Wednesday, May 31, 2023

Wednesday Briefs: Bad Karma and the Family Plan #75 (15.5)

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

Imagine Vinnie's horror to learn they actually have to talk to the evil actress again, to learn more about the mystery director who was responsible for her irresponsible behavior! 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 #75 (15.5)

Much as I despised the idea of speaking to the crazy witch, I understood that it was probably our quickest way of getting any information from her—providing I wasn’t doing the questioning, of course. There was a mutual antipathy there that nothing would probably ever lessen…at least on my part. As for her, she was crazy so there was no rhyme or reason as to her thought processes.

Ethan made a quick call to Anderson to find out where Crazy Pants was being held. I presumed at the nearest police station, but that proved not to be the case. Why was I not surprised to find she had wangled her way into a mental health facility just outside of Atlanta? It had always been my experience that money talked louder than common sense, so did being famous. That meant the rich and the famous had it ten times easier than us poor working stiffs.

I listened as Ethan explained what we’d come up with, and how we felt we needed to speak with her, and that she knew more than she was letting on. I could sense Anderson’s reluctance when Ethan brought up Troy and Brendan, as well as Benny. But my silver-tongued boy got his way, especially when he mentioned that we would be heading toward our objective anyway—i.e. getting Benny to Atlanta in time for him to testify. And Troy knew her better than we did and had a higher likelihood of getting her to spill the beans than we did.  What about my own misgivings? At one time, I thought she had a crush on Ethan, but it turned out she was pretending to be with him in order to make her ex-boyfriend, the aforementioned director Daimler, jealous.  Can’t say I was exactly thrilled with that situation, especially since she forced Ethan and me to resort to some pretty extreme methods to be together. But at least I understood that her feelings for Ethan were as phony as she was. After a few minutes of conversation,  Ethan gave us a thumbs up as he hung up with our supervisor and I mentally prepared myself to face what was coming.

Anderson had agreed to our plan, but it turned out there was a proviso. We had to wait until the next day to approach her, as apparently she wasn’t in any shape to be dealt with today. Maybe they’d drugged her or something, I didn’t know. But at least we were getting somewhere. And, to be honest, I didn’t mind any postponement of that meeting. If it were up to me, we could wait for it until the next millennium.

Just kidding…sort of.

Which now left us with another day to kill. Ethan texted Carlos and let him know what was going on, and he just said to keep him apprised, he wasn’t going anywhere. Troy and Brendan decided they wanted to drive around and soak up some of the local atmosphere. I took that as a subtle hint that they wanted some alone time, and I couldn’t blame them for that. So Ethan and I went to see if we could do anything to help Maureen.

“Well, if you wouldn’t mind, it’s such a lovely day, I was about to hang out the wash on the clothesline,” she said.

“We’d love to,” Ethan said.

Wasn’t that why people had driers, I wondered, but I wisely remained quiet, and helped Ethan carry two baskets of laundry to the backyard.

 to be continued

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

Cia Nordwell


Monday, May 29, 2023

Book Review: Zombie-Loan, Vol 1 by Peach-Pit

 

Zombie-Loan, Vol 1        


Author: Peach-pit

Publisher: Yen Press

American release date: October 17, 2007

Format/Genre/Length: Paperback/Horror/Fantasy Manga/208 pages

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★

 

Michiru Kita is the kind of girl who never speaks up for herself, and does what others tell her to do without question. As evidenced by the way the group of girls she eats lunch with every day make her buy all their food, and she has to go and get it herself! She’s on the way back one day when she accidentally runs into two male students, knocking off her glasses. To her alarm, she sees black rings around their necks. Apologizing, she hurries to the cafeteria to deliver the lunch order.  There she discovers that the two boys she ran into are known as Boy A and Boy B, because they were the sole survivors of a horrible accident. Kita finds the rings disturbing because in her experience, people who have them tend to die. Worse than that, though, did she really see what she thought she saw? She awakens in the school infirmary, having fainted. She really wishes the Sister had wakened her instead of allowing her to sleep.

It’s dark and it’s late as she hurries across the empty school grounds, headed home lest her aunt worry about her. But she is stopped by Boy B, real name Chika, who demands she pay him 500 yen for what happened earlier. Seriously? They are joined by Boy A, Shito, who proposes they kill her, presumably for what she witnessed. What to do, what to do? She tells them she just wanted to warn them about danger, about the rings on their necks, and then she manages to sprint to safety.

The next day Shito and Chika face Kita’s bullies and tell them that Kita is their go-fer now, not theirs. Things are going from bad to worse, so she stays home after that but they find her anyway, and even charm her aunt into giving them tea. They claim they are debt collectors.  Kita tries to pay them the 500 yen they demanded but they tell her the debt is now 50 million yen. Wth? They then spirit Kita away to a shady looking business that gives loans. They were very surprised at her ability to see their rings, and they have a definite use for such an ability. See, they work for a special branch of the loan company – the zombie-loan arm – and they owe a huge debt themselves. With her help, they can more easily make the money they need to pay off their debt. Why aren’t they dead, though, when their rings are so dark? In Kita’s experience, the darker the ring, the more imminent death. Oh well, that’s easily explained. They are dead… kinda sorta. They introduce her to the Ferryman, who is an odd sort. And thus a strange business relationship begins.

