Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Wednesday Briefs: Super Trooper #62 (14.5)

Good morning, Happy Hump Day and Happy St Patrick's 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. 

After seeing Chan off to work, Evan learns the babysitter is sick, so he decides to stay with Kamal and Madhu. Is he biting off more than he can chew? 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 #62 (14.5)

Evan’s request for a day off was quickly given, luckily. Otherwise, he wasn’t sure what he would have done. After getting off the phone with his supervisor, he slid it into his pocket and returned to the kitchen. Kamal was just finishing his pancakes. He looked up from his plate, giving Evan an inquisitive glance as he searched for something or someone.

“Denise can’t come today. She doesn’t feel well,” Evan explained.

“Oh,” Kamal said. “Is Mandy coming then?” He dragged his fork through the remnants of syrup on his plate, his brow furrowed.

“No, I’m going to stay here with you and Madhu today.” For a moment, Evan wondered if maybe he’d made the wrong decision, if maybe he should have called Chan after all. Judging by Kamal’s expression, he was none too pleased at the turn of events.

“Is something wrong?” Evan slid into the seat across from Kamal. He’d found that people responded better if you weren’t towering over them.  Not to mention, he hadn’t eaten yet.

“Nooo.” The way Kamal drew out the single word told Evan that wasn’t exactly the truth. Was it because he didn’t want Evan there on his day off? Or maybe he had other plans. The boy’s next words confirmed his suspicion.

“Um… well…” Kamal hemmed and hawed before finally bursting out with, “Some of my friends are coming over to play with me today.”

Evan felt relief at those simple words. Nothing horrible, just plans seemingly gone awry for their free day. Probably something Kamal had been looking forward to.

“No problem,” Evan said, offering Kamal a smile. “They can still come over if I’m here, can’t they?”

Kamal mulled this over for a moment, scratching his temple. “I guess so,” he said. “You mean, it’s okay with you if they come over?” He sounded hesitant, as if he hated to ask. Evan wondered if the boy thought of him as mean or menacing in some way. He hoped he didn’t come across that way. There was such a fine line between being watchful and being strict, though. And he wasn’t sure of himself yet with Chan’s siblings.

“Of course it’s okay,” he assured him. “Are you full? Maybe you can find room for another pancake or two?”

He watched Kamal fight some kind of inner battle with himself, as if he didn’t want to ask for Evan’s help with anything. But his stomach won that round.

“Yes, please,” he replied.

“Here, take mine, I’ll make some more.” Evan slid his plate across to Kamal, who happily accepted them. He knew Chan always made extra batter, so it was no problem to reheat the skillet and make himself some more.  Just as he finished, Madhu toddled into the room, rubbing her eyes and clutching her stuffed wolf. She glanced between Evan and Kamal.

“Chan?” she asked hopefully.

“Not today,” Kamal said. “He’s at work. Evan’s going to stay with us.”

Evan noticed that Madhu was shuffling from one foot to the next. He recognized the signs immediately. “You want me to take you to the bathroom?” he offered.

Madhu tugged at Kamal’s hand. “Kamal take,” she said.

Evan wasn’t surprised. He was usually her last choice for that particular duty. He tried not to read into that. She was just a baby, and she didn’t really know him very well.

“Kamal, do you mind?”

“No, I’ll do it.” He slid from his seat and took his sister’s hand. “Come on, Madhu. We have pancakes for breakfast.”

Madhu smiled and let her brother lead her away. Evan decided to warm her pancakes and have them ready when she returned. Now, how was he going to keep her occupied and happy all day?

 to be continued

Now go see what the other Briefers are up to!

Cia Nordwell

J Alan Veerkamp

Monday, March 29, 2021

Virtual Book Tour: Night to Dawn 39 by Barbara Custer

 Good morning! Please welcome author Barbara Custer to Full Moon Dreaming! She is here to tell us about her new release, Night to Dawn 39. Barbara will be awarding a $10 Amazon/BN GC to one randomly drawn commenter via Rafflecopter during the tour. The more you comment, the better your chances of winning. To find the other stops on her tour, go here. Don't forget to look for the Rafflecopter at the end of this post!


Night to Dawn 39

by Barbara Custer




GENRE: Dark Fantasy






The apocalypse of the movie screen and the printed page has become a reality. A microbe threatens humanity, making Corona seem like the common cold. Innocents die to appease young and hungry gods. A doctor feeds the souls of his patients to a demon. Featuring Marge Simon, Lee Clark Zumpe, Margaret L. Carter, Rod Marsden, Matthew Wilson, and other authors.







 Matthew Wilson’s “I am No Witch”


I wasn't blessed with my own kids, and given the hate this town shines on me, maybe that is best, for the humiliation is terrible. I wouldn't wish old age on anyone. My house is made of brick, not candy, and I cannot help the hideousness of my face.


My neighbors whisper stories of my dear, dead Harry to their children. They laugh and sing about how he went mad, tried to kill me, and burnt my face. I stopped trying to cover it with makeup long ago, but my scars only add fuel to this witch nonsense.


Only evil things burn.


I like to eat in but must order out as supposed normals do. The minimum traffic of food deliveries at my door raises the children’s certainty that my oven is filled with their cooked brothers and sisters.


I have received no Hansel and Gretel here. Only hate.


Now I hate Halloween. Despite their fear of me, I still phone the children’s parents from time to time, seeking unity and to be invited into their homes.


