Book Review: Bleach, Vol 24 by Tite Kubo

Bleach, Vol 24   

Author: Tite Kubo

Publisher: Viz Media

American release date: September 2, 2008

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

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★

Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes

 

A group of Arrancars has arrived in Kakura Town, led by Grimmjow Jeagerjaques. Their mission is to find anyone with even a hint of spiritual pressure… and destroy them. Ikkaku faces a fierce opponent, but the bald Soul Reaper doesn’t know when to give up and continues to fight, despite the odds against him. He can’t help but remember to a fight he’d been in years previously against an opponent who valued his fighting skills and gave him some sound advice.

Toshiro Hitsugaya is often underestimated because of his lack of height and his youthful appearance. The Arrancar he faces is no exception. Meanwhile, Renji is engaged in a fight of his own, and his bankai doesn’t seem to be doing the trick, earning the other’s disdain. Due to all the strange spiritual pressure, Ururu is drawn from her bed, to Jinta’s dismay, fearful of what may happen if he cannot get her under control.

Not all Arrancars are created equal, apparently. Created by Aizen, through the use of the Hogyoku, they “are numbered according to the order of (their) birth, beginning with the number 11. The most gifted killers… receive the numbers one through ten , in descending order of their lethality.” These are known as the Espada. And among these is present in Kakura Town, Espada Sexta—Grimmjow. Small surprise that Ichigo finds himself battling this opponent.

Things are looking pretty grim for everyone (except the Arrancars) who belittle their opponents as being unworthy. But then Rangiku Matumoto receives a call she’s been waiting for from Soul Society, concerning the gentei kaijo (restriction removal). Apparently there is something that keeps Soul Reapers from operating at peak levels when in the World of the Living. Now that they can use more of their powers, perhaps the tide will turn!

Ichigo, however, has never been subject to these restrictions. He battles against Grimmjow himself. Is he up to the challenge, or will he require the intervention of a deux ex machina to save him? What of Uryu, who feels the spiritual pressure of the Arrancars but has promised to have nothing to do with the Soul Reapers? Will he find a way around that? Or will he be forced to sit on the sidelines.

This volume of Bleach is pretty battle heavy as the Soul Reapers and Ichigo square off against Grimmjow and his Arrancars. I like the way the battles aren’t all one-sided or weighed in the favor of the heroes. They’re more realistic in that the good guys don’t always win, and yes, they can get hurt. Sometimes die. I found what happened in Ichigo’s battle with Grimmjow very interesting, as well as its aftermath.

But of course, this is just the tip of the iceberg. To paraphrase the Carpenters, “They’ve only just begun….” Good volume of Bleach, looking forward to the next one.

Wednesday Briefs: October 21, 2020

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 Ten by Cia Nordwell
 

It was the feet. Those broad soles and flat toes digging into the earth were made to move soundlessly. And the subtle green striping would probably help the creature to blend in amazingly with the foliage around us, if he wanted to.  

Based on the way he stood, feet spread apart and four arms braced, two on the torso and two outward facing me, he wasn’t hiding at all. The planet did not have any structures or even ruins that indicated an advanced civilization or culture; nothing to show manufacturing or building.  

No way to cover up making the textile

 

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Book Review: Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender

Felix Ever After     

Author: Kacen Callender

Publisher: Balzer + Bray

American release date:  May 5, 2020

Format/Genre/Length: Hardback/YA LGBT Romance/368 pages

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★

Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes

To say Felix Love’s life is complicated would be an understatement. He lives with his father in Harlem, his mother having walked out on them years before to start a new family. His father has sacrificed a lot to provide for Felix, including his tuition at St. Catherine’s and the summer arts program, as well as his top surgery—Felix is transgendered. While his father is supportive of that, for some reason he finds it difficult to use Felix’s name, and often just calls him kid.

Felix’s best friend for years is Ezra. The two of them are thick as thieves and do everything together. Ezra comes from privilege. His parents have bought him his own apartment, and Felix often sleeps over there. One day, Felix’s world is shattered when he walks through the gallery at school only to find photos of his old self hanging there, framed and displayed for everyone to see, as well as his dead name. Felix is beyond mortified as the faithful Ezra removes the evidence of someone’s dastardly deed. Who could be so cruel, and why?

