Lenni Reviews: “Pushback” by John E. Stith

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Dave is finally happy after restarting is life after his fiancee was killed in a car accident in which he was driving. He has a new girlfriend, a good job, but three bullet holes suddenly appear in his car and the people at his high school reuinion have no idea who he is. Then strange letters and texts arrive. As the danger mounts, Dave tries to figure out who is trying to ruin his life.

I wanted to like this so bad but there is something about the writing that’s so damn dry. This guy is being (spoilers??) shot at, poisoned, hunted down, framed for crimes he didn’t commit, and he comes off as if all of this is a minor inconvenience to him. He’s just overall too chill about everything going on around him and since he didn’t care, I didn’t either. I was just killing time until the final reveal which I guess makes sense but like I said, I wasn’t that invested. 3 out of 5.

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Lenni Reviews: “I Know What I Am: The Life and Times of Artemisia Gentileschi” by Gina Siciliano

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Set in Rome in the 1600’s, this graphic novel details the life of painter Artemisia Gentileschi.

This is all pretty damn impressive if even half of what is here is over dramatized. If you’re into history – particularly art history – I think you’ll get more out of this that I did despite enjoying the book. There’s so many historical details, even quotes from cited sources, that I feel like it was written more for people who have more of a personal investment in art history. As it stands to me, I may have checked out and had to restart some parts because of just being presented with a glut of information, but I enjoyed it! 3.8 out of 5.

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Lenni Reviews: “The Firebird and Other Stories” (Being(s) in Love #5) by R. Cooper

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

This book is a collection of short stories set in the same universe as the other Beings in Love books.

The first one is “The Firebird” set in France in 1934, where a firebird, Kazimir, becomes enamored with a writer named Jacob. Kazimir is used to being the center of attention and having admirers begging to be inspired by him. But Jacob sees Kazimir as more than just an object. It’s a sweet story about finding someone who really values you.

Next is “The Warrior’s Sacrifice” set in Mexico in 1947. Mateo is a “muxe” a person assigned one gender at birth but behaves associated with the opposite gender and he gets beat up for this and left as an offering to the jaguar who protects the town; named Carmelo. Carmelo is home from WWII and keeps Mateo safe, revealing he has been watching Mateo for some time. This is a really touching story with low angst.

Next is “Hyacinth on the Air” featuring a fairy named Hyacinth, who loves to push the boundaries of what he’s allowed to say on air. Seeing as this is set in 1961, there are some pretty strict standards so he causes no end of trouble for Walter, a human who’s in charge of cleaning up after the messes Hyacinth makes. Being a fairy, Hyacinth doesn’t understand why humans are so uptight and why Walter would resist their obvious attraction. This one’s cute but out of all of them this one I found the least impactful.

The next story is “A Giant Among Men.” Set in 1982, Vietnam veteran, former police officer, and troll, Tank, is determined to make sure his friend Simon, an elf, gets home safe after the bar where Simon works is vandalized by people who hate Beings. Simon resists the help because he doesn’t want to be seen as weak but comes to realize Tank sees him as much more than a pretty elf bartender. Pretty enjoyable for what it is.

Next up is “The Imp for Mr. Sunshine.” Set in 2005, Rennet – an imp – has a crush on John, the deputy mayor. Since things tend to go wrong when an imp is present, Rennet believes this bad reputation will keep him from this crush developing into anything more. Little does he know that John has been protecting him for more than just friendly reasons. The parts where Rennet is dealing with his nature and what that means to the people around him are the best in this story.

Next, we have “A Wolf in the Garden.” Miki is a human who loves to work with exotic pants so his job in a greenhouse that’s also in a magic shop is where he’s most comfortable. One day a werewolf named Diego comes into the shop and Miki is smitten, but he knows Diego had a mate, and she tragically died of cancer. Miki does see Diego wants him but believes a wolf only gets one mate in their lives and that a man like him who’s been abandoned by his family and has strange hobbies. These two make an adorable couple and I really enjoyed this story and it was cool to see previous characters like Kazimir reappear. It makes the world feel so much bigger.

Lastly, “The Dragon’s Egg” featuring Arthur and Bertie from “A Boy and his Dragon”. Here Bertie discovers an egg that is their child and Arthur goes into full nesting mode.

This is a pretty decent collection but I have to say “A Wolf in the Garden” and “The Warriors Sacrifice” are my favorite. The others just didn’t grab me as much and made the book feel SO much longer. To get the full experience, you really have to make sure you read the previous four books so don’t just hop into this one. 3 out of 5.

