Category Archives: Reviews

Book Review: Lust in the Caribbean by Noah Harris

Lust in the Caribbean     

Author: Noah Harris

American release date: August 6, 2017

Format/Genre/Length: Kindle/LGBT Romance/332 pages

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★

Reviewer: Noah Harris

 

Being a young gay man in the year 1710 is not easy, as Thomas Treadwell can attest. He yearns to be free to be who he is. Shipping out on the Virtue, under Captain Temperance Stone, Thomas discovers that he is not alone in his desire for relations with the same sex. The ship’s head becomes the place for men to hook up anonymously in the night in order to save face during the light of day. But when Thomas is careless and gets caught with another man, there is hell to pay as Captain Stone orders the two men to be whipped to death!

Thomas watches helplessly as his previously unknown hook-up is beaten first and dies. But just as it’s Thomas’ turn to face death, a look-out fortuitously announces the arrival of another ship. Not just any ship, but a pirate ship called Manhunter, infamous for its figurehead which resembles a muscular naked man with a golden appendage, and because it is rumored to contain an all-gay crew!

The pirate ship, with its erotic take on the traditional Jolly Roger flag, hauls up beside the Virtue,  which it clearly outguns. Captain Stone has no choice but to surrender, after first ascertaining the safety of his crew’s “booty” among the gay pirates, who claim they don’t need to ravish anyone, they have plenty of “booty” on their own ship.  The pirates board the ship and their captain, Captain Seawolf, discovers Thomas lashed to the mast and discovers why he is being punished then offers him a chance to go with the pirates, which Thomas reluctantly accepts. He doesn’t really wish to do so, as he doesn’t agree with piracy as a way of life, but he also knows if he stays behind, he will die. Quite the quandary.

And so the adventure begins….

Lust in the Caribbean can be looked on as one man’s journey to be himself despite living in a time of great hypocrisy and prejudice. But primarily it is a sexual adventure, as Thomas revels in the freedom of living openly as a gay man among the pirates. There is a lot of sex in this book, believe it, as well as adventures, as the pirates go from situation to situation.  And what is a pirate story without treasure? Plus, once Thomas learns the secret of some of the crew, he is told he can never leave, but by then will he want to?

Great literature? No, it’s not. The writing is rough at times, and is filled with blatantly purple prose, and it would definitely benefit from better editing. Not to mention, I would say, if given the chance to speak with Mr. Harris, please don’t say sex juice ever again. Ever.  That. Is. Not. Hot. The author certainly knows how to tell a tale, though.  The story definitely held my attention. The characters are fairly well-written, and he does know how to write sex scenes. I suspect the major reason he hasn’t been dinged for bestiality, though, is that he manages to veil it in the guise of the main character keeping his eyes closed and not seeing what or who he is actually copulating with under the full moon. Oh, and did I mention there’s a merman or two? That being said, this is definitely only for mature audiences.

If you’re looking for a story with a lot of sex, this one won’t disappoint. I’ve seen smutty books that aren’t nearly as well written. If you’re looking for great fiction, go somewhere else. For what it is, I considered it to be satisfactory indeed. I might have to check out some of the author’s other writing.

 

Book Review: Spy x Family, Vol 1 by Tatsuya Endo

Spy x Family, Vol 1     

Author: Tatsuya Endo

Publisher: Viz Media

American release date: June 2, 2020

Format/Genre/Length: Paperback/Manga/Action & Adventure/220 pages

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★

Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes

 

Twilight is the best spy in Westalis, a master of disguise. He lives and works undercover in the neighboring country of Ostania. As he reads the information on his next assignment, he’s shocked to learn that he is required to have a wife and child (neither of which he currently has). The target in question, a very dangerous man who is a threat to the peace between east and west, is very reclusive and the only way to reach him is through the elite private school his son attends. As if this wasn’t bad enough, the deadline for admissions is fast approaching. Twilight only has a week to find a wife and child and enroll that child at Eden Academy!

Twilight’s first stop is an orphanage to find a child—a rather shady orphanage at best. But perhaps that will suit his purposes better. He has no experience with children, but reasons that he must find the smartest one he can, so the child can pass the entrance exam to the academy. He finds a girl working a crossword, but she seems too young for the school. She is quick to assure him she is six years old. Little does he realize that Anya is a telepath! Twilight chooses her and is relieved to find no paperwork involved—he is told to take her and go.

