Hi guys! How are you? Today’s post is one I’m extra excited about – it’s my favorite books of 2018! 2018 has been a magical reading year for me in so many way. I feel like I’ve really broadened my reading horizon by trying new genres and even rediscovering my love for a few, like chick-lit and romance. I’ve reread old favorites and discovered lots of new ones, and they’re all here,
Wild Beauty by Anna-Marie McLemore
Wild Beauty was the first novel I read in 2018 and it’s as gorgeous on the inside as it is on the outside, full of beautiful flowers and bittersweet magic. The Nomeolvides women have tended the grounds of La Pradera for over a century, using their magic to make flowers bloom. But their blessing is also a curse, if they fall in love too deeply – their lovers vanish, and if they try to leave the gardens for good – they wilt and die. One day, after years of vanishings, a strange boy appears in the gardens. The boy is a as mysterious to himself as he is to the girl who finds him. His arrival is the beginning of the unraveling of a century old mystery and the story that unwinds will fill you with equal parts love and joy, sadness and rage.
Blanca & Roja by Anna-Marie McLemore
Of course both the Anna-Marie McLemore books I read this year are on my favorites list. Blanca & Roja is a magical realism retelling of Snow White and Rose Red. About two sisters from a family where there’s always to daughters and one is always claimed by the bevy of swans that cursed their family and two lost boys who walk into the woods were the sisters live and become something else. I will never have the words to do Anna-Marie McLemore’s writing justice. Her writing’s beautiful and lyrical, but also deeply rooted in the reality of being a brown girl in this world. Her characters are all flesh and blood, you see their hopes and dreams and secret desires, their fears and scars and contradictions. Her books remind me why it’s called magical realism.
The Beginning of the World in the Middle of the Night by Jen Campbell
I’m so pleased this is the book I chose to start 2018 with, cause it was wonderful. In these fairytales for grown-ups you’ll meet children with flowers growing inside of them, a man looking for the perfect animal heart to place in his lover’s chest and a girl forced to work at her aunt’s coffin hotel. I know a lot of people, myself included, don’t like reading short stories and that’s a shame, cause there are some true gems out there and this is one of them. I had to pace myself so I wouldn’t fly through all the stories in a single sitting, they were just so enjoyable to read.
SCIENCE FICTION AND FANTASY
The Book of M by Peng Shepherd
If I had to pick one favorite book of the year I’d pick The Book of M. It’s one of the strangest, most enchanting books I’ve ever read. Set in a dystopian future where people are losing their shadows and once their shadows are lost – they start to forget. That’s where things get even curiouser. Cause when a shadowless person forgets, the world forgets with them. Creating a strange, terrifying, yet achingly beautiful, almost dreamlike world world where deer may sprout wings instead of antlers and a wolf might warn a person not to ask a sparrow for directions (they always lie). It’s also got a diverse cast of complex, compelling characters, interesting relationship dynamics and a fascinating plot that never stops surprising you. I still think about the ending all the time.
Nevernight by Jay Kristoff
When I started reading this book I did not think I’d be writing about in my “Favorite Books of 2018” post. I was more inclined to DNF it before page 50 or throw it out a window, if I’m being honest. The incredibly intricate prose and the never-ending footnotes were slowing my reading pace to an intolerable level and driving me wild. But somewhere along the road something just clicked and I fell head over heels for this story (ok, it might’ve had something to with the fact that I stopped reading the footnotes) and it’s fantastic, bloodthirsty anti-heroine. And once I got going, I couldn’t put it down. The plot just wouldn’t let me. It was one breathless action scene and one wild twist after another, I had no idea what would happen next but I HAD TO KNOW.
Undead Girl Gang by Lily Anderson
I knew I was going to love this book the second I saw the cover. It’s witchy pastel aesthetic is just so me. But somehow Lily Anderson still managed to surprise me and exceed all my expectations. Cause yes, this is a darkly funny and wildly entertaining witchy romp with some campy horror elements, but it’s also much more than that. What made this a favorite for me was how cleverly it deconstructed the mean girls trope and explored female friendship dynamics with so much nuance. Also: The main character is a fat Latina witch! There’s a coven of biker witches! Zombie mean girls!
