Category Archives: Reviews

Book Review: Blue Morning, Vol 6 by Shoko Hidaka

Blue Morning, Vol 6   

Author: Shoko Hidaka

Publisher: SuBLime Publishing

American release date: September 13, 2016

Format/Genre/Length: Paperback/Manga/Yaoi/250 pages

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★

Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes

 

Katsuragi has become uncertain, both of himself and his relation with Akihito. He thinks himself weak and useless because Akihito no longer blindly obeys him—so what purpose does he serve? While dressing the morning after, at Akihito’s hotel, he notices ragged garments in the closet and wonders why they are there. And why won’t Akihito get the haircut Katsuragi keeps telling him he needs?

Akihito meets with Ishizaki at a hot pot restaurant, which irks Ishizaki because it’s a hot day. Akihito says he is about to retire to Kamakura, under the pretense of his fake illness. Much has changed since the evening at the Moriyama’s, and thanks to the reporters Katsuragi arranged for, is common knowledge. For example that Ishizaki has become the Kuze house guardian. Madam Kayoko’s trip to France and her estrangement from her husband. Akihito’s “lung illness.” One reporter asked Akihito about the importance of producing an heir, but that won’t happen, not while he has Katsuragi. Ishizaki muses that things would be easier if Katsuragi were a woman.

Master Ishizaki informs Katsuragi that he has purchased a mill and wishes him to become the president and make a profit. He accepts the position. When he tries to drop off some papers with Amamiya, the new Kuze butler insists he deliver it to Akihito himself, and also deliver something from Katsuragi’s brother, Takayuki, who Akihito has entrusted with the financial affairs of the Kuze house. Katsuragi goes to the hotel and wakes Akihito, informing him the government railways have finally given their approval. Now Akihito can set up a railway in the old fief.

Ishizaki returns home from a late night out to find Katsuragi in his room. Katsuragi tells Ishizaki to not see the geisha he’s been seeing, and if he must continue the relationship, then he must allow Katsuragi to buy her out of bondage in his own name. Akihito meets with Katsuragi’s brother, who also remonstrates with him about his unruly hair. Akihito reiterates that he will be leaving for Kamakura, as planned. When Akihito says that he wishes Tomoyuki and Takayuki, as brothers, were closer, Takayuki responds with the comment that they are not related by blood, to which Akihito enigmatically replies, “Do you really think so?”

Katsuragi calls on Saionji and catches up with him. It seems his former lover knows him pretty well, including the fact that he loves Akihito. Saionji is happy himself, with his wife and new baby. Saionji gives Katsuragi some advice on what he should do. Later, Katsuragi goes to the mill. His employees are apprehensive about what their new boss will be like, fearful they will be blamed for past failures and be let go, but Katsuragi is not what they expected.

Even as Akihito makes plans to study abroad, he is concerned with Katsuragi, knowing he wishes to know about his origins, whether he voices his desire or not. Akihito and Amamiya visit Kiku’s old house, and Amamiya wonders what might have been, know that he knows about Akihito and Katsuragi. Akihito confides his plans for the future, once the railway is in place. Despite what Katsuragi may think, he does have the best interests of the Kuze house in mind, as well as his future with Katsuragi. Will he be able to persuade Katsuragi to come with him to Kamakura?

Each volume of this series is wonderful, I can’t get enough of these characters, even as I am left on the edge of my seat, wondering when they will finally be in sync with one another. The only way I will be happy is if they end up together at the end, nothing less will do. The artwork is superb, both men are very handsome, especially Katsuragi. She is very expressive in portraying their emotions in their faces. I can see the lust that glazes Katsuragi’s eyes, feel Akihito’s own wonder and joy as he gazes at the man he loves during their intimate moments. As to who will end up with the house of Kuze, I would not venture a guess. There is a whole lot going on, and the plot just keeps on getting deeper.

Can’t wait for the next one, one of the best yaoi manga ever!

 

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Book Review: The General’s Bride by M.F. Sullivan

The General’s Bride     

Author: M.F. Sullivan

Publisher: Painted Blind Publishing

American release date: August 14, 2019

Format/Genre/Length: Paperback/Sci Fi/LGBTQ/293 pages

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★

Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes

 

After the debacle in Jerusalem, Dominia finds herself in a place between worlds, walking with Lazarus and Valentinian to Cairo. As if that isn’t strange enough, every night, she finds and enters her father’s study and converses with the Hierophant as if that were the most natural thing in the world to do. However, there is an unnatural element at work here, a chimera that is coming to resemble Dominia’s late wife Cassandra more and more, to Dominia’s dismay. Is she upset because this creature is an insult to Cassandra’s memory, or is that she fears she won’t be able to resist the temptation of well-remembered flesh should she come to resemble Cassandra more strongly than she can bear?

