Welcome to the 2018 Pond Awards! (The Best, The Worst, and Everything in Between)

TEXT: The Pond Awards: Books of 2018 - The Best, The Worst, and the Most's. Image: Xiaolong the pink axolotl wearing an upside down flower hat holds up a golden award ribbon, with books with sparkles around them and ribbons floating around her.

Happy New Year, my dear friends! I wish you all a wonderful year, one where you will find what you are looking for, one that is fulfilling, and, of course, one filled with wonderful books. To kick-start the new year, I have a fun feature prepared for you all:

Welcome to our very first Pond Awards!

In addition to my favourite books of 2018, I thought I would also include a more fun post where I share with you a summary of the best (these should not be too much of a surprise!), the worst, and the most’s.

Looking back, this year was the year where I read the least. I read a total of 60 books, but I also have to say that this year was probably one of my favourite reading years (2017 was my favourite reading year, where I discovered favourites such as The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, Want, and The Epic Crush of Genie Lo), and it was indeed another successful year of reading diversely.

So, without further a do, allow me to introduce you the winners of the Pond awards: the most’s, the worsts, and the bests.


The Most’s

Most Steamy

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The Most Steamy award goes to The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang. I didn’t get the chance to read a lot of adult romance fiction this year, but I did get to read this gem after hearing a lot of praise. The story is about Stella, an autistic ergonomist, who hires Vietnamese-Swedish escort, Michael, to teach her how to be a good lover. And whew, this was steamy. I listened to the audiobook (which was brilliantly narrated, by the way!) during my daily commute to and from university or work, and I got super worried that someone with ultra-good hearing could hear the sexy times playing through my headphones. 😩

Most Emotional

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The Most Emotional award goes to Darius the Great Is Not Okay by Adib Khorram. Not only was it one of my favourite books of this year, but it made me weep openly on the bus. The story follows biracial Persian-American teen, Darius, and his time at Iran with his family to visit his ailing grandfather where he meets Persian teen, Sohrab, and a friendship blooms between them. This book explores mental illness and family, but the real kicker is when these two things converge, and a heartfelt, emotional, and raw discussion takes place between Darius and another character. It simultaneously broke my heart and mended it.

Most Important

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The Most Important award goes to The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas. I know I’m a few years late with this book, but be proud of me! I finally read it. And it was absolutely brilliant, just as everyone said. It follows Black teen Starr, who lives in a poor neighbourhood but goes to a rich, predominantly white school, who witnesses her best friend’s murder at the hands of police. This book is unsurprisingly political and explores social issues, particularly ones that disproportionately affect and harm Black communities. This is a must-read. If you haven’t read this yet, make it your 2019 goal.

Most Brutal

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The Most Brutal award goes to The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang. I knew, going into this, that this would be based on the second Sino-Japanese War, but I wasn’t quite prepared. This book follows Rin, a war orphan who gets into the nation’s elite military academy, only to discover that she has an affinity for shamanism and discovers the gods are far from dead. Chapter 21 is infamous for its graphic and brutal depiction of the consequences of war; depicting the Nanjing Massacre, a terrible massacre that some deny. The survivors’ accounts and their story lives on in this book, and I hope that history never forgets what happened.

Most Laugh-Out-Loud

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The Most Laugh-Out-Loud award goes to Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan. Though I wasn’t a massive fan of the book overall, as a Malaysian-New Zealander, I found the representation in this book absolutely delightful. I loved that Kwan incorporated the different languages spoken in Singapore, and I read most of the book in a Singlish accent. πŸ€·β™€οΈ In particular, the Hokkien and Cantonese jokes were absolutely hilarious; never in my life did I ever think I’d see the words ‘ang mor gau sai’, which is so crude and hilariously awful, in-text in a book! And of course, the movie adaptation of this released and, dare I say it, I thought the movie was much better than the book.

