Monthly Archives: October 2021

Book Review: Catching Fire (Hunger Games Trilogy, Book #2) by Suzanne Collins

Catching Fire (Hunger Games Trilogy, Book #2)

Author: Suzanne Collins

Publisher: Scholastic Press

American release date:  September 1, 2009

Format/Genre/Length: Hardback/YA SciFi Action/3891 pages

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★

Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes

In an unprecedented move, Katniss and Peeta have become joint winners of the Hunger Games, due to Katniss’s threat that they would both eat the poison berries and leave no winner. The Capitol has no choice but to capitulate. But that doesn’t mean that Kat and Peeta don’t both have targets painted on their backs, because they clearly do.

Although she’s alive, Katniss’ life isn’t what she’d hoped for. Gale is keeping his distance, mostly due to the illusion that was created regarding her and Peeta. Peeta has abandoned her as well, since her preference for Gale is obvious, and Peeta’s own feelings for Kat were no game.  But as victors, they have to go on the Victory Tour together that spans all twelve districts. And once again, they have to pretend to be madly in love—their lives depend on it. Starting with District 11, they blunder once again in attempting to honor Rue. Kat begins to suspect there is more there than meets the eye. And whatever is going on may be something she inadvertently helped to bring about. And somehow she and the mockingjay are symbols of the movement.

Katniss’ instinct is to run away from it all, and she intends to bring everyone she cares for. Her plan sounded so good in her head but it meets with unexpected opposition, especially from Peeta and Gale. She wants to take them both, what to do? Then things go from bad to worse when news arrives regarding the Quelle – the games that take place every twenty-five years, between Hunger Games. This year the rules have been changed, and the pool of contestants will be drawn only from previous victors! How can Kat doubt that this is aimed at her and Peeta for the way they both survived? They won’t be able to pull that trick again. Kat decides she must do everything in her power to ensure that Peeta remains alive, and that he becomes the victor of the Quelle.

Things have certainly taken a dark turn in the Hunger Games universe. Not that the first book was all beer and skittles, mind you. But life has gotten harder, and all because Kat has chosen to speak her mind. Rumors have begun to circulate that District 13 is not gone, as the Capitol would have everyone believe. And just maybe if the districts begin to unite, they can overthrow the tyranny under which they live.

Katniss herself is conflicted between her long time feelings for Gale and what she feels for Peeta. Not surprising as she is just a teenager, and she’s never been in a relationship before. There is a lot of pressure on her shoulders. Events will either make her or break her. Be prepared for pain and heartache in this book. I am half afraid to see what the third book will bring. Also looking forward to it.

Saturday is Horror Day #33 – Girl in the Box, Creep (2014), Spiral: From the Book of Saw

Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes

Girl in the Box

1977 was a different time, when you could hitchhike all over the country and not worry about anything but your destination. Colleen Stan (Addison Timlin) is hitchhiking when she accepts a ride from a married couple, Cameron and Janice Hooker (Zane Holtz and Zelda Williams). What she doesn’t realize is this couple is not normal… and they’ve already buried one body.

It doesn’t take long for Cameron to put his horrific plan for Colleen into motion. Driving her to an out of the way spot, he handcuffs her and forces her put her head into a heavy wooden box and covers her body with a blanket so no one will see her, then drives home. After dark, he moves her inside and into the basement.

Cameron’s wife Jan is very meek and submissive, as if she is afraid of doing anything to anger her husband. She goes along with what he wants, but it’s clear that on some level it’s disturbing to her. But in her own way, she can be just as cruel as him. Cameron quickly controls the helpless Colleen and lays down the rules. She is to call him Master and Jan is Ma’am. She is to do everything requested of her. If he says the word, she is to run to the arch in the living room, disrobe, and stand there with her hands pointing up.

Fearful of discovery, Cameron builds a coffin-like box for Colleen, which he keeps under his and Jan’s 

bed. Colleen is forced to stay there up to 23 hours a day. He tells her about the Company he works for, and how people have slaves, like her, and forces her to sign a slave contract. He warns her that the Company will hurt her and her family if she should escape. And she believes him.

