Cover Image: Concerto in Chroma Major

Concerto in Chroma Major

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Member Reviews

It really, really pains me to review this but ...

I was SO excited when I got the ARC. It has Slavic characters, bi character and I was so looking forward to it. But the fatphobia was very....difficult to read, as was the fact that Halina is biphobic and is convinced that Alexandra is either a lesbian or straight and there's no other option. 

I wanted to love this book, I really did! But I couldn't finish it because of those two things and especially from what I've seen in other reviews that I haven't gotten to read yet.
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To be completely honest, I am at a true loss as to how to review this book. It was BAD. So bad. Even with the reviews I’d seen beforehand, I was pretty unprepared for how awful it was. So I guess I’ll briefly talk about the one aspect I enjoyed, general issues, and then break down the larger problems within the book.

One thing I did enjoy about this novel was the way Alexandra’s synesthesia was described throughout the book and the ways in which it’s showed to influence her artwork. It was interesting to read how different sounds and tones translated to different colors in her mind.

As far as general problems with the novel, it was largely just really boring. Taking aside the offensive content that I’ll talk about next, there was just nothing all that exciting about the plot itself. The writing was pretty lackluster, and there were unnecessary information dumps, especially early on, as a means for us to learn about the characters, but they could’ve easily been incorporated into some of the dialogue later on and been effective. And speaking of the dialogue, that aspect of the novel was incredibly stilted. The usage of contractions throughout the novel was really rare, which made things difficult at times. Not to mention, it was a strange grammatical choice for Alexandra, who is supposed to be from California–Americans pretty much use contractions as much as possible. Also, the book was in third person and present tense, and while that can sometimes work for a novel, I didn’t feel it worked well here at all. Also, Tajedler puts every word from other languages in italics and at one point describes foreign accents as “exotic.”

And now, for specific issues I had with the book, which are broken down into four categories: ableism, racism, fatphobia, and biphobia.

***Note: These four sections will be heavy on quotes, so please read further with caution. Also, I am well aware that the bisexuality aspect of the novel is #ownvoices, and I am by no means saying the author has no right to write her own experience, but the abundance of it and the fact that NONE OF IT is called out until the last 50 pages or so are what I take issue with.***

ABLEISM

For this category, I’ve only pulled out one scene, though there are several instances of ableism throughout the novel

“Why are you signing?”

“Zach has hearing loss because he was born prematurely,” Alexandra explains, still signing.

“I won’t mind if you say I’m Deaf, Lex,” Zachary says, and Halina’s eyes widen.

“You talk!”

“I do.”

“Like normal people!”

I should hope I don’t have to point out how horribly insensitive this is, but for those of you who need to be told: this is really awful. It is immediately called out on page (by the teenage by, not any of the adults, who include his aunt, Alexandra, and his mother, Alexandra’s twin sister), but there is honestly no acceptable reason for Halina to say this to him. She makes the excuse that she’s never met a Deaf person before, but whether you know any disabled people or not, it costs you nothing to treat them just like you would anyone else.

RACISM
The examples for this section are little throwaway lines that still struck me.

From the corner of her eye, she spots the dignified [black] bartender gazing at her, a dark sunflower drawn to Halina’s starlight.

The only two people of color in the novel are bartenders that Halina and Ari end up hooking up with. This line is about the bartender who’s a woman, and while it’s potentially not a very noticeable line, it still rubbed me the wrong way. As if Halina is the light that can save the bartender, or something like that. It was just pretty creepy.

The other incident was a moment of cultural appropriation from Alexandra.

She orders a Continental Sour and subtly checks to make sure the kimono fold of her dress is not too revealing. Just the top of her cleavage is showing. Good. Her outfit marks her as the quirky American artist who can bring color to the lives of these people.

Aspects of other people’s culture is not something you use in order to be “quirky.” You can present yourself as unusual in some way without stealing pieces of different cultures, and repeatedly insulting them in the process.

FATPHOBIA
Alexandra, one of the main characters of the novel, is fat. There are many references to her fatness that are not at all complementary, and in fact, most of the insulting comments come from Halina, Alexandra’s love interest. Due to the large number of them, I only include a few examples here.

Her eyes land on a short woman who dances by herself. She’s not spectacular in any way: short, dark hair stuck in curls against darkish skin, compact and curvy body wrapped in a black dress with no regard for the fashion rules for her body type.

