Book Review: Esperanza Rising by Pam Munoz Ryan

Book: Esperanza Rising by Pam Munoz Ryan

Published September 2002 by Scholastic, Inc|304 pages

Where I Got It: I own the paperback

Series: None

Genre: Middle Grade Historical Fiction

Esperanza thought she’d always live with her family on their ranch in Mexico–she’d always have fancy dresses, a beautiful home, and servants. But a sudden tragedy forces Esperanza and Mama to flee to California during the Great Depression, and to settle in a camp for Mexican farm workers. Esperanza isn’t ready for the hard labor, financial struggles, or lack of acceptance she now faces. When their new life is threatened, Esperanza must find a way to rise above her difficult circumstances–Mama’s life, and her own, depend on it.

I liked Esperanza Rising!  I thought it was a really good read, and it really shows what it was like to move to the U.S. during the Great Depression and what it was like to be a farm worker.

Esperanza had a lot of things change once her father dies.  She goes from having everything given to her and having a really good- and sheltered- life to having to work on a farm.  And she had to do it at such a young age, which is hard to imagine.  Considering the book takes place during the Great Depression, I suppose it’s not surprising, but still.  I can’t imagine doing what she and her family had to do, but they were willing to do whatever it took to have a better life.

One interesting thing that we see in the book is the fact that some people were deported back to Mexico, even though they were U.S. citizens, simply because they looked Mexican.  Sadly, that doesn’t seem to have changed much, and this story takes place 80-ish years later.  I do wish we saw a little more of that, actually, but it is something that we see in the book.  I can’t imagine having that hanging over your head.  There’s a lot of challenges that migrant workers face, and I thought the book showed that really well.

We do see a lot of the characters change, especially Esperanza.  She changes the most, of course, and she does what she needs to.  She’s grieving over the loss of her father, and her life changes pretty dramatically, but I wanted something a little more.  What, I don’t know, but it felt like there was this spark missing.  But maybe that’s just me.  I did like the relationship she had with her parents and her grandmother.  I was really close to my grandma, and I’ve always enjoyed seeing that in books.  Plus, she crochets with her grandma, and as someone who crochets, (unfortunately, by the time I actually learned how to crochet, my grandma wasn’t able to teach me anymore) I love seeing that in books.

3 stars.  I liked Esperanza Rising, but I think I wanted something a little more.  Maybe I was expecting too much, since this is a middle grade book, but I’d still recommend it.

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Book Review: Scarlett Undercover by Jennifer Latham

Book: Scarlett Undercover by Jennifer Latham

Published May 2015 by Little, Brown Books For Young Readers|320 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed the hardcover from the library

Series: None

Genre: YA Thriller/Mystery

Meet Scarlett, a smart, sarcastic fifteen-year-old, ready to take on crime in her hometown. When Scarlett agrees to investigate a local boy’s suicide, she figures she’s in for an easy case and a quick buck. But it doesn’t take long for suicide to start looking a lot like murder.

As Scarlett finds herself deep in a world of cults, curses, and the seemingly supernatural, she discovers that her own family secrets may have more to do with the situation than she thinks…and that cracking the case could lead to solving her father’s murder.

Jennifer Latham delivers a compelling story and a character to remember in this one-of-a-kind debut novel.

I liked Scarlett Undercover!  It’s this cool mystery with elements of the paranormal, and part of me wishes it were part of a series…just to see the more supernatural elements.  It’s not often I want more books, but I would definitely read more books if we got to read more about Scarlett solving mysteries.

I wasn’t expecting a world of cults and curses that are centuries old, and I ended up really liking that part of it.  I finished the book wishing that we got more books with Scarlett solving paranormal mysteries.  It really made me wish that the book focused more on that, but at the same time, I know things needed to be set up, and that we weren’t instantly going to be thrown into the more supernatural elements of the book.

Those elements were pretty rooted in reality, so while those elements are there, it’s not the whole book.  It really is more of a mystery/thriller than a paranormal, and I thought the supernatural would be more present.  Still, I liked the connection between that and Scarlett’s family and some of the people in her life.