There is something about Shito and Chika that reminds me of the Boondock Saints, maybe it’s the crosses they wear, not sure. Or maybe it’s just the way they work in tandem. This was a very interesting volume and a great introduction to the series. I anticipate great hijinks ahead and interesting adventures. The Ferryman isn’t what you might expect, being rather quirky and nerdy, kind of like Undertaker in Black Butler but not quite as flamboyant. I suspect there will be character development in this series as it’s already begun. I look forward to seeing Kita grow as a person, and Shito and Chika too. There is already evidence that they are not as heartless as they would have people believe.

Good first volume, looking forward to more.

 

 

Saturday, May 27, 2023

Saturday is Horror Day #115 - The Witch Files

 The Witch Files


Five teenage girls meet during a shared detention period, and become fascinated by the idea that one of them,  Jules (Britt Flatmo) has special witchy powers. She tells them she can show them how to harness their powers, and that together they are stronger. So Claire (Holly Taylor), Brooke (Alice Ziolkoski), MJ (Tara Robinson), and Greta (Adrienne Rose White) agree to meet with her. But it has to be late at night, which means lying to or ducking out on parents and or boyfriends. They sit in a circle and Jules tells them to chant. At first, nothing happens. But then they find themselves able to cause a book to lift into the air, and then one of them. The girls are elated, and decide to test their powers in the real world, which includes stealing from a store by convincing the clerk they paid, and eating for free at a restaurant the same way.




Aspiring documentarian Claire films what they do, as well as doing a little research into some past strange events in the town. What she finds is rather disturbing, and the incidents seem to run in a seventeen-year cycle. Even more disturbing, the girls themselves are starting to feel the effects of their usage of this power, or whatever it is, and their bodies seem to be aging at an inordinate rate, showing signs of arthritis, macular degeneration, and more. Things are going horribly awry, and they begin to wonder who or what Jules really is.


This film has definite echoes of The Craft, but without the heavy vibes and taking itself too seriously. Not surprisingly, one of the writers is Larry Blamire, who brought us The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra films as well as Dark and Stormy Night. The Witch Files is funny and dark without being heavy-handed. I think they channeled the Craft for sure. I know there is a transgender character in The Craft, and one of the girls in The Witch Files makes such references about herself such as needing to "drain the snake" which leads me to wonder if she is transgender as an homage to the other film.


I read some reviews in which people complained about the lack of realism (in a movie about witchcraft? Seriously?) And some said it wasn't as good as The Craft. Personally, I liked it better. It was fun to watch. I'll give this film 4 Stars.

Book Review: Demon Slayer, Vol 23 by Koyoharu Gotouge

 

Demon Slayer, Vol 23      


Author: Koyoharu Gotouge

Publisher: Viz Media

American release date:  August 3, 2021

Format/Genre/Length: Paperback/Fantasy Manga/232 pages

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★

 

This is it…the final battle! The members of the Demon Slayer Corps have been tirelessly battling Muzan, attempting to hold out until dawn, when the sunlight will destroy him. But oh the price they’ve paid. Tanjiro lies on the ground, unmoving, apparently dead, even as a now-human Nezuko arrives and throws herself on him,anguished. Can nothing be done to save him? But it gets worse. Unknown to them, a desperate Muzan has instilled himself into Tanjiro, demonizing him and naming him as his successor, claiming he will be even stronger than Muzan and will destroy the humans utterly. Tanjiro opens his eyes, and attempts to do just that. Yoshiro is helpless and frustrated that he can’t do anything, forced to hide in the shadows. The cry goes up that they must kill Tanjiro! Will his friends and comrades really do that to him? Can they do that to him if he is as strong as Muzan predicts he will be?

This is the final volume of the Demon Slayer series, and I made the mistake of reading it at work. I couldn’t keep from crying. This last volume is a total rollercoaster ride of epic proportions. I did not see that coming, that Muzan would turn Tanjiro into a demon, and my heart broke for all of them, especially Tanjiro and Nezuko.

*****SPOILERS***** However, all’s well that ends well. Not only that, we are given a glimpse into the future, to future generations, and it was truly satisfying. A fitting end to a really awesome series. Good thing I’m still watching the anime. The swordsmith village arc just came out. I know I will read the books again too.

Highly recommend this entire series!

Thursday, May 25, 2023

Book Review: Love Mode, Vol 2 by Yuki Shimizu

 

Love Mode, Vol 2     


Author: Yuki Shimizu

Publisher: Blu

American release date:  March 7, 2006

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

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★

 

Naoya is a young man who has lost everything, including his parents. It seems to him that winter only brings bad things, and this year is no exception when his foster father says he can’t keep him any longer. Aoe Reiji catches his cheating girlfriend in the act in the apartment they share. Despite her tears and protestations that he neglected her, he walks out even as he tells her to vacate the premises. Leaving the building, he almost collides with a young man. Just then, his now ex-girlfriend hurls a potted plant from above him. It misseds Aoe but hits the boy. Aoe takes the boy to the hospital where his older brother, Kiichi, works as a doctor.

While Aoe and his brother stand in the boy’s room and talk, another man appears who says he is the boy’s foster father. The boy is Naoya, and he tells the two men about the death of Naoya’s parents. He has come to check on him, but not take him home, unfortunately. When Naoya is ready to leave the hospital, Aoe offers to take him home. First they go by Naoya’s place of work, where Naoya finds he’s been cheated out of his paycheck. Things just seem to go wrong for him all the time. Then he goes to his apartment, only to find it’s burned up and the landlord is accusing him of causing the fire!