Emergency Contact by Mary H.K. Choi
Emergency Contact was a breath of fresh air in the YA contemporary genre and the first contemporary to ever give me a book-hangover. It’s told from the dual POV’s of Sam, an aspiring documentary filmmaker who’s working and living in a coffee shop, and Penny, an aspiring writer and first year college student. The two of them meet, then start a friendship, which slowly turns into a romance, mostly via their text and it’s so well done. Texting in books is hard to get right, but in this book it felt very natural and real. And I loved how untypical both main characters were for the genre, they’re both kind of closed off and difficult to get to know. It made their sweet moments feel even sweeter.
The Wicker King by K. Ancrum
The Wicker King was the most intense reading experience I had all year. It’s a fast paced book, with very short, breathless chapters, interspersed with multimedia elements like photographs, drawings, mixed tapes and more. But what kept me turning the pages was the intensity of emotion between it’s two main characters August and Jack. Their relationship is complicated, fierce, messy and fraught with conflicting emotions, and I just had to keep reading to see how it would all unfold. There’s also this really interesting fantasy-like element, because Jack has hallucinations of a world where he’s king and August his loyal knight, which gives the book a very rich and unusual atmosphere.
Here We Are Now by Jasmine Warga
Here We Are Now is another breath of fresh air in the YA contemporary genre. It’s split into two separate timelines, one follows Taliah as she meets her indie rockstar father, Julian, and his extended family for the first time and the other follows Taliah’s mother back when she immigrated to America from Jordan, fell in love with Julian and discovered she was pregnant with Taliah. Both narratives are beautiful and nuanced coming of age stories that explore identity, love and family. This book’s also one big love letter to indie rock and let’s be honest – any book that references The National is going to be a favorite of mine.
One True Loves by Taylor Jenkins Reid
I had a really hard time deciding which of the three Taylor Jenkins Reid books I read this year to put on my favorites list, but this is the one that made me fall in love with her writing. One True Love is about Emma, who lived a life of travel and adventure with her high-school sweetheart Jesse, until his helicopter went missing and he’s presumed dead. Years later Emma’s happily engaged and grateful for her second chance at love. Then Jesse’s found and suddenly Emma has both a husband and a fiancé. I started out rooting for both men, not knowing who I wanted Emma to end up with. But when Emma made her choice – I knew it was the right one,. I knew because I knew Emma and that’s what I love about Taylor Jenkins Reid’s writing. She let’s you get so close to her characters you feel like they’re your friends.
Milkman by Anna Burns
Milkman is definitely the most interesting book I read in 2018. It’s a brilliant coming of age story set in Belfast during the troubles. The protagonist’s being stalked by the milkman, a republic terrorist with high standing in her community and trying to navigate this. Meanwhile the community, consumed by suspicion and paranoia, assumes they’re having an affair. It’s written in a dense stream of consciousnesses from the main characters point of view, using no names, referring to people instead simply as Somebody McSomebody, maybe boyfriend, the milkman and so on, which creates a tense, claustrophobic and almost timeless atmosphere. I won’t say this isn’t a challenging read, but I think it’s one that’s worth the effort.
Conversations with Friends by Sally Rooney
Frances and Bobbi and best friends and ex lovers, who preform poetry together. One night they meet a photographer, Melissa, who takes an interest in their work and become entangled in the lives of her and her actor husband, Nick. On the surface this is in fact another literary fiction novel about unlikable, selfish people having affairs and saying vaguely mean things to each other while drinking red wine. But unlike most of those books, this one managed to make me feel invested. The characters might noe be likable, but they felt like real, flawed people. I cared about them. I wanted to know how their messy, awkward relationships would work out. It might not be the most scientific method, but I love books that make me care. The ending left me a little breathless.