Book Review: Blue Exorcist, Vol 25 by Kazue Kato

Blue Exorcist, Vol 25     

Author: Kazue Kato

Publisher: Viz Media

American release date: February 2, 2021

Format/Genre/Length: Paperback/manga/paranormal/282 pages

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★

Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes

 

The Blue Night has begun…

A rapidly deteriorating Satan has found what he has sought, namely Yuri. But in his mind, he thinks she has betrayed him, so seeks her destruction. Father Fujimoto helps Yuri to deliver her second son as the others keep Satan at bay. At first, he is not responsive, then he takes his first breath, to her relief.

At that moment, who should appear but Sir Pheles himself, who announces he is in charge, following the death of the Paladin. He tells everyone else to withdraw and then proceeds to discuss matters with Fujimoto. Pheles tells the priest that no ordinary sword will kill the son of Satan, as the first child continues to fly out of everyone’s reach, but perhaps the Koma sword could. Too bad he gave it to a young monk a long time ago. Nevertheless, Fujimoto struggles to kill the child, only to have Pheles give both children to their grateful mother. A jealous Satan appears and begins a standoff with Father Fujimoto.

Fujimoto takes Yuri and the babies and escapes. She decides on their names.  The first one is Rin, like a Rinka, since he burst into blue flames. The other one is Yukio, because Yukiotoko are strong and warm! Yuri and Shiro make plans for the future, their future with the babies. But alas, Yuri’s health fails her and she dies, to Shiro’s grief. He protects the babies as best he can.

In the aftermath of the Blue Night, everyone begins to pick up the pieces, even as Samael makes a deal with his father to provide a proper vessel for him, as does the traitor Dragulescu. Pheles leaves the kids with Shiro to raise, but he’ll have to change some of his ways. And it won’t be easy. He becomes the next Paladin, and does his best to bring up Yuri’s boys, always mindful of the power inherent in Rin. Up until the moment when Rin’s father reappears to try to claim him…

And so we reach the end of the past. Rin has seen it all and now he understands so much more than he did before, primarily that he is not an abomination or a mistake, that he and his brother were loved and wanted by their parents, but fate would not allow them to be a happy family.  He uses the key to return to his brother, who is about to…

This volume of Blue Exorcist is jam-packed with action. So much going on, so much explained. So much tragedy. And yet from all of this we know Rin and Yukio will emerge much stronger for the experience. The love story of Yuri and Satan has come to a tragic end, but that isn’t exactly news. We’ve known that since the beginning. But it’s just heart-breaking to see it play out. I couldn’t help but wish they could have been together. I like Shiro, and I’m sorry his story came to such an end, but he was a good father to the boys, and taught them much. Mephisto Pheles is still somewhat of an enigma, but I have to believe there is more good in him than not, even if he loves a good joke at the worst of times.

There is so much to be done, but I’m sure that Rin and Yukio can succeed, if they only stay together, a united front. Another great volume, looking forward to the next!

Wednesday Briefs: February 24, 2021

Here is a list of all the authors flashing this week, along with a brief snippet from their latest free work. Click the link after the snippet to be taken to the complete story on the author’s home page.

 

Ancalagon: Chapter Twenty-seven by Cia Nordwell
 

When Garjah said he planned to stay with me, I hadn’t realized exactly what that meant. I should have. His quarters were bigger than mine but not that much bigger. There was no extra bunk to unlatch from the wall, and he wasn’t about to roll a bed in from the corridor.  

No, when Garjah came out of his bathroom facilities in a pair of extremely brief and tight shorts, he helped me in there. They’d changed me while I was out, so I was in a much looser pair of the same shorts and a loose shirt. Exhaustion weighed

 
 

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Book Review: Bleach, Vol 31 by Tite Kubo

Bleach, Vol 31     

Author: Tite Kubo

Publisher: Viz Media

American release date: June 1, 2010

Format/Genre/Length: Paperback/Manga/Supernatural/192 pages

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★

Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes

 

Ichigo comes face to face with Ulquiorra, who informs him that Rukia is dead. And so is the Espada she was fighting. Ichigo doesn’t believe him, insisting he will save her. When Ulquiorra asks why Ichigo doesn’t attack him, he says it’s because Ulquiorra hasn’t hurt any of his friends. That quickly changes when Ulquiorra replies,” What if I told you that I brought Orihime Inoue to Hueco Mundo?” And the battle is on…

Meanwhile, Orihime is alone in her room, her solitude disturbed by two young Arrancar girls, one of whom is determined to torture her. But their fun is quickly disrupted by Grimmjow, who sets the torturer straight, despite her threats to tell Aizen what he did to her. But Grimmjow has his reasons for his actions, which he reveals to Orihime.

