Top Ten Books I’ve Read So Far In 2015

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish in which book bloggers list their top ten picks for whatever the current prompt is.

It is time for mid-year lists! I initially intended to do my Top 3 sometime next week, but since today’s TTT is basically that and a little more, I’m gonna go ahead book pimping!

NOTE: This list is in ascending lineup and the upper three were picked solely from a pool of new releases.

*Click the cover to be directed to the book’s Goodreads page.*

Playlist for the Dead 01   Siege and Storm 01   Vanishing Girls 02

Playlist for the Dead by Michelle Falkoff
A gawky, nerdy, witty narrator with a subtle undertone of snark? Yes please and thank you very much! Also, this book is a portrait of teenagers trying to balance on the precarious tightrope between wanting to find a place in the society and navigating the sea of expectations imposed upon by the various people surrounding them.

Siege and Storm by Leigh Bardugo
STURM-FREAKING-HOND! (By now, you’ve probably seen this at least a dozen times, but sorry not sorry.) Siege and Storm is such a rewarding sequel. With more power play and emotional tension, it’s effortlessly entertaining and fiercely moving.

Vanishing Girls by Lauren Oliver
This is more a character study, less a crime novel. Oliver doesn’t casually use the term “complex” and there’s a major WTF moment.

All the Bright Places 02   Guardian   Mosquitoland

All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven
Not my first title on depression and mental illness but definitely the one on the subject of [spoiler]. Thoughtful, provocative and visceral.

Guardian by Alex London
Guardian, like its predecessor Proxy, blasts one stereotype after another. The action matches the emotional weight of the story and just, the depiction of unrequited love is three bars too close for me. Also, representation.

Mosquitoland by David Arnold
The greatest triumph of this debut lies in its MC’s growth, juxtaposed with her quest to reach and save her mom. Her physical journey is as captivating as her emotional one is touching. Plus, exceedingly unforgettable characters, people!

Winger 06   More Happy Than Not 03   The Darkest Part of the Forest   Simon Vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda

Winger by Andrew Smith
Do I even have to write something for this one? I DID A F*CKING BY-THE-NUMBERS ARTICLE.

More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera
Oh, this one’s your typical coming out sto—HOW ABOUT NO? Adam sucker punched me not once! More Happy Than Not is unrelenting and poignant and geeky and chemistry-laden and painfully honest but ultimately hopeful.

The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black
Leave it to Black to be all beautiful and lyrical; I can let her words wash over me any day. Make no mistake, The Darkest Part of the Forest is fantastical, but at the heart of it, it’s as much about family dysfunction.

Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli
WTF ARE WORDS?!!! So, okay. I seriously think this’ll be my best book of the year. Becky nailed the character voice you guys! Her debut is sexually AND racially diverse, in a sensitive manner. It tackles the joys and complications of a close-knit family as well as the politics of friendship. It’s adorable and charming and lovely and, just, I’m in love with this novel! Hard.

What made YOUR list?

You can also stalk follow me elsewhere! On Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, Goodreads, and Bloglovin.

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Top Ten Books Which Feature Characters Who have Depression and/or Mental Illness

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish in which book bloggers list their top ten picks for whatever the current prompt is.

TPOBAW Gif 01via

Lately, I noticed I am gravitating towards novels with a focus on mental health. In fact, just this quarter, I’ve read five. Yes, there is something appealing to this type of books. No, I am not demented. Because I do not enjoy the struggle and suffering. These are glass shards in the palm, multiple blows in the gut. But I take them. And I’m better for it. As these stories help me get out of the proverbial shoes. They help me understand. They help me empathize. They help me through my own dark tunnels.

So for today, I compiled a list of books that center on depression and/or mental illness. Incidentally, this is my first Top Ten Tuesday too.

 More Than This 02   The Perks of Being a Wallflower   Playlist for the Dead 01

More Than This by Patrick Ness
Seth Wearing’s depression pushed him to drown himself (this isn’t really a spoiler; read the synopsis). The point is finding out what led to this. What you get is a heartrending portrayal of a teen trying to keep it together. Until he no longer can.
Bonus: This one is weird. So if you’re into that.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
TPOBAW is easily one of my favoritest. Here’s my pitch: if you are—or once were—a teenager, you’ll like, if not love, this. But here’s another thing, it also deals with suicide, guilt and repressed memories.
Bonus: Logan Lerman did a pitch-perfect portrayal of Charlie in the film adaptation. Basically, the whole movie is AMAZING.

