March was an interesting month for me where reading is concerned. It began with my being in a mood for psychological thrillers and historical suspense, and then it transitioned into a taste for science-fiction, and finally ended with a mild obsession for comics and manga. I went through many phases in these past four to five weeks. My suspicion is that the major reason behind my genre and medium hopping was due to my ADHD. It has been atrocious in March! Being able to focus on tasks for extended periods of time led to large spaces in between periods of reading, watching things, and even blogging. As I type this, I’m mentally keeping my fingers crossed for a more stable April because it would be nice to be able to binge something for more than a handful of hours.
Either way, I ended up consuming fourteen books total in March, and most of them were either average or well above average reads. This means that wholeheartedly embracing my moody genre choices has been working well for me thus far, so I shall keep at it going forward.
Everything is broken down first by manga and then by novels, and lastly comics. If there are applicable review links, I shall have them down below. The pink genre links under each novel shall take you to their respective GR page.
Devils’ Line Volume 12 by Ryo Hanada
Devils’ Line is a seinen, supernatural, crime suspense series and Volume 12 was probably my favourite one of the series so far. It had such excellent representation of a gay couple where one individual is an asexual. It was like looking at a story about myself. I loved, loved, loved it. This series (manga, not anime) does not get enough credit for being so brilliantly inclusive. Hands-down my favourite manga read this month. 5/5.
A Springtime with Ninjas Volumes 1-4 by Narumi Hasegaki
A Springtime with Ninjas is a shōjo, romance comedy manga series about a young girl from a wealthy family that has been living isolated from the world due to her stature and a peculiar family secret. When she finally convinces her family to allow her to attend a normal high school, she can only do so if she’s accompanied by a ninja bodyguard at all times. You can read my first impressions and my full review (spoiler-free) of the series for more information. Overall, while the series was immensely clichéd, it was very cute and moderately enjoyable.
In Clothes Called Fat by Moyoco Anno
In Clothes Called Fat is a josei, drama manga about a woman in her thirties who struggles with serious body image problems in a society that is focused on the superficiality of toxic beauty standards. It also explores the dangers of a serious eating disorder. My full review discusses why this manga is so important especially in a culture where we shame people into hating themselves rather than teach them to love the skin and bodies that they are blessed with. It is powerful, discomforting, and brilliant.
The Girl Who Played Go by Shan Sa
The Girl Who Played Go is an #OwnVoices Chinese, historical fiction story about a teenage girl at the peak of her blossoming sexuality and a soldier who get together to play a game of Go. Eventually their separate lives begin to intertwine in ways they never imagined, reaching a climax that is akin to the intensity of their match. I had high expectations for this book, but quite a few things made it unpleasant. The chapters are incredibly short and alternate between the girl’s and the soldier’s perspective, but they are unlabelled, so it can be difficult to ascertain with whom we are engaging. The game doesn’t begin until halfway through the novel and there is a large disconnect between the characters until everything is rushed to a collision in the second half. However, the insight into this part of history and how it was perceived on both sides of the war was remarkably insightful and contemplative. The parallels between the girl’s day-to-day activities and choices to the war rampaging around her were breath-taking. 3.5/5.
Pretty Girls by Karin Slaughter
Pretty Girls is a psychological crime thriller novel about a two sisters who have drifted apart in the wake of their sister’s disappearance, and how their lives twenty years later is reminiscent of the ways that they have dealt with their grief from the loss their family experienced. But when new victims begin to go missing, the clues lead them to someone they least expected. This was Slaughter’s first stand-alone thriller novel and it shows a bit towards the last one-fourth where things dragged on much more than they needed to. The awkward lead up to the finale notwithstanding, the novel was excellent. The pacing begins slow but the gradual increase, along with the heightened suspense and tension, was balanced rather well. There is much more predictability (as to who the culprit is) to this novel than The Good Daughter, which was my first Slaughter novel, nevertheless, the revelation still surrounds itself in enough shock to warrant it being a truly psychological sort of read. It is extremely disturbing and violent with strong triggers for rape, torture and various other sorts of violence, racism, and sexist language. 4.25/5.
