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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Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Book Review: Blue Exorcist, Vol 13 by Kazue Kato

Blue Exorcist, Vol 13   

Author: Kazue Kato
Publisher: Viz Media
American release date: June 2, 2015
Format/Genre/Length: Paperback/manga/paranormal/202 pages
Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★

The exwires have been sent to rescue Izumo Kamiki from the Illuminati. Unknown to them, the Illuminati also hold Izumo’s mother, Tamamo, using her as a vessel for the Nine Tails. They intend to substitute Izumo for the dying Tamamo.

A symphathetic member of the Illuminati tries to help Izumo escape their clutches, but is caught by Michael Gedoin, one of the researchers. He orders Izumo to be taken back to the lab. A distraught Izumo realizes she can rely on no one – especially the traitorous Shima.

The exwires head to Dream Town Inari, where they figure out that those people who eat the local food fall under the sway of the Illuminati. Lucky for them, they’ve already been fed the antidote, thanks to Shiemi! Yukio calls for back-up from Mephisto, but as usual, it isn’t forthcoming. Finding what they believe to be the secret entrance to the laboratory, the exwires force their way in only to be met by an unexpected foe – zombies! The situation goes from bad to worse as they find themselves separated from one another.

In this volume of Blue Exorcist, the exwires work together in order to rescue their friend, whether she admits to needing their help or not. The villains have a field day as they press on with their terrible agenda. Also in this volume we get our first look at Lucifer – the beautiful man behind the odd mask – and we gain some understanding of why he inspired the devotion he does among his followers. On the other hand, Professor Gedoin is his antithesis – he is utterly obnoxious and repellent, but very devoted to Lucifer. Rin and his friends are growing and maturing as they continue to work together. Things are certainly heating up, looking forward to the next volume!

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Wednesday Briefs: In Pieces #32 (8.5)

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.

Ryan is finally watching Salvation at work, as they play at the birthday party of a boy with rich parents. He's thrilled at what he sees and hears, and thrilled to be back with Ben. Will his enjoyment be marred by the entitlement of the birthday boy and his obvious infatuation with Ben? See what's going on in this week's chapter of In Pieces. Don't forget to visit the other Briefers and see what they're up to! Their links follow my tale! Enjoy!

In Pieces #32 (8.5)

Before much time had passed, the rest of Miles’ guests arrived. They wore the same wrecked jeans and T-shirts as the first group, even the girls. Ryan wondered if the choice of attire had been mandatory, or if they all just liked to dress like bums.

There had been no problem with using the folding chair, of course. Ryan set it up on the edge of the makeshift dance floor. He reasoned that he would be out of the way of the kids there, and it would be easier for him to move around when he wanted to take photos. Of course, there was also the fact that he had a more unobstructed view of Ben, who stood at the front of the stage.

In costume, Salvation was pretty impressive. Behind the drums, Abby wore a nun’s habit, while her twin was dressed in the brown robes of a monk. Playing bass was Keanu in a dark deacon’s outfit with a large gold cross. His partner, Deacon, stood across the stage from him on the keyboard, his scarlet cardinal’s robes a contrast to Keanu’s somber shade. And then there was Ben, lead singer and resident priest, looking sexier than any priest Ryan had ever seen.

Salvation’s young audience ate up everything they played, dancing enthusiastically to the more energetic numbers, and swaying together with those pieces which were a little more sedate. Ryan noticed Miles stood front and center, and even though he interacted with his friends, he also gave a lot of attention to Ben. Occasionally he drew closer to the stage than Ryan would have liked and performed solo moves, obviously for Ben’s benefit. To be honest, his writhing was  borderline obscene. The only consolation Ryan drew from the situation was that Ben seemed completely oblivious of the boy’s efforts.

Before the concert had even begun, Sterling Champlain had shown up, to make sure everything was moving along smoothly. Spotting Ryan’s camera, he asked if he’d mind taking pictures of Miles and his friends too, and he would pay for the pictures. What else could Ryan say but yes. So he found himself dividing his time between capturing the band on film and chronicling Miles and company and their exploits.  From the way they were acting, Ryan wondered if maybe they were drinking, but decided it wasn’t any of his business.