Every morning, a knock comes on the Hierophant’s study door as Valentinian comes to retrieve Dominia. He returns her to the journey she is on with him and Lazarus. Sometimes she just looks at him, unable to believe he and Basil are one and the same. Dominia’s conversations with her father are both confusing and enlightening. Although she doesn’t entirely trust him, she doesn’t entirely distrust him either. And he’s oddly more forthcoming on many subjects than her enigmatic traveling companions. Sometimes she thinks Lazarus couldn’t give her a straight answer if his life depended on it. Her father warns her that her desire to resurrect Cassandra is not practical and that she is being lied to, and sometimes she just doesn’t know which way to turn – except  away from the creature which seems to resemble her late wife more and more.

Dominia isn’t sure who to believe or who to trust—everyone has their own agenda, including her. She wants to get to Cairo to retrieve Cassandra’s diamond from Miki Soto. Lazarus and Valentinian claim they want to save mankind by sending the martyrs to the far away planet of Acetia. But how can it be right to condemn an entire people for the actions of a few? Did the Hierophant come from there? There is evil on both sides, but which is the true evil?

Dominia’s journey to Cairo will be a long one, and certainly not straightforward as she finds herself in strange places, among strange people and begins to doubt everyone and everything she knows. If they are her friends, why aren’t they with her, to save her? Why does it sometimes seem as though her Father has her best interests at heart? It seems as though Dominia can only rely on herself, but will she be enough to see her through what is to come?

The General’s Bride is every bit as riveting as The Hierophant’s Daughter as Dominia continues her journey to Cairo to retrieve the remains of her wife, held in a diamond which was stolen by Miki Soto. This is indeed a mindblowing story of people and worlds and forces beyond the ken of most of us, forces that defy and shape the very laws of physics and reality. Dominia has choices to make, most of them not easy ones, and she learns that her own wishes aren’t necessarily in her own best interest and aren’t necessarily the right path to take. People aren’t necessarily what she thought they were, and there is indeed a blurred line betwixt good and evil. Even the Hierophant straddles that line, and it’s impossible to hate him as unequivocally as she thought she did for sometimes he says the most remarkable things.

Although I love Dominia, my favorite character is still the Hierophant, so I rejoiced every time he appeared. M.F. Sullivan’s writing voice is superb. She blows your mind with descriptions of metaphysical worlds and ideas, asking questions which make you truly think about what you know or think you know. Her characters are so well-drawn that you feel as if you’ve known them forever as she sucks you into the trajectory of their lives. I wish this journey could go on forever, but I know there’s only one more book, and I’m fearful that it will contain the death of the Hierophant. Nonetheless, I look forward to it and I’ll hope for the best until something else happens.

This book is every bit as good as the first one. I highly recommend it.

 

 

 

 

 

Book Review: Soul Eater, Volume 3 by Atsushi Ohkubo

Soul Eater, Vol 3     

Author: Atsushi Ohkubo

Publisher: Yen Press

American release date: March 3, 2015

Format/Genre/Length: Paperback/manga/paranormal/192 pages

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★

Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes

 

Soul is hospitalized, following the fight with Ragnarok, unaware that some of the creature’s black blood has mixed in with his. What they are all unaware of is that the witch Medusa has become a doctor at the hospital! That can’t be good! A depressed Maka blames herself for Soul being hurt, but as she leaves his hospital room, she finds her father waiting for her. She goes up to the roof with him to watch the sunset.

Black Star balks at the remedial lesson he’s been assigned by Sid—he’s charged with cleaning and straightening up the library. Not sure where to begin, he runs across the library’s collection of manga, to his delight. When he expresses his joy a little too loudly, he draws the ire of Death the Kid, who is also there. Not accidentally, as Black Star assumes, but very much on purpose. Death tells him he’s looking for a book about a legendary blade, call the “holy sword” known as Excalibur. Dr. Stein weighs in and tells them even he could not draw Excalibur. So naturally Black Star and Death the Kid want to twith hiry their hand at it! Although, perhaps this isn’t quite the adventure they were looking for.

