Wednesday, November 30, 2022

Wednesday Briefs: Bad Karma and the Family Plan #51 (11.1)

 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.

Things are getting even stranger for Vinnie and Ethan. They return from a short trip to the store to find a strange car in the driveway, but it turns out to be Troy and Brendan and Benny! What the heck is going on here? See what's happening in this week's chapter of Bad Karma and the Family Plan. Don't forget to visit the other Briefers and see what's up with them. Their links follow my tale! Enjoy!

Bad Karma and the Family Plan #51 (11.1)

Ethan pulled over and parked the car as I continued to goggle at the sight before me. I swear, this assignment was growing stranger and stranger. Before I could even sputter out a single one of my many questions, though, I heard Anderson’s ring tone on Ethan’s phone. What incredibly eerie timing. Or a helluva coincidence. How did he know they were here? Unless, of course, he sent them. But I could think of no earthly reason why he would do that.

Ethan answered even as I opened the door and exited the vehicle. I could hear Ethan following suit.

“No, no trouble,” he was saying to our boss. “No need to worry, it’s just Troy and Brendan.”

A momentary pause and then, “I don’t know. I’ll get back with you.” He slid his phone into his pocket and joined me as I hurried up the drive toward the new arrivals.

Troy and Brendan looked every bit as confused as we were, looking back and forth from them to us. But Benny wasn’t. He leapt from Brendan’s arms and barreled straight for us with much joyful yipping. I knelt down and scooped him up and became the recipient of multiple wet kisses for my efforts.

“Are you guys all right? I mean, you look fine, but…” Troy’s words trailed off.

 “We’re fine,” Ethan responded. “Why wouldn’t we be?”

Troy ran a hand through his hair, although nothing looked out of place. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him when he wasn’t looking his best. Maybe it was a nervous gesture.

“Because we got a message telling us you were in trouble, and that we needed to come to this address if we ever wanted to see you alive again.”

Didn’t that sound like a line from some cheesy movie or something?

Wait a minute. This address? Who would even have this address? And who even knew we were here? And why? Nothing was making any sense at the moment.

“Where are we?” Brendan asked, glancing up toward the house behind us. “Are you here for work or something? I have no idea what’s going on.”

I think that made four of us.

“That’s my parents’ house,” Ethan said. “We were on a job… Actually, we still are. Long story, but we ended up here, along with my sister and my uncle Benny. Anderson has people watching the house. That’s why he called. Because they reported seeing a strange car.”

Troy and Brendan glanced from Benny in my arms back to Ethan.

“Yes, he was named after my uncle,” Ethan said before the question was even asked.

I looked at our friends with growing amazement as I realized something. “You mean you came down here from Roanoke because you thought we were in trouble?”

“Absolutely.” Troy nodded. “It sounded serious, so we were worried, weren’t we, Bren?”

Brendan affirmed his statement with a nod. “Troy got us and Benny on the next flight out of Roanoke, and we rented a car in Atlanta, and here we are.”

Here they were indeed.

“Guess we should have called first.” Troy sounded a little sheepish. “Instead of just assuming the caller knew what they were talking about. Didn’t mean to bust in y’all like this.”

Ethan didn’t seem as relieved as I thought he would, his handsome features puckered into a frown. “But why would someone go to so much trouble to get you here? This makes no sense.”

Suddenly I felt exposed, despite the existence of the agents around us. I wasn’t sure how many there were or where they were. And I didn’t like not knowing what was going on.

Ethan obviously felt the same way. “Let’s go inside,” he said, gesturing toward the house. “We’ll figure everything out there.”

I couldn’t help but think that we were about to make Sarah’s night when we walked in with Troy McGarrett. 

to be continued

Now go see what the other Briefers are up to!

Cia Nordwell

Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Book Review: Overlord, Vol 1 by Kugane Maruyama


Overlord, Vol 1      

Author: Kugane Maruyama

Publisher: Yen On

American release date:  May 24, 2016

Format/Genre/Length: Hardback/Fantasy Adventure /256 pages

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★


Yggdrasil  has been a very popular multi-player online game for a dozen years. But nothing lasts forever, players’ tastes change, and all good things must come to an end. So it is with this particular MMORPG. One of the game’s  guilds in particular, Ainz Ooal Gown, is composed of very dedicated players, led by the Overlord Momonga. But the time has come for the game to end, and out of the 41 members of the guild, only a handful  remain. Of these, only two show up to the Tomb of Nazarick to witness the end of their beloved game—the Momonga player and his friend. But his friend is very tired from working hard and even he doesn’t stay the course, so Momonga finds himself alone, waiting for the countdown that will signal the end of Yggdrasil.

As Momonga waits for the end, he remembers the other guild members, and the accomplishments of the guild, with justifiable pride. Each of them has created the various NPCs that populate the tomb and designed their personalities. Momonga isn’t happy with what the creator of the NPC Albedo did, though, making her into a veritable bitch. So he does something he normally wouldn’t do, and goes into the program and changes her. Just for fun, he adds the line that will come back to haunt him… he says she is in love with Momonga. What the heck, the game is going out in a few minutes anyway.

