Sunday, January 31, 2016

The Sunday Post #35

The Sunday Post is hosted by The Caffeinated Book Reviewer. It’s a chance to recap the past week, talk about next week, and share news.

On The Blog Last Week

On The Blog This Week

  • On Monday I review Midwinterblood by Marcus Sedgwick.
  • On Tuesday I list books with awesomely weird settings.
  • On Wednesday I review I’ll Give You The Sun by Jandy Nelson.
  • On Thursday I wrap up January.
  • On Saturday I show you my accidental book haul.

In My Reading Life

I’ve been trying to read some of the unread literary journals that I’ve been hoarding for the past few years. I don’t count journals toward my reading challenges or talk about them on the blog, but I like reading them, and I own way too many.

I’m also still working on The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt. I still have about 300 pages to go. After that, I’m reading the shortest book I can find on my TBR shelf.

In The Rest Of My Life

Five things that made me happy last week:

  1. I didn’t spend too much time obsessing over The Giant Essay From Hell.
  2. Since I’ve been getting rid of so many books, I have a zillion credits for the used bookstore.
  3. The zillion credits led to an accidental book haul. I’m technically supposed to be on a book-acquiring ban until Mount TBR is at a sane level. Oops.
  4. Playing with my dogs.
  5. I found an affordable dentist who told me why I have weird holes in my teeth—turns out I grind my teeth while I sleep. Who knew?

I hope you had a great week! See you around the blogosphere!

Thursday, January 28, 2016

January Currently . . .

Here’s what I’ve been up to in January:

I’m Currently . . .

Reading: The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt.

Watching: The only thing I’ve been watching lately is the Harry Potter movies. For some reason, re-watching them makes me really happy. I tried watching that Shadowhunters show, but it’s as cheesy as the books.

Stalking: Lately, I’ve been loving Outlandish Lit. Most of the blogs I follow just review whatever YA book is super-hyped right now, so I appreciate that Julianne has a unique taste in books. She also reviews a lot of the books that I have on my TBR list.  

Planning: My reading list for February. I want to read books by authors who are not from the US. I’m determined to read more international authors this year.

Making: Shelf space. I’ve been clearing out a lot of my old books to make room for new ones.

Stocking up on: Nothing! I’ve been doing the opposite this month and getting rid of things that I don’t need.

Wishing for: The ability to read faster. There are so many good books coming out this year. I’ve been adding more to my TBR list almost every day. It’s insane.

Enjoying: Getting my schoolwork done. I think I’ve accomplished a lot with my research and writing in the past few months. It feels like everything is moving quickly in the right direction.

Trying: To exercise regularly. I want to be in good enough shape to go on long hikes this summer. I’ve been spending a lot of time walking uphill on the treadmill.

Eating: I’ve been trying to eat healthy. It hasn’t always worked because pizza is life.

Goal setting: I have a huge project due at the end of February. My biggest goal right now is to finish that.

Learning: That I work best with a schedule. I can get a lot done if I stick to a schedule.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Printz Review: In Darkness – Nick Lake

In Darkness – Nick Lake

In darkness I count my blessings like Manman taught me. One: I am alive. Two: there is no two. In the aftermath of the Haitian earthquake, a boy is trapped beneath the rubble of a ruined hospital: thirsty, terrified and alone. 'Shorty' is a child of the slums, a teenage boy who has seen enough violence to last a lifetime, and who has been inexorably drawn into the world of the gangsters who rule Site Soleil: men who dole out money with one hand and death with the other. But Shorty has a secret: a flame of revenge that blazes inside him and a burning wish to find the twin sister he lost five years ago. And he is marked. Marked in a way that links him with Toussaint L'Ouverture, the Haitian rebel who two-hundred years ago led the slave revolt and faced down Napoleon to force the French out of Haiti. As he grows weaker, Shorty relives the journey that took him to the hospital, a bullet wound in his arm. In his visions and memories he hopes to find the strength to survive, and perhaps then Toussaint can find a way to be free.

Review: I always seem to have the same problem with duel-narrative books. I like one storyline more than the other.

In Darkness is about a teenage gang member nicknamed Shorty. After he is shot in the arm, he’s taken to a hospital, but an earthquake causes the hospital to collapse on top of him. While trapped in the rubble, he starts dreaming about Toussaint L'Ouverture, the slave who led a revolt and freed Haiti two-hundred years ago. There seems to be a psychic link between Shorty and Toussaint L'Ouverture. The book flips back and forth between Shorty’s story and Toussaint’s.

I was drawn to this novel because it’s set in Haiti, which isn’t a place that I know very much about. This book is a great introduction to Haiti’s history and present. Even though the book is fiction (mostly), it feels very gritty and real. Shorty is a gangster who committed his first murder at age 12, but he’s still weirdly relatable. He loves his family and is doing whatever it takes to survive in one of the most dangerous slums on Earth.

