The Ripper Report: Blaze Wyndham – Bertrice Small

One of my life goals right now is to find the loopiest, most crazy novel Bertrice Small ever wrote. I kind of have a feeling that it will turn out to be The Hellion (grapes, anyone?) but I’m steadily working my way through her backlist. While I haven’t even gotten through half of Aunty Bertrice’s opus of seventy-plus full-length novels, I’ve decided that the early works are far superior to her later stuff in terms of nuttiness and general quality. The later stuff tends to be more grounded in reality and a pale echo of the formula Small perfected early in her career.

My favorites are the Skye O’Malley books, largely because the heroine falls into some grand new melodrama every fifty-odd pages. I’ve also heard Blaze Wyndham recommended by several people as a good example of early Small and after reading it, I have to wonder what they liked about this dull, colorless book. Spoilers ahead.

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Manga Read Along: Tail of the Moon Vol. 7 – Tea Ceremonies for Ninjas

Ninjas might not tell spoilers but this read along does. The earlier volumes are collected in the archive.

Last time, Usagi’s grandpa showed up at Hanzo’s estate and, when he saw that Hanzo had no immediate plans to marry his granddaughter, called off the wedding. Usagi tries to argue with him but Hanzo tepidly agrees with gramps that maybe it is for the best. He indicates that he wasn’t really down with marrying anybody from the start and tells Usagi to get her belongings and head home.

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Bee and Puppycat Fridays: Episode 5 – Failing to Stick the Landing

I can’t stress enough that my hopes for Bee and Puppycat were high when it started. Each episode was solid and the fourth episode was downright brilliant, striking the perfect balance between whimsy and poignancy.

Sigh. But this final episode made a ton of design decisions that are just mind-boggling. The production team had to know that that this episode would most likely be the last one. To my knowledge, a second season has not been confirmed although there is a Bee and Puppycat comic book. One of the things that I’ve come to dislike about anime over the years is that few franchises can real stand on their own. So many of them are just long trailers for the manga (comic series) that spawned them and you’d be less disappointed in the long run to just start there and ignore the animated versions. To me, Bee and Puppycat needed to wrap itself up in this final episode as multimedia franchises aren’t my jam. I don’t want to have to juggle a ton of different formats to get a complete story.

There were a couple of options open to the creators especially since at a 29 minute run time, this finale was more than twice as long as the other episodes. They could have A) had Bee break the curse that Puppycat was hinted to be under, letting him return to being a space outlaw and bring the series full circle with the first episode, B) gone on all out with another whacky adventure and ended with a ‘the adventure continued’ non-ending which might have been acceptable or C) made the final episode about everyone but Bee and Puppycat and throw in a big reveal at the end that leaves more questions than answers.

….And they went with option C. Well, let’s dig into this pile of disappointment.

The rent is due. Bee is briefly shown waking up and checking the reminder on her iphone and then the action switches over to Deckard’s house. Deckard’s sister gives him a check and tells him to drop it off at the landlord’s place because she has coding to do. This is where it starts to go off the rails. A female wrestler bursts in like the Kool-aide Man through the wall. This is Toast, sister’s rival back when she used to be an amateur wrestler, and she’s come for a rematch. This is the first baffling design decision as Deckard’s sister wasn’t even an established character. She appeared for like two minutes in the second episode and this pointless subplot eats up four minutes of screen time.

Deckard heads off to the landlord’s place and bumps into Bee. She is very pleased because she can pay rent on time for once. Deckard and Bee get attacked by an angry dog and an angry crow. They try to eat her hair, get tangled in it, then the dog and bird discover they are soulmates because they are both violent, blood thirsty creatures. They run off to cause destruction and are never seen again.

Cardamon, the landlord’s son, has been taking care of Bee’s property because his mother is in coma. His house is a mess and he has only his dog, Sticky, as a companion. Everyday he brings her a plate of candy in the hopes she’ll wake up. As he curls up beside her on the sickbed, the scene transitions to one of the series’ weirdest vignettes. It recounts the story of a lonely octopus who falls in love with a princess’s long hair after mistaking the trailing end of it for a lady octopus. The princess takes pity on him and gives him her hair, but it gets away from the octopus as he swims through the ocean. As he tries to grab it as it floats away, he ties his tentacles in knots. He tries to loosen himself up by pulling at the tangles and ends up tearing himself apart. But he’s reborn as a ton of little jellyfish. As all this is going on, a singer drones out a depressing rock ballad accompanied by acoustic guitar.

