Monthly Archives: May 2023

Wednesday Briefs: May 31, 2023

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.

Broken Path, Starless Tail: Chapter Thirteen by Cia Nordwell

By the time he was dry, Beckett and Valrinda had a long talk. Valrinda had flown all sorts of places, and he knew of the city that Beckett thought he’d seen, but he’d never been there. “I know the path at least.”  

“Of course you do,” Beckett mumbled. “Wouldn’t make sense for you to be my guide if you didn’t.” This was all too coincidental—too easy—for him to believe it was real. Maybe he was in a coma. He did have a great imagination, one teacher had once said. Too bad real life, and his dad, was trying

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Book Review: Zombie-Loan, Vol 1 by Peach-Pit

Zombie-Loan, Vol 1        

Author: Peach-pit

Publisher: Yen Press

American release date: October 17, 2007

Format/Genre/Length: Paperback/Horror/Fantasy Manga/208 pages

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★

Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes

Michiru Kita is the kind of girl who never speaks up for herself, and does what others tell her to do without question. As evidenced by the way the group of girls she eats lunch with every day make her buy all their food, and she has to go and get it herself! She’s on the way back one day when she accidentally runs into two male students, knocking off her glasses. To her alarm, she sees black rings around their necks. Apologizing, she hurries to the cafeteria to deliver the lunch order.  There she discovers that the two boys she ran into are known as Boy A and Boy B, because they were the sole survivors of a horrible accident. Kita finds the rings disturbing because in her experience, people who have them tend to die. Worse than that, though, did she really see what she thought she saw? She awakens in the school infirmary, having fainted. She really wishes the Sister had wakened her instead of allowing her to sleep.

It’s dark and it’s late as she hurries across the empty school grounds, headed home lest her aunt worry about her. But she is stopped by Boy B, real name Chika, who demands she pay him 500 yen for what happened earlier. Seriously? They are joined by Boy A, Shito, who proposes they kill her, presumably for what she witnessed. What to do, what to do? She tells them she just wanted to warn them about danger, about the rings on their necks, and then she manages to sprint to safety.

The next day Shito and Chika face Kita’s bullies and tell them that Kita is their go-fer now, not theirs. Things are going from bad to worse, so she stays home after that but they find her anyway, and even charm her aunt into giving them tea. They claim they are debt collectors.  Kita tries to pay them the 500 yen they demanded but they tell her the debt is now 50 million yen. Wth? They then spirit Kita away to a shady looking business that gives loans. They were very surprised at her ability to see their rings, and they have a definite use for such an ability. See, they work for a special branch of the loan company – the zombie-loan arm – and they owe a huge debt themselves. With her help, they can more easily make the money they need to pay off their debt. Why aren’t they dead, though, when their rings are so dark? In Kita’s experience, the darker the ring, the more imminent death. Oh well, that’s easily explained. They are dead… kinda sorta. They introduce her to the Ferryman, who is an odd sort. And thus a strange business relationship begins.

There is something about Shito and Chika that reminds me of the Boondock Saints, maybe it’s the crosses they wear, not sure. Or maybe it’s just the way they work in tandem. This was a very interesting volume and a great introduction to the series. I anticipate great hijinks ahead and interesting adventures. The Ferryman isn’t what you might expect, being rather quirky and nerdy, kind of like Undertaker in Black Butler but not quite as flamboyant. I suspect there will be character development in this series as it’s already begun. I look forward to seeing Kita grow as a person, and Shito and Chika too. There is already evidence that they are not as heartless as they would have people believe.

Good first volume, looking forward to more.

Saturday is HOrror Day #115 – The Witch Files

Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes

The Witch Files

Five teenage girls meet during a shared detention period, and become fascinated by the idea that one of them,  Jules (Britt Flatmo) has special witchy powers. She tells them she can show them how to harness their powers, and that together they are stronger. So Claire (Holly Taylor), Brooke (Alice Ziolkoski), MJ (Tara Robinson), and Greta (Adrienne Rose White) agree to meet with her. But it has to be late at night, which means lying to or ducking out on parents and or boyfriends. They sit in a circle and Jules tells them to chant. At first, nothing happens. But then they find themselves able to cause a book to lift into the air, and then one of them. The girls are elated, and decide to test their powers in the real world, which includes stealing from a store by convincing the clerk they paid, and eating for free at a restaurant the same way.

