Category Archives: Reviews

Book Review: Twentieth Century Boys, Vol 3: Hero With a Guitar by Naoki Urasawa

Twentieth Century Boys, Vol 3: Hero With a Guitar     

Author: Naoki Urasawa

Publisher: Viz Media

American release date: June 16, 2009

Format/Genre/Length: Paperback/manga/paranormal/200 pages

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★

Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes

 

Kenji is baffled as to why the dying homeless man proclaimed him to be the one who has to save the world? Who is he but a lowly shop owner, and what can he do to save anyone when he’s clearly made a mess of his own life?

Things are starting to come back to him, though, as Kenji begins to connect the dots, as he realizes that what is happening mirrors the story he wrote so long ago, as a child. A tale told among friends about super heroes saving the world from a deadly menace. How can it be coming true now? And why?

Kenji tries to talk to each of his friends, but after they unload their tales of woe on him, he doesn’t have the heart to involve them in what is going on. In pursuing Donkey’s student, whom he is unable to find, he learns about a concert being given by The Friends, and his blood runs cold. He knows he has to be there, so tells his mother to watch Kanna and heads to the concert. There he ends up on stage and comes face to face with Friend. Well, relatively speaking, as Friend is hiding behind a mask. But his words are clear and strike distinct fear in Kenji.

Kenji almost forgets about his class reunion. Maybe he’ll recognize Friend among the attendees. Or at least gain some clues as to which kid wore a mask. But he doesn’t recognize a lot of his former classmates after so many years. Yukiji doesn’t make the reunion because she has to work at the airport. But someone else shows up who recognizes Kenji, and as they catch up, Kenji remembers things he’d forgotten, such as who the kid in the mask was, and what the next target in the story was. But can he stop the next disaster from taking place?

He has a sudden premonition that his niece Kanna is in trouble, and races to save her, but from what… or who…

Things are really happening in this volume of Twentieth Century Boys! When I read what Kenji learned at the Friend concert, I literally gasped! Imagine how he must feel, wondering if he is crazy or is there someone out there following the plot of a story written when Kenji was just a child? But if he’s right, and that’s what happening, then the fate of the world could very well be at stake.

This volume is action packed and exciting. I love the artwork a lot, as well as the story. Kenji is not your typical hero, in that he is an ordinary man with an ordinary job and an ordinary life, who thinks he’s accomplished nothing of note in that life. He fails to realize how special he really is, what a good man he is, but I have the feeling a lot of people will know about him before this tale is through.

Seeing Friend for the first time, albeit behind a mask, was very interesting, his surprise announcement even more so. Can’t wait to see what happens next!

Book Review: Bleach, Vol 22 by Tite Kubo

Bleach, Vol 22     

Author: Tite Kubo

Publisher: Viz Media

American release date: February 5, 2008

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

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★

Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes

 

Ichigo’s dad’s secret is out in the open—he’s a former Soul Reaper! Whodathunkit? And he’s more than passing acquainted with sneaky old Kiskue. Apparently they are both aware of the existence of the Visoreds. Not only that, but Isshin predicted they would contact Ichigo, which they have. As Isshin describes them, the Visoreds are “a lawless gang of ex-Soul Reapers who tried to acquire hollow powers through forbidden methods.” He goes on to note the change in the Arrancars, which can probably be laid directly at the renegade Aizen’s feet, with the use of the stolen Hogyoku. That could become a distinct problem for all of them, especially the Soul Society. Prior to this, there was a limit to the Arrancars’ power, but now that Aizen plans to complete them, there could be hell to pay.

Dutch Boy has given Ichigo a lot to think about. Namely, that he is like the Visoreds in that he has a Hollow inside of him. One who is now making himself heard to Ichigo, which is a chilling thought. At the same time, Uryu is wrestling with his father’s offer—have his Quincy powers restored, but at the price of never involving himself with Soul Reapers again. What will he choose?

