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: "Counting to Zero" by A. J. Quinn

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

The NSA orders Dr. Emma Thorpe to put together a team of hackers - off the books - in order to help the US government fight cyber terrorism. One of the people tapped is Paxton James, currently in an Indonesian jail because she was set up for a crime she didn't commit. Paxton is willing to deal as long as it gets her out of jail and it doesn't hurt that Emma is hot. But trust won't come easy to the betrayed Pax or the hardened agent Thorpe and they must learn to deal with their mounting attraction and fight a cyber criminal with ties to Pax's criminal past.

If you like your romances a little slow, this is a good example of the main couple having an instant attraction but not the insta-love so many romance novels tend to use as a trope. The situation these characters are in gives them some real issues to deal with so the real focus of this novel is the cyber crime. Quinn has created some smart, interesting, and fun characters who are a pleasure to get to know but somehow, it all comes off a little rushed. Granted, they're chasing a cyber-criminal trying to kill people so it's not like they have time to sit around and have tea to discuss their feelings. There is enough here to enjoy a quick, romantic thriller with some strong female characters. If I had one real gripe, it's that Pax must be part terminator because every ten seconds she's getting injured and recovers unrealistically fast. 3.8 out of 5.

Lenni Reviews: "The Haunting of Timber Manor" by F. E. Feeley Jr.

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

Daniel Donnelly has sadly lost his parents in a terrible accident. He gets a phone call from his estranged aunt who tells him he is now heir to a fortune and a house called Timber Manor. On the way there, Daniel has to pull over in a huge storm and Sherriff Hale Davis - a native of the town near Timber Manor - helps him out. But the manor holds a dark and powerful secret that puts Daniel's life in great peril

While Daniel and Hale make a good couple and you're rooting for them, the novel makes a great ghost story. The tone is perfect for curling up in a blanket and reading this on a stormy night.It was good to have the story switch perspectives to get everyone's thoughts on what's happening but I feel the supernatural story development had more care put to it than the romantic development. Daniel and Hale have that insta-love thing going on that will bug you if that's an aspect of romances that bug you.

And can Francine get a spin-off series!? PLEASE!!

Giving this a 3.7 out of 5.

Lenni Reviews: "Spell Cat" by Tara Lain

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

Professor Killian Barth teaches the history of witchcraft and has a unique perspective on the matter considering he is indeed a witch. He is the most powerful male witch to come along in generations.  Keeping his identity a secret from regular humans, he catches the eye of the quantum physics professor; Blane Genneau. Their attraction is instant but Killian is being forced to marry another witch, Lavender, in order to save the witch race by pumping out magical children. But not only is Killian gay, Lavender is in love with someone else, and Killian finds the magnetism between him and Blane is too strong to resist. There's also the added rub that if a witch sleeps with a human, it will drain the witch's power away. Can Killian find a way to not only be with the one he loves but overcome prejudice against humans, find a way to save his race, and convince a man of science to believe magic is real?

First off, I have to point out that Lain made Lavender a likable character. It's so easy to fall into that trope of one of the people in the forced marriage being a complete horror to make the main character look even more put upon. But Lavender is a kind, sweet person and even tries to help Killian whenever she can. That was very refreshing.

While this book was decently written and cute, sometimes it felt a little contrived. It has this fanfiction like quality to it where everyone is too perfect, too pretty, and sex literally tears the skies apart it's so good. I mean, geez, nobody even had an interesting mole or tattoo... I also would have liked to see the fantasy elements explored more. I know that they're technically supposed to take a back seat to the romance but there are some interesting concepts here that I felt were glossed over to get the couple where they needed to be. But I do give this book credit for turning a couple tropes on their heads, having some fun characters and steamy romance scenes. 3 out of 5.

