Sunday, January 29, 2023

Film Review: Ip Man 2

 Ip Man 2

Having fled the village of Fo Shan, Ip Man (Donnie Yen) and his family end up in British Hong Kong, where the master plans to open a school to train students. He gets a good deal on a rooftop studio and sets up shop. But no one is coming, and he is finding it hard to make ends meet. To complicate matters, his wife Wing-sing (Lynn Xiong) is pregnant with their second child. Just when things seem bleak indeed, Ip Man begins to acquire students, although they aren't always able to pay the school fees. But at least it's a start.

Trouble soon arrives in the form of the other martial arts masters in Hong Kong, led by Master Hung (Sammo Kam-Bo Hung). They summon Ip Man and lay down their rules. First, he needs to prove himself to them through battle. He has to stand on a table and fight all comers until the incense burns down or until he loses. He accepts the challenge and proves himself.

At this time, the Chinese are very much under the thumb of their imperial masters, the British. Some of 

them are less than respectful... or honorable. A British boxer known as the Twister (Darren Shahlavi) comes to town to participate in an exhibition of Western-style boxing. But the cocky fighter wants to show the Chinese how superior he is to them, and interrupts the display of the various schools to challenge them. It's on! But can the Chinese win, with the odds stacked against them, and the crooked police supporting the British masters?

The second film in the series sees Ip Man and his family relocated to Hong Kong and in much more desperate conditions than the first film. Still, he is determined to provide for his family, at the same time maintaining his principles. There is a casualty from the first film, Ip Man's friend Quan, who was shot in the head by the Japanese and is not the same man. I liked this one as much as the first, great fight scenes, and I love Ip Man's wife, who doesn't want to disturb his focus on this very important match just to let him know she has gone into labor. Look at the end for a small cameo by a little guy who will become the real Ip Man's most famous student! Looking forward to the next film. I'll give this one 4.5 Stars.

Saturday, January 28, 2023

Saturday is Horror Day #98 - The Menu

 The Menu

Tyler (Nicholas Hoult) invites Margot (Anya Taylor-Joy) to dine at a very exclusive restaurant on a small island. This restaurant is so exclusive that reservations are hard to git, and only so many people can dine that at a time. Margot considers herself lucky... until she learns that she wasn't even Tyler's first choice for dinner companion and her name isn't even on the guest list. Well, she's there now, might as well make the best of it, even if the other diners seem rather hoity-toity to her.

Granted, Tyler and the other diners seem to know a lot more about fine dining than Margot does, and about the chef who is preparing this sumptuous repast for their delight, Chef Slowik (Ralph Fiennes). The Chef's staff is extremely devoted and very well-trained, including Elsa (Hong Chau), who acts as hostess to the guests.  However, as the meal progresses and the night advances, all is not as it appears to be. And there seems to be some uncertainty as to whether anyone will make it out of there alive...

I've been wanting to see this movie after I watched the first trailer, and I was not disappointed. At first I thought it was a dark comedy, but don't be fooled - this is indeed horror. I thought it was well-written, with a good cast, including John Leguizamo, whom I love. Definitely some familiar faces here. This film pokes fun at the so-called gourmands who think fine dining has to include foams and fancy swoops across the plate, etc. I'll probably see something I missed the next time I watch. I left the film being rather satisfied indeed. I will give it 4.5 Stars.

Thursday, January 26, 2023

Film Review: Curse of the Golden Flower

 Curse of the Golden Flower

All is not well in the Imperial Palace. The Emperor's second wife (Gong Li) is ill with what the Emperor (Chow Yun-Fat) has diagnosed as anemia. For the past ten years, she has been taking prescribed medicine every two hours. But recently, another ingredient has been introduced to her medicine, one that may do her irreparable harm if continued.

Crown Prince Wan (Ye Liu) was born of the Emperor's late first wife. The new Empress has born two sons of her own, Jai (Jay Chou) and Yu (Junjie Qin). However, Wan has been having an affair with the Empress. He is also interested in Chan (Man Li), the daughter of the Imperial Doctor. The Emperor intends to remove Wan as Crown Prince in favor of Jai, little suspecting that his second son wishes to avenge the wrong being done to his mother. But these secrets are just the tip of the iceberg for these imperial family.

This opulent film is set during the Tang Dynasty, a very ostentatious time in Chinese history. A time in which male domination was complete, as can be seen in the way the women in the story are treated, even the Empress. So much deceit, so many lies. This story is a veritable historic soap opera, based on a played called "Thunderstorm". The sets are incredibly beautiful, with a fantastic eye for detail, including but not limited to the sets and costumes. The action is exciting and well choreographed. Altogether a gripping film. I especdially enjoyed seeing Ye Liu as Crown Prince Wan, as I loved him The Chef, the Actor, and the Scoundrel.  I give this film 4.5 Stars.