I do wish it were explained a little more, though, because Latham didn’t go into a lot of depth in some areas, and other things were inconsistent.  Scarlett, for example, goes from blowing off prayer to praying 5 times a day.  Obviously, what happened changed her, but it wasn’t really explained.  Her religion/faith wasn’t a big part of the book, which is fine, but with some of what happened in the book, I thought we’d see something a little more.

Overall, the book isn’t really about her religion or spiritual journey, so don’t expect that.  It was more about her trying to solve a mystery.  Still, I think it could have been interesting, but I’m also fine with the fact that it’s not really part of the book.

Scarlett is a pretty developed character- though, as the main character, one would hope she’s a pretty developed character- but I couldn’t really say that for the other characters.  It’s part of why I thought things could have been explained a little more, because the other characters were either bland or their role in things were confusing.  Scarlett herself is pretty spunky and sure of herself, and she really does want to help people.  She’s brave and she wants justice, and she’s pretty determined.  I just wish that the other characters were as interesting as Scarlett was.

3 stars.  I liked it, but I did want something a little different.  If you like mysteries, this is a pretty good one to check out.

Book Review: Forest Of A Thousand Lanterns by Julie C Dao

Book: Forest Of A Thousand Lanterns by Julie C Dao

Published October 2017 by Philomel Books|363 Pages

Where I Got It: I own the hardcover

Series: Rise Of The Empress #1

Genre: YA Fantasy/YA Re-telling

An East Asian fantasy reimagining of The Evil Queen legend about one peasant girl’s quest to become Empress–and the darkness she must unleash to achieve her destiny.

Eighteen-year-old Xifeng is beautiful. The stars say she is destined for greatness, that she is meant to be Empress of Feng Lu. But only if she embraces the darkness within her. Growing up as a peasant in a forgotten village on the edge of the map, Xifeng longs to fulfill the destiny promised to her by her cruel aunt, the witch Guma, who has read the cards and seen glimmers of Xifeng’s majestic future. But is the price of the throne too high?

Because in order to achieve greatness, she must spurn the young man who loves her and exploit the callous magic that runs through her veins–sorcery fueled by eating the hearts of the recently killed. For the god who has sent her on this journey will not be satisfied until his power is absolute.

I absolutely loved this book!  It took me forever to get through (partly because I wasn’t in the mood, and partly because I was trying to get through some other books).

I love this re-telling of The Evil Queen, and while this story is Xifeng’s journey to becoming the evil queen, it’s still worth reading.  It makes me want to read the next book so, so much.  Regina Mills from Once Upon A Time is an amazing Evil Queen, but Xifeng comes pretty close.  It’s basically Snow White before Snow White, if that makes any sense.  It’s basically a prequel to the Snow White story that we all know (at least from Disney, but this is not the happy Disney version.  Please don’t expect a happy, Disney version of the Evil Queen, because this is not that book.

If you need to like characters, especially the main character, this book probably isn’t for you.  It was so hard to like Xifeng at times, but I did find myself understanding where she came from, and why she did what she did.  She does get jealous of other women, and she wasn’t very confident, especially at the beginning of the book.  She changes so much over the course of the book, but it felt really natural and not forced at all.

I feel like her journey isn’t going to end well, but this is one story that I feel pretty invested in, and I can’t wait to see where her story goes, even if the ending isn’t a happy one.

I thought the world was amazing and really detailed.  I had such a clear picture of what was going on, and I loved how vivid everything was.  My copy of the book was an annotated one from PageHabit, and those extra details really made the book for me.  It was interesting to see what inspired her, and where certain things in the book came from.

Also, this is not a light and fluffy story.  It is dark and twisted and sometimes gory.  I mean, she eats hearts to gain power and make herself stronger.  She will do anything to become Empress, and I thought the use of a prophecy was interesting.  As weird as it may be, I did like seeing how far she was willing to go to get what she wants and what she was willing to do so she could fulfill the destiny that was foretold.