Most Relaxing

The Most Relaxing award goes to Soft on Soft by Em Ali. This year has been a challenging year for me, and when I read Soft on Soft, it was extremely timely and at a time where I absolutely needed the relaxing read. This novella eased my anxiety, took me to a safer and brighter place where I could revel in the soft, budding, and loving relationship between two fat queer women of colour. The story is slice-of-life, which is a genre that I absolutely adore, and is well-paced and such an easy read. If you ever feel stressed and want a soft read, then Soft on Soft is what I’d highly recommend.

Most Intense

The Most Intense award goes to Cross Fire by Fonda Lee. This book was the sequel to Exo, one of my favourite sci-fi books that explores a future in which aliens have colonised the earth and have made humans a subservient species. This sequel was heart-pounding. I listened to the audiobook of this and there were so many times where I held my breath. The incredible action sequences! The tension caused by personal and relational conflicts! So many high stakes! Ah, Cross Fire was absolutely brilliant, and such a memorable and fun read.

The Worst

Worst Relationship

Though I certainly had favourites and that there were relationships that I liked better than others, there isn’t a relationship in a book that I’d award the Worst Relationship award. Maybe next year?

Worst Character

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The Worst Character award goes to Hailey, from The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas. Hailey is one of Starr’s best friends at her prestigious high school, and she was unlikeable and insufferable (which I know was the point). She was racist to her friends and refused to take responsibility when they called her out it, and she chose her proximity to power and whiteness over trying to understand and support her friends. Hailey represents the ‘allies’ who keep quiet when violence happens and will pretend to care but silently agrees, and play devil’s advocate for the sake of being contrarian. She embodies what a friend should not be like.

I-Got-On-The-Hype-Train-and-Got-Off-At-The-First-Stop

The I-Got-On-The-Hype-Train-and-Got-Off-At-The-First-Stop award goes to The Cruel Prince by Holly Black. I’m still utterly confused that this book is hailed as one of the best books in YA right now when this book contains so much unchallenged and unchecked abuse. What Jude and Cardan have is so toxic; I can understand why their relationship would be “compelling”, but I struggle to understand why their ship is a thing. Cardan abuses Jude. That’s it. And no one talks about how their relationship is so abusive. Did I miss something? Did my audiobook skip over a chapter? Consider me an outlier – I just don’t understand the unconditional love for The Cruel Prince.

Biggest Disappointment

The Biggest Disappointment award goes to The Midnight Star by Marie Lu. Most of you will know how much I utterly adored The Rose Society for its brilliant character study and reminded of us of why villain origin stories are great. And then I read The Midnight Star, and it squandered all of its potential with its tedious storytelling and anti-climatic ending. The first two books were also largely plot-driven stories, so for The Midnight Star to suddenly become a character-driven story as a way of developing its characters felt a little too late. I still regard the series fondly because the first books were great, but unfortunately, The Midnight Star was not on par with the rest of the series.

Worst Book

The Worst Book award goes to The Court of Fives by Kate Elliot. The worldbuilding confusing, the story flimsy and incoherent, and the characters underdeveloped. Unfortunately, despite its interesting themes of colonialism, racism, family, and identity, and how the romance is between royalty and a commoner (which I absolutely love and am a total sucker for), nothing in this story engaged me. Chief of all problems, I found this book boring and tedious. Perhaps this is a case of it’s not you, it’s me, but I can’t in good faith recommend this story to anyone.

The Best

Best Relationship (Romance)

The Best Relationship (Romance) award goes to The Heart Forger by Rin Chupeco. Phew, this book. THIS SHIP. As you may or may not know, I am not a shipper at all (I am way too ace for shipping). But heck, if there’s any book that got me close to being a shipper, it was The Heart Forger. As the sequel to The Bone Witch, this book took it to another level. I was absolutely floored by the gorgeous romance and the development between the two characters, and when they kissed, fireworks of joy and celebration were going off in my brain. I won’t say too much because the romance is a spoiler to the first book, but heck. Read this book. Read The Bone Witch just to read this book.