Felix is working hard on his art, wanting to be accepted at the prestigious Brown University, hopefully on a full scholarship. Those are far and few between, and another student at St. Cat’s, a guy named Declan who once dated Ezra, is also planning to go there and snag the full ride too. Felix doesn’t think it’s fair because Declan comes from money. Plus he’s obnoxious and full of himself.

Felix writes emails to his mother, but he never sends them. He hasn’t heard from her since he told her he was transgendered, years before. The emails sit in his draft folders… all 476 of them. Someday maybe he’ll actually hit send on all of them and flood her inbox. Felix can’t help but wonder why she doesn’t love him anymore?. And why can’t he find a special someone, as his peers have? Even Ezra is dating someone, a guy named Austin, and seems happy. Why can’t Felix find love? Is he so unloveable?

When Felix becomes convinced that Declan is responsible for the gallery fiasco, he determines to find out for sure—even if he has to catfish him to do it.

This book was recommended to me by my daughter, and I devoured it in like two days, it was so good. I loved Felix so much, and I ached for him as he questioned his life, his art, his identity… not unusual for a teen, but even harder for a trans teen. I think it’s great that we’re seeing more books with trans characters, someone other trans people can identify with. But even more so, I think books like this help other people come to an understanding of what it means to be trans. For many people, it’s a new and alien concept. Sure, trans people have always been around, but the discussion has never been so open as it is now. I think books like this one are important in gaining a better understanding of other people. Diversity is something to be celebrated, not feared. What a boring world if we all thought and did the same things and if we all looked alike.

I hope to see more from this talented author and highly recommend this book for anyone, especially romantics.

Book Review: Bleach, Vol 23 by Tite Kubo

Bleach, Vol 23     

Author: Tite Kubo

Publisher: Viz Media

American release date: June 3, 2008

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

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★

 Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes

All is not well with Aizen’s group, when Ulquiorra makes his report, explaining why he did not kill Ichigo and the others. Grimmjow maintains that he is weak, perhaps afraid, while Ulquiorra maintains that perhaps Ichigo will be of use to them in the future.

Back in the World of the Living, Ichigo informs the Soul Reapers that they are not welcome to stay in his tiny room (or his home) and they are responsible for finding their own digs for as long as they are on assignment there. Matsumoto asks Orihime if she can stay with her, Ikkaku and Yumichika strike out on their own, and Renji decides to head to Uruhara’s place. Ichigo explains to Rukia why she can’t stay with him anymore, since his family have seen her, but she manages to circumvent his objection and get herself invited to stay, to his chagrin.

Aware of the presence of the Soul Reapers in Kakura Town, Grimmjow receives the orders he was hoping for—take a few of the other Arrancars and kill anyone with even a hint of spiritual pressure. When Ichigo and Rukia come face to face with their first Arrancar, Ichigo makes the startling discovery that Rukia has her spiritual pressure back! She proceeds to demonstrate what she can do with her unusual white sword.

The Arrancars have split up to pursue individual targets, and Ikkaku finds himself fighting Edarod, a fight which he swears will be to the death, whether his or the other’s. Yumichiki contacts the Soul Society to give them certain instructions, including orders for Ikkaku’s funeral!

In bonus stories, we get glimpses of the characters set prior to this time, and we get our first look at the Society of Female Soul Reapers.

The plot thickens as the Arrancars, aka Aizen’s Dream Team, are thrown into the mix. And they have just begun… I keep wondering what makes Aizen so appealing that people just automatically do what he tells them? And yet they do.

I love the scene with Rukia and Ichigo’s family where she sweet talks them into letting her stay there. I notice that in the manga there is more about Orihime’s feelings for Ichigo then in the anime, at least in my opinion. In fact, she is very jealous of Rukia and how close they seem. I wonder if that will end differently in the manga, since nothing happened in the anime in that regard.

There is an ongoing story between chapters involving Kon, who being Kon, has taken over Hanamoto’s body. I love this characterization of Ichigo: “No matter how strong I get, I can’t protect them (in reference to the spirits he can see). The realization cuts my heart like cold steel.”  This is Ichigo all over, and is probably the largest motivating factor for everything he has done or will do, his overwhelming need to protect everyone, especially his friends and family. This is what drives him, what keeps him going… and what ensures he will never give up, never surrender.