I’m not exaggerating when I say that this book is gritty. The author isn’t afraid to talk about murder, extreme poverty, gang culture, racism, or drug use. It’s an honest book. Shorty doesn’t hide anything from the reader. He doesn’t even hide some of the disgusting things he has to do to survive while trapped under the collapsed hospital. Sometimes this book made me cringe.

I like historical fiction because it’s (usually) a palatable way to learn history, but I didn’t like Toussaint’s story nearly as much as I liked Shorty’s. Toussaint’s story lacked the depth of Shorty’s. The parts of the book that happened two-hundred years ago didn’t feel as real to me.

I also wondered about this book’s classification as a young adult novel. I’m an adult, and I liked this story, but teenage-me wouldn’t have read this book willingly. It’s denser than most YA novels I’ve read. There are a lot of characters with complicated backstories. There is also a mixture of different languages with no translations, a lot of exposition, a complex nonlinear structure, slow pacing, and not much dialogue. As an adult, I can appreciate the beauty in those things, but teenage-me definitely wouldn’t have had the patience for this book.

If you’re interested in Haiti or unique historical fiction, In Darkness is probably worth checking out.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Top Ten Tuesday: Ten Wishes For YA

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week’s topic is whatever I want, so I chose ten wishes for YA. These are things that I want to see more of in YA literature.

Ten Wishes for YA

1. More books with unusual formatting/structures/writing styles. I want novels-in-verse, books with pictures, stories told in unique ways, anything that’s a little strange.

2. Short story collections. I love anthologies and collections, but there aren’t many good ones in the YA genre. I know they don’t sell well, but can we please have more?

3. Non-romantic love. Sometimes love isn’t romantic. I want to see characters who love their families or friends. Also, characters who aren’t interested in romance.

4. Physical disabilities and illnesses. I feel like we’ve been getting a lot of books about mental illnesses lately. That diversity is appreciated, but I’d like to see more characters with physical challenges.

5. Translations. What does YA look like in the non-English-speaking world? If it exists somewhere, I want to read it.

6. LGBT books that aren’t “coming-out” stories. I know that coming-out stories are important, but what happens after the coming-out?

7. Popular nonfiction. Most of the YA books I see on blogs are fiction. Where’s all the nonfiction?

8. Non-white protagonists. I think books are starting to get more racially diverse, and I would like to see that trend continue.

9. Dystopias where nobody saves the world. I love dystopias. I prefer the ones where the characters are just trying to live their lives rather than starting wars or overthrowing governments.

10. Realistic romances. No matter how good your romance is, it can’t cure all of life’s problems. I want to see characters working through problems rather than having the problems magically solved by falling in love.

What are your wishes for YA?

Monday, January 25, 2016

Printz Review: Where Things Come Back – John Corey Whaley

Where Things Come Back – John Corey Whaley

Just when seventeen-year-old Cullen Witter thinks he understands everything about his small and painfully dull Arkansas town, it all disappears. . . .

In the summer before Cullen's senior year, a nominally-depressed birdwatcher named John Barling thinks he spots a species of woodpecker thought to be extinct since the 1940s in Lily, Arkansas. His rediscovery of the so-called Lazarus Woodpecker sparks a flurry of press and woodpecker-mania. Soon all the kids are getting woodpecker haircuts and everyone's eating "Lazarus burgers." But as absurd as the town's carnival atmosphere has become, nothing is more startling than the realization that Cullen’s sensitive, gifted fifteen-year-old brother Gabriel has suddenly and inexplicably disappeared.

While Cullen navigates his way through a summer of finding and losing love, holding his fragile family together, and muddling his way into adulthood, a young missionary in Africa, who has lost his faith, is searching for any semblance of meaning wherever he can find it. As distant as the two stories seem at the start, they are thoughtfully woven ever closer together and through masterful plotting, brought face-to-face in a surprising and harrowing climax.

Review: I don’t think I got along with this book very well. It’s definitely not a bad book, but I don’t think it’s my kind of thing.

This book has four plotlines that come together at the end. In the first story, seventeen-year-old Cullen’s brother goes missing, and his family starts to fall apart.

In a second plotline, a birdwatcher thinks he spotted an extinct species of woodpecker in Cullen’s town. The town is flooded by tourists looking for the bird.

In the third plotline, two religious college students learn about a little-known book of the Bible. The information they discover changes the course of both their lives.

In another plotline, a girl who graduated from Cullen’s high school comes back to their small town after a failed relationship.

The plotlines converge slowly, which I really liked. At first, the plots seem to have nothing to do with each other, but as the book goes on, they come closer and closer together. Eventually, the way that the stories were related clicked in my mind. I needed to keep reading to find out if I was right. I liked the last 50 pages of the book much better than the rest of it. The story starts moving fast when the plotlines come together. I sped through the ending because I wanted to find out if Cullen got his brother back.

