Book Review: The Kiss Quotient

Title: The Kiss Quotient
Author: Helen Hoang
Date Published: May 30, 2018
Rating: 4/5 stars
Date read: December 14, 2020 (reread)

The Kiss Quotient follows an autistic woman named Stella Lane who hires an escort to help her learn about intimacy and relationships.

The first time I read The Kiss Quotient I was completely enamoured because not only was this my first romance with asian representation, it also featured a woman with Aspergers, and as someone who has OCD and other autistic related symptoms, it felt really great to be seen. That Stella is also in STEM, and a math related field at that, was another reason I really liked this novel. I find authors rarely feature characters who are interested in mathematics, so while Hoang didn’t delve too deeply into the topic this was still such a refreshing change.

I thought the writing of this novel was solid, nothing spectacular, but easy and enjoyable to read. I also tend to prefer a dual narrative when it comes to romance, so in that regard I was happy. I do have to wonder though, do most men swear so much in their heads? This is something I often see when it comes to romance novels and it is not my favourite. As for the characters, again, I found Stella really relatable and very sweet. And while Michael annoyed me at times, I really liked how kind, patient, and caring he was with Stella, and thought the two had really great chemistry.

This novel is not without its faults though, and what stands out to me most is the last section of the novel. I feel like I will forever be complaining about the unneeded drama that always results in the couple breaking up and then getting back together near the end of every romance novel (that I’ve picked up at least). There has literally only ever been one instance in which I’ve thought this justified and it was not in this novel. But even then, I would have been more open to this narrative choice if it had led to some legitimate character growth on at least one character’s side. Michael’s self-esteem journey in particular could have used a lot more development, especially since it was the root of the conflict. I’m not saying that self-esteem issues aren’t a thing and can’t cause issues in relationships, but I will not ever find the “I’m breaking up with you because you’re too good for me” argument compelling. I also wasn’t a fan of the possessiveness characters developed over their partners, in my first read I was willing to overlook this because I was so happy with the representation, but this second time it just made me uncomfortable. I do still consider this one of my favourite romances though, so ending aside if you’re looking for a fun and steamy romance I’d highly recommend it. 

P.S. Quan is the best. 

Have you read The Kiss Quotient? If not, do you plan to? I’d love to hear your thoughts! Happy reading! 💗

Book Review: We Have Always Been Here

Title: We Have Always Been Here
Author: Samra Habib
Date Published: June 4, 2019
Rating: 4/5 stars
Date read: April 23, 2020

We Have Always Been Here is a memoir written by Samra Habib, a Canadian photographer, writer, and activist. Samra is best known for her Just Me and Allah project, in which she photographs and documents the lives of queer muslims living in North America and Europe. Her memoir details her struggles growing up Ahmadi Muslim during the oppression of Islamic extremists, immigrating to Canada, and discovering her queer identity, all the while facing sexism, racism, and homophobia, and how her many experiences have been impacted by her muslim faith.

When I first started reading Samra’s memoir I wasn’t overly impressed by the writing, but it definitely improved over the course of the novel. I think Samra actively chose to write according to the age she was describing, and that could explain the improvement as the novel progressed. 

We Have Always Been Here is such an important and impactful story that I feel needed to be told. I don’t often enough hear the voices of queer muslims and am ignorant of the struggles they face being accepted by the muslim community at large. Samra points out that Canadians in particular are ignorant in that Canada is progressive when it comes to LGBTQIA+ rights, and so don’t fully understand that there are still people who struggle to be accepted. Everyone one should read this story for this reason alone.

In terms of Samra’s experiences, I loved reading about someone who came into their queer identity slowly, and that her experience was a learning process. I can relate a lot to discovering my identity in adulthood, and I often wonder if being queer were more accepted and normalized how many people would realize their identities sooner. I especially enjoyed reading about Samra’s varying relationships with her family members. The hurdles they go through together or apart make for a compelling narrative with a very happy and satisfying conclusion. I also liked that being muslim was not treated as a negative thing, and that Samra’s religion was very important to her and helped shape her identity. 

Overall I really enjoyed Samra’s memoir, I love reading about people who are passionate about their beliefs and who are able to overcome discrimination and difficulties. Highly recommend!

Have you read We Have Always Been Here? If not, do you plan to? I’d love to hear your thoughts! Happy reading! 💗

cance

Book Review: Ignite the Sun

Title: Ignite the Sun
Author: Hanna C Howard
Date Published: August 18, 2020
Rating: 2.5/5 stars
Date read: April 12, 2020

Ignite the Sun takes place in a world covered in darkness, where the sun is a myth. This world has mages, nymphs, and fae type creatures. We follow Siria, who is just turning sixteen and is trying to gain the favour of the queen. When she becomes an honoured guest at the Choosing Ball, she discovers not everything is as it seems, and she may be the key to bringing the sun back to the kingdom. 

