Lenni Reviews: “Isle of Waves” by Sue Brown

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

In the third book of the Isle of series, (one and two here), a string of vandalism to their restaurant has Nibs thinking of closing up shop. But with a huge storm on the way and the death of a dear friend, the stress of being forced to close puts a strain on Nibs and Wig’s relationship.

I know the plot synopsis says it focusses on the stress of possibly having to move under homophobic pressure putting them out of business, but it doesn’t feel like it. This meanders through a bunch of slice-of-life scenes without going anywhere. Wig and Nibs should be the main focus but they are frequently put to the side, making me wonder when it was gonna get to the point already. And some plot points are left dangling so it was all unsatisfying. If you don’t read the previous two books, you’re gonna end up lost because those previous characters have prominent places in this book. 2.7 out of 5.

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Lenni Reviews: “Isle of Wishes” by Sue Brown

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

In the second book in the Isle of series (first one here), Liam goes missing so Paul Owens, Sam’s brother, heads to the US to find him. When a hit and run puts a John Doe in the hospital that could be Liam, Paul meets Olaf Skandik in his search, and the pair hit it off but can the flightly Paul convince the closeted Olaf to take a chance on love; even if it is long distance?

I thought the hit and run and a later shooting would lead up to something but it just got glossed over. I wasn’t expecting a romantic thriller but to have all that wrapped up in some throwaway sentences was severely disappointing. Even Olaf being closeted wasn’t that big a deal. It made me wonder why they were plot points at all. Unfortunately, all that disappointment did impact my enjoyment of the book. I felt a bit cheated. 2.9 out of 5.

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Lenni Reviews: “The Isle of… Where?” by Sue Brown

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

As this is a bundle, I decided to review the books in separate blog posts so I don’t end up not posting for a while then dropping this block of text that I bet nobody will read. So, here we go with book one in the series.

Liam Marshall arrives on the Isle of Wight because as per his best friend’s last wish, he will scatter the ashes of his friend into the water. While fumbling with the box, Sam Owens approaches him to keep him from flinging the ashes in his face and the two become fast friends. And even faster, they become more. But Liam hasn’t been in a relationship since his friend was diagnosed with cancer and he became a caregiver; not to mention he lives in America and Sam lives in the UK. Even if Liam believed in love at first sight, could he take a chance on such a long-distance relationship when he is already so emotionally vulnerable?

This book is a bit rushed but ok. I think it was a good call to skip some of the sex scenes as they would have gotten boring and repetitive. The chemistry between our main leads is alright… But it’s all fluff. I didn’t feel too deeply connected to anything. It would have been nice to dig deeper into the caregiver aspect with Liam and how lost one can feel after being in that role for so long. But, I do enjoy a bit of fluff, though so I can forgive that omission. 3.5 out of 5.

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Lenni Reviews: “I Married My Best Friend to Shut My Parents Up” by Naoko Kodama

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Morimoto Machi is not interested in marriage. All she wants is to succeed in her career and live on her own. But as the pressure from her parents to find a husband mounts, Morimoto’s friend, Agaya Hanna, offers to marry Morimoto to keep her parents from complaining. It also helps Agaya since she’s in the market for a new apartment. While the arrangement is inconvenient for Morimoto at first, she soon finds having Agaya around may not be so bad after all.

This is so cute! I love how Agaya stands up for herself against Morimoto’s parents and refuses to be labeled a freak. The pair make an adorable couple. I wouldn’t have minded if this was a little longer and went into some more detail in dealing with Morimoto’s parents. 4 out of 5.

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Lenni Reviews: “A Treason of Truths” by Ada Harper

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

Empress Sabine is invited on a diplomatic mission with some other leaders to a place called The Vault; a technological marvel self sustained by nanotechnology and an archive of an unfathomable amount of human knowledge. But what seems to be an olive branch quickly becomes a deathtrap and Sabine’s former bodyguard, Lyre, must face the secrets she’s been keeping not only from her queen but the woman she loves.

Although I didn’t read the first book, A Conspiracyย of Whispers, this story stands well on it’s own. The world building gives the story weight and doesn’t get bogged down in the previous book’s events while still making them understood in relevance to what happens in this book. The action is well paced and tense, making this a fun page turner.

This also doesn’t disappoint in the romance department. Even without too many explicit love scenes, Sabine and Lyre’s relationship is touching and sweet and it’s great to see a lesbian relationship with women of color. As a romance and a science fiction novel, it succeeds on nearly every level except for a lack of development with the main villain and the societal mess behind his motivations, which I won’t spoil. I felt he needed more time to get to know all the details. 4.5 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: “Honor Girl: A Graphic Memoir” by Maggie Thrash

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In this memoir, fifteen year old Maggie recounts a summer at Camp Bellflower for Girls where she develops feelings for Erin; who is not only older than her, but a counselor.

