Somethings Wrong With Us – Manga Review

The other day I finished reading the first three volumes of Somethings Wrong With Us by Natsumi Ando. I picked up the first volume after looking it over a few times. I thought the cover was beautiful, and the blurb on the back was intriguing.

From Goodreads: A spine-chilling and steamy romance between a Japanese sweets maker and the man who framed her mother for murder–Something’s Wrong With Us is the dark, psychological, sexy shojo series readers have been waiting for!


This series has gone above and beyond my expectations. That’s not something I usually say when it comes to shojo. Most are predictable and follow the same set of rules, but this one reminds me of thriller series like Monster or Blood on the Tracks. It still encompasses shojo elements and tropes, but there is so much more to this story than two characters who seem drawn together. There is an eeriness…or a loneliness that lingers in the text. It’s almost worse than a cliffhanger. This is one of those series that I couldn’t put down. I had to know what was coming next. I needed to see how this mystery unravels.

Surprisingly…at least to myself, I don’t read a lot of mysteries. I enjoy them immensely, especially when I watch them. I read more of them as a kid but for some reason as I got older I strayed away from the genre. These types of books are always so much fun. I love trying to guess whats going to happen next. I love the how high the stakes are raised in these types of stories! It’s exciting!

This series blends genres so well, and on top of that the artwork is gorgeous. I can also tell that a lot of research went into this series. I’m not a confectioner or anything, but I’ve really enjoyed learning about how much work goes into creating sweets and the amount of attention to detail confectioners have. This really adds something to the characters…and although the two leads have this in common, their approaches to it are vastly different.

The leading lady of this story is Nao. It’s hard not to connect with her off the bat. She’s determined, thoughtful, and passionate. She seems like the type of person who would be a very loyal and compassionate friend.

Tsubaki on the other hand is difficult to read. His character is a puzzle itself, especially to Nao who knew him when they were children. His actions often don’t reflect what he says. The one thing that is clear about his character, aside from his disciplined actions is that he’s lonely.

I like that Nao and Tsubaki both contrast and compliment one another. Their dynamic is interesting. Nao seems to have a push and pull method to their relationship. She’s constantly fighting herself internally, as she doesn’t want to get close to him, while Tsubaki’s intentions are often confusing.

Personally, I think that he feels drawn to her but doesn’t know if he can trust her. He can’t even trust his own family members…which is sad. It’s as though both him and Nao are orphans, despite Tsubaki’s mother still being alive.

I’m very curious to see what’s in store for these two in the next volume!

My rating:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Marmalade Boy Vol.1 – Manga Review

Today I decided to travel back in time because we all know this year tanked. Anyway, I whooshed into the time machine thingy and ended up in the old library where I first discovered the manga series Marmalade Boy!

And thus, I decided to read the first volume and review it.

To be honest, I barely remember what happened in this series. I had friends who adored it back in the day, but at the time I was probably too busy obsessing over Kamichama Karin, Me and My Brother’s, Mars and that one Avril Lavigne manga.

What I do remember about Marmalade Boy is that much like Mars there was a lot of drama, and so with my tea ready to be spilled, I shall reenter the world of this iconic series.

Summary:

When Miki’s parent’s suddenly announce that they are getting a divorce she’s not only heartbroken but shocked. She can’t believe that after 16 years of what to her seemed like a happy marriage could end so abruptly. Then the unthinkable happens, her parents tell her that they are also getting remarried to two people they met while they were in Hawaii.

To Miki’s surprise, these people are also a married couple who have decided to divorce and remarry her parents!

Miki doesn’t like this arrangement one bit and to make things worse, her parents and their new spouses decide to move into the same house together. Now Miki not only has new step-parents but a new step-brother as well named Yuu.

She tried her best to keep their living situation a secret, fearing the embarrassment that would follow if anyone at school found out. As if things weren’t complicated enough, Yuu ends up transferring to the same school as her, causing all sorts of rumours to spread.

Will Miki be able to accept her new life and family or will she end up losing her mind?

Title: Marmalade Boy

Author: Wataru Yoshizumi

Genre: shojo, drama, comedy, school life

Reaction:

My initial reaction to the stories introduction is that, the reader is thrown right into the story. It’s fast paced and straight to the point. You’re just as thrown off as Miki is by her parents announcement. In my personal opinion, I think this is a fantastic way to start off a book–especially a series! As the reader, it forces me to keep reading to find out what’s going to happen next. It’s reigned me in. I can’t help but keep reading. I mean…wow, I didn’t expect the drama to start off so quickly! Usually, at least with the shojo I’ve read recently, the conflict and drama isn’t introduced until the middle of the story or the end even. Most of the time the manga spends the entire first half introducing the main character and the setting. Here we still meet Miki, her parents and her friend Meiko but we also get thrown right into part of the main conflict! Plus, I already sympathize with both Miki and Meiko’s character’s. This feels so rare to me…that I’m almost saddened by it. I’d like to see more of this in newer releases.

