Lenni Reviews: “The Artist and the Soldier” by Angelle Petta

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

In this sprawling tale, we have Max Amsel and Bastian Fisher who meet as teens in Camp Seigfried then again as adults in the thick of World War II.

First off, I dunno if I was taught this in school and forgot or just wasn’t taught this but I was SHOCKED that the Nazi Camp Siegfried was a real place in NY! I honestly didn’t realize such camps existed and kudos to this book for teaching me that.

This book is almost perfect. It focuses more on the war itself and how it’s affecting everyone, not just our main characters. A great deal of the plot is plucked straight from history. The writing is compelling, the action is well done, and the romance did tug at my heart. If you like historical fiction with a bit of angst, I recommend this despite the ending being a bit of a drop-off. But you can tell a lot of love went into this book. 4.7 out of 5.

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Lenni Reviews: “Nothing To Forgive” by Lee Brazil

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

Vic comes back from vacation to find his older boyfriend, Marc, with a much younger man. Fuming, he storms out without a word until Marc reaches out to him with hopes to explain.

This is an ok quick, steamy short story. I was left feeling like it would be a side story to a bigger novel or series rather than something that feels complete on its own. Our main characters do have chemistry but I don’t feel like I had enough information about them to get attached. The writing is good though! 3.5 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: “Little Wolf” (Being(s) in Love #4) by R. Cooper

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

Tim Dirus is on the run from his werewolf family and has taken up what he thinks of as temporary residence in Wolf’s Paw sanctuary, where the town’s tourism centers around a festival where their hunk of a sheriff, Nathaniel Neri. Everybody wants Nathaniel but he has his sights on Tim, who is ready to bolt at any moment if anyone from the Dirus family shows up to lock him away again.

As this is part of the Beings in Love series, you see some of the characters from the previous books make an appearance; making the world-building feel more expansive and detailed. Watching Tim slowly work his way toward understanding what he is and how he fits in is VERY well done and grounded. You can tell his family did a number on him and he’s trying to heal. And don’t let the title fool you. I expected Tim to be some shy thing but Tim’s got some sass in him! He takes crap from no one and I like it.

So far, this is my favorite of the series because the stakes are higher. Tim has some dangerous people after him and this book doesn’t shy away from that. It made this the most thrilling book in the series to me. 4 out of 5.

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Lenni Reviews: “A Beginner’s Guide to Wooing Your Mate” (Being(s) in Love #3) by R. Cooper

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

When they were teenagers, Zeki had a crush on the most popular werewolf in high school, Theo Greenleaf but left town before anything could happen due to being bullied for being human in a werewolf school. Now returning to the werewolf sanctuary/tourist town of Wolf’s Paw as an adult, Zeki is an accomplished wizard looking to show his high school bullies how far he’s come but hears Theo is nearly broken from his mate rejecting him years ago. Now, Theo buries his emotions in baking and volunteering for the local fire department. Zeki unknowingly seeks to reconnect with Theo not knowing he was the mate who rejected him so long ago.

So far, this is the best of the series. I love how it goes into how weres don’t need words to make themselves understood and how frustrating it can be for a human to understand what any of them are feeling since we lack those senses. I think they took WAY too fucking long to finally let Zeki in on the idea; leaving him fumbling as to why everyone is mad at him. The chemistry between Zeki and Theo is fantastic and in place of the long back and forth of the previous book, there’s some real growth and understanding that needs to take place for our pair to finally come together. And in the end, I was happy with the ending. 3.7 out of 5.

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Lenni Reviews: “Fourth Generation Head: Tatsuyuki Oyamato” by Scarlet Beriko

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

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

Tatsuyuki Oyamato may be 4th generation heir to a yakuza family but all he cares about is partying and getting girls. Until he finds himself attracted to a man. After a drunken hookup, he wakes up with someone who proves to be more than just a random dude as he knows Oyamato and his infamous family.

