Thursday, June 8, 2023

Book Review: I Wish You All the Best by Mason Deaver


I Wish You All the Best      

Author: Mason Deaver

Publisher: Push

American release date: May 14, 2019

Format/Genre/Length: Hardback/Teen & YA LGBTQ+ Romance/336 pages

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★


It seemed like a good idea at the time. Coming out to his parents as non-binary, that is. Being honest  with them about who they really were. But for Ben de Backer, the truth quickly turns ugly when his horrified parents arbitrarily kick them out of their house. They have nowhere to go and nowhere else to turn except to Hannah, the older sister they haven’t spoken with in ten years, now married and living an hour away, in Raleigh (at least according to her Facebook).  Surprised to hear from her brother, she agrees to pick Ben up and take them to her home.

Ben tells Hannah the reason for what happened, and she is surprisingly supportive. Ben meets his brother-in-law, Thomas, who teaches chemistry at the local high school. Hannah rallies behind her brother, telling them they can stay with her and she’ll help him out with their needs – such as enrolling in school, buying new clothes (they left with only what they were wearing), as well as therapy. Ben isn’t sure about the last, but they agree to try. While waiting in the office on their first day of school, Ben meets a nice-looking affable fellow student named Nathan. Is it Karma that Nathan is assigned to show Ben around the school? They become fast friends. Maybe life will be better here…it certainly can’t get worse.

Or can it? As Ben’s feelings for Nathan grow, they’re afraid to say anything, afraid to lose him. Nathan is certainly supportive of everything Ben does, including their art, and encourages Ben to display his work at the student art show. How will Nathan feel when he sees the portrait Ben drew of him? Will they ever be accepted for who they are?

I really enjoyed reading this book, and loved Ben so much! I felt for him when he was kicked out by his parents, knowing how that feels, and was thrilled when Hannah stepped in to anchor his world. There are some wonderful characters, including Ben and Nathan, Meleika and Sophie, Hannah and Thomas, Mariam, and more. Ben’s fear of not being accepted for who they are is understandable, and only goes to show that we must all work hard to erase the negativity surrounding those who are not what others consider to be “normal”. In other words, a new “normal” needs to be established where pre-conceived notions of gender and sexual identity need to be rearranged. I think this book will go a long way toward doing that.

Kudos to Mason Deaver for writing such a beautiful and meaningful book. I look forward to reading more of their writings.




Wednesday, June 7, 2023

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.

A momentary lull in the drama finds Vinnie and Ethan hanging laundry the old-fashioned way - on a clothesline! See what's going on in this week's chapter of Bad Karma and the Family Plan. Don't forget to visit the other Briefers and see what's up with them. Their links follows my tale! Enjoy!

Bad Karma and the Family Plan #76 (15.6)

For that time of year, the temperature was fairly pleasant, being in the mid-fifties. Sunshine radiated down upon us as Ethan gave me a quick lesson in how to hang laundry. Not like it was rocket science or anything, but I wasn’t complaining. Gave me an excuse to have his hand over mine was he explained the intricacies of clothespin placement, punctuated by occasional kisses of approval.

Let’s be honest. Sleeping on the floor in the living room, with Ethan’s uncle, as well as Troy and Brendan, close at hand was not conducive to making love in any way shape or form. I was grateful that we could even snuggle together. But I wasn’t complaining, not really. I knew we’d make up for lost time as soon as we could. Probably after Benny gave his testimony and that was all taken care of.

“Thank you,” he murmured against my lips in between hanging up sheets on the line.

“What for?” While I wasn’t reluctant to take credit for anything, I couldn’t think of what I might have done recently to produce such a statement. I also wasn’t complaining.

“You’ve been so patient with all of this. Being cooped with my family. Putting up with some nonsense…”

I suspected he meant Joey, but not like that was Ethan’s fault.

“Sleeping on the floor, no privacy…the whole nine yards. Baby, I appreciate you so much.” He kissed me softly as I melted inside.

“I would do anything for you,” I said sincerely. “You mean everything to me. Everything.”

His beautiful smile only grew wider at my words. “And to think you couldn’t stand me at one time,” he teased. I felt my face grow warm, but I managed a weak smile.

“I think I can more than stand you now, Mr. Thorne,” I responded before I proceeded to demonstrate my changed feelings by kissing him very thoroughly. By the time we came up for air, his face was very flushed, and his lips were kiss-swollen.

Once all the laundry had been hung to dry, we were speculating on what to do next.