At the point where Miki’s parents tell her that not only are they divorcing but they’re swapping partner’s and the entire family is moving in with this other couple, my entire brain went, “Wait! Wait! What?”

This is definitely going to be a mess. At least at first. I don’t hate Miki’s parents. I just think it would have been nicer if they could have explained things a little better to their daughter versus dropping this huge announcement on her at dinner with their new spouses and step-son. Then again, if they didn’t do it in such a way this wouldn’t be so insane and my reaction to it as the reader would be a lot calmer. I like that this is how she finds out because the reader’s reactions and Miki’s are perfectly matched. I can’t help but feel sorry for her. In a way she sounds like the adult in the situation.

I’m doing my best to keep this part of the review spoiler free, but there’s just so much happening in within this first volume that I feel like I’m going to burst like a balloon!

I’m just so pleased with how easily each of the character’s are introduced. The reader meets Miki, Meiko, Yuu, Ginta and the parent’s within the first chapter of volume one, and the transition to each scene is done almost seamlessly. I have yet to feel as though things are being rushed. In fact, I’m surprised that it doesn’t feel rushed given the fast pace of the manga. Perhaps I’ve grown accustom to shojo’s doing large information dumps (or exposition) within the first few chapter’s? Lately, many of the newer ones I’ve read have felt as though they drag on for an eternity, which usually causes me to give them a lower rating. If it’s good then I end up giving it around 4 or 4.5. If it’s under 4’s okay. Not meh…but not great. I’m happy to say that this far into the story I have yet to be disappointed. Especially since I went in with such high hopes!

Now…three chapters in I am losing it. How? What? When? Why? Gah! Not spoiling anything is becoming extremely difficult. Miki is such a great character. I sense a love triangle in her future.

They way things are going I might end up finishing the entire series over the next few weeks. I currently have the time. This manga makes me feel like how I do when my niece, sister and I watch Miraculous Ladybug. Excited, frustrated and completely devoted to rooting for the leading lady’s happiness! The manga an anime Kodocha gave me a similar feeling. I find when I become attached to the main character early on, I can’t help but enjoy their journey. This story keeps getting better and better…or in Miki’s case, worse and worse.

Things have somehow gotten worse. Remember when I said I didn’t hate Miki’s parent’s? Well Miki and Yuu’s parent’s have flipped the script. I’m not surprised by the turn of events, I mean it was bound to happen, especially when living with a bunch of new people. Still, these parents are seriously selfish. First they announce their divorce out of no where and then move their kids into one house so that they can swap spouses…but now they want to split things up again? Talk about the worst parent’s of the year.

Miki and Yuu were finally starting to adjust to their new living situation. Well, Miki was still reluctant but she was coming around. She was low-key beginning to root for her parents happiness. If I were these two kids I would be livid.

Wait…hold up a minute.

IT WAS A PRANK!? What kind of sick parenting is this? I…why would anyone do this to their child?

I can’t tell if this is supposed to be funny or not. I am so upset. I can’t believe they did this to poor little Miki. Why would anyone play with someones emotions like that?

Well. I guess if her parent’s got re-divorced to their new partner’s it would totally ruin the plot. Man, a lot has happened in these first three chapters. I can’t believe they’d throw that at the reader within the first volume?

Then again, I am very entertained.

I’m so sorry Miki….

Honestly, I’m thankful for Yuu and Miki’s friend Meiko at this point in the story. Without them I think she’d lose it. I still think what her parents did was wrong. It’s not fun being lied to, especially about something so serious, but I did like that Yuu went and tried to console her. This time he acted as the adult in the situation instead of Miki. I find that both of them were raised by childish, selfish people. Not to say that I don’t think their parents love and care for them, but it is very obvious (at least in this first volume) that the children believe they need to play the grownups in this relationship.

It’s funny though, I actually remember this part of the series from when I was younger. I was angry with their parents back then as well.

I have to say, I was extremely satisfied with this first volume. Wow, it feels like such a long time since I’ve been able to say that about a shojo series opening!

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not super picky or anything, it’s just refreshing to be thrown into a story. I would have skipped dinner if my sister didn’t come get me!

I think I’ll jump into the second volume right away. This was such a good read. I’m completely committed to the story now!

Overall Rating

Rating: 5 out of 5.

I am giving Marmalade Boy Vol. 1 a full five stars!

I laughed, I spilled my tea (seriously, I was drinking tea while reading this), I got angry and defensive. I’m totally rooting for Miki. I hope everything turns out well for her by the end of this series.

Back to Book #2

After several rounds of edits, I was given the okay to take a break and go back to working on the sequel!

First, I have a recording to complete (which I’m very excited to share) and then I will be dedicating the month of December to rewriting book two.

I initially wanted to begin book two later on in the story but changed my mind during my last two rounds of edits for book one…and so the entire book I wrote during NANOWRIMO last year is going to be redone/revamped. I actually moved parts of it into book one instead and am spreading out the other pieces throughout the story. The rest will be scraped, which is a little sad but I don’t mind. Yes, I worked really hard on it but I know that I can make it even better.

