Lenni Reviews: “The Testaments” by Margaret Atwood

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In this sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale, we continue our journey through Gilead through a protester of the totalitarian regime in Canada, the daughter of a Commander, and Aunt Lydia, a Gilead enforcer.

I have to say, this is a lot less subtle than the first book and perhaps that’s a good thing. Some parts ramble a bit but it’s overall very harrowing and sad. One quote stuck out to me:

“Stupid, stupid, stupid: I’d believed alll that claptrap about life, liberty, democracy, and the rights of the individual I’d soaked up in law school. Those were eternal verities and we would always defend them. I’d depended on that, as if a magic charm.”

I read this months ago and this is sadly relevant still. It’s absolutely a pageturner and the writing is of course amazing. 4.5 out of 5. 

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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: “The Farm” by Joanne Ramos

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

Told through different perspectives, this book takes you to Golden Oaks, where women carry surrogate babies for wealthy clients. Every aspect of their lives are controlled to produce the most viable offspring. In desperation, one of the hosts, Jane, as volunteered as a surrogate in order to make the money she needs to give her daughter a better life.

I like how each chapter comes from a different woman’s perspective. You get to hear their exact story and learn about their lives. There is still a disturbing edge to the very idea of the wealthy taking advantage of desperate poor women; particularly immigrants. Despite the inevitable dystopian leanings of such a practice, I did find myself immersed in these stories. Very well done. 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: “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: “A Fine Summer’s Day” by Charles Todd

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Inspector Rutledge is sent to investigate a murder where the victim had no known enemies. The more he investigates, the less the case makes sense until two other seemingly unrelated men lose their lives in the same way and Rutledge is led on a strange case he must solve before breaks out all over Europe.

This is a very detailed and thrilling historical mystery. I enjoyed this despite mysteries not really begin my thing and this this being the seventeenth in a series had no effect on my understanding. This book stands just fine on it’s own.

There are a few frustrating parts; especially Rutledge’s fiancee, Jean, who knows she’s marrying a police officer yet is somehow all huffy when he has to go do his job yet wants him to enlist in the army as World War I looms? She’s such a superficial character I couldn’t wait for her scenes to be over so the adults could talk again. But it’s a well written, cozy mystery with other very intuitive, smart, and realistic characters. 3.7 out of 5.

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Lenni Reviews: “Dreadnought” (Nemesis – Book One) by April Daniels

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

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

Danny is out secretly buying nail polish and ends up thrust into the middle of a superhero battle. Defeated, Dreadnought transfers his powers to Danny, giving him super human abilities but the female body this transgender teen has always wanted. But not only does Danny have to deal with coming out as the new Dreadnought, she also must come out to her strict parents, the Legion of other heroes, and content with Utopia, the cyborg villain who killed Danny’s predecessor.

After reading “Black Angel” I was a little nervous about another LGBTQ YA novel. However, this book is much like “Rebel Genius” in that I was hooked and entertained for most of this despite being a sorry old lady outside the target demographic.

This novel touches on the good and bad about being a trans teen with the added flight of fancy that if anyone bullies you for being trans, you can pummel them into the ground. Danny is such a great kid, you can’t help but root for her and just outright DESPISE what she’s put through. And, as a comic book geek, this also makes for an awesome superhero story. There is genuine peril Danny has to deal with as a budding super-heroine and despite the world ending consequences; the story doesn’t feel like it gets bogged down when dealing with the issues surrounding a transgendered individual. Some reactions are almost TOO evil but I think that’s just the part of me that is desperately holding on to a shred of hope in humanity. It doesn’t pander, it doesn’t preach; “Dreadnought” is a well-written, wild ride, and if it’s the start to a series; I look forward to more. 4.7 out of 5.

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Lenni Reviews: “The Deadbringer” by E. M. Markoff

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

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.

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Fiction Friday – Winter Boot Chapter 12

Chapter 12

The skittering comes faster. Closer.

“Leave the phone under the table and hide. When you hear me say so, blow the whistle in the bag!”

Rabbit dives into the bag and I push the phone under the scary mirrir where it disappears into the darkness. I can feel Rabbit squirming to find the whistle as I search for a big enough patch of shadow to hide me.

I crouch behind a giant pot that stinks of rusty ice. I can feel the cold seep through my mittens as the skittering grinds into the room and the Cold One drags herself near me. Her toenails on the floor hurt my ears and I fight really hard to keep from whimpering in pain.

The Cold One scuttles over to the table and leans on it so hard it groans. The small weight of the whistle is suddenly in the palm of my hand and fear steals more of my breath than the cold. I watch her curl her spindly hands over the edge and press her face right against the surface. I think for a second about wet tongues getting suck on poles but I bet the Cold One doesn’t stick to anything.

A horrible sucking sound makes me clap my hands over my ears. Frog and Rabbit burrow deeper into my coat and all I want in the world is to scream for her to stop. When I peek, I am instantly sorry I did as I watch jagged spikes grow from the bent back and hunched shoulders to make her look like a great big, scary, ice porcupine. The house shakes and groans as the noise stops and I swear it’s even colder; so bad my throat hurts when I breathe.

“Do it NOW!” I hear Marsalla scream and I take a deep, burning cold breath and blow on the whistle so hard, my face heats up. I’m exhausted and panting when I stop just in time to hear the little phone I left under the table say; “Run like hell! Don’t forget the necklace till help!” before it explodes in a burst of orange light.

