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: 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.

ARC Review: Songs in Ursa Major

It’s difficult to read Songs in Ursa Major without comparing it to Daisy Jones and The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid. Both are set in similar time periods in the music industry, both have a doomed couple at the centre and both contain a lot of drug abuse. Emma Brodie writes in full prose rather than the interview format of Daisy Jones, but still gives the reader multiple perspectives in the story. Although the stories have similar vibes, I still enjoyed Songs in Ursa Major (I also love the title).

Star rating: 4 stars

Songs in Ursa Major follows Jane Quinn, a young woman with lots of musical talent living with her extended family. She’s been the lead singer in a band for a good while, but the band only stars to kick off once they are pulled in to replace Jesse Reid, an up and coming star, at the last minute. Circumstances bring Jesse and Jane together, and as Jane and her band’s career takes off, the two artists end up touring together. Naturally, a complicated romance evolves.

Jane’s character is interesting – she is very principled and definitely stands up for her values throughout. I really admired her confidence in such a man’s world; there are plenty of occasions where she puts her career at risk because she fought for what she wanted, not what men wanted for her. Her relationship with Jesse is tumultuous as he spirals deeper into drugs which Jane refuses to take further. I liked the friendship between Jane and her band-mates even though it is clear she is the star attraction. There are also really strong family ties throughout – especially between Jane, her aunt and her grandmother. The women have really stuck together through the years since the disappearance of Jane’s song-writer mother.

Jesse’s story is also quite tragic, also losing his mother at a young age which gives him something to bond with Jane over. With a father who can be distant, Jesse completely falls apart without his mother. Even though he is always battling with addiction, he still does kind things for Jane throughout, but at the end of the day he is a man and his career is always put first over Jane by their label and more.

Song lyrics are dispersed throughout the story – for me they didn’t add anything or take anything away from the book because without the music it’s hard to get a feel for it. I also enjoyed the insight into Jane through small chapters from other perspectives like her manager, journalists and more.

Overall this was an interesting book and I did find myself reading it in one sitting due to the addictive writing style and storyline. I really enjoy these fictional biographical stories and this one was a great read, but it really did feel like reading Daisy Jones and the Six in a different format at times.

ARC Review: Hana Khan Carries On

When I saw that the author of Ayesha at Last was releasing another book I just had to get it. Hana Khan Carries on is so much more than a romance, it has fascinating family dynamics, addresses the Islamophobia many Muslims face and has a protagonist with strong values even if it means sacrificing her dream. This book has much going on, it’s amazing Uzma Jalaluddin fit it all in – but it never feels too crowded.

Star rating: 4 stars

Hana Khan is a 24-year old intern at Radio Toronto. When she’s not at the radio station she’s working on her anonymous podcast or helping out at her mother’s restaurant, Three Sisters Biryani Poutine, named proudly by Hana when she was a child. The restaurant is already struggling financially when a shiny competitor opens a new halal restaurant nearby and threatens to hit the final nail in the coffin. Hana is determined not the let the owner, Aydin, finish off her family’s livelihood, but with a growing attraction to him, what will she do?

I can start by saying that I absolutely loved Hana Khan as a character. She has such strong values, cares so much for her family and her anonymous podcasts were filled with so much emotion. She was juggling so much – her family’s financial struggles, her unpaid internship where she was being forced to compromise her values, putting time into her own podcast, visits from family members from India and the new guy Aydin who keeps getting under her skin. I honestly don’t know how she didn’t explode at some point during the book.

One of my favourite relationships in the book was between Hana and her Dad who had been in an accident. They are both big fans of radio and it was really heart-warming to see him support Hana’s dreams. It was also really emotional to read about Hana learning to stop sheltering him from the hurt that was caused to the family.

Racism is very prominent throughout the book. Hana is verbally abused by far right extremists, and the far right extremists also target all of the businesses on Golden Crescent. Some of the crimes featured in the book are absolutely awful and it was really upsetting, especially because these attacks happen to Muslims every day.

