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Peach Girl

Also in this series: Peach Girl: Sae’s Story, Peach Girl NEXT
Also by this author: Pre Mari, Loco Moco, Papillon: Flower & Butterfly

Warnings: Violence, Sexual Assault, Kidnapping, Bullying, Statutory Rape, Abuse

My Thoughts

Peach Girl is a nostalgic series for me, it is one of the first shojo series that I really got hooked onto. I loved the bold art style and the characters, the romance, the drama. I really related a lot to Momo, an outgoing but insecure girl that worries about her tanned skin and struggles with a manipulative and jealous friend, Sae.

This manga struck a chord with me particularly because of the duality between Momo and Sae. I knew a girl that was a lot like her when I was growing up, she always seemed to be changing to fit around other people. Every girl in our friend group came to resent her because she always found a way to get her hooks into other people’s crushes, boyfriends, and later in life a husband, and usually threw all of those boys away after causing a break-up. I never understood that girl, what motivated her, and what she really got out of these things. This was what made Peach Girl so memorable to me, it perfectly encapsulated a part of my life and it reminded me so much of that time.

Going back to this series as an adult, however, I found myself feeling really conflicted about this series. The story starts off strong, it’s so easy to cheer for Momo with an antagonist like Sae. The romance was believable and sincere, and despite some ups and downs everything felt contained. By the fifth volume, however, things started to go downhill and fast. The drama spirals so drastically out of control, and sexual assault is used as a plot point, and again as a scheme for revenge. It was never treated with any real care and it is gut-wrenching that it was used flippantly for a dramatic story arc. There are other very huge problems later on in the series with plot points that are hideously inappropriate. It left a bad taste in my mouth, but I tried to look past this as being a story of its time.

Even putting that all aside, characters seemed to change their minds so quickly and everything always felt so melodramatic and blown out of proportion. Momo finds herself in a love triangle with two equally wonderful and toxic boys and was hurt over and over again. After eighteen volumes, it frankly became exhausting. The indecisiveness of the characters becomes so frustrating, and I stopped caring about any of the characters.

It is the type of pop drama that was popular when I was a teenager, and it’s amazing that there is both a spin-off and a sequel because it all feels like a never-ending empty trashy drama. I wanted so much to love this series, and for it to be one of my all-time favorites, but I just can’t get past the problematic content to love this series, it just carried on for far too long and went way too far.

“I can’t hold your heart prisoner. And people’s feelings change with time. If your heart isn’t really with me, I don’t want you to feel guilty about it.”


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Loco Moco

Also by this author: Pre Mari, Peach Girl, Papillon: Flower & Butterfly

My Thoughts

Love confessions are one of those things from my youth that I honestly miss. Confessing to the person that you have a crush on is nerve-wracking, and when looking back there are often so many missed opportunities. I remember the crushing feeling the first time I found out that a high school crush that I had been nursing for months ended up becoming a friend’s boyfriend. This happened a few times, I never felt sour about it but shrugged it off that I was just too slow to act on those feelings.

This feeling of being too slow forms the basis of Loco Moco. Hiroko feels that she has to keep up with her childhood friend, Tomoko, who seems to have a new boyfriend all the time, so she plays along and brags about having boyfriends as well. When Hiroko finally gathers up the courage to confess to her crush, however, she finds out that her crush is her friend’s new boyfriend.

“Roko-chan, have you tried getting confessed to?”

Loco Moco is a short and sweet series about this predicament, about missed opportunities and trying to cope with a crush that has now become unattainable. While Takeru also has a mild interest in Hiroko, it’s understandable that he dates that cute girl that confesses to him. While the drama between Hiroko and Tomoko could at times be petty, it is understandable when they both realize that the other is a romantic rival.

While Roko and Tomo butt heads at times, their friendship remains intact, and they choose to do what’s best for their friend which made me happy to see a good female friendship take precedence over one’s romantic feelings. There are a few character traits that seem to reappear in all of Ueda’s series, namely the protagonist having a complex about being misunderstood for a physical trait and having a jealous best friend.

I’m glad that I didn’t give up on Ueda’s work, I love her art and characters, but I honestly got mad with the last two Ueda works that I had read. Compared to other works by Miwa Ueda, Loco Moco is relatively tame which I feel made it better. It’s an underrated gem that tackles the drama that comes with crushing on a friend’s boyfriend with relative maturity.