—

While she’s not usually attracted to that body type, she could be tempted by the dancing woman is she doesn’t manage to seduce the [skinny] bartender.

The first time Halina sees Alexandra–not knowing who see is or that she would see her again–is in the club she visits, and this first moment can be summarized as “how many times can I insult this person while acknowledging they’re attractive” and/or “I’ll settle for the fatty if the skinny person doesn’t bite.” Fat bodies are beautiful the way they are, no matter how the person dresses, and it’s no one’s business what we wear or how we look. Additionally, we are not last resort options that you only fall back on if skinny people don’t want to sleep with you. We deserve all the love, respect, and seduction (if the person is into romance and/or sex) that skinny people would get. As this scene happens really early on, I was already rooting against Halina.

Then later on she says this:

Oh, but this is delicious. I should have tried different body types before.

We’re not fucking food for you to taste test and determine whether you like us or not–either you do or you don’t. Also, at one point, Halina describes Alexandra as “sexy-against-all odds.” What odds? The fact that she’s fat? Being fat and being sexy are not mutually exclusive! Fat people can be sexy!

Ugh.

BIPHOBIA
This section is going to be longer than the previous ones, because there is far more biphobia in the book than anything else. There’s little digs here or there on practically every page of Halina’s point of view. And as I mentioned earlier in this review: I know the author is bisexual and she’s writing from her experience here, but to be quite honest, I am very hard-pressed to accept a romance in which one of the people are completely, willfully ignorant about the other’s identity and makes no effort to change that upon getting to know the person. There are exactly ZERO instances of Halina’s, and Ari’s, extreme biphobia being challenged on page until somewhere in the last 50 pages. And considering the way Tajedler slides right past biphobia and goes into outright anti-bisexual hatred? That’s a huge problem for me.

But onto the examples.

“And I didn’t expect someone of her type to be…hardworking, so to speak.”

“Her type?” Halina repeats, her voice betraying an anger on behalf of Alexandra she didn’t expect.

“Oh, come on, Lina,” Ari says with a small, uncertain laugh. “People like her, yeah. Didn’t you say she is bi? And she’s a fatty too. Neither have the best rep.”

“No, I can’t let you say that,” Halina cuts them. “Sure, she is nothing like the size zeroes I banged around the world, but I wouldn’t want her to be thinner[…] and I was an idiot for not giving bigger women a chance sooner.”

This example fits in both with this category and the fatphobia section above. The mindset that Ari and Halina share is incredibly damaging to bisexual people–perpetuating the myth that we’re all greedy bisexuals who do nothing but have sex with everyone alive (which is rich, considering how many people Halina talks about having slept with). And this would’ve been a great opportunity for Halina to tell Ari to not talk smack about Alexandra, but she doesn’t really say anything.

“Not sure you’re as picky as I am.”

—

Choices need to be made, and once thing cannot fit in two boxes at once—a pasta dish cannot be a dessert, a dessert cannot be a pasta dish, and one cannot be attracted equally to different genders. She’s certain she would be more comfortable in this relationship business if she could be sure of Alexandra’s preference.

This part is from the narration in a Halina chapter, in which she ignorantly explains away Alexandra’s sexuality and says bisexuality and pansexuality aren’t possible. Also, in this excerpt, she does something that she does multiple times: she centers herself in all discussions of Alexandra’s sexuality and how uncomfortable it makes her that Alexandra can be attracted to other genders.

Why anyone would want a man when they could hold a woman is beyond Halina’s comprehension, and she intends on convincing Alexandra of the same.

This idea is really gross. Whether or not Halina can fathom being attracted to men doesn’t really matter. What matters is that Alexandra can, and the way Halina intends to essentially try to force her to change her mind is uncomfortable at best and mentally and emotionally damaging at worst.

On their way, Halina doesn’t miss the way some patrons gawk at them. She stomps on an irrational need to put her hand, her mark almost, on Alexandra. Alexandra is hers, and these men don’t deserve to be competition. No one should be competing for Alexandra’s affection, but the idea of men as potential rivals is a sore spot.

Once again, the narrative perpetuates the idea of the greedy, cheating bisexual. Not once does Alexandra give any indication she would rather be with anyone else–in fact, she’s far more invested in the relationship than Halina is for most of the novel–but Halina continues to insist Alexandra would cheat if she could and makes men, who aren’t even on Alexandra’s radar, villainous when nothing has even happened.

