22 Best Books of January & February (2021)

January and February kicked total ass for me in terms of reading. Granted I read mostly graphic novels and comics, but still. It feels fantastic to know that I consumed approximately 38 books across the last two months! Not everything was supremely mind-blowing, but a good chunk of these reads were decent and entertaining and enjoyable, while the rest left me questioning my life choices. Of course that contemplation only lasted for a few minutes before I moved on to the next book.

Towards the end of February, however, I hit somewhat of a reading rut, which I’m still battling a teeny bit here as March kicks into first gear. My goal is to find a way to get over it because I really don’t want to lose my currently bibliophilic momentum, more so as reading is imperative for my nightly self-care routine.

Anyhoo, out of my towering stack of completed titles, most of them are things that I would recommend, which leaves today’s best books list longer than it has been in quite a while! As per usual, I’ve linked up GoodReads pages (via titles) and any reviews that I may already have up for the relative book/manga. A couple of them don’t have write-ups live quite yet, but I’m hoping to get them out later this week, so keep your eyes peeled for ‘em if you see something that catches your fancy.

Stardoc & Beyond Varallan by S.L. Viehl

These are the first two books in a galactic medical, science-fiction series about a Terran doctor named Cherijo Grey Veil who flees her home planet with her cat, Jenners, after she learns a terrible secret about her father, a galactically renown physician known for his brilliance and harsh anti-alien propaganda. The books are definitely far from perfect as they have some questionable and problematic content with regards to assault, however, the scientific aspects and the technical details in the series thus far is absolutely fabulous. It’s one of the main things that has kept me interested and curious about where Cherijo’s unpredictable journey will take her next. Recommended to readers of hard sci-fi and fans of medical adventures. [Stardoc review | Beyond Varallan review]

Across the Green Grass Fields by Seanan McGuire

This is the sixth instalment in McGuire’s adult portal fantasy series, Wayward Children, and follows a young girl who gets transported to a magical world with centaurs and unicorns where she learns that not all forms of heroism are as straightforward or simple as they appear to be. I feel that this is going to be a bit anti-climactic to readers of this specific series, especially given the last couple of volumes, but I really rather liked the change of pace, and I appreciated the message at the end about what heroism truly entails and how the perception of being a hero can corrupt everyone who allows it to. Plus, the book as really great representation of Female Androgen Insensitivity (a form of Intersex). I don’t have a review for this up yet, but it should be making an appearance later in the week.

Murder in the Margins by Margaret Loudon

The first book in a brand-new cosy mystery series, it follows an author named Penelope who goes all the way to England for a writer-in-residence gig, hoping that the change of scenery will help her through a creative rut. Upon arriving, she gets shanghaied into a local mystery when a fellow writer acquaintance is suspected of the crime. This book was super cute. I loved the small town, English countryside, Penelope’s cat who’s named Mrs Danvers, and a lot of the side characters that consist of sassy old ladies. I’m looking forward to the second book, which is scheduled to hit shelves later this year. For more information, check out my full review.

Suki’s Kimono by Chieri Uegaki

An own-voices Japanese picture book about a young girl named Suki who is super excited to wear her favourite kimono on the first day of school. This is such a cute and endearing book about loving one’s culture in a proudful and unapologetic manner, even if other people don’t understand it or choose to poke fun about it (because they don’t understand and don’t want to look stupid, usually). If you’re looking for a super easy and chill book to read that can give you a bit of inspiration or just heartfelt smiles, then definitely check this one out.

Ojiichan’s Gift by Chieri Uegaki

Another own-voices Japanese picture book, this time it’s about a young girl who visits Japan every year and works on her grandfather’s Zen garden with him. One day, her grandfather becomes too sick to work on it and the property gets sold so the grandfather can move in with the girl and her family. Feeling heart-broken at losing such a special place, she makes a small garden in the likeness of her grandfather’s bigger one and takes a piece of it home with her. Another fantastic book about cultural roots and heritage tied with family values, this one made me super emotional. Beautiful artwork and an even lovelier story, it shan’t be missed!  