The writing style is the biggest reason that I struggled with this book. The best way that I can describe it is “detached.” The detachment does help avoid melodrama (which is great), but I never felt close to the characters. I was interested in the mystery of Cullen’s brother’s disappearance, but I didn’t really care about the outcome of the mystery because I couldn’t connect with anyone involved in it.

I also struggled with Cullen’s narration style. It starts to feel repetitive as the book goes on. He often talks about himself in third person and has elaborate fantasies. Some of the fantasies are about killing zombies. I understand how the zombies tie in to the theme (zombies are “things that come back”), but I think the fantasies take up too much of the book. I was tempted to skim a lot of the parts that are about Cullen’s imagination.

Other than the ending, there is one other part of the book that I really like. At one point, Cullen’s family hires a psychic to find his missing brother. The family members’ mixed reactions to the psychic feel realistic. Some family members want to give the psychic a chance, and others roll their eyes, but they are all very invested in what the psychic says.

Overall, this book wasn’t for me, but there are parts of it that I really liked.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

The Sunday Post #34

The Sunday Post is hosted by The Caffeinated Book Reviewer. It’s a chance to recap the past week, talk about next week, and share news.

On The Blog Last Week

On The Blog This Week

  • On Monday I review Where Things Come Back by John Corey Whaley.
  • On Tuesday I list 10 wishes for YA.
  • On Wednesday I review In Darkness by Nick Lake.
  • On Thursday I tell you what I’ve been up to in January.

In My Reading Life

Last week, I read Bone Gap by Laura Ruby and started The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt. The Goldfinch is going to take me a while to read because it’s really long, and I’m not a particularly fast reader.

Also, I finally finished reading all of the Printz Award winners. Reviews will be up in the next few weeks.

In My Blogging Life

I’m back to my regular blogging schedule. I’m going to be posting 3-5 times a week from now on.

In The Rest Of My Life

Five things that made me happy last week:

  1. Re-watching the Harry Potter movies over and over. I’ve been doing this almost every night for 3 weeks now, and I’m still not sick of the movies.
  2. Pizza!
  3. Petsitting my friend’s dog.
  4. Mailing 21 books to new homes.
  5. Clearing space on my shelves for more books.

I hope you had a great week! See you around the blogosphere!

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Printz Review: Ship Breaker - Paolo Bacigalupi

Ship Breaker - Paolo Bacigalupi

In America's Gulf Coast region, grounded oil tankers are being broken down for parts by crews of young people. Nailer, a teenage boy, works the light crew, scavenging for copper wiring just to make quota—and hopefully live to see another day. But when, by luck or by chance, he discovers an exquisite clipper ship beached during a recent hurricane, Nailer faces the most important decision of his life: Strip the ship for all it's worth or rescue its lone survivor, a beautiful and wealthy girl who could lead him to a better life . . . .

Review: A YA dystopia with minimal romance—I liked this book before I started reading. It also gets bonus points for not being a one-teenager-must-save-the-world dystopia. Nailer just wants to stay alive.

Nailer lives in America’s flooded Gulf Coast and has a job stripping old ships of their valuable metals. The work is hard and dangerous, and he doesn’t make enough money to get himself and his drug-addicted father out of poverty. After a hurricane, Nailer finds a clipper ship washed up near the shore of an island. He could strip the ship and sell the metal himself, or he could rescue the ship’s only survivor and maybe get a reward for returning her and the ship to her wealthy family. He has to make a decision quickly, or he could lose the ship, the survivor, and possibly his life to the other ship breakers.

The characters’ culture is so well-developed in this book. They have their own slang, their own religions, their own ethical codes. Their culture is interesting to read about because it’s close enough to ours to be understandable, but it’s still strange and unpredictable. “Ship breaking” is also a job I’ve never seen before in fiction, so it’s unique.

Like all good dystopias, this one tackles a lot of society’s issues. It’s about racism, classism, workers’ rights, and environmental damage. I think the book does a very good job of showing these issues without being preachy about them. The characters work in inhumane conditions and live in shacks on the beach. They’d do anything to get a better life for themselves, including murder. Some of them will even murder their own family members. None of the characters can be trusted because they’ll kill each other for the opportunity to make money. I love not knowing who to trust in a dystopia.

I’ve read a lot of dystopias, and there are a few things about this one that bother me. First, the characters are kind of flat. I didn’t learn enough about them to connect with them or really care about them. The book also took a while to grab my attention, and it felt slow in the middle. Luckily, the ending is great. It’s action-packed and deadly, which is exactly what I wanted.

I haven’t decided if I want to read the companion novel, but this one was pretty enjoyable.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Top Ten Tuesday: Recent TBR Additions

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week’s topic is top ten books I’ve recently added to my to-be-read shelf. If you’ve been keeping up with my book hauls, none of these will be a surprise. You’ve seen them before. These are the last 10 book I bought.

