TAKE A HINT, DANI BROWN by Talia Hibbert – double review!

Talia Hibbert returns with another charming romantic comedy about a young woman who agrees to fake date her friend after a video of him “rescuing” her from their office building goes viral…

Danika Brown knows what she wants: professional success, academic renown, and an occasional roll in the hay to relieve all that career-driven tension. But romance? Been there, done that, burned the T-shirt. Romantic partners, whatever their gender, are a distraction at best and a drain at worst. So Dani asks the universe for the perfect friend-with-benefits—someone who knows the score and knows their way around the bedroom. 

When brooding security guard Zafir Ansari rescues Dani from a workplace fire drill gone wrong, it’s an obvious sign: PhD student Dani and ex-rugby player Zaf are destined to sleep together. But before she can explain that fact, a video of the heroic rescue goes viral. Now half the internet is shipping #DrRugbae—and Zaf is begging Dani to play along. Turns out, his sports charity for kids could really use the publicity. Lying to help children? Who on earth would refuse? 

Dani’s plan is simple: fake a relationship in public, seduce Zaf behind the scenes. The trouble is, grumpy Zaf’s secretly a hopeless romantic—and he’s determined to corrupt Dani’s stone-cold realism. Before long, he’s tackling her fears into the dirt. But the former sports star has issues of his own, and the walls around his heart are as thick as his… um, thighs. 

Suddenly, the easy lay Dani dreamed of is more complex than her thesis. Has her wish backfired? Is her focus being tested? Or is the universe just waiting for her to take a hint?


Title : Take a Hint, Dani Brown
Author : Talia Hibbert
Series : The Brown Sisters (book two)
Format : eARC
Page Count : 400
Genre : contemporary romance
Publisher : Avon/Little Brown UK
Release Date : June 23, 2020

Reviewer : Hollis / Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★ / ★ ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 4 star review

I’m going to preface this (likely short and terribly unsatisfying) review by saying I read the first 65% basically in one sitting and then got smacked with a slump for over a week; so while this is definitely a book I loved, enjoyed, swooned at, got weepy over, I can’t know for certain if it wouldn’t have been rated even higher if not for that break. I’m sad I didn’t do right by this book, or this author, and will have to make an effort to reread this (and book one!) before the third comes out. For quality control’s sake. And, like, also, because it was great.

Danika Brown was the queen of one-time things. Zaf wouldn’t know what to do with a one-time thing if it showed up with a fifty-page instruction manual and slapped him on the dick.

Hibbert always fills her stories with representation, of all kinds, and this one is no exception; her treading of sensitive topics ever so considerate; and her steam? (fire emoji fire emoji). We have the sweetest of family dynamics, the focus this time more on Zafir’s side — though we do get some Brown sister moments, of course, but Dani leans on her bestie Sorcha more in this one — and I just.. well, listen, I loved Dani, don’t get me wrong, but big burly RBF’d yet soft and tender Zafir? He stole both my heart and the show.

Liar.”
What?
That’s your lying voice. It’s all tight and scratchy.
Who are you? The bloody.. voice police?
I hope next time you’re in the shower, you think of seventy things you could’ve said just then that would’ve been way better than ‘voice police.’

I know I already mentioned it but it bears repeating : I loved, I laughed, I cried, I hurt, I swooned. It’s a Hibbert. These things kind of go without saying. But here I am saying it twice anyway.

Sweetie, are you crying?
No, I’m leaking masculine pain from my eyeballs.”

I’m certain you’ll love this book. And I can’t wait for book three.

** I received an ARC from the publisher (thank you!) in exchange for an honest review. ** 


Micky’s 4 star review

I hope you are ready to swoon over this book because the hero Zafir is something a bit special. I knew immediately he was going to sell this book, this story line. That’s not to say Dani Brown isn’t a great character, but she’s a contradiction of sharp corners and loyalty; she took some getting to know, to like.

Dani Brown was an academic chasing a PhD (that certainly resonated with me) and pretty career focused. She was only in the market for friends with benefits of any gender. Considering her and Zafir had been friends for some time, stepping it up was almost natural, if it wasn’t for Dani’s rules of engagement. Dani was a curvy, strong and intelligent woman but she knew she didn’t connect emotionally as well to people, so beyond her family she seemed to stop trying. I enjoyed seeing her character grow.

Zafir, Zafir, Zafir…a big, kind, ex-Rugby star, romance-reading, beta-male with anxiety. How could that combination not float my boat? He was considerate, thoughtful and a big bag of lust combined with affection over Dani. The dialogue and inner monologue were perfection and chuckle-inducing.