Wednesday, January 25, 2023

Wednesday Briefs: Bad Karma and the Family Plan #59 (12.4)

  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.

The long night has finally ended, and now it's time to go to breakfast with Hollywood hunk Troy McGarrett! Ethan's sister is surely in heaven now! See what's going on 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 #59 (12.4)

Call me unobservant, at least where women were concerned, but until that moment, I hadn’t noticed two things about Ethan’s sister. The first was that she was dressed rather nicely for first thing in the morning, at least when compared to how I remembered the way she dressed when she stayed with Ethan and me. The second was that she was wearing more make-up than I’d ever seen her use before. Not that I’m saying she was in full clown mode or anything like that. To be honest, it was minimal but tasteful… and I found myself wondering what Ethan might look like with make-up.

Note to self: Explore that possibility at a later date.

“I’ll get that!” she exclaimed in a chipper voice as she practically raced to the front door before the rest of us had even a ghost of a chance of responding.

Ethan cast a worried glance after her, and I knew what he was thinking. What if it wasn’t a certain actor standing outside? But moments later, our fears proved to be unfounded as Troy and Brendan trailed Sarah into the house. Their arrival was quickly followed by that of Ethan’s parents from upstairs.

The ever-polite Troy and Brendan wished everyone good morning and apologized for arriving so early.

“Nonsense,” Maureen responded. “You are both very welcome in our home. We’re very glad to have you, aren’t we, Joe?”

I glanced curiously toward my future father-in-law—and trust me when I say what a strange notion that was, to become related to the once-sinister minister—to see what his reaction would be. Joseph was at his most charming and seconded his wife’s words.

“I’m the one who should apologize for oversleeping,” Maureen went on, although truth be told it was still early. Barely eight o’clock. “Now, why don’t I put some coffee on? I bet most everyone could use a cup.”

Well, that did go without saying, didn’t it? I knew we were about to go out for breakfast, but even so, you couldn’t have too much of a good thing. Besides, that would give the early morning crowd, assuming there was one, time to thin out before we got there.

“Vinnie and I can do that, Mom,” Ethan volunteered our services. Not that I minded. That would just be some alone time for the two of us. I noticed Troy seemed about to offer to help as well, which would mean Brendan too, of course. But then he took one look at me, and I thought I caught a twinkle in his blue eyes, as if he knew just what I was thinking, and he turned his attention to Sarah instead, to her great delight.

“I’m shocked that Ethan never told me he had such a lovely sister.” I swear he just developed a very Southern accent such as I hadn’t heard since that ill-fated movie. I rolled my eyes and followed Ethan into the kitchen.

Once I was sure we hadn’t been followed, I pulled him to me and kissed him most thoroughly. Let’s just call this the early morning fiancĂ© inspection. Utilizing both lips and tongue, I quickly ascertained that all was well. Better than well, actually—Ethan Thorne was perfect.

“How you holding up, Vinnie?” Ethan was nothing if not solicitous. Always thinking of me first. How could I help but love that man?

“There are worse places we could be,” I said, which produced a raised brow. Oops, open mouth, insert foot. My cheeks heated at my faux pas.

“I didn’t mean it like that,” I immediately apologized. I really hadn’t. Luckily, he knew that too. “I just meant that under the circumstances, we’re pretty lucky to be able to spend time with your family. Well, most of them.”

“Yeah, I know what you mean.” Ethan sighed. “Joey has gotten worse, I think. The stress of Heather leaving him must weigh on him. If I was in his shoes, I know I couldn’t bear not being with you. I’m trying to be understanding, but he certainly makes that difficult.”

Wasn’t that the truth?

“You know I’d never leave you, right?” I thought I knew the answer to that question, but I am still a little insecure… Okay, maybe more insecure than I’d like to admit. But hey, I’m getting better. Still, better to ask than to wonder.

“I know that,” he replied, gazing at me with those beautiful blue eyes so intensely I felt my insides begin to melt. Damn, I wished we were alone, but alas, that wasn’t meant to be. At least not anytime soon.

Our moment was interrupted by the entrance of Alex and our pup. It was hard to tell who was chasing who, but they looked as though they were both having fun.

“We better get on to making that coffee.” Ethan winked at me. “To be continued later.”

For now, I had to douse those fires burning inside of me, keep them on smolder. But I knew we’d find a way, and that would be well worth the wait.

 to be continued

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

Cia Nordwell

Monday, January 23, 2023

Film Review: Ip Man

 Ip Man

Fo Shan is a Chinese city renowed for its kung fu masters and their schools. The strongest kung fu master is Ip Man (Donnie Yen), who leads a quiet life with his wife and son and is much respected by the city. Possessing a strong sense of honor, he isn't one to stand aside when some punks from up north come to town intent on starting their own school and beating up the other kung fu masters. Ip Man quickly teaches the bullies a lesson.

