Ninja Baseball Kyuma! Vol 1 by Shunshin Maeda Manga Review


Title: Ninja Baseball Kyuma! Vol 1

Author: Shunshin Maeda

Publisher: Udon Kids

ISBN: 9781897376867


May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

Kyuma and his dog Inui live in the mountains, where Kyuma trains every day to become a great ninja. But when Kyuma mistakes a baseball coach for his training master, the local baseball team ends up with its first ninja player! Can a ninja step up to the plate and learn how to play ball? Find out in Ninja Baseball Kyuma!

I waited for such a long time to get my hands on this book!  There is only one copy in the library network, and I requested a hold on it all the way back in January!  My patience was finally rewarded!  Was it worth the wait?  Well, yes and no.  Here’s why:

The illustrations are so cute!  I love Kyuma and his faithful ninja mutt in training, Inui.  All of the characters are energetic and there is no mistaking the full range of emotions that the team experiences as they train for the nationals.  These little guys are intense!  They love baseball as passionately as I love manga! They want to win!  But there are limits to that drive to be victorious.  When Kyuma is injured, the team captain stops him from hurting himself more, even though it costs them a game.  This was a great message, and so was the reaction from a rival, after his team wins because Kyuma is hurt.

The book emphasizes teamwork and putting aside personal differences to achieve a greater goal.  I liked that, too.  Despite some friction, everyone is willing to work together and encourage each other to do their best to win.  But here’s my dissatisfaction with the first volume; there are too many characters to really get a handle on any of them, other than Kyuma and Kaoru, the team captain.  The end of the book felt especially cluttered with kids who didn’t really do much except take up space in Kyuma’s house and add to the balloon pollution invading the panels.

Overall, Ninja Baseball Kyuma! is a fun, breezy read.  Kyuma is completely clueless when it comes to baseball, and all he really understands is training to become a ninja.  When he applies the same dedication to the playing field, hilarity ensues.  There’s lots of action and even more speed lines as Kyuma struggles to protect his Lord Kaoru while learning to belt a home run.

Grade: B

This book was checked out of my local library. Support your local library!

Moonlighting at Newsarama

The crew over at Newsarama asked me to pitch in with their Your Manga Minute column, and I was tickled to oblige.  It’s always gratifying to find other people to discuss manga with, so that Dean’s ears get a break from my constant chatter.  I know that he only listens to a fraction of what I say, because his eyes start to glaze over right when I’m trying to make an important plot point about my current favorite read. 

This week’s post combines my two favorite hobbies as I expand on a post I wrote a few years ago, and yes, I have found even more reasons why anime cons and horse shows are a lot alike.  Click here to read.

D. Gray-Man Vol 16 by Katsura Hoshino Micro Manga Review


Title: D. Gray-Man Vol 16

Author: Katsura Hoshino

Publisher:  Viz

ISBN: 9781421530383


May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

Lenalee is determined to confront a Level Four Akuma that’s out to kill Komui, but her only chance is to reclaim her Innocence and synchronize with it. The Level Four is not inclined to wait around and pursues its mission even against the best efforts of Lavi and Kanda. It’s left to Allen to hold the line, but it soon becomes obvious he has no hope of doing it all by himself!

This one is going to be short and sweet, because I am just not feeling the love for this volume, and I don’t really have much to say about it.  There was plenty of fighting, power increases, and personal convictions to protect everyone even it meant sacrificing your life, but it just didn’t grab me this time around.  There hasn’t been much plot development for the last few volumes, and all of the non-stop fighting is getting to be tedious now.  While I think it is totally cool that Lenalee is willing to give her life to protect her brother and her friends, I want to see something more than her getting a snazzy new pair of shoes to fight in.  Sure, they are kick ass and would give Prada a run for the money, but the long drawn out battles need to take a backseat to some story progression, or better yet, character development.  I appreciate that Katsura Hoshino even managed to work some zombies in the mix to compete with Lenalee’s shoe fetish, but I am ready for something to happen! Besides everyone trying to pummel the heck out of akuma.  The end.

