Book Review: Bleach, Vol 17 by Tite Kubo

Bleach, Vol 17         

Author: Tite Kubo

Publisher: Viz Media

American release date: February 6, 2007

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

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★

Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Looking forward to the big event, be there!

Book Review: Blue Exorcist, Vol 23 by Kazue Kato

Blue Exorcist, Vol 23   

Author: Kazue Kato

Publisher: Viz Media

American release date: February 4, 2020

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

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★

Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Wednesday Briefs: March 11, 2020

Here is a list of all the authors flashing this week, along with a brief snippet from their latest free work. Click the link after the snippet to be taken to the complete story on the author’s home page.

Unicorn Quests: Chapter Nineteen by Cia Nordwell

The map showed the mountain range. The town was nestled in its foothills. Did Maize expect us to backtrack over those infernal ridges and peak? I hoped not.

What was this map to? I knew from her information how to find the rough direction to head to find them. Of course I had to find my way back to my mate and young first. I glanced down the road.

Damn it. What to do? Continue on with my plan, keep the same course? I sighed. The first thing to do was get back to my family. I desperately needed to

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Book Review: Bleach, Vol 16 by Tite Kubo

Bleach, Vol 16         

Author: Tite Kubo

Publisher: Viz Media

American release date: December 5, 2006

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

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★

Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes

 

The date of Rukia’s execution keeps getting pushed forward, and now it’s set for noon the next day! The time that was gained on the passage through the Senkaimon will count for nothing if Ichigo doesn’t figure out how to bankai! Without that, he’s doomed to failure!

Hitsugaya finds himself under attack by none other than Hinamori, to his confusion and consternation. She’s found a letter, in the late Captain Aizen’s hand, blaming his death on none other than the captain of the 10th Company. Of course Toshiro is innocent of the charge, but Momo is in no condition to understand that. It doesn’t help that she is being egged on by the ever-smiling Gin Ichimaru.

Meanwhile, Renji has shown up at the place where Ichigo is training. He wants to train there too, to be ready to save Rukia. He informs Ichigo of the change in date of the execution, which causes Yoruichi dismay. But she continues to have faith in Ichigo’s abilities.

Learning of the change, Rukia seems to be accepting of her fate, as her mind turns to a fallen comrade, Assistant Captain Kaien Shiba, the man whose death she is responsible for. Nothing could have changed what happened, and yet she feels guilty for what she did. No wonder Ganju hates her and doesn’t wish to help her. Shiba was his brother.  Captain Ukitake tries to talk to Byakuya, but doesn’t understand his acceptance of Rukia’s fate. His own sister!

Thanks to Kenpachi, Orihime is reunited with Ishida, Chad, and Ganju, but they are confronted by Captain Komamura, Captain Tosen, Hisagi, and Iba. Kenpachi says he’ll take them all on. When Ikkaku and Kumchiki show up, the subordinates go off to fight, leaving the captains to it. For his part, Captain Kyoraku is thinking he’ll be the only one to be yelled at by old man Yama, but he has to do what he feels is right.

The clock is ticking and Rukia’s fate lies in Ichigo’s hands. The backstory of Rukia and Kaien is very poignant and explains much. I enjoy seeing such stories about the characters, which flesh them out. Having already watched the anime, it only adds to my enjoyment and knowledge of them, and sometimes explains things I didn’t realize, or things that went by too fast in the anime.

I like the relationship between Hitsugaya and Hinamori, which never wavers through the series. He is very protective of her, just as Matsumoto is protective of him. The brief scene with Shunsui and Nanao is priceless (in case you hadn’t noticed by now, he is quite my favorite lol).

Of course I already know what’s going on, so I won’t speculate on some things, but it is obvious that there are wheels within wheels. Byakuya’s seeming indifference to his sister’s fate is baffling. Also, what is the health issue which seems to greatly affect Ukitake (if it’s explained in the anime, I missed it). We see little of Ichigo’s companions in this volume, but I found it funny to see both Orihime and Yachiru riding on Kenpachi’s shoulders. Kenny is an interesting man. He lives to fight, without rancor or malice but a simple love of fighting. I would never cross this man, although I suspect he has a good heart deep down, and I love his relationship with Yachiru. Gin is enigmatic as ever, and layered much like an onion. And Komamura with the strange mask – what’s up with that? How does he even see?