1. One Death, Nine Stories – Marc Aronson (Editor)

Nicholas, Kevin. Age 19. Died at York Hospital, July 19, 2012. Kev's the first kid their age to die. And now, even though he's dead, he's not really gone. Even now his choices are touching the people he left behind. Rita Williams-Garcia follows one aimless teen as he finds a new life in his new job—at the mortuary. Ellen Hopkins reveals what two altar boys (and one altar girl) might get up to at the cemetery at night. Will Weaver turns a lens on Kevin's sister as she collects his surprising effects—and makes good use of them. Here, in nine stories, we meet people who didn't know Kevin, friends from his childhood, his ex-girlfriend, his best friend, all dealing with the fallout of his death. Being a teenager is a time for all kinds of firsts—first jobs, first loves, first good-byes, firsts that break your heart and awaken your soul. It's an initiation of sorts, and it can be brutal. But on the other side of it is the rest of your life. With stories by: Chris Barton, Nora Raleigh Baskin, Marina Budhos, Ellen Hopkins, A.S. King, Torrey Maldonado, Charles R. Smith Jr., Will Weaver, Rita Williams-Garcia.

2. Bone Gap – Laura Ruby

Everyone knows Bone Gap is full of gaps—gaps to trip you up, gaps to slide through so you can disappear forever. So when young, beautiful Roza went missing, the people of Bone Gap weren’t surprised. After all, it wasn’t the first time that someone had slipped away and left Finn and Sean O’Sullivan on their own. Just a few years before, their mother had high-tailed it to Oregon for a brand new guy, a brand new life. That’s just how things go, the people said. Who are you going to blame?  
Finn knows that’s not what happened with Roza. He knows she was kidnapped, ripped from the cornfields by a dangerous man whose face he cannot remember. But the searches turned up nothing, and no one believes him anymore. Not even Sean, who has more reason to find Roza than anyone, and every reason to blame Finn for letting her go.

3. Hitler Youth: Growing Up in Hitler’s Shadow – Susan Campbell Bartoletti

By the time Hitler became Chancellor of Germany in 1933, 3.5 million children belonged to the Hitler Youth. It would become the largest youth group in history. Susan Campbell Bartoletti explores how Hitler gained the loyalty, trust, and passion of so many of Germany's young people. Her research includes telling interviews with surviving Hitler Youth members.

4. The Gracekeepers – Kirsty Logan

As a Gracekeeper, Callanish administers shoreside burials, sending the dead to their final resting place deep in the depths of the ocean. Alone on her island, she has exiled herself to a life of tending watery graves as penance for a long-ago mistake that still haunts her. Meanwhile, North works as a circus performer with the Excalibur, a floating troupe of acrobats, clowns, dancers, and trainers who sail from one archipelago to the next, entertaining in exchange for sustenance. 
In a world divided between those inhabiting the mainland ("landlockers") and those who float on the sea ("damplings"), loneliness has become a way of life for North and Callanish, until a sudden storm offshore brings change to both their lives—offering them a new understanding of the world they live in and the consequences of the past, while restoring hope in an unexpected future.

5. The Goldfinch – Donna Tartt

It begins with a boy. Theo Decker, a thirteen-year-old New Yorker, miraculously survives an accident that kills his mother. Abandoned by his father, Theo is taken in by the family of a wealthy friend. Bewildered by his strange new home on Park Avenue, disturbed by schoolmates who don't know how to talk to him, and tormented above all by his unbearable longing for his mother, he clings to one thing that reminds him of her: a small, mysteriously captivating painting that ultimately draws Theo into the underworld of art.  
As an adult, Theo moves silkily between the drawing rooms of the rich and the dusty labyrinth of an antiques store where he works. He is alienated and in love—and at the center of a narrowing, ever more dangerous circle.

6. The Thing About Jellyfish – Ali Benjamin

After her best friend dies in a drowning accident, Suzy is convinced that the true cause of the tragedy must have been a rare jellyfish sting—things don't just happen for no reason. Retreating into a silent world of imagination, she crafts a plan to prove her theory—even if it means traveling the globe, alone. Suzy's achingly heartfelt journey explores life, death, the astonishing wonder of the universe . . . and the potential for love and hope right next door. 


7. Nimona – Noelle Stevenson

Nimona is an impulsive young shapeshifter with a knack for villainy. Lord Ballister Blackheart is a villain with a vendetta. As sidekick and supervillain, Nimona and Lord Blackheart are about to wreak some serious havoc. Their mission: prove to the kingdom that Sir Ambrosius Goldenloin and his buddies at the Institution of Law Enforcement and Heroics aren't the heroes everyone thinks they are.  
But as small acts of mischief escalate into a vicious battle, Lord Blackheart realizes that Nimona's powers are as murky and mysterious as her past. And her unpredictable wild side might be more dangerous than he is willing to admit.