After about an hour and a half, Ben announced the band was going to take a break. Thank goodness. Ryan finished up what he was writing and saved it, then closed his laptop. Standing, he intended to spend some time with Ben between sets, but Ben had been swallowed up by the partiers as soon as he stepped down from the stage and was surrounded by them.

“That happens all the time,” came a voice beside him. Ryan quickly swiveled to find Deacon there, Keanu nowhere in sight. “The fans love him, you know. He has to do a certain amount of mingling. He’ll find his way back to you sooner or later.”

Ryan wondered what Deacon knew about him and Ben. Or had they just been that obvious, since Ryan’s arrival. To be honest, he hadn’t tried to be secretive, and Ben had done nothing to hide their relationship.

“You’ll get used to it,” Deacon continued. “Ben acts like he enjoys being the center of attention, but he really doesn’t. That’s more Keanu’s thing. He’d give his right nut to get as much attention as Ben does, although he does pretty well himself.”

“Is that where he is now?” Ryan asked.

“No, he went inside to use the bathroom. So, tell me more about this book you’re writing.”  As they were talking, the two men had moved away from the noise and clamor surrounding Ben, in order to make themselves heard. Ryan continued to watch them, though, in case Ben needed him for something. Anything. He’d be right there if he called.

“Well, to be honest, I don’t usually write non-fiction,” Ryan said. “I’m a novelist. Or at least I have been so far. But Ben wants me to write the story of Salvation.  How they came to be,  who they were and who they are now, and he wants me to also cover their first major tour. I’m supposed to talk to everyone and get background information, although I’ve already been told not to ask certain questions.” Ryan shrugged.  “I’m afraid that makes my job a little harder.” He hoped Deacon wouldn’t be as difficult. Or that he sounded like he was whining. But Deacon was the kind of guy that someone instinctively trusted, Ryan included.

“Let me guess,” Deacon said. “Aiden and Abby. Mostly Abby.”

Ryan nodded.

“Aiden tends to be rather protective of his sister. With good reason.” Deacon’s eyes narrowed as he spoke. Ryan had never seen him actually get angry. He wouldn’t want to be on the wrong side of that anger.

“They’ve always been close. Identical twins usually are, aren’t they? Even when Abby  came out as transgendered, that didn’t change.” He fell silent.

“Was their family not supportive?” Ryan tried to fill in the blanks. “Did they object?” But then, he reasoned, how did she find funding for her surgery, which she’d obviously had. Implants, at least. He couldn’t be sure what else. And frankly it was none of his business.

“Oh her father was supportive. Too supportive.” Deacon’s voice dropped even lower. “This is strictly off the record, okay?”

Ryan nodded, suddenly afraid of what he might hear. But he couldn’t stop listening.

“Her father paid for her surgery. But his support came with a price.”

Ryan had a sickening feeling he knew what that price was.

“Abby took it as long as she could, then she and Aiden ran away. They’ve been on their own ever since.”

Ryan couldn’t even begin to fathom how someone could do that to their own child. Made him appreciate his own father all the more. “Oh God,” he murmured softly.

to be continued

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Friday, December 14, 2018

Book Review: Blue Exorcist, Vol 12 by Kazue Kato

Blue Exorcist, Vol 12    

Author: Kazue Kato
Publisher: Viz Media
American release date: November 4, 2014
Format/Genre/Length: Paperback/manga/paranormal/202 pages
Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★

Kamiki confronts Takara at the Festival and asks him point blank if he’s in the Illuminati, as Arthur Angel and Lightning deal with one of the two Vatican spies. Arthur reveals his ruthless side when he says that since there is another spy, he doesn’t mind if this one dies! Under torture, the spy reveals that the Illuminati are going to kidnap a girl from the Japan Branch within the hour, and that girl is none other than Izumo Kamiki!

