Category Archives: Reviews

Book Review: Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender

Felix Ever After     

Author: Kacen Callender

Publisher: Balzer + Bray

American release date:  May 5, 2020

Format/Genre/Length: Hardback/YA LGBT Romance/368 pages

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★

Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes

To say Felix Love’s life is complicated would be an understatement. He lives with his father in Harlem, his mother having walked out on them years before to start a new family. His father has sacrificed a lot to provide for Felix, including his tuition at St. Catherine’s and the summer arts program, as well as his top surgery—Felix is transgendered. While his father is supportive of that, for some reason he finds it difficult to use Felix’s name, and often just calls him kid.

Felix’s best friend for years is Ezra. The two of them are thick as thieves and do everything together. Ezra comes from privilege. His parents have bought him his own apartment, and Felix often sleeps over there. One day, Felix’s world is shattered when he walks through the gallery at school only to find photos of his old self hanging there, framed and displayed for everyone to see, as well as his dead name. Felix is beyond mortified as the faithful Ezra removes the evidence of someone’s dastardly deed. Who could be so cruel, and why?

Felix is working hard on his art, wanting to be accepted at the prestigious Brown University, hopefully on a full scholarship. Those are far and few between, and another student at St. Cat’s, a guy named Declan who once dated Ezra, is also planning to go there and snag the full ride too. Felix doesn’t think it’s fair because Declan comes from money. Plus he’s obnoxious and full of himself.

Felix writes emails to his mother, but he never sends them. He hasn’t heard from her since he told her he was transgendered, years before. The emails sit in his draft folders… all 476 of them. Someday maybe he’ll actually hit send on all of them and flood her inbox. Felix can’t help but wonder why she doesn’t love him anymore?. And why can’t he find a special someone, as his peers have? Even Ezra is dating someone, a guy named Austin, and seems happy. Why can’t Felix find love? Is he so unloveable?

When Felix becomes convinced that Declan is responsible for the gallery fiasco, he determines to find out for sure—even if he has to catfish him to do it.

This book was recommended to me by my daughter, and I devoured it in like two days, it was so good. I loved Felix so much, and I ached for him as he questioned his life, his art, his identity… not unusual for a teen, but even harder for a trans teen. I think it’s great that we’re seeing more books with trans characters, someone other trans people can identify with. But even more so, I think books like this help other people come to an understanding of what it means to be trans. For many people, it’s a new and alien concept. Sure, trans people have always been around, but the discussion has never been so open as it is now. I think books like this one are important in gaining a better understanding of other people. Diversity is something to be celebrated, not feared. What a boring world if we all thought and did the same things and if we all looked alike.

I hope to see more from this talented author and highly recommend this book for anyone, especially romantics.

Book Review: Bleach, Vol 23 by Tite Kubo

Bleach, Vol 23     

Author: Tite Kubo

Publisher: Viz Media

American release date: June 3, 2008

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

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★

 Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes

All is not well with Aizen’s group, when Ulquiorra makes his report, explaining why he did not kill Ichigo and the others. Grimmjow maintains that he is weak, perhaps afraid, while Ulquiorra maintains that perhaps Ichigo will be of use to them in the future.

Back in the World of the Living, Ichigo informs the Soul Reapers that they are not welcome to stay in his tiny room (or his home) and they are responsible for finding their own digs for as long as they are on assignment there. Matsumoto asks Orihime if she can stay with her, Ikkaku and Yumichika strike out on their own, and Renji decides to head to Uruhara’s place. Ichigo explains to Rukia why she can’t stay with him anymore, since his family have seen her, but she manages to circumvent his objection and get herself invited to stay, to his chagrin.

Aware of the presence of the Soul Reapers in Kakura Town, Grimmjow receives the orders he was hoping for—take a few of the other Arrancars and kill anyone with even a hint of spiritual pressure. When Ichigo and Rukia come face to face with their first Arrancar, Ichigo makes the startling discovery that Rukia has her spiritual pressure back! She proceeds to demonstrate what she can do with her unusual white sword.

The Arrancars have split up to pursue individual targets, and Ikkaku finds himself fighting Edarod, a fight which he swears will be to the death, whether his or the other’s. Yumichiki contacts the Soul Society to give them certain instructions, including orders for Ikkaku’s funeral!