Now… to find a wife.

At City Hall, in the capital city of Berlint, Yor is different from the other women she works with. Quiet, and somewhat naïve, she is the object of constant criticism in the guise of helpful hints, such as improving her appearance so she can find a man. Her brother Yuri worries about her, and calls her often. To relieve his mind, she tells him she has a boyfriend and is going to a party that weekend. What no one knows is that Yor is actually an assassin, and a darn good one! But how is she going to find a “boyfriend” to take to a party on such short notice?

Three people are on a collision course with destiny! Each one has needs—Twilight a wife, Yor a boyfriend, and Anya a family. When chance—or is that Fate?—brings them together, they decide to form a family. Will they be able to fulfill Twilight’s mission and gain Anya admission into Eden Academy? And if they do, how long can they maintain their cover… and how long will they want to?

This is the first volume of the series. I confess that it was love at first sight when I saw the cover! And reading the description only made me want it even more. I pre-ordered the first three volumes, the first of which just came out. I love the artwork, and I love the premise of the story, which did not fail to deliver when it arrived. It’s an action adventure story, but there is a lot of humor in these pages as well, and more. The characters are all well drawn, even if the plot is rather basic. It’s not a series about spies as much as it is about people. I see the two countries involved, Westalis and Ostania, as thinly veiled disguises for East and West Germany. (I mean, come on, Berlint?) But that doesn’t really matter. The spy action is secondary to the character development, watching these three interact, each using their unique talents for the benefit of the other two.

Of course, being the romantic that I am, I’m hoping that by the end of the series, Twilight (whose real name I hope to learn) and Yor will fall in love for real and they both embrace Anya as their daughter, so that they become a real family. Only time will tell!

Also take note of Twilight’s co-worker, Franky, who is a hoot and lots of fun.

Great start to the series, looking forward to volume 2!

Book Review: The Way of the Househusband, Vol 3 by Kousuke Oono

The Way of the Househusband, Vol 3     

Author: Kousuke Oono

Publisher: Viz Media

American release date: May 19, 2020

Format/Genre/Length: Paperback/Manga/Comedy/160 pages

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★

 

Miku arrives home to find Tatsu in a panic and their home in disarray. When she questions him, Tatsu says it’s the black bullet, a hitman with a lot of balls. But he swears he’s not going down without a fight!

When Masa goes to the store with Tatsu, he’s surprised to see his former boss pa Christmasy apron and a Santa cap! Tatsu tells Masa it’s for the neighborhood kids club Christmas party. The kids are somewhat taken aback by Tatsu’s appearance. He certainly isn’t the traditional Santa they expected! Tatsu’s got it all covered, as he puts his own spin on the festivities!

Miku comes home from work, exhausted, to find that Tatsu intends to pamper her with a variety of foods calculated to give her the boost she needs. However, she questions his methods when he pulls out a blindfold. Will this have the effect he hopes it will?

Tatsu is looking to make some cash in a hurry. Something to utilize his particular skill set. Can he serve his customers to their satisfaction?

While browsing the clearance section of the grocery store, Tatsu runs across the wife of the Torii group, who apparently works there. She recognizes him and they catch up on old times.

While Miku and Tatsu are shopping together, Miku suddenly drags him off to show him that there is a live Policure show going on! When the call goes out to the audience for a volunteer to come to the rescue and afterwards have their picture taken with the members of the show, Miku is too shy to volunteer. What else can her loving husband do but offer to go in her stead?

Masa has acquired an item he isn’t sure how to handle, so he comes to Tatsu for advice. Together, can they figure out how to use a toaster oven?

Tatsu encounters his old boss, whom he hasn’t spoken with since he left the family. The boss has something he wants to discuss with Tatsu. Will he suck Tatsu back into the yakuza life?

Masa comes to Tatsu’s apartment, meeting Miku for the first time, in order to bring Tatsu’s birthday present. When he sees the state of the apartment, he offers to help Miku surprise Tatsu when he comes home later that evening. Together, will they make this an occasion to remember?

I am so in love with these books, and with Tatsu! I’ve already pre-ordered the next volume! Tatsu is so adorable! I love him and Miku together. I would love to see more of their past lives, and how they became a couple, see what changed Tatsu from yakuza to house-husband.