8. Challenger Deep – Neal Shusterman

Caden Bosch is on a ship that's headed for the deepest point on Earth: Challenger Deep, the southern part of the Marianas Trench.  
Caden Bosch is a brilliant high school student whose friends are starting to notice his odd behavior.  
Caden Bosch is designated the ship's artist in residence, to document the journey with images.  
Caden Bosch pretends to join the school track team but spends his days walking for miles, absorbed by the thoughts in his head. 
Caden Bosch is split between his allegiance to the captain and the allure of mutiny. 
Caden Bosch is torn.  
A captivating and powerful novel that lingers long beyond the last page, Challenger Deep is a heartfelt tour de force by one of today's most admired writers for teens.


9. Attachments – Rainbow Rowell

Beth Fremont and Jennifer Scribner-Snyder know that somebody is monitoring their work e-mail. (Everybody in the newsroom knows. It's company policy.) But they can't quite bring themselves to take it seriously. They go on sending each other endless and endlessly hilarious e-mails, discussing every aspect of their personal lives.  
Meanwhile, Lincoln O'Neill can't believe this is his job now—reading other people's e-mail. When he applied to be "internet security officer," he pictured himself building firewalls and crushing hackers—not writing up a report every time a sports reporter forwards a dirty joke.  
When Lincoln comes across Beth's and Jennifer's messages, he knows he should turn them in. But he can't help being entertained—and captivated—by their stories.  
By the time Lincoln realizes he's falling for Beth, it's way too late to introduce himself.

10. Terrible Typhoid Mary: A True Story of the Deadliest Cook in America – Susan Campbell Bartoletti

What happens when a person's reputation has been forever damaged? 
With archival photographs and text among other primary sources, this riveting biography of Mary Mallon by the Sibert medalist and Newbery Honor winner Susan Bartoletti looks beyond the tabloid scandal of Mary's controversial life. 
How she was treated by medical and legal officials reveals a lesser-known story of human and constitutional rights, entangled with the science of pathology and enduring questions about who Mary Mallon really was.  
How did her name become synonymous with deadly disease? And who is really responsible for the lasting legacy of Typhoid Mary?

Monday, January 18, 2016

Printz Review: Going Bovine – Libba Bray

Going Bovine – Libba Bray

All 16-year-old Cameron wants is to get through high school—and life in general—with a minimum of effort. It’s not a lot to ask. But that’s before he’s given some bad news: he’s sick and he’s going to die. Which totally sucks. Hope arrives in the winged form of Dulcie, a loopy punk angel/possible hallucination with a bad sugar habit. She tells Cam there is a cure—if he’s willing to go in search of it. With the help of a death-obsessed, video-gaming dwarf and a yard gnome, Cam sets off on the mother of all road trips through a twisted America into the heart of what matters most.

Review: It took me forever to write this review because I needed a long time to process this book. It’s definitely one of the strangest things I’ve read.

Cameron is a normal teenager until he starts to hallucinate and lose control of his muscles. He is diagnosed with mad cow disease and told that he is going to die. As the disease eats away at his brain and he is confined to a hospital bed, he goes on a hallucinated journey across America. Along the way, he encounters giants made of fire, a happiness cult that believes everything can be cured with vanilla smoothies, a Norse god trapped in the body of a yard gnome, and a lot of excited college kids on spring break.

I have mixed feelings about this book. Despite its depressing subject, it’s very funny. I enjoyed seeing how different parts of Cameron’s life show up in his hallucinations. There were several scenes where I laughed out loud. On the other hand, the book is very weird. There were a lot of moments where I stopped reading and said, “Really? This is happening now? Really?” Ultimately, the book was a little too weird for me. I got frustrated with it at some points, and it took me a long time to read because it didn’t always hold my attention.

I also think the book could have been much shorter. The copy I read is almost 500 pages. It’s painfully obvious where in America Cameron’s journey is going to end. I just wanted him to get there.

There are some awesome elements of this novel. The characters are very diverse. Cameron is realistic, funny, and relatable. I also really like the ending. I don’t want to give away spoilers, but I didn’t think the author would be brave enough to end it that way. The ending is both devastating and hopeful. After all the fantastical stuff that happens in the story, I’m glad that it ends in a realistic way.

The themes are the best part of the novel. This book is about not waiting to live your life. You never know how long your life will be, so go on as many crazy adventures as you can before it’s over.

I didn’t love this book, but if you have a really high tolerance for weirdness, it’s worth checking out.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

The Sunday Post #33

The Sunday Post is hosted by The Caffeinated Book Reviewer. It’s a chance to recap the past week, talk about next week, and share news.

