Lenni Reviews: "Beastars" vol 1 by Paru Itagaki

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

In this comic, the high school is divided into predators and prey and one student among them is selected to be a 'Beastar' - essentially their version of valedictorian as they exemplify the best of both predator and prey. But when a prey student is found dead, tensions are high and loner wolf, Legoshi - a friend of the murdered student - is struggling with his control with so much fear around him.

As I was reading this very sketchy drawn book, I didn't think I would like it. I was concerned it would be to "on the nose" with the predator/prey aspect only to find it more nuanced than I'd assumed. This is one of the more original manga outings I've read in a long time. While the art style may feel strange at first, the characters draw you in. An impressive first volume and I do hope to continue this series.

And yup, totally got the Bella Legosi reference.

4 out of 5.

Lenni Reviews: "In the Midnight Room" by Laura McBride

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

Book-ended with the life of June Stein, this novel dives into Las Vegas in the 1950's and a casino called 'The Midnight Room.'

This book feels a lot like the times where I went into a real casino in Vegas and Atlantic City; glitz, glamour, sadness, and desperation. Including June, the lives of four very different women collide together over the course of a lifetime in this book and we follow some hauntingly poetic stories. I'm not really one for historical fiction and this book managed to suck me in and I had trouble putting the book down.

I do have to say some of the point of view changed had me confused but the story managed to sort itself out in a few paragraphs; particularly in the end when it's suddenly all from June's perspective but as it's her life that frames the entire narrative, it's forgivable. An excellent period piece and I recommend. 3.9 out of 5.

Lenni Reviews: "Watersnakes" by Tony Sandoval

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

While Mila is out playing, she meets a strange but beautiful girl named Agnes who believes ghosts live in her teeth. As they spend more time together, Mila realizes Agnes is far from a normal girl as otherworldly forces spill into Mila's life.

This is what I was expecting from Likely Stories; a trippy, thrilling, scary, bloody, fantastic fantasy story that's beautiful to look at. The art takes some getting used to but if you can appreciate the likes of Roman Dirge or Dave McKean, this will be a treat to read through. If you like dark fantasy where fairy tale nightmares bleed into real life, this is a cool book to read and I'd like to see more from this creator. 4.7 out of 5.

Lenni Reviews: "Sheets" by Brenna Thummler

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

After her mother's death, Marjorie is holding down the family laundromat all by herself and raising her little brother as her father is still mired in his grief. She has typical outsider problems at school but she also has to deal with the conniving Nigel; who is after the laundromat to demolish the building and replace it with a resort. Feeling disconnected and helpless, things change for Marjorie when a ghost named Wendell sneaks into her shop.

This is a beautiful story about a young woman dealing with loss the best way she can. The laundromat is a perfect setting after such a deep shock since, after the death of a loved one, you do feel like you're spinning and being tossed about beyond your control; feeling transparent and lost, just floating through life.

Not too much time is spent on the "mean girls" schtick, as that can get old real fast. The idea of ghosts being actual sheets could be stupid if not for the amazing art. The whole book is in such a soothing palate, it's a pleasure to the eyes. Wendell and his friends are delightful as well but if I had to nitpick (and of course I do) this is another of those awesome graphic novels that feels like it ended too soon. I wanted to know more about everyone; even that dipshit Nigel: He of the Punchable Face.

Also, and this is spoiler territory here, something about the ending didn't quite sit right with me. SPOILERSSS!!!

Marjorie starts using Ghosturizer - basically ghost detergent/stain remover - to save her failing business, which seems a bit exploitive to me. I get that do misadventures it was Wendell's fault in part that Marjorie got into some extra trouble but unfettered access to otherworldly cleaning products? Seems highly suspect.

Other than that, awesome book. It's meant for kids but I recommend to anyone who needs a daily dose of DAWWWW!! 4 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: "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: "Ashes to Fire" by Emily B. Martin

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

In an attempt to bring peace, Queen Mona agrees to meet with the man who cost her her kingdom and many of her friends, King Celeno. But instead of diplomacy, Queen Mona ends up on the run after her ship is blown up and she is kidnapped along with Celeno's wife, Queen Gemma.

Despite being the second book in a series, enough details are filled in so you understand why things are the way they are and Martin includes these details well, without getting bogged down in clunky exposition. The cast of varied personalities all play off each other and the plot twists and turns like spinning poi (a reference you will understand when you read the book, which you should) making this a page-turning adventure. I can't speak to how well this fits in with the first book in the series but I can say I am absolutely looking forward to the next one! 3.8 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: "Rainbow Gap" by Lee Lynch

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

This sweeping novel follows Jaudon Vicker and Berry Garland's relationship over the course of 15 years. Set in Florida during the 1950's and 1960's, the book starts from their childhood when the classically girly girl Berry protects the boyish Jaudon from bullying classmates. We are along on their journey through college, Vietnam, even the budding LGBT community all while they stay bonded in a deep and powerful relationship.

You can feel in every word how much love was put into this book. The setting is real enough that you feel transported back in time and the level of detail becomes hypnotic. However, this book also gets bogged down in those details and the actual story slows to a crawl. When the plot moves, dear gods this book is beautiful. Otherwise, you feel every inch of those 342 pages. It's worth it though to get the full impact of Jaudon and Berry's journey. 3.9 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: "Angel Fever" by May Ridge

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

Malachi is the most talented male angel healer in a generation but despite his inflated ego about his talents, one thing still bothers him. Mal is an orphan and he's on the search for his mother. He returns to his childhood orphanage and the current priest working there, Tobias, tells him that despite it not being exactly within the rules, he will let Mal look at his records. However, it seems this mother's name is missing. As they dig deeper, Mal and Tobias discover a dark secret hidden among the priests which will put both their lives in danger.  

