October 2022


The first volume in an eccentric manga series.

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Denji is a poor young man who has never gone to school or even eaten jam. When his father killed himself, Denji inherited his father’s enormous debt to the yakuza, the Japanese organized crime. So now, Denji will do anything for money and food. He has sold off one of his eyes and a kidney. He has a pet devil dog Pochita who has a chainsaw on his head. So naturally, they hunt devils.

The comic is set in 1997, except for the existence of devils that attack humans and kill them. Devils can also possess dead humans. Most devils are evil and violent, but a few are more friendly, such as Pochita.

However, Denji and Pochita are ambushed. Earlier, Denji promised Pochita that if he died, Pochita could take over his body. Now, when Denji is near death, Pochita makes a pact with him. Pochita would merge with Denji if Denji showed the devil his dreams. Denji agrees and becomes a devil/human hybrid who can manifest chainsaws from his hands and head. The chainsaws come out when he pulls at a cord on his chest.

Soon, he is recruited to the Public Safety Division which protects humans from devils. Really, Denji’s choices are to join or be killed, so of course he joins. The Division has some devils working for it, as well as humans.

As you might expect, the comic is quite violent, centering on fights against devils. However, it also has dark humor and jokes. Denji’s goal is to have a normal life, including living inside, eating good food, and touching breasts. Joining the Division he gets to eat good food and live indoors, together with a crouchy male agent who doesn’t like Denji. His obsession with women’s breasts is a bit annoying. The Division has a couple of interesting characters, a brooding devil hunter who takes everything seriously and his opposite, a devil inside a girl’s body who doesn’t seem to be stable at all.

This seems like a good start to the series, introducing the world and the characters but leaving a lot of questions unanswered. Ends with a cliffhanger.

The ninth Commissario Brunetti mystery.

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Publishing year: 2000

Format: Print

Finnish publisher: Otava

Page count: 272

Finnish translator: Kristiina Rikman

Commissario Guido Brunetti from Venetian police is enjoying his free Saturday when a young official from Officio Castato, the registrar of buildings in Venice, comes to tell him that they haven’t found any building plans for his apartment on the top floor of one of the oldest buildings in San Polo. Since the apartment doesn’t exist officially, it’s possible that it will be torn down. At least Bruentti most likely must pay high fines. Brunetti, of course, isn’t happy.

In real Venetian style, Brunetti thinks about any contacts he has who can help. But months go by and he doesn’t hear about the registrar’s office. Then he sees an article in the newspaper that the official fell and is in a hospital, in critical condition. He goes to the hospital but the man has died. The man’s death feels off to Bruentti so he starts to investigate.

The case leads him to money laundering and drug dealing and also the high level of corruption in Venice.

The pace of the story is leisurely but the threat feels very real when Brunetti digs into the dealings of powerful people in the corrupt Venice. Brunetti himself isn’t above corruption, no matter how much he loathes the rich and powerful using the unofficial system: “At no time did it occur to him, as it did not occur to Paola [his wife], to approach the matter legally, to find out the names of the proper offices and officials and the proper steps to follow. Nor did it occur to either one of them that there might be a clearly defined bureaucratic procedure by which they could resolve the problem.

Leon manages to capture the beauty of the city while also bringing to light the many problems. I love the interplay between Brunetti and his wife Paola.

Storybundle has once gain interesting bundles of books:

Gaslamp Fantasy: Take, first, a liberal dose of historical manners and mores: the grit and stench of a Victorian gutter, perhaps; the decorous charm of an eighteenth-century drawing room; the glitter and glamour, the depravity and decay of an era lit by gas light.

Add, then, the dazzle of sorcery or witchcraft, or the weirdness of the supernatural. Or, perhaps, heavy measures of both. Season with a dash of dragon, or something a little bit fey.

Mix. Bake.

Gaslamp fantasy is the result. Regency romps riotous with mages and werewolves. Psychics and dastardly dukes, vampires and Victorians. Ghosts and ghouls and Edwardian ballrooms.

In this bundle, we have it all. Take a step back in time – and deep into the imagination – with some of the best indies writing today. If you always felt like Jane Eyre really needed a vampire component, or Jane Austen would’ve been even more fun with dragons, well, we’ve got you. Dive in!

21 days to go

The Locked and Loaded Military SF Bundle: Whether it’s service in the galactic marines, or defending Earth from an alien invasion, or traveling with the Federation fleet to protect a new colony, Military SF always gives readers a great story.

This new Locked and Loaded Storybundle, curated by bestselling author Kevin J. Anderson, contains fifteen action-packed books across the whole range of Mil SF.

