Review: Bunny Drop Vol 2 by Yumi Unita


Title: Bunny Drop Vol 2

Author: Yumi Unita

Publisher: Yen Press

ISBN: 978-0759531208


May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

Returning to his family’s estate for his grandfather’s funeral, thirty-something bachelor Daikichi is floored to discover that the old man had an illegitimate child with a much younger lover! Needless to say, the rest of the family is shocked and embarrassed by this turn of events, and not one of them wants anything to do with the little girl, who refuses to say a word. In a fit of angry spontaneity, Daikichi decides to adopt her! But is living with an overgrown teenager who can barely take care of himself the key to making Rin come out of her shell?


What a fun series!  I love Daikichi and his determination to raise Rin by himself.  He has matured so much in just two volumes!  He is also getting valuable on-the-job training, learning how to take care of a little girl.  There are no instruction manuals, he’s discovered, and everything is new for him.  Even enrolling Rin in elementary school is wading into uncharted waters; for a guy with no clue about what he’s doing, Daikichi is doing a wonderful job providing a stable and emotionally supportive home to his small charge.  Tackling these unexpected tasks, which Daikichi would certainly never dreamed of having to do himself, is daunting for him, but so far he is ignoring the nay-sayers in his life and staying on course.

The more I get to know Daikichi, the more I like him.  He doesn’t understand how anyone could reject such a wonderful little girl, so he searches relentlessly for clues about Rin’s mother.  Who is she? Why isn’t she a part of her daughter’s life?  When he finally tracks her down, he is certain that he made the right decision by becoming Rin’s guardian.  Her mother is barely capable of caring for herself!  She has done everything in her power to distance herself from her daughter, despite Daikichi’s grandfather’s attempt to cox her into bonding with Rin.  I don’t think too highly of Grandpa for getting Masako pregnant in the first place, but at least he didn’t reject Rin the way Masako seems to be.

I loved the shopping sequence, when Daikichi takes Rin to buy a desk.  Her delight at getting to pick out a “big girl’s” desk is obvious, and so cute, too!  Daikichi’s only had to use a little bit of psychology to convince her to buy a work area he thought would be more suitable than the desk she decided she liked. As Rin is growing  more confident in her new surroundings, she is becoming more expressive, and so much more fun for Yumi Unita to draw.  Like with Daikichi, there has been a big change in Rin, too.  She’s starting to discover who she is, and she is starting to exert some independence.  The character growth makes Bunny Drop a touching read, and I’m looking forward to reading more about Daikichi and Rin.

Grade: B+

Review copy purchased from Amazon

Review: Everything I Was by Corinne Demas


Title: Everything I Was

Author: Corinne Demas

Publisher: Lerner Publishing

ISBN: 978-0761373032


May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

"My walls were stripped, and all that was left in the room was a pile of boxes and my mattress propped against the wall."

So begins Irene’s journey from an Upper West Side penthouse to–well, she’s not entirely sure where. Irene’s father, a corporate VP, is "downsized" when his company merges with another. When he can’t find work, her family’s lifestyle–and her mother’s spending–quickly catches up with them. Eventually, they’re forced to move in with Irene’s grandfather in the family farmhouse upstate. But what begins as the most disastrous summer of Irene’s life takes a surprising turn, and Irene must decide what she wants for herself after losing everything she was.


Wow, I enjoyed this book so much!  I don’t like the cover at all, though, and it turned me off of the book at first.  Then I read the synopsis again, and decided that the cover didn’t really matter anymore.  I loved the premise of Everything I Was, and I was curious to see if it had any similarities to Where I Belong.  Both books have protagonists who are forced to re-evaluate their lives after their fathers lose their high paying jobs.  I liked Irene from the beginning of the book, whereas Corinne, from Gwen Heasley’s story, took a bit for me to warm up to.

Everything I Was is a very understated book, and it has a slice of life vibe.  It is more suited to MG readers, though, than YA, and the cover does not adequately reflect the age of the protagonist.  I thought the heroine would be an older teen, but Irene is thirteen, and from the first page, she proved to be level-headed and practical.  It’s her mother who hungers for the finest things in life, and when Irene’s father is laid off, they are forced to give up their fancy apartment in New York City and move in with her grandfather. 

