Happy Friday evening, chums. While this post is getting published, I am spending my Friday in one of two ways. The first would be playing video games on the PC, probably Crusader Kings II because Sir Betrothed got me addicted to it (thanks, buddy, #sarcasm). If that’s not happening, then I am most definitely napping away the night with Kheb. Both options are nice, but I’m going to hope for the Kheb one, as he is the light of my life.
When I sat down to outline my reading wrap-up for the month of February, I realised that I never shared one for January! There was this whole apathy party going on in my brain and during my absence, I never got around to it. Since I didn’t read many books in January, I thought it would be nice to include them in this post and play a bit of catch-up in that regard.
Everything will be broken down by the respective month, and then listed in the order that I completed them. As per the usual, you can expect a brief synopsis and links to reviews/GR pages. If I haven’t reviewed the book yet, I’ll try to include a date for when those reviews will go live, or a reason as to why I won’t be writing a review for the book entirely.
By Chance or Providence by Becky Cloonan
By Chance or Providence is a stand-alone, historical, dark fantasy graphic novel that I picked up on a whim at the library because it looked gloomy. It consists of stories that are loosely interconnected during the dark ages, that are steeped in a bit of mystery. I loved the artwork very much but felt the story as a whole needed extra polishing. With that said, I do recommend it to folks who like ambiguous dark fantasy stories and are in search of a quick read. I won’t be reviewing this because I no longer have the book, and I honestly don’t have much to discuss aside from what’s mentioned here. 3.75/5.
Utsubora: The Story of a Novelist by Asumiko Nakamura
Utsubora is a josei, surrealism manga that I picked up from the library due to its flawless, minimalist style illustrations. The story is about a struggling author who writes a book where the validity of that specific title comes into question, particularly as it pertains to his association with an eccentric, young lady. Many people compared this manga to Haruki Murakami’s works, yet I feel inclined to disagree. Yes, the surrealistic quality that is akin to Murakami does exist in this manga, but the execution of it was rather poor. I felt that it needed far more work and more flesh to it in order to be a proper work of surrealism, at least one that has a narrative function aside from shock value. In the end, I was disappointed with it. I won’t be reviewing it because I don’t have much to say other than I simply didn’t like it. 2.5/5
Rogue Protocol (Murderbot Diaries #3) by Marth Wells
Rogue Protocol is the third instalment in Wells’ science-fiction, artificial intelligence series, Murderbot Diaries. I think out of all of the volumes thus far, this was my least favourite. It wasn’t a bad story, but it highlights the repetitiveness of Murderbot’s persona and the storytelling dynamics, which left me feeling a bit bored. My spoiler-free review can be found here. 3.5/5.
A Thousand Beginnings and Endings edited by Ellen Oh & Elsie Chapman
A Thousand Beginnings and Endings is a collection of young adult fantasy stories that are all #OwnVoices Asian narratives. I don’t typically care for anthologies, but many stories were remarkable and pleasant within this specific collection. My spoiler-free review discusses the anthology in more detail, and even lists my favourites tales. 4/5.
Bury What We Cannot Take by Kirstin Chen
Bury What We Cannot Take is an #OwnVoices Chinese historical fiction novel (1950s) that follows a family who is trying to escape China after it has fallen under Mao’s reign, and the unfathomable sacrifice that went with their decision to flee. The novel shares an extremely important story, but the inherent execution of it ends up creating some issues, particularly closer to the end, that I felt really took away from the impact of the events. I chat about it more in a spoiler-free review. 3/5.
Girls of Paper & Fire by Natasha Ngan
Girls of Paper and Fire is an #OwnVoices Malaysian-Chinese, young adult fantasy novel that I picked up because I loved the cover. It’s about a young girl who, through some intense plot elements, ends up becoming one of the mistresses for the emperor. That is the most basic synopsis I can provide. I feel that everything else in the book is best when experienced while reading, even the smaller details. The book is quite exceptional and my spoiler-free review talks more in-depth as to why all fans of fantasy and diverse narratives should take the time to check it out. 5/5.
Aru Shah & the End of Time by Roshani Chokshi
Aru Shah is an #OwnVoices Indian, middle-grade fantasy novel and the first instalment of a series. It follows a young girl that ends up setting off catastrophic doom-and-gloom events due to some unwise choices. It’s heavily inspired by the Indian epic, The Mahabharata. There are quite a few things to adore about the book, yet in the end it just didn’t hold my interest long enough. You can read about why I DNF’d it here. DNF, no rating.
Sea of Rust by C. Robert Cargill
Sea of Rust is a science-fiction, post-apocalyptic, artificial intelligence story that is told from the perspective of a single robot as they fight for survival in a dog-eat-dog type of world. I fucking loved this book. It was the biggest surprise for me, as I wasn’t expecting much from it, but it ended up being one of the best books I’ve read this year thus far. My review for it shall be up on Monday, so keep an eye out for it.
