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Book Review: Monster, Perfect Edition, Vol 4 by Naoki Urasawa

Monster: The Perfect Edition, Vol 4   

Author: Naoki Urasawa

Publisher: Viz Media

American release date: April 21, 2015

Format/Genre/Length: Paperback/Manga/Horror/438 pages

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★

Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes

 

A PI named Richard, who was thrown off the police force for shooting a kid, is in therapy to deal with that, as well as the addiction to alcohol that almost killed him and cost him his wife and his daughter. Even now, his daughter won’t see him, although he’s on a better footing with his ex. Richard asks his therapist, Dr. Reichwein, to look at a photo and see if he can tell anything about the man in the picture. Turns out, things are starting to work out for him and his daughter has agreed to see him the next day. When that doesn’t happen, though, he contemplates turning back to drink.

Neuman, who still hasn’t revealed his true identity to the billionaire Schuwald, has introduced Johan to him, and Johan has become indispensable. Neuman’s foster parents reveal that they wish to adopt him. Without giving them an answer, he calls his employer and says he is leaving his employ, but the old man wants him to read to him one last time. Richard, the PI, tries to report to Schuwald what he has learned, but the man is no longer interested and insists the matter is settled.

Dr. Reichwein remembers a former student of his who has done very well, Dr. Gillen. He’s recently read an interview Gillen did with a serial killer named Jürgens who claimed a “friend” ordered him to commit the murders. He also asks him about a former classmate of his who did well, a doctor named Tenma.

As Richard continues to investigate the people who surround Herr Schuwald, he is starting to uncover a disturbing pattern… plus he finds himself the object of some near-misses that could have hurt or killed him. He ends up at the home of Johan’s current adoptive parents, the Lieberts.

When Dr. Reichwein  receives some devastating news, as he tries to figure out what happened and he is almost killed! He chases down his would-be killer and confronts him, demanding to know who is paying him to do this. Later, his life is saved by Dr. Tenma, and meanwhile Dr. Gillen is visited by BKA Inspector Lunge. Nina Fortner is hot on Johan’s trail, while Johan is teaching children a terrible game, and Tenma lies in wait to rid the world of a monster…

Not as much of Tenma or Nina in this volume, but the other characters and their stories are definitely riveting. The PI who is trying to redeem himself for his daughter’s sake, the therapist who has ties with two former students, including Tenma, and who is determined to unravel the mystery he’s begun to see. The obsessed Lunge, whom I suspect no longer cares if Tenma is innocent or guilty, he’s just going to bring him down no matter what. I can’t help but compare the so-called “friend” of Jürgens, who forced him to kill, with the sinister Friend of Urasawa’s Twentieth Century Boys. Both Johan and Friend are definitely evil men. I really hope Tenma doesn’t go through with his plans.

Another great volume, can’t wait for the next one.

Wednesday Briefs: August 18, 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 Fifty-two by Cia Nordwell
 

Garjah’s bed was soft as a cloud, an unexpected luxury. I sank into it under his weight as he knelt between my thighs. When he tried to lift off me, I pulled him back down and locked my legs around his hips.  

“Stay,” I ordered. I rocked up, pressing our flesh together. I was leaking and the clear, sticky fluid smeared between our bellies.  

Garjah glanced down. His nostrils flared and he rumbled. He wormed one hand between us and joined our lengths, pressed his flexible shaft to mine.  

“Yeah,  just like that.” My toes curled in the satiny sheets.

 

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Saturday is Horror Day #23 – Krampus: The Christmas Devil, Krampus (2015)

Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes

Krampus: The Christmas Devil

As a child,  police officer Jeremy Duffin (A.J. Leslie) was abducted, dragged in a sack and tossed into a frozen lake from which he managed to escape. It’s thirty years later, and he still can’t forget. Not to mention, he is convinced that the perpetrator of that crime is still out there, and every ten years he repeats the cycle. What’s a cop gonna do?