Aoe takes the now homeless Naoya back to his own apartment and they become roommates. Well, somewhat. Naoya is always angry and he doesn’t trust Aoe, who never reveals how he really feels at the best of times. Naoya finds Aoe to be strict, but he’s honestly just looking out for him, making sure he eats right, sleeps right, and gets to school and studies. Aoe’s brother Kiichi, the doctor, seems amused by Aoe’s interest in the boy and encourages Naoya to get Aoe to spend lots of money on him, telling the boy that his brother can afford it.

Naoya is very reluctant to trust Aoe, and he fears he is a burden to the older man. But he’s also na├»ve, and gets himself into a dangerous situation. Luckily, it’s at one of Aoe’s clubs, and Aoe quickly comes to the rescue.  After that, Aoe hires Naoya as a companion for “Izumi”, his best escort, and he becomes friends with the lovely man, who is still recovering from surgery. But due to unfortunate circumstances, Naoya moves out, but he isn’t happy. And another Christmas has come and he’s alone…again.

This volume introduces us to Naoya, and sees the return of Aoe, who you’ll recall is Takamiya’s sometimes less-than-charming friend who was so hard on Izumi in the first book. Naoya is a boy who’s lost everything and trusts no one. Aoe puts on a hard front, but he is really sweet inside (just don’t tell him that). The two end up together (and just for the record, Aoe is the same age as Takamiya, 28, and Naoya is 17, like Izumi. If this bothers you, don’t read).

I like them as a couple, but I like Takamiya and Izumi the best. There is a bonus story about Takamiya and Izumi and Christmas. Really love this manga, wish there was an anime!

Wednesday, May 24, 2023

Wednesday Briefs: Bad Karma and the Family Plan #75 (15.5)

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

Imagine Vinnie's horror to learn they actually have to talk to the evil actress again, to learn more about the mystery director who was responsible for her irresponsible behavior! 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 #75 (15.5)

Much as I despised the idea of speaking to the crazy witch, I understood that it was probably our quickest way of getting any information from her—providing I wasn’t doing the questioning, of course. There was a mutual antipathy there that nothing would probably ever lessen…at least on my part. As for her, she was crazy so there was no rhyme or reason as to her thought processes.

Ethan made a quick call to Anderson to find out where Crazy Pants was being held. I presumed at the nearest police station, but that proved not to be the case. Why was I not surprised to find she had wangled her way into a mental health facility just outside of Atlanta? It had always been my experience that money talked louder than common sense, so did being famous. That meant the rich and the famous had it ten times easier than us poor working stiffs.

I listened as Ethan explained what we’d come up with, and how we felt we needed to speak with her, and that she knew more than she was letting on. I could sense Anderson’s reluctance when Ethan brought up Troy and Brendan, as well as Benny. But my silver-tongued boy got his way, especially when he mentioned that we would be heading toward our objective anyway—i.e. getting Benny to Atlanta in time for him to testify. And Troy knew her better than we did and had a higher likelihood of getting her to spill the beans than we did.  What about my own misgivings? At one time, I thought she had a crush on Ethan, but it turned out she was pretending to be with him in order to make her ex-boyfriend, the aforementioned director Daimler, jealous.  Can’t say I was exactly thrilled with that situation, especially since she forced Ethan and me to resort to some pretty extreme methods to be together. But at least I understood that her feelings for Ethan were as phony as she was. After a few minutes of conversation,  Ethan gave us a thumbs up as he hung up with our supervisor and I mentally prepared myself to face what was coming.

Anderson had agreed to our plan, but it turned out there was a proviso. We had to wait until the next day to approach her, as apparently she wasn’t in any shape to be dealt with today. Maybe they’d drugged her or something, I didn’t know. But at least we were getting somewhere. And, to be honest, I didn’t mind any postponement of that meeting. If it were up to me, we could wait for it until the next millennium.

Just kidding…sort of.

Which now left us with another day to kill. Ethan texted Carlos and let him know what was going on, and he just said to keep him apprised, he wasn’t going anywhere. Troy and Brendan decided they wanted to drive around and soak up some of the local atmosphere. I took that as a subtle hint that they wanted some alone time, and I couldn’t blame them for that. So Ethan and I went to see if we could do anything to help Maureen.

“Well, if you wouldn’t mind, it’s such a lovely day, I was about to hang out the wash on the clothesline,” she said.

“We’d love to,” Ethan said.

Wasn’t that why people had driers, I wondered, but I wisely remained quiet, and helped Ethan carry two baskets of laundry to the backyard.

 to be continued

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

Cia Nordwell


Sunday, May 21, 2023

Book Review: Assassination Classroom, Vol 9 by Yusei Matsui

 

Assassination Classroom, Vol 9      


Author: Yusei Matsui

Publisher: Viz Media

American release date:  April 5, 2016

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

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★

 

The showdown has begun – Nagisa vs the Final Boss! Turns out the boss is none other than their former teacher, Takaoka, the one Nagisa bested before. Looks like he has a grudge against his former students! Or maybe it’s just the ten million dollars at stake for killing Koro Sensei… or both.  Nagisa is angry enough to kill the man, but will cooler heads prevail? Terasaka reminds him that it’s still murder and not worth it, to just beat him up without killing him. Nagisa bested him once before, can he do it again?