Just before the game is scheduled to wink out of existence, though,something happens, something inexplicable.  Momonga first realizes it when he notices his senses actually working in this place, for example he can smell things around him, something he could never do before. And the NPCs… are actually responding with lines that are certainly not pre-programmed, and moving in ways they previously had not been able to. And why is Albedo looking at him so oddly? Almost as if she’s in love with him or something. What has happened here?

Before I read this, I started watching the anime, unaware that the books existed. But then the first volume showed up on my daughter’s wish list, so I bought it for her and borrowed a copy from the library for myself. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I was very pleasantly surprised at what I read. Reading the novel helps me make sense out of what is happening in the anime. In fact, I think I’ll start the anime again after reading a couple more books.

As a gamer myself, this is a very fun read, one that I am greatly enjoying. Momonga finds himself living inside the game, except it’s not a game, it’s a real world. Good thing he worked so hard on his character all this time, because Momonga is a force to be reckoned with! Kugane Maruyama is taking us on a fascinating ride into an MMORPG, but the difference is everything is real, magic exists, and the sorts of things players do in a game are the same things these people do here. I love how devoted and unabashedly lovesick Albedo is over Momonga, despite the fact that he is literally a skeleton, albeit a very powerful one.

The book contains some fabulous color drawings as well, done by the illustrator so-bin. I loved them! I also love how Momonga is quickly adapting to this new life in which he neither eats nor drinks nor breathes… nor anything else associated with his prior human life. His first order of business is to have someone scout outside and find out if they are still in the area in which the guild was located… or somewhere else. Also, he decides to meet with his staff, ie his NPCs, and see what’s up with them as well as give them their orders.

A new world has just begun and Momonga has to figure out how to live in it, since he has no idea if he can even get back to the real world… assuming he wants to.

Saturday, November 26, 2022

Saturday is Horror Day #89 - No Good Deed

 No Good Deed

Colin (Idris Elba) is a convicted criminal who is serving a lesser sentence than he should have received due to circumstances. Up for parole after only five years, he is turned down because the decision has to be unanimous and one member of the parole board is determined he stay behind bars. On the way back from the parole hearing, Colin catches a lucky break and manages to escape. After visiting his ex-fiancé and dealing with her, he steals her car and drives away. But luck deserts him as he flees in the midst of a storm and is unexpectedly run off the road, crashing the car.

Terry (Taraji P Henson) has her hands full with a young daughter and an infant son. Her husband Jeffrey (Hemry Simmons) is a busy man, but he has promised her he'll come home early so she can get some things done. Only it turns out he has no time because he's heading out to take his father on a golf holiday for his birthday. Terry is unhappy, but what can she do, so she battens down for the approaching storm. An unexpected knock at her door turns out to be a man in distress, who wants to call a tow for his vehicle. Reluctant, she allows him to use her phone outside and doesn't admit him into her house. But after finding out it might be a while for the tow truck to arrive, she admits him, against her better judgement.

Her guest, whose name is Colin, turns out to be charming, and Terry begins to relax. Her friend Meg 

(Leslie Bibb) soon arrives for what was to be a girls night, but she doesn't mind the stranger in their midst and offers him wine as well. She flirts with him outrageously. But when she gets him alone in the garage, where he has gone to smoke, and he tries to convince her that he and Terry have been having an affair that Meg is unaware of, the shit hits the fan, and the situation goes from uneasy to dangerous...

I really enjoyed this movie.  I am a huge fan of Idris Elba, and much as I like him, I wasn't exactly rooting for him here lol He is quite charming... until he isn't. While Terry starts out as somewhat weak, or tired, and maybe too nice for her own good, by the end of the movie, there is quite the change and I was rooting for her all the way. I've liked her ever since Person of Interest and was glad to see her again. Nothing is cut and dried, and while you may assume how the ending will go, it's the journey to get there that will hold you spellbound. I give this film 4.5 Stars

Thursday, November 24, 2022

Book Review: Assassination Classroom, Vol 2 by Yusei Matsui


Assassination Classroom, Vol 2    

Author: Yusei Matsui

Publisher: Viz Media

American release date:  February 3, 2015

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

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★


A new teacher arrives at Kunugigaoka Junior High, a rather buxom young woman named Irina Jelevich. For some reason, she is hanging all over Koro Sensei, to the confusion of his students. Nagisa continues to document the teacher’s weaknesses so that they can use them against him and assassinate him, which will prevent him from blowing up the earth. But Irina is not really a teacher. She’s been brought in as a professional assassin! Karasuma insists she maintain her cover and teach the students, but Irina is sure she’ll be able to achieve her goal of assassination on her first day with the class.

