Lenni Reviews: "Barren" by Peter V. Brett

*This book was sent to me in exchange for an honest review.

In this novella set in a world where demons come out at night, Selia, a 69-year-old Speaker in her village, is instrumental in protecting everyone by leading the charge to keep the demons at bay. With every kill, Selia is imbued with some of their magic and she is gifted with youth and vitality. As jealousy and anger come to a head in Tibbet's Brook, it appears the demons are devising a new play which may wipe their town and everyone in it off the map.

There may be some things I'm not getting since this is a novella set in a five book series' universe, but I felt there was enough here for me to chew on. Selia is a badass and her need to just do right by her neighbors without having to hide who she is comes off as noble and real, not pandering at all. It's been awhile since I read some good high fantasy and this fast-paced, well-written novella absolutely fits the bill. Since I feel as if I would have gotten more out of this with the rest of the series in mind, I give this a 4.7 out of 5 and I will check out the rest of the series when I get a chance.

This novella will be released 9/25/2018.

Lenni Reviews: "Witch Creek" by Laura Bickle

*This book was sent to me in exchange for an honest review.

Petra's husband, Gabriel, has gone missing and despite her body being currently ravaged by chemotherapy and cancer, she devotes her remaining days to finding him by any means necessary, even going so far as to adventure into the underworld.

There is a lot going on in this book. Aside for Petra, there's a coverup about Gabriel's disappearance, wolf clans, a mermaid seeking revenge for her imprisonment, a long lost son, a whole bunch of stuff. But it is cool stuff. We have a diverse cast of characters who meet up by chance, fun action, and interesting magic. I had a good time reading this but it didn't leave much of an impact after it was done. 3.8 out of 5.

Lenni Reviews: "Contemporary Draconic Hoarding Practices" by Dae Richards

*This book was given to me in exchange for an honest review and is rated 18+

While Clayton splits his time between his graduate thesis and being a teaching assistant, he meets dragon and magical teacher Syralis; who is in possession of manuscripts crucial to Clayton's work. Syralis is intrigued by the magic surrounding Clayton and agrees to teach him how to control his abilities. But there is an obvious attraction between Syralis and Clayton and when a dragon wants you, they want to keep you like any other pretty bauble they possess and Clayton doesn't want to be a prisoner for the rest of his life.

This story does have a good plot and introduced the reader to an interesting world of magic and magical creatures but the length doesn't allow the reader to enjoy much of it. This is another short story where I feel the world and characters could use a longer narrative. This is a fun little romp though and is good for readers who may want the titillation of lust but no actual boning. 3.7 out of 5.

Lenni Reviews: "Streak of Chalk" by Miguelanxo Prado

Raul lands on a tiny, nearly deserted island where the only other non-resident there is a mysterious woman named Ana; who claims to be waiting for someone. 

To quote the book: "This island predisposes you to believe in things that you wouldn't believe in under ordinary circumstances." Therefore, we can't be sure what we're seeing take place in the book is real. The art style does a great job of projecting that mysterious atmosphere; looking like oil or acrylic paintings. Some of the panels are REALLY dark, though; making it hard to make out some details.

Raul isn't exactly the most likable of the small cast of characters. He's pushy and arrogant; thinking because a female is near him, obviously, she must want to get with him and just can't understand why she doesn't fall into bed with him. Then the only other male characters introduced are also sexist assholes. Then it's over.

While lovely, this is not a book for me. It felt like it was trying to hart to mean something and as a result, it didn't feel like it meant anything. But man, is it pretty. 3 out of 5.

Lenni Reviews: "Batman The Dark Knight: Master Race" by Frank Miller, Brian Azzarello, Andy Kubert, Klaus Jansen, and Brad Anderson

*This comic was given to me in exchange for an honest review and is rated mature for violence

This collection continues Frank Miller's Dark Knight saga with Batman dead after the defeat of Lex Luthor. Superman is on ice and Wonder Woman has returned to Themyscira. But when a cult of insane Kryptonians lead by Quar attack the Earth and demand humanity worship them as gods, who will rise up and stop them?

This is set in a not far future where our heroes have children. Frank Miller's signature gritty, dark, and scratchy style is in full glory and perfectly sets the tone for what is a rather dismal look at the future of the heroes we know and love.

The writing and art are expertly done and I love the nostalgic feeling the art gives me I get since I read Dark Knight years ago. There are mini-comics, which are interesting supplements to the main story but aren't necessary and I found myself skipping them on my first read through so I could get back to the main plot.

There are a few confusing character motivations, I'm not really happy with the Wonder Woman here and if you have to SAY a costume is too colorful for crime fighting, perhaps it should have been designed better in the first place but, I digress...

Compelling, entertaining, but depressing, I give this a 4 out of 5 since it was a downer. A great way to end this series, though. The release date for this book is September 19th, 2017.

Lenni Reviews: "Dreadnought" (Nemesis - Book One) by April Daniels

*I received this book in exchange for an honest review.