Colleen settles into her life of slavery and drudgery, and life goes on, Jan has a baby, and she’s still there. But she is so brainwashed that when Cameron actually allows her to go home to visit her family, she tells them she is fine! But Jan is reaching her breaking point, as she sees how Cameron prefers Colleen, whom they call K. She leaves her husband, with their daughter, but comes back when he is gone in order to free Colleen and send her home.

This is based on a true story, and it is horrific. The film is well done, and I think the actors did a good job. Cameron is creepy and cruel, and Jan is subdued most of the time, as if she has given up on life. I can’t imagine having to endure such a life for seven years! Colleen Stan must be a very strong woman. I liked the movie (not the subject matter of course) and I give it 4 Stars.

Creep (2014)

Aaron (Patrick Brice) accepts a job to video a man named Josef (Mark Duplass) for one day for a lot of money. He drives to the man’s cabin to begin his day, and learns that Josef has terminal cancer, and wants to leave the video as a message to his unborn son whom he will never meet.

Josef is very fond of pranks, as Aaron quickly discovers, and he never knows when he’ll find Josef lying in wait to pounce on him. The two proceed to spend the day together, hiking far into the woods at one point, and talking all the time. They have some heartfelt moments together, and as the day progresses, begin to tell one another their secrets.

Aaron begins to discover there is something a little (or a lot) off about Josef, and the wolf mask he named Peachfuzz is the least of his worries. After answering Josef’s phone, while he is passed out, Aaron begins to realize the predicament he is in, especially when Josef’s sister herself says to get out of the house. Now.

Aaron makes it home, and he thinks it’s over now. Except when the package arrives, and he realizes Josef knows where he lives. And he isn’t about to stop stalking Aaron anytime soon.

At first, I didn’t know what to make of this film, other than a weird kind of sob story about a dying man. But it is a lot more than that. In fact, it isn’t even that. The title says it all. Josef is a creep, and he will creep you out. The acting was good. I understand a lot of it was improvised. Not surprising since they are also the writers of the film, and Patrick Brice is the director. This one will definitely keep you on the edge of your seat, bracing for whatever is about to come next. Well worth watching. I give it a solid 4 Stars.

Spiral: From the Book of Saw

Detective Zeke Banks (Chris Rock) does not tolerate bad cops. Ever since he turned in one of his fellow officers, he hasn’t been the most popular guy in the precinct. He responds with snarkiness and curses and an ef you attitude. His commanding offer, Captain Angie Garza (Marisol Nichols) is trying to help, but he’s resistant to her efforts. To make matters worse, she assigns him a partner, William Schenk (Max Minghella). She wants Zeke to show him the ropes. When a new case comes in, Zeke reluctantly takes the newbie with him.

The initial report says a bum was killed by a train in the subway. But close investigation reveals this was no bum. Not too many bums wear Fitbits. A package shows up at the station addressed to Zeke. It contains a flash drive, as well as a tongue and a policeman’s shield.  Turns out the dead man is Detective Fitch, who Zeke had been at odds with. Accused of giving false testimony against innocent people, his tongue was torn out. And judging by the video on the flash drive, the killer is a Jigsaw copycat.

When Captain Garza tries to give the lead on the murder investigation to another detective, Zeke lashes out and lets them know he should be the lead, and he doesn’t care if the others like him or not. Angie finally gives in and Zeke takes the lead.

When Zeke goes home, he finds his former captain sitting there – none other than his father, Marcus

Banks (Samuel L. Jackson). Zeke is none too pleased to see him, and maybe their relationship isn’t the best. But Zeke reluctantly agrees to meet his father the next night for dinner (they live in the same building) and to discuss the case.

More cops are being killed, and more messages are being left as Zeke delves into what is happening and why. Is the killer a wannabe Jigsaw, or are his motives more personal?

Having seen all eight Saw films, I was very excited to learn about this new addition to the fandom, and greatly looked forward to seeing it. I was not disappointed. I have always liked Chris Rock and he does prickly very well, with a get-out-of-face attitude that just doesn’t quit. He’s trying to play the hand he’s been dealt, but the people around him don’t make that easy. His new partner turns out to be pretty nice, and Zeke warms to him as he puts a picture of his family in the squad car. Plus he’s a hard worker who isn’t afraid to stay later to get things done.

