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.

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Book Review Round-Up: Vampire Knight, Volumes 2-5, by Matsuri Hino

Book Review Round-Up is a random feature where I talk about several books in one post.

Today is Volumes 2, 3, 4, & 5 of Vampire Knight.  I thought it might be good to review them together!  I did go through them pretty fast, and they all started to blend together, so I had a little bit of trouble remembering which thing happened in which volume!  All four volumes are by Matsuri Hino.

Vampire Knight Vol 2 CoverVampire Knight, Volume 2

Published May 2007 by Viz Media|186 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed it from the library

Series: Vampire Knight, Volume 2

What It’s About: Yuki and Zero go into town to do some shopping for the Headmaster, and they are attacked by a fiendish vampire called a “Level E.”  Two Night Class students, Takuma Ichijo and Senri Shiki, come just on time and slay it, and invite Yuki and Zero to their dormitory at midnight to find out why they killed one of their own kind…

What I Thought: I really liked it!  I am amazed at how she can tell a story with so little words and such detailed artwork!  Yuki and Zero really stood out to me, and I love how kind Yuki is, even knowing that Zero is coming to terms with being a vampire.  I liked seeing more of the vampires in this world, and I feel like as we get further into the series, we’re going to learn a lot more about the vampires!  I’m really curious about whether Yuki offering her blood to Zero will come again, and what sort of effect it will have on things.  Zero is definitely brooding in this book, which I totally understand but I also wonder if he’ll start to move on at some point.  And his former vampire hunter teacher is around, so I can’t wait to see where that goes.

My Rating: 4 stars.  I really liked the story and some of the things that come up, because I’m really curious about where things are headed.

Vampire Knight Vol 3 CoverManga #2: Vampire Knight, Volume 3

Published October 2007 by Viz Media|196 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed it from the library

Series: Vampire Knight, Volume 3

What It’s About: Kaname, the pureblood vampire, has kept to his room since learning of Yuki and Zero’s forbidden act. However, the arrival of Ichijo’s grandfather brings the entire Night Class together to greet one of the oldest vampires on the senate. Ichijo’s grandfather says he’s there merely to visit his grandson, but he’s out for Kaname’s blood.

What I Thought: I really liked Volume 3!  We learn more about the characters, especially Yuki, and I really liked the flashbacks!  Kaname, Zero and Yuki are all very connected.  And the new transfer student, Maria…there is more to her, and I’m curious about where her story is headed.  It seems a little random, a new transfer student but I feel like there’s a purpose behind it.  New students don’t randomly show up for no reason.  We are getting deeper into this world and how things outside the school are affecting things inside the school.  And the concept of the Senate is introduced in volume 3.  I’m wondering how much of a presence they’ll have in future volumes.  I really liked the art, and both art and story are getting better with each volume.

My Rating: 4 stars.  I like that 3 volumes in, we are learning so much more about this world.  I can’t wait to see where things go.

Vampire Knight Vol 4 CoverManga #3: Vampire Knight, Volume 4

Published April 2008 by Viz Media|197 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed it from the library

Series: Vampire Knight, Volume 4

What It’s About: Zero warns Yuki to stay away from Maria Kurenai, the new Night Class transfer student, although he won’t tell Yuki why. Kaname is also wary, and he sends Ichijo to watch Maria so she doesn’t start trouble. Who is this girl, and why does she have the entire Night Class on edge?

What I Thought: This is the book where we learn what’s really going on with Maria!  I don’t know why I didn’t see it coming, because I feel like I should have.  There’s the deal between Yuki and Maria and Kaname is pretty awesome.  And I feel for Zero, even though he still has a lot he needs to work on.  And he’s pretty sulky too.  But I still love him, and I still feel for him.  I also love the side bars she has throughout the book (and the ones in volumes 2 and 3 are equally as awesome).

I am having trouble keeping the characters who aren’t Yuki, Zero and Kaname apart, but hopefully as the series goes on, I’ll be able to tell them apart!  I really want to learn more about the Purebloods and their powers.  I feel like it’s going to come up again in the series.

My Rating: 4 stars.  The story is really starting to get interesting, and the artwork is getting better and better!

