This week’s Top Ten Tuesday focused on the best 2016 releases we’ve read so far this year. I chose not to participate because I didn’t have ten books to put on the list (which is actually kind of terrifying). Even then, though I’ve definitely liked several of the books I’ve read this year, I’d say five are standouts–and of those five, three are 2016 releases, and one of those still has yet to be released. But I thought about it, and I decided I still wanted to talk about those books. Instead of just saying, “Hey, here’s this book,” I chose to do things a little bit differently. So here are five standouts I’ve read during the first half of this year, complete with their bookstagram photos and some aesthetics.

The Things They Carried

I actually read quite a few good novels during my last quarter at school: The Handmaid’s Tale, Slaughterhouse-Five, Eating Wildly (which I still need to finish; I ran out of time), When My Brother Was an Aztec, and the short story “This Way for the Gas, Ladies, and Gentlemen.” But of all those, I believe Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried was my favorite. The writing felt simple yet literary and was filled with numerous lines worth highlighting. It’s fiction that could easily be nonfiction, and it’s a story of soldiers in Vietnam and the metaphorical things they carry that’s unlike any other war story I’ve seen or read.

This Is Our Story

After staying up late reading The Rules for Disappearing, I quickly became a fan of Ashley Elston (and not just because she created Ethan Landry). I love a good thriller, and Rules was on point. So when Ashley finally announced a new book (after Disappearing‘s sequel The Rules for Breaking) I was very excited, especially since it was another thriller. My copy arrived a few months ago and I read it in a sitting, once again staying up late to read an Elston novel. This Is Our Story was a thrilling mystery filled with the best text messages, a plot twist that had me rolling around on my bed like a potato bug and screaming “SHUT UP NO” repeatedly, and a dead boy whose murderer is unknown…but was one of his best friends. I can’t tell you much in order to forego spoilers (though I do have a mini-review here), but I will say this: the only unfortunate thing is that this doesn’t publish until November. In the meantime, just stare at that cover.

Undead + Unfed

I picked up Undead on a whim when I was in the mood for something fun and meaningless (and I mean that in a good way). Imagine my surprise when I found myself basically loving the book. It’s a zombie novel that’s more Zombieland than The Walking Dead, and it’s pure, stellar entertainment. It’s got the lead average girl, the computer geek, the bad-boy punk (Smitty is my favorite), and the bitchy cheerleader, and it all works. Then Unfed took the story in another direction and expanded things and I just have one question: WHY IS THERE NO BOOK THREE, KIRSTY MCKAY? I just really adore these books, okay? And I. Need. More. (And whether you like zombies or not, you should definitely read these because I said so.)

Midnight Bites

There’s nothing like returning to a favorite series you thought was forever over, but Rachel Caine did just that with Midnight Bites. It’s a collection of every short story in existence about the Morganville Vampires, making it the sixteenth installment in the series. (That might seem like a lot, but I promise you; it’s not nearly enough.) And let me tell you: it was so damn good to be back. This is one of my favorite series, and honestly, reading these books is like going home. I love the stories, I love the world, and I love the characters. It’s not perfect, but to me it is. Now, when are we going back to Morganville again? Because once you’re in Morganville…you’ll never want to leave.

A Court of Mist and Fury

This Cauldron-cursed book. I liked A Court of Thorns and Roses. I did. (And I’d say I liked it more after a reread.) But I didn’t love it, and it was no Throne of Glass. I wanted to read the sequel whenever it arrived, but I wasn’t itching to get my hands on it (and I had a prediction about it that made me wary). Then I read A Court of Mist and Fury and fuuuuuuuuuck. This book. It was above and beyond amazing, and I need book three more than I need Sunny D, and I need my Sunny D. Stuff happened that was just wow, and I can’t even with those last hundred pages. I’m also super obsessed with all things related to the Night Court, and hello, #squadgoals. And all hail the High Lord, fuck yes, Rhysand. (My gosh.) I still can’t even with this book. For over a week I reread at least one page every day. Curse the cauldron. Curse it. (But if it’ll give me book three now…) Why does Sarah J. Maas write such fantastic, masochistic, soul-ruining books?