 

 

Sure enough, it’s happening again, and Jeremy has to do something about it.  Christmas is almost upon them, and all children know that Santa wants them to be good. What they may not know is that the flip side of Santa, who deals with naughty children, is the Krampus. He’s got a list…. and he knows how to use it. Where does he get that list? From Santa Claus, of course, his brother!

 

As if this isn’t bad enough, a criminal that Jeremy put away, Brian Hatt (Bill Oberst Jr) has just been

released from prison after ten years, and of course he has revenge on his mind. Who wouldn’t, right? Which puts not only Jeremy but his wife and daughter at risk. Unbeknownst to Jeremy, his daughter Heather (Samantha Hoepfl) has also made the top of Krampus’ list! Which evil is he going to have to fight off first?

So, what can I say about this movie? I had high hopes for it which were quickly dashed. Right off the bat, the acting sucks. Big time. I’ve seen better acting from high school students. Granted, I’m sure they all tried, but they failed, rather miserably. The best acting I saw was from a minor character in the bar, and I forget his name. As bad as Jeremy is, the actress playing his wife was worse.

What else? Oh yes, the writing was horrible. Terrible script. And the fight scenes were badly choreographed and virtually non-existent. The action would always cut away so you wouldn’t really see anything and would cut back so you could view the end result. The blood looks like strawberry syrup, btw, and not the good stuff.

Krampus himself is not scary. Weird, sure. Creepy? Definitely. He is holed up in a cave or something, and keeps a child in a cage. He also has a half naked woman chained to the wall that he likes to… play with. Seriously? Wth? Why even bring that up? He’s a demon, right? I have no idea.

From the start, this movie is ridiculous and not the least bit scary. The scariest thing to me was wondering how this even got made, who wasted good money on making it. And why were there sequels? Guess I’ll find out when I watch the next one. It has to be better, right? One can hope. On that basis, I’ll give Krampus: The Christmas Devil 1 flimsy Star, and that is being generous. This isn’t a horror movie, it’s a horrible movie.

Krampus (2015)

Christmas is almost here, and it should be a time of great cheer! But young Max (Emjay Anthony) feels otherwise, since it means his horrible cousins and their parents are coming for the holiday.  Mom Sarah (Toni Collette) and dad Tom (Adam Scott) are trying to be good-natured about it, because they are family, after all. But some people are just hard to take. And as if to make matters worse, Sarah’s sister Linda (Allison Tolman) has brought along Aunt Dorothy (Conchata Ferrell). Can things get any worse?

Hell yes, it can.

It begins at dinner when Max’s cousins reveal that they’ve found Max’s letter to Santa Claus and proceed to read it in front of everyone, to Max’s mortification. Lots of personal stuff in it regarding his family and theirs, and of course the two girls don’t like what he’s said about them. A fight ensues, and ends with Max taking refuge in his room. He takes the offending letter and tears it up, then throws it out his window, where it scatters to the winds.

 

It begins with a power outage. Although technically it began with the arrival of some unexpected gifts on the porch. Sitting in the dark is not how anyone had envisioned their Christmas. Max’s sister Beth (Stefania LaVie Owen) is worried about her boyfriend, who lives nearby. Despite the weather, she gets permission to check on him, since he isn’t responding to her texts. What she finds is horrifying, and as she attempts to race home, to safety, she sees some very strange things.

Meanwhile, back at the house, everyone huddles together in the living room for warmth in front of the 

fireplace, attempting to sleep. But something strange is happening when a chain drops through the chimney, with a strange creature on it, which draws the attention of Max’s cousin Howie Jr (Maverick Flack). The other wake up just in time to see him being sucked up the chimney.

This version of the Krampus legend is as different from the first one as night and day. This one has a solid cast, good writing, good direction, and an interesting story. Darkly humorous, it doesn’t lag. I could easily identify with Max’s parents, doing their best to get through the holidays despite having douchey relatives in the house. Tom’s mother, whom they call Omi, is also there. She is Max’s anchor, and she is the only one with a clue about what’s happening.