Without their rare good manners, I would starve. My talons would rust and my teeth would fall out.


Only at the end do the few realize what I actually am.


And it is certainly no witch.


The End





AUTHOR Bio and Links:


Barbara lives near Phila., PA, retired from her job as a respiratory therapist. Nowadays, she chases Mylar balloons at the supermarket, enjoys a fright flick, or works on horror and science fiction tales. Many of her short stories have appeared in numerous small press magazines. She’s been editor of Night to Dawn Magazine since 2004.

Books by Barbara include When Blood Reigns, Twilight Healer, The Forgotten People, Steel Rose, City of Brotherly Death, Close Liaisons, and Life Raft: Earth. She enjoys bringing her medical background to the printed page and then blending it with supernatural horror. She maintains a presence on Facebook,  Twitter, and The Writers Coffeehouse forum. Look for the photos with the Mylar balloons, and you’ll find Barbara.






Amazon Buy Link: -


BN Buy Link:


Doylestown Bookshop:






a Rafflecopter giveaway

Sunday, March 28, 2021

Saturday is Horror Day #4 - Black Christmas (2019), Stoker

 Black Christmas (2019) - Hawthorne College is going on Christmas break, and all the students are 

preparing to leave for the holidays, including the Mu Epsilon sorority. The ladies of the sorority take their sisterhood very seriously, and are especially protective of one of their number, Riley (Imogen Poots). Three years before, Riley was drugged and attacked by a member of a campus fraternity. Despite naming her attacker, nothing was done to him, and Riley's veracity was questioned, leading her to doubt herself and never put herself forward. Three years have passed since then. The sorority sisters plan a little revenge in the form of a musical number they perform for some of the college students, which accuses the frat of condoning what happened. Needless to say, the boys aren't happy.

Hawthorne College is not particularly forward in its thinking, and evidence of this can be found in the form of Professor Gelson (Cary Elwes), who teaches the Classics. Just listen to him speak for a few minutes, and you can see that he is the type of chauvinist women have been fighting against for years, with his men first attitude. There is a petition being circulated to have him fired, which the boys are not happy about, and neither is the Prof.

The sorority sisters begin to receive strange text messages, allegedly from the account of the university's founder, Calvin Hawthorne. Disturbing and strange messages. Then the sisters begin to disappear.

This film is a loose remake (at least I assume it's intended that way ) of the 1974 Black Christmas, as both take place on a college campus and involve a sorority whose members are being killed. I reviewed the first version earlier, and while it was no great shakes in the horror department, it possessed a certain charm which this version lacks. Plus it was the beginning of the slasher genre of horror films. The first film had some quirky, a bit off-the-wall characters, including the Laughing Policeman, and the weird House Mother. In the new version, there is no House Mother, and the police have much less presence. Although the newer Black Christmas looks better, that is deceptive. The plot is actually worse than the first one *****POSSIBLE SPOILERS***** In the first one, a killer hides in the attic and comes down to kill the girls. In this one, there is a, for lack of a better word, cult among the fraternity brothers, based around the statue of the founding father (please, don't confuse him with the Founding Fathers), and some sort of magic involving black gunk (still don't know what that was). Hooded figures with bow and arrows and creepy masks.

At the heart of this story is a basic man vs woman theme, in which the sorority sisters must show they are woman, hear them roar, and defeat the evil gender. If this sounds like a hokey premise for a film, trust me, it is. The only name in the cast is that of Cary Elwes (are you so hard up for money?). As soon as I realized he was in the cast, I assumed he would end up as the bad guy, especially after all the chauvinist nonsense he was spouting. The film isn't really what I would call scary, it's largely about Riley redeeming herself for her previous inability to have power over her attacker. It's about getting even, and women refusing to be less than men. But as a horror film, it leaves something to be desired. I'm going to give this one two stars. My honest advice is to look for something better to watch.


Tragedy strikes on India Stoker's 18th birthday when her beloved father Richard is killed in a freak accident, leaving India (Mia Wasikowska of Alice in Wonderland) and her mother (Nicole Kidman) behind. During the funeral, India spies a strange man, watching from a distance. Later, at the house, he introduces himself to her as her Uncle Charlie (Matthew Goode of A Conspiracy of Witches), come home. An uncle she was not aware she even had.

India is a solitary teen, preferring her own company to that of others. She never seems to fit in, which makes it especially  hard now that she has lost the person she felt closest to. The boys at school tend to tease her, making crude sexual innuendos and nicknaming her Stroker. One boy, Whip, is better than the others, and helps her out of a difficult situation.

There is something about India's handsome uncle that draws her to him, and he is obviously obsessed with her. He follows her constantly, looks out for her, and steps in when she needs his help. They are birds of a feather, and they are drawn together, like magnets. And yet India dislikes him at the same time, no matter how attractive he is. But when she sees her mother flirting with him, India becomes jealous. The question is is she upset that her mother can show interested in someone who isn't her father, or is she jealous because Charlie is hitting on India's mother?

What are the boundaries of family love?

Stoker is an interesting psychological study which explores the various relationships among the main

characters. India and Charlie, India and her mother, Charlie and her mother, in particular.  ****SPOILERS AHEAD*** It isn't until the end of the film that we learn where Charlie has been, after the discovery of the letters he wrote to India for years (having never met his niece), which were hidden from her. Letters speaking of his love for her and his plans for their future together. These letters were written from the mental institution where Charlie resided for some twenty years after killing his little brother when he was a child.

