I’m back with another batch of mini book reviews for books I’ve read recently!
*Books included in this batch of mini book reviews: The Kiss Quotient (The Kiss Quotient #1) by Helen Hoang, China Rich Girlfriend (Crazy Rich Asians #2) by Kevin Kwan, The Familiars by Stacey Halls, and The Muralist by B.A. Shapiro.
» The Kiss Quotient (The Kiss Quotient #1) by Helen Hoang
I don’t read romance. Like ever. I don’t mind when a book includes a romance, but I prefer that it not be central to the plot line. That is just my personal reading tastes. Despite the fact I’m not a huge romance fan, I was interested in reading a romance with a main character on the Autism Spectrum, so I decided to give The Kiss Quotient a go via audiobook.
I thought the representation was very well done here, which isn’t surprising since it is an #OwnVoices book. Stella, our main character, has Asperger’s Syndrome. I loved that Stella’s Asperger’s isn’t ALL of who she is, just a part of her. Sure, she has some struggles socially, but she does just fine for herself. I think there is often a misconception that having Asperger’s Syndrome affects cognitive abilities… it does NOT! In fact, many people with Asperger’s are in the genius category. I loved that Stella worked in the economics field and has a very lucrative career.
Michael was the perfect love interest, definitely book boyfriend material. He is sensitive, hardworking, loyal, and puts others’ needs above his own. It also doesn’t hurt that he is good-looking… I loved Michael and his willingness to give up everything to help his family, including becoming a male escort to help financially. I found it very interesting to have a male escort as a main character, especially one that is doing it for good reasons. It wasn’t a perspective I’ve ever read before.
As far as the romance goes, the sex scenes were hot & steamy! Another reason I don’t read much romance is because the sex scenes often feel overdone or corny, but I did not have those feelings with The Kiss Quotient. There is definitely some graphic sexy time, just in case that is or isn’t your thing.
The reason I deducted a star was because it was a tad cliche at times. The Kiss Quotient had the annoying trope where each character doesn’t believe the other loves them back. I’ve never been a fan of this trope. The simple solution to this is for the characters to have a conversation, so I am often very frustrated reading characters in this situation.
» China Rich Girlfriend (Crazy Rich Asians #2) by Kevin Kwan
I didn’t love this one as much as Crazy Rich Asians, BUT still enjoyed for the same reasons I enjoyed the first book: the drama and extravagance.
In China Rich Girlfriend, we get a whole new cast of characters. While I enjoyed the new characters, I do feel like some of my favorites from the first book were really pushed into the background. Rachel & Nick became secondary characters in this book, while Kitty, Carlton, Colette, Astrid, & Michael step into the limelight. It just felt odd to me that a story that is supposed to follow Rachel as a main character doesn’t really feature much of her at all… I was also sad to see that Eleanor was barely in this book either. Eleanor was one of those characters you love to hate, so I definitely missed all her conniving & antics.
Despite the fact I didn’t love this one as much as the first book, it is still a solid sequel.
» The Familiars by Stacey Halls
With it’s beautiful cover & the premise of witch trials in the 17th century, I had high hopes for The Familiars. You know those books that you see the cover and read the description, and feel that pull to pick them up? The Familiars was one of those books for me. Something was compelling me to read it.
The Familiars is a very atmospheric type of read – perfect for rainy or colder weather. With all the talk of witchcraft and evil, there were definitely parts of the plot that were eerie and unsettling.
Another aspect about this book that I appreciated was that The Familiars went into the pressures that women in the 17th century to reproduce, no matter the risks. After suffering multiple miscarriages, Fleetwood discovers that she will not survive delivering a child. Finding herself pregnant once more, Fleetwood is now in a battle against time to find someone that can help her. I cannot imagine being a woman during these times, when your only worth is measured in how many heirs you can produce.
While it is well written & wonderfully atmospheric, there was definitely something missing from this book. I think this stems from the fact that this felt more like a family drama vs. a “witch hunt” type of book. While the book does center around witch trials & accusations, this book is more about Fleetwood & her struggle to deliver a baby safely. If you are expecting magic & witchcraft, this book is going to disappoint you. I really feel that if the author had included Alice’s point of view in addition to Fleetwood’s, this would have made the book much more compelling.
Speaking of our main character, Fleetwood was a bit of a struggle for me. I never really connected with her, nor felt the need to root for her. She was a very lack luster character. Another big issue I had with Fleetwood was how she excused certain transgressions… I can’t really go into details because of spoilers, but you’d probably know what I am referring to if you’ve read it. I do understand this is partially due to the time period, but still. I am not a fan of female characters that allow others to walk all over them.
» The Muralist by B.A. Shapiro
Full disclosure: The Muralist was selected by one of my book clubs, and I was not exactly thrilled to read it. I’ve been trying to not read any WWII historical fiction lately because I’ve been feeling burnt out of it. I also knew by reading the book description this book was going to be slower moving, and I was right. Unfortunately it was also a bit dull too.
I think this book had too much going on in the plot and not enough development. We have Alizée’s struggle to obtain visas for her family in France, Alizée’s art and passion for abstract expressionism while working for the WPA, Alizée’s involvement with the resistance against Breckinridge Long & his refusal to grant access to WWII refugees, Alizée’s struggle with mental illness, etc… Now, normally a complex & busy plot does not bother me, however I don’t feel like any of these plot lines were developed enough, almost like all of these ideas were thrown together, as opposed to woven together. Instead of having so many different aspects to the story, the author should have focused on less and worked more on character & plot development. I also think many of these plot lines were not wrapped up well, so I didn’t feel any sense of completeness either.
I do think The Muralist would interest artists, or anyone interested in art or art history. The author did a wonderful job explaining the art & aspects in a way that was easy for a non-artist to understand. However, I also think there were a few long-winded passages that went a little over the top. As someone who knows little to nothing about art, the writing came across a little pretentious at times.
One big thing missing from The Muralist was an author’s note at the end. I would have liked the author to explain which parts of the story she fabricated and which parts were real. Was Eleanor Roosevelt really interested in abstract expressionism? Was there really an assassination attempt on Breckinridge Long? etc. etc.
***Trigger/content warnings: depression & suicidal thoughts***
Have you read any of these books? If so, what did you think?
Comment below & let me know 🙂