Thursday, January 10, 2019

Book Review: Blue Exorcist, Vol 17 by Kazue Kato

Blue Exorcist, Vol 17    

Author: Kazue Kato
Publisher: Viz Media
American release date: July 4, 2017
Format/Genre/Length: Paperback/manga/paranormal/186 pages
Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★

When Shura disappears, Mephisto sends Yukio and Rin to find her, telling them to go to Aomori Prefecture, as that is where she is from. Plus the most recent GPS reading places here there. Yukio claims he can handle the assignment alone, to Rin’s dismay, but Mephisto insists they work together, so off they go. He also lets Yuki know that he knows about his dangerous training, and to be careful.

They take a train to Lake Towada and find room in an inn. The old lady who runs the inn assures them they’ll have privacy, having totally misinterpreted their relationship. As they relax in a hot bath, Rin questions Yukio about the dangerous training, which his brother blows off, then reveals how he has messed up with Shiemi. He asks Yuki if he likes Shiemi too, but doesn’t really get an answer to his question. Later, in speaking with the innkeeper, they learn that Shura spent the night there and said when she left that she was sort of going home.

Meanwhile, Shura meets with a mysterious figure she calls Hachiro who is insistent that she keep to the terms of her blood contract and have a child! As Yukio and Rin search for Shura, Yukio tells his brother the story of the baba yaga of Lake Towanda, and of how Father Fujimoto rescued  Shura, who was being held prisoner there. Rin senses trouble ahead. They find an injured Shura lying in the snow, and she tells them she is going to die soon! She tells them the story of the blood contract that began even before she was born…

This volume is primarily about Shura, but it’s also about Yukio and Rin, giving them some brotherly alone time which they seldom get. Shura’s backstory is interesting, and the contract she was burdened with horrendous. Finally resigned to her fate, it takes the two brothers to make her see she can have a life of her own. I love the flashbacks of when she met Father Fujimoto. The things she said and did made me laugh, especially when she said she wanted to have his baby! I loved seeing Rin and Yukio working together. I worry about Yukio, and whatever power is coming to light inside of him. I think he’ll be all right. After all, look at Rin! He’s a good boy, just high spirited. And not likely to be swayed to the dark side.

Another great volume, look forward to more!

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Wednesday Briefs: In Pieces #35 (9.1)

Good morning and Happy Hump Day! If it's Wednesday, then it must be time for more flash fiction from the Wednesday Briefers! We're a group of authors who bring you our finest flash fiction every week, 500 to 1000 words, inspired by one of our prompts.

The birthday party is over, and it's time for the band to crash back at Cameron's place. It's been a good night, and everyone is pleased, but tired. As the others wander off to go to sleep, Ben and Ryan decide to head up to their room as well. But is sleep really on the agenda? See what's going on in this week's chapter of In Pieces. Don't forget to visit the other Briefers and see what's up with them! Their links follow my tale! Enjoy!

In Pieces #35 (9.1)

Once they ate their fill of the expensive finger foods—lobster en croute, caviar, and smoked salmon alongside nachos topped with pork and cheese and jalapeno poppers, as well as small chocolate cakes sprinkled with gold leaf, not to mention glasses of undoubtedly expensive champagne—they finished breaking down their equipment and loaded it. Ryan insisted on helping. He didn’t want to be dead weight. He might not be a member of the band, but as far as he was concerned, he was one of them, and not some delicate author who had to be cared for. With everyone’s help, everything was loaded in a short time.

Once they were finished and had made their farewells to their hosts, Deacon and Keanu took the van, and everyone else piled into Cameron’s sedan, Aiden again behind the wheel, with Abby sitting shotgun, and Ben and Ryan in the back seat.  Although it was well after midnight, the party was still in full swing, although at least half the guests had already gone home. Ryan assumed the rest  either would spend the night, call their parents, or take an Uber home

A contented silence reigned between them on the trip back to Mandeville. Abby must have fallen asleep. Ryan saw her leaning against the passenger window. That was probably why Aiden didn’t bother to turn on the radio.  Ben wrapped his arm about Ryan, and they snuggled close together. Ryan shut his eyes, focusing on the familiar feel of Ben, on his intoxicating scent. Oblivious to everything else, he paid no attention when they crossed over the hated bridge, too wrapped up in Ben to care. He felt as though he could sit like this forever.

