Lenni Reviews: “Markswoman” by Rati Mehrotra

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

After her first mark, newly initiated Markswoman Kyra lives to avenge the death of her clan. But her duties to the order of Kali take precedence as she tragically loses her mentor to what is obviously murder. Kyra embarks on a quest to expose the traitor in her order and bring them to justice.

I am honestly shocked this is marketed as YA but I loved reading this book. Kyra manages to be both determined but inexperienced without pandering or getting annoying. The fantasy world building is tight without a bunch of info dumps and the action is badass. I especially liked that Kyra’s journey is chosen instead of forced. She elects to go; not cast out.

The ending kinda felt a little bit of a copout as well as a cliffhanger but I am SO down for the sequel. 3.9 out of 5.

Lenni Reviews: "Cat Zero" by Jennifer L. Rohn

*This book was sent to me in exchange for an honest review and is recommended for mature readers.

Artemis "Artie" Marshall is a genius scientist studying feline viruses in a stuffy university. As she struggles to be taken seriously by many of her peers, a mysterious and virulent new virus surfaces; a virus so strong, it kills both cats and humans in a matter of days. It's a race against time to find a treatment or cure even if it risks her own life in the face of a deeper conspiracy.

The best parts of this book are when Artemis and her team are actively working on the disease. Outside of her intellectual pursuits, Artemis comes off as too perfect. She's just the prettiest, everyone wants to be her friend, no man can resist her charms, blah, blah, blah... Those scenes made me want there to be more dire circumstances around the virus so there would be no time for the side stories. I thought this would be a Contagion-like medical thriller but it all just fizzled out. More attention was paid to Artie's anxiety about being alone - good character development, yes, but it didn't play into the medical parts of the plot enough for me to feel like my time reading about it was invested wisely. In the end, I felt cheated despite how compelling the blurb and the premise are. 3 out of 5.

Lenni Reviews: "Scorpio Hates Virgo" by Anyta Sunday

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

After his aunt passes away, Percy Friedman moves into her home. Even though she left it to him, Percy is intent on selling it not only because it makes him miss his aunt so much, but it is also located in the same cul-de-sac as his childhood nemesis, Callagahan Glover. But, As Percy settles back into the tight-knit community and gets to know Callagahan all over again, he wonders if running away is the best plan.

I enjoyed this "enemies" to lovers story. There is no real malice between Percy and Cal so when their relationship forms, it feels real and relatable. Their sarcastic barbs are funny, the main leads are charming, and even the side characters have plenty of personality without derailing the main focus. It's a nearly perfect bit of fluff but since there's no closure regarding Percy's relative, Frank, I felt as if that bit was incomplete. Other than that, a great sweet and sexy romance. 3.9 out of 5.

Lenni Reviews: "The Thousand Year Beach" by Tobi Hirotaka - Translated by Matt Treyvaud

*This book was given to me in exchange for an honest review and it suggested for mature readers.

When mysterious spiders attack their small beach town, the remaining surviving AI's must battle to save what little that remains.

If I were to sum this up, I would describe this as if the minds behind Black Mirror re-wrote the ending to Wreck it Ralph.  The book has you thinking about the nature of what an AI really is and what they are forced to do at the hands of human users.

The characters may be just in-game characters, but they have all the personality and depth, I got sucked into the world right away. I had so much fun reading this and I would highly recommend this to anyone who likes original cyberpunk stories. The action starts right up and doesn't let up very often; making this book hard to put down. Beautifully written and tense, this was a great read. 4 out of 5.

Lenni Reviews: "Runner" by Parker Williams and Patrick Zeller (Narrator)

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

Matt Bowers has made every effort to isolate himself from the world after he was assaulted as a teenager. He lives on a large piece of land, has everything he needs delivered, and lives off of a sizable settlement account. All that changes when a man comes jogging across his property. Since the stranger isn't doing anything illegal, Matt cannot get his officer brother to do anything about the man encroaching on his safe space. Faced with no other option than to accept him, Matt gradually learns to tolerate the man's presence and even get to know him.

