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.

Pre-order Vermin on Amazon!


Left for dead at the side of the road in an outlawed town, Nicholas is rescued by a human girl. Plagued by fevered dreams and a lethal illness, Nicholas doesn’t know what to make of her kindness. If she knew what he was, death would be a merciful gift.

Rose takes it upon herself to show the boy hospitality, despite her uncle Roland forbidding her from going near him. She survived the brutal sickness and knows exactly what their guest is going through—he needs a friend.

Roland stands to lose everything when he discovers what Nicholas is. Dire circumstances force Roland to turn the boy into a test subject. However, in coaxing an old flame into helping domesticate the beast, Roland ends up in a cruel experiment of his own.

As Rose and Nicholas grow closer, Roland’s decision to keep the boy’s identity a secret threatens to bring history full circle. Can Roland guard two hearts as he struggles to keep the boy and his future alive?


My book has a release date!

My book has a release date! I’m so excited. There’s a lot to be done still but I’m happy announce that we’re currently looking for reviewers who enjoy YA fiction, urban fantasy, romance and paranormal romance.

Want to receive an ARC of this book?

Check out the post Reviewers Wanted, fill out the form and we will send you a link to the book the day the ARC’s become available or go to the ARC Reviewers website on July 1st, 2021.

Please note the ARCs provided will be ebooks.

Reviewers Wanted!

Title: Vermin: The Vermin Series Book One

Author: Ardin Patterson

Publisher: Loveknot Books (LKB)

Genre/Subgenre: YA, Paranormal Urban Fantasy, Romance

ARC Format: ebook

Pages: 296

Available at: ARC Reviewers, July 6th 2021

Language: English

Description:

A dying boy

A rebellious girl

History poised to repeat itself

Left for dead at the side of the road in an outlawed town, Nicholas is rescued by a human girl. Plagued by fevered dreams and a lethal illness, Nicholas doesn’t know what to make of her kindness. If she knew what he was, death would be a merciful gift.

Rose takes it upon herself to show the boy hospitality, despite her uncle Roland forbidding her from going near him. She survived the brutal sickness and knows exactly what their guest is going through—he needs a friend.

When Rose’s uncle discovers what Nicholas is, Roland stands to lose everything when he turns Nicholas into a test subject. Dire circumstances force him to coax an old flame into helping domesticate the beast, turning this supposed opportunity into a cruel experiment on himself.

As Rose and Nicholas grow closer, Roland’s decision to keep the boy’s identity a secret threatens to bring history full circle. Can Roland guard two hearts as he struggles to keep his future and the boy alive?

Photo by Adrienne Andersen on Pexels.com
Photo by Anna Urlapova on Pexels.com

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The Kings Beast Vol. 1 Review

Summary

The Kings Beast by Rei Toma is set in the same world as Toma’s Dawn of the Arcana series in which humans and Ajin live amongst each other. Some Ajin are gifted special abilities and those who are get assigned to serve the princes of the imperial palace as beast-servants.

The Kings Beast follows Rangetsu, as she disguises herself as a man to get close to the prince who her brother once served. She suspects the prince of murdering her twin brother only to find that prince Tenyou is not who she expected him to be.

Review

I was absolutely thrilled to find out that The Kings Beast would be taking place in the same world as Dawn of the Arcana. I can remember getting the first volume of Dawn of the Arcana with my grandparents at this little Coles bookstore at the mall where they live. I was drawn to the cover immediately and ended up finishing the book the same day. I loved the lore created around the world, the artwork and the way that the character’s were introduced.

In The Kings Beast I felt certain moments were rushed, and I feel that this is because there is the assumption that readers of this series have already completed Dawn of the Arcana. I think this quick introduction to “the gifts” that the Ajin possess is fine for those who know this series lies within the same world and who were previously introduced to that, however it could be a bit confusing for those who have never read or heard of Dawn of the Arcana.

Rangestu is perceived as weak in stature, many believing that she is a young boy. Some of the comments made by prince Tenyou remind me of when I played Viola in Twelfth Night back in university (and I played Viola a lot). He comments on her small frame, her boyish voice, her long lashes–those unfamiliar with Twelfth Night could compare this to Mulan when Li Shang is entranced by her while believing she is Ping.

Rangestu has spent years trying to become the best fighter, in order to be considered a good match for the prince whom she believes has killed her twin brother Sogetsu. There is a coldness in her frames, some of which where she is shown putting on a pained smile. She has one goal and that is to avenge her brother’s death.

