Review: Peanut by Ayun Halliday & Paul Hoppe

 

 

Title: Peanut

Author: Ayun Halliday and Paul Hoppe

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

"Before you write me off as a delusional psycho, think about what it’s like to be thrown into a situation where everyone knows everyone . . . and no one knows you." Sadie has the perfect plan to snag some friends when she transfers to Plainfield High—pretend to have a peanut allergy. But what happens when you have to hand in that student health form your unsuspecting mom was supposed to fill out? And what if your new friends want to come over and your mom serves them snacks? (Peanut butter sandwich, anyone?) And then there’s the bake sale, when your teacher thinks you ate a brownie with peanuts. Graphic coming-of-age novels have huge cross-over potential, and Peanut is sure to appeal to adults and teens alike.


Review:

When I received this book, I was a bit mystified.  Why, oh why would anyone pretend to have a fatal peanut allergy?  Baffled, I dug right into this graphic novel, intrigued to see if there was a compelling reason for Sadie to fabricate such a serious health issue.  After finishing the book, I have to say that I didn’t find it.  While the characters are likable, the rationale behind Sadie’s pretend illness just didn’t cut it for me.  Sadie’s little white lie, which quickly spirals out of control, is spun in an effort to be more popular at her new school. 

After talking to a girl about her medical alert bracelet, Sadie is so fascinated by the thought of having a severe peanut allergy that she orders a bracelet of her own.  I wanted to question how she was able to accomplish this, online, without a credit card or her mother’s knowledge, but I didn’t.  I just followed along with Sadie as she experiences the unintended consequences of her little lie.  A concerned teacher has her freaked out because she hasn’t turned in a health form, signed by her mother,  to the school nurse, and that EpiPen that she’s supposed to carry with her at all times?  Yeah, she needs a prescription to have access to that prop.  When a new friend asks to see it, she flips out on him.  When her new boyfriend thinks that she’s eaten a chip cooked in peanut oil, she realizes that living with this lie isn’t going to be easy.

The thing that kept me engaged in the story was Sadie’s fear of discovery.  Afraid to fess up to her new friends, she just keeps digging herself into a deeper and deeper hole.  She is terrified that the truth will come out, and when it does, that she will lose all of the friends that she’s made.  When reality does come crashing down around her, it is every bit as awful as she feared.  I think that the fallout was shortchanged, and that mending her bridges went too easy for her.  From her first day of school, the image of herself that she projected was all based on fallacy, and the small amount of page time given for her repentance was disappointing.

The art is quirky and it works well with the tone of the story.  I loved the splash of color from Sadie’s clothes. 

Grade:  C+

Review copy provided by publisher

Review: Strobe Edge Vol 1 by Io Sakisaka

 

Title:  Strobe Edge Vol 1

Author: Io Sakisaka

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

Being in love can light up your life… A sweet love story that will warm your heart!


Review: 

When I first read the book blurb above, I thought it was pretty lame.  After reading Strobe Edge, though, I think it very accurately and very succinctly describes this high school romance.  Ninako is shy and reserved, and everyone thinks she and her childhood friend, Daiki will eventually get together.  Daiki makes no secret of his feelings, but he has never voiced them, leaving Ninako, who is kind of clueless, thinking that they are just friends.  After circumstances have her and school heartthrob Ren cross paths several times, Ninako discovers how kind and thoughtful he is, and she falls in love with him.

Strobe Edge captures all of the awkwardness and exhilaration of falling in love for the first time.  Ninako falls head over heels for Ren, and who can blame her? He’s gorgeous, and better yet, he is nice.  What a combo!  As her feelings for Ren grow, so does her guilt over them.  She has finally picked up on Daiki’s feelings, and she feels awful about her lack of feelings for him.  She blames herself for leading him on, and though she doesn’t want to hurt his feelings, she knows that she has to level with him.  So along with the giddy rush she experiences whenever she sees Ren,  she realizes that her feelings are going to hurt one of her closest friends.

I don’t want to spoil any other plot points, so instead I’ll urge you to give Strobe Edge a try if you enjoy series like High School Debut and Kimi ni Todoke.  This introductory volume will leave you smiling as Ninako slowly begins to blossom, shedding her reservations and allowing herself to come out of her shell.  She knows that her heart will more than likely get broken, but for the time being, she is enjoying how she feels about Ren.  Because she is so sweet, and because she is taking this huge risk, you can’t help but cheer her on.  Will things work out between her and Ren, or is Ninako doomed to heartbreak?  I don’t know, but I can hardly wait to find out!