This is a sweet story about a traumatized guy learning to love again. It is a quintessential hurt/comfort story with realistic leads who follow a very natural progression as their relationship grows. Matt and Charlie do become an overtly saccharine couple, though Charlie seems almost too perfect in dealing with Matt's OCD and agoraphobia. Charlie is positively saint like in his acceptance of it and that made him seem less believable in his own right. I mean, he barely blinks at some of the limitations he suddenly has to deal with where as I believe any normal person would at least express some sort of resistance to their life taking a complete 180 in terms of their freedom to do as they please.

I did enjoy listening to this book. Zeller is a great narrator who has a great range to make each character distinct to your ears. While the story kept me entertained overall, I did struggle to remember a lot of things when I sat down to write this review. Cute and romantic but not much staying power. 3.5 out of 5.

Lenni Reviews: “Broken Mirror” by Cody Sisco

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

After the death of his grandfather, Victor is convinced he was murdered. But nobody believes him due to his diagnosis of mirror resonance syndrome, which causes blackouts, nightmares, hallucinations, and a lack of control over strong emotions. Determined to discover the truth, Victor no longer knows who to trust as not only his condition worsens but a dangerous conspiracy involving a possible cure and a plot to lock up any broken mirror whether they're a threat or not.

This is a great cyberpunk thriller. Set in a dystopian, 1990's, you get this futuristic feel and the stakes make it tense but there are moments that drag as the next twist is set up. I really felt for Victor and I think you'll find yourself rooting for him the entire book, as I did. The world around him is built perfectly within the narrative making the entire story engrossing and engaging. An awesome novel worth checking out. 4 out of 5.

Lenni Reviews: "Blood Borne" by Archer Kay Leah

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

Ress is cornered between two opposing factions while all he wants is a quiet life with his family. Arden is trapped by duty to the Shar-denn and the orders to hunt down Ress for betraying them yet Arden finds the growing feelings for Ress may outweigh the task.

Setting aside how fucking confusing the pronouns for a nonbinary/gender queer character (Arden) are without knowing them before you start this book and think they are typos, it is the characters that make this book. The writing makes them come alive but the rest? I sadly found it tiresome. Boring isn't quite the word because I made it through the book without my mind fogging and my eyes glazing over but if what made the impact is the new pronouns making me feel like an out of touch old geezer, then something is missing. Not bad, took a chance with a character like Arden which needs to happen more, but ultimately a 3.5.

Lenni Reviews: "Sovereign" by April Daniels

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

In this sequel to Dreadnought, Danielle is working hard as the new hero in town but between kicking butt and maintaining her reputation with the press; and without even being fully licensed due to her age, she is feeling the strain. But Dreadnought is needed now more than ever as a worldwide threat lingers on the horizon.

I can't quite put my foot on what it is but this is not as enjoyable as the first book. Don't get me wrong, this is still a well-written superhero story with high stakes and plenty of thrilling action; by no means a bad book. A teenager dealing with the harsh realities of being a superhero AND transgender AND some topical threats to humanity deserves this darker tone. But in comparison to the first, the darkness is unpleasant instead of intriguing or compelling. I want to like this more than I do. If you ware interested in following Dreadnought's next steps as she develops as a hero, this entry is just ok. 3.5 out of 5.

 

Lenni Reviews: "Pathogen" by Jessica L. Webb

 

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

In this second entry into the Kate Morrison Mystery Series, Dr. Morrison is tapped to solve a mystery surrounding a deadly viral outbreak in a rich little town called Hidden Valley. Working with her girlfriend; Sargent Andy Wyles, Kate scrambles to simultaneously treat her patients, find out how to stop the virus, deal with demanding rich people, and navigate her new relationship with Andy.