One thing about Irene that I liked was how down to earth she was.  She didn’t come across as a spoiled rich kid, but instead tried to find the bright side to her change in scenery.  It’s difficult for her to leave behind her friends and her old room, and the thought of having to go to another school is very upsetting to her, but she doesn’t let it color her life.  She adapts, she adjusts, and once she meets the kids in the large Fox family, she settles into her new surroundings with a contentment she didn’t have in the city.

Irene isn’t a perfect kid, but she isn’t a self-indulgent brat, either.  She has the loving support of her grandfather, which helps her through this difficult period in her life.  Her greatest conflict occurs with her mother; while Irene takes her new circumstances in stride, her mother is bitter about it, as well as ashamed.  She lies to her friends about the move, and Irene, confused by her mother’s behavior, begins to do the same.  She won’t confide in her best friends in NYC, and she is embarrassed at the thought of attending her old school on a scholarship.   Like her mother, she is afraid of the stigma attached to the scholarship, and would prefer that her old friends not know that her father, once a high earning executive, is currently unemployed.

I read Everything I Was in two sittings – I couldn’t put the book down.  Corinne Demas’ writing style is straightforward and compelling, and highlights how little, everyday events change Irene’s expectations for life.  She finds deep and lasting friendships with the Foxes’ and falls in love for the first time.  She learns that life isn’t fair, and she learns to make the best of what she does have.  The character interactions kept me engrossed in the story, and I am so glad that I didn’t judge this book by its cover.

Grade: A-

Review copy provided by publisher

Review: Saturn Apartments Vols 1 & 2 by Hisae Iwaoka

Title: Saturn Apartments Vols 1 & 2

Author: Hisae Iwaoka

Publisher: Viz

ISBN: 978-1421533643 & 978-1421533735

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

Mitsu has just started working as a window washer, a dangerous job that five years earlier led to the loss of his father. As Mitsu struggles with being the new guy—making mistakes, struggling to keep up, petty workplace resentments—he also discovers the simple pleasures of befriending his coworkers, enjoying time off and getting to know his absent father through the eyes of his colleagues.


Mitsu is a window washer on a gigantic apartment complex 35,000 feet above the surface of Earth.  The planet has been evacuated and declared a nature preserve in a last ditch effort to save what native life remains on it.  The complex is segregated into stratified social classes.  Those from the lower levels, like Mitsu, must obtain passes to visit the upper levels, where the structure’s wealthy residents live.  Mitsu is trying to follow in his father’s footsteps, even though Aki was killed in a tragic accident five years earlier.  What he finds is that washing windows isn’t as easy as it sounds, and that understanding his co-workers can be even more difficult.

This is a slice of life series, and the chapters meander along as Mitsu learns the ropes of his trade.  He’s accepted into the guild because of his father, which earns him some animosity from a co-worker.  Fresh out of school, Mitsu’s biggest challenge is learning how to get along with others.  It doesn’t help that he feels pressured to live up to his dad’s reputation as a hard worker. 

Wow, window washing 35,000 feet up is hard, dangerous work!  I can’t imagine doing it! I love the story concept, and find the idea of evacuating everyone on the planet to a huge, orbiting apartment a fascinating concept.  I never once considered that the windows would get dirty, and need to be cleaned to allow sunlight to filter in and brighten up the place a bit.  Forcing the apartment population into a class-based social structure adds complexity to the plot, too.  Like any resource, there’s a limit to the amount of natural light available, and the more affluent residents get a lot more exposure to it than the poorer lower levels.  A lack of natural light leads to sickness and weak immune systems.  The units of the wealthy residents have vast windows, and they can afford to have them cleaned.  People like Mitsu have tiny little apartments, with no windows to the outside.