Shura instructs the exwires to begin a search for Kamiki. Meanwhile, Kamiki is still confronting Takara when help arrives… except this help isn’t quite what anyone bargained for. How can this trusted person be a member of the Illuminati? Nothing is what it seems, apparently. As if things aren’t confused enough, Mephisto arrives on the scene. One can never be sure what side he’s on. And right behind him is Lucifer, Mephisto’s big brother, who makes no bones about being a part of the Illuminati. According to Lucifer, they have declared war against the Knights of the True Cross. 
Lucifer and his cohorts depart – with Kamiki – to everyone’s chagrin. Mephisto instructs Yukio to take the exwires and get Kamiki back!

When they arrive at their destination, which is a theme park, they begin to realize something is not quite right here. Although supposedly visitors come to visit the Inari Taisha shrine, an inordinate number of them are obsessed with the food and with staying at Dream Town Inari. What’s up with that?

In this volume of Blue Exorcist, the exwires are faced with a major dilemma. Is one of their own a traitor, or is there more to the story, something they aren’t seeing? Betrayal is a bitter pill to swallow, especially in one who has been trusted as this person was. Rin gives him the benefit of the doubt, but Suguro is ready to rip his head off.

This volume also delves more deeply into Kamiki’s background than we’ve been before, and we catch glimpses of a horrific childhood, which has made her the standoffish, non-trusting person she has become. Not surprising, considering her parents. I don’t know what to think about the traitor in their midst – is he really a traitor, or is something else happening that we aren’t aware of? I’m inclined to give the person the benefit of the doubt, but I suppose time will tell. The appearance of the masked Lucifer is interesting. Who is the man behind the mask? And what is his agenda? A bonus at the end of the volume is an illustrated guide to demons, which is interesting.

So many questions that need answering! Looking forward to the next volume!

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Wednesday Briefs: In Pieces #31 (8.4)

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.

So the birthday boy has arrived? Will he be a little Southern gentleman? Or an entitled brat who thinks he can have what he wants? And what if he wants Ben? See what's happening 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 #31 (8.4)

Everything had been set into position by the time they arrived. Bright lights pierced the darkness around and in front of the stage. Ryan had half expected to see theater seats in place for Miles and his friends, but there were none, just a makeshift floor.  More freedom of movement, he supposed, for dancing to the music, if they were so inclined.

But that presented another problem—how was he going to use his laptop? He’d been assuming he’d just find a place somewhere in the audience, probably in the back, and balance it on his lap. Of course, he’d also assumed the party would be indoors.  He hadn’t expected to be taking notes while sitting in someone’s backyard. If he sat on the ground, he’d never be able to see over the teenagers, much less take photos of the band. Of course he couldn’t sit anywhere and do that, either. 

Photography involved a certain amount of movement. Glancing around, he spotted a metal folding chair sitting next to the stage and breathed a sigh of relief. If the band wasn’t using it, he’d ask Ben if he could appropriate it for his use.

As soon as they’d reached the stage, Ben had taken on what Ryan assumed was his professional persona.   Hopping gracefully up onto the stage, despite the robes of his costume, he inspected everything carefully, making sure it was placed to his satisfaction. Keanu and Aiden stood on opposite ends of the stage, tuning up their guitars, while Abby fiddled with her drums. Ryan noticed a strange contraption sitting at Keanu’s feet. When the bass player stepped on it, the lights began to change color. Ah, so this was their light system. Ryan had never seen one that was controlled from the stage. Made sense if you didn’t have someone outside the band to run the lights. The concerts he’d attended had always had a guy who ran things from the audience. Maybe they’d hire someone after they got to be more successful.

Jumping from the stage back to the ground, Ben walked away a few feet, then swiveled. “Aiden, sound check, please.”

Aiden obliged with a few random chords, then a quick riff. “Do you want me to wait till the end of the show to smash this on the stage?” he quipped.

“Whenever you want,” Ben retorted. “As long as you have a new one waiting in the wings.”

“Guess I’ll never get to be Jimi Hendrix, will I?” Aiden laughed.