“Good morning,” he purred, his eyes landing on Dani’s chest like tit-seeking missiles.

Despite Zaf’s niceness towards Dani, he was gruff and grumpy looking. There was a whole back story to Zaf that was deep and engaging. His mental health issues were well written and he was that kind of character that just pulled you in.

“This is just my face. I have a murder face.”

“Honestly, Zafir, you’re so grumpy you could create your own storm clouds.”

The second book in this series had a story just as engaging as the first. These sisters are different, unique and so funny. There were cameo moments for Chloe and Red that made me a little gooey. And Eve…I just know her book is going to be hilarious.

Go get your moves on for TAKE A HINT, DANI BROWN. Talia Hibbert just writes these women with a realness and wit that you cannot resist.

Thank you to Little Brown UK for the early review copy.

DEAR ENEMY by Kristen Callihan – double review!

As kids, they hated each other. Macon Saint was beautiful, but despite his name, Delilah knew he was the devil. That he dated her slightly evil sister, Samantha, was no picnic either. When they broke up, it was a dream come true: Delilah never had to see him again.

Ten years later, her old enemy sends a text.

Delilah’s sister has stolen a valuable heirloom from Macon, now a rising Hollywood star, and he intends to collect his due. One problem: Sam has skipped town.

Sparks still sizzle between Macon and Delilah, only this heat feels alarmingly like unwanted attraction. But Delilah is desperate to keep her weak-hearted mother from learning of her sister’s theft. So she proposes a deal: she’ll pay off the debt by being Macon’s personal chef and assistant.

It’s a recipe for disaster, but Macon can’t stop himself from accepting. Even though Delilah clearly hates him, there’s something about her that feels like home. Besides, they’re no longer kids, and what once was a bitter rivalry has the potential to be something sweeter. Something like forever.


Title : Dear Enemy
Author : Kristen Callihan
Format : eARC
Page Count : 386
Genre : contemporary romance
Publisher : Montlake
Release Date : March 31, 2020

Reviewer : Hollis / Micky
Rating : DNF / ★ ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ DNF review

I’m not rating this one, because generally my DNF rule of thumb is, unless the read is heinous, I will only rate if I made it more than halfway into the book. And I tapped out of this one just shy of 40%. But it’s worth noting this is a favourite author and I wanted out after 20%, and had concerns after the first few flashback/past event chapters, so. Be aware of that.

My issue with DEAR ENEMY is more than just in the continuity or inconsistencies (which, fair, could be corrected between now, March third, and the release, March thirty-first). The origin of this pairing begins when they are young, pre-teen or so, and how they meet again ten years after highschool. It’s one of those hate-to-love romances where the premise is setting things up one way at the get-go and we seem to be finding things are maybe not as they may seem later on. Someone has secrets, I imagine we’ll find there were reasons why certain people behaved in certain ways and they will be forgiven for it, and oh hey, there was always this big connection between them, despite the fact that he dated her sister for other reasons, and blah blah.

I honestly didn’t have time for this.

Delilah enters into some BatB-esque servitude to work off her shady sister’s debt with Macon and the homage to the fairytale was pretty loose in some sense and also it felt like one entire scene was lifted from the movie. I’m not against retellings, in fact JT Geissinger’s BURN FOR YOU followed along those lines and worked really well for me, amongst other retellings, but between everything else..? I just can’t get on with the characters. Things seem to be moving along fairly predictably, too, with certain interactions between the main protags and I’m just bored.

I’m used to a lot of complexity from his author, or at least a lot of fun, and this feels very surface level and, if I’m being honest, a little tired. Maybe it would’ve improved along the way, I’ve seen some positive early reviews, but at this point I don’t have the energy to invest in hoping it would turn around.

Based on the first 40%? This would’ve been a 1.5 for me.

** I received an ARC from NetGalley and the publisher (thank you!) in exchange for an honest review. **


Micky’s 4 star review

Okay, now wash your mouth out because we’re zinging from dnf to jolly enjoyment! DEAR ENEMY had some of my most favourite tropes all wrapped up in banter and jibes – second chances, hate-to-more and slow burn. It did however, have a trope I’m not keen on, stepping into a relationship with someone who’s been with a friend/family member. That said, I could cope with it because of the circumstances but I think that might alienate some readers. After a difficult to navigate prologue, this book took off well for me.