Dutch Boy is making no progress in his efforts to get Ichigo to join them. He is now attending Ichigo’s school, which Ichigo certainly doesn’t appreciate. Hiyori shows up after school to find out what the hold-up is, only to find that Dutch Boy has been followed by Orihime and Chad, who want to know what’s up and what do they want with Ichigo.

Two new Arrancars arrive on the scene—Ulquiorra and Yammy, sent by Aizen to find the person with the strongest spiritual pressure and kill him. The rest are nothing but ants, according to him, not worth their time. But when they attack Tatsuki, Orihime refuses to stay quiet and responds. With Orihime’s life in danger, can Ichigo be far behind?

Back in school doesn’t necessarily mean back to normal, as Ichigo discovers when some familiar figures appear unexpectedly in his classroom. What the heck is going on, and why are they there? And now why are they at his house?

Certainly an interesting volume of Bleach as the plot thickens. The appearance of Ulquiorra and Yammy can only mean that Aizen has begun hatching his dastardly plot, whatever that might be. And the appearance of the Soul Reapers can’t be a coincidence.  With Renji and Ikkaku around, you know there will be hijinx, and whatever they are, poor Captain Hitsugaya probably won’t like it.  The part with Keigo and Chizuru and their protectiveness of Orihime was hilarious, as was Keigo’s recipe—two parts ginger ale and one part calpico, which he says tastes just like hair tonic. Seriously, dude?

Ichigo has to come to terms with the fact that he has a Hollow inside of him. The question is can he control it or will it overwhelm him and make him into something horrible? I loved the scenes with Isshin and Kiskue. I don’t remember knowing this early in the anime about Isshin, so I like that. Karin realizes Ichigo is a Soul Reaper, although he has admitted nothing. At some point, he has to learn that playing the lone wolf, the brave knight who takes everything upon himself and requires no one else, is a stupid attitude to take, and he can and must rely on the help of others, especially his friends. He puts them in more danger by leaving them out of the loop than by including them.

I liked seeing Kiskue and Yoruichi. We don’t see them often enough, especially her. I already know Dutch Boy will grow on me, so will Alquiorra. Right now the latter is just an emo Goth Arrancar, and Yammy is a big strong dummy.

According to the preview, another team of Arrancars is on its way!  Can’t wait to see them too!

 

Book Review: The Shadowed Sun (Dreamblood #2) by N.K. Jemisin

The Shadowed Sun (Dreamblood, Book 2)   

Author: N.K. Jemisin

Publisher: Orbit Books

American release date: June 12, 2012

Format/Genre/Length: Paperback/Fantasy /517 pages

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★

Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes

 

Hanani is a Sharer Apprentice. Sharers are similar to but different from Gatherers, in that they are healers who also go into the realm of dreams to help sufferers where the Gatherers ease the sleeper into a peaceful death. What makes Hanani unique among the Sharers is that she is a woman, and such a thing has not happened before. Which also means she is subjected to the scorn of some people for going against the perceived behavior of her sex, even among her fellow Sharers. Luckily for her, she has the support of her mentor, Mni-inh, to help guide her.

Wanahomen, son of Eninket, has been gone for some ten years, ever since his father’s overthrow and death at the hand of a Gatherer. Biding his time, he is gathering support so he can claim his birthright, and refuses to listen to those who claim his late father had gone mad and had to be killed. His eye on the prize, Wanahomen is willing to do whatever it takes to regain what was lost, no matter who gets hurt in the process.

Tiaanet’s mother, Insurret, is of the shunha caste, her father Sanfi a merchant. Tiaanet is extremely beautiful, and many men lust after her. But her father has his own ideas regarding her future, as well as his own ideas regarding their relationship. No wonder Insurret is waspish and surly, keeping to herself and away from Tiaanet as well as her  daughter Tantufi, who has… issues. But Tiaanet is a dutiful daughter, even when that duty is very distasteful to her, and she is also clever and knows how to handle people… except her father. As a supporter of the returning Prince, Sanfi sees nothing wrong in bedding his beautiful daughter with the handsome prince, as long as he’s in control of the situation Then again, he sees nothing wrong in sleeping with her himself.