“Since he’s dead, maybe that’s a good thing,” Ben joked. He cast a quick glance at Ryan and winked. 

“Okay, sounds good. Ryan, what do you think about…?” Whatever he’d been going to say was quickly cut off by the arrival of several teenage boys. Obviously Miles and his best buds. Ryan suppressed his disappointment. Whatever it was could wait until later, when they were alone in their room. That thought raised his spirits instantly.

There were six of them, all dressed pretty much alike in T-shirts and distressed jeans . Ryan couldn’t help but notice that these were no ordinary jeans the boys had gone to such pains to mutilate, they were designer brands. He wondered how their parents felt about such wanton destruction of expensive clothing. Personally, he thought the look was pretty trashy.

The boy who led the pack was obviously Miles.  Blond wavy hair dropped to his shoulders,  streaked with the same colors that Ben wore in his. Ryan remembered his father’s comments about having Ben’s pictures all over his room. Crush much? Miles’ neon green eyes were obviously the result of contact lenses, and his expensively perfect teeth were revealed in a smile that stretched from ear to ear. Ignoring the members of the band who were on the stage, he had eyes only for Ben and made a beeline straight toward him.

“Hi Ben, I’m Miles. I’m glad you could come.” He held out one hand to Ben.

“My pleasure.”  Ben returned the smile with one of his own.

“I got your CD as soon as it came out, listen to it all the time. You really rock!”

God, could this kid fangirl any more? Ryan shifted his weight from one foot to the other, wishing this Miles would just go away, then reminded himself he needed to be more professional, for Ben’s sake. He needed to get a copy of Salvation’s CD, too. He wondered what stores it was selling in? If nothing else, he could look at Amazon. They had just about everything under the sun there.

“I’m glad you like it,” Ben said. He tossed his  head, causing his hair to cascade in a colorful stream. Miles stepped toward him, reaching for his hair, as if he intended to touch it.

Ryan tensed. Teenager or not, he wasn’t about to allow this punk to get so familiar with Ben. But before he could say or do anything, Ben stepped back, away from Miles. “Nice to meet you, Miles. You’ll excuse us, won’t you? We need to finish setting up.” Not waiting for a reply, he reached for Ryan’s hand. Ryan gave it to him without hesitation, and followed him toward the stage. Ryan couldn’t resist taking a quick look behind them. Miles’ friends had crowded around him. Ryan wasn’t sure if they were consoling him or congratulating him on getting as close to Ben as he had. Whatever. He wasn’t going to get any closer. Not if Ryan had anything to say about it.

Ben steered them away from the stage, toward the shadows. There he kissed Ryan softly. “Thank you.”

Thank him? “For what?” Ryan asked, confused.

“Just for being there. And for being you.”

Ryan warmed at Ben’s words.

to be continued

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

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Book Review: Blue Exorcist, Vol 11 by Kazue Kato

Blue Exorcist, Vol 11   

Author: Kazue Kato
Publisher: Viz Media
American release date: March 4, 2014
Format/Genre/Length: Paperback/manga/paranormal/210 pages
Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★

While Rin takes extra lessons to make up for getting a zero on an English quiz, Yukio goes to the Hall of Portraits to investigate one of the seven mysteries the ex-wires have been working on. There he runs into Shura, who is aware of the rumors regarding a certain portrait, which is said to show the observer the darkness in his heart. However, their meeting is no coincidence. She has come to tell Yukio he’s been summoned to go the Vatican the next day to give information on Todo, and she will accompany him.

Meanwhile, the ex-wires are tackling a different mystery, that of the statue of Johann Faust which moves at night. As they argue among themselves, the statue begins to move! As he observes Rin and the others, Yukio wonders about himself, wonders why Father Fujimoto chose to raise them, and if Rin is the son of Satan then what is he? Lost in thought he finds that he’s wandered into the Hall of Portraits. Or was that but a dream?