“We are in resonance, if it makes any sense?”

“It does,” Alexandra says with a nod. “The same goes for Leo and me. We get each other’s art without needing to voice it.”

Halina twists her mouth for a split second, long enough for Alexandra to notice. “It’s not as thought I want to fuck the guy, though,” Halina comments.

“Neither do I,” Alexandra replies coldly. The last piece of spicy corn on the cob is rightfully hers now.

“Uh huh.”

Alexandra is pretty sure Halina couldn’t drip more condescension and doubt.

“You can’t deny there is still something between you two,” Halina points out. “Friends don’t fuck each other. But maybe you do,” she adds with a condescending pat.

This one legitimately made me flinch. All Alexandra does is give an example to show she understands what Halina is describing, but because the person mentioned is her ex, Halina becomes unnecessarily cruel and condescending. Honestly, Alexandra should’ve dumped her right in the middle of the restaurant and strolled off into the sunset by herself.

“He cut you from his life for being a lesbian?”

—

At some point, the phrase “slum it up with the bi” came up, and she doesn’t need them to point out something she already feels tender about.

The more time they spend together, the more Halina wonders why Alexandra doesn’t accept the lesbian label to the fullest. As far as Halina is concerned, no woman could be so good in bed, so intuitive about her partner’s needs, and not be a lesbian.

These two instances happen in different scenes, but they, once again, show Halina trying to pigeonhole Alexandra into an identity she’s never claimed and doesn’t want to claim. She’s so incredibly obtuse and repeatedly refers to Alexandra as a lesbian because she can’t handle the fact that Alexandra has been with men. Bisexuals and pansexuals are frequently pushed by other queer people to choose the labels “gay/lesbian” or “straight” when we don’t identify that way, and this just continued to fuel my rage to read it in a romance in which I am supposed to be rooting for the couple.

She whispers in Alexandra’s ear, sucking on the lobe, “So needy, so insatiable. I’m sure you’d love someone else to join us, wouldn’t you, hmm…”

Halina only means to tease Alexandra as foreplay before going down on her and maybe having Alexandra reciprocate, maybe, afterward, drinking some wine and settling down to bask in the afterglow with a good dinner and a movie…

She doesn’t expect Alexandra to freeze and lean back to glare at Halina, a very different storm in her eyes: a hurricane with the strength to destroy everything in its path.

“What is that supposed to mean?” Alexandra snarls as she stands and adjusts her shirt. She brushes her dark curls away from her face, but they bounce back.

Halina sits up stiffly. “I only meant that you are—you were—horny.” Her voice lists into a question as her defensive walls rise.

“Uh huh.” Alexandra frowns. “So this had nothing to do with what you think of me?”

“What I think of you?”

“Your perpetual condemnation, how I can’t be trusted? How you had to lower your standards to put up with our relationship? Pick one.”

“I do trust you, Xandra! I don’t judge you for dating men in the past; you probably didn’t know better.”

—

“I never said I wanted you to worship me.”

“But you would be more comfortable if I were a perfect lesbian,” Alexandra retorts, eyes piercing, unforgivingly so. Halina has never found her more beautiful.

“Do I wish I didn’t have to compete for your attention? She replies, letting her own worries out of the bag. “Do I feel like I will never be able to trust you not to cheat on me? Do I wish fucking Leo wasn’t still in your life, in more ways than you let on? Of course I do!”

Finally, this is the scene in the last 50 pages that finally pushes everything to a head and gets called out before the couple gets back together (though I personally believe Alexandra forgives Halina way too quickly and too easily). Within this scene, we get the whole gamut of harmful bisexual stereotypes–all bisexuals want threesomes (which is ironic since Halina is the one who mentions thinking of a threesome when Alexandra’s twin sister is in town); the greedy bisexual who wants everyone; the cheating bisexual because they just can’t help themselves; and all bisexuals being lesser because they don’t identify as gay or lesbian. This whole scene is a major clusterfuck and incredibly hurtful, and again, it is truly astonishing that nothing ever gets called out until this scene. No one ever says anything against Halina or Ari until this point, and I would’ve truly been happier with the ending if Alexandra had said fuck it and not gone back to Halina.