What was so delicious about this contemporary romance? It was the vulnerability of Macon stepping into feelings unknown but taking a deep breath and getting on with it. Meanwhile, his life was fun-laden barbs, and forced proximity with the heroine, Delilah. Add into that some chef-ing and food which always seems to make for a good story in my book.

She’s all twitchy now, eyeing me like a feral barn cat as if I might try to lash out and catch her.

The banter between these two was pretty entertaining and the chemistry was swoonish. I enjoyed the semi-hate especially as it seems to turn before it got irritating. Delilah was hard to win over and the annoying sister was…very annoying. The sister element was something I didn’t settle with but the circumstances were just about palatable.

The slow burn was spot on and there’s just something about Kristen Callihan’s romances when she’s in the zone that gives me all the feels; this one did just that. DEAR ENEMY was a great entertaining read that I just wanted to get back to when I wasn’t reading. Just the thing for a weekend read.

Thank you to Montlake for the early review copy.

THE MIDNIGHT LIE by Marie Rutkoski – double review!

Where Nirrim lives, crime abounds, a harsh tribunal rules, and society’s pleasures are reserved for the High Kith. Life in the Ward is grim and punishing. People of her low status are forbidden from sampling sweets or wearing colors. You either follow the rules, or pay a tithe and suffer the consequences.

Nirrim keeps her head down and a dangerous secret close to her chest.

But then she encounters Sid, a rakish traveler from far away who whispers rumors that the High Caste possesses magic. Sid tempts Nirrim to seek that magic for herself. But to do that, Nirrim must surrender her old life. She must place her trust in this sly stranger who asks, above all, not to be trusted.

Set in the world of the New York Times–bestselling Winner’s Trilogy, beloved author Marie Rutkoski returns with an epic LGBTQ romantic fantasy about learning to free ourselves from the lies others tell us—and the lies we tell ourselves. 


Title : The Midnight Lie
Author : Marie Rutkoski
Series : The Midnight Lie (book one)
Format : ARC
Page Count : 368
Genre : YA LGBTQIA+ fantasy
Publisher : Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)
Release Date : March 3, 2020

Reviewer : Hollis / Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★ / ★ ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 4 star review

D u d e.

That was my reaction at the close of this book. I had no words, really, beyond being stunned and shocked and so desperate for book two.

THE MIDNIGHT LIE was nothing I ever expected. Knowing this was connected to The Winner’s Trilogy doesn’t give you any insight into the story or themes or plot and honestly? I kind of liked that. This, as all my reviews tend to be, will be spoiler free in an effort to retain some of the mystery, that uncertainty, but even knowing how this book begins? You won’t see where it goes.

It was the kind of impossible wish you treat as though it is precious. You make a home for it in your heart. You give it the downiest of beds for its rest. You feed it the choicest pieces, even when the meat it eats is your very soul.

As far as the connection to the original trilogy, think of this spinoff as what SIX OF CROWS was to The Grisha Trilogy. Some similar worldbuilding, but different context. Some alluded to events, but nothing detailed. Maybe cameos. I won’t confirm or deny. But that’s what you’re getting here. Maybe that’ll change with future books? I don’t know.

What I will say, is this book was hard to read at times. Our protagonist, like many in her community, is not well treated. But reading what Nirrim, in particular, is forced to do, what she convinces herself she must do, and how she is gaslighted (gaslit?) at almost every turn, is horrible, horrendous, and hard. There were times I got so frustrated I had to set the book down. But it’s even more interesting to view in hindsight because of where she ends up.

[..] there is no possible way to understand fairness and guilt when your world has already determined a set of rules that don’t make sense.

Yes, I’m terrible, I’m not sorry.

As for the romance? Swoon.

I had every intention of rereading the original trilogy before this one but never did (lolz 4ever because I’m incapable of helping myself, I guess?) but honestly I think, considering where this book went, it was better that I didn’t. But I’ll totally be rereading before book two because I’ll want to reread this one, too.

It is a midnight lie, she said. A kind of lie told for someone else’s sake, a lie that sits between goodness and wrong, just as midnight is the moment between night and morning.

I can’t wait for more and I’m so happy that this author, with her beautiful prose, and her complex, complicated characters, is back. I’m just hoping there’s a foreign edition, yet to be announced, with a better cover.

** I received an ARC from the publisher (thank you!) in exchange for an honest review. ** 

Micky’s 4 star review

Sobs. How fast can Marie Rutoski write and get the next book published because ARGHHHHHHH. This was a book with a clever and intricate plot, things fell into place more fully only as the ending approached, then THAT. Okay, I’m going to calm the capitals now.