I’m not sure if this was something the author intended, but I couldn’t help but think about prophecy and destiny and how cutthroat some people are, and how they’ll use prophecy to get whatever they want.  Also, some of the characters are pretty catty (and petty), and Xifeng was willing to take them down because they were standing in her way.  I’m sure there’s some sort of real world parallel you could draw.  I won’t, because my brain doesn’t want to work right (and I myself in not confident in my ability to draw a meaningful comparison) but it did feel very real.  Girls and women are pitted against each other as well, and you can definitely see why they act the way they do.

5 stars.  Overall, I loved this book.  The setting is amazing and vivid, and I just loved the world and the mythology and the characters.

Book Review: Beautiful Music For Ugly Children by Kirstin Cronn-Mills

Book: Beautiful Music For Ugly Children by Kirstin Cronn-Mills

Published October 2012 by Flux|262 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed the paperback from the library

Series: None

Genre: YA Contemporary

“This is Beautiful Music for Ugly Children, on community radio 90.3, KZUK. I’m Gabe. Welcome to my show.”

My birth name is Elizabeth, but I’m a guy. Gabe. My parents think I’ve gone crazy and the rest of the world is happy to agree with them, but I know I’m right. I’ve been a boy my whole life.

When you think about it, I’m like a record. Elizabeth is my A side, the song everybody knows, and Gabe is my B side–not heard as often, but just as good.

It’s time to let my B side play.

I liked Beautiful Music For Ugly Children!  I didn’t love it, but I still think it’s a book everyone should check out.  I was hesitant to read it, because it’s not an #ownvoices book, but Cronn-Mills did a pretty good job at writing Gabe, and what he was going through.  It seems like she really did her research, though I could have done without the author’s note at the end.  Something about it didn’t sit right with me.

I spent a lot of the book angry at how other people treated him.  His parents misgender him, they call him by his birth name, and there is quite a bit of transphobia.  He does live in a fairly small town (as small a town as a town that has 40,000 people can be), and I can’t say I’m surprised by how he was treated and with how people reacted.  I’m trying not to assume that everyone who lives in a small-ish town is transphobic, and we do see some people who are really accepting of Gabe.

Still, his parents do come around, and I can understand why they’d have a hard time accepting that Gabe is their son. Especially his mom, who seems to feel like she did something wrong, even though she didn’t.  I did find myself feeling uncomfortable at their insistence on calling Gabe Elizabeth, even though we see him correct them throughout the book.

One thing I thought was interesting was his best friend Paige.  She seemed so supportive, until she herself is threatened because of her friendship with Gabe.  And suddenly, she’s having a hard time with it.  I’m not sure what to think about it, because she did seem so supportive initially, but when she was threatened by the same people who threatened Gabe, she seemed to have a hard time.  Almost like it wasn’t real until she was personally affected by it.  I get she’s maybe having a hard time that Gabe is Gabe (and not Elizabeth) but I still found myself frustrated by how she was acting.

I did love his mentor John, and the whole idea of the Ugly Children Brigade.  It gave the book a nostalgic sort of vibe, and I think that part of it made me think of a couple of books: Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell and How To Say Goodbye In Robot by Natalie Standiford.  If you like either of those books, then you’ll probably like this one.  Plus, I liked how music tied into his story, and how A sides and B sides tied into how he saw himself.  They really are kindred spirits, despite their age difference, and I loved their relationship.

Some of the terms were really derogatory and out-dated.  I know this book was published in 2012, and that things have changed, but this still took away from the book a little bit.  And while Gabe was a great character, I wasn’t enthused with Mara, Heather or Paige.  The female characters fell flat and were pretty one-dimensional, though Paige seemed a little bit less so than the other two.  And they were all love interests, which is fine, but it would have been nice to see Gabe have at least one female in his life who he has a platonic relationship with.

3 stars.  I liked it, but I didn’t love it.  I can’t speak to the portrayal of a character who’s transitioning, since I’m cisgender, but it does seem like Cronn-Mills did a lot of research.

