Happy Sunday, dear Readers!
There’s a windstorm here in Toronto (yes, apparently that is a thing), and so I’m curled up inside, beside my husband who is deep into some anime series, catching up on a few reviews I’ve been meaning to post. Sometimes, I finish a book really quickly during the week and only have a chance to write small and short reviews of them (particularly if I wasn’t that passionate about the book), and I don’t always feel it’s necessary to create an entire blog post for a review that’s only a couple of sentences. In those cases, I think it’s best to combine them into a larger post at the end of the week/when I’ve collected a few shorter reviews, so you all have something meatier to read (if you’re at all interested). Here, I have reviews for three novels I finished recently, all of which would be classified as more contemporary chick lit. Two of them were really excellent and one was, unfortunately, not as great as I hoped it would be…but anyway, take a look at the reviews below if you’re looking for some romantic recommendations! 🙂
My Oxford Year by Julia Whelan
I was extremely distracted while reading My Oxford Year, for personal reasons, and so the fact that I got right back into it after almost a week without reading is a testament to how engaging it is.
I don’t know what it is about this book that had me so interested. The story isn’t all that unique, as there are many contemporary novels written about characters studying abroad and falling in love. Perhaps (probably) it is the way that it is written and how different I felt the main character and narrator, Ella, was. She is a character who really isn’t obsessed with romance or relationships. Yes, she does become romantically involved with a man she meets during her studies at Oxford, but she isn’t interested in an actual relationship for much of the novel, and her views on sex and men are quite contemporary and refreshing to read in this sort of novel. Ella’s also kind of reserved, and that was quite unique in my opinion because oftentimes it is the male character that is distant. I don’t think, either, that there was anything negative whatsoever about Ella’s reserved character and her tendency to keep people at arms’ length at first because she is also very realistic and human in that she eventually does warm up to the people she meets, and particularly does begin to recognize and admit her romantic feelings for Jamie – so I instead found it to be, once again, contemporary of her that she is guarded initially and then allows herself to become more engaged as those around her gain her trust.
Of course, the novel does have a surprise in it, an unexpected twist that I did at one point start to predict, but that was then revealed shortly thereafter. I appreciated that there was a turning point to the plot because otherwise it could have very easily become mundane and more of the same, so I did think shaking things up a little was needed. And ultimately, it was interesting to see how Ella handled this specific surprise and how it made her re-evaluate her own character.
Overall, I would say that My Oxford Year is definitely enjoyable and a read that is well worth delving into on a cold and snowy weekend as it is fast-paced and entertaining!
❥❥❥❥(out of 5)
The Good Luck Charm by Helena Hunting
I’ve realized that despite growing up in a small, Ontario town that is totally obsessed with hockey, as well as working at one of the biggest hockey equipment stores in the province…I actually don’t give a **** about the sport. So sue me!
Okay, to be honest, I do associate the sounds of hockey with my childhood and my dad having the Leafs game on TV, but I’m not a diehard fan by any means and now that I’ve moved away from home, I don’t follow the sport or any teams myself at all. Hockey has more of a nostalgic quality for me than anything. But, I thought that Helena Hunting’s chick lit. novel The Good Luck Charm would really intrigue me because it is based on a woman rekindling her relationship with her high school sweetheart after he is drafted back to the NHL team in their hometown. What could be more Canadian and more romantic? Probably nothing other than a heart-shaped piece of peameal bacon, drizzled in maple syrup.
The problem is that I didn’t really enjoy The Good Luck Charm. First of all, although Hunting lives in Toronto, the book doesn’t take place in Canada…major bummer! Then, for some reason, I found it REALLY hard to get into the story and actually found myself putting it down during my lunch break every ten minutes, to stare off into the distance. To be fair, I’ve been distracted recently and have had trouble focusing on reading, but I really thought this book would grab me from the first pages and I was pretty disappointed when it didn’t. I do have to say that it picked up towards the second half of the novel, when Lilah and Ethan actually decide to give their relationship another shot, but the build-up was just too long and arduous in my opinion.
Another major issue I had with this novel was the fact that I, sadly, didn’t feel it was very well written. I hate to say this but it felt like the two points of view that the book is narrated in, Lilah’s and Ethan’s, sounded exactly the same. There was nothing unique about either of their voices whatsoever, and it would’ve basically been impossible to distinguish between the two narrations if the chapter headings didn’t indicate who was narrating each one. I’ve read a few romance novels that have really strong male narration (Emma Chase’s novel Tangled is a good example), and so I was again very disappointed that Ethan’s voice sounded so bland and generic. The fact that, on top of that, Lilah’s narration is equally devoid of personality was super unfortunate. This blandness also existed in the dialogue, which was often awkward in that characters would speak in huge paragraphs that sounded like narration rather than actual speech. This, in turn, led to way too much telling in the novel and not enough showing, and it felt like I was basically just slogging through pages of exposition with characters stating exactly how and what they were feeling without any nuance or subtlety. It all felt very unpolished to me and akin to a story that a high school student might write in a creative writing class, before they have the chance to finesse their style fully.
