I have a pretty lengthy TBR list from perusing CBR, and when some rough life stuff came up recently and I needed some light reading, I decided to try a few books that Cannonballers have recommended that I thought would fit the bill. I’d seen The Kiss Quotient reviewed several times, and I know Rainbow Rowell is a favorite around these parts. So, in the order I read them:
The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang. First of all, hoo boy is there a lot of sex in this. It’s not something I have a problem with, but I wasn’t quite expecting so much of the novel to be taken up with that. The main characters are Stella and Michael, and third person POV switches between them. Stella wants to improve her bedroom skills – she’s typically very anxious re: sex – so she hires Michael, who is working part-time as an escort to get out of debt. Stella is on the autism spectrum and struggles with social skills, and eventually she asks Michael to help her learn to be a good girlfriend.
It’s been a long time since I’d read a romance novel, but it seems to follow the basic formula that I recall: boy meets girl, at some point there’s some miscommunication that drives a wedge between boy and girl, and eventually boy and girl make up and probably live happily ever after. But being formulaic doesn’t make it bad, and I enjoyed the book. I liked Stella’s intelligence and forthrightness. I liked Michael’s dedication to his family. From skimming some reviews on Goodreads, I know some people felt like Michael, or being in love, sort of “cured” Stella of her autism, but I didn’t see it that way. She’s a lot more comfortable with touch with him than with anyone else, but it’s not like he magically made her social skills better.
Admittedly, I don’t have a whole lot to say about this novel. For one thing, my memory is terrible and I read 2 books after this. But more than that, it was just a good book. I don’t think it was bland for forgettable, but I also don’t know that I can really tell you what stood out or made it good. I will also add that I took issue with how they characterized Stella’s coworker, who was pursuing her romantically. I don’t want to spoil anything (although I don’t think it’s much of a spoiler), so I’ll just say that I think some of his treatment of Stella was brushed off too easily. This lowered my rating of the book a bit.
Onto Attachments and Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell. Let me just start by saying that I totally get why Rowell has a lot of fans. I liked Attachments and loved Fangirl, and Eleanor & Park is next on my list. In Attachments, the chapters alternate between e-mail exchanges at work between best friends Jennifer and Beth and 3rd person POV from the perspective of Lincoln, who as the IT person at the newspaper where Jennifer and Beth work, has been reading some of their email when it gets flagged. Instead of reporting them for email violations, he becomes invested in their lives and falls in love with Beth. In Fangirl, main character Cath and her twin Wren are starting their first year of college. Both are huge Simon Snow fans (clearly a riff on Harry Potter), and Cath has a huge following in the fandom as a writer of Simon Snow fanfiction (slash fanfic, too, which is right up my alley in the Harry Potter fandom). Cath and Wren have a falling out at the beginning of the year because Wren wants some distance and independence from Cath, starting with their not rooming together.
Some of the things I love about Rowell’s writing is how well she develops friendships, especially between women. She also doesn’t go for the expected. There were a couple of times in Fangirl when I thought I knew what would happen based on various tropes, and Rowell doesn’t go there. For example, Cath talks her way into an advanced writing class that usually juniors and seniors take, and I was expecting that to backfire on poor, anxious, first year Cath, but she ends up being an excellent student in that course.
Rowell also sure has a way with language. She has some great similes and metaphors that aren’t cliched, and there were multiple times when a line or an exchange surprised a smile or laugh out of me. Here are some that stood out to me:
- When watching some girls grind dancing with each other in a club, Lincoln thinks it’s “unpleasantly arousing . . . Like masturbating in a portable toilet” (Attachments, p. 56).
- “Crying into the sleeves of his plaid flannel shirt like the world’s saddest lumberjack” (Attachments, p. 133).
- “It’s like watching a kitten with its head trapped in a Kleenex box” (Fangirl, p. 211).
And this passage: “Reagan was sitting at Cath’s desk when Cath woke up.
‘Are you awake?’
‘Have you been watching me sleep?’
‘Yes, Bella. Are you awake?'” (Fangirl, p. 209).
So, all in all, I’d say I like the CBR bandwagons I’ve joined.