Book Review: My Basmati Bat Mitzvah by Paula Freedman

Book: My Basmati Bat Mitzvah by Paula Freedman

Published October 2013 by Harry N Abrams|256 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed the hardcover from the library

Series: None

Genre: YA Contemporary

During the fall leading up to her bat mitzvah, Tara (Hindi for “star”) Feinstein has a lot more than her Torah portion on her mind. Between Hebrew school and study sessions with the rabbi, there doesn’t seem to be enough time to hang out with her best friend Ben-o–who might also be her boyfriend–and her other best friend, Rebecca, who’s getting a little too cozy with that snotty Sheila Rosenberg. Not to mention working on her robotics project with the class clown Ryan Berger, or figuring out what to do with a priceless heirloom sari that she accidentally ruined. Amid all this drama, Tara considers how to balance her Indian and Jewish identities and what it means to have a bat mitzvah while questioning her faith.

I liked this one!  For me, it’s one of those books that’s hovering between middle grade and YA- there is something about it that is a little bit more YA, but I could easily see it as an older middle grade book.

I thought Tara was interesting, and I liked seeing her balance both her Indian and her Jewish identities.  There were a couple of things that really stood out to me.  One was a comment from one of her classmates about how she’s not really Jewish because her mom converted to Judaism, and the other was someone assuming she was Muslim because she was from India.  She was easy to relate to, and I really liked her relationships with both her family and her friends.

Adult me’s reaction is that if someone says they’re Jewish, then they’re Jewish…and I’m pretty sure teenage me would felt the same way.  But I also grew up Catholic, and my knowledge of other religions is pretty limited, so maybe I’m missing something here.  I just liked seeing her struggle with her identity, and how she struggled with her faith.  She is full of questions, and for some reason, I really liked that about her.

I did like Sheila and I really, one of the other characters in the book.  It seems like she gets whatever she wants, but she also has some issues she needs to work on.  I felt a little bad for her, but I also wish we saw more of her backstory, because I am curious about why she did some of the things she did.

Something else I wish we saw was more of her mom’s experience as an immigrant.  Tara and her mom are very different, and her mom seems wary of Tara connecting with her Indian culture.  There does seem to be a little bit of a disconnect at times, but they are also very different.  Still, at least a little about her experience immigrating to the US would have been nice, and I think it would have added something different to her relationship with Tara.  But she was still an interesting character.

I also liked the glossary at the end, which was helpful because there were a lot of phrases and words I wasn’t familiar with.  It was nice to actually see what they meant, instead of forgetting to google it later, or trying to figure out what it meant.  I like it when books include a glossary, and that Freedman recognized that not everyone is going to be familiar with some of the phrases we see throughout the book.

3 stars.  I liked it, and I especially liked Tara.  But while I liked it, I didn’t love it.  I thought a couple of things could have used some more backstory, but overall, I’d still recommend it.

Book Review: Inferno by Julie Kagawa

Book: Inferno by Julie Kagawa

Published April 2018 by Harlequin Teen|397 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed the hardcover from the library

Series: Talon #5

Genre: YA Paranormal

TODAY, WE STRIKE BACK.

WE SHOW TALON THAT WE WILL NEVER ACCEPT THEIR NEW WORLD.

Ember Hill has learned a shocking truth about herself: she is the blood of the Elder Wyrm, the ancient dragon who leads Talon and who is on the verge of world domination. With the Order of St. George destroyed, Ember, Riley and Garret journey to the Amazon jungle in search of one who might hold the key to take down the Elder Wyrm and Talon—if they can survive the encounter.

Meanwhile, Ember’s brother, Dante, will travel to China with a message for the last Eastern dragons: join Talon or die. With the stakes rising and the Elder Wyrm declaring war, time is running out for the rogues and any dragon not allied with Talon. 

The final battle approaches. And if Talon is victorious, the world will burn.

I really liked Inferno!  Not as much I thought, of course, but it was a pretty good end to the series.

