Thursday, July 30, 2020

Book Review: Bleach, Vol 21 by Tite Kubo

Bleach, Vol 21           
Author: Tite Kubo
Publisher: Viz Media
American release date: October 2 2007
Format/Genre/Length: Paperback/Manga/Supernatural/200 pages
Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★

In the aftermath of Aizen’s dramatic departure (as if his being there isn’t drama enough alone), the 4th Squad tends to the wounded, including the Ryoka. Captain Unohana is amazed to witness Orihime’s healing skills as she tends to Ichigo. Rukia is stricken at Byakuya’s injuries, sustained while protecting her. He calls her to his side, and proceeds to tell her truths he has previously withheld.

A week passes. Uryu has sewn new clothes for his group, so Orihime wishes to personally take the new dress to Rukia… but she can’t find her. She and Ichigo begin a frantic search, even as some of the captains and lieutenants (including Shunsui, of course lol), at Matsumoto’s suggestion, get down to some serious drinking. They invite Ichigo and Orihime, but they decline the invitation, being busy (and also being underage). Ichigo has an idea where Rukia is, and he turns out to be correct.

The time comes for Ichigo and the others to return to the Living World. They drop from the sky only to find a penitent Uruhara waiting for them. Ichigo lets Kiskue know what he thinks of what he did to them. Before he left the Seireitei, Captain Ukitake gave Ichigo something special, told him to hold onto because it would be useful in all kinds of situations.

Ichigo arrives home to find Kon lounging in his bed. He reclaims his body and tells Kon he’ll listen to his complaints the next day, all he wants to do now is rest. But that isn’t happening when his dad unexpectedly appears, ready to rumble.

Back to school for everyone, back to normalcy. Or is it? Ichigo is shocked when Tatsuki can see his deputy soul reaper badge. But he has no time to think about it, as they keep getting calls about Hollows. On top of that, there’s a new kid in class. His name is Shinji (but I’ll refer to him as Dutch Boy). He takes a seat near Ichigo and hopes they will become friends! That’s not creepy at all, is it?

When Ichigo leaves in the middle of the night on Reaper business, leaving Kon in his body, Kon decides to take the opportunity to kick up his heels a bit, but he gets more than he bargained for. Uryu, who is also out and about, encounters an unexpected blast from the past. And if that’s not enough, a Soul Reaper’s true identity is revealed!

So… Captain Aizen… huh. That happened. Who saw that coming? I sure didn’t. I remember watching the anime and boohooing over “poor Aizen”. And then he wasn’t dead and I texted my daughter, overjoyed, only to be confused the next moment when he stabbed poor Hinamori. (My daughter said she couldn’t wait for that to happen, knowing what she already knew that I didn’t.)  So Aizen, Gin, and Tosen have vamoosed, off to nefarious things no doubt. I don’t believe they specifically say what’s up in the manga, but I remember Aizen telling the Soul Society that his plan would take a year and then he’d be back. I guess that was their way of explaining why the story was about to veer off into filler arcs lol

His departure is almost an anti-climax, as its back to normal business. Well, as normal as Ichigo’s world ever gets. There does seem to be a lot of Hollows, wonder if that means anything? And now we have Dutch Boy in the picture (when you read this volume, you’ll know why I call him that lol). And then a couple of major revelations at the end of the book, keeping us in suspense, waiting for the next volume. Pretty heavy stuff going down. Plus the revelation from Byakuya at the beginning.  As usual, another great volume of Bleach. One reason I love the manga so much, even though I’ve seen the whole series, is that you do learn things that either aren’t mentioned or go by too fast to catch.

Looking forward to the next volume!

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Wednesday Briefs: Super Trooper #27 (5.3)

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.

Chan has been caring for Evan at his apartment, after he was wounded in the line of duty. Everything is great until an unexpected visitor throws Chan for a loop. Balji arrives at his wife's behest to see if all is well with Chan. See what's happening 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 #27 (5.3)

Evan had agreed to meet Chan’s family without hesitation, instinctively sensing that accepting the invitation would please Chan greatly. He’d never been introduced to a lover’s family before. That only underscored the seriousness of the situation, at least as far as he was concerned.

Not to mention, he’d never felt this way about anyone before. He was both excited and nervous at the prospect of meeting them.

Chan’s family had to be nice, judging by the way Chan had turned out, he reminded himself. Not all families were like his own. Even though in his line of work, he’d seen a fair number who were too close for comfort, some of whom had done terrible things. Yes, there was good and evil in the world. Didn’t mean one had to accept it, or brood about it. That’s one reason he became a state trooper. To do what he could to right the wrongs mankind liked to inflict upon itself, at least on a small scale.