When the bits of toy phone hit the ice, black goo leaks out and the Cold One roars. I don’t stick around to see any more and I do exactly what Marsalla sais. I hold the glowing candy out in front of me with Rabbit in my other arm and run as fast I my shaking legs and flopping bag will let me.

It’s seconds before I hear angry growling and scratching behind me and I dare to look back. Black ooze splatters around the Cold One as she runs after us, making such a mess, she slips in it, stumbling to the ice floor as I flee around a corner.

The candy jewel flutters when I make a wrong turn and gleams bright in the dark when I’m right. I nearly scream with joy at the sight of the front door but I feel a snag on my hood.

“Cheater!” The Cold One screams. “Sneak thief! Tresspasser!”

I hear the cricking whine of ice forming on my hood and pull hard to get away from the leaking ice monster. My hood doesn’t rip, it snaps where she touched it. In my panic, the candy necklace gets so hot, I have no coice but to throw it at her.

When it hits her in the cheek, a huge black mark of rot forms. I don’t watch it spread, I yank hard and run away from the wailing. The house is shaking under my feet. The wail becomes a howl when my mittens hit the door knob. I don’t even have to pull; the door crumbles to shards of frozen wood. I jump over them, side stepping the trap door, and reach the gate trembling all over. I don’t trust looking back anymore, not till I’m off the sidewalk and halfway into the empty street.

I hear Frog and Rabbit gasp as we all watch the house fall in on itself. Steam rises from the black ooze creeping over the whole thing. A blackend, clawed hand reaches out of the doorway, scraping at the wood. She screams louder, hissing and spitting under the rubble. I take a step back and bump into something soft. I hand hands on my shoulder and I look up to see the frozen prince smiling down at me. He gives me one calming pat before gliding around me.

His feet leave no prints as he passe the gate and walks silently up to the scratching hand. He looks at the Cold One, watches her try and crawl from the junk and I can see his skin glow golden brown. Light pours from his skin and with one final scream and a blinding flash, I’m pushed back by the force of a warm wind so hard, I pass out.

Fiction Friday – Winter Boot Chapter 11

If you saw on my Facebook and Twitter, I finished another short story! Winter Boot was it. There’s probably typos but hey! Here’s the next chapter! 😀

 

Chapter 11

The room around us is filled with the same light eating fog that surrounds the house, the floor so cold, I can feel it through my boots as I hurry to the dim outline of a door. I don’t wait long before squeezing through it and I don’t think about getting cought until I hear Rabbit’s horrified gasp.

“Sorry.” I whisper and my blush of embarassment is so warm, I’m sorta glad I goofed.

“Just be more careful!” She scolds me.

Being extra, super quiet, I follow the tug of the hidden candy around my neck. When I slip on the icy floor and catch myself, I find the walls sticky; groianing umder the press of my mitten. I look down at my two friends and we all share the same look of stomach rumbly nastiness.

The jewel leads me down the squishy hallway to a grey, dirty cersion of Marsalla’s warm and pretty kitchen. A pot boils on the stove, way too small to fit the three of us inside it. I would snoop to see what is in it but the jewel shivers around my neck and pulls me around the corner.

Frog hunkers down deep in my pocket. Rabbit squeeks and pressed against me. I don’t think I’m breathing. My eyes tear as I focus on everything the three of us thought we would fine in Masalla’s home because of how people talk. But it’s here. All of it. Jars of creatures, most not moving and others wishing they weren’t, bones littering the floor, some with meat still on them, and a black table with a mirrored top covered in tiny animal skulls and dripping candles. And the smell… How could it just be in this room? How did we not smell it from the hallway? It smells like something the dogs rolled in that made Auntie throw up.

When the jewel urges me inside, I can almost feel it apologize.

Downy feathers fly up, disturbed by my steps as I move and forcing me to look around. I see my poorly repacked bag and rescue it from the floor. With it on one shoulder and Rabbit on the other, I move to the table. I feel the jewel heat up when I look down into it, wax smeared and dribbled all over the edges and a wet, red handprint in the center. The glass shimmers with the frozen man’s face, the handprint making the blue features look wobbly.

“What should we do?” Says Frog in a shivering whisper.

Before I can guess, a low beep comes from the backpack. With Rabbit watching for the Bone Woman, I pull out a tiny cellphone toy. Blinking in confusion as it beeps again in my hand, I hopd the pastel plastic up to my ear.

“Boot?” Marsalla whispers through the toy.

I sputter a minute before answering. “Yes?”

“A real phone won’t work there. I bet whatever is sucking up the warmth is sucking up all kinds of energy so I rigged up this toy.” Marsalla fumbles with the phone on her end. “What do you see?”

“It’s a mirror with candles on it.” I lean forward and shiver. “I can see the Prince’s face but there’s a red hand on him.”

Marsalla gasps. “She’s sucking the life right out of him. Don’t touch the glass. Don’t touch anything, actually.” I hear glass bottles being moved through the ear piece of the toy. “What else did you see?”

“Not much. The walls are sticky and the Bone Lady had us in cages.”

“Bone lady?”

“Ugly, hunched, skinny old bat.” Rabbit huffed. “I bet she would eat me.”

“Boot, be careful! That’s the Cold One!”

I hear skittering heading towards us from the hallway, like the dogs sound when they run around the kitchen, nails clocking on the tiles.

“Get out of there! Whateve ryou do, don’t let her touch your skin!”

“I don’t understan-”

She’s draining the life from the Prince through his blood on the mirror! If she touches you directly, you’ll die!”