The Best Books I Read in 2018 + The Smashing & Dashing 2018 Character Awards Book Tag

This is fairly self-explanatory, so I shan't do much in the way of introduction, other than to say that for this particular year-in-review post, I've included links to some Goodreads reviews. :)

{ The Best Books of 2018 }

Behold the Dawn by K.M. Weiland
The Book of Sorrows by Walter Wangerin Jr.
The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman
Snow White and Rose Red by Regina Doman
Little Dorrit by Charles Dickens
Dancing and Doughnuts by Rachel Kovaciny
Anchored by Kayla Aimee
In Bloom: Trading Restless Insecurity for Abiding Confidence by Kayla Aimee
Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) by Mindy Kaling
Why Not Women?: A Fresh Look at Scripture on Women in Missions, Ministry, and Leadership by Loren Cunningham and David Joel Hamilton
The Shield Ring by Rosemary Sutcliff
The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo
Bread and Wine by Shauna Niequist
Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai

{ Notable Re-reads }

Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott
Fairest by Gail Carson Levine
Greenwillow by B.J. Chute
The Hunting of the Last Dragon by Sherryl Jordan
The Silver Chair by C.S. Lewis
The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

{ Character Awards } 
  • Use characters from books read in 2018 to answer questions
  • Link back to the original post by Cait (creator of the tag)

1. Most Relatable Character

Might actually be Bjorn from The Shield Ring, because he worries about whether or not he would do the right thing were he to be put in an extremely difficult situation (specifically, torture).  And worrying over one's potential to do the wrong thing in a situation in which it would really matter if one did the wrong thing--if the wrong thing in this instance would be a Pretty Big No-No??  BOI I RELATE.

2. Most Pure Animal Companion

Probably somebody from Walter Wangerin's Chauntecleer the Rooster trilogy, but I'm not sure that I can talk about that right now because #feelings.

3. Fiercest Fighter

. . . *aggressively 'neither knows nor cares'*

4. Am Surprised That I Loved You??

Dallas Winston from The Outsiders.  At the beginning of the book I was Judging™ but after a while I started softening, as is my wont, because HE IS SCARED AND SCARRED, OKAY?!?!

5. Best Sassmaster

Sage from The False Prince.  (At the beginning I was almost afraid that he'd be too sassy and I'd get impatient with him, but in the end, nope.  He proved that he could take things seriously, too, so all is well.)

6. Best Antihero

I'm wondering whether there might be someone hiding in the depths of Little Dorrit, but as I'm not recalling them if they're there . . . hmm . . . can I say the King from Entwined?  I mean I know he's not really an antihero but I want to mention him somewhere and there's not really another place to do so. <3

And then, of course, there's Edward Tulane himself from The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane.  (Which by the way, WOW.)

7. The Best Friends Of All

Okay, clearly I am not in the mood tonight to be making definitive decisions.  The gang from The Outsiders?  Bjorn and Frytha from The Shield Ring?  

8. Best Villain To HATE

Maxim de Winter from Rebecca and do not even ATTEMPT to argue with me.

(Actually please do if you have some insight because I'm legitimately confused as to how anybody could possibly see this character in a positive light and if there's something I'm missing I'd like to know what it is.)

[Also, the Keeper from Entwined is quite good (bad).]

9. Award For Best vs Worst YA Parents

Best: The Lassiters from Fireflies in December.  Not perfect (since nobody is), but good.

Worst:  Both sets in The Coffin Quilt.  Good freakin' grief, people.

10. Ship Of All Ships In 2018

*splutters*  THE ship??  Of all the ships in 2018?!?!  How dare you.

*struggles a little*

We're going to go with Bear + Blanche from Snow White and Rose Red, because I remember really liking them. <3

(But Marcus + Mairead from Behold the Dawn are definitely tough competition, and Luke + Jessilyn from Fireflies in December have great promise. ;))


11. Most Precious Must Be Protected

*sniffles*  Everybody in The Light Between Oceans?  Bryce and Sarah Grace from The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane?  John Wesley Weasel in The Book of Sorrows?  I DON'T KNOW THIS IS HARD.  

12. Honestly Surprised You’re Still Alive

Jonas Vilkas from Between Shades of Gray.  Honestly very surprised. 

13. Award For Making The Worst Decisions

Can I say the unnamed second wife in Rebecca?!?!!?  

(Also everybody ever in Medea.)

14. Most In Need Of A Nap

Possibly Darrel Curtis from The Outsiders.  Poor child what's had to grow up so fast and be mother and father to his younger brothers.  Maybe if  he had some Sleep he wouldn't lash out physically at his little bro, bless. <3

15. Want To Read More About You

The whole crew from Fireflies in December!  Looking forward to the rest of that trilogy. :)

What is one book you read in 2018 that you think everybody should read?
H A P P Y   N E W   Y E A R


  1. Entwined!!! One of the first books I picked from another blogger's mention. Don't see many people mentioning it but I love.

    1. I loved Entwined! It came close to making it onto the list of best 2018 books. :-P I know, I discovered it based off blogs/Goodreads, too!