Also in the bonus stories is a teaser concerning Renji and Rukia that I hope to see more of. Another great volume of bleach, looking forward to the next one!

Wednesday Briefs: October 14, 2020

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 Eight; by Cia Nordwell
 

He was trotting along ahead of me, weaving through bushes I had to hack a path through, when his rigid stance caught my eye. “What is it, boy?” I spoke quietly to avoid spooking him or alerting whatever had caused his alarm.  

A loud blast overhead sent me into a crouch at his side. He was belly down flat to the earth, his ears folded flat and head swinging wildly.  

What was that? We’d walked most of the day. I’d observed several insects, but for all his ability to walk far quieter than I could, the prey animals must have

 
 

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Wednesday Briefs: October 7, 2020

 

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 38 by J. Alan Veerkamp

“I can’t read this tonight.”

With a beleaguered sigh, Sawyer tossed the paperback on the end table. The prose was questionable, the plot barely existent, and he only purchased it because the swarthy pirate on the cover reminded him of Jimmy.

“You’re so sad, Sawyer.” He didn’t usually talk to himself, but the empty house felt abnormally hollow this evening.

Jada had left for her pottery class over an hour ago. Or was it her yoga class night? For the life of him, he couldn’t remember her schedule. Ugh, he’d been such a lousy husband. No wonder she’d wanted out.

 

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Wednesday Briefs: September 30, 2020

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 36 by J. Alan Veerkamp

“You didn’t have to come all this way just to say hello.”

The gleam in Sawyer’s eyes told Jimmy he wasn’t complaining about the surprise visit. The bank’s lobby was currently devoid of customers, but he knew that wouldn’t last, so his time was limited. The other employees, however, were present, and a few were taking a vested interest in their conversation. It kept Jimmy from ravishing Sawyer in public. While he might not have cared what others thought, his mate would not appreciate being mauled into a breathless mess in front of his coworkers. The few kisses he’d stolen since meeting Sawyer’s mother before the full moon had hardly quenched his thirst.

Click here to read the entire Brief:

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Book Review: Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas

Cemetery Boys       

Author: Aiden Thomas

Publisher: Swoon Reads

American release date:  September 1, 2020

Format/Genre/Length: Hardback/YA LGBT Romance/352 pages

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★

Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes

All his life, Yadriel has yearned to be recognized for what he is—a brujo. His family has been brujx for generations, practitioners of magic, able to commune with the dead and help ease them into the next life. But his family doesn’t see him that way, and he has been denied his quinces, essential to his recognition as a brujo. Much of the time, they don’t see him as a boy, either, which is frustrating. Yadriel is transgender, and he only wishes to be accepted for who he is. Is that so much to ask?

His best friend, Maritza, fashions him his own blade—a portaje. This is his conduit to the world of magic. Maritza has one of her own, in the form of a rosary. Denied his rite of passage by his family, he and Maritza decide to hold one of their own, in the old church in the cemetery where Yadriel’s family live.

The ceremony is successful but something decidedly unexpected occurs—one of their own, his cousin Miguel, has died, and all the brujx can feel it. But no one can find his body, which is troubling in and of itself. Yadriel returns home to see what is happening and learns of the search for Miguel. He wishes to accompany the other brujos but his request is denied by his father. If only his mother were here. She understood Yadriel and accepted him for who he is, without question or reservation.

Yadriel and Maritza decide to search for Miguel on their own. And that is when the next strange occurrence happens, in the form of an unexpected spirit by the name of Julian. Loud, unruly, and energetic, Julian is a force to be reckoned with. And he is about to turn Yadriel’s world upside down.

This book is a treasure!  A fascinating glimpse, not only into the world of brujx and Dio de los Muertos, but also transgendered teens as well. There aren’t many books with transgendered protagonists. Yadriel is wonderful as he tries to navigate the hazards of living among people who don’t understand and can’t see him for who he is. It must be hard when your own family denies you, and because of that you can’t even participate in the same rituals the others do. Yadriel’s own uncle, Catriz, is left out of things as well, not having enough spirituality, apparently, to be considered one of them. Together, uncle and nephew are the family outcasts, the black sheep.

