Lenni Reviews: “The Edge of the Blade” by Jeffe Kennedy

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

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

Elite warrior, scout, and spy Jepp is lethal with her blades and her tongue so when she is selected for a diplomatic mission as an ambassador to a country where women are wives or sex slaves, she finds remaining docile and subservient more challenging than anything she’s faced before. But she must gather information on how big of a threat this foreign king may be and return alive without starting a war. Oh, and she’s sleeping with the king’s son; Prince Kral… Who has a wife.

Jepp is a cool character. You get a great sense of who she is from the smart writing and enjoy the story from her perspective. She’s smart, tough, and funny; you could see yourself chilling at the bar with her despite the fact she would drink you under the table.

While containing romantic and erotic elements, the way this book is structured made them feel like a legitimate part of the story instead of the plot grinding to a halt so the main characters can bone. There is genuine peril and intrigue with high stakes in a well written and constructed fantasy world. I haven’t read the first book (it may have given me some deeper context into some character relationships but it’s not necessary) but the story is so interesting, I’d be excited to follow to the next book. It’s obvious Jepp and the Uncharted Realms world have plenty more stories to tell. 4.5 out of 5.

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Found in the mailbox: “American Gods”

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So, I come home the other day and have a random box. Not that I would ever turn down a free book (as the full Kindle, full Nook, AND pile of books by my bed) but being a good fangirl of Neil Gaiman, I have read this book already. It’s obvious I got this as promotional material for the upcoming American Gods TV show.

I am contemplating a book vs movie set of posts for this since I have already read the book and the show is forthcoming. Of course, every one will be doing that but, I think it would be fun!

Because, I am obviously lacking things to read…

Personally, I am SUPER psyched for this show. I am wondering how gory or violent or sexual it will be (check out my post on that for further thoughts) since it was awesome to watch Stardust and Coraline with my kid. But if it is, I have no problem watching it alone. It appears pretty epic so I say bring it on!

Lenni Reviews: “Windsinger” by A. F. E. Smith

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

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

Mirrorvale has long stood in a precarious ‘truce’ with the surrounding kingdoms; held together with the fear of the changers. Now not only overload but a mother, Ayla Nightshade attempts to broker a formal peace treaty with an ambassador from the neighboring kingdom of Sol Kardis. After one day of hard negotiations, the ambassador is found dead. Suspected of murder, the race in on to prove Ayla’s innocence and prevent all out war.

Across the the three books (this is the third Darkhaven novel) the writing quality, world building, and character depth has been consistently entertaining and well executed. The build up is slow to a rip-roaring climax; leaving plenty of time to be intrigued and entertained. The characters are especially interesting in this outing, with even the side characters having story arcs ramping up several times to push them to the limit and end up with some great development. It can seem a little trivial in the grander scheme of things but it was good to get to know them.

I do hesitate to give away too much and end up spoiling some pretty major plot points. Suffice it to say I am loving this series and hope to see more. 4.7 out of 5.

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Lenni Reviews: “Counting to Zero” by A. J. Quinn

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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 at Otakus and Geeks.

The NSA orders Dr. Emma Thorpe to put together a team of hackers – off the books – in order to help the US government fight cyber terrorism. One of the people tapped is Paxton James, currently in an Indonesian jail because she was set up for a crime she didn’t commit. Paxton is willing to deal as long as it gets her out of jail and it doesn’t hurt that Emma is hot. But trust won’t come easy to the betrayed Pax or the hardened agent Thorpe and they must learn to deal with their mounting attraction and fight a cyber criminal with ties to Pax’s criminal past.

If you like your romances a little slow, this is a good example of the main couple having an instant attraction but not the insta-love so many romance novels tend to use as a trope. The situation these characters are in gives them some real issues to deal with so the real focus of this novel is the cyber crime. Quinn has created some smart, interesting, and fun characters who are a pleasure to get to know but somehow, it all comes off a little rushed. Granted, they’re chasing a cyber-criminal trying to kill people so it’s not like they have time to sit around and have tea to discuss their feelings. There is enough here to enjoy a quick, romantic thriller with some strong female characters. If I had one real gripe, it’s that Pax must be part terminator because every ten seconds she’s getting injured and recovers unrealistically fast. 3.8 out of 5.

