Tag Archives: challenges

Review of The Siren (Laments of Angels & Dark Chemistry #1), by Meg Xuemei X

I picked up a free copy of The Siren (by Meg Xuemei X) at Amazon.

Description from Goodreads:
Two boys tied to her irrevocably. One offers life disguised as death; the other leads to death with unfathomable love. Her choice decides whether the world turns or ends.

Lucienne Lam, born to rule as the last of the Sirens, is running out of time. If she fails to find the TimeDust, an ancient power, her enemies will have their wish—her head on a spike. And she’ll never know the love promised by Vladimir, a fierce warrior of the Czech royal bloodline.

Except Ashburn, a genius ‘farm boy,’ has found the TimeDust first, and its power binds Lucienne to him. She must convince him to sever this forced bond so she can return to her first love. But breaking the link seems insurmountable when the TimeDust launches its own ominous agenda and the two boys prepare to duel to the death over her.

Not great. Not super bad either, but not particularly good.

Here’s my issue with it. It feels VERY much like it was written as a serial. The chapters are episodic and there is a certain amount of repetition that suggests plot recaps. Plus, since it is (or feels like it is) a serial, it doesn’t actually end. Reading this was very much like watching a television show that you follow, but only catch every other show. You know the plot, but bits are missing that you just have to roll with. Characters showed up with no history or explanation, simply inserted in the plot. Characters who had existed suddenly have hobbies or habits that the reader is never told about until they are incorporated. Even the romance happens off page and feels like it’s just been grabbed willy-nilly.

The whole ‘it must be a serial’ feeling is exacerbate by the fact that the book’s blub isn’t accurate to the events of this book. I can see how some of that might come up in the next, but it doesn’t here. The book ends before it gets to, “She must convince him to sever this forced bond so she can return to her first love. But breaking the link seems insurmountable when the TimeDust launches its own ominous agenda and the two boys prepare to duel to the death over her.” Nope, that doesn’t happen IN THIS BOOK. Looks like the author chose at least one less episode for this volume and one or more for the next…or just doesn’t know where the ongoing story split for the ‘books.’

The result of all this is a group of characters I didn’t feel I knew well, a romance I wasn’t invested in, a plot that feels fragile and anchor-less and a book with little beginning and no end.

I also had serious trouble believing that these were teens. They spoke, had skills and acted much older. Even worse were the flashbacks when the main character was supposed to be a child. It was nowhere near believable, even for a genius. Plus, she was just too smug to like and too perfect at everything.

The writing itself is fine. But as a BOOK, with all the elements a reader expects in a BOOK, it’s kind of a barely pass.


Review of Pansies, by Alexis Hall

PansiesI requested Alexis Hall‘s Pansies from Netgalley. I was approved and then two hours later the paperback showed up in the mail. Apparently, I had forgotten that I’d pre-ordered it. Oops. But it was fortuitous since I ended up reading from both copies and finishing that much faster.

Description from goodreads:
Alfie Bell is . . . fine. He’s got a six-figure salary, a penthouse in Canary Wharf, the car he swore he’d buy when he was eighteen, and a bunch of fancy London friends.

It’s rough, though, going back to South Shields now that they all know he’s a fully paid-up pansy. It’s the last place he’s expecting to pull. But Fen’s gorgeous, with his pink-tipped hair and hipster glasses, full of the sort of courage Alfie’s never had. It should be a one-night thing, but Alfie’s never met anyone like Fen before.

Except he has. At school, when Alfie was everything he was supposed to be, and Fen was the stubborn little gay boy who wouldn’t keep his head down. And now it’s a proper mess: Fen might have slept with Alfie, but he’ll probably never forgive him, and Fen’s got all this other stuff going on anyway, with his mam and her flower shop and the life he left down south.

Alfie just wants to make it right. But how can he, when all they’ve got in common is the nowhere town they both ran away from.

This is a truly beautiful book. Now, I’ll admit I’m biased, as Hall is one of my favorite authors and I’m kind of predisposed to like anything he writes, but I did very much enjoy this. The writing is lush. The romance so…well, so sweetly romantic you could almost scoop it up with a spoon. Both characters are distinct and likable. Hall even managed to make Fen’s forgiveness believable, which in the beginning I didn’t think was possible. Apparently, I’m a horrible person because I didn’t think Alfie deserved it.