Sunandi Jeh Kalawe now governs Gujaareh on behalf of the Protectors of Kisua. She is happily married to Anzi, a general who commands the forces of Gujaareh. But Sunandi has neither forgotten the events that led up to the death of the mad Prince Eninket, or the young Gatherer Nijiri, whose mentor/lover Ehiru was the one who killed Eninket.  When Nijiri comes to see her in the middle of the night, Sunandi knows something is up… and it’s not likely to be good.

Something is wrong in Gujaareh. People are dying mysteriously in their sleep, but the Gatherers don’t know why or how it happens. Turmoil is in the air, as forces align themselves. War feels imminent as Wanahomen works toward the overthrow of the current regime, that he may take his rightful place as ruler. But he needs the support of others to accomplish that.

Something big is just on the horizon… will it be the start of something new or the end of the life they now know?

As much as I loved the first book, I think I might love this one more, although I wish Ehiru had been able to come along for the ride. In the intervening ten years, Najiri has greatly matured, although undoubtedly carrying the scars of what happened and the loss of Ehiru. I was tickled to see Sunandi again. She’s such a strong character, and someone I would love to really know. Plus we get to meet interesting new characters, such as Hanani and Mni-Inh. Hanani is struggling to exist as a woman in a man’s world, and she does it wonderfully.  And then there is Wanahomen , who is older than when we last saw him. It remains to be seen if he has gained any wisdom or maturity.

N.K. Jemisin weaves an incredibly intricate tale, like a beautiful tapestry composed of the lives of her characters. The religion she has created feels so real, it’s hard not to believe that these things can’t happen in dreams, that such people as the Sharers and Gatherers don’t really exist. Her world-building skills are beyond belief. Her characters take on a life of their own, certainly not one-dimensional by any means. There is no cookie-cutter black-and-white dichotomy, good versus evil. For no one is entirely good, and no one is entirely evil. And bad things do happen to good people, and sometimes evil thrives.

For now, this is the last book in the series, but the author admits she would like to visit this world again. We can only hope she does, and that she’ll be willing to take us along on her next visit.

I highly recommend this book, and I intend to seek out her other stories.

 

 

 

 

 

Book Review: Bleach, Vol 21 by Tite Kubo

Bleach, Vol 21         

Author: Tite Kubo

Publisher: Viz Media

American release date: October 2 2007

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

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★

Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes

In the aftermath of Aizen’s dramatic departure (as if his being there isn’t drama enough alone), the 4th Squad tends to the wounded, including the Ryoka. Captain Unohana is amazed to witness Orihime’s healing skills as she tends to Ichigo. Rukia is stricken at Byakuya’s injuries, sustained while protecting her. He calls her to his side, and proceeds to tell her truths he has previously withheld.

A week passes. Uryu has sewn new clothes for his group, so Orihime wishes to personally take the new dress to Rukia… but she can’t find her. She and Ichigo begin a frantic search, even as some of the captains and lieutenants (including Shunsui, of course lol), at Matsumoto’s suggestion, get down to some serious drinking. They invite Ichigo and Orihime, but they decline the invitation, being busy (and also being underage). Ichigo has an idea where Rukia is, and he turns out to be correct.

The time comes for Ichigo and the others to return to the Living World. They drop from the sky only to find a penitent Uruhara waiting for them. Ichigo lets Kiskue know what he thinks of what he did to them. Before he left the Seireitei, Captain Ukitake gave Ichigo something special, told him to hold onto because it would be useful in all kinds of situations.

Ichigo arrives home to find Kon lounging in his bed. He reclaims his body and tells Kon he’ll listen to his complaints the next day, all he wants to do now is rest. But that isn’t happening when his dad unexpectedly appears, ready to rumble.

