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!
I started reading Ultra Maniac back in January while I was off work during our…second or third lock down. At this point I’ve lost count of how many lock down’s there have been but I had plenty to read so, it wasn’t like I was bored or anything.
Anyway, I remembered this manga being kind of silly as a kid. I didn’t read it at the time but had a lot of friends who absolutely adored it. I ended up reading up to the first bit of volume three before I switched to something else.
Compared to Marmalade Boy, this story more mild in terms of drama. In fact it kind of reminds me of a Disney sitcom, or even the older Sabrina the Teenage Witch comics, where every spell would get her into some kind of trouble.
I couldn’t help but think about Sabrina or the Bewitched series, while I read Ultra Maniac. It wasn’t because they were mimicking one another, or pulling directly from these sources but mainly because the witch character was this kind of goofy, always getting herself or others into mischief kind of girl. She’s that fun, quirky, kind of weird girl that you can’t help but like.
Ultra Maniac is all right. It’s not the best manga I’ve ever read but it isn’t bad. It’s a light hearted comedy about friendship, that also happens to involve a pinch of magic.
The character’s are fun, and the artwork is charming. It’s exactly what I would expect from a story about a seventh grade girl with a crush, who suddenly befriends a witch.
That being said, I think if I were younger maybe in the sixth or seventh grade I might have enjoyed this story a little more. However, I still read middle grade fiction every now and then and the majority of books I read at that age, that I still own, hold up to this day. Perhaps my initial disinterest in this series as a tween was because I just couldn’t get into the series. As far as middle school fantasy manga’s, I’ll stick with Sugar Sugar Rune.
Rating: 3 out of 5.
Three stars. It was okay. Not great. Not boring. Just, didn’t keep my interest to finish the whole series. However, if you like cute stories with magic, friendship and comedy I think it’s definitely worth checking out. Plus, I really loved the fashion in this series.
I’ve heard several different arguments about this over the years, both on the side of the reader and the author. It can be a touchy subject but I do think everyone’s opinions on the matter are valid.
I know as a reader that when going through reviews of a particular book, I like to know why certain reviewers decided to drop the book. Their reasoning may be something that I too would find unappealing. I myself can usually tell if I like a book if I’ve sped through the first three chapters. If I start reading something, and by chapter three I’m still engaged it’s a good sign. 9/10 times this method works for me.
Unfortunately, during university I was forced to finish many books that I found dry, distasteful, etc…as we were expected to discuss them, and study them throughout the semester. Trying to break out of that habit years later has been difficult. Although I know that I’m no longer required to finish a book I don’t like, my brain keeps telling me to “give it a chance” as if this book might be on an exam or something.
In January I ended up reading two books that just weren’t for me. Both had things in them that I found problematic but I only reviewed the one I finished reading on my blog. The other, which I did not finish, was an ARC that I stopped reading around the 5th chapter. I was excited for the book. I really was…but I was disappointed. It fell short of my expectations and there was a lot of over explanation being done to the point where it distracted from the story.
As you may have noticed, I haven’t mentioned the name of the book. The main reason is that this book is another authors debut. Out of respect for the author, and because I received an advanced copy, I just don’t feel right about giving a full, proper review.
What I did instead was I submitted a private DNF explanation through net galley. I chose to do this rather than submit a review, as I would hate to discourage people from reading someone else’s work…or attack an author before their book is even released because of something I personally found problematic. That just isn’t fair. Someone else might love it.
There are points that I made in my DNF statement that I hope the author and publisher will take into consideration, but ultimately I know the opinions of one person won’t necessarily be enough for them to take those things into consideration. Had this book already been on shelves…say for a month or two, I would have considered doing a public review. A DNF review of ARC however just doesn’t seem fair…at least not to me. ARC reviews are supposed to help market a book. I personally don’t feel like I can give a proper, full review to something if I’ve only read 5 chapters. However, as I mentioned I think if the book had been released for several months and I purchased a copy, sharing my opinion publicly would be fair.
I honestly don’t know if I was just being nit-picky because of the problems I’d come across in the book I reviewed previously, or if there were were issues in the text. I know that based on feedback from ARCs, novels have been pulled and revised before publication and I am hoping for the sake of this new author, that their book does go through some revisions prior to its release.
Something that people don’t consider is that just because a book has a white protagonist, doesn’t mean it doesn’t require sensitivity/beta readers from a diverse group of people. I know that if I had say, been given the opportunity to read this book prior to this ARC…say as an editor, I would have definitely pointed things out to the author. They have a good concept. It’s clear they wanted to have a diverse cast…they just didn’t excecute it in a way that sat well with well…me a POC. Even stating this, I feel is too much. I don’t think it’s fair.