On the blog last week

On the blog this week

  • On Monday I review Going Bovine by Libba Bray.
  • On Tuesday I show you recent additions to my TBR.
  • On Wednesday I review Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi.

In my reading life

Last week, I finished In Darkness by Nick Lake and read Midwinterblood by Marcus Sedgwick. Right now, I’m reading I’ll Give You The Sun by Jandy Nelson. Up next is Bone Gap by Laura Ruby.

In my blogging life

I did it! I blogged every day for the first 16 days of January. I’m actually going to end up blogging for the first 20 days of January because I have stuff scheduled for this week. I have a lot of respect for people who blog every day. I don't know how those people do it.

In the rest of my life

Five things that made me happy last week:

  1. A short hiatus from the Giant Essay From Hell.
  2. Working on projects that aren’t the Giant Essay From Hell.
  3. Re-watching almost all of the Harry Potter movies.
  4. Reorganizing my bookshelves and picking out 70 books to get rid of.
  5. The blog has been getting a lot of traffic because I’ve been posting like a maniac for 16 days.

I hope you had a great week! See you around the blogosphere!

Saturday, January 16, 2016

16 Backlist Books I Want To Read In 2016

One of my New Year’s resolutions is to reduce the number of unread books on my TBR shelf. So, here are 16 backlist books that I plan on reading in 2016. Let me know if you’ve read any of them.

1. A Madness So Discreet – Mindy McGinnis

Grace Mae knows madness.  
She keeps it locked away, along with her voice, trapped deep inside a brilliant mind that cannot forget horrific family secrets. Those secrets, along with the bulge in her belly, land her in a Boston insane asylum.  
When her voice returns in a burst of violence, Grace is banished to the dark cellars, where her mind is discovered by a visiting doctor who dabbles in the new study of criminal psychology. With her keen eyes and sharp memory, Grace will make the perfect assistant at crime scenes. Escaping from Boston to the safety of an ethical Ohio asylum, Grace finds friendship and hope, hints of a life she should have had. But gruesome nights bring Grace and the doctor into the circle of a killer who stalks young women. Grace, continuing to operate under the cloak of madness, must hunt a murderer while she confronts the demons in her own past.

2. The Miniaturist – Jessie Burton

On a brisk autumn day in 1686, eighteen-year-old Nella Oortman arrives in Amsterdam to begin a new life as the wife of illustrious merchant trader Johannes Brandt. But her new home, while splendorous, is not welcoming. Johannes is kind yet distant, always locked in his study or at his warehouse office—leaving Nella alone with his sister, the sharp-tongued and forbidding Marin. 
But Nella's world changes when Johannes presents her with an extraordinary wedding gift: a cabinet-sized replica of their home. To furnish her gift, Nella engages the services of a miniaturist—an elusive and enigmatic artist whose tiny creations mirror their real-life counterparts in eerie and unexpected ways . . . 
Johannes' gift helps Nella to pierce the closed world of the Brandt household. But as she uncovers its unusual secrets, she begins to understand—and fear—the escalating dangers that await them all. In this repressively pious society where gold is worshipped second only to God, to be different is a threat to the moral fabric of society, and not even a man as rich as Johannes is safe. Only one person seems to see the fate that awaits them. Is the miniaturist the key to their salvation . . . or the architect of their destruction? 
Enchanting, beautiful, and exquisitely suspenseful, The Miniaturist is a magnificent story of love and obsession, betrayal and retribution, appearance and truth.

3. Black Like Me – John Howard Griffin

In the Deep South of the 1950s, journalist John Howard Griffin decided to cross the color line. Using medication that darkened his skin to deep brown, he exchanged his privileged life as a Southern white man for the disenfranchised world of an unemployed black man. His audacious, still chillingly relevant eyewitness history is a work about race and humanity that in this new millennium still has something important to say to every American.

4. Stuck in Neutral – Terry Trueman

Fourteen-year-old Shawn McDaniel loves the taste of smoked oysters and his mother's gentle hugs. Unfortunately, it's impossible for Shawn to feed himself or to hug his mom back. Shawn has cerebral palsy, a condition that has robbed him of all muscle control. He can't walk, talk, or even focus his eyes on his own. But despite all these handicaps, despite the frustration of not being able to communicate, Shawn is still happy to be alive: "Somehow all the things I think about and remember turn to joy . . . favorite movies . . . pinecones . . . chocolate pudding . . . the scent of Comet in a stainless steel sink . . . . Life can be great, even for me." That is why he panics when he begins to suspect that his father is thinking of killing him. Shawn knows that his father is trying to be kind; he imagines that his son's life is an endless torment. His dad has no idea of the rich life that Shawn lives inside his head. And Shawn, helpless and mute, has no way of telling him.