Brave 10 Volumes 6 to 8 by Kairi Shimotsuki
Brave 10 is a seinen, historical, fantasy manga that follows a group of warriors who are brought together in order to protect the realm from some political manipulation. My first impressions cover how average I felt the manga was upon reading the introductory volume. Nevertheless, I finished the series in February and ended up liking it far more than I ever thought I would. You can catch my review for it tomorrow, spoiler-free of course.
Sleeping Giants (Themis Files #1) by Sylvain Neuval
Sleeping Giants is a science-fiction novel that was recommended to me via Sir Betrothed. It’s about a young girl who literally falls into a hole with a giant, glowing metallic hand, and it changes her future as well as the world’s political climate as anyone knows it. I rolled my eyes at it when they told me to read it because this series is so fucking hyped. But I zipped my lips and gave it a shot. Well, Sir Betrothed can laugh in my face because this was bloody brilliant. I cannot wait to see what the hell will happen in the second book. My full review will be up on Monday evening.
From 5 to 9 Volume 1 by Miki Aihara
From 5 to 9 is a josei, romance manga that is about a young woman that has a blind date with a Buddhist monk, who then ends up becoming obsessed and possessive of her. I hate this fucking manga. I rant about it thoroughly in my first impressions, but as it stands, I will never be picking up anything by this mangaka ever again. No, thank you. 0/5.
Hullmetal Girls by Emily Skrutskie
Hullmetal Girls is a young adult science-fiction novel about cyborgs girls in space who join a questionable military faction to uphold peace. I wanted to like this due to how much I adored the author’s debut duology, but it was such a harmful and messy and terribly written ball of crap that I DNF’d it. I talk about some of the problematic content in the book here, and as such, I don’t recommend this at all, especially if you identity as Queer in any shape or form. DNF, no rating.
Ashes by Kenzo Kitakata
Ashes is an #OwnVoices Japanese, hard-boiled, crime fiction novel about a dude who is involved in some shady business with the Yakuza. This book was one I’ve been anticipating for a while, and I felt that the first half of it was exceptional, yet the second half ends up changing the tone quite a bit, and the quality takes a big dip. I haven’t decided if I want to review this novel. If you’d like to see a review for it, please let me know in the comments. 2.5/5.
Exit Strategy (Murderbot Diaries #4) by Martha Wells
Exit Strategy is the final instalment in the Wells’ science-fiction, artificial intelligence novella series, Murderbot Diaries, and what a finale it was. It was immensely satisfying and packed with action and emotions alike. I will review this novel in the coming week ahead.
In an Absent Dream (Wayward Children #4) by Seanan McGuire
In an Absent Dream is book four in McGuire’s adult portal fantasy series, Wayward Children. Similar to the second instalment, this book can be read as a stand-alone, or out of sequence with respect to the other books. It’s about a young girl named Lundy who has known the rigidity of rules all her life. Then one day a door in a tree arrives and changes her entire existence. That ending blew my mind. Amazing. A mini-review for this will be out later in the week.
Beyond the Veil: Male-Female Dynamics in Modern Muslim Society by Fatema Mernissi
Beyond the Veil is an #OwnVoices Islamic, non-fiction book that looks at gender roles within the religion of Islam, and how those roles impact women specifically. It talks about progression in the religion, or to be more apt the fear of evolution and progression and how to maintain the core precepts of the Islamic faith in an everchanging environment such as this. It’s quite feminist and brilliantly relative to today’s climate just as much, if not more, than it was when it was originally written in the 1970s-1980s. 4.25/5.
Dragon Pearl by Yoon Ha Lee
Dragon Pearl is one of the best books I’ve read all year. It’s an #OwnVoices Korean, middle-grade, science-fiction, space opera about a young girl who goes on a quest to find her brother when he’s accused of going AWOL from the Special Forces in search of a magical artefact. My full review will be live sometime next week, but I must say that the richness of the Korean culture, mythos, and beliefs, coupled with the world-building and the characters is absolutely outstanding. The prose doesn’t feel like a middle-grade book at all either. If you haven’t read this and you like science-fiction, go read it. Trust me.
Those are the nineteen books that I’ve read so far this year. None of the books mentioned are books that I physically own. They’ve all been library books, however. One of my goals is to read more of the stuff on my personal shelves, so here’s to March having at least one or two owned-books in the wrap-up!
Please, let me know if you have read any of the titles mentioned, or if you’d like to read some of this stuff. It’s always a pleasure hearing from you. Have a lovely weekend ahead, mates! ♥