But the peace of Fo Shan is destroyed when the Japanese occupy the city, and much of the city's population is decimated. Those who are left struggle to survive, including Ip Man, whose beautiful home has been confiscated. Having a family to feed, Ip Man goes to work shoveling coal. One day the Japanese arrive with a proposal, their interpreter being Ip Man's friend Li (Ka-Tung Lam). Those who are willing to fight the Japanese in bouts of kung fu will receive a bag of rice if they win. These fights are for the Japanese general, Miua (Hiroyuki Ikeuchi), whose second-in-command, Colonel Sato (Tenma Shibuya) is a sadistic, bloodthirsty man with no regard for human life. When one of Ip Man's friends, Lin (Xing Yu) suddenly disappears, Ip Man realizes he has been killed by the Japanese. He requests to fight ten men. But when he wins, he doesn't take the rice, as that was never the reason for him to fight.

General Miura wishes Ip Man to fight again, but he is nowhere to be found. And Li says he doesn't 

know where he is, no matter how much they hurt him. But things come to a head, when Ip Man realizes he has to take a stand. He begins by teaching the factory workers at his friend Quan's (Simon Yam) cotton mill how to defend themselves. And then he agrees to fight General Miura, although Li warns him that if he should win, Sato will kill him.

This film was recommended to me by a co-worker and I loved it! Everything about the film is good, from acting to story to direction to cinematography. I love the fight scenes! Ip Man is loosely based on an actual kung fu master, one of whose disciples was actor Bruce Lee. There are three more films in this series and I intend to watch and review them all. Ip Man is a great character. I love the scenes with his family, showing that he isn't necessarily perfect and has room to improve, which of course he does. I highly recommend this film and give it 4.5 Stars.

Saturday, January 21, 2023

Saturday is Horror Day #97 - A Ghost Story, Don't Panic, The Room (2019)

 A Ghost Story

C (Casey Affleck) and M (Rooney Mara) are a young married couple very much in love. Their only source of conflict is the house they live in. M wants to move, and is researching new residences, but C is opposed to the idea. However, a tragedy makes that a moot point. Afterward, C returns to the house as a white-sheeted ghost, and tries to reconnect with his bereft wife.

This is one ghost story that actually is about the ghost and not about the living. C is more haunted than 

anyone, most of whom can't see him. It's about loss and it's about time, as C sticks with the house, for better or for worse, and follows it through not just multiple owners but other changes as well. It's sad and intense, and not what one would call scary, unless you're afraid of the future and what it might hold. Most of it is silent. The soundtrack is lovely. I don't think I would watch it again.  Both Affleck and Mara give good performances. I'll give this film 3 Stars.

Don't Panic

This 1987 Mexican film about a 17 year old boy who is gifted a Ouija board for his birthday is so bad, I gave it up just a little ways in. Bad acting, bad script, bad sound quality... I would just avoid this one altogether

The Room (2019)

Matt (Kevin Janssesns) and Kate (Olga Kurylenko) buy  a house that needs a little fixing up, having been on the market for a while. In the course of renovations, Matt discovers a secret room and does some exploring of his own. To his amazement, he figures out that if you wish for something while in that room, it appears. He fills the room with all kinds of things, including an original Van Gogh!

Kate is astounded at everything in this room and doesn't buy Matt's explanation of how it got there. But he tells her to try it, to wish for something. So she wishes for a thousand dollars... and it appears! Amazed, she asks for more and more. The couple go crazy, treating themselves to everything they can think of. But there is one thing Kate wants that they have never been able to have. One day, while Matt is out, Kate wishes for a baby. And the trouble begins...

This is an interesting variation on the usual genie granting wishes story, with of course the moral being 

be careful what you wish for cause you might surely get it. As everyone knows, magic comes with a price, including this magic. The film is very well shot and the actors do a great job. It keeps your attention and keeps you wondering what is going on. While we never learn why the room works the way it does, we definitely see the consequences.

This movie had me guessing what was going to happen as Matt begins to discover more and more of the truth, but can't seem to do anything to control what Kate has unleased. Definitely worth the watch. I give this one 4 Stars.

Thursday, January 19, 2023

Book Review: Chainsaw Man, Vol 2


Chainsaw Man, Vol 2       

Author: Tatsuki Fujimoto

Publisher: Viz Media

American release date: December 1, 2020

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

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★


Denji agrees to help Power retrieve her cat Meowy from the Bat Devil, for which she has promised him he could touch her breasts. Little did he suspect that she has led him into a trap, and he has been promised to the devil as a snack! But Denji is determined to get his reward, and he’ll do what it takes to defeat this devil! Denji isn’t the only one who was lied to, as Power and Meowy find themselves in dire straits themselves! Denji saves them only to run up against the Bat Devil’s dismayed girlfriend. She tells him to run and leave the other two behind, but he has a goal, one that doesn’t include sacrificing Power.