Personally, I would have liked to see Rangetsu and Tenyou dance around each other a bit before it is revealed that he was not the one who had her brother killed. I like that Tenyou comes to the realization that she’s related to Sogetsu, but it would have been interesting to have that revealed near the end of this first book rather than earlier on. I also enjoyed watching others close to Tenyou, test Rangetsu but I found at times Rangestu was too outspoken for an Ajin.

It is mentioned early on in the book that Ajin are viewed as lower class, and that if they attack or speak out against a human they can be killed, so having Rangestu in the palace being so outspoken seemed a bit off to me. I wish that she had taken the time to try and hide her true intentions, mainly because she has worked so hard to get to this point.

Overall, despite a few small criticisms I enjoyed this first volume and would definitely recommend it to those who enjoy fantasy, shojo and historical manga’s. I would also highly recommend this to those who are familiar with Rei Toma’s work, especially Dawn of the Arcana as it was fun being reintroduced to this world and seeing how things are for different Ajin and human’s living in another region.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

4 Stars

Manga I’m Looking Forward to in 2021

Back in December I was tasked to decide which manga series my work would be ordering for the store. We’re currently closed right now, but regardless I was extremely thrilled about the opportunity and went through upcoming releases/series I’d been recommended.

Here are the series that I’m personally looking forward to continuing or starting this year!

I’ve reviewed Daytime Shooting Star twice on this blog before, however I don’t believe I’ve reviewed Love Me, Love Me Not by Io Sakisaka yet. I’ve read so much of her work over the years, that I know for a fact I’ve referenced it more than once, especially when I talk about my own writing goals.

I’m looking forward to catching up on the new releases for both Daytime Shooting Star and Love Me, Love Me Not! Both series have been enjoyable reads and have had really great character development thus far.

Next is Yona of the Dawn. I’ve been praying that this series would get a second season for the anime but sadly shows classified as shojo don’t typically run for more than a single season. It would be nice though. This was one of those rare cases where I was introduced to the anime before the manga. I’m thankful that the series is now on Volume 28! I’ve grown accustom to shojo manga’s being somewhere between 10 and 12 volumes. The last series I had that was longer was around 24 books. Shonen tends to have a longer run. I assume due to funding or the amount of attention the genre gets in comparison?

Now this next one isn’t going to come out until April. It’s called A School Frozen in Time, and it sounds really interesting. It’s a horror although the current teaser cover doesn’t seem to indicate that. Sometimes that’s a good thing though. It can allow people to open up to a genre they would normally shy away from. I know misleading covers can be upsetting to people though! I’ve had it happen. I’m a lot more thorough when choosing books now.

Jujutsu Kaisen has been recommended to me at least a dozen times in the last two months. I haven’t fully figured out what the plot is about but I’m definitely going to check it out because I’ve only heard good things about this series!

I’m not sure if I’ll ever check out Our Fake Marriage, but I came across it on my book hunt for work. It does have really nice illustrations, I just don’t know if the plot is something I’d enjoy. I also haven’t seen any reviews for it yet.

I got the first 3 volumes of Perfect World for Christmas and I cannot wait to read them. I’m catching up on some other books first, mainly because I won’t be able to buy anything new for a while and when I start a series I tend to binge them all in one go! This series looks like it’s going to be fantastic.

My sister pointed out how the two lead character’s remind her of the Luka and her love interest in the Vocaloid song Just Be Friends.

This next series is one that I always saw at work. The cover and title caught my eye and I thought the synopsis sounded good. It’s currently on my TBR. I’ve hoping I can get a chance to read it this year!

I read a really good review about Boarding School Juliet on The KS Blogs and added it to my TBR immediately after. The do monthly manga discovery posts that I like checking. Another blog worth checking out if you’re into anime is Anime and Me.

Kiss Me at the Stroke of Midnight is another manga that I found during my search for work. It seems cute. I might give it a shot. If you’ve heard of it, let me know!

This next series is one that I’ve been debating on buying for months. Sadly when I finally made my decision about it we went back into lock down…and now the lock down has been extended haha. Something’s Wrong With Us honestly caught my attention with the title alone. I kept coming back to it on the shelf. I wish I’d gotten it when I had the chance! If all works out I’ll be able to get it sometime this year!

Have you read any of these series? If not, are any of them on your TBR?

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.