Vampire Knight Vol 5 CoverManga #4: Vampire Knight, Volume 5

Published September 2008 by Viz Media|195 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed it from the library

Series: Vampire Knight, Volume 5

What It’s About: Zero is suspected of killing Shizuka Hio, the pureblood vampire who murdered his family. Incensed, the vampire senate sends assassins to Cross Academy to execute him. Will the Night Class intervene, or will Kaname let Zero take the fall?

What I Thought: I am hooked on this series!  I have been since the first volume but this volume is really good!  We learn why Shizuka did what she did.  I tried to dislike her but I had a really hard time doing that- in fact, the opposite happened, and I felt a little bad for her.  Even though Shizuka has died, I can’t help but wonder if we’ll see more of her in flashbacks.  Things don’t look good for Zero, but Kaname shows that he’s pretty awesome by defying the Senate and protecting the school and Zero.  We also meet a certain someone, and I’m wondering if that certain someone is going to show up again.  I feel like we will, and I can’t wait to see how that will go.  There really is a lot to Kaname, and I want to know more more about him.  I’m sure more will be revealed about him in the continuing volumes, so I’ll just have to read to find out!

My Rating: 4 stars.  As usual, the artwork and story is getting better with each volume, and we learn more about this world the further we get into the series.  I can’t wait to see what happens next.

Book Review Round-Up: Wolf’s Rain, Chronicles Of The Cursed Sword And Bizenghast

Book Review Round-Up is a feature I do randomly when I have 2 or 3 books I want to review in one post.  Today is another manga round-up!

Wolf's Rain CoverManga #1: Wolf’s Rain, Volume 1 by Bones and Keiko Nobumoto (Story) & Toshitsugu Iida (Art)

Published November 2004 by Viz Media|184 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed it from the library

Series: Wolf’s Rain Volume 1

What It’s About: In a post-apocalyptic future, wolves are supposedly extinct creatures who held some sort of mythical powers. Unknown to most human, wolves still do exist, and they walk next to them, disguising themselves as humans as their kind slowly dies out. However, some, like Kiba, are answering to their primal instinct to search out the flowers of the moon, which are supposed to someday lead them to paradise.

What I Thought: I thought Wolf’s Rain was a little weird.  The story seemed interesting enough, but I also felt like I was missing something.  It, apparently, is an anime, and the manga is based on it.  I wonder if that’s why I have these feelings of missing something.  You definitely have to take the world as it is, because you don’t really get the how’s or why’s- it just is.  I really like the the story, and the art is okay.  It was a little blurry, particularly at the beginning, and I’m not sure if the copy I have is just weird, or if, for whatever reason, that part is just blurry.  It is kind of entertaining, and the characters did seem to have an interesting relationship, but I don’t think I’m invested in the story or characters enough to read the second volume.  As a story, why they were trying to find paradise didn’t make a lot of sense to me, which is a little disappointing because I thought the story itself was a really interesting idea.

My Rating: 2 stars.  It was okay for me.  I thought the artwork was fine, and while the overall idea was really interesting, I found it a little confusing.

Chronicles Of The Cursed Sword CoverManga #2: Chronicles Of The Cursed Sword, Volume 1 by Yuy Beop-Rying (Story) & Oarj Hui-Jin (art)

Published July 2003 by TokyoPop|176 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed it from the library

Series: Chronicles Of The Cursed Sword Volume 1

What It’s About (from the cover): In an era of warring states, warlords become kings, dynasties crumble, and heroes can rise from the most unlikely places. Rey Yan and his sister Syao Lin are orphans, raised by a wise master in ways of magic and combat. While war escalated around them, they managed to stay free of its politics and allegiances–that is until they met Jaryoon, King of Hahyun. This pacifist king is the target of assassins both mortal and inhuman, and when demons attack, he’ll need the power of Rey and his PaSa sword in order to stay alive. The last thing Rey wants to do is save the life of a politician, but the chance to slay demons to feed his cursed sword is just too great to pass up. Can these strangers with nothing in common become allies in order to stop a pact between demons and evil men that threatens their entire country?

What I Thought: Like Wolf’s Rain, I thought the overall idea of the story was interesting (but not as interesting as Wolf’s Rain) and a little confusing.  I felt like I was missing something, and while the fight scenes were pretty cool, there was something about it that felt a little…lackluster?  The story just didn’t catch my interest, and I felt like we didn’t get the whole story.  I mean, I know it’s the first volume and all, but I feel like I learned more about the characters reading the summary than I did reading this volume.  I did like the art, but it wasn’t enough to make me want to keep going.