The attraction between India and Charlie is definitely sexual in nature, and there is a palpable sexual tension there. When India ends up killing Whip, who tried to assault her, Charlie helps her bury the evidence, which is when India learns this is not his first rodeo. Afterward, as India showers, she masturbates to images of Charlie killing Whip.

The film is well made, and was directed by Chan-wook Park, known for his films The Handmaiden, Thirst and Oldboy. I've seen The Handmaiden and Oldboy, and highly recommend them. I will be watching Thirst soon. Stoker was written by Wentworth Miller, whom you might remember as an actor from Prison Break.

Altogether a lovely and dark film about a seriously dysfunctional family. I think I'll give it 4 stars.

Saturday, March 27, 2021

Book Review: Twentieth Century Boys, Vol 6: Final Hope by Naoki Urasawa


Twentieth Century Boys, Vol 6: Final Hope     

Author: Naoki Urasawa

Publisher: Viz Media

American release date: October 20, 2009

Format/Genre/Length: Paperback/manga/paranormal/216 pages

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★


Business is way down at the tiny restaurant where Kanna works, thanks to the tight security surrounding the Papal visit to Japan. A young detective named Chono stops by and Kanna, who hates the cops, bites his head off. But he is there on official business, looking for a drag queen named Britney.  Once the detective leaves, Kanna’s boss sends her to look for Britney, as she owes him money. It turns out that Britney saw something she shouldn’t, ie a murder, and that is why she is being sought, as a witness. Kanna and Mariah persuade Britney to go to the police station to turn herself in, but while waiting in line, she recognizes the killer… and he’s a cop!

Detective Chono Shohei is the grandson of a legendary detective, and he wants to be the policeman his grandfather was, to be called Cho-san too. But so far, that isn’t happening. Cho is also rather gullible. When he goes to Britney’s home, he catches Kanna coming out and confronts her. Kanna tells him that she knows Britney witnessed a cop killing someone, and she describes the cop before fleeing the scene. Cho can’t believe his ears. That can’t be true, can it?

Meanwhile, new prisoners are being taken to the island prison of Umihotaru. The bridge to the island was destroyed fourteen years before, as was the tunnel, so there is no way off this hellish place. Kakuta has been sent there, his only crime being he’s a manga artist. His new roommate scares him with stories of this place, and the last roommate who died in the bed that now belongs to Kakuta. Also, there is talk of the Monster, a man who has been in this place for fourteen years, and is housed in the Punishment Block. Supposedly he is more monster than human, and is kept chained at all times. Unfortunately for Kakuta, he is caught with the pencil his roommate loaned him to draw with and he is sent to the Punishment Block!

Kakuta is in a terrible pickle with the guards in the Punishment Block and they are about to hurt him when the Monster intervenes and saves him from a terrible fate. He begins to talk to the man and learns he is not what they make him out to be at all. And he plans to escape this place. Meanwhile, Kanna is frustrated, hiding out with Britney and Mariah to keep them safe. She pens a letter to her uncle, who is in Umihotaru Prison, knowing it will never reach him. But she badly wants his advice.

In this volume, we learn the awful truth of what is referred to as Bloody New Year’s Eve. Up until now, we assumed that Kenji and his friends were victorious, saved the world and rid it of the evil Friend. Quite the contrary. Something else happened, the Friends emerged on top and Kenji and the others are nowhere to be seen. The only one I know the whereabouts of is the one in the prison. I have to admit I am very anxious about Kenji and will be very upset if something bad has happened to him.

Kanna is every bit her uncle’s niece, with a strong sense of right and wrong. Completely suspicious of the young detective, I think with time she will come to trust him, and perhaps more. He needs to lose some of his naivete, and I think that will happen. Unfortunately, not in time to save someone he inadvertently puts in danger.

A lot going on in this volume, what with Kanna trying to save her friends, and with the escape from the prison in order to continue the fight begun so many years ago. Mixed in with all that is the visit of the Pope, and a plot to assassinate him. So many questions, so much I want to know. And there is also an appearance by an old friend of Kenji, who has become unexpectedly successful thanks to a particular gift he has, the same gift which told him of the importance of Kenji to the world.

Great volume, can’t wait for the next one!

Thursday, March 25, 2021

Book Review: Hidden Bodies (You #2) by Caroline Kepnes


Hidden Bodies (You #2)      

Author: Caroline Kepnes

Publisher: Atria/Emily Bestler Books

American release date:  November 1, 2016

Format/Genre/Length: Paperback/Serial Killer Thriller/448 pages

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★


How sad that Guinevere Beck, the long-time object of Joe Goldberg’s devotion (read: obsession) turned out not to be THE ONE. How sad that Joe was forced to deal with her as he had dealt with idiotic Benji and the bitchy Peach before her. But now he has Amy and life is going to be good again, right?

Right up until the time it isn’t. Joe, too caught up in Amy, his emotions overriding his common sense, ignores the red flags and goes against his own rules, and then suffers the consequences when she steals about $23k in valuable books from the bookstore (which he foolishly gave her a key to the basement), including almost all the copies of Portnoy’s Complaint Joe had amassed (at her behest), and then nopes the heck out of Dodge. Berating himself for his blind stupidity, Joe comes across clues that Amy inadvertently left behind regarding her intentions, her aspirations and her dreams. So, it’s off to Hollywood for Joe! To locate and kill one Amy Adam.