Best Relationship (Non-Romantic)

The Best Relationship (Non-Romantic) award goes to Front Desk by Kelly Yang. I utterly adored Front Desk, and I think it embodies everything that is good and wonderful about middle-grade novels. One of its central themes is family, and the familial relationship between Mia, the main character, and her parents was rocky at times, but utterly heartfelt and genuine. This family goes through so much together, and although sometimes things aren’t always great, they stick through it, they help each other, they understand each other, and they care so much about each other. I love the Tang family, and this book so much.

Best Character

The Best Character award goes to Shae from Jade City by Fonda Lee. I think Shae might be one of my favourite characters of all time (Lan is a close second though). For reasons still beyond me, I really really connected to Shae. Maybe it was because of her brilliant character arc, maybe because I really understand why she was so reluctant returning home and to her life as part of the clan, or maybe it’s because she embodies everything I aspire to be – intelligent, strong, powerful, kind. She was also flawed, which I loved, and it made her feel more human too. I can’t wait to see more of her in the sequel, Jade War, and to see what she does next in the face of all her enemies and hardships.

I-Got-On-The-Hype-Train-and-AM-STILL-ON-IT!

The I-Got-On-The-Hype-Train-and-AM-STILL-ON-IT! award goes to The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin. Everyone told me this book was awesome, and so I read it – and heck, it was awesome. I went in with high expectations, and was blown away by Jemisin’s brilliant writing, genre-bending world and storytelling, and the brilliant execution of its story. This book undoubtedly lived up to its hype, and then some. One of my biggest reading goals for 2019 is to continue with this trilogy and read The Obelisk Gate, which I’ve heard is just as spectacular as The Fifth Season. I’m not even worried about my high expectations; I know Jemisin will deliver.

Best Book

The Best Book of 2018 award goes to Jade City by Fonda Lee. This should come as no surprise to anyone! I truly believe that reading this book changed my life for the better – urban fantasy that blends martial arts and family crime drama, that has political elements, Asian-inspired, and all about family and honour? I feel like this book was made for me and I feel like I had been waiting to read a book like Jade City. To me, this book is the ‘gold standard’ of a good book – great storytelling, brilliant characters, an exciting plot, and a deep and rich world. I can’t wait for Jade War to release next year!


I hope you all enjoyed our very first Pond Awards! And now that I’ve shared my bests and worsts, I’d love to hear from all of you!

  • What were your favourite books this year?
  • What were the worst books that you read this year?
  • Do you have any books to share that fall into the Most’s above? (Most Emotional, Most Brutal, or Most Intense!)
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39 thoughts on “Welcome to the 2018 Pond Awards! (The Best, The Worst, and Everything in Between)

  1. I didn’t do a any Best Of’s this year, but I may borrow your categories and keep them in mind as I read this year so that I can do a post like this at the end of 2019! ☺I’ve never been much of one for doing wrap-ups, but maybe that will change.

    I have to say, I am fully with you re: Jude & Cardan. I read a good bit of The Cruel Prince last year and I just don’t get it. He’s horrible and there’s no way I can see Jude ever forgiving him for his actions enough to enter into a relationship (not that she should!). I like the book itself well enough, but that “ship” and the hype can burn for all I care.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This is such a great post and I love your categories ideas here! πŸ™‚ I haven’t had a chance to read Darius just yet, but it’s high on my TBR and I hope to get a copy soon, it sounds like such an incredible read I’d love πŸ™‚ I haven’t finished reading the young elites series, so it’s nice to be warned about that ending, I’m so sorry you were so disappointed by it all :/
    I hope you’ll have an amazing reading year in 2019! ❀

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much Marie!
      Oh gosh yesss please read Darius the Great Is Not Okay. I loved it immensely and oof, it hit me so hard in the feelings as well.
      Yeah, unfortunately I wasn’t a fan of the ending, but some people did like it! Maybe you might too?

