Each year I share my best fiction books – books that caught me up and for whatever reason, didn’t let me go. They’re the books that gave me a book hangover, making it difficult to move on to my next read.
This year, Laura is also joining me sharing her top fiction book of 2018.
I use Goodreads to record the books I’ve read and mid-December was surprised that in 2018
I hope you enjoy the format this year! I have still categorised but not by genre and my overall best fiction book is last.
Before we get to mine, here’s Laura’s top fiction book of 2018:
The wry, macabre, unforgettable tale of an ambitious orphan in Revolutionary Paris, befriended by royalty and radicals alike, who transforms herself into the legendary Madame Tussaud. In 1761, a tiny, odd-looking girl named Marie is born in a village in Alsace. After the death of her parents, she is apprenticed to an eccentric wax sculptor and whisked off to the seamy streets of Paris, where they meet a domineering widow and her quiet, pale son. Together, they convert an abandoned monkey house into an exhibition hall for wax heads, and the spectacle becomes a sensation. As word of her artistic talent spreads, Marie is called to Versailles, where she tutors a princess and saves Marie Antoinette in childbirth. But outside the palace walls, Paris is roiling: The revolutionary mob is demanding heads, and . . . at the wax museum, heads are what they do.
Edward Carey’s Little is a wonder – the incredible story of a ‘blood-stained crumb of a girl’ who went on to shape the world.
Out of all the books I have read it is the most memorable so far this year.
I love history and it was fascinating to find out about Madam Tussaurd, who led such an interesting life.
I loved the illustrations within the book too.
There are ten books in total on my best fiction books of 2018 list.
My best fiction book for intrigue, secrets and lies:
At twenty-six, Lillian feels trapped by life. Her marriage to Charles Oberon has not turned out the way she expected it would. To her it seems she is just another object captured within the walls of Cloudesley, her husband’s beautiful manor house tucked away high in the Chiltern Hills. But, with a young step-son and a sister to care for, Lillian accepts there is no way out for her. Then Charles makes an arrangement with an enigmatic artist visiting their home and his presence will unbalance everything she thought she knew and understood.
Maggie Oberon ran from the hurt and resentment she caused. Half a world away, in Australia, it was easier to forget, to pretend she didn’t care. But when her elderly grandmother, Lillian, falls ill she must head back to Cloudesley. Forced to face her past, Maggie fights to hold herself and her family’s legacy together as she learns that all she thought was real, all that she held so close, was never as it seemed.
Two summers, decades apart.
Two women whose lives are forever entwined.
And a house that holds the dark secrets that could free them both.
It is suspenseful, poignant, and yes compelling but there’s so much more. It’s a dark and gritty look at humanity. Duty and what should be done conflicts with personal happiness.
The Peacock Summer holds its secrets close (one secret I didn’t guess) and the emotions I felt while reading are not fleeting.
My best fiction book for a kick-ass heroine:
Sometimes spaceships disappear with everyone on board – the Lost Ships. But sometimes they come back, strangely altered, derelict, and rumoured to be full of horrors.
Opal is on a mission. She’s been seeking something her whole life. Something she is willing to die for. And she thinks it might be on a Lost Ship.
Opal has stolen Clarissa, an experimental AI-controlled spaceship, from the military. Together they have tracked down a Lost Ship, in a lonely nebula far from colonised space.
The Lost Ship is falling into the gravity well of a neutron star, and will soon be truly lost … forever. Legends say the ships harbour death, but there’s no time for indecision.
Opal gears up to board it. She’s just one woman, entering an alien and lethal environment. But perhaps with the aid of Clarissa’s intelligence – and an armoured spacesuit – Opal may stand a chance.
I loved the fact we have two (I’m counting Clarissa, the AI in this) strong female leads who make split second decisions from very limited options, showing true grit and resilience. Who are not adverse to breaking the rules to get what’s needed and pushing through to the end and yet are loyal and steadfast. An appearance from a senior member of the military only serves to highlight issues of freedom and morality. Do you follow what you know to be true or do you bend your knee to the hierarchy? It’s not until later on that we find out for sure what drives Opal’s behaviour. For once it didn’t matter to me. She had my vote from the beginning. All readers will be able to able to identify with the psychology that underpins the story as well as feel a connection to Opal.