Afterward, Denji doesn’t hold a grudge, despite Power’s apparent betrayal. But attaining his reward isn’t as fulfilling as he anticipated it would be. What’s up with that? In Aki’s home, recuperating, Denji receives a dressing down from Aki, who reminds him he has to do as he is told. When Makima sends Power to live there too, Aki asks Makima why he gets all the dangerous ones.

Makima asks Denji why he is so down and he confesses that the dream he sought for so long wasn’t what he expected. Then she makes him an unexpected offer – if he can kill the Gun Devil, he can ask anything of her he wants… anything. She will grant him one wish. With motivation like that, how can Denji fail?

Apparently the Gun Devil appeared at the same time as a major terrorist attack in the US… and the death toll was staggering, about 1.2 million people. But the Devil hasn’t been seen since. How are they to find it? Apparently through the pieces of flesh it’s left behind, which if they accumulate enough of them will try to regenerate and through that they will find it. Of course, Denji is totally onboard for this, considering his feelings for Makima. She’s different from Power, as he’s come to realize that not all females are the same.

Aki’s group of devil hunters, including Denji and Power, head off to a local hotel, which has requested a devil be exterminated.

I am enjoying this series so far, and have decided to wait to watch more of the anime until I get further along in the manga. Denji is such a sweet innocent/terrifying devil. He learns a valuable lesson in this volume, namely that not everything you think you want will turn out the way you think it will. I like watching his interactions with the others – Makima, Power, and even Aki, who can’t stand him. Well, he says he doesn’t, I don’t totally believe him. The devil at the hotel was creepy and funny both! Looking forward to seeing more of the hunt for the Gun Devil.

Wednesday, January 18, 2023

Wednesday Briefs: Bad Karma and the Family Plan #58 (12.3)

 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.

As this long day finally draws to a close for our heroes, one has to wonder what is on the horizon? 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 #58 (12.3)

Of course, telling the tale of our involvement with Sweet Surrender just had to involve the story of how we first met a certain evil actress and why I hated her so much. To Ethan’s credit, he kept that to a minimum. To be fair, it’s not like he was ever interested in her or anything. Ever since I’ve known him, he’s only had eyes for me.  Also, her goal was primarily to win back her ex, the director. See how well that worked out.

“Do you really think she might be responsible for what’s going on?” Benny directed his question primarily to me, since Ethan hadn’t been nearly as vocal about that as I had been. “What about that Florida Mangler guy?”

He made a good point. The trouble with that theory was Chip was securely incarcerated, awaiting trial for what he’d done. No chance of bail. Her, on the other hand… well, despite Troy’s insistence that she never went out, I still had to wonder if maybe she kept things hidden from him.

“Maybe it’s neither one,” Benny continued. “Maybe another player has entered the scene.”

 “That new player would have to know a lot about us,” Ethan said. “An awful lot.”

And wasn’t that a disturbing thought in and of itself?

“And you, and Troy and Brendan,” Ethan continued. “Besides, what motive would such a person have?”

What motive, indeed?

On that note, we decided to call it a night. We gave Benny—the little one, not the big one—a last chance to do any business he might have before we tiptoed back into the house, careful not to disturb the sleeping inhabitants. When we entered the living room, I heard something that sounded like a freight train. What the hell? It took me a minute to realize it was the sound of snoring.

Oh great, Ethan’s brother snores.

Couldn’t be helped. Ethan offered an apologetic shrug as we laid down together on the floor, as far from Joey as we could get. Benny curled up at our feet. I snuggled into Ethan’s embrace and tried to ignore the noise from the other side of the room. Before long, I fell asleep and didn’t stir until morning.

I awoke to delighted cries of “Puppy!” from Alex, who’d been asleep before Troy and Brendan had arrived the night before and was thus unaware of the pup’s arrival.

“Shh, Alex.” Sarah tried to quiet him, but it was too late as we were all awake now. I didn’t really mind. The floor wasn’t exactly comfortable, and I was glad to stretch my muscles. I could hear the bones pop as I sat up.

“Hey Sis,” Ethan greeted her.

“Sorry guys,” Sarah apologized, but we all told her not to worry. Well, Joey didn’t. Primarily because he wasn’t there. Maybe he was skulking outside again? That thought was quickly dispelled when we heard the minister loudly tell his older son not to sleep in his study again. Guess he wandered in there when we were asleep. His bad.

Ethan and I took advantage of Sarah being downstairs to use her room to change our cloths, while Benny opted for the bathroom. I felt much better as we rejoined them.

Sarah seemed to be in a very good mood, all things considered. I was about to ask her if she’d slept well, when the doorbell rang and I suddenly realized why she was so chipper. A certain dreamboat movie star was about to take her… well, all of us… out for breakfast. As we admitted Troy and Brendan, I couldn’t help but wonder if we weren’t making ourselves an even bigger target.

 to be continued

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

Cia Nordwell

Saturday, January 14, 2023

Saturday is Horror Day #96 - Cannibal Holocaust

 Cannibal Holocaust

A documentary crew disappears in the Amazon rainforest. Professor Monroe (Robert Kerman) heads up a rescue mission to find them. Following their trail, they discover the footage that was taken by the missing film crew. And watching that film leads to an understanding of what happened to the four filmmakers.