I am such a fan girl of The Winners Trilogy and this book set in that world was no disappointment. It was an island of class issues, prejudice, homophobia told through the eyes of seemingly gentle Nirrim. Nirrim had been living a life of oppression but she was beginning to spread her wings on her own, those wings were aided to flight by Sid. Sid was a character I loved, despite her elusiveness and secrets. I loved the build of more between these two, that part of the storyline was particulary fabulous.

Life in the wards had all the description of sights, sounds and smells that conjured a vivid impression despite the lack of actual colour. Discovering the differences between Half Kith, Middling and High Kith was such great plot development and observing Nirrim take steps in new places was intruiging.

I could not put this book down, I read it in a day, feeling fascination, excitement, frustration and desperation for answers. I loved the connection to the winners trilogy, some of which I guessed. This book killed me with the ending. I need more and I feel like I need it now but I am going to have to put my patient pants on and distract myself for a while.

Marie Rutoski has that talent of creating a fantastical world that feels so utterly different to any fantasy you have read before. I am here for her books, always.

Thank you to Hodder Books for the early review copy.

THE QUEEN OF NOTHING by Holly Black – double review!

He will be destruction of the crown and the ruination of the throne.

Power is much easier to acquire than it is to hold onto. Jude learned this lesson when she released her control over the wicked king, Cardan, in exchange for immeasurable power.

Now as the exiled mortal Queen of Faerie, Jude is powerless and left reeling from Cardan’s betrayal. She bides her time determined to reclaim everything he took from her. Opportunity arrives in the form of her deceptive twin sister, Taryn, whose mortal life is in peril.

Jude must risk venturing back into the treacherous Faerie Court, and confront her lingering feelings for Cardan, if she wishes to save her sister. But Elfhame is not as she left it. War is brewing. As Jude slips deep within enemy lines she becomes ensnared in the conflict’s bloody politics.

And, when a dormant yet powerful curse is unleashed, panic spreads throughout the land, forcing her to choose between her ambition and her humanity…

From the #1 New York Times bestselling author Holly Black, comes the highly anticipated and jaw-dropping finale to The Folk of the Air trilogy.


Title : The Queen of Nothing
Author : Holly Black
Series : Folk of the Air #3
Format : library ebook (overdrive)
Page Count : 300
Genre : YA fantasy
Publisher : Hot Key Books
Release Date : November 19, 2019

Reviewer : Micky / Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ .5 / unrated


Micky’s 3.5 confused star review

First I’m going to give you my emotions – woop, oh, what, how, squeee, ffs, oh man, sigh, heart eyes, snake eyes, squirm, wtf. So yes, this is going to be a bit of a cluster of a review but it’s going to be spoiler-free and consequently, maybe vague.

THE QUEEN OF NOTHING started off really well for me, I felt back with the crew I loved rather quickly and into the current events. The pace of this final instalment moved fast and I liked it. Jude in the human world, life continuing in the faerie world but predictably, those worlds crossed. From there, I had some pacing issues, I would love a number of chapters, then feel a bit bored for a few.

I loved elements of this book but then I struggled with some plot developments. The bridle was a great plot device that…came to little. The snake was a great plot device that…I don’t know what that was. I loved the crown, I loved the throne and I loved Jude’s connection to the earth. So many exciting things but when that excitement didn’t come to fruition, I felt a bit disappointed.

Jude and Carden had a different dynamic in this book and I am going to leave it there even though I want to say so much more. There was a hole missing and I am grateful I got to see the letters from the Barnes & Noble edition because that filled the hole up. That leaves me thinking why wasn’t that part of the main body of the story; I just don’t get it.

I hope all that doesn’t sound too negative because overall this was read brought enjoyment and excitement with the frustration. I am happy with where the story ended up despite the fast wrap-up. I will look back at this series as a great one and a memorable one. I just wanted a bit more from this book.

How do people like us take off our armor?
One piece at a time.


Hollis’ unrated review

This is a book. And I read it.

Okay, but seriously, I don’t know how I feel about this one. THE QUEEN OF NOTHING frustrated me a hell of a lot less than THE WICKED KING but I mean.. at least the latter made me feel something? Because, to be honest, I felt pretty muted about this whole installment. There was a sense of unreality about it all because I was unsure why some things were happening, some things weren’t figured out, and also why there were literally no fireworks, no suspense, no sense of dread or urgency, or like, any kind of chemistry and intensity. N a d a. From anyone.