Back to school for everyone, back to normalcy. Or is it? Ichigo is shocked when Tatsuki can see his deputy soul reaper badge. But he has no time to think about it, as they keep getting calls about Hollows. On top of that, there’s a new kid in class. His name is Shinji (but I’ll refer to him as Dutch Boy). He takes a seat near Ichigo and hopes they will become friends! That’s not creepy at all, is it?

When Ichigo leaves in the middle of the night on Reaper business, leaving Kon in his body, Kon decides to take the opportunity to kick up his heels a bit, but he gets more than he bargained for. Uryu, who is also out and about, encounters an unexpected blast from the past. And if that’s not enough, a Soul Reaper’s true identity is revealed!

So… Captain Aizen… huh. That happened. Who saw that coming? I sure didn’t. I remember watching the anime and boohooing over “poor Aizen”. And then he wasn’t dead and I texted my daughter, overjoyed, only to be confused the next moment when he stabbed poor Hinamori. (My daughter said she couldn’t wait for that to happen, knowing what she already knew that I didn’t.)  So Aizen, Gin, and Tosen have vamoosed, off to nefarious things no doubt. I don’t believe they specifically say what’s up in the manga, but I remember Aizen telling the Soul Society that his plan would take a year and then he’d be back. I guess that was their way of explaining why the story was about to veer off into filler arcs lol

His departure is almost an anti-climax, as its back to normal business. Well, as normal as Ichigo’s world ever gets. There does seem to be a lot of Hollows, wonder if that means anything? And now we have Dutch Boy in the picture (when you read this volume, you’ll know why I call him that lol). And then a couple of major revelations at the end of the book, keeping us in suspense, waiting for the next volume. Pretty heavy stuff going down. Plus the revelation from Byakuya at the beginning.  As usual, another great volume of Bleach. One reason I love the manga so much, even though I’ve seen the whole series, is that you do learn things that either aren’t mentioned or go by too fast to catch.

Looking forward to the next volume!

Book Review: Bleach, Vol 20 by Tite Kubo

Bleach, Vol 20     

Author: Tite Kubo

Publisher: Viz Media

American release date: August 7, 2007

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

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★

Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes

 

When Matsumoto comes face to face with Kira, she learns what the power of his zanpaku-to, Wabisuke, really is.  Kira’s sword doubles the weight of anything it strikes, until the user cannot wield it and sinks to their knees, head in a penitent pose.  (Wabisuke means the Penitent One).

Hinamori is confused as to why Gin has brought her to the place where the 46 govern. But all is explained when she comes face-to-face with the last person she expected to see there. How can this possibly be? But the joyful reunion is brought to a sharp halt.

When Hitsugaya arrives, he too is thunderstruck to see the newcomer then chilled when he learns what has happened to Momo.  Battle is inevitable. It isn’t long before Unohana and Isane appear, having deduced this person’s whereabouts, and we learn what power he really possesses. One which has fooled many people for a long time. Except maybe Tosen, who is immune to it, being blind. Which means he has done what he did with knowing consent. Has everyone been subjected to this? Maybe the Ryoka are immune. Hopefully.

When the traitors disappear, Unohana deduces where they’ve gone and tells Isane to send a special message to all the captains and lieutenants, as well as the Ryoka, to assemble immediately… it’s an emergency!

The newcomer confronts Renji and Rukia and demands that Rukia be given to him. Naturally, Renji refuses. And just in the nick of time, Ichigo appears. More battle is inevitable, and along with it, much is learned, including the secret  of the object known as the Hogyaku. Where before, the object of the Thirteen Court squads was to defeat the Ryoka so that Rukia could be executed, now the common goal is to reclaim her from the newly revealed enemy in their midst.

There’s a lot going on in this volume, so put on your hip boots and wade into it. Don’t be surprised that things aren’t what they seem. You just can’t believe your eyes, apparently. And some people aren’t to be trusted. I think one character said it very well when he said, “Adoration is the state furthest from understanding.” I think that’s just another way of saying love is blind.

