Playing with Matches

I have two favorite literary qualities I seek when I read a book or article: voice and characterization. You’ve read many a post where I either praise a book for having one of these qualities (here’s one for voice and another for characterization), and you’ve certainly seen me complain about the lack of them on more than one occasion.

Voice not only keeps you engaged in a book, but it also allows you to better understand the characters, making it an integral part of characterization, which is such an important quality. Without it, readers cannot fully see who these people are and why and how that motivates their actions. When a book has strong voice and characterization, and its main characters’ experiences completely differ from your own, that’s when empathy, understanding, and — most importantly — change occur.

That was the experience I had with The Kiss Quotient, whose main character, Stella, has Asperger syndrome. Not only was this book funny and sweet, but author Helen Hoang’s portrayal of Stella was so strong that I found myself in awe of the social struggles that someone with Asperger’s endures, which I had only ever experienced from a very far distance before this book. Stella’s story — and the author’s too — is one I’ve never personally witnessed, and I’ve never read about it in a fictional setting either. Hoang puts you face to face with it. By placing me directly inside Stella’s mind, which enhanced the book’s voice, I could feel everything she felt every single day — no matter how difficult.

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Secret Moments in a Crowded Room

Yes, all three Jasmine Guillory books have T.Swift lyrics in their review title. I can’t help it these two women absolutely kill it in their respective careers.

And when I say Guillory is killing it, I mean it; she may just be sliding her way into my favorite author slot. I can say that confidently after reading three of her five novels. I knew I’d found a stellar author after reading The Proposal in 2019, and recently reading her debut, The Wedding Date, confirmed it for me. I loved it so much that I instantly threw away by #tbr list to divulge into Guillory’s next chronological novel, The Wedding Party.

I read two Guillory books in less than two weeks, and it may have been the two best literary weeks of 2020. The Wedding Party didn’t quite top her previous two books I’d read, but I still enjoyed every moment of it. And Guillory once again gave me everything I loved in her previous work: realistic characters with depth, diversity, entertainment, wit, and a whole lot of love — both literally and euphemistically.

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At Least We Were Electrified

I owe chick lit an apology. Too often this year, I’ve used the genre as a clutch and as an escape. Read something sad? Life and the world are blowing up? No worries; let’s check in with chick lit for a pick-me-up. It will surely turn things around. How did one of my favorite genres become my sidepiece when the going got tough?

Such an amazing genre deserves better, so to end 2020, I decided to make chick lit my main squeeze, starting with Paris for One. By the time I finished it, I knew I had to continue on my Tour de Fun with these light-hearted and entertaining novels by turning to one of the best in the genre: Jasmine Guillory.

I first met Guillory’s writing in the summer of 2019 with her five-flame second book, The Proposal, which is actually the second of five very loosely connected books that Guillory has written. The Proposal was so much fun, made me laugh, and made my mouth salivate with all of its delicious food scenes. Not to mention the characters and their arcs had some serious depth and dealt with real-life issues rather than just romantic clichés. Oh, and it’s full of diversity. If it sounds like Guillory’s books have it all, that’s because they do, which was proven once again in her debut, The Wedding Date. And yes, somehow things got even spicier with this one.

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When All is Said and Done…

Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows proves Ariana’s point: God is a woman.

Too often, society boxes female authors and their stories about sex into sweeping tales of love, romance, and magic. Balli Kaur Jaswal’s novel confirms that women — even conservative women — are humans too and that they have fantasies just like men. Sex doesn’t have to be folded into a fairy tale, and it doesn’t have to be forbidden (unless, of course, that’s part of the fantasy per some of our characters here). Women want and need to talk about it too.

This novel breaks cultural boundaries by questioning gender and cultural stereotypes and bringing taboos to the forefront. It challenges the concept of “other,” which confirms we’re more alike than different, and it’s really fun to read. There’s a lot to be said for that.

Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows

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Sex and Candy (and Murder and Money Too)

You know the ole saying, “[Insert model name] could make a potato sack look good.” The same thing applies to literature. The oddest and most boring plots can be sexy if they’re accompanied by solid writing. The opposite is also true though, and the sexiest ideas can come across as “meh” when coupled with inadequate writing.

That’s where Michelle Miller’s mix of Silicon Valley and Wall Street has a problem. The Underwriting has a certain seduction that powers you to the finish (despite a painfully slow start) because there is so much talk (as well as the act and thinking) of sex, as well as a lot of cash money. But something’s amiss. The writing lacks vigor that’s a disappointment to a rather interesting and original plot and some provocative topics.

The Underwriting

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