Saturn Apartments is a character-driven story.  Mitsu is struggling to deal with his father’s death, as well as trying to do a job he can be proud of.  His first day on the job almost ends in disaster, but afterwards, he feels that he has a better understanding of his father.  After getting a look at the earth outside of the apartment complex, he is awed by its beauty, and he is determined to someday go to the surface.  He knows that his dad must have felt the same way.  For the longest time he thought that Aki committed suicide and abandoned him, but after being outside, he realizes that he was wrong and that his father really was the victim of a fatal accident.

I love the character interactions.  Mitsu tries to keep himself apart from his neighbors and not be a burden on anyone.  They aren’t so willing to let him do that,  which adds all kinds of complications to his life.  His customers are surprising demanding, too, and each of them affect his life in a different way.  Though they are often a pain to deal with, they also enrich his solitary life for the better.

The art is kind of weird.  I don’t know how else to describe it.  The characters have big round heads and tiny little eyes and at first they looked so odd to me.  As I made my way through the first two volumes of the series, though, I found them very expressive and very unique.  Hisae Iwaoka has a distinct style; it’s not smooth and clean, but instead has a rougher texture that make the illustrations visually arresting.

I found my introduction to Saturn Apartments a pleasant experience, though there were a few moments when the pacing was just a tad too leisurely for my tastes.

Grade: B

Review copies obtained from Amazon (Volume 1) and from publisher (Volume Two)

Review: The Mourning Wars by Karen Steinmetz


Title: The Mourning Wars

Author: Karen Steinmetz

Publisher:  Roaring Brook Press

ISBN: 978-1596432901


May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

Based on true events, THE MOURNING WARS is a gripping, powerful, and utterly memorable historical novel. In 1704, Mohawk Indians attacked the frontier village of Deerfield, Massachusetts, killing 50 and kidnapping 112 more, including John Williams, a Puritan minister and prize hostage, and his children.

This is Eunice’s remarkable story, fictionalized but based on meticulous research, about a seven-year-old girl’s separation from her family, harrowing march to Canada, gradual acceptance of her new Native American life, and ultimate decision at 16 to marry an Indian and reject her stern father’s pleadings to return to the fold.


When I saw this book, I immediately wanted to read it.  I love books about Native Americans, and the setting looked like something right up my alley.  I admit that reading it was rough going at first, because I found it difficult to immerse myself in the third person, present tense narrative, but as I continued to read, I was caught up in Eunice’s new life with the Mohawk family that adopted her.  This was a great read, and Eunice’s struggle to understand who she is and where she belonged was very, very compelling.

When Eunice was 7, the small settlement of Deerfield is attacked by a group of Mohawks warriors.  During the nightmare journey that follows, she loses her mother and several of her siblings as they are marched to Canada through the freezing snow.  Eunice is separated from her father, a preacher and esteemed member of the Deerfield community, and she’s adopted by Atironta and Kenniontie.  The couple lost their daughter to an illness, and the raid was sanctioned by the tribe’s leaders to replace people who died from sickness or from the clashes between the warring French and British colonists whose European war has trickled to the colonies. 

Eunice at first waits for her father to pay a ransom for her and take her home, but as the years stretch forward and she hears nothing from her English family, she begins to settle into her new life.  She is always troubled by her feelings of abandonment, and this continues to eat away at her, even as she finds contentment with her new family and friends.  As she begins to feel comfortable and at home, she begins to fear that her father will come and get her.  This constant internal struggle was heartbreaking.  Even though Atironta and Kenniontie love her unconditionally, Eunice is still stung by the thought that her father has forgotten her.  There is an emptiness inside of her that nothing can fill, and this emotional turmoil kept me glued to the pages.

The Mourning Wars unfolds through little slice of life activities.  They slowly build together to create a fascinating snapshot of what life might have been like before Twitter, Facebook, and, heck, even the USPS.  Though occasionally the narrative was a bit too textbookish, I enjoyed this story.  A lot.  There is so much emotion packed into these pages, as a brave young girl works through who she is, and where she’s meant to be. 

