Saturday, March 28, 2020

Book Review: Bleach, Vol 18 by Tite Kubo

Bleach, Vol 18       

Author: Tite Kubo
Publisher: Viz Media
American release date: April 3, 2007
Format/Genre/Length: Paperback/Manga/Supernatural/208 pages
Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★

The time has arrived for Rukia’s execution, the Sokyoku has been released and Rukia has been strapped to the scaffold. She awaits her fate with resignation, grateful to those who attempted to rescue her. The halberd assumes its true form as the firebird king, ready to impale Rukia and complete the sentence. Only a deus ex machina can save her now.

And here one is, in the person of Ichigo Kurosaki! And Ichigo is single-handedly holding back the firebird king itself!  How can that be? Instead of being grateful, Rukia calls him a fool and asks him why he came back, warning him Byakuya will surely kill him this time. Meanwhile, the spectators below are marveling at what has happened and wondering who in the world was able to do that.
Before the bird can strike a second time, which would surely be fatal to them both, Ukitake arrives, to Kyoraku’s relief, and proceeds to destroy the Sokyoku. At that, Ichigo destroys the scaffold and takes Rukia in hand. Can her rescue possibly be this easy?

Of course not.

Ichigo tosses Rukia down to Renji and tells him to take her to safety, as he turns to confront Byakuya. Sai Fon sends her people after those who are working to rescue Rukia, then finds herself facing a foe of her own—her former captain, Yoruichi! Ukitake and Kyoraku are about to attempt to talk to Sai Fon, but they are called to task by the Head-Captain himself, and have no choice but to face him down together!

This volume of Bleach is certainly not lacking in action. Everybody seems to be fighting against someone! And the lines between the good guys and the bad guys is most definitely blurred, as two captains—the first two captains to graduate from the Soul Reaper Academy—choose to do what they believe to be right, even if it means defying old man Yama.

Ichigo is his usual cocky self. Remember he’s only fifteen, and still believes himself invincible. But besides that, he has strong sense of honor, as well as a strong desire to protect his family and friends from harm. He won’t allow Rukia to give up, no matter what, a very admirable sentiment indeed. I don’t find manga-Rukia nearly as wishy-washy as I did anime-Rukia. Maybe that’s because we are more privy to her inner thoughts in the manga than in the anime.

I was especially thrilled to see so much of Shunsui in this volume, especially as he is so obviously on the side of right. He and Ukitake are such good friends and so very much in sync with one another. It’s very heart-warming. (On the other hand, although I write fanfiction, I have no desire to slash them, although I’m fairly sure that’s been done already. I don’t see either one of them as being gay, and they certainly aren’t written that way. I mean, have you ever watched Shunsui with the women? Seriously?) One thing about the manga that I love is that I sometimes end up having questions answered that bothered me from watching the anime. Such as what’s wrong with Ukitake. He’s always treated as if he’s fragile and might keel over at any moment. But common sense says that if he’s strong enough to become a Soul Reaper, he’s not a wilting flower either. Well, the answer is at the back of this volume, which has bios of both Ukitake and Shunsui. Apparently Ukitake has a lung ailment! That explains much and answers that question.

I like the little vignettes in between chapters involving those left behind in the World of the Living. Kon (in Ichigo’s body) has become involved in a soccer game with Jinta and Ururu and Karin, and notices that Jinta has his Kon body! The result is hilarious and is still ongoing.

I liked the scenes between Yoruichi and Sai Fon. I think you’d have to be pretty blind not to realize that Yoriuchi and Kiskue are a couple. But also, Sai Fon has a huge crush on Yoruichi, which probably contributes to her behavior at times.

With most of the strength of the Sereitei arrayed against them, can Ichigo and his friends pull off this daring rescue? Only time will tell. Looking forward to the next volume!

Friday, March 27, 2020

Book Review: The Killing Moon (Dreamblood #1) by N.K. Jemisin

The Killing Moon (Dreamblood, Book 1)     

Author: N.K. Jemisin
Publisher: Orbit Books
American release date: 2012
Format/Genre/Length: Paperback/Fantasy /448 pages
Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★

Guajareh is a city of peace, prospering under the loving guidance of Prince Eninket. Even in death is peace, for that is the job of the Gatherers of the city. They ease souls into Ina-Karekh through the most beautiful of dreams. The Gatherers serve the Goddess, Hatawa. They work primarily at night, under the auspices of the Dreaming Moon. One such Gatherer is Ehiru. He is given a commission to ease a man of the Bromarte, Charleron of Wenkinslan. But things do not go as they should, and Charleron tries to warn Ehiru that he is being used. Disturbed, Ehiru returns to the Hatawa, expecting to be reprimanded, concerned for his sixteen-year-old apprentice, Nijiri. Despite what has happened, though, he is given a new commission from the Prince himself, who is Ehiru’s brother.