Grade:  wavering between a B+ and an A-

Review copy provided by publisher

Review: Stepping on Roses Vol 8 by Ueda Rinko

 

Title: Stepping on Roses V 8

Author:  Ueda Rinko

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

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 fool high society into thinking she’s a proper lady? Moreover, is it worth giving up everything for this sham of a marriage?

Sumi asks Nozomu to stop buying the land where she and Soichiro currently reside, and he agrees on one condition—Sumi has to leave Soichiro and become his wife instead! Faced with the possibility of eviction, Sumi must decide whether she’ll live in poverty with Soichiro or take Nozomu up on his offer…


Review:

Every volume of Stepping on Roses just gets better and better!  Each one leaves me dismayed when I reach the last page because I have to wait for the next release.  Rinko Ueda knows how to build  the suspense and the drama so that by the time you reach the last page, you are a quivering mass of emotions.  Some volumes that means being upset by the injustices Sumi has to overcome, and some leave you with an adrenaline rush, cheering Sumi on as she manages to stay true to herself and deal with adversity.  This volume left me pumped for Sumi – she’s finally had enough, and she is going to try to turn the tables on Nozomu.  You go, girl!  I only hope she can wage a battle against the crafty, unscrupulous Nozomu without compromising who she is.

Just when it seems as though things can’t get any worse for Sumi and her family, things do.  They get monumentally worse.  After being thrown out of their home by Nozomu, they are without shelter, have no money, and even less food.  They have lost everything.  Nozomu has poisoned the ears of most of Soichiro’s acquaintances, and nobody will hire him for fear of Ashida Product’s reprisals.  When Soichiro becomes ill and the doctor refuses to treat him because they have no money,   Sumi knows that she must give in to Nozomu’s demands.  She sells herself to him in order to help her family.  Poor Sumi!  Her desperation is palpable.  She will do whatever is required to keep her loved ones safe, and it’s not going to be easy for her.

What I enjoyed most about this volume is how Sumi begins to subtly exert her will against Nozomu.  She is passive on the surface, but underneath, she is learning the fine art of subterfuge  from her new fiancé.  He doesn’t care about anything but getting the best of Soichiro, and his single-mindedness is actually making it easier for Sumi to stage quiet rebellions.  With her reputation in tatters and her family’s well-being on the line, she doesn’t have much to lose.  I loved seeing her plans begin to bear fruit, and finished the last page with a feeling of elation.  I finally started to believe that things will work for her in the end, and I haven’t felt that positive about Sumi’s future in a while.   

One person  I would like to see more of is Komai, who I always liked, even when he turned traitor.  What is his deal?  Is he a traitorous scum?  Or does he somehow think he is doing what’s best for Soichiro?  Because there is no way that Nozomu, who is clearly psychotic,  could be a better employer than spoiled and over-indulged Soichiro.  I think?  Unless he really is evil?  Maybe we’ll find out in February, when the next volume is released!

Grade: A-/B+

Review copy provided by publisher

Weekly Shonen Jump Alpha December 31st Edition

So after last week’s epic 220+ page issue, this week’s weighs in at – 118 pages.  Kind of a let down for the New Year.  Anyway, let’s see what’s in this issue of Weekly Shonen Jump Alpha!

One Piece Chapter 692 – The fight between Luffy and Caesar Clown was a bit of a let down.  One punch and it was over.  Sigh.  All that build up, and one punch sends the guy flying into the stratosphere.  There’s plenty of commotion around the New World with the news of Caesar’s defeat, and Luffy and his gang are still trying to escape from the deadly poison gas, so I’m sure that they won’t get much rest, but still.  I wanted more.  Not a Naruto length fight, but a couple pages at least?  Hopefully the next set of villains will give Luffy a little more trouble.

Bleach Ch 520 – I had a little trouble following this chapter, due to my Bleach reading gap.  Shunsui Kyuraku has been appointed Captain General and  Squad One captain, and for his first task, he wants to teach Kenpachi Zaraki zanjutsu.  That doesn’t go over well, but Shunsui argues that with so many headed to Reiokyu, the Soul Society is practically defenseless.  To keep this somewhat spoiler free, he wants the “first” Kenpachi to teach him.  Argh!  I know that this must be an epic moment in the story, but because I haven’t been following it for – uh about a billion chapters, I have no idea the significance of this revelation.  The thought of jumping backward and trying to catch up is too daunting to consider.  And, oh, yeah, Ichigo didn’t rot, corrode, or combust in Tenjiro’s magic ponds, so he’s good to go for his next adventure! 

