Category Archives: Reviews

Book Review: Bleach, Vol 32 by Tite Kubo

 

Bleach, Vol 32       

Author: Tite Kubo

Publisher: Viz Media

American release date: September 7, 2010

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

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★

Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes

 

Nel and Orihime are stricken at the idea of Ichigo having to face down Grimmjow yet again, but he assures them everything will be all right. Heartened by his words, Orihime reassures the still upset Nel that Ichigo is a man of his word, and if he says he will do something, he will. Grimmjow continues to taunt Ichigo until he releases his inner Hollow, which frightens Orihime. Is this the same Ichigo she has always known? Now it is Nel’s turn to tell Orihime to have faith and to cheer on Ichigo, for if they don’t, who will?

Gillians are the lowest class of Menos. They consume souls to the point where they lose all individuality. But occasionally, one of the consumed Hollows takes control of the others and dominates, continuing to consume until it becomes an Adjucha. If this Adjucha doesn’t continue to eat Hollows, it will regress into a Gillian and then there is no coming back from that. This is the perpetual fear that keeps them going. Grimmjow was once such an Adjucha, who continued to climb in the ranks until he became an Espada. He never wishes to go back again, so he must defeat Ichigo.

Although, if he fails, there is always another Espada waiting in the wings…

This volume of Bleach is concerned with the ongoing epic battle between Ichigo and Grimmjow, both of whom are determined to win. This fight was inevitable, considering their history together.  Orihime and Nel are helpless to do other than cheer Ichigo on, but never underestimate the value of a good rooting section! Reading about how Grimmjow became what he is was interesting, and gives us more insight into the hierarchy of the Hollows, as well as their development.

There is also a bonus story concerning Hitsugaya which I enjoyed.

Looking forward to the next volume!

 

 

 

Book Review: Blue Exorcist, Vol 25 by Kazue Kato

Blue Exorcist, Vol 25     

Author: Kazue Kato

Publisher: Viz Media

American release date: February 2, 2021

Format/Genre/Length: Paperback/manga/paranormal/282 pages

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★

Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes

 

The Blue Night has begun…

A rapidly deteriorating Satan has found what he has sought, namely Yuri. But in his mind, he thinks she has betrayed him, so seeks her destruction. Father Fujimoto helps Yuri to deliver her second son as the others keep Satan at bay. At first, he is not responsive, then he takes his first breath, to her relief.

At that moment, who should appear but Sir Pheles himself, who announces he is in charge, following the death of the Paladin. He tells everyone else to withdraw and then proceeds to discuss matters with Fujimoto. Pheles tells the priest that no ordinary sword will kill the son of Satan, as the first child continues to fly out of everyone’s reach, but perhaps the Koma sword could. Too bad he gave it to a young monk a long time ago. Nevertheless, Fujimoto struggles to kill the child, only to have Pheles give both children to their grateful mother. A jealous Satan appears and begins a standoff with Father Fujimoto.

Fujimoto takes Yuri and the babies and escapes. She decides on their names.  The first one is Rin, like a Rinka, since he burst into blue flames. The other one is Yukio, because Yukiotoko are strong and warm! Yuri and Shiro make plans for the future, their future with the babies. But alas, Yuri’s health fails her and she dies, to Shiro’s grief. He protects the babies as best he can.

In the aftermath of the Blue Night, everyone begins to pick up the pieces, even as Samael makes a deal with his father to provide a proper vessel for him, as does the traitor Dragulescu. Pheles leaves the kids with Shiro to raise, but he’ll have to change some of his ways. And it won’t be easy. He becomes the next Paladin, and does his best to bring up Yuri’s boys, always mindful of the power inherent in Rin. Up until the moment when Rin’s father reappears to try to claim him…

And so we reach the end of the past. Rin has seen it all and now he understands so much more than he did before, primarily that he is not an abomination or a mistake, that he and his brother were loved and wanted by their parents, but fate would not allow them to be a happy family.  He uses the key to return to his brother, who is about to…