My best fiction book for atmosphere:
Audrey Hart is on the Isle of Skye to collect the folk and fairy tales of the people and communities around her. It is 1857 and the Highland Clearances have left devastation and poverty, and a community riven by fear. The crofters are suspicious and hostile to a stranger, claiming they no longer know their fireside stories.
Then Audrey discovers the body of a young girl washed up on the beach and the crofters reveal that it is only a matter of weeks since another girl disappeared. They believe the girls are the victims of the restless dead: spirits who take the form of birds.
Initially, Audrey is sure the girls are being abducted, but as events accumulate she begins to wonder if something else is at work. Something which may be linked to the death of her own mother, many years before.
From the beginning there is a foreboding, a sense of doom and a ‘heavy’ atmosphere as Audrey journeys by boat to Skye … which continues throughout the story, almost becoming a character in its own right. I loved the isolation and the harshness of the climate around the Buchanan Estate and villages and thought Anna Mazzola used this to full effect. I fell under its spell.
My best fiction book for strongest loyalty to a character:
I don’t remember what happened or what has changed.
I can still hear your voices but you can’t seem to hear me.
I was about to be married and had everything to look forward to.
Now I have to find a way back – to you, to our family, to us.
There is one simple thing that makes a huge difference to this story (in my opinion) and that is hearing Maddie’s narrative first. When it came to Chloe’s narrative I thought oh no, I’m going to have all the feels for her now. But NO! I was loyal to Maddie. She had my heart. It gave her an advantage. So when the rest of the story unfolds, at first, I felt hatred. I felt like the worst person in the world to wish so much harm. In fact, the strength of my feelings surprised me.
My best fiction book for all the feels:
Laurie is pretty sure love at first sight doesn’t exist. After all, life isn’t a scene from the movies, is it? But then, through a misted-up bus window one snowy December day, she sees a man she knows instantly is the one. Their eyes meet, there’s a moment of pure magic…and then her bus drives away.
Laurie thinks she’ll never see the boy from the bus again. But at their Christmas party a year later, her best friend Sarah introduces her to the new love of her life. Who is, of course, the boy from the bus.
Determined to let him go, Laurie gets on with her life. But what if fate has other plans?
One Day in December really did sweep me off my feet!
It was easy to identify with all the characters and become emotionally involved. I always enjoy both leads narrating and for me, this really did add depth in this story. I felt uncomfortable when the characters did and of course all the emotions that come from a star-crossed love story. I wasn’t really sure who I wanted to champion as I wanted Laurie, Sarah and Jack to be where they should be romantically, but where was that?
Mental health/PTSD is written realistically and is an integral part of the story. It’s a key event that prompts change and although led me away from where I wanted the story to go, is also integral to the ending. And wow! what an ending. I was literally sobbing.
My best fiction book for being pushed out of my comfort zone:
On a bright morning in the London suburbs, a family moves into the house they’ve just bought on Trinity Avenue. Nothing strange about that. Except it’s your house. And you didn’t sell it.
FOR BETTER, FOR WORSE.
When Fi Lawson arrives home to find strangers moving into her house, she is plunged into terror and confusion. She and her husband Bram have owned their home on Trinity Avenue for years and have no intention of selling. How can this other family possibly think the house is theirs? And why has Bram disappeared when she needs him most?
FOR RICHER, FOR POORER.
Bram has made a catastrophic mistake and now he is paying. Unable to see his wife, his children or his home, he has nothing left but to settle scores. As the nightmare takes grip, both Bram and Fi try to make sense of the events that led to a devastating crime. What has he hidden from her – and what has she hidden from him? And will either survive the chilling truth – that there are far worse things you can lose than your house?
TILL DEATH US DO PART.
Our House made me feel very uncomfortable in that I knew how I should feel. But. I didn’t. We have rules and laws in our society for a reason don’t we and they should have had more of an impact on how I felt. However, emotions are powerful and sometimes there is no black and white but the murky path in-between.
This is a story shrouded in darkness and motives that come from the light that lead to dark and the dark that lead to well, dark. Fi’s strength is her weakness and even though all we see is Bram’s weaknesses I felt that ultimately, he had colossal strength. Neither are ‘better’ than the other, just different in how their childhood’s laid the pattern on how they view the world. Who is the victim and who the perpetrator?