  2. You have too much fun with this, Olivia!! :)

  3. Oh, that is one of the Kate DiCamillo books that I haven't read! I really want to. I have only read a few of these. Man, Inside Out and Back Again was a good one, it really made me think. Fun tag! Though, I doubt I could answer any of these questions... it's too hard to choose!

    1. Oh my goodness, FEELINGS. So many feelings. It was one of the best of hers that I've read so far (admittedly, I've only read a few).

      Ooh, wasn't IOABA good??

      Thanks! Aww, I'm sure you could do it--but I know how you feel! As you see I was not wonderfully decisive myself. :-P

  4. Waaaaaaaaaaaiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiit.

    I wrote one of those books. You put Dancing and Doughnuts on your Best Books of 2018 list!


    Wow! I'm so excited by this! I'm not sure I've actually made a best-of list like this before, not all by my lonesome (as in, not in an anthology), and so I'm... verklempt.

    Anyway. Dallas Winston is wonderful.

    Wait, you hated Maxim? Reeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeally? Oh. Huh. I quite love Maxim. In fact, Rebecca is one of the very very very very few books where I want to take the place of a character because I would make another character happier or... something. Hard to explain, but I always want to sort of take over the story from the MC and do things myself so Maxim will not be even more unhappy. My poor, mixed-up Maxim.

    (That's not helpful insight, just me rambling.)

    Darry does need more sleep, poor darling.

    Fun post!

    1. // (I'm going to reply to the rest of your comment first, but I just wanted to issue this warning for any unsuspecting person scrolling through the comments) SPOILERS FOR THE CLASSIC BOOK REBECCA IN THIS COMMENT!!! //

      Well, OF COURSE I did! Because it WAS one of the best books of 2018. ;D

      Awwwwww! I'm honored, then. ;)

      He's a good one. I recently watched the movie version, so that's got me thinking about the book again.

      Oh my goodness, Hamlette, I hated Maxim so much. Like, in fact, I would be really really interested in hearing why you love him if you have the time/wouldn't mind telling me because I was so completely befuddled as to how anybody could love him, when I finished reading the book. Helllllpppppppp. Help me understand. :-P (I mean, I truly am interested in hearing from the perspective of someone who loved him/the book--not trying to be snarky here, just legitimately interested.) 'Cause on my end, I'm just over here like, " . . . But he killed his wife? With no justification? And he hasn't a speck of remorse about it? So . . . how???"

      Anyhow, though, that's really interesting that that's one of the only books into which you'd like to jump. I'd love to hear more of your thoughts on it, if you ever have the time/inclination!

      Doesn't he? Bwess. <3 <3

      Thank you so much! I really enjoyed your comment. :)

    2. I was wondering about the Maxim opinion myself, but I didn't love or hate him (maybe fearing him a bit, but I don't think I got a super strong reaction) that I remember, I do remember loathing his first wife (she was somewhere are the sociopathic, psychopathic, narcissistic personality spectrum), and while it certainly was murder, it wasn't cold-blooded or unprovoked (again, I feel a man would have better resources to get away from a woman like that and it certainly wasn't a sort of understandable to murder provocation).

      All's said and done though, I didn't "get" the hype of the book. I'd seen parts of the movie (I was falling asleep, half-asleep most of the time) previously and didn't get it then either.

    3. Okay!

      ::takes deep breath::

      First off, I love Byronic heroes. Characters (generally men, but I do like Byronic heroines too, if they're not just whiny and lame) who have a dark past. A long-ago sin or misdeed or regret that haunts them and gnaws at them, that they're fighting to be rid of or to overcome, or to avoid. A person wracked with guilt and trying to atone for their past wrongs. Give me a Byronic hero and I'll follow you anywhere.

      So that's part of why I love both Maxim and Mr. Rochester from Jane Eyre. They both made the terrible mistake of marrying a woman they didn't really know, forced into the marriage by their families, who were convinced for their own selfish reasons that this would be a wonderful match. Younger sons, probably spoiled and used to being taken good care of, now used for their family's purposes.

      Mr. Rochester's wife, fortunately for him, was not just wanton and debauched, but also mad. The madness allowed him to lock her away justifiably and travel the world without her. Maxim's wife was simply wanton and degenerate, keeping her lovers secret from the world, but flaunting them to her husband in private to taunt him. While Bertha Mason was merely mad, Rebecca de Winter was emotionally abusive. Madness can perhaps excuse in some degree Bertha's behavior, but nothing excuses Rebecca's. She was rotten through and through.

      Now. As for Rebecca's death. It's not simply murder, but really suicide as well. Rebecca knew she was dying of cancer, that she faced months of pain and medication, a lingering, helpless death. She also knew, from the doctor, that she could never have had children. And she knew that Maxim feared her having a child to torment and degrade. So she went out on that boat intending to make him kill her. She taunted him, lied and said she was pregnant with another man's child, and went on and on about how she would now get to pretend to be the perfect mother, all while pretending to be the perfect wife. Because Rebecca knew this would drive Maxim over the edge. Suicide-by-angry-husband. Which would give her a final, evil victory over him, which mere suicide by her own hand would not, because she knew his action would haunt him forever. Vile, despicable woman. Poor, tormented-beyond-endurance Maxim.