“I love you too,” he heard Chan murmur. He wound his arms around Chan, being careful of his injured wrist, which was already doing much better. As the doctor had told him, considering what had happened, it could have been a whole lot worse. At least his injury didn’t require any surgery. And he wouldn’t lose any function in his wrist either.

Evan gently stroked the top of Chan’s ear. These past few days had been the happiest of his life… and all because of Chan. Being with him every day—waking up together and going to bed together—was beyond wonderful. He hated to see it end. But after tomorrow, he wouldn’t have any excuse to impose upon Chan’s hospitality.


“Chan,” he began softly, unsure just what he intended to say, and unsure how Chan might react to his idea. Spur of the moment? Maybe. Unprecedented? For him, yes. But that didn’t mean the thought hadn’t been in the back of his mind for the past few days, just now coming to fruition at the thought of their pending separation.

“Yes, Evan?” Chan’s face was tilted up toward him, his beautiful dark eyes like liquid pools of mocha flecked with gold, his lips so close and so very kissable.

“What would you say if I said I think we should live together?
* * * *
Chan thought his heart would stop at Evan’s unexpected words. Surely, he’d heard him wrong. Surely, he didn’t just suggest that they… as in the two of them… as in Evan and him… should… should actually live together… in the same home…

Caught by surprise, his mouth dropped open, and every coherent thought left his brain. Was this a dream? If so, please never let him wake. Words failed him at that moment, his heart too full of the love he bore this gentle loving man who made feel special, who made every day a great one just by being in Chan’s life…

He found himself searching Evan’s gorgeous jade eyes for something, and what he saw reflected there was nothing but love… and maybe a little apprehension? What was wrong? Belatedly, Chan realized he hadn’t said anything in response to Evan’s question, perhaps giving the impression he wasn’t willing. That was far from the truth, though. He didn’t have to think hard to know his answer.

“I would love to live together with you,” he blurted out, and was rewarded to see the slight frown lines on Evan’s face relax once more. “Are you… are you sure?”

“Very sure,” Evan assured him. “I’ve never been so sure of anything in my life.”

Chan was sure too. Since he’d moved into his own apartment, he’d never had so much as a roommate, but when he was still at home, he’d had to deal with his siblings, who could be a handful at times. And every minute he and Evan had spent together during Evan’s convalescence had been golden. He couldn’t imagine waking up to find Evan’s side of the bed empty. He wouldn’t have to now.

Which brought up another question.

“Where shall we live?”

Apparently, Evan hadn’t thought about that either. They looked at one another and laughed.

“Good question,” Evan said. “You know what? I could use more tea, what about you?”

That opened a discussion of several minutes, with each one volunteering to wait on the other. In the end, they both went to the kitchen, boiled water in the kettle, and then steeped two cups of Darjeeling tea. Chan carried everything back to the living room where they seated themselves on the sofa, facing one another.

“How would you feel about giving up your apartment and moving into mine?” Evan asked. “Now, before you say anything”—he held up one hand, as if to ward off an argument which Chan might make—“let me just say that while your apartment is nice, mine’s a little bigger. Plus it’s closer to work for you. And closer to your family, right?”

Very valid arguments indeed. Especially being closer to Chan’s work and his family.

“It’s just a suggestion. I don’t want to force you into anything you’re not comfortable with,” Evan continued.

Chan had spent nights in Evan’s apartment, and was already comfortable with it. While he liked his own apartment, he wasn’t, as they say, wedded to it. In the end, it was just a place to live. He’d rather live anywhere with Evan than in a palace by himself. Not that he lived in a palace, far from it.

“I would love to move into your apartment, if you will have me.” Chan laid his hand on top of Evan’s in a gesture of confidence.

Evan’s smile was radiant. He enclosed Chan’s hand in his warm grasp. “I’m so glad. I didn’t know how I was going to leave you tomorrow.”

“Now you don’t have to.” Chan leaned toward Evan, and Evan toward him, and their lips met in the middle.

to be continued

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

Sunday, July 26, 2020

Book Review: Bleach, Vol 20 by Tite Kubo

Bleach, Vol 20          

Author: Tite Kubo
Publisher: Viz Media
American release date: August 7, 2007
Format/Genre/Length: Paperback/Manga/Supernatural/232 pages
Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★

When Matsumoto comes face to face with Kira, she learns what the power of his zanpaku-to, Wabisuke, really is.  Kira’s sword doubles the weight of anything it strikes, until the user cannot wield it and sinks to their knees, head in a penitent pose.  (Wabisuke means the Penitent One).
Hinamori is confused as to why Gin has brought her to the place where the 46 govern. But all is explained when she comes face-to-face with the last person she expected to see there. How can this possibly be? But the joyful reunion is brought to a sharp halt.

