The Best Books of January & February (Wrap-Up)

Yo, book dragons. Welcome back to my blog. I know that it’s been a several months since I’ve shared content on this space. The truth is that within the last five months my health took a massive turn for the worse and I died. Twice. As you can imagine, the stress and the recovery for dealing with something of that calibre took up a huge chunk of my time as well as my mental fortitude.

But I survived. Fuck yeah.

Now I’m back, and ready to continue with my blogging shenanigans while hoping to evolve the content a bit as I go forth. As such, I’m going to be doing my monthly reading round-up a tad bit differently today. Rather than list every single title consumed, I’m only going to be sharing my favourites. There are two main reasons for this change. Firstly, since it has been so bloody long, I wanted to try a different method and compare it to my usual. My goal is just to play around with formats a bit and find one that is more natural for me. Secondly, between the last two months, I’ve consumed approximately 30 books. Because of that, a fully-loaded wrap-up would have been a mothereffing beast, both to write and probably to read. Also, by concentrating on the books I loved, it helps me begin again with positive vibes.

Full reviews shall go live for some of these in the coming week or so, but I have included GoodReads titles for everything (click the title itself) if you’re interested in learning more on your own in the meantime.

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January:

Light the Dark edited by Joe Fassler: A nonfiction collection of essays written by various authors, I picked this up because I was feeling lost in my own authorship and was seeking guidance. The collection is an excellent accumulation of insight from many authors, including Neil Gaiman (whom I admire a fucking lot), as they discuss the creative process, things that have inspired them to become writers, how they deal with writing blocks, and much more. It gave me the needed kick in the ass to get over my ruts and I recommend this to all aspiring writers out there.

When You Ask Me Where I’m Going by Jasmin Kaur: An #OwnVoices Canadian-Punjabi poetry collection with wonderful prose and poems that discusses the diasporic experience, battling sexism and racism within own cultural communities, being fetishized and sexualised by White people and how that impacts self-identity, and so much more. The collection really resonated with me as a brown-skinned South Asian who has (and continues to) dealt with all of these things to one degree or another in my life. The portions that hit the closest to my heart were the writings that explored what being Othered by your own people feels like because you don’t fit the mould of how they perceive you should be as a South Asian woman (I’m not a woman, but it doesn’t stop people from misgendering me—usually on purpose—all the fucking time).

The Stranger Beside Me by Ann Rule: A nonfiction book that’s a super in-depth examination of the renown serial killer Ted Bundy, written by someone who used to be a close friend of his. Man, this fucking book. Wow. It is not something I would recommend to everyone as it intensely discusses Bundy’s crimes, which involved savage violence against women, both physical and sexual. Things that I appreciated about the novel include how the author discusses her personal bond with him to explain why it was so easy for everyone to be manipulated and charmed by Bundy; while discussing the cases, Rule is careful and mindful for the victims’ privacy (including their loved ones, and Bundy’s former GFs and daughter); it reads so fast, becoming almost compulsory due to the simple yet informative way that it was written. If you’re into true crime, then this is a must-read, but do be aware of the triggers mentioned earlier.

Golden Kamuy Volumes 12 & 13 by Satoru Noda: A seinen, historical Japanese western series that I’m fucking obsessed with. I haven’t loved a manga series this much since Initial D, and regulars shall know just how much love that truly is. It’s just so bloody brilliant and so bloody outrageous, what can I say? I’m a hardcore addict. Extremely well-written and exceptionally researched, Golden Kamuy is the gift that keeps on giving with its massively strange, what-the-fuck moments; gloriously unapologetic bouts of violence and vulgarity; and intelligently crafted, culturally-rich settings and atmospheres. Just… go read it.

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February:

Difficult Women by Roxane Gay: This collection of short stories written by the superbly brilliant Roxane Gay is indescribably powerfully. I picked it up for Black History Month and also because I’ve loved everything she’s written so far. It’s packed with stories about women who take back their own narrative, sometimes by doing whatever they must in order to survive, and other times by punching their oppressors and abusers (figuratively and literally) to stand tall, and everything in between. It really illustrates that women aren’t a monolith. They come in all shapes, sizes, ethnicities, and more, and their experiences do not dictate their strength or character. Everyone has their own shit to face and burdens to carry and it shouldn’t be used as a weapon of judgment against them.

