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Siren Queen

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“No maids, no funny talking, no fainting flowers.” Luli Wei is beautiful, talented, and desperate to be a star. Coming of age in pre-Code Hollywood, she knows how dangerous the movie business is and how limited the roles are for a Chinese American girl from Hungarian Hill—but she doesn’t care. She’d rather play a monster than a maid. But in Luli’s world, the worst monsters “No maids, no funny talking, no fainting flowers.” Luli Wei is beautiful, talented, and desperate to be a star. Coming of age in pre-Code Hollywood, she knows how dangerous the movie business is and how limited the roles are for a Chinese American girl from Hungarian Hill—but she doesn’t care. She’d rather play a monster than a maid. But in Luli’s world, the worst monsters in Hollywood are not the ones on screen. The studios want to own everything from her face to her name to the women she loves, and they run on a system of bargains made in blood and ancient magic, powered by the endless sacrifice of unlucky starlets like her. For those who do survive to earn their fame, success comes with a steep price. Luli is willing to do whatever it takes—even if that means becoming the monster herself. Siren Queen offers up an enthralling exploration of an outsider achieving stardom on her own terms, in a fantastical Hollywood where the monsters are real and the magic of the silver screen illuminates every page.


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“No maids, no funny talking, no fainting flowers.” Luli Wei is beautiful, talented, and desperate to be a star. Coming of age in pre-Code Hollywood, she knows how dangerous the movie business is and how limited the roles are for a Chinese American girl from Hungarian Hill—but she doesn’t care. She’d rather play a monster than a maid. But in Luli’s world, the worst monsters “No maids, no funny talking, no fainting flowers.” Luli Wei is beautiful, talented, and desperate to be a star. Coming of age in pre-Code Hollywood, she knows how dangerous the movie business is and how limited the roles are for a Chinese American girl from Hungarian Hill—but she doesn’t care. She’d rather play a monster than a maid. But in Luli’s world, the worst monsters in Hollywood are not the ones on screen. The studios want to own everything from her face to her name to the women she loves, and they run on a system of bargains made in blood and ancient magic, powered by the endless sacrifice of unlucky starlets like her. For those who do survive to earn their fame, success comes with a steep price. Luli is willing to do whatever it takes—even if that means becoming the monster herself. Siren Queen offers up an enthralling exploration of an outsider achieving stardom on her own terms, in a fantastical Hollywood where the monsters are real and the magic of the silver screen illuminates every page.

30 review for Siren Queen

  1. 5 out of 5

    chai ♡

    if Nghi Vo wrote it, I will read it

  2. 4 out of 5

    Nilufer Ozmekik

    This is one of the strongest and most anticipated books of the year! Did I like it? Absolutely, I adored it! The sarcastic, critical approach to 30’s golden age of Hollywood where the monsters control the entire business by dark rituals, blood magic hooked me up from the first page, intrigued the screenwriter of me( I’m so sure the author also describes today’s Hollywood and entire moguls of this bloody entertainment industry! ) Interestingly you don’t only read a creative, unique, well written This is one of the strongest and most anticipated books of the year! Did I like it? Absolutely, I adored it! The sarcastic, critical approach to 30’s golden age of Hollywood where the monsters control the entire business by dark rituals, blood magic hooked me up from the first page, intrigued the screenwriter of me( I’m so sure the author also describes today’s Hollywood and entire moguls of this bloody entertainment industry! ) Interestingly you don’t only read a creative, unique, well written fantasy novel approaches so many crucial and important subjects including inequalities at work space, mansplaining, racism, LGBTQ rights bravely, it also reflects today’s biggest issues the hard workers of the industry deal with! The metaphors, symbolism match perfectly with folklore, magic, fantasy elements of the entire story! The idea of young actress’ choice to play monsters instead of playing maid is also another stunning metaphor for the hard workers and women of the industry who are pushed too hard to achieve their accomplishments by losing themselves into something else! This is absolutely smart, well developed, riveting, addictive! I highly recommend this original reading to all the book lovers by giving my five shiny, ruthless, competitive, monstrous Hollywood stars! Special thanks to NetGalley and Macmillan- Tor/ Forge for sharing this amazing digital reviewer copy with me in exchange my honest opinions. instagram facebook twitter

  3. 5 out of 5

    Emily May

    DNF - 40% I tried to push through, but this one just isn't holding my interest. I really loved Vo's The Empress of Salt and Fortune, and I am interested in pre-Code Hollywood and especially enjoy tales of actresses fighting for themselves in that cutthroat environment... but this is no Evelyn Hugo. Very little has happened so far beyond Luli pining for stardom and, with less time to read than I used to have, I don't have the patience to sit through a book that bores me this much. DNF - 40% I tried to push through, but this one just isn't holding my interest. I really loved Vo's The Empress of Salt and Fortune, and I am interested in pre-Code Hollywood and especially enjoy tales of actresses fighting for themselves in that cutthroat environment... but this is no Evelyn Hugo. Very little has happened so far beyond Luli pining for stardom and, with less time to read than I used to have, I don't have the patience to sit through a book that bores me this much.

  4. 4 out of 5

    jessica

    im a girl who needs clear-cut fantasy world building. i like rules. i like for things to be explained and make sense. so for a story to have magical elements that simply exist with no rhyme or reason or purpose doesnt work for me personally. my brain just cant get on board with the vagueness of it all. and that is actually what prevented me from loving NVs previous book, except that it played a part in a plot twist that i thought was unique. this book, however, is different. you could remove eve im a girl who needs clear-cut fantasy world building. i like rules. i like for things to be explained and make sense. so for a story to have magical elements that simply exist with no rhyme or reason or purpose doesnt work for me personally. my brain just cant get on board with the vagueness of it all. and that is actually what prevented me from loving NVs previous book, except that it played a part in a plot twist that i thought was unique. this book, however, is different. you could remove every fantasy element from this story and still be left with the same narrative about a determine young woman wanting to rise through hollywood while fighting sexism and racism in the 1930s. such a shame an interesting story got lost in all the unnecessary fuss surrounding it. especially because i actually really do love NVs writing style. so a miss for me personally, but i think readers who do better with more abstract magic should have no problem with this one! thanks for the ARC, macmillan-tor/forge. ↠ 2 stars

  5. 4 out of 5

    Lisa of Troy

    Nghi Vo, the author of The Chosen and The Beautiful and The Empress of Salt and Fortune, returns to the literary scene with Siren Queen. Luli Wei is a Chinese American girl trying to make it in Old Hollywood. Will Luli achieve her dreams? In a world of magic and monsters, what exactly will she have to sacrifice to achieve her dreams? How much control will Luli have over her own life? Is stardom worth the price? After reading and loving Nghi Vo’s other books, I had really high expectations for Sire Nghi Vo, the author of The Chosen and The Beautiful and The Empress of Salt and Fortune, returns to the literary scene with Siren Queen. Luli Wei is a Chinese American girl trying to make it in Old Hollywood. Will Luli achieve her dreams? In a world of magic and monsters, what exactly will she have to sacrifice to achieve her dreams? How much control will Luli have over her own life? Is stardom worth the price? After reading and loving Nghi Vo’s other books, I had really high expectations for Siren Queen. This book was longer than her other novels, and it felt longer. Siren Queen is character-driven, and I must say that I tend not to be a fan of this style. While reading this book, I kept wondering, “Where is this going?” This book lacks a clear direction. Luli is also very detached, and I really do not connect with detached characters. She wants to make it big in Hollywood. Why? Does she want to be famous? Does she want to be rich? As a reader, we don’t see her doing much on a daily basis to achieve her goals. Aside from a couple of grand gestures, I did not feel Luli’s drive. Siren Queen kept mentioning studio changeling; changeling appears 13 times. As this word isn’t in my everyday vernacular, I discovered that it means, “a child believed to have been secretly substituted by fairies for the parents’ real child in infancy.” In other words, it is someone who believes that they are really special but they aren’t. However, I struggle to understand what makes Luli so special. Old Hollywood is a very competitive genre, especially given the success of The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid. Siren Queen certainly is not as good as The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo. What sets Siren Queen apart is that it contains some fantasy elements. Personally, I love realistic fantasy, but the fantasy in Siren Queen is underwhelming. Overall, Nghi Vo should trim Siren Queen down in length. It is a decent read, but it doesn’t sparkle or shimmer. Although based on her prior works, I’m not ready to give up on the author yet. If you are looking for other May 2022 book releases, check out the article here. *Thanks, NetGalley, for a free copy of this book in exchange for my fair and unbiased opinion. 2022 Reading Schedule Jan Animal Farm Feb Lord of the Flies Mar The Da Vinci Code Apr Of Mice and Men May Memoirs of a Geisha Jun Little Women Jul The Lovely Bones Aug Charlotte's Web Sep Life of Pi Oct Dracula Nov Gone with the Wind Dec The Secret Garden Connect With Me! Blog Twitter BookTube Facebook

