Bleach 70 by Kubo Tite

With Bleach 70, we finally get some backstory on the most mysterious of the Gotei 13: 12th Division Captain Kurotsuchi (science division) and his Lieutenant/creation Nemu. We also get more of the backstory/battle between Jugram and Bazz-B as they confront their pasts and how both have changed since they were children.

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The Kurotsuchi battle is especially interesting because everyone knows it is going to be very strange. Interestingly enough, Kenpachi joins the fray with his usual bluntness, much to Kurotsuchi’s annoyance (but of course he will use it to his advantage). This time they are fighting the left arm of the soul king – the Quincy Pernida – which pretty much amounts to a giant hand with an eyeball in the palm.

Most of the story focuses on Nemu – the ‘modified soul’ created by Kurotsuchi from his own blood using the Soul Society lab. She’s starting to gain some independent thought, which is surprising to her and the other Soul Society fighters on the scene. But she still remains fiercely loyal to her creator and selflessly defelcts all damage directed to him (which he scoffs at since he believes he is indomitable).

In all, one of the weirder battles but definitely showcasing Kubo’s incredible imagination. Reviewed from an advance reader copy provided by the publisher.

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Bleach 69 by Kubo Tite

With Bleach 69, we get two diverse story arcs.

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On the Soul Society side, Ichigo and his comrades are stymied by having no way to get back up to the palace to contest Ywach. But old enemies will come to help in the form of the Hueco Mundo Arrancar. Most notably, GrimmJow, who will happily tear apart Ichigo but acknowledges that the mission to prevent the destruction of Hueco Mundo by Ywach is more important.

At the now subsumed palace, second in command Sternritter Jugram Haschwalth is confronting memories of his own. His past involves friendship with Bazz-B and how Ywatch found him and recruited him.

As with so many of Kubo’s backstories, Bass and Jugram’s has a nice amount of pathos to it – how two ‘normal’ Quincy raised boys dream of revenge against Ywach for destroying their lives and instead end up joining the Sternritter.

Meanwhile, Ichigo meeting up with various Arrancar including Nel has its sweet and funny moments as well.

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World Trigger 16 by Daisuke Ashihara

I still love this series so much – even if it has been on a half year hiatus (as of writing this review) due to Ashihara’s health problems. Only 18 volumes have been published – but at least the hiatus begins after the latest rank war battle was fully completed.

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Story: Galapoula has been soundly defeated – but they will not go quietly and they are not out of the picture yet. When Hyuse catches up with Reghi and demands to be taken back to Aftokrator, a sequence of shocking events will begin with the appearance of Yotaro on the scene. Will Hyuse kill Yotaro to prove he’s still loyal to Afto? Meanwhile, the rank battle has begun! Tamakoma needs to score here to stay in contention for A-Rank. But Kakizaki and Katori squads are determined to see that doesn’t happen. With Kakizaki’s self doubt and Katori’s over confidence creating problems, neither are going to be prepared for Amatori’s lead bullet and Mikumo’s spider traps.

This volume really is two events: the end of the Galapola arc (where we are promised they will be back in the near future!) and the beginning of the next rank battle. We were set up nicely for the latest rank war and it is quite fun to see the culmination of Tamakoma’s training come to fruition.

The real treat of Volume 16 is the fun characters. Hyuse gets his moment to shine and some antics with the very immature Inukai and Miwa squad (with their feet encased in slippery goo from the battle) is quite cute. I love how Ashihara comes up with these little fun moments.

Although the next volume is the last for awhile, I will wait patiently for the series to start up again. it’s definitely one of my favorites in the past few years. Reviewed from an advance reader copy provided by the publisher.

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Bloody Mary Volume 7 by Akaza Amamiya

Ok, I admit, I’m going to have to give up on Bloody Mary. I feel like I need a Cliff’s notes – I have no idea what is going on half the time. The characters oddly look like, all have odd names, and then the whole ‘Mary is Mary but not Maria while Ichiro is Yzak but not Yzak” is making my head spin.

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Story: Ichiro still hasn’t regained the power of exorcism and Mary is impatient to die. When a rogue trio of vampires breaks into Master Takumi’s house and steals Yzak, Mary is sent to retrieve him. But Mary has a memory of these vampires and must retreat. As his memories slowly begin to piece together, Ichiro waits patiently to learn what happened to the other Mary – the one inside Bloody. Meanwhile, a new head vampire is entering the scene after a long sleep – Eye.

There were several new characters introduced and a lot of the book felt like filler – an interlude before Eye enters the picture and shakes things up. Meanwhile, it’s interesting that Takumi has been thrown out of the family and Hasegawa now unemployed. It’s going to draw the ‘good guys’ a bit closer together as a result.

Unfortunately, I’m not going to continue the series at this point. I just have a hard time following it, even after several readings. Vampire Knight could get a bit squirrely as well but the characters in that drew me in. Not so much here – I’m not really given a reason to like or even want to follow any of these characters. The mystery is definitely interesting but I need more grounding in order to want to learn more. Reviewed from an advance reader copy provided by the publisher.

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Inside the E-Sports Industry by Carla Mooney

Publisher Norwood House focuses on ‘informational’ books for grades K-8. With this series of books on gaming (Professional Gaming Careers, E-Sports Competitions, E-Sports Game Design, Inside the E-Sport Industry), we get survey overviews in a picture heavy format that give a brief overview of the subject.