My Rating: 2 stars.  I liked the artwork, but the story was okay.

Bizenghast CoverManga #3: Bizenghast, Volume 1 by M. Alice LeGrow

Published August 2005 by Tokypop|184 pages

Where I Got: I borrowed it from the library

Series: Bizenghast, Volume 1

What It’s About: Not every lost soul is a lost cause.

When a young girl moves to the forgotten town of Bizenghast, she uncovers a terrifying collection of lost souls that leads her to the brink of insanity. One thing becomes painfully clear: The residents of Bizenghast are just dying to come home.

A finalist in TOKYOPOP’s Rising Stars of Manga competition, Marty Legrow has crafted an unforgettable Gothic drama that will leave readers haunted long after the last page is turned.

What I Thought: I really liked Bizenghast!  I recognize the title, but never picked it up until now, and I’m glad I did. There is a very gothic feel to the book, and if I had to pick what genre it falls into, I’d say it’s gothic/horror. I have a tendency to not think of manga in terms of genre, for some reason.

I did like the story, but it did randomly jump ahead to different points, and I think the pacing could have been a little slower and been fine.  I also liked the artwork and it had a good balance of light and dark.  I also liked the newspaper articles and telegrams before each chapter, and they gave you such a great idea of the world and what was going on. I do wish we know a little more about Dinah and why she can see the ghosts and why she’s the one who can help them, but that is something that we might learn more about that in a future volume.  We do know enough about them, though, to stay interested in what will happen next.

A really good read-alike is The Dreaming by Queenie Chan, and I think anyone who likes one will like the other.  It has a very similar feel to The Dreaming, and while the artwork in Bizenghast is a little lighter than the art in The Dreaming, I think the art (and story) have the potential to be at least a little more dark than what we see in this volume.

My Rating: 4 stars.  I really liked it, and I can’t wait to read the next volume to see what happens next!

Book Review Round-Up: Vampire Knight And MeruPuri

Book Review Round-Up is a random feature where I do short reviews for 2 or 3 books in one post. This is one is another manga round-up.  Enjoy!

Vampire Knight CoverManga #1: Vampire Knight, Volume 1 by Matsuri Hino

Published January 2007 by Viz Media|192 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed it from the library

Series: Vampire Knight, Volume 1

What It’s About: Yuki Cross has no memory of her past prior to the moment she was saved from a vampire attack ten years ago. She was adopted by the headmaster of Cross Academy, and now works alongside Zero to guard the Academy’s secret. Cross Adademy is attended by two groups of students: the Day Class and the Night Class. At twilight, when the students of the Day Class return to their dorm, they cross paths with the Night Class on their way to school. Yuki Cross and Zero Kiryu are the Guardians of the school, protecting the Day Class from the Academy’s dark secret: the Night Class is full of vampires!

What I Thought: I really liked Vampire Knight!  I randomly picked it up at the library, because the title caught my eye, and it seemed really intriguing.  It was definitely a good choice on my part, because I really liked the idea of a day class and a night class really interesting.  And two students who attend the day school but also know about the Night Class and are doing everything in their power to keep the secrets of the Night Class.  Zero reminded me of Kyo from Fruits Basket.  I have no idea why I am suddenly reminded of Fruits Basket characters in some of the manga I’ve been reading, but I am.

It was a little darker than I expected, with vampire-hunters and revelations- mostly the one surrounding Zero, which I want to know more about.  Certain things were repetitive, like Zero being from a vampire-hunter family and the only survivor of an attack on his family, and Yuki being saved from Kaname.  They seem to have an interesting relationship, as do Yuki and Zero.

It also felt like a prequel of sorts, because we were introduced to the school and characters.  I know that’s what first books do, and even though it’s volume 1, something about it felt more like a prequel than a first volume.  It was still enjoyable, and I can’t wait to get into the story a little more. I really liked the shading and detail for the artwork. It’s something I’m also impressed with, mostly because I can’t draw if my life depended on it.  But the detail, especially in black and white is really impressive.

My Rating: 4 stars.  I really liked the story, but certain things were pretty repetitive, and that got to be frustrating. But overall, I would definitely recommend it.