14 days to go

The Hollywood Horror Bundle: Ah, Hollywood! The glitz, the glamour – the monsters! For Halloween this year I thought it would be fun to collect books with some connection to Tinseltown – whether by actors, screenwriters, books about the movies or those in development to become films and TV shows. It’s a mixed bag of fabulous! But all of it unsettling in some way. As the nights draw long and the frost settles on the windows and the wind howls mercilessly outside, what better time to settle down with a blanket and read some tales dark and grim?

So join me as we take a tour through worlds of ancient rockets and the devil, black and white monsters and deep hidden fungus, of vampires, fire-breathing giant lizards, horror film survivors and, of course, a dinosaur detective. Here is a mixture of novels and intelligent non-fiction, anthologies and novellas – the full gamut of the field spelled out in stars against a silver screen.

7 days to go.

The Witches, Wands and Wanderers Bundle: I’ve always loved tales about witches. Good witches, evil witches, modern or ancient. Any sort of story you can imagine, you can probably place a witch in it, and improve it. (At least in my opinion!)

However, for this bundle, I’ve limited the genre to primarily contemporary fantasy. I wanted the reader to be able to binge on a whole bunch of different takes on witches in the modern day.

7 days to go

HumbleBundle has Vampire Hunter D: Discover the origins of Vampire Hunter D! You may know it from the classic film, the beloved manga, or an upcoming animated series, but the saga started back in the 80s as a series of light novels by author Hideyuki Kikuchi with illustrations by legendary artist Yoshitaka Amano. Together, they tell the story of D, a human-vampire hybrid intent on righting wrongs in a supernatural, post-apocalyptic world governed by the ruling Vampire Nobility class. Read the first 29 volumes of the epic series translated into English by Dark Horse, and help support World Central Kitchen!

7 days to go

Top 5 Wednesday is a GoodReads group where people discuss a different bookish topic each week.

Halloween is right around the corner, and with this holiday, many are dressing up to celebrate! Whether you are planning to dress up or not, share about some characters who you would love to dress up as! Maybe you’ve dressed up as them in the past or are planning to this Halloween, but either way, let’s have a fun time imagining potential future cosplays!

I have my trusty Zorro cape, mask, hat, and sword but beyond that, I don’t plan on doing cosplay. But it would be fun to dress as these characters:

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A stand-alone fantasy book.

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Publication year: 2018

Format: Audio

Running time: 17 hours, 56 minutes
Narrator: Lisa Flanagan

Miryem is the only child of a Jewish couple. They live in a small country town. Her father is a moneylender but he’s very bad at it. He lends money but doesn’t have any luck getting the money back. The people he has lent money to grow wealthier but claim that they can’t pay back. Meanwhile, Miryem and her parents are cold and hungry. When Miryem’s mother falls ill, Miryem has had enough. She starts to collect the money and won’t take no for an answer but threatens to call in the authorities. Finally, they get some money back. In time, Miryem’s business starts to flourish. When one farmer can’t bay back, Miryem orders his daughter to come and work for her.

Wanda’s father is a violent drunkard. To her horror, her father starts to plan how to marry her off for couple of jug of booze. Working for the moneylender and his daughter is a way to avoid that. Also, she slowly starts to see that some families actually love each other. She’s smart and her biggest motive is to avoid a beating from her father. She has two brothers.

Irina is the only child of a Duke. The Duke married her mother because he thought she had magic and would give their child magic, too. Unfortunately, the Duke got an ordinary daughter without any special looks. For most of her life, Irina has been shut away dreading her wedding day.

The whole country is threatened by the Staryk, creatures of snow and ice. Winters are getting longer and harvests poorer. The Staryk claim the animals in the forest and hunt anyone who kills them. Whenever someone gets gold, the Staryk will come to his house and steal it.

One day when Miryam is coming back from her grandfather’s place in the city, she boasts that she can turn silver into gold. The Strayk hear her.

The first part of this story really drew me in. Miryam is a compelling main character struggling with her family and with the townspeople. The encroaching winter is making everything harder.

Miryam is the first-person POV character. She works hard for her family and makes herself cold and hard because she knows that if she allows one person to not pay, the rest won’t pay either. That happened with her father. Her parents are concerned about how cold she has become. She meets occationally her mother’s parents who live in a big city. Her grandfather is a rich moneylender who despises her father because of her father’s softness. But now Miryam has made her grandfather proud.

I was surprised when Novik switched to another first-person POV with Wanda without any warning. Wanda is a more tragic figure with her abusive father, five dead siblings, and dead mother. At first, she isn’t close with her two brothers but they grow closer during the story.

Irina is also a first-person POV. She knows that the only worth she has is with a marriage alliance but her plain looks don’t give her much hope in that regard.