Renji is still battling Szayelaporro, who has a rather disturbing way of replenishing his health. Renji is at the end of his strength when help arrives from an unexpected source. Grimmjow has taken Orihime with him, for his own purposes, despite the intervention of Ulquiorra. Grimmjow is determined to use Orihime’s healing ability to fully heal the opponent he intends to fight. Orihime doesn’t wish to obey, until she is presented with a good reason to do so.

Another battle-centric volume of Bleach. I imagine that’s what we’ll be getting for a while as Ichigo and his friends make their way to Aizen’s inner sanctum. I’m sure he’s anticipated all this in advance and is waiting for them with plans of his own.

I love the banter between Renji and Dondochakka, and Uryu and Pesche. Not to mention Nel and Ichigo. At the same time, they are more than mere comic relief. If we know nothing else about Ichigo, it is that he will not give up, no matter what the odds, in order to save the people he cares about. Never say never is his motto.

More battles ahead, looking forward to the next volume!

Book Review: You by Caroline Kepnes

You           

Author: Caroline Kepnes

Publisher: Atria/Emily Bestler Books

American release date:  October 13, 2020

Format/Genre/Length: Paperback/Serial Killer Thriller/448 pages

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★

Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes

 

The moment Guinivere Beck walked into the NYC bookstore that Joe Goldberg manages, she becomes his instant obsession. His new love. What else can he do, in her best interest, other than to find out everything he can about her and stalk her? And Joe is very good at what he does.

Determined that Beck love him as much as he loves her, he goes about learning what makes her tick. So naturally he needs to spy on her inside her apartment (good thing she doesn’t believe in curtains). A stroke of fortune (or is it Fate?) finds him in possession of her cell phone, so now he can follow her every message, tweet, and email. He gets to know her friends, the most obnoxious of whom is Peach, an entitled rich beeyatch. And then there’s Benji, the surfer-looking dude with his own artisanal water company who seems to be a friend with benefits.

Good thing Joe has the patience of a saint, because the road to winning Beck’s heart is not going to be an easy one. And if, well, he has to kill a few people along the way, all in a day’s work, right?

You pulls you in from the first page with its compelling first person narration. Joe Goldberg is “likeable”… in that charming, demented, narcissistic serial killer kind of way. Poor Joe. Sometimes it seems as though he takes one step forward and three steps back in his pursuit of the elusive Beck. After a while, you begin to wonder just what it is he sees in her that makes him so crazy.

Oh, and just to be clear, this is not his first rodeo, as he plainly admits. So maybe he just wants to get it right this time… unless things don’t work out, and then he can just start again, right?

This book will make you laugh and will also horrify you… and leave you hoping you never meet any people like these. But it’s definitely a fun, wild ride, a psychological rollercoaster that will leave you wanting more. And luckily, there is a second book. Looking forward to reading it.

Book Review: Twentieth Century Boys, Vol 5 by Naoki Urasawa

Twentieth Century Boys, Vol 5: Reunion     

Author: Naoki Urasawa

Publisher: Viz Media

American release date: October 20, 2009

Format/Genre/Length: Paperback/manga/paranormal/216 pages

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★

Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes

 

Kenji summons all his friends who knew of the clubhouse and the book to a secret meeting. Well, almost all. But she shows up anyway, thanks to a map carelessly left behind by one of the group, and dares them to deny she is as strong as they are, maybe even stronger. Kenji tells them he was told they would need nine people to accomplish their task, but only have seven have assembled. Luckily, as he tells them, he has contacted two others.

Yanbo and Mabo were twin terrors who made the lives of Kenji and his friends living Hell back in the day. Grown now, they own their own IT company and seem the antithesis of what they once were. Yoshitsune goes to see them on Kenji’s behalf and is amazed at the change in them. They seem to understand what Kenji is asking of them… but then they take a meeting with Inshu, the smarmy FDP politician. Are they deluded as to what is going on, and do they really not remember how awful they once were?

Kenji disguises himself in order to take his niece Kanna out for ramen before he sends her and his mom off in order to keep them safe. Yukiji tells him he’s doing the right thing, and also not to worry about her. She’ll be fine, and she wants to be a part of what’s going on. Consulting their book of Doom, they see that a giant robot is due to make an appearance, but aren’t sure what the picture before that means.

Kenji begins to doubt himself, doubt their theories. Everything is quiet. Is he just being paranoid? Is he causing trouble for his friends for no good reason? And then Ocho remembers what the picture means, and that too comes to pass… all around the world.