Naruto Ch 613 – Oh. My! The battle with Obito and Madara continues!  Ten Tails proves more problematic than the combined ninja force anticipated.  Things are looking grim!  Ten Tails is fighting back, and Naruto and his allies are helpless against the assault.  No! Injures are mounting, deaths are escalating, and the battle seems hopeless!  Just the way I like it!  How will the forces of good ever defeat the forces of evil?!  It might take another 10 chapters to find out, but I’m there all the way.

Toriko Ch 215 – This is the first chapter of Toriko that I found somewhat engaging.  I guess sparkling food always does the trick for me.  Brunch is spitting fire after a heated confrontation with Zebra, and he’s determined to beat Komatsu’s butt.  Komatsu’s hero worship takes some of the wind out of his sails, and when he sees how happy the remaining ingredients are and that Komatsu can hear their voices, he develops a new admiration of the runty little chef.  I still find the art bizarre, but Brunch’s sudden change of heart about Komatsu has me intrigued.  Will he just use the trusting little Komatsu to elevate his own position in the competition, or will they form a friendship that lasts beyond the cooking battle?  For a change, I ‘m invested enough in the story to look forward to next week’s chapter.

Nisekoi Ch 55 – The steal a kiss from Raku contest wrapped up in this chapter, and I hate to admit it, but it was pretty fun.  Tsugumi is unbelievably flustered at the thought of kissing Raku, and not just because he’s Chitoge’s boyfriend.  Paula is pulling out the stops to prove that she is every bit as skilled as Tsugumi, and because Tsugumi is so freaked out at the thought of kissing Raku, Paula quickly gains the upper hand.  Until Paula makes off with Raku, and Tsugumi begins to process her feelings for him.  Then – KABOOM!! She snaps.  I loved her solution to the whole kissing thing, and her reaction to Paula after the contest ended.  The art is generic, but I like the clean lines.  I just wish that Raku and Tsugumi didn’t look so much alike to me.

Cross Manage Ch 14 – I like this series a lot.  The non-date that might be a teeny weeny bit like a date continues!  Toyoguchi and Sakurai arrive at the sporting goods store, where Toyoguchi introduces Sakurai to Ryu.  Ryu is a jerk.  He plays lacrosse on a college team and is also a member of the national team. While he adores Toyoguchi, he thinks that Sakurai is being cruel by encouraging her to try to improve her lacrosse skills.  Ryu totally rubbed me the wrong way, and I so badly want to see him eat a huge serving of humble pie.  He is so dismissive of Toyoguchi’s ambitions to become a better player, and he comes across as a giant schmuck.  He wants Sakurai to quit as the team manager, and to ensure that he does, he challenges him to a lacrosse contest.  Because all disagreements and confrontations are settled by a contest in manga.  Usually an extremely one-sided contest, where the hero has zero prospects of winning.  Could you imagine what would happen if this was a trend in real life?  Obama could challenge Boehner to a one on one basketball match (or any athletic competition, for that matter), and that fiscal cliff impasse non-sense would be over!

No Kenshin this week *sob* 

Review: Stepping on Roses Vol 7 by Rinko Ueda

 

Title: Stepping on Roses V 1

Author:  Rinko Ueda

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

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 fool high society into thinking she’s a proper lady? Moreover, is it worth giving up everything for this sham of a marriage?

Soichiro’s reputation becomes tainted when Sumi’s true background is exposed, and even his position as president of his company is threatened! Sumi feels terrible for the trouble she’s caused Soichiro, so she decides to leave him. Will Soichiro choose to let her go, or will he forsake everything for her instead?


Review:

I just love this series!  Rinko Ueda has a knack for telling beautifully illustrated romances with lots of angst and melodrama. These are better than afternoon soaps.  Seriously! If you ever enjoyed a soap opera, download the sample chapters from the Viz Manga website and start reading Stepping on Roses.  I love the elegant drawings and the historical setting.  The contrast between the wealthiest and some of the most humble Japanese at the time makes for so many opportunities to add almost insurmountable challenges to  Sumi’s life.  Now, after Nozomu’s diabolical plans, Soichiro has lost control of Ashida Products, and he’s forced to face a life of poverty head on.  After throwing his lot in with Sumi and refusing to give her up in order to keep his company, he’s discovering just how unpleasant life can be.  So long abundant food, clean clothing, and warm baths!  I used to despise Soichiro, but my feelings for him have completely reversed in the last few volumes of the manga.