Claw the System: Poems from the Cat Uprising by Francesco Marciuliano
Claw the System is a poetry collection about cats rebelling the fact that they are pets to be owned. It’s hilariously entertaining and very relatable for both cat-humans and humans who have interacted with cats before. If you are having a bad day and need a good, fluffy chuckle, then I recommend this small collection to you. 4/5.
Amreekiya by Lena Mahmoud
Amreekiya is an #OwnVoices Palestinian contemporary novel about a young woman who under pressure from her family decided to get married to a boy that she had loved since high school, and how she confronts the choices she makes afterwards in terms of what she wants from life. This is excellently written, with a straightforward and candidly revealing perspective from the main character, however, many topics examined were a bit too triggering for me and I had to put it aside. A few of those include being ostracised by your own family for being different (she’s half-Palestinian and always compared to her white mother whom her family refers to as a whore), there is sexist cultural oppression, passive aggressive psychological manipulation from her family, and more. I believe the story itself is an integral one, particularly for diasporic individuals who may have similar experiences, but know that those topics can become quite intense at times. I hope to re-read this and finish it one day. DNF, no rating.
Themis Files Books #2 & #3 by Sylvain Neuvel
The Themis Files is a science-fiction series about a young girl who discovers a large metal hand in a hole that she tumbles into; a discovery that shall change the face of humanity’s future. I absolutely adored Sleeping Giants. You can read me gush about it here (spoiler-free!), so naturally I was eager to read the second and third book. The second book, Waking Gods, was even better than book one and I was left feeling so astonished and excited for what was to come next. But given current world affairs, I had a very difficult time consuming the last book in the trilogy. It was wonderfully written and portrays atrocities that the world is capable of given the situation, and how inevitably humans always choose corruption and supremacy over everything else. However, with that said, I just wished that it took a slightly different approach. Everything prior to this finale was quite imaginative, so this typical and tropey conclusion made me a bit sad. Overall, I highly recommend this series to fans of science-fiction and giant metal phalanges. Waking Gods: 5/5; Only Human: 3.75/5.
Just So Happens by Fumio Obata
Just So Happens is an #OwnVoices Japanese-British graphic novel about a young girl who travels back to her homeland of Japan many years later to attend a funeral for a family member, where she comes face-to-face with all that she’s lost, has been missing, and no longer needs in her life. The artwork is what makes this graphic novel so remarkable as it’s done almost entirely in precise watercolours with muted tones to complement the morose atmosphere of the narrative. The story itself captures the essence of what it means to move away to a foreign country, and no matter how long you reside there, you never quite fit in. It also explores the subtlety of racism when people interact with you when you’re different (including in a country that’s supposed to be your home), and the cultural misunderstandings in an interracial relationship. Those are just to name a few. I belief if the story had a bit more meat to it in terms of actual storytelling and character depth, it would be near perfect. 4/5.
Blacksad by Juan Díaz Canales & Juanjo Guarnido
Blacksad is a crime noir graphic novel taking place during the 1950s and follows a feline detective named John Blacksad who investigates an array of crimes such as murder, child abductions, and nuclear secrets. This was such a brilliant comic to read! The artwork is astoundingly stunning, and the story is a brilliant homage to the noir genre while tackling serious topics of white supremacy, racism, and whether people that have committed inhumane atrocities have the capacity to change and find compassion. Check out my spoiler-free review for more info, but if you like comics and crime noir and have an open-mind, then you must read Blacksad. 4.75/5.
Please let me know in the comments if any of these sound interesting to you, or if you’d like a full review for books that don’t already have reviews linked-up. I do plan on writing a series review for The Themis Files, and that should go up sometime later this week or next week.
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