Welcome to Mid-Year Round-Up, a short series of posts where I write about all the media I’ve finished from the beginning of the year up until the end of June! I’ve seen a few of my friends write these sort of posts (mostly on bookstagram), and I myself had tried to make this sort of content into video format last year, but I was finding it hard to come across naturally on camera, so this year I’m opting for blog posts instead. This one specifically is about books (including manga and comic books), but there will be other posts about films/tv and video games, too.
Let’s begin! ?
I started my 2020 practically devouring DC’s Doomsday Clock. I had read a few issues back when they were first published, but then a whole lot of real life things made me forget to keep up with it. This year, after learning that it was finished, I promptly started reading it and I read all 12 issues in two days. I could not stop reading it, I was enjoying it so much. Watchmen is one of my all-time favourite comics, and for me, Doomsday Clock perfectly managed to cross it over with the greater DC Universe. The story and the writing were just fantastic on every level, and I consider it a very worthy follow-up to the original Watchmen (much to Alan Moore’s dismay, probably).
Rating: ★★★★★ I would definitely recommend it to any Watchmen and DC fan, though it does require some knowledge of DC comics in order to fully appreciate it.
Kamikaze Kaitou Jeanne
At the beginning of the year, for some reason, I had this shoujo itch that needed to be scratched, specifically with something from my teenagehood. My mind immediately jumped to Kamikaze Kaitou Jeanne by Arina Tanemura. It’s a really short manga (only 7 volumes) that I remember loving when I was around 14-15 years old. So for nostalgia’s sake, I went back to re-read it.
Overall, I was a little bit disappointed. I still liked Maron, the female lead, and her friend Miyako, and overall the story was fine, though I did find the pacing a little off at points (some parts would go by really fast and the manga moved from plot point to plot point really quickly), but that’s something I’ve come to expect of shorter manga, as they usually pack a lot of plot in fewer chapters. What I was really disappointed with, however, was the relationship between Maron and Chiaki. I remember really liking them when I was younger, but this time around I didn’t find their love story very well-written or compelling, and I could not even wrap my head around why exactly they liked each other so much. I just didn’t feel the chemistry that was clearly intended to be there. So I walked away wishing that Maron and Miyako had gotten together instead. (Honestly, if you read the manga, it makes way more sense for this to happen, and I found myself annoyed that Maron would keep her in the dark when she’s her childhood best friend, but then spill every worry she ever had to Chiaki, who is by all means a near-total stranger.)
Rating: ★★½ I might be harsher here because I held the series to such a high standard because of my nostalgia-tinted glasses. Overall I’d say it’s okay, but maybe it just doesn’t hold the same charm that it did when I was younger. I can see myself re-reading it again in the future though, just to see if my opinion changes.
The Marriage Plot
The first book I’ve ever read by Jeffrey Eugenides, who is the author of The Virgin Suicides. I don’t have much to say about this book: I thought the characters and the writing were compelling, the story is simple but I kept reading because the characters felt so human and I came to care about them. I also liked the ending and every element of the story felt very organic.
Rating: ★★★ I liked it and I will check out more of his work.
Tokyo Mew Mew & Tokyo Mew Mew à la Mode
Nostalgia hit again during quarantine, and off I went to re-read another series from my teenagehood. I chose Tokyo Mew Mew as the fandom has sort of come back to life again after the announcement that there will be making a reboot of the anime. (I am both hyped and wary.)
Overall, I think I can say with confidence that I enjoy the fandom part of Tokyo Mew Mew more than the actual canon series. ? This manga was also short (7 volumes) and I found myself having issues with the pacing (bad guys that were defeated in just a few pages, all the while somehow dedicating entire chapters to Ichigo’s quirky misadventures as a cat). Not only that, but there was too much focus on just the protagonist of the series, while there was zero development for any of the other four magical girls in the team, which, for me, was a huge disappointment, and the biggest problem with the manga series (the anime did give us some characterisations and some storylines for the other characters at least). I also do not like Ichigo as a protagonist, so the constant focus on her wasn’t something I was happy with, since I find her mostly boring, annoying and unrelatable. (I know I’m in the minority in the fandom.)