Before he goes, Joe visits Mr. Mooney and tells him what has occurred and how he is going to Hollywood. Mr. Mooney has valuable words of wisdom for Joe, which includes getting his dick sucked, not sleeping with actresses, not watching too many movies. Don’t call vegetables veggies and don’t go in the ocean.

Before arriving in LA, Joe applies for a job at a used bookstore next to the UCB (Upright Citizens Brigade) with a guy named Calvin and puts out feelers for girls trying to sell copies of Portnoy. He constructs a social media presence for himself, including Facebook, and starts to receive Friend Requests.  He applies for an apartment at a building called Hollywood Lawns.  The manager, Harvey Swallows, is an older aspiring stand-up comic who responds to Joe’s email with a Facebook friend request and an invitation to be his fan. Then Joe plasters a fake casting call on Craigslist, “specifically designed to appeal to Amy’s overweening ego”.

Joe is assigned an apartment on the first floor, near the office, and Harvey introduces him to another guy in the building, named Dez, who is a drug dealer. Dez emphatically warns Joe not to fuck Delilah.  He meets Delilah, who turns out to be a gossip reporter who is easy on the eyes and a tendency to be clingy.

Joe establishes a routine. Well, as much of a routine as he can in a place like LA. He shops at the Pantry, where all the cashiers end their checking out process with “Ray and Dottie send their love.” Apparently, they are the owners and lovely people. He goes to the bars where he thinks Amy might show up, but she is never there, to his frustration. He hadn’t planned to spend any real time here, but this isn’t going the way he hoped. At least not yet.

An accidental viewing of a video of the comic Henderson puts Joe on Amy’s scent (Calvin actually made him watch it). Joe is convinced that Henderson and Amy are an item. Calvin is hoping to get Henderson interested in his spec screenplay Ghost Food Truck, and apparently there is a party at Hendy’s house tonight. What fortuitous timing! Now how to get in?

The next day, Joe learns about an audition that is being held for women that fit Amy’s type, and he’s convinced that she’ll be there. She isn’t, but Fate must be on his side because that is where he meets Love Quinn.

The second book in the You series moves us from New York City to Hollywood, which has a vibe all its own. Joe, being the survivor that he is, learns how to fit in without becoming one of them. Determined to find Amy and end her, he unexpectedly meets the love of his love, Love Quinn, and her twin brother Forty (tennis, anyone?). This book is no less of a roller-coaster ride than the first one, with Joe on the verge of being found out and called to order for what he’s done a number of times.

And he keeps on doing what he does best.

Joe is a great character, although honestly I wouldn’t want to meet him. He has no real conscience and kills without a second thought, although he is able to self-justify every killing. If you are interested in watching the series, which I am doing, be aware that the series does diverge in some areas. In the first season, they introduced a young boy, a neighbor of Joe’s, who lives with his mother and her abusive boyfriend. In the second season, Joe has a neighbor with a teenage sister who Joe befriends. They don’t exist in the books.

Joe’s adventures are hilarious as he learns to deal with the people who call Hollywood home. But he can’t help but remember that dang jar of urine he left behind in Peach’s mansion, wondering if it will ever come back to bite him in the ass. However, with Love on his side, he feels he can get through anything. Including Love’s obnoxious, waste-of-space twin. Unless, of course, Love figures out what Joe really is.

I enjoyed the sequel as much as the first book, and I hear the author is working on volumes 3 and 4. Can’t wait.  

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Wednesday Briefs: Super Trooper #61 (14.4)

 Good morning, Happy Hump Day and Happy St Patrick's 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. 

Things seem to be going more smoothly for the new family, to Chan's delight. He is unaware of what is being cooked up for his birthday. Evan and Laksha have everything in hand. Until one morning when the babysitter can't make it, and Chan has already left for work. 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 #61 (14.4)

Only a few more days until Chan’s birthday. Evan was pleased at how well his plans were progressing. He took advantage of times when he worked nights and was home during the day to continue his cooking lessons with Laksha. He enjoyed her company, and had learned a lot about her in the time they spent together.  She was very intelligent, an avid reader. Someday she wanted to work in the Tucker Falls library and work with children, so they would enjoy reading too. No wonder Chan was so proud of her. Evan was too.

Together, they shopped for the ingredients for Chan’s dinner, and for the cake which Laksha planned to make. She wouldn’t even tell him what kind, just smiled at him and said he could be just as surprised as Chan. He laughed and didn’t argue.

With everything else covered, that left only the matter of a gift. What do get Chan? When he confided his concern to Laksha, she told him not to worry, she had him covered. A couple of days later, she told him that Chan was interested in a particular brand of headphones, and some music CDs. Perfect. He stopped by Tucker Falls’ only mall on the way home from work and bought everything, then stored it in Laksha’s room, where Chan would never find it.

Everything was certainly looking up, at least as far as Laksha was concerned. He still had Kamal and Madhu to contend with. Kamal had become less contentious, didn’t argue over everything Chan or Evan asked him to do. But he also tended to ignore Evan unless he was asked a direct question, or needed something and Chan wasn’t around. Then he grudgingly spoke to him.

As for Madhu, she seemed to avoid him, and on the whole was a very quiet child, which worried Evan. She must miss her parents terribly. He wished he knew what he could do to ease her pain.

Wednesday morning, Evan was surprised to find Laksha alone at the table, eating breakfast. Chan was at the stove, making pancakes. An apron covered his work clothes to keep from getting them dirty.