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Lenni Reviews: “The Haunting of Timber Manor” by F. E. Feeley Jr.

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

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

Daniel Donnelly has sadly lost his parents in a terrible accident. He gets a phone call from his estranged aunt who tells him he is now heir to a fortune and a house called Timber Manor. On the way there, Daniel has to pull over in a huge storm and Sherriff Hale Davis – a native of the town near Timber Manor – helps him out. But the manor holds a dark and powerful secret that puts Daniel’s life in great peril

While Daniel and Hale make a good couple and you’re rooting for them, the novel makes a great ghost story. The tone is perfect for curling up in a blanket and reading this on a stormy night.It was good to have the story switch perspectives to get everyone’s thoughts on what’s happening but I feel the supernatural story development had more care put to it than the romantic development. Daniel and Hale have that insta-love thing going on that will bug you if that’s an aspect of romances that bug you.

And can Francine get a spin-off series!? PLEASE!!

Giving this a 3.7 out of 5.

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Lenni Reviews: “Rebel Genius” by Michael Dante DiMartino

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

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

When I was poking around and saw this book was written by co-creator of the animated shows Avatar: The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra, I clicked it immediately, not even realizing it was a YA book meant for kids 8-12 years old. But much like those shows, this book can absolutely be enjoyed by adults.

They story centers around Giacomo, a young orphan who lives in a world where artists have entities much like familiars called a Genius which can not only inspire them but turn their art into magic. A tyrant named Nerezza has hunted down all the artists she could find and appointed herself Supreme Creator. After an accident, Giacomo finds himself with his own Genius and is discovered by other children who have been hiding from Nerezza’s threat. They embark on a journey to find these artifacts called The Creators Tools what may help them overthrow Nerezza and bring art back to the ruined nation.

I love how there are sketches in the book and the way they are included, it’s implied Giacomo is the one drawing them. It added extra charm to an already fascinating story. It’s also worth noting that even though this story is labeled YA, it doesn’t shy away from some pretty dark stuff. There’s a real sense of danger and urgency to the mission and you do wonder if all the characters will make it or even succeed at all. But towards the end after the big twist, it got into some predictable plot points but hey, I’m a voracious consumer of fiction so it’s not a major drawback to the story overall. I’m just much more likely to catch tropes, however, I can see it surprising a kid who’s reading this.

You can absolutely feel the creative energy and love from the Avatar series in this book. The concept of art manifesting as physical magic is compelling, the adventure is tense and action-packed, and the characters are unique and fun. I am super curious to find out what happens next in what could very well be a rollercoaster of a series. 4.5 out of 5.

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Lenni Reviews: “Spell Cat” by Tara Lain

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

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

Professor Killian Barth teaches the history of witchcraft and has a unique perspective on the matter considering he is indeed a witch. He is the most powerful male witch to come along in generations.  Keeping his identity a secret from regular humans, he catches the eye of the quantum physics professor; Blane Genneau. Their attraction is instant but Killian is being forced to marry another witch, Lavender, in order to save the witch race by pumping out magical children. But not only is Killian gay, Lavender is in love with someone else, and Killian finds the magnetism between him and Blane is too strong to resist. There’s also the added rub that if a witch sleeps with a human, it will drain the witch’s power away. Can Killian find a way to not only be with the one he loves but overcome prejudice against humans, find a way to save his race, and convince a man of science to believe magic is real?

First off, I have to point out that Lain made Lavender a likable character. It’s so easy to fall into that trope of one of the people in the forced marriage being a complete horror to make the main character look even more put upon. But Lavender is a kind, sweet person and even tries to help Killian whenever she can. That was very refreshing.

