Lenni Reviews: “No Ivy League” by Hazel Newlevant

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

Sheltered homeschooler Hazel Newlevant takes a summer job clearing ivy from the forests in Portland, Oregon. At first, she’s just looking to make some quick cash for a concert but she finds her small world opened when interacting with more diverse kids.

I like this book because the main character isn’t a racist who comes around. Hazel has legitimately not interacted with anything other than other white, affluent, homeschooled kids and comes to realize there’s a bigger world out there. She has been given advantages others may not have and instead of being some White Savior or being riddled with White Guilt, she just makes friends and starts dancing. I respect that.

I do feel more needed to be done with her parents and their reasons for homeschooling Hazel. The mother does go into her backstory a bit but if systemic racism and white privilege are being addressed, more was needed with Hazel’s realization about why her mother chose this rather than a couple of panels and one trip to the library. But that’s just me. Overall, I enjoyed it. 3.7 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: “NewsPrints” by Ru Xu

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Masquerading as a boy, Blue loves her job as a newsboy delivering papers so people can be informed in a time of war. The paper she works for is the only one that tells the truth so her job can be perilous. While on the run from boys from a rival paper, she happens upon an eccentric scientist and then a young boy named Crow with strange secrets of their own.

This is a cute little book in a steampunk sort of world with odd gadgets and scientists with goggles. While overall entertaining and gorgeous to look at, this is a familiar story; plucky girl, quirky scientist, enigmatic boy with a secret, and government secrets. If you’ve never read something like this before, you may enjoy this more than I did. Not to say I didn’t like it or have fun reading it but I have seen this all before. 3.6 out of 5.

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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: “That Blue Sky Feeling” Vol. 1 by Okura and Coma Hashii

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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.

High school student, Noshiro, is the outgoing type determined to get along with everyone. When he notices his classmate, Sanada, all by himself, Noshiro immediately tries to fix that; much to the stoic Sanada’s dismay. But rumors of Sanada being gay have Noshiro’s classmates telling him to stay away from Sanada. Undaunted, Noshiro makes it his mission to befriend Sanada, get their classmates to come around, understand his sexual preference, and possibly learn a little more about himself.

This manga is too damn cute. Despite the fact if you’ve read any manga ever you can see what’s coming in the plot a mile away, Noshiro is so lovable and Sanada is so relatable, it’s not so bad traveling down this road again and I can’t wait for more. 4 out of 5.

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Lenni Reviews: “Same Love” by Tony Correia

 

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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.

Upon finding out their son is gay, Adam’s parents ship him off to a Christian camp and warn him they won’t tolerate having a gay son. But while there, he falls for Paul and both teens must reconcile their faith with love in order to find happiness.

First off I gotta say, I’m Pagan and even I wish there were nicer Christians in this. From the parents to Randall, they’re almost cartoonishly evil. Boys can’t go shopping together? That means they’re gay? How do you get clothes then?

Anyway, this is a quick story; which makes sense considering it takes place over a short period of time. It has the innocence and charm of a summer camp story without it feeling too much like a typical coming of age plot. I empathize with Paul’s struggle and it’s portrayed in a realistic way that doesn’t overstay it’s welcome. Despite being brief, the story does feel complete instead of rushed like some short stories can be. I can see a teen reading this and liking it and for me, it’s a nice change from the quickie smut. 3 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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