My Favorite Books Of 2018

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2018 was an incredible year for books. I had set a goal of 80 books, based on my 2016 and 2017 tally. But with the advent of my newfound love of audiobooks, I was able to read 100 books this year. Because I had so many more books to choose from, my list of favorites is a bit longer than normal. But there were SO MANY great books!

Audiobooks are marked with an asterisk...

Tied for 1st… THE WINTERS and CIRCE

THE WINTERS by Lisa Gabriele

This is sheer and utter perfection. A modern retelling of Rebecca, with incredible writing, character development, and a modern edge. I loved it, and you will too. This is tied with CIRCE as my favorite novel of the year.


*CIRCE by Madeline Miller

I listened to this one, and let me tell you, there was something magical about hearing Circe’s story told in such an inventive new way.  It was like taking class in mythology, with all my favorites mentioned and explored. This is tied with THE WINTERS as my favorite novel of the year.


I MISS YOU WHEN I BLINK: ESSAYS by Mary Laura Philpott

Many of you know Mary Laura as my cohost for A Word On Words, but she is so much more. This incredible essay collection, out in February 2019, will cement her alongside Elizabeth Gilbert, Dani Shapiro, and Anne Lamott, the writers I turn to for help tapping into the female/writer experience.


HUNTING ANNABELLE by Wendy Heard

Dynamic, compelling, and totally twisted...What a mind Wendy Heard has. What a debut! It is so bloody unique!!


ALTERNATE SIDE by Anna Quindlen 

Anna Quindlen has always been a favorite of mine, and this book doesn't disappoint. I absolutely love her newest, and the Upper West Side setting is exactly what I needed. I miss New York!


SORORITY by Genevieve Sly Crane

It’s very fitting that this author’s middle name is Sly, because that’s the perfect description of this book. A series of conjoined vignettes, it tells the story of a sorority from the inside out, the good, the bad, and the ugly – and wow is there a lot of ugly. The writing though – it is perfect, sparse, descriptive, incredible. I haven’t been this excited about a debut author’s possibilities since SWEETBITTER. I’ll be watching for Crane’s work in the years ahead. 


TWO DARK REIGNS by Kendare Blake

Oh, how many good things can I say about this series? I love it, love the inventiveness, and the direction it’s heading. These books are spectacular, and this latest installment in the series is especially wonderful.


THE THREE BETHS by Jeff Abbott

Jeff Abbott has turned his considerable skill to the domestic suspense genre and THE THREE BETHS is the epitome of what a suspense novel is supposed to be. You’re going to love this!


ELEANOR OLIPHANT IS COMPLETELY FINE by Gail Honeyman 

Simply brilliant. Heartbreaking. A lovely story, full of everything you need to have all the feels. I cried twice. Amazing.


*THE BROKEN GIRLS by Simone St. James 

I listened to THE BROKEN GIRLS and it’s fabulous – dark, sinister, haunted – and has rekindled my love of the boarding school mystery. I blame Simone for my 2019 offering…


THE LOST QUEEN by Signe Pike

I had the joy of meeting Signe Pike at SIBA 2018 and found a Scottish sister. This incredible tale of Merlin’s sister is brilliant and an instant classic.


NINE PERFECT STRANGERS by Liane Moriarty

NINE PERFECT STRANGERS is a fantastic book and it relaunched one of the greatest book clubs to grace the online world: She Reads. You should definitely check them out and join the conversation! I was lucky enough to see Liane Moriarty in person and she was simply magnificent - so self-deprecatingly funny.


RUSH by Lisa Patton

A thoughtful look at the southern Greek system, and also wickedly funny. Lisa Patton tackles a tough subject—the lack of benefits and job opportunities for the sorority housemothers—with grace, and hope. This story is a must read.


BECOMING MRS. LEWIS by Patti Callahan

I’m so incredibly delighted to see this book finally out for you to read! BECOMING MRS. LEWIS is a labor of love. It is a joy and a seminal moment for a really incredible team of women: my friend Patti Callahan Henry and Joy Davidman. I think you’re going to love it!


*YEAR ONE by Nora Roberts 

YEAR ONE is super storytelling, inventive and scary. I loved the new direction in Nora’s writing, the apocalyptic world building, and the appreciation of magic.