Nijiri had been meant to have Una-une as his mentor, but the man’s untimely death has changed that, and he has been placed under Ehiru’s wing instead. Nijiri is not opposed to the change, although saddened by the reason, for he has deep feelings for Ehiru, despite the fact that his new mentor is forty years of age. He has known Ehiru for most of his life and would do anything for him. To Nijiri, age is immaterial, as well as gender, although he knows it is not allowed for Gatherers to indulge in such passions. But being near Ehiru and learning from him are enough for Nijiri.

Sunandi is from the neighboring country of Kisua, sent to Gujaareh by her master Kinja She Kalabsha to study Gujaareen magic as part of her apprenticeship. But that doesn’t mean that the two countries agree in the way they do things. Sunandi senses something wrong in Gujaareh. If only her master hadn’t died.  She finds Prince Eninket charming, and rather seductive. Doesn’t mean she trusts him. And she certainly can’t afford to let him find out what her true purpose is in being there.

Sunandi is summoned to a meeting with General Niyes, who shows her something shocking, and relates to her the strange events of the past few years. He tells her that war is imminent and that she must carry the news back to Kisua as soon and as stealthily as possible. He warns her that her life may be in danger, and the sooner she and her servant Lin leave the better.

That night, however, an unexpected presence turns up in her room—a Gatherer and his apprentice, whose purpose is to send her to Ina-Karekh. Sunandi makes Ehiru see that his so-called commission is nothing less than assassination, sowing seeds of doubt in his mind. When he becomes convinced that she is telling the truth, and that politics are at play here, he realizes he must keep her safe for the sake of all.

This book was recommended to me by my daughter-in-law, and I am so glad she told me about it! N.K. Jemisin weaves a fascinating world, a unique world, with many strange concepts and many people. At first, I was focused on remembering who was who and stumbling over the strange words and ideas, but suddenly I found myself very immersed in the story and the names became real people to me, and I realized I was hooked.

Ehiru is a very conflicted man, whose beliefs are crumbling around him, barely able to hang on, if not for the love and support of Nijiri. Nijiri is wise beyond his years, and it’s hard not to like him, as well as Sunandi. The author modeled much of the belief system and the countries in her novel after those of ancient Egypt, while also drawing on Freud and Jung. The concept of easing people into death seems meant to be a loving form of euthanasia, but obviously there is much room for abuse in such a system.

At the heart of this story is a tale as old as time itself—power and greed, the eternal struggle between right and wrong, life and death,  recognizing what is right and finding the strength and courage to do what must be done. I loved these people so much that I hated to see the book end. Good thing there are two more, even though the first one is filled with a fair amount of heartbreak. I will have to look for more of Jemisin’s books after I finish this trilogy. She is an awesome writer.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Wednesday Briefs: Super Trooper #9 (2.5)

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.

Evan and Chan are engaged in a little role play - the State Trooper and the speeder. Having pulled Chan over for "speeding," Evan offers him a chance to prove he's sorry. See what's going on in this week's chapter of Super Trooper. Don't forget to visit the other Briefers and see what's up with them! Their links follow my tale! Enjoy!

Super Trooper #9 (2.5)

Evan was operating strictly on primal instinct. He’d never done anything even remotely like this before, never even considered the possibility. If you had asked him before this what were the chances of his pulling over a motorist, while not in uniform, to pretend to give him a ticket, and then locking lips with him, right there in public, he would have said that could never happen. Would never happen.

And yet here he was, and it just had.

Chan’s lips were soft against his own, comfortable and inviting. He lightly brushed against them with the tip of his tongue and they parted in response. Suddenly aware of how much he wanted to tangle his tongue with the other man’s, and that perhaps the side of the road was not the proper place for such a display, Evan reluctantly drew back. But not until he’d savored a little more of Chan’s sweet breath.

Now what? They weren’t exactly playing by the rules, at least none that he was aware of. Naturally, he had no intention of giving Chan a citation, speeding or otherwise. All Evan knew was that he wanted him, wanted him very badly. And if Chan’s reactions were any indication, he wanted Evan just as badly. He knew the situation wasn’t like any he’d ever been in before with other men. But something about Chan attracted him, and he was determined to explore that attraction and see where it led, even if that was only to a single night of passion.