Aspiring documentarian Claire films what they do, as well as doing a little research into some past strange events in the town. What she finds is rather disturbing, and the incidents seem to run in a seventeen-year cycle. Even more disturbing, the girls themselves are starting to feel the effects of their usage of this power, or whatever it is, and their bodies seem to be aging at an inordinate rate, showing signs of arthritis, macular degeneration, and more. Things are going horribly awry, and they begin to wonder who or what Jules really is.

This film has definite echoes of The Craft, but without the heavy vibes and taking itself too seriously. Not surprisingly, one of the writers is Larry Blamire, who brought us The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra films as well as Dark and Stormy Night. The Witch Files is funny and dark without being heavy-handed. I think they channeled the Craft for sure. I know there is a transgender character in The Craft, and one of the girls in The Witch Files makes such references about herself such as needing to “drain the snake” which leads me to wonder if she is transgender as an homage to the other film.

I read some reviews in which people complained about the lack of realism (in a movie about witchcraft? Seriously?) And some said it wasn’t as good as The Craft. Personally, I liked it better. It was fun to watch. I’ll give this film 4 Stars.

Book Review: Demon Slayer, Vol 23 by Koyoharu Gotouge

Demon Slayer, Vol 23   

Author: Koyoharu Gotouge

Publisher: Viz Media

American release date:  August 3, 2021

Format/Genre/Length: Paperback/Fantasy Manga/232 pages

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★

Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes

This is it…the final battle! The members of the Demon Slayer Corps have been tirelessly battling Muzan, attempting to hold out until dawn, when the sunlight will destroy him. But oh the price they’ve paid. Tanjiro lies on the ground, unmoving, apparently dead, even as a now-human Nezuko arrives and throws herself on him,anguished. Can nothing be done to save him? But it gets worse. Unknown to them, a desperate Muzan has instilled himself into Tanjiro, demonizing him and naming him as his successor, claiming he will be even stronger than Muzan and will destroy the humans utterly. Tanjiro opens his eyes, and attempts to do just that. Yoshiro is helpless and frustrated that he can’t do anything, forced to hide in the shadows. The cry goes up that they must kill Tanjiro! Will his friends and comrades really do that to him? Can they do that to him if he is as strong as Muzan predicts he will be?

This is the final volume of the Demon Slayer series, and I made the mistake of reading it at work. I couldn’t keep from crying. This last volume is a total rollercoaster ride of epic proportions. I did not see that coming, that Muzan would turn Tanjiro into a demon, and my heart broke for all of them, especially Tanjiro and Nezuko.

*****SPOILERS***** However, all’s well that ends well. Not only that, we are given a glimpse into the future, to future generations, and it was truly satisfying. A fitting end to a really awesome series. Good thing I’m still watching the anime. The swordsmith village arc just came out. I know I will read the books again too.

Highly recommend this entire series!

Book Review: Love Mode, Vol 2 by Yuki Shimuzu

Love Mode, Vol 2   

Author: Yuki Shimizu

Publisher: Blu

American release date:  March 7, 2006

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

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★ 

Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes

Naoya is a young man who has lost everything, including his parents. It seems to him that winter only brings bad things, and this year is no exception when his foster father says he can’t keep him any longer. Aoe Reiji catches his cheating girlfriend in the act in the apartment they share. Despite her tears and protestations that he neglected her, he walks out even as he tells her to vacate the premises. Leaving the building, he almost collides with a young man. Just then, his now ex-girlfriend hurls a potted plant from above him. It misseds Aoe but hits the boy. Aoe takes the boy to the hospital where his older brother, Kiichi, works as a doctor.

While Aoe and his brother stand in the boy’s room and talk, another man appears who says he is the boy’s foster father. The boy is Naoya, and he tells the two men about the death of Naoya’s parents. He has come to check on him, but not take him home, unfortunately. When Naoya is ready to leave the hospital, Aoe offers to take him home. First they go by Naoya’s place of work, where Naoya finds he’s been cheated out of his paycheck. Things just seem to go wrong for him all the time. Then he goes to his apartment, only to find it’s burned up and the landlord is accusing him of causing the fire!