But obviously that wasn’t going to happen. All too soon it seemed they reached Cameron’s house. As the car slowed, then came to a stop, Ryan reluctantly straightened. The van was already parked just in front of them, and its occupants were climbing out.  Ryan followed Ben, as Aiden came around and opened Abby’s door. She leaned sleepily against him.

“If you don’t mind, I’m gonna take Abby upstairs,” Aiden said.

“Yeah, go ahead. This can wait until morning,” Ben told him.

“Sounds good to me,” Keanu said. He yawned widely. “That was some party that kid got. I hope he appreciates how lucky he is.”

“Most of them don’t.” Aiden sounded cynical. “Night, everyone.” He wrapped a supportive arm around Abby, and they headed toward the house.

“Why don’t we get a night cap?” Keanu suggested. “Cameron’s got good liquor too. Maybe even better.”

“Let’s not and say we did, loverboy,” Deacon quickly said before Ben could even respond.  “C’mon, there’s a bed up there that’s calling our name. For purposes of sleep,” he quickly added.

“Damn, man, that’s just cold,” Keanu grumbled, but his words were muffled by another huge yawn.

“That’s what I thought.” Deacon laughed. “I don’t need to have you fall asleep on me. Again.” He came up behind Keanu and wrapped his arms around his waist, nudging him forward. “And don’t try to tell me otherwise,” he cut off Keanu’s next protest.” I was there. I know.

Deacon herded Keanu to the front door and inside. Ryan could hear Keanu continue to grumble until they were out of earshot.

“Did you want a drink or something?” Ben asked. He held Cameron’s car keys in one hand, jingling them almost restlessly. Ryan noticed Ben looked away from him, toward the night sky. 

“Not unless you do,” Ryan said. “To be honest, I’d just rather we go to bed.”

Ben shifted his gaze to Ryan. “We?” he said softly.

“Us, yes. You and me, Ben. The way we did before.” Ryan surprised even himself by his forthrightness. He didn’t want to play games, he just wanted Ben.

Ben exhaled, as if he’d been holding his breath. “Just you and me,” he repeated. “I want us to sleep together again. The way we used to.  I haven’t slept well at all without you.”

“Me either,” Ryan said sincerely.

Ben laid the palm of one hand against Ryan’s cheek and stroked it gently.  They stood there for a long moment, absorbed in one another.

“I guess I’ll have to take these robes off first. You wouldn’t want to see me be defrocked, would you?” he asked cheekily. Ryan couldn’t help but laugh.

“You’re right, I’m sure the Church would frown on us, wouldn’t they? They’re not exactly big on their priests having sex. ” Despite the light banter between them, Ryan’s heart began to thump, knowing that beneath their words swirled a sensuous undercurrent laden with meaning. “I’ll help you, if you’d like.”

“Oh, I’d like,” Ben said, closing the gap between them and kissing Ryan softly, then a little more firmly, finally licking at his lower lip before pulling back. “This is our night and no one else’s. I don’t care what happens, I’m not leaving you.” He took Ryan by the hand and led him toward the door.
Blood was pounding in Ryan’s ears, his heart felt ready to burst with happiness, and his entire body tingled with anticipation as he followed Ben inside.

 Tonight, tonight…

to be continued

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Sunday, January 6, 2019

Book Review: Blue Exorcist, Vol 16 by Kazue Kato

Blue Exorcist, Vol 15     

Author: Kazue Kato
Publisher: Viz Media
American release date: December 6 , 2016
Format/Genre/Length: Paperback/manga/paranormal/218 pages
Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★

Yukio visits Shura in the hospital to discuss the current situation and to explain about Shima being a double agent. A tired, overworked Yukio doesn’t trust either Mephisto or Shima, but for the present there is nothing to be done about that. Shura tells him that Mephisto has given her tickets for everyone to an ultra bath in Southern Cross, and tells a reluctant Yukio he needs it as much or more than anyone else. So everyone heads out for some down time, including the acknowledged spy in their midst.