I’ve been dreading writing this review because I don’t have too many positive things to say. Let’s start with characters, Siria is your typical chosen one. She doesn’t particularly stand out, and she very much does not want to be the chosen one and doesn’t believe she’s capable enough and is a brat about it. The side characters are pretty lacklustre as well and I wish they had been more fleshed out. At times it felt like some characters were introduced solely for the sake of having more characters in the story. The villain of Ignite the Sun really doesn’t have too large a roll and could have benefitted from more page time because she seems like more of a way to drive the story forward than like an actual character.

The dialogue also leaves much to be desired. Siria’s interactions with the other characters come across as forced and the banter between her and her love interest, Linden, is lacking in the charms required for me to root for them together. When we meet the two we already know they have crushes on each other and are the best of friends, but I find none of this believable through their interactions. Siria’s also a bit too focused on Linden’s looks maybe because of his lack of personality and that’s something I never enjoy in regards to romance. 

My biggest gripe with this novel is that I thought the writing was lazy. The main character conveniently keeps blacking out during the height of tension, the plot is predictable, there were many info dumpy moments, especially in regards to the backstory of characters, and there are some very convenient magical elements thrown into the story, some in regards to those backstories, that do not make for an engaging narrative. I think Howard has potential as a writer, her style is easy to digest and the story concept is great, but her potential wasn’t fully reached with this debut.

Something else that does not sit quite right with me is that the “chosen-ones” of the story are all red-haired or blond while, and correct me if I’m wrong, the other characters are dark haired. I understand what the author is trying to do here, and that the hair is meant to represent the sun, but the execution could have been better. 

Have you read Ignite the Sun? If not, do you plan to? I’d love to hear your thoughts! Happy reading! 💗

Six for Sunday #7

#SixforSunday is a weekly MEME hosted by A Little But a Lot, this week’s prompt is:

Favourite LGBTQIA+ characters

Not going to lie, this was an extremely difficult post to write because it turns out I don’t remember characters as well as I thought I did.

Nina Zenik (bisexual) from the Grisha Verse by Leigh Bardugo

Six of Crows follows a group of six unsavoury individuals who perform the ultimate heist.

Nina is the bisexual waffle-loving goddess of my dreams and I adore her. YA fantasy, and just books in general really, need more flirty, ambitious, strong-willed characters like her.

Noah Sweetwine (gay) from I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson

I’ll Give You the Sun is a dual perspective story following two twins, Noah and Jude, and how they went from being inseparable to being distant.

I easily preferred Noah’s perspective over Jude’s in this novel, and he really made the novel for me. He’s such a sweet character and watching his development over the course of the novel was such a great experience.

Benjamin Ovic (gay) from Beartown by Fredrik Bachman

Beartown takes place in a small town, whose community is extremely passionate about hockey. Its inhabitants rest its future on its junior hockey team in hopes that the team’s success will garner more business for the town. After an act of violence is committed by one of the hockey team members, the community is left divided and the fate of the town is in jeopardy. 

Benji is my favourite character from Beartown. I don’t usually latch onto the quiet brooding type, but he was just so well written, so easy to root for and empathize with, and so kind.

❥Tanner Scott (bisexual) from Autoboyography by Christina Lauren

The synopsis of Autoboyography can be wrapped up in a single sentence, bisexual boy falls in love with in-denial-about-being-gay Mormon boy. 

Tanner is a fantastic protagonist and by the end of the novel you’ll feel like you just made a new friend. He can be lazy, he’s the type of guy to think with his heart and not his head, and he is so open about meeting new people and having new experiences, he’s such an enjoyable perspective to read from.

Roarke Richards (gay) from The Book of Essie by Meghan MacLean Weir

The Book of Essie follows a young woman named Essie whose extremely religious family has their own reality TV show. When it is discovered Essie is pregnant (and unmarried) her controlling mother tries to devise a way to avoid scandal. Meanwhile Essie has her own ideas in mind about how to deal with the pregnancy.

I think part of why I became so attached to Roarke’s character was his friendship with Essie. I don’t often come across memorable platonic relationships between two characters of the opposite sex and Essie and Roarke’s friendship was one of the highlights of the novel for me. It also helps that Roarke is such a good guy.