SOUTHERN LADY CODE by Helen Ellis

This wonderful essay collection from the sharp-witted Helen Ellis (author of one of my all-time favorite novels, EATING THE CHESHIRE CAT) is a perfect look at how ladies can navigate this modern age with a dose of southern graciousness thrown in. Plus, learn the real meaning of Bless Your Heart. Available April 2019.


ELON MUSK: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future by Ashlee Vance 

This biography of Elon Musk is incredible. I have learned so much, both about Musk and the exciting technologies going into Space X. A must read for anyone who is curious about where the future is headed.


What are your favorite books of 2018?

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TEAR ME APART is on sale for $2.99

TEAR ME APART is on sale at all digital retailers! This is the first time it’s been on sale. Get it for only $2.99 while you can.

About the book:

The follow-up to her critically acclaimed Lie to Me, J.T. Ellison’s TEAR ME APART is the powerful story of a mother willing to do anything to protect her daughter even as their carefully constructed world unravels around them.

One moment will change their lives forever…

Competitive skier Mindy Wright is a superstar in the making until a spectacular downhill crash threatens not just her racing career but her life. During surgery, doctors discover she’s suffering from a severe form of leukemia, and a stem cell transplant is her only hope. But when her parents are tested, a frightening truth emerges. Mindy is not their daughter.

Who knows the answers?

The race to save Mindy’s life means unraveling years of lies. Was she accidentally switched at birth or is there something more sinister at play? The search for the truth will tear a family apart…and someone is going to deadly extremes to protect the family’s deepest secrets.

With vivid movement through time, TEAR ME APART examines the impact layer after layer of lies and betrayal has on two families, the secrets they guard, and the desperate fight to hide the darkness within.

Download the eBook

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Kindle Daily Deal: TEAR ME APART

Did you get an ereader or Amazon gift card for Christmas? Perfect timing because TEAR ME APART is on sale for the very first time! Take advantage of today’s Kindle Daily Deal and get it for only $2.99.

About the book:

The follow-up to her critically acclaimed Lie to Me, J.T. Ellison’s TEAR ME APART is the powerful story of a mother willing to do anything to protect her daughter even as their carefully constructed world unravels around them.

One moment will change their lives forever…

Competitive skier Mindy Wright is a superstar in the making until a spectacular downhill crash threatens not just her racing career but her life. During surgery, doctors discover she’s suffering from a severe form of leukemia, and a stem cell transplant is her only hope. But when her parents are tested, a frightening truth emerges. Mindy is not their daughter.

Who knows the answers?

The race to save Mindy’s life means unraveling years of lies. Was she accidentally switched at birth or is there something more sinister at play? The search for the truth will tear a family apart…and someone is going to deadly extremes to protect the family’s deepest secrets.

With vivid movement through time, TEAR ME APART examines the impact layer after layer of lies and betrayal has on two families, the secrets they guard, and the desperate fight to hide the darkness within.

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J.T. Ellison

New York Times bestselling author J.T. Ellison writes dark psychological thrillers starring Nashville Homicide Lt. Taylor Jackson and medical examiner Dr. Samantha Owens, and pens the Nicholas Drummond series with #1 New York Times bestselling author Catherine Coulter. Cohost of the premier literary television show, A Word on Words, Ellison lives in Nashville with her husband and twin kittens.

For more insight into her wicked imagination, join J.T.’s email list at jtellison.com/subscribe, or follow her online at Facebook.com/JTEllison14 or on Twitter @thrillerchick.

Sunday Smatterings

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Greetings, salutations, and warm hellos! I come to you from the land of new kittens! No, I didn’t add to the minions, I’m visiting my parents and their new baby, who is adorable! Her name is Jazelle and she has very similar marking to my girls. And just as much of a troublemaker as her cousins. And loud! My goodness, she is a squeaker. I’m besotted.

Last night, I sat down with my bullet journal to plan out my holiday break. There are 11 to-dos. 11. 🙄 It included two new habits I want to start (meditation and yoga) and the annual review compilation, clearing out email and Instapaper… nothing that can’t wait for a week. So… I scrapped it. Tossed it out. Yes, I have a few things I need to do, but I am going to wait until after the holidays. Take a few days to lounge on the couch and read. Eat some Christmas cookies. Play with the new kitten. Stow away my relentlessness.