Yadriel’s best friend Maritza is spunky and spirited, and understand Yads, as she calls him, better than anyone. She makes him a portaje, forges it herself despite not being encouraged to do such things because of her gender. But the one who steals the show starting from his first appearance is Julian Diaz, aka the ghost with the most. He is difficult at times and extremely stubborn, but there is just something about him that Yadriel can’t resist. Plus Julian accepts Yadriel immediately, no questions asked.

If Yadriel can release Julian’s spirit, he can prove to his family that he is indeed a brujo. But before Julian agrees to this, he has conditions of his own that Yadriel has to meet. Carrying these out won’t be easy.

This book is full of fun and flavor and wonderful characters. It made me laugh and it definitely made me cry. It was recommended to me by my daughter and I was so happy she did. I got it from the library, but I ordered my own copy now, to add to my library. I can’t say enough good things about this book. It’s a supernatural story, it’s a romance, it’s a mystery, it’s a coming-of-age story, but most of all it’s a book about people just trying to live their lives.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who likes to read.

Wednesday Briefs: September 23, 2020

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 Six by Cia Nordwell

My scans indicated there was a rocky outcropping nearby, and based on what I’d seen of the wildlife so far, I wanted nothing more than to put some solid stone at my back. Climbing would do me no good, and while the ground level was rarely safe either, I’d have to take my chances there. Setting up a shelter would take too much time, though I’d brought collapsible poles and and flex fabric.

I would fear what I couldn’t see. Being inside a shelter wouldn’t make the predators go away, and I’d rather see them coming. I’d make a fire;

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Book Review: Twentieth Century Boys, Vol 3: Hero With a Guitar by Naoki Urasawa

Twentieth Century Boys, Vol 3: Hero With a Guitar     

Author: Naoki Urasawa

Publisher: Viz Media

American release date: June 16, 2009

Format/Genre/Length: Paperback/manga/paranormal/200 pages

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★

Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes

 

Kenji is baffled as to why the dying homeless man proclaimed him to be the one who has to save the world? Who is he but a lowly shop owner, and what can he do to save anyone when he’s clearly made a mess of his own life?

Things are starting to come back to him, though, as Kenji begins to connect the dots, as he realizes that what is happening mirrors the story he wrote so long ago, as a child. A tale told among friends about super heroes saving the world from a deadly menace. How can it be coming true now? And why?

Kenji tries to talk to each of his friends, but after they unload their tales of woe on him, he doesn’t have the heart to involve them in what is going on. In pursuing Donkey’s student, whom he is unable to find, he learns about a concert being given by The Friends, and his blood runs cold. He knows he has to be there, so tells his mother to watch Kanna and heads to the concert. There he ends up on stage and comes face to face with Friend. Well, relatively speaking, as Friend is hiding behind a mask. But his words are clear and strike distinct fear in Kenji.

Kenji almost forgets about his class reunion. Maybe he’ll recognize Friend among the attendees. Or at least gain some clues as to which kid wore a mask. But he doesn’t recognize a lot of his former classmates after so many years. Yukiji doesn’t make the reunion because she has to work at the airport. But someone else shows up who recognizes Kenji, and as they catch up, Kenji remembers things he’d forgotten, such as who the kid in the mask was, and what the next target in the story was. But can he stop the next disaster from taking place?

He has a sudden premonition that his niece Kanna is in trouble, and races to save her, but from what… or who…

Things are really happening in this volume of Twentieth Century Boys! When I read what Kenji learned at the Friend concert, I literally gasped! Imagine how he must feel, wondering if he is crazy or is there someone out there following the plot of a story written when Kenji was just a child? But if he’s right, and that’s what happening, then the fate of the world could very well be at stake.

This volume is action packed and exciting. I love the artwork a lot, as well as the story. Kenji is not your typical hero, in that he is an ordinary man with an ordinary job and an ordinary life, who thinks he’s accomplished nothing of note in that life. He fails to realize how special he really is, what a good man he is, but I have the feeling a lot of people will know about him before this tale is through.

Seeing Friend for the first time, albeit behind a mask, was very interesting, his surprise announcement even more so. Can’t wait to see what happens next!