Top 5 Wednesday: 2018 Honorable Mentions

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Hosted by the Top 5 Wednesday Goodreads Group

I know, I know. I said I’d be back to my regular posting schedule last week and then immediately went MIA again. All I want to do is *gun shot* *gun shot* *cash register noise* make it up to you. I will do that by giving you a few surprises.

First, today’s T5W post is going to be a T7W post. Which I’m definitely doing for my loyal readers and not because I can’t narrow my list down any further. The fact that you would even accuse me of that is preposterous and, quite frankly, insulting.

Anyway, the second surprise is still a secret. And, until I’m ready to reveal it, we’ve got a list to get through. This week’s topic is our most disappointing reads of 2018. The thing is I already made that list a few weeks ago. And my readers deserve fresh content, goddamn it!

I had originally planned on skipping this week’s T5W. I just wanted to leave 2018 behind as soon as the ball dropped. As you can tell by the title, I decided instead to tweak this week’s topic. There were a couple books that didn’t make my Best List that I never really gave their due. Well, now they’re getting it.

So, here are my Top 7 2018 Honorable Mentions:

  1. Sawkill Girls by Claire Legrand


On Sawkill Rock, girls have been mysteriously disappearing for decades. The paths of three girls cross shortly after another disappearance. Marion is new to the island. Weighed down by tragedy and responsibility, Sawkill offers her a chance to grow into her own and find the love she’s pretended not to need.

Zoey is a pariah, the subject of gossip and ridicule. After her best friend disappears, she is determined to find out what happened to her and put a stop to the disappearances for good. Val is a queen bee with a dark secret. Bound by a promise made a century before she was born, Val’s is a life of blood and lies.

There is a vicious evil on Sawkill Rock, hungry for freedom. No one has dared fight this insidious beast. No one… until the Sawkill Girls.

This book is the reason I wanted to make this post. Legrand made herself an autobuy author with Sawkill Girls. This story is eerie and fascinating, serving as a metaphor for the harsh reality that is a woman’s life. It’s also about taking back your power and standing up against the status quo.

I didn’t realize how much I’d grown to love these characters until they were faced with danger. Marion, Zoey, and Val are each so distinct and each so lovable. That’s not to say that they’re always likable, but that I love them because and in spite of their flaws.

Using themes of forgiveness and culpability, Legrand poses some thought-provoking questions. What can you forgive a person for? What can you hold them responsible for? She doesn’t always answer these questions sensibly, but I can forgive her for that. After all, isn’t that the lesson I’m meant to learn?

This is a wonderful book with well-rounded characters, a fascinating plot, and exquisite atmosphere. For my more in-depth thoughts, check out last month’s wrap-up. I highly recommend this absolute killer of a novel.

  1. The Heart Forger by Rin Chupeco


The sequel to The Bone Witch, this story finds Tea on a dual journey: in the past, she is on the run for a crime she did not commit. In the present, she is bound on a course for revenge.

Where The Bone Witch was Tea’s coming-of-age story, The Heart Forger has a much more concrete plot. It also has a lot more action.

I love all of these characters, especially Tea. She’s truly growing into the antihero we all need. I adore her relationships with Kalen and her brother, Fox. I adore the magic system and the world of the asha. Hell, I even adore Tea’s demon dragon!

The Bone Witch is quickly becoming one of my favorite series. Its darker vibe makes it stand out among its contemporaries in YA. I absolutely cannot wait for The Shadow Glass and for whatever story Rin Chupeco forges next.

  1. Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer


The first book in the Southern Reach trilogy, this book follows a nameless biologist as she embarks on an expedition to a quarantined stretch of land known only as Area X. As she studies the wildlife, the biologist begins to uncover the terrifying secrets of Area X and how it came to be. The only question is whether she’ll make it out alive.

I did not expect to love this book as much as I do. It’s so mysterious and creepy. The balance between the suspenseful present and informative flashbacks is really well done.

I also really like how none of the characters have names and are instead defined by their professions. It forces you to consider the characters and their points of view in a different way.

This novel is genuinely fascinating. I definitely recommend it. Because of how the series is structured, Annihilation can be read as a standalone. It doesn’t answer all your questions, but the open-ended conclusion is still satisfying. Believe me when I say this book will annihilate you.

  1. Lair of Dreams by Libba Bray


The Roaring Twenties are alive and well in the well-loved Diviners series. Amidst the glitz and glamor of New York City, a group of kids with psychic powers shoot for stardom and an end to the King of Crows. Each book has its own Big Bad, but have an overarching story building up to something even bigger.

This book made me love the characters more than the first one did. The relationships between each of them are developed so well in this novel. It also includes some fun tropes like fake dating and really does the work to expand the world-building.

