Queen of Air & Darkness (TDA #3)
★★★☆☆ | pub. 2018
Dec 5th — Jan 2nd
This was… a whole mess.
Okay I know I screamed about it so much already, but holy shit, guys I GOT INTO COLLEGE THIS MONTH. And… apparently I did other things, as well.
Woo! What. A. Year. I have a lot to say, and it didn’t even fit on Goodreads, so take this post as an extended version of My Goodreads Year-End Review. Without further ado:
💜H O N O R A B L E M E N T I O N S
A sortable shelf of all my 2018 faves is available here.
new 2018: contemporary
→(read in 2017) American Panda by Gloria Chao
→People Like Us by Dana Mele
→Nice Try, Jane Sinner by Lianne Oelke
→Leah on the Offbeat by Becky Albertalli
→What If It’s Us by Becky Albertalli & Adam Silvera
new 2018: series continued
→(read in 2017) Dread Nation (#1) by Justina Ireland
→(read in 2017) Beneath the Sugar Sky (#3) by Seanan McGuire
→Give the Dark My Love (#1) by Beth Revis
→All Systems Red series (#1-#4) by Martha Wells
→Girls of Paper and Fire (#1) by Natasha Ngan
→Not Even Bones (#1) by Rebecca Schaeffer
→Witchmark (#1) by C.L. Polk
→A Study in Honor (#1) by Claire O’Dell
new 2018: scifi-fantasy
→The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein by Kiersten White
→The Loneliest Girl in the Universe by Lauren James
→All Out by Various
→The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy by Mackenzi Lee
→The Echo Room by Parker Peevyhouse
💜T O P 1 8 O F 2 0 1 8
(This is just a little out of order. Handle it.)
18. Queen’s Thief series (#2-#5) by Megan Whalen Turner
This was so much fun. I’ve read five books of this now, and I’ve been thinking a lot recently about why I’ve loved this series’ progression so much. And I think it’s this: I love the sense of hope in this series, the sense I have that Turner really wants recovery, rather than torture porn.
17. The Apocalypse of Elena Mendoza by Shaun David Hutchinson (2018)
The Apocalypse of Elena Mendoza is like nothing I have ever read before or will ever read again. It is an existential and oddly hilarious book about choices, with a wide cast of amazing characters and some weird mystery thrown in. And I loved it so much. I could have read this forever over and over again. This book is about a Lot Of Things– existential fear, the realization that no one is who you think they are, the realization that death is never in our souls, the importance of making choices, and most of all, the importance of free will. It’s a very funny book hiding a whole lot of serious discussions. Bonus points for thinly veiled jokes about U.S. President Cheeto.
16. The Fifth Season (The Broken Earth, #1) by N.K. Jemisin(2015)
In a world that barely thinks of you as human, how can you garner the respect you deserve? And in the end, when you’re forced to fight for the respect others will receive without condition, when you’re shown from the beginning your inherent inferiority, how can you find a sense of being? And in a book driven by an all-black cast, and several queer leads [perhaps the most prominent two side characters are a gay man and a trans woman] this feels especially significant. As a story about how we can be taught to believe in ourselves only as cogs in a great wheel, it is utterly gut-wrenching.
15. Black Iris by Elliot Wake (2014)
I still have no idea what to say about this?? There is something very deeply twisted about this book, and Elliot Wake owns it. I think this book could have really easily been kind of overdramatic and forgettable. But it is so not. The reasons are as follows: Elliot Wake’s writing is so freaking amazing, and it’s got one of the best endings to any book I have ever read. It’s really a bit sad how rare it is that I don’t guess the twist, but I did not guess the twist at ALL, and its implication for the themes of the novel is amazing.
14. Mirage (#1) by Somaiya Daud (2018)
Somaiya Daud didn’t have to come for us like this….. she’s like “here take this amazing multidimensional narrative about colonization and agency and internalized hatred for one’s culture, driven by a fantastic lady lead and her complex relationship with a fantastic lady antivillain, featuring fantastic setting descriptions and a really good romance, and also I write like a fucking Pulitzer Prize winner and this is my debut” and im just. out here eating a bag of chips
13. Final Draft by Riley Redgate (2018)
This is one of the most organic and real books I will probably ever read. Final Draft stars a pansexual biracial Ecuadorian plus-size lead with anxiety, and the way Riley Redgate writes Laila is so… empathetic. Redgate knows exactly where to place her quotes and exactly how to compose the narrative so that every aspect of Laila’s life feels like an authentic part of a big picture and more importantly, a fundamental part of her character arc. (OH, AND THERE’S A SAPPHIC ROMANCE AND IT’S REALLY GOOD.) At its heart, I think this book is a perfect conveyment of what it is really like to be a teenage girl growing up in our current society and what it is like to struggle with yourself, to struggle with friends right before college.