To be honest, the only thing that didn’t really capture my attention was the romance. Aydin wasn’t particularly interesting and I found that he didn’t really redeem himself for not standing up to his Dad sooner. Some parts were definitely better than others though, and I thought it was cute when Hana and Aydin started working together to help their community.

Overall this was a great book – it has a fantastic protagonist and a whole lot of interesting side characters which makes for interesting relationships and dynamics. It really doesn’t hold back from exploring the racism Muslims face, even in countries the world seems to idolise as progressive like Canada. I will definitely be reading Uzma Jalaluddin’s next book!

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!

ARC Review: The Summer Seekers

I love reading books where the points of view cross generations. The Summer Seekers by Sarah Morgan is just that – a book about an 80 year old woman, her adult daughter, and the 24 year old that agrees to drive her along Route 66. I really enjoyed this road trip book, and if you like interesting family dynamics, loveable characters and handsome strangers then this is a book you should definitely pick up when it releases at the end of May.

Star rating: 5 stars

After a scare while she’s alone in her Cornwall cottage, Kathleen has had enough. With her travel presenting past, she misses adventure. She refuses to be put in an old people’s home like her anxious daughter Liza would prefer, so decides to take on another trip, the first since her husband died. She will road trip Route 66. The only problem is, 80 year old Kathleen can’t drive anymore.

In steps 24 year old Martha, a young woman always in the shadow of her successful sister. Martha, still living with her judgemental parents, is lacking confidence but the opportunity to drive Kathleen across the United States seems to good to be true. Needing an escape to find herself again after the end of her marriage, Martha takes the job.

Liza’s life is chaotic – she works as an art teacher but the main demands on her time are her family – her husband Sean is always busy with his architecture firm, and her twin daughters Caitlin and Alice are so used to having everything done for them that they never thank Liza for everything she does. When her mother Kathleen goes on a crazy road trip, Liza snaps and takes the opportunity to escape to the cottage in Cornwall.

I really enjoyed this book! I loved the friendship that develops between Kathleen and Martha as they learn from each other. Martha was such a relatable character and it warmed by heart to see her grow in confidence in not only her driving but in herself. Martha’s road trip romance (set up by Kathleen) was also adorable – Josh was such a sweet guy. I also really liked that even though Kathleen and Liza were in different countries, they repaired a relationship that had always been strained. It was good to see them open up to each other at last. Kathleen also considers whether she should re-unite with an old friend after 60 years apart, and I liked that the book showed it is never too late to re-connect with people.

Overall I found this to be a heart-warming book that made me smile and even happy cry on occasions. I really love books where the points of view are from characters with different ages, and this one is no different. There are lots of emotional messages throughout and I’m really glad I picked this from NetGalley.

Will you be reading The Summer Seekers when it releases in May? It’s the perfect contemporary read for this summer, that’s for sure.

Monthly Wrap-Up: April 2021

Hi everyone! Welcome to my April 2021 wrap-up post. For these wrap-ups I include Book Coven book club, fave books you can buy now, books to look out for and books I want to read soon. I read more books in April than I did in March – most of them being ARCs thanks to a little encouragement from the Book Coven and our arc April challenge.

Book Club

Every month the mods of the Book Coven get us to suggest books that make up the book club bracket. We then vote all the way through to a final, and that’s the book we read together over the course of 3 weeks. Then the amazing Paragraphs and Pages asks us some super insightful questions and off we go. This month the club read four books:

  1. Blood Heir by Amélie Wen Zhao
  2. A Pho Love Story by Loan Le
  3. Phoenix Extravagant by Yoon Ha Lee
  4. Last Night at the Telegraph Club by Malidna Lo

I read both Blood Heir and Last Night at the Telegraph Club. Blood Heir didn’t hold my attention well at all thanks to a rushed plot and strange pacing. I really enjoyed Last Night at the Telegraph Club as you can see from my review.

Next month, since we struggled again to choose just one book, we have two!

