Lenni Revews: “The Slave Yards” by Najwa Bin Shatwan, Nancy Roberts (Translation)

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

Set in 19th century Benghasi, this novel tells the story of Atiqui, who knows she’s mixed race but otherwise doesn’t know much about her parents. One day her cousin Ali shows up with the full story of how her parents met, why she never knew them, and the lineage that entitles her to an inheritance.

While the overt racism can get frustrating, this is a beautifully written historical novel. Aside for my modern abhorrence to racism, sexism, and slavery, this is a sprawling story of forbidden love, solidarity, and survival. This presents an unflinching depiction of life in that time. I found myself riveted, wanting to know what happens next. If you like historical fiction, this is a great entry. 4.7 out of 5

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Lenni Reviews: “Birds of Shangri-La” Vol 1 by Ranmaru Zariya

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

As you can see from the terribly subtle cover, this is a yaoi manga.

Apollo is a straight man who is in dire need of funds so he takes a job at an elite gay brothel as a “teaser,” which is essentially a fluffer. He’s assigned to Phi to learn the ropes of the place and there are three main rules:  no orgasms, no penetration, no falling in love.

Throwing in a trigger warning for off panel sexual assault of a minor.

This is a good start to what can possibly be a great m/m love story. I like how all the prostitutes in the brothel are well taken care off and happy. Phi is a welcome dose of wild personality in contrast to Apollo’s dry nature and we’re getting to know them as they discover each other I like how Phi isn’t just some typical carefree guy; there’s a depth and darkness to him. It’s going to be interesting to see how the rules factor in later. Also, it’s worth noting that the sex scenes and naughty bits tend to be creatively obscured. 3.7 out of 5.

 

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Lenni Reviews: “Beastars” Vol. 9 by Paru Itagaki

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

While this volume starts with the mundane Winter Performance for the Drama Club. But the real meat (no pun intended) of this volume is Legoshi finding out who killed Tem WAY back in volume 1. Which, honestly, I thought they forgot about.

Somehow, I expected the reveal of Tem’s murderer to take longer and be a big battle but I respect how this volume handled it. It makes sense that Legoshi would have to train hard to face a killer and since his side gig helping Dr. Gohin is making him stronger, it makes sense that he would have to keep doing that in order to get his skills up. It also makes sense that Legoshi’s little side job would land him in Louis’ path. It was great to see them interact again.

Juno also got some focus with her bonding with Haru for a bit of girl time. And I need to perhaps spoil a bit here when I flat out rejoice in the discarding of the generic “mean girl” trope and they come to terms. It’s so refreshing.

Yet again, I love this series and I can’t wait for more. 5 out of 5.

 

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Lenni Reviews: “Given” Vol. 4 Natsuki Kizu

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

As the band tries to rind it’s footing, past loves return and Haruki in particular is struggling with knowing his place, as he as feelings for Akihiko.

This is a drama-filled volume with a pace that ramps things up in a way that makes the characters seem like real people. It’s messy, doesn’t make a lot of sense but the people make it work.  And I like that we spent some time on Akihiko and Haryuki. They have an intriguing dynamic; especially in contrast to Uenoyama and Mafuyu. It’s also worth mentioning that most of the sex is either off panel or just heavily implied. So, if you’re looking for some boy love that’s a bit more tame, this isn’t bad! 3.7 out of 5.

 

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Finally Watched It – Challenge Edition: “Martyrs” (2008)

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In yet another movie that is touted on many lists for being super disturbing and graphic, Martyrs features two women who were at the mercy of a cult trying to create martyrs by having them survive supreme pain to transcend or transfigure to see God. The movie starts with Lucie, seeking revenge on what was done to her with the help of Anna, who hopes Lucie will move beyond the pain she went through.

Is it wrong of me to say this isn’t that bad? I mean, it’s violent and terrible. It opens with gruesome murders and features beatings and torture but… Ok, for me, a movie has to cross a line even within the narrative to ‘offend’ me or make me want to tap out of it. But this didn’t. Granted, I winced, I was shocked, it was gut-wrenching to watch the ‘chosen’ woman break over time but it wasn’t too much for me.

My bar for tapping out is ‘Serbian Film,’ however. And I’ve seen ‘Salo.’ This movie does not come close to either of those in terms of giving up on it.

