I love reading people’s ‘Best of’ lists at the end of the year and seeing their overviews. I’ve been enjoying them all week on the blogosphere. So without further ado here’s my list of books, films and TV shows that I have really stood out to me in the past 12 months.
My Goodreads challenge of 2018 was to read 30 books and I managed to read 35. I’ve upped my challenge to 35 this year and here are my top reads from 2018.
Gone Girl – Gillian Flynn
A surprisingly divisive book, I loved the film and I loved the book too. It’s cleverly written, it’s twisted, it’s gripping and it absolutely lived up to my expectations.
Six of Crows – Leigh Bardugo
I saw this book in my library and I have officially boarded the Leigh Bardugo Express. Six of Crows builds an excellent fantasy world, has great characters and of course a fantastic heist plot. I’m definitely reading the rest of her books.
Children of Blood and Bone – Tomi Adeyemi
A book with a big reputation that mostly lived up to expectations. I loved the African backdrop, elemental magic and that ending was excellent. I did have to take a break in between though and I found some of the romantic elements a little frustrating. (Also I have now met Tomi Adeyemi twice and she is so lovely and charismatic.)
The Martian – Andy Weir
A dip into adult hard SF but one that’s accessible. I loved how the protagonist, Mark, kept facing new and interesting dilemmas and how he had to solve them – all without losing his sense of humour. The film is on my list.
Saga Volumes 1 & 2 – Brian K. Vaughan & Fiona Staples
I bought Volume 1 of Saga this year based on reputation alone and after reading it immediately bought Volume 2. The art is fantastic, the story is humorous and compelling and I love the alien worlds that Brian K. Vaughan has created. I’m hooked.
Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race – Reni Eddo-Lodge
If you can look past the provocative title (which is explained in the opening pages), you will find a fantastically written book about structural racism from a patient, calm and logical author. A personal highlight: the chapter on British history and race – something that rarely comes up in textbooks.
Nevermoor – Jessica Townsend
Possibly my favourite book of the year. Nevermoor captures that magical childlike feeling of wonder and delight of entering a new world that books rarely have for me these days. I love everything about it – from the quirky names to absurdist logic. The sequel awaits.
Skyward – Brandon Sanderson
My third netgalley ARC (ever!) and I understand now why people are fans of Brandon Sanderson. A slow burn, Skyward is a great SF twist on the boy and his dragon story that laid down so many questions that I’m just after the next one.
I don’t sit down to watch films as often as I used to (only 25 this year!) – the cinema is extortionate and sitting down to watch a film feels like a lot of commitment. So I think I’m quite picky with them and they have to have been fantastic to make this list.
Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi
Porgs are not the only reason why I loved this film but they sure helped. This film is exciting, it has humour, it defies expectations – it has a Yoda cameo. What I really enjoyed about this was that it expanded the SW universe beyond the black and white and often elitist ideas of the light side and the dark side.
Mad Max: Fury Road
This is one of those films that you have to watch in order to understand its genius. The Mad Max franchise exists in a post-apocalyptic future where humans can be used as blood bags, water is scarce and monster trucks race across the desert. With very little dialogue it tells a coherent story, one that is not actually about Mad Max but Furiosa.
After ten years of the Marvel cinematic universe, Black Panther really breaks the mould and feels more like a Shakespearean tragedy placed into a superhero film with Kings and warring brothers and politics all centred on the fictional Vibranium (but not really…).
Captain America: The Winter Soldier & Captain America: Civil War
In a plot twist that no one saw coming, my favourite Avenger is Captain America. I always thought his character would be everything I dislike about patriotism bottled up into a supersuit but the Captain America films constantly surprise me. He questions authority, he’s morally righteous and he is a man out of time which makes my heart ache for him.
The Jungle Book
I’m so sceptical of Disney live-action remakes but The Jungle Book feels like the exception to the rule. The use of mo-cap takes this story and almost brings Shere Khan to terrifying life. I was wary about the direction the ending was taking but I liked it and I think they did the songs justice too.
