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.

A MADNESS MOST DISCREET by Laura Lascarso

Michael D’Agostino is a bestselling mystery author suffering from writer’s block when he meets Arden Evans, a beguiling escort and catalog model attempting to write a memoir of his own.

Michael is captivated by the young man, whom he finds refreshingly honest and authentic. When Arden asks that they “keep it simple,” Michael readily obliges. Their arrangement becomes increasingly complicated, however, as Michael begins to want more from his enchanting lover.

And then there is the matter of Arden’s finances, something so fiercely personal that Arden refuses to discuss it. This same debt is what obligates Arden to his wealthy benefactor, much to Michael’s vexation.

Michael wants their love affair to last, but how do you hold onto a man whose gaze is forever fixed on the horizon?


Title : A Madness Most Discreet
Author : Laura Lascarso
Series : A Midsummer Story
Format : eARC
Page Count : 298
Genre : m/m romance
Publisher : indie
Release Date : June 20, 2020

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★ .5


Hollis’ 4.5 star review

As is often the case with me, I tend to forget what books are about by the time I pick them up. There are obviously times where this isn’t the case but it happens more often than you might think. Case in point : I had convinced myself that Lascarso had written something light and fluffy because a) my brain is a sieve these days due to work and the world and b) that cover is gorgeous and lovely and gives me happy vibes.

This book was way more than the cover implies. But it’s also a Lascarso so I’m an idiot for thinking it wouldn’t be more.. though one day she’ll probably write fluff just to mess with me.

What started out as a story leaning into a PRIDE AND PREJUDICE vibe (as explained by the author herself) due to the economic disparity — as well as the vast distance between opportunity and circumstance — between the protagonist’s situations shifted instead into a something sorta resembling Sex and the City. But with an HBO edge.

You’re cultivating a mystique.
I have to. It’s my only currency.”

This is a story I’ll admit did not hook me right away (though to be fair reading is a struggle these days..). But after a turning point, and I couldn’t even really say what or when that was, I looked up and it was eleven PM on a worknight, so. That says it all.

A MADNESS MOST DISCREET isn’t all sparkling Cosmos and the male-equivalent of Manolo Blahniks (right, that was the shoe? I maybe watched one episode of SatC), there are some less than comfortable situations, abutting completely real and often testy but still lovely friendship dynamics, so much steam it’s unreal, and is, still, somehow, also really sweet.

My one complaint is to do with an element of one of those uncomfortable situations because I do wish it had been clearer if there had been an end-in-sight to a certain arrangement, how long it had lasted, and/or how much traction had been made in the ensuing years.. but perhaps I had missed some of this info, as I did read well past my bedtime and it could’ve been one of those situations where your eyes see the words but the brain doesn’t get the memo. So, as I fully see myself rereading this, I will table that under the “maybe I’m just dumb” and eventually follow up. If it’s not mentioned, I mean, it doesn’t have to be, we as readers definitely get the idea, as well as the breadth of the situation, but it’s something I found myself musing on after finishing the book.

That said, if you couldn’t tell, I definitely recommend, and I definitely want more from this series. Whether that’s a companion, a sequel, or even a book focusing on the other couples. I don’t care what it looks like. I just want it.

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

BLOG TOUR (UK) – BEACH READ by Emily Henry

A romance writer who no longer believes in love and a literary writer stuck in a rut engage in a summer-long challenge that may just upend everything they believe about happily ever afters.

Augustus Everett is an acclaimed author of literary fiction. January Andrews writes bestselling romance. When she pens a happily ever after, he kills off his entire cast.

They’re polar opposites.

In fact, the only thing they have in common is that for the next three months, they’re living in neighboring beach houses, broke, and bogged down with writer’s block.

Until, one hazy evening, one thing leads to another and they strike a deal designed to force them out of their creative ruts: Augustus will spend the summer writing something happy, and January will pen the next Great American Novel. She’ll take him on field trips worthy of any rom-com montage, and he’ll take her to interview surviving members of a backwoods death cult (obviously). Everyone will finish a book and no one will fall in love. Really.


Title : Beach Read
Author : Emily Henry
Format : Paperback
Page Count : 384
Genre : Contemporary Romance
Publisher : Viking Books/Penguin
Release Date : July 9, 2020

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 4 star review

I’m going to preface this whole review by saying this was not the totally light read that I was expecting, with more serious tones to the story than I thought. BUT it was an easy reading experience with two characters that engaged the pages immediately and who had the most interesting yet heavy baggage.

The idea of two authors writing in different genres was an enticing one and the context did not disappoint. The grudging friendship and buddy writing including exposure to one another’s processes enriched the story as they navigated their mutual emotional mess and writer’s block.

I’ll take you through my research process. I’ll help you lean into your latent nihilism, and you’ll teach me how to sing like no one’s listening, dance like no one’s watching and love like I’ve never been hurt before.