I didn’t find the story very compelling and the way battles were drawn was, at times, too confusing for me (I would’ve liked more detailed, longer battles, too).
Rating: ★★ I have very much outgrown this series and will probably only consume fan-content from now on.
Tokyo Mew Mew à la Mode is the very short manga sequel with only 2 volumes, and boy… that really hurt the series more than anything.
I liked Berry, the new protagonist, but in my opinion, she was absolutely shafted by how short the series is. She and her love interest, Tasuku, have little time to shine, develop and grow, because the plot has to always be moving along. She also gets shafted as the new “leader” of the Mews because Ichigo ends up coming back to the team just a chapter or two after she’s made leader, which I honestly don’t understand the point of. Many fans don’t like this sequel as it feels like a “bad fanfiction” with a self-insert protagonist, and I kinda have to agree. The way the ending quickly wraps up out of nowhere is just… odd.
Rating: ★★ Many, many problems, but at least Ichigo isn’t the focus anymore, so that’s nice.
I had this serious Orwellian itch that I wanted to scratch and Fahrenheit 451 had been on my to-read list for many, many months — so finally, I picked it up. I was not disappointed.
I really loved everything about this book — the characters, the story, the setting, the premise, the themes, and especially the writing. I could see a lot of my style in Bradbury’s, as we both like using long sentences, lots of commas, and want to evoke specific moods and mental images in the reader, which I absolutely got from reading this. I think it deserves its title of “classic” for sure.
Rating: ★★★★★ A favourite of mine which I will definitely re-read in the future.
After Fahrenheit 451 and with lockdown in full swing, I needed a little pick-me-up; something wholesome, short, and for children. Winnie-the-Pooh was the perfect choice.
I adored every moment of reading this book. It’s just so lovely and so full of heart. I finished it in just two days, I could not stop myself from reading it all in almost one sitting. I loved all the stories and all the characters and I feel really attached to them. The stories themselves have great life lessons, too. Children’s literature is just the one constant that never disappoints, in my opinion.
Rating: ★★★★★ Obviously a new all-time favourite.
The Return of the Young Prince
While looking up some info on my all-time favourite book, The Little Prince, I came across the cover for what is a spiritual sequel to it: The Return of the Young Prince. Needless to say, I had to immediately pick it up and finish it in the span of three days.
I have some mixed feelings on this. A big chunk of the book involves the Prince being “lectured” about life by the author, who does talk a lot. Many pages are just filled with the author’s monologues on various topics (spirituality, happiness, etc.). I think that was the part that I enjoyed least, because it departed the most from The Little Prince, where there aren’t many lengthy monologues and it’s mostly the author who learns to look at life with childlike wonder through the Prince. Here, the roles were reversed, with the Prince almost becoming a pupil of the author.
However, the moments where the Prince is the real protagonist really do shine, and they manage to capture the mood and wonder of The Little Prince, which is no easy feat. Those moments far outshined the lengthy monologues in my opinion, which made the book overall enjoyable.
Rating: ★★★½ I would recommend it to fans of The Little Prince, because some of the magic is present here as well, but because of the monologues taking up a big chunk of the book, I can’t honestly give it a higher rating. I still enjoyed it, though.
Oh man… if you look at my goodreads updates for this book, you will see that I started reading it in May 2019. It took me an entire year to finish it.
Honestly, I did not enjoy this book at all. I started it shortly after Frankenstein, which I loved a lot, as I was going through some gothic classics. I enjoyed the first four chapters, but everything quickly went downhill from there. It was a real slog to get through, even reading one chapter a day was a herculean task. All the male characters talked too much, did too little, and there were very few moments of action or tension. I did not like the diary format of this book, as I felt it made the characters ramble even more than they needed to. Every male character was boring, bland, and at certain points in the narrative, even dumb. (I was of the opinion that the five men were all sharing the same braincell and nobody can change my mind.) The only characters I enjoyed were Lucy and Mina, who honestly deserve their own spin-off adventures as vampire slayers. Plus, there really wasn’t a lot of Dracula.