Playlist for the Dead by Michelle Falkoff
Sam Goldsmith wakes up one day with his best friend Hayden not breathing—not even snoring, which he normally does. And all he left is a playlist with a suicide note that says, “For Sam—listen and you’ll understand.” Falkoff paints a vivid picture of how even best friends can be strangers to one another.
Bonus: The chapter titles are actual songs from the playlist and this is an experience on its own.

The Five Stages of Andrew Brawley 01   My Heart and Other Black Holes 01   All the Bright Places 02

The Five Stages of Andrew Brawley by Shaun Hutchinson
This one’s a recent read and I’m grateful I saw it up on Pulse It’s Free Reads last week. I said this before and I’ll say it again: I seldom cry for both books and films. But The Five Stages of Andrew Brawley got me breaking my rules. Hutchinson’s depiction of loss and guilt can only be described as “raw.”
Bonus: “It’s a partly graphic novel.”

My Heart and Other Black Holes by Jasmine Warga
We often see or read about after the suicide, where characters deal with or try to understand why a loved one did it. Now Aysel Seran and Roman Fraklin, aka Frozenrobot, here are on the planning-our-suicide phase. The takeaway? Warga doesn’t romanticize depression. No.

All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven
I don’t even know how to begin with this novel. It’s about mental illness and PTSD and guilt (do you see the trend in my list?) and there’s really no way of talking about Niven’s YA debut without being spoilery, but this much I’ll tell you: every so often we walk away from a story which we’ll always think of, All the Bright Places is one of those stories.
Bonus: For when wry humor is your thing.

The next four titles are ones I’ve yet to read. Hey now.

The Last Time We Say Goodbye 01   Love Letters to the Dead 01   Challenger Deep 01   Mosquitoland

The Last Time We Say Goodbye by Cynthia Hand
Lex’s brother Tyler killed himself and she has to cope up with loss and guilt. Kirkus calls it, “evocative and insightful.”

Love Letters to the Dead by Ava Dellaira
May, Laurel’s sister, is dead. But how can she mourn when she hasn’t forgiven her? Here, from Guardian: “This book does make you go slightly down at points, because it reaches into you and pulls about at your emotions, so if you like happy-go-lucky books, a lot of this might not be for you. But if you can handle some tear-jerking bits in books, then this book should be on your ‘to-read’ list.”

Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman
It follows Caden Bosch on a ship that’s headed for the deepest point on Earth: Challenger Deep, the southern part of the Marianas Trench. Also, Caden Bosch is schizophrenic. Publishers Weekly gave this novel a starred review, stating, “[Caden’s] story doesn’t necessarily represent a “typical” experience of mental illness, it turns symptoms into lived reality in ways readers won’t easily forget.”

Mosquitoland by David Arnold
“I am a collection of oddities, a circus of neurons and electrons: my heart is the ringmaster, my soul is the trapeze artist, and the world is my audience. It sounds strange because it is, and it is, because I am strange.” Mim is certainly not okay; she has a mental illness. So does her mom. School Library Journal praised it with: “Debut author Arnold’s book is filled with some incredible moments of insight. The protagonist is a hard-edged narrator with a distinct voice.”

Let’s talk! Which of these have you read? Any title(s) you’ll add to the list? What is the theme of your list? And, PLEASE, if you know or suspect someone to be undergoing depression or is undiagnosed or misdiagnosed, PLEASE PLEASE REACH OUT TO THEM. THERE’S HELP AND WE HAVE TO BE THAT HELP OR AT LEAST THE BRIDGE.

You can also stalk follow me elsewhere! On Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, Goodreads, and Bloglovin.

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Monthly Bookish Awesomeness

In which I recap what went down in the last four weeks in and outside the blog.

It’s been a month! How time flies so swiftly, I’ll never figure out. Bookish and Awesome came to reality nineteen days ago today, and it’s been a wonderful experience so far. Thank you you awesome bookish people!

I want to thank you, as well, for joining me at the recently concluded Rainbow Rowell Week. Sharing something I really care about always gives me the bliss and this warmth feeling, but it is extra special when someone responds and celebrates with me. I definitely had a blast.