 

The story is funny and also scary, it has a unique take on Christmas, and has all the elements of a good horror film. There are more sequels in this series and I intend to watch the ones I can find, except for the sequel to the first one. Same writer and cast, so I’m gonna just call it quits on that while I’m ahead, expecting nothing better. But I’ll keep you posted on the others. I am giving Krampus (2015) a solid 4 Stars.

Book Review: The Icepick Surgeon: Murder, Fraud, Sabotage, Piracy and Other Dastardly Deeds Perpetrated in the Name of Science by Sam Kean

The Icepick Surgeon: Murder, Fraud, Sabotage, Piracy, and Other Dastardly Deeds Perpetrated in the Name of Science

Author: Sam Kean

Publisher: Little, Brown and Company

American release date:  July 13, 2021

Format/Genre/Length: Hardback/History & Philosophy of Science/368 pages

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★

Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes

We’ve all heard of mad scientists, of course. Victor Frankenstein is surely the epitome of science gone wrong, although he had noble intentions. But he was a fictional character, that sort of thing doesn’t happen in real life because real scientists are good, intelligent human beings…

… until they’re not.

This book covers science gone wrong through the years, instances where people did things that make us cringe today, the tales extending even into modern times. Pirates/naturalists hand in hand with slavers, graverobbers who worked to further knowledge of human anatomy, horrible experimentation on poor animals, surgery gone wrong, and more…

These are stories you won’t believe until you read them. A couple of them I was already familiar with, such as David Reimer, and Burke and Hare. Others will amaze you, like the cruel psychology experiment that may have contributed to the rise of the Unabomber.

Sam Kean tells these stories in a fascinating way, and makes me want to know more. I will be reading more of his books, and highly recommend this one because enquiring minds want to know!

Wednesday Briefs: August 11, 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 #11 (3.4) by Julie Lynn Hayes

As I scanned the lists, I pulled out my phone to take notes. Such an ingenious invention, this cloud. I was able to have access to my spreadsheets and word documents without the inconvenience of having to cart about a pc. I would crosscheck my sources against one another, searching for and take note of overlapping information. Since I knew the approximate area I was born, and somewhat of a timeframe, you’d think it wouldn’t be hard to locate members of my family…but you’d be wrong. Even if I had an actual name to search for, birth certificates were non-existent at that time, especially for slaves, since they were considered to be property, not persons. People assume that slaves were given the names of their owners for purposes of identification, but this wasn’t necessarily so.

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Saturday is Horror Day #23 – The Hoarder, Return of the Living Dead 3, Willy’s Wonderland

Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes

 The Hoarder

 


Ella (Mischa Barton) is mistrustful of her fiance. Having been screwed over by men before, she thinks she’s found evidence that he’s been unfaithful. But when the evidence suddenly vanishes, where else can it be but his storage unit, located way out in the middle of nowhere. Ella enlists the aid of her friend Molly (Emily Atack), because that’s what best friends are for, right? Especially friends who know how to get into places they shouldn’t.

 

The two young women bullshit their way past the clerk on duty, Stephen (Andrew Buckley), and take the elevator down to the fourth level. Seems as though everything is underground. And not only is this level dark and creepy, but it has an unfinished look to it. Undeterred the girls find the fiance’s unit and, with some difficulty, open the door, only to be confronted by… what was that? Something just snatched Molly and dragged her inside, shutting the door securely behind!

 

An alarmed Ella runs back to the elevator as the lights, which are on timers, go off around her. But


something is in pursuit and she barely makes it inside. The elevator refuses to move, though, and she climbs out the top and up the cable to the next floor where her cries for help draw the attention of Vince (Robert Knepper), who helps her out. He’s skeptical of her tale, but luckily he’s a cop, and willing to help. Soon they run across Willow (Valene Kane) and then Ian (John Sackville). Ian was in the process of splitting the contents of his storage unit with his soon-to-be ex Sarah (Charlotte Salt). But Sarah disappeared and he’s looking for her, which makes him suspect in Vince’s eyes.