When Hitsugaya arrives, he too is thunderstruck to see the newcomer then chilled when he learns what has happened to Momo.  Battle is inevitable. It isn’t long before Unohana and Isane appear, having deduced this person’s whereabouts, and we learn what power he really possesses. One which has fooled many people for a long time. Except maybe Tosen, who is immune to it, being blind. Which means he has done what he did with knowing consent. Has everyone been subjected to this? Maybe the Ryoka are immune. Hopefully.

When the traitors disappear, Unohana deduces where they’ve gone and tells Isane to send a special message to all the captains and lieutenants, as well as the Ryoka, to assemble immediately… it’s an emergency!

The newcomer confronts Renji and Rukia and demands that Rukia be given to him. Naturally, Renji refuses. And just in the nick of time, Ichigo appears. More battle is inevitable, and along with it, much is learned, including the secret  of the object known as the Hogyaku. Where before, the object of the Thirteen Court squads was to defeat the Ryoka so that Rukia could be executed, now the common goal is to reclaim her from the newly revealed enemy in their midst.

There’s a lot going on in this volume, so put on your hip boots and wade into it. Don’t be surprised that things aren’t what they seem. You just can’t believe your eyes, apparently. And some people aren’t to be trusted. I think one character said it very well when he said, “Adoration is the state furthest from understanding.” I think that’s just another way of saying love is blind.

Lines will have to be redrawn, foes become enemies and enemies foes. Many things we’ve wondered about will become clearer, such as Kiskue’s place in the scheme of things, and a better understanding of Ichigo’s Hollowfication. The one thing that rather bugs me about this book is Rukia’s limp, wishy-washy attitude. Normally, she’s an in-your-face, don’t-mess-with-me kind of girl, but here she is almost a willing participant in what is going on to happen, as if she’s resigned to it or something. Maybe there’s a logical reason for this, but if there is, I don’t know what it is. Guess I’ll have to wait and see if she gets back the old Rukia spark.

Speaking of sparks, I suspect plenty will be flying in the next volume. Looking forward to it!

Friday, July 24, 2020

Book Review: Bleach, Vol 19 by Tite Kubo

Bleach, Vol 19      

Author: Tite Kubo
Publisher: Viz Media
American release date: June 5, 2007
Format/Genre/Length: Paperback/Manga/Supernatural/216 pages
Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★

Soi Fon thinks she has the upper hand in her battle against Yoruichi, believing that her one-time commander has been sedentary for the past century. She is in for a rude awakening!

Ikkaku and Iba are drinking and arguing, as usual, when they speculate as to who Captain Kuchiki is fighting, up by the Sokyoku. Iba doesn’t recognize the spiritual pressure, but Ikkaku suspects it’s Ichigo, knowing how strong he is. And he is correct, for that battle is still being waged, even after Rukia has been safely removed from the playing field.

Ichigo is still pressing Kuchiki for an answer to why he is trying to kill his own sister. Byakuya is determined to crush Ichigo, confident that Ichigo can never hold his own against him. Seriously, even if he has to release his bankai, Ichigo can’t possibly do that…. can he?

Boy, does that arrogant s.o.b have another think coming…

Meanwhile, Uryu, Orihime, Chad, and Ganju are hastening toward the summit of the hill, not sure if that is where Ichigo is or not. Why is Ichigo still fighting, since Rukia has already been saved? Uryu explains “She won’t be safe until he’s broken the enemy completely.” Otherwise they will still try to execute her. Makes sense. But can he do it?

When the smoke of battle clears, who will be left standing?

Meanwhile, a horrific sight meets Hitsugaya and Matsumoto—the Council of 46 are all dead, murdered… and not recently. Who’s done this horrible thing? And since they were killed some time ago… who has been issuing orders in their name? Is someone trying to frame Hitsugaya for what has happened? Who would do such a thing… and why?

Just when you think the battle’s won, new battle lines are drawn, and new mysteries appear. I love watching them unfold, especially as I know what awaits in the next volume (one advantage of watching the anime first lol) In this volume, Byakuya is learning that Ichigo is more than he bargained for and not as easily dismissed as he might think.

I love Tite Kubo’s characterizations. His characters are definitely not one-note. There is no such thing as all good or all evil, there are many shades of gray. Not even Rukia’s brother is all bad, just has a mighty high opinion of himself. Even Ichigo has his dark side.

I love seeing the backstories of the characters. This time we got some insight into Soi Fon and  Yoruichi, the past shedding light on the present.

Looking forward to the next volume!