Once the situation is resolved, everyone returns to their hotel and sleeps like the dead! Afterward, Koro Sensei has an idea for the perfect way to wrap up their assassination vacation through a test of courage. But his true purpose is to play matchmaker! His plans don’t exactly come to fruition, as his students aren’t that easily played, but there is one possibility for a love match, and the students are glad to assist their teacher in his matchmaking efforts.

Back to school! Time is running out before the possible end of the world. The powers that be determine that the bounty on killing the creature should be increased for a group, since the students almost succeeded in killing him over the break. The reward is now set at 300 million! However the new semester also starts with a startling new development, as one member of Class 3E defects and returns to Class A – for all the wrong reasons! Oh dear, can they bring him back into the fold before he inflicts irreversible damage?

I really enjoyed the assassination vacation arc, it was a lot of fun, and we got to see the class develop and grow in many ways. The way the final situation was handled was wonderful. Nagisa has a great future ahead of him if he wishes to become a spy or a professional assassin! The matchmaking story was cute, and I liked the unexpected twist. Also, the defecting of one student was a challenge, trying to figure out his motivation. Love this series so much, looking forward to the next volume!

Saturday, May 20, 2023

Saturday is Horror Day #114 - Terrifier 2

 Terrifier 2


Siblings Sienna (Lauren LaVera) and Jonathan (Elliott Fullam) haven't had it easy since the death of their father, and living with their mother Barbara (Sarah Voigt) is no picnic. She shows a distinct lack of understanding for what her children are going through, and never believes them, even when they're telling the truth. Jonathan is blamed for things that happened at his school, such as the presence of a dead animal, and no one believes him when he says he's seen Art the Clown (David Howard Thornton), the supposedly dead serial killer.






Halloween is coming. Sienna has been working hard on her costume, based on a character her father drew 


in a book of sketches. Jonathan plans to go as Art the Clown, although his mother insists that he not do so. But strange things are beginning to happen, including the destruction of Sienna's costume wings in an unexplained fire in her room that her mother blames on her. But Sienna knows she never lit the candles. What is going on? She is forced to find a cheap replacement, as there is no time to make a new set, and while at the Halloween shop, she spies someone who resembles the clown. And he is creepy as hell. She leaves the shop safely but the clerk is not so lucky.




Both Sienna and Jonathan have seen Art with a companion - a young girl in similar clown make-up, who looks just as crazy as he does. But no one else seems to see them. Sienna tells her mother she is going to a friend's house on Halloween, but she dresses up and goes with her to a bar, where not only is she drinking, but her friend slips some molly into her drink, so she is not exactly thinking clearly. Jonathan's mom berates him harshly again for something he never did, and he runs out of the house.


The body count is rising. Sienna freaks out at the club with her friend and her boyfriend at the sight of the little girl, so they decide to take her home. But she gets a call from Jonathan, asking for her help, and telling her to go to the old carnival...to the Terrifier ride. The boyfriend offers to drive her, and while she looks for her brother, they wait in the car...





The second movie is every bit as gory and visceral as the first, but we see more of Art, who is a strange and yet compelling character. Not likeable, certainly not. I can honestly say I like Hannibal Lecter, despite his unusual culinary habits, but Art the Clown? Never. Creepy beyond belief, and well played by David Howard Thornton. How creepy is it that he can convey his creepiness without speaking a single word?

This movie is certainly not for the faint at heart. One scene involves handing out Halloween candy to unsuspecting trick-or-treaters in a hollowed-out human head! I am still left wondering about so many things. Where did Art come from, and why does he do the things he does? I think the little girl was explained somewhat. But there is also the question of Sienna and Jonathan's father, who supposedly killed himself by running his car into a transformer and burning up. I wonder if he really died? And how did he come up with the sketches in his book, including that of the clown and his daughter in her costume? Look for the woman from the first film whose face was torn up beyond repair. She's living in an institution now, and we are not done with her by any means. In fact, from what I understand, there will be a third and fourth movie, which should conclude the series. That remains to be seen. 

I have to say also that the film took a bit of an unexpected left turn toward the end, one I still don't get, and for which I am rating it down. I'll give this film 3.5 Stars.

Friday, May 19, 2023

Book Review: Demon Slayer, Vol 22 by Koyoharu Gotouge

 

Demon Slayer, Vol 22     


Author: Koyoharu Gotouge

Publisher: Viz Media

American release date:  June 1, 2021

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

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★

 

The battle to defeat Muzan has taken a great toll among the Demon Slayer Corps. So many good people dead because of Muzan and his demonic minions. Iguro is trying to shield Himejima, but he knows he won’t be able to move for much longer, and Kanroji is afraid she is about to fall without having accomplished anything. Iguro sends Kanroji off to be healed, and he tells her he does not deserve to be with someone like her as he is not worthy. Iguro was the first male to be born into his family in 370 years. His mother, sisters, and aunts confined him to a cell, stuffed him with rich foods and fawned over him, while at night, something truly horrible happened.

Himejima is surprised at the arrival of Kanao, Inosuke, and Zenitsu, thinking they weren’t still alive. Muzan is still battling, despite the loss of some limbs, but he does regenerate after all, although he doesn’t seem to be doing it quite as quickly as before. Himejima realizes that just cutting off Muzan’s head won’t kill him because he has multiple hearts and brains. The trouble is they keep moving, and without a fixed location, it makes it difficult to destroy them.

Tanjiro finally arrives and he looks terrible. But he has an idea, a way of putting an end to Muzan once and for all. Will his idea work, and will he survive the ordeal? Also, Nezuko is on her way. How will she be affected by everything?