This is not the type of book I usually pick up as medical thrillers just aren't my thing but this time I wanted to step out of my comfort zone. I found the collection of smart, capable people to be a relief. There are ill meaning characters and a pretty annoying bully but nobody working to solve this problem is grossly incompetent. Sometimes a stupid character will be used for plot purposes but not here.

Andy and Kate are a true power couple; quick thinking, intuitive, and well-developed but I do feel I would have needed to read the first book to get the full impact of what happens between them. This is especially evident in the ending (which I will not spoil) where the combined events and stresses of both books impact the ending. And as this is an LGBT novel, there is a little smut but the soul of this book is the medical mystery. It may not be my usual fare but I enjoyed it nonetheless. 3.5 out of 5.

Lenni Reviews: "Wounded Pride" by Remmy Duchene and B.L. Morticia

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

Brian Daystar is celebrating the opening of his youth center for at-risk kids but notices a considerable lack of support from his country music star boyfriend, Corey. When Corey finally bothers to call Brian, he's drunk and not alone. Deciding to end it, Brian takes a vacation to New York to face Corey while staying with Renford Kline; a retired attorney considering becoming a law professor. Brian is attracted to Renford but Ren's experience with men has never gone beyond college experimenting. Both are attracted but Brian's past traumas and Ren's reluctance to get feelings involved may keep them from the happily ever after they have been wishing for.

First off? Ren, 39 isn't 'old man' territory. I could see if he was pushing 55 (seeing as he's retiring) but, no.

This is one of those romances where you think there would be more time spent on building the relationship between the main pair before they hop into bed but nope. Not really a criticism on my part; just saying the writing and tone made me expect that. As is, the flaw in this standard romance cycle is I feel some of the character elements could have been explored more; like Brian's pretty dark past and Redford's previous attraction to women. It doesn't make the book bad at all. In fact, I find it sweet and the smutty bits are written well. But those deep personal issues could have used more attention. A fun romp even if I was left a bit wanting; 3.7 out of 5.

Lenni Reviews: "Crossing in Time" by D.L. Orton and Micah McDonald

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

Geneticist Isabel is given a once in a lifetime chance; to go back in time and get a second chance with her lover, Diego. But this is for much more than just love as their relationship may hold the key to saving humanity from mass extinction.

Now, I know one would think that knowing me and my other reviews; a "time travel, dystopian romance" would not only have my eyes rolling out of my head but send me into Serena's Plight levels of anger. Neither of these happened. I LOVED this book.

Isabel and Diego are both whip-smart, strong brave characters and there were precious few moments in the plot where I doubted they were anything else. And while their relationship takes center stage, supporting characters like Matt are quick witted, kind, and funny. All of them have such chemistry I didn't want to leave them (and I will be getting the next books in the series).

The time travel bits can get confusing and part of me doesn't want to believe anyone could accidentally set off a nuke (but with how things are with a president who tweets unintelligible typos, it seems sadly likely) but overall, this story had even a cynic like me believing that one relationship could mean saving the world. 4.7 out of 5.

Lenni Reviews: "Leo Loves Aries" by Anyta Sunday

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

Twins Theo and Leone have both lost their significant others to each other. Theo's girlfriend and Leone's boyfriend paired off and the twins decide to lick their wounds with school work and junk food; until their wedding invitation arrives in the mail. They both agree to show they've moved on by not only attending the wedding but choosing dates for each other. When Jamie Cooper applies to be their roommate, Theo thinks he's perfect for his sister but finds Jamie so infuriatingly amusing that their friendship deepens to something more.

As far as "gay for you" romances go, this one does it right. I've read too many of these where the straight guy has all these icky feelings about another man's naughty bits and has to get over that because he's attracted to a specific man. Here, Theo had dated only women in the past and considered himself hetero but Jamie as a person, sparks his interest. Theo doesn't stress about his orientation or how he can't understand being sexually attracted to another male; all he knows is he adores Jamie. This makes their pairing all the more genuine and it was easy to get invested in what's happening to them.