Lenni Reviews: "Timing" by Mary Calmes

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

Stefan Joss has been invited to be in his best friend's wedding. Not only does his boss take this as a chance to take on a sales deal to the trip to Texas, Stefan has to deal with his friend's brother, Rand Holloway; who has made no effort to restrain his hatred of Stefan. With the chaos of the wedding and meeting with his client, Stefan learns there is more to Rand's feelings than hatred and his business deal ends up risking his life.

While meant as a romantic mystery kind of story like Mystery of Nevermore, the mystery in this book took far back seat to the romance. Not a criticism, just something I noticed. I can see either adding more of the mystery or taking it out entirely and just having the wedding be the backdrop that brings Stephan and Rand together.

Anyways, Rand as a hard-ass cowboy coming to terms with how he fucked up and will do his part to fix it and Stefan putting in effort too worked for me. I liked them both and I wanted to see them together. The smexy times are prevalent and positively indulgent so if you want a healthy dose of manluvin, this book is more than happy to dole it out along with some romantic sappiness.

When it came to the action/mystery parts, I kinda got whiplash. You're crusin along in this lovey dovey romance and WHAM! Rape! Murder! Guns!

"Well... That took an uncomfortable turn..."

"Well... That took an uncomfortable turn..."

Even so, I enjoyed this book. You can feel the love all over; even aside for our main pair. The details in describing ranch life (Rand owns a ranch) were written well enough to get a real feel for the setting and I ended this book with a cheesy grin because it was so damn sweet. 4 out of 5.
 

Lenni Reviews: "The Mystery of Nevermore" by C. S. Poe

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

Ever walk into work and find a pig heart under a dislodged floorboard? Me neither but Sebastian Snow has. Now he's caught up in a mystery involving the works of Edgar Allen Poe and falling for the lead detective on the case - Calvin Winter - despite being in a rocky relationship with another cop, Neil Millett. More important than his now complicated relationships, Sebastian can't resist being nosy and may very well end up the next victim.

First off, it was interesting having the main character; Sebastian, have achromatopsia. I didn't know that was a thing and learning about it through our main character didn't slow down the pacing of the book.

As for the rest, the mystery itself was compelling and I'm not a fan of mysteries. To be fair, it's likely because I'm a literature geek and it was based around Poe's work. Sadly, I have to take a point off for (er, spoilers, kinda?) damaging a rare book. I'm a bibliophile and a librarian. You just don't hurt books.

But seriously, this book was a fast, fun, and naughty read. Sebastian and Calvin are characters you can empathize with and have a decent amount of chemistry. The mystery itself I can't really comment on as I don't have much experience in this genre but I found it interesting. I would consider reading more in this series in the future. 4 out of 5.

Lenni Reviews: "The Deadbringer" by E. M. Markoff

Kira Vidal is a Deadbringer, possessing the ability to summon souls and raise the dead. Likely the last of his kind, this fifteen year old boy hides his abilities while living with his uncle. In order to live in peace, he has to keep out of reach of the Ascendancy and their elite soldiers called the Sanctifiers; who are charged with the mission of killing all Deadbringers. When a stranger shows up at their door asking for help, Kira's secret is exposed and he must protect his uncle while learning the truth behind his powers.

The world-building done in this novel is accomplished by dumping you in and wishing you luck yet at the same time it's immersive enough for you to get lost in it. There are a lot of interesting and distinct characters and while some may fall into typical fantasy tropes (like the mysterious counsel of evil hidden in shadow, climactic battle at a wall with ground troops, horned people, etc...), they all managed to get into my head clearly so I stayed interested throughout the entire book. At times the conversations lagged or got bogged down in WAY more complicated words than necessary; the narrative meandered off on occasion but once the story centered on Kira and his journey, this novel shined. Even with the cliffhanger ending (Arrgh! Where's the next one!!!), I ended this book feeling like I had a good time. As a fan of dark fantasy, I give this story a 3.5 out of 5.