The girls share some time in the bath, while the boys goof around in their bath. When Shima shows up, they think he’s acting weird, until he reveals the reason for his behavior – namely, that Izumo, Shiemi, and Shura are right next door, and they are naked! His stated intentions of seeing them naked produces an unexpected declaration from Rin.

Back at home, Rin finds an abandoned kotatsu with a missing blanket, and dreams of being able to have people over for a hot pot party! Concerned about his brother, he questions Yukio, who blows him off, as always. At the Vatican, Mephisto is attending a meeting at True Cross Headquarters concerning recent develops. The name Igor Niehaus is brought up, the former instructor who was suspended after an attack on Rin and whose current whereabouts are unknown. Accused by Arthur Angel of being a traitor, Mephisto convinces them that he has their best interests at heart, and is working to keep the Gehenna gate closed. Lightning privately convinces Angel to have him assigned to the Japan Branch of True Cross, so he can look into matters.

To the Exwires dismay, Yukio informs them that they will be taking exorcist certification exam sooner than expected.  They must each resubmit their desired meisters ahead of time. Rin discusses the Yukio situation with Shiemi, but she is as much in the dark concerning his behavior as Rin is. Meanwhile, Yukio has his own agenda, one that brings him little sleep, brought on by unexpected observations of himself. Lightning shows up at True Cross as an instructor, and takes Suguro on as his acolyte/servant. The other Exwires can’t believe the highly alpha Suguro acting like such a toady, but Suguro insists Lightning is his mentor and he wishes to learn from him. He hopes that if he does well, Lightning will take him on as an apprentice.

Shiemi is uncertain which meister she wishes to study for, so returns home to consult with her mother, only to have an unexpected discussion. On a routine mission, Shiemi and RIn find themselves trapped together, and things are …. well, said… that could have interesting consequences.
The action doesn’t stop in this volume of Blue Exorcist. Never a dull moment. It’s interesting to watch Shima’s return to the school and see how the Exwires relate to him, especially Suguro and Konekomaru. Being a double agent must be tricky. How can either side fully trust him, not knowing for sure where his true loyalties lie since he has to be convincing to all of them? We see more into what Yukio is up to, and his doubts about himself as well as the potentially harmful way he is dealing with it. Sooner or later, I think he needs to tell Rin what’s going on, and Mephisto too. Despite being odd, I suspect there is more good than bad in Mephisto. A love triangle is forming, but I think it’s based on erroneous information and is more a comedy of errors than anything else. Can’t wait to see what happens.

Another great volume, looking forward to more!

Saturday, January 5, 2019

Book Review: Blue Exorcist, Vol 15 by Kazue Kato

Blue Exorcist, Vol 15   

Author: Kazue Kato
Publisher: Viz Media
American release date: May 3, 2016
Format/Genre/Length: Paperback/manga/paranormal/202 pages
Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★

The Exwires manage to shrink a monstrous Gedoin down to a more manageable size and find themselves face to face with Shima, who manages to give them the slip yet again. Recovering in the hospital, Izumo learns the whereabouts of her missing sister and uses a key to go see her. She finds that her sister has been adopted into a nice family and is very happy. She doesn’t tell her sister who she is, and her sister doesn’t remember her, so returns to the hospital, crushed. She confronts Shiemi, who only wants to make her feel better, but Izumo isn’t ready for that and resists.

Suguro goes home to tell Shima’s family the awful truth about their son, only to learn something very unexpected. In the meantime, Gedoin has escaped and made his way back to Lucifer on the Dominus Liminis. Gedoin only wishes to please Lucifer, but Lucifer thinks he is nothing and quickly deflates him.