As for the rest of our cast of characters, they are all written very well so they feel real; flaws and all. The steamier scenes are placed perfectly within the narrative, despite the short courtship. You don't get the sense Theo and Jamie tumble around randomly just because there hasn't been a sex scene in a while. They make an adorable couple to follow on their journey and the ending is sweet and satisfying.

If I had a gripe, it would be some unexplored bits like Theo's fear of water and you don't get to know the ex's very well. I thought the water would come into play in the climax of the story and other than Theo's ex - Sam - being thoughtless, they don't get much back story. Those are VERY minor criticisms and didn't take away from my enjoyment of this book.

If "gay for you" is your thing and you want a fairly lighthearted M/M romance, I recommend this. Theo and Jamie are just all around fun to read. 4 out of 5.

Lenni Reviews: "The Edge of the Blade" by Jeffe Kennedy

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

Elite warrior, scout, and spy Jepp is lethal with her blades and her tongue so when she is selected for a diplomatic mission as an ambassador to a country where women are wives or sex slaves, she finds remaining docile and subservient more challenging than anything she's faced before. But she must gather information on how big of a threat this foreign king may be and return alive without starting a war. Oh, and she's sleeping with the king's son; Prince Kral... Who has a wife.

Jepp is a cool character. You get a great sense of who she is from the smart writing and enjoy the story from her perspective. She's smart, tough, and funny; you could see yourself chilling at the bar with her despite the fact she would drink you under the table.

While containing romantic and erotic elements, the way this book is structured made them feel like a legitimate part of the story instead of the plot grinding to a halt so the main characters can bone. There is genuine peril and intrigue with high stakes in a well written and constructed fantasy world. I haven't read the first book (it may have given me some deeper context into some character relationships but it's not necessary) but the story is so interesting, I'd be excited to follow to the next book. It's obvious Jepp and the Uncharted Realms world have plenty more stories to tell. 4.5 out of 5.

Lenni Reviews: "Windsinger" by A. F. E. Smith

Mirrorvale has long stood in a precarious 'truce' with the surrounding kingdoms; held together with the fear of the changers. Now not only overload but a mother, Ayla Nightshade attempts to broker a formal peace treaty with an ambassador from the neighboring kingdom of Sol Kardis. After one day of hard negotiations, the ambassador is found dead. Suspected of murder, the race in on to prove Ayla's innocence and prevent all out war.

Across the the three books (this is the third Darkhaven novel) the writing quality, world building, and character depth has been consistently entertaining and well executed. The build up is slow to a rip-roaring climax; leaving plenty of time to be intrigued and entertained. The characters are especially interesting in this outing, with even the side characters having story arcs ramping up several times to push them to the limit and end up with some great development. It can seem a little trivial in the grander scheme of things but it was good to get to know them.

I do hesitate to give away too much and end up spoiling some pretty major plot points. Suffice it to say I am loving this series and hope to see more. 4.7 out of 5.

Lenni Reviews: "Rebel Genius" by Michael Dante DiMartino

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

When I was poking around and saw this book was written by co-creator of the animated shows Avatar: The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra, I clicked it immediately, not even realizing it was a YA book meant for kids 8-12 years old. But much like those shows, this book can absolutely be enjoyed by adults.

They story centers around Giacomo, a young orphan who lives in a world where artists have entities much like familiars called a Genius which can not only inspire them but turn their art into magic. A tyrant named Nerezza has hunted down all the artists she could find and appointed herself Supreme Creator. After an accident, Giacomo finds himself with his own Genius and is discovered by other children who have been hiding from Nerezza's threat. They embark on a journey to find these artifacts called The Creators Tools what may help them overthrow Nerezza and bring art back to the ruined nation.