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Wednesday Briefs: Super Trooper #26 (5.2)

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.

Chan has had the injured Evan all to himself for four days, taking care of the wounded trooper. Four blissful days! So who is this waking him early on a Sunday morning? Is something wrong? See what's going on in this week's chapter of Super Trooper. Don't forget to visit the other Troopers and see what's up with them. Their links follow my tale! Enjoy!

Super Trooper #26 (5.2)

So upset was Chan that he almost forgot to invite his stepfather inside—where were his manners? He ushered him through the door, a finger to his lips in the universal sign to be quiet.

“What? Oh no, nothing is wrong,” Balji hastened to assure him. He held up his hands as if to chase away such a bad thought. “I’m sorry to alarm you. Actually, it was your mother who sent me. She was concerned about you and wanted me to make sure you were all right. She would have come herself but she was afraid she might be too upset to learn something bad had happened.” Balji rolled his eyes. “You look fine to me, are you fine?”

Chan gave him a perplexed look. “Why wouldn’t I be?”

“Well, we haven’t seen you all weekend. Mind you, this is your mother’s logic as she would not listen to mine. Your mother went by your place of work on Friday and they said you hadn’t been in for a couple of days.” Balji scratched his head as he spoke. “Your mother wanted me to come sooner, sure that you were lying on the floor, unconscious or worse, but I said please, let’s wait a day or two. Maybe he just took time off, you know. Vacation days. But she was sure something dire happened, that you would never take such time off without telling her or coming to see everyone—”

Balji’s words stopped abruptly, his gaze going past Chan, his mouth falling open slightly. At first Chan was confused by his reaction… until he felt Evan’s presence behind him, Evan’s hands on his shoulders.

Please let him be dressed.

“Ah, I see. Everything is very clear to me now.” Balji gave them a knowing smile. “Why don’t I start over? Good morning to you both.” He bowed slightly. “Chan, do you intend to introduce us, I hope?”
Chan mentally kicked himself for his inadvertently rude behavior. In his defense, it was still early. Not to mention this was not a situation he’d expected to find himself in before he was ready to handle it. The one saving grace was that it was Balji, and not his mother, standing in his apartment. His stepfather was more easy going and less prone to panic than his maa.

“Of course, forgive me. Balji, this is Evan Rainsford. Evan, this my pita, Balji.” Technically, Balji was not his father, but Chan invariably referred to him as such.

Evan extended his hand and Balji took it. Introductions accomplished, Chan relaxed slightly. Why should he feel stressed when he’d known this day would arrive sooner or later? Perhaps this chance meeting was a blessing in disguise. Now that Balji had met Evan, he could ease the way for his mother’s acceptance of Evan as an important part of Chan’s life. He’d never brought a man to meet her before, never having had one who stayed in his life for any length of time. But he was determined to hold on to Evan as long as he could, and he wanted his family to get to know and love him too.

“I’m very happy to meet you,” Evan was saying as Chan waved Balji toward the sofa.

“Please, sit. I’ll make some tea. And some pancakes.” He knew Balji was fond of his wife’s idlis, and although Chan’s weren’t quite as good, they were still pretty tasty. “And some bacon.” That was a nod to Evan, although his lover was pretty easy to please when it came to food, and loved the traditional dishes Chan cooked for him.

Balji was already shaking his head. “Another time, yes? I promised I would return immediately once I found out what was going on with you. Your maa would skin me alive if I stayed for breakfast and left her to cry and wail alone.”

“She’s crying?” Chan asked, instantly contrite. Though why he should feel guilty for taking time off to care for Evan and not inform her of his plans when he was a grown man capable of making his own decisions he didn’t know.

Balji rolled his eyes and grinned mischievously. “No, but that’s what she said to tell you. I can honestly say that I did as she requested.” He glanced toward Evan. “Oh, you are injured?”

“Yes, he is injured, and I am taking care of him.” Chan intercepted the question and replied before Evan had a chance to speak. “He’s a state trooper, and he was injured in the line of duty.”

Balji’s eyes lit up, as if he’d just remembered something. “Evan. I thought that name sounded familiar. So he is the one who has been making you so happy, isn’t he? The one you told your mother about.”

Chan felt his cheeks warm at Balji’s words. He dared a quick glance at Evan, who wore a smile as big as Texas.

“Yes, he is the one,” Chan replied, even as Evan reached for his hand.

“Aarti will be thrilled. Especially when I tell her you are going to bring him by to meet everyone this afternoon. Right?” He arched his dark brows questioningly, instantly putting Chan on the spot.
If Chan didn’t introduce Evan to his mother that very day, she would make his life miserable until he did, and he would never hear the end of it. On the other hand, he didn’t want to pressure Evan into something he wasn’t ready for, and maybe unintentionally chase him out the door.