MeruPuri CoverManga #2: MeruPuri, Volume 1 by Matsuri Hino

Published July 2005 by Viz Media|192 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed it from the library

Series: MeruPuri, Volume 1

What It’s About: On the way to school one morning, Airi loses her mirror – one that had been passed down to her through generations – and suddenly finds herself in a bizarre situation. Never in her wildest dreams did she expect Aram, a little boy from a magical kingdom, to have emerged from the mirror in the short time it took her to track it down!

What I Thought: So, when I checked out MeruPuri, I didn’t realize that it was the same person who did Vampire Night!  There are things I liked about MeruPuri, but I didn’t like it nearly as much as Vampire Knight.  I thought the curse on Aram was interesting- it makes me wonder about his relationship with his brother.  Even though it is explained later on in the manga, I still can’t help but wonder about it.  And the magical mirror that leads to the world Aram is from!  I liked that part of it, but I couldn’t tell you much of anything about the characters.  Although I could tell you a little more about Aram and his brother than I could tell you about Airi.  She’s a little bit forgettable, considering it’s her mirror.

The artwork is pretty awesome, which isn’t surprising, considering how much I liked it in Vampire Knight.  I just didn’t find the story as interesting or compelling as Vampire Knight, but I may pick up the other volumes sometime in the future.

My Rating: 2 stars.  There were some things I liked about MeruPuri (like the artwork, and a couple of the elements of the story) but it didn’t capture my attention the way I thought it would.

Book Review Roundup: Kitchen Princess, Pita Ten and Skip Beat

Book Review Round-Up is something I do very sporadically, when I want to review several books in one post. I’m on a manga kick right now, and thought it would be easier (and fun!) to review several of them in one post since they go super-fast!

Kitchen Princess CoverManga #1: Kitchen Princess, Volume 1 by Natsumi Ando (illustrator) and Miyuki Kobayashi (story)

Published January 2007 by Del Rey|187 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed it from the library

Series: Kitchen Princess, Volume 1

What It’s About: Najika is a great cook and likes to make meals for the people she loves. But something is missing from her life. When she was a child, she met a boy who touched her heart–and now Najika is determined to find him. The only clue she has is a silver spoon that leads her to the prestigious Seika Academy.

Attending Seika will be a challenge. Every kid at the school has a special talent, and the girls in Najika’s class think she doesn’t deserve to be there. But Sora and Daichi, two popular brothers who barely speak to each other, recognize Najika’s cooking for what it is–magical. Is either boy Najika’s mysterious prince?

What I Thought: Kitchen Princess is such a cute story!  I love Najika, and her love of cooking and making food that people enjoy!  I loved seeing her go to Seika Academy, where she feels like she doesn’t belong- and she certainly doesn’t see her cooking as magical or as a special skill.  Both are things I think we can all relate to at some point in our lives.

I’m really intrigued by Sora and Daichi, and who gave Najika the silver spoon!  I know it’s one of them, and I can’t wait to learn who it was.  And who Najika will end up with, because I’m pretty sure she’ll end up with one of them at some point in the series.

I also loved the recipes at the end, and it really makes me want to cook!  Actually, there is something about Najika that reminds of Tohru from Fruits Basket- I think it’s in how they both want to make sure others are okay, and how positive they are.  I really liked the illustrations, and I’m amazed at how the drawings told a story, even when there were no words to describe what was going on.

My Rating: 4 stars.  I really liked it, and I’ll definitely keep reading!

Pita Ten CoverManga #2: Pita Ten, Volume 1 by Koge-Donbo

Published January 2004 by TokyoPop|200 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed it from the library

Series: Pita Ten, Volume 1

What It’s About: How to Acquaint Oneself with an Angel: With middle school entrance exams coming up, Kotarou was hoping to crack down on his study habits. But when a zany girl unexpectedly moves in next door to him, those plans go straight down the drain. When Misha boldly asks Kotarou to go out with her the moment they meet. Stunned at the sight of the girl, Kotarou turns and darts away like a kid scared of cooties. Now Misha has started popping up everywhere Kotarou goes, from school, to review class, and even hanging out outside his front door! What’s with Misha’s bizarre stalker mentality? Simple, she just wants to protect Kotarou and make sure he’s happy…by becoming his new momma! Sure, that might sound well intentioned, but Misha really has no clue what she’s getting herself into. Not only can’t she cook, but she’s also lives like a complete slob! And what’s all this talk about Misha being an angel?