Cardamon has to take the checks from Bee and Deckard. When he sees Puppycat, he gets the strange idea to make Sticky marry Puppycat so they can have weird puppykittens together. Bee convinces Puppycat to play over at his house. Puppycat doesn’t care about Sticky. He just wants to watch Pretty Patrick on the TV. When Cardamon tries to force Puppycat to marry Sticky, Puppycat comes across his comatose mom. Cardamon explains his logic – he thought his mom was like a sleeping princess and somehow forcing the dogs to marry would be like getting a prince to kiss her. Then she’d wake up. It doesn’t make a lot of sense and like most of the episode, it just seems to be there to fill the extended run-time.

Deckard shows Bee his herb garden. Before they get there, he takes the letter he was going to send to the cooking school to reserve his place and pitches at a dumpster. But he misses. Bee picks it up and realizes that he’s turning it down for her sake when she sees who its addressed it. This make her very sad. When she asks him about it, he says he doesn’t want to go if it means leaving the island.

Just then, Puppycat tries to escape from Cardamon’s house but gets stuck crawling out the window. Bee thinks to transport them out of there by accepting a job from TempBot, but Deckard gets taken to the other dimension in Puppycat’s place. He is really freaked out when he sees Temp Bot and floats through empty space.

Temp Bot sends them to help a galactic baker who makes crystal-filled donuts and delivers them to customers through black holes. But then the alien baker gets a crystal stuck in his finger like a thorn. Bee has to pull it out and the alien comments that she is very strong since he couldn’t remove it and he’s a lot bigger than she is.

For no reason, the black hole suddenly goes nuts and all these hands come out of it. They try to steal the baking crystals and destroy the kitchen planet. They pull the alien baker into the hole and Bee grabs onto him. She pulls so hard that her arm breaks. But that’s okay. Bee is actually a robot. You can see all the bolts and belts holding her together through her torn skin. As it turns out the dream-sequence in the first episode where multi-colored ribbons burst from the cuts in Bee’s wrists was foreshadowing. The ribbons look exactly like the multicolored belts that run through her machine parts. The baker gets absorbed.

The planet collapses and Bee has to save Deckard from getting crushed by a falling bit of debris that’s three times his size. She punches it and shatters it into bits with her good arm. Bee defeats the black hole arm monster with the deep frier while in some kind of robot trance. Somehow they all make it back to earth.

Deckard picks a bit of baking crystal out of the gash on the back of his skull. He tells his sister that he sent back his acceptance letter and plans to leave for classes in the morning. I guess the shock of finding out Bee was a robot ended his pining for her, but never-the-less, he is the only character with any real growth. He started out wanting one thing and then after experiencing some weird stuff, made some tough decisions about were his life was headed. Bee gives Cardamon a piece of the baking crystal and this wakes his mother up from her coma as sea water and jellyfish fall out of her. Bee comes out to Puppycat that she is a robot when he finds her broken arm being repaired by the Dad Box. They are both very blasé about it. And that’s where it ends.

In many ways, the plot twist is well… stupid. It’s not like it wasn’t foreshadowed. The birthday song has lyrics that go “I hope you aren’t broke and everything’s running good,” that can have a double meaning. At first blush, it’s like dad is hoping she has money and easy life but in reality he means that she doesn’t need repairs. But we also saw a photo of Bee as a child with her father and this brings up so many questions. Did her father build her several bodies? If so, why would he do that? And does Bee turning out to be a robot explain anything?

The answer is no. It doesn’t. This episode was a pointless mess. It added nothing to what came before and in many ways detracts from the understanding of Bee we gained from the excellent fourth episode. Episode five is a disaster on every level and that this is the final episode, the note it ends on, just makes it all the more disappointing.