Willem (queer) from A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara

While the actual synopsis of A Little Life describes this book as the life of four college friends, I would say this book is mainly about Jude and the different relationships in his life. The main ones being his relationship with his broken body, his relationship with the adult males who enter his life, and his relationship with his closest friend Willem.

Willem is one of my favourite characters ever. He is so kind and loyal and I just want him to have all the good things and be happy. He’s also a really great foil to Jude and really helps balance out this sad story. Also, I have a definite soft spot for flirty characters.

I’m not surprised this list is dominated by male protagonists, as I often have trouble finding books with queer female leads. If you have any recommendations please point them my way! Happy reading! 💗

WWW Wednesday #7

WWW Wednesday is a weekly MEME hosted by Taking on a World of Words answering the following questions:

1. What are you currently reading?
2. What did you recently finish reading?
3. What do you think you’ll read next?

Currently reading:

Know My Name by Chanel Miller
This is one of the most difficult reading experiences I’ve had to date, and I wish everyone would read this book. The way the media and society in general treats sexual assault victims can be so disgusting, and seeing how many people are affected by these acts of violence is sickening.

Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik (reread)
I put this one on hold in order to fully catch up with Yona of the Dawn, and now that that’s happened we’re back on track. I tend to read this story slowly, and this time around is no exception. I always just want to fully absorb the story.

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins
I am seriously not enjoying this. Wow.

Recently Finished

Ran the Peerless Beauty Volume 1 by Ammitsu
Since finding out I was reading this one, my husband will not stop referring to me as “Ren the Peerless Beauty” *insert eye roll here*. I think I went into this one with the wrong expectations, but now that I know what to expect I imagine I’ll enjoy this series a lot more going forward.

Lovesick Ellie Volume 7 by Fujimomo
I needed a pick me up after those last few chapters of Yona of the Dawn, and this is what I turned to and it did not disappoint. I can always rely on Lovesick Ellie to put me in a good mood.

Coraline by Neil Gaiman (reread)
Coraline is a story that I feel like I want to like more than I actually like. I think the premise is great, but the execution doesn’t quite do it for me.

Reading Next

Oresama Teacher Volume 2 by Izumi Tsubaki (reread)
I made a huge purchase of this whole series and now I feel I need to get a move on with it in order to justify my spendings.

My Calamity Jane by Cynthia Hand, Jodi Meadows, and Brodi Ashton
This’ll be my next audiobook, probably. I’m a bit hesitant about this one because while I love My Lady Jane, I didn’t like My Plain Jane, and the premise of this book doesn’t particularly interest me, but I’m hoping I can work past that.

What are you currently reading? What have you just finished reading? What are you planning to read next? I’d love to hear it! As well as any of your thoughts on the books above. Happy reading! 💗

Book Review: The Boyfriend Project

Title: The Boyfriend Project
Author: Farrah Rochon
Date Published: June 9, 2020
Rating: 2/5 stars
Date read: April 7, 2020

The Boyfriend Project follows thirty-year-old Samirah, who discovers her boyfriend is cheating on her with at least two other women. Samirah goes to confront her cheating boyfriend and ends her night befriending two other women catfished by her ex. The three women make a pact to try to better themselves before deciding to date again. The timing of this pact could not be worse, as shortly afterwards Samirah meets her company’s new hire, very good-looking, very single, Daniel. 

The Boyfriend Project is The Central Park Pact but with a lot more diversity and a lot more lust. Its first instalment follows a woman in a STEM field, working an extremely desirable and successful job at a tech company. While I very much appreciated the diversity The Boyfriend Project had to offer, much of The Boyfriend Project did not work for me.

My first issue with The Boyfriend Project was the characters. I think characters make up the backbone of any romance novel, and without good characters you really can’t have a good romance novel. Samirah came across as a bit too cocky for my tastes, and both she and Daniel were too perfect. Flawless characters really aren’t my thing and to me often come across as one dimensional. Another strike against The Boyfriend Project was that I didn’t believe in the chemistry between Samirah and Daniel. They were both hyper-focused on looks and how attractive they found one another, but with none of the sexual tension needed to make me invested in whether or not they got together. 

Not all sexy scenes are going to work for every person, and this was an instance in which the steamy scenes made me cringe. I personally find nothing sexy about describing making out as having one’s tongue down someone else’s throat. 

What I did like about The Boyfriend Project was the importance of female friendships in the novel. I like that Samirah was able to balance a romantic relationship while also maintaining female friendships (and maintaining a career too!). Unfortunately, I again did not believe in the chemistry between Samirah and her girlfriends. I wanted more depth to their friend group. Ultimately, this novel didn’t work for me.