The students dislike her from the get-go and deliberately mispronounce her last name as Hellabitch. When her teaching skills are found to be lacking, they yell at her to get out, they need to study for their college entrance exams.

All the students, including Class 3E, must attend student assembly. Koro Sensei even attends, in “disguise”. But the rest of the school is determined to humiliate Class 3E, even to the point of withholding vital information. But they haven’t counted on the ingenuity and speed of Koro Sensei, who saves the day! The treatment of Class 3E is all due to the machinations of the school’s principal, Asano. He believes that by holding the class up as examples of what not to be, and treating them badly, he will scare the other students into doing well for fear of ending up like them. He is one of the few who know the truth about Koro Sensei, and refuses to listen to arguments that he should treat Class 3E better, claiming that if the world isn’t going to be destroyed, he has the future to consider.

Exam time arrives, and Koro Sensei announces he wants his entire class to score in the top 50! Even if the principal is giving the other students unfair advantages. Can they do it, even with his accelerated teaching techniques?

It’s time for a school trip – three days and two nights in Kyoto! Koro Sensei makes an enormous travel guide for his students that should cover anything that comes up during their trip! However, some of the girls in his class have been targeted by some unsavory characters and find themselves in a peck of trouble!

In this volume, we are introduced to the charming yet obnoxious principal of the Junior High. His disdain for Class 3E is incredible and his treatment of them is beyond abhorrent! Also, we meet Irina Jelevich, who doesn’t exactly endear herself to the students, and who uses her two biggest assets to lure her targets to their doom. There’s also a bonus story about Koro Sensei and a particular bun!

Great volume, look forward to the next one!


Wednesday, November 23, 2022

Wednesday Briefs: Bad Karma and the Family Plan #50 (10.4)

 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.

Believing themselves to possibly be under fire, Vinnie and Ethan are both relieved and angry to discover that the culprit is none other than Ethan's brother Joey. See what's happening in this week's chapter of Bad Karma and the Family Plan. Don't forget to visit the other Briefers and see what's up with them. Their links follow my tale! Enjoy!

Bad Karma and the Family Plan #50 (10.4)

Ethan turned toward me, his shoulders slumping a little. I felt his sigh and I ached for him and what his brother was putting him through. I pulled him to me and hugged him and we stood there without moving for a couple of minutes. Realizing we had places to go, things to do, we reluctantly pulled apart.

“You know what they say,” I said, in an attempt to lighten his mood.

“What’s that, Vin?”

“Play stupid games, win stupid prizes.” I winked at Ethan and he laughed.

“You always know just what to say.” He took my hand and directed our steps toward the rental car. “I don’t know what I’d do without you, Vinnie.”

If I had anything to say about it, he wouldn’t find out, either.

We made it to the store without incident, and found everything on Sarah’s and Maureen’s lists and picked up a few things for ourselves as well. I kept a careful eye out for anyone with the least resemblance to a certain crazy actress or a certain supposedly incarcerated serial killer but found no one fitting either description.

“Do you think I’m being paranoid?” I asked Ethan as we loaded our purchases into the back of the car. He looked up at me as we finished and he closed the trunk lid.

“Paranoid? No, I don’t think that. I trust your instincts, Vinnie. But I also know you don’t like…you know who… not that you don’t have reason to dislike her.  But that might color your judgment sometimes, you know?”

I knew what he meant, and I couldn’t deny that. “But she didn’t make that phone call I received,” I pointed out.

Ethan nodded grimly. “I know. That’s why I called Anderson. And why we’re being extra careful. “We rounded the car to the passenger side where he opened the door. Before I ducked inside, he held me in place, his body snug against mine. “I’d never let anything happen to you, baby,” he murmured, his long fingers caressing my cheek gently.

 I caught his fingers with my own as I gazed into his beautiful blue eyes. “I feel the same way,” I assured him. “I trust you, Ethan, with my whole heart and soul. I know whatever happens, we’ll get through it together.”

“You got that right.” He flashed me one of his amazing smiles before the moment ended and he handed me into the car and took his place behind the wheel.

My brain was spinning in a million directions. This was the last place I’d expected us to be when we took this assignment. By now, we should have been comfortably ensconced in a nice Atlanta hotel, shooting the breeze with Uncle Benny. But everything had taken a definite left turn from my expectations.

“I think I’m going to call Benny,” I said, pulling out my cell.

“Good idea.” Of course Ethan realized I meant our pup, not his uncle.

By now, Troy should be in Roanoke with Brendan and Benny. I hoped the little fellow was behaving, although I knew he never gave them any trouble. Mostly because they spoiled him.

I counted the rings, waiting for Troy to pick up. But that never happened. I didn’t bother to leave a message at the tone, despite being requested to do so.

“No answer,” I told Ethan.

“Maybe they’re taking him out for a last walk,” Ethan suggested.

Maybe, but wouldn’t he answer his phone? Oh well, best not to borrow trouble.