This volume of Blue Exorcist is jam-packed with action. So much going on, so much explained. So much tragedy. And yet from all of this we know Rin and Yukio will emerge much stronger for the experience. The love story of Yuri and Satan has come to a tragic end, but that isn’t exactly news. We’ve known that since the beginning. But it’s just heart-breaking to see it play out. I couldn’t help but wish they could have been together. I like Shiro, and I’m sorry his story came to such an end, but he was a good father to the boys, and taught them much. Mephisto Pheles is still somewhat of an enigma, but I have to believe there is more good in him than not, even if he loves a good joke at the worst of times.

There is so much to be done, but I’m sure that Rin and Yukio can succeed, if they only stay together, a united front. Another great volume, looking forward to the next!

Book Review: Bleach, Vol 31 by Tite Kubo

Bleach, Vol 31     

Author: Tite Kubo

Publisher: Viz Media

American release date: June 1, 2010

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

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★

Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes

 

Ichigo comes face to face with Ulquiorra, who informs him that Rukia is dead. And so is the Espada she was fighting. Ichigo doesn’t believe him, insisting he will save her. When Ulquiorra asks why Ichigo doesn’t attack him, he says it’s because Ulquiorra hasn’t hurt any of his friends. That quickly changes when Ulquiorra replies,” What if I told you that I brought Orihime Inoue to Hueco Mundo?” And the battle is on…

Meanwhile, Orihime is alone in her room, her solitude disturbed by two young Arrancar girls, one of whom is determined to torture her. But their fun is quickly disrupted by Grimmjow, who sets the torturer straight, despite her threats to tell Aizen what he did to her. But Grimmjow has his reasons for his actions, which he reveals to Orihime.

Renji is still battling Szayelaporro, who has a rather disturbing way of replenishing his health. Renji is at the end of his strength when help arrives from an unexpected source. Grimmjow has taken Orihime with him, for his own purposes, despite the intervention of Ulquiorra. Grimmjow is determined to use Orihime’s healing ability to fully heal the opponent he intends to fight. Orihime doesn’t wish to obey, until she is presented with a good reason to do so.

Another battle-centric volume of Bleach. I imagine that’s what we’ll be getting for a while as Ichigo and his friends make their way to Aizen’s inner sanctum. I’m sure he’s anticipated all this in advance and is waiting for them with plans of his own.

I love the banter between Renji and Dondochakka, and Uryu and Pesche. Not to mention Nel and Ichigo. At the same time, they are more than mere comic relief. If we know nothing else about Ichigo, it is that he will not give up, no matter what the odds, in order to save the people he cares about. Never say never is his motto.

More battles ahead, looking forward to the next volume!

Book Review: You by Caroline Kepnes

You           

Author: Caroline Kepnes

Publisher: Atria/Emily Bestler Books

American release date:  October 13, 2020

Format/Genre/Length: Paperback/Serial Killer Thriller/448 pages

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★

Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes

 

The moment Guinivere Beck walked into the NYC bookstore that Joe Goldberg manages, she becomes his instant obsession. His new love. What else can he do, in her best interest, other than to find out everything he can about her and stalk her? And Joe is very good at what he does.

Determined that Beck love him as much as he loves her, he goes about learning what makes her tick. So naturally he needs to spy on her inside her apartment (good thing she doesn’t believe in curtains). A stroke of fortune (or is it Fate?) finds him in possession of her cell phone, so now he can follow her every message, tweet, and email. He gets to know her friends, the most obnoxious of whom is Peach, an entitled rich beeyatch. And then there’s Benji, the surfer-looking dude with his own artisanal water company who seems to be a friend with benefits.

Good thing Joe has the patience of a saint, because the road to winning Beck’s heart is not going to be an easy one. And if, well, he has to kill a few people along the way, all in a day’s work, right?