As I mentioned before, DNF reviews can be helpful to readers. However, the ones that simply say, “DNF. 1 star.” are neither helpful to the reader or the author. If that’s all a person has to say, then to me it seems well…pointless. I like to know why someone disliked a book just as much as why a person enjoyed it. If the person simply wants to avoid spoilers, that’s fine but they can still provide some brief explanation as to why.
An example could be: I didn’t finish this book because the introduction dragged on for too long.
That’s quick, simple and doesn’t give anything away to other potential readers. I’d consider that a fair DNF statement.
Other DNF statements that I find fair are the ones that go into length about issues they had with the book. I should add that I like the ones that are a little more respectful. I wish I could pull up an example of one that I saw recently by a fellow reviewer. Her DNF review was extremely throughtful. I won’t go hunting for it though as I didn’t ask for her permission. I will however be including her in my BookTuber’s to watch post.
I’m curious to know what your thoughts are on this subject? Have you ever left a DNF review? Do you find them helpful or do you think it’s only fair to review/consider reviews of something that’s been read completely?
Have you ever been so immersed in a book it’s almost as if you were in a dream? I love when that happens, that moment you escape. I’ve read a lot of different books lately and with each one I’m praying for that experience of being drawn into the pages and disappearing inside them for hours.
I’m not sure why books induce this almost dream-like state but I feel well rested after as well. Writing about this now, I’m a bit embarrassed because I can’t help but think “this sounds insane” and yet I know there are people who’ve experienced this same thing.
Reading to me is no different than when I used to play dolls. Letting your imagination take charge and creating and exploring (sometimes the impossible!) in your head. It’s like the perfect balance between fiction and reality because you know in fact that it’s all a play but you engage with it because it’s absolutely delightful…or disturbing if you’re reading a horror novel…but then again some books (and films) can be disturbingly delightful.
In my last post I felt almost betrayed by what I’d read. Books for me have always been my favourite place…not just thing…but a place, because every book has a new setting, a new set of character’s to meet and new things to discover along the way. I love that about them. I like to venture into spooky old mansions, or travel across space…just from the comfort of my bedroom.
Each time I read a good book, it’s like being in a long dream. A good dream. A dream that keeps you guessing. A dream that gives you a warm feeling. A dream that lingers with you after you wake up. Books are beautiful in that sense.
In a couple of days we’ll be saying goodbye to 2020.
I would say this year most of us were like Cinderella before she met her fairy god-mother. Or Rapunzel perhaps? I never thought I would ever compare myself to a lonely damsel, living a sheltered life…and yet, here we are.
I can honestly say that I did not reach very many of my goals for the year. I spent my birthday in lock down along with every holiday that followed. However, I’ve tried to make the most of it. I wrote, I learned some new songs on the guitar, I recorded a play and an audio book, I played games online with friends and family. I even reached my reading goal for the year…twice!
This year has so much heaviness attached to it, that I would love for it to vanish from existence but part of me also appreciates the time I’ve had to reflect on the world around me.
Books have always been my escape from reality.
As a child, they stopped me from feeling lonely when I started at a new school (for the 3rd time) and I got older, I read to keep my sanity during the days of high school drama, exams and rainy afternoons.
Reading brought me a sense of freedom and joy. It allowed me to explore and open myself up to infinite possibilities.
Now during 2020, I’ve come to realize how books have played such an important role in my life. Whether I was reading them or writing them, they acted as a security blanket, that I could clutch as I fell asleep at night.
When I needed something to hide behind, books were there. When I woke up from a nightmare, I could grab a book from my nightstand and read until my my heart stopped racing. There were even times when reading stopped my heart from breaking. This year, it connected me to new people: people who were new to reading, people who loved the same books I did and people who simply wanted anything to read because they too wanted a temporary distraction from all the pain in the world.
I’m not sad to see 2020 leave us. I can’t say I’m all that enthusiastic for 2021. Hopeful yes…but until my fairy god-mother appears, I won’t be stepping out in a pair of glass slippers. Instead I’ll stick to my pajamas and stay in to read a good book.
I love, love, love to read. If I wasn’t writing right now I’d be reading. Technically writing lets you read and write at the same time…but anyway, authors that inspire me.
I’ll have to start with Charles Dickens. I’ve read a lot of his work. My favourites are Great Expectation’s, Oliver Twist and A Tale of Two Cities. I like how descriptive his writing is…although I won’t lie there are times I’ve skimmed through it to get back to the main story. Still, I admire it because he really does paint a picture for the reader. I’ve attempted to put that level of detail into my writing in the past but stopped out of fear that I might bore my readers. I actually prefer to write dialogue.
Io Sakisaka is also someone I admire. I still can’t grasp how she can so expertly express relationships through her work. I don’t think I’ve read a manga that had me blushing and crying within a few panels of each other. Since romance is her genre of focus, it’s very interesting how she goes about playing with concepts and ideas surrounding love, friendship and family.
