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: ” Koimonogatari: Love Stories” Vol. 1 Tohru Tagura

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

When Yamato comes out to a friend that he has a crush on a male classmate, Yuji overhears. When they end up in a study group with some other kids who flake out and they end up alone, Yuji lets Yamato know that he knows he’s gay and wants to be supportive.

This was… Okay. The whole volume felt like a set up for things to come later so it moves slow. However, Yuji’s clumsy way of being a friend and learning about the LGBT community is kind of adorable since it’s coming from a place of a genuine desire to learn about what he doesn’t understand. He seems to really care and that’s great! I am waiting for the fallout of him borrowing his mother’s computer to look up information, though.

I’ll give this a 3.5 because of the nice art and how much I liked Yuji. I’ll reserve broader opinions once I get my hands on the second one.

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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: “Breaks” Volume One by Emma Vieceli & Malin Rydén

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Cortland Hunt is an outcast and that’s the way he likes it. When the popular joker Ian Tanner refuses to take the hint to leave him alone; dead set on befriending the brooding loner, Cortland begrudgingly opens up to the idea. But Ian’s feelings grow to more than just friendship and Cortland isn’t sure how to handle it.

I like the way Cortland and Ian’s relationship progresses from friendship to possibly something ore and Ian is the perfect bubbly, silly counterpoint to Cortland’s sullen and aggressive nature. But I have some concerns about how this story will go considering Ian has a girlfriend that he’s been with for some time. I’m sure there’s a way to work this out in a way that’s not problematic but I’ll have to wait for the second volume to see it. 4 out of 5.

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Lenni Reviews: “Aliens, Smith And Jones” by Blaine D. Arden

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

Set in the UK, Agent Connor Smith works for an organization that deal with aliens and alien artifacts. When he starts feeling paralyzed randomly, it is revealed that Noah, an alien, is making contact with him because he believes Connor is his soulmate. There is also an underground crime syndicate selling artifacts and aliens on the black market.

Despite the interesting premise, this book is sadly disjointed, unfocused, and stilted. I just didn’t feel much emotion from the writing and that made it hard to care once the plot really got going. I wanted to like this so badly but it just felt so dry. There’s some real untapped potential here but I didn’t enjoy this as much as I’d hoped. 2.9 out of 5.

Lenni Revews: “Infected: Throwaways” by Andrea Speed

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

Holden Krause, a former rent boy turned private investigator/vigilante, is asked by a friend to find her missing husband and also asked by the police to look into the murder of a known local drug dealer. With the help of his partner, Chai, Holden uses all the skills at his disposal to suss out the killer and find the missing man.

This book feels really unfocused a lot of the time; simultaneously trying to work in the back story of the infected, some sort of feline shifter-like condition, despite Holden himself not being one. It’s heavy on the pop culture references and class, gender, and race politics. It’s important to include these things in your work but overuse can make your reader cringe no matter what side of the aisle you’re on and I did just that.

Overall, this reminds me of “Pushback” where the plot you’re expecting from the synopsis is secondary to other random details. The reader may be expecting more emphasis on the werecat virus and have it factor more into the plot other than a dramatic rescue, it really didn’t. It’s an ok book because Holden and Chai are fun characters to follow. 3 out of 5.

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Lenni Reviews: “Defiant Revival” by L. Rockwood

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

Prince Michah is dead but the kingdom doesn’t know it. But Billiam, who has been in love with the prince for years, devises a plan to resurrect him and retake the kingdom from a power-mad despot.

Hooooo boy is this book filled with some exposition dumps! We get the tale from Leeke, a warrior who is somehow able to recount events she wasn’t there for in exacting detail. And as the narrative goes on we get so many characters and they tread the line between flawed and unlikable in a way that I don’t want to deal with them anymore and this book has the absolute gall to end on a cliffhanger! Even though this is a dark fantasy, one of my favorite genres, and the fight scenes are well written and interesting, it just was not enjoyable. It felt like work. And that stinks because the premise is amazing and when it’s on topic, the writing is good! 2.7 out of 5.

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Lenni Reviews: “The Artist and the Soldier” by Angelle Petta

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

In this sprawling tale, we have Max Amsel and Bastian Fisher who meet as teens in Camp Seigfried then again as adults in the thick of World War II.

First off, I dunno if I was taught this in school and forgot or just wasn’t taught this but I was SHOCKED that the Nazi Camp Siegfried was a real place in NY! I honestly didn’t realize such camps existed and kudos to this book for teaching me that.

This book is almost perfect. It focuses more on the war itself and how it’s affecting everyone, not just our main characters. A great deal of the plot is plucked straight from history. The writing is compelling, the action is well done, and the romance did tug at my heart. If you like historical fiction with a bit of angst, I recommend this despite the ending being a bit of a drop-off. But you can tell a lot of love went into this book. 4.7 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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