In addition to all of these offensive, harmful things, the characters were just incredibly awful people. Alexandra probably could’ve been enjoyable to read about in another book, by another author, and her sister and nephew weren’t terrible. But everyone else…yikes. As shown by all the examples above, Halina is just a generally awful person who really only cares about herself. There was very brief mentions of her being emotionally abused by her mother when she was a child, but that never went anywhere besides a throwaway comment, so I didn’t develop any kind of sympathy, and she just got progressively worse as the book went on.

And then there were Ari and Leo who were both incredibly rude, hateful, and ignorant in their own rights. The hatefulness spouted by Ari was especially disturbing, and to be quite honest, I took personal offense at their characterization. They are one of the characters at the forefront of the Bi Hatred Brigade, and it was so perplexing to me. As a nonbinary person (I assume, as they used they/them pronouns but it was never specified), Ari should’ve understood that things aren’t binary. Gender isn’t and neither is sexuality, and so I would’ve thought they’d have been more open to and accepting of Alexandra’s sexuality, but instead, they were one of the most hateful. Leo, though, was a weird character, who was practically unnecessary. He was hardly ever on page except to make threats and be aggressive to Halina about Alexandra, and the plot would’ve been better served if he wasn’t involved in the plot at all.
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I was super excited to get approved to read an advanced copy of this book. The author praised her characters' diversity and it sounded so good. Queue 10% in - me: ":groans: I don't think I'm gonna like this." It just went down hill from there until I finally stopped reading just over 1/4 of the way through.

So, brief overview. Alexandra is a stained-glass maker whose synesthesia provides her with the inspiration for her creativity.
"When she’s commissioned to create glass panels for the new Philharmonie, she forms a special bond with the intriguing Halina Piotrowski, a famous Polish pianist." Halina doesn't do commitments and, well, you know she has to decide if being with Alexandra is worth the fear of being hurt.

I give the author kudos for her attempt. She created an androgenous character without a pronoun. I liked the concept, even if it took me reading some sentences several times to understand the author was describing the character as "they" not because there were multiple characters, but because "they" is a gender neutral. It's hard to pull that off in English since we lack gender neutral pronouns. The downside is that she made this character fat-phobic and bi-phobic: "they" doesn't like fat or bi individuals.

Is like the author made a list of diverse characters then squashed them into her story just to say they're in there. 

It's possible this book redeems itself in the end, but I don't care enough about the characters to force myself to read it.

1/5
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The main character of this book is a Polish lesbian - like myself! - so of course I was very excited to read it. Oh boy, do I wish I haven’t touched it…

Let’s start with the MC’s name. Halina Piotrowski. Now, I’ve lived in Poland my whole life and I know one (1) Halina. And she’s a 60 years old lady. But that’s nothing, right, maybe she has weird parents. The last name, though. I actually talked about it with the author on twitter before I even requested the ARC and was told “it’s explained in the novel, so you’ll understand!!”. Because, you see, we have grammatical genders in Polish and we use them for last names, too. Which means the surname Piotrowski has actually two forms: Piotrowski for guys and Piotrowska for girls. The author’s explanation in the book is that Halina wanted to show both her independence from her mother and her sexuality. None of which makes any sense! What does one’s sexuality have to do with one’s last name! And where do trans people fit in this conversation, since it’s them who would actually struggle to change that suffix? 

Then there are the random Polish words that the MC only uses when she’s stressed. (Like we all know bilingual people do, sure, sure.) Words like “buhaj”, which I had to google, because I have never heard that in my life. Yes, it’s a translation for “bull”. No, it’s not actually used in everyday life. Unless for crosswords. The word “pączi” was also used as a plural for “pączek”, I suppose (“doughnuts”), only it should be “pączki”. My favourites, though, are “słoneczna” and “dzidzia” for endearment terms! First literally means “sunny” and you would never call anyone that, neither in Polish or English - what you’re looking for is “słonko”, “słońce” (a literal translation of “sun”, but actually an equivalent of “sunshine”, I’d say). The second is a word for “baby”, yeah. Again, though, context matters and we either use “dzidzia” for actual small babies or to lowkey insult someone. And at some point potato pancakes were translated as “placki”, when that just means “pancakes”. 

Sure happy with how much research went into this!!

Now we can get into the really juicy stuff! The horrible and abundant biphobia and fatphobia! Oh, what a joy to read! 

