When I think about all the books that I read in the month of June, my heart swells with disbelief, to be honest. I just can’t believe that I blew through so many reads! It has been years since I was able to read more than twenty books in one four to five-week period, and I blame it all entirely on the library. Holy cats, has it kicked my biblio-ass into gear!
Before I dive into this monstrosity of a post, I’d like to announce a couple of changes to my reading wrap-ups. I will be retiring my traditional bulleted style for paragraph style presentations. I am trying to improve my abilities as a writer, and I also want to get better at concocting my own synopses for books/media that I have consumed. Don’t worry, I shall keep it succinct. In addition to the synopsis, I have the genres, and any pertinent reviews of the title listed with them.
Okay, let’s get this shindig going. Everything is categorised by general genre type.
Rashomon: A Commissioner Heigo Kobayashi Case by Victor Santos
This is a Spanish graphic novel, written and illustrated by Victor Santos, that is essentially an homage to Ryūnosuke Akutagawa’s Rashomon short story, as well as John Allyn’s The 47 Ronin Story. The main story revolves around the mysterious death of a respected samurai, with various perspectives and accounts to what happened to him. Yet the truth behind the crime is far more difficult for Commissioner Kobayashi to decipher than originally anticipated. You can read my full review for the comic here. Overall, I recommend it. 4/5.
This One Summer by Jillian Tamaki and Mariko Tamaki
This is a graphic novel authored by Japanese-Canadian authors who are also cousins and revolves around a girl named Rose who visits Awago Beach every summer with her parents. When they arrive, she spends time with a local girl named Windy. However, things this summer are very different as Rose’s parents won’t stop arguing, and the local teenagers of the beach town are tied up in dysfunctional situations. As Rose searches for ways to occupy herself away from the fighting, a harsh life lesson will smack her in the face, forcing her to see things beyond the surface. A full review for this comic will be up within a week. Overall, I highly recommend it. 4.5/5.
Naruto Volumes 6 & 7 by Masashi Kishimoto
This shōnen, action-adventure series is one that I have been enjoying quite a bit. In these two volumes, we follow Naruto and his team as they venture into the Forest of Death to complete the second phase of the chūnin exam, where they will encounter an unexpected new threat to their village. I gave both volumes 4/5.
Oishinbo Volume 5 by Tetsu Kariya & Akira Hanasaki
This seinen, comedy manga series focuses on Japan’s food culture, following two food journalists who have been tasked with creating the ultimate menu for the country, from dishes around various regions. You can read my full review for the manga series here. If you want a manga series that will make you hungry from the illustrations, then this is not the manga series for you. If you want a bit of comedy and insightful information on what makes Japan’s food distinctly Japanese, and how it contributes to their identity as a nation, then you should read it. Series rating: 3.5/5.
Erased Volumes 1, 2, & 3 by Kei Sanbe
This is a seinen, psychological crime thriller manga series that has turned into my absolute favourite of its kind, and one that I cannot recommend enough. You can read my full first impressions post for the series here. It follows a 28-year-old struggling mangaka named Satoru Fujinuma who has the ability to go back into time for ten minutes or so to prevent an immediate tragedy from occurring. However, when he’s faced with a devastating personal tragedy of his very own, Satoru finds himself transported back into time by eighteen years, where he must solve the local town’s mysterious child abductions to save his future. Breath-taking illustrations and superbly crafted storytelling make Erased a no-brainer in terms of checking out! So far, my series rating for this is 4.5/5.
One Hundred Poets, One Poem Each: A Translation of the Ogura Hyakunin Isshu by Peter McMillan
This is an English translated collection from 2008 of the Ogura Hyakunin Isshu, which is Japan’s most classical and profound collection of literature, and quite possibly one of the best works of literary art from around the world. This one is considered to be the most accurate of all translations to date. I will be doing an in-depth review and comparison of multiple translations in the coming weeks. Rating for this translation: 4.25/5.
A Hundred Verses from Old Japan: Bilingual Edition by William N. Porter
This is an English translated collection from 1909 of the Ogura Hyakunin Isshu and was one of the very first English translations of the poetry collection. Rating for this translation: 3/5.