Grade: C+

Review copy provided by Viz

Interview with Diane Zahler – Author of The Thirteenth Princess

Diane Zahler is the author of The Thirteenth Princess, an enchanting retelling of the Twelve Dancing Princesses fairy tale.  Diane stopped by the virtual offices to discuss her book, and to give us few tidbits about her next project.

Describe yourself in 140 characters or less.

Writer, reader, wife, mother, lover of travel, movies, chocolate, and dogs

Can you tell us a little about your debut novel, The Thirteenth Princess?

The Thirteenth Princess is a novel for middle-grade readers. In it, a queen gives birth to twelve beautiful daughters, but their father wants only a son. When the thirteenth princess, Zita, is born, her mother dies, and her father, broken-hearted, sends her to be raised belowstairs with the servants. Zita is twelve when she begins to notice that her sisters are disappearing at night and returning exhausted. The only clue she can find is their shoes, worn through each night. The princesses become ill, and Zita and her friends, Breckin the stable boy and Babette the witch, seek to learn where they are going and how to save them.

How did you come up with the concept and the characters for the story?

The Thirteenth Princess is based on the Grimm brothers’ fairy tale “The Twelve Dancing Princesses.” The original story is very short and has little detail, giving me the freedom to create characters and settings of my own. I invented a thirteenth princess because I wanted a girl to be the hero of the tale. Readers might find it interesting that every character in the story has a name that reflects some aspect of their personality – Zita, for example, is the patron saint of servants and also means “seeker,” and Breckin, who is red-haired and freckled, means “freckled.”

Were you a fan of fairy tales as a child?  What is your favorite?

I loved fairy tales and fantasy. I read all the Andrew Lang fairy tale collections — the Yellow Book of Fairy Tales, the Red Book, the Blue Book – if there had been a Puce or Vermillion Book, I’d have read those! “The Twelve Dancing Princesses” was always one of my favorite stories.

Have you learned anything about yourself through your characters?

When writing The Thirteenth Princess, I reacquainted myself with the girl I had been when I first discovered fairy tales. That girl craved magic in her own life and found it in the books she read. I realized that the longing for magic has never really left me. Now, though, I can find magic not only in the books I read but in the books I write.

What has been the most challenging aspect of writing the book?  Was it difficult to re-imagine the 12 Dancing Princesses to fit in with how you visualized the story?

At the time I was writing The Thirteenth Princess, I was also writing textbook lessons fulltime. It was a challenge to find both the time and the imaginative energy to write fiction. When I wrote, though, the words and images flowed freely; writing the book was invigorating, not difficult at all.

Can you share your experiences finding a publisher?  What was the process like?

I had previously worked in children’s book publishing, so I still knew some editors from those days. I sent the manuscript directly to editors, without using an agent, and it struck a chord with an editor from HarperCollins. The Thirteenth Princess was not the first novel for young readers I’d written, though – my previous three novels had been turned down many, many times. So the process was one of great frustration and persistence – but it ended happily!

What’s the most gratifying aspect of having your book published?

The emails I’ve received from kids who have read and loved the book are incredibly gratifying. They notice details that I haven’t even noticed myself! Their enthusiasm and appreciation are amazing.

Who was your biggest supporter while you were working on The Thirteenth Princess?

My husband, Phil Sicker, read every word and made many excellent suggestions for changes and improvements. And his encouragement made it possible for me to face rejection and keep sending the story out.

What are some books you loved when you were growing up?

There are so many! I worked in the children’s room of a public library through high school and college, so I kept reading children’s books long after I left childhood. Fantasy books I loved include the Narnia series, all the books by Edward Eager and E. Nesbit, James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl, The Phantom Tollbooth by Norman Juster, The Wonderful O by James Thurber, The Gammage Cup by Carol Kendall, Ursula Leguins’ Wizard of Earthsea books. Realistic fiction I read and reread include All-of-a-Kind Family by Theodore Taylor, The Saturdays by Elizabeth Enright, From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsberg, the Henry Huggins and Ramona books by Beverly Cleary, and Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh. I’m probably leaving out dozens.