The Exwires return to school, and we learn more about what Shima is really up to. Naturally, Mephisto is involved. In the classroom, confusion ensues when first one and then a second Shima turn up. Who is the real one and who the imposter? And why is either one there? Mephisto arrives in the nick of time and transports some of the students back to his office before they harm Shima. There they meet Lightning, Arthur Angel’s second-in-command, who has come to determine if Shima is trustworthy. Other questions arise, such as why is Mephisto raising the son of Satan? Answers are demanded.

This volume of Blue Exorcist is filled with a lot, both in terms of action and character development and story. The truth about Shima was unexpected, and I can see it becoming problematic for everyone.  I love how outspoken Rin is. When asked if he thought Shima was trustworthy, he said no, but he meant Mephisto, not Shima. Plans are being made to fight the Illuminati, and time is of the essence. How much does Mephisto know that he isn’t telling? Also, what’s up with Yukio? An interesting scene hints at what I’ve been thinking all along.

Great volume, looking forward to more!

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Wednesday Briefs: In Pieces #34 (8.7)

Good morning and Happy Hump Day! If it's Wednesday, then it must be time for more flash fiction from the Wednesday Briefers! We're a group of authors who bring you our finest flash fiction every week, 500 to 1000 words, inspired by one of our prompts.

Salvation is still playing at the birthday party of a young man with wealthy parents, and Ryan is beginning to see what kind of attention Ben draws from his fans. Can he live with that, or will it make him jealous? See what's going on in this week's chapter of In Pieces. Don't forget to visit the other Briefers and see what's up with them. Their links follow my tale! Enjoy!

In Pieces #34 (8.7)

As it turned out, Ryan’s fears were groundless. Ben had Miles well in hand, and was keeping the infatuated  young man at what Ryan considered to be a safe distance. Ben was letting Miles’ friends take selfies of themselves with him, and all of the young people were clamoring for his attention, eating it up. But when Ben spotted Ryan coming toward him, his face lit up with unmistakable joy.

Ryan had intended to hang on the fringe of the group and take the photos for the host,  but Ben would have none of that. He bounced up to Ryan and welcomed him with a warm kiss, drawing a few giggles from the young people, as well as comments of “Hey, can priests do that now?” which were answered by a snarky “He’s not a real priest, dumbass.”

“I’m supposed to take some pictures for Mr. Champlain,” Ryan explained to Ben. “I’ve got some good ones already, but I thought he’d like more.”

“Cool. That means I’ll get to see you in action.  Want me to hold your laptop?”

“Sure, if you don’t mind.”

“Anything for you.” Ben kissed him again, then Ryan handed him the laptop. If he’d thought he’d have a problem getting Miles’ friends to pose, that idea dissipated as they enthusiastically fell in with his suggestions. Even Miles was unexpectedly good-natured about it, although he did glare at Ryan just a little when Ben kissed him. But he got over it quickly, and everything went well.  Afterward, Ben walked Ryan back to his seat, kissed him again as he whispered, “Tonight,” and returned to the stage.

The second half of the concert went very well. Ryan found himself transported by the incredible sounds Salvation was putting out. He’d never heard music quite like it before. How could they fail to become very successful with such talented performers in their midst, especially Ben?

Of course, if he was going to be completely honest with himself, it was thoughts of Ben as much as the music that had him floating on Cloud Nine. That and the implied promise of his parting words. What else could it mean other than tonight was going to be their night? Years of wanting and waiting would finally come to an end.

Salvation was a huge success. Their audience was reluctant to see the concert end, but when Mrs. Champlain told them a buffet had been laid out for them on the verandah, the promise of food was enough to take the sting out of their disappointment.

“You’ll join us too, won’t you?” she asked Ben. Ryan could tell he would rather not, but he gave her a gallant smile and said they’d be honored, although they couldn’t stay long. That seemed to satisfy Mrs. Champlain. She turned away and began to herd the young people toward the house.

“Sorry,” Ben apologized. “I know it’s late, but I didn’t want to be rude…”

“No, it’s fine. Are you sure you’re not too tired? I mean, everything still needs to be broken down, doesn’t it?”

