Lenni Reviews: “The Last Ballad” by Wiley Cash

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

Set in North Carolina in 1929, Ella works in a textile mill trying desperately to work enough hours to feed her children. Suffering with terrible hours and even worse pay, Ella is curious about the current rise in unions for textile workers but afraid of losing her job or worse.

This is a very poignant and powerful book. Sitting in my privileged 2020 mindset, it still shocks me to know there was a time where you risked your life for even associating with someone thinking about a union. My grandmother was a garment worker union member who frequently attended rallies like in the book; and she was African American working with Jewish colleagues at this time (a man even came to interview her for this book). It’s part of why I was so excited to read this.

This book jumps around in time and I think I would have enjoyed it more if it had a more linear narrative.  But it’s still amazing regardless. 4.7 out of 5.

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Lenni Reviews: “The Deep” by Rivers Solomon

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Yetu is the historian for her people, the wajinru. For this mermaid-like species, historian means she holds all the memories of her people right from the very first of them so the other’s don’t have to deal with the pain of the past. But the memories frequently overwhelm Yetu, leaving her sickly and tired so when the time comes to share the memories with her people in a grand ceremony, she takes the chance to flee so she can finally be alone in her own mind. But in the throws of their history, the wajinru create a terrible storm that threatens to destroy land and sea.

This is a great concept and it’s written beautifully. There is a lag in the middle where it just sort of meanders about until Yetu finally makes her decision but I like how the book turned out. It’s an interesting take on memory, history, and shared pain. 4 out of 5.

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Lenni Reviews: “Life Is Strange Vol 2: Waves” by Emma Vieceli, Claudia Leonardi, & Andrea Izzo

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Max’s efforts to settle her powers have landed her in a universe where Chloe and Rachael are alive and she shares an apartment with the couple. But now Max keeps seeing a boy nobody else can see who gets nosebleeds just like she does when she overtaxes her powers.

Max is showing her knack for finding trouble in this volume and here we are seeing the same character traits that annoyed me in the game. At least the plot has them sit and just hash shit out but I found myself cringing too often for my taste. I am enjoying this art style, though. 3.9 out of 5

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Lenni Reviews: “Life Is Strange Vol 1: Dust” by Emma Vieceli, Claudia Leonardi, & Andrea Izzo

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Based on the ending of the game in which Max chooses to save Chloe instead of the town, Max now finds herself jumping between timelines and unable to control it. Searching for a solution, they journey back to Arcadia Bay to find out how and why this is happening.

If you’re going to try and continue this story, this isn’t a bad way to go about it. I can see Max’s meddling having the side effect of making her connection to any reality tenuous and she would have to set things right in order to find her home reality. I also have to say, neither character is as annoying as they tended to be in the game. A vast improvement. 4 out of 5.

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Lenni Reviews: “Levius/Est” Vol. 2 by Haruhisa Nakata

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

Levius is advancing in the ranks, facing tougher opponents the likes of Natalia; bringing in the notion of these mechanized warriors so dedicated to their battles, they will even fight unconscious. But as Levius nears his dream, another fighter named Kingsley tempts Levius with information about the father who abandoned Levius and his comatose mother.

It’s awesome to read about the mindset of the fighters and what victory means to each of them as they put their lives on the line. And it’s cool to see so much time spent on the fights. They are well-drawn and detailed so your eyes don’t get lost so you can keep track of what’s happening. I’m looking forward to seeing Levius face down someone so powerful who also knew his father. 4.5 out of 5.

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Lenni Reviews: “Levius/Est” Vol. 1 by Haruhisa Nakata

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After a terrible war, the world has entered the Era of Rebirth; which has brought with it a combat tournament spectacle starring cybernetically altered fighters. One of these fighters, Levius, is determined to rise amongst the ranks and become the greatest fighter of all while discovering secrets about his past along the way.

The art and the world-building are top-notch in this volume. The battle scenes are fantastic as well. You are left wanting Levius to succeed but there is a real present danger to his chosen line of work and as a protagonist, Levius isn’t much of a talker. The mystery about why he fights will be revealed in subsequent volumes. This is very much like a steampunk Battle Angel Alita, and that’s praise coming from me. 4.5 out of 5.

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Lenni Reviews: “The Hard Tomorrow” by Eleanor Davis

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*This book is recommended for 18+

Hannah and her husband Johnny are living in a trailer while Johnny is building a house for them to live in. Hannah is a home care worker and an antifa protester with a bunch of her friends all while she is also trying to get pregnant.

This is a surreal sort of book. One tends to think of it’s tone being similar to the Great Depression; people living off the grid and all that, but it’s a depressingly modern sort of malaise. There are a few points I wish got more attention; like the antifa protests and whatever the hell Johnny’s friend was getting up to (trying to avoid spoilers) but our main leads carry the story well. 4 out of 5.

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Lenni Reviews: “Downfall” by Inio Asano

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

Kaoru Fukazawa has just finished his manga series and hit it big. With his fans and publisher begging for his next work, he finds himself unable to create anything. With no ideas and running out of time and money, Fukazawa quickly runs out of anyone who has faith in him, least of all himself.

This is an intensely depressing tale of a man who attained big success and feels that even if he lives up to it, he will still never feel like he loves his work. While well drawn, Fukazawa is not a likable main character. He’s a miserable creature who I’m not even sure I want to succeed. You’re not so much rooting for him as watching in morbid fascination as the conclusion nears. Not a fun read but an interesting story. 3.9 out of 5.

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Lenni Reviews: “The Drifting Classroom: Perfect Edition” Vol. 2 by Kazuo Umezz

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

Sho and his remaining classmates and friends are still desperately trying to get people to stick together to survive. But while internal conflicts about, now disease threatens to wipe them all out.

Like I said in the first review, these characters are almost comically deranged. They seem eager to start killing each other for any reason they can find! It’s a wonder any characters are left for a book 2, in my opinion…

What sets this apart for me is the connection between Sho and his mother. She can somehow hear him from the future in random places and I wish this angle was explored more. But I guess that’s for the third volume. It’s hard to say I like this because it’s so violent and depressing but I do and I want to read more! 4 out of 5.

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Lenni Reviews: “The Drifting Classroom: Perfect Edition” Vol. 1 by Kazuo Umezz

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Inexplicably, an entire school is thrown into the future along with everyone inside. Sho, his teachers, and his classmates must fight to survive in a deserted wasteland.

Yeah, this book gets Lord of the Flies real quick. It’s like nobody even tried to put up the pretense of acting sane and this book doesn’t hold back on the gore and tragedy. It’s pretty depressing. But it’s also very compelling. I will give a mild spoiler and say this is NOT the book for you if you don’t like reading about a lot of dead kids. 4 out of 5.

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