Tsubaki accepts an assignment to deal with the Uncanny Sword Masamune, even though Shinigami-sama warns her it will be a hard fight. But she feels compelled to do it, mostly because Masamune is her older brother! She and Black Star head to the village she came from. Black Star is his usual loud self. But when a villager notices his tattoo and recognizes it for what it is, Black Star’s story begins to come out. When they find Masamune, Black Star battles him, using Tsubaki. But the fight is ultimately Tsubaki’s, and she’ll do what she must, even if that includes getting into her brother’s head.  Black Star sets up a vigil beside Tsubaki’s body and vows to wait for her as long as it takes.

In the hospital, Soul confides to Medusa about his strange dream, which has a disturbingly Twin peaks vibe and ends in the same disturbing way—with him coming out of Maka’s stomach! Medusa tells him not to worry about it. On his release, Maka throws a party for him at their apartment, and Blair gives Make and Death the Kid quite a shock. Suddenly, Maka is startled at the realization that there is a presence in Death City that should not be there.

I especially enjoyed seeing more of Tsubaki in this volume of Soul Eater. She doesn’t usually get as much attention as Black Star, probably because he’s a hog for the spotlight and she is much quieter. Her interaction with her brother is touching. I also liked watching Black Star and Death the Kid in their quest to draw Excalibur from the stone. The cover, featuring Death the Kid and the Thompson sisters, is great. As usual, I love the artwork. I liked seeing a more tender, Dad side of Maka’s father. Too bad I don’t think it’ll last. He always manages to do something wrong sooner or later.

Another great volume, looking forward to more of the same!

Book Review: Once Ghosted, Twice Shy by Alyssa Cole

Once Ghosted, Twice Shy (Reluctant Royals 2.5)     

Author: Alyssa Cole

Publisher: Avon Impulse

American release date: February 19, 2019

Format/Genre/Length: eBook/Contemporary Romance/LGBT/384 pages

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★

Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes

 

Being the personal assistant to a prince has its ups and downs, even for the very efficient Likotski Adele. One of the downsides is that her personal life, what little she has, tends to suffer. At one time, she didn’t mind so much, but ever since she met Fabiola C on an Internet dating site, life has not been the same. From the moment she’d seen Fab’s picture, Likotski had been intrigued, and meeting her did nothing to change her opinion. Everything was great… until it wasn’t. Until Fab coldly and unexpectedly broke up with her, citing Likotski’s leaving as the reason.

Now Likotski is back in New York with the prince and his princess, and she can’t stop thinking of Fab.

The past is past, and Likotski is determined to let go, aided by the new shoes given her by her father for Christmas. His note said: New shoes point toward the future…. But how can she think of the future when her heart lies in the past? Now Likotski is taking some time for herself, visiting a list of places she’s made up for herself. While on the subway, she receives an unexpected text from a source she does not recognize. Is Fate so cruel that she should run into the one woman she is trying to forget in a city the size of New York? Or is it that Fate is not done with them yet and has something else to say?

Once Ghosted, Twice Shy is a Reluctant Royals novella, and it packs a sweet punch in its short length. In the first book, A Princess in Theory, we see Likotski secretly and happily but love, but something goes horribly wrong, although she never reveals what that is. In this novella, we find out exactly what that something was, and who it involved. A chance meeting on the subway brings Likotski and Fab back together, but can they get past the things that kept them apart before? Communication is key to any good relationship, but neither one is very forthcoming. Something has to change if they have a change of making it together.

This was a very sweet story, very romantic. I hope we see more of this couple in future books, but this novella was just perfect, and I enjoyed it greatly. I recommend it to anyone who is reading the series.

 

 

 

 

 

Book Review: A Duke by Default (Reluctant Royals #2) by Alyssa Cole

A Duke by Default (Reluctant Royals #2)   

Author: Alyssa Cole

Publisher: Avon

American release date: July 31, 2018

Format/Genre/Length: Paperback/Contemporary Romance/384 pages

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★

Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes

 

Portia Hobbs is the black sheep of her family, the one who can do nothing right. Always compared to her perfect twin sister, Reggie, Portia has always felt that people think it should have been her, rather than Reggie, who fell ill and ended up wheelchair-bound. Having money is not the answer to everything, which Portia proves abundantly. She stops and starts projects on a whim, changes lovers constantly, and drinks to excess. Even her friend Ledi finds her hard to deal with sometimes. So now Portia is off on another of her harebrained journeys to find herself, this time as an apprentice to a sword maker in Edinburgh, Scotland.

