This year I’m going to host an Advent Book Calendar event, where Jen and me are going to pick one book every day until December 24th. Books we’ve read this year, and tell you why you should pick it up. You can check our progress in the Advent Book Calendar 2018 introduction post, where you can “open” the windows every day and find out what we have for your reading pleasure!
We have arrived to the last “window” of our imaginary calendar. We hope you had fun finding out what our favorite reads were this year so far. The only thing left for us to do is reveal what were our top 5 reads!
Timy’s top 5 of 2018
5. Symphony of the Wind by Steven McKinnon
This book was the most genuine surprise of this year. What I like about SPFBO is that it brings such gems to our attention. This book had 1 review before we got our hands on it, and all 3 of us at the FBR judging team absolutely loved it. So much that we even nominated it as our finalist. I can’t wait to see how it’ll far in the competition.
Symphony of the Wind is the first book of an epic fantasy trilogy with unique creatures, a richly detailed world, mind-blowing twists and never-ending action. I’m sure we’ll hear a lot from McKinnon in the future.
“Symphony of the Wind is intricate, surprising, and doesn’t shy away from giving punches. If you like your fantasy dark, don’t mind if the pace is a bit slower, want to be surprised and don’t see what happens next, you should absolutely check this out!”
A bounty hunter with a death wish. A girl with fearsome powers. A kingdom on the brink of destruction. Serena dreams of leaving her harsh desert home behind in her very own airship. But when an assassin’s knife meant for Serena kills her friend instead, the rebellious orphan ventures into the corrupt heart of Dalthea to discover who put a price on her head. With each new turn, she edges closer to uncovering the awful truth… And the mystical powers brewing deep within her. After his fiancée’s death, soldier-turned-bounty hunter Tyson Gallows is eager to sacrifice his life in the line of duty. When a foreign enemy assassinates a high-ranking official, he vows to bring them to justice. On the hunt for a killer, Gallows exposes a sinister plot that proves his fiancée’s death was no accident. Driven by revenge, Serena and Gallows must join forces to take down the conspiracy before the kingdom falls to ruin. Symphony of the Wind is the first book in a gritty epic fantasy trilogy. If you like hardened heroes, steampunk airships, and dark magic and monsters, then you’ll love Steven McKinnon’s visceral adventure.
4. The Lore of Prometheus by Graham Austin-King
A psychological thriller wrapped into a cover of military urban fantasy. This was my first read from Graham Austin-King but definitely not the last. I had Faithless on my TBR for a while now, but I’ll absolutely make sure to read it next year. The Lore of Prometheus is a stand alone tale about an ex soldier and a nurse who both have their own scars from the past. Will their minds get the control over them?
“The Lore of Prometheus is a shockingly wicked dark tale of the power of the human mind. The most dangerous monster of them all. If you still wonder if this book is for you, let me tell you what you can expect: characters far from being perfect, struggling with their own demons; tension from page one to the last; plenty of action; a few things to think about; an unhealthy dose of torture, and a few laughs, because who says people can’t go down with a good laugh?”
John Carver has three rules: Don't drink in the daytime, don't gamble when the luck has gone, and don't talk to the dead people who come to visit. It has been almost five years since the incident in Kabul. Since the magic stirred within him and the stories began. Fleeing the army, running from the whispers, the guilt, and the fear he was losing his mind, Carver fell into addiction, dragging himself through life one day at a time. Desperation has pulled him back to Afghanistan, back to the heat, the dust, and the truth he worked so hard to avoid. But there are others, obsessed with power and forbidden magics, who will stop at nothing to learn the truth of his gifts. Abducted and chained, Carver must break more than his own rules if he is to harness this power and survive.
3. We Sold Our Souls by Grady Hendrix
Horror is usually not a genre I read. But when I laid eyes on the cover of We Sold Our Souls, I knew I had to read it. And what a hell of a ride it was! Music, unimaginable monsters, entwining fates and a mirror to our society.
“We Sold Our Souls holds a mirror to our world, exaggerating the worst qualities of our society: paranoia, greed, the power of the media and what a group of people is able to do if encouraged and manipulated the right way. The thin line between humanity and animal instincts. The real horror in this book is what people are capable of if we push the right buttons, how easily we can disregard those we think are wrong and make them an outcast.”
A new novel of supernatural horror (and pop culture) from the author of Horrorstor, My Best Friend's Exorcism, and Paperbacks from Hell. In the 1990s, heavy metal band Dürt Würk was poised for breakout success -- but then lead singer Terry Hunt embarked on a solo career and rocketed to stardom as Koffin, leaving his fellow bandmates to rot in rural Pennsylvania. Two decades later, former guitarist Kris Pulaski works as the night manager of a Best Western - she's tired, broke, and unhappy. Everything changes when she discovers a shocking secret from her heavy metal past: Turns out that Terry's meteoric rise to success may have come at the price of Kris's very soul. "This revelation prompts Kris to hit the road, reunite with the rest of her bandmates, and confront the man who ruined her life. It's a journey that will take her from the Pennsylvania rust belt to a Satanic rehab center and finally to a Las Vegas music festival that's darker than any Mordor Tolkien could imagine. A furious power ballad about never giving up, even in the face of overwhelming odds, We Sold Our Souls is an epic journey into the heart of a conspiracy-crazed, paranoid country that seems to have lost its very soul...where only a girl with a guitar can save us all.