  6. 4 out of 5

    Robin

    ↠ 5 stars Enter the glittering world of Old Hollywood, where the very fabric of stardom is rife with dark bargains and sacrifice. To those that dare attempt fame, they must navigate a complicated system, competing for the limelight, and inevitably paying the ultimate price. For Luli Wei, a young Chinese American coming of age in this tumultuous time and desperately seeking stardom, the dark truth to the movie industry is inconsequential. She is more than willing to offer up her soul for the chanc ↠ 5 stars Enter the glittering world of Old Hollywood, where the very fabric of stardom is rife with dark bargains and sacrifice. To those that dare attempt fame, they must navigate a complicated system, competing for the limelight, and inevitably paying the ultimate price. For Luli Wei, a young Chinese American coming of age in this tumultuous time and desperately seeking stardom, the dark truth to the movie industry is inconsequential. She is more than willing to offer up her soul for the chance to shine and burn, even if it means becoming someone else entirely. In a system where the studio heads have all the power, and blood and ancient ritual is second nature, to yield is to begin. The silver screen beckons her forth, and to succeed in an industry determined to push her to the sidelines she may have to take on the role of the monster itself. Siren Queen is an alluring novel, laced with a ferocity that reverberates throughout every page. In typical fashion Nghi Vo creates a vivid picture, ingeniously depicting the glamorous world of Old Hollywood and its frightening underbelly. Through the eyes of a young woman looking back upon her journey to the limelight, this golden age of Hollywood is given new voice – one that dwells in the bottomless deep, luring you from the shore before dragging you down into its murky undertow. It's been awhile since I read a book that left me as epically stranded and desperate as this one and I’m sure I won't find anything like it again. Throughout the narrative, there is a luminosity that shines through even the darkest moments. Existing as a queer, Chinese American woman during the time of pre-code Hollywood is a poignant center for the entirety of Luli’s story. This landscape breeds a unique sort of desperation and a drive to break free from the predetermined roles set by these studios and the world at large. Luli Wei is such an incredible representation of that and a person willing to be flawed to get where she wanted. Knowing that Siren Queen was also giving a slice of Evelyn Hugo energy only led me further into the deep end of this novel. While I would have liked more with Luli and her future partner, there is a staggering beauty in this narrative being a kind of open letter penned to her past self and future relationships. For those looking for something in the vein of Evelyn Hugo, this is right up there thematically, but don't expect an exact comparison between the two. In her sophomore novel, Nghi Vo explores the realities of fame, what it means to pursue it on your own terms, and who you have to become in order to succeed. With razor-sharp teeth, Siren Queen shines like a beacon in the storm, bringing to light a truth far deadlier when realized. Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for providing this arc in exchange for an honest review Trigger warnings: racism, sexism, homophobia, death

  7. 5 out of 5

    Sunny

    The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo but Asian, lesbian, magical, better written, and dark LA vibes with a touch of enchanting whimsy

  8. 4 out of 5

    emma

    The hard part about old Hollywood is that it's so interesting in reality that it's hard to improve it in fiction. Even with magic and monsters. This does a pretty damn good job, though. The hard part about Nghi Vo books is that each one should be one of a kind because they are insane-sounding (either mythical made-up fantasy stories that make you cry and are like 13 pages long or old timey retelling type deals that are also sapphic and magic), but they exist in the same universe. And in this case, The hard part about old Hollywood is that it's so interesting in reality that it's hard to improve it in fiction. Even with magic and monsters. This does a pretty damn good job, though. The hard part about Nghi Vo books is that each one should be one of a kind because they are insane-sounding (either mythical made-up fantasy stories that make you cry and are like 13 pages long or old timey retelling type deals that are also sapphic and magic), but they exist in the same universe. And in this case, if we're talking historical fiction meets queer retelling meets asian american race exploration meets magical realism, The Chosen and The Beautiful is better. Where that one became more and more compelling, almost eerily, as it went on, and I fell under the enchantment of the characters, with this one I felt a bit of an enduring confusion that never let up, no matter how closely I read or long I waited. And that was a bummer. But mysteriousness is not too much of a bad thing, and if that's the trade for magic and Hollywood and girls and monsters, I will take it! Bottom line: Nghi Vo forever. ------------ currently-reading updates nghi vo is the real siren queen (could convince me to read anything) thanks to netgalley for the e-arc ------------ reading books by asian authors for aapi month! book 1: kim jiyoung, born 1982 book 2: siren queen