The ex-wires head to the Hall of Portraits after school, and find a cute doggy there, but it’s only Mephisto, up to his old tricks. He explains why this is the last mystery they can do, even though there are three others. The portrait in question is known as the family portrait, and it has recently become dangerous enough to require exorcism. The ex-wires must work together, each to his own strengths, to solve this mystery, and one steps forward to show unexpected leadership abilities. When the battle is won, Rin reminds Mephisto of his promise concerning the eye drops.

At the Vatican, Yukio has to agree to some harsh conditions and seal them with his blood! He tells them what he knows and, after he leaves, the matter of the Illuminati is discussed. It seems that they have spies within the Order! Two in the Vatican and one in the Japan branch. Shura is ordered to find the spy in the Japan branch.

A jealous Rin wonders why Yukio is meeting with Shiemi so often, but his brother is close-lipped about the matter. It’s not what Rin thinks – Yukio is helping to tutor Shiemi.

The Academy Festival is quickly approaching, time for the classes to decide what they are going to do. Rin suggests doing tonjiru and rice balls, which he can make, so his class goes with that. When he learns that on the second night of the festival a concert will be held featuring some bands that he really likes, Rin is ecstatic. Until he finds out the event is couples only! What is he going to do? He would ask Shiemi, but she isn’t a student at True Cross, and he knows few other girls. All of the male ex-wires have the same problem. Izumo turns them all down. Suguro has the opposite problem – he keeps receiving invitations that he has to turn down! Things take an unexpected turn when Shiemi suddenly shows up! Is this Rin’s chance to ask her to go with him?

I’m sorry there are no more of the seven mysteries to solve, it’s fun to watch the ex-wires in action, especially their interactions with each other. Rin has gained more of an acceptance from them, although they do remain aware that he is the son of Satan. I was confused when I noticed he keeps his tail out now, even at school, until I realized no one can see it who can’ see demons. Of course that includes his new friend Godaiin, who freaks out a bit when he sees the tail.

Mephisto is ever the troublemaker, while I still don’t know what to make of Takara. The Festival is a welcome break and a chance to see the ex-wires acting more like the teens they really are than wannabe exorcists. I like the growing triangle of Rin-Shiemi-Yukio, although I suspect that Shiemi’s feelings for Yukio are more hero worship than anything, and I’m not sure what Yukio’s toward her are. I’ve known for some time that Rin likes Shiemi, but maybe it’s good for him to think he has competition, even if it’s his own brother.

I dislike Arthur Angel as much as ever, but Lightning seems nice enough. I wonder who the Illimunati spy is. Takara is a too obvious choice. Guess we’ll just have to wait and see. Another good volume, bring on more!

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Wednesday Briefs: In Pieces #30 (8.3)

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 playing a gig at a teenager's birthday party. It's obvious the parents have money since they hired their son's favorite band to play. See what's going on in this week's chapter of In Pieces. Don't forget to visit the other Briefers and see what they've been up to! Their links follow my tale! Enjoy!

In Pieces #30 (8.3)

“Hey, about time you showed up!” Keanu suddenly appeared in the gathering gloom. Ryan hadn’t noticed before how dark it was getting.  “We’ve got most of the equipment set up already. Deacon’s taking care of the lights if you want to grab some of the last stuff. There’s a small stage set up out there.” He gestured toward the darkness of the yard. A stage? That was rather impressive for a private home. Obviously these people had money.

Abby spoke up before Ryan had a chance to say anything. “No problem. Aid and I are on it.” She tapped her brother lightly on the arm. He nodded, and they hurried off together, followed by Keanu.

 “Should we help too?” Ryan asked. He wasn’t sure how much assistance he could give, since he was carrying both his laptop and his camera. He didn’t feel comfortable leaving them anywhere. Although they’d probably be safe, he wasn’t about to take that chance.

“No, they have it. Let’s go check out the stage area.”  Ben hooked his arm through Ryan’s, but before they could put Ben’s plan into action, a tall silver-haired man emerged from the well-lit interior of the house and strode toward them.  He was dressed in a charcoal suit, but the jacket was unbuttoned, giving it a less formal look. As he drew nearer, Ryan noticed his hair hung in a small tail at the nape of his neck.