What to do, what to do?

“What time would you like us to be there?” Evan asked.

Chan could hardly believe his ears. Evan was actually volunteering to go? Surely the gods were smiling on him.
When they agreed on a time, Balji made his departure, and Evan pulled Chan into his arms. “I love you,” he said simply, and Chan thought he might shed tears of pure happiness.

to be continued

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

Sunday, July 19, 2020

Book Review: Twentieth Century Boys, Vol 1: Friends

Twentieth Century Boys, Vol 1: Friends       

Author: Naoki Urasawa
Publisher: Viz Media
American release date: February 17, 2009
Format/Genre/Length: Paperback/Manga/Mystery/Sci-fi/160 pages
Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★

Kenji once dreamed of being a hero and doing big things, but middle-age finds him the co-owner of a former liquor store, along with his mother. And he’s raising the niece his sister dumped off on them before she ran away to who knows where. He loves Kanna with all his heart and wouldn’t have it any other way. What do long ago foolish dreams matter in the face of reality?

Kenji is annoyed to learn the police are investigating the disappearance of the entire Shikishima family, mostly because they owe him money. Hopefully if the police stake out the place, they’ll want to buy snacks from his convenience store, he reasons. In the meantime, his childhood friend Keroyon, aka Froggie, is getting married. Whodathunk it? He did get his nickname for a reason, after all.  While retrieving empty bottles from the missing family’s home, Kenji finds a strange symbol  by the door. Something seems awfully familiar about that symbol, but he just can’t place it. Kenji quizzes some of his childhood friends about it, but no one remembers anything.

The morning paper brings horrible news. Another of his old friends, Donkey, a science teacher, has jumped from the roof of the high school where he taught… to his death. Kenji doesn’t think Donkey would ever do something like that. A strange boy they befriended long ago, he was particularly known for being a fast runner who told them that you can run faster with your shoes off. Kenji receives a letter from Donkey to him written just a few days previously, although he’d not talked to him in a good long while. The letter contains a drawing and asks if Kenji remembers this symbol… the same symbol Kenji’s been wondering about himself! Could it be a coincidence, or something much more? And Donkey ends with talk soon… does this sound like someone who’s about to kill himself?

Kenji talks to Donkey’s widow, and she mentions that her husband told her that one of his former students was in trouble, but she only remembered his first name and where he went to school.  Through good detective work, and a little luck, Kenji finds the student, who seems to be on his way somewhere. The man is secretive and mysterious and tells Kenji if he’s reached the symbol, he’s only one step away from true friendship. What the heck does that mean?

Kenji and some of his old group of friends meet to toast the late Donkey, and he continues to grill them about the symbol.  Still no one recalls anything. Until Mon-chan remembers that when they were young, they buried something, but can’t remember exactly what that was. Not sure if that means anything or not, they decide to hunt it down, which isn’t easy as much has changed over the years. They’re surprised to find… (no spoilers here, gotta read it)

 This is the first volume in a series about a group of young men who did something that helped to save the world. Kenji is the main character, through whose eyes we see most of the action. The story takes place across different time frames, so we see what’s going on at different points in the boys’ lives, 1969, 1997, and the present. The first volume lays the groundwork for everything and asks questions which need to be answered. Such as who are the Twentieth Century Boys? What did they do? Who is Friend? Is he friend or foe? And is/was he one of them?

I like the writing (I’ll have to read Monster too, which is by the same author), as well as the artwork. Kenji is a good character, just a simple normal guy, living out his life, even if it wasn’t the one he dreamed of. He’s unwilling to accept the truth that appears to lie on the surface of things, and insists on delving further down, to clear Donkey’s name, and to solve the mystery of the symbol. All the characters are well-drawn, including the horrible twins whom they refer to as “the evilest twins in history.” I really enjoyed reading this, although sometimes I had to re-read to keep things clear in my head because of the time jumps. But in the end it all made sense, and I look forward to reading the next volume.

Thursday, July 16, 2020

Book Review: Baptism of Fire by Andrzej Sapkowski

Baptism of Fire (The Witcher series)    

Author: Andrzej Sapkowski
Publisher: Orbit
American release date:  June 24, 2014
Format/Genre/Length: Paperback/Fantasy/400 pages
Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★

Milva, the archer,  first meets Geralt, the Witcher, two weeks after the disastrous conclave on the Isle of Thanedd. To say she is not amused would be an understatement, especially as he has seen her face. But Geralt is a friend of Brokilon, and he is injured, so they care nothing for the politics of the situation. So when the leader of Brokilon requests that Milva assist Geralt, how can she refuse?  She can’t, although she doesn’t have to be happy about it. And she isn’t.