 

The group tries to make its way up the stairs, but the doors at each level are locked. And there’s something in the dark that’s killing people…

 

This film was made in 2015. I’ll admit the big reason I was drawn to watch it is because I really like Robert Knepper. To some extent it’s a character-driven horror film, as we met the protagonists and hear their stories. Ordinary people leading ordinary lives. But it soon develops into true horror as a… creature… begins to claim more and more victims. There is a certain amount of tension, not knowing where this thing is or what it wants… or even something as basic as how to survive and get out of this death trap. The premise isn’t bad, the acting is fairly decent. And of course, Robert Knepper plays his role very well. Naturally, he isn’t necessarily what he appears to be, but would you expect less of him?

My biggest problem with this lies in the finale, once we learn who is behind everything, because there really is no why, no explanation of what we’ve been watching. Of course, based on certain stereostypes that aren’t exactly new in the genre, we can extrapolate the reasons. But I have to believe there is more to it than that, and the film misses the mark on that score. Plus it’s rather one-dimensional in that regard. Like Escape Room, but without the clever twists. It wasn’t a bad film, but it could have been better. Mischa Barton’s acting is less than spectacular but because of Robert Knepper, I am giving this 3 Stars.

Return of the Living Dead 3


Some things never change. Even after the fiasco involving the walking dead, the military can’t get enough of playing around with these new playthings because, of course, they know best. Colonel Reynolds (Kent McCord) is no exception to this rule, as he and his group work at re-animating the dead. His son Curt (J Trevor Edmond) and his girlfriend Julie (Melinda Clarke) use dad’s pass to sneak onto base, and they become unwitting witnesses of what transpires. The experiments lead to the colonel’s reassignment. But when he tells his son, Curt rebels, and runs off with Julie on his motorcycle.

Julie gets a little frisky on the motorcycle, distracting her boyfriend, which results in an accident which kills Julie. The griefstricken Curt is beside himself and sneaks her body back onto the base, so he can revive her with the same stuff his dad and his group were using. This can’t possibly go wrong, can it?

 

Julie begins to show symptoms of being dead, and experiences intense hunger pains. Curt takes her to a convenience store where she gorges on junk. Meanwhile a local gang is there, and trouble ensues, resulting in the shop owner’s death, and one of the gang being bitten by Julie. Curt and Julie escape and make their way to the area of the sewers, where a homeless man unexpectedly aids them. But even he realizes there is something off about Julie.

The gang members are pissed at what happened and follow the young lovers, determined to have 


revenge. Curt’s father is also looking for his son, having been relieved of his command. He’s determined not to come back until he finds him.

This is the third entry in the Return of the Living Dead franchise, and it is by far the weakest link so far. It possesses none of the humor or fun of the first two films (maybe because it’s lacking James Karen and Thom Matthews, just a thought). Different director and different writer result in a different film, and the change is definitely not for the better.

 

I think a large part of the problem is the script, which isn’t very good. Also, I think the film takes itself too seriously but lacks any heart. We have no emotional ties to any of the characters, so it’s kind of hard to care what happens to any of them. Like dispassionately watching a science experiment to take note of the results. But in this case, these are (or were) living breathing human beings, now the re-animated dead.

 

Another thing that irked me greatly was that they changed the rules of the universe in which they were playing. Julie becomes a zombie early on but she still retains her full ability to speak, although she does display many of the classic symptoms of the other walking dead. Tortured by the changes, she hurts herself in order to keep the hunger at bay, but she thinks that won’t work forever and she’s afraid she’ll end up hurting Curt. She ends up making a weapon of herself (see above). So there’s that. I think that’s more of an excuse to show her half-naked body, but that’s just my opinion.

