September Manga Reads

This month I’ve been trying to catch up on my manga TBR…and I actually got through it last night which now means I can order my next handful of books, hooray!

I read a variety of books ranging from thriller to romance, and I have to say I was extremely happy with each of these. Everything I read, I rated a full 5 stars.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

The Kings Beast Volume 2 & 3

I’m really enjoying this series so far. I’ve had a lot of fun revisiting Rei Toma’s world, especially from the Ajin’s perspective. The artwork is also stunning. I felt this third volume picked up immensely and I can’t wait to read the next. I don’t want to give away any spoilers, but one of my favourite things that I noticed in this series is whenever Rangestu’s true self comes through, her eyes are drawn softly. She looks more like she did as a child, and more like her twin in these frames. It’s such a small detail but I absolutely love it.

A School Frozen in Time Volume 1

This first volume had me on the edge of my seat. I wasn’t expecting to have my heart racing, or to be so scared I couldn’t fall asleep! It was a really great read. I finished it in one sitting. It was very fast paced and the events leading up to this volumes climax progressed quickly. I would like to add at trigger warning as this book heavily discusses topics of suicide and self-harm. Please proceed with caution. I was expecting it to be sad like Orange or Your Lie in April, since Your Lie in April is by the same person, however…I had my pants scared off! So it is not at all some sad, high school, friendship manga. It made me care about these characters and then it ripped my heart out…in a good way!

A Sign of Affection Volume 3

This series keeps getting better and better. I really adore the artwork, and I think it’s so cute that many of the artists who work on the shojo romance series are friends. I’ve noticed their artwork being featured in each others manga’s! I think that’s so cool. It’s actually made me miss older series where having characters from other manga’s featured in a short was normal. It’s also lovely to see all of these artists uplifting and encouraging one another.

As I mentioned before in my review of the first volume, when reading A Sign of Affection, you can’t help but like Yuki. She’s such a fantastic character, and all the characters around her are equally likeable despite their flaws. I think that’s what I love most about this series aside from the beautiful artwork and the way the author uses the the silent spaces in the text and panels to show the reader Yuki’s perspective. It’s truly well done, and I appreciate the fact that I’m seeing more positive representation of deaf characters in books and film. I hope that this representation continues…it’s something that’s very close to my heart.

Love Me, Love Me Not Volume 6 – 9

The levels of cuteness in this series are too much! It’s so adorable. I can’t wait to get my hands on the next volume. I love how every manga I’ve read by Io Sakisaka is capable of stirring the many feelings that come with love, especially first loves. It’s incredible how she can do that every single time, with a new set of characters. I never feel like I’m reading the same thing twice, or seeing the same characters pasted into different books.

Daytime Shooting Star Volumes 10 & 11

I really don’t want to spoil anything for those who haven’t read this series yet, so instead of my usual rant about you-know-who (I’ll call them S), I’ll be focusing on how fantastic the character development has been. I can’t express how many emotions I’ve felt reading this series. Following these characters has been a rollercoaster! I highly recommend it but will note that the initial relationship in this series is toxic, and I just hope Suzume regains her self-confidence and finds her happiness.

Blood on the Tracks Volumes 2 & 3

This series is so good, but so creepy. I’m constantly at a loss of words while reading Blood on the Tracks. The way the artwork and the story come together to create this eerie…anxiety is incredible. Some of the images are so haunting, that I found myself focusing in on them. I will give a trigger warning for this series as well, as it deals with mental and physical abuse…and you see it more especially in the 2nd and 3rd volumes. The mother’s behaviour is extremely disturbing. There are so many red flags, I’m honestly so worried for all the other characters around her. I would highly recommend this for people who enjoy thriller and horror genres.

YA Faves

As YA week comes to a close, I’ve found myself reminiscing over some of my old favourite books that I read during my teenage years. Although I still read YA, there are certain books that just stayed with me over the years, ones that I often return too.

The Outsiders and That Was Then, This is Now by S.E Hinton.

S.E Hinton is still one of my favourite YA authors. I actually own an anniversary copy of The Outsiders, and adored the book so much as a kid that I nicknamed one of my own character’s Ponyboy. If you’ve read Vermin, you’ll also notice one of my character’s is named Kurtis, with a K. Ponyboy Curtis. Although the character’s have nothing in common, I couldn’t help it. I’d also be lying if I said that Kurtis was the only character in my work over the years to be named after a favourite character of mine.

Sometimes I also shout, “Do it for Johnny!” when I need to motivate myself to finish chores. Adulting, am I right?

House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer.