Danny is out secretly buying nail polish and ends up thrust in to the middle of a superhero battle. Defeated, Dreadnought transfers his powers to Danny, giving him super human abilities but the female body this transgender teen has always wanted. But not only does Danny have to deal with coming out as the new Dreadnought, she also must come out to her strict parents, the Legion of other heroes, and content with Utopia, the cyborg villain who killed Danny's predecessor. 

After reading "Black Angel" I was a little nervous about another LGBTQ YA novel. However, this book is much like "Rebel Genius" in that I was hooked and entertained for most of this despite being outside the target demographic.

This novel touches on the good and bad about being a trans teen with the added flight of fancy that if anyone bullies you for being trans, you can pummel them into the ground. Danny is such a great kid, you can't help but root for her and just outright DESPISE what she's put through. And, as a comic book geek, this also makes for an awesome superhero story. There is genuine peril Danny has to deal with as a budding super-heroine and despite the world ending consequences; the story doesn't feel like it gets bogged down when dealing with the issues surrounding a transgendered individual. Some reactions are almost TOO evil but I think that's just the part of me that is desperately holding on to a shred of hope in humanity. It doesn't pander, it doesn't preach; "Dreadnought" is a well-written, wild ride, and if it's the start to a series; I look forward to more. 4.7 out of 5.

 

 

Lenni Reviews: "Oria’s Gambit" by Jeffe Kennedy

*This book was sent to me in exchange for an honest review and is rated 18+

With her kingdom, Bara, captured by the Destrye, Oria gambles on a marriage with the conquering leader; Lonen. Since Bara is ruled by magic, the highly powerful and sensitive Oria takes a huge risk in marrying Lonen since he cannot use magic and Bara has never had a non-magic using ruler. The main reason for this gamble is Oria's cruel and despotic brother, Yar; who may likely begin another war despite the peace her kingdom has just attained.

Having not read the first part, there is enough here to make you understand there was a brutal war and that our main pair would like to spare their respective kingdoms any further bloodshed. Oria and Lonen are well developed enough and the writing is competent enough for you to get emotionally invested enough to want them to succeed. But the book does spend a great deal of time meandering around Lonen and Oria's obvious attraction to one another and their hope to overcome Oria's inability to even touch Lonen without her magic causing her pain. The pacing lost it's sense of urgency when the book spends so much time on the romance. The love story didn't distract from the major fantasy elements but once Yar came back into the picture, I felt the characters should have spent less time making gooily eyes and more time getting ready.

Don't get me wrong; Lonen and Oria have good chemistry and the overall story kept me interested enough to not only finish it but to want to know what happens in the next installment. If you like fantasy in your romance, this isn't a bad offering despite being pretty short and ending on a cliffhanger. 3.7 out of 5.

Lenni Reviews: "A Kind of Honesty" by Lane Hayes

*This book was given to me in exchange for an honest review and is rated for 18+

Tim Chalmers is a drummer for an up and coming band named Spiral. The stress of his new fame and recent tabloid fodder breakup with a supermodel sends him to a dive bar for what he thinks is a one night stand. Turns out the man; Carter Hamilton-Temple, is a friend of a friend and Tim runs into him at a birthday party. As one night turns into three then four, both men find themselves wanting more but the stress of Tim's fame and Carter's painful past dealings with bisexual men keep them from taking the next step.

First the good stuff. The writing starts off strong and sets a great scene. Despite it being from Tim's perspective, you can glean a lot of what Carter's feelings are just from Tim's observations; as they are detailed and well written. Tim is just the right amount of sassy and Carter has this reserved strength and power that makes him likable and fun.

The "bad" stuff. The band is TOO good. Dropping little bombs like breaking The Beatles records felt kinda silly; like Bella being the most beautiful girl in the world. Spiral could have easily been a hugely popular band without making them seem overly perfect.

As for the relationship, this is another case of the conflict persisting because the plot demands that the characters don't offer any reasonable explanation. I think Carter gave up too easily after it was made clear to him that Tim's ex-was a manipulative liar. Yes, Tim has other issues but I feel Carter jumped the gun and could have been as understanding as he was presented at the beginning.

Overall, not terrible but not great either. The writing was OK, the setup was OK, and eve the sex scenes were OK... All of it just OK. Nothing stood out to me as being particularly memorable but I did enjoy it so I give this a 3.5 out of 5.

Lenni Reviews: "The Thirteenth Man" by J.L. Doty

*I received this book in exchange for an honest review.

When Charlie Cass - the unacknowledged son of a duke - is freed from a POW camp, he returns to find a kingdom on the cusp of war. The dukes are plotting against one another and the king and now with the presumed dead Charlie back in the picture, they fear he will interfere with their plans. But Charlie refuses to go down without a fight.

I'm not usually a fan of military sci-fi but I honestly have to say this was the characters that kept me interested in this book. Charlie is a compelling, sensible character who is smart enough to surround himself with competent, loyal, and colorful people. Especially the prostitutes. They made me laugh. The techno jargon and political dancing were a little much but I just let it wash over me until the cool stuff started happening again. All that posturing and double meaning give me a headache. It's why I could never be a politician...