This film is told in documentary style, but of course it isn't true. However, what it is is pretty disturbing and very violent. And from what I read, although no actors were harmed during the making of this film, and all the blood is fake, but apparently some animals did actually die. Keep in mind this was made in 1980, so I'll guess the standard disclaimers of no animals being harmed was not a thing.

Watching the found footage, there is little doubt as to why these people met the fate they did. What is 

less clear is why they did what they did. There is a lot of savagery here - and not all on the part of the cannibals. Of course there is cannibalism, but also rape, torture, murder... This is a difficult film to watch, and it's not what I would call entertaining. It's truly horror for the sake of horror. Know this going into it - there are no happy endings here. Makes me wonder what The Green Inferno is like, which is mentioned in this film more than once. Not the film, but I guess a place. 

At any rate, if you have a strong stomach and want to see why this film was originally banned give it a try. I'll give it 3 Stars but won't ever watch it again. Once was enough.

Friday, January 13, 2023

Book Review: Overlord, Vol 3 by Kugane Maruyama


Overlord, Vol 3       

Author: Kugane Maruyama

Publisher: Yen On

American release date:  January 31, 2017

Format/Genre/Length: Hardback/Fantasy Adventure /288 pages

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★


Ainz quickly realizes there is a lot he needs to learn about this world he finds himself in. Not everything is exactly the same as in Yggdrasil. It’s important that he learn about the differences,  to know what or who else is out there, what their strength is and what their intentions are. Also, are any of his fellow guild members possibly out there? He sends out Sebas and Solution and Shalltear on a mission – “capture humans who can use magic or martial arts, but aim for people whose disappearance won’t be an issue, like criminals.”

Capturing a very gullible fish, Shalltear learns the whereabouts of a bandits’ hideout and sends the others back to Nazarick, and moves forward, accompanied by two of her vampire brides. When she arrives at the hideout, everything seems to be straight forward…until it isn’t. And something that should not be possible happens…

Back in Nazarick, Ainz sees to his dismay that on the list of NPCs, Shalltear’s name has gone from white to black. This could mean rebellion, or it could mean mind control. But how can that even be? Why would Shalltear, always so devoted to him, rebel? But conversely, who could possibly control her mind? He has to find out.

Accompanied by Albedo, Ainz returns to E-Rantel at the request of an adventurer’s guild. Seems they have a bit of a vampire problem. Ainz promises to handle the problem himself, since he already knows what is afood, but one of the members, who is clearly jealous of AInz, wants to accompany him. Ainz warns him to come at his own peril. Meanwhile Albedo has found Shalltear, who has indeed been mind-controlled and is now dangerous to Ainz and Nazarick.

This volume is primarily centered on Shalltear’s involuntary rebellion, and the inevitable battle between Ainz and Shalltear – Player vs NPC. Ainz will have to use every skill he knows to win against such a strong being as Shalltear. He has no choice. The battle itself is amazing, watching all the various skills displayed on both sides. Who will win? That would be a spoiler.

Great volume, looking forward to more.

Wednesday, January 11, 2023

Wednesday Briefs: Bad Karma and the Family Plan #57 (12.2)

 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.

As the others go off to sleep, Vinnie and Ethan and Uncle Benny decide to do a perimeter check, just to make sure everything is safe and secure. See what's going on in this week's chapter of Bad Karma and the Family Plan. Don't forget to visit the other Briefers! Their links follow my tale! Enjoy!

Bad Karma and the Family Plan #57 (12.2)

The temperature had dropped a little as the three of us filed down the porch stairs, careful to be quiet in deference to those sleeping inside.

“Let’s go this way.” Ethan nodded toward one side of the house, and we followed his head, eyeing our surroundings very carefully. I knew agents were watching our every movements. Sure enough, Anderson’s ring tone sounded from Ethan’s phone. He quickly answered and explained what we were doing and then hung up. Good to know someone was concerned enough to find out if everything was kosher.

“I see you’ve been a good influence on Joe,” Benny commented. “The old Joe would have thrown me out of his house as soon as look at me.”

“He has softened a little,” Ethan admitted. He stopped to face his uncle. “I think the real credit goes to Vinnie, though, for not putting up with his nonsense and having the nerve to tell him the truth.”

I felt my cheeks warm as Benny reached out his hand and took mine in his. “Thank you, Vinnie. For myself and for my sister. I know things have gotten much better for her too, and she isn’t putting up with his shit anymore either.”

“That’s for sure.” Ethan chuckled and we followed suit. Our laughter was cut short by a sharp snap, such as the sound of a breaking twig. We froze in place. I tried to gauge which way the sound had come from, searching for the telltale gleam of a rifle scope. But the next moment, something small and furry hared across the yard and we relaxed, laughing nervously.