Arriving in Edinburgh, Portia is dismayed to find her new employer nowhere in evidence, so is forced to hire a vehicle to take her to Bodotria Armory. There she comes upon an alarming scene—a young woman being menaced by an older man. Portia rushes into the fray without hesitation, making the assailant, onl to discover that she has just attacked her new boss! Great first impression!  Apparently the two were just engaging in a little swordplay, which is not surprising considering where they are! Besides being greatly embarrassed, Portia can’t help but notice how sexy her new boss is. But she’s decided before she even arrived in Scotland that she is a new Portia, and this Portia does not drink, and she most certainly does not fool around with handsome Scotsmen!

Tavish McKenzie is a little taken aback by the unexpected assault, but even more when he gets an actual glimpse of Portia, once his eyes stop burning. No denying she is very stunning. He was never in favor of the apprentice program to begin with, that being his brother Jamie’s idea, but he reluctantly goes along with it. Doesn’t mean he’s going to make things easy for Portia, and he’s resistant to all of her ideas to help the armory. Change does not come easily to Tav. He knows little of the Internet, and hates to be in any video. Besides, he has other problems, including making the armory pay, as well as teaching the weans, and keeping the neighborhood from being scooped up by land-hungry corporations who have no idea about the people who live there and make their livelihood there.

At first, Tav keeps Portia at a distance, telling her to busy herself with things other than sword making. Not one to be easily daunted, she does so, at the same time continuing to contribute to her sister’s popular blog, GirlsWithGlasses.  Although dismayed at not being able to do what she came to do, she refuses to give up, even as she fights her growing attraction to Tav who, as she discovers, has a gentle heart beneath his exterior gruff. While doing some research, Portia uncovers some information that will be a real game changer for Tav. Apparently, his biological father was a duke, unknown to him, and the title has gone to someone else, in lieu of a direct descendant. If he takes back the title, and all that comes with it, not only is problems but a lot of those of the neighborhood can be taken care of. But is he cut out to be a duke? And what about the mutual attraction between Tav and Portia? How long can they go before having to act on it?

Much as I loved A Princess in Theory, I have to agree with my daughter that the second book is even better! Watching Tav and Portia dance around each other while growing hopelessly more and more in love is priceless! They each have personal baggage, and a reluctance to become involved with someone else. But sometimes, what is meant to be will be. I wasn’t exactly fond of Portia in the first book, but she not only redeemed herself in this one, I grew to love her. She has carried so much around with her for such a long time. Her sister is supportive, but she tends to keep Reggie at arm’s length, and their parents… well, they don’t treat Portia very well, and that’s actually an understatement. Tav and Portia are certainly a match for one another, and each gives as good as they get. There’s a novella that comes after this book, and I have that, and there is also a third book, which concerns Johan, who is A Prince on Paper.  Looking forward to it very much.

If you like romances and great couples and happily ever after, A Duke by Default is perfect for you!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Book Review: Blue Morning, Vol 5 by Shoko Hidaka

Blue Morning, Vol 5   

Author: Shoko Hidaka

Publisher: SuBLime Publishing

American release date: October 14, 2014

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

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★

Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes

 

Katsuragi has changed, and so have the plans he worked on so carefully. Thrown out the window by his unexpected feelings for Akihito. Katsuragi has always been in control, has always known what he wanted, and what he was willing to do in order to get it. But nothing is as cut and dried as he once believed it to be.

Akihito and Katsuragi are attending an evening ball at the Marquise Moriyama’s residence, despite Katsuragi’s misgivings. Akihito notices a great number of reporters hanging around outside the gate. As they arrive, he kisses Katsuragi and tells him he trusts him, to Katsuragi’s shock. Will this confession prove to be the former butler’s undoing? Once inside the Moriyama manor, Akihito insists again that Katsuragi walk beside him, not behind him. Yanking Katsuragi into an unused room of the manor, Akihito affirms his feelings, and tells him that just knowing Katsuragi loves him, he can get through anything. Katsuragi promises to tell him everything.

Also in attendance at the ball is Akihito’s father’s half-brother, Naotsugu. Katsuragi’s plan is to have Naotsugu take on the Kuze title. Having met him, though, Akihito is not so sure this is a good idea, and he fears he may have to go against Katsuragi’s wishes. Meanwhile, Katsuragi is intent on protecting Akihito, even if that means lying to him… or about him.