Grade:  B+

Review copy provided by publisher

Review: Mindblind by Jennifer Roy


Title: Mindblind

Author: Jennifer Roy

Publisher: Marshall Cavendish

ISBN: 978-0761457169


May Contain Spoilers

I will admit that when I first looked at this book, I wasn’t exactly drawn to it.  The cover doesn’t do much for me, though I found the premise intriguing.  The protagonist, Nathanial, has Asperger’s Syndrome, and I was very curious to see how author Jennifer Roy portrayed him.  Once I started reading Mindblind, I could not put it down.

Nathanial’s voice is very distinctive.  He is a teen with a lot of challenges to overcome, despite his sky high IQ.  His dad isn’t accepting of him, because he doesn’t believe that Nathanial has a medical condition; he just thinks that his son is being lazy and isn’t pushing himself to be like all of the other kids.  It’s a good thing that his step-mom is more understanding and supportive than his dad! Nathanial’s dad really pushed the wrong buttons for me, and I quickly felt as uncomfortable around him as his son did.

Nathanial’s social skills are clumsy and awkward, true to his Aspie diagnosis.  It is difficult for him to interact with large groups of his peers, and all he wants to do is retreat into a shell when he is confronted with too much noise, light, or people.  Being over stimulated has him struggling to stay in control of himself, and he is much happier working on his mathematical equations or researching problems online.  His mother won’t let him withdraw from other people, though, and she proves again and again during the course of the novel just how much she loves and supports him.  She pushes him to test his boundaries, but also knows when he needs some space.

I loved Nathanial.  He may be a genius to others, but to himself, he doesn’t have much worth.  He wants to make a mark on the world, and he is driven to do so.  The book is relayed through slice of life episodes, each building on the other and giving Nathanial depth.  He may not be “normal” in the traditional sense of the word, but he is strong and he is kind, and he tries so hard to do the right thing, even though most of the time, he doesn’t fully understand why it’s the right thing.

Mindblind by Jennifer Roy is a very satisfying read, with a likable protagonist who will quickly cast a spell over you.  The book is engaging and impossible to put down, and I am so glad that I had the opportunity to read it. 

Grade: A-

Review copy provided by publisher

Inubaka: Crazy for Dogs Vol 13 by Yukiya Sakuragi Manga Review


Title: Inubaka: Crazy for Dogs Vol 13

Author: Yukiya Sakuragi

Publisher: Viz

ISBN: 978-1421525921


Contains Massive Spoilers for Volume 12

From Amazon:

Moving Forward Kanako, the piano teacher who works on the floor above Woofles, is coping with the death of Czerny, her precious Pomeranian. The two of them had a very unique and even mystical bond, so it will be hard for Kanako to accept another dog into her life. But maybe, just maybe…

Argh! What is wrong with me?  I literally cried for the entire first half of this book!  I could really relate to Kanoko as she tries to adjust to life without her beloved Czerny.  While I never contemplated some of the drastic actions that crossed her mind, I shared her reluctance to go home to an empty, quiet house.  That is the worst part of losing a pet.  Suddenly, everything is much more quiet, and that comforting, familiar collar jiggle from is silenced. 

Suguri is desperate to comfort Kanako, but it’s hard to help someone through their grief when they aren’t ready to face it yet.  When an earthquake strikes, leaving scores of dogs homeless, Suguri thinks she might have found a way to help her friend.  This, again, was something that struck very close to home – we couldn’t save our KC, but we decided that we could save another dog.  We adopted a Rottweiler, and though he has many issues, it has been worth every bit of effort to have him adjust to a stable home.  Buu will never be a perfect dog, but he is the perfect dog for us.  Though it occasionally grew sappy and overly melodramatic, this story arc was the best so far in the series.

The rest of the book reverts to a much lighter tone, with Akiba and Chizuru feuding.  This causes a lot of stress for everyone, including their dogs.  Suguri has to play the peacemaker again, and she even figures out a creative way to get them together so they can work out their differences.  I like Suguri a lot; she would be an awesome friend because she cares about other people’s feelings so much.  Though the series can get very cheesy, I do enjoy getting my Inubaka fix. A word of warning, though; if you don’t get all doe-eyed around dogs, you will probably not enjoy this series.