“He’s going to be late for school,” Evan said, worried.

“Not today. His school has a teacher work day,” Laksha said. “Lucky him.”

Chan turned from the stove, laughing. “But you like school.”

His sister shrugged. “I know. I like days off too.”

“I can’t argue with that. Madhu’s still asleep?” He sounded surprised.

Laksha nodded. “She had a rough night.” She pushed back her chair and rose, taking her dishes to the sink. Chan intercepted her and took them from her.

“I’ll get those,” he said. He rinsed them and set them into the dishwasher, then glanced at his watch. “I have to go in a few minutes early,” he said.

Evan knew what he was thinking. Denise wasn’t there yet and he wasn’t about to leave the children alone.

“I’ll stay,” Evan offered. “I’m not due yet. I’ll wait here for Denise.”

Chan seemed greatly relieved. “Thank you, that’s a huge help.”

Just then a pajama-clad Kamal appeared, yawning. “Mmm, what smells so good?”

“Pancakes,” Chan replied. “You’re just in time.” He set two big cakes on a plate and set them in front of Kamal. “Want me to cut those for you?” he offered.

“I’m not a baby.” Kamal sounded indignant.

“No, of course not. My bad.”  He turned to Evan. “Can you ask Denise to make sure Madhu eats when she gets up? There are extra here.”

“Of course, don’t worry about it,” Evan assured him. “Go on. I have this covered.”

As Chan removed the apron, Evan took it from him and embraced him. They kissed briefly before Chan stepped back, giving Evan an admiring once-over.

“Damn you look so good in your uniform,” he said. “And out.”

“I appreciate the compliment, and may I say you look very fine yourself.”

Chan was so pretty when he blushed. Evan reached down for a kiss and for a moment they stood together, joined at the lips. Until the clatter of a knife broke the mood.

“Oops!” Kamal said, diving for his fallen utensil.

“I have to go, see you tonight.” Another kiss and Chan grabbed his lunch from the refrigerator and headed toward the door.

Evan took the dirty silverware from Kamal and gave him a clean replacement. “Sure you don’t want some help with that?”

“I have it,” Kamal said. Evan shrugged and turned back to his own breakfast, but he was interrupted by a knock at the front door. He wondered if Chan had forgotten something? But he wouldn’t knock, so that didn’t make sense.

He opened the door to find Mandy standing there. “Hi Evan, my mom asked me to come by and let you know she can’t come today and she’s sorry but she really doesn’t feel well and she doesn’t want to get the kids sick. She’s sooo sorry. I can stay with them, if you like.”

Evan was tempted, but seeing the backpack Mandy was carrying, and the way she was dressed, he realized she was on her way to school. He couldn’t very well ask her to skip class just to babysit. What sort of example would that set?

“No, no, that’s fine. Tell your mom to get better soon.”

“I will. See you later.”

Once the teen had gone, Evan closed the door and leaned against it. Okay, what was he going to do now? He knew if he called Chan, his lover would come home immediately. But they were in this together, this was his problem too.

Looked like he was going to stay home and play Mr. Mom today. He just hoped Kamal and Madhu wouldn’t mind.

 to be continued

Now go see what the other Briefers are up to!

Cia Nordwell

J Alan Veerkamp


Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Book Review: Spy X Family, Vol 4 by Tatsuya Endo


Spy x Family, Vol 4       

Author: Tatsuya Endo

Publisher: Viz Media

American release date: December 1, 2020

Format/Genre/Length: Paperback/Manga/Action & Adventure/200 pages

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★


As a reward for earning her first Stella star, Anya requests the Forger family get a dog. Loid, wishing to keep her motivated to earn more stars and become an Imperial Scholar, acquiesces. He takes Anya and Yor to a pet shop which is associated with his agency and deals with military dogs, but none of them is to Anya’s liking. Loid receives an emergency summons and has to leave them to their own devices due to a threat against the Foreign Minister. He excuses himself by saying he needs to use the bathroom.

Yor and Anya wind up at the Adoption Fair being held at the Animal Shelter. It’s a huge place, filled with many kinds of pets, and Anya can’t make up her mind. But then a huge dog attracts her attention, even though he is standing on the street, looking in. Can she really be reading his mind? And what does she see there? An image of her family? She slips away from Yor so she can find the big doggy and see what’s going on, but ends up in a place filled with bad guys! The leader of this gang, Keith, wants to hurt Anya, even though the others protest she’s just a little kid, but it’s doggy to the rescue! In the meantime, Yor is going crazy, trying to find Anya and wishing Loid would hurry back from the pet shop’s bathroom!

Now it’s up to Loid… and Yor… and Anya to save the day!

Now that Anya has scored a dog, she thinks the path to friendship with Damian Desmond will be an easy one, but when she tells him about her new dog, he is less than impressed. However, when he seems a little interested and asks the dog’s name, she makes what he considers terrible suggestions. Oh dear, she can’t even name a dog properly? What use is she? When the Forgers take an outing in the park, something happens that reveals the perfect name for the new member of the family!

Most of this volume is certainly a comedy of errors, from start to finish, but every blunder works out right for this family. Each one shines in their own way, according to their secret ability, not knowing that the others are working on the same problem. The ongoing joke that Loid is spending an inordinate amount of time in the bathroom is hilarious (how else can he explain being absent without revealing himself as a spy?), with Yor going full-on protective mother mode in defense of Anya. Anya is determined to help Loid’s mission succeed so she won’t be sent back to the orphanage. And now we have the newest member of the team, Bond, who has his own secret ability. (Not a spoiler if you’ve seen the cover). Bond is so adorable, and his name is perfect.