One more volume to go. Edge of the seat, nail-biting stuff.  I know how I want it to work out – with Muzan dead and Tanjiro not just alive but well again. I know things will never be the same, so many good people lost, but hopefully all’s well that ends well. After this, Tanjiro deserves to become a Hashira! And Nezuko should be able to join the Demon Slayer Corps too. What about her and Zenitsu? Personally, I can’t see it, but you never know.

Looking forward with both trepidation and anticipation to the last volume!

Thursday, May 18, 2023

Book Review: Love Mode, Vol 1 by Yuki Shimizu

 

Love Mode Vol 1         


Author: Yuki Shimizu

Publisher: Blu

American release date: November 8, 2005

Format/Genre/Length: Paperback/Yaoi Manga/216 pages

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★

 

High schooler Izumi is surprised to receive a call from a friend he hasn’t spoken to in awhile, Konno. Konno tells him that a friend has asked to meet Izumi, and offers to set him up on a blind date. He says the friend is older and good-looking. What’s not to like? Izumi jumps at the chance. Following instructions, he arrives at the meeting place and waits, wondering what the mystery woman looks like, anticipating the date that is to come. While he waits, he notices a man standing near to him collapses and is taken away by ambulance. He picks up the single red rose the man dropped, and continues to wait. When a voice speaks his name, he eagerly looks up to see what his date looks like, only to be confronted by the face of… a man? What is going on here?

The man’s name is Takamiya, and he seems pleased with Izumi, and says he is looking forward to their day together. Izumi tries to explain there’s been some mistake, but when Takamiya mentions horses, he catches the younger man’s attention. Real horses? And thus their day together begins. During dinner, Izumi drinks a little too much and doesn’t remember leaving the restaurant. He wakes to find himself in a strange bed. But why is he naked? Why is Takamiya naked? What is going on here?

After they have sex, Takamiya tries to offer Izumi money. The incensed teenager yells at him, and that is when Takamiya realizes there has been a case of mistaken identity. But he can’t undo what has been done. Poor Izumi passes out again, and when he wakes, he is in his own bed, thank goodness. But when he goes to find his mother, he finds Takamiya in the kitchen and his mother gone shopping! Apparently, since Takamiya brought Izumi home, she trusts him? What the heck?

Thus an unusual relationship begins. Despite the fact that he knows he isn’t gay, Izumi finds that he does enjoy spending time with Takamiya, and sometimes he even finds him attractive. What does that mean? Things go from strange to worse when he meets Takamiya’s friend, Aoe Reiji, who owns the club where the actual escort he was to meet works. Aoe clearly does not think highly of Izumi and calls him a brat. When Takamiya takes Izumi away for golden week to a resort, Izumi is excited, until he learns that the place is actually Aoe’s, and that man has no compunction about just walking into a room without knocking first.

This series first came out in 1996, and I think I read it for the first time then. So, there are things to be taken into consideration before you rush to judgment. First, although Izumi is sixteen, that is the age of consent in Japan. Takamiya and Aoe are 28, but that is not considered inappropriate there either. Then there is the issue of dubious consent. That was a big thing back then, not sure about now, as I don’t read as much yaoi as I once did. However, I think it was considered to be okay if the couple ends up together and in love, that the ending excuses the means. But if you are triggered by dubious consent, you might want to reconsider reading this series. I’m not saying I think it’s right, just that it is what it is.

That being said, I love these books, and have read them a couple of times already, although this is my first time reviewing them.  Keep in mind, also, as you read, that attitudes toward gay people were still often derogatory, so take Izumi’s comments with a grain of salt and remember he is just becoming aware of his own sexuality. Plus he’s sixteen.

Takamiya is sweet and gentle and ever patient. He will need that patience with Izumi, who is young and hot-headed and impulsive. They do balance each other very well. Aoe comes across as something of an a**, especially with the stunt he pulls on Izumi, but I know he becomes more human as the series continues. All in all, I think this series stands the test of time, which is why I am reading it again. I do highly recommend it if you enjoy reading gay romance.

Wednesday, May 17, 2023

Wednesday Briefs: Bad Karma and the Family Plan #74 (1.4)

 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.

St. Clair's last words have the boys wondering, so with Troy's help, they've hacked her email account, on the trail of her mystery director. 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 happening with them. Their links follow my tale! Enjoy!

Bad Karma and the Family Plan #74 (15.4)

At Troy’s insistence, Ethan took his place at the computer. Tthe rest of us clustered around him, eager to see what he could find on this Faulkner character.

A quick Google search revealed many references to the famous author, from biographical information to discussions on his books and the films that were made from them, however the alleged director was a little harder to find. We could locate no websites, surprisingly. And no IMDb page, either, which struck us as even odder. Even Troy admitted that most people in Hollywood would add their own page if no one else did it first, and the website contained a number of people in the industry who were known only to their families.

“Us Hollywood types have big egos, you know,” he said with a chuckle. “Kinda goes with the territory.”

I could see that. Especially in the case of the actress-who-shall-not-be-named.

Ethan opened up Facebook then and typed in William Faulkner. There were a few hits on that name, but we were able to eliminate most of them as belonging to normal, average people. That left us with one page with a Hollywood-style headshot at the top of a handsome brunet man with lovely blue eyes. A little further digging revealed a short list of his films, with such odd titles as Slippery When Wet, Star Strangled Banner, Send the Boys Out, and Undercover Agents in Love.

