Review: The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang

This must be my first romance read in years to come, but the premise behind The Kiss Quotient sounded like the right kind of light and steamy book I craved. The romance also indicates that a lot of the novel depends on feeling and less on rational thought, so the two constant moods I had during my reading experience – courtesy of the male lead, Michael Phan– can be summed up with these iconic vines:

 

 

 

Also: Why did I choose one of the warmest days of the season to read this book that had me blushing and sweating 90% of the time?? And how is it that I wasn’t even planning on reviewing The Kiss Quotient, but still felt the need to talk about it… We’ll start at the beginning by including the synopsis:

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…

This is the one romance novel I read that gets things right by not focusing on exterior noise we’re not here for (like whining about one’s job, family, friend, etc.); we’re all here for the sweet rush of hormones, adrenaline, and swooning. So I was glad the author began the novel by skipping straight to the good stuff without having to pretend like we care for their personal lives outside the relationship because I obviously don’t if I picked up a romance book…

“She’d looked at him like she saw no one else. ”

I’m also beyond grateful Michael didn’t rush Stella into things their first time meeting and took things “ultra-slow” because that is just what she (and I) needed. soft scenes > hot and heavy scenes. Like, drawing out their first exquisite kiss:

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This boy had me nearly drooling like a dog.

Unfortunately so, this point is also where my following problems stem from with the remaining half of The Kiss Quotient . After Stella and Michael grow, naturally, more comfortable with one another, the soft scenes get dropped into the background to give light to more racy developments… which after a couple of chapters of the same old same had me feeling numb. I feel like the chase between Stella and Michael was way more exhilarating for me than them actually being together. (I mean, don’t even get me started on the traumatizing ‘meet the family’ scene * shudders *.)

I just wanted my soft man to show, but in its place, when both the novelty and excitement wear off, his over-protective ways show, which I personally wasn’t too keen on it; Stella definitely was.

All in all: The Kiss Quotient plunged me into an exhilarating head-start with its romance, so much so that I felt like Cookie Monster, wanting more and more, to quote from Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl: “I never think the chapters are too long. I just want more and more and more.” The girl waved her hands in front of her mouth like she was Cookie Monster eating cookies.” 

ARC kindly provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Publication Date: June 5th, 2018

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Review: Making It Complicated by Clarisse David

I’ve been patiently biding my time for this companion to Keeping the Distance to release out into the world ever since I finished the first book that fateful night in February. After nine faithful months, it finally came to my notice today that the sequel was already out, so I hurried on to catch up with these beloved characters.

Nineteen-year-old Cam has a metric ton of emotional baggage and is in no mood to unload them on anyone. After her parents’ marriage imploded, stress-free is the only way she wants her life to be. And what could be more freeing than spending the summer on Boracay? Absolutely nothing…until she bumps heads with Hunter, the hot drummer who screams incoming heartbreak from a mile away.

Though I’m a bit mad at myself for reading this book a whole month after its publication, Making It Complicated still presented itself at exactly the right time in my life. It’s interesting how just the day before I’d been in the mood for a quick and fun-filled romance to sweep me off my feet, and the universe delivered just right with this book.

The events of this book are set a year after Keeping the Distance: Camille Velasco, Melissa Ortiz’s best friend, is set for her summer before college, full of bright and hopeful opportunities.

“It was a great night to be nineteen.”

Side note: I’m thankful I got my wish fulfilled of having Cam as the main in the sequel, as I mentioned in my review for #1. Her carefree youth encompassed me at the start of the book. Speaking of which, here are some of the main points from the book I’d like to highlight (mild spoilers ahead):

  • The main issue occurring between Cam and Mel, “the best friend I didn’t quite know how to deal with anymore,” of how they’d outgrown each other.

“I wanted to be happy for her.
Truly, I did.
But a huge part of me didn’t believe in the same things she did anymore, in finding such utter bliss with another person and trusting they weren’t going to rip you apart. I didn’t have the energy for that.”

We follow Cam’s journey of going out into the world on her own to try to find who she is a person, especially after the whole ordeal that happened in her family. I’m a sucker for a classic coming-of-age tale.

  • There’s a lot more angst and resentment than I anticipated going into this, but nonetheless grew to appreciate as an important trait of Cam’s strong-willed character growth.

“I was broken, and I had to stop hoping other people would fix things. Not Mel. Not Hunter. I had to put the pieces back together myself.”

Her anger was palpable, understandable, and not just swept away over the course of the book, which I appreciated a tenfold.