The story is very funny, and also touching. The artwork is fabulous, and the characters memorable. I’ve seen some reviewers call the series one-note. I prefer to think of it as variations on a theme, all of them good, and very much fun to read. I would love to see an anime made from this!

Can’t wait for the next volume, although I’ll have to. I think it comes out in September.  lol

 

Book Review: Hamilton’s Battalion by Rose Lerner, Courtney Milan, and Alyssa Cole

Hamilton’s Battalion: A Trio of Romances     

Authors: Alyssa Cole, Rose Lerner, Courtney Milan

Publisher: Courtney Milan

American release date: October 17, 2017

Format/Genre/Length: Kindle/Gay Romance/Interracial Romance/378 pages

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★

Reviewer:  Julie Lynn Hayes

 

Hamilton’s Battalion is a trio of novellas, set during and after the American Revolution. After the death of her husband, Alexander Hamilton, Elizabeth Hamilton collected reminiscences from those who knew him, particularly those who fought with him during the war. That was the inspiration for these tales, told by three different authors.

Promised Land by Rose Lerner

Corporal Ezra Jacobs is actually Rachel Mendelson, a Jewish woman who also wants to fight for her country. Once married to Nathan Mendelson, she left that life behind five years ago, letting him think her dead. Don’t ask—it’s complicated! But when she accidentally runs into him in the middle of her camp, she pegs him as a spy and turns him in. However, things are not what they seem. Now Rachel and Nathan have to make sense of who they were as opposed to who they are now. Have they been brought together for a reason… and will the war tear them apart in the most final way possible?

The Pursuit of… by Courtney Milan

Corporal John Hunter is serving in the rebel army with the promise of being freed from his condition of slavery once the war has been won. His concern is for his sister and her child, and he wants to return to them as quickly as possible to make sure they are all right. When he accidentally runs across a British soldier named Henry Latham, Henry’s first comment to him is “Nice weather for a siege, isn’t it?”

These men are opposites, yet they soon find themselves together under circumstances which would have been impossible before the revolution, as they travel to Rhode Island. What began as a confrontation could change… but for the better or not remains to be seen. John has never met anyone who talks as much as Henry. And as for his cheese… well, the less said about that the better.

As opposite as night and day, they find themselves drawn to each other by a power too strong to fight. But considering the day and age, will they be allowed to be happy together? Or will they be forced to separate forever?

That Could be Enough by Alyssa Cole

Mercy Alston works for Elizabeth Hamilton, helping her to preserve the stories she collects from the people who served with her late husband, Alexander Hamilton. When another young black woman, Andromeda Stiel, comes on behalf of her grandfather, Mercy is immediately drawn to the beautiful dressmaker. Andromeda is lively and flirtatious and utterly enchanting… and she seems to be very attracted to Mercy as well.

But Mercy has known too much heartache from other women, so she’s buttoned herself up and walled off that part of her heart which might respond to Andromeda. Mercy doesn’t believe happiness is in store for her, and she’s not willing to take a chance again. Not to mention society frowns on such as they. She has her work with Mrs. Hamilton, as well as taking care of her daughter Angelica, who has not been the same since her brother Phillip was shot in a duel years before, while defending their father.

Can Andromeda get through to Mercy and show her that she deserves to be loved? Or will she live in the memory of lost lives, like Mrs. Hamilton and her daughter?

I loved each of these novellas. Each tells a different story, and each writer has her own style, but together this is one great read. I love all things Hamilton, so when I ran across the book, I had to buy it. I’m glad I did. Each story has one thing in common… love. People in love. And each couple has its own obstacles, whether it’s an interfering Jewish mother-in-law or a society that does not allow people of the same sex to love one another or people who are of different races.

Prior to reading this, I was familiar with Alyssa Cole, and have reviewed several of her books, I didn’t know Rose Lerner, and Courtney Milan was on my to-read list.

If I had to pick my favorite couple, that would be a hard choice, but I think I would go with John and Henry, because I do love a good story about two men, and these two are wonderful, each in his own way. The first story was a good introduction to many Jewish customs and traditions I was unaware of. And while I did not warm up to Mercy and Andromeda immediately, it didn’t take long for them to click with me. Especially when I realized Andromeda felt the same as I do about Mrs. Hamilton wasting her life on a man who not only is dead but who mistreated her when he was alive and certainly didn’t deserve to be canonized.