 

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Lenni Reviews: “Komi Can’t Communicate” : Vol. 2 by Tomohito Oda

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Hitohito Tadano continues to help Shoko Komi with her awkwardness and inadvertently, this earns Komi a rival, Makeru Yadano; who wants to defeat Komi in the health exams. Komi also manages to pick up another friend, Ren Yamai, who has an obvious crush on her. Well, obvious to everyone but Komi.

Remember in the first review when I talked about the horrible dark turn? Well, I thought Yamai was going to be it but although she comes off as a fucking creepy-ass stalker, the manga does keep things light and folds her into the growing group of Komi’s friends. Tadano still seems to be the one who knows her best out of the bunch though. Still loving this series. 4 out of 5.

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Lenni Reviews: “Hark” by Sam Lipsyte

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

Fraz Penzig is just meandering through life with little ambition and not much excitement in raising his twins with his wife, Tovah. He runs into a man named Hark who expounds on the teachings of Mental Archery. Fanz gets caught up in the movement Hanz accidentally starts and what once was some self-help jargon turns into an unhealthy cult.

From that premise, one would expect some amazing dark comedy, right? NOPE. Written like a cheap self-help book,  you are presented with too many words; leaving your mind desperate to find meaning in the flouncy actions and dialogue. So, your brain grasps at any sort of footing as you wait for something magical to happen.

And I think that may have been the whole point.

That does NOT mean I enjoyed this. Every word feels like work and I frequently just put down my kindle and held my forehead in exasperation. In the end, everybody sucks, everybody dies, and self-help won’t get you around those two immutable facts. An absolutely miserable read. 2 out of 5.

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Lenni Reviews: “Orbit” by Leigh Hellman

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

*This review is cross-posted to Otakus and Geeks.

Committed troublemaker Ciaan Gennet runs afoul of the law one too many times and ends up sentenced to probation at a spaceship port facility. He blonde hair makes her a target for bullies so she hopes to keep her head down and serve her time without incident. But when a captain with obviously suspicious cargo docks his ship, Ciaan gets caught up in a multiplanet conspiracy that puts her life in great danger.

Perhaps a little slow going until Ciaan ends up on the spacecraft but it’s still interesting. Great characters, awesome worldbuilding, and a great spin on some dystopian concepts. We have a smart woman of color as our main lead and I love reading about a motley crew of space rebels. Very cool book. 4.9 out of 5.

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Lenni Reviews: “Sea of Rust” by C. Robert Cargill

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

Humanity is gone. Robots are also going extinct. Two remaining AIs are readying to go to war to claim the remaining freebots to add to their collective consciousness. While out scavaging for parts, former caregiver bot, Brittle, gets swept up in an insane gamble to save the last freebots on Earth.

If you like movies like 9, this is the book for you. The plots are similar in that the machines win a war against humans and the world is in ruins; minus any definitive heroes. Every character is flawed and out for myself, making this book ooze the very essence of a bleak, dystopian world. And I loved the adventure.

One nitpick I would have is the robots are almost too human but reading about a bunch of bland, personality drained dolls bashing up against one another would be boring. So, I’m all for it. 4.9 out of 5.

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Lenni Reviews: “Irena Book One: Wartime Ghetto” by Jean-David Morvan, Séverine Tréfouël & David Evrard

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

This graphic novel tells the story of Irena Sendlerowa, a social worker in the Warsaw ghetto in the early 1940’s who helped smuggle 2500 Jewish children out of the ghetto before getting captured and tortured by the Nazis.

While of course, this is not easy to read, it is an important story and I am glad to see it told. I’m not sure I would give this to a young person as it doesn’t flinch much from the horrors of the ghettos and Nazi torture but it’s still a great book. If I had a nitpick, it would be the ending. Spoilery but it shows her walking off into the light as if she died when she didn’t. She lived into her 90’s. 4.9 out of 5.

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Lenni Reviews: “In the Midnight Room” by Laura McBride

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

*This review has been cross-posted to Otakus and Geeks.

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 changes 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.

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Lenni Reviews: “Manfried Saves the Day” by Caitlin Major & Kelly Bastow

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Steve’s life has really turned around since the first book. He makes a living off his cartoons, he has a great girlfriend, and he’s finally happy. But when his girlfriend’s man shelter is in danger of being bought out, Steve may be stretching himself too thin trying to keep up with his deadlines and help Manfried compete in a man show to win prize money to save the man shelter.

Much like the first, this book is just too cute. You get the classic “raise money to save the *insert thing here*” plot but it’s refreshed by having tiny men as pets instead of cats. It may be a predictable plot but the adorable art makes this a worthwhile read. I absolutely enjoyed it. 4 out of 5.

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