Lenni Reviews: “Birds of Shangri-La” Vol 1 by Ranmaru Zariya

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

As you can see from the terribly subtle cover, this is a yaoi manga.

Apollo is a straight man who is in dire need of funds so he takes a job at an elite gay brothel as a “teaser,” which is essentially a fluffer. He’s assigned to Phi to learn the ropes of the place and there are three main rules:  no orgasms, no penetration, no falling in love.

Throwing in a trigger warning for off panel sexual assault of a minor.

This is a good start to what can possibly be a great m/m love story. I like how all the prostitutes in the brothel are well taken care off and happy. Phi is a welcome dose of wild personality in contrast to Apollo’s dry nature and we’re getting to know them as they discover each other I like how Phi isn’t just some typical carefree guy; there’s a depth and darkness to him. It’s going to be interesting to see how the rules factor in later. Also, it’s worth noting that the sex scenes and naughty bits tend to be creatively obscured. 3.7 out of 5.

 

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Lenni Reviews: “Jealousy” Vol. 2 by Scarlet Beriko

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

In this volume, more of Akitora doing crazy things to try and be with Rogi and join the yakuza. Their relationship is further complicated by Akitora meeting Rogi’s wife.

While Akitora and Rogi are all hot and play off each other well, the highlights for me in this volume are the bodyguard Asoda and Asami; Rogi’s wife. Asoda is funny and Asami is just a badass. I like how she sees Rogi’s attachment to Akitora but retains her place as a yakuza wife.

Also, trigger warning for a gang rape scene.

Overall, this was a strange, meandering sort of volume. I was interested in the drama but at the same time, I could have lived without the gang rape and I feel like the story with Hachi living with the older Rogi isn’t getting the attention it deserves. Akitora’s tale is good but I’d like to see them both interwoven more. 3 out of 5.

 

 

Lenni Reviews: “Jealousy” Vol. 1 by Scarlet Beriko

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

Rogi is a yakuza head and after Hachi throws himself in front of his car, Rogi decides to take him in. This book also tells the story of how Akitora meets Uichi Rogi when coming to collect a debt, finding Uichi bound to the debtor’s bed. There is an instant connection and Uichi sets his mind on joining the yakuza to be with Akitora.

This story has me hooked and mostly because of how insane Rogi is in going about becoming a yakuza. I am so shocked he lived through the volume! He reminds me of Queen Zazau where I’m facepalming at the questionable decisions in dealing with very dangerous people. I’m excited to see what happens but at the same time, he frustrates me. 3.9 out of 5.

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Lenni Reviews: “Nothing To Forgive” by Lee Brazil

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

Vic comes back from vacation to find his older boyfriend, Marc, with a much younger man. Fuming, he storms out without a word until Marc reaches out to him with hopes to explain.

This is an ok quick, steamy short story. I was left feeling like it would be a side story to a bigger novel or series rather than something that feels complete on its own. Our main characters do have chemistry but I don’t feel like I had enough information about them to get attached. The writing is good though! 3.5 out of 5.

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Lenni Reviews: “The Firebird and Other Stories” (Being(s) in Love #5) by R. Cooper

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

This book is a collection of short stories set in the same universe as the other Beings in Love books.

The first one is “The Firebird” set in France in 1934, where a firebird, Kazimir, becomes enamored with a writer named Jacob. Kazimir is used to being the center of attention and having admirers begging to be inspired by him. But Jacob sees Kazimir as more than just an object. It’s a sweet story about finding someone who really values you.

Next is “The Warrior’s Sacrifice” set in Mexico in 1947. Mateo is a “muxe” a person assigned one gender at birth but behaves associated with the opposite gender and he gets beat up for this and left as an offering to the jaguar who protects the town; named Carmelo. Carmelo is home from WWII and keeps Mateo safe, revealing he has been watching Mateo for some time. This is a really touching story with low angst.

Next is “Hyacinth on the Air” featuring a fairy named Hyacinth, who loves to push the boundaries of what he’s allowed to say on air. Seeing as this is set in 1961, there are some pretty strict standards so he causes no end of trouble for Walter, a human who’s in charge of cleaning up after the messes Hyacinth makes. Being a fairy, Hyacinth doesn’t understand why humans are so uptight and why Walter would resist their obvious attraction. This one’s cute but out of all of them this one I found the least impactful.

The next story is “A Giant Among Men.” Set in 1982, Vietnam veteran, former police officer, and troll, Tank, is determined to make sure his friend Simon, an elf, gets home safe after the bar where Simon works is vandalized by people who hate Beings. Simon resists the help because he doesn’t want to be seen as weak but comes to realize Tank sees him as much more than a pretty elf bartender. Pretty enjoyable for what it is.

Next up is “The Imp for Mr. Sunshine.” Set in 2005, Rennet – an imp – has a crush on John, the deputy mayor. Since things tend to go wrong when an imp is present, Rennet believes this bad reputation will keep him from this crush developing into anything more. Little does he know that John has been protecting him for more than just friendly reasons. The parts where Rennet is dealing with his nature and what that means to the people around him are the best in this story.