While technically not an actual Saw film, Spiral is definitely a part of the Saw family. Lots of gore and guts for those who are fans of the original, an interesting storyline, and an unexpected twist that will keep you guessing. I really hope they make another one. There is great future content there. I give this film 4.5 Stars.

Side note: Look for Trevor Gretzy, son of former Blues hockey player Wayne Gretzy, in a small role.

Book Review: Twentieth Century Boys, Vol 22: The Beginning of Justice by Naoki Urasawa

Twentieth Century Boys, Vol 22: The Beginning of Justice 

Author: Naoki Urasawa

Publisher: Viz Media

American release date: September 18, 2012

Format/Genre/Length: Paperback/manga/paranormal/256 pages

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★

Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes

Kanna and the others decide that the only safe place to be, in order to avoid the virus that will rain down from the flying saucers, is Expo Park. But how to get the word to everyone in such a way that they will listen and not panic? Turns out that Kenji’s old enemies, Yanbo and Mabo, created the flying saucers for the Friend. But they say they had no choice, and they are on Kanna’s side now and only want to help. They tell Otcho he has to shoot the saucers down, and he can’t afford to miss. Otcho is up to the challenge, and will do whatever it takes.

Kanna takes a couple of teams to the TV station, expecting to meet with armed resistance, but it is eerily silent. Inside, they encounter Friend’s former assassin, Thirteen, along with the DJ who’s been playing Kenji’s song non-stop, and who turns out to be another childhood friend of Kanna’s uncle. He tells Kanna that Kenji is the one who introduced him to CCR.

Friend’s associates are stunned by his announcement that he is responsible for all the atrocities formerly attributed to Kenji and his group. Can it be true? If so, why, and what are they supposed to do now? Meanwhile, Kanna and the others begin plastering fliers all over town advertising a huge music festival in Expo Park – free! The big draw is that the elusive singer of “Bob Lennon” will be there. Who wouldn’t want to hear him live? Although Kanna entreated Haru Namio to perform, he declines, but shows up anyway with his old band.

Maruo and Keroyon and his son discover a group of masked children who lead them into a toy store, to their masked leader, whom they’ve dubbed the Mask King. He turns out to be another of Kenji’s childhood friends. Maruo and Keroyon vaccinate the children, and they are shown a way to get into Tokyo, over the wall.

Once they manage to cram all the people they can into Expo Park, the flying saucers are unleashed. But they aren’t headed in the direction they expected. In fact, they’re going straight to Expo Park! Did they just lead everyone into a trap? And the Giant Robot has been activated prematurely. How will this possibly end well? Will Friend’s insane plan be put into motion?

Wow, wow, wow. So much going on. So much drama, conflict, violence, hope, suspense… everything but resolution. Because this is not the last volume, contrary to popular belief. Good thing, because the ending, though sweet, isn’t enough, and explains so little and leaves so much hanging.

I confess to being angry at first at the ending, until I dug a little and discovered the story continues in Twenty-first Century Boys, which consists of two volumes. Okay, I can live with that. There is a certain amount of resolution in this volume, but there are people who need to be dealt with before the world can truly be safe. Or maybe the question is, can the world truly be safe?

All I can say is … to be continued.

Wednesday Briefs: October 20, 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 Sixty by Cia Nordwell

Bouncer growled, but the large creature ignored his threat display. It blinked slowly, shuttering those glowing yellow eyes before it opened them again and twisted back around. Delicate feelers extended from the thick mandibles protruding below those large eyes and swept across Swintik’s hand, tasting the acoji nuts before it scooped them up. It tilted its head and swallowed the entire handful.

“Yes, you like that, don’t you?” Swintik chuckled when the segmented insect vibrated under his touch, clacking its mandibles together.

I really didn’t like insects. Usually they didn’t grow too large; their numbers were so great that they’d

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Book Review: Bleach, Vol 42 by Tite Kubo

Bleach, Vol 42       

Author: Tite Kubo

Publisher: Viz Media

American release date: July 3, 2012

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

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★

Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes

 

And so the battles between the Thirteen Court Guard Companies and the Espadas continue.