  9. 4 out of 5

    Alexis Hall

    Source of book: NetGalley (thank you) Relevant disclaimers: none Please note: This review may not be reproduced or quoted, in whole or in part, without explicit consent from the author. I’ve been sitting on this review for a couple of days because … I … my feelings? This book absolutely stunned me. Like, when I think about it, I actually feel my heart speed up like I’ve just seen my beloved on the other side of the street. Siren Queen is just about one of the most perfect things I’ve ever been fort Source of book: NetGalley (thank you) Relevant disclaimers: none Please note: This review may not be reproduced or quoted, in whole or in part, without explicit consent from the author. I’ve been sitting on this review for a couple of days because … I … my feelings? This book absolutely stunned me. Like, when I think about it, I actually feel my heart speed up like I’ve just seen my beloved on the other side of the street. Siren Queen is just about one of the most perfect things I’ve ever been fortunate enough to read? It is, of course, like absolutely, overwhelmingly queer as fuck. But I think what made it sever every single defensive tendon I possess in swift, sharp succession was that this is, above all else, an incredibly *kind* book. It is also, don’t get me wrong, a dark one. It’s set in a cruel world, where the vulnerable are easily exploited, and power comes at terrible cost. It has things to say about identity, about abuse, about alienation and about marginalisation. But the more I read the more I began to understand the profoundly compassionate place from which the author had drawn her characters: characters, by the way, who aren’t always presented with such empathy, whether it’s women who navigate their powerlessness through coldness, queer people who make self-protecting rather than courageous choices, tired old gay men whose lives have denied them any lasting sense of family, lesbians whose modes of self-expression leaves them outsiders in their own communities, or even ordinary boys who believe being beautiful is the only way to be loved. This is not, to say, by the way that these people live without suffering or remain unaffected in the world of the Siren Queen. I was legitimately terrified for them a lot of the time. It’s more that the book, like a lighthouse perched above what sometimes seems an utterly unforgiving ocean, still manages to guide all its lost children towards whatever shore feels most like home. And that’s quite a motherfucking thing, you know? Dark books can be amazing, kind books are necessary. Books that are both dark and kind in ways that compromise neither the darkness nor the kindness? Rare to the point of miraculous. ANYWAY. The actual book. Although I will just say that the premise is kind … kind of difficult to explain. Not because it’s complicated exactly. But because. Well. Here is a re-enactment of me attempting to tell a friend about it: “So it’s set in the Golden Ae of Hollywood but, like, the studio heads and all the men in positions power are monsters who exploit the dreams of the desperate. No, I mean, they’re really monsters. As in literal monsters. As in inhabited by weird fairy / demon creature monsters. Not just, y’know, monsters.” There’s no getting away (especially post #metoo) just how very on the nose this is. The whole book is like that, to be honest, but it’s angels dancing on the head of a pin on the nose: so absolutely perfect in its nasal precision that it becomes impossible to track where allegory and metaphor end, and magic begins. I will say that the world-building, in general, is lightly sketched and deliberately under-explained. Magic (and, indeed, immortality, with successful Hollywood idols literally ascending to the skies as a star) exists in the world but not in a single form: some of it is fairy-tale-esque, though eerie, like drinking the years of someone else’s life in a bloody teacup, or making bargains with sacrifice-demanding entities, either fey (there’s some very specific Tam Lin / winter king stuff in here) or demonic, and some of it is just plain weird like the … the … the uh… I don’t know how to write this without it sounding sarcastic or rude to Scandinavians but the … wild and beautiful cow women of Sweden? Which, I think, might be a reference to Sibilja from The Tale of Ragnar Lodbrok but, honestly, I don’t even know. I sincerely apologise if there’s a strong magical cow tradition in Swedish folklore towards which I am now demonstrating my profound ignorance. Also, I should just add that Greta is fantastic: she’s brought to Hollywood under duress and escapes it (albeit not without loss) spiritually undiminished and upon her own terms. As far as straight besties in evil fairy Hollywood go, 5 out of 5 for magical cow women from Sweden. I think, to me, what was interesting about the world-building and the portrayal of the magic here was that while I *wanted* to know more, I didn’t *need* to know more, which felt like the sweet spot in that it kept the magic genuinely mysterious without leaving me frustrated or confused. It’s kind of the opposite to Book of Night, where some of the magical twists and turns weren’t landing for me because I didn’t have enough context to quite grasp what was being either twisted or turned. Whereas here, every time I discovered something new that magic was being used for, I’d find myself both horrified but unsurprised. Whether it was the cameras that were used to make silent movies consuming the souls of the stars, or Hollywood literally owning the children they employ, or the studio heads creating obedient simulacra of people for background parts, I’d just be like, oh yeah, that totally makes sense that they could and would do that. Anyway, the heroine of Siren Queen is the Hollywood star known as Luli Wei. Again, something that works to soften the general atmosphere of doom and disempowerment is the fact she’s quite explicitly narrating from the future: a future where she has found not only the success she originally seeks in Hollywood, but also the freedom to discuss her identity as a queer Asian American woman, and happiness with a partner she mentions just often enough to give her a textual reality. When the book opens, however, she’s just a child, the daughter of immigrant parents, helping out at their laundry and sneaking away to the cinema whenever she can—though even that is a far from innocent pleasure, since it costs her an inch of her hair every time. A chance role as a background urchin on nearby film set allows Luli to brush tantalisingly close to the world she wants to make hers. Needless to say this will come with another set of costs and complications, but Luli manages to enforce some stipulations too: she won’t play maids, faint, or do an accent. This, of course, leaves the studio entirely uncertain about what to do with her until she is finally cast a monster—the siren queen—on an otherwise unremarkable action movie, and begins to forge a path to stardom that is uniquely her own. Despite its fantastical elements, and the book’s care for its characters, there is no escaping the racism, sexism and homophobia that saturates this era and this industry, and this industry during this era (and *cough* now). And Luli is a complicated character, who weaponises what is perceived as her ‘coldness’, in order to navigate a world determined first to overlook her, then to simplify her, and finally simply to exploit her. I think why this leads me back to my sense of Siren Queen as a fundamentally kind book is because, even though Luli is our narrator and we see the world solely through her eyes, there is an inescapable clarity as to who exactly the villains are here. And so, while there isn’t always harmony between the marginalised (as well there should not be, because marginalised people aren’t monoliths), there never occurs a situation in which marginalised people are pitted against each other by the text itself (even if the world sometimes tries to do it for them) or condemned for making they choices that they do. A good example of this is Luli’s brief meeting with Louisa Davis, one of the Black actors who forged an incredibly successful career from playing the loyal and humble maids so beloved by white audiences. Given that Luli’s own resistance to these roles could have implied a broader criticism towards the people who did, the little glimpse of Ms Davis provides an important counterpoint, reminding us that every choice can be a victory in a world constructed around limiting the lives of marginalised people, and the choices history may not view with understanding speak of strength, not weakness. A more intricate example would be Luli’s relationship with Emmeline: a newly made Hollywood star and perfect heroine material, despite the humble Midwestern background she sometimes misses. Romance-reader that I am, I loved the relationships in Siren Queen. And I especially loved that the text gave equal weight to the value to all of them, whether it’s Luli’s current relationship with Jane (their interactions have a kind of playfulness to them that suggest two people who know each other deeply) or the intensities of first love she experiences with Emmeline, with all its secrets and surprises, or the quieter, more considered and yet more open romance she shares later with a scriptwriter called Tara. Emmeline, in particular, could so easily have become “a bad queer” in this narrative. Their relationship falls apart—despite their both being in love with the other—because Emmeline cannot forgive Luli for her recklessness, not only in challenging the studio, but in drawing attention to her sexuality (she goes dancing, for example, at a known lesbian club). In so many queer books, queer people who keep their sexuality hidden or to prioritise their goals over the expression of their identity are portrayed as traitorous or cowardly or weak. While Emmeline and Luli hurt each other very much—and that hurt is as real as the love—I appreciated that Emmeline is neither allowed to fade into a villain, nor condemned for the way she chooses to navigate her queerness in a bigoted world. On the subject of who is and who isn’t a villain, I should also add that the even the obvious antagonists are far from straightforward. The head of Wolfe studies, Oberlin Wolfe, for example, literally has a monstrous being inside him with whom he’s struck a deal for money and power. And while he remains both frightening and repulsive he’s also … oddly compelling. Perhaps because he too has paid perhaps more than he should for his success. I don’t think we’re exactly asked to sympathise with this—he made his choices, after all, and those choices include literal human sacrifice—but we’re not allowed to ignore it either. And, while I don’t think it should have been the focus of the story or anything, I think that little nod towards the fact that systems of control tend to harm everyone caught up in them, even those close to the top, deftly avoid what could otherwise perhaps have been a too-blunt division between the exploiting and the exploited. All of which is to say: this book is terrifying and gorgeous and lovely, and you should read it as soon as you have the opportunity to do so. If the world has ever made you feel even the slightest bit monstrous, Siren Queen is for you, and you will know its for you, and that will make you feel—above all—unexpectedly loved. I think perhaps our kissing did do something strange to the way time flowed in the space occupied by our two bodies. Underneath me, she was perfectly open and sweet, content to be kissed and ravished. It couldn’t have lasted as long as I thought it did—long enough to build monuments that crumbled to marbled ruins, long enough that the entire city of Los Angeles fell into the fault line and was rebuilt on its own corpse—but when I looked up, I felt oddly sphinx-like, other and strange. “What is this doing to me?” I found myself asking her, and in the dimness of my bedroom, Tara’s breath came slower and she smiled. “What sex does,” she replied. “It tells you something about yourself or the person you’re doing with it. Sometimes it changes you.”

