May’s Reading Wrap-Up! (2019)

May flew by so fucking fast that I’m feeling a bit stunned. I remember when the month began, and I was feeling so excited that I had a whole five to six weeks before the summer semester’s mental slaughter. Yet, here we are.

In April, my goal was to read a total of fifteen books, however, that did not happen. So, I set myself up with the same goal for May, without much expectation of succeeding due to Ramadan starting up. Figuring that my attention would be spread thin, I read when I could without too much attention to the numbers. Then the damndest thing happened. Not only did I meet my goal of finishing fifteen books, I surpassed it by a few! Even though the end of May fucking sucked, being able to accomplish a short-term goal like that felt quite gratifying.

The month was spent on manga more than anything else, and the few that I binged ended up landing a spot into my Favourites pile! Of the books that I read, I DNF’d two of them—one due to triggers and another because of utter boredom. My ratings for titles completed managed to stay above three stars on average. So, essentially, reading was fun for the most part during May. More reasons to feel joyous, I suppose.

You can check out everything down below. As per usual, there will be a succinct snippet, links to reviews, and my rating. If there aren’t any reviews associated with the relative book, I’ll let you know when to expect one, or if I’m going to pass on writing it altogether. I’ll start with books and comics, then move on to manga.

Territory of Light by Yūko Tsushima

Territory of Light is an #OwnVoices Japanese fiction novel about a woman who splits from her husband and struggles to balance being a single mother, while re-discovering who she is as an independent individual. I was attracted to this novel because it’s written by the daughter one of my favourite Japanese authors, Osamu Dazai. Her voice is somewhat reminiscent of his but has character and spirit all its own. I chat about that  and why it shall appeal to some readers, while being off-putting to others in my spoiler-free review. 3.75/5.

Penance by Kanae Minato

Penance is an #OwnVoices Japanese psychological thriller about four little girls who witnessed their friend being led to her death, and the grieving mother that seeks revenge against the children who allowed her daughter to die. I didn’t enjoy this novel as much as Minato’s other book, Confessions, but it’s still excellently chilling and fucked-up; reasons as to why Minato is my newest fave contributor to the psychological genre. The biggest drawback with this book was how it dragged in some places, lessening the effect of the suspense and disturbing aspects. Overall, I would still recommend it to people who enjoy mind-fuck thrillers. 3.75/5.

Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan

Crazy Rich Asians is about a normal, middle-class girl named Rachel Chu who gets invited to spend the summer in Singapore with her seemingly normal boyfriend to celebrate his best friend’s wedding. Upon arriving, Rachel learns that her beau is secretly the equivalent of Singaporean royalty at its finest and must adjust to this new, strange world and all of the drama that goes with it. This whole damn book is a wicked and crazy romp through some of the most outrageous lifestyles ever. The exploration of that world and its social politics is quite interesting to read about, if at times a bit too theatrical. My spoiler-free review goes into more detail. 3.5/5.

Love, Hate, & Other Filters by Samira Ahmed

Love, Hate, & Other Filters is an #OwnVoices Islamic and Indian-American young adult contemporary novel about a teen getting ready to head off to college who struggles with being the daughter her parents want her to be and finding her own voice and path in spite of their controlling demands. The novel also deals with Islamophobia and interracial romances. I do plan on writing a full review for this book because it completely blew me away. I wasn’t expecting to like it but fell in love with its cultural and political rhetoric. Hopefully, the review shall go up within the first week of June. If you are looking for #OwnVoices Islamic novels, I highly recommend this.

The Gauntlet by Karuna Riazi

The Gauntlet is an #OwnVoices Islamic, Southwest Asian middle-grade fantasy novel about a girl who receives a board game for her birthday that sucks her brother into it. Together with a couple of her best friends, she embarks on a journey to finish the game and save her family from gloom and doom. Another one I didn’t expect to like too much (middle-grade tends to bore the hell out of me), but I found comfort in the kinship of the Islamic culture and the Southwest Asian influences on the world-building and aesthetics. If you’re a fan of Jumanji, then I think you’d like this culturally imaginative story very much. I haven’t written a review for this book and wasn’t planning on it, but if you’d like one, please let me know in the comments! 4/5.

Suspicious Minds (Stranger Things #1) by Gwenda Bond

Suspicious Minds is an adult urban fantasy novel that is the first canonical novel in the Stranger Things universe. It starts in 1969 and shares the origins of the Hawkins Laboratory where Brenner and Eleven make their debut in the television series. I will be doing a full review for this book later this week. The novel was rather good all around, however, it lacked a significant amount of world-building and ambiance that you’d expect from a novel set in this universe, even if it is prior to all of the heebie-jeebie events. Only key locations were described and that made it difficult for me to connect to a majority of the story. But if you’re a fan of the TV show, you may like this book for that connection alone.