You pulls you in from the first page with its compelling first person narration. Joe Goldberg is “likeable”… in that charming, demented, narcissistic serial killer kind of way. Poor Joe. Sometimes it seems as though he takes one step forward and three steps back in his pursuit of the elusive Beck. After a while, you begin to wonder just what it is he sees in her that makes him so crazy.

Oh, and just to be clear, this is not his first rodeo, as he plainly admits. So maybe he just wants to get it right this time… unless things don’t work out, and then he can just start again, right?

This book will make you laugh and will also horrify you… and leave you hoping you never meet any people like these. But it’s definitely a fun, wild ride, a psychological rollercoaster that will leave you wanting more. And luckily, there is a second book. Looking forward to reading it.

Book Review: Twentieth Century Boys, Vol 5 by Naoki Urasawa

Twentieth Century Boys, Vol 5: Reunion     

Author: Naoki Urasawa

Publisher: Viz Media

American release date: October 20, 2009

Format/Genre/Length: Paperback/manga/paranormal/216 pages

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★

Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes

 

Kenji summons all his friends who knew of the clubhouse and the book to a secret meeting. Well, almost all. But she shows up anyway, thanks to a map carelessly left behind by one of the group, and dares them to deny she is as strong as they are, maybe even stronger. Kenji tells them he was told they would need nine people to accomplish their task, but only have seven have assembled. Luckily, as he tells them, he has contacted two others.

Yanbo and Mabo were twin terrors who made the lives of Kenji and his friends living Hell back in the day. Grown now, they own their own IT company and seem the antithesis of what they once were. Yoshitsune goes to see them on Kenji’s behalf and is amazed at the change in them. They seem to understand what Kenji is asking of them… but then they take a meeting with Inshu, the smarmy FDP politician. Are they deluded as to what is going on, and do they really not remember how awful they once were?

Kenji disguises himself in order to take his niece Kanna out for ramen before he sends her and his mom off in order to keep them safe. Yukiji tells him he’s doing the right thing, and also not to worry about her. She’ll be fine, and she wants to be a part of what’s going on. Consulting their book of Doom, they see that a giant robot is due to make an appearance, but aren’t sure what the picture before that means.

Kenji begins to doubt himself, doubt their theories. Everything is quiet. Is he just being paranoid? Is he causing trouble for his friends for no good reason? And then Ocho remembers what the picture means, and that too comes to pass… all around the world.

In the year 2014, a young woman named Kanna Endo has her own apartment…

In this volume of Twentieth Century Boys, the plot definitely thickens. There are so many questions, and few answers as of now. What about the twins? Are they going to be a help or a hindrance to Kenji and his friends? Do they not really remember what bullies they were when they speak of having played with these guys as kids? Is Kenji really blind to the fact that Yukiji likes him? Can they really take on the Friends and do they have any hope of defeating them? Will they ever find out the true identity of their mysterious leader?

Is this future written in stone? Can it end in some other way? Prepare to be shocked at the ending. What the hell happened? And is everything we assumed totally wrong?

Another great volume, looking forward to the next one.

 

Book Review: Bleach, Vol 30 by Tite Kubo

Bleach, Vol 30     

Author: Tite Kubo

Publisher: Viz Media

American release date: March 2, 2010

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

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★

Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes

 

Chad’s newly realized powers stand him in good stead in his battle with the Arrancar, who wishes him well, but suddenly tells him to run. Another opponent has entered the field, Nnoitora, who seems unimpressed with Chad’s strength. The others feel Chad’s loss but there is nothing they can do at the moment as each has their own problems. When Ulquiorra relays the information to Orihime, she confidently tells him that Chad is not dead.

Rukia finds herself drawn into a building by a strange masked man. Once inside, he removes his mask, telling her his name is Aaroniero Arruruerie. But Rukia knows that face too well to be fooled, for he is none other than Kaien Shiba, one time second-in-command. But Kaien is dead. She should know, as she killed him herself!