This is a must-read for anyone who loves Hamilton, but I also recommend it to those who enjoy history, and those who like good love stories. This has all of that and more!

 

 

 

Book Review: Soul Eater, Vol 9 by Atshushi Ohkubo

Soul Eater, Vol 9   

Author: Atsushi Ohkubo

Publisher: Yen Press

American release date: April 8, 2014

Format/Genre/Length: Paperback/manga/paranormal/204 pages

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★

Reviewer:  Julie Lynn Hayes

 

Death the Kid has gone to the DWMA library, determined to learn all he can about the mysterious Eibon, who is supposedly the same as the Shinigami. Wth? He tells the librarian he needs to go through the books in the level 4 stacks, but she tells him he isn’t allowed access, as he’s just a one-star meister. But when he shows her his badge, and she realizes he’s the Shinigami’s son, suddenly she’s all kinds of cooperative and offers to fetch the books he wants herself. Unfortunately, the one book on Eibon the library owns was checked out two months previously and never returned. The only signature is a single M. Kid has a bad feeling he knows who that is.

Crona is in a touch position. He is beginning to make friends for the first time and has been accepted by Maka and her friends, only to be approached by his crazy mother, Medusa, who has an errand for him. How can he please her without betraying his friends? Does he even have the strength to stand up to her, even after the way she has treated him? Ragnarok is no help, constantly reminding Crona that if he doesn’t do as Medusa says, she will get very angry with him. Crona just can’t handle anger…

While searching DWMA for the secret vault, Crona runs into Marie, and is fearful she will be suspicious of his being where he should not be. Luckily, she is clueless and thinks he is lost, just like her, and offers to help him find his way. The blind leading the blind! Will her assistance be worse than her thinking he’s up to something?

Crona receives his next assignment, when he fails to find the vault. He has to bug Dr. Stein’s lab!

The worst meister ever at DWMA is Hero, a guy the other students pick on and use for menial tasks. But Hero has a goal—to claim the Holy Sword as his weapon. Then no one will treat him like that. So what if it comes with some strange requirements he has to meet. The fight is on! How long will DWMA remain under Hero’s control?

Shinigami informs Stein that Arachnophobia knows the whereabouts of another Demon Tool known as Brew. Stein must begin more intensive duel instructions with his students immediately! Teams who are unable to synchronize their wavelengths will be cut from Stein’s class by the end of the day! Maka, Black Star, and Kid are failing spectacularly, and things aren’t looking good for them. Maka wants Black Star off the team, but Stein refuses. Can they get their act together in time or will they end up being cut?

Brew is located on an island just north of Alaska, Lost Island. But there’s a catch. Once the witches had a demon tool development facility on the island, but it was accidentally destroyed. Because of that a magnetic field has arisen, keeping people from approaching the island. Anyone who lingers inside the magnetic field risk permanent damage to their body. Twenty minutes is the limit. The timer has begun, the race is on!

This volume of Soul Eater introduces us to a couple of students we haven’t met before, including Hero, Pot Meister Kilik Rung, Lamp Meister Kim Diehl, and Spear Meister Ox Ford. Before this, we seldom saw other students, so it’s good to have that chance now.

Death the Kid is one of my favorite characters. Despite his quirks, he’s a really good Shinigami, and has a strong sense of justice. I know he will research Eibon until he finds an answer, no matter where the information leads him.  Stein has come a long way since we first met him. I can see what a good instructor he is. He won’t let the students get hurt if he can help it. Interesting that he and Marie are living together now. I hadn’t seen him as the domestic type. You have to feel sorry for Crona, caught between a rock and a hard place—the mother he loves, for some unknown reason, and the new friends he’s made at DWMA. I suspect that when the time comes, he will do the right thing.

Justin is on top of his game in this volume, and shows he is more than just that annoying weapon. Watching Maka, Black Star and Kid attempt to resonate together, and failing at it, is just a reminder that despite what kind of students they are, they are still teenagers who have a lot to learn. But they will, I’m sure.

Another appearance by Mifune, whom I truly believe will end up on the right side in the end, and DWMA will learn a lesson in tolerance as well.

A special mysterious guest appearance at the end of the book sets us up for the next one! Not sure when I’ll be able to read that, since the libraries are closed right now because of COVID-19, but will get to it as soon as I can. Looking forward to it!