  • But circling back to Mel and Cam, the continuous miscommunication happening between them brought to mind my favorite quote from my favorite duo in Broad City:tumblr_o3g7ywkmoy1qiaxzfo2_250
  • I was relieved to see less of her best friend because truth to be told, Mel and Lance were so uncomfortable to watch from an outsider’s perspective. In their POV in Keeping the Distance, I could put aside my discomfort and chalk it up to nothing serious… But seeing them acting all lovey-dovey in front of Cam, I couldn’t help but think of this eerily fitting vine:

So I was low-key relieved to see less and less of them over the span of the book.

  • Instead, I welcomed the new group dynamics with Hunter Alvarez and his bandmates Cal, Eddie, and Keith. The teasing was merciless. And the laughs endless.
  • Plus, I have to pay attention to a tiny detail from one of the members that had me enraptured for the rest of the book:

“Do you want to listen to this podcast with me?” Keith offered one of his earphones to me.”

This offer is the one true key to my heart.

  • But out of all the members, I’d love to know more about my silent mystery man, Cal. “It was obvious Hunter made most of the major decisions, but Cal could control the rest of them with a single sentence. All that quiet power was amazing to watch in action.”
  • Finally, moving on to the main couple of the book… The rising sexual tension between Cam and Hunter was deliciously satisfying.

“Did I dare step inside his house when I knew very well we were going to be alone? A thousand thoughts—about the feel of his lips on mine, how hard his abs were underneath my fingertips—demanded entry into my brain. I refused to let them in.
“Is there anyone else inside?” I trusted Hunter, just not my hormones.
I watched as a light bulb seemed to go off in his head. His eyes moved from my black camisole down to my distressed denim shorts. The look he gave me made me want to pull my shirt collar away from my neck and fan myself with one hand. Voice low, he said, “No, it’s just us.”

This infinitely patient boy had me sitting at the edge of my seat with the drop of his voice.

And one more for the road:

“Every inch of my side connected with his, our shoulders and knees sliding against each other every time the jeepney stopped. When the wind burst inside and whipped my hair around my shoulders, Hunter reached out and gathered the strands in his fist, pulling them over my shoulder for me.
When his fingers brushed against my neck, I forgot how to breathe.
“You look a little…weird,” Hunter sounded a little too happy. He knew very well what he was doing to me. The bastard.”tumblr_osw20dinl11td9fl4o7_r1_400

Overall, this sequel full of antics from youthful summers exceeded all my expectations. I’m giddy for what’s next in store.

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Review: Amour Amour by Krista Ritchie and Becca Ritchie

“I no longer want to live in fantasy.
I want the images in my mind to be real.
It’s why I’m in Vegas after all. Following my dreams.”

This was another phase of I-can’t-fall-asleep-and-it’s-3am-so-let’s-just-read, and thankfully I was so swept up into Thora’s journey that I barely noticed the hours fly by. It was magical. I didn’t even feel a hinge of regret upon finally waking up with minimal sleep.

And since this book started off so promising, here’s a list of things that I loved (and later on hated) in Amour Amour:

  • I knew this book was a keeper when Thora mentioned One Three Hill in the first chapter:

“He’s not the Clyde to my Bonnie or the Damon to my Elena. Shay is and will always be the Lucas to my Haley. A great, protective friend. Like that of One Tree Hill. Who will point out the storm ahead for me while I choose to relish in the sunshine.”

A girl after my own heart.

  • However, I quickly realized that I hated her “friend” with a fiery passion. Shay was the definition of an awfully unsupportive friend. And I despised how he repeatedly teared down all of Thora’s hopes and dreams. So I was more than glad to see him gone.
  • But on a positive note, the first two chapters of Amour Amour are completely stellar. They had me so hooked that I couldn’t let go until my eyes literally hurt from reading. Aka one of the best feelings.
  • I also loved how Thora believed in herself. Like she said, “I am my biggest cheerleader. Always have been. Probably always will be.” It was inspiring having a main character saving herself in this one (at least, in the first half).
  • Thora’s meet-cute with Nikolai was anything but cute. It did, however, leave me on the edge of my seat, screaming, “Did she just do that?” “Did he just say that?” “HELP.” To say that it was unlike anything I’d read before would be a severe understatement. (Piercing her fucking nipple!!!) But it did its job in leaving a lasting impression on me with the addition of an intoxicating adrenaline rush.

“Guess what, myshka?” The glow necklace and strobe lights swath him in deep red.
“What…?” I hesitate.
He stands. Towers, really. And he tilts my chin up. With grays like gunmetal skies, bearing down from up above, he says, “I choose you.”

