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    Captive Prince: Pet – C.S. Pacat

    Pet follows the rise of Ancel at the poisonous court of Vere. Set during the events of Captive Prince.

    OMG! It was sooo good! I didn’t even remember Ancel until Pacat revisited the garden scene. And that last line! 

    Rating:

    5 Stars – absolutely perfect

    Soundtrack: Evergreen
    Artist: Echo & the Bunnymen
    Album: Evergreen

    (source: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/37413230-pet)

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    Kria: Bound – Megan Derr

    Ingolf von Dirchs is all that remains of the royal house of Kria. The bastard son of the dead Kaiser, he barely escapes the winter palace before it is overtaken by the armies of Salhara, Kria’s oldest and bitterest enemy. In a last desperate attempt to combat Salhara’s deadly magic, Ingolf flees to the country of Illussor, there to steal the sword of a man who once betrayed Kria to side with Illussor. But stealing the sword gains him something he did not expect—the descendant of that long ago Betrayer, an intriguing man with the pale features of an Illussor but the fierce heart of a Krian…

    Erich von Adolwulf is the proud descendant of the Holy General, a man who helped Illussor break free of the loathsome magic upon which they once so heavily relied… When the sword of the Holy General is stolen, Erich goes to reclaim it, and finds himself dragged into the country his ancestor once betrayed—and wanting to protect the new Kaiser of war-ravaged Kria, who stirs in him things he has not felt since the death of his lover…

    I really couldn’t get myself to care about these people. The only time I perk up was whenever Beraht and Dieter were mentioned. I’m sorry but I DNF’ed this. Hopefully I’ll give this another go in  the future. Or find the audiobook.

    Rating:

    2 Stars – it’s a struggle to finish the damn book

    Soundtrack: Bite
    Artist: Troye Sivan
    Album: Blue Neighborhood

    (source: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/9369433-bound)

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    Tensorate: The Black Tides of Heaven – J.Y. Yang

    Mokoya and Akeha, the twin children of the Protector, were sold to the Grand Monastery as children. While Mokoya developed her strange prophetic gift, Akeha was always the one who could see the strings that moved adults to action. While his sister received visions of what would be, Akeha realized what could be. What’s more, he saw the sickness at the heart of his mother’s Protectorate.

    A rebellion is growing. The Machinists discover new levers to move the world every day, while the Tensors fight to put them down and preserve the power of the state. Unwilling to continue to play a pawn in his mother’s twisted schemes, Akeha leaves the Tensorate behind and falls in with the rebels. But every step Akeha takes towards the Machinists is a step away from his sister Mokoya. Can Akeha find peace without shattering the bond he shares with his twin sister?

    I read this because the cover, by Yuko Shimizu, is really cool. Also the reviews are mostly 5 or 4 stars. My reaction echoes that of those who gave fewer stars.

    This is a highly original novella that presented a world that works on nature magic to power technology, where people are genderless until they confirm their chosen gender and where matriarchy is the norm. The story follows the twins, Mokoya and Akeha from childhood, teens to adulthood. The twins were sent to a monastery as bargaining chips by their mother, the Protector. They learned to use the Slack, the magic system of the Tensorate world, which is probably similar to qi. Mokoya then revealed her prophetic gift and the twins were soon returned to the Protectorate palace. When they were almost 17, Mokoya confirmed she was a girl and the issue of gender identity was explored.This is the part of the story that was interesting and well-developed. 

    The second half of the story follows Akeha as he struck out on his own and got entangled with the Machinists. Here, things happened but I didn’t really care much about them because they just sort of happened and not elaborated upon.  Generally, I felt the story had a lot of interesting ideas and plot threads but lacked details or follow up. I love the authenticity of having an Asian author create an Asian-based world and this book could have been up there with the great ones had the entire Tensorate world been more fleshed out.

    Rating

    3 Stars – not exactly setting my world on fire but I liked it

    Soundtrack: Star Sign
    Artist: Teenage Fanclub 
    Album: Bandwagonesque

    (source: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/33099588-the-black-tides-of-heaven)

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    The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue – Mackenzi Lee

    Henry “Monty” Montague was born and bred to be a gentleman, but he was never one to be tamed. The finest boarding schools in England and the constant disapproval of his father haven’t been able to curb any of his roguish passions—not for gambling halls, late nights spent with a bottle of spirits, or waking up in the arms of women or men.