In the back of his head, a little voice warned Get off the road. Now. Good advice which also dovetailed with his own agenda.

“Since you seem sincere, and perhaps you didn’t realize just how fast  you were driving,  I think perhaps I can allow you to show me how contrite you are,” Evan said at last, bringing his heavy breaths under control. “But not here. Here’s what we’ll do. I want you to continue to drive to your place of residence. I’ll be right behind you. Once we are… alone… we can… discuss the matter further.”

Chan’s smile was intoxicating. “Yes, sir. I would like that.”

Evan couldn’t refrain from kissing him again before tearing himself away from Chan so he could return to his car. Strictly speaking, he probably shouldn’t have used either the lights or the siren when he wasn’t engaged in the pursuit of an actual suspect. But he realized nobody who passed by the two vehicles would notice what he’d done or think anything about it either, grateful not to be the object of his attention. Besides, using them made what they were doing more realistic, which was an ultimate turn-on. He quickly killed the lights and waited as Chan started his car and pulled back onto the highway.

Evan had already done his homework earlier in the day, after he’d taken Chan’s license. He knew that Chan lived in a small apartment complex on the outskirts of Tucker Falls. He’d been on calls in the area before, assisting local law enforcement, but on the whole it was a quiet area. No high rise apartments these, they were single floor dwellings, more like duplexes than apartments, with common areas behind the buildings for parking. Arriving at the correct address, he followed Chan into one such area, parking his state issued vehicle beside the other man’s compact.

They exited their cars at the same time. Chan seemed a little nervous, unsure of himself, so Evan decided to take matters in hand to help put him more at ease. Pocketing his keys, he approached Chan with sure strides and gave him a confident smile, momentarily forgetting that he was supposed to be barking orders according to their role play. “Lead the way,” he encouraged him.

He followed Chan up a set of concrete steps flanked by wooden railings. He noticed Chan made no attempt to touch the rails as he ascended the stairs. Briefly touching them himself, he understood Chan’s reluctance, as they wobbled slightly. Not a good sign, his professional mind protested, wondering what other violations might wait inside, but he withheld judgement.

Chan unlocked the back door and stood back to allow Evan to precede him inside. The door led into a small square kitchen with little counter space and no room for a table. Probably just right for a single person, such as Chan.

Evan turned as Chan closed and locked the door behind him. He stood uncertainly for a moment, before moving past Evan. He reached for the wall and flipped on a light, revealing the living area. Which meant the door directly off of the kitchen was most likely the bedroom.

“Would you like something to drink?” Chan offered, waving in the direction of the refrigerator. “I have some beer. Or I could make some tea. I have very good tea—”

Evan closed the short distance between them and stemmed the other man’s words with his mouth. He felt Chan’s moan vibrate through him. Evan had a good six inches of height on the other man, but when they pressed together, he could easily feel Chan’s growing excitement, which matched his own.

He drew back far enough to murmur, “Tea can wait,” then swept Chan into his arms and carried him into the bedroom.

to be continued

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

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Wednesday Briefs: Super Trooper #8 (2.4)

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.

Chan can't believe he actually ran into the sexy state trooper from that morning, and the trooper, whose name is Evan, is interested in him too! Not only that, but apparently they are going to indulge in some role play. Who knows where this will lead? See what's going on  in this week's chapter of Super Trooper! Don't forget to visit the other Briefers and see what's up with them. Their links follow my tale. Enjoy!

Super Trooper #8 (2.4)

Chan maintained a discreet distance behind Evan, to avoid giving the impression that they were leaving together. Not that he really believed anyone was paying attention to what they were doing. And not like other men didn’t do exactly this same thing on a regular basis. After all, Partners was famous for being a place for people, particularly gay men, to hook up with one another.

Still, doing so added to the illusion of the role play which they were apparently engaging in. Chan shivered in anticipation. He’d never done anything like this before, had never even considered the possibility. But right now it seemed to be the most natural thing in the world for him to be doing.
Only belatedly did it occur to him that he didn’t know what kind of car Evan drove. All he’d seen was the official trooper vehicle which had pulled him over. What if he couldn’t find Evan among all the other cars in the parking lot, and he lost this once in a lifetime opportunity? As he exited the club, he felt the beginnings of panic engulf him. His heart was racing ,  and his mouth had suddenly gone dry. He scanned the parking lot anxiously. If nothing else, Evan’s height would be a dead giveaway, right?