January’s family situation had me wanting some answers all the way through and Gus’ elusiveness about revealing himself also left me guessing. Some of reveals about Gus had me giddy with the feels.

Why does this book deserve the hype it’s getting? The dialogue was a dream, I highlighted almost nonsensically as I read, loving how Gus and January interacted with one another through their friendship and journey to more. My favourite moments had to be some of the window notes. January in particular was the queen of the killer quip and I adored her sharp-shooting humour.

BEACH READ seems to be the it-read of the summer season and I can’t argue with that. It wasn’t hard to pick up but it’s definitely hard to put down. I’m joining the crowd of people recommending you pick this one up.

DRAGON UNLEASHED by Grace Draven

A dragon shapeshifter and a healer with power over the earth fight a corrupt empire in this thrilling and deeply emotional romantic fantasy from the USA Today bestselling author of Radiance.

Magic is outlawed in the Krael Empire and punishable by death. Born with the gift of earth magic, the free trader Halani keeps her dangerous secret closely guarded. When her uncle buys a mysterious artifact, a piece of bone belonging to a long-dead draga, Halani knows it’s far more than what it seems. 

Dragas haven’t been seen for more than a century, and most believe them extinct. They’re wrong. Dragas still walk among the denizens of the Empire, disguised as humans. Malachus is a draga living on borrowed time. The magic that has protected him will soon turn on him–unless he finds a key part of his heritage. He has tracked it to a group of free traders, among them a grave-robbing earth witch who fascinates him as much as she frustrates him with her many secrets.

Unbeknownst to both, the Empire’s twisted empress searches for a draga of her own, to capture and kill as a trophy. As Malachus the hunter becomes the hunted, Halani must risk herself and all she loves to save him from the Empire’s machinations and his own lethal birthright.


Title : Dragon Unleashed
Author : Grace Draven
Series : Fallen Empire (book two)
Format : eARC
Page Count : 416
Genre : fantasy romance
Publisher : Ace
Release Date : June 9, 2020

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ 


Hollis’ 2 star review

Much like my experience with PHOENIX UNBOUND, book one in the Fallen Empire series, I have very mixed feelings over this read. Mostly because I have adored so many of Draven’s stories and want to support this well-deserved achievement in being lifted up by one of the big publishing houses. But the reality is this just seems like such a lesser offering than all her previous tales.

I remember saying it in my review for book one, but this writing? It doesn’t feel at all like Draven. I feel so removed, so disconnected, by everything. The plot, the characters, the dialogue. It’s awkward or stilted or poorly transitioned. It feels like a debut author as opposed to a seasoned one who was often wowed me, stunned me, made me burst out laughing, with her words. I definitely felt some chemistry and excitement in book one’s pairing, fitting as one character wielded the power of fire, but this one? Way less chemistry, less connection, and there was only one moment between them where I felt.. something. Maybe because I appreciated that two people, with different backgrounds and perspectives, could do some self-reflection and appreciate they didn’t understand what it was like to be in each others’ shoes. But everything else..?

I wanted to be wowed by this, I wanted to feel that rounding up on book one had paid off with this follow up story, but instead I want to go back and knock off a star from PHOENIX UNBOUND. I’m sad. 

I don’t know if there’s more to come from this series but I’m sure I’ll pick it up anyway. Particularly if it helps to ease the pain of waiting for the next Wraith Kings installment.

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

CONVENTIONALLY YOURS by Annabeth Albert

When two “big name fans” go head-to-head at a convention, love isn’t the only thing at stake.

Charming, charismatic, and effortlessly popular, Conrad Stewart seems to have it all…but in reality, he’s scrambling to keep his life from tumbling out of control.

Brilliant, guarded, and endlessly driven, Alden Roth may as well be the poster boy for perfection…but even he can’t help but feel a little broken inside.

When these mortal enemies are stuck together on a cross-country road trip to the biggest fan convention of their lives, their infamous rivalry takes a backseat as an unexpected connection is forged. Yet each has a reason why they have to win the upcoming Odyssey gaming tournament and neither is willing to let emotion get in the way―even if it means giving up their one chance at something truly magical. 


Title : Conventionally Yours
Author : Annabeth Albert
Series : True Colours
Format : eARC
Page Count : 400
Genre : LGBTQIA+ contemporary romance
Publisher : Sourcebooks Casablanca 
Release Date : June 2, 2020

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ .5


Hollis’ 2.5 star review

I think CONVENTIONALLY YOURS failed to win me over because this feels like something I’ve read before, not just in general but by this author, and yet done not quite as well. In general this does follow some fairly typical tropes and meanders in a familiar direction, though maybe without the specific diverse leanings, and when mixed with a fairly lukewarm connection, and very little heat (which, considering Albert’s other series, definitely surprised me), I’m just left a little.. whelmed (not under, not over, just..).