 

Book Review: Soul Eater, Vol 8 by Atsushi Ohkubo

Soul Eater, Vol 8       

Author: Atsushi Ohkubo

Publisher: Yen Press

American release date: April 8, 2014

Format/Genre/Length: Paperback/manga/paranormal/188 pages

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★

Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes

 

It’s Black Star against the bodyguard Mifune! Mifune doesn’t have much choice in the matter, as the little witch Angela is being held hostage. Black Star has come to help Sid, who is to destroy the demon tool Mifune admires Black Star’s Uncanny sword, but is Tsubaki any match for Mifune’s Infinite One-sword style? When Tsibaki tries to persuade Mifune to become a teacher at DWMA, where he can work with children, he tells her the story of how he and Angela met.

Back at DWMA, Maka is still recovering in the infirmary, and gets annoyed when Soul and Black Star begin whispering together in front of her and won’t explain what’s going on.

Something evil is on the loose in Death City, as evidenced by the snake which has wriggled its way into a little girl, out for a walk with her mommy. When Sid returns with the blueprints for the demon tool, he’s surprised that Shinigami-sama tells him to seal it inside the Secret Vault for now, rather than destroy it. What can Shinigami-sama want with such a thing? Isn’t it dangerous to keep it intact? What if someone managed to get their hands on it?

Back at DWMA, Maka has returned to class. Tsubaki is concerned about Black Star. He keeps challenging other people and getting into fights. But why? Dr. Stein is trying to teach the students about cooperation and teamwork, but that isn’t working out so well. Meanwhile, at Arachnophobia headquarters, an unexpected player shows up in the form of Arachne’s younger sister, Medusa!

Death the Kid is throwing a party, and Tsubaki has made all the food, although Liz keeps taking credit for having done it, in order to impress a guy. But Patty and Soul put the kibosh on that plan pretty effectively! Kid unexpectedly tells Patty and Liz to come with him to the Sahara, by orders of the Shinigami. Their mission is to stop the Runaway Express. Shinigami suspects that it’s being powered by a Demon Tool, so they must overtake it and capture the tool! However, that means going toe to toe with with the Fisher King!

Crona is thrilled to be making friends at DWMA, even if Ragnarok can be rather surly to them at the best of times. But things are looking up for him… until a certain someone from his past shows up, someone he has always had trouble saying no to. Will Medusa use the child she was so quick to toss out? And for what purpose?

Two of my favorite things about this action-packed volume of Soul Eater are seeing Mifune again and seeing Death the Kid in action again. I like Mifune, and I hope that ultimately they’ll be able to persuade him to become a teacher at DWMA. With his love of children, I think he would be a natural. But for that to happen, there has to be a place there for Angela too. Which means some attitude readjustment regarding witches. As for Death, he’s one of my favorite characters, quirks and all. Sometimes it’s easy to forget just how very powerful he is, and watching him in action only serves to reinforce that.

My only lament is there is not much of Maka and Soul, but now that Maka is feeling better, I hope to see more of them in future volumes. Also, not much of Spirit, Maka’s father. I can’t help but feel he is actually growing and maturing. He does love his daughter very much (plus I think he’s cute lol).

The big mystery here concerns Shinigami and his growing collection of demon tools. Does he have ulterior motives for not destroying them? I don’t believe he’s doing it for bad reasons, maybe misguided ones? Hard to say at this point, too little information.

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

Book Review: Bleach, Vol 18 by Tite Kubo

Bleach, Vol 18       

Author: Tite Kubo

Publisher: Viz Media

American release date: April 3, 2007

Format/Genre/Length: Paperback/Manga/Supernatural/208 pages

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★

Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes

 

The time has arrived for Rukia’s execution, the Sokyoku has been released and Rukia has been strapped to the scaffold. She awaits her fate with resignation, grateful to those who attempted to rescue her. The halberd assumes its true form as the firebird king, ready to impale Rukia and complete the sentence. Only a deus ex machina can save her now.

And here one is, in the person of Ichigo Kurosaki! And Ichigo is single-handedly holding back the firebird king itself!  How can that be? Instead of being grateful, Rukia calls him a fool and asks him why he came back, warning him Byakuya will surely kill him this time. Meanwhile, the spectators below are marveling at what has happened and wondering who in the world was able to do that.

