Book Review: Take a Hint, Dani Brown

After reading Get a Life, Chloe Brown again I couldn’t not re-read Take a Hint, Dani Brown. On this re-read I think I enjoyed this book even more than the first time with it’s headstrong, powerful heroine and cinnamon roll love interest. Like the first book, Talia Hibbert combines a romance with some important topics including taking time for yourself and men’s mental health.

Star rating: 5 stars

Dani Brown is a PhD student with big career ambitions of being a professor like her idol Inez Holly. She puts everything into her studies, refusing to have relationships after romantic partners didn’t understand her priorities in the past. Zafir Ansari is an ex-rugby player turned security guard who works in Dani’s building where the two of them have a friendly, flirty relationship. Zafir’s passion is his project Tackle It, an organisation that provides support to teenage boys in processing and handling their emotions. Zaf himself has anxiety making it a personal career choice.

When a fire alarm test brings the two their viral social media moment after Zaf rescues Dani from a broken lift, they are left with a tricky decision. Dating Dani would enable Zaf to capitalise on traction the social media viral moment would bring Tackle It, and Dani just wants a friends with benefits situation. The two decide to fake-date to satisfy both their desires – except how will Zaf, the hopeless romantic, deal with falling in love with Dani Brown, romance hating relationship avoider?

My favourite thing about this book is that the characters are so good for each other. Zaf understands Dani’s workaholic nature and brings her food and doesn’t get angry with her when she’s absorbed in her research. Dani respects Zaf’s anxiety and helps him open up about his past experiences in support of Tackle It. I really enjoyed the emphasis on men’s mental health, it’s rare to see a man with anxiety in fiction and it’s very much a part of Zaf’s character throughout. I empathised a great deal with him.

The romance is electrifying as these two cross the boundary between friendship and a relationship, still keeping the routines they had before they started to fake date like Dani bringing Zaf coffee and Zaf giving Dani a protein bar every day. Dani really is clueless when it comes to her feelings – I felt really bad for Zaf because he was head over heels from the start and Dani just wasn’t ready for it.

Overall, a another banger from Talia Hibbert. I love all three books in this trilogy with all my heart as the characters are so well developed and they always tackle some important issues. Zaf really inspires me, he’s one of my favourite love interests in a romance novel. If you’ve read Take a Hint, Dani Brown then let me know what you thought!

Book Review: Get a Life, Chloe Brown

Sometimes it’s really difficult to choose a new book to read, and in those moments I go back to the books I love the most. Get a Life, Chloe Brown is the first book in my favourite romance series, and this re-read only confirmed its place at the top of the romance list. It brings together two troubled characters together who are trying to heal from past trauma and creates one of the most supportive romances I’ve ever read.

Star rating: 5 stars (as if it would be anything else)

Our protagonist and titular character Chloe Brown has made a list – a list that aims to help her ‘get a life’. She’s struggled with fibromyalgia for years, and watched all her old friends and fiancĂ© abandon her because of it. When she moves out of the family home and into a flat, the last thing she expected was to start falling for the superintendent she really doesn’t like.

Redford Morgan, known as Red, is trying to get his life back on track. His friend did him a favour and gave him a job as superintendent at a block of flats so he could find his feet and start painting again. Between an abusive past relationship and a loss of confidence in his art, Red has a lot going on. He didn’t intend to fall for one of the residents at his place of work, especially Chloe Brown, who really doesn’t seem to like him.

This book is everything. Chloe has to confront the real reasons behind the creation of her ‘get a life’ list and does this with the help of Red, who shows her what it’s like to have real friends who look out for you. Red takes Chloe on various adventures from bars to camping, all the while thinking of her disability and anticipating her needs, which is something Chloe has never had outside of her family before. Talia Hibbert never pushes Chloe’s disability to the side and I appreciated the way her daily struggles were integrated into the story, and how it demonstrated her toughness. Meanwhile, Red himself has to deal with constantly second-guessing himself and Chloe’s intentions as he is still healing from his trauma. It was good to see a positive but realistic representation of therapy in this book, especially through a male character.