The POV characters changed without warning and they were all in first-person. However, each of the first three contributes to the story. Unfortunately, three other first-person POVs are added later and I didn’t care for them. They were distinctive enough that I didn’t confuse them but I’m not sure if they were needed.

Still, this was an entertaining story. The first half worked very well for me but the second half dragged with the added POVs. The magic feels like a fairy tale rather than logical, modern fantasy magic. For me, it worked very well. The Staryk are terrifying creatures but in the end, they were somewhat humanized.

2022 Holiday Spectacular is live on Kickstarter!

Basically, it’s an expanded fiction Advent Calendar. Every day from American Thanksgiving (November 24th) through January 1st, 2023, all supporters of this campaign will get an original holiday story delivered to them every day to read on any device.

The stories are all original and written by over thirty different professional writers and edited by Hugo Award winning editor Kristine Kathryn Rusch. And no one but Kris and a couple people at WMG Publishing know which story you will get each day. That’s part of the fun.

This year, the three themes are “Candy Cane Kisses”, “Crooked Little Christmas”, and “Time Travel Holidays.” I’m particularly looking forward to those time travel stories.

10 days to go. It’s already funded and passed three stretch goals so every pledger will get three extra stories. The project has two very interesting workshops for writers: How to Write a Hardboiled Holiday Story and How to Write a Secrets Holiday Story.

As I understand it, the original hardcover edition was split into three paperbacks.

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Publishing year: 2014

Format: Print

Publisher: Tor

Page count: 403

About half of the stories are set in the writer’s larger universe and one is a shared world. I had no trouble understanding the stories but unfortunately, I didn’t feel that they were very compelling, either. Most of the women are politically or socially dangerous.

Lev Grossman: The Girl in the Mirror: set in his Magicians world, the story follows Plum. She’s the leader of a secret society of students, the League, in a magical university. One student has stepped over the line and the League must discipline him with an elaborate prank.

Sharon Kay Penman: A Queen in Exile: 1189 Germany. Constance de Hauteville hears that her nephew has died. That means that Constance will be Queen of Sicily and her cold and ruthless husband the Holy Roman Emperor will also be King of Sicily. But a bitter battle for the crown must be won first.

S. M. Sterling: Pronouncing Doom: Machines don’t work anymore and society has fragmented. In this town, Wiccans rule. It’s the heavy duty of Juniper Mackenzie to sentence an evildoer.

Caroline Spector: Lies My Mother Told Me: Set in the Wild Cards universe, the main character Michelle Pond is a major superhero called Bubbles. She and her adoptive daughter Adesina are in a Mardi Gras parade when zombies attack. Michelle knows that her friend Joey, the Hoodoo Mama, is the one who controls zombies but why would Joey attack the parade and her? Turns out someone stole Joey’s power. And that’s just the beginning.

Sam Sykes: Name the Beast: Kalindris’ people are silent, watchful. They hear the Howling. But her daughter is nothing like that. Kalindris has grown to resent the man who sired the child and she also resents her daughter. When it’s time for the child to kill a beast and blood her hands, Kalindris goes with her because she’s sure that the child isn’t up to the task. The other POV is Senny. Senny’s Mother and Father are arguing. A beast killed Senny’s older sibling and the family is on the run.

Nancy Kress: Second Arabesque, Very Slowly: In a world, where a virus made 99% of women infertile, civilization has fallen. In Northern USA, people are either hunter-gatherer packs or farmer communities. The first-person POV main character Nurse is in a hunter-gatherer pack. She’s already past 60 and knows that when she can’t keep up anymore, she will be shot. But for now, she does her best to nurse the women and men of the pack. The women are valued for their fertility or if they have special skills.

Diana Gabaldon: Virgins: A novella set in her Oulander setting but before the books. Jamie Fraiser has just fled Scotland and joins a mercenary group where his best friend Ian is a member. Because Jamie and Ian understand Hebrew, they are entrusted with a mission to bring a Jewish girl, her maid, and a priceless dowry to Paris for her wedding. Of course, things go wrong.

Top 5 Wednesday is a GoodReads group where people discuss a different bookish topic each week.

Time to celebrate some covers we love! What are some of your favorite themed dark-colored covers?

I don’t read much horror but I do like these darker covers:

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A stand-alone murder mystery set in 1636 France.

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Publication year: 2022

Publisher: Palmetto Publishing

Format: ebook

Charles de la Forêt is the third son of a Baron. A couple of months ago, his father sent him to Paris to be a musketeer. Charles has no choice but to obey. However, he enjoyed the camaraderie of the musketeer cadets and has even made a couple of friends.