Aoe takes the now homeless Naoya back to his own apartment and they become roommates. Well, somewhat. Naoya is always angry and he doesn’t trust Aoe, who never reveals how he really feels at the best of times. Naoya finds Aoe to be strict, but he’s honestly just looking out for him, making sure he eats right, sleeps right, and gets to school and studies. Aoe’s brother Kiichi, the doctor, seems amused by Aoe’s interest in the boy and encourages Naoya to get Aoe to spend lots of money on him, telling the boy that his brother can afford it.

Naoya is very reluctant to trust Aoe, and he fears he is a burden to the older man. But he’s also naïve, and gets himself into a dangerous situation. Luckily, it’s at one of Aoe’s clubs, and Aoe quickly comes to the rescue.  After that, Aoe hires Naoya as a companion for “Izumi”, his best escort, and he becomes friends with the lovely man, who is still recovering from surgery. But due to unfortunate circumstances, Naoya moves out, but he isn’t happy. And another Christmas has come and he’s alone…again.

This volume introduces us to Naoya, and sees the return of Aoe, who you’ll recall is Takamiya’s sometimes less-than-charming friend who was so hard on Izumi in the first book. Naoya is a boy who’s lost everything and trusts no one. Aoe puts on a hard front, but he is really sweet inside (just don’t tell him that). The two end up together (and just for the record, Aoe is the same age as Takamiya, 28, and Naoya is 17, like Izumi. If this bothers you, don’t read).

I like them as a couple, but I like Takamiya and Izumi the best. There is a bonus story about Takamiya and Izumi and Christmas. Really love this manga, wish there was an anime!

Wednesday Briefs: May 24, 2023

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.

Broken Path, Starless Tail: Chapter Twelve by Cia Nordwell

“What do you know?” Valrinda asked.  

Beckett thought hard. It was only… yesterday? How could it only be yesterday with all that had happened? He’d been in the bathroom with Parallax in his arms, then in a freezing cold forest with that same cat, but somehow, he’d been completely different. “Well, Parallax said he was the embodiment of the Cosmos, not it’s guardian,” he pointed out.  

“And you think that the very fabric of space and time needs a physical being to not protect it?” One of Valrinda’s eye ridges went up.  

“Okay, fair point.” Beckett tried to think back


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Book Review: Assassination Classroom, Vol 9 by Yusei Matsui

Assassination Classroom, Vol 9     

Author: Yusei Matsui

Publisher: Viz Media

American release date:  April 5, 2016

Format/Genre/Length: Paperback/Action Adventure Manga/192 pages

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★

Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes

The showdown has begun – Nagisa vs the Final Boss! Turns out the boss is none other than their former teacher, Takaoka, the one Nagisa bested before. Looks like he has a grudge against his former students! Or maybe it’s just the ten million dollars at stake for killing Koro Sensei… or both.  Nagisa is angry enough to kill the man, but will cooler heads prevail? Terasaka reminds him that it’s still murder and not worth it, to just beat him up without killing him. Nagisa bested him once before, can he do it again?

Once the situation is resolved, everyone returns to their hotel and sleeps like the dead! Afterward, Koro Sensei has an idea for the perfect way to wrap up their assassination vacation through a test of courage. But his true purpose is to play matchmaker! His plans don’t exactly come to fruition, as his students aren’t that easily played, but there is one possibility for a love match, and the students are glad to assist their teacher in his matchmaking efforts.

Back to school! Time is running out before the possible end of the world. The powers that be determine that the bounty on killing the creature should be increased for a group, since the students almost succeeded in killing him over the break. The reward is now set at 300 million! However the new semester also starts with a startling new development, as one member of Class 3E defects and returns to Class A – for all the wrong reasons! Oh dear, can they bring him back into the fold before he inflicts irreversible damage?

I really enjoyed the assassination vacation arc, it was a lot of fun, and we got to see the class develop and grow in many ways. The way the final situation was handled was wonderful. Nagisa has a great future ahead of him if he wishes to become a spy or a professional assassin! The matchmaking story was cute, and I liked the unexpected twist. Also, the defecting of one student was a challenge, trying to figure out his motivation. Love this series so much, looking forward to the next volume!