5. A Monster Calls – Patrick Ness

The monster showed up after midnight. As they do. 
But it isn't the monster Conor's been expecting. He's been expecting the one from his nightmare, the one he's had nearly every night since his mother started her treatments, the one with the darkness and the wind and the screaming . . .  
This monster is something different, though. Something ancient, something wild. And it wants the most dangerous thing of all from Conor. 
It wants the truth.

6. More Happy Than Not – Adam Silvera

The Leteo Institute's revolutionary memory-relief procedure seems too good to be true to Aaron Soto—miracle cure-alls don't tend to pop up in the Bronx projects. But Aaron can't forget how he's grown up poor or how his friends aren't always there for him. Like after his father committed suicide in their one-bedroom apartment. Aaron has the support of his patient girlfriend, if not necessarily his distant brother and overworked mother, but it's not enough. 
Then Thomas shows up. He has a sweet movie-watching setup on his roof, and he doesn't mind Aaron's obsession with a popular fantasy series. There are nicknames, inside jokes. Most importantly, Thomas doesn't mind talking about Aaron's past. But Aaron's newfound happiness isn't welcome on his block. Since he can't stay away from Thomas or suddenly stop being gay, Aaron must turn to Leteo to straighten himself out, even if it means forgetting who he is.  
Adam Silvera's extraordinary debut novel offers a unique confrontation of race, class and sexuality during one charged near-future summer in the Bronx.

7. The Shock of the Fall – Nathan Filer

There are books you can’t stop reading, which keep you up all night.  
There are books which let us into the hidden parts of life and make them vividly real. 
There are books which, because of the sheer skill with which every word is chosen, linger in your mind for days.  
The Shock of the Fall is all of these books.  
The Shock of the Fall is an extraordinary portrait of one man’s descent into mental illness. It is a brave and groundbreaking novel from one of the most exciting new voices in fiction.

8. The Ocean at the End of the Lane – Neil Gaiman

Sussex, England. A middle-aged man returns to his childhood home to attend a funeral. Although the house he lived in is long gone, he is drawn to the farm at the end of the road, where, when he was seven, he encountered a most remarkable girl, Lettie Hempstock, and her mother and grandmother. He hasn't thought of Lettie in decades, and yet as he sits by the pond (a pond that she'd claimed was an ocean) behind the ramshackle old farmhouse, the unremembered past comes flooding back. And it is a past too strange, too frightening, too dangerous to have happened to anyone, let alone a small boy.  
Forty years earlier, a man committed suicide in a stolen car at this farm at the end of the road. Like a fuse on a firework, his death lit a touchpaper and resonated in unimaginable ways. The darkness was unleashed, something scary and thoroughly incomprehensible to a little boy. And Lettie—magical, comforting, wise beyond her years—promised to protect him, no matter what.  
A groundbreaking work from a master, The Ocean at the End of the Lane is told with a rare understanding of all that makes us human, and shows the power of stories to reveal and shelter us from the darkness inside and out. It is a stirring, terrifying, and elegiac fable as delicate as a butterfly's wing and as menacing as a knife in the dark.

9. I’ll Meet You There – Heather Demetrios

If seventeen-year-old Skylar Evans were a typical Creek View girl, her future would involve a double-wide trailer, a baby on her hip, and the graveyard shift at Taco Bell. But after graduation, the only thing standing between straightedge Skylar and art school are three minimum-wage months of summer. Skylar can taste the freedom—that is, until her mother loses her job and everything starts coming apart. Torn between her dreams and the people she loves, Skylar realizes everything she’s ever worked for is on the line. 
Nineteen-year-old Josh Mitchell had a different ticket out of Creek View: the Marines. But after his leg is blown off in Afghanistan, he returns home, a shell of the cocksure boy he used to be. What brings Skylar and Josh together is working at the Paradise—a quirky motel off California’s dusty Highway 99. Despite their differences, their shared isolation turns into an unexpected friendship and soon, something deeper.

10. Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock – Matthew Quick

Today is Leonard Peacock’s birthday. It is also the day he hides a gun in his backpack. Because today is the day he will kill his former best friend, and then himself, with his grandfather’s P-38 pistol.  
But first he must say good-bye to the four people who matter most to him: his Humphrey Bogart-obsessed next-door neighbor, Walt; his classmate, Baback, a violin virtuoso; Lauren, the Christian homeschooler he has a crush on; and Herr Silverman, who teaches the high school’s class on the Holocaust. Speaking to each in turn, Leonard slowly reveals his secrets as the hours tick by and the moment of truth approaches.  
In this riveting look at a day in the life of a disturbed teenage boy, acclaimed author Matthew Quick unflinchingly examines the impossible choices that must be made—and the light in us all that never goes out.