Kent McCord… well, I loved him in Adam 12, but he doesn’t really come across here as the classic father who was never around and doesn’t know how to show his emotions. His portrayal is too cold and too rigid to get a real feel for this character, especially after seeing the experiment he was involved in.

All in all, this was a disappointment. I’m going to give it 2 Stars.

Willy’s Wonderland


In the sleepy little town of Hayesville – one of those blink and you miss’em communities – sits the locked and abandoned one-time children’s play place known as Willy’s Wonderland, named after Willy the Weasel, one of its animatronic attractions. Liv (Emily Tosta) knows what evil lurks therein and intends to burn the place to the ground. But she’s caught in the act by Sheriff Lund (Beth Grant), who is also her foster mother, and placed in handcuffs inside their home… for her own good.

 

Speed traps in small towns are not uncommon, and Hayesville is no exception. A sports car driven by Nic Cage runs over a set of spikes that blow out all four tires. As he stands by his car, a tow truck miraculously appears. When the driver tows Cage to his garage and assesses the damage, including the tow it will come to a thousand dollars. They have no Internet, so can’t pay by credit card. He doesn’t take checks, and the ATM doesn’t work. Cash on the barrel head. Of course the silent Cage doesn’t have a grand in his pocket. So the tow truck driver offers him a deal. He knows a place that needs help. He can spend the night there, cleaning, and in the morning, his car will be ready to go. Cage has no choice but to accept.

 

The place turns out to be Willy’s Wonderland.

Meanwhile, some of Liv’s friends are looking for her and find her handcuffed and help her to break out.


She is intent on finishing what she started, especially since she saw the man with the tow truck driver and she knows where he’s being taken and why. And she is determined that is not going to happen.

Meanwhile, Cage goes to work to do what he’s agreed to. He’s been told to remember to take breaks, so he sets his watch as a reminder to do so. Willy’s is creepy, in large part due to the animatronics which seem to move… and more. But Cage is more than a match for them and dispatches a couple quite handily. When he tries to throw their remains outside, he learns for the first time that he has been locked in.

 

Liv knocks on the window to tell him he has to get out of there, before they set the building on fire, but he turns and ignores her. Exasperated, she decides to find a way inside and tells her friends to wait for her. But Fate has other ideas, and all the teens find themselves inside Willy’s.

I am a huge Nic Cage fan, so when  I found out about this film, which just came out in 2021, I had to see it. What got me really hooked was a line in the preview, when Liv says “He’s not trapped in there with them. They’re trapped in there with him.”

This story was very original, sort of a Chucky Cheese meets Psycho. Nic Cage is a character known only as The Janitor. We never learn his name or his story, and he never speaks. Even so, his actions speak volumes as we watch him do battle with the evil animatronics without batting an eye. And the story is told with a certain amount of humor, which I love. 

Liv is a great character, who has personal reasons for wanting this place to go. The town has its own reasons for doing what they do as well. Liv is the leader among her friends, the alpha if you will, and a very strong character.  I was pretty well riveted to the screen the whole time. I’d call it very bloody, except the animatronics don’t have blood. But then again Liv’s friends do. Nuff said.

 

I enjoyed this movie pretty much. My opinion of Nic Cage hasn’t changed a bit. He’s good in whatever he does. I would recommend this movie, and I will give it a solid 4 Stars.

Book Review: Sick Kids in Love by Hannah Moskowitz

Sick Kids in Love         

Author: Hannah Moskowitz

Publisher: Entangled: Teen

American release date:  November 5, 2019

Format/Genre/Length: Paperback/YA Contemporary romance/300 pages

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★

Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes

Isabel’s life isn’t easy. She has rheumatoid arthritis, which in itself presents a lot of problems. Her father is an important doctor, which is a plus, but he also has to work a lot. And her mother… well, she just left… reasons. So Isabel has decided that the best course of action open to her is to not date. Ever. It’s easier… safer… better.