Then again, Tosen is blind and he manages, reminding me of Geordi La Forge on Star Trek Next Generation, even down to the visor! The race is on to save Rukia and time is running out. If the hero is going to make a dramatic rescue, he had best do it soon! Another great volume, looking forward to more!

 

 

Book Review: The Time of Contempt (The Witcher series) by Andrzej Sapkowski

The Time of Contempt(The Witcher series)   

Author: Andrzej Sapkowski

Publisher: Orbit

American release date: August 27, 2013

Format/Genre/Length: Paperback/Fantasy/352 pages

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★

Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes

 

Geralt is still tracking Rience, and goes to the law offices of Codringher and Fenn, seeking information. He learns that a sorcerer may or may not be controlling Rience, who may or may not be in the service of Nilfgaard. Also, King Foltest is searching for a certain princess. But he has been provided evidence, by a certain specialist, that the princess is, alas, no more, having died three years before of diphtheria in a refugee camp. What does Child of the Elder Blood mean?

Yennefer is riding, along with Ciri, to the Conclave of Mages on the Isle of Thanedd. Hopefully they can do something to end the war, as Nilfgaard is determined to consume everything in its path, and is doing a fine job of it so far. Ciri knows Yennefer is anxious to meet up with Geralt, despite all her protestations to the contrary, which becomes obvious when she stops along at the way at a dwarf bank and asks if there are any letters for her. No letters, but the dwarf Giancardi has interesting information regarding taxation which leads to an understanding of who is backing whom in the current crisis. Ciri begins to realize that Yennfer intends to dump her off at a school. When the sorceress and the banker have secretive business to discuss, Ciri is sent to explore the town of Gors Velen with a junior clerk, Fabio Sachs. Ciri discovers that the school, Aretuza,  is not far from there, on the isle of Thanedd, which she can see from the city. On her return, Ciri meets some old friends of Yennefer.

Having learned where Geralt was last seen, Ciri decides to postpone school and runs away to find him. Dandelion is in Hirundum, waiting for Geralt, observing the proceedings, as is his way. No doubt intending to write an epic song or two. Even Dandelion has no idea why Geralt wants to meet him there and won’t go to the Isle of Thanedd, even though he obviously wants to. Soon, three people meet there, in search of one another. When push comes to shove, will Ciri choose the Witcher or the witch?

Brought together by Ciri, Geralt agrees to accompany Yennefer to the banquet at the Conclave. It’s only  natural for people to be curious about him, and for certain sorceresses to attempt to seduce him. Geralt makes the rounds and meets many people. Geralt ends up spending the night with Yennefer. And because he has a modicum of manners when it comes to relieving himself, the course of events is unexpectedly changed as all hell breaks loose on Thanedd.

Why is Nilfgaard the aggressor in this all-encompassing war? Simple greed, or something more? As is usual at such times, there are those who fight back and those who bow down and those who refuse to take a stand for what is right. Geralt could never be one of those, and neither could Ciri. I’m not so sure about Yennefer. I think she only has her own interests at heart and I’m suspicious of her, especially as regards Geralt and Ciri. Frankly, I think he has terrible taste, at least when it comes to her, for I see nothing to recommend her. Having seen her backstory in the series, I can tell how ruthless and cold she is and I do not trust her at all, and neither do I like her. Ciri is more of a blank canvas, but as her “picture” begins to fill in, I see potential in her. Dandelion is, as usual, a delight. He may not be the brightest man in the land, but he has a good heart. Even if Geralt isn’t overly fond of his singing. Regardless, he’s a good friend to Geralt, the best he has.

This volume of the Witcher series is chock full of intrigue, and it’s really hard to keep track of the players without a score card. Alas, none is provided, so one must muddle through the best one can. It’s still less complicated than the Ice and Fire series, which provided a glossary in the back of each volume. Ciri becomes stronger with each book, and this one is no exception as she finds herself having to survive being portaled to who knows where. She is more resourceful than many young girls of her age, and I have no doubt, she will survive and play a great part in what is to come. Perhaps in the downfall of Nilfgaard itself.