2. From the Shadow’s of the Owl Queen’s Court by Benedict Patrick
You didn’t think I would have an end of the year list without a Benedict Patrick book, right? Doesn’t matter how critical I might be with him (and I tend to be more critical, because I adore the hell out of his books, strange as it might sound), I can’t deny what a genius he is. I had certain problems with his latest Yarnsworld book, but at the same time some scenes still haunt me. The last 20% was pure awesomeness and I kept yelling at my Kindle (and curse Patrick) for the emotional hell I had to go through. I haven’t found any other author who could blend so perfectly classic fairy tales (the original ones, not the syrupy Disney kind) with fantasy and create a world so vivid and full of life with unforgettable characters and unimaginable monsters.
“From The Shadows Of The Owl Queen’s Court is a very dark tale about chasing your dreams, about nature having its own way in the end.”
If you value your life, stay out of the forest. As a captive of the Owl Queen’s Court, Nascha’s life has always been one knife’s edge away from disaster. But when she is threatened for nothing more than the colour of her hair, Nascha attempts the unthinkable: escape through the dreaded Magpie King’s forest. Hunted by sharp toothed and sharper witted foxfolk, and hated by all for being a witch, Nascha fears herself doomed until she joins forces with a mysterious young man. With him she finds a glimmer of hope, even as her own unpredictable powers flicker into existence. But hope is fleeting. The forces arrayed against her are insurmountable, and Nascha soon comes to realise that pursuit of her own freedom will come at a greater cost to the forest. As the darkness closes in around them, Nascha is forced to ask: At what price is she willing to purchase her life? How dearly is she willing to sell it? From the Shadows of the Owl Queen’s Court is the fourth standalone book in Benedict Patrick’s Yarnsworld series, returning for the first time to the setting of the #1 bestseller They Mostly Come Out At Night. "Grab your copy today, to discover new reasons to be afraid of the dark!
1. Some Distant Sunrise by Elliott Downing
Considering everything, this is probably the most memorable read for me this year. It’s a not too long novella about an ex-drug addict DJ who tries to rebuild his life after giving up drugs. This book hit me on a very personal level, not because I have any experience like this, but because I’ve read this at a time when life was quite upsetting, being worried about a friend. But if there wasn’t anything going on in my personal life, the writing is so powerful that you just can’t help having a turmoil of feelings after closing the book on the last page.
“Some Distant Sunrise is a powerfully emotional, dark tale of addiction, second chances, choices and life. One, the writing makes even more real, where you can almost feel the needle’s cool, metallic touch on your arm, the biting chill of the night and feel the pressure of the world as it closes on you, taste the desperation in the air.”
"What have you ever done that felt better than this?" A former DJ who lost everything to heroin addiction is slowly rebuilding his life when his ex-girlfriend seeks him out to offer him a second chance at their relationship. But the fresh start she hopes to make with him has one catch: She died of an overdose four months earlier, and she's come to talk him into joining her... Some Distant Sunrise is a powerful, gritty dark-fantasy novella about junkies and ghosts, music and suicide, obsession and regret, and living through what remains after everything you've loved is gone.
Jen’s top 5 of 2018
5. The Oddling Prince by Nancy Springer
I’ve long been a fan of Nancy Springer. The Book of Isle series was one of my first loves in fantasy. The one that let me see the beauty in magic, undying love, and friendships that were as close as family, and above all, that it’s OK to be a little different. The Oddling Prince was beautifully written time capsule that returned me to the beauty of Nancy’s worlds, and why they will always hold a special place in my memories.
“Much like in a folktale there is a quietness to the underlying message of greed and putting yourself first and how unhappy you can become because of it.”
Read Jen’s full review and get The Oddling Prince on Amazon!
In the ancient moors of Scotland, the king of Calidon lies on his deathbed, cursed by a ring that cannot be removed from his finger. When a mysterious fey stranger appears to save the king, he also carries a secret that could tear the royal family apart. The kingdom’s only hope will lie with two young men raised worlds apart. Aric is the beloved heir to the throne of Calidon; Albaric is clearly of noble origin yet strangely out of place. The Oddling Prince is a tale of brothers whose love and loyalty to each other is such that it defies impending warfare, sundering seas, fated hatred, and the very course of time itself. In her long-awaited new fantasy novel, Nancy Springer (the Books of Isle series) explores the darkness of the human heart as well as its unceasing capacity for love.
4. Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse
I adored this book! I have always loved the Navajo legends, they’ve struck a chord with me for as long as I can remember, and really were my first experience with a lore, belief, and culture that was more in the ‘here and now’ (so to speak) than a lot of the other stories that I loved. This book was the perfect blend for me, of culture, action, and legends walking the earth and Kai’s Weather Ways display, still sticks with me as one of the coolest scenes I’ve read this year.
“It had such a strong start, I was worried the story was going to hit the middle and drag. When that didn’t happen, I worried towards the end that it was going to fall apart because it didn’t seem like there was going to be enough time to tie it up, but that didn’t happen either. It kicked it!”
While most of the world has drowned beneath the sudden rising waters of a climate apocalypse, Dinétah (formerly the Navajo reservation) has been reborn. The gods and heroes of legend walk the land, but so do monsters. Maggie Hoskie is a Dinétah monster hunter, a supernaturally gifted killer. When a small town needs help finding a missing girl, Maggie is their last—and best—hope. But what Maggie uncovers about the monster is much larger and more terrifying than anything she could imagine. Maggie reluctantly enlists the aid of Kai Arviso, an unconventional medicine man, and together they travel to the rez to unravel clues from ancient legends, trade favors with tricksters, and battle dark witchcraft in a patchwork world of deteriorating technology. As Maggie discovers the truth behind the disappearances, she will have to confront her past—if she wants to survive. Welcome to the Sixth World.
3. Kings of Paradise by Richard Nell
It’s very rare I spend time after reading a book, wondering which direction the author is going to go and speculating about how the characters stories are going to play out in the next book like I did with this story. Kings of Paradise wins this spot easily by having a combination of characters and story that I could not put down for 600 pages and then couldn’t quit thinking about for months after. I can’t wait for Kings of Ash! Go Team Kale!
“The time spent between characters before switching POVs was long enough to really get a feel for the events and the people around them. I think it gave it more of a personal feel with those longer POVs.”
Ruka, called a demon at birth, is a genius. Born malformed and ugly into the snow-covered wasteland of the Ascom, he was spared from death by his mother's love. Now he is an outcast, consumed with hate for those who've wronged him. But to take his vengeance, he must first survive. Across a vast sea in the white-sand island paradise of Sri Kon, Kale is fourth and youngest son of the Sorcerer King. And at sixteen, Kale is a disappointment. As the first prince ever forced to serve with low-born marines, Kale must prove himself and become a man, or else lose all chance of a worthy future, and any hope to win the love of his life. Though they do not know it, both boys are on the cusp of discovery. Their worlds and lives are destined for greatness, or ruin. But in a changing world where ash meets paradise, only one man can be king... The first installment of an epic, low- fantasy trilogy. Kings of Paradise is a dark, bloody, coming-of-age story shaped by culture, politics, and magic.
2. Bad Faith by Jon Hollins
Book three in the Dragon Lords finished off this series with a very strong and satisfying conclusion. One where I could say goodbye to these characters knowing everything they went through – the broken friendships, the sacrifices, the deaths, were worth it and the choices were, I felt, very in-character. Their story is complete and felt complete in my heart. Making this my second favorite book of the year.
“To me, this did what a final book is supposed to do and that’s ramp up of everything to a hell of a bang at the end.”
Will and his comrades went to war to overthrow the reign of dragons, winning battle after battle, and acclaim as conquering heroes. But now they've angered the gods, and may just need the dragons to help them this time...
1. False Idols by Jon Hollins
The comparisons to Guardians of the Galaxy for this trilogy are pretty accurate if you think about the movies and characters up until their showing in the latest Avengers. The first movie is a bit silly, but fun…I mean good grief they had a dance-off with the bad guy, how much sillier can you get? Each movie/appearance gets progressively darker, and we all know how dark Avengers ended. This series is somewhat the same, the first comes across as just silly fun but by the time we get to the third and final book the stakes are pretty damned high and things get dark, like pitch black, dark.
So, you might wonder why I’m picking book two, over Bad Faith, as number one…well, I loved both of them almost equally, but for me, there is no doubt in my mind that this book takes number one position for favourite of the year because False Idols, surprised me.
I went in expecting a fun romp (which of course, I got) but this book takes Fool’s Gold and all that crazy stuff that you thought was just there to add to the humor and made it have purpose. It took characters that I only somewhat liked the first time around and made me love them, while also improving on the relationships of others. This book turned Fool’s Gold into a solid base in this series and it just kept it up from there on, making this trilogy one of my all-time favorites.
“What follows is more fun adventure, crass and dark at times humor, madcap plans – some succeeding better than they expected and some going down the toilet, and some hilarious conversations as the team bickers their way through trying to raise an army to keep the dragons from winning.”
Guardians of the Galaxy meets The Hobbit in this rollicking fantasy adventure series. The Dragons who once ruled over the land are dead. The motley crew that stumbled through that revolution are rich and praised as saviors. Everyone gets to live happily ever after, right? Right? Well, it might have worked out that way if the dragons in Kondorra had been the only ones. If they hadn't been just the tip of the spear about to fall upon the whole world...