  1. The Ones We’re Meant to Find by Joan He
  2. Blade of Secrets by Tricia Levenseller

I’m really excited to read these books, though I’ve already read The One’s We’re Meant to Find which was a really thought provoking read that I’m excited to discuss with my friends. Also, the cover is so beautiful.

Favourites

The first book I really loved in April was The House in the Cerulean Sea by T.J. Klune. If you’re looking for a cute fantasy that reads like middle grade for adults then this is your book. The characters and story are so soft, I melted inside reading it. I’m really glad I finally took the plunge and read this book that all of my friends adored.

Speaking of soft books, I also picked up Second First Impressions by Sally Thorne. This romance is very different to Sally Thorne’s other books but I think it is her best work. I found myself really routing for the characters to face their fears and achieve their dreams, and completely fell in love with the tortoises. If you want an adorable opposites attract and support each other romance then this is one you should pick up!

Books to Look Out For

I read many ARCs this month but my absolute favourite was The Witch’s Heart by Genevieve Gornichec. This re-telling was one of the best I’ve read (I enjoyed it more than Madeline Miller). The writing is stunning and so is the character development. This is definitely a book for women.

I also read a sweet YA romance called Hani and Ishu’s Guide to Fake Dating. I had some minor issues but generally really enjoyed this cute story of two gay Bengali teens! I had fun getting to know Hani and Ishu’s personalities and exploring their relationships with their families and friendship groups.

Next month?

It’s that time again! I don’t know which books I’m going to be reading in May. I have a few more ARCs to get through which I’ll be attempting to finish, and some re-reads so I finish series (The Winner’s Curse and Viper). I’ve also got some Kindle Books to get through: Love Frankie by Jacqueline Wilson and Dear Martin by Nic Stone being two I’ve had on my to be read for a long time! I’ve also been dreaming about re-reading The Brown Sisters series by Talia Hibbert now I have signed physical copies.

How have you been this April? It’s been a bit hectic at work and with having some outdoor family visits for the first time in ages. What have you been reading? Let me know in the comments, link me your wrap-up posts. Can’t wait to get some new recommendations. Here’s to a May full of magical reads!

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!

ARC Review: The Secret Bridesmaid

The Secret Bridesmaid was a surprise hit for me! It sounded like it could have been a book that was a bit too dramatic for my taste but I ended up really enjoying it and getting surprisingly emotional! If you want a light-hearted read set in the UK that doesn’t get too over the top, this is the book for you.

Star rating: 4 stars

Sophie Breeze is a professional bridesmaid – hired to take the pressure off of the bride without them giving control over to a wedding planner. A successful wedding leads to a former client recommending her to the mother of Lady Cordelia Swann, handing Sophie her biggest job yet. As Emily Taylor, she becomes Cordelia’s only bridesmaid, though Cordelia herself is less than impressed with the idea. Her time as Emily is filled with ridiculous requests, fending off bullies and trying to be a bridesmaid to someone who is just not interested, but can Emily crack Cordelia’s hard exterior to help her have the perfect wedding?

My favourite thing about this book was the dynamic between Sophie and Cordelia. Cordelia has been through a lot – some of it typical rich girl in the limelight stuff which was a bit cliché but I didn’t dislike it. Also the characters felt a bit on the young side for their age of 30ish. The bond between them develops perfectly throughout the book and I really enjoyed all of their interactions, which were part funny, part emotional. I don’t think Cordelia had ever had real friends before so it was kind of sweet to see her realise what that entailed.

The romance between Sophie and Cordelia’s brother Tom was a small part of the book – it was a little bit insta love and could have had more development, but I generally enjoyed it even if Tom only knew her as Emily. Again, predictable, but the kind of smushy that makes me smile.

Overall I actually had a really good time reading this book despite some of the friendship drama and predictable nature. It made me smile in all the right places and I even got a bit emotional. Definitely a good, fast read if you want a pick-me-up with love and humour.