Chan almost cried in relief when he spotted the police cruiser parked in close proximity to the building. How he’d missed that on his way in, he didn’t know. Maybe because his mind had been on other things? Evan stood just beside the vehicle, obviously waiting for him. Chan hastened his steps.
Did he imagine it, or did he see a small smile flash across Evan’s lips at his approach? Perhaps it was just an illusion. A figment of his hopeful imagination.

“Where are you parked?” the other man asked.

“Toward the back of the lot.” Chan gestured vaguely behind him. “Near a light.” Better safe than sorry was his motto.

“Head for home,” Evan directed him.

Disappointment flared through Chan at this apparent dismissal, until he realized this was all part of the game. Of course. He nodded his understanding, asked no questions then immediately turned to obey. Part of him wanted to glance behind him, to search for the look of approval which surely would be there. But common sense told him that would not be the right thing to do. Obedience was what he needed to offer right now. Hopefully the rest would follow in good time. Looking straight ahead, he strode with determined steps toward his car. Evan would be behind him, of that he had no doubt.

Exiting the parking lot, he saw no sign of Evan behind him, no matter how many times he checked his rearview mirror. Perhaps he’d mistaken the trooper’s words, misinterpreted his directions. But no, that couldn’t be. Determined to keep playing the game, Chan merged onto the highway toward home. Not like he didn’t have to go that way anyway. He’d just hoped he wouldn’t be making the trip solo.
Chan was maybe halfway home and so completely caught up in his own thoughts and daydreams that the sound of the siren behind him startled him. Shit, what now?

Then the realization struck him—this was just what was supposed to happen, of course. What they had talked about. A surge of confidence renewed his flagging spirits. He made sure to signal before he pulled over, slid the car into park, turned off the engine, and waited in excited anticipation.

Moments later, Evan’s car had halted at an angle in front of him, lights flashing, siren now silent. It occurred to Chan, somewhat belatedly, they hadn’t exactly discussed what would happen when Evan pulled him over. The thought made the encounter all the more exciting.

He rolled down his window, breathing in the scent of honeysuckle that rose from bushes along the roadside. The peaceful night was broken only by the chirr of katydids, and the occasion vroom from a passing motorist. He laid his arm along the window frame, tapping his fingers against the side of the car before he decided that looked too casual, so he drew it in again and clutched the steering wheel instead.

Look normal. Act normal, he admonished himself.

The slam of a car door echoed loudly. Evan stood beside his cruiser for just a moment. He adjusted his cap before his hands fell to his holster, as if by reflex, before making his way to Chan’s car. Chan’s heart beat faster at the sight.

“Are you aware how fast you were going?”

Chan thrilled at the very same words he’d heard just that morning before realizing the question called for an answer. To be honest, he had paid no attention to the speedometer, already knowing he would be pulled over regardless of what it said.

“I was speeding, I ‘m sorry,” Chan apologized, even as Even leaned down into the window, so close he could smell whatever aftershave he wore, feel his warm breath. Goose bumps pimpled Chan’s flesh.

“And you think an apology is sufficient?” Evan asked almost belligerently. “Say you’re sorry and I’ll let you off, just like that?”

“No, sir,” Chan immediately replied. “I never thought that at all. I… I just wanted you to know it wasn’t deliberate. Speeding, I mean.”

He dared to look up then, into Evan’s gorgeous eyes, which glinted in the moonlight.

“I could write you a ticket, of course,” Evan considered thoughtfully, just before licking his lips with intent.

Chan restrained a moan at the sight. “Of course you could,” he agreed. “But perhaps there is something I can say… or do… that would help plead my case?” He wasn’t sure those were the words he meant to use, but Evan seemed satisfied with them. Chan wondered if the trooper had ever done this before, but pushed the thought aside. That didn’t matter right now.

“Perhaps there is,” Evan said just before he kissed him.

to be continued

Now see what the other Briefers are up to!

Thursday, March 12, 2020

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: ★★★★★

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!

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: ★★★★★

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!

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Wednesday Briefs: Super Trooper #7 (3.2)

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.

Having accidentally run into each other at Partners, the gay bar in Tucker Falls, Evan and Chan end up having a drink together. Evan just doesn't take no for an answer, but Chan isn't exactly complaining either. What's going on with them? See for yourself in this week's chapter of Super Trooper. Don't forget to visit the other Briefers and see what's up with them! Their links follow my tale! Enjoy!

Super Trooper #7 (2.3)

“Chan. I’ll remember that.” Evan nodded.  His name was as exotic as the man himself. Their hands were warm together, comfortably so. It was with great reluctance that Evan finally withdrew his hand. “Are you from around here?”