“Google is free!”: My Response to Bookish Realm’s Reflection Livestream.

Tonight I tuned in to Bookish Realm’s livestream, where she broke down and discussed where we’ve come as a community–by community I mean the reading community–over these past six months.

It wasn’t an easy conversation to have. Tears were shed…and I have seen many tears from these wonderful creators, writers and reviewers. Too many tears. 2020 should be nicknamed the Year of the Tear. Anyway, her final point in the live–one that I thought as she was saying it–was that “Google is free.”

To summarize, she was talking about how when people act like they don’t have any access to books by BIPOC authors. Which to the BIPOC creators and reviewers is an absolute joke because Google is the easiest place to start. To prove it, I decided to do a quick search, one that was recommended by her: romances featuring a black couple.

Well I googled and although there are a lot with interracial couples, I am annoyed at how few books being promoted are ones with two happy black people in love.

To clarify I’m mixed race. Black Mom. White Dad. I’m making this clear because despite my–well to myself–clearly mixed features I did have someone on Twitter assume I was white. Like damn, I know I need a tan but you don’t need to rub it in!

Anyway, I know what its like to see your family being poorly represented by the media. The reason why I’m annoyed with the lack of promotion of two black characters in love is because despite trying to do better…which I do believe they are, they’re still putting focus on this idea that in order for this black female character to achieve happiness she needs to marry a white man. Which is a whole other thing that I don’t even know how to unpack. I don’t even known if it’s my place to unpack that…I’m the product of an interracial relationship and I’ve been in interracial relationships. It doesn’t mean I’m an expert. This type of relationship is the norm for me. However, I still want to see HEALTHY relationships between black couples being portrayed by the media in books and on television.

I like seeing a happy family, living life, raising their kids…but for some reason the media likes to shove black trauma pieces at us instead. Don’t they know you could have a love story like Cory and Topanga but with BIPOC characters?

I wish I could remember exactly what she said on the stream about this because it was so perfect. It reminded me of a tweet I saw about how this girl wanted to see a romance film featuring an interracial couple where one of the love interests wasn’t white, for example Indigenous and Caribbean. There are relationships like this in the real world and yet I haven’t seen them portrayed anywhere. Actually I lied, that one show on Netflix with Devery Jacobs has her character dating a black actress in the second season. Sadly I can’t remember…THE ORDER. That’s it. Campy horror, wevewolf show that screams Canadian horror so bad…that I can’t help but love it. I love me some campy made in Canada horror shows haha. But there, like…it wasn’t difficult for them to portray this type of relationship! So to that girl who tweeted that, stuff is out there. Just have to find it and then promote it like crazy so more of it gets made!

And that leads me to my next point, as readers we need to do better in what we choose to read and promote. As Bookish Realm said, we should track what we read and compare numbers. How many BIPOC authors have you read in 2020? How many do you plan on reading in 2021? If you’re like me and read a lot of manga are you going to try and find manga and comics made by BIPOC artists?

I’m aware that conversations about race can be uncomfortable, but I’m a person that honestly learns better through having discussions with others. Respectful, open discussions where each person feels like they are being heard…because discussions can make us vulnerable.

The discussion tonight, had a lot of people in tears because there is such a strong need for change and yet when it came down to it, six months later things remained ultimately the same. I don’t want another six months to go by without seeing some sort of change. Especially when so many people in this community have been working their butts off to create a place where all of us feel welcome, safe and loved!

I truly believe…and maybe it’s because I’m kind of an optimistic daydreamer type of person…but I want to believe that each little change we make can create an overall greater change for the community.

Now, here’s what I found in my quick Google search:

A lot of what I read romance-wise is shojo so I’m not too familiar with these authors…however, O magazine posted a list of the 30 Best Black Romance Novels.

I also found another list called 20 Romance Novels by Black Authors to Read this Summer.

On the Goodread’s list I see more books that I recognize. I’ve seen them on display in bookstores or a friend or family member was reading them. I’ve seen Make a Scene haha. Pun intended.

I honestly think, and this is because I don’t really read Adult Romance genres…or I should say read romance but it’s usually the sub-genre (unless its shojo then it’s all romance, first love blah blah blah)…I’m going to challenge myself to find more comics, manga and webtoons created by BIPOC that are like the ones I enjoy reading already. Superheroes and romance are my main loves with comics (especially magical girls!). I’m going to try and research this a little tonight and see what I come up with!