    But as Monty embarks on his Grand Tour of Europe, his quest for a life filled with pleasure and vice is in danger of coming to an end. Not only does his father expect him to take over the family’s estate upon his return, but Monty is also nursing an impossible crush on his best friend and traveling companion, Percy.

    Still it isn’t in Monty’s nature to give up. Even with his younger sister, Felicity, in tow, he vows to make this yearlong escapade one last hedonistic hurrah and flirt with Percy from Paris to Rome. But when one of Monty’s reckless decisions turns their trip abroad into a harrowing manhunt that spans across Europe, it calls into question everything he knows, including his relationship with the boy he adores.

    With a title and cover like that, how can I resist? Right off that bat, I know it was going to be a fun, lighthearted read with adventure and laughter and kissing at the end. And indeed it is. 

    The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue is about Monty, his sister Felicity and his best friend Percy and their Grand Tour gone awry (to be expected because Monty). Feckless is a word I learned recently and it is something that can be used to describe Monty, along with fun-loving and not the brightest spark in the room. Monty’s sister Felicity can throw a better punch than him. Probably the only things we can commend him on are his indecent supply of good looks and that he really does love Percy with all the love his silly little heart can give. Felicity is the nose-buried-in-a-book/can-do-anything type aka the smarter one and Percy is a music loving, well-mannered guy whose darker looks makes him a bit more circumspect with his behavior compared to his more reckless best friend.

    If this was a movie, the visual style, storytelling and soundtrack might be something like what Sofia Coppola did with Marie Antoinette. Not entirely accurate but still gives a good sense of time, place and mood. This would also have been a solid 5-star book had it been a little more concise but I felt it was stretched out a tad too long like the author felt the trio had to have as many misadventures and go to as many places as possible before resolving everything. 

    Rating:
    3 Stars – not exactly setting my world on fire but I liked it

    Soundtrack: City of Culture
    Artist: Slow Riot
    Album:

    (source: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/29283884-the-gentleman-s-guide-to-vice-and-virtue)

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    Whyborne & Griffin: Eidolon – Jordan L. Hawk

    Griffin Flaherty wants nothing more than to create a perfect Valentine’s Day for his lover, Dr. Percival Endicott Whyborne. Dinner at a fancy restaurant, an evening at the theater, and a romantic interlude at home should do the trick.

    But a new client with an urgent case puts Griffin’s plans in jeopardy. A magic talisman has been stolen, and if it isn’t returned by sundown, it may unleash disaster not only on the thief but the innocents around him.

    Can Whyborne and Griffin track down the thief and return the amulet by nightfall, or will dinner reservations become the least of their worries?

    I had to google the title. According to Wiki; 

    In ancient Greek literature, an eidolon (plural: eidola or eidolons) is a spirit-image of a living or dead person; a shade or phantom look-alike of the human form. 

    I love how Widdershins is full of creepy, old rich families. I love how this short story had all the usual W&G fare we love in condensed form. Most of all, I am ecstatic that this is from Griffin’s point of view and we can see how deeply he loves his Ival.

    Rating:

    4 Stars – minor quibbles but I loved it to bits

    Soundtrack: Love to Get Used
    Artist: Matt Pond PA
    Album: Spring Fools

    (source: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/20559250-eidolon)

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    Captive Prince: Green but for a Season – C.S. Pacat

    Green but for a Season is the first of a series of four Captive Princeshort stories. It follows the relationship between Jord and Aimeric and is set during the events of Prince’s Gambit.

    Glimpses of Damen and Laurent are always welcome. Trying not to think of Aimeric’s fate. I’m just glad Jord survived everything.

    Rating:
    3.5 Stars – that place between like and love

    (source: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/31814812-green-but-for-a-season)

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    Mechanical Universe: Winter’s Bees – E.E. Ottoman

    Lord Marcel de la Mont de Anges, the Marquis de Montespan is a brilliant mathematician, member of the mechanical animation movement and all around dandy. He’s been in love with shy, quiet entomologist and youngest member of the royal family, Prince Gilbert André XVI, since they were children. The Emperor’s plans to arrange a marriage between Marcel and Gilbert should have been the answer to all his secret fantasies.