It’s constant throughout the book and while Halina’s prejudices are somewhat challenged, her assistant is even worse about it - and in their case, it’s never even addressed properly. It’s also kind of ridiculous to say it’s challenged, because what actually happens and what it feels like, is that Halina meets a fat, bi love interest to teach her that…. those are people, too? There’s literally a quote that goes:

Halina can’t help but gasp under the onslaught of sensations.
Oh, but this is delicious. I should have tried different body types before.


I’m… not even sure how to comment on that? And it’s not even close to the worst we have to read!

“I didn't expect someone of her type to be... hardworking, so to speak.” 
“Her type?” [...] 
“Oh, come on, Lina,” Ari says with a small, uncertain laugh. “People like her, yeah. Didn't you say she's bi? And she's a fatty too. Neither have the best rep.”


If the biphobia and fatphobia aren’t enough to turn you off, have no fear. There’s also some culture appropriation. 

She [Alexandra] orders a Continental Sour and subtly checks to make sure the kimono fold of her dress is not too revealing. Just the top of her cleavage is showing. Good. Her outfit marks her as the quirky American artist who can bring color to the lives…


Okay, so I complain a lot, there are clearly issues with the book… But is it at least written well enough, that you can overlook that? 

Haha. Good joke!

The writing is mediocre at best and just a purple prose at worst. The characters aren’t fleshed out (apart from all their blatant prejudices, I guess). The main character and the love interest have no chemistry to speak off, there is absolutely no build-up to their relationship - they end up in bed five chapters in and the LI is “in love” with Halina like two weeks in. There’s also a tedious love triangle, because it’s 2018 and we… still haven’t had enough of them??

Honestly, all this book did was make me angry. I would never recommend this to anyone and I only wish I could forget it myself.
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*~~*ARC kindly provided to me for an honest review *~~*

- Review to come

Review originally posted on my blog with added content on Mikku-chan / A world full of words
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DNF @ 17%

I shall never have expectations for a book ever again. This was one of my most anticipated sapphic books of the YEAR and from the first paragraph I knew it wasn’t going to be a five stars. After a few pages I started to skim read it. At 13% I started considering DNF’ing but it wasn’t until the first legit fatphobic (and not called out) comment that I actually did it.

I’m proud of me, folks. I don’t need this kind of negativity in my life.

But let’s see what didn’t work for me, shall we?

• The prose. Too many words. Why do you need so many words. You don’t. 

• The………writing. I don’t think I’ve ever started a book where I thought “the first paragraph is bad”. Books’ beginnings can be hard to write. Some are amazing, some are average, some don’t pull you into the book right away. But I never knew it was possible to make the first sentence of a book so fucking boring. Did someone edit this? 

And it’s not just that. There are so many instances where I thought there were a thousand better ways to phrase something. ALSO: I don’t want to read endless infodumps about the characters’ pasts within their introspection. That’s boring shit. I couldn’t care less. Make me discover their past bit by bit. Make me look forward to it.

• The characters. ?? just two women with two sidekicks who are rude and the exact copy of each other.

• The languages. Bilingual people don’t talk that way. You don’t have to try that hard. This is one of my biggest pet peeves. Stop.

• The problematic stuff. So until the point I stopped reading we have fatphobia with comments I’m not going to repeat because why would I repeat them. Even if that’s called out later in the book (and I’m not sure it is), that’s pretty shitty, especially since the author’s review mentions fat representation as one of the selling point of the book. If you want to cater to fat readers specifically, get rid of the fucking fatphobia. Period. I’m angry.

There’s also apparently plenty of biphobia later in the book. And again, why the fuck would you write one of your MC as biphobic when you know that bi readers will read the book specifically for the bi rep. Biphobia is especially hard to read from a member of the queer community. ESPECIALLY FROM THE SAPPHIC PARTNER OF THE BI CHARACTER, which is exactly what happens here. Fortunately I stopped reading before reaching those parts, but here's a much better review than mine that quotes some of those and I’m just so glad I stopped reading and giving a fuck.

There’s more stuff that bothered me but I can’t wait to close this brief and unfortunate chapter of my life so I’m going to peace out and be glad I didn’t actually spend money on this.
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File this under "books that make me suffer when reviewing because I'm having to relive the whole damn mess". My one word review here would be "Disappointed". Capital d and everything. 

The good things 

- Were there any? 

The bad things 

- I wanna say it started off alright, but, in truth, it really didn't. I was only a chapter in when I realised the writing was not for me. I don't want to say bad, because it wasn't nearly as awful as some stuff I've read, but it wasn't good. It was in present tense (already a killer for me), but it was also really purple prosey and it ended up falling flat. 