But then she didn’t count on meeting Sasha one day while getting treatment at the hospital. He’s really good looking, very smart, witty, funny… and he has a disease she’s never even heard of.

Isabel has friends, lots of them. She also volunteers at the hospital, often helping the nurses by manning the station and answering patient calls. When her friends make plans to go skiing, forgetting about Isabel and her condition, she tells them it’s okay, she’ll hang out in the lodge and drink hot chocolate. She doesn’t let them know their thoughtless bothers her, cause honestly she’s used to it. She doesn’t expect them to live their lives being careful of her. But then, while volunteering at the hospital, she runs into Sasha again, who’s there due to a minor accident. And when she explains about the ski trip, he tells her she should hang out with him instead. And so she does.

And that is the beginning of everything.

This book was a pure joy to read, and I loved it. I love the author’s voice, and the way she draws her characters. It’s impossible not to fall in love with Isabel and Sasha, and to root for them to end up together. She portrays them as people who happen to be sick, and things do happen, it’s not all beer and skittles. Yes there are problems. Life isn’t easy. But these two face their problems head on and honestly.

This is a great read for all ages. I highly recommend it.

Book Review: Bleach, Vol 39 by Tite Kubo

Bleach, Vol 39     

Author: Tite Kubo

Publisher: Viz Media

American release date: April 3, 2012

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

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★

Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes

 

Omaeda thinks he’s rather handily won his battle against the fraccione but suddenly he’s in over his head. Yet when he sees Sai Fon in trouble, it’s Omaeda to the rescue! How can that guy she’s fighting be her equal? But in reality Sai Fon has everything well in hand.

Matsumoto is facing three opponents. They start to argue amongst themselves as to who should sit out the battle, in order to even the odds, but Matsumoto shows them she is more than up to the challenge they present! However, she is surprised by the arrival of Hinamori. And even from his own battle, Hitsugaya is perturbed  by her presence as well, momentarily distracted by his concern for her.

Shunsui decides it’s time to get serious with his Espada opponent, who wants to know why Shunsui has not even drawn his second sword. Naturally he explains why that isn’t necessary. Looks like he’ll have to use both, though, after all. Meanwhile, Ukitake refuses to fight a child, to the child’s dismay.

Matsumoto and Hinamori’s three opponents have combined in a horrible manner to become one horrible opponent, taking out both Matsumoto and Hinamori. Luckily, Hisagi is there to continue the fight and keep them safe. While he does that, Kira sees to his companions’ wounds. Iba enters the fray as well, but the beast is strong, so Captain General Yamamoto himself takes to the field!

And back in Hueco Mundo, the fight continues…

If you don’t like battles, then this part of the Bleach arc is sure to disappoint, but in all honesty, each battle is well done and interesting, as well as necessary. Personally, I could never find them boring. I think they bring out aspects of each combatant’s personality, and we get to see more of them than we generally do. I mean, they’re Soul Reapers, surely you want to understand what makes them so special to Soul Society.

Yes, I admit there isn’t a lot of Ichigo lately, but hey, he’s not the only Soul Reaper out there, just because he’s the main character. Don’t worry, he’ll be back. In the meantime, enjoy watching the others in action. And seeing the old man do battle is priceless. I’ve always enjoyed the relationship between him and Shunsui and Ukitake, the light banter and the give-and-take. Did you know they were the first graduates of the Soul Academy and the first captains?

Very interesting volume of Bleach, but there’s more to come. And at some point, you know Aizen et al will come out of their fiery time-out and get back into the game. Can’t wait!

Wednesday Briefs: August 4, 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 Forty-nine by Cia Nordwell

“Timok wasn’t concerned about the sneeze because he felt it prudent to inoculate Essell while he was in stasis.” Garjah shrugged a shoulder. “He already knew I was safe.”

“But this was already after you felt drawn to him?” Mereval asked Garjah. “The inoculations and the sneeze?”

