#Project14Lists: Best Books I Read In 2018

Welcome to another list! Wow, I actually continued posting. Yes, I’m aware that no amount of catching up can change the fact that I am failing this challenge. I’ve been a busy adult (huhu no I am not comfortable saying it) for the past few days. I had a hurricane of a Christmas, and I was basically depended on to do chores the entire weekend. Let me tell you, cleaning up dishes on Christmas is not fun especially when everyone seemed to just want to stuff themselves silly. Then after a long day, you just want to lie down and sleep. I just want to discuss about my favorite books gosh darn it. Where do I get the energy??

Anyways, rant over. It’s time to talk about books again, hooray! Since it’s already the 31st here in the PH, I decided that I will be posting two lists today for Project 14 Lists created by Shealea from That Bookshelf Bitch. The goal is to blog about lists, but I’m kinda failing here haha. Though I digress, I think this project made me think out of the box. Hence, I have a lot prepared for the next year without hopefully burning out and I received a lot of positive feedback with the posts I put up in participation of this event. While I was not able to share the posts I planned to put up, I’m optimistic that those will kickstart 2019 with a bang. Now, where were we? Right, of course it’s going to be all about the books and I am genuinely excited to be talking about my favorites for this year.

Analyzing it real quick, I love that this list is generally diverse and each book is quite unique. According to my stats, I rated 5 books with a will-save-from-a-fire status this year. One of them is a read that I’m not comfortable in sharing my feels on… yet, so I will only be tackling four specific titles today. Also, since I’m so extra, I have some graphics prepared! I thought, “Hey, why not design CD covers inspired by these books?” Because when a book inspires you so much, it’s easy to shower it with love. Plus, it’s cool to think about the possible songs that can be associated with these titles. Here are the best books that I read in 2018:

The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo

33294200Have you ever read a book so powerful and capable of delivering such a beautiful story in the form most endearing to you? That was The Poet X for me. Not only was it written in verse, but it exuded a driving and riveting story that speaks magnitude. Xiomara’s hauntingly beautiful story about finding her voice amidst the chaos of tradition, rules, and conventions easily made this novel a personal favorite of mine. With the writing bursting with the raw and purest emotions, it’s groundbreaking and deserving of all the awards that it has received. Never have I ever felt so strongly connected to a book like this one. It just spoke to me on a personal level and at the right moment. This book has inspired me so much that I decided to write my review in verse as well. Check out my full raving here.

What If It’s Us by Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera

What If It's UsI still end up in a puddle of feels whenever I see or hear about this book. I’ve been itching to reread it since I was done reading it. (Count how many times Bianca says read.) That’s how good this book is for me. Nothing like magnetic and unputdownable writing to save me from the abyss of craving for a book I want to save from a fire. 2018 was a better year when it came to reading romance, and I was thankful for the type of relationship that Arrhur and Ben had. For one, it’s not picture perfect with the montage and everything. Two, they leave room to grow for each other. Finally, the ending that made my heart swell. It’s ridiculously rare for me to finish a book in a day – let alone a love story that’s 400+ pages long. Yet here we are and this book definitely surpassed all of my expectations and doubts. Read my full review here, and maybe have some earbuds at hand because this one’s accompanied with actual playlists.

Check, Please by Ngozi Ukazu

375345772018 really affirmed what I already knew about myself: I’m trash for stories as unique as Check, Please. It’s not common knowledge here on the blog, but I also love reading webcomics. They’re easy to read depending on the flow of the story, and you have a visual representation of what the characters look like. So when I heard that it was available online, I immediately jumped on the chance to read it. Now a public service reminder: Go do yourself a favor and update yourself with Ngozi’s fantastic work. Not only does it tackle hockey, but it also navigates through the topics of friendship, teamwork, and self-acceptance. Bitty’s pie-loving adorable self deserves all that is good in this world, and the slow burn romance makes you wonder if you should have been listening to Beyonce more. You’ll definitely fall in love with these characters faster than you can say “I can see your ha- YAAAAAAS THIS BOOK!” 😍😍😍

Bloom by Kevin Panetta & Savanna Ganucheau

29225589Yet another graphic novel about boys falling in love, this one easily got me hooked because of the gorgeous art style and the color scheme. Little did I know that I was breezing through it, and in every turn I fell in love. Honestly, what more can I say? It’s lightheartedly heartbreaking because for me, I felt for Ari as a teen discovering themselves. At the same time, I’m falling for Hector’s charm and perseverance. It’s a one-of-a-kind slowburn summer romance that can make readers giddy with the feels. Not only that, but all the talk about the family working and earning their keep from making bread is both a joy and a treat to read about, and the friendship dynamics ring true. Readers are in for a feast come 2019, because this will definitely be that one graphic novel that will send everyone in a frenzied hook.