Meanwhile, Akihito’s friend Soichiro Ishizaki goes to his father and begs him not to abandon Akihito, even though it was at his father’s direction that they ever became friends. His father tells him if that’s the case to come with him to the Moriyama estate.

Katsuragi demands and receives a private audience with Marquise Moriyama, outlining his plans for Naotsugu’s success to the Kuze house, which will be temporary as the man only has a few years to live, after which he wants Moriyama to help with something that is unprecedented, so that Akihito can regain the Kuze title after Naotsugu’s death.

It’s obvious to me that these two men love each other greatly, but it’s also obvious that until they stop working behind each other’s backs and work together, nothing will be accomplished. That is the only way in which they will succeed and be able to walk together, side by side, as equals. The plot is only becoming more complicated, with the introduction of Akihito’s half-uncle, and the confirmation of the seeds Katsuragi has sown concerning Akihito’s “illness”. Some of Katsuragi’s plans are coming to fruition, including the divorce of the Marquise Moriyama by his wife, which is the reason why the reporters are hovering outside the manor. They are still keeping secrets from each other, though, and not being entirely honest. That has got to give. Ishizaki is really Akihito’s friend, and while he doesn’t approve of his relationship with Katsuragi, not because he is a man but because he doesn’t entirely trust him, he wants Akihito to be happy. And he feels Katsuragi may actually love Akihito.

So much intrigue, where will it end? Another brilliant volume, looking forward to the next one, although with a little apprehension.

 

 

Book Review: Bleach, Vol 4 by Tite Kubo

Bleach, Vol 4       

Author: Tite Kubo

Publisher: Viz Media

American release date: December 7, 2004

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

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★

Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes

 

Ichigo is less than impressed with his family’s obsession with a phony TV spiritualist by the name of Don Kanonji. They not only watch his show with enthusiasm but they gladly cross themselves as he does and give his famous cry of “Bo-ha-ha-ha!” To Ichigo’s dismay, the live TV show is coming to his town for an emergency live broadcast special. Of course, everyone wants to go, except for Ichigo. But he ends up going anyway.

The show is broadcasting from in front of an old hospital. Ichigo wonders to Rukio why, if there’s a ghost there, the Soul Reapers haven’t taken care of it by now. She explains to him about jibaku, which are fixed location ghosts that can’t be detected and won’t show themselves… unless someone invades their territory! Just then they hear a wail from inside the building!

A ghost appears, chained to the building. Rukia explains that he isn’t a Hollow yet, because his hole isn’t completely formed. As long as his hole isn’t irritated, they can safely leave him until after the show ends and then perform a konso on him. Until Don Kanonji makes a grand entrance and does the unthinkable and creates a suddenly dangerous situation for everyone involved!

Ichigo tries to stop him, to the complete embarrassment of his friends and family,  but he and Rukia find themselves grabbed by security. Ichigo needs to go soul reaper, but without Rukia’s help, he can’t do that. Help comes in an unexpected form and Ichigo races toward Kanonji. To his surprise, Kanonji can see him in his soul reaper form, but mistakes him for the spirit of a dead fan. Will Don Kanonji be a help or a hindrance to Ichigo as he tries to deal with the newly-formed Hollow before he kills someone?

Back at school, Ichigo and his friends are called on the carpet for what occurred on live TV, but quick thinking by Rukia gets them out of trouble, at least for now. Don Kanonji shows up unexpectedly at Ichigo’s house, to his dismay, even as he wondered how he got his address? The answer quickly shows herself, along with the rice dumplings the spiritualist bribed her with. Luckily relief comes in the form of a Hollow alert, although Rukia’s phone seems to be acting strangely recently. They go on calls only to find no Hollow there. Will this be more of the same?

After a few false alarms, they head to another sighting, only to meet with an oddly dressed young man who is contemptuous of their efforts. Wait, he can see them? Who is this and why does he hat soul reapers?

The fourth volume of Bleach is a riot. Don Kanonji is a priceless character. You just gotta love him. And there is more to him than what appears on the surface. I love him as much in the manga as in the anime. Kisuke’s appearance at the broadcast was both providential and adorable. I love how Ichigo refers to him as Mr. Hat-and-clogs. I love how Ichigo’s friends are unaware that he makes good grades and are taken aback that he’s 18th in the class. Two people are tied for first rank, Kunieda and someone named Uryu Ishida. Remember that name!

I am thoroughly enjoying reading this as much as watching it. This series is a lot of fun, looking forward to the next volume!