Saturday is Horror Day #114 – Terrifier 2

Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes

Terrifier 2

Siblings Sienna (Lauren LaVera) and Jonathan (Elliott Fullam) haven’t had it easy since the death of their father, and living with their mother Barbara (Sarah Voigt) is no picnic. She shows a distinct lack of understanding for what her children are going through, and never believes them, even when they’re telling the truth. Jonathan is blamed for things that happened at his school, such as the presence of a dead animal, and no one believes him when he says he’s seen Art the Clown (David Howard Thornton), the supposedly dead serial killer.

Halloween is coming. Sienna has been working hard on her costume, based on a character her father drew

in a book of sketches. Jonathan plans to go as Art the Clown, although his mother insists that he not do so. But strange things are beginning to happen, including the destruction of Sienna’s costume wings in an unexplained fire in her room that her mother blames on her. But Sienna knows she never lit the candles. What is going on? She is forced to find a cheap replacement, as there is no time to make a new set, and while at the Halloween shop, she spies someone who resembles the clown. And he is creepy as hell. She leaves the shop safely but the clerk is not so lucky.

Both Sienna and Jonathan have seen Art with a companion – a young girl in similar clown make-up, who looks just as crazy as he does. But no one else seems to see them. Sienna tells her mother she is going to a friend’s house on Halloween, but she dresses up and goes with her to a bar, where not only is she drinking, but her friend slips some molly into her drink, so she is not exactly thinking clearly. Jonathan’s mom berates him harshly again for something he never did, and he runs out of the house.

The body count is rising. Sienna freaks out at the club with her friend and her boyfriend at the sight of the little girl, so they decide to take her home. But she gets a call from Jonathan, asking for her help, and telling her to go to the old carnival…to the Terrifier ride. The boyfriend offers to drive her, and while she looks for her brother, they wait in the car…

The second movie is every bit as gory and visceral as the first, but we see more of Art, who is a strange and yet compelling character. Not likeable, certainly not. I can honestly say I like Hannibal Lecter, despite his unusual culinary habits, but Art the Clown? Never. Creepy beyond belief, and well played by David Howard Thornton. How creepy is it that he can convey his creepiness without speaking a single word?

This movie is certainly not for the faint at heart. One scene involves handing out Halloween candy to unsuspecting trick-or-treaters in a hollowed-out human head! I am still left wondering about so many things. Where did Art come from, and why does he do the things he does? I think the little girl was explained somewhat. But there is also the question of Sienna and Jonathan’s father, who supposedly killed himself by running his car into a transformer and burning up. I wonder if he really died? And how did he come up with the sketches in his book, including that of the clown and his daughter in her costume? Look for the woman from the first film whose face was torn up beyond repair. She’s living in an institution now, and we are not done with her by any means. In fact, from what I understand, there will be a third and fourth movie, which should conclude the series. That remains to be seen.

I have to say also that the film took a bit of an unexpected left turn toward the end, one I still don’t get, and for which I am rating it down. I’ll give this film 3.5 Stars.

Book Review: Demon Slayer, Vol 22 by Koyoharu Gotouge

Demon Slayer, Vol 22

Author: Koyoharu Gotouge

Publisher: Viz Media

American release date:  June 1, 2021

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

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★

Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes

The battle to defeat Muzan has taken a great toll among the Demon Slayer Corps. So many good people dead because of Muzan and his demonic minions. Iguro is trying to shield Himejima, but he knows he won’t be able to move for much longer, and Kanroji is afraid she is about to fall without having accomplished anything. Iguro sends Kanroji off to be healed, and he tells her he does not deserve to be with someone like her as he is not worthy. Iguro was the first male to be born into his family in 370 years. His mother, sisters, and aunts confined him to a cell, stuffed him with rich foods and fawned over him, while at night, something truly horrible happened.

Himejima is surprised at the arrival of Kanao, Inosuke, and Zenitsu, thinking they weren’t still alive. Muzan is still battling, despite the loss of some limbs, but he does regenerate after all, although he doesn’t seem to be doing it quite as quickly as before. Himejima realizes that just cutting off Muzan’s head won’t kill him because he has multiple hearts and brains. The trouble is they keep moving, and without a fixed location, it makes it difficult to destroy them.

