September wasn’t as great as August or July in terms of reading. A slump managed to sneak attack me, and put me out of commission for the second half of the month. I even had to D.N.F. a couple of the books I was reading so that I wouldn’t have the negative association of a slump tied to them. Unfortunately, the slump also spilled over to writing book reviews, and as such I didn’t post nearly as many bookish reviews as I usually do. But you know what? I’m still happy with what little reading (and other sorts of writings) I did mange to complete!
The month mostly consisted of manga reading as the medium doesn’t seem to be affected by slumps, and in the process I’ve discovered a couple of very promising new serials to obsess over. Check it all out down below. 🙂 Everything is listed in order of medium.
Rai Volume 1: Welcome to New Tokyo by Matt Kindt & Clayton Crain
This is a cyberpunk science-fiction, future noir comic series. Taking place in 4001 A.D., the island of Japan has expanded out of the Pacific & into geosynchronous orbit with the ravaged Earth below. The island is led by an artificial intelligence called “Father.” When the first murder in over 1,000 years is committed, Father’s solitary hero, Rai, is called upon to solve the crime and punish those responsible. The comic does follow some pretty common tropes that make it a bit predictable and the first half was very disorienting with messy art and storytelling. However, the second half showed vast improvements and the narrative is interesting enough that I want to read the next volume before making any real judgements on it. 3.5/5.
BTOOOM Volume 18 by Junya Inoue
This is a seinen, psychological, action manga series that I read rather religiously. In the 18th volume, things are getting very intense for the people behind the entire conspiracy surrounding the BTOOOM universe as things creep closer to it’s ultimate climax. I loved everything about it and I’m super impatient for the release of the next volume. TW: Intense & graphic sequences of violence; mild depiction of sexual assault. 5/5.
My Love Story Volume 13 by Kazune Kawahara & Aruko (Illustrations)
This was the final instalment in the shōjo, slice-of-life, romcom series. In this volume, we watch as Takeo and Yamato overcome tough obstacles to have a long-term relationship. It’s quite revealing in regards to their inner strengths and weaknesses, as well as highlights the profound bond that Takeo has with his best buddy, Sunakawa. This is officially one of my favourite shōjo manga serials of all time. It’s perfection in every way. 5/5.
Dreamin’ Sun Volumes 1 & 2 by Ichigo Takano
This shōjo, slice-of-life, romcom series fell into my lap after I fell in love with the manga serial, Orange by the same author. The story follows a young girl named Shimana who runaways from her home after feeling immensely neglected by her father and stepmother in the wake of her half-brother’s birth. She comes across a dude dressed in a kimono, who offers her residence in exchange for three unique conditions. There is a character in this manga named Zen, who is almost a duplicate for my friend Zenshin (aka Zen) who passed away a few years. Because of that alone, I’m hooked and emotionally connected to it. But I did enjoy it very much. It’s got strong feel-good vibes. 4.25/5, 4/5.
Hiyokoi Volume 1 by Moe Yukimura
Another shōjo, slice-of-life manga serial, Hiyokoi is actually a re-read! I’m buddy reading this with a fellow BookTuber, and it’s been such a good time so far! The story is about a shy, short girl named Hiyori who returns to school after taking one year off to heal from some serious injuries acquired in an accident. We follow her as she struggles to find her comfort level in social settings, and as she begins to experience her first love. The manga does an extraordinary job of making the notion of anxiety accessible for audiences who may be unfamiliar with it, without being patronising or ableist, which is what I loved about it on my first read through. 4.25/5.
Happiness Volume 1 by Shuzo Oshimi
Written by the same author who wrote Flowers of Evil, this seinen, psychological horror manga series revolves around an average kid named Makoto Okazaki who’s a first year in high school. He gets bullied and humiliated on a regular basis. One evening a girl knocks him to the ground and offers him a choice. Shortly afterwards, he begins to notice small changes that replaces the shame of his former life with unthinkable horrors. The artwork is brilliant, utilising mostly sketches and shading. It really helps maintain an atmospheric dread to the story. While things are still rather vague, I’m very interested to see where it’s going to go. TW: Mild scene of sexual molestation. 4.25/5.
Tiger Lily by Jodi Lynn Anderson
This is a young adult, dark fantasy re-telling of the Peter Pan fairy tale, told through the eyes of Tinker Bell as she follows Tiger Lily. I wrote a full review for this book, which you can check out here. In summation, I enjoyed the concept and psychological aspects very much, but wished for a different ending. TW: A scene of rape. Depiction of racism towards Natives. Some violence involving children. 3.5/5.
The Martian by Andy Weir
This was Sir Betrothed’s pick for the September Betrothed Book Challenge! It’s a science-fiction story about an engineer named Mark Watney who gets stranded on Mars when a severe dust storm hits the planet, forcing his crew to evacuate. Watney gets injured and his crew assumes that he has died. It was an amazing novel. I was sceptical due to it’s popularity, but I must confess that the real sciences combined with Watney’s humour and glorious ingenuity had me addicted. 4/5. **I have decided not to watch the film on account of the film participating in the severe erasure of Asian identities, one of which was a major character.**
The Last Oracle (Sigma Force #5) by James Rollins
The fifth instalment in Rollins’ action-adventure serial is about a homeless man who dies in the arms of Commander Pierce, leaving behind an old relic that is traced back to the Greek Oracle of Delphi, and turns out to be the key in a massive conspiracy from the Cold War. The book was very good, although the pacing does slow down quite a bit as everything is moved across the world for the upcoming climax (seems to be a trend with Rollins’ writing), however. Due to my slump, I had to DNF the book. I feared that if I didn’t stop reading it, I would come to associate the novel with the slump and wouldn’t be able to return to it later. As such, no rating. TW: Violence and scientific experimentation done to children.
Beautiful Ones by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
This historical fiction, fantasy, romance was an ARC that I received for reviewing. Under the tutelage of beautiful but cold Valérie Beaulieu, Antonina Beaulieu hopes to finds a suitor. But her haphazard telekinesis abilities make her the centre of gross gossip. Then she meets a dazzling telekinetic performer named Hector Auvray, who just so happens to share a scandalous past with Valérie. The writing for this book is absolutely beautiful, but I think by picking it up at the start of a slump, I made a grave mistake. As such I ended up DNF’ing it, so no rating from me. But fans of historical fiction fantasies and romances will enjoy this immensely; I can tell due to the lovely prose.
Stained by Abda Khan
This is an #OwnVoices Pakistani-Islamic narrative about a girl named Selina who is a beautiful and intelligent woman struggling to cope with life and her studies in the wake of her father’s death. A close family friend offers to help her with her studies and then rapes her. With the threat of dishonour looming over her widowed mother, Selina goes to the extreme to avoid scandal and help protect her family. The book is rich with cultural anecdotes and provides an intensely intimate look being a survivor in the midst of conservative communities where being raped places a terrible stigma on the victims. It’s a powerfully pro-feminist story about adversity and strength that everyone should read. TW: A scene of rape & intense subject matter on rape culture. 3.75/5.