“Must be almost lunchtime,” I started to say when a flash of movement caught my eye from the side of the house. What the hell? I glanced at Ethan to see if he’d noticed. The serious look on his face told me whatever it was had caught his attention too.

Ethan put his finger to his lips and carefully crept in the direction of the movement. I automatically fell behind him. If someone had come up to the house, surely Carlos and the boys would have given us some sort of warning. No time to worry about that now.

A sense of trepidation stole over me. Had we been too unobservant of our surroundings, caught up in one another and the moment? We were on the job, after all, even if it didn’t exactly feel like it.

I almost ran into Ethan as he cornered the house and stopped abruptly. I put out my hands to steady myself, clutching at his hips.

“Son of a bitch!” I heard Ethan swear. I glanced up to see the object of his irritation—young master Joey himself.

Why was I not surprised?

 to be continued

Now go see what's up with the other Briefers!

Cia Nordwell

Saturday, June 3, 2023

Saturday is Horror Day #116 - The Orphanage, Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon

 Saturday is Horror Day

Raised in an orphanage for handicapped children, Laura (Belen Rueda) and her husband Carlos (Fernando Cayo) purchase the now vacant building and move into it with their adopted son Simon (Roger Princep). Simon is not only unaware that he is adopted, but that he is HIV positive as well. Concerned that Simon's only companions are the invisible friends he insists he plays with, Laura and Carlos arrange a get together for other parents of special needs children and their children. Simon tells her of his special friend Tomas, insisting he is real, and wears a cloth sack over his head. At the gathering, Laura sees such a child but he disappears. And suddenly Simon has disappeared, and Laura is beside herself, anxious to get her son back. Who are these invisible children, and could they hold the key to Simon's disappearance?

In an effort to find Simon, Laura calls in a team of parapsychologists, led by Aurora (Geraldine Chaplin). 

The Orphanage is a Guillermo del Toro film, and as such is beautifully crafted, less of a horror story than a ghost story. Laura must deal with the ghosts of her past even as she searches for her missing son. She refuses to give up, even when her husband insists they need to go. She is sure she can find him, given enough time. It's a testament to the strength of a mother's love, and the lengths to which one mother will go to get her child back.

The movie is well-written and acted. While not terrifying, it is haunting and tragic and worth watching.

I give this Film 3.5 Stars 

Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon

A documentary crew led by Taylor Gentry (Angela Goethals) receives the opportunity of a lifetime when a man who claims to be the next great slasher/serial killer offers to let them film his story, from beginning to end. The man's name is Leslie Vernon (Nathan Baesel), and he has a reign of terror planned for the sleepy little town of Glen Echo. He considers himself to be a worthy successor to such greats as Michael Meyer and Jason Voorhees. He takes the filmmakers on a practice run of what he intends to do before revealing his actual target - a waitress at a local diner, Jamie (Bridgett Newton). He's been stalking her for some time, and he reveals how everything is going to go down, including how and where everyone will die. Except for Jamie. She will be his Survivor Girl. The one who will take him down. Why? Because she's a virgin.

Leslie lays down certain rules that Taylor and the crew must obey, and one of them is that they must not talk to Jamie. They are observers, nothing more. They follow him as he silently terrorizes the poor waitress, leading up the grand finale at the party.

This film is both a mockumentary and an homage to horror films, including references to such films as Halloween and Nightmare on Elm Street. There's even a detective played by Robert Englund, and Zelda Rubinstein, whom you might remember from Poltergeist, is there too. Leslie is very matter-of-fact in the way he tells Taylor et al what he intends to do and how he intends to do it. Even they come to realize there comes a point where they cannot remain passive witnesses to such horrific events and have to step in.

It's not a bad film, and I do appreciate the intention behind it. However, and maybe this was just me, but I felt my attention wander from time to time, and I felt it was fairly predictable. Including the ending at the end of the credits. Not bad, just not memorable in my book. I'll give it 2.5 Stars.

Wednesday, May 31, 2023

Wednesday Briefs: Bad Karma and the Family Plan #75 (15.5)

 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.

Imagine Vinnie's horror to learn they actually have to talk to the evil actress again, to learn more about the mystery director who was responsible for her irresponsible behavior! See what's happening in this week's chapter of Bad Karma and the Family Plan. Don't forget to visit the other Briefers and see what's up with them. Their links follow my tale! Enjoy!

Bad Karma and the Family Plan #75 (15.5)

Much as I despised the idea of speaking to the crazy witch, I understood that it was probably our quickest way of getting any information from her—providing I wasn’t doing the questioning, of course. There was a mutual antipathy there that nothing would probably ever lessen…at least on my part. As for her, she was crazy so there was no rhyme or reason as to her thought processes.