“I’ll try again later,” I said, forcing myself to put a good spin on this, not my usual doom and gloom.

We reached the Thorne house and were heading up the long drive when Ethan and I both realized there was another vehicle there, one that definitely hadn’t been there when we left.

“You don’t think… could that be Heather’s car?” I hazarded a guess.

“I don’t know,” Ethan admitted. “I guess it could be Mercy’s, but why would she…”

He never finished the thought as we drew closer to the expensive looking sedan and the doors began to open. A moment later, highlighted by the glow of our car’s lights, I spotted a familiar face, and for a second I blinked because Ethan was there beside me. The next moment, I realized that of course it wasn’t Ethan… it was Troy McGarrett, along with Brendan and our little pup Benny.

What the hell was going on here?

 to be continued

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

Cia Nordwell



Saturday, November 19, 2022

Saturday is Horror Day #88 - A Quiet Place Part II

 A Quiet Place Part II

Following the death of Lee Abbott (John Krasinski) the family decides to move on, seeking to find safety or a solution to their problems. Now Evelyn (Emily Blunt) finds herself with two terrified teens and a newborn. But it's possible they might have the answer to the question of how to defeat the sound-sensitive creatures...assuming they get the chance to implement the solution.

The second film in the franchise is a little slow but still contains the horror of the first. In this entry, the daughter and son (Regan Abbott and Noah Jupe) are actually key players who step up to do what is necessary even when others tell them not to. They are both strong and resilient, and resemble their late father in that respect. I can't even imagine how I would begin to cope with this situation, especially having to give birth alone and then deal with a newborn. Face it, babies cry, and any sound could doom them all.

At the same time, I find myself not as interested in this film, not sure why. The Abbotts do encounter other people and discover that the creatures are not the only things they need to fear. Also in this film we see the first day and what happened then, even if we still aren't sure why it did. I understand there will be a third film. I'll probably watch it. I'll give this one 3 Stars.

Wednesday, November 16, 2022

Wednesday Briefs: Bad Karma and the Family Plan #49 (10.3)

  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.

Vinny and Ethan have a moment alone before heading to the store, but they're rudely interrupted. More danger? Seriously? See what's happening in this week's chapter of Bad Karma and the Family Plan. Don't forget to visit the other Briefers and see what's up with them. Their links follow my tale! Enjoy!

Bad Karma and the Family Plan #49 (10.3)

Ethan and I both jumped up, weapons already drawn, looking for the source of the disturbance. Expecting to see a bullet hole of some kind in the step, I was surprised to find a rock lying there instead. Ethan saw it as well. His face flushed with anger as he holstered his gun and called out into the darkness, “Okay Joey. You can stop that shit right now and come on out where we can see you.”

Joey? Was he kidding? The next moment, Ethan’s brother slouched into view, wearing a smirk. That was the happiest I’d seen him since we’d arrived.

“Did I scare you two great big secret agents?” he taunted us.

My first impulse was to leap off the porch, grab the little bastard and beat the shit out of him. I went so far as to get to my feet, but of course Ethan, being the voice of reason, wouldn’t allow that.  “Please don’t, Vinny.”

I wasn’t surprised by that, although I was a little disappointed at not being able to punch Joey again. I did understand that this was Ethan’s brother, and I didn’t want to do anything to upset him, and I was certain Ethan was worried about peace within the family.

But that theory went right out the window the next second. “My brother, my problem,” he continued as jumped down the stairs of the porch, straight toward his brother. Joey froze in place, obviously not expecting any retaliation on Ethan’s part.

Ethan grabbed and twisted Joey’s shirt in one fist and lifted him straight from the ground, to my amazement. I mean, I knew he was strong, but damn… Granted, it was just a few inches, but still, very impressive, Mr. Thorne. Very impressive.

“You could have gotten yourself killed,” Ethan said. “Are you really that stupid?”

“K-killed,” Joey stuttered. “W-what do you mean? All I did was throw a rock at you two. Not like I tried to shoot you or anything.” I could see he was trying to maintain some semblance of dignity… and failing miserably. He squirmed in Ethan’s grasp until Ethan released his hold and allowed him to drop back to the ground.

“Well, there are federal agents watching the house for our protection, and they might have interpreted your actions as threatening. Lethal, even. They might have shot first and asked questions afterward. That would have been a little late for you, don’t you think?”

I suspected Ethan was exaggerating that last part to scare his brother all the more. Even so, I wouldn’t have wanted to put that theory to the test.

I closed the distance between Ethan and me and slipped my arm around his waist. My intention was to show our solidarity, but also to provide back-up, if needed. He wouldn’t dare attack us together, although I suspected he wouldn’t really try to hurt Ethan alone. He was too cowardly for that.

Joey glanced at us suspiciously. He pivoted slowly, looking around as if he might actually see the agents Ethan had been talking about. I could have told him that was a waste of time. Good agents would not allow themselves to be seen. Not finding what he was looking for, he must have decided to take another tack.