  10. 5 out of 5

    Rebecca Roanhorse

    I haven't read many Fantasy takes on Hollywood*, but with the addition of Vo's darkly haunting work to that small collection, I am beginning to love them. Vo imagines the golden age of Hollywood, when studios ruled and actors were bound tight by contracts, as full of fey and dangerous creatures ready to claim your soul in exchange for fame on the big screen. Her descriptions of this dark and deadly landscape are beautiful and haunting, as we follow our protagonist through her rise to literal sta I haven't read many Fantasy takes on Hollywood*, but with the addition of Vo's darkly haunting work to that small collection, I am beginning to love them. Vo imagines the golden age of Hollywood, when studios ruled and actors were bound tight by contracts, as full of fey and dangerous creatures ready to claim your soul in exchange for fame on the big screen. Her descriptions of this dark and deadly landscape are beautiful and haunting, as we follow our protagonist through her rise to literal stardom. It's no easy path, fraught with the trials of being a woman, queer, and Chinese-American, but she is resourceful and smart and more than a little ruthless. Buoyed by a cast of supporting characters that alone intrigue and are worthy of their own stories, this book kept me up reading until the late hours. There are some questions left open and how the magic works in this world is never really explained. I still don't understand a lot of it...ok, most of it, but that's okay. It was so well-executed and so, well, magical, that I was still satisfied. Vo's prose is lovely without ever becoming cloying and her character work shines. It's a little more literary than traditional genre Fantasy, but not inaccessible. Recommend! *Mishell Baker's Nebula-nominated urban fantasy series, The Arcadia Project, which I recommend.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Melanie

    ARC provided by the publisher via Netgalley just gonna keep reading everything by nghi vo in 2022, i guess <3 Blog | Instagram | Youtube | Ko-fi | Spotify | Twitch ARC provided by the publisher via Netgalley just gonna keep reading everything by nghi vo in 2022, i guess <3 Blog | Instagram | Youtube | Ko-fi | Spotify | Twitch

  12. 5 out of 5

    Alix Harrow

    holy GOD this book is titled appropriately. been a while since a book lured me in with so prettily, and left me so thoroughly shipwrecked.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Althea ☾

    Siren Queen is a dark adult historical fantasy set in the golden age of hollywood. Parts of the plot reminded me of The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo if Evelyn Hugo had shape-shifting humans, immortality, dark bargains, and a lot more wild metaphors that i’m not sure are still metaphors at some point. And yes, it is most definitely Queer. Disclaimer: If you are in it for a structured magic system that has all the rules set out, this might not be for you. This is if you are able to appreciate mag Siren Queen is a dark adult historical fantasy set in the golden age of hollywood. Parts of the plot reminded me of The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo if Evelyn Hugo had shape-shifting humans, immortality, dark bargains, and a lot more wild metaphors that i’m not sure are still metaphors at some point. And yes, it is most definitely Queer. Disclaimer: If you are in it for a structured magic system that has all the rules set out, this might not be for you. This is if you are able to appreciate magic systems that have no clear origin explained and are in it more for the characters. “I would much rather be a monster than a victim.” If there’s a list of books that holds the trophy for complex characters, this is one of them for sure… especially for characters that I'm not even sure are entirely human. The feeling Nghi Vo leaves me with her books is always worth the struggle of my last two braincells to comprehend what's happening in the beginning. It felt so nuanced and empathetic while being incredibly thought provoking. This is a somewhat intense book that borders on poetic-whimsical and revolves around the intricacies of the behind the scenes of movie productions. Though I cant speak on it’s accuracy or if it even means to be accurate, it sure is incredibly captivating. There is a lot of social commentary on the romanticism of media and sexism there. Which is written in the most deliberately metaphorical-like way but it's funny that a lot of the metaphors aren't actually metaphors (which is how the fantasy aspects come in). I just love it. “You better know who you are,” she said, “because you don’t look strong enough to be me.” Nghi Vo depicts so well the initial wonder, awe, confusion, and all the emotions in between of youth. Especially when faced with something that changes them. She uses a lot of lines that play with contradictions in the writing but they make so much sense relating to the nuance of the media and film industry. Especially adding to the commentary of white washed media and prejudice against Asians in films. Fair warning, I do think this is the kind of book that you need to be AWAKE reading and it wasn’t something that I could passively read. Not that it’s a bad thing, just some fun facts ✨ "You are already betting on a small piece of forever," The magic system doesn't have that much of an explanation so if that's something that you're looking for, that isn't really what the story is about. It's certainly more focused on the characters and the message. I don't really need a plot to fall in love with a story nor do the characters need to be exactly "good" for me to enjoy the story. So this is perfect if you are the same and are looking for the kind of poetic-whimsical story with the atmosphere of old Hollywood. In classic Nghi Vo style, there are scenes within scenes and their skills of being able to tell a story within a story only gets better with each new release she puts out. ↣ This is for sure my favorite Nghi Vo book yet. If dark fantastical Evelyn Hugo sounds intriguing to you... I have the perfect book for you. ↢ *ARC sent by the publisher -Tor/Macmillan- for review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.* — 4.5 — ⇢ content warnings// Domestic Abuse, Emotional Abuse, Household Trauma, Misogyny, Physical Abuse, Sexism, Slight Body Gore, Xenophobia pre-read review: tbh, i know nothing about this except that it’s by nghi vo… i got an ARC and now i’m tempted to drop everything and read this book

  14. 5 out of 5

    Fran

    "For a nickel see Romeo and Juliet if you're ordinary-but you girls aren't, are you? said the ticket seller at the Comique. Up until that very moment, I would have given absolutely anything to be ordinary...to have curly blond or brown hair...I started to wonder. If I couldn't be ordinary, maybe I could be something better instead...I ran back to the Comique...when my mother gave me a nickel for lunch, I would go hungry, feeding myself on dreams in black and silver...then...miraculously and magn "For a nickel see Romeo and Juliet if you're ordinary-but you girls aren't, are you? said the ticket seller at the Comique. Up until that very moment, I would have given absolutely anything to be ordinary...to have curly blond or brown hair...I started to wonder. If I couldn't be ordinary, maybe I could be something better instead...I ran back to the Comique...when my mother gave me a nickel for lunch, I would go hungry, feeding myself on dreams in black and silver...then...miraculously and magnificently in color." Los Angeles. The family laundry on Hungarian Hill. "...pushing a blazing-hot iron...over an endless line of white shirts...". Walking two miles to the Chinese school. One day, a film crew set up nearby. The ten year old, eventually to be named Luli Wei, was captivated. When the child actor for an upcoming scene was not sent over by the studio, Luli would do! "I heard the sharp, dry clack of the clapboard...Action!" "When my parents looked at me, they saw another mouth to feed, another pair of hands around the laundry. When people on the street saw me, they saw a foreigner...the studio assistant called me CK, the Chinese Kid." The pre-code Hollywood of the 1930's was a challenging time for potential actors and actresses. An agent would "make sure you don't belong to the studio...not until he can get a good fee for bringing you in...if he's not dragging you up, he's dragging you down." Meeting with a resident of Haverton's Home for Former Artistes, a plan was hatched. Luli would meet Oberlin Wolfe of Wolfe Studios on her own terms. "Hopeful girls came to see Oberlin every day...some...rose as stars, and far more stumbled back...". "Siren Queen" by Nghi Vo paints a dark tale of the underbelly of movie making in the 1930's. The studio was in control of every aspect of an actor's life. Dare to question, one was likely to be dismissed! Luli Wei, tried to buck a system that objectified women during an era of movie industry singlemindedness. Actors needed to beware, to walk the straight and narrow when in view of movie executives. Happiness could only be created in the shadows, on one's own time. The well fleshed out protagonists, many deeply flawed, were truly believable making for a beautifully written novel this reader highly recommends. Thank you Macmillan-Tor Forge and Net Galley for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Robin