Books I Read

Processed with VSCOcam with kk1 presetInkedPlaylist for the Dead 02

This month saw my first foray into Holly Black territory and I couldn’t be more happy that it was The Darkest Part of the Forest. I thought it was beautifully written and a rich, raw tapestry of love and insecurity and what brothers and sisters say to one another and what they don’t. I also loved Michelle Falkoff’s debut Playlist for the Dead—the narrator, Sam, has an incredibly compelling voice. I wish I could say the same about Inked by Eric Smith but, alas, no. The premise is very intriguing, however. And, lastly, I finished Jasmine Warga’s My Heart and Other Black Holes this week (review coming up). Whoa. I’ve read exclusively new releases.

Book Birthdays

I'll Meet You There   My Heart and Other Black Holes 01   Red Queen   A Darker Shade final for Irene

Happy book birthday to I’ll Meet You There (Henry Holt and Co.), My Heart and Other Black Holes (Balzer + Bray), The Last Time We Say Goodbye (HarperTeen), Red Queen (Orion), The Distance Between Lost and Found (HarperTeen), Breakout (Crown Books for Young Readers), A Darker Shade of Magic (Tor Books), The Sin Eater’s Daughter (Scholastic Press), and The Third Twin (Delacorte Books for Young Readers), which all found a place in the shelves this month!

Book Radar

Mosquitoland   Liars, Inc   We All Looked Up   The Cemetery Boys

Tomorrow is March (now, really, here). New month. New published novels. I’m looking forward to Mosquitoland (Viking Books for Young Readers), Liars, Inc. (HarperTeen), We All Looked Up (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers), and The Cemetery Boys (HarperCollins).

Around the Interwebs

What are the books you’ve read/acquired this February, dear readers? And what are you most excited to devour this March? Are you thrilled for GoT Season 5? What about Paper Towns and Looking for Alaska? Sound off in the comments below!

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REVIEW: Playlist for the Dead by Michelle Falkoff

Playlist for the Dead 02

Title: Playlist for the Dead
Author: Michelle Falkoff
Format: Hardcover, 288 pages
Publication: January 27th 2015 by HarperTeen
Source: Bought from National Book Store
Genre: Fiction—Coming of Age, Contemporary, Realistic
Other classifications: Bullying, Depression and Mental Illness, Young Adult

Goodreads | Amazon | The Book Depository | Fully Booked

Synopsis

HERE’S WHAT SAM KNOWS:
There was a party.
There was a fight.
The next morning, Sam’s best friend, Hayden, was dead.
All he left Sam was a playlist—and a note, saying that he took his own life.
BUT WHAT SAM DOESN’T KNOW IS:

WHY?

To figure out what happened, Sam has to rely on the playlist and his own memory. But the more he listens, the more he realizes that his memory isn’t as reliable as he thought. Especially when someone claiming to be Hayden starts sending him cryptic messages, and a series of violent attacks begins on the bullies who made Hayden’s life hell.

Sam knows he has to face up to what happened the night Hayden killed himself. But it’s only by taking out his earbuds and opening his eyes to people around him—including an eccentric, unpredictable girl who’s got secrets, too—that Sam will finally be able to piece together his best friend’s story. And maybe have a chance to change his own.

Review

I would be lying if I say I couldn’t not read Playlist for the Dead fast enough. Falkoff made me want to swallow her debut novel whole. Like, in those times I had to stop to do something, I wanted so badly to ditch real life and go back to reading. That’s how I know Playlist for the Dead will be so, so good.

“Of course I was there; where else would I be? Hanging out with all my other friends? Oh, no, wait—I didn’t have any.”

At times intriguing, at times heartrending, and fundamentally arresting, this novel easily made its way to my instant favorites. The narrator, Sam, has an incredibly compelling voice that can be lined up with that of Charlie from Chbosky’s The Perks of Being a Wallflower and the pacing is perfect—gradual in its revelation but not too much of a drag so as to infuriate the reader. Plus, the playlist. For a set of songs made to explain a suicide, I rather like most of it.

“”Is that all you’ve got?” she asked. “Usually when someone initiates an introduction, you should ask her name.”