Internment by Samira Ahmed

Internment is an #OwnVoices Islamic and South Asian-American novel about a young girl and her family as they are uprooted from their homes and placed into concentration camps for Muslims across the country. With some help from her Jewish boyfriend on the outside and new friend she’s made inside the camps, the girl fights for justice and freedom. I read the first one-third to one-half of this book before I had to put it aside. This book is absolutely brilliant and tremendously evocative. It’s not an easy book to read. The triggers became too much for me at the time, so I basically put it on hold. I do plan on buying this book and finishing it one day because it was that good. If you’re searching for an extremely relevant novel on the Muslim-American experience and our current fears with this political climate, go pick this up ASAP. DNF.

The Bird King by G. Willow Wilson

The Bird King is an adult historical fantasy novel about a concubine for the sultan and his royal map-maker as they flee the palace to seek refuge in an enigmatically magic place when the Spanish Christian monarch decides that the sultan is a threat to be dealt with. Dude, I tried so hard to get into this book, but the prose—as beautiful as it is—is so fucking tedious that I couldn’t connect to a single thing. It just dragged on and on, making me terribly bored. I’m starting to realise that this author is just not for me, which the next title (or the title’s link) shall express why. DNF.

Ms Marvel Volume 1: No Normal by G. Willow Wilson

Ms Marvel is an #OwnVoices Islamic story about a Pakistani-American teenage girl (the story is not #OwnVoices Pakistani-American) that ends up acquiring superpowers one evening, thus changing her life as she knows it. I wrote a whole review about how this comic is absolutely terrible. Ms Marvel is a token brown character with the worst origin story I’ve ever read in my entire life, and it’s a shame that we finally get a Muslim superhero for her to be a travesty such as this. 1.75/5.

Eclipse Volume One by Zack Kaplan

Eclipse is a hard sci-fi, post-apocalyptic comic series set in a world where a solar event has made it so that the sun’s light is extremely dangerous to all living things, forcing humans into a nocturnal existence. Amid this terrifying environment, a radical killer as risen and uses the sun’s deadly rays to murder people. For a debut comic, this was absolutely brilliant. The premise is so original, and the artwork is absolutely stunning. My review details why you should take time and read this if you’re a fan of comics and/or hard sci-fi. 4.5/5.

Tokyo Tarareba Girls Volumes 2 – 5 by Akiko Higashimura

Tokyo Tarareba Girls is a josei, comedy, romance manga series about a group of women in their thirties, trying to navigate adulthood in the aftermath of focusing on their careers rather than their personal lives. I’ve written up a first-impressions that outlines why older manga readers should check out the series. With these four volumes, I laughed my arse off and cried and felt such a kinship to their struggles in one form or another. Hands-down one of my faves from the josei genre. 5/5 for all volumes.

Nijigahara Holograph by Inio Asano

Nijigahara Holograph is a seinen, psychological horror manga about strange events that occur after a young girl is thrown into a well by her classmates. I haven’t written a review for this because I honestly don’t know how to write one for it. It’s so brilliantly dark and fucked-up and revealing about the more malevolent and selfish parts of the human psyche, and the disturbing ways that people sexualise young girls, no matter their age or gender. It was haunting and so powerful, especially with the magnificent artwork. All I can say is that if you like really dark narratives with subtle storytelling and intelligent motifs, read this. But go into it with an open-mind and a strong stomach. 4/5.

Saint Young Men Volume 1 by Hikaru Nakamura

Saint Young Men is a seinen manga about Jesus Christ and Gautama Buddha as they take a vacation from divinity to travel the world, starting in Japan of course. The premise made me think this would be ridiculous and the sort of satire that I tend to loathe. Yes, there are satirical elements, particular with faith, but overall this was such an incredibly enjoyable romp. I positively loved this! My review of volume one tells you why you should read it if you like comedy manga and don’t mind a bit of harmless and inoffensive snark towards religion. 5/5.

the gods lie. by Kaori Ozaki

the gods lie. is a seinen, drama manga about a solitary boy who meets a peculiar girl with a dark secret and the emotionally evocative bond that they build through mutual loneliness and a sense of helplessness. This is one of the best manga stories that I’ve read this year and it was one of the most surprisingly sorrowful ones as well. My review discusses what makes this manga so thoughtful and weighty, and why fans of expressive narratives shouldn’t pass this up. 5/5.

Golden Kamuy Volumes 4 – 6 by Satoru Noda

Golden Kamuy is a seinen, Japanese-style Western manga about a soldier, an Ainu girl, and a convict who join forces to locate an incredible treasure that can only be located via a wholly disturbing and grotesque manner. I fucking love this series. It is so savage! My first impressions do a whole lot of gushing (rightly so) and reading through these volumes over the past couple of days has only cemented my infatuation with the story, characters, and the glorious artwork. Satoru Noda has easily become one of my fave mangaka. 5/5 for all volumes.

Those are all of my May reads! Since I met my goal of fifteen, I’m going to amp it up a little bit to seventeen for June, and it shall probably stay at that number until I can knock it down. I haven’t felt this pumped for reading shenanigans since 2017, so I’m going to embrace it and revel in it and ride this high until it finally dissipates.

With that I bid you all a good day! Have a lovely weekend, chums.

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