The Wisdom of Fools Cover & Blurb Reveal

We’re about a month away from the launch of The Wisdom of Fools. At long last, I can finally show you the cover and blurb. This one is quite the beauty if I don’t say so my self.

wisdom ebook final

A Genius with Secrets

A scholar on a mission travels far from her home in the frozen north of Remnas to the ogre stronghold, the River Kingdoms, in search of the Magefolk’s lost spells. Disgraced by scandal and cast out of magician society, Johenna’s heart is as bitter as the icy winds that blow through her country. Pushed on by the certainty she has found clues leading to the forgotten workshop of a legendary mage, she braves the perils of the road alone. The dangers posed by bandits are nothing next to the darkness brewing in her heart. But a chance meeting grants her a protector willing to battle her enemies. Those within and without.

The Wise Fool

Brave to the point of recklessness, Vyke is a man with simple needs. Shunning riches and titles, the ogre warrior is happy with his lot so long as he has a battle to fight and a woman in his bed.  Given the task by the Ogre King to hunt the outlaws that prey on travelers, he comes to the beautiful mage’s rescue just as she falls into their clutches. Johenna mistakes his carefree nature for foolhardiness. But Vyke soon wins her trust with his kindness, loyalty, and optimism. They become more than travelers on a quest as she discovers a warmth and affection in his embrace that she’s never known in her staid life.
But, with every step closer to the mystic waterfall, signs point to a shadowy figure holding sway over the young magician. To save herself from its wicked sorcery, Johenna must listen with her heart to the wisdom of her fool and earn her salvation with selfless love. If she doesn’t, all will be lost.

Manga Read Along: Tail of the Moon Vol. 6 – Fires of Love

This read along contains spoilers. Need to catch up? The earlier volumes are collected in the archive.

Last week, Usagi fell into the clutches of the Kouga, a rival ninja clan. Hikaru, the ninja spy who kidnapped her, tried to get her to use her skills as an herbalist to make poison and when Usagi balked, he used the captured Goemon and Mamezo as leverage. When Hikaru threatens to kill the hostages, Usagi finally relents to save their lives.

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Bee and Puppycat Fridays Episode 4 – Birthday Blues

Episode four is the best episode of the Bee and Puppycat series. It encapsulates everything I hoped to see when they took the concept from one-shot to series. It helps to develop Bee beyond her persona as a wacky screw-up who just can’t quite grow up and shows that underneath it all she is really a very lonely, sad person. It gives the audience a reason to sympathize with her when previously, all her peccadilloes have sprung from her carelessness and irresponsibility. I wish they all could have been like this.

It’s Bee’s birthday – the time of year she looks forward to because she gets to press the button on the Dad Box. This contraption was left to her by her inventor dad. It sings her a birthday song that is rather melancholy – the song seems to acknowledge that if she’s using it, her dad is dead – and then dispenses a piece of candy. Bee explains to Puppycat her dad made it so she wouldn’t be lonely on her birthday and shares her one piece of candy with him.

Puppycat thinks they should do something special so Bee takes him to old, run down arcade she used to go to with her father. They are able to get the electricity powered on and the arcarde cabinets light up. Bee’s father programed many of the games. They play around, but as they do, they keep getting letters from Temp Bot but they ignore them.

Bee waits to play her favorite game last and when they get around to it, Bee is out of money. She shrugs it off and gets ready to go home, but Puppycat insists they take a temp job so they have some money to play the game. Puppycat even lets her pick the job they do.

As they travel to fishbowl space, Bee nearly loses the photo of her with her dad when she was a kid and admits to Puppycat that having fun on birthday makes her feel sad since her dad isn’t there anymore. Lucky for Bee, they get sent to a video game world and have to do a series of RPG style fetch-quests and defeat an evil boss at the end. Bee introduces herself to the video game world’s NPCs as the great hero, I Gotta Fart, and sets out to do every frivolous busy-work mission she can find while the boss monster terrorizes the NPCs.

Only when Bee is overpowered from all the quests and has the best equipment, do they go to defeat the evil eye monster. As they fly into the eye monster and make it explode, Bee thinks that this is the best birthday she’s had since her father’s death and that she usually spends her birthdays sleeping so she doesn’t have to think about how much she misses him.