Becoming Billie Holiday by Carole Boston Waterford: A fictionalised account of Billie Holiday’s life told via verse. I don’t read a lot of narratives in verse, and I honestly have no reason as to why. Just haven’t picked up a lot of them. Yet, this one really intrigued me because I felt it was the perfect way to tell Billie Holiday’s story. Billie Holiday was a Black woman who used her voice to speak about the atrocities that were being committed against Black people in a time where doing that was an incredibly dangerous thing to do. Her story is heart-breaking yet quite moving in it’s no-nonsense honesty. The verses vary in style occasionally, but each one complemented one another and kept the story flowing smoothly.

Come Tumbling Down by Seanan McGuire: The fifth instalment in McGuire’s Wayward Children portal fantasy series, Come Tumbling Down is probably my favourite or second favourite one thus far. I’m a supremely OCD person. Very much like the main character of this book, I have to stay clean all the fucking time, or it feels like I’m going to lose my ability to function normally. I even wear gloves when I leave my house, just like the MC. The representation that this book had for what it’s like to live with OCD of that extreme was extraordinary. I understand how it can come off as unrealistic to some readers, but I can assure you that it is very realistic for some people. There were times while reading that I physically had to put the book down and go wash my hands because I could relate to the suffering that Jack was facing. Aside from the rep, the story is also moving and heart-breaking with regard to dealing with abusers. Sometimes forgiving our abusers, for any reason, only works to validate their abuse, which was another message that was personal for me.

Meg: The Graphic Novel by Steve Alten & J.S. Earls: A science-fiction graphic novel adaptation of the original novel, not the film, Meg: The Graphic Novel was a lovely delight. I loved the novel written by Alten, and this adaptation by Earls does the story great justice. I will be doing a full review for this on Saturday, so for now I’ll just say that if you like popcorn creature feature stories, especially ones with sharks, then definitely give this a read. It’s cinematic and reads so fast. Plus, it’s so violent, I love it.

The Walking Dead Book One by Robert Kirkman: This is the post-apocalyptic, horror graphic novel series that inspired the television show. Holy shit on a stick, this was brilliant. Another one that I will be doing a full review for, but wow. I honestly wasn’t expecting to like this so much, but it blew my mind (pun totally intended) and now I’m pretty damn invested in seeing how everything shall unfold. For quick reasons as to why you need to read this: it’s fast-paced and so unapologetically addicting as it picks up right from page one, which is further enhanced by how character-driven it is. The monochromatic art style is an outstanding complement to the story, and really fits the setting and tone, while also helping to subdue the savagery of the deaths (i.e.: people being ripped to shreds while still being alive). The focus on how different people react in a situation as intense and unbelievable as this is written so marvellously, making it hella thought provoking.

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With the exception of Meg: The Graphic Novel and Light the Dark, all of these books were library books for me. I know for a fact that one day I shall be purchasing the Golden Kamuy manga, The Stranger Beside Me, and The Walking Dead as those are the books I can definitely see myself reading and re-reading again. While I’m a fan of the Wayward Children novels, I don’t know if I love them enough to invest in them financially, more so because Seanan McGuire is such a hit-or-miss author for me. But I suppose only time will tell… and possibly seeing how the franchise ends. That would also help me make up my mind.

Have you read anything mentioned here, or do you plan to in the future? What did you think of them? Also, please let me know what you thought of this format versus my lengthy ass wrap-ups. It would be cool to get some feedback and what’s preferable for y’all to read. Thank you!

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10 thoughts on “The Best Books of January & February (Wrap-Up)

  1. I for sure agree with writing about what you love and or enjoyed over trying to include. Learned that the hard way myself lol. As for this format, it’s very digestible. I like how you broke it into 2-3 book sections, grouped by month and then style (fiction, nonfiction, manga, etc).

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Glad you enjoyed the first volume and hope you continue to enjoy the ride of the Walking Dead. Becoming Billie Holiday sounds like a great way to experience the life of such an influential woman!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Pingback: Give it a Light Novel Title Challenge – Phoenix Talks Pop Culture Japan

  4. Coming back to blogging after dying twice is pretty badass, haha. I like this format for your wrap ups! I also read Come Tumbling Down. It’s not my favourite in the series (I felt it was spread a bit thin between all the characters) but what I love about the Wayward Children books is how so many different readers can find themselves represented, such as yourself with OCD.

    Liked by 1 person

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