He nodded. “I knew there was something out there I had to find. I thought I was just securing the ship and crew. Instead, the second I laid eyes on him I knew I had to take him back to the ship. And that I needed to keep him.” His voice dropped on

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Book Review: Shadowshaper Legacy (The Shadowshaper Cypher, Book 3) by Daniel José Older

Shadowshaper Legacy (The Shadowshaper Cypher, Book 3)   

Author: Daniel José Older

Publisher: Arthur A. Levine Books

American release date: January 7, 2020

Format/Genre/Length: Hardback/YA Contemporary Fantasy/432 pages

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★

Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes

Sierra, the new Lucera, and Shadowhouse have destroyed the Sorrows and the House of Light, to form the House of Shadow and Light. Next on the agenda is to take care of the rising house, Bloodhaüs, which bears more than a striking resemblance to a neo-Nazi organization.  Both sides agree to a parley, but surely she didn’t expect the skinheads to keep their word? Maybe, just maybe, Sierra can salvage something positive from this meeting. Like a spy who can infiltrate the House of Iron?

Life is difficult with so many people Sierra loves incarcerated for things they shouldn’t be there for, including her brother Juan, her friend Izzy, and her new love interest, Anthony, aka the artist formerly known as Pulpo. Good thing she has so many loyal friends and family members to support her, including her father Dominic, although he really doesn’t know what is going on but he stands behind her and does not get in the way, despite his son being in jail. Even so, Sierra feels compelled to not include them in all of her thoughts and plans, which could end up being a major mistake on her part. It’s not a lack of trust as much as an unnecessary need to keep people safe who she should really be relying on more, since no man is an island, and neither is she.

Sierra also has a secret she hasn’t shared before. Namely, she’s keeping the last remaining Sorrow hostage up in her late Grandpa Lazaro’s old room. Whoa, will that cause problems when the others find out? Especially her mother Maria? From Sierra’s viewpoint, she is solving two problems with one stone, so to speak.

Juan and Anthony know they’re safe behind bars because of the protection afforded them by the House of Iron. But their unexpected release raises the concern of how far that safety lasts once they step outside the prison walls. New houses are beginning to emerge. Friend or foe? Hard to tell, even when a new guy named Mort helps put an end to a common enemy. How far can they trust Mort, if at all? Worst than that, it appears as though Anthony has gone over to the House of Iron. How can that be? How will Sierra survive such a betrayal?  When their spy Dake emerges as the leader of a brand new house and demands Sierra turn over the Deck to him, she has to weigh her options – give him the deck and its power or risk the lives of the loved ones of the people of her house. Not an easy decision to make, but so much hinges on what she chooses to do.

Wow, wow, just wow, wow, wow. Such a great story, so much going on. Impossible to describe, you just gotta read it for yourself. Sierra is growing and evolving as the leader of her house, but sometimes even she isn’t sure she likes the changes that are happening to her, and longs for the way things were. But she is strong, and she can survive anything. One of the things that is different in this volume from the other two is the multiple viewpoints. Previously, the story was told strictly from Sierra’s POV, but this one has multiple narrators. That was a little offputting at first, but I could see why this had to be, since Sierra can’t be everywhere, and important information comes from other sources. But I quickly got used to that and came to appreciate it, seeing that it gave these other characters room for greater depth and development. Loved Neville and Nydia, and now Juan and Bennie. So cute! I confess that I never did warm up to Sierra’s mother, even though her actions semi-atoned for what she did previously. But that was too little too late in my opinion, though others may feel entirely differently.

This is such a creative, imaginative tale with a lot of heart and soul. The world development is outrageously good, and so is the character development. By the end of the series, you feel as though these are people you really could know… friends, neighbors, family. There is a lot of drama here too, and sometimes I wasn’t certain which way a particular situation might go, and I found myself turning the pages rapidly to find out what would happen. This is a great story for teens and adults alike. I highly recommend it. I’m hoping there will be more stories in this universe. There is certainly room for them.