“Things were better before you decided to come around more often,” he sneered. The way his gaze bounced back and forth between Ethan and me, I could easily figure out what he was alluding to. Now that Ethan was out of the closet, he felt more at ease with seeing his family with me by his side. But that didn’t have to mean anything had changed with Joey’s relationship with them.

“You’ve brainwashed Mom and Dad into think what you two are is… is normal,” he almost spat out. I felt Ethan tense, and I tightened my grip on his waist, just to be safe. “And now you bring Uncle Benny back. Jailbird and fa—” He caught himself just in time and amended his slur. “Fairy.”

Not much better.

“Oh? Do tell me what you consider normal, Joey.” Ethan’s voice was deceptively calm. Only I could feel the storm brewing inside. At least he was keeping it contained… for now. “You mean like you and Heather normal? Is that your idea of normal? Or maybe I should ask Dad that question. What do you think, Joey?”

I know I didn’t hear what I just heard. And if I was shocked, color Joey downright stunned. His mouth opened and closed without making a sound, like one of the fish in Shedd Aquarium, in Chicago. My mother and I had been there a couple of times when I was a kid. I remember thinking Chicago was a noisy busy place, but the aquarium was like an oasis in the middle of the madness.

“I don’t know what you think you know,” he finally said. His tone had gone from belligerent to pitiful in a moment.

“Know about? Heather and Dad? You’re right, I don’t know. I don’t think I even want to know, to be honest. But I do know that you need to figure out your problems yourself and not take them out on everyone else. We’re not responsible for your unhappiness, no matter what you think.”

“Dad’s never seen me because of you,” Joey said. “You’ve always had it all. Good grades, lots of friends. A brilliant future. And now you have your happy ever after ending. Well, dammit, I deserve that too. I deserve happiness, don’t I?”

I noticed he’d clenched his fists as he spoke, and now he rubbed at one eye, then the other.

“You do,” Ethan agreed. “I’m sorry if you’re hurt. I only want to help, honestly. Both of us.”

I nodded but said nothing.

“Would you like to talk? We’ll be back in just a few, and we can listen—”

For a moment, I thought he’d agree. But then he turned and ran off once more.

 to be continued

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

Cia Nordwell

Tuesday, November 15, 2022

Book Review: Skip Beat! Vol 14 by Yoshiki Nakamura


Skip Beat! Vol 14      

Author: Yoshiki Nakamura

Publisher: Viz Media

American release date: September 2, 2008

Format/Genre/Length: Paperback/Shojo Manga/200 pages

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★


Kyoko joins Director Ogata for lunch. He seems happy to see her, which is more than can be said for her co-stars. Naturally, the conversation turns to Ren and how he’s doing. The director is doing better as well, and has a new-found confidence he was lacking before. That is largely due to something Ren said to him. Meanwhile, Ren and Mr. Yashiro are headed to his next job. The agent is working on Ren to talk to Kyoko about how he feels, and Ren doesn’t even bother to deny his feelings anymore. Not to him, anyway. What Mr. Yashiro doesn’t know, though, is Ren’s past with Kyoko. Perhaps if he knew that, he’d drop hints to Kyoko in order to get these two lovebirds together! Ren believes that there is someone who could possibly sway Kyoko’s heart by the mere mention of his name, and that disturbs him.

Kyoko is scheduled for an interview on Japonet Scope, thanks to her rising star. But on her arrival, she notices a door marked with Sho Fuwa’s name! What, can he really be here also? But the guy she runs into is not Sho, and yet he knows who she is… and seems to look down on her? Kyoko is surprised to learn that a new group named Vie Ghoul has not only climbed the charts but they have a song that has surpassed Sho’s! But she is indignant to discover that they are imitators of Sho! An angry Kyoko marches to Sho’s dressing room and tells him she needs to talk to him!

Mr. Yashiro tries to get Ren to watch the music video clip that Kyoko is in, but because it’s Sho’s clip, Ren is less than inclined to do so. His agent is trying to make him jealous so he’ll do something about his feelings, but Ren is resisting.  Kyoko is being sent on location for a few days for the film. She doesn’t realize until she’s there that a well-known music studio is nearby. And oh dear, it looks as though both Sho and Vie Ghoul are going to be there! What else could happen? Maybe Ren could show up too?

Kyoko has definitely grown and matured since we first met her. And while she still plans to get her revenge on Sho, she is not afraid to tell him about his shortcomings. The rose-colored glasses she once wore are gone… even if she can’t see how much she likes Ren. Still, it’s a start. But what’s going on with these Vie Ghoul guys? Are they going to throw some oil on this fire or start a conflagration of their own?

Great volume, look forward to more!