Now, Nozomu, on the other hand, has turned into a complete slime ball.   After his plot to wrestle control of Ashida Products comes to fruition, thanks in part to Sumi’s lazy, greedy brother, he let his true colors show.  Brilliantly!  Complete with a new evil-guy, slicked back hairdo, all of his focus is aimed at destroying Soichiro and stealing Sumi away from him. Her feelings don’t matter to him.  All he wants is what his ex-BFF has.  What is wrong with this guy? How could I have so completely misjudged his character?  Nozomu is the perfect villain, because part of me still feels some lingering affection for him.  I can’t help it!  He was such a nice guy, and it’s hard to accept that he’s taken an irreversible turn to the dark side.  He always seemed so gentle and kind!  Maybe he still is, somewhere in there, under all of his jealousy and hatred for Soichiro.  I am so dying to find out what is going to happen next, so this manga is a great example of the correct way to use cliffhangers, at least to keep me engaged in the plot.  How can I not want to know what happens next, with all of these high emotional final pages? 

While Sumi slips seamlessly back into her former life, privileged Soichiro has a much harder time.  He was willing to give up his company so he could be with Sumi, but things aren’t going to be a cake walk.  He can’t find a job, Nozomu keeps popping up at the most aggravating times, and the loss of his company stings.  From being one of the movers and shakers to barely scraping by, Soichiro’s new reality is  going to test him in ways he can’t even imagine.  When is he going to start resenting Sumi for his reduced circumstances?  When will he begin to blame her for everything that’s happened?  I so want to hope that his feelings for Sumi are real and that he’s grown up and is willing to take responsibility for his new life, but I’m also afraid that he won’t. Argh!  Good thing I have volume 8 so I can get another fix soon!

Grade:  A

Review: Demon Love Spell V 1 by Mayu Shinjo

 

 

Title: Demon Love Spell V 1

Author:  Mayu Shinjo

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

By the creator of Ai Ore! and Sensual Phrase

Miko is a shrine maiden who has never had much success at seeing or banishing spirits. Then she meets Kagura, a sexy demon who feeds off women’s feelings of passion and love. Kagura’s insatiable appetite has left many girls at school brokenhearted, so Miko casts a spell to seal his powers. Surprisingly the spell works—sort of—but now Kagura is after her!

Reads R to L (Japanese style) for teen plus audiences.


Review:

I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with Mayu Shinjo’s works.  Her titles usually feature a douche bag uber alpha hero and a timid, naïve heroine.  I usually don’t enjoy reading stories where the hero treats the heroine, his supposed love interest, like crap.  That’s one of the problems I have with Black Bird, though I find myself helplessly flipping through whatever new volumes happen to end up in my hands.  I don’t want to like it, but I do.  Ugh!  Demon Love Spell reminds me a lot of Black Bird, so if you are a fan of Kanoko Sakurakoji, you might want to give this series a try.

Miko is a shrine maiden, and while everyone else in her family can see spirits, she can’t sense them at all.  Disappointed in herself because she has no sixth sense, she nonetheless studied hard to recognize and banish demons.  So while she is familiar with their characteristics and their powers, she can’t see them, which makes carrying on the family tradition unlikely.  Still, she has hopes and she is dedicated to both the shrine and her family legacy.

When an incubus begins to prey on girls at her high school, a moment of high emotion gives her the strength to seal his powers and confine him into an itty-bitty demon form.  Once the most powerful demon, Kagura is now helpless against stronger demons, and he can’t revert back to his former self, a tall, stunningly gorgeous young man who knocks the ladies dead.  He is a sitting duck, and so is Miko.  Since she was powerful enough to seal away Kagura’s powers, all the demons want to kill him and eat Miko to gain her strength.  Eek!  She can’t even see her enemies unless she is holding chibi Kagura!  How can she defend herself against a bunch of big, bad, ugly monsters?  To make matters worse, she can’t remember which spell she used to seal away his powers, so she can’t change Kagura back to his powerful self.  She isn’t even sure that she wants to; he’ll just go back to preying on innocent women and stealing their life essences, anyway!

