Monthly Archives: August 2022

Book Review: Celebrated Cases of Judge Dee (Dee Goong An), translated by Robert van Gulik

Celebrated Cases of Judge Dee (Dee Goong An)     

Author: Robert van Gulik (Translator)

Publisher: Dover Publications

American release date: June 1, 1976

Format/Genre/Length: Paperback/Detective/237 pages

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★

Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes

 

In the first half of the seventh century AD, during the Tang dynasty, Judge Dee (Dee Jen-djieh) is appointed magistrate of Chang-Ping.  Dee has four assistants. His chief assistant is Hoong Liang, known as Sergeant Hoong, whom he has known since he was a small boy. Two others, Ma Joong and Chiao Tai,  are of special use in the dangerous task of apprehending criminals and were once “brothers of the green woods”…that is, highway robbers. His fourth lieutenant is Tao Gan, a reformed swindler.

Those who wish to avail themselves of the tribunal when it is not currently sitting do so by striking a gong, alerting the magistrate that he is need to adjudicate. One morning this is done by Koong Wan-deh from the Six Mile Village, where he owns a hostel. According to his tale, two silk merchants stayed at his hostel overnight and left the next morning. Apparently they were robbed and murdered on their way out of town. The village warden, Pang Deh, believing that Koong had killed the two and dragged their bodies to the road to avert suspicion from himself, dragged the bodies back to the hostel and accused the hostel owner of their murder. So he hastened to the tribunal to set matters straight.

While investigating this case, Judge Dee disguises himself as a physician and heads to the town in question. In the course of selling his drugs, he is approached by an older woman with a sad tale involving the death of her son. Deciding this case needs a closer examination, Dee accompanies the woman to the house. All the while, she extols the virtues of her late son’s wife, so grief-stricken that she shuts herself up in her room for most of the day, a serious widow. Dee suspects there is more to this case than meets the eye.

A third case concerns the death of a beautiful young bride on her wedding night. The distraught father of the groom blames a young man who was present at the teasing of the couple, whose jests went too far. He accuses the young man of being jealous of the bride and thus killing her by an unknown poison.

Chinese detective stories have their own unique style, a direct result of the culture in which they were written. Many of them begin with the knowledge of who the criminal is, although that is not the case with these stories. The translator, Van Gulik, has written an introduction to the volume as well as extensive notes. I would definitely recommend you read the introduction, as it provides valuable as well as interesting insight into the stories.

These three stories intertwine, and were definitely fun to read. This is my first time reading Judge Dee, although I know a little of the character having seen two Detective Dee films (based on the same character). It is also important to note that in Chinese courts, it is not uncommon for them to torture witnesses in order to get them to confess, and such is the case here. That being said, these stories are well written as are the characters. They are very interesting, and I enjoyed figuring out the mysteries involved (sad to say I don’t believe I guessed correctly on any of them). I look forward to reading more of the series. This is a must read if you enjoy detective stories as well as stories involving Chinese culture.

Saturday is Horror Day #73 – The Great Hypnotist, Everything Everywhere All at Once

Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes

 The Great Hypnotist

Xu Ruining (Zheng Xu) is a successful psychologist who specializes in hypnotherapy. His former teacher, Professor Fang (Zhong Lü) refers a rather troublesome patient to him, Ren Xiaoyan (Karen Mok). Red has been to other therapists, but no one believes her when she says she can see dead people. Dr Xu doesn’t especially seem to believe her either, but he’s determined to get to the bottom of her problems, which involve having been abandoned as a child and left in an orphanage, even as he tells her that no one leaves his office without having been cured.

Sounds like a challenge, but which one will come out on top?

This is a beautifully filmed, well-acted and well-written thriller about two protagonists who are both strong-willed and determined. The plot and the characters suck you in until you don’t know which side to believe. Does Ren really see dead people? Can Dr Xu bring her back to reality? It seems as though the more he tries, the more he is sucked into her reality. Is it reality or is it something else?

 

You may remember Zheng Xu (Dr Wu) from another film I recently reviewed, Lost in Hong Kong. This 

role is like night and day from that other one, showing the actor’s versatility. I’ll have to look for more of his films.  I enjoyed watching this film and will give it 4 solid Stars.

Everything Everywhere All at Once

Evelyn Wang’s (Michelle Yeoh) life is not quite the way she once pictured it. She and her husband, Waymond (Ke Huy Quan) own a failing laundromat. Her daughter Joy (Stephanie Hsu) is at odds with her, and Evelyn can’t bring herself to tell her aging father, Gong Gong (James Hong) who lives with them, that Joy has a girlfriend. The business is being audited by the IRS. Evelyn, Waymond and Gong Gong go to the office to meet with agent Deirdre Beaubeirdre (Jamie Lee Curtis). And that’s when everything begins… to change?