Sunday, November 13, 2022

Saturday is Horror Day #87 - The Banana Splits Movie

 The Banana Splits Movie

Harley (Finlay Wojtak-Hissong) loves the Banana Splits more than anything. So when his mother presents him with tickets to attend a live taping of the show as a birthday present, he is over the moon happy. He requests a classmate go with him. Zoe (Maria Nash) wouldn't call herself a friend of Harley's, thinks he is weird, but her mother says she has to go, so she has no choice. Harley's mother goes also, as well as Harley's father Mitch (Steve Lund) and his half-brother Austin (Romeo Carere). Also in the audience are a couple of would-be influencers, and a stage father who is intent on getting his daughter into show business via the Banana Splits. At the show, it's announced that people with special tickets will be allowed private time with the Splits after the taping. Harley's family don't have the right tickets. But after Austin starts flirting with one of the members of the staff, Paige (Naledi Majola), she adds them to the list.

But all is not as it appears to be. For one thing, the new network exec, Andy (Daniel Fox) has decided to cancel the show, making this the last episode. But that only triggers a reprisal on the part of his cast, who are all animatronics, other than sidekick Stevie (Richard White), who spends most of his time being drunk. The Banana Splits have their own agenda, and it isn't gonna be pretty.

I was skeptical when I saw the trailer for this film, wondering how a preview for a kids movie got onto a horror movie disk. But this is not kid's movie, make no mistake about that. It's a virtual gore fest. However, saying that, unless you just want to watch some assholes get what's coming to them (and some innocents who don't deserve it), there is little to commend this film. I am really surprised that Hanna Barbara allowed them to make this film, but they probably figured it was their last chance to make money off the franchise. Watch it for the blood and gore, watch it for the revenge, but don't go looking for a good movie. I'll give it 1.5 Stars.

Wednesday, November 9, 2022

Wednesday Briefs: Bad Karma and the Family Plan #48 (10.2)

 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.

Making the best of a tricky situation, Vinnie and Ethan enjoy some of Maureen's great home cooking, but of course Joey has to be an asshole - what else is new? The boys decide to go to the store since it's obvious more supplies will be needed, both for Sarah and her son and to feed this unexpected crowd. See what's happening in this week's chapter of Bad Karma and the Family Plan. Don't forget to visit the other Briefers and see what's up with them! Their links follow my tale! Enjoy!

Bad Karma and the Family Plan #48 (10.2)

After Joey’s petulant departure, the atmosphere at the dinner table visibly relaxed and we all enjoyed the rest of the meal. Maureen brought out an apple pie for dessert. I’d never seen one with a crumb topping before. Add to that some whipped cream… heaven in every bite!

Afterwards, Ethan and Benny and I insisted on clearing the table and doing the dishes. We said it was the least we could do for such a delicious meal. Maureen was clearly appreciative as she was able to focus on enjoying the company of her daughter and grandson. The three of us made short work of it all and returned to the living room to partake in family time. We only saw Joey once, when he slunk inside to take his plate into the kitchen.

“Please don’t just lay that in the sink,” Maureen said, but not in a mean way.

Joey mumbled something unintelligible and never paused, but a moment later we could all hear the water running in the kitchen, so he’d obviously taken her words to heart. Then he stomped his way back down the hall and out the door once more. Well, in all fairness, he had nowhere else to go in order to put what with Sarah and Alex having taken over the guest room. Maybe he intended to hide outside until time for bed. His loss, our gain.

I noticed Sarah shoot an inquiring glance at Ethan, and before I had a chance to wonder what that was all about, he said to me, “Guess we should go to the store now before it gets too late.”

I’d almost forgotten we’d agreed to do that for Sarah. Maybe stores out here closed earlier than in Roanoke. Although I didn’t mind the idea of some alone time too, to be honest. Ever the practical one, Ethan found paper and pen and asked Sarah what she needed, then asked his mother if she’d like us to pick up anything for her while we were out, especially since she had unexpected guests to feed.

“Well, maybe that would be a good idea,” she agreed. “Give me a minute, will you, to see what’s what?”

“Sure, Mom, no rush. Vinnie and I will be out on the porch.”

His mother rose, gave him a quick smile before heading off to the kitchen.

“I’ll look with you,” Sarah offered and followed her. Ethan asked his father and uncle, but neither one wanted anything, so we made our way to the porch. I was apprehensive at first until I realized Ethan’s brother was nowhere in sight.

“Probably skulking on the side of the house,” Ethan commented as he pulled out his phone. “I’m going to let Anderson know we’re going, so we don’t alarm whoever’s watching the house.”

That seemed like a good idea.

“C’mere you,” Ethan said in an extra sultry voice, once he’d hung up from our boss,  as he pulled me toward him and wrapped his arms around me. “Have I told you lately how much I love you? And how I can’t wait to marry you?”

“Do tell, Mr. Thorne.” I gave him what I hoped was a half-lidded seductive glance. We’d had little chance for intimacy, what with having guests in the house. I could understand Ethan being reluctant to do anything with his sister and nephew so close at hand. I suspected that wasn’t going to get any better with us sleeping in the living room with Uncle Benny and Joe Jr. Oh well, not like that was the most import part of our relationship. But still, it was a good part. And I’ve noticed, also, that when something is denied to you, it seems you want it all the more.