Back at the arcade, Puppycat puts a coin in the machine. The game makes the room light up like a disco and Bee and Puppycat slow dance. It’s a cute ending to an episode that fleshes Bee’s character out and makes it feel like the pair has a real friendship. Too bad it’s followed by a final episode that I can only describe as baffling. Get ready to be let down with me next week.

 

Cutlass!: A Sci-Fi Space Pirate Romance Book Banners

Why do you need Cutlass!: A Sci-Fi Space Pirate Romance? Because it’s got sexy rival space pirate captains and non-stop action as they hunt down an alien ship from a lost civilization. In order to keep the Lost Technology out of the hands of those that would enslave the universe, infamous rogues Johnny Brash and Ryssa Starlight will battle with aliens, Space Vampires, and their unresolved romantic tension. Coming this summer.

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Manga Read Along: Tail of the Moon Vol. 5 – Wedding Planning Tips for Ninjas

This recap is full of spoilers. All the previous volumes are collected in the archive.

When we last left off, Usagi and Hanzo were getting romantic (as romantic as you can get when a guy is trying to you he doesn’t find you totally fat and disgusting) when they are interrupted by a beautiful vixen that talks to Hanzo is a very possessive manner. I was totally thinking that she was some variant of the skanky wanna-be girlfriend that won’t take no for an answer or ex-girlfriend who is just no over it. As it turns out, she is Hanzo’s older sister, Suzune, who is more like a mother to him than a sister.

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Bee and Puppycat Fridays Episode 3 – Crabs are Dirty Perverts

Bee and Puppycat are binge watching Pretty Patrick Lunchtime, an insipid show about a guy eating random foods. At the end of the marathon, he will reveal his favorite food. For Bee this is Must See TV. However, Cardamon, their landlord’s young British son, comes over to fix their leaking toilet and kicks them both out until he’s done.

The pair hits the beach and searches the boardwalk looking for a café with a TV showing the Pretty Patrick show. As they meander around eating different stuff the restaurants serve, a crab who is obsessed with cleavage and buttcrack stalks them, looking for things that vaguely look like bewbs and butts. Unfortunately, all the places with TVs aren’t tuned to the channel with their show.

Bee later tells Puppycat that she’s glad they like the same show and in an ideal world they could open a restaurant and watch Pretty Patrick together all day. They’d hire all their friends to do the actual world. Puppycat scolds her for being unrealistic. She hasn’t a dime to her name to buy such a place. Thinking of money makes Bee think of Temp Bot and that Temp Bot is a giant TV. They head to Fishbowl space hoping they can watch Pretty Patrick on Temp Bot.

Temp Bot sends them on assignment to Cat Head Planet after making Bee wear a cat costume. The jobsite is bathhouse for giant talking alien cats. Bee catches the attention of all the cat-people there. On this planet, the human-cat dynamic is reversed. Humans are the pets and the cat-people fawn all over her, thinking she’s the bathhouse mascot/pet. They give her lots of food and let her watch the TV, but they think Puppycat is gross and want nothing to do with him.

Bee spills some food on her cat costume and the cat-people want to bathe her. Bee is terrified of water and throws a fit as they try to shove her into a tub. She escapes and the cat-people chase her. She flees with Puppycat. He is cross because she didn’t make the cat-people let him watch TV with her. She apologizes. Bee was so enthralled that she didn’t notice they wouldn’t let Puppycat into the TV room, but he forgives her. The cat-people give chase and Puppycat slips away from Bee so he can flash his crotch at them. The cat-people are so grossed out they puke on themselves and go to take bathes. Bee is all but forgotten.

They get a text from Cardamon that the toilet’s unclogged and so they head home. Bee is disappointed to see that they missed the episode where Patrick reveals his favorite food only to find Cardamon taped it for them. However, Puppycat falls asleep so Bee doesn’t watch the tape.

This is the third episode to follow the same pattern. That’s rather disappointing as Adventure Time always came up with clever, fun and unique plotlines and had witty writing. Bee and Puppycat’s problem is it just fails to evolve. The cat aliens bare more than a passing resemblance to the Totoro creature from My Neighbor Totoro.