Reading Recap: April 2024

Reading recap for April is a good one! Another fantastic month with great reads – including a highly anticipated new release. Standouts for me for this month were Forget Me Not, Just Last Night, and Funny Story. Below are my quick reviews for all April reads:

Hold My Girl by Charlene Carr – This read is the book club pick for April. Hold My Girl is the story of two women who undergo IVF where their eggs end up getting switched. One of the two babies survives, and when the switch is revealed, it jump starts a custody battle between the two mothers. I had very conflicting feelings throughout this entire book. I felt for both moms because this is a very tricky situation and there’s really no right answer that doesn’t end up harming someone. The characters in the story are very flawed and it shows, which could help or harm your opinion on what should be the outcome for both families and the surviving baby. It wasn’t my favorite book club pick but it really makes you think about what it means to be a mom and the journey some women need to take to become one.

Love Redesigned by Lauren Asher – This is my first Lauren Asher read. I almost started the Dreamland Billionaires series to start but heard mixed reviews. Anyway, Love Redesigned is the first in the Lakefront Billionaires series following the story of Dahlia and Julian. This is a slow burn, childhood friends to enemies to lovers story. Dahlia goes back to her small hometown of Lake Wisteria after a horrible breakup, leaving San Francisco and her home design show behind. Trying to recover from this breakup and the depression that came with it, she tries to pick up the pieces surrounded by loved ones – which did not include Julian. After years of not seeing each other, they’re in each other’s orbit as their families remain close much to each of their chagrin. In an effort to get Dahlia back into doing what she loves, Julian proposes she help him with a property, and she reluctantly agrees. And thus begins their journey from so called enemies, back to friends and eventually into lovers. The story lacks an actual plot. Dahlia and Julian becoming a couple is the plot – which is fine for a romance book – but there’s literally nothing else going on. There isn’t conflict (or a third act breakup thankfully) so the book is relatively fluffy. While Dahlia’s depression is part of her story, it was lacking some substance. Either way, I enjoyed the story as I do like a good friends to lovers moment and the sexual tension between them felt palpable, which added to the enjoyment.

This Spells Love by Kate Robb – I randomly picked this up on a trip to Barnes and Noble because I am fond of reading romances with magical realism. In This Spells Love, the magical realism is by way of a love spell that sort of goes wrong. Gemma has just broken up with her ex of four years and is going through the motions. In an effort to try and move on, she spends an evening with her aunt and sister as her aunt suggests they come over to look at a cool book she received at her bookstore earlier that day. That book turned out to be a spell book. Drunk off margaritas, they decide to do one of the spells in the book, where Gemma wants to never have met her ex in the first place. However, to do so, she needed to seal the spell with a kiss – enter her best friend Dax. Once the spell is complete, Gemma realizes she’s not where she’s supposed to be – literally and figuratively – and is in an alternate reality where she didn’t just go through a break up and her life is drastically different. As a result of her wish, she’s also no longer besties with Dax. Now she needs to figure out how to get close to him while figuring out how to get back to her reality, if she even wants to go back. I felt like this one was a little slow to start but as I read, I had theories about what would happen and was actually proven wrong. While I did enjoy the story and found it was a fun, quick, and light read, the magical realism didn’t hit the way I wanted to – which is okay – but if you’re looking for more magic weaved into the story, this might not be for you.

One Last Job by Anise Starre – One Last Job is the second book in Anise Starr’s Flights and Feelings series. This one, like the first in the series, One Week in Paradise, is a quick and easy read. One Last Job is about Amber, an up and coming interior designer who works for the renowned Cynthia Zensi of Zensi Designs. Still a junior designer, Amber is continuously trying to prove herself to her boss, despite Cynthia pushing all of her projects onto Amber and taking on all the credit. She’s tasked with The August Room project, a big opportunity for her to showcase her skills in hopes that it could lead to a promotion. She’s excited until she’s on her way to her first meeting with the client and overhears an American guy shit talking interior designers. While it wasn’t exactly directed at her, it still stings and she hopes her client isn’t like that – until Finn shows up to the meeting (late) and she recognizes his voice. Not necessarily off to a good start but she’s determined to make it work even though he’s a bit of a micromanager. They end up spending a lot of time together and Finn develops a crush on her. The feelings become mutual and things go on from there. One Last Job was easy to read, though it felt a little boring at times. I felt for Amber and her relationship with her parents; it doesn’t matter what Amber does or how successful she is because it’ll never be enough.

The Love Connection by Denise Williams – This short story was too not believable for my tastes – which is a bold thing to say about reading contemporary romance. That, and I didn’t feel the chemistry between Ollie and Bennett. The Love Connection is a short story, part of a series of airport themed novellas, offering the dual POV of Ollie, a pet grooming shop owner in an airport and Bennett, a frequent flyer. They run into each other after one of Ollie’s pet customers runs away – Bennett catches the pup, natch, and he and Ollie have their meet cute. They form a friendship where she helps him out with the novel he’s writing in exchange for spending time together. I wasn’t feeling this story but read on because it was short – under 200 pages. I debated DNFing but it felt silly given how short it was. Despite that and the lack of chemistry I felt, and the not too believable plot, it wasn’t a horrible read; I enjoyed parts of it and is why I gave it three stars.

Just Last Night by Mhairi McFarlane – This book has been on my backlog TBR for ages but I finally came around to reading it. Just Last Night tells the story of a group of friends, Ed, Justin, Susie, and Eve – told from Eve’s perspective. Friends since high school, the group is tight knit and they’re very much each other’s found families. Unfortunately, an accident occurs where one of them dies and secrets come out that could put the friend group at risk. Admittedly, this one had a bit of a slow start. I was bored at first but the story picked up once the character death happened (which I feel bad about saying that things picked up after a tragic event but alas, it’s plot) and things started unravelling. This book is technically a romance though the romantic love story takes a back seat as the focus remains on the aftermath of the friend’s death and how the group is dealing with their grief. The love story actually comes from an unexpected place, at least to me, but the slow build up felt right. It’s more complex than that given that if I say more, it would def be a spoiler, but I’m gonna get this off my chest: Ed ain’t shit, Fin was a cycle breaker. That said, despite the fact that the love story is latent, I did end up getting into the story and enjoying it as it unfolded. This isn’t my first Mhairi McFarlane book, so I knew the story was going to be good eventually.

The Only Game in Town by Lacie Waldon – I was underwhelmed by this book. Having read Lacie Waldon’s other two books, I was expecting something immersive but instead, I got a story with cardboard cutouts for characters. The Only Game in Town tells the story of the small town of Redford in Georgia. It’s wealthiest townsperson, Jasper, has died and its discovered at his funeral that he wants to share his $10MM fortune with the townspeople. The catch? They have to participate in this elaborate game set up of separate challenges to determine the winner. Everyone in town is to be paired up and only one team will win the money. Jess, one of the townspeople and the FMC of this story, gets paired up with her high school bully. Carter, Jasper’s grandson who doesn’t even live in the town of Redford is also part of the challenge and is Jess’s love interest. The book itself is multiple POV, jumping between Jess and Carter, but also a couple of the other characters in the story. Despite the fact that the book was almost 400 pages, the story doesn’t delve deep enough into the characters, hence the cardboard cutout comments. Jess and Carter’s chemistry felt forced, and Jess’s character as a whole felt too childish – though I’d imagine her character was meant to be interpreted as whimsical. This felt short for me and I debated DNFing the entire time but I didn’t because I’m no quitter. The only thing I appreciated was Jasper’s eccentricity even from beyond the grave and even that was just a small thing.

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