      And thank you Marie! I wish you the same, and I hope you have a wonderful year in general. πŸ’›

      Liked by 1 person

  3. these are great, CW!!! you read so many awesome books this year and I LOVE how you’ve managed to streamline it to the best without reading all those so-so books!

    LOVE this list and you are a wonderful human being <333

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I read a lot of violent books this year, but I definitely agree with your pick of The Poppy War for the most brutal. I’d also say it’s the most important book I read this year being that it’s based off historical events that I feel shouldn’t be forgotten.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi April!
      Right?! The Poppy War really knocks your socks off; even though you’re prepared, you just… aren’t prepared. It’s rough. And I totally agree with you. I really want to read Iris Chang’s work on the historical events, because I feel like it’s something I absolutely should read about. But I think that will have to wait on a day I’m up to it.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. These are all great choices!!! I haven’t read them all (a bit of a slumpy year in terms of reading), but totally agree on the ones I did get to. And the others, from what I have heard, make total sense too. Lastly, just in case I haven’t said it yet, your blog design looks absolutely lovely!! ❀

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you Kat! Heck, I know the feeling. I’ve been super slumpy too and the only reason why I’ve read half the books I’ve read is because I had audiobooks. Otherwise I would’ve only read about 20 or so.

      AW thank you so so much! That means a lot. πŸ’›

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Oh I’m so excited to read The Fifth Season! I’ve actually only just heard of it this year (which makes me sad) but it sounds so fantastic and I have no doubt that I’ll love it, now that I know I can add you to a list of friends who adored it! And Darius definitely brought out a lot of emotion in me — both sad and happy haha!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi May! πŸ’›
      Oh my gosh yessssss THE FIFTH SEASON is so good and will kinda blow your mind? Jemisin is such a brilliant storyteller. I really hope you enjoy it! (Be prepared for the very very dense beginning though. I do promise it’ll be worth toughing out!)

      Gosh yes me too. Darius was wonderful and I hope Khorram gives us another book soon!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Aughhhhhhh someone else who feels the same way about The Cruel Prince as I do! Like, honestly? I loved the book. It was everything I want in a dark fantasy. BUT I DON’T GET WHY EVERYONE SHIPS JUDE AND CARDAN? Like, NO. I am sooooooo sick of the enemies-to-lovers trope where the reason why Character A was bullying Character B was because they were in love and didn’t know how to deal with their feelings. And then later on the mental gymnastics that Jude goes through in order to excuse Cardan’s behavior because he admitted that he thinks she’s hot? I am NOT here for that.

    Lmao okay this became a rant. Excellent choices, especially Jade City! MY BLOOD FOR THE CLAN.

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s totally fair!! I think I would’ve enjoyed The Cruel Prince significantly more because I liked the court intrigue, Jude’s ambitions, and the whole fae thing, but yeah the relationship really ruined it for me. 😭 I also don’t have much hope for THE WICKED KING, in which the early reviews are suggesting that things don’t get better hahaha.

      I LOVE RANTS. I LOVE THAT YOU LOVE JADE CITY TOO. MY BLOOD FOR THE CLAN!!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. UM I THINK IT MUST BE ILLEGAL FOR XIAOLONG TO BE THIS CUUUUTTEEE??? How does she do it? Teach me your ways, Xiaolong. Also, this list is such a great one. The Jade City is DEFINITELY on my TBR list for this year. Between you and Shealea, I am convinced that this book is going to be the bee’s knees.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. YES TO SHAE!! Definitely and totally agree that she’s the best. (And yes, Lan does come close.) I’m just so happy and grateful to have finished 2018 with a bang upon reading Jade City. It really is a sensational book. My heart goes to Darius as well. πŸ’™

    Note to self: Read more of CW’s recommended books in 2019.