Dijkstra, the head of Redanian intelligence, is approached by the Nilfgaardian ambassador who seeks a criminal by the name of Cahir Mawr Dyffryn aep Caellach. Dijkstra feigns ignorance, but that man always knows more than he is willing to admit to. Once rid of the ambassador, Dijkstra writes to his sorceress, Philippa, revealing that he seeks the man as well. Not that he let slip that fact to the ambassador.

The sorceresses have their own agenda. The situation as they see it is going from bad to worse. It is only by some miracle that they were not all killed on Thanedd. They must take control of the situation before the men screw it up any more than they already have. But they must do it under the utmost secrecy as they work to reestablish the Chapter and the Council. They have to rely on one another, even the Nilfgaardian sorceresses, although there is a decided lack of trust there. They meet telepathically to lay the foundation and make plans to meet in person. Not everyone is pleased to see Assire of Nilfgaard among their number. And where is Yennefer?

Meanwhile, Ciri, who is going by the name of Falka, is having the time of her life, running with her little hoodlum pals, the Rats. So why does everyone else think she’s in Nilgaard, engaged to the emperor?

Having healed and left Brokilon, Geralt and Dandelion begin their journey. Although the Witcher think he’s inscrutable and mysterious, the poet can put two and two together and he knows where they are headed and why. And so the journey begins.

If you think there was a lot going on in the last book, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet, b-b-b-baby.

The Witcher series has three main threads which twine and intertwine about one another, those three threads belonging to 1) Geralt, 2)Ciri, and 3)Yennefer. These three are bound by a fate they cannot escape. I can only hope and trust that they will end up together when all is said and done, but that remains to be seen.

Geralt has suffered much in his lifetime, beginning with his betrayal and desertion by his birth mother, to the pains he suffered in becoming the mutant known as a witcher. He had no choice in the matter, but he has certainly embraced this life, such as it is, and is renowned far and wide for his skill and prowess at slaying monsters. On the other hand, he has assumed a mask of indifference in the way he presents himself to the world, as if nothing and no one matters to him. Nothing reaches him or touches him. He is an emotionless killer of bad things.

But we know better, don’t we?

Despite pushing the troubadour away and keeping him at arm’s length, all the while commenting on his bad singing, Geralt considers Dandelion a friend, and has saved his bacon on more than one occasion. Dandelion may be a loud mouth who speaks first and thinks afterward, a braggart who feels that embellishment of the truth is often preferable to the facts, a narcissist who thinks he is irresistible to women… but truth be told, he has a good heart, and he would do anything for Geralt. Dandelion is the only companion Geralt has tolerated for many years, and I love to see them together (and yes, while I realize there is much fanfiction on the relationship between them being more than friendship, I don’t see that and consider it so much wishful thinking).

Geralt and Yennefer—ah, that is one complicated relationship. From the moment they met, something drew them together, almost as if they were magnetized, one to the other. And even though their lovemaking is often followed by separation and anger, they manage to find their way back together again and again, as if they are unable to help themselves. To be honest, I have no idea what he sees in her, and I would be happy if he were to find another love. Such as Triss Merrigold, for instance. But alas, I don’t feel that is meant to be, thanks in large part to the wish Geralt foolishly made (see The Last Wish, although I assume you’ve read it by this point). Whether they can stay together in the end remains to be seen. Yennefer has had a rough life, and I’m sure she feels something for the Witcher, but ultimately I don’t trust her.

Ciri is Geralt’s Law of Surprise gift, a serendipitous gift for Geralt cannot father a child, so Ciri is the child he cannot have. I don’t think he ever intended to go through with taking her on as his responsibility, and evaded doing so for as long as he could. But he couldn’t stem the tide of Fate forever, and having met her, he would do anything now to protect her. Woe betide anyone who comes between him and Ciri, or threatens to harm her in any way. As for Ciri, I worry about what will become of her after her time with the Rats. I think she likes killing a bit too much, and being a law unto herself. Will she be able to return to a more normal life, relatively speaking, or will she become more rebellious than ever? She’s always been a willful handful, but now…

There are some very interesting secondary characters in this book. If you’ve played the game (I’m only on the first one) you may recognize some of them, such as Zoltan Chivay.  And some interesting new friends, such as Regis. The plot is exquisitely intricate as the author spins an amazing web of intrigue, war, deceit, love, mystery, supernatural, and so much more.

If you love the books, watch the series. Henry Cavill plays Geralt brilliantly

Another great book in the series, looking forward to the next one!