Renji and Dondochakka fall into a trap and find themselves face to face with Szayel-aporro Grantz, the octava Espada. Renji, confident of his ability to take down this foe, attempts Bankai only to learn that Bankai cannot be performed in this room. What’s a guy to do?

This volume of Bleach is mostly concerned with the battles being fought by Renji and Rukia, especially Rukia. Rukia is forced to confront her demons, and the guilt she continues to feel over the death of Kaien Shiba. Almost to the point where she believes she deserves to die for what she did. We see flashbacks of what happened, and it’s impossible not to feel her pain.  On the other hand, Renji and Dondochakka is like the comic relief of the volume.

And at the very end, two people confront one another. Will this lead to a battle? Gotta wait for the next volume to find out.

Another great volume, looking forward to the next one!

Book Review: Bleach, Vol 29 by Tite Kubo

Bleach, Vol 29     

Author: Tite Kubo

Publisher: Viz Media

American release date: December 1, 2009

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

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★

Reviewer:  Julie Lynn Hayes

 

Renji finds himself being followed by Dondochakka, who thought he was following Nel, while Ichigo squares off against an Arrancar named Dordoni. Dordoni’s appearance is devilishly rakish, and he tries to persuade Ichigo to release his bankai . Ichigo has other ideas, though. He’s saving that move for higher level opponents, as Dordoni is only 103, which makes him low on the totem pole. However, Ichigo is not aware of what his number really means. So a disappointed Dordoni decides to release a Cero, but is surprised when Nel intervenes on Ichigo’s behalf.

Aizen is following the exploits of Ichigo and his friends with interest. One thing he does wonder about is who sent the Exequias after Ichigo? Szayelaporro confesses it was him and prepares to accept Aizen’s punishment. Gin accuses Aizen of having too much fun with the current situation.

Uryu’s first opponent is Cirucci Sanderwicci, Arrancar #105, and her weapon, Golondrina. When she spins Golondrina, she is able to deflect Uryu’s spirit arrows. But Uryu is more than a one trick pony. However, when Pesche puts in an unexpected appearance, will he be a help or a hindrance? And what the heck is Infinite Slick?

Chad is battling Arrancar #107, Gantenbainne Mosqueda, a huge Afro’d man, who think he’ll make short work of Chad. But Chad is a lot stronger than he appears to be. And since Chad’s arrival in Hueco Mundo, he has discovered abilities he wasn’t aware he possessed.

Right now, Bleach is all about the battles against the three digit Arrancars, whom we learn were once Espadas but who have lost their ranks. Doesn’t mean they’re necessarily weak, though. Nel and Pesche and Dondochakka add humor to these battles, as well as assistance which may or may not be helpful. It’s a foregone conclusion that somehow Ichigo and the others will win their respective battles, continuing onward until they reach Aizen, right? We can only hope that they will then be able to put down the renegade Soul Reaper once for all.

Oh who am I kidding? Is it ever that easy? Always something, right?

In a bonus at the end of the book, we get to see the first seaside art competition, which is hilarious! There are also some concept sketches from the anime. Another great volume, can’t wait for the next one!

Book Review: Bleach, Vol 28 by Tite Kubo

Bleach, Vol 28         

Author: Tite Kubo

Publisher: Viz Media

American release date: September 1, 2009

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

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★

Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes

 

Having arrived in Hueco Mundo, Ichigo, Uryu, and Chad find themselves in the middle of a huge desert, facing Los Noches, Aizen’s residence/fortress. But the structure is farther away than it looks, as they find after running toward it for a long time, seemingly drawing no closer. Ah, the illusions of the desert! Meanwhile, Aizen  has gathered his Espada in order to discuss current events. He tells them they have been invaded and not to underestimate the Ryoku, particularly Ichigo. Grimmjow doesn’t seem to be listening to his commander, and wants to head off to dispatch Ichigo immediately, and has to be reminded of his place.

