• manga,  Uncategorized

    MANGA: Hige to Suzu to Shabondama

    Hige to Suzu to Shabondama – YMZ

    Daily life of Santa and Rintarou…

    Beards, Bells and Bubbles is the super fluffy and adorably wholesome slice of life manga about an established gay couple going about their daily lives. It has a nice laid-back vibe that’s makes you think of easy summer afternoons.

    Santa is the serious, hardworking one who takes care of all the household chores. He likes to spoil Rintarou. He was disowned by his family.

    Rintarou is the carefree, lazy one who is completely hopeless at household chores. He likes being pampered. He has a big family who loves Santa. The running gag of the manga is that everybody thinks he is a good for nothing and that Santa is too good for him. Nobody expected they would last for 3 days.

    They’re still together after 5 years.

    The manga started in spring when these two dorks went to the park to view the flowers only to have it raining when they got there. Some parts of the story flash back to how it all started. Most of the chapters showed short and simple scenes illustrating the couple’s affection for each other.

    Like in the opening chapter, Santa comments he’ll never see the flowers as long as they’re together. To which Rintarou replies, then you’ll never see them. Santa shrugs his shoulders and says it’s okay. They go home and eat soup.

    The dialogues are funny, mostly due to Rintarou’s over reaction to things. He has a jealous streak that extends to members of his family. Santa going shopping for laptops with his father and twin brother had him in tantrums, the idiot.

    My favorite part was Kiyoshi, Santa’s ex, who for some reason or another hangs around Rintarou hilariously comparing notes about Santa. He’s an overconfident businessman who unexpectedly had a boyfriend who was okay with his weird habit. There’s a twist here that I really liked and I hope the mangaka gives Kiyoshi and his man their own spinoff.

    Anyway, the following year, it rained. They didn’t see the flowers. Again.

  • book,  Uncategorized

    SERIES REVIEW: Chained + Convicted by Kim Fielding

    I’m a huge fan of Kim Fielding‘s fantastic paranormal series, Bureau. I have been following this since Corruption, Tenrael and Grimes’s story. This series has become better and better with each installment.

    This is a review of Chained and Convicted, volume 2 of the series. Both novellas featured creatures shackled and chained, one through captivity and the other through culpability.


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    Bureau: Chained – Kim Fielding

    An agent for the Bureau of Trans-Species Affairs? That’s the best job in the world. And it’s enough for Terry Brandt, who doesn’t need personal relationships complicating his life. His newest assignment puts him undercover, investigating a Hollywood agent who may have some evil tricks up his sleeve.

    Edge is not the man he appears to be. Although he’s a member of the Hollywood agent’s security staff, his true situation is darker and deeper than that. Ordered to seduce the new prospect, Edge finds himself caught in conflicting loyalties.

    Haunted by their pasts and tied up in secrets, neither Terry nor Edge can afford to allow passion to interfere with duty. And with danger dogging them, it’s impossible to envision a future together.


    Chained is a shifter story that made me want to hug my dogs.

    Terry Brandt is a music-loving Bureau agent assigned to investigate Hollywood’s most powerful agent, Whitaker, rumored to be offering fame and fortune in exchange for something sinister. He goes undercover as a wannabe actor. He was asked to move in to the agent’s mansion as part of the test to see if he has what it takes. There he meets Edge, the man assigned to guard him.

    Edge and his two brothers are dog shifters bought by Whitaker, their boss, when they were pups. They served as security in the mansion. They used to be four but their other brother was put down when he refused to behave.

    My heart went out to Edge. He and his brothers were treated like dogs. They live in a kennel modified to accommodate their human form. But he’s the one their boss treated the worst. Not only is he beaten at the slightest mistakes, he is forced to seduce the potential actors as part of their owner’s tactics to sink his hooks deeper into them. He was ordered to do just that to Terry.