Black Magick Volume 1: Awakening Part 1 by Rucka & Scott

A supernatural, dark fantasy graphic novel series that follows detective Rowan Black. She has worked really hard to keep a few aspects of her life quite private. However, when a mysterious force begins to target Rowan in an attempt to kill her, she realises that someone out there knows her secrets and is determined to expose her if they can’t take her life. This was brilliant. Marvellous storytelling that is gritty and mysterious without being sluggish or overtly predictable, superb monochromatic artwork that enhances said storytelling and works to emphasise a lot of the little details, and a familiar premise with a unique twist to keep things interesting. This is one of the best first graphic novel readings I’ve had since Monstress. Recommended to fans of gritty crime stories and folx that enjoy supernatural elements. For more info, check out my full review here.

Sentient by Lemire & Walta

A stand-alone sci-fi graphic novel about a group of kids aboard a spaceship who suddenly find themselves orphaned due to reasons. The artificial intelligence onboard takes on the role of their mother in an effort to raise them and ensure their survival until they can be rescued. Then one day they come across a lonely space station and all hell breaks loose. This was incredible. Super atmospheric, breath-taking artwork, a killer (pun mildly intended) story—everything that makes it virtually unputdownable (I know, cliché word, but quite apt here). A full review for this shall be up at the end of the week.

Resident Alien Volume 1: Welcome to Earth by Hogan & Parkhouse

This graphic novel follows an alien dude who gets stranded on Earth and has to find a way to survive and blend in with humans until he can be rescued. He’s laying low in the small town of Patience, USA when the town’s only doctor dies. Forced to fill the spot as the new go-to doc in town, “Dr Harry” gets immediately tugged into a local murder mystery where he hopes he can solve the crime before his true identity’s revealed. This is a very simple and straightforward mystery, akin to a cosy mystery but in comic-book form. It’s also family friendly as it’s supremely limited in its depiction of blood and curse words are all censored. If you’re looking for a chill comic book and aren’t a fan of graphic depictions of death, then this may be the comic for you (think Diagnoses Murder, but comic medium). For more info, check out my review here.

Rat Queens Volumes 1 to 3 by Weibe

This sword-and-sorcery, fantasy graphic novel series follows a group of four ladies who go adventuring together and are known as the Rat Queens. They are all best friends and tend to get themselves into tight and sticky trouble more often than not, which usually involve broken bones and momentary amputations. I read the first five volumes. However, I believe the first three are the best of the bunch. Due to some complications, the story ends up getting rebooted halfway through it and the connection between the first half and the second half gets way too convoluted. However, the first three volumes are really well-done and outstandingly entertaining. I love the diversity as well. Betty is a lesbian halfling type lady that loves candy and mushrooms (drugs). Then there’s a necromancer chick that is Queer, salty and bitter about life, but loves her friends to death. Of course, there’s also a Cthulhu type sorceress who comes from a cult that worships tentacled monsters. Then there’s a Dwarven lady with a beard (my favourite) who’s cranky and vicious and badass, but also sweet and the most grounded and seemingly “normal” of all the ladies. It’s a fun ride all around. If you like sword and sorcery, sassy and witty dialogue, fierce arse-kicking women, and you aren’t opposed to tons of blood and violence and cursing and sex, then definitely check out the first three volumes of Rat Queens.

Berserk Deluxe Editions Volume 2 to 5 by Kentarō  Miura

A seinen, dark fantasy manga series about a former mercenary dude named Guts who embarks on an epic quest to kill all monsters while seeking vengeance against the bad motherfucker who wronged him in the worst ways possible. Yeah, I’m basically obsessed with this series in every conceivable way imaginable. I love the action and unapologetic essence of the brutality in its depiction. The dark and fucked-up themes on betrayal, corruption and power-seeking, and the horrible dualities of religion (to name a few). I’ve a manga first impressions and a character spotlight y’all can check out for more information. I’ve also started watching the 1997 anime adaptation. While I highly recommend this, please know it’s not for everyone. The violence is extremely graphic as are the depictions of child/adult abuse, sexual exploitation, rape, and oppression.