    Imagine if Evelyn Hugo were more queer, more Asian, and had looked the men of Hollywood in the eyes and said, “Fine. Make me your villain.” That bad bitch energy is what drives Siren Queen. Needless to say, Nghi Vo understood the goddamn assignment. Basically, Luli Wei knows from an early age that she wants to be a movie star. The sparkling glamor of Hollywood shines in her dreams, yet she knows that star-making roles for Chinese girls are few and far between. So she tells a casting director, “No Imagine if Evelyn Hugo were more queer, more Asian, and had looked the men of Hollywood in the eyes and said, “Fine. Make me your villain.” That bad bitch energy is what drives Siren Queen. Needless to say, Nghi Vo understood the goddamn assignment. Basically, Luli Wei knows from an early age that she wants to be a movie star. The sparkling glamor of Hollywood shines in her dreams, yet she knows that star-making roles for Chinese girls are few and far between. So she tells a casting director, “No maids, no funny talking, no fainting flowers.” Luli must create her own path in an industry whose masters wish to silence her. All of the sacrifices, blood oaths, and magic turn Luli into a monster— but she’d rather be a monster than a maiden. What happens when you rewrite history, when you take a character who is supposed to remain subservient and meek and transform them into an assertive and confident individual? What happens when you inject power into someone typically relegated to a D-role? Ya’ll, Nghi Vo snapped. She birthed a character who refuses to remain a stereotype. You can feel Luli’s determination, hear her Transatlantic accent, and taste her desperation as she abandons all expectations assigned to her solely as a result of her race. Siren Queen is Old Hollywood glamor, but with a glamour. It is a story about the literal magic of the movies. The dialogue is snappy. The prose is dreamy. And it is absolutely captivating to watch Luli claw her way up that Hollywood ladder. Luli’s ascent is infused with magic and cunning, ruthless in her endeavor to be a star, no matter the cost. Siren Queen gives new meaning to ‘celluloid dream’ and has cemented itself as one of my new favorites of all time. I am a gluttonous fiend for celebrity gossip, and this story read like the juiciest tell-all. I was absolutely gagging at the drama. I kneel at the altar of Nghi Vo, for she has blessed us unworthy readers with Siren Queen. Big love to TORDOTCOM for sending me an advanced copy My review on booksta: https://www.instagram.com/p/CdQccHlLl...

  16. 5 out of 5

    Kristine

    Compulsively, Readable, Entertaining and Riveting. Nghi Vo has a unique new voice that just pulls me into her characters. The Siren Queen is both set in the real world and an outside underbellly of dark magic. Yet, the themes are so timely and speak of the evil that occurs. This is about Hollywood when to be a star you had to be sponsored by a studio. To become a Star there usually is a high price to pay for this. Siren Queen shows us Luli Wei who was a poor Chinese girl on Hungarian Hill and wa Compulsively, Readable, Entertaining and Riveting. Nghi Vo has a unique new voice that just pulls me into her characters. The Siren Queen is both set in the real world and an outside underbellly of dark magic. Yet, the themes are so timely and speak of the evil that occurs. This is about Hollywood when to be a star you had to be sponsored by a studio. To become a Star there usually is a high price to pay for this. Siren Queen shows us Luli Wei who was a poor Chinese girl on Hungarian Hill and wants desperately to be one. She is given a chance, but that makes her fate extremely uncertain. Deals must be made and those carry the price of completely losing yourself. As interesting as this audio book was, the underlying message confronts rascism, sexual orientation, erasing of the self, desire and love. In this world, a queer woman like Luli can cause devastating harm not just to herself, but to those around her. The man who controls this dark magical world can destroy. Luli agrees to play the part of a monster in films, but the real monsters lie beyond the screen. It is similar to the real scenes where women’s bodies, personal life, face, and true selves are controlled by powerful movie executives. If you do not comply, you do not work. It is the same in Luli’s world, just the monsters are unveiled and brought out in the open. Luli longs to finally have say about her own life. All the women are deprived of their unique voice and it is so powerful to invision being a Star on your own terms and have your power, your voice, your decisions. Dark danger lurks in this type of thinking and will Luli ever have a chance at having empowerment and freedom to love who she wants or will she cause complete destruction and end it for everyone? Powerful Story, Luli is a complex women who I wanted to be able to be her true self. I finished the audio, narrated by Natalie Naudus in one day. I thought her reading and voice was perfect for the character. The narration enhanced the book. I definitely recommend this book to anyone looking for a story that will draw you in and shake up your thinking. It is worth the confusion at times. I did find having the audio alone somewhat hard to follow as the time lines and the real vs fantasy overlap quite a bit. It takes close listening to follow. Nghi Vo’s lyrical prose is powerful, too and I would have preferred to have the book, too. Magnificent Story and Talented Writing that is done is an unusual way. This is one to read. Thank you NetGalley, Nghi Vo, Macmillan Audio for a copy of this Audio Book. I appreciate the chance to read it and share my honest thoughts.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Bethany

    Reading Vlog: https://youtu.be/EX_iv4TZJfA Siren Queen is stunningly brilliant and I did not expect it to bowl me over in the way that it did. Set in an alternate Golden Age Hollywood, the novel literalizes the predatory practices of Hollywood studios at the time, especially toward women and marginalized groups with fae magic and monsters. Blending fae mythology and dream-like prose with 1930's & 40's movie-making, Siren Queen weaves a story of identity, queerness, marginalization, and the desire Reading Vlog: https://youtu.be/EX_iv4TZJfA Siren Queen is stunningly brilliant and I did not expect it to bowl me over in the way that it did. Set in an alternate Golden Age Hollywood, the novel literalizes the predatory practices of Hollywood studios at the time, especially toward women and marginalized groups with fae magic and monsters. Blending fae mythology and dream-like prose with 1930's & 40's movie-making, Siren Queen weaves a story of identity, queerness, marginalization, and the desire to be seen and make a mark on the world. Told through the perspective of a scrappy, ambitious Chinese girl who is the daughter of immigrants in Los Angeles who wants to be on the silver screen, the novel explores how the Other is sometimes viewed as monstrous. What I love is that our heroine actually embraces (in a sometimes literal sense) her monstrousness- as a woman who is Chinese, queer, and ambitious. She plays a dangerous game and fights for her own agency. This narrative is nuanced, raw, and gorgeously written. The sapphic relationships and sexuality are written in a way that is sometimes messy, but beautiful, very human and transformative. On top of which it includes positive fat representation and does a brilliant job of celebrating all different kinds of bodies and evoking a seductive feel to beautiful fat women, angular women, and women who are more magnetic than pretty. There are so many layers that I could talk about here, but I hope you will just go and read it for yourself. I want to read this one again and I didn't expect it to hit so hard. Thank you to the publisher for sending a copy for review, all opinions are my own. Content Warnings are many but include attempted sexual assault & harassment, mentions of sexual assault including of minors, homophobia, racism, violence, death, disfigurement, self-harm, suicidal ideation (side character), addiction (side characters), mention of forced abortion, physically, psychologically, and verbally abusive practices on set, turning women into a sort of automaton, blood magic.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Elle

    UMMMMMM this looks and sounds INCREDIBLE. And guess who got an arc!??!? 😭 UMMMMMM this looks and sounds INCREDIBLE. And guess who got an arc!??!? 😭

  19. 5 out of 5

    lisa (taylor's version)