Halibel is dismayed to learn just how powerful Hitsugaya is as he unleashes his Frozen Heavens Hundred Flower Funeral on her, encasing her in ice. Sai Fon and Omaeda face Reaper Barragan, and Sai Fon is forced to use her Bankai. Omaeda has never seen her Bankai before and wonders what she can do with a weapon of that shape.

Shunsui is still facing Stark, and throws his kimono down to Ukitake to catch. Stark calls to Lilinette, who is still trying to fight Ukitake, who refuses to fight a child. Turns out that Stark and Lilinette work together, their powers divided into two bodies. Not only that, but Lilinette becomes a gun that can fire cero blasts! Stark is determined to force Shunsui to use his Bankai, but Shunsui resists, until Stark ups the ante, turning Lilinette into a submachine gun. Things look bad until Ukitake steps in, claiming it isn’t unfair since there are two of them.

Suddenly a garganta appears, and Wonderweiss arrives. According to Stark, “If Wonderweiss is here that can only mean that Lord Aizen’s patience has been exhausted.” Wonderweiss’ unnatural scream shatters Halibel’s ice prison. And the strange creature that came with Wonderweiss has just extinguished the flames surrounding Aizen, Tosen, and Gin… which means they are now free to join the fray.

Although this is a matter of dismay to the Soul Reapers, there is another group who have also just arrived and are just as eager to square off against Aizen et al – namely, Shinji and the other Visoreds. They aren’t thrilled to be working with the Soul Society, but it’s more a question of the enemy of my enemy is my ally. At least for now. Shunsui and Lisa have a touching reunion, and Shinji lets Captain Yamamoto that he considers himself Ichigo’s ally, not Soul Society’s. The Visoreds get their first taste of battle when the strange creature that came with Wonderweiss spews out a bunch of Gillians. Captain Komamura steps up to fight alongside the Visoreds, and to face Tosen as well.  As he does, Hisagi, requests to join that particular fight.

Another battle-heavy volume of Bleach, but it feels like we’re finally progressing. Maybe because Aizen and his toadies have stepped into the fight. There could be no denouement without that. The appearance of the Visoreds was unexpected and very welcome. They certainly have just cause to hate Aizen, although they also have no real love for Soul Society, who should consider themselves lucky to have them as temporary allies. I loved watching Shunsui battle against Stark, and I loved the way Ukitake didn’t hesitate to join him. They’ve been friends for a very long time, and are favorites of the Old Man himself.

Nothing of Ichigo this time around, although that’s just a matter of time since he has defeated Ulquiorra. I guess he needs to figure out how to get out of Hueco Mundo first.

Another great volume, looking forward to the next.

Saturday is Horror Day #32 – Dark Water, V/H/S

Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes

Dark Water


Yoshimi Matsubara (Hitomi Kuroki) is going through a difficult divorce. Her husband wants custody of their almost six year-old daughter Ikuko (Rio Kanno), but Yoshimi refuses to entertain the idea. Not in the best of financial situations, Yoshimi moves herself and her daughter to an older apartment building, anxious to put down roots quickly so she can keep Ikuko with her. The apartment has issues, including water spots on the ceilings, but the maintenance is less than stellar.

While exploring the building by herself, Ikoku discovers a red bag containing an assortment of little girls’ toys, but her mother won’t allow her to keep it. She leaves it with the building’s maintenance man, who puts it into the lost and found. And yet it inexplicably turns up among Ikoku’s things. A distraught Yoshimi throws it away herself.

 

Yoshimi is under a great deal of stress, with a new job and having to pick up Ikoku from kindergarten. She is often late, which stresses Ikoku out too. The leak in the apartment has only become worse. Yoshimi thinks maybe it’s the people above them, so goes upstairs to talk to them. But no one answers her knock. Yet when she is in the elevator, she sees the door open, and a small figure in a yellow raincoat appears. When Yoshimi goes back up, though, there is no one to be seen.

Yoshimi wants to move, immediately, but her lawyer advises her that would not look well, especially


since Ikoku would be forced to change kindergartens, and stability is what is needed in the situation. Yoshimi isn’t sure how much longer she can take all this water. People say that there is something wrong with the water and some won’t even touch it. 