Evelyn finds her attention is wandering from Deirdre and her incessant complaints, when she finds herself looking at a strange note telling her to do strange things, such as put her shoes on the wrong feet and think herself inside the janitor’s closet. When she does, she finds herself with a man who looks like her husband but who says he is from another universe, and it is up to her to save the world…

 

Say what?

To say this movie is a wild ride would be an understatement, and on the surface it seems chaotic and 

erratic as Evelyn tries to make sense out of everything, but in so doing she learns to come to terms with her own life and the people in it. Great cast and imaginative writing make this sci-fi thriller is sure to become a cult classic. It requires multiple viewings, I think, and I’m sorry I didn’t get a chance to see it in the theater. I hear it was mind-blowing. I give this film 4.5 Stars.

Book Review: Skip Beat! Vol 13 by Yoshiki Nakamura

Skip Beat! Vol 13     

Author: Yoshiki Nakamura

Publisher: Viz Media

American release date: July 1, 2008

Format/Genre/Length: Paperback/Shojo Manga//2 pages

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★

 Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes

It’s a sink-or-swim moment for Ren! He has to convince both the President of LME as well as the director of the film that he can play Katsuki not only well but better than his predecessor. Mostly he has to convince Lory, who knows him too well to think he can accomplish this. Ren requests to ad lib a scene, expressing his confidence that his co-star Itsumi will not only be able to do so, he will make her react the way he wants her to. The scene begins…where will it end? Most importantly, will Lory approve?

Afterward, Kyoko is amazed that Lory has figured out that Ren is in love with a girl…although she is clueless to the fact that the girl is her! Mr Yoshiro suspects the truth, and tries to give Kyoko a clue, but the poor girl remains oblivious to his hints. When Kyoko offers Ren the precious stone she once received from Corn (whom she believes to have been a fairy but was actually Ren), what will he do?

Most of this volume is taken up with Ren’s test, but it’s well worth the price of admission to watch him in action, drawing on newly discovered although unadmitted feelings for Kyoko. Between the two of them, they don’t have a clue! Guess we have to wait to find out which one catches on first!

Great volume, can’t wait for more!

Book Review: Bleach, Vol 68 by Tite Kubo

Bleach, Vol 68   

Author: Tite Kubo

Publisher: Viz Media

American release date: March 1, 2016

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

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★

 Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes

Yhwach has slain the god Reio – his own father! Or has he? Kiskue has called an emergency meeting of the captains, although they don’t all show up, some being dispatched on other business. And some, such as Kenpachi, being laid up. Kiskue’s purpose is for them to storm Reiokyu. Yhwach kindly offers to lay Ichigo to rest by his own hands. Does anyone think even for a moment Ichigo will take him up on his “generous” offer? Not likely! The Visoreds assemble as well, and are given Soul Reaper uniforms.

Yhwach tells Ichigo that if he pulls the sword from Reio, he can destroy the Soul Society with his own hands. He appeals to the Quincy blood that flows through Ichigo. As the world begins to tremble, Orihime offers to heal Reio, but is told that cannot work. This is when Ukitake steps up and offers to take Reio’s place! Say what? How does that even work? And what effect will that have on Ukitake, who is fragile at the best of times?

Meanwhile, Shunsui has business of his own to attend to. He is attempting to make a deal with the devil, aka Aizen, still confined far beneath the barracks. He offers to bring him to the surface under certain conditions, in return for which he will use his spiritual pressure to aid the Soul Society. As Ichigo argues with Yhwach, Uryu appears, but his appearance seems to be no cause for joy because, as he puts it, “I am a Quincy.”

Will Ukitake’s sacrifice be in vain? Will Uryu prove to be a traitor to his friends? Will Shunsui really be able to control Aizen, and will Aizen be of aid to the Soul Society? Holy cow, so much going on. With each volume, we draw closer to the end. I have to believe Ichigo et al will triumph, but there are no guarantees, especially in a manga.

Onward to the next volume!

 

Wednesday Briefs: August 3, 2022

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.

The Garret Farm: Part 38 by J Ray Lamb

Murphy was sitting in his office crunching the new financials when Trent charged through the door.

“God dammit Garret, do you have to tell EVERYONE about my sex life?” bellowed Trent as he made his way to Murphy’s desk.

Murphy looked up with a bemused smirk but didn’t say anything until after Trent had walked right up to his desk.

“You assume that I told Chris about your sex life? Think about Trent. Chris is one of Sandy’s friends from school. She likely knows all the gruesome details.” Murphy said as he stood up, “Now, get out of my office…

Click here to read the entire Brief:

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