Title: The Kiss Quotient
Author: Helen Hoang
Genre: romance; contemporary
Synopsis: (from Goodreads) Stella Lane thinks math is the only thing that unites the universe. She comes up with algorithms to predict customer purchases–a job that has given her more money than she knows what to do with, and way less experience in the dating department than the average thirty-year-old. It doesn’t help that Stella has Asperger’s and French kissing reminds her of a shark getting its teeth cleaned by pilot fish. Her conclusion: she needs lots of practice–with a professional. Which is why she hires escort Michael Phan. The Vietnamese and Swedish stunner can’t afford to turn down Stella’s offer, and agrees to help her check off all the boxes on her lesson plan–from foreplay to more-than-missionary position… Before long, Stella not only learns to appreciate his kisses, but to crave all the other things he’s making her feel. Soon, their no-nonsense partnership starts making a strange kind of sense. And the pattern that emerges will convince Stella that love is the best kind of logic…
Review: If you’re a Pretty Woman fan and ever wondered what a gender bent version would look like — then this book is for you. Instead of pompous millionaire Richard Gere, we get sweet and naive Stella who thinks that practicing with a professional will make sex less of a chore. As a woman with high functioning autism, she looks at the issue of her sexual inexperience logically and comes to this conclusion rationally and does her research where she finds sexy Michael. Now, if you’ve seen Pretty Woman, you might have some idea of what to expect from The Kiss Quotient, but don’t write it off!
In Pretty Woman, none of the characters really get the chance to develop or change like they do in Hoang’s novel. In fact, while there are corresponding characters for each character in Pretty Woman, Hoang makes her story original and poignant because of the depth she gives to each character – including the side characters. Stella isn’t just a rich woman who needs a dating partner for a while, she’s a woman who needs to learn how to navigate the world of intimacy but doesn’t know how, so she enlists the help of a professional. Rational. Michael is devoted. He’s holding the strings of his life together. He’s doing what he has to for the family he loves. But ALL OF THEM EVOLVE. They don’t just take their shoes off and walk on grass and then fly off into the sunset.
One thing I really liked about this is that there wasn’t any judgment from Stella about Michael’s sex work. She wasn’t condescending or worried about how it might look to her at all. She saw him as a human being who was deserving of respect and of a voice. Michael is given way more depth than his Julia Roberts counterpart. He’s got a family unit to support him, and while I was reading it, what I loved about it was that Hoang really settled us as readers into his family. His family base was strong.
Read this book people. You won’t regret it.
Title: Love in the Time of Global Warming
Author: Francesca Lia Block
Genre: retelling; ya; hero’s journey; adventure; dystopian; lgbt; mythology
Synopsis: Her life by the sea in ruins, Pen has lost everything in the Earth Shaker that all but destroyed the city of Los Angeles. She sets out into the wasteland to search for her family, her journey guided by a tattered copy of Homer’s Odyssey. Soon she begins to realize her own abilities and strength as she faces false promises of safety, the cloned giants who feast on humans, and a madman who wishes her dead. On her voyage, Pen learns to tell stories that reflect her strange visions, while she and her fellow survivors navigate the dangers that lie in wait. In her signature style, Francesca Lia Block has created a world that is beautiful in its destruction and as frightening as it is lovely. At the helm is Pen, a strong heroine who holds hope and love in her hands and refuses to be defeated.
Review: This Odyssey pairing is an interesting YA version of the text. A modern setting and some cool queer characters make this classic tale seem fresh and inviting for a new generation of readers. Pen is an interesting protagonist, thrown into the apocalypse without warning or preparation. While Block doesn’t have the sweeping power that Homer does, it would be a good pairing for lower-level readers so that they understand the mile markers of the epic. Pen is a heroine in her own right, but she is no Odysseus.
In the end, the book felt a little one-dimensional for me. I am very well versed in Homer, so I think I went into it with really high expectations and hopes, but was instead kind of left wanting more. The characters didn’t get enough backstory and the drama felt a little rushed. I’d still recommend it to the students I teach though, so….
Title: The Song of Achilles
Author: Madeline Miller
Genre: historical fiction; fantasy; mythology; lgbt; romance
Synopsis: (from Goodreads) Greece in the age of heroes. Patroclus, an awkward young prince, has been exiled to the court of King Peleus and his perfect son Achilles. By all rights their paths should never cross, but Achilles takes the shamed prince as his friend, and as they grow into young men skilled in the arts of war and medicine their bond blossoms into something deeper – despite the displeasure of Achilles’ mother Thetis, a cruel sea goddess. But then word comes that Helen of Sparta has been kidnapped. Torn between love and fear for his friend, Patroclus journeys with Achilles to Troy, little knowing that the years that follow will test everything they hold dear.