“Oh yes, my parents were both born in this country, and so were their parents,” Chan quickly replied. “Don’t worry. We aren’t illegals, or anything.”

Evan understood his need to put that fact on the table, what with immigration being such a touchy issue nowadays, and what with Texas hosting so many immigrants, legal or otherwise. Still, he hadn’t wanted to put Chan on the defensive. “No, no, that’s not what I meant. I just meant here in Tucker Falls or somewhere else.”

Why was he pretending he didn’t already know the answer to that question? Hell, he’d just run the man’s license this morning and already had the address memorized. Or was he trying to seem less stalkerish by letting Chan tell him where he lived, assuming he wanted the trooper to even know?

“Oh, sorry.”

Damn, he was even more adorable when he blushed, his golden skin adopting a rosy glow.

“I grew up in Tucker Falls,” Chan said. “With my mother and stepfather, and my brothers and sister. I live in my own apartment now, a little ways outside of town. I was coming from there this morning, on my way to work when you…. When I….” His words trailed off.

When Evan pulled him over for speeding. Of course. That highway was the one most used by daily commuters to go in and out of Tucker Falls, the largest city in the area until you got to San Antonio. It was also the route where Evan wrote the most speeding tickets. Except for this one, of course.

Chan cleared his throat and began again. “I appreciate you did not give me a ticket this morning,” he said, as if reading Evan’s mind. “I assure you I do not usually go over the speed limit, I am a very law abiding citizen, but this morning I was running late. I stopped to help Mrs. Feinstein, and before I knew it, the time was slipping away from me and I was afraid I would be late for work.”

Punctuality was an admirable trait, one Evan could appreciate. He was very punctual himself, to the point of being early, and tended to be critical of those who chose to arrive anywhere at the last possible moment. He’d been accused of being very anal about his sense of time, but he ignored such comments, the way he ignored most of the other things people said about what they didn’t understand. He’d developed a thick skin in order to endure a great deal of suffering when he was younger.

“As long as it doesn’t happen again,” Evan said, suppressing a grin.

Chan quickly nodded his agreement.

“Unless, of course, you’re hoping I’ll pull you over again…”
* * * *
Chan was caught by surprise at the trooper’s comment, momentarily at a loss for words. While he had no desire to exceed the speed limit for any reason, the thought of seeing Evan again—in full official uniform and in all his dominating glory—was a very tempting one. One that would provide a great deal of food for “thought” later. Just imagining them role playing this morning’s scenario—the state trooper and the speeder—but with a far different outcome was an extreme turn-on to him.

Before he could articulate any sort of response with his recalcitrant tongue, Evan smiled, and Chan’s heart beat even faster at the sight.

“I know you wouldn’t do that. Except maybe in private.”

Chan was shocked. It was almost as if Evan had read his mind. Or were they really just on the same wavelength? He reached for his glass of ale and took a long hard drink to dampen his suddenly dry throat.

“You are right,” he finally got out. “Most definitely in private.”

Evan made no immediate reply. They continued to drink in a companionable silence. Well, relatively silent. There were people all around them, going about their lives. Chatting and laughing and having a good time. But it was almost as if they didn’t exist. For right now, there was only Chan and Evan, in this private world they were building by an unspoken mutual consent.

They finished their drinks, and Chan was thinking maybe he should offer to buy more, when suddenly Evan leaned across the table toward him. Chan stopped breathing, all too aware of the other man’s proximity. Was he going to kiss him? Right here and now? Did he want him to?

Was that even a serious question? Hell yes.

But apparently he’d only moved closer in order for Chan to hear him better. “Meet me in the parking lot,” he said in that deep tone of complete control Chan was growing to love.

Without another word, Evan rose, pushed back his chair, and made his way across the bar toward the door, never looking back. As if he knew what Chan would do… as if he trusted him to know what to do…

Chan rose without hesitation and followed in Evan’s wake.

to be continued

Now see what's up with the other Briefers!

Friday, March 6, 2020

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: ★★★★★

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!

Thursday, March 5, 2020

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: ★★★★★

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, March 4, 2020

Wednesday Briefs: Super Trooper #6 (2.2)

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.

Stopping at Partners on his way home from his little brother's birthday party, Chan is stunned to see none other than the sexy trooper there, and he's looking right at him! What's a guy to do? See what's going on in this week's chapter of Super Trooper! Don't forget to visit the other Briefers and see what's up with them! Their links follow my tale! Enjoy!