This was literally my facial expression upon meeting Nikolai Kotova:

I was daring myself to dislike this six-foot-five Russian athlete, but in my heart of hearts, I knew I was a goner for his tricks.

  • Side note: the number of times this book mentioned Nikolai’s height is kind of funny. You could low-key make a drinking game out of it…
  • I also found it both comical and cute how Thora liked reading paranormal romances. Especially when she recommend her favorite one to Nikolai’s sixteen-year-old sister, Katya. Which she ended up loving so much she almost missed practice:

“If you want to try out for Noctis, you need a full-in, full-out or a triple sault, and you’re not going to get there by sitting on your ass, reading…” He scrutinizes the paperback’s title and cover (legs intertwined on a blue silk sheet) with confusion and then gives me a weird look.
“It’s a good book,” I assure him. Though I start to wonder whether it’s age appropriate. I mean, I was reading explicit adult books at twelve—but I didn’t really understand some of the graphic sex scenes. Sixteen can’t be that bad.”

This had me cackling.

  • And since we’re on the topic of his siblings, I have to say that I fucking loved the Kotovas. They are what made this book so much better. Especially in the end when Thora and Nikolai’s romance left me extremely underwhelmed. Real talk, those two failed at making me feel or experience any kind of emotions when they got together. There wasn’t anything special or exciting about them after that initial meeting at the club. So Nik and Thora just ended up being your average hetero romance between two white people. And all the fun I experienced when they’d just met and were circling around each other kind of disappeared.
  • Thankfully, I still had the rest of the Kotova family for my entertainment: from gambling issues to competitiveness and alpha glaring contests to kleptomania, this book has it all. If I had to sum up this family in one word, I’d say they’re kind of a mess… the kind that reminded me of the Gallaghers in Shameless.tumblr_mig3xuq6he1qzm2geo6_250Nikolai even had a similar scene as Fiona Gallagher about raising his brothers and sister:“You raised your siblings. You realize that, right?”
    He lets out a short laugh. “Not well enough.”
    I frown and shake my head. The waiter comes around and takes our orders. A salmon dish for me, and chicken for him.
    “You’re wrong,” I tell him, the flames creating shadows over his strong features in the dark. He looks like a devil dressed in black at first sight, but coming to know him, he’s the god that everyone describes. “Katya is sweet and friendly.” I think about his brother, the one who offered me mints and stole Skittles for his little sister. “Luka is generous and kind.” And Timo—magnetic. There are no just words to define him. I smile, staring off. “And Timo is…captivating, more full of life than anyone I’ve ever met.”

I love siblings that take care of each other, so this made me as emotional as Fiona’s speech:

  • And continuing about the tv show, I kept thinking of Debbie Gallagher when Katya was around. Since both were raised by older siblings, wanted to grow up faster and earn their independence. Oh, and just throwing this idea out there: I’d be over the moon excited if Katya got her own point of view in a later sequel.
  • One last positive was that Amour Amour included LGBTQIA+ aspects: Thora’s friend, John Ruiz, gets together with one of the Kotova brothers, Timo. They’re one of the reasons why I want to continue on with the sequel.

“Don’t stare into his eyes!” John shouts to me. “Little parts of you will die inside!”
He almost lifts my spirits.
A smile stretches Timo’s beautiful features. “So you’re admitting to feeling something from me, John?!”
John glares. “Death. I feel death!”
Timo whistles, but I can’t hear the sound from the pop song. “That’s a strong feeling.”

And it’s also why I loved this tweet:

  • But quickly circling back to the main Kotova brother: Nikolai. I mentioned before how I was a goner for him… but that was before he fully showed his overly protective, possessive and controlling side. It just left me with a sour taste in my mouth. Like, I physically cringe when I think back on his behavior. tumblr_ojzpbbp6wl1vs3hvqo3_400
  • And since I’m on a roll about the negatives, Amour Amour was also so damn unnecessary looooong. As a result, my thoughts kept shifting when I wasn’t captivated by what was happening. Which ended up occurring quite often when the Kotova siblings weren’t in the picture.
  • I started skimming around towards the last 100 or so pages. I just didn’t see what it had going on other than Nikolai’s obsession with Thora. So I ended up high-key despising that convenient ending for those two to be together.

For now, I’m hesitant on whether I should move on to Luka’s story in Infini, since I’m interested to see what surprises that one will hold (hopefully less of Nik and Thora). But I still can’t ignore how utterly disappointed I am with this book, especially after loving it so damn much for the first half… I guess only time will tell.

3/5 stars

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