It’s fast-paced and action-packed and we’re kept on our toes from the beginning, until the very end.  I liked seeing how things turn out, and there are some interesting choices and revelations.  I don’t want to spoil anything since Inferno came out pretty recently.  Some things may be predictable, but I’m not one who usually tries to figure things out, so I was quite surprised by some of the things that happened in the book.

I liked Ember a lot in this book, and she’s changed a lot since we see her in Talon.  I actually re-read the series so I’d actually remember everything that happened up to this point, and I’m glad I did.  It was nice going into this book having been reminded of everything up to this point.  Ember is pretty amazing, and she was so determined to do the right thing, no matter what.  I think only Ember could get the allies she needed to take down Talon, and while I wish we saw more of the Eastern dragons, I get why they didn’t want to get involved.  Except for Jade, of course.

I did like that everything turned out okay.  I’ve come to love a lot of the characters, and I finished the book feeling hopeful that things will change for the dragons at Talon, and that St. George will continue to be there should Talon need a counterbalance.  I love that about her series finales- they always end with the hope that the characters will go on to be okay, no matter what happened before.

I suppose she does have a certain story she’s going for, and her Talon series has been no exception.  It is pretty predictable as far as last books go (particularly in her case) but that didn’t stop me from really enjoying the book.

I especially loved the author’s note at the end of the book.  She talks about her love of dragons, and how long the story has been with her.  And I love the modern take on dragons as owners of huge corporations.  It works, and I love that she does put a modern spin on dragons and knights, and how they changed with the times.

The other thing I loved about the author’s note was the part where she talked about othering and how we see people who are different from us, and that part really stuck with me.  You can really see it in the book as well, and now that I think about it, it is there throughout the series.  It’s in the interactions between Talon and the Rogues, St George and the dragons, and Talon and the Eastern dragons.  I did see the story in a completely different way after reading it, and I’m glad that so many characters did try to challenge their beliefs and see things in a different way.

4 stars.  So, I didn’t love it, but overall, it’s a pretty good ending to the story.

Book Review: Warcross by Marie Lu

Book: Warcross by Marie Lu

Published September 2017 by G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books For Young Readers|353 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed the hardcover from the library

Series: Warcross #1

Genre: YA Sci-Fi

For the millions who log in every day, Warcross isn’t just a game—it’s a way of life. 

The obsession started ten years ago and its fan base now spans the globe, some eager to escape from reality and others hoping to make a profit. Struggling to make ends meet, teenage hacker Emika Chen works as a bounty hunter, tracking down Warcross players who bet on the game illegally. But the bounty hunting world is a competitive one, and survival has not been easy. To make some quick cash, Emika takes a risk and hacks into the opening game of the international Warcross Championships—only to accidentally glitch herself into the action and become an overnight sensation.

Convinced she’s going to be arrested, Emika is shocked when instead she gets a call from the game’s creator, the elusive young billionaire Hideo Tanaka, with an irresistible offer. He needs a spy on the inside of this year’s tournament in order to uncover a security problem . . . and he wants Emika for the job. With no time to lose, Emika’s whisked off to Tokyo and thrust into a world of fame and fortune that she’s only dreamed of. But soon her investigation uncovers a sinister plot, with major consequences for the entire Warcross empire.

I really liked Warcross!  I liked Emika, and the world she lived in.

Emika is a great character, and she really is a girl just trying to survive.  It’s obvious Warcross means a lot to her, and it’s a pretty important part of her life.  A glitch really changed everything for her, and as it would turn out, things do not go the way she though they would.

Emika’s world was interesting, she does struggle.  But one of the things that kept me from truly loving Warcross was that the world (and Warcross) wasn’t explained very well.  I wasn’t quite clear what Warcross was or how it was played.  Obviously, it’s virtual reality, but it didn’t make a lot of sense to me.  Maybe I wasn’t reading the book well enough, or maybe it didn’t make a lot of sense because I’m not a gamer.  I did like the descriptions when Emika and her team was actually going up against another team, and I thought that was well done.