We made our careful way around the outside of the house, keeping to the shadows as much as possible. The only sounds were typical nighttime noises, such as a faraway train whistle, distant traffic, and an occasional bird call. I was in no hurry to go back inside, and I got the impression neither were Ethan and Benny. Maybe if we gave him enough time, Joey would be asleep before we did, and we wouldn’t have to deal with his sorry ass.

Once we made a complete circuit of the house and found nothing amiss, we took seats on the porch steps. Well, Ethan and I did. Benny chose to stand, leaning against the stair rail.

“So, you guys are actually in a movie? With Troy McGarrett?” He sounded more than a little amused. I couldn’t blame him. We were undercover agents, not Hollywood stars. I would find the situation amusing myself if I didn’t know the circumstances under which our stint as actors occurred. “I bet there’s a heck of a story there.”

Ethan reached for my hand and squeezed it as I bit back the groan that tried to escape me. The only good thing that came out of that story was our meeting and becoming friends with Troy. “Fine.” I sighed dramatically, well aware of my diva-ish behavior. Not that I really thought he needed my permission to tell our story.

Before Ethan had a change to begin the tale, though, I thought I heard a scratching from the front door, followed by a faint yip. I knew right away who that was. I hurriedly got up from the steps and hastened to the front door. Opening it softly, I released our puppy, who was very happy to see me. I bent down and lifted him into my arms, then resumed my seat on the steps beside Ethan.

“Think he needs to go?” Ethan asked.

Duh, I should have realized that. I kissed his little head and set him down. He headed straight down the steps to the nearest flower bed, did his business and ran straight back to me. I guess that answered that question. Ethan reached over and ruffled Benny’s fur. He yapped his appreciation as he settled comfortably against me.

If I thought that interruption would interrupt our tale, I was sadly mistaken.

to be continued

Don't forget to visit the other Briefers and see what's new!

Cia Nordwell

Tuesday, January 10, 2023

Book Review: The Chinese Bell Murders: A Judge Dee Detective Story by Robert van Gulik


The Chinese Bell Murders: A Judge Dee Detective Story    

Author: Robert van Gulik

Publisher: Harper Perennial

American release date: August 3, 2004

Format/Genre/Length: Paperback/Detective/262 pages

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★


Judge Dee has been assigned as the new magistrate in the small village of Poo-Yang. The previous magistrate has left Judge Dee with a case he had not finished, so it is up to Dee to complete adjudication. A young girl, Pure Jade, the daughter of a butcher, was found murdered in her room not far from the family home. Wang Hsien-djoong, a young literature student and Jade’s lover, was arrested for the crime, despite his protestations of innocence. The villagers wish this case to be finished and justice dispensed. However, Judge Dee will not do so without hearing all the evidence for himself. Something he hears causes him to investigate the matter even further, which stirs up the resentment of the villagers that he will not be done with it.

There is something suspicious about the Temple of Boundless Mercy. The temple is renowned as a place where couples who are having difficulty in conceiving a child come to pray to the goddess there. The wife is taken to a small pavilion where she is locked in and sealed, the key given to the husband who sleeps nearby and comes to get his wife in the morning. The monks who run the temple have had a great success rate in helping these unfortunate couples, but some question how a temple which was formerly poor and obscure can now be so prosperous since the arrival of a strange monk.

An elderly widow approaches Judge Dee, requesting justice for her late husband, presenting to him a matter that is some twenty years old which originated in Canton. She has followed the guilty party to Poo-yang and wishes to see him prosecuted. She has previously been dismissed as old and not in her right mind, but Judge Dee is not so sure and decides to look into the matter.

Three more stories of Judge Dee for our delectation, brilliantly entwined and set forth for us to enjoy. Three more mysteries for the Judge and his lieutenants to solve! These are fascinating stories. Judge Dee is undoubtedly brilliant and you have to love him, even if his methods seem odd at first. In this volume, he and his lieutenants come close to losing their lives! Also, the judge goes forth in disguise to investigate matters for himself. Although some of the methods used during the trials are primitive compared to modern day jurisprudence, particularly the torture that is inflicted on some witnesses, the stories are timeless and in the end, good triumphs over evil. If you enjoy mystery novels, you will love the Judge Dee mysteries.


Sunday, January 8, 2023

Book Review: Assassination Classroom, Vol 5 by Yusei Matsui


Assassination Classroom, Vol 5      

Author: Yusei Matsui

Publisher: Viz Media

American release date:  August 4, 2015

Format/Genre/Length: Paperback/Action Adventure Manga/192 pages

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★


In the mandatory exhibition matches, the girls of Class 3E have unfortunately lost their basketball game. But they are delighted to discover that the boys are doing well in their baseball game. However, a monkey wrench has been thrown into the works in the form of Principal Asano, who will do whatever it takes to assure his class prevails. Are the boys of 3E up to the challenge?