12. Imagine Us Happy by Jennifer Yu (2018)
In the spring of this year, as some of you know, I was in a serious relationship that did not end well. The lead character’s experience in this book spoke to mine in that relationship… far too well. I think it might be worth reading the full review for more.
11. The Infernal Devices series (#1-#3) by Cassandra Clare(2010s) +Lady Midnight
Strange how Cassandra Clare managed to get me so wrapped up in these books when I hated some of her earlier stuff so much. Here’s my opinion: all of them are in love and it should end in all of them dating. I am not giving up this opinion. Jem and Will are both in love with Tessa, canonically, and Tessa is in love with both of them, canonically, and let’s just be really fucking honest with ourselves and say that Jem and Will are completely in love. It’s 2018 and it’s time to admit that, as a society. It is my firm belief that under different circumstances, they would all be dating, and I do not care who fights me on this. Queen of Air and Darkness agrees with me. I’m going to bed.
10. The Sun Is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon (2016)
This is a book about how the smallest gestures can form the biggest pictures, how the smallest actions can change the course of a life. How seeing a girl can change your life. How falling in love with your secretary can change the course of someone’s life forever. How swerving in a car can get two teens together. How calling a security officer for help can save her life. This is marketed as a romance, but the romance is not at all what this book is about. The real focus of the book, instead, is the issues faced by immigrants: What is happening to Natasha is horrible, and Yoon absolutely refuses to shy away from its horror. This book …. sort of tore my heart into a million pieces. I can’t believe it took me so long to read it.
9. Circe by Madeline Miller (2018)
The thing that brings this whole novel together is Circe’s character: lonely, and harsh, and hiding herself in sarcasm much of the time, and there is not a moment in this novel in which I didn’t adore her. This novel is so interesting because at its core, it is an exploration of the voice of women in Greek mythology. Circe is a character we see nothing of in the narrative of Greek mythology, a character with seemingly evil intentions and little motivation – and all this despite showing up in several different stories. There’s something supremely excellent about seeing a character like this who is essentially a plot device be given a story. Madeline Miller is one of the best writers of our time and I can’t wait to see what she’ll come up with next.
8. The Cruel Prince (2018) and The Wicked King (2019) by Holly Black
You know, I keep coming back to why this is one of the best and most-hyped series of 2018, and why I fell so deeply in love, and I think I know why: Jude Duarte. Young adult so often pulls away from truly flawed, morally grey characters, but this character is a genuine unapologetic bad person. And her narrative agency is the source of all the conflict – her ambition vs. Cardan’s, her ambition vs. Taryn’s, every single variation.
7. Before the Devil Breaks You (The Diviners, #3) by Libba Bray (2016)
This is both the scariest book I’ve read this year and just one of the better ones. Evie’s character development within this book is my favorite she’s gotten so far. But I think what I like about this series is how it makes the personal political. This is a story set in the freaking 1920s, a time that could easily be whitewashed dry of racism and discrimination. But this story is so directly about the issues of the 1920s, the racism, the classism, the homophobia – the dark side you don’t always see. The villains of The Diviners are not the ghosts, scary as they are. The villains of this book are classism, eugenics, racism, prejudice. This story gets its true staying power because it is so grounded in reality for these characters, on the edge of society both through a paranormal society and through their very identities.
6. Bright We Burn (The Conqueror’s Saga #3) by Kiersten White (2018)
GOD. THIS SERIES!! This series is about misogyny, about internalized homophobia, about religion, about learning what you deserve in a world that wants you to accept nothing. It is a character and theme study that I just… adore. But most of all, I absolutely adore that instead of using a historical setting, a setting framed against the backdrop of religion, no less, as an excuse to end the story in Tragic Dead Gays, that the four major queer characters in this story are, in essence, the ones who get the happiest endings. that a gay, Muslim lead character is the one to get the happy ending; that one of the most admirable characters in this story is a Hijabi lesbian, that religion – specifically, Islam – is framed as a route to happiness for multiple queer characters, that the series proudly uses mlm/wlw friendship as a marking ground for healthy friendship. I. love love.
5. Sadie by Courtney Summers (2018)
All my favorite thrillers are about women taking back power from men who hurt women. Sadie is such a fantastic lead character; she’s out for a revenge, bitter and angry, a sexual assault victim, pansexual, grew up poor, and has a major stutter. I absolutely adored her, and watching her go further down this awful track was so horrifying. This is a stark, horrifying book in which Courtney Summers refuses, at every turn, to shy away from the harsh realities of this world.