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Wednesday Brierfs: Super Trooper #25 (5.1)

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

Injured on the job, Evan stays with Chan while he takes time to heal. Chan is thrilled to have this time together. See what's happening in this week's chapter of Super Trooper. Don't forget to visit the other Briefers and see what's going on with them. Their links follow my tale! Enjoy!

Super Trooper #25 (5.1)

Evan had never been so pampered in his entire life. Chan insisted on waiting on him hand and foot. Evan had tried to dissuade him, but eventually he realized that taking care of Evan made Chan feel better and less helpless in the face of Evan’s injury, so he gave up and simply relaxed under Chan’s loving ministrations.

Chan had called his office and told them he was taking the next two days off, citing personal reasons. Apparently they were fine with that and never even questioned what those reasons were. Evan ended up having the weekend off, which seldom happened. He suspected that was Christina’s doing, with more than a little help from Nathan. He’d confided to Nathan as to where he would be, in case of emergency.  Nathan had probably let it slip to Christina that Evan was with his boyfriend, and she’d arranged his schedule accordingly. Evan wasn’t about to argue with having four straight days with Chan, no interruptions. Much like Chan, Evan didn’t tend to take the days off he was due. He hadn’t taken a vacation since he joined the State Troopers, having no place in particular he wanted to go to.

That might all change now, though. Now that he had Chan in his life.

Evan was not one to sit around and do nothing, despite not having to work, even due to being injured.  He hated inactivity of any kind. So he began to subtly help Chan in various ways, but carefully, so Chan would know he wasn’t straining himself. He couldn’t exactly chop anything, with his dominant hand being injured, but he made up for it by fetching ingredients or stirring sauces with his left hand or acting as taster. He did what little straightening the apartment required, also, with Chan’s help.

Chan drove everywhere they went, which was a complete reversal of their previous roles. The police cruiser sat idle behind Chan’s apartment while they used his mid-sized compact. Not that they went many places. Partners was off limits, at least for now, because Evan couldn’t drink with his medication. But that was okay too. Partners would still be there when they were ready, and so would their friends, and they were more than content with one another’s company in the meantime.  Since Evan couldn’t drink, Chan didn’t either. In lieu of beer, Chan introduced him to some very good varieties of tea. And he was a very good cook. They would go to the grocery store together and buy unusual or interesting ingredients, whatever caught their eye, and Chan would do the most amazing things with them. 

When Chan told him he had never grilled before, Evan bought a smoker/grill and they put it in the little grassy area just behind the apartment, along with a couple of teal patio chairs and a small table. There was just enough room for everything without spilling over into the parking area, or impinging on his neighbor’s space.

 Evan loved to grill. He explained the ins and outs of using charcoal to Chan, and told him which types of wood tasted best, depending on what was being grilled—oak or mesquite for steaks and hickory for pork, with lighter woods for the more subtle flavors of fish. One night they went to the store and bought large T-bones for dinner. Evan gave Chan the recipe for his secret rub, which he’d developed himself over a number of years of experimentation. Chan had applied the rub and grilled the steaks to perfection, and afterward they’d made love, not for the first time that weekend. For now, Evan took the bottom position and Chan rode him, in order to put less strain on Evan’s wrist, but neither one minded.

Life was good.
* * * *
Chan had never been so happy in his life. Every day he woke up to find Evan beside him was a blessed day indeed. While he hated the reason that had brought about Evan’s presence, and wished he hadn’t been hurt, he was grateful to be able to take care of Evan’s needs, simple though they were. He would make sure Evan to relax and take it easy, to use his hand as little as possible And hopefully enjoy being with Chan as much as he enjoyed being with Evan.

Chan wished this time together would last forever, although in the back of his mind he knew it wouldn’t. Monday would come, and Evan would go back to work. Back to his own apartment. But in the meantime, Chan could pretend they would never part, and he’d accept whatever time they had with great joy and happiness.

Sunday morning Chan was awakened by the sound of his doorbell. He sleepily opened one eye even as he picked up his phone to see what time it was. Seven-thirty. Who in the world would be at his door at such an early hour?

He glanced at Evan. His lover was sound asleep, his beautiful features relaxed in repose. Chan paused a moment to admire the view but realized that the person at the door might grow impatient and wake Evan should he or she decide to ring again, which would never do. He slid out of bed and padded quietly through the living room to see who was there.

Opening the door, he was alarmed to find Balji.

“Is something wrong?” he asked. “What has happened? Is it Maa? Or the kids? Has something happened to the little ones?”

to be continued

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Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Wednesday Briefs: Super Trooper #24 (4.4)

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.