Tanjiro finally arrives and he looks terrible. But he has an idea, a way of putting an end to Muzan once and for all. Will his idea work, and will he survive the ordeal? Also, Nezuko is on her way. How will she be affected by everything?

One more volume to go. Edge of the seat, nail-biting stuff.  I know how I want it to work out – with Muzan dead and Tanjiro not just alive but well again. I know things will never be the same, so many good people lost, but hopefully all’s well that ends well. After this, Tanjiro deserves to become a Hashira! And Nezuko should be able to join the Demon Slayer Corps too. What about her and Zenitsu? Personally, I can’t see it, but you never know.

Looking forward with both trepidation and anticipation to the last volume!

Book Review: Love Mode, Vol 1 by Yuki Shimizu

Love Mode Vol 1   

Author: Yuki Shimizu

Publisher: Blu

American release date: November 8, 2005

Format/Genre/Length: Paperback/Yaoi Manga/ /216 pages

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★

Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes


High schooler Izumi is surprised to receive a call from a friend he hasn’t spoken to in awhile, Konno. Konno tells him that a friend has asked to meet Izumi, and offers to set him up on a blind date. He says the friend is older and good-looking. What’s not to like? Izumi jumps at the chance. Following instructions, he arrives at the meeting place and waits, wondering what the mystery woman looks like, anticipating the date that is to come. While he waits, he notices a man standing near to him collapses and is taken away by ambulance. He picks up the single red rose the man dropped, and continues to wait. When a voice speaks his name, he eagerly looks up to see what his date looks like, only to be confronted by the face of… a man? What is going on here?

The man’s name is Takamiya, and he seems pleased with Izumi, and says he is looking forward to their day together. Izumi tries to explain there’s been some mistake, but when Takamiya mentions horses, he catches the younger man’s attention. Real horses? And thus their day together begins. During dinner, Izumi drinks a little too much and doesn’t remember leaving the restaurant. He wakes to find himself in a strange bed. But why is he naked? Why is Takamiya naked? What is going on here?

After they have sex, Takamiya tries to offer Izumi money. The incensed teenager yells at him, and that is when Takamiya realizes there has been a case of mistaken identity. But he can’t undo what has been done. Poor Izumi passes out again, and when he wakes, he is in his own bed, thank goodness. But when he goes to find his mother, he finds Takamiya in the kitchen and his mother gone shopping! Apparently, since Takamiya brought Izumi home, she trusts him? What the heck?

Thus an unusual relationship begins. Despite the fact that he knows he isn’t gay, Izumi finds that he does enjoy spending time with Takamiya, and sometimes he even finds him attractive. What does that mean? Things go from strange to worse when he meets Takamiya’s friend, Aoe Reiji, who owns the club where the actual escort he was to meet works. Aoe clearly does not think highly of Izumi and calls him a brat. When Takamiya takes Izumi away for golden week to a resort, Izumi is excited, until he learns that the place is actually Aoe’s, and that man has no compunction about just walking into a room without knocking first.

This series first came out in 1996, and I think I read it for the first time then. So, there are things to be taken into consideration before you rush to judgment. First, although Izumi is sixteen, that is the age of consent in Japan. Takamiya and Aoe are 28, but that is not considered inappropriate there either. Then there is the issue of dubious consent. That was a big thing back then, not sure about now, as I don’t read as much yaoi as I once did. However, I think it was considered to be okay if the couple ends up together and in love, that the ending excuses the means. But if you are triggered by dubious consent, you might want to reconsider reading this series. I’m not saying I think it’s right, just that it is what it is.

That being said, I love these books, and have read them a couple of times already, although this is my first time reviewing them.  Keep in mind, also, as you read, that attitudes toward gay people were still often derogatory, so take Izumi’s comments with a grain of salt and remember he is just becoming aware of his own sexuality. Plus he’s sixteen.

Takamiya is sweet and gentle and ever patient. He will need that patience with Izumi, who is young and hot-headed and impulsive. They do balance each other very well. Aoe comes across as something of an a**, especially with the stunt he pulls on Izumi, but I know he becomes more human as the series continues. All in all, I think this series stands the test of time, which is why I am reading it again. I do highly recommend it if you enjoy reading gay romance.