Grade: B+

Review copy provided by publisher

Inubaka:Crazy for Dogs Vol 12 by Yukiya Sakuragi Manga Review


Title: Inubaka: Crazy for Dogs Vol 12

Author: Yukiya Sakuragi

Publisher: Viz

ISBN: 9781421525914


May Contain Spoilers

From the back cover:

All alone except for her loyal mutt Lupin, 18-year-old Suguri moves from the countryside to the big city to find a career and a new life!In her first job at a pet store, she meets an assortment of quirky dogs and even stranger owners!

Dance, Doggy! Dance!The Friendly Dog Festival has rolled into town, and it features a dance competition with owners and their pets. Suguri goes up against an employee from the rival pet shop as well as a young blind girl. Suguri and Lupin pull out all the stops, but is it enough to beat these tough opponents?

I am a few volumes behind on Inubaka, so it was the first title I grabbed for my Mini Manga Marathon.  Probably not a wise choice, as there is a death of one of the dogs to deal with.  I don’t handle doggy demises very well, and this story arc brought back very unpleasant memories of going through this heartbreaking experience with my Doberman, KC. 

Just to head off on a tangent here, I’ll share some background about my experience:  60% of Dobermans have heart defects, which can lead to congestive heart failure.  Discovering the cause of her illness was devastating.  The hardest part of loving any animal is having the strength to let it go.  I was very selfish with KC and kept trying new treatment options instead of ending her suffering, and I will regret that for the rest of my life.  I still can’t talk about her without crying, and she’s been gone almost 10 years now.  She was such a good dog, and I will miss her forever.  One of the things about the series that I like is how often it elicits an emotional response from me; sometimes it even makes me cry.

The beginning of the book was much more lighthearted, and it wrapped up the dog dance competition.  This section of the book was breezy and fun, and proved that even though Lupin has come a long way in terms of obedience training, he will always remain true to himself.  His stomach will always be his biggest motivation, and Suguri doesn’t have a strong enough will to overcome Lupin’s major weakness.  This story arc had a perfect ending, and I thought it was a lot of fun.

The next story arc sets up the Doggie Death.  While I understand that you can’t have an animal series without some of the critters getting hurt, I still don’t like it when it happens.  It brings home how fragile life can be.  I don’t want to give away any spoilers, so I’ll only add that the end of the book made me cry.  A lot.  Yukiya Sakuragi captures some intense moments here, which felt very real for me.  A little too real, maybe.  Go hug your dog if you have one.  I did.

Grade: B+

Review copy provided by publisher

Chi’s Sweet Home Vol 1 & 2 by Konami Kanata Manga Review

Title: Chi’s Sweet Home Vols 1 & 2

Author: Konami Kanata

Publisher: Vertical

May Contain Spoilers

Kyaa! What a cute series!  Chi is a playful little kitten who gets lost one day when she’s out and about with her mother and her siblings.  She’s fortunate to be found by Yohei Yamada and his mother, who feel sorry for her and take her home with them.  Only problem; their apartment doesn’t allow pets, and the super is a super busybody.  The Yamadas agree to keep Chi long enough to find her a good home, even though it means breaking one of the rules of their lease.  Silly people! Did they really think they would be able to part with Chi once she moved in and claimed their territory for her own?

This is a simple title that is told through short, episodic chapters.  The magic isn’t necessarily in the story, which is uber-cute, but in the art.  Konami Kanata’s illustrations are more cartoon-like, but the characters are so expressive and charming.  There is never a doubt about what Chi is thinking, even when a panel has just her head.  There is a depth of emotion conveyed from just her eyes or the shape of her mouth.  You instantly know that she’s scared of dogs, hates the vet, and loves tuna.  There’s not much dialog, but there doesn’t need to be – the story follows Chi as she explores her surroundings and discovers the world around her.

Short on dialog but big on emotion, Chi’s Sweet Home will appeal to the animal lover in everyone.  Even if you don’t like cats, you won’t be able to resist Chi.  I dare you to not smile when she is distracted by a bright, shiny object, or playing with a plastic bag!

Grade: A-

Review copy provided by publisher