Lines will have to be redrawn, foes become enemies and enemies foes. Many things we’ve wondered about will become clearer, such as Kiskue’s place in the scheme of things, and a better understanding of Ichigo’s Hollowfication. The one thing that rather bugs me about this book is Rukia’s limp, wishy-washy attitude. Normally, she’s an in-your-face, don’t-mess-with-me kind of girl, but here she is almost a willing participant in what is going on to happen, as if she’s resigned to it or something. Maybe there’s a logical reason for this, but if there is, I don’t know what it is. Guess I’ll have to wait and see if she gets back the old Rukia spark.

Speaking of sparks, I suspect plenty will be flying in the next volume. Looking forward to it!

Book Review: Bleach, Vol 19 by Tite Kubo

Bleach, Vol 19     

Author: Tite Kubo

Publisher: Viz Media

American release date: June 5, 2007

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

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★

Reviewer:  Julie Lynn Hayes

 

Soi Fon thinks she has the upper hand in her battle against Yoruichi, believing that her one-time commander has been sedentary for the past century. She is in for a rude awakening!

Ikkaku and Iba are drinking and arguing, as usual, when they speculate as to who Captain Kuchiki is fighting, up by the Sokyoku. Iba doesn’t recognize the spiritual pressure, but Ikkaku suspects it’s Ichigo, knowing how strong he is. And he is correct, for that battle is still being waged, even after Rukia has been safely removed from the playing field.

Ichigo is still pressing Kuchiki for an answer to why he is trying to kill his own sister. Byakuya is determined to crush Ichigo, confident that Ichigo can never hold his own against him. Seriously, even if he has to release his bankai, Ichigo can’t possibly do that…. can he?

Boy, does that arrogant s.o.b have another think coming…

Meanwhile, Uryu, Orihime, Chad, and Ganju are hastening toward the summit of the hill, not sure if that is where Ichigo is or not. Why is Ichigo still fighting, since Rukia has already been saved? Uryu explains “She won’t be safe until he’s broken the enemy completely.” Otherwise they will still try to execute her. Makes sense. But can he do it?

When the smoke of battle clears, who will be left standing?

Meanwhile, a horrific sight meets Hitsugaya and Matsumoto—the Council of 46 are all dead, murdered… and not recently. Who’s done this horrible thing? And since they were killed some time ago… who has been issuing orders in their name? Is someone trying to frame Hitsugaya for what has happened? Who would do such a thing… and why?

Just when you think the battle’s won, new battle lines are drawn, and new mysteries appear. I love watching them unfold, especially as I know what awaits in the next volume (one advantage of watching the anime first lol) In this volume, Byakuya is learning that Ichigo is more than he bargained for and not as easily dismissed as he might think.

I love Tite Kubo’s characterizations. His characters are definitely not one-note. There is no such thing as all good or all evil, there are many shades of gray. Not even Rukia’s brother is all bad, just has a mighty high opinion of himself. Even Ichigo has his dark side.

I love seeing the backstories of the characters. This time we got some insight into Soi Fon and  Yoruichi, the past shedding light on the present.

Looking forward to the next volume!

Book Review: Twentieth Century Boys, Vol 1: Friends by Naoki Urasawa

Twentieth Century Boys, Vol 1: Friends

Author: Naoki Urasawa

Publisher: Viz Media

American release date: February 17, 2009

Format/Genre/Length: Paperback/Manga/Mystery/Sci-fi/160 pages

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★

Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes

 

Kenji once dreamed of being a hero and doing big things, but middle-age finds him the co-owner of a former liquor store, along with his mother. And he’s raising the niece his sister dumped off on them before she ran away to who knows where. He loves Kanna with all his heart and wouldn’t have it any other way. What do long ago foolish dreams matter in the face of reality?