There is a short mission at the end which involves Anya using her stuffed animals to play secret agency. But when she attempts to go into the one place in their apartment where she isn’t allowed, an explosion is imminent which could jeopardize Operation Strix! Oh no, how to placate the upset child?

Monday, March 22, 2021

Book Review: Spy x Family, Vol 3 by Tatsuya Endo


Spy x Family, Vol 3      

Author: Tatsuya Endo

Publisher: Viz Media

American release date: December 1, 2020

Format/Genre/Length: Paperback/Manga/Action & Adventure/200 pages

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★


Since the cat is out of the bag, and Yor’s brother knows of his sister’s marriage, what else can they do but invite Yuri to dinner? He brings flowers for his sister but lets Loid know this doesn’t mean he approves of their marriage. Prior to Yuri’s arrival, Loid and Yor discuss what reason they are going to give for not mentioning their marriage for an entire year. Loid thinks honesty (or a close facsimile thereof) is the best policy, but Yor says she knows how to handle this and she tells Yuri that she forgot. Really?

Yuri seems to accept Yor’s explanation, but he continues to grill the couple regarding their relationship, and he’s also drinking waaaay too much.  When he and Loid compare notes on a restaurant they’ve both been to, his loose tongue alerts Loid that his new brother-in-law is a member of the State Security Service! This could be awkward, especially at family gatherings!

Not totally convinced they are a legit couple, Yuri demands the ultimate test and insists that they kiss right in front of him! Can they even do this?

The next morning, Loid is conflicted, wondering if Yor really has no idea what her brother does for a living. Anya wants to reassure him but can’t without revealing that she is a telepath. She’s convinced that once he knows that, he will send her back to the orphanage, and she doesn’t want to leave her new family. Loid finally decides to plant a bug on Yor, so he can be sure of her loyalty. When he learns nothing, he decides to set up a scenario, in which he involves Scruffy, as they pose (disguised of course) as members of the Secret Police! If she is in cahoots with her brother, surely she’ll invoke his name as protection!

Anya’s friend Becky tells her that they have a chance to earn a Stella star in PE, so Anya is determined to do so at any cost. But she’s not sure volleyball is her game, and things don’t look good since Damian Desmond has brought in a ringer for his team. Studying isn’t going well for Anya, and neither is test taking (she read the minds of the wrong students and got the wrong answers).  Maybe she’ll do better with community service! Loid takes her to a local hospital, but that doesn’t seem to be her forte either.

Meanwhile a group of wannabe revolutionaries have been training what they refer to as bomb dogs…

This volume of Spy X Family is so good, and Yor’s brother Yuri is sooo…  Well, words fail me about him. He is something else, least of which is a major control freak where his sister is concerned.  He’s got secrets, the same as they do, but Loid has figured Yuri’s out. However, what he doesn’t realize is that Yuri, in his capacity as a member of the Secret Service, wants to capture the spy named Twilight!

Damn, I thought for sure Loid and Yor were going to kiss, and I was ready for it! Damn her brother anyway lol  I think it’s just a matter of time until they do find they have actual feelings for one another, and become an actual family. Insta family does not equate to insta love, and watching their feelings develop is such sweet agony! Crossing my fingers for them!

There is a bonus mission in this volume in which Yor is accidentally injured while on an assassin mission. She can’t very well tell Loid that, though, and so she can’t explain why it’s suddenly too painful for her to sit down, even as he tries to show her a good time on their “date” night.

Love this volume, can’t wait for the next one!


Sunday, March 21, 2021

Saturday is Horror Day #3 - The Hamiltons, Bad Match, Dog Soldiers

The Hamiltons is a 2006 horror film written and directed by the Butcher Brothers, aka Mitchell Altieri and

Phil Flores. Following the unexpected death of their parents, four siblings are left to fend for themselves the best way they can. As a result, they constantly move from place to place, never staying too long in any one location. That's for the best, for they can't afford to let anyone discover their family secret.

David is the oldest. He works outside the home. After him are the twins, Wendell and Darlene, who give new meaning to the idea of twinship. Francis is the youngest, a teenager still in school. He hates the constant moving, and he hates what they are. He doesn't want to be like them, not for anything.

Wendell meets two young women who are traveling across the country for fun. Which, of course, makes them perfect targets as no one will realize they're missing for a long time. Wendell brings them home for a little taste of Hamilton hospitality. A terrified Dani can't help but wonder what is hidden behind that locked door. The sounds that come from there are horrific...

The Hamiltons is a slightly different twist on a familiar theme. The sensitive Francis videos every chance he gets. One wonders what he intends to do with all this footage, if anything.  I didn't guess the Hamiltons' secret until close to the end. It's not what I would call a great film, but I've seen worse. The acting is half-way decent, if not exactly stellar. The writing holds its own. All in all it's an interesting hour and a half. I might give it 2 1/2 or 3 stars, somewhere in there. I have to admit I did focus on the scenes with the twins, which were a little intense.

The Hamiltons gives family dining a whole new meaning...

Just found out there's a sequel, The Thompsons. Will Review that once I get it and watch it.