This series is incredibly diverse and handles issues such as being gay or a person of color in early 20th Century America with care. It’s very apparent Bray did her research.

This novel is smart, funny, and heartfelt all at once. It single-handedly made The Diviners one of my all-time favorite series. And, according to my crystal ball, the concluding novel will only cement that.

  1. The Nowhere Girls by Amy Reed


After a girl is assaulted and run out of town, the Nowhere Girls rise as vigilantes of truth and accountability. Founded by three misfit girls (Grace Salter, new girl and daughter of a liberal preacher; Rosina Suarez, punk lesbian and overworked teenager; and Erin Delillo, Star Trek fan and survivor with Asperger’s), the group slowly grows as the girls of this small town decide to take back their bodily autonomy.

The Nowhere Girls turn their high school on its head, as they try to end the sexist culture that pervades its halls and get justice for the girl to whom it was denied. As the Nowhere Girls get bigger, the girls and women of the town begin to feel empowered in a way they never have before.

This book is important and powerful, a statement about and against rape culture. It shares the points of view of girls from all walks of life. It’s also incredibly diverse. I kind of don’t believe a school would go to the lengths it did to try and stop the Nowhere Girls, but that doesn’t lower my esteem of this book. Poignant and meaningful, everyone should read this book. Or else we’ll be nowhere as a society.

  1. The Disappearances by Emily Bain Murphy


It is the height of the Second World War and Aila Quinn has just lost her mother and her father has been called to the front. Left with nowhere to go, Aila and her brother must stay with an old family friend in their mother Juliet’s hometown. However, Sterling isn’t an ordinary town— every seven years, something disappears. From reflections to dreams, the citizens of Sterling have been cursed for years. And for reasons unknown to Aila, everyone blames her mother.

In order to clear her mother’s name, Aila follows literary clues she believes were left by Juliet to solve the mystery and end the Disappearances once and for all. But not everyone wants the Disappearances to end, and Aila just may have found herself in the middle of a feud decades old.

I didn’t expect to enjoy this book quite as much as I did. And yet, somehow, it was exactly what I needed. These characters are wonderful and it was great seeing their relationships develop. The plot twists are unpredictable and jaw-dropping.

The overall tone and vibe of this book is similar to that of The Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater, albeit with more Shakespeare. The fantastical, borderline magical realism nature of this book also adds to the similarities.

This book doesn’t read like a debut, but rather the work of a seasoned writer. I’ll definitely be reading anything else Murphy puts out. And, although this story is done, I’d gladly read another book about these characters. I just love this world so much. I wouldn’t mind if I disappeared from the real world and straight into this book forever.

  1. The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang


A lot can change in five years. Just ask Fang “Rin” Runin. Rin begins her journey when she passes the difficult Keja test and becomes a student at the illustrious Sinegard Academy. While fighting to keep her place at the school, Rin discovers great and terrifying shamanic powers. With a third Poppy War on the horizon, Rin must learn to master them and fight for her people. Influenced by the Second Sino-Japenese War and the Rape of Nanking, this story is visceral and raw.

I really liked this book, but I didn’t love it like I thought I would. I love the characters, especially the deeply flawed protagonist. The relationships are wonderful. My favorite is the one between Rin and Jiang. I’m a sucker for the teacher/mentor/master and student/mentee/apprentice dynamic. The magic system is unique and has real cost. Kuang is a master of world-building with a gift for imagery.

This is a fantastic debut. As with The Disappearances, it doesn’t even read like a debut. I could easily believe this were a fantasy epic by a seasoned author. For my more in-depth thoughts, check out my review.

I would only advise you don’t read this novel if you are at all triggered or upset by extreme violence. Yes, this book takes place during a war, but some things go beyond regular warfare. I was physically shaking while I read a few scenes, I was so shocked and upset. For everyone else, get ready to fight a war between your responsibilities and your inability to put down this book.

What are some books you loved last year that didn’t quite make your best list? Tell me about them in the comments!

Stay tuned for that special second surprise! I’ll see you soon… for real this time!

If you’d like to help me continue to post consistent content, check out my Amazon Affiliate link below! Today’s product is the novel Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman. Every year I find the book I won’t shut up about for 365 days earlier and earlier. This year, it was the first book I read. A portal fantasy for grown ups, this is the exact story I needed. And you need it too. Even if you don’t buy it, I still get credit when you use my link to shop on Amazon.

If you’re not into that, you can also support my blog by donating to my Ko-fi! For just the price of a cup of coffee, you can help me continue to bring you the content you love. You know, if you want. No pressure.

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