    This book has an excellent beginning, a good middle, and an ending that will obliterate you. Siren Queen is a dark and critical approach to the backstage behind the glamourous appearance of Hollywood, a world where the weak are eaten and trades in blood magic are not uncommon after all. The story follows Luli Wei, a second-gen Chinese American who found herself in the macabre world of Los Angeles' elites. My first book from Nghi Vo is The Chosen and the Beautiful, which I found very disappointing This book has an excellent beginning, a good middle, and an ending that will obliterate you. Siren Queen is a dark and critical approach to the backstage behind the glamourous appearance of Hollywood, a world where the weak are eaten and trades in blood magic are not uncommon after all. The story follows Luli Wei, a second-gen Chinese American who found herself in the macabre world of Los Angeles' elites. My first book from Nghi Vo is The Chosen and the Beautiful, which I found very disappointing, so I tried to keep my expectations low for this one, and to my surprise, I was blown away by this book. A mix of The Chosen and the Beautiful and The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, Siren Queen pushes me into a lush and mesmerizing world of magic, fame, and monsters. Vo's writing is gorgeous, constructing an enthralling scenery of the deceiving movie industry and its actors. Each detail is carefully crafted with mastery, and it all builds up Vo's admiring approach to this ambitious story. Luli Wei was a story of her own. In this coming-of-age narrative, a young girl fantasizing about stardom and big screens was suddenly thrust into a deceptive world of manipulation where the price to pay is high. I particularly love Nghi Vo set up each relationship with Luli and how each of them affected her life in quite different ways. Someone has talked about how there was always light in moments of darkness in this book, and I find that particularly true. No matter how dire the situation is, we as readers are given hope. Hope that Luli, despite everything she has been through, will find her true vocation and happiness. As a character, she incarnates the voice of queer Asian Americans in a cruel world that reduces them to exotic mannequins to play with. Playing the role of the villain shows how she is willing to achieve her goals as such a flawed but also determined woman. Moreover, the female voices in this book reflect their strength in regard to the men who seek to tear them down. Overall, Siren Queen is a brutally magnificent piece of art that will definitely stay in my mind for a long time (especially that epilogue holy hell). Despite not being a full 5 stars (because some parts did drag a little bit), this book has its merit in this genre alongside other critically acclaimed works, as the portrayal of queer Asian American strength is incredibly admiring. Many thanks to Macmillan-Tor/Forge and NetGalley for providing me with this digital ARC in exchange of my honest thoughts.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Constantine

    Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ Genre: Historical Fiction + Fantasy + LGBTQIA Siren Queen is a historical fiction about the coming of age of a Chinese- American girl called Luli. It is set in the golden era of Hollywood (the pre-code era of Hollywood). This Chinese Kid (CK) as she is being called gets the chance to get small parts in movies as a child actor. This girl then will work very hard to achieve the status she aspires to in the film industry. Mixing historical fiction with magical realism doesn’t work for me Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ Genre: Historical Fiction + Fantasy + LGBTQIA Siren Queen is a historical fiction about the coming of age of a Chinese- American girl called Luli. It is set in the golden era of Hollywood (the pre-code era of Hollywood). This Chinese Kid (CK) as she is being called gets the chance to get small parts in movies as a child actor. This girl then will work very hard to achieve the status she aspires to in the film industry. Mixing historical fiction with magical realism doesn’t work for me all the time. Fortunately, it worked here. Keep in mind that the fantasy elements here are subtle and not as prominent as those you read in an epic fantasy story. The book is less than 250 pages yet it felt stuffed with events. The author has written a very beautiful story. Lots of captivating and poetic prose. The story has strong representations in terms of sexuality and race. These representations are not there just for the sake of adding them. They are integral parts of the story and several key scenes and events revolve around them. Having the story set in that era gave the author lots of room to exhibit the kind of partiality, racism, homophobia, and other issues that society in general and Hollywood in specific have suffered from. We get to see the main character going through all these hardships from her childhood until she is starring in her movie Siren Queen. I loved the dark and surreal atmosphere of the book. I feel it will leave a strong impact on most of the readers if not all of them. Many thanks to the publisher Macmillan-Tor/Forge, Tordotcom, and NetGalley for providing me with an advance reader copy of this book.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Tammie

    edit: originally rated this 4 stars but I'm bumping it up because it's been 2 months since I've read it and I can't stop thinking about it 🥲 Thank you to the publishers for providing me with an e-ARC and ALC in exchange for an honest review! Nghi Vo is one of my favourite authors and a lot of it has to do with the way she writes (absolutely stunning!) and how she makes me feel. Reading this book made me feel like I was suspended in a cloud, except that cloud was made of dark smoke, and I felt as t edit: originally rated this 4 stars but I'm bumping it up because it's been 2 months since I've read it and I can't stop thinking about it 🥲 Thank you to the publishers for providing me with an e-ARC and ALC in exchange for an honest review! Nghi Vo is one of my favourite authors and a lot of it has to do with the way she writes (absolutely stunning!) and how she makes me feel. Reading this book made me feel like I was suspended in a cloud, except that cloud was made of dark smoke, and I felt as though if I consumed too much of it all at once, I might hurt myself. Is this perhaps a bit dramatic and a very pretentious way to describe a book? Yes. However, Nghi Vo's writing always manages to evoke very sensory reactions from me, and I don't know how else to explain it. Siren Queen is sold as a loose companion novel to last year's The Chosen and the Beautiful, and while I can definitely see how these two books exist within the same world, I personally enjoyed this book much more. It has the same allure and glam as The Chosen and the Beautiful, but it's darker and more haunting. I fundamentally find Luli to be a much more compelling protagonist than Jordan was - I can't say I was fully connected to either of the main characters, but I found Luli much more interesting to read about. I also think that thematically, this book worked a lot better for me. Perhaps because it's not tied down by any sort of original text, but I felt like while both books explored what it was like to navigate exclusive, white-dominated social circles as a queer Asian woman, these themes were more fleshed out in Siren Queen. My only minor critiques of this book was that I did find Act 3 to drag on a bit - I know this isn't a long book, but I do feel that perhaps Nghi Vo's writing and storytelling is best suited for shorter fiction (such as her novellas). Regardless, this book is beautifully written, and I've basically highlighted half of the book. One thing that I love about this book that I also loved in The Chosen and the Beautiful is the way Nghi Vo blurs the line between magic and reality - in this version of the world, magic is very much ingrained in society, and coupled with the lush writing style, it creates this very dream-like, hazy world in which you don't know what's mundane and what's magical. There's so many moments where I'm not sure if something is just a metaphor or if it's just actual magic, and I realize that this isn't going to be everyone's cup of tea, but I personally loved it. I was also so glad to have gotten an advanced copy of the audiobook as well - Natalie Naudus rarely disappoints with her audio performances, and this book was no different. I think the writing style and the first-person narrative really lends itself well to enjoying this book on audio, and it's probably the medium that I would recommend. All in all, I am very happy with this book, and Nghi Vo continues to be one of my favourite authors of all time.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Shima

    She wrote the The Empress of Salt and Fortune, so I'm going to read everything she writes. Forever. She wrote the The Empress of Salt and Fortune, so I'm going to read everything she writes. Forever.

