It’s Grace here, doing one of my FAVORITE posts of the year. This time of year, I usually take a look at my Read in 2018 page to see if I’m “on pace” with how much I’ve consumed in previous years. Also, I take a moment to share the love of books that have made the favorites list — but that I might not have shown enough love to previously.
Without further ado, here are five of my favorite books of 2018 (so far.)
Novel: You’ll Grow Out of It by Jessi Klein | Goodreads
Release Date: July 11, 2017
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
As both a tomboy and a late bloomer, comedian Jessi Klein grew up feeling more like an outsider than a participant in the rites of modern femininity.
In YOU’LL GROW OUT OF IT, Klein offers-through an incisive collection of real-life stories-a relentlessly funny yet poignant take on a variety of topics she has experienced along her strange journey to womanhood and beyond. These include her “transformation from Pippi Longstocking-esque tomboy to are-you-a-lesbian-or-what tom man,” attempting to find watchable porn, and identifying the difference between being called “ma’am” and “miss” (“Miss sounds like you weigh ninety-nine pounds”).
Raw, relatable, and consistently hilarious, YOU’LL GROW OUT OF IT is a one-of-a-kind book by a singular and irresistible comic voice.
First up is the laugh-out-loud treat that put a smile on my face even in the middle of March (which is admittedly difficult because I am seasonally affective as HECK.) While posting passages of this on my Instagram, I had perhaps the most messages I’ve ever had in response to a book excerpt. It was beyond rewarding to see so many friends buying and sharing it, because it honestly gave me so much joy. It’s real without being gross — which I find difficult to find in a lot of comedy books, because I grew up preferring a little propriety mixed in, thanks. The passion with which Jessi Klein tackles topics is both elegant and earnest, with one liners that will have you in stitches. I will automatically buy anything more that she writes.
Novel: The Wren Hunt by Mary Watson | Goodreads
Release Date: November 6, 2018
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Childrens
Every Christmas, Wren is chased through the woods near her isolated village by her family’s enemies—the Judges—and there’s nothing that she can do to stop it. Once her people, the Augurs, controlled a powerful magic. But now that power lies with the Judges, who are set on destroying her kind for good.
In a desperate bid to save her family, Wren takes a dangerous undercover assignment—as an intern to an influential Judge named Cassa Harkness. Cassa has spent her life researching a transformative spell, which could bring the war between the factions to its absolute end. Caught in a web of deceit, Wren must decide whether or not to gamble on the spell and seal the Augurs’ fate.
The Wren Hunt was a clever and masterfully atmospheric Irish fantasy of sorts, involving rival factions and plenty of intrigue. Pitched as The Raven Boys meets Wink Poppy Midnight, which are two books by my favorite authors, it lives up to its comp titles perfectly. Some of the concepts dealt with in this book feel abstract in a way I only encounter in my studies (like the role that patterns formed by mundane acts — going to and from work each day, for instance — have in their magic) rather than spelled out in YA books. It’s sophisticated and old feeling, while still being sexy and dark. It’s the best kind of read, that caters exactly to my taste. A little spooky, with plenty of addictive tropes, but inventive and smart and gorgeous. I am obsessed.
Novel: Traitor to the Throne by Alwyn Hamilton | Goodreads
Release Date: March 7, 2017
Publisher: Viking (PRH)
In full transparency, I waited almost a year to read this one because I was terrified of the longing that would grip me so thoroughly — to read the next one IMMEDIATELY. I waited until the third book was out before tackling the sequel, and I’m so, so, so beyond grateful that I did.
This is not a book that suffers from “sophomore slump.” It’s a fantastic continuation of all the threads and tensions that made Rebel of the Sands so compelling, just elevated.
Before Traitor to the Throne, I couldn’t remember the last time a plot twist had so utterly and catastrophically shocked me. To call it brilliant would be an insult. Add simmering tension, a firecracker of a main character, and intense political structures, and you’ve got a winner.