When Evan is late for their anniversary date, Chan fears the worst. Until Evan finally arrives and he learns what has happened to delay him. 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 #24 (4.4)

“I’m fine, just fine,” Evan continued to assure him, all the way up the sidewalk and into Chan’s apartment. Even’s voice was low and soothing. He gently stroked Chan’s arm as Chan fumbled with the key before finally pushing open his door. He flipped on the light and closed the door behind them before burying his face against Evan’s chest, mindful of his injury.

Finally he drew back and gazed up at him, as if to reassure himself Evan was really there and not seriously injured. He took a deep breath. “I’m sorry,” he apologized. “I… I was just concerned.”

“No need to apologize,” Evan said. “I wanted to call or text, to let you know I’d be late, but they had me busy in the ER, what with X-rays and all.”

“You had an X-ray?” Chan’s eyes grew wide. “Come, sit down. Please.” He waved him toward the sofa, as if the sheer action of standing would make whatever happened worse. Evan took a seat, then beckoned Chan to him. He found himself sitting on Evan’s lap, which was a first for them, but felt so right.

Chan forced himself to calm down as Evan held him against him with his good arm.

“It’s nothing serious, just a sprain. Not even a bad sprain. The doctor said I was very lucky that it’s just a Grade I sprain. It could have been a lot worse.”

“Worse than this?” Chan blanched.

“A lot worse,” Evan confirmed. “There could have been a lot more damage, and maybe even surgery.”

“No, I don’t need surgery,” he hastily added as Chan gazed at him wide-eyed again. “The doctor said I just need a couple of days rest. Ice up the wrist for twenty or thirty minutes every three to four hours until the pain’s gone. And keep it elevated as often as possible. He gave me a scrip for pain pills with an anti-inflammatory.”

“Do you have the pills with you?” Chan asked.

“I haven’t had it filled yet, I came straight here to you.” Evan’s answer went straight to Chan’s heart, filling it completely. He’d thought of Chan first, putting him before his own needs.

“How can you drive? Should you be driving? Doesn’t it hurt? How can you possibly work?” The questions tumbled from Chan, one after another.

“I’m not going to work,” Evan said. “I’m taking a couple of days off.”

“You should stay here,” Chan said without hesitation. “Stay here and I will take care of you.”

Now it was Evan’s turn to stare at Chan, open-mouthed.

“I’m not taking no for an answer,” Chan continued, although Evan hadn’t put up any objection, which had to be a good sign. “I’ll call the office in the morning. I am due some time off, I seldom take any. But first, we should get your prescription filled.” He nodded at Evan with growing confidence. “But I will drive.”

There was a moment of silence between them as Chan began to wonder if he’d overstepped the bounds of their relationship. And then he saw Evan smile, and he knew everything was going to be just fine.

“You would do that… for me?”

Chan couldn’t help but notice the slight insecurity in Evan’s voice. Obviously no one had ever taken care of him before. Chan’s heart ached for his lover, and again he wondered what had happened to him that made him believe himself to be so unworthy of love.

“I would do anything for you,” Chan said quietly. “We can get your pills and get dinner as well, and bring it back here.”

“Our anniversary,” Evan said. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to ruin our plans—”

Chan stopped Evan’s words with a kiss, and for a long moment nothing else was said. Finally, Chan drew back and said, “It’s still our anniversary, and we’re together. That’s what counts. Let’s go, okay?”

“Okay,” Evan acquiesced.

Chan reluctantly rose from Evan’s lap, so they could go. He paused at the door, remembering what he’d meant to ask. “How did that happen?” He gestured toward Evan’s bandage.

“I got a call to investigate an abandoned vehicle,” Evan said. “Turns out this guy kidnapped his ex and had her locked in his trunk. He intended to kill her and bury her body. He was digging the hole when I came by. One thing led to another, and he managed to stomp on my gun hand.”

Chan thought his heart would stop. He had never thought to wonder about how dangerous Evan’s job was. Now he had a better idea, and the thought was terrifying.

“I won’t lie and tell you this shit never happens.” Evan softly stroked Chan’s cheek, locking their gazes. “And I won’t tell you I’m never in danger, ‘cause sometimes I am. But you have to know that I’m a very careful man, and I work with some great people. Thanks to my back-up, we caught the guy and his ex is fine, and he’s going to prison for a long long time. Please don’t worry, okay?”

“I trust you,” Chan said. “I’ll try not to worry, but I can be concerned, okay? I care about what happens to you. Nothing will change that.”

“And I care about what happens to you.”

There was that beautiful smile again. And just like that they were in sync once more. And, more importantly, Chan was about to get Evan to himself for two whole days.

He would make sure they were the best two days ever.

to be continued

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