Lenni Reviews: “Imitatore” by A. Rose

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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.

Born with multiple magical abilities, Sophie knows she is destined to do great things. But when she meets Oliver, an Imitatore who has the gift to use her powers and amplify them, her destiny rushes headlong at her, upending her life and leaving her with few she can trust and the future of the world at stake.

This book encapsulates every trope of YA fiction: Very tell, don’t show, simple sentences, and a wayward protagonist. By ‘wayward’ I mean the plot seems to blow her along; not leaving her to make many decisions. I do appreciate the diverse cast; a dark-skinned main character and non-gendered costar. There’s some cool world building but this is absolutely geared for someone younger than myself. I still had fun reading it, though. 3 out of 5.

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Lenni Reviews: “The Black Bull of Norroway” by Cat Seaton & Kit Seaton

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Sibylla is given a prophecy as a young girl that she will marry a monster named The Black Bull and despite dreaming of a life of adventure, she goes willingly when the beast appears at her door years later. They embark on a quest to break his curse but no one will tell Sibylla why this curse exists or if it should be worth her life to end it.

This is an impressive and interesting start to a young adult series with very strong characterization for such a short volume. Sibylla is a strong woman obviously out of her depth with all the mystical things suddenly surrounding her but she strives to learn as much as she can. I enjoyed following her through this journey and I look forward to the next one! 3.9 out of 5.

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Lenni Reviews: “Markswoman” by Rati Mehrotra

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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.

After her first mark, newly initiated Markswoman Kyra lives to avenge the death of her clan. But her duties to the order of Kali take precedence as she tragically loses her mentor to what is obviously murder. Kyra embarks on a quest to expose the traitor in her order and bring them to justice.

I am honestly shocked this is marketed as YA but I loved reading this book. Kyra manages to be both determined but inexperienced without pandering or getting annoying. The fantasy world building is tight without a bunch of info dumps and the action is badass. I especially liked that Kyra’s journey is chosen instead of forced. She elects to go; not cast out.

The ending kinda felt a little bit of a copout as well as a cliffhanger but I am SO down for the sequel. 3.9 out of 5.

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Lenni Reviews: “Sinless” by Sarah Tarkoff

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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.

Grace lives in a world where your sins are physically manifest on your body. Pretty people are good and bad people have been punished with physical deformities and are ostracised from society until they earn forgiveness. When she encounters a boy seemingly immune to Punishment, it starts a chain of events forcing her to face some rather ugly truths about the world she lives it.

While an awesome concept, it feels immature in execution. About halfway through the book, Grace comes off to me as stumbling over the line between “flawed character” and “spoiled brat” so I found her hard to relate to; even as a YA novel. As things go on, (spoiler maybe??) she turns into the Queen of Being Kidnapped as this happens WAY too often in order to get her to the next plot point.

It’s a good thing this is essentially told by an older character because I am way more interested in adult Grace than teenage Grace. I almost want to read the next one with that want in mind. Despite not being thrilled with the protagonist, I still wanted to know what happened next enough to read through to the end. 2.7 out of 5.

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Lenni Reviews: “Sovereign” by April Daniels

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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.

In this sequel to Dreadnought, Danielle is working hard as the new hero in town but between kicking butt and maintaining her reputation with the press; and without even being fully licensed due to her age, she is feeling the strain. But Dreadnought is needed now more than ever as a worldwide threat lingers on the horizon.

I can’t quite put my foot on what it is but this is not as enjoyable as the first book. Don’t get me wrong, this is still a well-written superhero story with high stakes and plenty of thrilling action; by no means a bad book. A teenager dealing with the harsh realities of being a superhero AND transgender AND some topical threats to humanity deserves this darker tone. But in comparison to the first, the darkness is unpleasant instead of intriguing or compelling. I want to like this more than I do. If you ware interested in following Dreadnought’s next steps as she develops as a hero, this entry is just ok. 3.5 out of 5.