That was a rather odd filmography. I’d heard of none of those films. I didn’t think the others had either, judging by the lack of recognition on their faces.

Ethan turned to Troy. “Does this guy look familiar to you at all? Maybe he was an assistant director or something you worked with at one time.”

Troy gave the photo his undivided attention, then shook his head. “I’d remember someone like that,” he said. “I’ve never seen him before.”

“I have an idea,” Brendan said almost shyly, as if he was afraid to voice an opinion among us, which idea was rather silly as we were all friends.

“What’s that, baby?” Troy prompted, which brought a cute glow to Brendan’s cheeks.

“How about if we do a search on the photo through Google? Just to see what we come up with?”

“That’s an excellent idea,” Troy praised him, earning another blush and a kiss, while Ethan and I seconded the idea most heartily as Ethan put the plan into motion. Sure enough, we got a hit on the picture, but it wasn’t from a site catering to famous directors or even actors. No, this was a stock photo of a model. No wonder Troy didn’t recognize the man.

Ethan proceeded to enter the names of his so-called films and came up with zilch.

“I hesitate to suggest this,” Troy began. As he spoke, the back of my neck began to tingle. Something wicked this way comes?

“What are you thinking?” Ethan asked.

When Troy shot me a guarded look, my feeling of unease began to grow. Somehow, I knew I wasn’t going to like this. Not one little bit.

“I think maybe you should talk to Carrie about this.”

Yup, my worst fears just came true. 

to be continued

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

Cia Nordwell


Sunday, May 14, 2023

Book Review: Assassination Classroom, Vol 8 by Yusei Matsui

 

Assassination Classroom, Vol 8     


Author: Yusei Matsui

Publisher: Viz Media

American release date:  February 2, 2016

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

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★

 

What began as a well-earned vacation, and a chance to assassinate Koro Sensei, has turned into a nightmare when half the class is poisoned by person or persons unknown, and the only way to obtain the antidote that will save them is by handing over Koro Sensei! And as if that wasn’t bad enough, thanks to the class’s vigorous assassination attempt, their teacher is locked in his ultimate defense mode and unable to help them! But Class 3E is nothing if not resourceful, and they refuse to give up. Instead of simply handing him off at the designated meeting place, they are going to break in and get that antidote, eliminating anyone who gets in their way!

The students scale a steep cliff at the rear of the resort hotel, which has been left unguarded due to its inaccessibility. But they don’t know the training these kids have received, and that climb is no problem for them! Poor Karasuma is saddled with Irina, who is weighing him down! But she proves her value when they enter the hotel and have to figure out how to cross the open lobby! Deploying her considerable skills, she draws attention to herself, and the students are able to slip by.

But that is only the first floor. They have to get up to the tenth floor, and it’s not likely each floor will be as easy to conquer. These are professionals, after all. But that doesn’t stop the resourceful students of 3E, so off they go!

I really enjoyed reading this arc, watching the students display not just the skills they’ve learned so far but employing their own talents, oftentimes thinking outside the box. Karasuma is incapacitated early on, so they can’t rely on him, although they do carry him along with them. On each floor, a different student gets the opportunity to shine. I especially love the way the girls utilized Nagisa, although he was not too fond of the idea himself. But by the end of the volume, he has a difficult choice to make. Have to wait for the next volume to find out what he chooses to do!  And just want to say that the gun-eating gangster is gross lol

Great volume, looking forward to the next one!

Saturday, May 13, 2023

Saturday is Horror Day #113 - Dark and Stormy Night, Dead Snow 2: Red vs Dead

 Dark and Stormy Night


It's a dark and stormy night when reporter 8 O'Clock Farraday (Daniel Rockbuck) arrives in a taxi driven by cabby Happy Codburn (Dan Conroy). Apparently, the reading of Sinas Cavinder's will is to take place, and Farraday plans to nab that story for himself. On arrival, he's short 35 cents of his fare, so Happy follows him up to the door of the mansion, despite the dire weather. They are unexpectedly joined by a third party, who enters with them when the butler Jeens (Bruce French) admits them, even though none of them have a real reason to be there. The newcomer is none other than rival reporter Billy Tuesday (Jennifer Blaire), also there to get the scoop on the reading of Cavinder's will.





Unbeknownst to homeowner Burling Famish Jr (Brian Howe), his wife Pristy (Christine Romeo) is 


 having  an affair with Teak Armbruster (Kevin Quinn). Suddenly, people continue to appear as out of nowhere, including Sabasha Fanmoore (Fay Masterson), Lord Partfine (Andrew Parks), Seyton Ethelquake (James Karen), and others. An unexpected twist occurs when it is revealed tha tthe bridge leading to the house in the middle of nowhere has been washed out, and now everyone is trapped there.




Despite long-winded delays and boring stories, the lawyer Farper Twyly (Mark Redfield) gets to the actual reading of the will.  Oddly, there is a random bequest for total stranger Ray Vestinhaus (Larry Blamire) whose car broke down in the middle of nowhere and he wanted to attend the reading of the will. The bulk of the estate goes to Sabasha, but should anything happen to her, it will then go to Burling Famish. However, there is a separate envelope, which was intended to be read after the will. It seems there was a codicile, stating that a change has been made, and that everything is to go to.... and then the lights go out.


