Bookshine’s Best Reads of 2018 – Part 2

 

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Here we go again, with my favourite books of the second half of 2018!  (Better late than never, right?!)

As before, these are books that I read last year, regardless of publication date.  Also as before, my list is very fantasy heavy.  What can I say – it is a varied and fascinating genre and I love every subset!

 

Starting back in July 2018 we have:  The House of Vines by Lauren K. Nixon.  I was lucky enough to get a copy of this book via the Voracious Readers Only email service.

 

Blurb: At the heart of the sleepy market town of Brindleford is an old shopping arcade. Half-empty and generally overlooked by the inhabitants, it is full of secrets. But all that is about to change…

51vhoz+nllLChristopher Porter thought he knew what to expect from life: not a great deal, having been bitten by a werewolf. Now, all he wants is a normal life: a family, a stable job, friends.
Ivy Burwell, also wishing for normalcy, is struggling against the expectations of her heritage. As the last witch in a long line of Witches, still coming to terms with her husband’s death, she is trying her hardest to avoid her destiny.
It won’t be easy, with the owners of a magical bookshop, a grumpy poltergeist, two orphaned runaways, a redoubtable florist, a retired music teacher (and his heavily pregnant labrador), several unsavoury wizards, a lithographer, a necromancer with a grudge, a horde of Technomancers and a half-Troll getting in the way!
Oh, and a parrot.

But there are darker things afoot in the town of Brindleford. In a church on the outskirts of the town an ancient evil is stirring, responding to the call of the wicked soul in search of it…

 

This one took me by surprise to become one of my favourite reads of the year.  The blurb captures some of the humour and adventure, but not the warmth and heart which really made this story a delightful and memorable read.  I could read as many Chambers Magic books as the author is willing to write…possibly more! 


Buy it on Amazon:  here

My full review:  here

 

 

August 2018 is (kind of) a step away from the fantasy genre, with the robotic crime romp:  Duck Egg Blues by Martin Ungless.  I received an ARC of this novel through a blog tour organised by the wonderful Rachel Gilbey of Rachel’s Random Resources.


Blurb: When the daughter of a rich and powerful businesswoman goes missing from a country house estate, Detective Don is paid to track her down. Duck Egg Blues CoverRugged and irascible, Don is an ex-cop who has set up shop in a fast-urbanising Essex countryside. He is also the unwilling owner of a robot butler, and as they investigate the disappearance this unlikely duo are forced together, battling criminal gangs, corrupt police, MI6, and international cybercrime.
Action-packed and full of twists, the tale is told by PArdew, a kind and unassuming robot. He yearns simply to perform his butler duties but soon finds himself solving crimes, avoiding kidnap, and trying to keep his Master safe from people who for security reasons cannot be named …and yes, there are plastic ducks and eggs which cause the blues …and yes, for blues read murder. Lucky for PArdew he’s connected to the Internet of Things.
As the investigation gathers pace Don discovers that behind one mystery there lurks a greater threat. No one is safe, not even PArdew…

Winner of a WCN Escalator Prize, Martin Ungless brings to life a cast of unique powerful characters in vivid and memorable settings. Duck Egg Blues is told with a dry english humour and packed with drama, danger and excitement.

 

This one HAD to make my list by dint of its sheer uniqueness.  Pardew, the robot butler-turned-sidekick, makes a hilarious, touching and highly-memorable narrator, and the plot is a hybrid of P.G.Wodehouse and detective noir.  What’s not to love?!

 

Buy it on Amazon:  here

My full review: here

 

 

Sticking with the non-fantasy books, in September 2018 was:  Full Metal Cardigan by David Emery, via a blog tour with Kelly Lacey of Love Books Group.

 

Blurb:  “Whilst I continued to spend my days buffing up the bones of the dead, I knew in my heart I wanted to work with the living.”

Full-Metal-Cardigan-Front-CoverRiddled with doubt (and a serious strain of leptospirosis he’d caught from a Copper Age coccyx) David’s career in archaeology was going nowhere. But a chance encounter with a mystical crone resulted in a journey that would change his life forever.

 Full Metal Cardigan is David Emery’s first book and chronicles his adventures in social care, from enthusiastic volunteer to feral frontline worker, taking in abusive popstars, chanting cults, drug runs and assessing a corpse.

He recounts how he gained international notoriety for cheating in a pancake race, encounters with the supernatural, High Court appearances, accidentally booking someone into Dignitas, one-inch death punches in Woolworths, waterboarding, psychotic psychopaths, plunger-wielding pregnant women and suicide attempts with rhubarb along the way.

