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 Conspiracy 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: “Cannonball” by Kelsey Wroten

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This is the story of Caroline Bertram as she sets out after graduation to living on her own for the first time and her struggles to not only make money with her writing but to be fulfilled by it as she does.

Caroline is an entitled, self important, grating, judgmental, jackass who somehow comes through all her faux pretentiousness and still made me feel for her. She perfectly encapsulates the need to be yourself when you don’t know what that ‘self’ is and also what happens when you create something for the world and is no longer yours.

Despite how frustratingly self destructive and pompous this character is, she is inherently relatable. Much like her in universe friends, Caroline is a jerk but we love her anyway. 4.8 out of 5.

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Lenni Reviews: “Alchemy” by Marie S. Crosswell

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

In this gender swapped and modern take on Sherlock Holmes; Holmes and her partner Watson are assigned to a case where a homeless woman has been murdered and Holmes’ name is carved into the corpse. But with her nemesis, Moriarty firmly in jail, Holmes must track down the killer before more people die with her name on them.

The idea of a female Holmes, Watson, and Lestrade is cool but I think this should have been a full novel rather than a short story. The concept buckles under a lackluster resolution to the mystery itself, which is kinda important when you’re adapting or parodying Sherlock Holmes. The representation of Holmes’ asexuality, Watson being a lesbian, and a budding romance between Holmes and Inspector Lestrade is done really well and I enjoyed those parts but it wasn’t enough to balance out my disappointment with the mystery. That’s a shame considering such a great setup and good writing! 3 out of 5.

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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: “That Blue Sky Feeling” Vol. 2 by Okura, Coma Hashii

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

Now that Noshiro and Sanada are closer friends, new wrinkles arise in the form of long time crushes and a new face who is jealous of Noshiro and Sanada’s friendship.

I simply cannot get over how sweet this book is. It’s just so damn genuine and innocent I find myself re-reading these volumes over and over. I hope it doesn’t devolve into something tawdry and dark because it’s the lighthearted nature of this series that keeps me coming back! I look forward to seeing where this book goes. 4.7 out of 5.

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Lenni Reviews: “Midnight Radio” by Iolanda Zanfardino

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

A mysterious late-night broadcast interrupts regular radio broadcasting; impacting the lives of four very different people.

I honestly don’t want to spoil too much of this because it’s gorgeous to read this book. Each of the different characters and stories have a different color palate. This was an absolute delight to read. It features people of color, LGBT, and an aging rocker with out seeming pandering or ticking off marks on a checklist. It may start off slow but it sets itself up for a satisfying conclusion and sticking to theme of being true to yourself and living your dreams. I finished this book genuinely touched; even if it was a little too much of a happy ending. I’m too cynical I guess. 4.9 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.  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.  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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