- Anna is the best person to talk about the Polish rep, but let me just say. I got some excellent reactions everytime I sent her something with the Polish character. 

- The fatphobia. Yikes. 

"Not your type." Halina barks out a short laugh and rests her head against the window, her eyes lost in nocturnal Paris outside. "What's not my type?" "American. And chubby." They laugh derisively. "Like I said, not your type." 

"I didn't expect someone of her type to be... hardworking, so to speak." "Her type?" [...] "Oh, come on, Lina," Ari says with a small, uncertain laugh. "People like her, yeah. Didn't you say she's bi? And she's a fatty too. Neither have the best rep." 

- The biphobia. Also yikes. (See quote above.) And yeah, it kind of gets challenged, but only by Alexandra, and for the angst plotline. It's not challenged before that, and Ari's biphobia and fatphobia never is. And the whole romance with Alexandra seems designed to teach Halina that actually bi and fat people are alright! 

- There is zero tension between Alexandra and Halina. They have sex like 5 chapters in and then there's a two week timeskip and suddenly Alexandra is in love with her. Their whole relationship is predicated on lust and there is no tension. So there's no reason for me to care when it comes to the point that they break up and there's angst. 

- This scene. 

She [Alexandra] orders a Continental Sour and subtly checks to make sure the kimono fold of her dress is not too revealing. Just the top of her cleavage is showing. Good. Her outfit marks her as the quirky American artist who can bring color to the lives... 

- The whole ""love triangle"" between Leo, Halina and Alexandra was tedious and overdone. I say ""love triangle"" because it was more like Leo still wanted Alexandra and thought they were "destined" to end up together, while Halina was, despite being a complete bitch at times, the one Alexandra actually wanted. But of course they had to keep having metaphorical dick measuring contests and not actually like each other. 

Those are the major things but if you want more, I made a whole thread here. To quote Michelle, "yoinks".
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This book was different and not the easiest to rate. There were parts that I really enjoyed, other parts I found myself saying WTH did I just read? I’m going to go with an okay/average rating but it is rough in places.

The story is about a famous Polish pianist Halina, who is in Paris preforming with the Philharmonie. Halina meets Alexandra, an American artist whose glass work is starting to take off. The two of them succumb to an instant attraction, but when Alexandra wants more than just sex can Halina give it to her?

Two parts of the book I really enjoyed were the music with the Philharmonie and Alexandra synesthesia. I have heard of people with synesthesia before but I didn’t know much about it. It is very interesting to me that some people actually see colors when they experience different sounds. I liked the way Xandra put the colors she saw in music into her stained glass windows. This was one of the few books I wish was a picture book so I could actually see the art. But it was very interesting to read about.

I think my main issue really boils down to the dialogue, I just did not think it seemed very realistic. There were plenty of times I could not believe a character said something they said. There was some mild unneeded fat shaming because Alexandra had curves. And a nasty remark made to a deaf person. I didn’t understand why she would make Halina sound so stupid out of the blue. The dialogue also caused me to find the two main secondary characters to be extremely unlikeable. They were best friends of the main characters and every time they opened their mouths they seemed like jerks. And because you are never in their headspace, to know what they are really thinking, they remain jerks for the whole book. There is also some biphobia that I didn’t think was handled as well as it could have been.

On the good side is that Tajedler was good at writing descriptions and feelings. Knowing the kind of person Halina is inside helped to save her character some since the author would have her say some really stupid stuff. Also the descriptions of art and music were well written.

I think what I enjoyed the most was the romance and how their relationship worked. If you can get passed the dialogue, most of the relationship was pretty enjoyable. I thought most of the affection and intimacy was well written. It was even a surprise to see the characters actually practice safe sex when they were first hooking-up.

Overall, what I got from this book was potential. It could have been a book that I really enjoyed, I just think the author tried to tackle a few too many issues and it didn’t work out. Dialogue, dialogue, I really hope Tajedler works on hers before she puts her next book out. Instead of making the story better the dialogue was putting me off and I know that’s not what an author wants to do.
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Sometimes, after all the grim things I read, a simpler book with a happy ending is just what I need. Concerto in Chroma Major, by Naomi Tajedler, is a love story. The protagonists have fights, but the fact that the two leads are perfect for each other let me know that everything would be all right in the end.