The Shape of Water
Set in the 60s, following the story of a deaf woman and a creature that is being experimented on in a government lab, this is an interesting twist on the Beauty and the Beast story. I though this film was gorgeously filmed with a beautiful soundtrack that gave me Amélie vibes.
Based on the real Indian system of providing lunches to city workers, a mix-up between a woman’s home-made lunchbox for her husband ends up reaching another man. Through a series of letters the pair begin to talk and form a romantic relationship as they explore their individual unhappiness. If you are going to watch something from my list, it should The Lunchbox.
To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before
I never managed to read the book this is based on so I did not know what was going to happen when Lara Jean’s love letters were let loose into the world. This film is cute, it’s heartwarming and it went in a different direction to what I originally expected. Plus can I borrow Lara Jean’s wardrobe please?
The Hate U Give
Amandla Stenburg is amazing as Starr in this film and this is truly a heart-wrenching story. Although some of lower stake plot points had easy fixes (see: the ‘I don’t see colour scene’), I loved the realism and emotion in this film and how its brought the Black Lives Matter movement to a mainstream audience.
I haven’t been watching as many films in recent years but I have been watching more TV shows. TV is often better and means that you don’t have to leave the comfort of your home (slash bed). Shout out to shows I had already started watching: Westworld, Jane the Virgin and The Good Place. Here are the shows I discovered in the last year.
Black Mirror: Bandersnatch
Black Mirror‘s seasonal special this year is so fricking good. Set in the 80s a young video game creator, Stefan, begins to write a choose-your-own-adventure (CYOA) game. The episode itself is a CYOA story and I am so impressed with how Netflix have done this. I’ve only played/watched it once but I want to do it again to get a few more of the endings.
Altered Carbon (Season 1)
A cyberpunk future, a detective tale and ‘cortical stacks’ which store memories and essentially render humans immortal. Although a lot of the murder mystery the show begins with is lost in the larger plot and the reveal of the big bad could have been slower, the story was compelling, the aesthetics fantastic and I’m intrigued for Season 2.
Doctor Who (Series 1-11)
This is on the list because I rediscovered and fell back in love with Doctor Who this summer. For those following my reviews you know I haven’t been feeling Series 11 so much but my goodness Series 1 so much fun, the Doctor/Donna combination was fantastic and Capaldi is now officially my favourite Doctor.
Brooklyn Nine-Nine (Seasons 1-5)
This is not news to most people on the internet but Brooklyn 99 is hilarious. I rewatched it almost immediately which I never do with TV shows. Apart from the humour (obviously), what I really like about this show is that it breaks the mould of sitcoms: there’s no long term unrequited love story, there isn’t one character that everyone else bullies and everyone is actually good at their jobs.
The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina (Part 1 + Christmas Special)
This version of the Archie comics character explores the dark alternative horror version of the story with witches as devil worshippers. I love the autumnal aesthetics and timeless feel of this show as well as its take on modern feminist topics. The Christmas episode was *fine* in the grand scheme of things but didn’t feel too special.
Peaky Blinders (Series 1-3)
Named after a real gang and set in Birmingham after the First World War, Peaky Blinders follows the Shelby family. Cillian Murphy as Tom Shelby, the head of the family, is excellent as the ambitious anti-hero who wants to see their family move up in the world. It is a fantastic piece of British television.
Killing Eve (Series 1)
This series follows a highly trained assassin, Villanelle, and an MI5 agent, Eve whose lives become entangled in a cat and mouse game. I loved the multiple locations, the larger mystery of who Villanelle was and how it showed female obsession from a female gaze. (Also my friend said if I didn’t like it, we could no longer be friends so I had no choice but to like it.)
The End of the F***ing World (Series 1)
This series follows the story of 17-year-olds James and Alyssa as they run away together. But James believes he’s a psychopath and wants to upgrade from killing animals to killing humans. It’s a little bit dark but there’s lots of plot and character development and you begin to care about the teenagers. Plus it turns out that I am a sucker for Autumnal aesthetics.