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Lenni Reviews: “Water Memory” by Mathieu Reynès and Valérie Vernay

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Marion’s mom inherits a home after her divorce and decides to move there. As Marion explores around the private beach and the sea, she finds strange carvings and a cranky old sailor, Virgil. Rumors and legends about the carvings are everywhere and the reclusive Virgil is hesitant to reveal a single word but Marion is determined to find out more.

This is a lovely little story. Marion is a fearless little girl and her character is written realistically for a kid her age; smart but innocent and not creepily wise beyond her years. And in keeping with the water theme, most of the book has a blue tone. This book is short and gets to the point, well drawn and fun; perfect for a young audience. 3.7. out of 5.

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Lenni Reviews: “Dreadnought” (Nemesis – Book One) by April Daniels

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*I received this book in exchange for an honest review.

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

Danny is out secretly buying nail polish and ends up thrust into the middle of a superhero battle. Defeated, Dreadnought transfers his powers to Danny, giving him super human abilities but the female body this transgender teen has always wanted. But not only does Danny have to deal with coming out as the new Dreadnought, she also must come out to her strict parents, the Legion of other heroes, and content with Utopia, the cyborg villain who killed Danny’s predecessor.

After reading “Black Angel” I was a little nervous about another LGBTQ YA novel. However, this book is much like “Rebel Genius” in that I was hooked and entertained for most of this despite being a sorry old lady outside the target demographic.

This novel touches on the good and bad about being a trans teen with the added flight of fancy that if anyone bullies you for being trans, you can pummel them into the ground. Danny is such a great kid, you can’t help but root for her and just outright DESPISE what she’s put through. And, as a comic book geek, this also makes for an awesome superhero story. There is genuine peril Danny has to deal with as a budding super-heroine and despite the world ending consequences; the story doesn’t feel like it gets bogged down when dealing with the issues surrounding a transgendered individual. Some reactions are almost TOO evil but I think that’s just the part of me that is desperately holding on to a shred of hope in humanity. It doesn’t pander, it doesn’t preach; “Dreadnought” is a well-written, wild ride, and if it’s the start to a series; I look forward to more. 4.7 out of 5.

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Lenni Reviews: “Black Angel” by Kyell Gold

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Meg, an asexual otter, is having strange visions of another life. As these visions become more vivid, she grapples with her feelings about her friend, Athos; who has obvious interest in her.

This is a YA, fantasy, furry novel and while it is so important to have all types of sexuality represented for young adults, I had SO much trouble getting into this book. When it gets to the point – meaning the meaning behind Meg’s visions – it is interesting. Otherwise, it’s a slow journey through scenes I skimmed just so I could get to the point. I wanted to like this, I really did and it is very likely this book missed its mark because I am NOT the target audience but I didn’t enjoy this book. I give it a 3 out of 5 for being competent and representing a sorely ignored demographic.

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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: “The Songbird Thief” by Skye Allen

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

Lee is half fae with a magical voice. When she sings, she can control people; a talent she has only used so far to steal little things here and there. After escaping her abusive step-father, Lee is torn between wanting to know more about who she is and heeding the warnings of her late mother’s friend, Sonja; who knows the fae were responsible for Lee’s mother’s death. But the fae are very interested in Lee’s magical voice and their promise of answers may be more than Lee can resist.

This book is classified as a Young Adult LGBTQ fantasy but it didn’t feel like a YA novel; if that makes any sense. There’s this maturity to it. I had to keep reminding myself that Lee is 15 not 25. She describes things in beautiful detail, she’s put into some really tough situations, and despite having zero clue what to do half the time, she makes some mature decisions.

The fairy world is described well and the technique and word choices expect effort from the reader. It’s not dumbed down and doesn’t pander. Lee is a nice kid and a real character just trying to do the right thing in a world full of bad choices; all culminating to a bittersweet ending. Despite being the second in a series, this book stands firmly on it’s own and is a welcome diversion from most YA I’ve read. I give this a 4 out of 5.

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