May and June were relatively average reading months for me. I read approximately 26 to 27 books between the two months and most of them were two to three star reads for the most part. The best enjoyable bookish shenanigans took place between the pages of manga, which I’m super thankful for because it has helped me to get back into reading more of this medium.
For the books listed, reviews for most of them shall go live throughout July, hopefully within the next week or so, if they aren’t already floating around somewhere in the cyberspace of this cat and cherry blossom-obsessed blog. As per usual, everything is broken up by genre, mostly.
The Candle and the Flame by Nafiza Azad: An #OwnVoices YA Islamic fantasy novel about an abandoned young woman living in the grand city of Noor, who is the sole survivor of a terrible mass slaughter by the hands of malevolent djinn. When one of the most powerful Ifrit dies, beings tasked with protecting the city of Noor, Fatima finds herself changing in extraordinary ways. This was a re-read for Ramadan and I love this book. It’s filled with fierce women, beautiful magic, a glorious city with delicious food, and a highly compelling story filled with imagination. Definitely one of my favourite YA fantasies written thus far.
Kitchen by Banana Yoshimoto: An #OwnVoices Japanese fiction novel that is considered to be a revolutionary work in Japanese literature, it follows a young woman who moves in with her grandmother’s friend upon her (grandmother) passing. Whilst living there, she harnesses the healing powers of cooking and friendship to grieve and find a way to move forward amid life’s unpredictability. Even though the novel has it’s sad moments, it’s a story of inspiration and hope, and perfect for anyone that needs a little of both in their lives. The novel contains two interconnected short stories, and both are fantastic.
Marriage of a Thousand Lies by SJ Sindu: An #OwnVoices Sri Lankan, Tamil, LGBTQIA+ adult literature novel about a woman named Lucky who is a lesbian that married her gay friend from college so they can keep their personal lives hidden safely away from their conservative Tamil parents. However, when Lucky is invited back home for her childhood friend’s wedding, emotions start to run high as she questions what she wants from her life and future. This was such an excellent novel with raw, unfiltered emotion about being in an abusive relationship and the fears with coming to terms with one’s identity, particularly amid strict, traditional parents and oppressive rituals. It’s not an easy book to read, but it’s still quite phenomenal.
Hurricane Child by Kacen Callender: An #OwnVoices Caribbean middle grade story about a young girl that is faced with feelings of abandonment and the people who lie to protect her. Hands down one of the best books I have read in 2020. Callender’s prose and exploration of the complex feelings that stem from uncertainty in the wake of losing a parent, even at such a young age, is powerful and insightful. Children aren’t the only ones who have to grow up and oft times it’s because of their sincere perspective on life that so many adults finally figure it out for themselves. There is examination of colourism and ostracization caused by it, and candid anecdotes that are interspersed with commentary on loneliness, anger, and a desperate yearning for hope. If you like stories about all the things mentioned, definitely pick up Hurricane Child.
Blood Hunter Issues #1 to #3 by Loren Meyer: A dystopian, supernatural comic series (a short one with only three issues) that I randomly stumbled upon on the DC Comics app. It’s about a world that is completely ruled by vampires. The last living human is a baby and much sought after for malevolent reasons. A lone vampire warrior named Vincent saves the baby and does what he can to ensure it survives. Even though this series is so short, I loved it very much. The story is quite dark and rather straightforward, but also has some soft commentary on how the monsters we become as people, especially when bored or faced with dealing with brute survival are ugly things. The artwork is really badass too.
Spy x Family Volume 1 by Tatsuya Endo: A shōnen, action, comedy series about a brilliant spy who has to acquire a family for his latest mission and the oddballs that end up becoming his wife and kid, respectively. I did a full review for volume one here, but long story short, this is one of the best newer manga serials that I have read and I will shout happily about it as long as I can. If you want something fun and action-packed while being an homage to old-school comics, definitely read this.
Blue Flag Volumes 1 & 2 by KAITO: A shōnen, coming-of-age, romance story about some kids who are awkwardly trying to navigate feelings of first love and trying to fit in in the midst of it all, especially when they are from the Queer community. I love this series because it’s wonderfully wholesome and heart-warming. The artwork is also quite lovely, and the characters are flawed but hopeful. My reviews for volume one and volume two, respectively.
Naruto Volumes 14 to 17 by Masashi Kishimoto: These volumes in this supremely famous shōnen, martial arts, adventure manga series revolve around the Konoha Crush arc and I love them because the arc doesn’t drag on (as it does in the anime) and the suspense is just so damn good. These were some of my favourite early volumes in the series and are worth picking up the series if you haven’t already.
After the Rain Volumes 1 & 2 by Jun Mayuzuki: A seinen, slice-of-life story about a young teenage girl who falls in love with her manager at the restaurant where she works part-time. I shall be doing a manga review for this next week, but I love this series so much. Every single thing that I adore about Japanese literary fiction is contained in this manga series coupled with poignant illustrations and a heart-warming narrative about growing up as well as understanding that you’re only as old as you allow yourself to feel.
I don’t have any concrete reading plans for July and August other than the desire to read more of my owned-light novels and more mysteries and supernatural spoopy things. Although, given how much of a moody reader I can be, I won’t be too hard on myself if things don’t quite pan out that way.
Until next time, happy reading, chums!