Can you share a few details about your next project?

I’ve finished a second fairy-tale novel called A True Princess. It’s based loosely on “The Princess and the Pea,” but it also includes ferocious wolves, heroic falcons, evil elves, a magical jewel, and an ancient Norse god. Watch for it next February! And I’m hard at work on a third novel, also based on a fairy tale.

Thanks!!  I can hardly wait to read A True Princess!

You can learn more about Diane and her books at her website, and The Thirteenth Princess is available at bookstores and libraries now.  

Under My Skin by Judith Graves YA Novel Review


Title: Under My Skin

Author: Judith Graves

Publisher: Leap Books

ISBN: 978-1616030001


May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

All her parents wanted was for Eryn to live a normal life… Redgrave had its share of monsters before Eryn moved to town. Mauled pets, missing children. The Delacroix family is taking the blame, but Eryn knows the truth. Something stalks the night. Wade, the police chief’s son and Redgrave High’s resident hottie, warns her the Delacroix are dangerous. But then so is Eryn–in fact, she’s lethal. But she can’t help falling for one of the Delacroix boys, dark, brooding–human Alec. And then her world falls apart. A normal life? Now that’s the real fairytale.

This was a fun read because Eryn is such a strong character.  Her life is hopelessly complicated, and she is dealing with a lot of issues.  Her parents have disappeared, and she doesn’t know if they are alive or dead.  She is half wolven, and she is afraid of giving in to the wolf inside of her.  Without her father’s potions to keep her inner beast in check, it is only a matter of time before it takes her over.  The thought of losing control terrifies her, so to keep herself from completely wigging out, she falls back on old habits.  Her parents were hunters, responsible for taking out rogue paranorms, and Eryn quickly learns that Redgrave, the hick town she’s been relocated to, has some deadly secrets of its own.

The action never lets up, as Eryn and her new friends try to keep a powerful vampire from taking over the town. There’s a great love triangle to heat things up, too, as Eryn is torn between Wade, the police chief’s son, and Alec, her comrade in arms.  Wade is sleek and seductive, and he shares a bond with Eryn that no one else ever can.  Alec is earnest and brave, and he would give his life to protect her.  The tension really crackles between all three characters, and I still can’t decide who would be a better match for Eryn.  Usually, there’s one guy that you like better, and you hope all novel long that they’ll get together.  This time around, I am torn.  I like both Wade and Alec, and I like the way sparks fly whenever they are with Eryn.

I enjoyed the look of this book, too.  There are interior illustrations that add a little eye-candy, and left me wanting a few more.  It also made me wonder why more publishers don’t add more artwork to prose novels.

I have to knock the grade down just a bit because of the non-ending.  I hate non-endings!  At least throw us a bone while we wait impatiently for the next installment of the series!  When I came to the end of Under My Skin, I grabbed the book by the spine and shook it!  Hard!  Why?  I was hoping to jar just a few more words loose!  It didn’t work.  It never does!

Grade:  B+

Review copy provided by publisher

Waiting on Wednesday – Nomansland & Library Wars

Waiting On Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we’re eagerly anticipating.

Nomansland by Lesley Hauge looks fantastic, and I can hardly wait until June 22 when it hits stores.

From Amazon:

Sometime in the future, after devastating wars and fires, a lonely, windswept island in the north is populated solely by women. Among these women is a group of teenaged Trackers—expert equestrians and archers—whose job is to protect their shores from the enemy. The enemy, they’ve been told, is men.

When these girls come upon a partially buried home from the distant past, they are fascinated by the strange objects—high-heeled shoes, teen magazines, make-up—found there.  What are they to make of these mysterious things, which introduce a world they have never known? And what does it mean for their strict society where friendship is forbidden and rules must be obeyed—at all costs?

Reminiscent of The Giver but with a feminist twist, Nomansland is a powerful, shocking story that will challenge young readers’ perspectives and provoke much discussion over the timely and controversial issues presented.