And of course, this is when mayhem ensues as somebody is picking off the occupants of the house, one by one. But who... and why? This is a classic dark and stormy night murder mystery that is also a damn funny comedy, from the same guy who brought us the Lost Skeleton of Cadavra, including many of the same faces. But there are also people you might otherwise recognize as well, including Jim Beaver, Marvin Kaplan, Betty Garrett and James Karen. Alison Martin is hysterical as so-called psychic Mrs. Cupcupboard, and the seance scene is beyond funny. Look for a gorilla in the house, too. The back and forth between the two reporters reminded me a lot of the banter of the Three Stooges. Everyone in this film is wonderful.


I'm sorry I didn't discover Larry Blamire sooner. His films are great. I'm trying to find more. If you like mysteries that make you laugh, this is the film for you. I give this film 4.5 Stars

Dead Snow 2: Red vs Dead


Martin (Geir Vegar Hoel) is the sole survivor from his group of friends who only wanted to enjoy a skiing vacation but were brutally attacked and killed by... Nazi zombies!  But just when he thinks he is home free, Martin realizes he has one of the gold coins the Nazis wanted inside his car, and the Nazi commander, Herzog (Organ Gamst) is right there to get it. They end up fighting for it, and Martin speeds away with the Nazi zombie clinging to the car, one arm trapped inside the window. Martin avails himself of a semi passing in the opposite direction to remove his problem, although the arm flies onto the floor of the car. Martin tosses the coin out the window and figures he's seen the last of them. However, road conditions are poor and Martin ends up in an accident.




Martin awakens to find himself in the hospital. But his nightmare has just become worse, for the police 


have discovered the bodies of his friends and think he is responsible for their deaths! Even worse, he is approached by a surgeon who wishes to give him some good news. Noticing his missing limb (Martin cut it off after being bitten), the police searched the car and found his arm, and they have successfully reattached it. Isn't that good news? Poor Martin is horrified as he realizes that this arm is actually Herzog's.

While he's held captive in the hospital, he gets a visit from a young man who snuck in to see his arm. Turns out he is a member of a Zombie Squad, and he is excited to find evidence that what they believe to be true is true - that zombies are real! He takes pictures of the arm and sends them to his friends in the US.



 Things go from worse to worser as Martin discovers that the arm has a mind of its own, and it isn't good. It goes on a killing rampage, including the boy. Martin finds himself with the boy's phone when the Zombie Squad calls, and he reports that the boy was killed by zombies. The leader of the squad, Daniel (Martin Starr) assures him that they are professionals and they are on the way. That's good news, right? Except Martin doesn't realize that the entire squad consists of Martin and Monica (Jocelyn DeBoer) and Blake (Ingrid Haas). Daniel tells Martin to find out what Herzog wants before they arrive.


Martin goes to a World War II museum where he meets Glenn (Stig Frode Henriksen), who is a little intimidated by him. He shows him what they have regarding Herzog, and what his original mission was - namely, to destroy the town of Talvik, because of their anti-Nazi sabotage. When Glenn shows him the map, Martin realizes to his horror that where they are lies between where the Nazis were and Talvik. Sure enough, looking out the window to where a bus of tourists had arrived and were disembarking, the two men witness a scene of carnage and chaos.


Cue the arrival of the Zombie Squad. Somehow, Martin isn't reassured at the sight of the three. He'd expected more help. But this is the reality. That, and his arm, which he has begun to learn to control. Will this be enough to stop the Nazi horde once again?

Honestly, I liked the second film even more than the first. I liked the first, but this one doesn't have all the relationship bs that clouded the first one, plus no one is having sex in an outhouse (just ick). The Nazi zombies are unique and different from other zombies in other zombie films, they are actually worthy adversaries. The Zombie Squad aren't as foolish as they first appear, and they don't hesitate to jump into the fray. I really liked Glenn, too. And the Norwegian police, who can never quite seem to figure out what's going on. If you watch this, stay until the end of the credits for a final scene.

Sadly, there will probably not be a Dead Snow 3, as the actor who played Martin passed. Too bad, there was supposed to be a zombie Hitler. That would have been epic. Nonetheless, this was worth watching. I'll give it 4.5 Stars.

Wednesday, May 10, 2023

Wednesday Briefs: Bad Karma and the Family Plan #73 (15.3)

 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.

Who could be behind the bizarre film audition of one Caroline St. Clair? And to what purpose? Vinnie and Ethan, with the help of Troy and Brendan, decide to check out the actress' email and see if a clue lies there. 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 #73 (15.3)

“Doesn’t it stand to reason that she would want to keep track of business emails as opposed to personal emails?” Ethan continued. We all nodded our agreement.

“So maybe she set those emails aside, put them into a separate folder, so she could find them easily?”

Told you my boy is brilliant.

“Why didn’t I think of that?” Troy exclaimed. “I do that myself. I make a folder for each project and then just move relevant emails into that folder.” He moved the cursor over to the left side of the screen where all her folders were listed in alphabetical order. The question now was what would Miss Crazy Pants label the folder we were looking for, since we had no idea what the title of the so-called film was.

Troy moved his cursor from folder to folder, and we followed along with our eyes. She had a number of folders, some with people’s names or film titles, other with the names of stores she shopped at or places she had been. One folder was labeled Men I would never sleep with. I refrained from commenting that was probably a short list.

Occasionally, Troy opened up a folder to examine the contents, if the name was too obscure to hint at anything, but those always turned out to be nothing of interest. Some contained photos, often of herself. I was surprised to see one with Gordon Daimler’s name, her ex, but I chalked that up to her not bothering to delete it yet.