And I wanted Ethan very badly at that moment.  Who was I kidding? I wanted him all the time. But right now it felt like forever since we’d been together. Sheesh, not like we were honeymooners or anything… not yet.

“We should think about setting a date,” Ethan continued, as if he’d read my mind—what else is new? He licked at the corners of my mouth. I shivered at his touch.

“We should,” I responded, although my mind was definitely on other things and not what he was saying.

“I still owe you a vacation,” he continued. His lips brushed over mine, which throbbed with tingles of desire. I may even have whimpered a little needily.

“Vacation?” I echoed. “You mean honeymoon?” I was getting confused with what he was talking about, my attention span not at its best at the moment.

“That too, but first a vacation, Vin. Just you and me. Someplace warm and sunny.”

“Not Florida!” I quickly interjected, for obvious reasons.

“Not Florida,” he agreed.

“Yes, dear,” I sighed into his mouth before my tongue sought his, his sought mine, and the two became entwined. I was rapidly losing all sense of awareness of ourselves and our surroundings,  so focused  was I on Ethan. If I’d been thinking more clearly, I’d have realized how dangerous that could be. But I was with Ethan, I was safe… and I was incredibly horny.

It took the sound of something bouncing off the steps of the porch to put the brakes on our activities. My first thought was we’d let our guard down and our stalker had caught up to us.

Damn, what had I done?

 to be continued

Don't forget to see what the other Briefers are up to!

Cia Nordwell


Monday, November 7, 2022

Book Review: Assassination Classroom, Vol 1: Time for Assassination by Yusei Matsui


Assassination Classroom, Vol 1: Time for Assassination      

Author: Yusei Matsui

Publisher: Viz Media

American release date: December 2, 2014

Format/Genre/Length: Paperback/Shonen Manga/192 pages

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★


Class 3E at Kunugigaoka Junior High find themselves in a rather unique situation. Besides being considered to be the dregs of the entire school, looked down upon, belittled, used as warnings to other students to do well or end up like them, forced to attend class in a rundown classroom on top of a mountain…they have also been assigned the task of assassinating their teacher!


Their teacher is like no other in that he resembles a tentacle monster, can move at Mach 20 speed, and is impervious to most everything. Oh, and he is responsible for the destruction of two-thirds of the moon, which hangs in the sky as a silent reminder of what has occurred. He has threatened to destroy the entire earth in one year unless his demands are met. And what he demands… is to teach Class 3E at Kunugigaoka Junior High.


Why does he want to do this? No one knows, but they are in no position to resist, so he is given the assignment. The government tells the students of his class that they are to kill him, but also no one else is to know about what is going on outside of their class. Well, it’s not like they are even allowed to enter the other part of the school. But the real incentive is the reward of 10 billion that is being offered for the teacher’s death! So, game on… time to kill teacher!


This first volume is a perfect introduction to this unusual manga. The students of class 3E have a hard time, used by the principal as examples of what not to be. But this teacher, whom they have named Koro Sensei as a play on can’t be killed, sees them for who they are. While encouraging them in their assassination attempts, he also teaches them and raises their self-esteem. This book is both humorous and touching. I love the artwork. Koro Sensei is awesome! There is also a fantastic anime of this series which I highly recommend.



Saturday, November 5, 2022

Saturday is Horror Day #86 - Hellraiser (1987), Hellbound: Hellraiser II, The Collector (1965)

 Hellraiser (1987)

Frank (Sean Chapman) is on a quest for pleasure at any price. But he gets more than he bargained for when he purchases a puzzle box from a mysterious shop owner. In solving the mystery of the puzzle, he opens himself to the Cenobites, whose idea of pleasure might be considered pain to some. They tear him apart.

Larry (Andrew Robinson) and his second wife Julia (Clare Higgins) move into Larry's childhood home, while his daughter Kirsty (Ashley Laurence) takes a room nearby. Little does Larry knows that disembodies Frank is in the house. Or that his wife has carnal knowledge of his brother. Due to a freak accident, Larry's blood feeds the hidden Frank, who begins to regenerate. He calls upon Julia to help him regain his full being. She is still enthralled by the memory of their time spent together and, although repulsed by his current looks, agrees to provide him with fresh blood.

Kirsty is protective of her father, and doesn't have the best of relationships with his wife. She is 

appalled to discover that Julia is taking men to their home when her father is away. But it's worse than that, as she learns when she encounters the hideous form of her Uncle Frank, who tells her "Come to Daddy". Kirsty isn't sure what it means but she takes the puzzle box. Now she and her boyfriend have to figure out what's going on, before it's too late.