Now, as with most of Hall’s books (maybe all, but I’m not a fan of definitives) all that lush writing can come across as painfully purple at times and this one may have been even more descriptive than normal. I think it’s lovely, but someone with little patience for such will probably not call this a winner. I also thought a few sections stood out as notably stuttered, in that they lacked the same level of flourish as the rest. Personally, I could have done with a little less sex, but I did really appreciate what Hall did with the sex he included. There are mishaps, and affection and a broad definition of what qualifies and very little penetration politicking (yes, I made that up), beyond Alfie’s engagement of his own injurious beliefs.

In all honestly, Alfie coming to terms with his own misconceptions and past self, with his own thoughtlessness, his own inability or unwillingness to consider the effects of his actions on another, or even to consider that he should consider such things was my favorite part of the book. Haven’t we all known (or been) that youth at some point?

I won’t call this my favorite Hall book. There’s little chance a contemporary romance could ever claim that title for any author, it’s just not my preferred genre, but this is definitely worth picking up. There is more emotion in this book than in most of what I’ve read this year put together.

What I’m eating/drinking: An extra hot latte from Webster Groves Garden Cafe (my local coffee shop) and, what turned out to be a chocolate chip muffin. I thought it was blueberry when I pointed to it in the display case. But honestly, how disappointed could I be?

Review of Moments in Time (Moments in Time #1-3), by Karen Stivali

I won a signed copy of Karen Stivali‘s Moments in Time (#1-3) from Just Love Romance. I read it as part of my #DiverseRomanceBingo challenge, as it contains a bi character, Jewish characters and is written by an #OwnVoices author.

Description from Goodreads:

Moment of Impact
Beyond Collin Fitzpatrick’s dorm room, the students of his conservative college think he’s straight, as does his Catholic family, who’d disown him if they learned the truth. Inside, he’s safe with his sexy roommate Tanner D’Amico. Tanner wants to show the world how much he loves Collin, but Collin’s not sure he’s ready for the impact stepping outside will make.

Moment of Truth
Collin expected to spend another summer fixing cars and working at the college pizzeria. Instead, he’s living in a beach house on Fire Island, and for the first time, he and Tanner can publicly be known as boyfriends. Being “out” takes some getting used to, and doubt and jealousy threaten their happiness. Collin and Tanner must confront the truth or risk losing it all.

Moment of Clarity
Spending the summer on Fire Island brought Collin and Tanner closer than ever, but back in their conservative college town, new challenges confront them.

When Collin’s relationship with Tanner becomes an issue in his brother’s custody battle and Tanner struggles with feelings for his heartbroken friend Wendy, Collin wonders if everyone would be better off without him. In order to save them both, Tanner must make it clear his love for Collin is all that matters.


Hmm, there is plenty to appreciate here. It’s a sweet read about two university-aged guys falling in love. And it is sweet. It’s nice to see a confident bi character. It’s nice to see Catholic and Jewish characters. It was nice that the guys didn’t go from virginal to straight porn sex in an instant and that sex could be something other than penetrative. I liked that there wasn’t a lot of angst about who did what to who and what that did or didn’t make them. I liked Collin coming exploring himself for the first time and Tanner’s patience with him. And I just plain liked Collin and Tanner.

However, the plot often felt like little snippets of life between extended sex scenes. There was far too much sex for me. Not that I mind a lot of sex, but the balance of sex to plot felt too heavily weighted toward sex. I got bored with it. I thought a lot of the conflict felt contrived (and often predictable) and the easy way everything miraculously resolved itself in the end was too pat and easy to be believable.

Lastly, I had major concerns with the representation of women in the novelettes. There are basically only six women in the whole book. One is the classic saintly mother. Of the other five, one was willing to abandon her friends for a boyfriend and willing to steal another’s lover. A second was a wife/mother who cheated on her husband, abandoned her children and was vilely homophobic. A third was a homophobic mother that disowned her gay son and the last was a girl who actively pursued a man she knew to be in a committed, monogamous relationship. I get that this is a book about men loving men, but why does that mean women are so often only presented as the enemy? As if we can only be saints, which less face it removes them from the human realm and consideration, or dangerous to the male characters in the book?

For the most part however, I enjoyed this and have no real qualm recommending it to readers.

What I’m drinking: Loyd: The Magical Experience Flowery Earl Grey (seriously, that’s what it’s called!) I’d add a link, but it’s kind of frightening, in this day and age, how little web presence Loyd tea apparently has.