Super Trooper #6 (2.2)

Calm down, calm down.

Chan stood rooted to the spot, unable to stop staring at the sexy blond. What were the odds of running into him here? He would have thought astronomical, but then again Tucker Falls wasn’t a very big place. And it had just become a whole lot smaller. Also, did this mean the man was actually gay?

Or worse, was he gay and with someone?

As if to confirm his fears—not that he was entitled to have any since he didn’t even know the man—he watched him lean down to speak with someone at the table he stood beside.

You are a fool to think this man cannot get anyone he wants. Sit down and forget him, focus on the dance floor. On anything other than him.

Chan spotted a table for two close to the dance floor that was just being vacated by two men who were obviously very much into each other and oblivious to everyone else as they pawed and groped their way toward the door. They never gave him a second glance as he quickly seated himself at the now empty table before someone else could claim the prime space, his eyes riveted on the dance floor.

Maybe just one drink and home. He could fantasize about the trooper in private, to his heart’s content. Perhaps see his desires through to a one-sided fruition. Now that he suspected the man was gay only made him want him all the more. If he didn’t see him with another man, he could maintain the illusion that he was available… and hot for Chan.

Maybe he should skip that drink and go now before he saw anything which might burst his bubble …
Before he could act on this new course of action, a shadow fell across his table. He glanced up to find the blond standing there. Chan thought his heart was about to stop. At first he assumed the other man had just paused on his way to the dance floor, but when he didn’t move, that didn’t seem likely. Plus no one else was with him, at least no one Chan could see.

So what did the man want? Surely he had recognized him from this morning and was checking up on his driving skills? Maybe he’d rethought not giving him a ticket and wished to rectify his mistake? Or maybe none of the above…

He found himself staring into those jade eyes, the most beautiful eyes he’d ever seen. Should he apologize for this morning? Explain why he’d been exceeding the speed limit when normally he was the most cautious of drivers? Or was it his rudeness he needed to make amends for? He normally never spoke in that manner to anyone. But before he could find his voice, the man spoke first.

“What are you drinking?”

Drinking? What was he drinking? Chan’s mind went blank. He couldn’t remember what he’d intended to order. More importantly, why was he being asked this question? “Pale ale,” he finally got out. He vaguely remembered having had one the last time he’d been there, and it was pretty good.

“Be right back,” the trooper said, then disappeared into the crowd, leaving a very confused Chan.
* * * *
Evan didn’t know what he was thinking. His mind and body suddenly seemed to be acting independently of him. He’d been about to hunt up a server for the next round when he spotted the speeder and now here he was, acting on autopilot. He excused himself to Roy, told him he needed to do something. The sheriff gave him a knowing smile, his eyes fixed in the direction in which Evan had been staring, as if somehow he understood. Although how was that possible when Evan himself didn’t understand what was going on. Even Dustin wore a knowing smirk as Roy told him to go on, they’d catch up another time.

How long did he think Evan would be gone? Whatever. He turned in somewhat of a fog and for a heart-stopping moment, he didn’t see the object of his interest. But then he realized with relief that he’d taken a seat at a nearby table… and he seemed to be alone. That’s all it took for Evan’s feet to find themselves on a straight course to that table. The next thing he knew he’d taken the man’s drink order and gone up to the bar to fulfill it. A very minutes after he was heading back to the table, two glasses of draft beer in hand. He set them on the table then took the seat across from the speeder, who only stared at him with the most beautiful mocha eyes.

Even took a quick drink of the pale ale. Did his courage really need bolstering, he wondered. And if so, why? He knew how to talk to people, he did it all the time.

But this was different, and he knew it. This wasn’t work. Now he was acting on an attraction he couldn’t explain. One he felt compelled to act on. Finally, he blew out a breath, watching the other man watching him, and said, “Hello.”

“Hello,” came the quick reply. Evan hadn’t really noticed how melodious his voice was. Then again, he had sounded angry this morning—most speeders usually did.

“The ale… is it good?” Evan asked.

The speeder took a sip, then another, and smiled. “Yes, very. Thank you.” His smile lit his entire face.
“You’re welcome.” Evan fell silent.

“About this morning…” they began in unison, then stopped and laughed, breaking the ice.

“Let me start again,” Evan said. “Evan Rainsford.” He held out his hand.

“Chandrahas Basu.” He took Evan’s hand in his. Evan held on to it lightly. “You may call me Chan, if you like.”

to be continued

Now see what's up with the other Briefers!