What I Thought: Pita Ten is cute!  I’ve wanted to read it for a while, and I finally got around to reading it!  I liked it, and Misha is definitely…interesting.  She is pretty over-the-top, and while I liked Pita Ten, I think a big part of why I didn’t like it as much as I thought is because of Misha.  I did like that she wanted to protect Kotarou, and maybe she’ll calm down in the other volumes.  It seemed a little younger than I expected it to be, and I’m not sure why- maybe because of how Misha talked?  It did get irritating as the book went on, and it was a little too cutesy for my liking.  I love cutesy, but apparently, it has limits.

If it does get toned down later on in the series, I think I could really like Misha a lot more than I did.

Like Kitchen Princess, I really liked the artwork and how you knew what was going on, even when there were no words to describe what was going on.  I definitely want to read at least one or two more volumes, if not the entire series.

My Rating: 3 stars.  Misha and the baby talk got to me overall, it is pretty cute, with awesome artwork.

Skip Beat CoverManga #3: Skip Beat, Volume 1 by Yoshiki Nakamura

Published July 2006 by Viz Media|184 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed it from the library

Series: Skip Beat, Volume 1

What It’s About: Kyoko always thought that Sho, whose family took her in when she was small, was her prince charming. However, when Sho heads for Tokyo to make it big as a musician, Kyoko goes with him and has to quit high school to support his dream. But soon, being in the big city makes Kyoko realize that she has show business ambitions of her own!

What I Thought: Skip Beat was a lot of fun!  Something about Kyoko reminded me of both Shigure and Kagura from Fruits Basket, but I think that made her a lot of fun and really interesting as a character.  I don’t blame her for wanting to getting revenge and having a grudge.  I probably would too if I were her. I really liked the artwork, too, and she has an awesome attention to detail.  I also loved the sidebars throughout the book about how Skip Beat came to be.  There’s just something really fun about it.

Plus, Kyoko is pretty determined to get what she wants, and I really like that about her!  She certainly is persistent. Also, Sho is not a cool guy.  Not cool at all.  It kind of makes me hope/wish that Kyoko gets her revenge and doesn’t give up on her show business ambitions.  Still, he is a little bit more interesting than Ren, who, other than his name and the fact that he is Sho’s rival, I remember nothing about.

I’m really glad I read it, because I’ve seen on the library shelves for a while and never picked up.  I definitely need to pick up volume 2 soon!

My Rating: 4 stars.  I really liked it, and I can’t wait to read volume 2!

Book Review: Sorcerers And Secretaries, Volume 1 by Amy Kim Kibuishi

Sorcerer's And Secretaries CoverBook: Sorcerers & Secretaries, Volume 1 by Amy Kim Kibuishi

Published February 2006 by TokyoPop|192 pages

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

Series: Sorcerers & Secretaries #1

Genre: YA Manga- Romance

Blog Graphic-What It's About

Nicole Hayes sure likes to daydream and who can blame her? She studies a subject she has no interest in so she can satisfy her mother, and she works part time as a receptionist to satisfy her growing debt. But when she’s alone with her notebook, she crafts a fantastic story and lets her imagination go-go-go! Meanwhile, her old neighbor Josh pines after Nicole’s every step but just can’t seem to snap her out of her daydreams and get her to notice him. If only he could see what it was she was dreaming about, maybe he could finally win her over!

Blog Graphic- What I Thought

I really liked Sorcerers & Secretaries!  It’s such a cute, fun book and it really reminds me of how much I like manga, and how I really need to read it more!

I really liked Nicole (and not just because we have the same name, but I did like that), and I can definitely relate to how much of a dreamer she is.  I really liked that we saw the story she was working on, and how it seemed to be an escape for her, especially with her job.  I really liked the moments where the story in her head bled over into real-life conversations she was having, and I can relate to that!  She really is likable, and I feel like we’d totally be friends in real life.

I really like her and Josh, and how persistent he is.  He does seem to be influenced by a friend of his, and I really hope that he gets it together in the next volume, because they would be so cute together.

It really is magical and whimsical, and I can’t wait to read the next volume- which is also the last one, and I’m already a little sad about that, because I really want more from this series!

I didn’t pay a lot of attention to the art, and unfortunately, I’ve returned it to the library, so I can’t refer back to it.  But I do remember liking it, and how she got the point across really well!

Blog Graphic- My Rating

4 stars.  Sorcerers & Secretaries is adorable, and I’m looking forward to reading the next volume!