    Liked by 1 person

    • YES SIS. Shae is the best and I love her so much. Apparently she’s going to be a central character in Jade War, so I’m excited (AND SCARED). I’m glad that Jade City was the last book you read and you could end 2018 well! I hope 2019 will bring you more wonderful books. πŸ’›

      Like

  10. Ahhhh I REALLY want to read The Poppy War but I’m so worried I can’t handle how graphic it is? I can’t really handle graphic violence well, so I’m not sure it would be the best idea. I also really want to read Darius the Great, but I think I’m going to wait until I’m in a better place πŸ™‚ Loved this post ❀️

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ah I hear you! If you don’t want to read the parts with graphic violence, I recommend checking out Aentee’s summary of the most graphic chapter (Chapter 21) if you want to read it but want to skip on the chapter. https://www.dropbox.com/s/zwf4lf8108dyl9h/TPW%20Chapter%2021%20Summary.docx?dl=0
      I hope this helps!

      I definitely recommend Darius the Great Is Not Okay! I totally understand why you’d want to wait. I found it quite light, in some parts, because Darius has a great sense of humour, but the heavier stuff are definitely hard hitting.

      Thank you so much! I hope you have a lovely 2019, Michelle. πŸ’›

      Liked by 1 person

      • Ah thank you for the tip! Is the rest of the book not that graphic then?

        That’s good to hear! I prefer it when books with heavy topics like this have a nice balance between light and heavy stuff.

        Thank you, I hope you will too ❀️

        Like

  11. This post made me so happy, not only because you’ve listed some of my favorite books like THUG and The Kiss Quotient, plus a lot that are on my tbr like Darius or Jade City, but also for your opinion on The Cruel Prince. I love Holly Black and I actually loved TCP as well, esp. because of Jude, but I’m baffled by the ship… Like you said, Cardan straight out abuses Jude, it was horrible to read about and the fact that he himself is abused doesn’t excuse him at all. I was hoping the second book would kill off any chance of them being together, but it apparently did the opposite, at least relying on ARC reviews it seems so. Offending anyone is the last thing I want to do but seeing all this hype for a toxic relationship is awful. I’m holding out hope that they won’t get together in the end, but I honestly lost most of my enthusiasm for the book. Sorry for the rant haha, loved this post!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Veronika!
      Ooh I totally recommend Darius the Great Is Not Okay; it’s a wonderful story and I cannot recommend it enough.

      I absolutely agree with you and your opinions regarding The Cruel Prince. I liked the court intrigue and Jude’s ambitions well enough, but the relationship between Jude and Cardan really demotivated me from continuing with the series. I suppose it’s not for me? I’m not sure!

      Don’t be sorry at all! I absolutely love rants in my comments, so rant away.
      And thank you so much! I hope you have a lovely 2019. πŸ’›

      Like

    • Happy 2019 to you too, friend. πŸ’›
      Haha yay for us! I’m glad I finally got around to reading it.
      Oh, The Poppy War is great! I cannot recommend it enough, and I hope that you enjoy it. If you need any content/trigger warnings, I’d be more than happy to provide them to you if need be!

      Liked by 1 person

  12. The Poppy War and THUG are one of my top fave of the year too! I also really liked Darius the Great is Not Okay. While some of these are already on my tbr. I’ll still add Front Desk tho, because I fell in love with that cover. πŸ’–

    Like

  13. You on the bus worrying people can hear sexy times through your headphones made me smile! I am always like that when I’m ready steamy books – I get paranoid the person next to me is looking over my shoulder. These are the pitfalls of doing all your reading on public transport!

    I need to read The Heart Forger. I enjoyed The Bone Witch but I never got around to picking up the sequel – I am so useless with series. Terribly I can’t even remember who the love interest was! I think maybe I need to have a reread before I get to it.