“Good evening, gentlemen,” he greeted them in a soft Southern drawl. “Would one of you be Ben Coulter?”

“That would be me,” Ben replied. “Mr. Champlain?”

“Guilty as charged.” The man laughed, a pleasant almost melodic sound. Ryan found himself instinctively liking the newcomer. “Sterling Champlain.” He held out his hand and Ben shook it. “I should have recognized you from the way you’re dressed. Not to mention your picture is plastered all around my son’s bedroom.” Mr. Champlain turned inquisitive eyes to Ryan. “And who might this be?”

“This is Ryan Fremont, our author,” Ben explained.

Champlain held his hand out to Ryan, who took it as well. “You have an author? That’s something I didn’t expect. I met your two young men already, the ones who are setting up. Tell me, what does an author do for a music group?”

Ben replied, before Ryan could even frame an answer. “Ryan’s a very talented writer, we’re lucky to have him. He’s going with us on our first major tour so he can chronicle our exploits and get our name out there.”

“Very interesting idea. I’m sure it will be a fine book. Glad to meet you both.”

“You as well, sir,” Ryan said. He was grateful that the growing darkness hid his blush at Ben’s words of praise. “I understand this is your son’s birthday party, is that right?”

“It is indeed. Miles has been looking forward to this for quite some time. We gave him his choice of what he wanted to do and where he wanted to go and all he wanted was to have Salvation come here and play for him and his friends. He’ll be so thrilled to know you’re here, Ben. Apparently, you’re his favorite member of the band.”

Ryan felt a flash of annoyance at this information, but quickly quelled it. Naturally other people found Ben interesting. That was all part of what he did. No reason to be jealous of Ben’s admirers. He was the one who held Ben’s heart.

“I’m flattered,” Ben said. “Where is Miles? I’d love to meet him.”

“Inside, entertaining. A few of his best friends came early, the rest should be arriving shortly. I’ll tell him you’re here. I’m sure he’ll be right out.”

“He’s already on his way, dear. Good news travels fast. ” They’d been joined by a middle-aged woman with well-coifed blonde hair and a warm smile.  She carried a silver tray on which sat dainty-looking glass cups filled with something colorful.

“Gentlemen, my wife. Ruby Champlain. Ruby, this is Ben and Ryan.”

“Interesting costumes your group has,” Ruby said. “I bet the Catholics aren’t very fond of them.”
Ben laughed. “I’ve never taken a survey, but I think they’d be less than impressed.”

“Would you like some of my hurricane punch, boys? It’s well known around these parts that I make the best punch in several counties.”

“Thank you,  ma’am, sound delicious, but can we take a rain check for the moment?,” Ben said. “Right now, I’d like to look over the set-up and do a sound check, before we go on.”

“Of course, of course. I’ll tell the boys to keep it short.”

“Thank you, ma’am.” Ben bowed respectfully to the parents, so Ryan followed suit. When the Champlains turned back toward the house, they headed out into the yard, toward the stage.

 to be continued

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Monday, December 3, 2018

Book Review: Blue Exorcist, Vol 10 by Kazue Kato

Blue Exorcist, Book 10      

Author: Kazue Kato
Publisher: Viz Media
American release date: July 2, 2013
Format/Genre/Length: Paperback/manga/paranormal/192 pages
Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★

It’s back to True Cross Academy and on with classes for the ex-wires! While in class one day, Rin finds a fellow classmate who can also see demons apparently. His name is Godaiin, and Rin befriends him. Unlike Rin, Godaiin is disturbed by his visions and only wants them to go away. Rin promises to ask his exorcism teachers for a solution to Godaiin’s problem.

Meanwhile, Arthur Angel and his angelic battalion have a situation on their hands, one involving the Impure Princess! I guess we haven’t seen the last of this family! A new mystery arises, involving a demon-eater, and the matter of Rin Okumura is temporarily suspended.