Kenji is annoyed to learn the police are investigating the disappearance of the entire Shikishima family, mostly because they owe him money. Hopefully if the police stake out the place, they’ll want to buy snacks from his convenience store, he reasons. In the meantime, his childhood friend Keroyon, aka Froggie, is getting married. Whodathunk it? He did get his nickname for a reason, after all.  While retrieving empty bottles from the missing family’s home, Kenji finds a strange symbol  by the door. Something seems awfully familiar about that symbol, but he just can’t place it. Kenji quizzes some of his childhood friends about it, but no one remembers anything.

The morning paper brings horrible news. Another of his old friends, Donkey, a science teacher, has jumped from the roof of the high school where he taught… to his death. Kenji doesn’t think Donkey would ever do something like that. A strange boy they befriended long ago, he was particularly known for being a fast runner who told them that you can run faster with your shoes off. Kenji receives a letter from Donkey to him written just a few days previously, although he’d not talked to him in a good long while. The letter contains a drawing and asks if Kenji remembers this symbol… the same symbol Kenji’s been wondering about himself! Could it be a coincidence, or something much more? And Donkey ends with talk soon… does this sound like someone who’s about to kill himself?

Kenji talks to Donkey’s widow, and she mentions that her husband told her that one of his former students was in trouble, but she only remembered his first name and where he went to school.  Through good detective work, and a little luck, Kenji finds the student, who seems to be on his way somewhere. The man is secretive and mysterious and tells Kenji if he’s reached the symbol, he’s only one step away from true friendship. What the heck does that mean?

Kenji and some of his old group of friends meet to toast the late Donkey, and he continues to grill them about the symbol.  Still no one recalls anything. Until Mon-chan remembers that when they were young, they buried something, but can’t remember exactly what that was. Not sure if that means anything or not, they decide to hunt it down, which isn’t easy as much has changed over the years. They’re surprised to find… (no spoilers here, gotta read it)

This is the first volume in a series about a group of young men who did something that helped to save the world. Kenji is the main character, through whose eyes we see most of the action. The story takes place across different time frames, so we see what’s going on at different points in the boys’ lives, 1969, 1997, and the present. The first volume lays the groundwork for everything and asks questions which need to be answered. Such as who are the Twentieth Century Boys? What did they do? Who is Friend? Is he friend or foe? And is/was he one of them?

I like the writing (I’ll have to read Monster too, which is by the same author), as well as the artwork. Kenji is a good character, just a simple normal guy, living out his life, even if it wasn’t the one he dreamed of. He’s unwilling to accept the truth that appears to lie on the surface of things, and insists on delving further down, to clear Donkey’s name, and to solve the mystery of the symbol. All the characters are well-drawn, including the horrible twins whom they refer to as “the evilest twins in history.” I really enjoyed reading this, although sometimes I had to re-read to keep things clear in my head because of the time jumps. But in the end it all made sense, and I look forward to reading the next volume.

 

 

Book Review: Baptism of Fire by Andrzej Sapwkoski

Baptism of Fire (The Witcher series)     

Author: Andrzej Sapkowski

Publisher: Orbit

American release date:  June 24, 2014

Format/Genre/Length: Paperback/Fantasy/400 pages

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★

Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes

 

Milva, the archer,  first meets Geralt, the Witcher, two weeks after the disastrous conclave on the Isle of Thanedd. To say she is not amused would be an understatement, especially as he has seen her face. But Geralt is a friend of Brokilon, and he is injured, so they care nothing for the politics of the situation. So when the leader of Brokilon requests that Milva assist Geralt, how can she refuse?  She can’t, although she doesn’t have to be happy about it. And she isn’t.

Dijkstra, the head of Redanian intelligence, is approached by the Nilfgaardian ambassador who seeks a criminal by the name of Cahir Mawr Dyffryn aep Caellach. Dijkstra feigns ignorance, but that man always knows more than he is willing to admit to. Once rid of the ambassador, Dijkstra writes to his sorceress, Philippa, revealing that he seeks the man as well. Not that he let slip that fact to the ambassador.