As this book was filled with all these thrilling space battles and has a satisfying conclusion to the main conflict, I felt the epilogue deflated everything; especially after such a climactic ending. I honestly can't think of another way to mend all those plot threads together without adding a few hundred pages to the book so I'll let the exposition dump slide. For unexpectedly entertaining me despite being out of my usual tastes, I give this a 3.7 out of 5.

For more reviews, check out Lenni's blog: Haunting Hypatia.

Lenni Reviews: "The Devouring God" by James Kendley

**This book was sent to me in exchange for an honest review.**

Ghost hunters Takuda, Mori, and Suzuki are sent to investigate some mysterious and disturbing calls made to a local mental health facility. As the case goes on, they notice the clues come to them way too easy. Bodies start piling up all leading to a mysterious and evil artifact.

This book does a great job setting an atmosphere of tension and mystery. The writing is competent enough to give you a real sense of Japan (in 1993). It was intriguing to see the characters change the longer they do this treacherous job; as if corrupted by the very evil they are hunting. Our three main characters work off of each other well in a delicate balance of annoyance and loyalty. Endo - the villain - talks like The Architect from The Matrix; pontificating in a way that even makes other characters snap at him to get to the point. I gotta say, Endo is MUCH less annoying and makes WAY more sense than The Architect so it wasn't completely painful to read his little speeches.

On the whole, this book is written well enough that I didn't feel I was missing information from the first book in this series. The ending is left quite obviously open for a new story so while the immediate problem was solved; you're left curiously unsatisfied. The over-arching evil is still out there. If I come across the next one, I'm intrigued enough to want to pick it up as this one was an enjoyable, supernatural horror. 4.5 out of 5.

For more reviews, check out Haunting Hypatia.

Lenni Reviews: Choices: Golden Collar Book 1 by Grace R. Duncan

Teman and his best friend Jasim are thieves for hire in the 11th century; living a life of relative freedom. When they're caught after a job goes wrong, they are given a choice: dungeons or place pleasure slave. Iron collar or gold. Vowing to escape, the pair chooses pleasure slave and end up serving the royal court and their guests.

Bathasar is a reluctant prince uninterested in the throne. When Teman saves Bathasar's life and in return is publically abused by Bathasar's brother, Mukesh, Bathasar becomes infatuated with Teman. When Mukesh's sadism threatens war with another nation, Bathasar must step up to save his country. However, rising to rule would give him the power to release Teman from slavery and Bathasar must decide if he can let Teman go.

Despite how trippy it is for me to read an audiobook, narrated in my edition by Joel Leslie, this book is long, decadent, and very heavy on the sex scenes. You're pretty deep into the book (around chapter 10) before the story between Bathasar and Teman kicks off. This is not the book for you if you don't like a slow build to your romance or massive amounts of man on man sex (since you get several full chapters on the 'training'). But if you like a well developed, smutty, and beautifully written (and spoken, in this case) romance in a historically based setting, 'Choices' is an amazing book. I'd give it a 4.5 out of 5 for being nearly perfect; as I tended to zone out during some of the sex scenes waiting for the plot to keep going.

For more reivews: check me out at Haunting Hypatia at literaryloon.com

Lenni Reviews: 'Angelus: The Books of Raziel Book Three' by Sabrina Benulis

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Well, Lenni did it again; reviewing a cool sounding book that's not the first in the series. Heck, this is the conclusion of a trilogy! Ah, well...

Angela Mathers is the current Archon who sits on the throne of Hell. By being there, she is fulfilling a prophesy that means she has the power to end the universe by opening the Book of Raziel. But the book isn't a 'book,' it's her best friend Sophia and the only way to 'open' the book is to kill her. But Lucifel sits on the throne of Heaven, the realms are set to collide and destroy one another, leaving Angela with a terrible choice to face.

Although the premise of this dark fantasy novel is cool, the overall story left me kinda flat. While the characters are well rounded and engaging, the plot is carefully woven together, and the creatures are interesting to read about; it hits all the usual beats; thus ends up a bit predictable. According to her author bio, Sabrina Benulis likes anime and you can tell from how the book is structured on its way to the ultimately satisfying yet bittersweet conclusion. Even without having read the first two, 'Angelus' would obviously be the climactic final season of an anime in one book. This also means - for my fellow anime watchers out there - there are points that are pure filler. You can take them or leave them but you want to get back to the main story. However, 'Angelus' does take an original and creative view on the whole mythos of angels, demons, Heaven, Hell, and how humanity fits in with all of them.

On the whole, it's an ok book. I can easily see this being classified as 'older teen' if not for some bloody fights. If you like dark fantasy and would like to take a break from watching an anime and read one, 'Angelus' isn't a bad pick.

Angelus will be released from Harper Voyager on February 9, 2016.