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This E-Sports Industry covers competitions mostly, starting with the first big Atari Asteroids in the 1980s and progressing up to stadium filling League of Legends tournaments. The big names in the industry are briefly discussed as well as how E-Sports have evolved in the past few years (including Twitch, Facebook getting involved, and the merger of traditional sports sponsorships with E-Sports).

The book breaks down as follows: chapter 1: Rise of E-Sports; Chapter 2: Going global 3: Big events, big business; Chapter 4: Viewers around the world; Chapter 5: Future industry challenges. Note that this format pretty much follows all the books on E-gaming in the series: background, current state, future theories.

As a very friendly and brief overview of the subject, this makes a nice introduction to this very modern sport. As well, this could also be useful for those who want to get into the career one day and have parents who don’t understand that it is a legitimate pro sport. This will help inform parents of the basics. Reviewed from an advance reader copy provided by the publisher.

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The Costume Making Guide by Svetlana Quindt

If you’ve watched TV shows such as Face Off or Heroes of Cosplay, you’d probably think that creating a costume requires a whole entire workshop of strange materials and obscure tools (vac form machine anyone?). Or you have to be some kind of creative genius McGuyver who can take lint and grass and turn it into a crazy alien. The good news is that finally there is a book that lays it all out visually for those who want to get started making their own costumes. With the Costume Making Guide, Author Svetlana Quindt walks you through the basics of crafting – without breaking the budget on materials or equipment.

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The book has an introduction on the history of costplay (‘costume play’), why people enjoy it so much, finding reference materials/inspiration for your next project, what you need to get started with the projects in the book, tools and materials, and of course safety.

Svetlana is careful to note that she isn’t a seamstress – so there are no sewing guides/tips in here for the fabric/outfits. Instead, the projects involve mostly armor and weapons. For each item, she shows the finished complete costume and how the piece fits in with it:

– a bracer (metal arm armor from Diablo 3 wizard)
– a breastplate (DC Comics Wonder Woman)
– a pauldron (shoulder armor – for Overwatch Symmetra)
– an axe (Diablo 3 Barbarian)
– a sword (Xena Warrior Princess)

She also talks about the complete costume from start to finish including assembling the pieces, designing the details, having the costume sewn, wig, and even how to create a prop so it can be stuffed into a suitcase for travel to events/cons.

What I like about the book is that she lays it all out cleanly and easily with large type, photographs for every step, and the steps are short and not all clumped together. The finished pieces are quite spectacular and most only require items like a bit of warbla plastic, a heat gun, and some glue.

Of note, you’ll have to be a bit creative/artsy and also be prepared to spend some time assembling the pieces and creating the costume. It’s not an overnight project unless you are only doing one piece. The book also covers what to do after the con with the costume – finding photographers, etc. Even what to wear under all the costumes is covered. Finally, there is a costume gallery for inspiration.

Of note, since Quindt is from Germany, she gives a nice list of places to get the materials in the EU – obviously North Americans can get their supplies from Amazon or EBay.

In all, highly impressed with how easy and friendly this costume making book really is – and how easy it is to make a really cool sword or amor. I hope to see future books with less flat weapons such as guns (e.g. Overwatch’s Symmetra gun in the book) and of course be aware that there is nothing really in the book about creating the fabric parts/outifts of the costume. But this is definitely a book worth every penny for a budding cosplayer. Reviewed from an advance reader copy provided by the publisher.

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An Unnatural Vice by K.J. Charles

With this second book in the series, Charles is doing an excellent job of giving us mini arcs within an overarching series arc. But even more so, she’s given us a very diverse and unusual set of characters. There are no heroes named Gryffon or Sebastian, no Duke of Silvertons or white bread aristocrat heroes. Instead, we have examples such as a character with an Indian mother and an investigator named Mark Braglewicz. The cast of each book is always interesting.

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Story: Nathaniel studied to be a lawyer but gave it up to be a journalist. With a strong sense of justice and right, he is always looking to expose or fix the more persistent problems of London’s underbelly. When he goes after The Seer of London, Justin Lazarus, he finds his match in many ways. Justin is slippery, fiercely loyal to his street urchin ‘family’, and has come to some terms with his history of being abused by those he were supposed to care for him. He has no remorse taking money from his conscienceless clients – he’s seen the ills they have done under the protection of wealth or status. But Justin and Nathaniel become irrevocably tangled in the affair of finding the twin heirs of Clem’s father, the Earl. Someone is still out there ready to torture and murder in order to prevent the twins from succeeding. And Justin is in his crosshairs.

Justin is brought neatly into the mystery by having had a session with the twins’ mother, Emmaline, who was searching for them after they left. I found it fascinating that the mother became embroiled in a cult and the twins fled to get away from it. Nathaniel’s connection with Clem (and Mark, who likely will be the third hero) ties in neatly with Justin’s knowledge of the twins and their shadowed paternity. The main arc progresses nicely even while the book arc completes.

As always, the writing is fluid and the characters engaging. I don’t find so many of the anachronisms in speech and attitudes as I do in so many books of this genre. I only question why none of the men seem to be too worried about their proclivities being discovered since it was considered such a heinous ‘crime’ back then.

In all, I am enjoying the series – a bit of romance and a bit of mystery with very distinct and unique characters. Reviewed from an advance reader copy provided by the publisher.

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