This book was so good! Honestly, Mateo was one of my favourite characters of all time. I really wish Netflix or somebody would adapt this series into a show because trust me, it would be absolutely fantastic. I highly, highly recommend if you’re into sci-fi, thrillers and crime stories.

Dawn of the Arcana by Rei Toma.

This manga is one that you have to read twice, because once you reach the end there’s this HUGE reveal…and that is all I will say about that. You should read. It’s really good. I’m surprised not that many people have heard about it. I loved Rei Toma’s work so much, that I do have a character named after them in one of my stories that I wrote in high school.

Confessions from the Principals Chair.

I honestly can’t recall how many times I’ve read this book since I got it in the 7th grade. I read it over and over and over again. I just really enjoyed the characters. I’m curious though, if this book is actually middle grade? Probably, but I reread it all the time in high school and university.

Great Expectations by Charles Dickens.

I know that this isn’t technically YA either, but I read a lot of Charles Dickens and classic literature while I was in high school and I absolutely adored all of it. These were books that I’d chosen myself, and although my Nana isn’t a big fan of Dickens (she prefers thrillers/mysteries and romances), her and my granddad got me Oliver Twist, and then let me keep my uncles copy of Great Expectation’s which I read the summer before starting university. Of course the one of the first books I was assigned was Great Expectation’s, and I chose to do my midterm paper on it. I also read A Tale of Two Cities in the twelfth grade, and again absolutely adored it. The only Dickens works that I’ve seen adapted into film however are Oliver Twist, and A Christmas Carol. Funny enough, I don’t own a copy of A Christmas Carol, but I’d very much like to.

Dengeki Daisy by Kyousuke Motomi.

This series is still one of my favourites. I recently recommended it to a few friends at work. It’s really good. It’s got mystery, romance, action, humour and suspense. Everything you want in a shojo manga directed at teen girls. In all seriousness though, this was and still is one of my top series. I cannot stress enough how much fun it was to read. I believe this was also one of the first series that I collected in entirety. Before I would borrow one or two from the library, but this series I borrowed the first 5 from the library bought the rest, and then years later bought book 1-5 to complete the set. Totally worth the money.

Two Steps Forward by Rachel Cohn

As a teenager, I think I read just about every book I could find by Rachel Cohn. Two Steps Forward was my favourite of all of them, possible because it was the first I read, not realizing it was the sequel to her book The Steps. I just loved the characters.

Naomi and Eli’s No Kiss List by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan

Speaking of Rachel Cohn, if you loved the Dash and Lily series, you have to read Naomi and Ely’s No Kiss List. There are scene from this book that still resonate with me to this day. Rachel Cohn and David Levithan are such a powerhouse. I’d love it if they wrote another book together!

Happy Face by Stephen Emond

I wish more people knew about this book. I believe I read it back in the 9th grade, and it absolutely broke my heart. The emotional rollercoaster was 100% worth it.


Liked this post? Why not explore one of these from my blog.

If you’re looking for a new YA book to add to your own list, feel free to check out my debut novel Vermin.

Mint Chocolate Vol. 2 – Manga Review

Summary

Nanami is not thrilled. In fact, she’s about at her wits’ end. Her crush is living in her house as her stepbrother, he keeps teasing her, and now he’s in the hospital?! Between unexpected guests, nursing the stubborn Kyouhei, and the approach of Christmas, she just can’t catch a break…Without a little bit of Kyouhei’s sweet chocolate, she just might break. – Goodreads


Thoughts

If you read my last review of this series, you will know that I found it very similar to Marmalade Boy, and felt that the pacing was a little off. If you haven’t read that review, that’s okay, to summarize one of the things I liked was that readers were offered insight into Nanami’s thoughts throughout the book, however I did notice that readers who had already been exposed to Marmalade Boy, seemed less likely to enjoy volume one.

Unfortunately, I found that volume 2 of Mint Chocolate also had the same awkward pacing as volume 1. The pace, really doesn’t allow for the reader to fully grasp where the characters are at in their development. Certain scenes felt very rushed, to the point where sometimes it felt like I had missed a panel or a page, but I didn’t. It mentions Kyouhei going to the hospital, and I don’t remember that at all. In fact, all I remember is him getting sick, and Nanami caring for him at home.

Another thing I found was I that I was getting bored during certain scenes. It tended to be the ones that were recycling material from other “and they were roommates” type manga’s. Truthfully the “and they were roommates” trope is one of my favourites but in order for it to work, the characters need to develop naturally, as does their relationship. Here, it seemed like Nanami and Kyouhei were being thrown into different scenarios like, being home alone together, someone having a cold, and Christmas and meanwhile the two of them remained in the same state. I could actually, relate more to Andou, Kyouhei’s friend thinking, “What is wrong with you two?”