Hokusai: One Hundred Poets by Peter Morse
This is an English translated collection from 1989 of the Ogura Hyakunin Isshu, and this specific edition is akin to a “coffee table” book as it’s very large and has translations of poems from various translators. What makes this unique is that is focuses entirely on the woodblock prints associated with the poetry. Rating for this translation: 3.5/5.
Science-Fiction & Fantasy:
Annihilation (Southern Reach #1) by Jeff VanderMeer
This is a new weird (subgenre of science-fiction) novel, the first in a trilogy, about a group of women who are tasked with entering a mysterious place called Area X where they must investigate the very nature of the land by observation and mapping the terrain. In addition, they must avoid getting infected by Area X, a feat that none of their predecessors were able to prevent, resulting in their brutal deaths in various forms. The synopsis is ambiguous for a reason, believe me. Read my full review for this novel here to find out why. All in all, brilliant. That’s what this book is. 4.5/5.
Binti: The Night Masquerade (Binti #3) by Nnedi Okorafor
Binti is a brilliant and innovative hard science-fiction, first contact novella series that every fan of the genre should read. It’s #OwnVoices Nigerian, but not #OwnVoices Himba. This book is the conclusion for the series and it was wonderfully perfect, making the trilogy one of the finest ever written. 4.25/5.
Necrotech (SINless #1) by K.C. Alexander
This is a cyberpunk, science-fiction novel about a girl who wakes up in a strange laboratory only to discover that her girlfriend was taken from her and turned into a cybernetic zombie, essentially. Pissed and hurting, the protagonist goes on a vengeful, violent, and vulgar mission to stop the assholes who did this to her and her loved one. I originally picked this up because I was expecting it to be about lesbians, but in the end the narrative turned into a very heterosexual one, leaving me disappointed. It also felt like it was trying too damn hard to be badass, with tons of elements that were forced and frustrating. I ended up DNFing it, so no rating. Even though I had issues with it, I do plan on picking it back up and finishing it entirely one day. Just not anytime soon.
A Kill in the Morning by Graeme Shimmin
This is a British alternate history sci-fi novel where Churchill dies in WWII, Britain and Nazi Germany have agreed on a ceasefire while Europe is occupied, and Nazi Germany has no intention of upholding their ceasefire with Britain. The novel felt very much like a B-grade British action-espionage film, even the cover fits the mould. Yet, it fell short in many ways, being too ambitious for given the end result. However, the action and intrigue from the political climate is still rather interesting and definitely warrants a reading, so long as you don’t get your expectations too high and you don’t get too attached to the characters. You can read my full in-depth review here. 3.25/5.
Every Heart a Doorway (Wayward Children #1) by Seanan McGuire
This is an adult urban fantasy novel about a home for children who have experienced unique and special faraway lands that they ventured upon either by going through an armoire, or under the bed, or other unexpected doorway. It’s imaginative and woven so magically with a lush diverse cast of characters who will tug on your heartstrings and make you so beautifully invested in their individuality. The main character is an asexual woman, and other characters include a trans male, and non-binary person. I haven’t written a review for this and have been on the fence on whether I should or not. If you’d like to see a review for this, let me know in the comments and I will definitely write one. 4.25/5.
The Resurrectionist by E.B. Hudspeth
This American Victorian science-fantasy book is quite possibly one of the most original books that I have ever read. Created by a splendidly talented artist, it follows a brilliant doctor named Dr Spencer Black who believes that deformities and physical anomalies that children are born with are results of human DNA remembering a time from thousands of years ago when mythical beasts roamed the world; that humans are, in fact, descendants of these creatures. It is sensationally dark, twisted, and thrillingly macabre. It is the quintessential penny dreadful. 4.5/5.
