Hello and welcome to my February books wrap up. This month, I read 13 individual books, but many are part of a series, so it’ll be a little bit shorter than actually being 13 books.
The first book I read this month was Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress. I thought this was… Okay. This happens during China’s famous “Cultural Revolution” when a lot of city kids were sent to live in the country for “re-education.” This story focuses on two boys who were sent to a far-away village, and they both love reading. But in the new culture, reading is banned. So they hide it, get books, sneak around. They introduce one village girl to reading, and “city culture.” That is a very compressed version of this story. I always love books that are about books, or books have a big role in the story. And this wasn’t any exception. But the…overall story sometimes felt a little bit… Bland? I don’t know if it’s because this is a translation. So I wonder if it’s because of that, the translation was not on par with the original text. I don’t know. I did like this book, but it’s not something I would immediately think of to recommend.
Next book I read this month, Dead Feminists: Historic Heroines in Living Color. The book is basically what the title says, but to explain what this book is like, it would be easiest to go back to what started this whole thing. The two authors of this book started a series of broadsides, basically a poster, of different quotes from feminists. All who are dead, gone, not with us. And created art from that. And then those broadsides would be sold, and some of the profits would be donated to something related to that person’s goals, activist work, their values, etc. So the broadside series was started, I don’t know how many they have now. But it got to a point where they thought, we should make a book. Each person in this book may not necessarily identify as a feminist, but their philosophy, their views, their actions, are all feminist. Each person gets four pages about their childhood, why they became feminists, what they do, about them. Then two pages – one is the broadside, and the opposite side will explain the process of creating that broadside. I enjoyed reading this, and it’s always nice when you read and see a name that you know, but you still learn something new about that person. It’s really nice.
Next, I read a very thin book – Playing in the Dark, Whiteness and the Literary Imagination, written by Toni Morrison. Morrison basically looks at American literature from the past, and how the–what they call it–Africanist presence appears in those. Even with novels that have no named black characters, they still have an influence from black people. In the South for example, you can’t really write a novel set in the South without having some influence from slavery, and all of that. She looks at it in general, but also will look at specific authors like Hemingway, Poe, Melville, and so on. How their writing has themes of manhood, innocence, freedom, individualism, and all of that was written around the concept that the black population automatically is unfree, using that as the foundation for the white people and their lives. Facing their fears in black people. It was interesting reading this, it’s very thin, a quick read.
Next, I read Saga Vol. 8 and 9. I won’t expand on this because I’ve already mentioned it in two wrap ups now, so watch last month’s wrap up if you want to know what it’s about. I will say this, I’m not happy with how Vol. 9 ended, because Saga is currently on an indefinite hiatus. So. *glares* Thanks a lot, Vaughan.
Saga, as a whole, is not always a happy series, so I needed something light and good after that. I read The Backstagers Vol. 2. Yes. Just as good as the first one, more queerness, and… Yesss. The Backstagers is clearly about the crew who runs the backstage in theater. But in this, the backstage is a magical place that is bigger than it should be, and has all of these wonderful, weird rooms. Waterfalls of paint, a room with lions, a huge costume room, a room that’s all audio equipment. The list goes on. Wonderful. I want to mention this, there is a deaf character in this. They never explicitly say she’s deaf. But when I was reading, I noticed that it looked like she had a hearing aid. As I read on, it was consistent, so she must be deaf. And a few things that they wrote, made me think she must be deaf for sure. It’s nice to see that, and it’s no big deal. She’s just part of the group. It’s really nice. From my understanding, Volume 3, which comes out in this summer, I think, is actually an anthology of different mini comics, so it’s not continuing that Volume 2 story. BUT where Volume 2 ends, a novel – The Backstagers and the Ghost Light – picks up.
The Backstagers and the Ghost Light, written by Andy Mientus, is a middle grade novel. A novel, not a graphic novel, a novel. I was a little hesitant because it’s a different author for the novel and the graphic novel. But I think Mientus did a good job of capturing that tone from the graphic novels, and making that into a full text. I want to add, the novel also includes some illustrations by the original illustrator for the graphic novels. So that’s really cool. I do want to mention that the second book in this series, The Backstagers and the Theater of the Ancients, has a whole storyline focusing on a deaf character. A deaf character in a play, onstage and backstage. I… When I read the synopsis for this, I was like yes! I’m excited to see this. I’m hoping, really hoping this will turn out well. I’m pretty sure it will, because Andy Mientus was in the Broadway show of Spring Awakening. So he knows several deaf people he can ask for sensitivity readings. I look forward to reading this. It will come out March 19th – this month, March 19th. So, The Backstagers – whether it’s the graphic novels or novel – I recommend, yes.
Next, I read Drive: Act One and Act Two. It tells the story of the Second Spanish Empire, a galactic empire. They’re approaching war with another group because humans stole something of theirs. And got space travel from that. The aliens want that tech back, drama ensues. The Spaniards found a really good driver, and need more drivers like him, but no one knows where this specific alien is from. I think I will leave it at that. I really enjoyed this, this is really cute, a lot of funny comments. The characters in this are really great.
Next, I read a chunky novel – Black Leopard, Red Wolf. This follows Tracker, a person who has a really good nose, he can track someone anywhere they go as long as he has their scent. He was hired by a group to hunt down a boy who’s been missing for three years. He joins a group of strange, varied people who have many, many, many secrets. Some have gifts, some…don’t. This story takes you to different locations – dense forests, mountains, rivers, cities, and all over, there are animals, strange creatures trying to kill them. Trying to stop them from getting the boy, trying to get the boy for themselves. He’s wondering what is going on. This book collects and mixes the author’s imagination and African history and mythology into this beautiful story. It is LONG, 620 pages, but worth it. It’s worth it. Sometimes the prose is a little bit… You have to work to get through it, but it’s gorgeous. It’s… Yes. If you have the patience to sit and read a really thick book, read this.
After that chunky book, I read a graphic novel, FTL, Y’all! FTL is short for Faster-Than-Light. That’s usually used in sci-fi for faster-than-light travel – warp drives, hyperspeed, that kind of thing. Detailed schematics are anonymously posted online for how to build a FTL drive for less than $200 with easily accessible parts. That was posted, and that immediately went viral. People were building. Space became accessible to all. Humans spread out, no control, no planning, just scattered. This is an anthology of what happens after. I liked all of the different takes on what could happen in this universe!
And to close this month, I read something that has been getting a lot of talk lately. You know Netflix’s new TV show, The Umbrella Academy? If you weren’t aware, it’s actually based on graphic novels. So, that’s what I finished this month with – Volume 1 and 2 of The Umbrella Academy. The opening for Vol. 1 and the opening for the Netflix show are almost the exact same, word for word. So. 43 women around the world gave birth. Not an odd thing, but all of them weren’t pregnant at the start of the day. So a rich, eccentric man went looking to find those babies. He was able to get seven of them, brought them to his home, raised them. They vanished then came back on the world stage in their teens as superheroes, crime-fighting superheroes. So that’s the story. The graphic novel is similar to the TV show in that they have that whole child superheroes then they meet again as adults. They fractured, their struggles, fights with each other as family, it has all of that. But be warned, the graphic novels are a lot more…in comic book territory than the TV show. There’s–yeah, there’s a lot of really random, odd storylines that happen in the graphic novels that you would never see on the screen because it’s just so ridiculous. But I did enjoy both, reading these. I’m looking forward to reading more when they come out.
That’s it for this month. I hope you enjoyed watching this, and let me know if you’ve read any of these books, especially The Umbrella Academy. Discuss down below. Or if you want to read any of them. And thanks for watching, see you whenever.
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