One of the most common questions I (and every other author) gets is: how do you come up with your ideas? Because everyone has an imagination and impulses, which is the heart of story ideas, I interpret this question slightly differently. I think it is actually a genuine curiosity about how I can marshal said story into days on end spent at the laptop. Where do you come up with your ideas becomes how do you have the discipline to take a random idea and create a novel out of it? Did you see the D-word in that sentence? It’s about the discipline. Writing is discipline. Any creative endeavor is.

But… it can be taken too far. So that is one of my major goals for 2019, allowing myself to take time off, to recharge, without the crazy guilt that permeates the lives of every self-employed person — too often, if we aren’t working, we feel like we’re shirking our responsibilities. And when your office resides between your ears, it’s sometimes hard to turn it off. But I will try (see meditation and yoga, above.)

Tomorrow is Christmas Eve. One of our family traditions is to burn bayberry candles in memory of those who can’t be with us, those who’ve passed. It’s clearly a pagan solstice tradition that’s been coopted into our Christmas, which I love. Lighting the candles makes me cry, but it also brings such peace and strength. I’m sending you all wishes when I light the candles this year. Wishes for your own peace, and strength. Love, and harmony. Happiness, and joy. This is a hard time of year for so many. Just know someone is thinking of you.

Now, let’s take a look at the latest links!


Here's what happened on the Internets this week: 

Seattle high-school teacher shares ‘the wonder of books’ with students on a different kind of field trip. Such an incredible idea!

The Bigger, Badder 2019 Book Tracking Spreadsheet. This is super thorough, if you’re curious about tracking what you read.

 Watch the First Trailer for Marie Kondo’s New Netflix Show. What do you think? I can only Kondo my things so much before I push the box back into the closet…

Your 2019 Literary Adaptation Preview. So many books are being adapted for TV and film! Which are you looking forward to?

New study gives some handy tips on how to survive on Game of Thrones. Where are my dragons???

Female-Led Movies Have Outperformed Male-Led Movies for the Last Three Years. I would love to see some book stats with these parameters. There have been a LOT of hugely successful female-driven genre books this year….


What I’m Reading:

Speaking of new habits…. let’s talk about habit. I’ve now both read and listened to this beautifully compiled work of art. Twyla Tharp takes an intellectual approach to building habits, with a deep dive into the history of art and its greatest creators. I adapted her one box for each project method years ago, and still stick to it.

You must read it. Do the exercises. See what comes of your newfound enlightenment. Let your mind dance. You won’t regret it. 


That’s it for now. Eat some gingerbread men, cozy up with a blanket, some tea, and an excellent book, remember to breathe, and I’ll see you next week!

peace and hugs, and Merry Christmas!
J.T.

A DEEPER DARKNESS — on sale for $1.99

A DEEPER DARKNESS, the first book in my Sam Owens series, is on sale for $1.99! We’re not sure how long this sale will last so get a copy while you can.

About the book:

As a medical examiner, Samantha Owens knows her job is to make a certain sense of death with crisp methodology and precision instruments. 

But the day the Tennessee floods took her husband and children, the light vanished from Sam's life. She has been pulled into a suffocating grief no amount of workaholic ardor can penetrate—until she receives a peculiar call from Washington, D.C.

On the other end of the line is an old boyfriend's mother, asking Sam to do a second autopsy on her son. Eddie Donovan is officially the victim of a vicious carjacking, but under Sam's sharp eye the forensics tell a darker story. The ex-Ranger was murdered, though not for his car.

Forced to confront the burning memories and feelings about yet another loved one killed brutally, Sam loses herself in the mystery contained within Donovan's old notes. It leads her to the untouchable Xander, a soldier off-grid since his return from Afghanistan, and then to a series of brutal crimes stretching from that harsh mountainous war zone to this nation's capital. The tale told between the lines makes it clear that nobody's hands are clean, and that making sense of murder sometimes means putting yourself in the crosshairs of death.

Download the eBook

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