Dueling is illegal in France but when a group of the Cardinal’s guards interrupt rudely the cadet’s play, Charles has to defend the Musketeers’ honor and fight one of them. They’re both wounded. The next day, Charles is sent to his first mission; not because he’s the most qualified but because the Cardinal might charge him if he remains in Paris.

Charles is sent to a small town, Pontcourt, to bring a murderer and proof of his guilt to Paris for trial. A family was brutally murdered but the people caught the villain. When Charles and his servant Michel arrive in the town, they encounter a mystery. The suspected murderer has been tortured so much that he can’t travel. Still, he insists that he’s innocent. He’s also a tax collector, so the local people want him to be the culprit. Charles starts to investigate even though the people are against it.

Charles lives in the shadow of his two elder brothers who are more successful than him. His father is constantly disappointed in him. So, he’s eager to prove his worth but he also wants justice to be done. He was born and raised in a small town and thinks that Paris is a smelly and dangerous place. He’s short and men often underestimate him. The Musketeers assign him the servant Michel. Michel was born and raised in Paris and thinks it’s the best place in the world. They don’t know each other but must quickly learn to rely on each other because the people just want to see the murderer punish with torture and death.

This was an entertaining read. It has surprisingly many action scenes for a murder investigation. Wray has clearly researched the time and the place; his descriptions are vivid. The mystery has enough twists to keep you guessing. This is a stand-alone story but it can be easily expanded to a series.

Top 5 Wednesday is a GoodReads group where people discuss a different bookish topic each week.

Is there ever a time when a book lover isn’t thinking about wanting a new book? Since last month we talked about books we plan to read before the year ends, this week let’s talk about books we are looking forward to releasing before the year ends next year!

But my TBR piles are already overflowing! I don’t need any new- Wait… is that

1, The Spare Man by Mary Robinette Kowal

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Tesla Crane, a brilliant inventor and an heiress, is on her honeymoon on an interplanetary space liner, cruising between the Moon and Mars. She’s traveling incognito and is reveling in her anonymity. Then someone is murdered and the festering chowderheads who run security have the audacity to arrest her spouse. Armed with banter, martinis and her small service dog, Tesla is determined to solve the crime so that the newlyweds can get back to canoodling—and keep the real killer from striking again.

2, The Martian Contingency by Mary Robinette Kowal

The Martian Contingency is back with Elma and Nathaniel on Mars and picks up not long after the end of The Fated Sky as they work with the new colonists to build a home on the planet. With that, you can expect to see frontier town issues on Mars, including prospecting for water, improvised engineering, and when things go wrong… which of course they will because it’s a novel, they only have eight days to try to solve it before the launch window to abort and return to Earth closes.

3, Scarlet by Genevive Cogman

A thrilling reinvention of the tale of The Scarlet Pimpernel with the addition of magic and even more mayhem.

In Revolutionary France, the aristocrats are vampires – and they face the guillotine. However, the Scarlet Pimpernel, a disguised British noble, is determined to rescue them. These predators are being offered sanctuary by their aristocratic British kin, but at great cost to London’s ordinary people. Then an English maid discovers the only power that could stop them. Assuming she survives.

4, The Witch King by Martha Wells

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Kai-Enna is the Witch King, though he hasn’t always been, and he hasn’t even always been Kai-Enna!

After being murdered, his consciousness dormant and unaware of the passing of time while confined in an elaborate water trap, Kai wakes to find a lesser mage attempting to harness Kai’s magic to his own advantage. That was never going to go well.

But why was Kai imprisoned in the first place? What has changed in the world since his assassination? And why does the Rising World Coalition appear to be growing in influence?

Kai will need to pull his allies close and draw on all his pain magic if he is to answer even the least of these questions.

He’s not going to like the answers.

5, The Surviving Sky by Kritika H. Rao

61424058._sy475_High above a jungle-planet float the last refuges of humanity—plant-made civilizations held together by tradition, technology, and arcane science. In these living cities, architects are revered above anyone else. If not for their ability to psychically manipulate the architecture, the cities would plunge into the devastating earthrage storms below.

Charismatic, powerful, mystical, Iravan is one such architect. In his city, his word is nearly law. His abilities are his identity, but to Ahilya, his wife, they are a way for survival to be reliant on the privileged few. Like most others, she cannot manipulate the plants. And she desperately seeks change.

Their marriage is already thorny—then Iravan is accused of pushing his abilities to forbidden limits. He needs Ahilya to help clear his name; she needs him to tip the balance of rule in their society. As their paths become increasingly intertwined, deadly truths emerge, challenging everything each of them believes. And as the earthrages become longer, and their floating city begins to plummet, Iravan and Ahilya’s discoveries might destroy their marriage, their culture, and their entire civilization.

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