In bonus stories, we get glimpses of the characters set prior to this time, and we get our first look at the Society of Female Soul Reapers.

The plot thickens as the Arrancars, aka Aizen’s Dream Team, are thrown into the mix. And they have just begun… I keep wondering what makes Aizen so appealing that people just automatically do what he tells them? And yet they do.

I love the scene with Rukia and Ichigo’s family where she sweet talks them into letting her stay there. I notice that in the manga there is more about Orihime’s feelings for Ichigo then in the anime, at least in my opinion. In fact, she is very jealous of Rukia and how close they seem. I wonder if that will end differently in the manga, since nothing happened in the anime in that regard.

There is an ongoing story between chapters involving Kon, who being Kon, has taken over Hanamoto’s body. I love this characterization of Ichigo: “No matter how strong I get, I can’t protect them (in reference to the spirits he can see). The realization cuts my heart like cold steel.”  This is Ichigo all over, and is probably the largest motivating factor for everything he has done or will do, his overwhelming need to protect everyone, especially his friends and family. This is what drives him, what keeps him going… and what ensures he will never give up, never surrender.

Also in the bonus stories is a teaser concerning Renji and Rukia that I hope to see more of. Another great volume of bleach, looking forward to the next one!

Book Review: Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas

Cemetery Boys       

Author: Aiden Thomas

Publisher: Swoon Reads

American release date:  September 1, 2020

Format/Genre/Length: Hardback/YA LGBT Romance/352 pages

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★

Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes

All his life, Yadriel has yearned to be recognized for what he is—a brujo. His family has been brujx for generations, practitioners of magic, able to commune with the dead and help ease them into the next life. But his family doesn’t see him that way, and he has been denied his quinces, essential to his recognition as a brujo. Much of the time, they don’t see him as a boy, either, which is frustrating. Yadriel is transgender, and he only wishes to be accepted for who he is. Is that so much to ask?

His best friend, Maritza, fashions him his own blade—a portaje. This is his conduit to the world of magic. Maritza has one of her own, in the form of a rosary. Denied his rite of passage by his family, he and Maritza decide to hold one of their own, in the old church in the cemetery where Yadriel’s family live.

The ceremony is successful but something decidedly unexpected occurs—one of their own, his cousin Miguel, has died, and all the brujx can feel it. But no one can find his body, which is troubling in and of itself. Yadriel returns home to see what is happening and learns of the search for Miguel. He wishes to accompany the other brujos but his request is denied by his father. If only his mother were here. She understood Yadriel and accepted him for who he is, without question or reservation.

Yadriel and Maritza decide to search for Miguel on their own. And that is when the next strange occurrence happens, in the form of an unexpected spirit by the name of Julian. Loud, unruly, and energetic, Julian is a force to be reckoned with. And he is about to turn Yadriel’s world upside down.

This book is a treasure!  A fascinating glimpse, not only into the world of brujx and Dio de los Muertos, but also transgendered teens as well. There aren’t many books with transgendered protagonists. Yadriel is wonderful as he tries to navigate the hazards of living among people who don’t understand and can’t see him for who he is. It must be hard when your own family denies you, and because of that you can’t even participate in the same rituals the others do. Yadriel’s own uncle, Catriz, is left out of things as well, not having enough spirituality, apparently, to be considered one of them. Together, uncle and nephew are the family outcasts, the black sheep.

Yadriel’s best friend Maritza is spunky and spirited, and understand Yads, as she calls him, better than anyone. She makes him a portaje, forges it herself despite not being encouraged to do such things because of her gender. But the one who steals the show starting from his first appearance is Julian Diaz, aka the ghost with the most. He is difficult at times and extremely stubborn, but there is just something about him that Yadriel can’t resist. Plus Julian accepts Yadriel immediately, no questions asked.

If Yadriel can release Julian’s spirit, he can prove to his family that he is indeed a brujo. But before Julian agrees to this, he has conditions of his own that Yadriel has to meet. Carrying these out won’t be easy.

This book is full of fun and flavor and wonderful characters. It made me laugh and it definitely made me cry. It was recommended to me by my daughter and I was so happy she did. I got it from the library, but I ordered my own copy now, to add to my library. I can’t say enough good things about this book. It’s a supernatural story, it’s a romance, it’s a mystery, it’s a coming-of-age story, but most of all it’s a book about people just trying to live their lives.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who likes to read.

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.