Yoshimi spots a flier in the building about a little girl who went missing in 1999. A little girl in a yellow raincoat.  She is worried that someone or something is trying to take Ikoku away from her, and she is determined to do everything in her power to prevent that.

On one level, perhaps this film can be seen in terms of symbolism. The leaking roof of the battered apartment building being the leaky relationship that is their marriage.  On another level, it’s a horror movie about a missing little girl who just wants to be found and loved.  There are parallels between the two girls, Matsuko and Ikoku, with both of them waiting at the preschool to be picked up, feeling alone and abandoned. Yoshimi is so desperate to keep her daughter with her that she becomes almost irrational in her actions when faced with the idea of losing her. To some, her actions might be understandable, but they are also open to misinterpretation by her husband’s lawyer. Damned if she does, and damned if she doesn’t.

As the roof gets worse and worse, so does Yoshimi, until you begin to question is she really seeing what she thinks she is? A complex horror story, Dark Water was well worth watching, and somewhat sad. I’ll give it a sold 3.5 Stars.

V/H/S


Brad (Adam Wingard) and his friends are always up for a good prank, and love to record themselves performing them, even if they are in questionable taste. So when someone wants to hire them to break into a home and steal back a VHS tape, they’re up for it. To their dismay, they find an old man has expired inside the house. But at least he won’t bother them, right? The trouble is, there was no indication exactly which tape is wanted, and there are a whole bunch of tapes. So while the others search the house, Adam sits down to view some of the tapes. And what he sees is…. well, disturbing.

Three drunk young men who get themselves thrown out of a night club because of their behavior, end up taking two girls to a motel room for some fun. One is very willing, at least until she passes out. The other girl is a little strange. But what the little head wants… well, any port in a storm. One guy is kind of shy but interested, and allows himself to be coaxed into a threesome, while the third guy just sits on the couch and laughs his head off. But things go a little awry.

 

A couple go on a road trip together. But at their motel, a strange young woman beats on their door, wanting a ride. After she leaves, they’re a bit creeped out. They’d be even more creeped out if they could see what she did while they were sleeping.

A young woman and her boyfriend are separated by miles but stay in touch through Facetime. She’s a little nervous in her apartment, and wakes him up in the middle of the night, having heard something. He tells her that nothing is going on. And when she insists that something is wrong with her arm, he tells her he’ll take a look at it in a week, when he is there. But when she wakes him again, he begins to see she is not alone…


A guy is ecstatic when a girl he’s interested in invites him to a park for some alone time. Except another couple is coming with them. And apparently she told the other girl it would be a girls day. So, what exactly is going on here?

A few friends are excited to attend a Halloween party. But when they arrive at the address they’re given, there is no sign of life, so they begin to look around the old house. Maybe this is the set-up and they have to figure out where the party is happening. When one of them goes into the basement, in search of the party, he reports hands coming out of the walls. The others think that is pretty cool. But what they find next isn’t quite so cool.

This is a collection of found footage stories. The title stands for video horror shorts, and these are. Shot in found footage style, I have to say the beginning seemed a little slow and I wasn’t sure I was going to continue to watch. But I did, and I’m glad. As the stories progress, you begin to see the inherent horror in each. I’ll tell you this right now, this film is not for the squeamish. I found it exceedingly creepy, and more than a little jaw-dropping. But that’s what you want in a horror film, right? This is the kind of film you find yourself shouting at the characters to watch out ’cause they can’t see what you do, and you are afraid of what is about to happen.

 

I would not want to live through any of these scenarios. This was definitely well worth watching. As I said, I don’t scare easily, but this had a definite creep factor. And I watched it in the daytime. I can only imagine that being magnified if I saw it at night. I’ll give it a solid 4.5 Stars.

Book Review: Demon Slayer, Vol 6 by Koyoharu Gotouge

Demon Slayer, Vol 6     

Author: Koyoharu Gotouge

Publisher: Viz Media

American release date: May 7, 2019

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

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★

Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes

 

Tanjiro and the others are saved by the arrival of higher level Demon Slayers, the Hashira, but one of them, Shinobu, is intent on destroying Nezuko, who is being protected by another Hashira named Tomioka. Tomioka tells Tanjiro to take Nezuko and flee, but Shinobu is determined to slay the demon in their midst. Luckily a message arrives to take both Tanjiro and his sister to headquarters. There Tanjiro is told he is to be put on trial.