    All the dog shifter brothers were obedient but Edge is different. His boss loved pointing out that he is weak. Compared to his brothers, Edge wanted more but knew he couldn’t. He’s too well-trained for that. He’s loyal to his owner even if Terry is making him feel unexpected things. The most heartbreaking scene was when Terry urged him to run away after all the abuse. He refused. “I’m a good dog!” (╥﹏╥)

    The story is set in 1989. There are mentions of HIV. I enjoyed all the musical name-dropping of Terry’s favorite 80s bands. He introduced Edge to the joys of music and I adored Terry for that. He faced monsters but still loves his job. He also kept his sunny, talkative disposition. He’s a good foil to Edge’s strong, silent type.

    I loved how Terry treated Edge kindly right from the start. Edge immediately noticed he was different from the other wannabes. Terry didn’t treat him and his brothers in dog or human form as part of the furniture. He acknowledged their presence and talked to them even if he still didn’t know what they actually were.

    The book succeeded in portraying the seediness of the unseen side of Hollywood. We get dual POVs. What I like about the writing is that even if I know what’s going on from Edge’s perspective, I could still feel a sense of the unknown as experienced through Terry’s POV where he knew something is wrong but couldn’t quite put his finger on it. This was what made the twists effective.

    Terry’s investigation came to a head when he was offered the job in exchange for the most valuable thing he owns. The climax was a suspenseful chaos of fangs, blood and bullets. I gave a little cheer when the brothers finally took action. There’s a lovely ending and epilogue where Townsend, the Bureau chief explained the magical mechanics of things to the guys. I’m happy that Terry was able to keep doing what he loved. Now he can do that with Edge.

    Rating:
    4.5 Stars – perfection is only half a step away

    Soundtrack: Chains
    Artist: Duran Duran
    Album: Astronaut


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    Bureau: Convicted – Kim Fielding

    Vietnam veteran Kurt Powell’s addiction almost cost him everything, but a job as federal agent with the Bureau of Trans-Species Affairs helped him find sobriety and purpose. Now he tracks down dangerous paranormal creatures as well as humans who abuse their magical powers in illegal ways.

    Sent from Belfast to the United States as a boy, Desmond Hughes later fell into a disastrous relationship that led to horrific murders. He’s spent seventeen years in a bleak prison with few comforts and no hope of release.

    A new mission throws Kurt and Des together in a desperate attempt to prevent disaster. Sometimes what’s long been lost can still be found, but the road to redemption is never easy—and a mutual attraction may not ease the way.


    Convicted is a moving journey towards redemption, forgiveness and freedom.

    Desmond Hughes has been incarcerated in the Bureau prison for 17 years. He, along with his lover, Larry Crane, was responsible for the deaths of many people. Crane masterminded the crime, using magical boxes as source of power to wreck destruction. Crane is dead and these deadly boxes are now missing.

    Kurt Powell is the agent assigned to find the boxes. He interviews Des who gives him all the places he and Crane stayed. Later on, he takes Des with him to find the boxes with the condition that Des returns to prison after they do. Their quest took them all over the American heartland moving towards Florida, stopping at the places Des had named.

    The book is set in the 1993. The sense of time was not as strongly delivered as the other stories. There are nods to the time period, mentions of HIV and racism especially towards Kurt who had a mixed parentage.

    Unlike the other Bureau novellas, Convicted has human + human pairing. I liked this just a tad less than Chained but not because it’s not as well written. This is due more to my disinterest towards stories involving road trips and looking for lost things. So I did feel the drag just a bit but the story picked up when they found one of the boxes.

    There is less focus on the paranormal here. It’s very character-driven. Both men are burdened with guilt. They have the deaths of multiple people in their hands. One as a soldier, the other as an accomplice to a psychopath.

    Des won me over with his spirit. He’s so lonely he talks to himself but I didn’t sense defeat. It’s more like he’s accepted his fate and tried to make do with what he is given. I also didn’t expect him to be the talkative type. The first parts of the book showed him alone. Then he had his first conversation with Kurt and his bright personality really shone through. As Kurt puts it, he has the voice of a born story teller. He’s a big guy with a gentle and kind soul that Crane took advantage of, using and abusing him as part of his schemes. I think Des truly believed Crane meant to change the world for the better with those boxes.

