awesome seeing him thaw out over the season.  I’m a fan. (And even if his character was rather unneeded, he’s still a sweetheart and I hope he comes back.)

Sooooo…what’s your favorite character trope?  Do you like/love any of the characters I listed above?  Let me know in the comments!

Eva

gift ideas from Literary Book Gifts: a guest post

I was recently approached by Melissa, creator of Literary Book Gifts, requesting an opportunity to guest post on my blog to promote her small-but-growing-and-awesome online business.  I was happy to feature her on my blog because I believe that y’all would be interested in her products (and Christmas is just around the corner).  So read on for gift ideas and a special promo code!

Incidentally, if you have a product, book, or DVD that you would like me to review or promote, go here for more details on how to start the review/promotion process!

________________________________________

Have you ever found yourself in a bookstore hunting for gifts for multiple people? I know I have. Books make for great gifts but this day in age, with eBooks and bestsellers alike, choosing a newly released book as a present can be disappointing for the giver if the receiver already owns it. Hunting for unique gifts is a fun but exhausting experience, but the look on their face when they open a gift they truly love is priceless!

Here are a few bookish gift ideas for your perusal. Perhaps they will get you thinking about some fun ways to bring a smile to the face of any reader, writer, or storyteller!

The-Grimms-Fairy-Tales-Tote-Bag

This The Grimms’ Fairy Tales Tote Bag is the perfect present for anyone who carries books lots of books to and from the library, on day trips, or anywhere they go! Jacob Grimm and Wilhelm Grimm wrote this title in 1812, but we still read it today, even if not in it’s original edition. It contains some of our most well known and retold fairytales including Cinderella and Little Snow White. So really, even if those who don’t know who the Brothers Grimm are, are probably still familiar with their stories. This crimson red tote with a golden print makes is great for those who read fairytales or those who love antique designs.

Do you love book shirts? Wearing this cozy shirt will always remind you of Shakespeare and his intriguing plays and sonnets. The Tempest is one of Shakespeare’s major plays. This pale blue printed shirt showcasing a ship in a storm is sure to spark some conversation between you and a fellow avid Shakespeare fan. Each women’s shirt comes in multiple color options and in sizes XS to 3XL.

The-Tempest-T-Shirt

Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes is a fun read in either English or Spanish. This Don Quixote T-Shirt will always remind any Cervantes fan of the iconic windmills, a major aspect of the seminal novel. Available in 11 different color options and in sizes S to 5XL there is a style great for any adoring fan. Both men’s and women’s shirts come in cotton fabric for breathability and comfort. For those who like their fabric with a heathered look and feel, these colors exist in the store as well with varying amounts of polyester.

Don-Quixote-T-Shirt

Thank you for reading a little bit about a few of the products and designs you see in the store. Happy holidays to everyone wherever you are in the world!

For readers of Coffee, Classics, & Craziness the promo code CLASSICSANDCRAZINESS20 can be entered at checkout to receive 20% off on any order! This coupon code does not expire, there is no minimum.

Written by Melissa Chan, coffee lover, reader of classic novels, and designer at Literary Book Gifts.

meet Frank

“…nobody pays me to poke my nose into others’ business.” -Frank Barclay, What Dreams May Come

Image result for hamlet quotes After I finished The Darkness Is Past on the 12th, I cast around for another writing project that I could undertake during the rest of November.  I finished a YA novella I’d been working on before NaNoWriMo (currently waiting for edits and then coming to a Wattpad near you!) and then I thought I’d try my hand at the other NaNo idea I had – a western retelling of Shakespeare’s Hamlet (tentatively titled What Dreams May Come).

I plotted everything out, decided that I’d tell the story from Hamlet’s and Ophelia’s POVs (alternating chapters).  It was going to be great.  So I started writing and…it was horrible.  I guess the writing was technically okay but I hated Hamlet/Harry after writing for two seconds in his point of view (Ophelia/Annie was a little better, but still not right).  And Hamlet is one of my favorite literary protagonists!  Something was wrong so I set the story aside, thinking that it wasn’t the right time to tell it.

Image result for hamlet quotes

Except that, on Sunday as my family went to church, Fortinbras/Frank started talking to me and wouldn’t SHUT UP.  I’ve never had a character talk to me so clearly, with their own voice and everything.  So I started writing the story from his point of view and the whole thing was amazing and worked so well and I just…I love it.  Even though I’ve done little to no thinking about his goals, motivations, voice, etc., Frank is one of the most well-rounded, real characters I’ve ever written.  At least, that’s how he feels to me.

It’s super interesting (and challenging) to tell such a familiar story as Hamlet from the POV of such a minor character who’s in pretty much none of the original story.  But it’s working!  I’m taking a few liberties with some plot points, as is customary in most retellings, but I’m also having fun with figuring out how to get things across to the reader when Frank isn’t actually present for the important stuff.

I can’t decide whether to cast Frank as Glenn Ford or Dana Andrews because they both remind me of him.

And what is Frank like, exactly?  He’s serious.  He loves his father (who’s passed away) and wants to honor his memory.  He thinks things through, is very gentlemanly where women are concerned, keeps his thoughts to himself, and tries to find the most sensible solutions to problems.  He has very definite opinions about people and it’s hard to shake him from them. (He’s an ISTJ, if that means anything to y’all.)

He’s honestly one of my favorite characters that I’ve ever written.  I’m excited to continue writing his story and sharing bits and pieces with you!

Eva