Other highlights were Chloe’s family, particularly seeing Dani and Eve again after reading their respective books. Gigi is also a standout character who I love. Overall, this is a fantastic book with an adorable romance at the centre. Everything from the characters to the plot to the writing is perfect and I wouldn’t change a thing. If you want a romance novel that manages to have that squeal-inducing cuteness alongside more serious topics then this one is for you.

Book Review: A Dowry of Blood

I’d heard many exciting things about A Dowry of Blood before finally picking it up as part of Wilted Rose’s book club. S.T Gibson writes a re-imagining of Dracula’s brides in a lyrical style that gripped my attention from the very beginning. It is dark, thrilling and somewhat gory, with characters that I really enjoyed getting to know.

Star rating:: 4 stars

Constanta is our protagonist, the first of Dracula’s new brides in this time period that spans hundreds of years. Her character voice is strong throughout as she tells her story, reflecting on the past as her more mature self in various interludes. I really enjoyed this format – there was something really harrowing about Constanta reflecting on her ‘younger’ self. Dracula is also referred to as ‘you’, as if Constanta is writing him a letter she will never send explaining her actions.

Magdalena is the second lover introduced – a beautiful woman interested in politics. She agrees to be turned into a vampire and joins Constanta and Dracula in their escapades. The isolation of vampire life leads to her suffering from depression which was really heart-breaking as you see this contrast between an energetic, intelligent woman who becomes lethargic and lonely.

Our third lover is Alexi, a struggling actor who Dracula takes an interest in. Alexi is different to the women, he’s a lot younger for one and sees through to Dracula’s abusive side much faster. Even still, Alexi is still enthralled by him and doubts his own observations.

This is a beautifully written re-imagining that I only wish was longer so we could get to know the characters more. The beginning and ending are really strong, but the middle part lacked development to me. Overall, I loved the writing style the most – it felt really haunting, personal and emotional.

Book Review: Most Likely

When I found out the creator of The Bold Type had written a YA novel I just had to read it. (We pretend season four does not exist). I was immediately drawn to the concept of a book about four teenage girls, one of whom would become President of the United States. The reader doesn’t know who it is, and as the girls navigate their senior year of high school we are left wondering who it will be until the very end.

Star rating: 4 stars

Ava, CJ, Jordan and Martha have been friends since they were small children. Ava’s the budding artist who is working out what she wants to do with her life – follow her artistic dreams or a more academic field. CJ has everything she needs to get into a good college, but her terrible SAT scores are holding her back. Jordan knows she wants to be a journalist, and is looking to save their local park that means so much to the local residents. Martha has big dreams but her financial situation is not making choosing a college easy.

I related to Ava’s story a lot – she’s been struggling with depression since her freshman year and also has anxiety. Her story focusses on whether or not she will attend art school, and also explores her desire to find her birth mother (Ava is adopted). I liked Ava’s relationship with her adoptive mother – the two don’t always see eye to eye but they work through their problems together.

CJ has been told she’s a gifted student her entire life but her SAT scores say otherwise. She dreams of Stanford but knows her chances are slim. Her story focusses on her volunteering with disabled children, and the friendship she develops with Wyatt, the co-ordinator there. I related to CJ coming to terms with being average, it was really moving for me to see her learn to fail at things and see her put her whole heart into everything she does.

Jordan is really passionate about the truth and is really determined to stop the local park being turned into an office block. She interviews the councilman’s assistant, but their relationship starts blurring the boundaries of professional as Jordan has lied about her age to be taken seriously. I liked Jordan’s story because she learns that she can’t grow up too fast, and has to trust that she has what it takes to be a successful journalist.

When Martha’s parents divorced, she ended up living with her Dad who is struggling to find work after a motorcycle accident. Her story focusses on her exploring her sexuality, and working out how she is going to pay for college. I actually really loved how Martha’s story ended up working out, it was really satisfying. Her mother made me so angry though – she made things so difficult for Martha.