I love how there are sketches in the book and the way they are included, it's implied Giacomo is the one drawing them. It added extra charm to an already fascinating story. It's also worth noting that even though this story is labeled YA, it doesn't shy away from some pretty dark stuff. There's a real sense of danger and urgency to the mission and you do wonder if all the characters will make it or even succeed at all. But towards the end after the big twist, it got into some predictable plot points but hey, I'm a voracious consumer of fiction so it's not a major drawback to the story overall. I'm just much more likely to catch tropes, however, I can see it surprising a kid who's reading this.

You can absolutely feel the creative energy and love from the Avatar series in this book. The concept of art manifesting as physical magic is compelling, the adventure is tense and action-packed, and the characters are unique and fun. I am super curious to find out what happens next in what could very well be a rollercoaster of a series. 4.5 out of 5.

Lenni Reviews: "Deadlight Jack" by Mark Onspaugh

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Jimmy Kalmaku and George Watters may seem like any other old retirees, but they are both supernatural heroes who saved the world. When George’s grandson vanishes while on vacation in the Louisiana bayou, both men must use their abilities to the utmost in order to defeat the terrifying Deadlight Jack.

This book is like Murder She Wrote or Columbo except with demons and old men using magic. George and Jimmy's rapport is a pleasure to read. You can tell they're old friends and are just the best. About 10% George says the line: "The only pickups I'm gonna be making are of pretty girls who like jazz and want to go dancing with the area's black Astaire."

"Too cute!!"

"Too cute!!"

I found myself chuckling and smiling whenever they talked. I did find it amusing how people kept mistaking them for a gay couple (especially considering how much gay smut romance I read...) and that joke is thankfully not overused. It would have been really easy to use that gag to DEATH but Onspaugh kept it at the level such things should be in real life; not that big a deal.

Deadlight Jack is legitimately horrifying; so when the actual plot gets going it's tense and exciting. The humor is still there but you feel that impending danger. The ending may have been a little deus ex machina but you're having so much fun, it's acceptable. I can tell so much love was put in this book. This is George and Jimmy's second adventure (I plan to read the first just for fun) and the epilogue makes noise about a possible third. I sure hope that's true because I am totally on board. 4.7 out of 5.

Lenni Reviews: "Syndicates Pawns" by Davila LeBlanc

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

The crew of the Jinxed Thirteenth is sent on a rescue mission to retrieve the only survivor of an abandoned space station. What they find is Jessie Madison in cryo-sleep; and she has been there for several millennia. Awakening to a world that's completely unknown to her, Jessie struggles to learn new languages and face the loss of her husband. Meanwhile, a crew criminals lead by Domiant, sets out to capture the ship and Jessie as valuable cargo. Captain Morwyn and his crew must beat back Domiant and his dangerous underlings in order to protect Jessie and her unborn child from being sold or worse.

This book is like a combination of Event Horizon and Firefly in that the story takes place mostly on one ship and the crews on both sides are made up of very different species with all sorts of different abilities and specialties that struggle to get along and work together. They work well together and the world building and action sequences are written very well, there are so many characters with not enough development to properly tell them apart. I found myself getting confused as to who was who very easily. Except for Jessie; who stood out really well but mostly because she is truly a fish out of water. While this book is the second in a series, it stands well enough on it's own. For muddled characterization but an exciting story, I give this a 3.5 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: "Goodnight Batcave" by Dave Croatto and Tom Richmond

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

In this parody of Goodnight Moon, Batman is lounging in his cave when some bad guys show up. He beats them up, then goes to bed. The whole rogue's gallery is there and the character design calls back to the Batman: The Animated Series character designs.

This book is clever and funny. The joke works better if you're familiar with Goodnight moon and I read this to my kid (who loves comics) and she laughed and did want a copy of her own.

For a book put out by MAD Magazine, it's pretty kid friendly. The art is in their typical style but there's nothing in it I would feel hesitant to show a kid who is already familiar with comics. There's a justifiable amount of violence (superheroes don't tend to cuddle the villains to jail) and I think this will give both kids and adults a few good chuckles. I read this on my Kindle but I think this is worth a hardcover purchase if you love Batman and love MAD. 4.5 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.