In both the first and second volumes the seasons changed so frequently, that it’s nearly impossible to figure out how much time has passed. As a reader it seems bizarre that these large amounts of time keep going by but the characters still seem to be at the same stage they were in volume one. There just wasn’t any real character growth or development. The only thing that we were given was insight into Nanami’s dad dying and more reasoning about Kyouhei being hesitant about being in a relationship after his parents divorce. This insight was good, but it could have been executed better…and possibly not given to us so quickly?

By the end of the second volume, I was still debating on whether or not I wanted to continue this series. I have other series that I absolutely adored but am still trying to track down because of the manga shortage, which is why I decided to try some new ones, but…I can’t tell if this series is worth giving another shot.

That fact is, that I don’t dislike the characters. There are times when I find Kyouhei is unnecessarily mean to Nanami, and I can’t understand why she would have a crush on him, but I wouldn’t say I dislike Kyouhei. Out of all the characters, I actually prefer the oblivious parents and Andou. My only comment on Nanami’s friends is that two of them look like her, and it gets confusing in the panels they’re in. Her one nosy classmate from volume one seemed interesting, and I think it would have been nice to see her make a reappearance but it seems like many of the ther characters were brushed aside in order to squeeze in these different, fast paced scenarios during this volume.

Strangely enough, my favourite scenes were between Kyouhei and Andou. It was more interesting seeing the two of them discussing Nanami, versus following Nanami around while she got lost in her head thinking about whether or not Kyouhei liked her.

The very end of the Christmas scene was cute, but again it felt very rushed. I’m not going to give away any spoilers about the details of this scene, other than the fact that this portion was done well. The rest of the manga made me think of a poorly done retelling of Marmalade Boy and for the vast majority I was bored.

I honestly hoped the second volume would surprise me, and that the story would pick up but it just felt flat until that final chapter. There was no sense of urgency, or any tension between the characters, and when it comes to the many categories within the forbidden love trope, I feel that having that it is necessary.


Rating

How I do my ratings

5 stars means the book was fantastic and went beyond my expectations.

4 stars means the book was great.

3 stars means a book was good, but could improve in some areas.

2 stars means it was just okay.

1 star means it wasn’t for me.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

I’ve decided to rate volume 2 of Mint Chocolate a little less than volume 1. I feel like I’m being generous by giving it 2.5 stars, but I found that the first volume had more potential. This volume on the other hand, fell flat.

I still think that this series can redeem itself, and I truly believe that those of us who had already been introduced to Marmalade Boy when we were younger, already have high expectations for a shojo manga using this trope. However series like Andante, Me and my Brothers and more recently Love Me Love Me Not, have used this same branch of the forbidden love trope and all of them executed it flawlessly. Many focusing more on the characters personal growth than their living situation.

I would definitely recommend this series to someone who hasn’t already been introduced to this trope through Marmalade Boy, because I believe based on other peoples reviews, it is actually a good series, but when you’ve been exposed to other books within this trope, it feels lacking in comparison. I also don’t normally like to compare books when reading but because of the title in relation to the characters, and the whole set up it really makes it difficult not to.

Mint Chocolate Vol. 1 – Manga Review

Plot

When Nanami finally gets a chance to meet her mom’s new husband and his son, the last person she expects to see is one of her classmates, Kyouhei Suzumura. Not only is her new stepbrother cool and completely unapproachable, but even worse—he’s the crazy-hot guy Nanami’s been crushing on for months…! Only time will tell how Nanami’s unexpectedly forbidden romance will play out… –Goodreads.

Thoughts

I’m hoping the story picks up more in the second volume. Although I liked certain elements of the story thus far, the pacing felt a bit off and I couldn’t help but think back to the series Marmalade Boy, which uses the same trope and setup but executes it flawlessly in the opening of the first volume.
I did like getting insight into Nanami’s thoughts throughout this volume, as it helps to build her personality and gives the reader a better idea of how things might play out.
Hoping the next volume will be stronger.

Based on other reviews I read after finishing this manga, it seemed that those who had already been exposed to Marmalade Boy, weren’t fans of Mint Chocolate. I do agree that it very much feels like a rip off…only in this first volume I find the characters lack chemistry off the bat. I think I would have liked to see more romantic-comedy elements thrown in and less recycled material. Those who hadn’t heard of Marmalade Boy gave this manga 4-5 stars.

I will be reading the 2nd volume, as I already own it. I’m hoping that my stance will change by then, and that the series will add something new versus being Marmalade Boy for a new generation of manga readers.