The character that ties all four friends together is Logan, Jordan’s ex boyfriend, Ava’s sworn enemy and a feature in all of their lives. From the beginning, it is assumed that the girl who ends up with Logan becomes president. This was my least favourite aspect of the book – it felt like it took away from the girls and their achievements by having the plot rest on their relationship with this boy.

Despite the issues I had with Logan, I really enjoyed this book. I loved how strong the friendship was between the girls, loved the diversity, and found the twist at the end very interesting! Overall, an interesting concept that ended up being well executed – I can imagine a The Bold Type but for young adults TV series based on this novel!

Book Review: Second First Impressions

Some books make you feel warm inside right from the very beginning and Sally Thorne’s latest romance does that and more. It’s classic opposites attract, but is more than just a romance. There are complicated family relationships and great friendships that cross generations. Consider my obsessed – this is now my favourite of Sally Thorne’s books and one of my favourite romances of all time.

Star rating: 5 stars

Ruthie is currently filling in for her boss at the luxury retirement village where she has worked for 6 years. Between running errands for the ridiculously rich residents and handing all the administration, she rarely has time for herself – she even lives in an on-site cottage. Along comes Teddy, the son of the property developers that are Ruthie’s bosses. On first impression, Teddy is carefree, hopeless and has bad boy vibes that Ruthie is advised to avoid at all costs. But when Ruthie is forced to hire Teddy as an assistant to the eccentric Parlonis, and let him live next door, can she stay away from his luscious hair and adorable hopelessness?

The characters in this book and the journeys they go on are so wonderful. Ruthie learns to explore the outside world again, taking advice from her new employee Melanie and learning how to be 25 again. Teddy finally finds some routine to his life and has the opportunity to make his dream of having a tattoo studio come true. Together, their romance develops as they learn from each other, and these two make a great pairing because of their differences rather than despite them.

The romance isn’t the only thing I loved – it was really cute to see Ruthie finally making friends her age (especially Melanie). I also really enjoyed the Parlonis stories which provided many hilarious, laugh out loud moments. There is even a cute endangered tortoises side plot which definitely added to my love of this story. I can honestly say I was addicted from the very start and I have not smiled at a book this much in a good while.

Overall, this is such a soft, gentle book about how first impressions aren’t always right, about living with anxiety, and following your dreams. I was really sad when I finished it, and I can’t wait to re-read already! Have you read any books by Sally Thorne? Let me know in the comments!

ARC Review: Hani and Ishu’s Guide to Fake Dating

This book caught my eye on netgalley because fake dating!!! sapphic!!! what more could I want?!! I was looking forward to seeing the dynamic between the popular girl and the overachiever, and to learning about Bengali culture. I have my issues with this book, but overall I really enjoyed it and it made me smile a lot.

Star rating: 4 stars

Hani and Ishu are seventeen years old – Hani is a friendly popular girl who just wants her friends to take her bisexuality seriously, and Ishu has grown up in the shadow of her sister and just wants to achieve everything her parents have wanted for her – get into the best possible university to become a Doctor. So they begin to fake date – Hani to show her friends she dates girls, and Ishu to use Hani’s popularity to become elected head girl. What could possibly go wrong?

Hani’s story is centred on her friendship with two white girls, Aisling and Dee. Both have issues with everything about Hani, from her sexuality to her religion, their conversations are full of micro aggressions and racist remarks. They won’t eat Bengali food, they never go to halal restaurants and are contributors to bisexual erasure. Things don’t improve when Ishu comes on the scene, and Aisling’s jealousy leads to her doing some really nasty things to Ishu (and don’t get me started on the school’s response to it – the racial discrimination is strong).

Ishu has always been in the shadow of her sister Nik, but when Nik comes home with a surprise her parents couldn’t have predicted, Ishu starts feeling the pressure to be the perfect daughter. She never made the effort to make friends at school, and popularity is needed to be elected head girl. When Hani suggests they fake date, she’s unsure at first but soon sees the benefits to her.