Halina is a concert pianist who, at the beginning of the novel, is in need of a break. After spending years traveling from city to city, she wants to settle down. So, she takes a job for a season with the Philharmonie de Paris. The job offers her a chance to get to know her colleagues, to know a city, to try something new—and maybe shake loose some of the conditioning her rigidly controlling mother imposed until Halina spectacularly came out at the end of a concert. It isn’t long before Halina meets Alexandra, an American stained-glass artist who is creating a piece for the Philharmonie. Even though Alexandra isn’t Halina’s usual type, something about her draws Halina in. As for Alexandra, the fact that she is a synesthete who hears music in color, Halina is simply intoxicating.

Alexandra is a monogomist. She loves all the parts of a relationship, especially the cuddling. Halina, however, believes that all she wants are one-night stands. But the connection between them keeps them going even though Halina doesn’t know how to have a relationship and Alexandra is sensitive to remarks about her bisexuality.

Readers who are looking for a romance that isn’t set in Regency England or featuring a woman and a man might like enjoy Concerto in Chroma Major. (The steamy scenes between Alexandra and Halina don’t hurt in that regard, either.) Readers who like lush descriptions of music will enjoy this, too, as well as readers who would just like a break from reading about life and death struggles to save the world and just want a story about two people in love who want to stay that way.

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley, for review consideration. It will be released 12 July 2018.
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I was really looking forward to Concerto in Chroma Major and did a little dance when I was granted the ARC. The story has all the right “props,” as I call them: it takes place in Paris, a main character has music-color synesthesia, and the other main character is a pianist. The beginning was everything the summary made me hope for: wonderful writing, with lush descriptions of colors, music, food, and the city of Paris. I used to live in Paris, and the characters and city read as "properly French" to me. I was totally on board for the first few chapters.

But when the main characters meet, it all deflates. First, they have sex immediately. I continued to read even though, if I hadn’t received an ARC, I would have put it down then. I know a lot of people enjoy instalove/instalust, so I was willing to just accept that as something I don’t personally like and try to read the book through a more objective “reviewer’s lens.”

But shortly after that, Halina, the pianist, plays the, “Oh, you thought that our night together mattered? I was just using your body like a man!” card, and it read as cheap and immature to me, even like emotionally dishonest writing. I understand that Halina had her childhood robbed of her for the sake of her art, blah blah, but there was nothing to excuse her consistent emotional immaturity. For example, when Halina finally goes to dinner with Alexandra, she literally does not know how to have a conversation. Alexandra has to explain it to her:

“Well, for starters, it entails getting to learn who we are, beyond our magical spots and the way we moan or sigh,” Alexandra replies, her voice cracking with the remnants of her laughter. “What makes us, us.”
Halina wrinkles her nose in unveiled contempt. “What, a variation of Twenty Questions?”

Again, I don’t care if someone hasn’t dated before. You just have to be a half-decent person and care a teeny bit about the person you’re eating with to learn about them. Instead, she shows contempt at the idea of making conversation, like a selfish monster. Which, it turns out, she is.

Halina is just terrible. She is a horrible person. Why would I want to read about her love life? I don’t. I want her to end up cold and alone. Here’s Halina when she meets a little deaf boy:

“Why are you signing?” [Halina says to Alexandra.]
“Zach has a hearing loss because he was born prematurely,” Alexandra explains, still signing.
“I won’t mind if you say I’m Deaf, Lex,” Zachary says, and Halina’s eyes widen.
“You talk!”
“I do.”
“Like normal people!”
Elisabeth and Alexandra wince together. Zachary straightens and graces Halina with a look of ironic amusement only teenagers seem to be able to pull off. “I can vocalize instead of signing,” he replies, “because my mother didn’t raise me to be rude with people I just met and who mean something to someone I love.”

The text always calls out bad behavior, but who cares? I teach at a deaf school. I see a lot of people who have never met deaf children before interact with my students for the first time. No one has ever said, “Oh wow, you’re normal! Oh wow, you talk.” No one says this. You'd have to be either a child or truly awful to say this..

There were other moments of dialogue when Halina just made me feel like I was dying inside. For example, when her odious friend Ari (we’ll move onto them in a second) mentions that Alexandra is both bi and fat, Halina says, “Sure, she is nothing like the size zeroes I banged around the world, but I wouldn’t want her to be thinner.” Oh my god. "The size zeroes I banged around the world." What the honest to god hell is this dialogue?