I do have one kinda spoilery question… Not that I want these heartless bastards to get away with what they’re doing but if you have a cult of murder torture that you don’t want people to find out about, WHY would you set your torture den in the bunker of a house that you plant a family in THAT WOULD HAVE THEIR SPECIAL ACCOMPLISHMENTS END UP IN A NEWSPAPER!? Wouldn’t you want some people that were super low key and average? Someone that would take a while to notice if they were missing and not star students in the local school who would absolutely attract attention if they suddenly didn’t show up ever again? That just really bothered me as something a super fancy evil cult wouldn’t overlook. Especially when it’s revealed that they had a bunch of old rich people who probably could pull off the “quirky old person who lives alone now” type of person.

Ugh, but that irksome plot point aside, this was a super bloody movie that’s shocking but it didn’t get me so bad that it’s the most disturbing thing I’ve ever seen. I’m kinda glad I was able to scratch this off my list. It was well shot and acted. If you can take it and like horror, I’d check it out!

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Lenni Reviews: “Given” Vol 2 & 3 by Natsuki Kizu

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Yup, this is a two for one. Because for some reason, volume one and four were available as ARC copies, but not two and three. Makes sense… I had to read them in order so things make sense.

In these volumes, the band is prepping for their first live performance and finally picks a name: Given. We get more story time with Haruki and Akihiko; who have a bunch of drama aside for Uenoyama clearly having a crush on Mafuyu.

Uenoyama coming to terms with his feelings for Mafuyu and their interactions are adorable and the dynamic between Haruki and Akihiko is rife with angst and plot potential. I get great vibes off our four main leads and the way this is all written, you really want to see them succeed. 3.9 out of 5 for being interesting but bordering on overly dramatic.

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Lenni Reviews: “The Photographer of Mauthausen” by Salva Rubio & Pedro Columbo

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

This graphic novel is a dramatized story of Francisco Boix, a Spanish press photographer who ended up the confidant of an SS officer at the Mauthausen concentration camp.

This isn’t an easy read but so many stories came out of this time and a man risking everything to expose the truth of the Nazi camps and try to bring justice is a great addition. How much of this is true, I don’t know but I found this to be compelling and respectful. It’s drawn well with enough detail to get the point without being gratuitous. Just have something happy lined up to read after. 4.7 out of 5.

 

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Lenni Reviews: “Moon Lake” by Dan Fogler, Tim Seeley, R.H. Stavis, Nick Tapalansky, Stefan Hutchinson, Brian Holguin, et al.

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

This is a horror anthology centering around a cursed area called Moon Lake.

With a Crypt Creeper like narrator called “Man in the Moon,” these stories are chock full of gore but not so much with the horror. I almost feel bad comparing it to Tales from the Crypt because while the campy nostalgia of that show is a reflection of it’s time and kinda predictable in a way, this collection is trying WAY too hard. It keeps reaching to appeal to the ‘farts are funny’ crowd and as that is not me, I was mostly bored and just flipping through the pages. I can’t give this a 1 out of 5 because clear effort went into the art. I’ll be generous and give this a 2 out of 5 because the last story in the collection saved me from complete boredom. 

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Lenni Reviews: “Fangs” by Sarah Andersen

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

This book is the collected strips from the webseries of the same name on Tapas featuring a vampire and a werewolf falling in love.

These who are almost unfairly adorable. As this is a collection of single strips, there is no overarching story other than their general relationship. It’s just Elise and Jimmy being cute and loving in their own twisted and special way. I found it very sweet and I can see reading it multiple times to justify the cover price. 4.7 out of 5.

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Lenni Reviews: “Koimonogatari: Love Stories” Vol. 2 by Tohru Tagura

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

As Yoshinaga and Hasegawa become better friends, we get some more insight into what other LGBT kids go through in Japan when we meet Sakura, who got outed by his cousin; who continues to bully him and in this humble reviewer’s opinion, needs his throat punched for what he puts Sakura through.

This volume is an emotional rollercoaster. We have fake boyfriends, fake girlfriends, bullies, love confessions, and my main takeaway from it is that high school sucks ass and I don’t miss it one bit. I got called a dyke then being bi (and still now by guys who are salty I won’t mess with them) and it sucks to deal with when you barely know who you are and don’t have many friends.

It also sucks that Yoshinaga has to lie to protect himself but I give this book props for giving him a bunch of people who love and support him. That’s a relief. 4 out of 5.

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