Kagura can enter Miko’s dreams when she’s asleep, so he steals into them and seduces her in order to gain back some of his strength.  Miko can’t remember a thing in the morning, but she feels a burning sense of embarrassment, and she’s exhausted.  Like she was up all night long.  Which she was, in her dreams, romping around with Kagura.  She begins to question why she is forming an emotional attachment to the perverted demon, and wonders if he has cast a demon love spell over her.  She doesn’t trust him, but she can’t stop her growing feelings for him.

I enjoyed this introduction to the series.  It’s a fast read, it’s brainless, and it’s fun.  Despite some awkward proportions, Mayu Shinjo’s art is attractive, and her guys are hot, hot, hot.  The characters are engaging, and though the plot is predictable, I found a lot to like in the first volume of Demon Love Spell, and I will follow the series for at least a few volumes to see how things work out for Miko and sex obsessed Kagura.

Grade:  B

Review copy provided by publisher

A Peek at Weekly Shonen Jump Alpha–December 3, 2012

Thanks to the generosity of Viz, I have a subscription to Weekly Shonen Jump Alpha.  Starting January 21, 2013, there will be a simultaneous US release to coincide with the Japanese release of the magazine.  I am curious to see how that’s going to work, and to see what new series will be added to the magazine, so here is the first of my weekly looks at Weekly Shonen Jump Alpha.  The magazine looks great on my iPad, though I did have a bit of a headache before I was able to get my first issue loaded.  All it took was an update to the Viz Manga app, but I didn’t think of that until after wasting about 15 frustrating minutes.  Always check for a software update! Note taken.

This issue kicked off with Bleach Ch 516.  Whoa!  I haven’t read Bleach in ages, even though it is one of my favorite series.  For shame!  I spent the pages here wondering what the heck was going on, but by the last panel, had it figured out.   I think.  There will soon be an epic confrontation with Squad Zero, a squad comprised only of Squad captains.  No peons in this group of warriors!  There still has to be some kind of pecking system, some top dog to lord over the other squad members, right?  Unless they are all so bad ass that they have a mutual fear and respect for each other.  I am looking forward to learning more about them and catching up with Ichigo in future issues.

Naruto Ch 609 was next. Ch 609, folks!  I am hopelessly out of my depth with this one, but there was fighting!  Which I like.  And Kakashi!  Who I like.    Naruto and Kakashi are duking it out with the bad guy Obito, who hates Kakashi.  That is enough right there to elevate him to evil bad guy.  Who could possibly hate Kakashi?!  After a little help from Nine Tails, it looks like Kakashi is ready for more fighting, so next week, the battle with Obito and Madara will continue!  This is comfort reading for me – mindless speed lines, over exaggerated poses, and endless wells of energy to keep up that toe-to-toe action. 

Nisekoi Ch 51 followed.  This is a new series for me, and I believe it just started it’s run in the magazine.  Raku, one of those impossibly hopeless, hapless guys who can barely comb his hair, has attracted a gaggle of girls, I think by being nice, which in manga usually means wimpy.  Raku’s gangster father has him engaged to Chitoge, who hated him at first sight, but she’s come around and realizes that he’s not such a bad guy and that she might really, really like him.  To cast some mystery over his love life, Raku made a childhood promise to a girl, but he can’t remember who the girl is!  Her identity is locked in his prized pendant, but the lock is broken, so he can’t open it to reveal his childhood love.  You’d think he would remember the first girl he fell in love with!  No wonder these manga boys are always single!  I am actually going to have to read the sample that’s on the Viz website to help wrap my head around this one. 

Toriko Ch 22 – I don’t have much to say about this one, because the entire chapter is nothing but character introductions for the upcoming Cooking Festival.  I usually love cooking manga, but the endless parade of contestants bored me.  Better luck next week.

Wrapping up this issue is Cross Manage Ch 10 is a sports manga about a girls’ lacrosse team.  I liked this story the best.  It was easy to follow for a new comer, the art is engaging, and the characters are likable.  Ex-soccer player Sakurai reluctantly agrees to manage the high school girls’ lacrosse team.  They need a lot of help!  They can barely fill the roster, and they all pretty much suck at the game.  I’m sure that under Sakurai’s guidance they will quickly overcome their shortcomings.  I love sports manga, especially with an underdog team, so I am looking forward to more of this one.

No One Piece!  It’s on break until the next issue, which is a bummer, because Luffy always makes me laugh.

To purchase Weekly Shonen Jump Alpha, click here. You can check out the free Weekly Shonen Jump Alpha starter pack here.  Viz is having a sale on their digital manga. You can get 20% off until January 8th!  Click here for the deets.