Wakakozake Volumes 1 & 2 by Chie Shinkyu

A seinen manga series full of short chapters that explore the main character’s love of food and alcohol, particularly after a hard day’s worth of work. I love this series because it has delicious traditional and contemporary Japanese foods, highlights actual restaurants in Japan, and offers morsels of feel-goodness that are awesomely relaxing. I read the Kindle editions in Japanese and I highly recommend it to manga readers that like wholesome serials about food and adult living that isn’t very involved with a long-winded storyline (episodic in nature).

Golden Kamuy Volumes 19 & 20 by Satoru Noda

A seinen, Japanese-style Western series that follows a guy named Sugimoto who hunts down a famous hoard of gold with the assistance of an Ainu girl, Asirpa, so that he can he keep his promise to his late friend by taking care of the late friend’s wife. In the process, he gets swept up in one hell of a conspiracy where he’ll meet a bunch of crazy motherfuckers along the journey. I’m fucking obsessed with this series because it’s so brilliantly written, researched, drawn, and crafted. My manga first impressions is far more cohesive, so I recommend you check that out. It’s just one of the finest pieces of manga I’ve ever encountered, and I’ll never stop screaming about it. Not for folx that don’t enjoy highly adult crude masculine humour (akin to Jojo’s somewhat), homoeroticism, and lots and lots of violence.

Naruto Volume 44 by Masashi Kishimoto

This shōnen, martial arts volume follows Naruto as he tries to decipher his master’s final message, which causes him to undergo the same intense training that Jiraiya underwent in his youth. I enjoyed this volume because there’s a lot of emotion here as Naruto deals with the death of his former master and it’s also interesting to see him embark on training that shall inevitably assist him in defeating the person(s) who killed said former master. I ended up taking a small break from the manga series after this because I wanted to catch up in Shippūden before I continue; that’s why I only read one volume of Naruto over the last two months. Even so, I recommend this series to anyone that loves martial arts adventures, regardless of the fact that it’s one of the most hyped serials in existence.

Dr Stone Volume 1 by Rīchirō Inagaki & Boichi (artist)

A shōnen, sci-fi adventure, post-apocalyptic series about a world where everyone turns to stone, then over three-thousand years later a couple of individuals “thawed” out on their own. All traces of human civilisation seem to have eroded away, leaving these individuals as the only ones to re-establish human-kind. I wasn’t expecting to enjoy this volume nearly as much as I did. Senkū (the genius dude) is such a dumbass, but his knowledge and skills with science also make him endearing and quite likeable. I love that the series is using real science to tell a unique story. It also has a wonderful sense of adventure as we watch humans surviving in an environment where they have to build literally everything from scratch all over again. I’m also supremely curious as to the mystery of what caused everyone to turn to stone to begin with. Dr Stone is a pleasant surprise and the one that really astonished me the most out of everything else on this list. Highly recommended for fans of shōnen manga and people who enjoy science and science experimentation adventures. A manga first impressions shall go live later this month.

My projected reading plans for March include conquering the current rut and getting around to more manga and more adult science-fiction and fantasy. I’m also hoping to continue reading more cosy mysteries (I’m currently writing my own and I’m liking the inspiration and guidance that reading these books has been giving me). Beyond that, I don’t have any other plans… yet!

What were some of your favourite books from the last couple of months? Anything that you recommend immediately when someone asks for suggestions?

2 thoughts on “22 Best Books of January & February (2021)

  1. Damn, 38 books across two months. That’s pretty impressive. Are you going to continue the Berserk shenanigans into March? (This might be a stupid question lol)

    • Definitely a stupid question lmao. Yup, the 8th volume of the deluxe edition hits shelves this month, so I have to more to go in order to catch up to it. I’ve been pacing myself because I know once I’m caught up, the waiting period is going to blow.

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