There you have it! I had a blast making those covers and it definitely added to the overall feels that I have for these books. 2018, you’ve been a good reading year. The books on this list are definitely for keeps, and I truly hope you’ll have a blast reading should you pick up one of these reads.

What are some of your favorite reads for 2018?

Twitter || Goodreads || Letterboxd || MyAnimeList

PH Blog Tour: Empress of All Seasons (Review)

Before Reading:

Let me just state the obvious here: The Ultimate Fangirl is not exactly known for featuring fantasy books. It’s a genre that is quite literally out of my comfort zone. Sure you see me review some big fantasy books out there, but they’re not exactly my cuppa. It’s a either a really huge hit or a gigantic miss. But let 2018 be the 360 degree turn. Ever since Shealea at That Bookshelf Bitch recommended this particular tome on her Books On The Rice fantasy feature, I immediately added this book on my TBR. Seeing it just made a sudden realization struck me. “Hey, maybe I just need to be closer to what I know to actually ease into this genre.”

Empress of All Seasons is the perfect place to start. It’s inspired by Japanese folk lore, and heck I know a kappa when I see one. Years of watching anime and actually researching about the legendary creatures of Japan has prepared me for this. With that in mind, I truly hope I can get out of my comfort zone this time and not exactly dislike it.

(Spoiler: Yeah, I think this theory of mine is true.)

book_

37569318Title: Empress of All Seasons

Author: Emiko Jean

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy

ISBN: 0544530942

Date Published: 6th of November 2018

Series: None

Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers

Buy it on: Amazon | Kobo | Barnes & Noble | Google Play | The Book Depository

Summary:

In a palace of illusions, nothing is what it seems.

Each generation, a competition is held to find the next empress of Honoku. The rules are simple. Survive the palace’s enchanted seasonal rooms. Conquer Winter, Spring, Summer, and Fall. Marry the prince. All are eligible to compete—all except yōkai, supernatural monsters and spirits whom the human emperor is determined to enslave and destroy.

Mari has spent a lifetime training to become empress. Winning should be easy. And it would be, if she weren’t hiding a dangerous secret. Mari is a yōkai with the ability to transform into a terrifying monster. If discovered, her life will be forfeit. As she struggles to keep her true identity hidden, Mari’s fate collides with that of Taro, the prince who has no desire to inherit the imperial throne, and Akira, a half-human, half-yōkai outcast.

Torn between duty and love, loyalty and betrayal, vengeance and forgiveness, the choices of Mari, Taro, and Akira will decide the fate of Honoku in this beautifully written, edge-of-your-seat YA fantasy.

After Reading:

It has been a while since an ending satisfied me like that. I live for these empowering endings. I genuinely thought that it’s going in one direction but it kept me on my toes the entire time. It took me a while to finish because I had to put it down and I remembered that I have to breathe. NOW THAT IS HOW YOU DO IT, FOLKS. And it’s a standalone! (Honestly I can’t believe it either.) I felt like I climbed a mountain (pun intended). Okay I’ll stop with the jokes. In all seriousness, Empress of All Seasons is a beautiful book. It was wonderfully written and there’s no denying that gushing over it and making everyone want to read it is now a goal I have in life.

“EMPRESS OF ALL SEASONS IS AMAZING AND YOU NEED IT IN YOUR LIFE. THAT’S IT. THANKS FOR COMING TO MY TED TALK.”

final_thoughts

As a part of the tour, I received an e-ARC of this book. Huge thanks to HMH Teen for providing copies for the tour. This does not affect my review and all of the opinions and thoughts reflected here are my own.

While this is not the first review where I am simply baffled with what I want to say, I hope to do my best with the words in my arsenal. In the best way to put it, there were so many things that went down in Empress of All Seasons that I might not be able to fully review it and actually deliver what is in store for you, dear reader.

Being the blind reader that I am, which is something I do with the majority of the books I take a keen interest upon, I did not know what to expect asides from these major factors:

  1. It is a book set in Japan and it incorporated a lot about the folklore of the country.
  2. I guessed that it obviously involved seasons. (Gee Sherlock, that’s some amazing deducing.)
  3. There will be political aspects in the discussion seeing as it is a competition to be the Empress of Honoku.

Sure enough, all of these expectations have been fully met. Going into the book blindly was an even better decision because I have no idea how it will all unfold. So to avoid rambling like a mad man, let’s start with the technicalities.

For one, Empress of All Season was smashing because of Emiko Jean’s writing style and world-building. These two components complimented each other in a way because the writing style hooks you in and it engulfs you to enter the world at the same time. The descriptive narratives were enough to give you the full picture of what is happening, what our main characters are feeling, and the overall tone of the scenes described in the chapter. It is easy to just loose yourself in this world, but it does not shy away from its imperfections. At the same time, it is fast-paced and mindful of the time frame of the story. It holds its grip on you emotionally, especially in the beautifully tragic descriptions of various emotions felt by each of our leads and the people around them.