In the year 2014, a young woman named Kanna Endo has her own apartment…

In this volume of Twentieth Century Boys, the plot definitely thickens. There are so many questions, and few answers as of now. What about the twins? Are they going to be a help or a hindrance to Kenji and his friends? Do they not really remember what bullies they were when they speak of having played with these guys as kids? Is Kenji really blind to the fact that Yukiji likes him? Can they really take on the Friends and do they have any hope of defeating them? Will they ever find out the true identity of their mysterious leader?

Is this future written in stone? Can it end in some other way? Prepare to be shocked at the ending. What the hell happened? And is everything we assumed totally wrong?

Another great volume, looking forward to the next one.

 

Book Review: Bleach, Vol 30 by Tite Kubo

Bleach, Vol 30     

Author: Tite Kubo

Publisher: Viz Media

American release date: March 2, 2010

Format/Genre/Length: Paperback/Manga/Supernatural/192 pages

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★

Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes

 

Chad’s newly realized powers stand him in good stead in his battle with the Arrancar, who wishes him well, but suddenly tells him to run. Another opponent has entered the field, Nnoitora, who seems unimpressed with Chad’s strength. The others feel Chad’s loss but there is nothing they can do at the moment as each has their own problems. When Ulquiorra relays the information to Orihime, she confidently tells him that Chad is not dead.

Rukia finds herself drawn into a building by a strange masked man. Once inside, he removes his mask, telling her his name is Aaroniero Arruruerie. But Rukia knows that face too well to be fooled, for he is none other than Kaien Shiba, one time second-in-command. But Kaien is dead. She should know, as she killed him herself!

Renji and Dondochakka fall into a trap and find themselves face to face with Szayel-aporro Grantz, the octava Espada. Renji, confident of his ability to take down this foe, attempts Bankai only to learn that Bankai cannot be performed in this room. What’s a guy to do?

This volume of Bleach is mostly concerned with the battles being fought by Renji and Rukia, especially Rukia. Rukia is forced to confront her demons, and the guilt she continues to feel over the death of Kaien Shiba. Almost to the point where she believes she deserves to die for what she did. We see flashbacks of what happened, and it’s impossible not to feel her pain.  On the other hand, Renji and Dondochakka is like the comic relief of the volume.

And at the very end, two people confront one another. Will this lead to a battle? Gotta wait for the next volume to find out.

Another great volume, looking forward to the next one!

Wednesday Briefs: February 17, 2021

Here is a list of all the authors flashing this week, along with a brief snippet from their latest free work. Click the link after the snippet to be taken to the complete story on the author’s home page.

Phases of Moon: Part 72 by J. Alan Veerkamp

“Police say your wife—”

Sawyer reached back and gripped Jimmy’s arm, interrupting Dr. Adams to stop his mate’s growling. Now was poor timing for possessive territory gestures. “Ex-wife.”

Well fed, pale, and gray hair thinning, the older doctor’s gaze flickered to Sawyer’s hand on Jimmy. A new century or not, the area was conservative enough to remind Sawyer how some people reacted to men together, so he let go and regretted it at once. Dr. Adams continued, but the judgmental undertone colored the conversation. Jimmy remained silent, allowing Sawyer to handle the details.

“Yes… Excuse me…

 

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Wednesday Briefs: February 10, 2021

Here is a list of all the authors flashing this week, along with a brief snippet from their latest free work. Click the link after the snippet to be taken to the complete story on the author’s home page.

Ancalagon: Chapter Twenty-five by Cia Nordwell
 

“I’m glad humans are predictable,” Timok said.  

“That’s enough.” Garjah crouched beside Bouncer’s exercise cage in the hold, one set of hands flat on the floor, the other on the door. We were hiding in one of the tubes they’d set up. It was dark, and small, and I could hide from reality. Bouncer lay across my legs. “Can I come in, Essell?”  

I buried my face against Bouncer’s neck. “I want to stay here.” He was purring against me, nuzzling my cheek.  

“You can stay there. I just want to come in.”  

Click here to read the entire Brief:

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Book Review: Bleach, Vol 29 by Tite Kubo

Bleach, Vol 29     

Author: Tite Kubo

Publisher: Viz Media

American release date: December 1, 2009

Format/Genre/Length: Paperback/Manga/Supernatural/208 pages

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★

Reviewer:  Julie Lynn Hayes

 

Renji finds himself being followed by Dondochakka, who thought he was following Nel, while Ichigo squares off against an Arrancar named Dordoni. Dordoni’s appearance is devilishly rakish, and he tries to persuade Ichigo to release his bankai . Ichigo has other ideas, though. He’s saving that move for higher level opponents, as Dordoni is only 103, which makes him low on the totem pole. However, Ichigo is not aware of what his number really means. So a disappointed Dordoni decides to release a Cero, but is surprised when Nel intervenes on Ichigo’s behalf.