Ethan made a quick call to Anderson to find out where Crazy Pants was being held. I presumed at the nearest police station, but that proved not to be the case. Why was I not surprised to find she had wangled her way into a mental health facility just outside of Atlanta? It had always been my experience that money talked louder than common sense, so did being famous. That meant the rich and the famous had it ten times easier than us poor working stiffs.

I listened as Ethan explained what we’d come up with, and how we felt we needed to speak with her, and that she knew more than she was letting on. I could sense Anderson’s reluctance when Ethan brought up Troy and Brendan, as well as Benny. But my silver-tongued boy got his way, especially when he mentioned that we would be heading toward our objective anyway—i.e. getting Benny to Atlanta in time for him to testify. And Troy knew her better than we did and had a higher likelihood of getting her to spill the beans than we did.  What about my own misgivings? At one time, I thought she had a crush on Ethan, but it turned out she was pretending to be with him in order to make her ex-boyfriend, the aforementioned director Daimler, jealous.  Can’t say I was exactly thrilled with that situation, especially since she forced Ethan and me to resort to some pretty extreme methods to be together. But at least I understood that her feelings for Ethan were as phony as she was. After a few minutes of conversation,  Ethan gave us a thumbs up as he hung up with our supervisor and I mentally prepared myself to face what was coming.

Anderson had agreed to our plan, but it turned out there was a proviso. We had to wait until the next day to approach her, as apparently she wasn’t in any shape to be dealt with today. Maybe they’d drugged her or something, I didn’t know. But at least we were getting somewhere. And, to be honest, I didn’t mind any postponement of that meeting. If it were up to me, we could wait for it until the next millennium.

Just kidding…sort of.

Which now left us with another day to kill. Ethan texted Carlos and let him know what was going on, and he just said to keep him apprised, he wasn’t going anywhere. Troy and Brendan decided they wanted to drive around and soak up some of the local atmosphere. I took that as a subtle hint that they wanted some alone time, and I couldn’t blame them for that. So Ethan and I went to see if we could do anything to help Maureen.

“Well, if you wouldn’t mind, it’s such a lovely day, I was about to hang out the wash on the clothesline,” she said.

“We’d love to,” Ethan said.

Wasn’t that why people had driers, I wondered, but I wisely remained quiet, and helped Ethan carry two baskets of laundry to the backyard.

 to be continued

Now go see what's up with the other Briefers!

Cia Nordwell

Monday, May 29, 2023

Book Review: Zombie-Loan, Vol 1 by Peach-Pit


Zombie-Loan, Vol 1        

Author: Peach-pit

Publisher: Yen Press

American release date: October 17, 2007

Format/Genre/Length: Paperback/Horror/Fantasy Manga/208 pages

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★


Michiru Kita is the kind of girl who never speaks up for herself, and does what others tell her to do without question. As evidenced by the way the group of girls she eats lunch with every day make her buy all their food, and she has to go and get it herself! She’s on the way back one day when she accidentally runs into two male students, knocking off her glasses. To her alarm, she sees black rings around their necks. Apologizing, she hurries to the cafeteria to deliver the lunch order.  There she discovers that the two boys she ran into are known as Boy A and Boy B, because they were the sole survivors of a horrible accident. Kita finds the rings disturbing because in her experience, people who have them tend to die. Worse than that, though, did she really see what she thought she saw? She awakens in the school infirmary, having fainted. She really wishes the Sister had wakened her instead of allowing her to sleep.

It’s dark and it’s late as she hurries across the empty school grounds, headed home lest her aunt worry about her. But she is stopped by Boy B, real name Chika, who demands she pay him 500 yen for what happened earlier. Seriously? They are joined by Boy A, Shito, who proposes they kill her, presumably for what she witnessed. What to do, what to do? She tells them she just wanted to warn them about danger, about the rings on their necks, and then she manages to sprint to safety.

The next day Shito and Chika face Kita’s bullies and tell them that Kita is their go-fer now, not theirs. Things are going from bad to worse, so she stays home after that but they find her anyway, and even charm her aunt into giving them tea. They claim they are debt collectors.  Kita tries to pay them the 500 yen they demanded but they tell her the debt is now 50 million yen. Wth? They then spirit Kita away to a shady looking business that gives loans. They were very surprised at her ability to see their rings, and they have a definite use for such an ability. See, they work for a special branch of the loan company – the zombie-loan arm – and they owe a huge debt themselves. With her help, they can more easily make the money they need to pay off their debt. Why aren’t they dead, though, when their rings are so dark? In Kita’s experience, the darker the ring, the more imminent death. Oh well, that’s easily explained. They are dead… kinda sorta. They introduce her to the Ferryman, who is an odd sort. And thus a strange business relationship begins.

