Tag Archives: challenges

#ReadDiverse2017 Update

One of my challenges this year is #ReadDiverse2017, which is hosted by the Read Diverse Book blog. It’s fairly self explanatory, as far as challenges go. The idea is to read and review diverse books.

Eligibility being (and I’m quoting the RDB blog, here):

  1. Books written by people of color or Native/Indigenous Peoples
  2. Books about people with disabilities (physical, neurodiversity, etc.)
  3. Books with LGBTQIA protagonists or about LGBTQIA issues 
  4. Books with practicing Muslim, Jewish, Hindu (i.e. non-Christian) MCs
    • Please prioritize #ownvoices for this category

Marginalized authors take priority for #ReadDiverse2017. At all times, please consider reading books written by POC, Indigenous, LGBTQIA, and Disabled authors, #ownvoices whenever possible.These will always qualify, whether they are #ownvioces or not. If a straight, white, able-bodied author writes a book with a straight, able-bodied POC protagonist, the book will not qualify. UNLESS that book is intersectional. For example, if the protagonist is a POC and Queer or disabled, then the book will qualify. I make this distinction because books with Queer/disability representation are more rare than books with POC/Indigenous rep and there are some great books out there with Queer/disability rep by non-mariginalized authors. I also encourage you to seek out books with plus-sized/fat protagonists, especially if they have other marginalizations, such as plus-sized+POC/Queer/Disabiled.

Today’s little update is to say that I earned my 5 point badge. (See that shiny badge above?) Meaning I’ve submitted five eligible reviews of diverse books. I could maybe have submitted more, I read enough M/M romance after all. But I personally have a little trouble seeing ‘white boys kissing’ (that’s quoting someone, I just don’t know who) as qualifying. So many such books are written for a cis-gendered, white, straight female audience. So, in the spirit of the challenge, if not the explicit rules I haven’t submitted them.

These are the ones I did:


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?