Before the bird can strike a second time, which would surely be fatal to them both, Ukitake arrives, to Kyoraku’s relief, and proceeds to destroy the Sokyoku. At that, Ichigo destroys the scaffold and takes Rukia in hand. Can her rescue possibly be this easy?

Of course not.

Ichigo tosses Rukia down to Renji and tells him to take her to safety, as he turns to confront Byakuya. Sai Fon sends her people after those who are working to rescue Rukia, then finds herself facing a foe of her own—her former captain, Yoruichi! Ukitake and Kyoraku are about to attempt to talk to Sai Fon, but they are called to task by the Head-Captain himself, and have no choice but to face him down together!

This volume of Bleach is certainly not lacking in action. Everybody seems to be fighting against someone! And the lines between the good guys and the bad guys is most definitely blurred, as two captains—the first two captains to graduate from the Soul Reaper Academy—choose to do what they believe to be right, even if it means defying old man Yama.

Ichigo is his usual cocky self. Remember he’s only fifteen, and still believes himself invincible. But besides that, he has strong sense of honor, as well as a strong desire to protect his family and friends from harm. He won’t allow Rukia to give up, no matter what, a very admirable sentiment indeed. I don’t find manga-Rukia nearly as wishy-washy as I did anime-Rukia. Maybe that’s because we are more privy to her inner thoughts in the manga than in the anime.

I was especially thrilled to see so much of Shunsui in this volume, especially as he is so obviously on the side of right. He and Ukitake are such good friends and so very much in sync with one another. It’s very heart-warming. (On the other hand, although I write fanfiction, I have no desire to slash them, although I’m fairly sure that’s been done already. I don’t see either one of them as being gay, and they certainly aren’t written that way. I mean, have you ever watched Shunsui with the women? Seriously?) One thing about the manga that I love is that I sometimes end up having questions answered that bothered me from watching the anime. Such as what’s wrong with Ukitake. He’s always treated as if he’s fragile and might keel over at any moment. But common sense says that if he’s strong enough to become a Soul Reaper, he’s not a wilting flower either. Well, the answer is at the back of this volume, which has bios of both Ukitake and Shunsui. Apparently Ukitake has a lung ailment! That explains much and answers that question.

I like the little vignettes in between chapters involving those left behind in the World of the Living. Kon (in Ichigo’s body) has become involved in a soccer game with Jinta and Ururu and Karin, and notices that Jinta has his Kon body! The result is hilarious and is still ongoing.

I liked the scenes between Yoruichi and Sai Fon. I think you’d have to be pretty blind not to realize that Yoriuchi and Kiskue are a couple. But also, Sai Fon has a huge crush on Yoruichi, which probably contributes to her behavior at times.

With most of the strength of the Sereitei arrayed against them, can Ichigo and his friends pull off this daring rescue? Only time will tell. Looking forward to the next volume!

 

Book Review: The Killing Moon (Dreamblood #1) by N.K. Jemisin

The Killing Moon (Dreamblood, Book 1)   

Author: N.K. Jemisin

Publisher: Orbit Books

American release date: 2012

Format/Genre/Length: Paperback/Fantasy /448 pages

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★

Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes

 

Guajareh is a city of peace, prospering under the loving guidance of Prince Eninket. Even in death is peace, for that is the job of the Gatherers of the city. They ease souls into Ina-Karekh through the most beautiful of dreams. The Gatherers serve the Goddess, Hatawa. They work primarily at night, under the auspices of the Dreaming Moon. One such Gatherer is Ehiru. He is given a commission to ease a man of the Bromarte, Charleron of Wenkinslan. But things do not go as they should, and Charleron tries to warn Ehiru that he is being used. Disturbed, Ehiru returns to the Hatawa, expecting to be reprimanded, concerned for his sixteen-year-old apprentice, Nijiri. Despite what has happened, though, he is given a new commission from the Prince himself, who is Ehiru’s brother.

Nijiri had been meant to have Una-une as his mentor, but the man’s untimely death has changed that, and he has been placed under Ehiru’s wing instead. Nijiri is not opposed to the change, although saddened by the reason, for he has deep feelings for Ehiru, despite the fact that his new mentor is forty years of age. He has known Ehiru for most of his life and would do anything for him. To Nijiri, age is immaterial, as well as gender, although he knows it is not allowed for Gatherers to indulge in such passions. But being near Ehiru and learning from him are enough for Nijiri.