    Kurt had his own share of troubles. He’s a Vietnam veteran who dealt with alcohol addiction. In his low moments, he was recruited by Townsend who believed in his potential. Kurt has a son and is friends with his ex-wife. I really liked that Kurt looked beyond the orange uniform and saw Des for what he truly is. He also made him understand that there is always a choice. And that he could forgive himself and move on.

    Towards the end, the paranormal elements come into play in a show of magic and double crossing. Kurt suffers the same equally suspenseful fate as Terry. Townsend once again makes an appearance with his words of wisdom and second chances. Then Des showing up on Kurt’s doorstep all earnest and yearning is beyond endearing. Let’s give the man a hug!

    Rating:
    4 Stars – minor quibbles but I loved it to bits

    Soundtrack: Run Wild
    Artist: For King and Country
    Album: Run Wild. Live Free. Love Strong.


    Bureau has always been a series with a lot of heart. Very much present in the stories are the small unexpected kindnesses that go a long way and reach deep places in the hearts of the tormented. Most of the time, the characters don’t even realize the impact of what they’re doing. Like Kurt offhandedly mentioning he would ask for more books for Des who had to make do with a measly 5-book ration. These touches of humanity are what makes this series.

    I enjoyed the references to and cameos of well-loved couples from the other stories. West Coast Bureau chief Townsend is always present in all of them and he’s the biggest mystery of all. According to Edge, he smells human and something else. He often pops up in unexpected places to move things along. And I swear, his secret hobby is matchmaking because he really knows how to pair up these guys.

    I highly recommend Chained and Convicted as well as the Bureau series as a whole. This is a series that will make you FEEL for ugly, tormented monsters. And no one does ugly, tormented monsters like Kim Fielding.

    P.S.

    Reviews of Bureau books below:
    Corruption
    Clay White
    Creature

    Posts on Kim Fieldings works here.


    As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying Amazon purchases. Get your copy of Bureau below

  • song,  Uncategorized

    SOUNDTRACK: Chains by Duran Duran & Run Wild by For King and Country

    Soundtrack to Bureau: Chained by Kim Fielding

    Soundtrack to Bureau: Convicted by Kim Fielding

  • quote,  Uncategorized

    Are the walls to lock you in or to keep others away
    And if the doors were to be opened would you leave or would you stay
    The comfort of your misery you cherish dearly, you cherish dearly
    And you haven’t started dreaming ’cause you’re still fast asleep, you’re fast asleep

    Don’t you want to
    Run wild, live free
    Love strong, you and me

    You’re a lion full of power who forgot how to roar
    You’re an eagle full of beauty but you can’t seem to soar
    Will you return to the garden where we were first made whole
    Will you turn to the one who can liberate your soul

    Don’t you want to
    Run wild, live free
    Love strong, you and me
    Run wild, live free
    Love strong

    To every soul locked in a cage
    In the prison of your past mistakes
    No, there’s no time left to waste
    Yeah, you can make your great escape
    We’re made to run wild, run wild, run wild
    We’re made to run wild, run wild, run wild
    We’re made to

    Run, Forrest, all depends what direction
    Some people run from fear, some from their own reflection
    Some people run their mouth, some people run their house
    Ruling with the heart of a tyrant
    Some people run their block, bust shot with a 4-4-5 and
    That’s the environment, how we were raised
    Living like lions but trapped in a cage
    Back to Imago Dei with the blood of a king but the heart of a slave
    Don’t you wanna run

    Run wild, live free
    Love strong, you and me
    Run wild, live free
    Love strong

    To every soul locked in a cage
    In the prison of your past mistakes
    No, there’s no time left to waste
    Yeah, you can make your great escape
    We’re made to run wild, run wild, run wild
    We’re made to run wild, run wild, run wild

    We’re made to run wild, run wild, run wild
    We’re made to run wild, run wild, run wild

    If your soul’s locked in a cage
    You can make a great escape
    We’re made to run wild, live free
    Love strong, you and me