Rating

Rating: 3 out of 5.

I decided to give this first volume 3 stars because, despite the awkward pacing and similarities to Marmalade Boy, I did like the characters. The illustrations weren’t as expressive as I would have liked, but aside from that, they were charming in their own way. I do hope the next volume is better, since I bought the first two books at the same time…if not I’ll pass them onto a friend and see what they think.

The Apothecary Diaries Vol.1 – Manga Review

Plot

THE GREAT DETECTIVE OF THE INNER PALACE IS BORN…?!

Maomao, a young woman trained in the art of herbal medicine, is forced to work as a lowly servant in the inner palace. Though she yearns for life outside its perfumed halls, she isn’t long for a life of drudgery! Using her wits to break a “curse” afflicting the imperial heirs, Maomao attracts the attentions of the beautiful Jinshi and is promoted to attendant food taster. But Jinshi has other plans for the erstwhile apothecary, and soon Maomao is back to brewing potions and…solving mysteries?!

-Description from Goodreads

Thoughts

I finished reading this in one sitting. I thought MaoMao’s was a great leading character, and that the story was well paced. The characters and setting were all introduced in a way that didn’t feel rushed, and instead naturally entered the story at the appropriate times.
I also thought that the concept and plot were interesting, and I’m looking forward to continuing this series.

Another thing that I enjoyed about the manga was the artwork, although I did not read the original light novel that it is based on, I thought the illustrations captured each of the characters well, and enjoyed the little details such as the differing hairstyles, accessory and clothing details and a wide variety of expressions. The backgrounds were also really nice, and I enjoyed taking the time going through each panel, looking at the little things here and there.

I liked that as the reader, I was thrown into the mystery fairly early on, and that this was the point of the story in which I got to learn more about MaoMao, Shishi, and the members of the court. I think this is what helped pace the manga and kept me engaged from the beginning.

Overall Rating

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I rated the Apothecary Diaries, Vol. 1 4 stars. I’m definitely going to continue reading this series and I think the next one is going to be really good!

Golden Japanesque Vol. 1 – Manga Review *minor spoilers*

Note: There are a few minor spoilers in this review. I have tried my best not to completely give away the plot!


I really enjoyed this and have already picked up the sequel. The cover artwork was gorgeous, which is what drew me to checking out the book initially but when I read the synopsis and learned it was a story about a mixed raced protagonist I was drawn to it being mixed myself. Although the lead character Maria and I have different mixtures, there are aspect of the mixed experience that are shared universally, one being the feeling of not belonging to a particular community.

It was heartbreaking to read the scenes where Maria is treated as a monster, an object, a reminder of her mothers shame…and to see the lengths in which her mother would go to protect her daughter while also crushing Maria’s self-esteem in the process.

Regardless of your mixture (or even if you’re mono-racial) I believe this is an important story as it gives insight to a perspective that we don’t often get in this particular genre and also inverts traditional western standards of beauty by contrasting it with the traditional desirable Japanese standards of beauty.

My hope for this series is that as the story progresses, Maria will come to love herself not just because of how one boy views her but because she has grown in confidence and gained a better understanding of herself. I would also like to learn more about her parents relationship at some point.

Overall Rating:

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Daytime Shooting Star Vol. 8 Review *spoilers*

I recently completed volume 8 of Daytime Shooting Star, and I have to admit the lack of Mr. Shishio definitely improved my reading experience. I like this series a lot but I find that my ratings flop between 4 and 5 star simply because of his character. It’s the scenes where Suzume is feeling completely vulnerable and insecure that I find both frustrating and upsetting, because she’s a kid in her first relationship and this grown man who is not only her teacher but also friends with her uncle is exploiting that.

This volume was fantastic because he wasn’t as present, and the story focused more on Suzume and her relationship with her friends, mother and uncle.

In the last volume I was thrilled when her uncle was furious with Shishio upon finding out about him and Suzume. I applauded.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t hate Mr. Shishio. I like that he contradicts himself. I like that he’s a flawed character…I just don’t like the toxic relationship he has with Suzume. I know that the author Mika Yamamori has also expressed that many of her readers dislike him and I think it’s possibly because we’re seeing how problematic this relationship is.

I felt the same when rereading a favourite series of mine called Papillon by Miwa Ueda, where the leading protagonist Ageha dates her school guidance counsellor. It’s unsettling.

I understand that these two manga’s do fall under the umbrella of teen drama’s and forbidden love tropes but I can’t help but feel uncomfortable while breaking down these couples relationships. Suzume is completely crushed at this point in the series and had been working so hard to try to seem more grown up while spending time with Shishio outside of school. She felt so much pressure in the relationship, where his own concern was people finding out that he’s dating his student.