Maybe I just wish that it translated to the rest of the book.

Worldbuilding aside, I did like Emika’s team as well.  Something about them reminded of the group of people we see in Six Of Crows.  It might be an odd comparison, and I’m not at all sure why these two reminded me of each other, but I’m just going to go with it.  I do wish we knew more about them.  Emika is not at all concerned about what’s going on with them, so because she doesn’t know a lot about them, we don’t know a lot about them.  I wish we did, but hopefully that will change in the next book.

Warcross was entertaining and fun and I feel like I went through it pretty fast.  I did understand some of the motivations behind certain characters, especially Hideo.  And he especially had this really interesting balance of good and bad, so I am curious to see how his story plays out.  Him, more than anyone else.  As interesting as he is, part of me doesn’t like him.

I can’t wait to read the sequel to see where things go!

4 stars.  I really liked Warcross, and I thought Emika and the impact Warcross had on both her and the world was interesting.  It’s entertaining and fun, and an especially great book for people who like video games and technology.  I didn’t love it, but it was still a fun read.

Book Review: You’re Welcome, Universe by Whitney Gardner

Book: You’re Welcome, Universe by Whitney Gardner

Published March 2017 by Knopf|297 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed the hardcover from the library

Series: None

Genre: YA Contemporary

When Julia finds a slur about her best friend scrawled across the back of the Kingston School for the Deaf, she covers it up with a beautiful (albeit illegal) graffiti mural.

Her supposed best friend snitches, the principal expels her, and her two mothers set Julia up with a one-way ticket to a “mainstream” school in the suburbs, where she’s treated like an outcast as the only deaf student. The last thing she has left is her art, and not even Banksy himself could convince her to give that up.

Out in the ’burbs, Julia paints anywhere she can, eager to claim some turf of her own. But Julia soon learns that she might not be the only vandal in town. Someone is adding to her tags, making them better, showing off—and showing Julia up in the process. She expected her art might get painted over by cops. But she never imagined getting dragged into a full-blown graffiti war.

I liked You’re Welcome, Universe!  I didn’t love it, but I did like Julia’s story.  She’s artsy and fun, and she’s pretty into art, especially graffiti art.

There’s very little romance, and even then, it’s two background characters, so it was nice to see a YA contemporary where the main character isn’t actually dating someone.  I’m trying to think of one with no romance, and I can’t think of any off the top of my head, so if it’s not your thing, this would be a good book to check out.  There’s nothing wrong with romance, of course, but it was a nice change from what we usually see.

And I did want to talk about Julia adjusting to a mainstream school.  She was kicked out of the Kingston School For The Deaf, and Julia had a lot of challenges adjusting to school.  It seemed very realistic, but as I’m not deaf, I can’t speak to how accurate or realistic the portrayal is.  Still, I felt like I understood where Julia was coming from, and there were so many things I didn’t think about- like waking up on time for school, or trying to find visual cues for a lot of things, like the bell ringing.  It really is a community of itself, and I think this book provides a much needed representation in the YA community.

I also like the world of graffiti art, and how territorial it is.  I wouldn’t have thought that, but it does make sense.  I did like the artwork throughout the book, and it really brought things to life.  It was nice to actually see the artwork mentioned throughout the book.  Even though it’s described (and some might not like the visuals of something already mentioned), I thought it added a nice touch.

It is a pretty straightforward book, and it’s right to the point.  Which was fine, but I also thought it could have used something a little different.  I get Julia’s anger and frustration at what was going on, but it did seem a little over the top at times.

3 stars.  I liked the story and Julia as a character, but I had a hard time truly connecting with the story.

Book Review: Tyler Johnson Was Here by Jay Coles

Book: Tyler Johnson Was Here by Jay Coles

Published March 2018 by Little Brown Books For Young Readers|304 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed the hardcover from the library

Series: None

Genre: YA Contemporary

When Marvin Johnson’s twin, Tyler, goes to a party, Marvin decides to tag along to keep an eye on his brother. But what starts as harmless fun turns into a shooting, followed by a police raid.