While this book was decently written and cute, sometimes it felt a little contrived. It has this fanfiction like quality to it where everyone is too perfect, too pretty, and sex literally tears the skies apart it’s so good. I mean, geez, nobody even had an interesting mole or tattoo… I also would have liked to see the fantasy elements explored more. I know that they’re technically supposed to take a back seat to the romance but there are some interesting concepts here that I felt were glossed over to get the couple where they needed to be. But I do give this book credit for turning a couple tropes on their heads, having some fun characters and steamy romance scenes. 3 out of 5.

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Lenni Reviews: “Deadlight Jack” by Mark Onspaugh

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

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

Jimmy Kalmaku and George Watters may seem like any other old retirees, but they are both supernatural heroes who saved the world. When George’s grandson vanishes while on vacation in the Louisiana bayou, both men must use their abilities to the utmost in order to defeat the terrifying Deadlight Jack.

This book is like Murder She Wrote or Columbo except with demons and old men using magic. George and Jimmy’s rapport is a pleasure to read. You can tell they’re old friends and are just the best. About 10% George says the line: “The only pickups I’m gonna be making are of pretty girls who like jazz and want to go dancing with the area’s black Astaire.”

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“Too cute!!”

I found myself chuckling and smiling whenever they talked. I did find it amusing how people kept mistaking them for a gay couple (especially considering how much gay smut romance I read…) and that joke is thankfully not overused. It would have been really easy to use that gag to DEATH but Onspaugh kept it at the level such things should be in real life; not that big a deal.

Deadlight Jack is legitimately horrifying; so when the actual plot gets going it’s tense and exciting. The humor is still there but you feel that impending danger. The ending may have been a little deus ex machina but you’re having so much fun, it’s acceptable. I can tell so much love was put in this book. This is George and Jimmy’s second adventure (I plan to read the first just for fun) and the epilogue makes noise about a possible third. I sure hope that’s true because I am totally on board. 4.7 out of 5.

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Lenni Reviews: “Octavia Butler’s Kindred: A Graphic Novel Adaptation” by Damian Duffy and John Jennings

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

In this adaptation of Octavia Butler’s groundbreaking story of a young Black woman thrust back in time to see her slave ancestors, you get a gripping and harrowing view of this tale.

Having not read the original, I can say that this is a hard story to get through. Butler’s depiction of the life of slaves on a plantation in antebellum South is raw, unfiltered, and heartbreaking. And as our main character grapples with being treated like garbage by the same man who is intrinsic to her existence so she has to protect him? Yikes…

The art style is sketchy and raw; it really is perfect for this story. You feel every punch, every whip crack, every pejorative word. By the end you’re almost relieved because it’s so hard to deal with so much raw evil but it’s part of our history and it’s more important now than ever to be reminded so as not to head down the same path. I think Octavia Butler would be proud of this adaptation. 4.5 out of 5.

I’m gonna go watch cartoons now…

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Lenni Reviews: “Oria’s Gambit” by Jeffe Kennedy

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

With her kingdom, Bara, captured by the Destrye, Oria gambles on a marriage with the conquering leader; Lonen. Since Bara is ruled by magic, the highly powerful and sensitive Oria takes a huge risk in marrying Lonen since he cannot use magic and Bara has never had a non-magic using ruler. The main reason for this gamble is Oria’s cruel and despotic brother, Yar; who may likely begin another war despite the peace her kingdom has just attained.

Having not read the first part, there is enough here to make you understand there was a brutal war and that our main pair would like to spare their respective kingdoms any further bloodshed. Oria and Lonen are well developed enough and the writing is competent enough for you to get emotionally invested enough to want them to succeed. But the book does spend a great deal of time meandering around Lonen and Oria’s obvious attraction to one another and their hope to overcome Oria’s inability to even touch Lonen without her magic causing her pain. The pacing lost it’s sense of urgency when the book spends so much time on the romance. The love story didn’t distract from the major fantasy elements but once Yar came back into the picture, I felt the characters should have spent less time making gooily eyes and more time getting ready.

Don’t get me wrong; Lonen and Oria have good chemistry and the overall story kept me interested enough to not only finish it but to want to know what happens in the next installment. If you like fantasy in your romance, this isn’t a bad offering despite being pretty short and ending on a cliffhanger. 3.7 out of 5.

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