    But Gilbert is still reeling from a nasty breakup, and he cannot picture the man he regards as a brother becoming his lover. The order to marry has thrown their relationship into disorder, and if they cannot sort out the changes there may not even be a friendship left for them to save…

    E.E. Ottoman’s stories are peopled with diverse characters I rarely see in other stories. There’s an Indian ballet dancer, a trans man, a castrato, pudgy love interests, female police and military generals and so on. In this last installment of Mechanical Universe, Marcel is an adopted Eastern (possibly Asian descent) Marquis with physical disabilities. The world itself is diverse, with magic and science working together seamlessly.

    The best parts of the story for me was the first half because that where I felt the sparks and I found the two really cute. I was also looking forward to them reminiscing about their younger days and the times they spent together. The middle part was the dragging part.

    The way these two agonized over their marriage was a bit of a snooze-fest for me mainly because married people’s problems are boring. The party near the end was a good way to wrap up the story because the reader gets to meet all the gang again. I wished there were more interaction with these characters.

    Overall, I would recommend the entire Mechanical Universe series. As favorite author and editor K.J. Charles said: 

    I love EE Ottoman’s writing. I love the worldbuilding, and the realistic, insecure characters nervously feeling their way through to one another, and the odd passions, and the secrets. It’s a lovely novella and as ever, I wanted more, longer, deeper. I want a full-length EE Ottoman novel and to see what they do on a bigger stage, pushing the characters further and harder. But for now, this will do very nicely.

    Rating:
    3.5 Stars – that place between like and love

    (source: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/23459938-winter-s-bees)

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    Mechanical Universe: Duende – E.E. Ottoman

    Famed opera singer Aimé has a lot in common with Badri, the Royal Ballet Company’s most popular male lead. They have both dedicated their entire lives to their art, and struggle to be taken seriously among the Empire’s elite. And both harbor a secret admiration and desire for the other.

    This year for his birthday Aimé treats himself to a night at the ballet seeing Badri perform, and after the show decides to meet Badri and confess his admiration for Badri’s skill. But when that first awkward meeting turns to more, they are left wondering if there is room in their lives for both career and romance…

    Artist types who can’t wait to get into each others breeches. If it succeeded in making me feel anything, it was boredom. The idea of a castrato and a ballet dancer pairing certainly piqued interest there was not much going on in terms of the story itself.

    Rating

    2 Stars – it’s a struggle to finish the damn book

    (source: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/22699093-duende)

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    Mechanical Universe: A Matter of Disagreement – E.E. Ottoman

    The rise of mechanical animation, and its popularity at court, is threatening to end Andrea’s scholarly pursuits of spell craft and literature—and force him to let go of his assistants, who depend on him to support their families In retaliation against the field that is ruining his life, Andrea begins to campaign against it. The efforts gain him notoriety, but do not solve his financial dilemmas.

    When he is dragged to a party by his brother, he comes face to face with the man who pioneered mechanical animation: Leon Gregory de la Marche VI, Marquis de la Marche. And he is not at all what Andrea expected.

    Major points to the author for having an MC who’s slightly out of shape (aren’t we all?) and a nerdy transman who’s a gentleman and an inventor The conflict between the two MCs was not as intense as other friends-to-enemies stories but the chemistry was there. The whole book read like cute YA, written in Andrea’s POV and sounded like a 17 year old’s ‘voice’ except near the end where it got all kinky and explicit. I don’t know what the spells are in the spell craft part (I suspect it could probably be just electricity) but I imagine the mechanical birds are as delicate as Faberge eggs.

    I think this story is a good introduction to E.E. Ottoman’s works. It sure as hell made me pick up book 2 immediately.

    Rating:
    3.5 Stars – that place between like and love


    (source: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/20445481-a-matter-of-disagreement)

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    Captive Prince Trilogy: Kings Rising – C. S. Pacat

    Damianos of Akielos has returned.

    His identity now revealed, Damen must face his master Prince Laurent as Damianos of Akielos, the man Laurent has sworn to kill.

    On the brink of a momentous battle, the future of both their countries hangs in the balance. In the south, Kastor’s forces are massing. In the north, the Regent’s armies are mobilising for war. Damen’s only hope of reclaiming his throne is to fight together with Laurent against their usurpers.

    Forced into an uneasy alliance the two princes journey deep into Akielos, where they face their most dangerous opposition yet. But even if the fragile trust they have built survives the revelation of Damen’s identity—can it stand against the Regents final, deadly play for the throne?

    The perfect ending to a perfect story.

    Rating:

    5 Stars – absolutely perfect 

    (source: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/25810368-kings-rising)