Some of my favourite aspects of the book were when Ishu showed Hani what true friends act like – taking her to halal restaurants (Ishu is not Muslim) and respecting her. I also loved the dynamic between Ishu and her sister Nik now Nik has spent some time away from the environment their parents created. The food descriptions were also great, I just want to try all of the food now!

The issues I had were quite minor – sometimes it was hard to tell which point of view I was reading as Ishu and Hani have similar voices. There is a lot of racism and bisexual erasure throughout the book too, which may be triggering to some. Adiba Jaigirdar does have a content warnings list at the start of the book which is a big plus for her.

Overall, a fun YA romance that I enjoyed reading. I’ll be sure to get to reading The Henna Wars soon after this!

Book Review: Last Night at the Telegraph Club

Last Night at the Telegraph Club was one of the choice for Book Coven book club in April. I didn’t really know anything about the story before picking it up, but it taught me about a period in history I didn’t know much about. The book is an interesting perspective on what it was like to be American-born Chinese in the 1950s, along with the LGBTQ+ community.

Star rating: 4 stars

Lily Hu is our protagonist, a 17 year old girl discovering her sexuality for the first time. She’s spent her whole life so far being a good Chinese girl, dressing sensibly and hanging out with her parent-approved best friend Shirley. But when Lily discovers the Telegraph Club, she starts to learn more about who she really is, befriending Kath, the other girl in Advanced Math at school and being true to herself for the first time.

I really enjoyed Lily’s desire to work in the space industry and her passion for mathematics and physics. It definitely wasn’t easy for woman in STEM back then, so it was good to see this representation. I loved that Kath appreciated Lily’s passions and understood wanting to work in a male dominated field with ambitions to be a pilot herself. This is in contrast to Shirley and her friends, who Lily starts to feel really separated from the more she spends time with Kath.

Communism is also featured in the book, though not heavily. As mentioned in the blurb, Lily’s Dad is threatened with deportation for being a suspected communist sympathiser, but this isn’t explored in much detail with the book choosing to focus more on the struggles of the LGBTQ+ community in the time period. There are also some historical flashbacks from the perspective of the adults in the story which added to the richness of the time period.

Overall, I feel this book was very well written – Malinda’s writing voice was a perfect match for the story she told which made it an addictive read, particularly as the plot progressed.

Book Review: The House in the Cerulean Sea

I have been meaning to read The House in the Cerulean Sea for a long time (or since it came out really). All my friends loved it. The time finally came for me to pick it up. I put it off for so long as I was afraid I’d be disappointed but how could I be at this beautiful story?

Star rating: 5 stars (new favourite)

We begin with Linus Baker, a forty year old man who works as a caseworker investigating orphanages that house magical children in a world that is very prejudiced against magical children and adults. His life is lonely and repetitive but he doesn’t really observe this himself just going from day to day following the rules and regulations he holds dearly. Due to his diligence, the senior management where he works send him on a classified mission to a far away island in order to investigate the orphanage there and its ‘master’.

Linus doesn’t really know what to expect – he isn’t allowed to read the files of the children he will be observing until he arrives. These children are more than just magical children – they are unique and different to any he has ever met before. Not to mention the man who looks after them, Arthur, is not the man the management made him out to be.

I couldn’t help but love this story mostly because of the characters. Linus goes through such a transformation as he is slowly welcomed by these magical children who had very troubled pasts. I enjoyed seeing the children open up to Linus as he befriends them (against his head that follows the rules and regulations). The book really preaches belonging and found family, it warmed my heart from start to finish.

The House in the Cerulean Sea is the kind of book that makes you squeal at its cuteness. There are so many touching moments that build up happy tears. Each and every child has unique magical abilities and personalities and a journey of their own to go on throughout the book. I also loved the romance which just felt right in this story.

Overall, one of the best books I’ve ever read due to the emotion it made me feel. I am looking forward to reading other books by TJ Klune given the strong effect this one had on me.