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2020 Books & Reading Stats

I know that I am late to the party on posting my 2020 stats, it hadn’t occurred to me that creating one of these might be fun until this past weekend and I wanted to share my reading year. 2020 was a tumultuous year both in my personal and professional life; I finished my master’s degree, I was promoted up near the beginning of the year and then again laterally in December, I faced the deepest suicidal depression that I had experienced in years, and I was able to kick my reading slump that has lasted from 2018 all the way until May 2020. So to keep myself motivated to keep reading and reviewing, I wanted to share some of the interesting book related stats as well as share my overall top 5 favorites for this year.

Reading Stats

Pages: 16,905
Average Length: 167 pages
Shortest Read: 21 pages (Graceful Burdens by Roxane Gay)
Longest Read: 426 pages (The Ghost Tree by Christina Henry)
Top Genre: Horror

I ended the year with more overall “books” than I have read ever, though that number is fluffed greatly by stand alone manga and manhwa volumes. I fell in love with manga all over again and read more manga in the last few months than I had read in several years. How or why I couldn’t tell you really, I wanted to explore some new manga artists and was interested in jumping into some new genres, like yuri. How fluffed up exactly? In all I read 63 volumes worth of manga across 23 series, and 4 volumes of manhwa comprising of only 1 series.

As for books, my top genre this year was unsurprisingly horror, it IS my favorite genre, but this is the first year that it took the crown. The last few years have been a hodge podge of different genres, and being a lover of all things horror I really wanted to dive head first into all the horror I could.


I think it’s safe to say that I prefer female authors over male authors, especially when it comes to books. For graphic novels, manga, and manhwa the number was a little more even with a slight leaning toward female authors. For both charts I only counted authors once, and for graphic novels I included both authors and illustrators if it was an original work, and only the illustrator if the work was adapted from a book.

Now as far as whether or not an author or artist was new to me, there is a clear bias toward new works this year. Again for this chart, I only included authors on here once, though honestly besides manga I only read one book series anyway, and it was by an author that was totally new to me.

I’ve begun to notice on my reviews list that I tend to only have 1-2 books by any given author. I tend to prefer standalones versus series when it comes to books, and though there are plenty of authors that I end up loving and I end up searching out their books and adding them to my TBR, it seems my chances of repeats is low.

I think part of this stems from the fact that I tend to read review copies of books, which are easier to acquire for new and upcoming authors. I also read a lot of Amazon’s collections as a way of sampling works by different authors to decide whether or not I want to read more of their work and also because I like short fiction in general, so that likely contributes to this as well.

Seeing this chart almost makes me want to challenge myself to spent a good portion of this year in 2021 picking up books by authors I have already enjoyed previously. It will be a bit hard, because I also have a large number of ARCs I want to catch up on and I got a handful of really exciting ones, so we’ll have to see next year?

Favorite Books

Tender is the Flesh by Augustina Bazterrica: This was without a doubt one of my top two favorite books of the year, I was blown away by the sheer existential horror of this little book. The story is about a state sanctioned cannibalism, and the most shocking part of all is how normalized it is. This book pulls no punches and will either enthrall or disgust readers.

Goth by Otsuichi: Goth was the second contender for my top spot this year and when I finished I wanted immediately to re-read it. It’s a light novel so the plot and characters almost feel like they belong in an anime, but it is very much grounded in brutal, cruel reality. Goth is a collection of short stories about two teenagers that are dangerously obsessed with serial killers, it is unabashedly dark and just plain fun.

The Dangers of Smoking in Bed by Mariana Enríquez: I had the joy of reading an ARC copy of Enríquez’s Things We Lost in the Fire and I was impressed by her writing, I had been keen to read more of her work. I was so excited that I was granted an ARC of The Dangers of Smoking in Bed and this collection far surpassed the first in terms of the quality of the stories and sheer style. It is an incredible collection of horror short fiction that I haven’t been able to stop thinking about since I finished it.

Looking for Alaska by John Green: I almost didn’t add this book to my list and even now, I am still struggling to put all of my thoughts and feelings together on this book to write a review. I bought it as a gift for my husband because Green was inspired by my husband’s favorite book, As Simple As Snow by Gregory Galloway. We read it together and both loved the book, and we promptly watched the Hulu adaptation after. It’s a great book and it is clear to see why it catapaulted Green’s career in YA. It reminded me of my teen years in the early 2000s, where I attended a private Christian school, so I feel that also added to my appreciation for the book.

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han: I had been admiring this book series’ covers for years and missed all of the hype when it was still being published. I don’t normally read contemporary romance and especially not YA romance, but I got the boxed set on wholesale so I thought, why not? This was the book series that broke my reading slump and I fell head over heels in love with it, I binged all three volumes in a week. It was my guilty pleasure last year and when I finished, I immediately picked up all of Jenny Han’s other book series. I watched Cindy’s videos where she watched the movies and I was less than impressed, so I’m glad that I read the books first.