Back when I was in high school I didn’t think twice about this trope. I was eating up the drama. I was the same age as these female leads…now I’m the same age as their male love interests and certain scenes make me feel sick to my stomach. I still love the series, and I still enjoy the leading ladies of these books but I just can’t ship these characters. As a teenager I barely questioned it at all.

This must be what Pretty Little Liar’s fans felt like. I know that when I watched the first season of Riverdale I was pretty grossed out by the whole Archie x Grundy thing.

I have a feeling that I probably rant about this series a lot, and some might say, “Well if you don’t like the Student-Teacher trope then why do you still read it?” but honestly, it’s a good series. The story is compelling, the characters are engaging and the artwork is lovely. I was actually relieved when Mr. Shishio was called out for dating Suzume and acknowledged that what he was doing was wrong. I had hoped he would have called off the relationship before allowing things to escalate. I had hoped that in those moments where the reader gets a glance into his thoughts that he would push back, acknowledge how his behaviour and decide that it would be best to keep Suzume at a distance…but even when he did, he ended up pursuing this relationship with her and that was the point where I was like “Bruh. What the heck are you doing?”

Part of me hopes that they wont magically get back together but at the same time I’m doubtful.

The only series that I’ve read where this type of trope was criticized was Mars, which if I highly recommend, but I will give trigger warnings for various topics of abuse, self-harm and suicide.

I’ve noticed these topics in a lot of 90s shojo series…even ones that are considered comedies, so I always like to give a bit of a warning to anyone who may find these topics unsettling.

Going back to Daytime Shooting Star, as I mentioned before I used to read these tropes all the time. One of my favourite series was Dengeki Daisy, but in it Teru doesn’t get with Kurosaki while she’s still in high school. It is heavily implied that he refuses to acknowledge his feelings for her and won’t date her because of this. There are some other things about this that are clearly problematic and I do plan on rereading the series in the near future, since I own every volume…but it was the fact that he acknowledged that she was a teenage girl and decided not to pursue a relationship that I liked at the time. I believe I was like 17 to 20 when I was reading this series so again, my perspective may change like it did with Papillon.

Daytime Shooting Star has so much to offer. I rated volume 8 a full 5 stars! I just can’t review this series without discussing the problematic relationship between Suzume and Mr. Shishio. It caused her so much anxiety, and then upon the end left her depressed. It hurt seeing her that way and watching her friend encourage her to get with this older man who is clearly has an unfair power dynamic in their relationship.

Mamura, the other love interest in this series is protective of Suzume and I hated how in the last volumes this came across as him finally stepping up to be a rival when it in fact he was straight up calling out his teacher for having an extremely inappropriate relationship with a female student. Mamura is a good friend, and I’m glad that in volume 8 Suzume realizes this. I know that putting the spotlight on his character is meant to show him as a potential love interest but it is clear why most readers rooted for him from the beginning.

I’m looking forward to reading the rest of the series and keeping my fingers crossed that Suzume’s ending is a good one…but I’m somewhat doubtful that her and Mamura will end up together as the forbidden love trope tends to be one that really draws audiences in, in terms of drama. Perhaps if they had been college students, and Mr. Shishio was her TA I would feel slightly more comfortable with the relationship…but as of now I’m just glad her uncle put him in his place.

Sold Out!

I’m not sure what happened since lock down but every manga series I’m currently reading is sold out online. Normally when something like this happens it’s because the series is being adapted into an anime.

I tend to buy one or two books in a series at a time, especially when I’m trying it out. So of course to my surprise when a series I haven’t seen anyone else reading is suddenly flying off the shelf, I’m like “Oh no…” because now I have to wait until its back in stock and unfortunately sometimes that can take months, especially if it’s Shojo. Shojo is that genre that tends to get overlooked unless one series in particular is trending, otherwise most sellers don’t pay any attention to it. It sucks for readers but I’ve gotten so used to it that I’ve just learned to jump between multiple manga series while I wait for the next volume. This is just that odd time where literally all of the series I’m currently reading are sold out. I’m sure the pandemic has something to do with the shortage. I know that one company had a warehouse fire and is still recovering from that, so the one series I’m reading is on hiatus until later this year.

Still it’s kind of a bummer because I was finally catching up on all of my reading.

I’ll probably keep checking online to see if the books are in stock yet and if I can order them. If now perhaps I’ll have to start something new…or buy one of the expensive ones that I tend to only purchase when I have gift cards.

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.