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 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: “The Night Witches” by Garth Ennis & Russ Braun

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

This graphic novel presents the story of The Night Witches through the lens of a fictional character, Anna.

At first, I was excited to get a graphic novel about The Night Witches. If you check out that Wikipedia entry, you can see they were awesome. But then, I see the main character is fictional and I felt immediate disappointment. Call me petty but I didn’t want characters based on the real women, I wanted the real women. Irena may have some dramatizations but Irena existed. But I give it the benefit of the doubt and read it.

Oof…

I didn’t even like Anna, everything felt so forced – including all the random sex scenes –  the villains feel over the top, and the art style didn’t click with me at all. I could tell there was an effort but, it all felt sour at the end. If anything, hopefully, this will get people curious enough to do further reading. 2 out of 5.

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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: “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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