The next day, Tyler has gone missing, and it’s up to Marvin to find him. But when Tyler is found dead, a video leaked online tells an even more chilling story: Tyler has been shot and killed by a police officer. Terrified as his mother unravels and mourning a brother who is now a hashtag, Marvin must learn what justice and freedom really mean.

I liked Tyler Johnson was here.  I’ve picked up a few books about teens dealing with police brutality, and I think this one is one to read.

I loved Marvin, and you really felt what he was going through.  I’m an only child, so I can’t imagine losing a sibling, much less a sibling who’s my twin.  I liked seeing how much he grow over the course of the book, and how important it was for him to speak up about what was going and what had happened.

I didn’t care for the romance we see in the book- it was unexpected, and while it didn’t take away from everything we see in the book, I also would have been fine without it.  Maybe it’s there to show that love can be found in unexpected places, or for some other reason.  Whatever that reason is, it didn’t work for me.  Still, I’m glad he seemed to find some sort of happiness after everything that happened.

The one thing that stood out to me was how there didn’t seem to be a big search party for Tyler when he went missing.  Something that did come up was race and how it plays into missing kids and media attention, and it’s sad that no one seemed to care about Tyler until he was found dead.

I felt devastated for Marvin and his friends, and the everyday racism they face.  I will never know what it’s like to almost be shot for potential shoplifting, and the assumptions made because of his race makes me horrified that people have to deal with this on an everyday basis.

There is a lot of hope in Tyler Johnson Was Here, and I like that there’s hope.  Hope that they’ll find Tyler, hope that Tyler gets Justice, and that hope that things will get better for Marvin.  I hate that he lost his brother, but I love that Marvin finally realized what he wanted to, and why he did some of the things he did.

4 stars.  I know there are a lot of books out there about police brutality, but this is one to pick up.

Book Review: Stepping On Roses, Volume 1 by Rinko Ueda

Book: Stepping On Roses by Rinko Ueda

Published April 2010 by Viz Media|200 pages

Where I Got It: I own the paperback

Series: Stepping On Roses #1

Genre: Manga

A rags-to-riches romance from the creator of Tail of the Moon! Poor Sumi Kitamura… Her irresponsible older brother Eisuke keeps bringing home orphans for her to take care of even though they can barely afford their own basic needs! Just when Sumi’s financial problems become dire, wealthy Soichiro Ashida enters her life with a bizarre proposition–he’ll provide her with the money she so desperately needs if she agrees to marry him. But can Sumi pull off fooling high society into thinking she’s a proper lady? Moreover, is it worth it to give everything up for this sham of a marriage?

This is another book I’ve had on my bookshelf for a while, but never read until now.  I didn’t like it as much as I thought I would, and I don’t think I’ll be continuing the series.

The story itself is interesting, and it’s your typical rags-to-riches story.  Sumi is trying to keep her family together, and she wants stability, obviously, but how it happens is…different.  I didn’t particularly care for Soichiro, and he’s a horrible person, in my opinion.  I thought he was horrible to Sumi, and things are bad enough at home that she’ll get married if she has to.

It is a different take on romance, especially with the few romances I’ve seen in manga.  There’s possibly a love triangle though not really.  She seems to be interested in someone other than her husband, who she’s not supposed to fall in love with.  It’s more business arrangement than anything else, and you see how people treat her because of the poverty she lives in because of her brother.

It’s just…the romance didn’t work at all, and I have the feeling that they’ll end up falling in love.  That, or things will end terribly.  I’m just not interested enough in the story to find out.  It was a quick read, but it’s manga, so that’s not surprising.  I did like the illustrations, though, and I thought the story came across pretty well with the artwork.  I did like the historical details included, and it makes it clear that it’s not necessarily happening in present time, which I did think at first.  There is an emphasis on class and social structure, and I though Ueda did a great job at showing that.

2 stars.  I’ve read some manga, but this wasn’t one of my favorites.  It just wasn’t for me, though it might be a better fit for someone else.