Bad Match (2017)

Harris (Jack Cutmore-Scott) is a real love-em-and-leave-em kind of guy. As he explains his philosophy

to his friend Chuck, the more he swipes right on the dating app (which I assume is meant to be Tinder), the greater likelihood he'll end up with a date. Good ol' Harris stands for one and done. Beyond a lot of sex, he has no use for his conquests, and invariably sneaks out in the middle of the night. What he really enjoys is playing online games and making fun of the teenager he plays with.

Enter Riley. Riley is one of Harris' conquests. The difference is she wants more than he is willing to give. And she doesn't seem to understand that he is rejecting her. It's not that he deliberately tries to hurt the women he sleeps with, but Harris just doesn't care enough to get involved.

When Riley won't leave him alone, he doesn't know what to do to get her out of his life, so resorts to cruelty. But when she mentions suicide, he reluctantly steps in. And finally she gets the picture.

Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.

And now bad things are happening to Harris. This isn't funny any more. How the hell is he going to get out of this mess?

This is basically a one-note film about a guy who is a player and the girl he hurt who wants him to feel her pain. Yeah, we get it. Harris is a bad boy and he shouldn't use women like that. But how far should someone who's been hurt be willing to go to make her point? The film is just under an hour and a half and builds up to an unexpected twist. Even so, the reveal isn't enough to save this film from being less than stellar. I'll give it 2.5 stars and call it a day.

My final review for today is for a 2002 film called Dog Soldiers

Private Cooper (Kevin McKidd, Rome) is a soldier trying to get on with an elite group of soldiers led

by Captain Ryan (Liam Cunningham, Davos of Game of Thrones). But when he refuses to shoot a dog on command, he finds himself assigned to Sergeant Wells (Sean Pertwood, Alfred Pennyworth of Gotham) instead. Wells and his men are assigned to participate in war games in a remote wooded area, far from anywhere. The soldiers swap stories, such as the one about the couple who were killed in this area, and the condition in which they were found. 

The men begin to hear unnerving noises in the middle of the night, something that sounds inhuman or otherworldly. When they come across the slaughtered remains of another troop, they realize something is not right here. In the midst of the dead, they find Captain Ryan, who is injured and not quite right

Something is in the woods, and it's preying on the soldiers. Momentarily rescued by a young woman, they hole up in a nearby farmhouse. If they can stay alive until dawn, they might have a chance of coming out of this alive.

I'd heard about this film a long time ago, just didn't get around to watching it until now. I liked it, even if I was spoiled for it long ago. The story is different, and well-written, the acting good. I especially like the main characters, Pertwee, McKidd, and Cunningham. Be aware that there is a lot of blood and gore, so this might not be for the faint-hearted. It's a unique take on an old monster story, and it's not without its twists and turns.

I would give this a solid four stars. It's well worth the watch.

Saturday, March 20, 2021

Book Review: Spy x Family, Vol 2 by Tatsuya Endo


Spy x Family, Vol 2      

Author: Tatsuya Endo

Publisher: Viz Media

American release date: September 1, 2020

Format/Genre/Length: Paperback/Manga/Action & Adventure/200 pages

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★


Operation Strix is master spy Twilight’s covert operation to keep the peace between Westalis and Ostania by spying on the warmongering chairman of Ostania’s  National Unity Party, Donovan Desmond. In order to do this, Twilight has been ordered to have a wife and family, so his “child” can attend the same prestigious school as Desmond’s. Twilight—now going by the name Loid Forger—has actually acquired a wife and child and the three of them have had their interview at the school. Now they are waiting the results of the interview…

… only to find their daughter’s name missing from the list of those who have been accepted! Is the mission doomed already? But one of the housemasters takes the family aside and shows them a second list, a waiting list which has Anya’s name at the top. But Loid knows the chances of someone dropping out is slim to none, so he decides to help things along.

Anya finds herself accepted, time for celebration! Loid’s co-worker, Scruffy, gives Anya the idea that her dad will probably get her anything she wants as a reward for getting in. But what she wants is something she’s seen on her favorite cartoon, Bondman. She wants to be rescued from a castle! Is that even possible?

Anya is fitted for her school uniform, and Loid is covertly given the time of his next briefing, during which phase two is explained. Apparently the school has a program for outstanding students, who are known as Imperial Scholars. Donovan’s son Desmond is among this group. To become an Imperial Scholar, one must earn eight merits, or Stella Stars, through academic excellence or contributions to society. Eight Stella are required to do this. On the other hand, eight demerits, known as Tonitrus, will earn expulsion. Loid wonders if Anya can possibly become an Imperial Scholar.

Anya’s first meeting with Desmond doesn’t go particularly well, even though she tries to become his friend. But he looks down on her because he considers her beneath him. On the plus side, she makes a friend of a little girl named Becky. But when Desmond is mean to Becky, Anya automatically responds. Is the mission doomed from the start? Can Loid improve her academic skills enough for her to earn the required Stella?

Yor’s brother, Yuri, accidentally learns that his sister has gotten married, a fact she forgot to mention to him. But unbeknownst to her, York has his own secrets.

Thanks to a shortage of personnel, Loid is given side jobs to do, which is why the family ends up at the aquarium.

