Four Contemporary Books in January Wrap Up

I think we all can agree that this year's January has been going by slowly. A quick Twitter search can prove how mutual the sentiment is. I cannot stress just how much it contradicts the fact that 2024, so far, feels rather fast. I managed to finish four books this month though, all contemporary, so it has pretty much been a realistic month reading-wise.

Following the story of two ex-best friends, Rachel and Ben, this book goes back and forth between their college life and the present time which happens a decade later. While Rachel and Ben were inseparable in college, it has been ten years since the last time they saw each other. Upon their first reunion, both are too stunned to believe their eyes. Ben is now married. Rachel has just called off her wedding with a long-time boyfriend.

While I could say that I loved the atmosphere of the story and that Sheffield seemed like a lovely place to live in, I could also confidently argue that this book would not be for everyone. You Had Me at Hello might explore the friendship between Rachel and Ben more than anything else, but with quite the history between them, I’m afraid that it could be triggering to some readers considering that Ben was already married. I condemn cheating. I obviously wouldn’t enjoy this book as much as I did if cheating was involved. With that said, I would reckon that McFarlane played her cards right. I respected Ben for holding his marriage in high regard. It felt relieving to find no reason to hate both him and Rachel. No matter how wonderful Ben was, however, I couldn’t shake the feeling that they were leaning very close to the chart of no cheating but emotionally did.

(Please skip this part if you haven't read You Had Me at Hello yet)
Rachel and Ben have been together together for two years now. Happily living in an incredible apartment in the city, they adopt two cute cats: Ronnie Barker and Ronnie Corbett. While Rachel is busy preparing Mindy's hen do before the wedding takes place, she finds out that Ben is quite opposed to marriages... or at least for now. Soon enough, more misunderstandings follow. They have to trust each other and hold on to their happily ever after more than ever.

I genuinely thought that this novella was cute and had all the potential to live up to my expectations. Albeit it was published five years after its forerunner, the two books felt like they belonged to each other. All the characters were still the same as if nothing had changed. Ivor and Mindy's wedding turned out to be something I hadn't realized I needed to see.  It's just that I had hoped for more from our two main characters that it caused me to deem their behavior here unnecessary and rather disappointing.

Following the story of thirty-three Delia Moss, It's Not Me, It's You brings us through the journey of a heartbroken Delia upon finding out that her longtime boyfriend, Paul, is cheating on her right after she proposes. In trying to mend her heart, she moves from Newcastle to London and temporarily lives with her best friend, Emma. With a tricky job, a weird boss, and a handsome journalist called Adam blackmailing her, Delia wonders about her future with Paul and whether or not she is ready to welcome him back into her life.

For a book this thickthe translated version contains more than 600 pages, even bigger than You Had Me at HelloI would say that the time it took me to finish it was relatively fast. It’s Not Me, It’s You was a book I imaginary shelved in my mind as a pretty fun read that felt relatable in most parts. After reading three books by Mhairi McFarlane, novella excluded, I would say that while It’s Not Me, It’s You might be the less funny and thereby my less favorite, it was still a great read that left me with a big goofy smile on my face.

Surprise Me starts with Sylvie and Dan celebrating their 10th year together. Now married with twin daughters, Sylvie and Dan are as in sync as ever, finishing each other's sentences and all. A visit to the doctor reveals something unexpected though: their good genes and medical history indicate their possibility to live for another 68 years together. Neither wants to admit it, but the revelation sort of freaks them out. As an attempt to keep their marriage alive, they decide to give each other surprisesProject Surprise Me is thereby created. But surprises after surprises start to go wrong, and secrets are uncovered. Sylvie eventually realizes that maybe she doesn't know Dan as well as she thinks, after all.

It actually surprised me that Surprise Me turned out to be my least favorite book from Sophie Kinsella. It was still quite a fun read overall, hence the stars, but the book as a whole fell rather short. In most parts, Sylvie and Dan felt like typical Kinsella characters, but I didn't seem to adore them as much as I had done the others. Sylvie might have had her bad moments now and then, but I still considered her as a good person, naive even. Dan, on the other hand, was insufferable at times. In conclusion, Surprise Me was still a fun read, though I didn't feel the desire to reread it in the future. If only the main characters were more likable, I would have thought otherwise.