I like Library Wars just because of the title! I wonder how many librarians would bust out the heavy artillery to protect their book collections?  This series by Hiro Arikawa and Kiiro Yumi hits stores June 1.

From Amazon:

Fight for your right to read!

In the near future, the federal government creates a committee to rid society of books it deems unsuitable. The libraries vow to protect their collections, and with the help of local governments, form a military group to defend themselves—the Library Forces! Iku Kasahara has dreamed of joining the Library Defense Force ever since one of its soldiers stepped in to protect her favorite book from being confiscated in a bookstore when she was younger. But now that she’s finally a recruit, she’s finding her dream job to be a bit of a nightmare. Especially since her hard-hearted drill instructor seems to have it out for her!

What are you waiting on?

The Name of the Flower Vol 3 by Ken Saito Manga Review


Title: The Name of the Flower Vol 3

Author: Ken Saito

Publisher: CMX

ISBN: 9781401215989


May Contain Spoilers

From CMX website:

Ever since Kei left home so abruptly and has stayed away, Chouko has been worried sick. Akiyama—Kei’s friend and editor—rushes over to check on Chouko’s state and is alarmed by what he finds. Her abandonment issues are back, and she has fallen into another depression. When word gets back to Kei, will the news make him rush back to be by Chouko’s side? Or will it push him further away?

If two people ever needed each other, it’s Kei and Chouko.  Both of them have been abandoned and have issues trusting other people.  Kei is living with the crushing guilt of feeling responsible for his mother’s death, and Chouko is just a shy and very lonely girl.  When she moves in with Kei, the two develop an awkward closeness that grows into something much more.  As Chouko begins to emerge from her shell and starts making friends in college, Kei begins to feel threatened.  When a ghost from his past reappears, he snaps.  Left alone again, Chouko falls into an abyss of depression of her own.  Will Akiyama be able to save both of them?

This series is interesting because both Kei and Chouko are so fragile.  One little bump in their road, and they descend into a black void created within their own souls.  After a flashback sequence with Kei, it is easy to understand why he is so distrustful of others.  He is consumed with a darkness that is so overpowering that it spills into his writing and sucks in Akiyama.  Akiyama is bright and carefree, but he is drawn relentlessly to Kei.  When Kei spirals into a deep, black hole of depression, a situation that Akiyama unwittingly causes, he runs, too, abandoning Kei yet again.

When Kei is revisited by his inner demons, it is Chouko who also suffers.  Kei disappears, and now it’s Chouko who is left alone.  Again.  As Akiyama tries desperately to save his friends from themselves and to redeem is failure in the past, the story takes a very dark turn.  Kei is one footstep from falling over the edge, and once he goes, it’s going to take a whole lot of therapy to get him back.  He really needs counseling now, and he probably needs some medication, too. 

One of the reasons that I like The Name of the Flower so much is because it tackles the issue of mental frailty with compassion and a whole lot of emotion.  You want Kei to find the inner happiness that has been denied to him, to free himself from the madness that threatens to consume him. You want Chouko to be his salvation, and ultimately, you want them both to find the contentment that they are so desperately longing for.  

Grade: B+

Review copy provided by CMX

Teaser Tuesday – Still Sucks To Be Me & D.Gray-Man

Wow!  Another week has already gone by. The year is flying by!  It’s Tuesday again, and that means it’s time for another Teaser Tuesday.  For a full description of Teaser Tuesdays, check the bottom of this post.

I love the Mina from Still Sucks to be Me by Kimberly Pauley.  She is such a smart aleck it is hard not to like her.  Her lists crack me up, too.  This is a very fun series with a comedic twist on being a vampire.

“George opens doors for me, but he doesn’t try to help me in or out or anything.  He knows me better than that.  I just hope he’s not busy opening up a cabana door for some bikini babe right now.” (page 64)

D. Gray-Man by Katsura Hoshino offers up a great blend of gothic horror and action.  I can’t believe it’s up to the 16th volume already!

“You’re no saint.  You’re the killer of your own clan.” (page 14)

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
  • Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!