Okay! So, Halina has an assistant named Ari. Alexandra has a work partner named Leo. They both have little sidekicks with three-letter names, and yes, that is confusing, especially since both Leo and Ari are really unlikable, and I kept forgetting who was unlikable for what reasons. They’re kind of the same person. They both hate either Halina or Alexandra out of jealousy; they’re both verbally aggressive toward either Halina or Alexandra; and both of them reflect poorly on our heroines, because who has friends as rude and awful as these? The text calls Ari and Leo out for being awful, but near the beginning, when Alexandra first sees Halina playing piano and Ari starts screaming at her, I had this moment of, “What was the point of that?” What was the point of writing characters who are terrible people? I decided that maybe I’d find out if I kept reading, but the feeling persisted until it was far too late to make the book worth it to me. There’s only a point to the story if you like to read romances in which people are bad and unlikable, and that is not why I read romance. 

I stopped reading at page 180 out of 217. With just 37 pages left, I couldn’t do it. Why? Halina is biphobic. Halina is biphobic! The romantic lead!!!!! She hates that Alexandra is bi and views it as a character flaw! It’s called out on the page, but who gives a crap when you could be reading some other romance where people are good and kind and loving? 

“Listen, I have had some... difficulties, okay, accepting your orientation and what it could do to us, but you’re impugning my motive here, and—”
“I don’t want you to accept me, Halina,” Alexandra replies, her shoulders sagging as her eyes leave Halina’s. “I just need you to love me as I am, not as you want me to be.”

Again, it’s called out in the text, but who cares? When Alexandra rightly says, “What you did...is use my past, my sex life, as a weapon against me,” I was just like, yeah, wow, she did. I am out.

Also, I don’t expect anyone who isn’t a part of a Jewish community to get this, but I’ll say it anyway. I want to read a book about Jewish characters where Hanukkah isn’t the only thing that makes them Jewish. And I was so happy to see actual Jewish words being used in this book (albeit in italics, which I’m ideologically opposed to, because these are just normal words that English-speaking Jews use all the time, and do we really need to highlight them in an othering way, but I guess I can deal). It felt really good until this happened:

“I invited you to celebrate [Hanukkah] with us because it’s the only Jewish holiday worth celebrating, in my opinion,” Alexandra replies. 

I’m just so tired. Hanukkah is literally, objectively, the least important Jewish holiday, but it’s the only one that is ever depicted in mainstream fiction. Why? Because it was the safest holiday for Jews to celebrate when they were forced to culturally assimilate, especially in America, because it’s close to Christmas. Forced assimilation in Christian communities is the reason everyone makes such a big deal out of Hanukkah. Honestly, I applaud you if you’re not Jewish and you can name one Jewish holiday that isn’t Hanukkah. Ugh. The only Jewish holiday worth celebrating. Ouch.

Yeah, I don’t know. I wanted to like this book. But it’s just about awful people behaving badly, and I’m not down for that. Bye forever, Halina.
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Different is what comes to mind when describing this read. The music and the art what a beautiful combination. The four main characters were interesting. Leo, Alexandra's ex-lover that let a good thing go and now regrets. Ari (they) supportive of Halina and her interest in having a relationship yet leery. Halina Piotrowski, pianist, selfish, and not looking or wanting a relationship. Alexandra Graff, stained-glass artist, caring, and interested in only having a relationship.  Concert of colors and canvases of music. That play on words says quite a bit about what you will get with this read. Being the romantic that I am, the dating, talking, and getting to know each other over bottles of wine was very appealing to this reader.
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This was not as exciting as I thought it would be. Yet I actually dont regret finishing it. for sure I found some things quite strange and unrealistic and the side character were almost horrible specially "they",  personally I hate anyone who uses "they" for an individual it's just makes my reading confusing as hell and it's too annoying I really like to know the gender of the person when I'm reading it's easier to put a picture that way. Anyway, the book had good things going on inside it the writing was very good I wont mind reading from the author again but I want more depth more emotions and really realistic side characters. 
 
I was giving a free copy in return for an honest review.
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I was so excited when I got approved for an ARC of this book. What a huge disappointment this turned out to be. In full disclosure, I ended up skimming to about the middle of the book and then totally gave up. The characters were shallow and not fully formed, the plot was...I don't even know.
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