11. The Game of Love and Death – Martha Brockenbrough

Antony and Cleopatra. Helen of Troy and Paris. Romeo and Juliet. And now . . . Henry and Flora.  
For centuries Love and Death have chosen their players. They have set the rules, rolled the dice, and kept close, ready to influence, angling for supremacy. And Death has always won. Always.  
Could there ever be one time, one place, one pair whose love would truly tip the balance?  
Meet Flora Saudade, an African-American girl who dreams of becoming the next Amelia Earhart by day and sings in the smoky jazz clubs of Seattle by night. Meet Henry Bishop, born a few blocks and a million worlds away, a white boy with his future assured—a wealthy adoptive family in the midst of the Great Depression, a college scholarship, and all the opportunities in the world seemingly available to him.  
The players have been chosen. The dice have been rolled. But when human beings make moves of their own, what happens next is anyone’s guess. 
Achingly romantic and brilliantly imagined, The Game of Love and Death is a love story you will never forget.

12. I Am the Messenger – Markus Zusak

Ed Kennedy is an underage cabdriver without much of a future. He's pathetic at playing cards, hopelessly in love with his best friend Audrey, and utterly devoted to his coffee-drinking dog, the Doorman. His life is one of peaceful routine and incompetence until he inadvertently stops a bank robbery. 
That's when the first ace arrives in the mail.  
That's when Ed becomes the messenger.  
Chosen to care, he makes his way through town helping and hurting (when necessary) until only one question remains: Who's behind Ed's mission?

13. All the Bright Places – Jennifer Niven

Theodore Finch is fascinated by death, and he constantly thinks of ways he might kill himself. But each time, something good, no matter how small, stops him. 
Violet Markey lives for the future, counting the days until graduation, when she can escape her Indiana town and her aching grief in the wake of her sister’s recent death.  
When Finch and Violet meet on the ledge of the bell tower at school, it’s unclear who saves whom. And when they pair up on a project to discover the “natural wonders” of their state, both Finch and Violet make more important discoveries: It’s only with Violet that Finch can be himself—a weird, funny, live-out-loud guy who’s not such a freak after all. And it’s only with Finch that Violet can forget to count away the days and start living them. But as Violet’s world grows, Finch’s begins to shrink. 
This is an intense, gripping novel perfect for fans of Jay Asher, Rainbow Rowell, John Green, Gayle Forman, and Jenny Downham from a talented new voice in YA, Jennifer Niven.

14. Reality Boy – A.S. King

Gerald Faust knows exactly when he started feeling angry: the day his mother invited a reality television crew into his five-year-old life. Twelve years later, he’s still haunted by his rage-filled youth—which the entire world got to watch from every imaginable angle—and his anger issues have resulted in violent outbursts, zero friends, and clueless adults dumping him in the special education room at school.  
Nothing is ever going to change. No one cares that he’s tried to learn to control himself, and the girl he likes has no idea who he really is. Everyone’s just waiting for him to snap . . . and he’s starting to feel dangerously close to doing just that. 
In this fearless portrayal of a boy on the edge, highly acclaimed Printz Honor author A.S. King explores the desperate reality of a former child “star” who finally breaks free of his anger by creating possibilities he never knew he deserved.

15. Vampires in the Lemon Grove – Karen Russell

From the author of the New York Times bestseller Swamplandia!—a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize—a magical new collection of stories that showcases Karen Russell’s gifts at their inimitable best. 
A dejected teenager discovers that the universe is communicating with him through talismanic objects left behind in a seagull’s nest.  A community of girls held captive in a silk factory slowly transmute into human silkworms, spinning delicate threads from their own bellies, and escape by seizing the means of production for their own revolutionary ends. A massage therapist discovers she has the power to heal by manipulating the tattoos on a war veteran’s lower torso. When a group of boys stumble upon a mutilated scarecrow bearing an uncanny resemblance to the missing classmate they used to torment, an ordinary tale of high school bullying becomes a sinister fantasy of guilt and atonement. In a family’s disastrous quest for land in the American West, the monster is the human hunger for acquisition, and the victim is all we hold dear. And in the collection’s marvelous title story—an unforgettable parable of addiction and appetite, mortal terror and mortal love—two vampires in a sun-drenched lemon grove try helplessly to slake their thirst for blood.

16. A Guide to Being Born: Stories – Ramona Ausubel

A Guide to Being Born is organized around the stages of life—love, conception, gestation, birth—and the transformations that happen as people experience deeply altering life events, falling in love, becoming parents, looking toward the end of life. In each of these eleven stories, Ausubel’s stunning imagination and humor are moving, entertaining, and provocative, leading readers to see the familiar world in a new way.  
In “Atria” a pregnant teenager believes she will give birth to any number of strange animals rather than a human baby; in “Catch and Release” a girl discovers the ghost of a Civil War hero living in the woods behind her house; and in “Tributaries” people grow a new arm each time they fall in love. Funny, surprising, and delightfully strange—all the stories have a strong emotional core; Ausubel’s primary concern is always love, in all its manifestations.