    That is such an interesting point about The Cruel Prince. I haven’t read it – the reviews are so hit and miss that I haven’t been enthusiastic enough to pick it up. I haven’t heard anyone else mention an abusive relationship though. Urgh, it upsets me so much when they represent these toxic cycles as somehow sexy and desirable.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Wowie Wow Wow!! I really really want to read Jade City so muchhhh ❀ Also, I have such similar thoughts as you with The Cruel Prince because I DONT GET THE HYPE?!?! Their relationship came out of no where, and I am not seeing the slow-burn loving development that everyone else is seeing. πŸ™„

    Also, I literally just added The Kiss Quotient to my library cart because of this, but sadly, they don’t have the audiobook! 😭 Still, you have me super excited to read it. Aghh and so many other amazing books on this list from THUG to Crazy Rich Asians ❀ I’m debating whether or not to continue reading The Rose Society. I was meh with The Young Elites (didn’t love it, didn’t hate it), but I’ve heard it gets better?

    Hope you have a happy 2019!! ❀ Sending you all my love & support πŸ™‚

    Like

  15. I FINALLY STARTED GOING ON WORDPRESS AND NOW I CAN START READING YOUR BLOG AND I’M SO EXCITED CW!!!!! going onto ur blog made me feel like i was traveling to an atmospheric, quiet pond where i can relax and i wish the imaginary world that your blog created in my head really existed and i could go there!!!

    anyways i loved this post!! honestly?? i DID love the cruel prince for jude but I GET. WHAT YOU MEAN ABOUT CARDAN AND JUDE. like some people said that their relationship before they were really together was super romantic and had tension but like? no? he was? bullying her?

    Liked by 1 person

    • JULIANNA!!!
      Omg thank you SO SO MUCH.
      Oh my, what you described is exactly what I was aiming for and hoping for, so that means so much to me. TRULY! Thank you so so much. πŸ’›

      That’s TOTALLY FAIR. I can totally see why people love the book and the story (it just wasn’t for me) but the ship confuses me. 😩 Maybe I just don’t get it?!

      Like

  16. CW!! You kicked it put of the park yet again! What an amazing post! ❀
    I read 68 books this past year, so don’t worry, we’re on the same boat 😎
    I absolutely adored The Kiss Quotient, and I’m so glad you did too! I really wanna get to some of the other books you awarded, like Darius the Great is Not Okay and Front Desk πŸ˜ƒ
    I still have to get to The Hate U Give, I’m super late haha πŸ˜…
    And hearing you talk about The Heart Forger made me even more intrigued about picking up The Bone Witch! 😍
    I hope you have a lovely 2019 and I’m looking forward to many more visits to the Pond πŸ€—

    Liked by 1 person

    • Awww thank you SO MUCH. Your comments always make my day a little brighter. πŸ’›

      Yess oh my goodness, and I can’t wait for Hoang’s other book, THE BRIDE TEST.
      Ooh yes, please please read both DARIUS THE GREAT and FRONT DESK. They’re both so amazing and such blessings of 2018!!

      I hope you have a wonderful 2019 too, and the Pond will always welcome you with open arms. πŸ’›

      Liked by 1 person

  17. Totally agree with you on The Cruel Prince and The Midnight Star. TCP was all about an abusive relationships and people were shipping it like??? Okay, what happened to y’all caring about not promoting that this kind of behavior is okay? I guess when it’s a book you like it doesn’t count *upside down smiling emoji* Also, everything you said about TMS! The first two books were so intense and driven and then this one was just… sappy. Too sappy.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. I’m so happy to see Darius the Great Is Not Okay by Adib Khorram made your list of best! I had the pleasure of meeting the author at a book festival this year and hearing him speak on a panel. I cannot wait to read it soon!

    The Broken Earth series is amazing!! The second and third books are just as good as the first. I just finished the 3rd. Definitely one of my favorite series ever.

    I so agree about the toxic relationship in The Cruel Prince! I enjoyed the book, but the romance was definitely problematic.

    Liked by 1 person

    • OH MY GOSH! so jealous you got to meet Khorram. His book is SO special to me, and I would love to tell him personally how much DARIUS means to me one day.

      Oh my goodness, hearing that THE BROKEN EARTH is good makes me even more excited for it. Ah! Hoping to read it in 2019. 😍

      That’s totally fair! I think the book (without the ‘romance’) is good, but the romance really just did ruin it for me unfortunately.

      Liked by 1 person

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