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.

Review: Construction Beauty Queen by Sara Daniel

 

 

Title: Construction Beauty Queen

Author: Sara Daniel

Publisher: Entangled

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

Chicago socialite Veronica Jamison is determined to shake off her sheltered lifestyle and overbearing parents. She heads to her grandfather’s small town of Kortville, ready to roll up her sleeves and work for the family construction business. She’ll prove her worth, even if it means answering to the company’s ruggedly handsome co-owner, Matt.

Matt Shaw just wants to run his business, spend time with the niece he’s raising on his own, and give back to the townspeople who have stood by him. Managing a spoiled-rotten princess he knows he’ll never be good enough for? Not part of his plan. But as he gets to know Veronica, he learns there’s more to her than her beautiful looks and designer clothes. She’s got a heart as rich as her background.
With the quirky townspeople rallying against Veronica inheriting her grandfather’s business, it’s up to Matt to try to drive her out of town. But how can he, when instead she’s driving her way into his heart?


Review:

I really wanted to like this book, but I never connected with the secondary characters.  In fact, I thought most of them were just plain mean, especially at the beginning.  Veronica has just arrived in the tiny town of Kortville with a basketful of dreams.  She wants to escape the meaningless life her parents have planned for her, and stand on her own two feet.  She wants to make a difference with her life.  She wants a real job, and she has worked her tail off for years, first by graduating from college, and then earning an MBA which she paid for all by herself, thank you very much.  Her parents can’t see the sense of her having an education, since she’s just going to marry the man of their choosing anyway.  Uh, no thanks, Mom and Dad!

After emailing her grandfather, Veronica has been given a challenge.  If she can stick it out for 30 days working at the construction firm her grandfather has a stake in, he will let her take over operations at his successful distribution firm.  Putting every bit of faith in this man she has never met, Veronica sells everything she owns to pay off her college loans, purchases a clunker of a car, and makes the journey from Chicago to Kortville.  Once there, she is met with nothing but contempt.  The residents resent her because her grandfather was going to sell his company and invest the profits in the town.  Matt, the guy who owns the other half of the construction company, makes her feel as welcome as an army of fire ants at a picnic.  It is all of these awful people and their determined efforts to derail Veronica’s plans that kept me from engaging in the plot.  I couldn’t stand these people.  Matt and her grandfather even put her in harm’s way, instructing her to undertake tasks that she was clearly not ready for.  I had to hand it to her, though.  She didn’t know how to accept defeat, and she never gave up.  Besides Matt’s young niece, Veronica is the only character in this entire book that I had any bit of respect for.  Even Matt, super studly construction dude, was a turd, constantly putting her in situations where she could have been seriously hurt.

I had a hard time getting behind the romance because I didn’t like Matt.  He was dumped by his big city girlfriend after he moved to tiny Kortville, and as a result, he couldn’t give Veronica any slack at all.  He made an effort to keep his niece firmly isolated from “girly” things, too, lest she turn into a fashion snob and want to leave town, too.  This did not earn any brownie points for Matt.  Neither did his constant projection of his ex’s faults onto Veronica.  He gave her nothing but grief for the first half of the book because she was from the big city and had a wealthy upbringing.  Then, after proving herself time and time again, he gave her grief because she had ideas how he could expand his business and make it more profitable.  I didn’t get this, and it made Matt look like a hick.  He didn’t want the ability to provide a better life for his niece?  At this point, I just wished that Veronica would walk away from him and the rest of the narrow-minded town.

Overall, the behavior of the secondary characters diminished my enjoyment of Construction Beauty Queen.  I did not enjoy how they trivialized Veronica at every opportunity.  It made me angry because she never treated them with anything other than warmth and openness.  The residents of Kortville did eventually make a turn around, but I was so irritated with them by then that it didn’t make a difference to me.

Grade:  C-

Review copy provided by publisher

This Week’s New and Notable Releases

Ten Reasons Not To Date a Cop looks promising!  What titles are you looking forward to?

Click on the cover for the Amazon product page.

The Devil’s Diadem by Sara Douglass (Nov 20, 2012)

Rogue Rider (Lords of Deliverance) by Larissa Ione (Nov 20, 2012)

Spirit’s End (An Eli Monpress Novel) by Rachel Bach (Nov 20, 2012)

Start With A Happy Ending by Risa Motoyama (Nov 20, 2012)

Caden’s Vow (Hqn) by Sarah McCarty (Nov 20, 2012)

Fire in the Blood by Robyn Bachar (Nov 20, 2012)

Getting Hotter by Elle Kennedy (Nov 20, 2012)

Guardian by Loribelle Hunt (Nov 20, 2012)

Rocky Mountain Angel by Vivian Arend (Nov 20, 2012)

 

Surrender (Hqn) by Brenda Joyce (Nov 20, 2012)

Ten Reasons Not to Date a Cop by Amie Louellen (Nov 20, 2012)

Too Dangerous to Desire (Lords of Midnight) by Cara Elliott (Nov 20, 2012)

Two Sinful Secrets (The Scandalous St. Claires) by Laurel McKee (Nov 20, 2012)

What an Earl Wants (Hqn) by Kasey Michaels (Nov 20, 2012)

How Beauty Met the Beast by Jax Garren (Nov 19, 2012)

Jacked Up (Fast Track) by Erin McCarthy and Emily Durante (Nov 19, 2012)

Win Waltz With a Stranger by Pamela Sherwood!

Thanks to Sourcebooks, I have a copy of Pamela Sherwood’s Waltz with a Stranger to giveaway!  Check out the pretty cover!

   

About the book:

One dance would change her life forever…

A man who never expected to inherit. A woman who never expected to wed. A choice that pits their honor against their hearts.

Crippled after a riding accident, Aurelia Newbold shuns Society—until a dashing stranger draws her into a secret waltz and changes her life forever. After a year abroad, she returns home and discovers that the one man she’s been dreaming of is engaged to her beloved twin sister.

James Trelawney is not prepared for the vibrant woman who returns to London in the place of the wounded girl he took pity on—or his growing need for her. But forbidden love is not the only danger…a chilling secret reaches out from beyond the grave, threatening both Trelawney and the woman he loves.

 

You can learn more about Pamela by visiting her website HERE.

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