Next, we have “A Wolf in the Garden.” Miki is a human who loves to work with exotic pants so his job in a greenhouse that’s also in a magic shop is where he’s most comfortable. One day a werewolf named Diego comes into the shop and Miki is smitten, but he knows Diego had a mate, and she tragically died of cancer. Miki does see Diego wants him but believes a wolf only gets one mate in their lives and that a man like him who’s been abandoned by his family and has strange hobbies. These two make an adorable couple and I really enjoyed this story and it was cool to see previous characters like Kazimir reappear. It makes the world feel so much bigger.

Lastly, “The Dragon’s Egg” featuring Arthur and Bertie from “A Boy and his Dragon”. Here Bertie discovers an egg that is their child and Arthur goes into full nesting mode.

This is a pretty decent collection but I have to say “A Wolf in the Garden” and “The Warriors Sacrifice” are my favorite. The others just didn’t grab me as much and made the book feel SO much longer. To get the full experience, you really have to make sure you read the previous four books so don’t just hop into this one. 3 out of 5.

 

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Lenni Reviews: “Little Wolf” (Being(s) in Love #4) by R. Cooper

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

Tim Dirus is on the run from his werewolf family and has taken up what he thinks of as temporary residence in Wolf’s Paw sanctuary, where the town’s tourism centers around a festival where their hunk of a sheriff, Nathaniel Neri. Everybody wants Nathaniel but he has his sights on Tim, who is ready to bolt at any moment if anyone from the Dirus family shows up to lock him away again.

As this is part of the Beings in Love series, you see some of the characters from the previous books make an appearance; making the world-building feel more expansive and detailed. Watching Tim slowly work his way toward understanding what he is and how he fits in is VERY well done and grounded. You can tell his family did a number on him and he’s trying to heal. And don’t let the title fool you. I expected Tim to be some shy thing but Tim’s got some sass in him! He takes crap from no one and I like it.

So far, this is my favorite of the series because the stakes are higher. Tim has some dangerous people after him and this book doesn’t shy away from that. It made this the most thrilling book in the series to me. 4 out of 5.

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Lenni Reviews: “A Beginner’s Guide to Wooing Your Mate” (Being(s) in Love #3) by R. Cooper

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

When they were teenagers, Zeki had a crush on the most popular werewolf in high school, Theo Greenleaf but left town before anything could happen due to being bullied for being human in a werewolf school. Now returning to the werewolf sanctuary/tourist town of Wolf’s Paw as an adult, Zeki is an accomplished wizard looking to show his high school bullies how far he’s come but hears Theo is nearly broken from his mate rejecting him years ago. Now, Theo buries his emotions in baking and volunteering for the local fire department. Zeki unknowingly seeks to reconnect with Theo not knowing he was the mate who rejected him so long ago.

So far, this is the best of the series. I love how it goes into how weres don’t need words to make themselves understood and how frustrating it can be for a human to understand what any of them are feeling since we lack those senses. I think they took WAY too fucking long to finally let Zeki in on the idea; leaving him fumbling as to why everyone is mad at him. The chemistry between Zeki and Theo is fantastic and in place of the long back and forth of the previous book, there’s some real growth and understanding that needs to take place for our pair to finally come together. And in the end, I was happy with the ending. 3.7 out of 5.

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Lenni Reviews: “A Boy and His Dragon (Being(s) in Love #2) by R. Cooper

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

Arthur MacArthur is in dire need of a job, wanting to get out of debt and perhaps go back to school when his recovering alcoholic sister is in a better place. One of his former professors sets him up with a job being an assistant to Philbert Jones, a historian, and writer but also a dragon with a horde of books. Not fully understanding dragons, Arthur learns about his new boss and the pair have a connection but Arthur doesn’t want to ruin his chances at this job.

While the writing if this book in the series is improved over the first, this book spends WAY too much time on the will they/won’t they back and forth where I found wanted to jump into the book and just scream “UGH! Just kiss already!” Then once they get to the point, Arthur and Philbert have great chemistry and I enjoyed their journey! Then it screeches to a halt. It’s just done. I would have liked a more rounded conclusion but I enjoyed this overall. 3 out of 5.

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Lenni Reviews: “Some Kind of Magic” (Being(s) in Love #1) by R. Cooper

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

Detective Ray Branigan knows Cal is his mate but believes fairies (even half fairies like Cal Parker) are too flighty for a long term commitment like mating. So, when they’re paired together on a case involving some mysterious and vicious murders, Ray’s restraint is tested as Cal is too tempting to resist.

This had all the hallmarks of something I’d enjoy and it did me the honor of not dropping the mystery part (unlike the Isle of series did). The problem here is with the writing. I found myself often confused as to who was who and critical details that would have helped me understand things, people, and places better – and enjoy the book more – were missing. In the end, I was left feeling like I missed something. Cal and Ray were cute and all but I feel like I never got immersed and I was left wanting. 3 out of 5.

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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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