Despite the fact that Karasuma has intensified his training of the would-be assassins, his lack of immediate results has brought him under scrutiny and the Ministry of Defense has assigned someone else to assist him. His methods are different from Karasuma’s. To make matters worse, Karasuma has been told that Takaoka is now in charge of training the students while Karasuma’s job is to find assassins. Despite his initial kindly appearance, Takaoka’s methods are a terrifying mix of love and fear. He plans to push the students to their limits and doesn’t care about their grades at all, which upsets them greatly. When Karasuma objects, Takaoka offers him a deal – Karasuma can pick one student to attack him with a knife.  If this student succeeds in striking him once, Takaoka will concede that Karasuma is the better teacher and he will leave. However, if the student fails, Karasuma loses the right to criticize Takaoka forever. Karasuma accepts the challenge, and after some deliberation selects the quiet, gentle Nagisa. Does Nagisa have what it takes to bring down this loud-mouth one-time soldier?

Summers are brutal, but the students of Class 3E don’t even have AC in their ramshackle class building. And they can’t use the school pool because it’s located in the main school building, where they aren’t allowed to go. So Koro Sensei does the next best thing – he creates their own pool on top of their mountain. And the students observe that water is a weakness of Koro Sensei. More opportunities for assassination!

I loved the baseball game and seeing the brats on the other team get their comeuppance, and especially Principal Asano, who I can’t stand. I think we are watching Karasuma grow, both as a person and as an instructor, which after all is the goal of writing, to see your characters change and develop. We also see a side of Nagisa you wouldn’t have believed existed before now. Another great volume, looking forward to more!

Saturday, January 7, 2023

Saturday is Horror Day #95 - White Zombie

 White Zombie

On the island of Haiti, a young couple, Madeline (Madge Bellamy) and Neil (John Harron) look forward to being married. They've been persuaded by Charles (Robert Frazer) to have the wedding at his house. While on the way there, they are approached in their carriage by a strange man, who seems taken with Madeline, and even goes so far as to take her long white scarf before they can elude his grasp. Little do they realize he is "Murder" Legendre (Bela Lugosi), a local business owner.

The couple is further disturbed by tales of zombies on the island - the living undead. Once arrived at Charles' house, it quickly becomes apparent that he is very taken with Madeline, and spends most of his time trying to persuade her to marry him instead. But she is adamant that she won't and to stop being silly. A desperate Charles approaches Legendre who is responsible for the zombies who work under him. Together they hatch a diabolical plan to separate the young couple. And it works, for on their wedding night, the young bride suddenly and mysteriously dies.

This is a little known gem from 1932 starring the incomparable Bela Lugosi. It's actually quite well 

done, and from what I read, it's speculated that Lugosi directed some if not all of the film. It's not very long, not much over an hour, but it says a lot in a short period of time.

Bela is as charming and hypnotic as ever. The film says a lot with little dialogue, almost like a silent movie with a few lines added here and there. Whoever directed, whether Lugosi or not, did a good job in this zombie film made long before the Walking Dead. I'll give this film 4.5 Stars.

Thursday, January 5, 2023

Book Review: Assassination Classroom, Vol 4 by Yusei Matsui


Assassination Classroom, Vol 4      

Author: Yusei Matsui

Publisher: Viz Media

American release date:  June 2, 2015

Format/Genre/Length: Paperback/Action Adventure Manga/192 pages

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★


Ms Vitch has been pronounced lacking by her mentor and considered not fit to continue the assassination assignment. A compromise is reached in which both she and the mentor will attempt to “assassinate” Kurasama. If Irina wins, she can continue to teach there. The battle is on! If she resorts to begging, will she be able to persuade Kurasama to let her “kill” him?

Koro Sensei has plans to see an action movie in Hawaii because the film is being released in the States first and he doesn’t want to wait to see it. Nagisa and Karma beg him to take them along, even if that means traveling at Mach 20 along with him! Will they make an assassination attempt or simply enjoy the outing?

The arrival of the second transfer student is now imminent. This student is preceded by a mysterious white guardian, who introduces himself first and then brings in Itona…who announces that he is Koro Sensei’s brother. What? To say that he is odd would be an understatement, and he instantly earns the ire of his fellow classmates. So Itona and Koro Sensei decide to have a showdown, right there in the classroom…but there have to be rules, naturally. Perhaps the class will learn something by watching these brothers interact.

Since he was sent to Class 3E, Sugino hasn’t been allowed to play on the baseball team, which he misses greatly, since he loves the game. A school sports tournament is being held, but naturally the Class 3E team can’t play. But they’re required to play in the exhibition matches afterward. The boys have to play the Varsity Baseball Team, while the girls have to play the Varsity Basketball Team. Maybe, with Koro Sensei’s help, they can show the rest of the school what they’re really made of. Things are going pretty well for the boys, to the dismay of the Varsity team, when Principal Asano throws a monkey wrench into the works.