The original Hellraiser stands the rest of time, thanks to the imagination of Clive Barker. I like Andrew Robinson as the hapless Larry, who doesn't realize what a viper he has married, and I liked him as the tailor Garak in Star Trek Deep Space Nine. Frank and Julia make quite the evil couple, while poor Kristy is at her wit's end trying to save her dad. Creepy, definitely, and the Cenobites are unique, especially Pinhead. I'll give this 4 Stars.

Hellbound: Hellraiser II

Kirsty (Ashley Laurence) finds herself in an institution after the events of the first film, with no idea of why she is there and her boyfriend nowhere in sight. A young doctor named Kyle (William Hope) tries to keep Kirsty calm, but she wants to leave. But she doesn't seem to have much choice. The institute is run by Dr. Channard (Kenneth Cranham), and he seems very interested in what Kirsty has to say, although he dismissed her story out of hand. Afterward, he has the mattress from Kirsty's father's home brought to his office and "persuades" one of his patients to bleed on it, thereby reviving Julia (Clare Higgins). When Kyle, who believes Kirsty, takes her to Channard's home, tragedy ensues.

Kirsty meets another patient, a young girl named Tiffany (Imogen Boorman) who doesn't speak. She is very good at puzzles though. Channard and Julia kidnap her and force her to open the box. The Cenobites comes, but Pinhead persuades them not to kill Tiffany, as she did not summon them, Desire did.

The Cenobites allow Kirsty to explore the Labyrinth, and she runs into Frank (Sean Chapman) again, up to no good as always. But Julia gets her revenge on him, and Dr Channard doesn't fare very well either.

Much as I like the first Hellraiser, I think I like the second one a little bit more, especially Pinhead. We see his origins in this one, although we are far from knowing what the Cenobites are all about. Kirsty is plucky as ever, and now she has an ally in the silent Tiffany. And of course we have our old friends Frank and Julia, with their new friend Dr. Channard. Look for more good times with this sequel! I'll say right now the third movie isn't very good, and I've been advised to avoid numbers four through ten, so I will. I'll give this one 4.5 Stars

The Collector (1965)

Freddie (Terence Stamp) is a quiet young man, a loner who collects butterflies. When he sees art student Miranda (Samantha Eggar), he decides he must have her, so he kidnaps her and holds her hostage. He doesn't mistreat her in any way, makes no demands, physical or otherwise. He only wants to have her near, so she can fall in love with him and they can be together as man and wife. But Miranda only sees that she has to escape at all costs.

This movie is a little known underrated gem. Director William Wyler gives us a very subtle but powerful story in the interplay between hostage and captor. Terence Stamp is especially brilliant as Freddie, the naive sociopath who believes that if she gets to know him, Miranda will love him and all will be right with the world. Even so, he will do whatever it takes to keep her with him forever. 

Sometimes you can't help but hope that Freddie wins her heart, but at the same time you root for 

Miranda to make her escape and reclaim her life. The tension is subtle but palpable, and the wonderful score only serves to emphasize what is going on. Nothing explicit, nothing overt, but powerful all the time.   I'll give this film 4.5 Stars.

Thursday, November 3, 2022

Book Review: Pluto, Vol 8 by Naoki Urasawa & Osamu Tezuka


Pluto, Vol 8        

Author: Naoki Urasawa & Osamu Tezuka

Publisher: Viz Media

American release date: January 19, 2010

Format/Genre/Length: Paperback/Sci-Fi Manga//200 pages

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★


Atom has awakened, but everyone wonders what will he do now? Meanwhile, those behind the dastardly plot are rejoicing that their work is almost done. However, one witness remains. Within the United States of Thracia, Eden National Park opens, hailed as the greatest healing zone in the world. Uran is worried about her brother. His behavior since awakening is odd. He’s writing lengthy equations on the walls. When Professor Tenma visits Brau 1589 in prison, the robot asks Tenma what he did to Atom. Brau already knows what formula Atom is writing – the formula for an antiproton bomb.

Atom meets with Gesicht’s widow and lets her know that her husband was always thinking of her and that he loved her very much. Atom has a piece of Gesicht inside him now, including his hatred. That could be dangerous. Also, it’s becoming evident that the world is in danger from something below the surface of Eden Park, something that concerns both Pluto and Bora.

As the trial of Darius XIV begins, an earthquake can be felt. He tells them not to worry, it’s the beginning of the end, although having nothing to do with him.  He tells them it was all Abullah’s doing. At long last, the truth is coming out. About Pluto and Bora, about Abullah and Sahad. Why so many good robots had to die. But will Atom be able to reverse what has been set into motion, or is the entire planet doomed?

This is it. The last volume. I didn’t expect to cry over it, but I did. As I read the seven volumes that came before, I mourned the death of each and every robot, especially Gesicht. I was so sure he’d survive. I worried about how everything would end. Urasawa is amazing, and he’s told a very amazing story. The ending is all you could ask for and then some. Masterpiece all the way around. Glad I was able to take this journey with such remarkable characters.