When I first read, S.E. Hinton, I think that was when I told myself I wanted my work to be published one day. I wanted people to love my character’s as much as I loved hers. I also considered using a pen name at the time versus my own. I liked how she managed to weave her stories together and I’m glad that she had Ponyboy show up in one of her other novels.
If I’m being honest, I feel like every author I’ve ever read has inspired me in some way. Whether it’s through their use of descriptions, their pacing, their character’s. Whatever it was that drew me to their work, has also inspired my own writing over the years.
I love the different ways we writers weave our words. How those words lift off the page, creating images, mustering emotions and forming even the faintest of smells. How a single sentence can capture so much…it’s always fascinated me. I think that’s what I love about books. You can open one up and be transported.
As we near the end of September, we are greeted with the warm comforts of Fall: pumpkin spice, reds, yellows, oranges and purples, scarves, hats and sweaters and cozy blankets for those chilly afternoons when we want to curl up with a book in our lap.
I find that I tend to read more in the Fall. I like being wrapped up in a soft blanket with a cup of tea or sitting up late at night with a book in my lap until I nod off to sleep. I also find that the books I read during the Fall tend to be either comforting or have me on the end of my seat, especially as October comes around.
Last night I started reading Mexican Gothic, which had me hooked in the first chapter. I also found my name in the book which never happens. Of course it was a reference to Elizabeth Arden and not me, Ardin but that is who I was named after so I like to think of it as…I was meant to read this book. It’s not every day I buy a book solely based on the title and synopsis. I got three chapters in before I fell asleep and it is exactly what I was hoping for. Gothic literature at it’s finest. I don’t know what it is about the genre that I like so much but it is one that sucks me in.
A slightly less spooky book that I think would be perfect to reread in the Fall is Fake Blood. The book makes so many references to Twilight and it’s a great read for a younger audience (ages 9-12). I had so much fun reading it and I’ve never read the Twilight series or watched or read Vampire Diaries. It was the perfect mixture of funny, sweet and spooky!
Another book which is for the YA audience is Sabrina the Teenage Witch. Now don’t be confused CAOS fans, this graphic novel isn’t chilling. It’s fun, it’s full of what I call Sabrina oopsies and Salem talks and is as sassy as ever. I also recommend Jughead and Sabrina because again Sabrina is absolutely hilarious along with all of the spookiness that goes on in Greendale. No matter how bad things or how big of a mess she makes she somehow manages to find a way to fix things (or at least temporarily).
I don’t know what it is about L.M Montgomery and Fall but I’m often drawn to her work at this time of the year. I suppose her stories, because of their familiarity in Canadian culture are comforting. Despite my love for Anne however I want to recommend Emily. I adore Emily’s story just as much. Her friendship with Ilsa, her unwavering dream to write. Emily is often viewed as rebellious by those around her but it is this side of her that makes her strong and resilient. I feel like she’s seriously underrated. A lot of people don’t know she exists, and so I think it would be nice to introduce yourself to Emily this October (there’s also an anime if anyone is interested).
Lastly a book series that I continue to recommend over and over, Monster. Monster is incredibly chilling, incredibly thrilling and is a story that draws you in with its characters and plot. Not only is it a manga, it’s a historical fiction set in Germany which follows a Japanese Doctor as he tries to track down a patient that he never should have saved. Trust me, this series will have you staying up all kinds of hours reading. You won’t want to put it down!
What books are you looking forward to reading this Fall?
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.
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.
My tea is currently too hot to drink so I decided to see how many books are on my TBR list right now. Somehow the list has grown to 103, which is definitely not what I expected. I underestimated.
I ended up buying another book yesterday…while looking for something completely different. I actually had a video on it auto-play on YouTube the night before and then there it was on the shelf. Next thing I knew it was in my hand and I was paying for it.
I need to show a little more will power when it comes to books though. I think its because I’d been trying to keep my spending budget so tight during this pandemic, that I end up having a few days where I buy 1 or 2 things.
Books make me happy. I love anticipating what will happen next and flipping through the pages. I think during 2020, a little thing like that can do your mental health some good. It’s nice to just jump into a book and escape reality for a little while.
I know with this book that I got, it’ll probably be far from the stories I’m used to reading. I don’t mind horror films. I actually enjoy them (although I prefer horror shows because the suspense builds more and they raise the stakes for characters). Still, I don’t usually read horror. I can’t think of the last time I did. I know of one Webtoon that only updates in October. It was a bunch of ghost stories and things. I thought that was a good. I think I must’ve read it three years ago? That might be the last horror type book I read.
Regardless, it’s fun to genre jump every once in a while. I find when I stick to one genre too much, I end up reading the same types of stories over and over again. This isn’t a critique on the writers, but more an observation. It’s more of “this is what I like and where I feel safe” so that’s what I read. These are stories where I can usually tell if the ending will be happily ever after or happy for now.
I’m definitely going to review the books I’ve bought over the last two days. I have high hopes for them.