I’m seriously looking forward to writing again next month. I might also dive back into some of my other writing projects while I’m at it. We’ll see!

Book Talk Episode 17: Illustrated Covers

The other day at work, a co-worker of mine was admiring this beautifully illustrated book cover. I wish I could recall the name of the book so I could show an example, but her comment really made me think. She said, “I’m so glad that they’re going back to the illustrated version of this cover. I hate how boring a lot of covers have been these past few years.”

The two of us then went on to discuss how, since the first Twilight book came out a lot of book covers began to mimic the style and then ultimately readers were bombarded with stock images and lifeless photographs. Now, not to bash the creators of those types of covers…I believe that the covers for Twilight and their simplicity was actually well thought out. The issue that we discussed was that it seemed as though the plan was to get readers to buy a book because it had a similar cover to that of the Twilight series, versus coming up with something significant to the actual story.

I can clearly remember being a 13-15 year old wandering around my favourite bookstores and sighing at the cover art. I know that they say not to judge a book but it’s cover, but it’s the first thing a reader sees, not the review. Not the synopsis. Not the first page. The cover is what’s put on display for us.

Illustrated covers have always captured my attention. For example, the cover of The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. It’s absolutely beautiful. When I saw it, I immediately was drawn to the book! That is what a cover is supposed to do. It’s supposed to capture your attention.

The design itself isn’t too complicated, and yet it captures the eye. It stirs curiosity. It makes you wonder what’s inside.

Illustrated covers, in my personal opinion, do a better job of conveying certain types of stories. Especially within much of fiction. It makes them stand out more.

If you compare the classic horror book covers to current ones, you’ll find yourself greatly disappointed. A few of my friends who are avid horror readers lament over the lack of character given to horror books today in comparison to the ones printed in the 70s, 80s and 90s.

Look at this cover of Misery by Stephen King.

The illustrated version of this cover is eye catching, whereas the version with the snow covered cabin doesn’t peak my curiosity as much. It doesn’t pull me in as much. This however, is my personal opinion. I have however, seen some horror book reviewers (along with friends of mine who adore the genre) discuss this in more detail.

I recommend checking out the video, Horror Books Have Lost Their Identity. I’ve linked it below because I think it really summarizes what I’m discussing in this post.

As YouTuber In Praise of Shadows states in the video, book covers are supposed to give the reader some indication of the genre as well as what the story is about. However in recent years they have had to scan the covers for small clues…such as a single word in a review in fine print on the cover like, “haunting,” “shocking” or “disturbing.”

The older covers made it very clear what the books were about. Right now all of the covers, across these vast genres are blending together in a mess of bright colours and large font.

This video really grasps what my co-worker and I were discussing the other day. At some point all the books blend together.

I know many people who believe that The Hunger Games and the Divergent series are the same, simply because of how the covers were designed. People who know nothing about the plots for either series. This assumption came with how the books were marketed. I know that when I first saw the Divergent cover, I thought it was a Hunger Games spin off series. That was until I read the synopsis. I remember being almost…frustrated by how so many of the covers that came out that year, resembled The Hunger Games (and Twilight). I was so frustrated by it I missed out on reading a lot of potentially good books, and lost interest in much of what was published that year.

Now, as someone who also reads comic books and manga, I know how much work has to go into the covers for those. I’ve seen examples of some of the covers done for the more recent releases of the Jughead comics. There were several options done for the front cover, before one was selected by the team as the perfect cover. Guess what? I bought that comic solely based on the cover art.

Based on the cover you already know that Jughead and Sabrina are going to get themselves into some kind of mess (or fun!). Your eyes are draw to the different parts of it. The colours are eye catching. It makes you interested in the story.

When I look at some of the books being printed over the last few years, my curiosity isn’t peaked. A catchy title may draw me in but it’s the cover that makes me flip to the synopsis to learn more. It’s the cover that captivates me visually and draws me into this world created by the author. It’s the cover fills me with excitement.

I’m not saying that today’s covers are boring or lacking creativity. I know that design takes a long time. I just think that the genres are all blending together…to the point where each cover is more or less the same.

Even earlier this morning while I was looking at books. I was trying to guess where they went in the store, solely based on the covers. The adult romance books and the teen romance books were all clearly romance however the contrast between them was almost non-existent. I wasn’t able to tell which was YA and which wasn’t. Normally the shirtless cowboys are a dead giveaway. Not anymore. The majority of the books that I assumed were adult romances were actually YA. Some weren’t even romance books at all. They were coming of age novels. I must’ve blinked the confusion from my face at least 30 times while going through these books.

The fact that myself and many other readers are excited to see these unique, illustrated book covers just shows how much is lacking on the shelves. We want books that upon first glance make us excited, curious and capture our attention. We want to run our hands along the covers as we examine every detail, before continuing our individual book choosing rituals. Reading is an experience and for those like myself who read a lot and collect books it is extremely sad when books lack character in their design.

Sure, we shouldn’t judge books by their cover but covers convey so much. Like they say, a picture is worth a thousand words.