  23. 5 out of 5

    WhiskeyintheJar

    I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review. You might say my family is in the business of immortality. Divided into three acts and told from her point-of-view, this is the story of a 12 year old Chinese girl who works at her family's laundry in San Francisco in 1932 and dreams of obtaining her own immortality and freedom by making it in Hollywood. The first act shows her family life, quiet mother, emo I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review. You might say my family is in the business of immortality. Divided into three acts and told from her point-of-view, this is the story of a 12 year old Chinese girl who works at her family's laundry in San Francisco in 1932 and dreams of obtaining her own immortality and freedom by making it in Hollywood. The first act shows her family life, quiet mother, emotionally absent father, and younger sister, and how fate has her wandering onto a movie set filming in the streets by her home, the actress that bestows a silvery kiss on her forehead, and the director that wants to use her for his own gains. After doing some bit parts as a child, she turns eighteen and having some idea how Hollywood treats Asian actresses, she searches out an older actress to gain some insider knowledge to learn how to navigate the dark waters coming up to face her. With a magical bargain, Mrs. Wiley takes 20yrs of her life and tells her how to gain some power and footing. She blackmails the director to get her a meeting with the head of Wolfe Studios, Oberlin Wolfe, and with her own pride and that silvery kiss, gets him to give her a three year contract. She's on her way but it cost her 20yrs and stealing her sister's name, Luli Wei. It was done, and I was Luli Wei. I was going to be a star. The beginning part was a little tough to get into, the magical realism world is not explained at all and I never had a clear understanding of it. Act 2 has Luli living on the studio grounds and learning the studio life, along with her first romance with a golden siren actress Emmaline. There's talk of Friday Night Fires, people gathered in their groups for parties, and The Hunt where studio heads and big wigs chase down their prey. A lot of this section deals with Luli's roommate, Greta, a half-woman, half-animal being that was kidnapped from a Nordic country and had to have her tail cut to be acceptable for movies. Greta falls in love with someone Oberlin Wolfe has special interest in, winds up getting pregnant, and then has to meet with Mrs. Wiley to gain knowledge to learn how to rescue herself and her love from Wolfe's clutches. Luli is in the middle of it all while trying to gain roles that will lead to what she sees as immortality. “You better know who you are,” she said, “because you don't look strong enough to be me.” I would suggest not reading this for the Magical Realism, because, as I said, that aspect of the world-building is not developed. It's clear that beasts and the overall supernatural elements are added to be allegory for the real life predatory Hollywood world. I'm sure it was no accident that author used magical realism and fantasy to portray this world and Wolfe is a beast who preys on young people coming to him to be a star, it's not hard to see a Harvey Weinstein there. Luli also being Chinese adds the layer of racism she must also face and I liked how her stubbornness wouldn't let her play the racist roles she had seen other woman of color play but that when she interacted with actresses that had taken on those roles, they were at turns angry that she wouldn't play the game, jealous, and also supportive and trying to be helpful to the path she was trying to blaze. There was a great scene where an actress tells Luli that she better blaze her own trail because Luli wasn't strong enough to take on the roles the actress had and Luli agreed that she couldn't do what that actress was doing to support her family. “The world lets you get away with some thngs. Oberlin Wolfe does too. But darling, she's too much, she's too much, and you know it, don't you?” Too much, too strange, and I knew right away that she had a truth between her teeth. Like I knew earlier that pretty was a painted target that Tara lacked, I knew this too. Act 3 had Luli achieving success on getting a role she wanted, playing a monster that commanded the screen and audiences. With this success though, all her family and the friends she had made at the studio are all gone. The ending was a speed through of how her life ended up, we learn who the Jane is that Luli has seemingly been telling this life story to, and, as with any life, there were some highs and lows for Luli as she hurt, angered, scared, inspired, and blazed a trail as a woman of color. The first half took sometime to understand the world and realize the role magical realism was playing, the middle was better with Luli making connections with other characters and learning how to live her truthful way in Hollywood, and the ending was rushed. If you go in realizing this is more a commentary on the predatory, racist, and bigotry of Hollywood told in fantasy/magical realism elements, you'd enjoy this more than looking for a magical realism world set in Hollywood.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Kelly

    I'm not sure I like Luli Wei, but I'm 100% sure that I love her. The minute Luli steps into a theater for the first time as a child she knows that what she sees on that screen is what she wants out of life, that the magic in front of her is beautiful and she wants to be able to make it her own. And after a chance encounter on a movie set, she sees her pathway to stardom. But, she sees the other young girls around her who started out with the same stars in their eyes and are now used up, husks of I'm not sure I like Luli Wei, but I'm 100% sure that I love her. The minute Luli steps into a theater for the first time as a child she knows that what she sees on that screen is what she wants out of life, that the magic in front of her is beautiful and she wants to be able to make it her own. And after a chance encounter on a movie set, she sees her pathway to stardom. But, she sees the other young girls around her who started out with the same stars in their eyes and are now used up, husks of who they were. Luli vows not to become one of them, she'll make her own path and if she has to become a monster to do so she will. I started reading this about a week ago now and at first, I really couldn't get into it. I'm not really into movies and I'm even less into books about movies so it was hard for me to understand Luli's desperate need to become a movie star. However, I've never read one of Vo's books and I've wanted to so I was determined to "get through it". I'm so glad I made that decision. Luli is such an interesting character, reckless but in a way that is absolutely inspiring. The kind of recklessness that people say that you are either brave or really stupid and Luli was not stupid, at all. What I thoroughly enjoyed about her though is I'm really not sure if liked her; admired her absolutely. Inspired by her most definitely, Loved her in a way that I wanted to hug her and tell her everything was okay. But liked her? I'm just not sure. In terms of the progression of the book at first, I thought it was moving a tad bit too slow but as I read farther into it I realized the pace was necessary. There are a lot of issues that arise that Luli has to confront and you need time to process what's going on. Any faster pace and I think a lot of important points the author was trying to convey would get lost. I also found that Luli's character development was spot on to the story progression as well. I find that with stand-alone books you sometimes will have a character progressing faster than the book is going or vice versa. One minute you've got a reckless and ambitious character the next minute they are a little tamer and you have absolutely no idea how it happened. There was none of that here. As I said this is my first time reading a book by Vo and I have to say that her writing is magical. There is no other way to put it. Magical in a way where you find yourself so lost in the spell that she's weaved that when you finally look up you are momentarily surprised that you aren't in some backlot of a film studio watching the organized chaos that is the business of making films because you were absolutely sure that was where you had just been. Vo is a storyteller, through and through which is a truly rare and wonderful gift. Overall, I don't have one complaint about the Siren Queen, it was spellbinding and hauntingly beautiful and I pre-ordered my physical copy as soon as I was done reading it.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Claudia

    I had to try and describe this book the other day and found myself at a bit of a loss. Golden age of Hollywood meets….an entirely built fantasy world that you are barely allowed to know or see. The idea of it is so simple but the world around it is so fantastical that it becomes hard to explain. Siren Queen follows ‘Luli’ Wei, a young girl desperate to break into Hollywood and become a star (literal!) despite the dangers of werewolves, changelings, people who will steal your souls, and other mon I had to try and describe this book the other day and found myself at a bit of a loss. Golden age of Hollywood meets….an entirely built fantasy world that you are barely allowed to know or see. The idea of it is so simple but the world around it is so fantastical that it becomes hard to explain. Siren Queen follows ‘Luli’ Wei, a young girl desperate to break into Hollywood and become a star (literal!) despite the dangers of werewolves, changelings, people who will steal your souls, and other monsters who help make movies while also dealing with regular old racism against her for being Chinese-American. The world building is so in depth and yet so little described that I often found myself a little confused. The actual becoming a star being one of them. But almost all of it just pulls you along well enough in the story that you find yourself just being like ‘ok yeah you become a star I guess’ and also ‘this car has feelings, sure’ and ‘wait what was that about women with empty backs? Oh were moving on? Ok’. There was no stopping to explain the world which leads to some deep confusion on my end but also keeps the pace and story moving so quickly that it doesn’t feel like a loss. It feels more like a teaser trailer to a whole world you could see and might if you just keep going. As someone who is so detail oriented in my magic world building though I was driven a little crazy. I always feel just a little bit detached from magical realism. Luli is an interesting character and, I hate to compare it to the only other old Hollywood movie about WLM I know but its right there, gives major Evelyn Hugo vibes. Both are so strong and determined, both facing prejudice (though Evelyn can hide her ethnicity), while discovering their love of women while in the spotlight. Both could be considered cruel and detached and callous to those they don’t love, but seem to love deeply when they do. Both also have an older gay Hollywood friend….wow yeah I can’t really not compare these two. This is basically Evelyn Hugo with a sprinkle of magic dust. Which is not a bad thing since I love that book and Evelyn but take it how you will I guess. I loved the relationships that Luli builds while building her star. Romantic or otherwise, it felt like such an emotional journey for her to just build trust with anyone. I was cheering for her happiness throughout and success to climb to the top of an extra difficult mountain that seemed to throw every problem her way. Overall, I enjoyed the story but could have used more world building. I think this may be a style of the author but I think that it works so I would check out her other novels. This was narrated by Natalie Naudus who OF COURSE did great and is an automatic listen :) Thanks to Netgalley and Macmillan Audio for a copy of this audiobook.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Andi