I have to admit I fell in love with this series from the beginning, from the moment I saw the cover of the first volume. Reading that and then the second book has only reinforced my love of Spy x Family. The situations are hilarious, with each member of the family unaware of the secrets of the others (except for Anya, who reads minds). Scruffy is a great comedic foil. Watching the Forger family interact, I just know they will end up as a real family by the end of the series. They are a perfect fit for one another. Anya knows she can read minds and get the answers to anything, but the trick is to read the right mind, and sometimes she doesn’t succeed in that. Yor is a very protective mama, and she is hard-core tough. No damsel in distress here. Loid may appear cold on the outside, and he is very methodical in everything he does, but inside lies a heart of pure gold, as well as a true master of disguise.

I can’t say enough good things about this series. The artwork is awesome, Loid is handsome, it’s filled with fun, action, and humor. What more could you ask for? Looking forward to the next book.


Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Wednesday Briefs: Super Trooper #60 (14.3)

 Good morning, Happy Hump Day and Happy St Patrick's 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 is just leaving work when he receives a call from his brother, who is bored and wants to play with him. How can he refuse? See what is 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 #60 (14.3)

True to his word, Kamal was waiting in the front yard when Chan pulled his car up beside Evan’s cruiser. Whooping with excitement, he rushed his brother the moment he stepped out of his car and refused to allow Chan even a minute to take his briefcase inside the house. His Texas Rangers cap on his head, he was armed with his favorite Frisbee, with a ball and glove as back-up. Chan couldn’t help but smile at his enthusiastic little brother.

“Here, set this on the porch for me,” Chan said, taking the Frisbee. He waited until Kamal did as he asked before he flipped the disc into the air. Kamal leapt for it with all the agility of youth.

Chan had only intended to play for a few minutes but half an hour passed before he realized it, between throwing the Frisbee and playing catch. He’d half expected Evan or Laksha to come out of the house, but that hadn’t happened. Although he had noticed the curtains rustle more than once, so he knew his presence had been duly noted. Which made him all the more curious to know what was going on inside.

“Let’s take a break,” Chan suggested at last. “How about we get something to drink?”

“Okay,” Kamal said agreeably.

Chan was more than ready to sit. He must be getting soft if half an hour of exertion tired him out. Maybe he needed to hit the gym or something. He was sure Evan wouldn’t mind, even if with that magnificent body of his he could utterly put Chan to shame. Chan didn’t care. That magnificent body was all his. The thought made him smile.

“Think of something funny?” Kamal asked. He was running circles around Chan as they made their way toward the house. He wished he could bottle his brother’s endless supply of energy.

“Not really.” Chan laughed as he pushed open the front door.  He half expected to find Evan and Laksha in the living room, but he saw no sign of them. A sudden clatter of pots and pans told him he was on the right track. He was halfway across the room when suddenly Madhu burst through the doorway. She made a beeline toward him, arms outstretched. Pausing just long enough to swing her up and onto his hip, he continued toward the kitchen.

“Honey, I’m home,” he called out in a sing-song voice, anticipating the sight of his lover coming to greet him. Instead, Laksha emerged, a cup of something in one hand.

“I have tea for you,” she greeted him. “Come, sit down. Take it easy.”

She shooed him ahead of her, so he had no choice but to turn and retrace his steps. What warranted such treatment? Surely something more than his return from work. “Is Evan in the kitchen?” he asked, craning his neck even as he took a seat on the couch. Laksha set the cup on a coaster before him. She started to reply, but another clatter spoke volumes. Who else could be there other than Evan?

“Is something wrong?” Chan asked, concerned.  “Is he looking for something?” But if it was that simple, Laksha would be helping him, wouldn’t she? Not standing here clearly running interference.

“Of course not. How was your day?” She took a seat in the nearest armchair. “How is your tea?”

He hadn’t even tasted it yet. Hugging Madhu, he kissed her cheek and set her on the couch beside him. “Chan home,” she said with a big smile, which he easily returned before he dutifully picked up the steaming cup and took a cautious sip.

“Very good,” he said. “Thank you.” He wasn’t sure if that was an answer to his day or the tea or both. Both worked, as far as he was concerned.

At just that moment, Evan emerged from the kitchen looking good enough to eat. If they’d been alone, Chan would have been happy to do just that.

“Welcome home, Chan.” Evan gave him a most radiant smile, and suddenly Chan didn’t care what he’d been doing in the kitchen. All that mattered was he was here, now. “How was your day.”

“Good,” Chan replied. “Better now.” He rose just as Evan reached him, and they came together for a quick kiss… or two. Kamal was just coming from his bedroom, having put his stuff away.

“Oh yuck,” he said automatically before turning to Laksha. “What’s to eat?”

“Nothing if you’re going to be rude,” Laksha said. “But if you’re good, I’ll make you some lunch.”

Lunch. He never bothered to take lunch with him on a Saturday. His stomach rumbled, as if to remind him of the fact.

“How about grilled cheese?” Laksha suggested.

“Can we have potato chips too?” Kamal asked.

“Sure,” Evan answered. “Why don’t I help?”

Chan expected his sister to turn up her nose at Evan’s offer of assistance, and braced himself for the fall-out. But to his surprise, she said, “Sure.”

Evan kissed Chan again. “I’m glad you’re home,” he whispered. “I missed you.”

Chan’s heart swelled at the words. “I missed you too,” he confessed. He had a feeling he was wearing what his mother used to call his goofy love-sick smile, but he didn’t care. He was too happy to mind.

One last kiss and then Evan trailed Laksha into the kitchen. Chan seated himself again and took Madhu onto his lap. “Tell me about your day, little one,” he said.

 to be continued

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

Cia Nordwell

J Alan Veerkamp