Aizen is following the exploits of Ichigo and his friends with interest. One thing he does wonder about is who sent the Exequias after Ichigo? Szayelaporro confesses it was him and prepares to accept Aizen’s punishment. Gin accuses Aizen of having too much fun with the current situation.

Uryu’s first opponent is Cirucci Sanderwicci, Arrancar #105, and her weapon, Golondrina. When she spins Golondrina, she is able to deflect Uryu’s spirit arrows. But Uryu is more than a one trick pony. However, when Pesche puts in an unexpected appearance, will he be a help or a hindrance? And what the heck is Infinite Slick?

Chad is battling Arrancar #107, Gantenbainne Mosqueda, a huge Afro’d man, who think he’ll make short work of Chad. But Chad is a lot stronger than he appears to be. And since Chad’s arrival in Hueco Mundo, he has discovered abilities he wasn’t aware he possessed.

Right now, Bleach is all about the battles against the three digit Arrancars, whom we learn were once Espadas but who have lost their ranks. Doesn’t mean they’re necessarily weak, though. Nel and Pesche and Dondochakka add humor to these battles, as well as assistance which may or may not be helpful. It’s a foregone conclusion that somehow Ichigo and the others will win their respective battles, continuing onward until they reach Aizen, right? We can only hope that they will then be able to put down the renegade Soul Reaper once for all.

Oh who am I kidding? Is it ever that easy? Always something, right?

In a bonus at the end of the book, we get to see the first seaside art competition, which is hilarious! There are also some concept sketches from the anime. Another great volume, can’t wait for the next one!

Book Review: Bleach, Vol 28 by Tite Kubo

Bleach, Vol 28         

Author: Tite Kubo

Publisher: Viz Media

American release date: September 1, 2009

Format/Genre/Length: Paperback/Manga/Supernatural/200 pages

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★

Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes

 

Having arrived in Hueco Mundo, Ichigo, Uryu, and Chad find themselves in the middle of a huge desert, facing Los Noches, Aizen’s residence/fortress. But the structure is farther away than it looks, as they find after running toward it for a long time, seemingly drawing no closer. Ah, the illusions of the desert! Meanwhile, Aizen  has gathered his Espada in order to discuss current events. He tells them they have been invaded and not to underestimate the Ryoku, particularly Ichigo. Grimmjow doesn’t seem to be listening to his commander, and wants to head off to dispatch Ichigo immediately, and has to be reminded of his place.

As Ichigo et al take a break in the desert, a strange worm-like creature emerges from the said, with two other odd creatures on its back. It seems to be in pursuit of a small being, who screams in terror. Of course Ichigo can’t sit by and do nothing, so engages the pursuers, only to learn it’s just a game of Eternal Tag (because there is little to do in Hueco Mundo) and the person being pursued is just having fun. She turns out to be a little girl named Nel, who introduces her companions—Pesche and Dondochakka, all three of whom are Hollows. Nel takes an instant shine to Ichigo. Things seem to be going well until the Guardian of the White Sand appears to take down the Hollows for offering aid and comfort to the enemy.

Renji and Rukia appear unexpectedly, to Ichigo’s surprise. Rukia is angry with him for having left the World of the Living before they came back, saying he should have realized they would return to help. Coming to a crossroads, they decide to separate, in order to cover the different paths, promising to meet up afterward. Although Ichigo goes off on his own, Nel is soon running after him, crying. Dondo and Pesche want to follow Nel, but they confusedly end up going down the wrong paths, separating from each other in the process.

Aizen sends for Orihime and sends the others away in order speak with her privately, producing jealousy in two of his female followers, arousing their hatred for the innocent Orihime. Aizen shows off the Hogyuku to her, so now she knows exactly where it is as he tells her he needs her help. Now Orihime knows what she must do. Meanwhile, the battles with the Espadas begin.

Ichigo is determined to rescue Orihime at any cost… it’s what he does. He faces the challenge with the same relentless determination he showed in saving Rukia from being executed. He just does not know the meaning of failure. There is a lot being set up in this volume, sowing the seeds for what is to come. It’s interesting to note that Ulquiorra believes Orihime is one of them, having given her word to help. Those of us who know and have followed her from the start of the series know this can’t be true… can it? We know how honest she is, to a fault. But she is also timid. Is she going along because she gave her word or because she is afraid? Or does she truly have something else in mind?

Ulquiorra is an interesting character, obviously intelligent, and not insensitive to Orihime’s beauty and charms. At the same time, he is a hardened Espada. An interesting dichotomy indeed. I can find nothing redeeming to say about Aizen, though. Nel is also an interesting character, the sort of helpless innocent that Ichigo tends to attract, and whom he automatically defends.

Another great volume of Bleach, can’t wait to see the battles as they unfold.