“Yeah, it does, but I think a small break won’t hurt. I bet the food’s good, if this house is anything to go by. C’mon, let’s find out.” He linked his arm through Ryan’s and they trailed the other band members at a comfortable pace.

“What did you think? About the band, I mean?” Ben asked, almost shyly.

“I think you’re all amazing,” Ryan said honestly. “I think you’re all going to be big stars someday. And I think you are incredible.” He couldn’t praise the group enough, and especially Ben.

“Everything I’ve done, I did for you.” Ben stopped suddenly, forcing Ryan to stop as well. Ben’s eyes seemed to glitter unnaturally in the bright lights from the house, probably because of his contact lenses. “I wanted to prove myself, to be someone you’d be proud to be with. You have no idea… the last ten years… I’ve missed you so much. I was so afraid that after all that time… that you wouldn’t…”

“Wouldn’t what?” Ryan prompted when Ben’s words trailed away.

“Wouldn’t want me.” Ben’s voice had dropped to the point where Ryan could barely hear him, but he heard him well enough to know what he’d said.

“Not want you? That wasn’t ever going to happen. I’ll always want you, Ben.  All the years without you, all the time we’ve been separated have been agony for me. Not knowing where you were, what you were doing or thinking. I was sure you’d find someone else, someone better—”

“There is no one better for me than you, Ryan, so don’t even think that.” Ben pressed their lips together and every other question Ryan had wanted to ask melted. Not now. Some other time. This was their time.

Nothing could ever separate them again.

to be continued

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Thursday, December 27, 2018

Book Review: Blue Exorcist, Vol 14 by Kazue Kato

Blue Exorcist, Vol 14   

Author: Kazue Kato
Publisher: Viz Media
American release date: January 5,2016
Format/Genre/Length: Paperback/manga/paranormal/202 pages
Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★

While attempting to rescue Izumo from the clutches of the Illumunati madman, Professor Gedoiin, the exwires find themselves not only separated from one another but facing zombies! One by one they defeat their foes and assemble as a group  once more, only to face Gedoiin. Gedoiin reasons that it’s only right for humans to experiment on humans, as they’ve experimented on animals for a long time. Just then her captors bring out Izumo. Ren goes into action and finds himself facing off with Shima! Rejecting the help of the exwires, Izumo agrees to take the Nine Tails inside herself. Can they stop the Nine tails without hurting its vessel, Izumo?

This volume of Blue Exorcist is not as Ren-centric as others. It showcases the exwires more as a team. We get a glimpse of Suguro and what he was like before he became his current buff and strong self. And Izumo sees another side of her otherwise weak and selfish mother. Professor Gedoiin is one of the creepiest villains we’ve encountered so far, and he doesn’t get any better in this volume. I’m still not entirely sure that Shima is the traitor he seems to be, either.

To be honest, I’m not sure what purpose would be served by implanting the Nine Tails in Izumo, but I’m looking forward to seeing where the story goes now. Another good volume, can’t wait for more!

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Wednesday Briefs: In Pieces #33 (8.6)

Good morning and Happy Hump Day! If it's Wednesday, then it must be time for more flash fiction from the Wednesday Briefers! We're a group of authors who bring you our finest flash fiction every week, 500 to 1000 words, inspired by one of our prompts.

Ryan learns a little bit about Abby's background from Deacon and it's beyond horrifying. But Deacon's story is little better. See what he has to say in this week's chapter of In Pieces. Don't forget to visit the other Briefers and see what's up with them. Their links follow my tale! Enjoy!

In Pieces #33 (8.6)

“I’m afraid he wasn’t any help,” Deacon said so softly that Ryan wasn’t sure he heard him.

“That poor girl,” Ryan said. “I can’t even imagine… I mean…” Words failed him.

“Yeah, exactly.” Deacon gave him a wry smile.
Suddenly Ryan remembered something Ben had said, the night they’d seen Abby crying. When she’d claimed to have seen a ghost or something. “Do you know who Brandon is?” he asked.