Wheels within wheels within wheels. Alliances forming and breaking. Everywhere death, destruction, and utter chaos. Which tends to bring out a great deal in the worst of people, human and not. Another great book in the series, looking forward to more of the same.

 

 

Wednesday Briefs: March 4, 2020

Here is a list of all the authors flashing this week, along with a brief snippet from their latest free work. Click the link after the snippet to be taken to the complete story on the author’s home page.

Unicorn Quests: Chapter Eighteen by Cia Nordwell

When I least expected it, a reprieve. “Thank you, but I really need the things on the list I gave your partner.”

“Supplies? For more than one person. Are you rescuing others?”

“My mate and foals,” I admitted. “The foals were stolen, then sold. I had to steal them back, but they were being held by trolls who also had a large number of other young Beings. Also picked up something called a locus.”

Maize gasped. “I’m so sorry. Are they okay? You also found a locus? They are rare.”

“You’ve heard of them?”

She nodded. “There’s an enclave west

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Book Review: Soul Eater, Vol 7 by Atshushi Ohkubo

Soul Eater, Vol 7   

Author: Atsushi Ohkubo

Publisher: Yen Press

American release date: November 11, 2014

Format/Genre/Length: Paperback/manga/paranormal/208 pages

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★

 

Now that the crazy Kishin is on the loose, Shinigami-sama is summoning the strongest weapons he can from around the world to locate and contain him. Justin Law, from Western Europe, is a very pious fellow who prays a lot. Azusa is in charge of East Asia and Marie Mjolnir is in charge of Oceania. Marie has visions of being married but never seems to find the right guy. Interestingly, her first love was Dr. Stein! Meanwhile Stein approaches a very dispirited Death Scythe, who is busy polishing candlesticks, and learns he is fearful that he is about to be replaced and sent away and will never be able to see Maka again.  They go to a meeting with Shinigami-sama, along with Azusa and Marie, only to find an oblivious Justin already there. Stein informs the others about the madness wavelength that the Kishin emits, which “prods and incites the madness lying deep within the human soul.” And is quite contagious. Besides this, there are other dangers possible with this wavelength, such as the awakening of dormant witches or the rise of the lost continent of Atlantis, and much more. Shinigami-same reassigns Marie to work with Stein and puts Azusa in charge of Oceania, while holding Justin in reserve for now.

A few of the DWMA students decide to play a little basketball—Kid, Patty and Black Star vs Soul, a reluctant Maka, and Tsubaki—while Stein shows Marie around and she whines about finding a husband. Shinigami-sama wants to talk to Spirit about Stein and asks him to look out for Stein, concerned that the madness wavelength might be affecting him. Afterward, he is pleasantly surprised by Maka’s request to spend time with him, unaware that is the price she has to pay for losing the basketball game.

Shinigami-same decides to admit Crona on a trial enrollment at DWMA. A concerned Sid asks Maka if maybe she can get through to Crona, since Sid hasn’t been able to. Maka reaches out to Crona and introduces him to Marie. Crona still has Ragnarok and he’s still obnoxious but he’s much less powerful and smaller than he was before. Now he’s more annoying than dangerous. A report is received from the Czech Republic about a golem wreaking havoc, so Sid sends Maka and Crona to check it out. Shinigami-sama is concerned as golems are meant to protect, not attack, so he wants Stein’s opinion on what is going on. Stein is alarmed at what he discovers but Shinigami-sama assures him that he has sent a strong ally to aid Maka and Crona.

Things are definitely picking up with Soul Eater, with the arrival of the Death Weapons and dealing with the effects of the Kishin’s escape. Of the three new arrivals, Azusa is the least annoying. Marie whines far too much about wanting to get married, and Justin is in his own little world, with his earbuds and his holier-than-thou attitude. I haven’t made up my mind about Crona, but maybe my feelings toward him are really directed toward Ragnarok, who is an utter creep. We meet another villain in this volume, who seems as though she will be a formidable foe, and we also see the return of an interesting character we’ve met before. Maka’s day with dad was great, and also not entirely unexpected in what she has to deal with. I like Spirit, despite his shortcomings. I know he means well and he loves his daughter, but he can be such a horn dog at times and so immature! The story of Maka and Crona’s trip to the Czech Republic is very interesting, as is the golem itself. All in all, a good volume, looking forward to the next one!