The sorceresses have their own agenda. The situation as they see it is going from bad to worse. It is only by some miracle that they were not all killed on Thanedd. They must take control of the situation before the men screw it up any more than they already have. But they must do it under the utmost secrecy as they work to reestablish the Chapter and the Council. They have to rely on one another, even the Nilfgaardian sorceresses, although there is a decided lack of trust there. They meet telepathically to lay the foundation and make plans to meet in person. Not everyone is pleased to see Assire of Nilfgaard among their number. And where is Yennefer?

Meanwhile, Ciri, who is going by the name of Falka, is having the time of her life, running with her little hoodlum pals, the Rats. So why does everyone else think she’s in Nilgaard, engaged to the emperor?

Having healed and left Brokilon, Geralt and Dandelion begin their journey. Although the Witcher think he’s inscrutable and mysterious, the poet can put two and two together and he knows where they are headed and why. And so the journey begins.

If you think there was a lot going on in the last book, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet, b-b-b-baby.

The Witcher series has three main threads which twine and intertwine about one another, those three threads belonging to 1) Geralt, 2)Ciri, and 3)Yennefer. These three are bound by a fate they cannot escape. I can only hope and trust that they will end up together when all is said and done, but that remains to be seen.

Geralt has suffered much in his lifetime, beginning with his betrayal and desertion by his birth mother, to the pains he suffered in becoming the mutant known as a witcher. He had no choice in the matter, but he has certainly embraced this life, such as it is, and is renowned far and wide for his skill and prowess at slaying monsters. On the other hand, he has assumed a mask of indifference in the way he presents himself to the world, as if nothing and no one matters to him. Nothing reaches him or touches him. He is an emotionless killer of bad things.

But we know better, don’t we?

Despite pushing the troubadour away and keeping him at arm’s length, all the while commenting on his bad singing, Geralt considers Dandelion a friend, and has saved his bacon on more than one occasion. Dandelion may be a loud mouth who speaks first and thinks afterward, a braggart who feels that embellishment of the truth is often preferable to the facts, a narcissist who thinks he is irresistible to women… but truth be told, he has a good heart, and he would do anything for Geralt. Dandelion is the only companion Geralt has tolerated for many years, and I love to see them together (and yes, while I realize there is much fanfiction on the relationship between them being more than friendship, I don’t see that and consider it so much wishful thinking).

Geralt and Yennefer—ah, that is one complicated relationship. From the moment they met, something drew them together, almost as if they were magnetized, one to the other. And even though their lovemaking is often followed by separation and anger, they manage to find their way back together again and again, as if they are unable to help themselves. To be honest, I have no idea what he sees in her, and I would be happy if he were to find another love. Such as Triss Merrigold, for instance. But alas, I don’t feel that is meant to be, thanks in large part to the wish Geralt foolishly made (see The Last Wish, although I assume you’ve read it by this point). Whether they can stay together in the end remains to be seen. Yennefer has had a rough life, and I’m sure she feels something for the Witcher, but ultimately I don’t trust her.

Ciri is Geralt’s Law of Surprise gift, a serendipitous gift for Geralt cannot father a child, so Ciri is the child he cannot have. I don’t think he ever intended to go through with taking her on as his responsibility, and evaded doing so for as long as he could. But he couldn’t stem the tide of Fate forever, and having met her, he would do anything now to protect her. Woe betide anyone who comes between him and Ciri, or threatens to harm her in any way. As for Ciri, I worry about what will become of her after her time with the Rats. I think she likes killing a bit too much, and being a law unto herself. Will she be able to return to a more normal life, relatively speaking, or will she become more rebellious than ever? She’s always been a willful handful, but now…

There are some very interesting secondary characters in this book. If you’ve played the game (I’m only on the first one) you may recognize some of them, such as Zoltan Chivay.  And some interesting new friends, such as Regis. The plot is exquisitely intricate as the author spins an amazing web of intrigue, war, deceit, love, mystery, supernatural, and so much more.

If you love the books, watch the series. Henry Cavill plays Geralt brilliantly

Another great book in the series, looking forward to the next one!

 

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!