Sunandi is from the neighboring country of Kisua, sent to Gujaareh by her master Kinja She Kalabsha to study Gujaareen magic as part of her apprenticeship. But that doesn’t mean that the two countries agree in the way they do things. Sunandi senses something wrong in Gujaareh. If only her master hadn’t died.  She finds Prince Eninket charming, and rather seductive. Doesn’t mean she trusts him. And she certainly can’t afford to let him find out what her true purpose is in being there.

Sunandi is summoned to a meeting with General Niyes, who shows her something shocking, and relates to her the strange events of the past few years. He tells her that war is imminent and that she must carry the news back to Kisua as soon and as stealthily as possible. He warns her that her life may be in danger, and the sooner she and her servant Lin leave the better.

That night, however, an unexpected presence turns up in her room—a Gatherer and his apprentice, whose purpose is to send her to Ina-Karekh. Sunandi makes Ehiru see that his so-called commission is nothing less than assassination, sowing seeds of doubt in his mind. When he becomes convinced that she is telling the truth, and that politics are at play here, he realizes he must keep her safe for the sake of all.

This book was recommended to me by my daughter-in-law, and I am so glad she told me about it! N.K. Jemisin weaves a fascinating world, a unique world, with many strange concepts and many people. At first, I was focused on remembering who was who and stumbling over the strange words and ideas, but suddenly I found myself very immersed in the story and the names became real people to me, and I realized I was hooked.

Ehiru is a very conflicted man, whose beliefs are crumbling around him, barely able to hang on, if not for the love and support of Nijiri. Nijiri is wise beyond his years, and it’s hard not to like him, as well as Sunandi. The author modeled much of the belief system and the countries in her novel after those of ancient Egypt, while also drawing on Freud and Jung. The concept of easing people into death seems meant to be a loving form of euthanasia, but obviously there is much room for abuse in such a system.

At the heart of this story is a tale as old as time itself—power and greed, the eternal struggle between right and wrong, life and death,  recognizing what is right and finding the strength and courage to do what must be done. I loved these people so much that I hated to see the book end. Good thing there are two more, even though the first one is filled with a fair amount of heartbreak. I will have to look for more of Jemisin’s books after I finish this trilogy. She is an awesome writer.

 

 

 

 

 

Book Review: Bleach, Vol 17 by Tite Kubo

Bleach, Vol 17         

Author: Tite Kubo

Publisher: Viz Media

American release date: February 6, 2007

Format/Genre/Length: Paperback/Manga/Supernatural/208 pages

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★

Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes

 

The countdown to execution has begun! No time to lose if Rukia Kuchiki is to be saved! Renji is determined to save his friend, even if he has to go through Byakuya, his captain, to do it. Byakuya is confident in his ability to defeat Renji, but Renji has been training with Ichigo and has a few surprises up his sleeves!

Kenpachi is happily facing the masked Komamura and the blind Tosen. Finally, a real challenge! As Rukia is being led to the Sokyoku, across the bridge, she encounters Gin Ichimaru, who can’t resist a last chance to tease the condemned Soul Reaper. He informs her that Renji is still alive, and offers to help her.  Reaching the Sokyoku,  she is asked if she has anything to say, and makes a last request.

Realizing Captain Tosen has used his bankai, Hisagi wants to go to him, but Yumichika tells him they are not finished. When Tosen questions his abilities and standing in his company, Yumichika enlightens him as to why he holds the position that he does. In fact, Yumichika will show him something, if Tosen promises not to tell the other members of his squad.

The execution has begun. It’s now or never, if Rukia is to be saved.

This volume is becoming a real nail-biter as Ichigo and friends battle to save Rukia from what they consider to be an unwarranted execution. Ichigo is conspicuous by his absence, still working to learn how to bankai. But he has an indomitable spirit and refuses to consider failure to be an option. No doubt we’ll see him in the next book.  Tosen’s backstory is poignant, and the revelation of Komamura’s actual face is enlightening. You can’t help but love Yachiru, the way she refers to Orihime as “Chubby”, and calls Ichigo “Itchy”. Although perhaps that should be translated as Ichi. It’s hard to tell, and translation can be a tricky thing.