Have you read The Boyfriend Project? If not, do you plan to? I’d love to hear your thoughts! Happy reading! 💗

Six for Sunday #6

#SixforSunday is a weekly MEME hosted by A Little But a Lot, this week’s prompt is:

Recommend some LGBTQIA+ books

For my list I made an effort to showcase queer stories by queer authors. I have listed what the authors themselves identify as if that information was available to me.

❥ The Wayfarers Series by Becky Chambers
If you haven’t yet read The Long Way to a Small and Angry Planet you are seriously missing out. It’s a quieter story following a crew aboard a spaceship whose job is to create blackholes (if I’m messing up the plot forgive me, it’s been a while since I read this one). This story is incredible diverse, and reminds me a lot of Firefly in the best way possible.

❥How To Make a Wish by Ashley Herring Blake (bisexual)
How to Make a Wish is a story about two girls connecting at the right time. It’s not just a romance though, and deals with some pretty difficult topics like the death of a parent and a neglectful parent. I’d highly recommend it if you’re looking for a sweet and impactful story.

❥We Have Always Been Here by Samra Habib (queer)
We Have Always Been Here is a memoir written by Samra Habib, a Canadian photographer, writer, and activist. Samra is best known for her Just Me and Allah project, in which she photographs and documents the lives of queer muslims living in North America and Europe. Her memoir details her struggles growing up Ahmadi Muslim during the oppression of Islamic extremists, immigrating to Canada, and discovering her queer identity, all the while facing sexism, racism, and homophobia, and how her many experiences have been impacted by her muslim faith. I wanted to include a non-fiction on this list and thought this was the perfect choice!

The Afterward by E.K. Johnston (bi-romantic demi-sexual)
The Afterward follows a group of heroes after they’ve completed their quest, and unexpected outcomes said quest has had on their lives. The Afterward is one of the most diverse books I’ve had the pleasure of reading and I love how unique the premise is.

❥Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me by Mariko Tamaki (queer)
I love Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me. In this graphic novel we follow a young woman named Freddy whose girlfriend continues to cheat and break up with her. Toxic relationships are something that I wish was more explored in YA, and I think this story handled them very well and very accurately. I also absolutely love the art style and colour palette chosen for this story, I highly recommend it.

❥Something to Talk About by Meryl Wilsner
And we’re ending off the list with a book from my TBR. F/F romances are something that is severely lacking in the adult romance genre, so naturally I was really excited to find out about Something to Talk About. Something to Talk About is a Hollywood romance following an actress and her assistant. I don’t really know more than that, but I’m super looking forward to giving this one a read.

Doing this topic has made it abundantly clear to me that I do not read enough LGBTQIA+ books, and I’d love to change that, so if you have any recommendations please leave them in the comments! Happy reading! 💗

Six for Sunday #5

#SixforSunday is a weekly MEME hosted by A Little But a Lot, this week’s prompt is:

Favourite series

I don’t think it’s fair for a series to be called a favourite unless I’ve read it in its entirety, so on this list is only completed series, though I do have some uncompleted honourable mentions.

❥Six of Crows (Six of Crows, Crooked Kingdom) by Leigh Bardugo
My husband claims duologues are not series, but I disagree. I’m a character driven reader and Leigh Bardugo is a master at crafting characters, so naturally I get along very well with this series. Nina and Inej are two of my all-time favourite characters, so of course this duology had to make this list. It also helps that the character interactions/relationship dynamics are some of my favourites and watching the crew get along (or not) is one of my favourite things to read about.

Soul Eaters (Cracked, Crushed, Crossed) by Eliza Crewe
Because Meda Melange. She’s the snarky, sarcastic Slytherin of my dreams and I love her. Also, this series is everything I could have ever wanted from a paranormal fantasy, it pokes fun at a lot of YA fantasy tropes, and it has one of the most brilliant best-friend pairings I’ve ever read about.

❥The Story Girl (The Story Girl, The Golden Road) by L.M. Montgomery
The Story Girl is a love letter to storytelling. There’s something about it that just gives the feeling that Montgomery was writing a story she loved and felt passionate about. The Story Girl is so special and so underrated and I think everything about it is beautiful

❥The Anne Series (Anne of Green Gables, Anne of Avonlea, Anne of the Island, Anne of Windy Poplars, Anne’s House of Dreams, Anne of Ingleside, Rainbow Valley, Rilla of Ingleside, The Blythes Are Quoted) by L.M. Montgomery
I can’t write a list of my favourite series and not include Anne. Anne is one of my most beloved characters in literature and I adore getting any amount of insight into her life. While the first three are definitely my favourites and best embody the fun and good-natured side of Anne, this series has a lot of amazing novels and I recommend it to everyone.