Favorite Graphic Novels

Killing Stalking by Koogi: This one was a bit unexpected and I can’t pinpoint what drove me to pick it up in the first place but Killing Stalking quickly made it onto my list of all-time favorite comics. I had seen the series floating around for years and had stayed clear due to the warnings about rape and the abusive relationship between the protagonists. However, Killing Stalking exceeded my expectations as a cat and mouse crime thriller that veers straight into horror.

Venus in the Blind Spot by Junji Ito: Finding Junji Ito on my best-of list is never any surprise, but I have to say that Venus in the Blind Spot is among one of his best short story collections that I can easily recommend to a new reader as a first pick. This is a new collection for western audiences that collects some of Ito’s most famous or previously uncollected one-shots into one volume.

Bloom Into You by Nio Nakatani: So I had wanted to try giving the Yuri genre a read and actually started with Citrus. Bloom Into You was one of the series that was recommended to me on Goodreads because I was reading Citrus and I am so thankful for that recommendation. Besides being one of the best yuri manga series I had ever read, I feel that it is one of the best romance mangas I have ever read period. There is some good aromantic and demiromantic representation here, and I found myself relating heavily to the main character, Yuu.

Remina by Junji Ito: This one barely made it onto the list, Remina came in as a 4 star read for me. While there are other manga that I rated higher, I found this one to be more memorable and a better quality piece overall. It is one of Ito’s underappreciated gems and is one of his works that is gloriously Lovecraftian. While it is not my favorite of his works, I 100% understand why some folks list this one as their favorite.

Beautiful Darkness by Fabien Vehlmann & Kerascoët: I found this book on a list of horror graphic novels and was incredibly curious. The little fae creatures don’t immediately appear to be characters in a horror piece until the reader sees the decaying corpse that they sprang to life from. This little graphic novel was a complete surprise and was one of the most unique pieces of horror literature that I’ve ever read.

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Papillon: Flower & Butterfly

Also by this author: Pre Mari, Loco Moko, Peach Girl

Warnings: Violence, Gaslighting, Grooming

My Thoughts

What a disaster, a downright sloppy mess with an awful plot and annoying characters. Papillon is a drama filled teen romance manga about competing twins that tries to dig into some touchy subjects like insecurity, childhood abandonment, post-partum depression, and traumatic loss.

Ageha is a quiet and shy country girl that feels that she is undesirable next to her beautiful and popular city girl twin sister, Hana. The first few volumes of the manga deal with the twins butting heads over boys. Hana feels left out if she doesn’t receive the same love and affection that her sister does. She reminded me of a toned-down version of Sae from Peach Girl but Hana at least has a backstory to explain the reasons for her garbage actions.

The plotlines are paper-thin and barely have any real development. All of the love interests don’t feel genuine and begin and end quickly. The major romantic interest in counselor Kyuu was troubling. Kyuu is 24 years old and is presented as a legitimate boyfriend for the main character, a high school freshman. He is nine years her senior and is in a position of influence over her as the school counselor. He starts by giving her advice, referring to her as a chrysalis, a pupa that will someday bloom into a beautiful butterfly. He states from the very beginning that he will care for her and help her change. This is troubling, there is no happy message about loving yourself. I can understand the sentiment that if you want something, you put in the work to obtain it and change habits, but that isn’t really what is portrayed.

They’re a terrible pair, with Kyuu expecting a mature woman that would understand that he’s a busy graduate student and works, he can’t attend to her every whim and gets tired and stressed quickly. He is also flirtatious and doesn’t turn away the advances of other women, and doesn’t respect her demands however childish. This leaves the main character feeling insecure and constantly jealous and questioning herself, many readers get annoyed but honestly, this is an understandable way for a teenager to react.

I also took serious issue with the portrayal of counseling in this manga. Obviously, Kyuu was the worst offender, breaking just about every code of ethics about counselor and patient relationships. It is openly stated that he uses love to help students to feel more confident and change themselves and it was honestly upsetting to read. His mentor shows up to also give advice, and when Ageha is stressed over things such as him flirting, it is explained away to her that she can just choose not to be upset about betrayals and choose to be happy instead, and she repeats this to herself several times with every conflict throughout the series.

The entire romance stinks of an older man grooming a teenage girl who is clearly too young to understand adult relationships. This manga wasn’t for me and I was really disappointed with the direction that it took. It starts off okay in the beginning but just becomes so toxic that it became boring.

“There’s a crossroad. The road that leads to happiness, and the road that leads to otherwise. Whichever way I go depends on me.”