My best fiction book for world building:
The Ninth Rain has fallen. The Jure’lia are awake. Nothing can be the same again.
Tormalin the Oathless and the fell-witch Noon have their work cut out rallying the first war-beasts to be born in Ebora for three centuries. But these are not the great winged warriors of old. Hatched too soon and with no memory of their past incarnations, these onetime defenders of Sarn can barely stop bickering, let alone face an ancient enemy who grow stronger each day.
The key to uniting them, according to the scholar Vintage, may lie in a part of Sarn no one really believes exists – a distant island, mysteriously connected to the fate of two legendary Eborans who disappeared long ago.
But finding it will mean a perilous journey in a time of war, while new monsters lie in wait for those left behind.
Join the heroes of THE NINTH RAIN as they battle a terrible evil, the likes of which Sarn has never known.
Jen William’s takes world building to a different level entirely.
Her world building is awe inspiring. The different tribes and the politics, fell-witches, Eborans and their history is seamless. The settings are amazing – in Ebora, Sarn, the Wild, and the Winnowry.
There is such depth to the different cultures, their customs and rituals. What a creative mind she has! Where does she get her ideas! So magnificent…
My best fiction book for the best romantic activity:
Lara Weeks is heading to New York with best friend Susie for the Christmas trip of a lifetime.
A festive break in the snowy Big Apple visiting the tourist hotspots, not to mention the shopping, seems like the perfect way for Lara to get over her ex-boyfriend. Or maybe make him so jealous he begs for a second chance.
Enlisting the help of gorgeous actor, Seth Hunt, doesn’t quite go to plan, but there’s something about him that has Lara wishing for a different kind of happy ever after…
Sometimes there’s such an awesome activity in a story that you want to run with it in your own life.
I loved Seth’s inspired idea for how to travel the world ♥ So creative and very romantic.
I might magpie his idea. 🙂
My best fiction book for inspiration:
Once a spirited, independent woman with a rebellious streak, Masha’s life has been forever changed by a tragic event twelve years ago. Unable to let go of her grief, she finds comfort in her faithful canine companion Haizum, and peace in the quiet lanes of her town’s lido.
Then a chance encounter with two extraordinary women – the fabulous and wise Kitty Muriel, a convent girl turned magician’s wife turned seventy-something roller disco
fanatic, and the mysterious Sally Red Shoes, a bag lady with a prodigious voice – opens up a new world of possibilities, and the chance to start living again. But just as Masha dares to imagine the future, her past comes roaring back …
If you’re looking for inspiration on finding the small joys in life then The Wisdom of Sally Red Shoes by Ruth Hogan might be just the thing you need. I’ve felt honoured to be a part of this healing journey. An uplifting story that left me feeling at peace.
My best fiction book overall:
Do you remember when you believed in magic?
It is 1917, and while war wages across Europe, in the heart of London, there is a place of hope and enchantment.
The Emporium sells toys that capture the imagination of children and adults alike: patchwork dogs that seem alive, toy boxes that are bigger on the inside, soldiers that can fight battles of their own. Into this family business comes young Cathy Wray, running away from a shameful past. The Emporium takes her in, makes her one of its own.
But Cathy is about to discover that the Emporium has secrets of its own…
The Toymakers will take you back to your childhood, to the sights and sounds and smells, evoking memories and comfort and safety. To a time of innocence and wonder.
Papa Jack’s experiences taught him the truth which we get to see when he ‘shows’ Cathy Wray (I felt it keenly at the time but it’s fading now which makes me feel sad) and his sons, Kaspar and Emil need to understand this truth before they can become the magicians they have the power to be. In the darkest and most brutal time is when you find the brightest light …
It’s a fascinating concept and felt real. And at the end when we find out … mind blowing!
The Emporium is a time out of time, with worlds within worlds and The Toymakers is an experience I won’t be forgetting for a very long time. Outstanding.
Reading is, of course, subjective. What works for me might not work for you as our different experiences in life lead us to interpret the worlds that authors create differently. If you have anything to say about my choices, leave a comment or chat with me on social media. Have you read any of my best fiction books for 2018?