      I think Maxim does regret pulling the trigger, but not as much as he regrets marrying Rebecca in the first place. From first to last, he was pushed into marriage and into murder by others. He's a bit weak and malleable, but he's not evil. And I love him and wish so hard he could be happy some day.

    4. Livia & Hamlette:

      Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts! I'm sorry it's taken me a little while to respond: I wanted to make sure I'd have time to think through my reply thoroughly, and all that. ;-P

      Livia, I agree that while Rebecca was clearly emotionally/psychologically abusive, it was still wholly unjustified and therefore still murder. And I agree about the book--I had an extremely strong reaction to it, but I didn't like it at all. And I feel like if the murder hadn't been a part of the book, I wouldn't really have either loved or hated it.

      Rachel, it's interesting that you brought up Rochester! I feel like that's a comparison that naturally comes up when thinking about both books, and I was actually just thinking of it recently. I may do a post sometime about why I can get behind Rochester but not Maxim. Who knows. (I like Byronic heroes sometimes, but not other times. I wonder if maybe I like Byronic antiheroes better? Although I guess Byronic heroes are also antiheroes, in a way.)

      Anyway, for now, thank you again so much for sharing your thoughts! My personal take on it is that, since Maxim agreed to Rebecca's debauchery as long as she kept away from the house, I can have no real sympathy for him. I mean, as a victim of emotional and psychological abuse, I can, since I know something of what that's like; but nothing justifies the fact that he murdered his wife to me. And, again, he basically gave her his blessing, since he didn't care about her anyway. (And I understand that he may have acquiesced but still been bothered, but his entire attitude is one of indifference towards her behavior and of hatred towards her as a person.)

      In my mind, it doesn't matter whether Rebecca "wanted him to kill her." Whether she did or she didn't does not change the fact that he did. He did murder her, and that moral responsibility rests squarely on his shoulders; yet he tries to abdicate it, and that turns me against him.

      Additionally, he murdered her believing she was pregnant. She wasn't, but he was still willing to take another and wholly innocent life in carrying out his revenge. I cannot get past that. At least, not without some semblance of remorse, which I do not see from him at all.

      In fact, Maxim explicitly states that he is not sorry for killing Rebecca and that he never will be; and I believe him.

      So, yes, we'll definitely have to agree to disagree about Maxim. But, again, thank you so much for explaining why you like him!

  5. You did this tag!! Yay!!!! :D I was looking forward to seeing your answers . . .

    Bjorn is incredibly relatable for me as well, even though I actually relate even *more* to Frytha I think. I really "get" his conscience-anxiety, just like you were saying. He really wants to Do the Right Thing and it's Hard.

    YES. I ship Bear and Blanche too. They're so cute and sweet together. *sparkly heart eyes*

    Dally and Darry . . . agreed on both of 'em. I started the book really disliking both boys (#sorrynotsorry), but as the book went on, I did get to feeling very sorry for both of them, and wishing they could have had the happy & peaceful life they deserved. <3

    1. Awwww, thanks!! That makes me happy. :D

      I was wondering if you related to him too! Oh, that's cool! Frytha was pretty awesome. What specifically do you find more relatable about her? Ack, yes, him does and it is. <3

      I'm so happy you liked them!!! :D

      I didn't ever really dislike Darry, but Dally . . . yep. Nope. But then, as you say, you start feeling sorry for them. And for me, I started realizing how I might have been just like Dally if I was in his circumstances, you know?

  6. Yesss! Little Dorrit! A seriously under-rated book! I've read around 8 Dickens novels and Little Dorrit is among my favourite (I've read it twice now).

    Also, I'm VERY keen to read Bread and Wine - what did you think of it??

    Oh, and I want to read Rebecca this year too... what were your thoughts on that one?
    I read a LOT of good books last year, and I'm really tired right now and my brain is mush, but off the top of my head, some of my favourite books were:
    -Kisses from Katie by Katie Davis
    -Emma by Jane Austen
    -And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie

    I discovered some new favourite authors last year, which was very exciting. :D

    1. I was so impressed by Little Dorrit! I'm not a big Dickens fan, but I really thoroughly enjoyed that one. (Ooh, good for you! I've read . . . I don't know how many. Not that many, heh. :-P)

      I loved it!! It was such a neat blend of food and life, though that sounds cheesy. It was really well-written. I liked it a lot and I think you probably would, too. ;)

      HO-HO, what were my thoughts on Rebecca?? *controls self with difficulty* I can't really explain my thoughts without spoiling the central plot point of the story. If you want that spoiler, I can give you the link to my very rant-y Goodreads review, but otherwise: It made me very angry. Like, extremely, extremely angry. Like, I almost never get that angry at books. :-P

      I keep hearing good things about Kisses from Katie; perhaps I'll have to try it! I'm somewhat familiar with the story.

      Ooh, I enjoyed Emma, too! Haven't read any Agatha Christie because mystery is not my thing, but perhaps one of these days. ;)

      Fun! Which authors? :D


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