While touching, this book really shines because it has so many more likable characters than what I normally see in a graphic memoir. Maggie has decent friends despite being in a pretty religious camp. Sure, there is still some homophobia but on the whole, she manages to have a good summer without getting picked on for being a lesbian.

If you can tell from the cover, the art is VERY simple. Everything is soft and simple to contrast the pretty complicated feelings going on. If I had a complaint, it would be it seems almost TOO soft. The book flutters by without much lasting impact.

Or maybe I’m just reading too many of these things, I dunno. 3.7 out of 5.

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Lenni Reviews: “Heart of Chaos” by Avery Stiles

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

Rin Sarduuri has everything going for her. She’s a powerhouse in her company, negotiating deals her parent’s are immensely proud of and taking the business to new heights. But as she is still single, one of her business partners quite suddenly proposes to her right in front her the entire office as well as her parents. Feeling trapped, Rin flees to the altar of Vistri; a shape-shifting trickster god and agrees to whatever the god wants to get her out of this marriage. But what Vistri offers is to be her bride instead.

It was hard to get a bead on this book because of the distinctly modern setting but the gods are real. I can only really chalk that up to the story simply not having enough time for world building because of the breakneck pace and short length. This cute little story about a god and a human falling in love hits all the beats it should without feeling forced and it’s a nice diversion for a quick read. 3.9 out of 5.

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Lenni Reviews: “Being Fitz” by J.D. Walker

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

Lysander “Fitz” Fitzgibbon is a bus driver living a fairly uneventful life. In between work and television his sometimes bed partner, Jerry, pops by for a quickie; usually leaving Fitz feeling unsatisfied and used. So when Jerry falls in love with his neighbor, Henry, Fitz finds himself alone. One day on a walk in the park, Fitz comes across a body dumped in the bushes. While being questioned by the cops, he meets Detective Holland Simms; who seems intent on visiting Fitz as much as possible even when off the clock.

It would have been nice if Fitz and Simms had more time to build their chemistry other than Fitz getting annoyed with Simms’ brash attitude and punching him (which would have turned into a VERY different story if Fitz was African-American and not Simms). “Hey, I think you’re hot!” isn’t quite enough for me to get as invested as I thought I should have been.ย  The back matter of the book says Walker likes to keep things short but I feel it was to this story’s detriment. It’s so short, the whole thing is over before you can get to know the characters. This could have been on the level of C. S. Poe’s gay mystery novels if given time to grow. As it stands its around a 2.7 or 3 out of 5. I’m torn between the two.

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Lenni Reviews: “Art Medium: The Complete Collection” by E.J. Russell

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

This collection contains two books; The Artist’s Touch and Tested in Fire. I’ll split the two so it’s not confusing.

The Artist’s Touch: Stephen Cobbe is a painter riddled with debts and homeless after the death of his lover. But when a new patron offers him room and board in exchange for his paintings, Stephen jumps at the change. The catch is he blacks out while he paints and awakens to completely dry canvases and no memory of creating them. As these paintings gain attention, Luke Morganstern is sent to investigate where they are coming from as the art is exactly like a painter who died many years ago. But when he sees the possible forger is his ex-boyfriend, Stephen, he can’t believe Stephen’s claims until they become too real to deny.

While this is a cute paranormal second chance romance, Stephen and Luke’s romance comes off as too rushed to really get invested in since they go from some pretty deep mistrust to “ok, we’re in love now” too quickly to form a real connection with them. However, their personalities are clearly written and real enough to empathize with them as they uncover some pretty serious ghost activity. The supernatural elements don’t feel tacked on as a frame to bring our main characters together and held it all together to make the story as a whole pretty cool. There are some sexy scenes but they don’t makeup very much of the book. 3.7 out of 5.

Tested in Fire: Having rekindled their relationship; Stephen and Luke are now rising stars in the art world. But Stephen’s debts still haunt him and he is determined to pay them off without Luke’s help. He wants to be independent and debt free so Luke will never see him as a burden. But after one argument, Luke seems to be acting very strange and the elderly stroke victim in the same building as Stephen is suddenly convinced he desperately needs Stephen’s help.

Here’s where the paranormal elements really start to take center stage. We have an awesome badass former cop turned psychic named Peg and villains who are body snatchers. The stakes from the first book are substantially higher and more detailed, even giving our characters some actual abilities. I would love to see the series continue and see how they handle various supernatural threats while also trying to live a somewhat normal life (particularly since Luke will absolutely have some major real-life consequences because of events in the book that I won’t spoil). 4 out of 5.

Overall, I’m glad I read these back to back as they compliment each other perfectly.ย  The second, in my opinion, tops the first book in general so I’ll average the two as a 3.9 out of 5. If you like paranormal romance, these are pretty good!

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