❥The Bartimaeus Sequence (The Amulet of Samarkand, The Golem’s Eye, Ptolemy’s Gate, The Ring of Solomon) by Jonathan Stroud
I don’t understand why this series isn’t more beloved in the book community. Dare I say it, it’s like Harry Potter but better, like imagine Harry Potter but with Malfoy as the chosen one. Nathaniel, our protagonist grows up in a situation where he’s influenced by a lot of people with shady intentions and this greatly affects who he becomes as he gets older and I love it. I don’t always like him, but he and his story are so compelling. Also, Bartimaeus, his demon “familiar” is one of the funniest characters I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading about and the way this series comes together as a whole is just perfection.

❥Harry Potter (and the Philosopher’s Stone, Chamber of Secrets, Prisoner of Azkaban, Goblet of Fire, Order of the Phoenix, Half-Blood Prince, Deathly Hallows) by J.K. Rowling
I maybe, slightly, bashed Harry Potter in the above paragraph, but it’s still a favourite. I have so much nostalgia attached to this series and I love its characters so much. Rowling is a master at writing characters, they pop off the page and I think they truly reflect real-life and how different and complex people can be. I’m always going to have love for this series.

Honorable mentions (incomplete series)

Yona of the Dawn by Mizuho Kusanagi
I started seriously rereading this series this month and I’m obsessed all over again. The attention to detail Kusanagi puts in her art, story, and characters is phenomenal. If you’re looking for some really slow paced but extremely rewarding character development, this series has it. It also helps that YotD features my favourite romance.

❥The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss
Rothfuss is such a talented writer, and Kvothe is such a compelling character. I love his story, his love of music, his recklessness, the magic, the world building, everything.

What are some of your favourite series? I’d love to know! Happy reading! 💗

Manga Reviews: Sailor Moon Volumes 1 & 2

Reviews for each volume have spoilers for the preceding volumes.

Series: Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon
Eternal Edition Volume 1
Author: Naoko Takeuchi
First published: 1992
Ongoing: no
Rating: 4.5/5 stars
Date read: December 15, 2018 (reread)

Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon follows a young woman named Usagi who stumbles upon a talking cat named Luna. Through Luna, Usagi learns she is actually a Sailor Scout, a chosen guardian to the mysterious moon princess. She must find the other guardians and the princess and protect the princess.

I fully acknowledge that my high rating of the first volume stems a lot from nostalgia. Art in 90s manga has never been my favourite but there is something undeniably pretty about Takeuchi’s art style. It was also a pleasure meeting Usagi again and watching her befriend all the Sailor Scouts. I do wish this series had better character development though, and that it wasn’t so episodic in nature. Yes, there is an ultimate story arc, but for the most part each chapter follows the same formula of bad guy appears, girls transform, bad guy is defeated. As for the characters, while I feel like I know them I think I only feel that way because I’m already familiar with them. And while I’ll always root for Mamoru and Usagi, their relationship is severely lacking in any real substance. In regards to the conflict, the tactics the villains use to control and collect energy are a bit repetitive and easy. To be perfectly honest I’m not sure who the age demographic/target audience is for this manga, and without the nostalgia factor I don’t really see this appealing to many.

Series: Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon
Eternal Edition Volume 2
Author: Naoko Takeuchi
First published: 1992
Ongoing: no
Rating: 3/5 stars
Date read: March 20, 2020 (reread)

Volume 2 picks up right where volume 1 left off. We finally get to meet our Moon Princess, Sailor V.

The story continues! Unfortunately the storytelling aspect of this series is its weakest element, and it relies too heavily on convenience to move the story forward. There was a plot twist revealed in this volume that was neither ground-breaking nor shocking and added to the story in no way whatsoever. Plot wise this unfolds more or less the way you would expect it to. On the plus side I like that we got more into the backstory of the Moon Princess, though I would have appreciated more depth when it came to her romance with the Earth Prince. Their romance plays a central role in the story, so I wanted more from it then just love at first sight. This volume also had the brainwashing trope, which is something I always dread when it comes to manga and anime. It’s just so overused and cheap. I am pleased that the story arc wrapped up well in the first two volumes though.

If you’ve read Sailor Moon or plan to, I’d love to hear your thoughts! Happy reading! 💗