It wasn’t before long when I realized Sam Goldsmith will be a beloved character. Eight pages in and he already is. And it was to my comfort and delight to find out, in the end, I was not deluded. Sam is gawky and nerdy and witty, with a subtle undertone of snarky. If I ever see him in flesh, I’d bug him into signing a friendship contract. But, really, I love how he’s loyal to Hayden for the entirety of the book. Props to the action he took at the later part when faced with a conflict. It’s pretty evident, though, that he was omitting things. But that only served to tend the embers of my burning curiosity to know what actually happened. I also adore the family story arc. Mrs. Goldsmith isn’t just “the protagonist’s parent;” she is a character. And so is Rachel, Sam’s sister. The portrayal of sibling relationship in here is realistic, in that it captures how siblings don’t always dance to the same tune but crises pull them together. Intact and looking out for one another. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

“”I’ll be okay,” I said, and I wanted it to be true.”

Falkoff has an arsenal of identifiable, complex secondary characters. Playlist for the Dead reads as an angsty YA, sure, but it is also a portrait of teenagers trying to balance on the precarious tightrope between wanting to find a place in the society and navigating the sea of expectations imposed upon by the various people surrounding them. Readers will definitely sympathize.

“Weren’t people supposed to wear black to funerals? She looked like she was off to a fucking garden party.”

Over the course of years, I became more and more perceptive of the opening paragraphs of the novels I read, and I think Playlist of the Dead‘s is very telling of the tone of the story. I laud the author for knitting together alienation and friendship and misconception and redemption adeptly. And, ultimately, the hopeful conclusion. In the end, it has as much to do with listening as it is about the songs. Go read Playlist for the Dead!

4.5 out of 5

Author

Michelle Falkoff

Michelle Falkoff’s fiction and reviews have been published in ZYZZYVADoubleTake, and the Harvard Review, among other places. She is a graduate of the Iowa Writer’s Workshop and currently serves as Director of Communication and Legal Reasoning at Northwestern University of Law. This is her first novel.

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Book Haul #1: Confused, Troubled Teens

This week on bookish acquisition:

Physical Copies

Book Haul #1

Playlist for the Dead by Michelle Falkoff

E-galleys

None of the Above

Hurt Patrol

Hurt Patrol by Mary McKinley

Okay. I picked up More Than This because John Green told me so. (What, that’s a totally valid, reasonable way to read a book. Ha!) Also, Winger has often popped up in my Twitter feed—openly being praised by people whose opinion I esteem—for me to ignore. And Playlist for the Dead and My Heart and Other Black Holes are two 2015 debuts I’ve been on the look out for. Actually, I devoured the former already; a review is on its way (spoiler: I LOVE IT).

What do you think I should read first? What book/s did you acquire this week?

OH WAIT! That’s not all about it. I’m doing a Rainbow Rowell Week next week, in celebration of my love (and I’m guessing the rest of the Book Community) for this a-freakin-mazing author which is turning a year older on the 24th. Gifs, fanboying/girling and a very special guest post from Hazel of Stay Bookish await. So watch out! Rainbow Rowell Week

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Don’t Judge the Book by Its Cover

But, really, don’t we all do? I mean, I certainly do not determine whether or not I pick up a book solely by its cover but it’s a factor. And a good deal at that. Pretty much just like how a query letter is the writer’s first impression on the agent/publisher, a cover is what draws us, readers, initially to the book. I love me some thoughtful, beautifully crafted cover designs. And today, I share my personal favorites from contemporary young adult titles. (In no particular order.)

Eleanor & Park   Paper Towns
Untitled-4   Paperweight
The Perks of Being a Wallflower   I'll Give You the Sun
Playlist for the Dead   Ciinamon Toast and the End of the World
 Between the Notes

Between the Notes

Look at how simple and lovely that Eleanor & Park is! Seriously, all of Rowell’s books have gorgeous covers. Olga Grlic, who does these amazingness, is a Cover Design Wizard! I also adore how minimalist the layouts for Meg Haston’s Paperweight, Janet E. Cameron’s Cinnamon Toast and the End of the World (I just love that toaster + toasts!) and Michelle Falkoff’s Playlist for the Dead are. Not to mention this edition of John Green’s Paper Towns with its seemingly childlike scribblings. Now, in the case of Robyn Schneider’s The Beginning of Everything, one look at this charming cover (trust me, it’s 1000% more attractive in person) had me thinking I’ll definitely have this book in my hands before I even checked out the synopsis. And it’s a win, so yaaay! Gimme some good illustrations and typography and I’m absolutely on board.

What about you dear readers and friends? What book covers have you been obsessing lately?

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