ARC Review: Sweethand

Sweethand was on my most anticipated romances books of 2021 – and I’m not going to lie, it was because of the gorgeous cover design (the dress! the cat!). It also appealed to me because it involved baking and music which I anticipated to be a great combination for a romance novel. Naturally, I wasn’t disappointed and really loved the characters in this book.

Star rating: 4 stars

So the beginning of the blurb sounds like this book is going to be full of drama, and don’t get me wrong there is some but it’s tasteful and doesn’t detract from the romance. Cherisse is a baker, recently coming off the back of a baking show that she dropped out of when it was leaked that her musician boyfriend was cheating on her. Now she’s baking the cakes for her sister’s wedding, and the pressure from her family to settle down herself couldn’t be greater.

Keiran is a producer that’s slowly making a name for himself with his coworker. Having also been burned by an ex, he’s in a similar position to Cherisse herself. The two are re-united after years apart as best man and maid of honour at the wedding – they only problem is that they hate each other!

I’m not always a fan of hate to love but I really liked Cherisse and Keiran together. I enjoyed them learning about each other – and that all their preconceptions about each other are completely wrong. It was also good to see them appreciate each other’s work more, given Keiran didn’t have much respect for Cherisse’s baking business at the beginning.

Another part of the book I loved was Cherisse and Keiran’s friends – both characters had good friends who cared about them. Cherisse’s cat Jell-O was also a little superstar. Keiran is also bisexual – I really appreciated a lead man who is bisexual because it’s something I don’t see very often in romance novels (or at all really).

Overall this was a fun read with lots of mouth-watering baking and great characters. It took me a little while to get into but then I was flying through it, eager to see if these two would finally get a grip. I will be very interested to see what other characters in the Island Bites series get books about them!

Book Review: Six of Crows

Hi everyone! It’s been a couple of weeks, I’m sorry! I have only read three books in March so far and two were disappointing and the other was Six of Crows. This is the third time I’ve read Six of Crows so I wasn’t sure about reviewing it, especially as it’s already so popular, but whatever. I love this book. It’s clever, thrilling and a great example of how to manage multiple points of view. It will always be on my favourites list for that reason (plus the special edition is really nice to read from).

Star rating: 5 stars

Six of Crows is the beginning of a follow on duology from Shadow and Bone, though you don’t have to have enjoyed or read that series to love this one. For me it shows Leigh’s growth as a writer, which has continued to grow right through to Ninth House. For a book with five points of view (missing Wylan in this first book), I think the plot moves magnificently, Each character really does bring a different personality and a new perspective on the events that occur within the book.

So what’s the plot about? Well, 6 teens take on the most secure location known to them to kidnap a scientist who can make a super scary drug that makes Grisha super powerful but also addicted leading to inevitable death. A drug like that could change their world and they would rather it didn’t leak into the world any more.

Kaz is their obvious leader, a teen who lost everything when he was a child (not unlike the other characters to be honest). Nina is a Grisha who has a particularly interesting backstory with Matthias, a guy from Fjerda that makes for a very interesting enemies to lovers pairing as they’re from two opposing nations. Inej is Kaz’s secret right hand – known as the Wraith she can climb anything and break in anywhere. Her backstory is also heartbreaking, and she seems to be the only person Kaz lets get remotely close. Jesper is a fascinating character – he’s a bit of a mess in all honestly. He has a lot of room to grow as a character given his gambling problem and tendency to accidentally reveal stuff he’s not supposed to. Finally there’s Wylan, a kid who knows his way around making explosives. He’s the only one of the six that doesn’t get a point of view in Six of Crows, but I feel like this would have revealed too much of the plot.

These characters and their dynamics make for an excellent story, especially one as high stakes as a heist that could get them all killed. There are so many powerful, iconic moments that I’m really excited to see on Netflix when Shadow and Bone comes out, likely to be in later seasons. It always takes me a good week to finish Six of Crows, and that’s because I savour every detail, right through to the explosive ending.

Overall, my third read was just as thrilling as the first, and I’m so exciting to re-read Crooked Kingdom and King of Scars before Rule of Wolves arrives later this month.