The Hashira have differing opinions on what to do with Tanjiro and his sister, and some of their solutions are rather bloodthirsty. One of them is more concerned with punishing Tomioka since he broke the rules by protecting a demon. Tanjiro tries to explain about the circumstances which led to Nezuko becoming a demon, and how she has never eaten human flesh in all this time and would never hurt a human. And how he became a swordsman in order to protect her. One rather insane Hashira, covered with scars, picks up Nezuko’s box and decides to insert his sword into it randomly. Naturally, Tanjiro attacks him, even though his hands are bound behind him and he has no weapon.

The Master of the mansion arrives, and he seems like a rather laid back sort of guy. He tells the others that he accepts Tanjiro and Nezuko, then proceeds to have read a letter from Urokodaki, verifying what Tanjiro has been trying to tell them. The Master then explains that Muzan Kibutsuji has sent agents after the brother and sister, thus exposing more of himself to them than he has ever done before. Surely this means something. The insane Hashira decides to test Nezuko for himself, though, expecting to trick her into drinking human blood.

While the Hashira deliberate, Tanjiro is sent to the Butterfly Mansion. They take him and Nezuko to the infirmary, where he is reunited with an unhappy Zenitsu and a slumbering Inosuke. The four are left to heal until Shinobu comes to tell them it’s time for their rehabilitation training. After a few days of intense training, Zenitsu and Inosuke quit showing up, but Tanjiro persists. He is determined to do his best and then help the others to succeed as well.

Since Tanjiro’s sword was broken, a new one needs to be forged. And the sword maker is not happy that this is necessary, taking it out on Tanjiro when he delivers the new blade. And in other news, another side of Muzan Kibutsuji is revealed.

I love the humor in these stories, and I love the characters. They are very much unique and well-drawn. There is also a great deal of warmth and love, especially between Tanjiro and his sister, and the way he relates to other people. Well, most of the time. He does have his moments, of course. The surprise reveal about Muzan was … well, surprising. I certainly didn’t see that coming.

Still haven’t changed my mind about Inosuke, maybe later.  Good volume, looking forward to more.

Book Review: Twentieth Century Boys, Vol 21: Arrival of the Space Aliens by Naoki Urasawa

Twentieth Century Boys, Vol 21: Arrival of the Space Aliens     

Author: Naoki Urasawa

Publisher: Viz Media

American release date: July 17, 2012

Format/Genre/Length: Paperback/manga/paranormal/208 pages

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★

Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes

A lone DJ plays the same song constantly, and begs for listeners, if there are any, to please call in. He finds he has to travel farther to forage for food as his local sources run out. What is this place with an old helicopter sitting close at hand? The DJ finds someone who has locked himself into the back room, and begins to talk to him. About the friend he let down in the year 2000 when his friend needed him. Turns out the DJ was a friend of Kenji’s. Small world.

In Rome, the Pope is rumored to be very ill, and people wait anxiously outside the Vatican. Father Nitani has been summoned by the Pontiff himself but finds he cannot gain entrance due to the fact he can’t prove he isn’t a space alien such as the Friend says are coming. Day after day he waits nearby, and notices a young boy who goes in and out through a subterranean entrance. Turns out this child has been looking for him, on the orders of the Pope himself. The boy’s family, who once lived in Japan, cook for the Pope, because he doesn’t trust anyone else, thinking he is being poisoned by them.  And the boy carries a message for the priest.

Just a wall separates Kenji and the others from Tokyo, but it’s a big one. Kenji talks to Chono about the Osaka Expo in 1970 and how badly he wanted to go but couldn’t. Chono then tells Kenji about the Expo he was at in Tokyo, and how he and a priest named Luciano ended up inside the Dark Tower, and what he heard— the sound of playing children and a voice crying “Yoo hoo, Kenji, c’mon let’s play.” Now Kenji is convinced he needs to go to the new Tokyo Expo. Luckily an underground entrance has been found to circumvent the wall. It might be smelly, but they have little choice but to take it.