There is something about Shito and Chika that reminds me of the Boondock Saints, maybe it’s the crosses they wear, not sure. Or maybe it’s just the way they work in tandem. This was a very interesting volume and a great introduction to the series. I anticipate great hijinks ahead and interesting adventures. The Ferryman isn’t what you might expect, being rather quirky and nerdy, kind of like Undertaker in Black Butler but not quite as flamboyant. I suspect there will be character development in this series as it’s already begun. I look forward to seeing Kita grow as a person, and Shito and Chika too. There is already evidence that they are not as heartless as they would have people believe.

Good first volume, looking forward to more.



Saturday, May 27, 2023

Saturday is Horror Day #115 - The Witch Files

 The Witch Files

Five teenage girls meet during a shared detention period, and become fascinated by the idea that one of them,  Jules (Britt Flatmo) has special witchy powers. She tells them she can show them how to harness their powers, and that together they are stronger. So Claire (Holly Taylor), Brooke (Alice Ziolkoski), MJ (Tara Robinson), and Greta (Adrienne Rose White) agree to meet with her. But it has to be late at night, which means lying to or ducking out on parents and or boyfriends. They sit in a circle and Jules tells them to chant. At first, nothing happens. But then they find themselves able to cause a book to lift into the air, and then one of them. The girls are elated, and decide to test their powers in the real world, which includes stealing from a store by convincing the clerk they paid, and eating for free at a restaurant the same way.

Aspiring documentarian Claire films what they do, as well as doing a little research into some past strange events in the town. What she finds is rather disturbing, and the incidents seem to run in a seventeen-year cycle. Even more disturbing, the girls themselves are starting to feel the effects of their usage of this power, or whatever it is, and their bodies seem to be aging at an inordinate rate, showing signs of arthritis, macular degeneration, and more. Things are going horribly awry, and they begin to wonder who or what Jules really is.

This film has definite echoes of The Craft, but without the heavy vibes and taking itself too seriously. Not surprisingly, one of the writers is Larry Blamire, who brought us The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra films as well as Dark and Stormy Night. The Witch Files is funny and dark without being heavy-handed. I think they channeled the Craft for sure. I know there is a transgender character in The Craft, and one of the girls in The Witch Files makes such references about herself such as needing to "drain the snake" which leads me to wonder if she is transgender as an homage to the other film.

I read some reviews in which people complained about the lack of realism (in a movie about witchcraft? Seriously?) And some said it wasn't as good as The Craft. Personally, I liked it better. It was fun to watch. I'll give this film 4 Stars.

Book Review: Demon Slayer, Vol 23 by Koyoharu Gotouge


Demon Slayer, Vol 23      

Author: Koyoharu Gotouge

Publisher: Viz Media

American release date:  August 3, 2021

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

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★


This is it…the final battle! The members of the Demon Slayer Corps have been tirelessly battling Muzan, attempting to hold out until dawn, when the sunlight will destroy him. But oh the price they’ve paid. Tanjiro lies on the ground, unmoving, apparently dead, even as a now-human Nezuko arrives and throws herself on him,anguished. Can nothing be done to save him? But it gets worse. Unknown to them, a desperate Muzan has instilled himself into Tanjiro, demonizing him and naming him as his successor, claiming he will be even stronger than Muzan and will destroy the humans utterly. Tanjiro opens his eyes, and attempts to do just that. Yoshiro is helpless and frustrated that he can’t do anything, forced to hide in the shadows. The cry goes up that they must kill Tanjiro! Will his friends and comrades really do that to him? Can they do that to him if he is as strong as Muzan predicts he will be?

This is the final volume of the Demon Slayer series, and I made the mistake of reading it at work. I couldn’t keep from crying. This last volume is a total rollercoaster ride of epic proportions. I did not see that coming, that Muzan would turn Tanjiro into a demon, and my heart broke for all of them, especially Tanjiro and Nezuko.

*****SPOILERS***** However, all’s well that ends well. Not only that, we are given a glimpse into the future, to future generations, and it was truly satisfying. A fitting end to a really awesome series. Good thing I’m still watching the anime. The swordsmith village arc just came out. I know I will read the books again too.

Highly recommend this entire series!