Stalking Jack the Ripper (Stalking Jack the Ripper #1) by Kerri Maniscalco
This Victorian crime thriller novel revolves around a young woman named Audrey Rose Wadsworth, who after experiencing a tragic familial loss, obtains a secret apprenticeship working for the local coroner. By learning about death in such a hands-on manner, she hopes to comprehend the nature of death and come to terms with her own loss. However, the city of London is shocked to the core by “ripper” killings. Determined to stop this monster on the streets, Audrey Rose makes the decision to hunt down the murderer, no matter what it takes. The book ended up being one of the best that I’ve read for the YA genre all year. You can read my full in-depth, spoiler-free review for it here. Overall, I highly recommend it. 4.5/5.
Shadow Girl by Liana Liu
This #OwnVoices Chinese novel is listed as a supernatural, mystery book, but after reading it, it’s more of a contemporary than it is anything else. It follows a girl named Mei who recently graduated high school and takes on a summer job tutoring a wealthy family’s young daughter on their secluded home on Arrow Island. Shortly after arriving, Mei starts to recognise that there’s more to this family than she originally thought, and bizarre things begin happening to Mei to further cement that. This book had so much potential to be an excellent examination of cultural strife for a Chinese-American girl who faces racism, as well as great commentary on young adults who struggle with leaving the nest in the wake of being abandoned by a parent or parental figure. But it flunked on every level, leaving me so disappointed. You can read my ranty, spoiler-free review for it here. 2/5.
Damselfly by Chandra Prasad
This is an #OwnVoices Indian suspense thriller akin to Golding’s Lord of the Flies. A team of private-school fencers are being flown to a tournament in Japan when they wake up suddenly in the middle of a jungle on a remote island with no recollection of what happened to them. As they learn about their surroundings, they must find a way to work together for mutual survival. This is a brilliant examination of what it means to be human, specifically the potential for selfishness and malevolence in the face of die-hard survival of the fittest. It is the perfect introduction book for young adult readers to help transition them into the more adult novels such as Lord of the Flies. My biggest issue was all of the extra romance fluff that felt out of place more often than not. I haven’t written a review for it and was on the fence about this one as well, but if you are interested in one, let me know in the comments. 3.75/5.
The History of Nations: Japan edited by Clay Farris Naff
This is collection of essays written by various scholars on specific eras of Japanese history, presented in chronological order. I wrote a full review that talks about the good and not-so-good of the book, which you should check out for more info. Overall, I felt it needed more #OwnVoices contributions, and only one essay came off as offensive and rude. It’s a good, short companion for people interested in learning about Japan’s history in concise, easy-to-digest bits. 3.75/5.
The Invisible Thread by Yoshiki Uchida
This is an #OwnVoices middle-grade memoir of the author’s time in a Japanese-American Internment Camp during the Second World War. It is written to be accessible and understood by young readers, which is very impactful as the author spent time in the camps while she herself was a child. It’s astonishing, heart-breaking, and remarkable. Check out my full review for the book here for more information. It’s one of the few books that takes the time call out the unconstitutional bullshit that happened to these people, that never should have happened, ever. Overall, highly recommended. 5/5.
Farewell to Manzanar by Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston
This is another #OwnVoices memoir of the author’s time spent as a victim of the Japanese American Internment Camps in America during the Second World War. This one feels more like an intimate conversation between you and the author as she provides an account of what life was like for her within the wall of the camp, as well as the significant impact it had on her family once they were released. It’s intense and oft time difficult to stomach, but so damn profound and necessary to read and understand. You can read my full review for the book for more information on it. 4/5.
Only What We Could Carry: The Japanese American Internment Experience edited by Lawson Fusao Inada
This is mostly an #OwnVoices collection of essays, speeches, excerpts, and accounts from various people throughout the Second World War who were impacted by the Internment of the Japanese people of America. Some of the accounts are from soldiers who were in Hawaii when it was attacked, soldiers who were in Japan during the war, White neighbours who lost their communities when their friends were taken, and plenty of contributions from victims of the internment camps themselves. 3/5.
I am grateful for such a successful June and will be keeping my fingers crossed for a kick-ass July as well. Thank you to everyone who has read, liked, and shared my reviews and content throughout the month. You are the best and I am every so appreciative of the support.