We were getting nowhere fast.

“Sorry, guys,” Troy apologized. “Guess this wasn’t such a great idea after all.”

We all assured him that it wasn’t his fault, that it could have been just the clue we needed to identify the mystery director.

Troy sighed. “Thanks. Should we just hang this up and think of something else?” He glanced around at the three of us. Brendan leaned down and kissed the top of Troy’s head, which produced a smile.

“Wait a minute,” Ethan said. “Um, let me ask you something.”

“What’s that?” Troy said.

“Does Caroline like to read?”

“Read? Carrie?” Troy though for a moment. “Yeah, I’d say she likes to read. Mostly romance novels. Why do you ask?”

“Well, no offense, but she doesn’t strike me as the type to read a lot of classic literature, if you know what I mean.”

Troy chuckled. “I think that’s a fair assumption to make, all things considered, but what does her taste in books have to do with anything.”

Ethan pointed to the screen. “I noticed she has a few folders named after authors, mostly women. It just struck me as odd that she has one marked William Faulkner, that’s all.”

Now that he mentioned it that did seem rather odd. Not that I was necessarily a fan of the man’s, although I did remember reading at least one of his books in college. I was actually surprised the actress read anything other than movie magazines, to be honest. I would never have pegged her as one who would enjoy reading the classics.

Troy clicked on the folder. There were a few emails inside, all from the same email address—BillyFaulkner987@gmail.com. Obviously not the author himself, since I was pretty sure he was long dead.

“Is there a director named William Faulkner?” Ethan asked. Good question.

“Not that I know of,” Troy replied. “Although I don’t claim to know everyone, but you’d think I would at least have heard of him before.”

“Maybe this is just one of her fans?” Brendan suggested. “Or even a patron? Or a boyfriend?”

“Not a boyfriend. She tells me about all the men and her life and she’s never mentioned him.” He scrolled up to the oldest email in the chain, then whistled.

“What is it?” Brandon asked, anxiety evident in his voice.

“This is the one,” he said. “The director we’ve been looking for.”

to be continued

Now see what's happening with the other Briefers!

Cia Nordwell

 


Monday, May 8, 2023

Book Review: For You and Only You (You #4) by Caroline Kepnes

 

For You and Only You (You #4)        


Author: Caroline Kepnes

Publisher: Random House

American release date:  April 25, 2023

Format/Genre/Length: Paperback/Psychological Thriller/448 pages

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★

 

Tiring of the bookshop in Florida, Joe Goldberg decides that instead of selling books, he is going to write them! To that end, he applies for and receives a fellowship to Harvard, so it’s off to Boston for Joe! How prestigious is that? The fellowship is being led by an actual well-known author, Glenn Shoddy, of Scabies for Breakfast fame. But that isn’t the best part. When Joe meets his fellow authors, of various backgrounds and various genres, his heart goes thump when he spies her, the girl of his dreams…Wonder Parish. Back in love, Joe does what Joe does best – he stalks the girl. To get to know her better, of course.

Wonder works at a Dunkin’ Donuts and loves Coolattas – she drinks them like they’re going out of style. She lives with her father, whom she buys scratchers for on a regular basis. She has a sister named Cherish, who has a little girl named Karidad. Wonder is working on a book called Faithful, and she is afraid to let anyone read it, but of course that has to happen – that’s the point of the fellowship. Not all the authors are as reticent as she is, and some have actually been published, and think they’re better than the rest. Joe, of course, sees through them. And that includes Glenn.

But Joe isn’t stupid, and he’ll do what he needs to do in order to be published, to be acknowledged as the great writer that he is. Even if it means toadying up to Glenn Shoddy, running errands for him, and even biking with him – ye gods! However, even Joe has his breaking point. When he meets Glenn’s wife Sly, who is also an author, having written an obscure and unsuccessful novel called Flour Girls, Joe learns some interesting truths. And knowledge, as they say is power.

But even with the fellowship under new leadership, bumpy roads lie ahead. True crime writer Mary Beth (rhymes with Death) is on to Joe. In a moment of weakness, he confesses all, which she captures on tape. So now she has proof of his dark deeds! So, what will she do with the information? And what will Joe do with Mary Beth? How can he protect Wonder from undeserved criticism, protect and boost her fragile ego, convince her she is a wonderful writer, and make her see that he is the greatest thing to ever come into her life, all while becoming published himself and staying out of prison? Joe has got his work cut out for him.

I think I enjoyed the fourth Joe Goldberg novel even more than the third. How bold of Joe to yearn to enter the spotlight, to reveal himself to the world at large, when he has left a trail of dead bodies a mile wide. Surely that is bound to catch up with him at some point? Or does he lead a truly charmed life? Joe is a delight, as always. I find his taste in women somewhat lacking, but at the same time, somewhat similar. I don’t believe I’ve liked any of them.

If you’re also watching the series, you’ll notice a great divergence, as the series has taken a left turn. I think I stopped watching after the second season because of that, and not wanting to confuse the books with the series. That being said, Penn Badgley is simply brilliant as Joe. I just wish they’d stuck to the books (I have the same complaint in regard to Lucifer and the Witcher series. At least the Witcher followed it for a while, but Lucifer never did. But I digress). Fantastic novel, looking forward to more. I have to believe that at some point, Joe will have to face the consequences of his actions. It will take more than a silver tongue and a strong sense of self-preservation to help him then.