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Bloom into You

Bloom into You, Vol. 1Title: Bloom into You, Vol. 1
Author: Nio Nakatani
Series: Bloom into You #1
Publisher: Seven Seas
First Published: September 13, 2017
Pages: 188
Genres: Drama, Slice of Life, Yuri
Format: Web
Source: Web
Rating: ★★★★★


Yuu has always adored shoujo manga and yearns for the day when someone might give her a love confession that would send her heart aflutter. Yet when a junior high school classmate confesses his feelings to her -- she feels nothing. Disappointed and confused, Yuu enters high school, where she sees the confident and beautiful student council member Nanami. When the next person to confess to Yuu is Nanami herself, has her romantic dream finally come true?

Rating Breakdown:

Volume 1: ★★★★★
Volume 2: ★★★★★
Volume 3: ★★★★★
Volume 4: ★★★★★
Volume 5: ★★★★★
Volume 6: ★★★★★
Volume 7: ★★★★★
Volume 8: ★★★★★

My Review:

Bloom Into You is, without a doubt, one of the best coming of age love stories that I’ve ever read. Yuu is a young girl that dreams of experiencing the dazzling love that she sees in books and film. Despite this, she doesn’t find herself feeling at all excited when faced with romantic prospects. There is also some wonderful aromantic and demiromantic representation that I didn’t expect to find in this manga, and the subtle differences between each are written well.

The story is paced well, while many romances fall back on overblown drama to keep the narrative going with many ups and downs, Bloom Into You was consistent from start to finish, like a gentle heartbeat humming with life. The title of the manga is apt, as the characters bloom into love but also into themselves as they discover who they are.

I found myself relating a lot to Yuu, who wants to experience the excitement of love but doesn’t know what it is. It can be easy to fall into the comforts of verbal and physical acts of love to mask a lack of love for oneself, as in the case of Touko; or the admiration of another that you place the other person on a pedestal, like Sayaka. Each of the characters was multilayered and written with such care and understanding of the nuances of romantic attraction.

This manga talks a lot about love, how we fall in love, and what it means to be in love. The fluttery feeling that happens when we find the right person is something that many strive for, but love is more complex than that. People fall in love in different ways, and for different reasons, love is defined by the lover and each person’s experience can be wildly different. Bloom Into You stands out from other romance stories for the way that it presents the concept of love, and the sometimes steady journey toward realizing what it really means. It’s heartfelt and written with so much warmth that it made me feel happy from start to finish.

“What is love, in the end? It’s a word I could never say… Even though I’d always wanted to. But now that I’ve said it, I don’t understand what it really is.”

Trigger Warning: Sex

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Warnings: Nudity, Mild Fan Service, Sexual Situations

My Review:

Citrus had been on my radar for a while being one of the more well-known Shoujo Ai manga available in the west. I finally sat down to read it and found myself feeling conflicted about it. The art is spectacular and the manga is worth reading to appreciate that in itself. The characters and the story can be charming and genuinely heartfelt at points, and horribly cliche and boring at other points. My ratings for each volume ended up moving up and down wildly and left me wondering how much I really enjoyed it.

The story follows Yuzu, a loud-mouth gyaru, and her new step-sister Mei, a reserved and goal-driven tsundere. The beginning is rough and the characters are so hot and cold, it takes a while for the romance to feel like it was actually developing. Though Yuzu and Mei’s parents marry, Mei’s father is barely in the picture from the onset, which really made me wonder about the convenient marriage to create a step-sibling scenario. Sibling romance in Japan feels overplayed, and the foundation was so weak in this one. Yuzu and Mei are cute in a way, but they were both so terribly inconsistent that their romance feels forced at times.

I enjoyed the fun female friendships in this series, but each character introduction was frustrating as every new female that Yuzu and Mei befriend happened to be lesbians, and all have some romantic interest in one of the two leads. Most of these brief romantic rivals have next to no good reason to be rivals; the stories that focus on these side stories are so overblown and absurd, it feels like reading a shallow harem manga at times.

The manga does seek to address issues regarding society’s views on homosexuality which I appreciated. The issue of acceptance and support from friends and family is as important as ever, as gay marriage is still not legal in Japan and many other countries around the world. I appreciated the conversation that this story brings to the table about the struggle for LGBTQ couples that have to hide who they are. However, I feel that the reality was not well represented in this series, it explores the issue, and the main characters dating in secret, but it also paints a rosy picture that is not possible for many.

In all, it is a decent series that is relatively tame in terms of sexual content. It isn’t a bad first yuri series for those that are looking into getting into the genre, especially for folks that enjoy colorful characters and plenty of drama without being too emotionally taxing.

“Unknowingly, I ended up running away from you because of my wavering feelings.”

Trigger Warning: Nudity, Blood