For those of you who are new to the series, the Rebel of the Sands books are Arabian-inspired and desert-infused fantasies that have djinn, gunslingers, and plenty of tangled allegiances. I’m not a huge fan of fantasies, just because I find them hard to keep distinct, but that’s not a problem this series suffers. It packs a punch — and it’s atmospheric, which is surprising considering the amount of plot there.
Novel: Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta | Goodreads
Release Date: May 9, 2006
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Francesca is stuck at St. Sebastian’s, a boys’ school that pretends it’s coed by giving the girls their own bathroom. Her only female companions are an ultra-feminist, a rumored slut, and an impossibly dorky accordion player. The boys are no better, from Thomas, who specializes in musical burping, to Will, the perpetually frowning, smug moron that Francesca can’t seem to stop thinking about.
Then there’s Francesca’s mother, who always thinks she knows what’s best for Francesca—until she is suddenly stricken with acute depression, leaving Francesca lost, alone, and without an inkling of who she really is. Simultaneously humorous, poignant, and impossible to put down, this is the story of a girl who must summon the strength to save her family, her social life and—hardest of all—herself.
A compelling story of romance, family, and friendship with humor and heart, perfect for fans of Stephanie Perkins and Lauren Myracle.
I thought Melina Marchetta wouldn’t be able to do it again, since Jellicoe Road is one of my favorite books — and also comes after this one, so I figured her writing style would have matured later than this one. I was pleasantly surprised by how readable and tender that Saving Francesca was. It had lines in it that got under my skin, that made me cry or laugh depending on their solemnity. The group of kids in it reminds me of a little family just because they are simply crammed with so much living, and therefore it makes a stunning coming-of-age. It’s quiet but no less impactful for that.
“Why do I feel as if something’s missing in my life without them and they don’t feel the same about me? That doesn’t make them bad, does it?”
At midnight, we take turns running around Hyde Park sobering Siobhan up. It’s freezing cold, and those of us who aren’t running are huddled on the grass together, looking at the stars.”
It just somehow nails the feeling of bits of life stress and darkness, but everything being so good and so bittersweet all at once. That combination can be heartwrenching. Also, it has that quality of having built-in references and similes that display so much history behind each character, so much spirit. It’s a human book.
Novel: Finale by Becca Fitzpatrick | Goodreads
Release Date: October 23, 2012
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Will love conquer all?
Nora and Patch thought their troubles were behind them. Hank is gone and they should be able to put his ugly vendetta to rest. But in Hank’s absence, Nora has become the unwitting head of the Nephilim and must finish what Hank began. Which ultimately means destroying the fallen angels – destroying Patch.
Nora will never let that happen, so she and Patch make a plan: lead everyone to believe they have broken up, and work the system from the inside. Nora will convince the Nephilim that they are making a mistake in fighting the fallen angels, and Patch will find out everything he can from the opposing side. They will end this war before it can even begin.
But the best-laid plans often go awry. Nora is put through the paces in her new role and finds herself drawn to an addictive power she never anticipated.
As the battle lines are drawn, Nora and Patch must confront the differences that have always been between them and either choose to ignore them or let them destroy the love they have always fought for.
So everyone who’s followed me for a while knows that I have this absurd problem in which I am incapable of reading final books in series. I’m too emotionally attached; I cry and cry and cry, even if it’s a happy ending. Especially if it’s a happy ending, because then it’s over and I can’t picture any other alternatives. It’s a small grief every time. Plus, I’m always worried that an author won’t wrap up plot threads enough and I’ll be left wanting.
Finale didn’t have this problem. For one, I love the tension between Nora and Patch. There’s always a bit of mystery and danger there that other books try to get at — but this series is the only one I’ve read who has done that successfully. Built a meaningful, deep connection, still filled with a lot of unknowns. Becca Fitzpatrick masterfully builds a rough-around-the-edges atmosphere, one that feels creepy and smoky and sharp, with an intense plot that makes your heart quicken. It’s sexy and gritty. If anything, the phenomenal pacing of the book is what elevates it to a five-star read. Also, apparently there’s a movie coming out, so I hope the producers don’t butcher it.