Best New Releases of 2018
Bijgewerkt: 29 dec 2018
New releases: for us reading-fanatics, they can simultaneously be the highlights of our year, as well as the bane of our existence. Every time you manage to make a good dent in your TBR-pile, a bunch of new releases show up, leading to that cute little pile becoming a monstrous mountain that you feel you’ll never be able to conquer. The numbers don’t lie: in 2018 over 2.6 million books were published worldwide (yes, I’ve looked that up, my source is linked down below). I’ve read a measly 15 of them. Some of them were bound to be good, others to be bad, and I’d love to share the former category with you. Because I couldn’t decide between a top 5 and a top 10, I’ve landed organically in the middle, leading to My Top 8 Releases of 2018.
8. Wild Blue Wonder – Carlie Sorosiak I’m going to start ánd finish this list with books that are criminally underrated in my opinion. Coming in first is Wild Blue Wonder: a beautiful and criminally underrated YA contemporary with a touch of magical realism, about grief, family, friendship and forgiveness. Set against the backdrop of a closed summer camp, in the middle of winter, we follow Quinn, who has always believed the camp her parents owned to be a magical place. This all changed last summer, after a tragic accident takes the life of one of the campers, who was a close friend of hers. Through a dual timeline, we watch Quinn struggle to come to terms with the events, as well as find out exactly what took place that summer. Wild Blue Wonder was beautiful, touching and atmospheric read, and I honestly don’t understand why it flew so under the radar for most people. It absolutely has some flaws (see my Goodreads Review for more), hence why it’s quite far down the list. However, if you are in the market for a good YA contemporary, I would absolutely recommend it.
7. Melmoth – Sarah Perry From the author of The Essex Serpent, Melmoth is a work of literary fiction, inspired gothic literature. Helen Franklin is an English translator, who happens upon a mysterious file, containing letters and diary entries from different periods of history. Not only do all of them share themes of guilt, exile and redemption, they also share the presence of an ominous creature, old as the numbering of days and straight from the depths of occult folklore: Melmoth the Witness. Through the eyes of both Helen and the multiple letter-writers (from different times in history), we find out more about this being. Who is Melmoth? What is her purpose? Is she a product of folktales, or maybe something more… The gothic style of this novel is both its strong suit, as well as its downfall. It’s very skillfully done and provides the book with a unique atmosphere, but can also make the reader feel somewhat disconnected from the story. Although it wasn’t the most enjoyable read I came across this year, it is an incredibly skillful one. If you enjoy gothic literature, this is one to read just for the sake of that skill. It also makes for the perfect atmospheric read during the darker months: I read it around Halloween and couldn’t have timed it better. You can find my full review here.
6. The Poppy War – R.F Kuang When Rin, a teenage girl from the peasant province is faced with the choice of being married off, or participating in the dangerous trials to apply for the most prestigious military school in the country, she is determined: she will become the best warrior the country has ever seen. Motivated by the dark events of her past, Rin embarks on a journey that encompasses combat, strategy, mysticism, enemies and allies, long dead Gods and forgotten powers. A journey that might not just change her life, but the course of history as well. When I heard “Chinese inspired fantasy with school setting that has the ability to combine magic with the true dark nature of war” I was sold about this book, and it didn’t disappoint. Although I have to admit that there were some plotlines that I had issues with, the overall book was a solid 4 star-read, that I really enjoyed. If you want a fantasy series that reads like YA, but without the sugarcoating and the romance: this one is for you.
5. I am, I am, I am – Maggie O’Farrell As the lone non-fiction book in this top 8, I am, I am, I am by Maggie O’Farrell immediately stands out, and fully has the right to do so. In this extremely original memoir, O’Farrell tells the stories of the seventeen times she came close to death in one way or another. The collection as a whole is so well put together; the stories are balanced and beautifully formulated, without sensationalizing any of the situations. Even though it has been 6 months since I read this, I still spontaneously think about some of these stories from time to time. In addition: the book is visually stunning to look at, both outside and inside. Each chapter focuses on a bodypart that was central to the experience, and is illustrated with a little anatomical ink drawing of that particular bodypart, which the medic in me especially loved. Nr. 5 of my favorite releases of 2018, but Nr. 1 on my list of non-fiction.