The whole thing could have been an interesting longer book but as a short story; it feels rushed. If given more time, the world could have had more time to build and thusly would have been better understood. The relationship between Mal and Tobias would have had more time to develop so they have real chemistry instead of just a line drop about how they've been working together for two months. A concept with potential but not enough room to grow, I give this a 3 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: "MAD About Trump: A Brilliant Look at Our Brainless President" by Various

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

This is a collection of satirical cartoons about the election of 2016 and the president himself. In true MAD Magazine style, some are one page and some are several page long comics. Some jokes land, some jokes miss, and some are kinda gross - also MAD Magazine's style - but humor can be very subjective. I personally wasn't too keen on some of the art styles but that's cause I didn't find them pleasant to look at; not because they were poorly done.

If you're an overly sensitive person and will trash this just because it's making fun of Trump, feel free to skip this. MAD Magazine is not a publication for people who can't take a joke and they to NOT hold back. I found that absolutely refreshing but others may not.

All the parodies are here; Beauty and the Beast, La La Land, Suicide Squad, Civil War, and while I may not have laughed out loud, I did chuckle at the cleverness of a lot of them and the publication as a whole is a welcome bit of levity among the absolute mess American politics has become. I'll have to give it 2 or 3 more reads to catch all the little jokes (seriously, some of them are like those Highlights Magazine hidden picture pages but for adults) but I had fun reading this. 4 out of 5 for it's unabashed and scathing honesty.

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: "Jackass Flats" by Julia Talbot

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

Tate is a 30 something cowboy who believes the best days of his life are behind him.He spends his nights getting hammered in bars and one night a young soldier named Dave helps Tate bumble back to his apartment. The two become close and form a relationship but Dave's military life poses a threat to their relationship.

Mild spoilers so skip this paragraph if you wanna avoid them but around 30% in, sudden gay married friend is sudden! I mean, geez what an asshole...

Anyway, other than the out of nowhere dickweed friend, the story felt well paced and very realistic. Dave and Tate take things slow at Tate's request and the patient way they come together is refreshing to see. Their chemistry goes beyond a 'hookup-turned- relationship,' their feelings come through the pages. Yes, of course there are some steamy scenes but just having Tate and Dave interact with each other left me with a happy feeling when the story was done and I wouldn't mind reading more in this series or by this author. 3.9 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 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: "Back to the Dream: Dreamlands #2" by Felicitas Ivey

Continuing some time after the first book, Keno and Samojirou are firmly in their relationship and Keno is more comfortable living under his persona as Sakura - a female consort - in order to hide his identity; as Keno is the incarnation of Samojirou's former lover who imprisoned Samojirou in the dreamlands in the first place. In addition, different players in the Dreamlands are hatching plans with the Trust for total control of the Dreamlands; sending Mason, Wolf, and McGann there again with the mission to form an alliance. It's all a lie, of course, and the three humans are stuck in a land under siege.

I'm glad we get to learn more about the Dreamlands and how they work in this book. Ivey has a real talent for world building so the setting is compelling. Tamazusa is an awesome character and I liked hearing from her. She is the one who tells the majority of the story and takes focus off os Keno and Samojirou's relationship. It's there, complete with smutty details so grownups only for this book, but the focus really is on the impending war and how they all will deal with it. Even though the book drags a little in some places - usually because the characters themselves are stuck - and there are a lot of unanswered questions when the book is over. I'm assuming it's because these answers will be in the following book and it is more interesting (in my opinion) if not every book in a series has a nicely wrapped up ending. 

If you're expecting more of the male/male romantic elements and less fantasy, I can see why you may be disappointed here. Two other relationships are introduced, but the crux of the novel really is the deceptions, the battles, and whatever overall plans the Trust has for the Dreamlands. Otherwise, this book had me hooked and I look forward to seeing what happens next. 4 out of 5 for me.

For more reviews and writing, check out Lenni's blog.

Lenni Reviews: Goldenfire by A. F. E. Smith

**Warning: This review may contain spoilers for book one; "Darkhaven" reviewed here.**

In this sequel to "Darkhaven," Ayla Nightshade is adjusting to being the new overlord of Mirrorvale, and being able to freely transform into her changer self; a fire-winged alicorn. She also has settled into her relationship with Tomas Caraway; the infamous Breakblade who is now a hero for saving Ayla's life in the first book. The conflict here is an assassin has been sent to kill Ayla and the secret that pistols can harm changers has managed to leak from the walls of Mirrorvale. Since Tomas is currently accepting new recruits into the Helm, the assassin could be among them.

Like the first book, this story revolves around the hunt for the true identity of a killer. Despite the repeated theme, the tension, character development, and pacing are well worth the read. In this second installment, we learn more about the cities surrounding Mirrorvale, the nature of changers, and the impact of guns being introduced into a fantastical, steampunkish (because there's airships and airships = steampunk, apparently). In addition, many books in a series get sappy and annoying when the romantic interests finally pair off but not here. The relationship between Ayla and Tomas is there but it doesn't take over or drag down the plot. It was refreshing to see the couple still retain their individuality, face conflict in their relationship, yet still remain a united force.

When the assassin is revealed and everything is wrapped up, it feels satisfying for the journey is took to get there. Each character's weaknesses and strengths are faced with grace in a well-built fantasy world and the concepts brought forth - such as the use of alchemy - leave the potential for interesting story avenues in the future. If there is a third novel in this series; I look forward to reading it.

If you like detailed world-building, fantasy creatures, and intriguing assassination plots, you will enjoy this book.

Check out Lenni’s site at atthequillsmercy.com