Hooooo boy, this is a dark one. The guy Oyamato sleeps with – mild spoilers – turns out to be Nozomi Koga; the son of a man who once owed money to the yakuza. When Koga was a kid, the yakuza came to collect and found his father had been sexually abusing him. Oyamato was also a child and thought Koga was a girl because of his long hair and the creepy way his dad dressed him.

This book is rife with sexual assault; which is offputting (of course) when it attempts to combine it with the romance forming between Koga and Oyamato. I don’t want to spoil too much but yeah, major rape trigger warnings here. It feels almost wrong to say I like it. The art is well done and I adore the main pair. They make the hardest parts of this book worth it for me. 4 out of 5.

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Lenni Reviews: “Matters of the Heart” by Alli Reshi

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

Dimitri is an alien working as an investigator for crimes regarding other extraterrestrial beings. When a case comes across his desk about corpses being found with burn marks over their hearts, he must put aside his feelings for his newly reconnected friend Devin; who is in the hospital after being shot trying to assassinate the president.

I enjoyed this but this is another mystery with romance that left me wanting to know more about the mystery because it was wrapped up too fast and with too much simplicity. They don’t so much work out and chase down the serial killer as the killer (er… spoilers, I guess?) just shows up ready to be captured. It ruins any tension on the mystery side of a romance/mystery. The character of Devin is compelling enough on his own where he may have made a better antihero or redeemed villain. Feels like a missed opportunity. I’d give it a 3… Maybe closer to a 4 but not quite.

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Lenni Reviews: “Saving Hannah” by J.P. Barnaby

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

Thomas Aberthol has been searching desperately for a job after serving time in jail for hacking. His daughter, Hannah, is struggling with leukemia and Thomas is running out of time and options to save her. After making a public crowdfunding plea, his old college roommate Aleksander Sanna tracks Thomas down and offers him a deal: Marry him for the health insurance for Hannah in exchange for using his hacking skills to uncover the secrets behind Aleksander’s father’s murder.

This book went places I did not expect for one of those “fake marriage” books. I almost wish the thriller elements kept going beyond the end of the book; which I won’t spoil, but I can see why it ended the way it did.

Why I couldn’t quite give it 4 stars is because Thomas and Aleksander’s relationship jumps from hesitant to “I love you” way too fast. Practically within the turn of a page. It didn’t let me get invested in their relationship so I found my focus staying on the hacking plot which I enjoyed very much. 3.7 out of 5.

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Lenni Reviews: “Two for the Show” by Megan Derr

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

For the sake of keeping the tabloids busy, retiring rockstar, Niko, grabs a public smooth from country music star, Jake; believing the scandal of kissing a straight guy will distract while Niko rescues custody of his niece and nephew from his abusive drunk of a brother. What he didn’t count on was Jake kissing him back. What begins as a ruse for the press may become something more if Jake and Niko are willing to take a chance.

About halfway through this, I really wondered what was taking so long because it seemed obvious the main pair had caught some feels. But the last half didn’t drag out the ‘will they/won’t they’ theme in a way that bores the reader. In fact, the main conflict between Niko and Jake isn’t their feelings. I won’t spoil it but it was an angle I appreciated the book addressing since it felt more in line with the main characters personalities and fit the story. A sweet story with a surprisingly natural progression! If you like m/m romance centering around music, this ain’t half bad. 3.8 out of 5.

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Lenni Reviews: “Otaare” by Alessandra Ebulu

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

Nigerian singer Bolarinwa “Blaze” Johnson has released a new song entitled “Otaare.” However, Nigerian writer Ukeme Collins accuses the singer of ripping off his work; igniting a Twitter war. In order to calm things down, Blaze offered Ukeme a chance to clear the air by appearing in public as friends. But the more often they spend time together in public for the press, the more they find themselves wanting something deeper.

Our main characters are interesting and the social media aspect of this could easily end up overused and cringy but this book manages to avoid that. It is also awesome to see a romance set in Nigeria and despite the story meeting every beat you would expect, I did enjoy a story with more diversity and some level-headed main leads. 3.7 out of 5.

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