Also ARE YOU SERIOUSLY TELLING ME WE JUST FUCKING FORGIVE TARYN? WHAT THE HELL.

Ahem, okay, so I have like. One strong feeling about this story.

Anyway, we had some sweet moments, which I liked, but also.. I could’ve done with a lot less sweet moments because that would’ve felt truer to the characters. Again, I just missed the fire. For someone who didn’t even really like this series, that probably says a lot.

But ultimately I don’t even know how to feel about this story or this book. I don’t know what to rate. It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t great, and often it wasn’t even interesting. I was just passing the time. Not quite bored but far from immersed.

As a result, rating (likely never) to be determined.

INTO THE CROOKED PLACE by Alexandra Christo – double review!

The streets of Creije are for the deadly and the dreamers, and four crooks in particular know just how much magic they need up their sleeve to survive.

Tavia, a busker ready to pack up her dark-magic wares and turn her back on Creije for good. She’ll do anything to put her crimes behind her.

Wesley, the closest thing Creije has to a gangster. After growing up on streets hungry enough to swallow the weak whole, he won’t stop until he has brought the entire realm to kneel before him.

Karam, a warrior who spends her days watching over the city’s worst criminals and her nights in the fighting rings, making a deadly name for herself.

And Saxony, a resistance fighter hiding from the very people who destroyed her family, and willing to do whatever it takes to get her revenge.

Everything in their lives is going to plan, until Tavia makes a crucial mistake: she delivers a vial of dark magic—a weapon she didn’t know she had—to someone she cares about, sparking the greatest conflict in decades. Now these four magical outsiders must come together to save their home and the world, before it’s too late. But with enemies at all sides, they can trust nobody. Least of all each other.


Title : Into the Crooked Place
Author : Alexandra Christo
Series : Into the Crooked Place (book one)
Format : eARC / ARC
Page Count : 380
Genre : YA fantasy
Publisher : Feiwel & Friends/Hot Key Books
Release Date : October 8, 2019

Reviewer : Hollis / Micky
Rating : ★ ★  / DNF


Hollis’ 2 star review

Here’s a big reason why I think the current GR rating is what it is (which, as of the writing of this review, is 3.73) : it very much feels, and reads, like another book. Which, as my buddy said, doesn’t mean a certain author holds the copyright to heist ensemble gangster anti-hero/amoral stories. It’s just.. like, wow, a little effort to be different, when so much of today’s culture is comparisons, would’ve been nice?

But here’s where I get a little less snarky. After bemoaning the comparisons, and the utter boredom, for almost 50%.. this book did shift gears. A little. I won’t say I liked it after the first half but while I predicted a lot of what was coming.. some things I didn’t. I felt good about the ending — particularly the last 20% — which, I mean, I guess didn’t take much considering how not-good I was feeling about the book in general, so that’s definitely a low-ish bar. Also, the shift in plot doesn’t quite take away from how much this book is like other things. I’m talking vibe, tone, names.. yeah, it’s a lot.

But. Again, I say, but.

I might pick up book two (thank goodness it’s not a trilogy). Hell, I probably will. I’m a bit of a masochist but I did feel this ended on a good — well, no, not good, but you get what I mean — note. Also there is a lot of diversity in this story, which is one of the few uncomplicated things to celebrate.

So, yes, this is kind of a hash, for a book I wanted to DNF and yet now find myself intending to read even more of now that I’ve finished it, and yet here we are.

** I received a ARC from Edelweiss and the publisher (thank you!) in exchange for an honest review. **


Micky sadly DNF’d at 30% – unrated

I’m sorry to say that this was a full day’s struggle of picking it up and putting it down repeatedly because I did not like this world that felt pretty familiar and I did not buy into the characters or story. I found the names of people and phrasing too similar to the Grisha world to discount and it was told without the finesse of that one.

I strongly believe there is no copyright on this kind of story (heisty-gangster fantasy) because the whole book world is built on a jenga pyramid of similar stories. That said, its hugely important to find your slice of uniqueness and according to my bud Hollis, that issue settled a bit from half way in. I didn’t get that far because I just didn’t engage with the story and I was consistently bored.

I feel disappointed in myself on the one hand because I loved Christo’s previous book but I think this review would look a whole lot worse if I had.

Thank you to Hot Key books for the review copy and I’m sorry I couldn’t see this through to the end. Gratitude for the chance to read early.