This is a humorous look at life as a social worker: in turns both laugh-out-loud funny and mind-boggling.

 

In my younger reading days I was particularly fond of James Herriot’s veterinary tales and the wry humour and honesty with which he opened up the world of the veterinarian to public view.  Gervase Phinn later performed the same feat for the teaching profession, and specifically school inspectors.  Now, David Emery lets us into the world of Social Work with that same mix of the comedic and raw that I find irresistible.  

 

Buy it on Amazon:  here

My full review: here

 

 

October 2018 brought me: Sleep, Merel, Sleep by Silke Stein.

 

Merel 51tu7rEvmRL

 

Blurb:   Merel is angry. Why does her baby brother have to be sick? All fun and happiness at home is gone. It seems her parents have forgotten she exists — and now Sleep has abandoned her too. If she doesn’t get him back, she will have to stay awake forever! So Merel sets out on a perilous journey to Lullaby

Grove…

Sleep, Merel, Sleep is a sweet and wistful tale about treasuring those closest to us.

 

 

 

This is a gorgeous and imaginative children’s book about gaining a (poorly) sibling and losing that precious only-child attention.  With a strong main character, plenty of problem-solving and some useful lessons cleverly disguised by the fantastic adventure plot I can definitely recommend this one to parents, children…anyone in fact!

 

Buy it on Amazon:  here

My full review: here

 

 

My favourite for November 2018 and a very close runner-up for my favourite book of the whole year, was Fallible Justice by Laura Laakso, kindly sent to me via Louise Walters Books.

fallible justice downloadBlurb:   In Old London, where paranormal races co-exist with ordinary humans, criminal verdicts delivered by the all-seeing Heralds of Justice are infallible. After a man is declared guilty of murder and sentenced to death, his daughter turns to private investigator Yannia Wilde to do the impossible and prove the Heralds wrong.
Yannia has escaped a restrictive life in the Wild Folk conclave where she was raised, but her origins mark her as an outsider in the city. Those origins lend her the sensory abilities of all of nature. Yet Yannia is lonely and struggling to adapt to life in the city. The case could be the break she needs. She enlists the help of her only friend, a Bird Shaman named Karrion, and together they accept the challenge of proving a guilty man innocent.
So begins a breathless race against time and against all conceivable odds. Can Yannia and Karrion save a man who has been judged infallibly guilty?

 

Not only does Fallible Justice have one of the loveliest covers but the contents are equally compelling.  Laura Laakso has created an intriguing urban fantasy world with its own social and justice systems and magic that works in new and fascinating ways.  Similarly her characters had me wanting to know more about them, even the minor bit-players.  And with all of this you get a murder mystery too!  I personally cannot wait for the next instalment to fill in Yannia’s past and see what is in store for her future…

 

Buy it on Amazon:  here

My full review:  here

 

 

Finally, in December 2018 I was lucky enough to read some fantastic stories but my personal favourite was the Beauty and the Beast retelling: The Rose Queen by Alison McBain.

 

Blurb:   The Beast doesn’t always wait for Beauty. Sometimes, Beauty IS the Beast.The Rose Queen COVER

Princess Mirabella is betrothed to a repulsive old man a year after her mother’s death. She refuses the marriage, only to find out her betrothed is a sorcerer as well. He takes his revenge by transforming her into a savage and frightening beast, giving her an ultimatum: she has three years to solve the mystery of her curse—or die.

Exiled to her mother’s estate to hide the scandal, Mirabella learns that the sorcerer was not alone in keeping secrets. Her grandfather was murdered before Mirabella was born, and her mother’s death is looking less and less as if it came from natural causes. The only point in common to all their ruined lives: her father, the king.

Faced with a conflict between saving her family and saving her own life, the choices Mirabella makes will change the future of the kingdom—and magic—forever.

 

More than a retelling, this is a complete reimaging of the familiar tale, with its own lore and worldbuilding.  The recognisable elements weave in and out of the narrative blending seamlessly with the fresh, to create a beautiful new fairytale.  With more believable characters than the original I found myself completely invested in this adventure and hope that the rest of the trilogy follows very soon.

 

Buy it on Amazon:   here

My full review:   here

 

 

And that’s it!  12 books that had me hooked in 2018 (for a reminder of the previous six, head here).

These were just a small selection of the many, many great books I was privileged enough to read last year and I am very grateful to all of the blog tour organisers, book distribution sites, authors, representatives, publishers and fellow book bloggers for the wonderful reading year I had!

And of course, thank you to all of you – my fellow readers – for enjoying this wealth of literary riches with me.  Here’s to many more years as good as the last!  (Spoiler:  2019 has started really well!)  😉 

 

 

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