Finally, towards the end of the novel, the plot started to get a bit muddled and too complicated for my liking. I felt from the very beginning that the fact that Lilah is in school was an unnecessary obstacle to her relationship with Ethan that felt haphazardly inserted into the story. I felt even more annoyed when Lilah’s father, who has been absent for 20 years, randomly returns to the story, and this once again felt like a “twist” that was totally unwarranted and more confusing than exciting. I felt that the story was a bit disjointed as a result of these random additions, and while I appreciate when chick lit. novels have complexity to them, adding storylines for the sake of it is not something I appreciate.
All in all, this novel was unfortunately not what I was hoping for. It was extremely graphic in some scenes, which is not altogether a bad thing, but it did make it seem that perhaps Hunting is more adept at writing steamy moments than creating characters. I really am sorry to have to say that I didn’t enjoy this one, but there were just more flaws than positives, and I have read far better romance novels that I would recommend before this one.
❥❥.5(out of 5)
The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang
“He’d been made to love her.”
The Kiss Quotient is a damn good novel! Read it!
The end. Review done.
Okay, no not actually, but that’s basically all you need to know: that this novel is really pretty awesome and you’ve got to go out and pick it up. If you don’t trust me (although, why wouldn’t you, I am an expert on the romance genre, tbh…haha!), then trust the fact that The Kiss Quotient was the 2018 Goodreads Choice winner for the Romance category. I didn’t vote for it actually, because I hadn’t read it yet when the voting took place, but if I could go back now, I would absolutely vote for it!
The Kiss Quotient is not your run of the mill romance, and it is exactly the kind of story needed to remind readers who don’t typically pick up romance how legitimate the genre is. Yes, romance novels are fun, fast reads, but they can also be incredibly profound and enlightening, and The Kiss Quotient is one of those novels that is both steamy and sophisticated, sexy and meaningful. The story follows Stella Lane, a brilliant econometrician who was diagnosed in her early life with autism. When she decides she wants some advice and assistance in romantic relationships, she hires a male escort, Michael, to teach her the ways of love, both physical and emotional. The novel has been called a gender reversed adaptation of Pretty Woman (aka one of the best movies to ever grace our screens), but it becomes so much more than that as we learn about Michael’s true passions and talents and watch both him and Stella grow and transform into these very confident characters. It was interesting to me that the novel doesn’t just focus on Stella’s personal development, and instead spends a great deal of time investigating Michael’s self-esteem issues. Michael learns just as much about being comfortable in his own skin as Stella, and they were both incredibly sympathetic and endearing characters that you can’t help but like from page one.
The novel is, of course, also very steamy and the chemistry between Stella and Michael sizzles off the page. It is really nice to see a character in Stella who is quirky and, despite her successful career, doesn’t have it all together, and it is even nicer to watch her accept herself and realize that the right man (namely, Michael) will love her because of her diagnosis and not in spite of it. I recognized a lot of similarities between myself and Stella, particularly in that I also appreciate routines and find it challenging to deal with change, and I think that any reader will be able to relate to her sense of vulnerability when allowing a man into her life and letting him shake things up. Stella is a realistic character in this way, and Michael is made all the more lovable by the fact that he is enamoured with Stella from the beginning, warts and all.
It is also wonderful that this is truly an own voice story (Hoang was herself diagnosed with autism) and I admire Helen Hoang immensely for creating a heroine that is so much more than a cookie cutter, stereotypical romantic lead. We need more stories like this in the romance genre to emphasize that love is an emotion that doesn’t have to be cheesy or cliché. A lot can be learned from romance stories like this one, and I for one think that reading The Kiss Quotient has certainly made me a more empathetic person and has given me a better understanding of the fact that people are not always who they seem and that so much can be going on for a person behind the scenes, and you might not even realize it.
Highly recommend this one to anyone and everyone!
“‘I’m obsessed with you, Michael…I don’t want just a night or a week or a month with you. I want you all the time. I like you better than calculus, and math is the only thing that unites the universe.’”
❥❥❥❥❥(out of 5)
Girl with a Green Heart