Takasu has assumed the title of secretary-general, following the death of Manjome (at her hands). And she has accomplished her other goal as well – she is pregnant! She doesn’t even care if the current Friend isn’t the one they once knew. It’s all the same to her, as long as she is the Holy Mother.

Friend has told the people of the world of the coming of the space aliens with a dreadful virus that will wipe out all of humanity. The only way to survive is to emigrate to Mars! But even that is a sham, as the first rocket sent to Mars disappeared, and the footage shown of their arrival is all computer-generated. Meanwhile, space ships have begun to appear above various locations around the world, and they are shooting out red paint, as if doing a test run. It’s only a matter of time until they begin to spray the actual virus.

How can humanity be saved? Is there any place on Earth that is safe? And why is the Friend making this announcement right now? Did he just make a major confession?

Omigosh, everything is coming to a head and yet who knows how it will end? This could go so many ways. One more volume, do you believe it? Such an exciting ride this has been. I’ll be sorry when it ends. Good thing the author has other books. I intend to start reading Pluto, and I’m already reading Monster.

My hope is that Kenji and his song will save the day, and the Friend (whoever he is now) and his organization will be defeated and then the world can go back to normal. Whatever normal is now.  But I also worry that something will go horribly wrong. I have to say I am really curious to know who is playing the part of the Friend now.

Cross your fingers and keep rooting for Kenji!

Wednesday Briefs: October 13, 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.

An Unholy Alliance #20 (5.4) by Julie Lynn Hayes’

As I approached the front door, I found myself assailed by an unaccustomed feeling of nervousness, waves of butterflies pirouetting inside my stomach. Could it be the knowledge that my quest might finally be reaching an end? Or maybe I feared the opposite. Would I learn something I didn’t want to know? What was of greater concern to me, bad news or no news at all?

Either way, I intended to find out. I’d come too far to back down now.

Stop being such an infant and knock on the door already.

Click here to read the entire Brief:

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Book Review: Twentieth Century Boys, Vol 20: Humanity in the Balance by Naoki Urasawa

Twentieth Century Boys, Vol 20: Humanity in the Balance   

Author: Naoki Urasawa

Publisher: Viz Media

American release date: April 17, 2012

Format/Genre/Length: Paperback/manga/paranormal/208 pages

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★

Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes

Yukiji decides to close her dojo, to the dismay of her students. She tells them how proud she is of them and what they have accomplished then leaves them with the words of her hero: If you ever feel your life is in danger, just turn around and run like hell. She meets with Kanna, Yoshitsune, and Otcho, and tells Kanna she knows what she intends to do and she is coming with her. But first she advises her there is someone she needs to speak with first—namely, her mother.  She also says that Maruo is on his way there to find her even now.

Maruo finds himself at an armed checkpoint that is flying a flag with a frog on it? What the heck? Could it be? He requests to be taken to their leader, even though they try to shoot at him, claiming he knows him. And he is right. It’s none other than Keroyon.

In the year 2000, Kiriko has given birth to a beautiful baby girl. Her baby daddy, Fukube, is acting strangely, going out for mysterious reasons. She follows him one night and sees his performance as Friend… and she is concerned. Now, in year 3 of Friendship era,  she wants to atone for what she unwittingly did back then. She has a vaccine she hopes will cure the new virus, but there is only one person she is willing to try it on.

Meanwhile, Kanna, Otcho, and Yukiji have gone to assassinate Friend, whoever he is. But Kanna has her own agenda, which does not involve risking anyone else’s life but hers. She faces down the Friend while Otcho and Yukiji  try to find her. They are confronted by Takasu, who reveals to them that Manjome is dead and they did it. Takasu’s agenda is simple. She wants to be the Holy Mother. Otcho and Yukiji escape, only to find an even greater secret, one that’s sure to play into Friend’s story about aliens coming to destroy them. What in the world is going on here? And what do the evil twins Yabo and Mabo have to do with anything?

We’re getting down to the wire, everything is coming to a head. And all indications point to the pivotal piece of the puzzle being Kenji. He is the one who will save the day. At least, that’s how I see it. He began it, with his Book of Prophecy. It’s only fitting that he be the one to end this madness.

Two more books to go, and then we’ll know all.