Review: This book is everything an epic retelling of mighty Achilles should be. In the beginning of the novel, as Patroclus’ backstory was being introduced, I started to feel some type of way because I always loved Patroclus’ story and Madeline Miller’s telling of it wasn’t what I remembered at all, but when he is sent to live with Achilles, I stopped caring about that completely. The relationship between these two heroes grows slowly and softly and sweetly in a way that proves just how passionate about the classics Miller really is.
As Achilles and Patroclus grow older (not that old, they’re barely teenagers at the start of the Trojan War), they cannot avoid the world forever. The dynamics between all of other characters shift, but the bond between Achilles and Patroclus stays steady. I knew how this was to end, obviously, but JESUS did I cry. The best of the Greeks indeed. Patroclus’ love for Achilles, and Achilles’ lust for legacy create a beautiful and tragic story of love and honor. Thetis, I hated you, but in the end, you did right by your son.
Definitely looking forward to more from Madeline Miller after this.
Title: The Hating Game
Author: Sally Thorne
Genre: romance; fiction; contemporary
Synopsis: (from Goodreads) Nemesis (n.) 1) An opponent or rival whom a person cannot best or overcome. 2) A person’s undoing 3) Joshua TemplemanLucy Hutton and Joshua Templeman hate each other. Not dislike. Not begrudgingly tolerate. Hate. And they have no problem displaying their feelings through a series of ritualistic passive aggressive maneuvers as they sit across from each other, executive assistants to co-CEOs of a publishing company. Lucy can’t understand Joshua’s joyless, uptight, meticulous approach to his job. Joshua is clearly baffled by Lucy’s overly bright clothes, quirkiness, and Pollyanna attitude. Now up for the same promotion, their battle of wills has come to a head and Lucy refuses to back down when their latest game could cost her her dream job…But the tension between Lucy and Joshua has also reached its boiling point, and Lucy is discovering that maybe she doesn’t hate Joshua. And maybe, he doesn’t hate her either. Or maybe this is just another game
Review: When you read book like this there are some things that are just straight up guaranteed —cliche or not, you read these books for the familiarity. You want a narrator who is both human and likeable, a bit of a pushover who wants to be more fierce. You want a brooding male lead who is handsome, strong, stoic. You want tension between the two. You want drama that inevitably makes the narrator grow a backbone. You want a HEA.
Well, you get ALLLLLLL of that in this Pride and Prejudice retelling. You get all of that but with an originality that is both refreshing and engaging. Lucy is perfect in that she’s flawed and charismatic. Josh is the perfect paramour all furrowed brows and strong chin. The tension is, ahem, amazing. The drama is unexpected but well written. The HEA is dreamy.
The prose and wit that Thorne embeds in this novel is fast pace and biting. It’s funny, like, laugh out loud funny, and full of heart. You root for the characters because they just fit.
I loved every minute of this book
Title: Cinder [Book I/IV]
Author: Marissa Meyer
Genre: Fantasy; Scifi; Retelling
Synopsis: (from Goodreads) Sixteen-year-old Cinder is considered a technological mistake by most of society and a burden by her stepmother. Being cyborg does have its benefits, though: Cinder’s brain interference has given her an uncanny ability to fix things (robots, hovers, her own malfunctioning parts), making her the best mechanic in New Beijing. This reputation brings Prince Kai himself to her weekly market booth, needing her to repair a broken android before the annual ball. Although eager to impress the prince, Cinder’s intentions are derailed when her younger stepsister, and only human friend, is infected with the fatal plague that’s been devastating Earth for a decade. Blaming Cinder for her daughter’s illness, Cinder’s stepmother volunteers her body for plague research, an “honor” that no one has survived. But it doesn’t take long for the scientists to discover something unusual about their new guinea pig. Something others would kill for.
Review: A new take on a classic fairytale. I loved this retelling of Cinderella. First, I loved that the main characters were POC. It’s rare to find Asian characters in retellings of classic fairytales, so I was very excited to get Cinder and Kai from New Beijing. This is a dystopian story, so there’s a lot of drama and a lot of upheaval. You’ll read this and hate the stepmother, love the sister, and love Cinder, just like in the original Cinderella, but you’ll keep reading because there’s so much more to it. Kai isn’t just a prince that stumbles into love at first sight, and Cinder isn’t a helpless princess-in-ruins. She’s powerful and smart and the best mechanic in New Beijing. She’s not the helpless maid of the original story, waiting for a fairy godmother to come save her, she’s an independent badass who is going to save the world.
Who run the world?