Lenni Reviews: "Iron Goddess" by Dharma Kelleher

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

Reformed ex-con Shea Stevens has left a family history of crime behind her. Now the owner of Iron Goddess bike shop, Shea is content to build custom bikes, run her business, and enjoy her new relationship with her girlfriend. Things get complicated when not only is her shop robbed; an employee is shot, and her sister, Wendy, shows up after a decade of estrangement begging for help because her daughter has been kidnapped. Old ties come back to cause Shea much more trouble than just a couple stolen bikes.

I gotta say, this book was badass. There are straight, gay, and trans characters and they are people first. Their gender or sexuality are not used as tools to advance the plot, it is simply part of who they are as a complete character; not sterotypes at all.

Even though the motorcycle gangs were over the top with their racism, sexism, and at times an overt lack of logic, I'm not going to claim any knowledge of gang culture to call the book out on its portrayal of them. Overall, Shea was a believable character making the best of a shitty situation and everything works out as best she can manage without getting killed. A non-stop ride from start to finish, I give this book a 4 out of 5.

For more of Lenni's writing, check out 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: "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: A Demon Inside by Rick R. Reed

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                                                                   (Image Source)

In this novel by Reed, Hunter Beaumont finds himself alone in the world after the death of his grandmother. After his parent's mysterious deaths when he was only five years old, his grandmother kept him sheltered and with his only family gone, Hunter is the last of the Beaumont line. They were a well off family so a huge estate aptly named the Beaumont house is part of this inheritance, yet on her deathbed, his grandmother begs him to destroy it. Curious, naive, and frightened of being alone in the world, Hunter doesn't heed his grandmother's warning and makes this infamous estate his home. And the house is not happy about it.

As a character, Hunter can be a little whiny but as a sheltered person, I had to give him a little leeway. After all, he did lose his parents in a gruesome murder he blocked out as a kid. But it leaves him vulnerable to plain old horrible people before he even gets to being haunted. But when he finally makes the decision to move, things get really creepy really quickly. You get the feel of a standard horror movie where you're yelling at the book for the guy to get the message and get the hell out of poltergeist house; which is where some readers will get frustrated with Hunter. He swings from wide eyed innocent to obstinate brat to such a degree, it's to his detriment; putting him in danger. Reed did a great job showing how Hunter's poor experiences with people led to less than logical determination to battle a ghost who is trying to kill him where he may have once ran away. The book ends before we get to really see if Hunter finds a balance between being too innocent and too brave.

Again, like Clashing Tempest, the male/male romance is secondary to the horror story. The horror isn't bad but experienced horror fans may find it formulaic; more tense than outright scary. But I had fun reading it and I enjoy discovering LGBT books with real plots instead of bubblegum nonsense. Sugar has it's place, but Reed gives us more meat with our meal. I enjoyed it.

Lenni Reviews: Stonehill Downs by Sarah Remy

Lenni Reviews: Stonehill Downs by Sarah Remy

In this fantasy novel, we meet Malachi, the last magus in his kingdom; and Avani, one of the few survivors from the Sunken islands. These two meet after a series of murders of soldiers in a place called the Downs, where Avani now lives. Avani has powerful magic of her own and the two work together to try and find out what is behind the killings.

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Lenni Reviews: Wildalone by Krassi Zourkova

Lenni Reviews: Wildalone by Krassi Zourkova

College freshman, Thea Slavin has just come to Princeton to study music from Bulgaria. A genius with the piano, she is quickly overwhelmed trying to fit in and keep up with her furious schedule of study and practice, as well as a brooding boy; Rhys, relentlessly pursuing her.

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Lenni Reviews: Crooked River by Valerie Geary

Lenni Reviews: Crooked River by Valerie Geary

After the death of their mother, young Sam and Ollie are sent to life with their father, Bear; an eccentric man who lives in a tee-pee and is a beekeeper for a living. After being estranged for years after he left them, Ollie and Sam are adjusting as well as they can despite Sam's somber attitude and Ollie's refusal to utter a single word.

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