    DNF at pg 140 I like to thank Goodreads Giveaways and Broadway publisher for a chance at reading this book. I was expected a fantasy laced noir. Wouldn't you with that blurb? Instead, I got a book with little to no magic, confusing alludes to fantasy and a heroine who reminded me of the main character from The Great Gatsby. With a title like Siren Queen, you expect a girl who strives to be an actress, to leave or shed her skin of the type-casting and racist roles. (Which did happen.) You expect he DNF at pg 140 I like to thank Goodreads Giveaways and Broadway publisher for a chance at reading this book. I was expected a fantasy laced noir. Wouldn't you with that blurb? Instead, I got a book with little to no magic, confusing alludes to fantasy and a heroine who reminded me of the main character from The Great Gatsby. With a title like Siren Queen, you expect a girl who strives to be an actress, to leave or shed her skin of the type-casting and racist roles. (Which did happen.) You expect her to be ripping the film world out from the inside and taking it down until it is literally at her feet - all done by magic and or her own self-worth. (Which had not happened by page 140.) You expected a lover worthy of being her partner in this all while they both battled the male-oriented and dominant world of cinema. (She got a lover but the lover was so... dry and boring.) There is a point where we are given dialogue or moments where the main character talks herself out of racism and or issues that she herself does not wish to partake in. But is there an actual story? No. There is none. It's just things happening behind the scenes of a fictional movie studio. If you took away the 'monsters' and or the 'fantasy commentary' that the author puts in but you actually don't see, nothing really changes. I expected interesting characters and people that given what the author writes about stick firmly in my mind as villains, archenemies, antiheroes or heroines. None of them leave a lasting impression and maybe the author wanted it like that - since everyone is replaceable in Hollywood and the story's focus is on the main character. The best noir films (Double Indemnity, Sunset Boulevard, The Malteese Falcon, etc.) have characters or plot elements that are memorable. Where is that in this book? ( I see that the author has also written a Great Gatsby retelling (which I haven't read). Which is why the main character was giving off Great Gatsby vibes. ) I have to let this one sink into the waves and I refrain from giving it a rating since I think it's unfair to rate a book I hit halfway on. But I will give a review as a cautionary advisory for those who were like me before reading. Sometimes people choose books because they believe a book may tell the story they hope to read. For me, I did that with this book. There is an audience for this book (based on the 3 and 5 star ratings), I'm just not that audience.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Fiona

    "All right," she said. "So we can't be lovers, and we can't be friends. What should we be instead?" "You'll be the heroine, of course. And I'll be the monster. And it'll be a hit." Somehow, until I read the review on Tor that mentioned "Her best friend is a Nordic cow-like forest spirit trapped in the dry Southern California sun.", I hadn't realised this book was magical realism - but you bet your life I was fully on board after that sentence. And I got a great read out of it! I loved the Golden Ag "All right," she said. "So we can't be lovers, and we can't be friends. What should we be instead?" "You'll be the heroine, of course. And I'll be the monster. And it'll be a hit." Somehow, until I read the review on Tor that mentioned "Her best friend is a Nordic cow-like forest spirit trapped in the dry Southern California sun.", I hadn't realised this book was magical realism - but you bet your life I was fully on board after that sentence. And I got a great read out of it! I loved the Golden Age of Cinema setting; it's the perfect marriage to the magical elements that were pulled in, all bargains and fae trickery, with the lens of danger and cruelty that makes for the best fairy tales. I did wish Luli had managed to connect a little more to the characters around her; she'd have a lover, or a family member one minute, and the next they'd vanish from the narrative in a way that should have had an impact, but didn't quite, just an acknowledgement and a quick turn to the next moment. It pulled me away from the protagonist a bit. There are story reasons for it that make sense, but that doesn't stop the lack of connection. It also wasn't enough to stop me having a great time, because in addition to the phenomenal setting, this is a kitchen-sink book; all sorts of ideas and mythologies come to play and mingle into a story that still felt cohesive. Greta stood out for me - I'd love a side trip to Norway should a spin-off be on the cards. All things told, a very enchanting, very encapturing read.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Nev

    Old Hollywood + magic = an excellent read. I had such a great time with this book. Getting to see Luli’s experiences as a young Chinese American girl getting involved with Hollywood and the darkness that comes along with that industry was really interesting. I loved how the magic in this world wasn’t explained. It felt more like it existed to deliver themes rather than to make this a Fantasy™ story. I can understand how that might be frustrating for some readers who prefer a strict magic system, Old Hollywood + magic = an excellent read. I had such a great time with this book. Getting to see Luli’s experiences as a young Chinese American girl getting involved with Hollywood and the darkness that comes along with that industry was really interesting. I loved how the magic in this world wasn’t explained. It felt more like it existed to deliver themes rather than to make this a Fantasy™ story. I can understand how that might be frustrating for some readers who prefer a strict magic system, but it worked for me.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Mallory

    I don’t think I’ve ever enjoyed a story that left me thinking “what is happening” at almost every stage. I could have used more world building, but part of that is that I loved this world. Magic sneaks in to this historical fiction about early days of Hollywood, but it felt seamless and just worked. The main character was hard to like, but I think that is part of what made her such a great main character. She was fierce and cold and dedicated to her dreams to be a movie star despite the fact she I don’t think I’ve ever enjoyed a story that left me thinking “what is happening” at almost every stage. I could have used more world building, but part of that is that I loved this world. Magic sneaks in to this historical fiction about early days of Hollywood, but it felt seamless and just worked. The main character was hard to like, but I think that is part of what made her such a great main character. She was fierce and cold and dedicated to her dreams to be a movie star despite the fact she was Chinese and not the typical blonde beauty of the screen. Despite this being her dream there was a lot of danger to being in the movies and the cameras in this world seemed capable of taking a lot more than one would be willing to give up. I did love the diverse representation not just culturally but with queer characters. This is the first book by this author I have read, but I will definitely be looking into reading their previous work!

  30. 4 out of 5

    Grace

    4.5 rounded up I freaking devoured this! The concept was so super interesting--queer Asian-American woman in the glamor age of a Hollywood where monsters are more than just metaphorical--that I had to read it, and it absolutely delivered! The writing was absolutely gorgeous, the characters were layered and compelling, and the story was un-put-downable. I loved the super interesting world-building here, some blend of fairytale-magical realism. There's something so utterly engaging and undeniably F 4.5 rounded up I freaking devoured this! The concept was so super interesting--queer Asian-American woman in the glamor age of a Hollywood where monsters are more than just metaphorical--that I had to read it, and it absolutely delivered! The writing was absolutely gorgeous, the characters were layered and compelling, and the story was un-put-downable. I loved the super interesting world-building here, some blend of fairytale-magical realism. There's something so utterly engaging and undeniably Fae about it, and blending it all into the Hollywood machine was so clever and worked really well. It's all quite smart, too--I never felt totally lost/confused, but there's a lot left unsaid and up to the reader to understand and infer, and I thought the author had just the right balance of trusting the reader while giving us enough to go on. The narrative style was quite interesting as well, as it's sort of conveyed as a story the narrator is telling us of their youth, with occasionally interjections in parenthesis from their current day paramour/audience. I'd say the only weak part of the book for me was the ending, which felt a little rushed and compressed compared to the gorgeous unfolding of the earlier parts. Everything wraps up quite nicely, but the ending took me totally by surprise as it did feel like it came a little early, and I wanted a little bit more of the story that we only get in a very quick run-down in the epilogue. It absolutely still works, but I was kind of left with the feeling that the author wasn't entirely sure how to bridge the gap between the end of the final part and what happens between then and the end, and so it felt slightly under-developed, but I loved the whole thing so much it was only a minor niggle, and partly because I just wanted more! Absolutely planning to check out more from this author!

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