4. Everything Under – Daisy Johnson Everything Under made it to the shortlist for the Man Booker Awards 2018, and was in my opinion, the best one I read of the bunch. It’s the type of book that’s hard to describe, especially when you try to steer clear of spoilers. Suffice to say it’s literary fiction (emphasis on the “literary” part) with themes of memories, language, childhood fears and family bonds. It’s lined with elements of original folklore and fairytale, which underline the dark undertones this novel has. If you want to know more about the book, you can read my review, or read the description on Goodreads, although I would warn you to beware of spoilers, as some details are given away in the marketing that I would have loved to find out for myself. If you don’t like the type of book that is highly literary and written in lush and metaphorical language, this may not be for you. It’s a book I, especially as a non-native English speaker, has to work pretty hard for. In the end however, I think this is a brilliant piece of literary fiction, with one of the most distinct atmospheres I came across. If you are a fan of the genre, I highly, highly recommend it.
3. Circe – Madeline Miller Circe was a book that I was anticipating as much as I was dreading it, and it completely blew me away. As the title and author suggest, it’s a retelling of the life story of the ancient Greek half-goddess Circe. She is featured as a side character in many a myth, but never quite gets a full story of her own, so this novel is composed of fragments of well known myths, combined with Millers interpretation of events and characters. You can read in my review why I dreaded this book, but I have to say that in the end, Miller did full justice to all the characters, and brought them more to life than even the original stories ever could. Not only has she managed to capture the feel of the world of Greek mythology perfectly (that blend of mysterious, fairytale-like quality and brutal reality), she also wrote Circe to be my favorite female character of this entire reading year. This book came very close to perfection, save for a few tiny flaws, and is very deserving of the number three spot. If you haven’t read this one yet: do yourself a favor and pick it up!
2. The Astonishing Color of After – Emily X.R. Pan “Leigh Chen Sanders is absolutely certain about one thing: When her mother died by suicide, she turned into a bird.” That is the opening line of the synopsis of The Astonishing Color of After, and the opening line to one of my most emotional reads of the year, the flew straight into my all-time favorite list. This YA, magical realism about grief, depression, hope and family heritage is a true masterpiece to me. As someone who has experience the death of a parent, suicide and depression close by, I can say that this is one of my favorite books on the topic. It’s one that’s balanced to perfection: just the right blend of emotions, the right amount of lyrical writing, the right amount of magical combined with harsh reality. Although it briefly made it onto the New York Bestseller list, it didn’t get nearly as much exposure as it deserves. Even though this isn’t nr. 1 on my list: it is the book that I would recommend everybody to read, if I had to pick just one. Of course, judge for yourself if you are in a good place to read about this subject matter. If you are however: it doesn’t get much better than this if you ask me.
1. The Gloaming – Kirsty Logan My number one 2018-release may be a bit of a surprise, as I suspect many of you haven’t read, or even heard of this book at all. Like I mentioned at the beginning of this post: this one is criminally underrated. The Gloaming, is one of those books that went directly for my heart and soul, seemingly bypassing the part of my brain that is able to formulate a decent review or even summary about it. If you want to read more about it, I do have a review up here. For now: there are two things you should know: - it’s by the same author as one of my all-time favorite books The Gracekeepers, and technically listed as a sequel to that. This is not the case however: both books are supposedly set in the same world, but you can read both independently and in any order. - The synopsis does a very good job of explaining the style and “feel” of this book. If you love what you read here, you’ll most likely love what you’ll find inside. If the magical-realism-tone isn’t for you, you may want to give the book a pass as well. For me, the experience of reading The Gloaming was about as magical yet melancholic as the island the story is set on. I loved the characters, I loved the setting, and I especially loved the reoccurring, emotional motif of the sea. Although I recognize this might not be everybody’s cup of tea, I couldn’t bring myself to give my nr. 1 spot to any other book. This was an instant favorite, and will be an all-time favorite. Of that I’m sure...
That concludes day 2 of my end-of-the-years series. I hope you found at least one more book to add to your ever growing TBR. Tomorrow I’ll be counting down my Top 10 Favorite Reads of 2018, both new releases as well as backlist books. Until then, happy reading!