I guess you can teach an old dog new tricks. By which I mean Ms. Vitch. She’s come a long way from the woman she was when she first entered Class 3E. She’s proving to be more than a pretty face, and is actually beginning to enjoy her teaching as much as being an assassin.

Itona is very irritating, and I’m glad he left,  but I know we’ll see him again. My favorite part of this volume was the baseball game, because I love to see the students turn the tables on their snobbish schoolmates whenever possible, whether in athletics or academics. Can’t wait to see what the principal does. Hopefully whatever it is, Koro Sensei can overcome it. Another great volume!


Wednesday, January 4, 2023

Wednesday Briefs: Bad Karma and the Family Plan #56 (12.1)

 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.

This long day is finally drawing to a close. Troy and Brendan have gone to a motel, and the rest of the house is ready for sleep. Still no clue as to what is going on, though. 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 #56 (12.1)

The looks we were receiving from Joey were, let’s just say, less than pleasant. His face was contorted in a angry grimace, as if he wanted to lash out at all of us. At the same time, I could tell he wasn’t sure what he could get away with, especially with his father so close at hand and the rest of us more than willing to pound some manners into him… in a nice way, of course.

I noticed he was eying the couch, as if he intended to stake some claim on it. But Benny didn’t appear to be inclined to move, and I suspected Joey didn’t have the nerve to ask him to do so. I also had the feeling that sleeping in his dad’s armchair was not going to fly either. I have to give Ethan’s brother credit for being persistent in his stupidity as he flopped into the chair as if to make himself at home.

That lasted all of thirty seconds, after which Maureen came back down the stairs, her arms laden with what appeared to be bedding.

“Let me help you with that, Mom.” Ethan instantly jumped up and I quickly followed suit. She was indeed blankets and pillows, obviously intended for the four of us.

“Thank you.” She beamed at us before turning her attention to her older son, who hadn’t lifted a finger to help. Not surprising, though. I wondered what she intended to say to him that would get him to move. But it was only one word, and man, was it effective.

She fixed him with a look as she said, “Joey.” But that’s all it took. She handed him a blanket and pillow as he reluctantly slid onto the floor.

I thought I heard a sullen “Yes ma’am”, but I couldn’t be sure…and I really didn’t care.

The rest of us—at least, those who weren’t ingrates—thanked Maureen for her hospitality again. I was gratified to see her face glow at our words. She was such a nice woman, sweet and kind. A lot like my mother. And she’d given me Ethan. What more could I ask for?  When she asked if we needed anything else, we assured her we would be fine fending for ourselves and wished her a good night, so back upstairs she went.

Ethan and I shared our blankets, of course, setting up a bed on one side of the room, closer to Ethan’s uncle than his brother, while Uncle Benny tucked the sheet into the couch and lay down, draping the blanket over him. He looked as wide awake as we did, though.

I couldn’t stop thinking about what was going on and, more importantly, why it was happening. One glance at Ethan more than confirmed that he felt the same way, probably feeling just as restless as I did.

“Maybe we should do a quick perimeter check,” I suggested.

“Good idea, Vin,” Ethan responded with alacrity.

I noticed Benny perk up as well, sitting up on the sofa and slipping his shoes on once more. “I could use some fresh air myself,” was all he said.

I didn’t expect Joe Jr to volunteer to accompany us, and he didn’t—thank goodness. I had some suspicion that he had every intention of taking the sofa for himself once we left the house. But perhaps our next actions served to discourage such a movement, as both Ethan and I brought out our weapon and made sure it was loaded and ready to go. He turned onto his side, away from us. If he thought he was offending us, he was entirely wrong.

“C’mon, let’s go,” Ethan said.

 to be continued

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

Cia Nordwell

Tuesday, January 3, 2023

Book Review: Demon Slayer, Vol 20 by Koyoharu Gotouge


Demon Slayer, Vol 20       

Author: Koyoharu Gotouge

Publisher: Viz Media

American release date: February 2, 2021

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

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★


The fighting intensifies as four of the Hashira battle Muzan’s number one demon, Kokushibo, who was once a demon slayer himself! But things don’t look good for the Hashira. Tokito has been gravely injured and Genya was cut in half – how is he still alive, and drawing on demon blood powers? The Stone and Wind Hashira brothers enter the fray, as they attempt to utilize their strengths against this demon. But will it be enough?

This is such an intense volume, so much going on! A real nail-biter! One of the things I like about the author is that everything is not black and white. He shows that even demons are not entirely bad, as is evidenced here with the story of Kokushibo and his twin brother.

The Demon Slayer story is beginning to draw to an end. If they can get past this demon, their next target will be Muzan. Last seen, Tanjiro was headed toward him. Can’t wait to see how everything plays out!  Great volume, looking forward to the next one!