Rating: ★ Yes, I am giving one star to a “classic” because I absolutely did not enjoy it. I appreciate the first four chapters and how it came up with Dracula, but there are other Dracula properties out there who do a much better job with the character and the setting (looking at Castlevania). At least I can say I’ve read it.
Convenience Store Woman
I needed to cleanse my palate after Dracula and I came across Convenience Store Woman on goodreads through a friend who had just finished it. It was short and it sounded interesting, so I gave it a go — and again, I finished it in two days.
I found this novel to be a really interesting critique of capitalism through the eyes of an older Japanese woman specifically, and how she was impacted in unique ways not just by capitalist ideals, but also societal expectations of her based on her gender, making it an intersectional critique. The ending reminded me a lot of Lovecraft’s stories where the protagonist goes insane, and ultimately I think it’s pretty bleak (a great contrast with how “happy” the scene is meant to be).
The only thing that I wasn’t so keen on was the writing style. While it absolutely suits the story itself in tone and themes (cold, often with short sentences, kind of robotic at points, ultimately what capitalism does to humans), it just wasn’t the type of style that I like reading (I like more prose-y writing). It still flowed nicely. Honestly, I don’t know if this is a fault of the author or possibly of the translation I was reading. I did still like a lot of sentences that were written in it.
Rating: ★★★½ Overall I enjoyed it and would recommend it for its themes.
Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?
I came across this book on goodreads in September of last year, and I added it to my to-read list simply because of the title alone. The title caught my eye again while scrolling through the books on my Kobo one day and I started reading it. I had no idea it was a personal memoir.
I could relate to a lot of things in this book, most of all, the author’s relationship with her mother. I saw myself in some of it, and I understood a lot of the conflicting emotions and thoughts she had. I related to her love of books, to her need to write. I related to being different because of your sexuality. The way she described and talked about certain experiences made me feel as if I had been right there to live her life with her, which is a terrific skill to have in your writing.
There were some points towards the ends where the book went to really dark places, and honestly, I could also relate to those; I understood what she talked about, maybe a little too much. That, tied with her ability to make her writing feel extremely real, hit in such a way that I became uncomfortable with the book — to the point it may have hampered my enjoyment of it. Overall, I think I enjoyed the first half of the book a bit more; once it got to the last third, I was sort of wishing for it to end, but not because it wasn’t good. It’s hard to explain. That was also the point where the focus of the book became her adoption, the one thing I couldn’t relate.
Rating: ★★★½ A heartfelt and beautifully written memoir that I would recommend.
In the Blink of an Eye
I put this book on my to-read list back in September of last year, when one of my video production lecturers mentioned it in class during a lecture on editing. As a filmmaker who loves editing and is considering a career as a video editor, I absolutely devoured this book.
Walter Murch, the author, is one of the most famous American filmmakers. He’s a director, writer, sound designer, but maybe most of all, a really talented film editor. He edited Apocalypse Now, the entire Godfather trilogy, American Graffiti, and The English Patient, and he won three Academy Awards for his editing. It becomes clear from his book that he really knows what he’s talking about.
The book is quite short, but it really is the only book on editing you will ever need to read. He explains the art of editing, and how to edit in such a clear, concise way, and he puts into words concepts about editing that I always knew deep down but didn’t know how to articulate properly. I was also surprised to read that he and I share a few editing techniques/habits, which reassures me as an editor that I am on the right path. My edition also had some extra chapters about his feelings on the transition from traditional film to digital. It was super interesting to read how the industry was back then and put quite a lot of things into perspective and under a different light for me.
Rating: ★★★★★ This is probably one of the very few non-fiction books that will get a perfect rating out of me, but I really do think it’s a gem and totally worth your time if you’re interested in editing and filmmaking.
Honourable (And Not-So-Honourable) Mentions (i.e. books/series I read, but that I didn’t enjoy or simply didn’t want to talk about): Hot Gimmick (manga), Networking for People Who Hate Networking (needed as a huge introvert trying to enter my industry), 99 Days, Late Bloomers (agreed with the statement behind this book), What I Like About You.
And this is the end of my Mid-Year Book Round-Up! I included all the books, comics and manga read from January 1, 2020 until June 30, 2020. My next Round-Up will be at the end of the year and I hope to have read a good chunk of books by then! ?