Which leads me to my next point: Mari, Taro, and Akira whose perspectives we see within this novel. There was a stark difference with the tones of their voices, but equally young, a lit bit naive and optimistic in general. Since the story eases you in, it was quite clear on what their motives were. A lot of their actions came from what was expected from them, and it’s quite complicated to actually explain each of their sides. Rest assured though, they are all intertwined. All of them had the tone of conflict in their voice, but it was quite evident how they each grew and developed as a character. All of them were rounded amidst a cast of characters with multiple motives. Mari having to hide her yokai form to compete and win the title of Empress, Taro being shut and cold like the machines he creates but suddenly taking a keen interest in Mari, and Akira trying to prove to himself that he is a mere half-mortal and half-yokai.

(I am really doing my best not to spoil anything why is this so hard.)

Now of course with two boys and a girl in the mix, there is a possibility of a love triangle. However, this triad begs to differ. I want to keep this review spoiler-free, but the triangle that played out in this novel is not your average love triangle. In fact, the subject of love shows itself in various forms. It also delivers something new (well at least for me), because it was something else and quite sensible when you think about it.

Lastly, there is no denying that Empress of All Seasons is such a lovely book because of it taking inspiration from Japanese mythology and culture. The plot plays out like an epic – a story that is one for the ages. With side glances to stories about their gods and goddesses, it pans out like a marvelous parallel. The many yokai mentioned in the story made the world bigger and richer in lore. It made me have a larger appreciation and respect to the culture the story is derived from. I would definitely want to read more about the various gods, goddesses, deities, and creatures that shaped Japan’s mythology.

There are so many takeaways that you can get that is very much reflected on the author’s culture. The book talks about loyalty to family and one’s clan, upholding the honor of one’s family, fighting for what is right with the people who have your back. There is also the incorporation of heavy issues such as slavery, which is seen with the yokai being forced to wear collars by the emperor. The role reversal of Mari – and not Taro – having to prove herself worthy of conquering all of the seasons is another note that makes this novel a must-read.

Honestly the only problem that I had was that the novel had a slow start and there’s no denying that it is a little bit hard to grasp what the world seems to be. But other than that and as I mentioned before, once you get hooked with the writing and the anticipation there’s no turning back. It will easily make your heart race and will leave you gasping.

Empress of All Seasons is a jaw-dropping, heart-stopping, and stunning novel that goes straight to the point. It’s the perfect fantasy story to sink your teeth into if you’re craving for a vast world that will make you fall in love with its rich lore. I would gladly recommend it to my fellow readers who wants to give fantasy a fair shot, especially if you’re extra scared in committing yourself to a series. This one’s for you my friend. There is a lot to grasp, but engross yourself in this fantastic standalone.

Honestly I know my review doesn’t give the book half the justice it deserves. But it is one of the best books that I have read for 2018, and I genuinely hope that you’ll have a grand reading time like I did.

author_

When Emiko is not writing, she is reading. Most of her friends are imaginary. Before she became a writer she was an entomologist (fancy name for bug catcher), a candle maker, a florist, and most recently a teacher. She lives in Washington with her husband and children (unruly twins). She loves the rain.

Connect with Emiko!

Website || Twitter || Goodreads

Need more convincing to read Empress of All Seasons? Follow the rest of the tour here:

November 12 

Rafael of The Royal Polar Bear Reads

Carmel of Bookablereads

Jonathan of Wander with Jon

Nikki of Take Me Away

November 13

Vivian of Vanilla Angel Pages

Jen of Jen D Bibliophile

Jenny of Levicorpvs Blog

Hanamae of The Wraith Reads

Cristina of Girl in the Pages

November 14

Shaine of Wanderer in Neverland

Akisha of akithroughbooks

Bianca of The Ultimate Fangirl (hey, you’re here!)

Princess of  Princess and Pages

November 15

Leilanee of ofsparksandmagick

Salwa of Salwa’s Reading Solace

Dexter of Dexterous_Totalus

Avery of B for Bookslut

Kat from Novels and Waffles

November 16
November 17

Myrth of Cliste Bella

Justine of Bookish Wisps

Athena of The Night Faerie

Ramnele of Bookdragonism

Erika of The Nocturnal Fey

Huge thanks to Carmel at Bookablereads and Rafael at The Royal Polar Bear Reads for hosting this lovely tour and HMH Teen for providing us e-ARCs and making this tour possible.

Now the real question remains:

Are you excited to have a blast reading this lovely novel?

share_your_feels