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: "Twisted Dreams: Dreamlands #4) by Felicitas Ivey

After the craziness of Unquiet Dreams, Keno is now a 'guest' of the wizard Kheper in the Egyptian lands and was forced to give in to the violent nature of his ancestor in order to save Mason's life and his own. As the unknown Darkness spreads through the Dreamlands, Samojirou takes Mason, Wolf, and Tholf to rescue Keno while Keno and Kheper investigate the Darkness. But will Keno want to be rescued after taking a life?

Keno's internal struggle about having to kill is the major part of his character development in this book. His ancestor was discussed in such hushed, ominous tones, Keno never wanted to be anything like him. There isn't time to dwell or escape his pain for long as he works with Kheper; who turns out to be a pretty cool magician and a man of honor - not at all as creepy as he seemed in the previous book. 

With two teams coming at the Darkness from two different directions, we get some really detailed and rich writing. You get a sense of realness to a very unreal world. But darnit, if it doesn't end on a cliffhanger! Man, do I wanna see the Dreamlands come together to beat the Darkness. I'm sure other cultures along with the Japanese and Egyptians will come into play. More of the Vikings would be cool! It would be such an epic showdown. 4.5 out of 5.

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.

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Lenni Reviews: Tides of Maritinia by Warren Hammond

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In this surprising space adventure, Jakob Bryce is sent on a covert mission to infiltrate and dismantle the power of the newly freed Maritinia; a planet on the far reaches of The Empire that rules the system. Despite the small size of this world and the limited role of their single export - kelp - to the economy, the Empire is stretched thin defending their control. If one small planet can successfully rebel, it may inspire others and it's Jakob's job to make sure that doesn't happen.

Jakob is a newbie to this job so his loyalty is truly tested as he's thrown into this odd mix of idealists and madmen and forced to maintain a cover with some really shoddy intel. For an all powerful Empire, they send this guy on his first mission not knowing a great deal; like who is the father of the woman his target is in a relationship with. In this reader's opinion, I was already losing faith in the Empire way before Jakob did. To keep Jakob in line, there is an artificial intelligence implanted in his brain named Pol, who keeps Jakob from being able to deviate from the mission. This poses a problem because Jakob's loyalties are tested, emotions are toyed with, and he has to decide if the will of the Empire is worth the cost of the people of Maritinia.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. At first I was confused by the typo filled journal entries at the beginning of each chapter but the why's and how's of that are revealed later in the book. The world building is detailed and exacting. You really feel like you're in a waterlogged boat the whole ride. As the story progresses, Jakob's character gets better and better. You will be cheering for him by the end of it. While this can easily be a standalone novel, I do hope we hear more of Maritinia from Warren Hammond. It's a cool spy adventure in space that will leave you wanting more.

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