4. Sawkill Girls by Claire Legrand (2018)
This is why horror can be so good. All I can say is the blurb of this as “girls loving girls, girls kissing girls, girls being friends with girls, girls helping girls” was really not pulling its fucking punches.
3. Vengeful (Vicious, #2) by V.E. Schwab (2018)
Vengeful was absolutely a wild ride and I read it in, literally, two sittings within the same day. I think Schwab’s writing style for Vicious is the best of every talent she has in the writing department; she’s abstract, a wide world without clear boundaries, but with enough detail that it’s hard not to be enthralled. This is a book of the power of women, a book of plotting and scheming that is so complex it almost feels as if it shouldn’t work. But it completely does, mostly through having such strong lead characters. Victor Vale is one of the best well-intentioned villain-from-one-point-of-view characters of all time. Schwab is a legend and this is, in my opinion, her absolute best.
2. The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid (2017)
This is a book about being a bisexual woman in an era where your life is considered public property, and any attraction to women would be demonized by the whole culture. It is one of hiding yourself for ambition, one of trying to decide which one takes precedent, one of aging, and one of never knowing whether your choices were right. Despite its marketing, this book is really about Evelyn. Awful, complicated, completely lovable Evelyn. And, as she says, once you start reading, you’ll really be more interested in knowing about her wife.
1. Girl Made of Stars by Ashley Herring Blake (2018)
This is not a book I am worthy of reviewing. This is a masterpiece of human emotion, of writing, of character development.
While this book is blurbed and described as a book about the rape of best-friend Hannah by lead character Mara’s own brother, it is also a story about the unspoken trauma so many young people face – the trauma of having someone you trust violate you in a society that refuses to believe you. Mara, Charlie, Hannah, Alex, and Mara’s family have all lost someone they trusted, all in their own way, and Girl Made of Stars knows this. With a bisexual lead character, a genderqueer love interest, and one of the best discussions of consent I have ever had the pleasure of reading, this was a crying letter and an amazing one.
💜T H I S Y E A R: S U M M A T I O N
As some of you may have noticed, my my reading goals did not go as well as I had hoped. In fact, I’ve barely been here. I figured it might be time to explain.
Before my junior year of high school, I was told keeping up with reading and reviewing would be nigh-impossible. I refused to acknowledge this or give in and decided to keep on reading. And… I still made my 250-book goal, only ten books behind. Naturally, this year I expected the same would be true for the first semester of my senior year, especially when I got all my college applications done early. Yes, I was taking six academic classes, five of which were at some advanced level, but I figured I’d overcome.
Well, I managed to keep my real life very, very organized. Not so much my book life.
I read far less, and then only for school; my blog somehow did not get behind, but was not scheduled far ahead. Perhaps worst of all, I gave up time with book friends I value a lot (luckily, my close friends are amazing).
But I got into college! And next semester, I have more free time. Look out for a semester-goals update, coming up soon ❤
💜L A S T, N O T L E A S T
🍁Melanie, thank you for understanding how… absent I was the last couple months, and always being so funny and kind and talented.
🍁May, can you believe it was only this year I figured out you don’t take your own blog headers as photos? I love you… so so much. You are one of the funniest people I know and you work so hard – at dance, at reading, at your own mental health.
🍁Julianna, I am so sad we didn’t get to meet! I feel like this year, I’ve seen you open up even more, and I hope that continues. I (loaf) you.
🍁Emma, meeting you again this year was so fantastic. You are straight-up one of the kindest people I know, and the best to talk to about everything (especially herongraystairs. let’s be real.)
🍁Chaima, you are THE funniest person I know. I am so sad we didn’t get to meet (missed chances!!) but so happy to know you.
There are so many people I could put here, and I want to add more shoutouts to this list later. All of you guys – including all of the reviewers I’ve interacted with – are seriously such important members of my life and I couldn’t have gotten through it without you. Thank you.
It’s time for another monthly wrap-up, which is not good at all. But. I promise you’ll see in my next post. that i will do BETTER NEXT YEAR. (Look out for my best 18 of 2018, coming later today!)
Viet Thanh Nguyen
★★★★★ | pub. 2017
Sep 20th — Oct 6th
I was in close quarters with some representative specimens of the most dangerous creature in the history of the world, the white man in a suit.
Sympathizer is one of the many books I’ve read for class this year and it’s taken me months to review it.
The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo
Taylor Jenkins Reid
★★★★★ | pubbed: Nov 2017
“Make them pay you as much as they would a white man.”
this book made me experience all five stages of grief and simultaneously made me feel every positive emotion in the world and I have no idea how that is possible. but listen, if you only read one book I recommend you this year, this is a good choice. ✨✨✨