Reading Recap: June 2024

This month’s reading recap is relatively short. I ended up DNF-ing three books this month (though only two are on here because the third one, I read less than 10% before deciding it was a solid no), which is out of character for me. I tend to push through books, even though they don’t resonate with me. Except that I’m not gonna do that anymore because I’m not gonna force myself to partake in something that I’m not 100% interested in, especially books, since this is supposed to be fun. That said, here are my thoughts on June’s reads:

One to Watch by Kate Stayman-London – One to Watch is the story of Bea Schumacher, plus sized fashion blogger who was used to hiding and blending in because of her size. After a fateful semester abroad in Paris, she came back with a renewed sense of self, and the fashion sense to begin her successful blog. The only thing missing was the reciprocation of her long time best friend Ray, whom she was in love with. Except Ray was engaged, deeming her future with him unattainable. After a visit with him goes awry, Bea is pretty sure she’ll never get over him and move on until she’s approached by a dating reality show asking her to be the next lead – this was after she vilified them for not being diverse in their selection of contestants. Bea reluctantly agrees and she embarks on this very public journey to find love. With the world watching, does Bea let her guard down to find true love or will her hang ups about Ray hold her back? I wasn’t sure what to expect from this story because the entire plot and Bea’s personality revolved around the fact that she was plus sized. Now, as a plus sized girly myself, I was happy to read a romance story where someone that looked like me physically was the lead. However, being plus sized isn’t the only defining character trait of anyone. There were some glimpses into what her personality might be like but it either hinged on the fact that she was fat, or on her infatuation with her friend Ray. Reading this story absolutely triggered me because as someone who’s actively trying to date, Bea’s skepticism about the men who were chosen to win her heart are very real and relatable. It can be hard to believe that someone who’s thinner or fitter than you could be attracted to you, in my experience. Her insecurity around that was very much relatable and ever present, which made it hard to read for me. That said, given that her personality was basically being fat, I didn’t get any real connection to her with any of the characters, not even her friends, which is why I couldn’t give this more than three stars. That, and I would have preferred a different ending.

Take A Hint, Dani Brown by Talia Hibbert – This is the second book in Talia Hibbert’s The Brown Sisters series, following Dani Brown, an ambitious PhD student with a general adversity towards relationships based on past experience. She prays to her gods to send her a friends with benefits type situation, cuz a girl’s got needs, so she can have her cake without any of the commitment. As she waits for the universe to point her in the right direction of who that candidate might be, she ends up stuck in an elevator during a drill at university where she’s saved by security guard Zafir Ansari. To everyone else, Zafir is the broody security guard but to Dani, he’s the nice guy she brings a cup of coffee to every day, in exchange for a protein bar so they’re on friendly terms. When footage of Zaf’s rescue of Dani during the drill go viral, people assume they’re dating, which unexpectedly brings Zafir’s nonprofit some much needed attention. As you can expect, a hairbrained scheme is cooked up where Zaf and Dani agree to a fake relationship to help Zaf’s organization and in turn potentially be Dani’s answer to her FWB request. The lines between their friendship and fake relationship begin to blur and Dani has to decide whether she’s ready to face her commitment issues or risk losing Zaf altogether. I enjoyed the writing on this one. I read the first book in the series, also well written, so I knew what to expect. I loved how Dani and Zaf remained true to themselves the entire time, even in the midst of conflict, which was central to Dani’s issues with commitment; it made them both relatable. I also loved the focus on Zafir’s issues with grief and anxiety as these themes aren’t always portrayed in the best way in books; his struggles and his coping methods were realistic. I will say, I didn’t necessarily enjoy Dani’s constant innuendos and connections to sex in casual conversation. I don’t know if it’s a cultural thing and its common in the UK for folks to talk like that but if it were a guy, it would be creepy and off-putting. I get that it’s part of her whole thing of looking for a FWB and that she’s sex positive but it felt cringey after a while. Outside of that, I loved Dani’s character because she wasn’t willing to compromise her work ethic or personality to be who she thought she needed to be to be with anyone and that’s something we can all learn from.

Anchored Hearts by Priscilla OliverasDNF @ 48% – Unfortunately DNF’ed this one as the pacing of the story was literally making me sleepy. I feel bad about it because I wanted to love the story – I love a good second chance romance – but I’m not feeling the chemistry between the main characters at all. That, and I found all the interwoven Spanish a little annoying. As a bilingual Latina, I speak both daily and weave it into my English/Spanglish regularly. However, the frequency in which it happens in this book was starting to feel more “cringey” than “normal.”

A Touch of Moonlight by Yaffa S. Santos – 3 stars – I almost DNF’d this one as well but kept on reading because I wanted to read more about Larimar being a ciguapa. A Touch of Moonlight is the story of Larimar Cintron, a regular brand manager for a coffee chain by day, but a ciguapa at night (on full moons only though). A ciguapa is a mythical creature known in the Dominican Republic a woman with long, dark, straight hair and backwards facing feet who have the ability to run super fast, confusing those who find her footsteps given that her feet are backwards. Larimar is grappling with coming to terms with the other side of her as she feels she lacks support and that she can’t have a full, fulfilling life because of it. As a result, she struggles with making friends, and with romantic relationships due to her secret. Until she meets Ray, a baker with a bakery opened mere blocks from where her company’s next coffee shop will be opening. As she gets to know Ray, she realizes his business is at risk due to her job and so she lies to him about her real day job, thinking that whatever was happening romantically with Ray wouldn’t last due to her secret. As things start getting more serious with Ray, she has to choose: does she come clean about her job or tell him her secret and hope neither option scares him away? I will say, I was not a fan of the writing style of this story. A big reason why I wanted to DNF was because it felt like it was just describing Larimar’s day to day. I didn’t feel like there was much chemistry between her and Ray, and even felt like the characters were borderline cardboard cutouts. I wanted to really like this book because I love a chance at reading more of my own culture but I was disappointed by this one, though I am glad I finished it.

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