As Ichigo et al take a break in the desert, a strange worm-like creature emerges from the said, with two other odd creatures on its back. It seems to be in pursuit of a small being, who screams in terror. Of course Ichigo can’t sit by and do nothing, so engages the pursuers, only to learn it’s just a game of Eternal Tag (because there is little to do in Hueco Mundo) and the person being pursued is just having fun. She turns out to be a little girl named Nel, who introduces her companions—Pesche and Dondochakka, all three of whom are Hollows. Nel takes an instant shine to Ichigo. Things seem to be going well until the Guardian of the White Sand appears to take down the Hollows for offering aid and comfort to the enemy.

Renji and Rukia appear unexpectedly, to Ichigo’s surprise. Rukia is angry with him for having left the World of the Living before they came back, saying he should have realized they would return to help. Coming to a crossroads, they decide to separate, in order to cover the different paths, promising to meet up afterward. Although Ichigo goes off on his own, Nel is soon running after him, crying. Dondo and Pesche want to follow Nel, but they confusedly end up going down the wrong paths, separating from each other in the process.

Aizen sends for Orihime and sends the others away in order speak with her privately, producing jealousy in two of his female followers, arousing their hatred for the innocent Orihime. Aizen shows off the Hogyuku to her, so now she knows exactly where it is as he tells her he needs her help. Now Orihime knows what she must do. Meanwhile, the battles with the Espadas begin.

Ichigo is determined to rescue Orihime at any cost… it’s what he does. He faces the challenge with the same relentless determination he showed in saving Rukia from being executed. He just does not know the meaning of failure. There is a lot being set up in this volume, sowing the seeds for what is to come. It’s interesting to note that Ulquiorra believes Orihime is one of them, having given her word to help. Those of us who know and have followed her from the start of the series know this can’t be true… can it? We know how honest she is, to a fault. But she is also timid. Is she going along because she gave her word or because she is afraid? Or does she truly have something else in mind?

Ulquiorra is an interesting character, obviously intelligent, and not insensitive to Orihime’s beauty and charms. At the same time, he is a hardened Espada. An interesting dichotomy indeed. I can find nothing redeeming to say about Aizen, though. Nel is also an interesting character, the sort of helpless innocent that Ichigo tends to attract, and whom he automatically defends.

Another great volume of Bleach, can’t wait to see the battles as they unfold.

Book Review: The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michele Richardson

 

The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek       

Author: Kim Michele Richardson

Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark

American release date: May 7, 2019

Format/Genre/Length: Hardback/Historical Fiction/320 pages

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★

Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes

 

In the 1930s, Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s WPA program created jobs for people so they could work and have money during a difficult time in American history, namely the Great Depression. Instead of just handing money out, they allowed people to work for it, adding to their self-worth as wage earners. One part of that program was the Pack Horse librarians of rural Kentucky. Mostly women, they rode horses/mules/donkeys, traveled on foot or sometimes by boat, through the mountains and across rivers and creeks,  to bring books to people in remote areas of the state.

Cussy Mary is a Pack Librarian, and very happy to be one. She lives with her father Elijah, who is a miner, and she loves the patrons on her route. These are poor people who are barely surviving, much less able to buy books, so the librarians are lights in their lives. Cussy is well loved by her patrons as well, and doesn’t mind reading to those who cannot read themselves. She worries about them, especially the children, who are sick and starving. But there is little she can do, as she and her father are barely subsisting themselves.

There are those who look down on Cussy and her father, because they are different from them. They are, in fact, blue-skinned people, and as such are considered to be colored abnormal because of the tint of their skin. The local doctor finds Cussy’s condition very interesting and wants to take her somewhere so people can study her. She’s reluctant, until circumstances cause her to reconsider her stance since doing so will benefit the people she cares about. All she wants is to be treated like other people, and to enjoy life a little, especially her precious books and patrons. But some people can’t see past the blue shade of her skin to the beautiful soul beneath. Not until she meets a most unusual man.