Rin receives a dinner invitation from Mephisto – why, he has no idea. But he hopes Mephisto can help him solve Godaiin’s problem. Mephisto puts things into perspective for Rin, then tells him he has homework but neglects to tell him what it is.

Yukio finds the Consultation center of the True Cross Academy Japan branch is busier than ever, and wonders why. Lord Pheles summons Yukio and the ex-wires to a meeting at a decisively strange hour – eleven PM! – in order to assign them a special lesson. They are to solve the seven mysteries of True Cross Academy that the whole school has been talking about. But the only way they can do this is if they cooperate with each other.

The first mystery involves a mysterious form dressed in white that wanders the academy at night. The catch is that it won’t appear before women, so the girls have to sit this one out. Speak of the devil, there she is now! Go to it, ex-wires! Er, male ex-wires.

As the boys deal with this ghost, Mephisto is summoned by Arthur Angel and his battalion to deal with a sticky situation involving a Gehenna gate!

The ex-wires receive their next mystery assignment – a toilet mayuko in the girls’ dormitory! This time, the boys have to sit this one out, leaving Kamiki and Shiemi to take care of the matter. Why is Kamiki so reluctant to admit that Shiemi is her friend? While the girls go to it, the boys have their own preparations to make.

This series just gets better and better! We thought the Impure King was a done deal, and now here comes the Impure Princess! We only scratch the surface of that, rather delving into the seven mysteries of the True Cross Academy. The first one, involving the figure in white, was hilarious, while the second one brought out more of Shiemi and Kamiki’s relationship. I think that bathroom spirit was a cross between Harry Potter’s Moaning Myrtle and Mean Girls.

I enjoyed the encounter between Rin and Amaimon, though I frankly admit to hoping to see Rin thoroughly kick that guy’s a** someday. I enjoyed seeing Mephisto’s interactions with the angelic contingent. I really do not like Arthur Angel, and I hope Mephisto will bring him down to size, over and over.

The ex-wires are developing, learning how to work together and get along. The more I read of this, the more I like it. Keep it coming!

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Book Review: Blue Exorcist, Vol 9 by Kazue Kato

Blue Exorcist, Book 9   

Author: Kazue Kato
Publisher: Viz Media
American release date: April 2, 2013
Format/Genre/Length: Paperback/manga/paranormal/200 pages
Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★

Rin has drawn his sword in order to battle the Impure King, to Mephisto’s glee and Yukio’s dismay. Rin decides he has to be who and what he is – a beast who burns everything. Meanwhile, Shiemi is battling to save Kamiki from the fungus which has engulfed her. Is she strong enough to save her friend?

In the aftermath of the battle, Yukio is furious, but Rin stands his ground. Yukio begins to see he may not always be right. Everyone retur5ns to the inn, where Tatsuma is healing and Mamushi is stricken with guilt for her part in what has occurred. Juzo attempts to console her.

Rin awakens to find himself lying next to Shiemi. She explains she came to check on him and fell asleep. Shura confronts Mephisto and demands to know what he has in mind for Rin. As usual, he’s quite enigmatic.

Juzo announces he is taking Mamushi’s hand in marriage, although she hasn’t agreed to accept his offer. The ex-wires amuse themselves at Rin’s expense. They pretend they have to listen to him because he’s Satan’s son, even as they explore Kyoto. Finally, it’s time to leave – but not back to True Cross Academy. The ex-wires are told to get some swimsuits, they’re going to the beach!

This concludes the Impure King arc – at least I think it does. Rin is coming to terms with who he is, and so are the others. Yukio not so much. But he has his own baggage, and sometimes it’s hard to let go of preconceived notions about one’s family.

The beach story about a forgotten god is great, and Juzo and Mamushi are hilarious. I can’t help but feel he’ll wear her down with time. Rin is every bit as headstrong and impetuous as he ever was but he is finally learning some measure of control. Mephisto is as devious and conniving as ever, but down deep, I think he has Rin’s best interests at heart.

Another great volume, looking forward to more.