Lenni Reviews: “The Elusive Samurai” Vol. 3, by Yūsei Matsui

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

Hojo and his group are alerted to a group of bandits attacking villages near by. They are moving fast and brutal in their actions and quickly on their way to another isolated village so Hojo makes plans to stop them.

This volume expands the characters of Hojo’s retainers and teaches him a new skill as the kinds of enemies he faces increase in lethality. It still somehow manages to be cure and terrifying at the same time, with the character designs of the main group contracting so much with the designs of the villains. I like this series but so far, it seems a little formulaic. New baddie, Hojo must learn new thingie, rinse and repeat. But the characters are interesting enough to keep me reading. 3 out of 5.

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Lenni Reviews: “The Elusive Samurai” Vol. 2, by Yūsei Matsui

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

Tokiyuki is hiding out in Suwa under Yorishige’s protection at a shrine. But when the shrine is hosting a dog shooting competition where one of Takauji’s vassals shows up to compete while searching for anyone from the Hojo clan that may be hiding at the shrine.

While I like the art style when people are fighting or talking, there are parts of this where the characters are super-deformed and I find them unintentionally terrifying. Other than that, this series is interesting. There’s some tonal whiplash between the silly parts where everyone is laughing and putting severed heads on display. We’ve got our colorful cast of characters with all these bombastic personalities that keeps it entertaining if not completely engrossing. 3 out of 5.

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Lenni Reviews: “The Elusive Samurai” Vol. 1, by Yūsei Matsui

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

Hojo Tokiyuki is the last survivor of his family, the Kamakura shogunate, after they were betrayed and slaughtered. Along with other survivors or the massacre, Hojo goes on a journey to train and become strong enough to reclaim the throne.

Don’t let the cutesy art fool you. This is bloody and the art can make the characters look distorted and scary when it needs to. That being said, this is one hello of a start for a series. Hojo is young but strong and you get the sense of how strong he will become.

It feels a little rushed and the priest character is teetering closer to annoying than quirky. I wouldn’t complain if he was reigned it. A LOT.

This is focused more on action so we haven’t gotten attached to anyone more than initial interest so far but I do want to continue to the next volume. 3.9 out of 5.

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Lenni Reviews: “Radium Girls” by Cy.

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

This graphic novel tells the story of The Radium Girls; a group of women who worked in one of many factories painting parts of glow in the dark watch faces. They used their tongues to keep the point of the brushes sharp and were assured they were safe only to be slowly poisoned over time.

I love the art style. I think it’s effective at allowing the reader to focus on the stories of these women and what they went through. It looks simple but it’s very effective. This provides a great primer to encourage people to learn about what is sadly a little-known part of history. This is very short but it tells enough of the story about this tragic group of women. I hope more people learn about stories like this. 3.8 out of 5.

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Lenni Reviews: “The Day the Klan Came to Town” by Bill Campbell & Bizhan Khodabandeh

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

In Carnegie, PA, 1932, the Ku Klux Klan is at the height of its power and they decided to celebrate themselves and show who they as a threat – including Catholics and Jews – how much power they have to keep them in their place. In this fictionalized retelling, there is a riot when the locals, lead by Sicilian immigrant, Primo Salerno, refuse to back down.

While I respect the research and detail in this, I would have appreciated translations of the non-English text. Just to keep the flow of reading without having to whip out my phone to use the dubiously successful Google Translate. Also, like a lot of historical graphic novels I read, this feels rushed. It is a great way to get the word out for further research but I felt it wasn’t complete. 3 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 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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