“Brandon? That’s Abby’s boyfriend.” Deacon gave Ryan an appraising glance. “Why do you ask?”

“Nothing. I was just wondering. I heard the name, and I thought it had something to do with Abby, but I wasn’t sure. So, am I wrong in thinking that Cameron’s coming on to Abby?” Once he’d started asking them, Ryan found the questions just kept coming. He told himself it was because of the book. He had to gather all the information he could before he could decide what was useful and what didn’t matter. He could always edit out the unimportant.

“Cameron ‘s been hitting on her, yeah. Sometimes too strong. I think that’s why Aiden makes sure not to leave them alone. And why they room together."

That made sense, and explained a lot.

“Although, to be honest, I think he swings both ways. And I’ve seen him looking at you. I wouldn’t worry, though. Ben won’t let anything happen.”

Ryan felt his cheeks grow warm, grateful for the cover of the night.

“My turn to play twenty questions.” Deacon smiled.

“Sorry, I didn’t mean…”

Deacon waved his apology aside. “I’m just playing with you. I know it’s what you do. You’re a writer, right? Ben sings, and you write. So, you and Ben… stepbrothers, aren’t you? Not blood brothers.”

“No, not blood relations at all.” Ryan wanted to make that clearly understood, especially in light of what Deacon had just told him about Abby and her father. That was just… wrong, on so many levels. What he and Ben had was right and good and wonderful. “My dad married his mom, when we were just kids.”

“I assume since  you hadn’t seen him in a long while that they aren’t still married?”

“No, not for years. Divorced about ten years ago. Dad remarried. His third wife was Cassie. She’s not much older than I am, and pretty awesome.”

“Was…?” Deacon was obviously trying to be delicate.

“Dad passed right before I joined the band.” Ryan tried to be matter-of-fact and not get emotional in front of Deacon, but he realized he must have failed to hide his feelings when Deacon took his hand and squeezed it.

“I’m so sorry, Ryan. I can’t even imagine how that feels. I’m not… exactly close to my father. I can tell you must have loved him a lot.”

Ryan nodded, not trusting his voice.

“You’re lucky. I thought I was close to my family, but when I came out to them, everything changed. I thought living in San Francisco, they’d be down with the idea, but apparently being gay is okay for everyone else but their son.” He laughed briefly, but there was no mirth in the sound. “They told me I would have to stop being gay if I wanted to live with them, and when I said that wasn’t possible, they kicked me out.” He shrugged.

“Damn, that’s harsh. What did you do?” Ryan squeezed Deacon’s hand in return.

“Luckily for me, I was already friends with Keanu. When I called him up, sitting in front of my parents’ house, crying my eyes out, he told his parents and they came and got me. They insisted I move in with them, wouldn’t take no for an answer.”

“And friendship turned into love?” Ryan guessed.

“I think I was halfway there already, but living together didn’t hurt.” This time Deacon’s smile was more genuine, his eyes softer. “He and his family came from Hawaii. They’ve been supportive of us from the beginning. When Salvation makes it big, we’re going to get a place of our own. But I’ll never forget the Nakamuras and what they’ve done for me. I’ll be grateful to them for the rest of my life.”

They stood together in silence for a moment.

“You and Ben…you love him, don’t you?”

Ryan nodded, his heart swelling at the thought of Ben.

“Watch out for him,” Deacon said, suddenly enigmatic. “Protect him.”

“From what?” Ryan was confused at the unexpected turn the conversation had taken. But before he could get a response from Deacon—assuming he’d been about to make one—another voice was heard.

“Goddamn, that is one fine bathroom.” Keanu had come up behind Deacon and hugged him from behind. “I bet you could fit an entire football team in that thing.”

“Why would you want to do that?” Deacon asked as he turned toward his lover. Instead of a reply, he received a kiss.

Ryan decided he should probably get more candid shots of the birthday boy. That’s what he told himself, but the truth was he wanted to make sure Ben was all right. And that young Master Miles wasn’t doing anything he shouldn’t with his Ben.

to be continued

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