I fell in love with this book quickly. I have a soft spot for books and librarians, as my daughter is one, and I could see some of her in the spunky yet soft-spoken Cussy. I knew nothing about the Pack Horse Librarians, or about blue-skinned people, and was very interested in learning about them.

I love the way the author writes. You feel like you’re there, experiencing what Cussy goes through – her pain, her joy, her sorrows. And you can’t help but love Cussy yourself. This is a very colorful novel about being who you are and not judging people simply by the color of their skin, something many people in the US still have problems with. The historical information at the end of the book is just icing on the cake.

I liked this book so much, I bought copies for my daughters and my daughters-in-law, and one for myself, since I read a library copy originally. I know I will read this book over, more than once. This book is about life, about love, overcoming hardships, and making the most of what you have, as well as sharing that with the people around you. I hope you all love this book as much as I did.

Book Review: White Trash Warlock by David R. Slayton

White Trash Warlock     

Author: David R. Slayton

Publisher: Blackstone Publishing

American release date:  October 13, 2020

Format/Genre/Length: Kindle/Fantasy/260 pages

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★

Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes

 

Adam Lee Binder of Oklahoma is on a mission to find the amoral warlock who is making and selling charms at the expense of the misery of members of other species. Being a practitioner of magic himself, Adam takes umbrage at this misuse of magical power, but his search is also a bit personal. He thinks the warlock just might be his dear old dad, long missing in action.

Adam lives in Oklahoma with his Aunt Sue, another practitioner, and has since his release from Liberty House, the cruelty-ridden mental institution where he was relegated as a teen by his older brother, Robert, with the assistance of their mother. Unable to handle Adam’s being different, they shut him away in what was essentially a hell-hole. No wonder he doesn’t exactly stay in close communication now that he’s out and on his own.

However an urgent text from his usually reticent brother sends Adam driving up to his brother’s home in Denver. Bobby’s wife, Annie, is… ill, for lack of a better word, and Bobby think he needs Adam’s expertise to deal with the situation. Looks like a family reunion is in the cards, as their mother, Tilla, is staying with Bobby too.

As far as witches go, well, Adam doesn’t consider himself a witch, and his power is somewhat lacking, but he does believe in patterns. The first mention of Denver came from a Saurian named Bill, the second is that Bobby lives in Denver. And the third has to do with a pool cue Adam is trying to find out about which apparently came from a pawn shop in Denver. So going to Denver becomes a no-brainer.

As Adam nears Denver in his beloved Cutlass, he sees quite the disturbing sight in the form of a large creature hovering above the city, with tendrils that reach into various places, including Bobby’s home.  Probably right into his wife, if what Adam suspects turns out to be true. This task is not going to be easily accomplished, and most likely Adam can’t do this alone. Might even have to talk to the elves about it, which he really doesn’t want to do, seeing as he has an ex who is an elf, one who ran out on him years before, breaking his heart.

Not to mention, elves can be… difficult to deal with.

Damn, life is so complicated.

I was given a copy of this book by my daughter-in-law, and I fell in love with it from the beginning.  In some ways, it reminds me of the Dresden Files, which I also happen to love. And happily this is just the first book in a series.

The writing is great. David Slayton has a deft touch with humor that I can relate to, and his characters come alive on the page. Even the ones you want to punch for being jackasses. Adam is not your typical warlock in that he considers himself to be white trash from Oklahoma, isn’t rich and doesn’t think of himself as particularly good-looking, not to mention that being locked up in a mental institution as a teenager has given him serious insecurity issues. But I think he’s great, and a much better person than he realizes. He just needs to find the right person who can convince him that he is worth loving. The story is very imaginative, and I love the different types of supernatural beings we get to see, including but not limited to Saurians, elves, leprechauns, and gnomes. And let’s not forget Death and death reapers. Throw in a little romance, and I’m in heaven.

The only criticism I can really make is that the book would have benefited from a little more careful editing, but that’s because I’m an editor and I notice these things. Most people wouldn’t. I look forward to reading more books in the series, whenever they are published.