There are so many questions here that beg to be answered. Is Rukia’s so-called infraction really of such a serious nature that it requires her execution? And, if you go with the idea that Soul Society is a sort of heaven, where the dead go, and that therefore the Soul Reapers themselves are not alive and not human, then how can she be executed and what does this really mean to them? Why is Byakuya such an uptight and cold monster, who is willing to see his own sister lose her life?

Plus we still have the mystery of who killed Captain Aizen. We know it wasn’t Ichigo and Company, despite what the Soul Society thinks. So who is the killer, and why was he killed? So many questions, so few answers. .. yet.  Something’s gotta give, hopefully in the next volume.

Looking forward to the big event, be there!

Book Review: Blue Exorcist, Vol 23 by Kazue Kato

Blue Exorcist, Vol 23   

Author: Kazue Kato

Publisher: Viz Media

American release date: February 4, 2020

Format/Genre/Length: Paperback/manga/paranormal/210 pages

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★

Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes

 

We’re still in the backstory of Yuri and Satan, as Sir Pheles accompanies Rin on his voyage of discovery into his past. Deep below the Academy, in Section 13, exorcists are researching elixirs of immortality and developing clones to house the spirits of demons, including Lord Lucifer himself. But a new demon has arrived, one much stronger and more powerful than the rest—none other than Satan himself! However, they are unaware of his identity… at least for now.

Lucifer’s hopes of receiving a new body before his old one completely fails are slowly diminishing, as another body goes to the demon Amaimon. But Lucifer never gives up hope. The next demon to emerge manages to escape and runs into Yuri. She is shocked to recognize Rinka. Unfortunately for him, he is captured immediately after their reunion and returned to Section 13.

Yuri is the only one who can get through to Rinka, so Mephisto decides to enlist her aid with the newborn demon. Although practically an infant at first, Rinka learns quickly under Yuri’s tutelage. But his intellect far outstrips his emotional development, as well as his reasoning powers, leaving him subject to violent outbursts. Shiro agrees to help Yuri with Rinka, which leads to some head-butting between the two. But Rinka is clever, and although Yuri tries to keep him from learning too much, he gets around her and makes even greater strides. And he now realizes who he really is. New arrivals contain the area, leaving Yuri without access and unable to visit Rinka.

Shiro finds himself in control of an orphaned little girl named Shura, to his chagrin, who dreams of one day marrying him. Satan is making his demands known, on behalf of himself and Lucifer. And one demand is to have Yuri brought to him. But they don’t bring her right away and he doesn’t repeat his demand. However, Yuri decides to go to him on her own, determined to save him in exchange for his release of the demons. She succeeds, and for a while they are happy together. But Satan’s body is weakening… and Yuri is pregnant. What to do, what to do, what to do?

I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed this volume of Blue Exorcist, definitely worth the wait. This explains so much that I’ve wondered from the beginning, mostly what would attract an exorcist to consort with Satan himself. This is actually romantic, and I think they are cute together (sorry, Shiro!).  Alas, I already know the ending all too well. Perhaps I should write a fanfic where they are not torn apart, Yuri doesn’t die, she tames the demon, and they live happily together with their twin sons.

Other familiar figures have entered the scene, ie Todo and Niehaus,  And we also see the Koma sword, which we are more than passing familiar with at this point. I love the little picture in between chapters, with Rin hiding his face at what is going on and Mephisto munching on popcorn like he’s watching a movie.

You have to feel sorry for Shiro. It’s obvious he’s deeply in love with Yuri, but it’s his own fault for never having said anything to her about it. His feelings for her also explain his love for Rin and Yukio, and his vigilance in regards to Rin and his concealed powers. I’m not sure if he realized the truth about Yukio. If he did, he trusted him to handle it, which he didn’t trust Rin to do. At least not until it became a necessity when he was dying, having fought against Rin’s father. He saved the son but lost his life in the process.

I also feel sorry for Yuri. That is no way to spend a pregnancy, which should be a happy time but which has become a nightmare for her. Separated from her baby daddy, treated like a test subject.  I hope that at least Rin comes away from this knowing that he and his brother were conceived in love, albeit an ill-fated one. I imagine the backstory will stop with the birth of the twins, but that remains to be seen. No sign of Yukio in this volume since it was all backstory. Can’t wait to see what happens next!