I think if you’re new to queer romance, or maybe haven’t read some of Albert’s grittier or hotter romances, this might be a great entry level read into the genre. Or if you just prefer to mix things up every now and then with something a little softer, this would be a great choice for that. Personally, I would just rather have reread STATUS UPDATE, for the road trip content, and also STATUS UPDATE for the opposites attract, but maybe book one in Albert’s #gaymers series wouldn’t satisfy those readers looking for as much nerd/gamer content as this one had. Because there was a lot.

So this obviously won’t be a favourite from this author for me, but I think it’ll satisfy a lot of readers, fans or not.

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

BEACH READ by Emily Henry

A romance writer who no longer believes in love and a literary writer stuck in a rut engage in a summer-long challenge that may just upend everything they believe about happily ever afters.

Augustus Everett is an acclaimed author of literary fiction. January Andrews writes bestselling romance. When she pens a happily ever after, he kills off his entire cast.

They’re polar opposites.

In fact, the only thing they have in common is that for the next three months, they’re living in neighboring beach houses, broke, and bogged down with writer’s block.

Until, one hazy evening, one thing leads to another and they strike a deal designed to force them out of their creative ruts: Augustus will spend the summer writing something happy, and January will pen the next Great American Novel. She’ll take him on field trips worthy of any rom-com montage, and he’ll take her to interview surviving members of a backwoods death cult (obviously). Everyone will finish a book and no one will fall in love. Really.


Title : Beach Read
Author : Emily Henry
Format : eARC
Page Count : 384
Genre : contemporary romance
Publisher : Berkley
Release Date : May 19, 2020

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 4.75 star review

Oh man. I have a bad feeling this book is going to confuse and mislead some readers because the vibe from the cover, and my understanding of the plot from the skimming I did of the summary when I requested it (#TeamMostlyBlurbFree), gives you a very different idea of what the whole of this experience is going to be. I’m not saying the book, or the marketing of said book, is a lie but that it’s so much more than what you think it’ll be. Also, like, I don’t think this book is a book you would actually take to read on the beach. But the title is still very relevant to the story.

With that said, though, I totally loved this? Sure, I picked it up thinking it would be the fluffy frothy happy delight I needed after some not-remotely-those-things reads, plus, like, I needed a break from the dystopian nightmare world we’re living in right now and instinctively reached for some brightness, but instead I got that and more.

You never told me what you write, Everett. I’m sure it’s something really groundbreaking and important. Totally new and fresh. Like a story about a disillusioned white guy, wandering the world, misunderstood and coldly horny.”
‘Coldly horny’? As opposed to the very artfully handled sexual proclivities of your genre? Tell me, which do you find more fascinating to write : love-struck pirates or love-struck werewolves?

This is definitely filled with banter, as these two writers of very different subject matter duel with words and perspectives and challenge each other to swap genres. It’s full of that delicious tension where amidst that challenge there’s even a promise they won’t fall in love with each other (a throwback reference to a popular romantic movie because this book has lots of references, but also, heyoooo). Equally (nay, more?) delicious were the makeout scenes leading up to fireworks because, uh, hi, hello. Have I been skimping on romance lately or is Henry just hella good at this because wowza.

But there was also an edge to this story, both in one of the subplots and in the characters. Each are dealing with things they’ve either carried with them throughout their lives or that have just sent them reeling and reevaluating so much of what they thought was true. There’s loss, grief, betrayal, abandonment.. there’s a lot to deal with. We also do have some bits of miscommunication between the leads but, delightfully (how many more times will I use this word, you might be wondering..), things are dealt with in a fairly timely manner. Like the summary says, these two are polar opposites. Gus is wrapped in layers, January wears everything on her skin, and while they fall into a headlong intense connection, full of that hot excited desperation to be around each other, it isn’t without work to stay together. To understand.

As different as I’d thought we were, it felt a little bit like Gus and I were two aliens who’d stumbled into each other on Earth only to discover we shared a native language.

Beyond the romance, though, we also have an amazing female friendship. Which is made more amazing by the fact that the friend gets hardly any page time beyond some text communications and yet I still felt the love. Don’t believe me? The first time I cried was during a scene where they are together on page. Friendships for the win.

Oh, yes, probably should’ve mentioned. I cried a few times. Or rather the same cry on and off near the end. You’ve been warned.

So, is this a book you might want to pack for the beach after release? And by beach I mean the towel you spread on your living room floor in front of your computer’s screensaver showing some tropical location in the effort to remain socially distant? Maybe not. But if you love banter or an opposites attract situation; if you love books about books; if you like some emotional backstory and good realistic, complicated, backbones to your fiction, you’ll love this. For me, this is like biting into a shortbread cookie and finding out the inside is stuffed with brownie. It was going to be good as it was, and instead it ended up even better, more substantial, and delightfully (!) delicious in an unexpected way.

Read this book.

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

ASHES OF HONOR by Seanan McGuire

It’s been almost a year since October “Toby” Daye averted a war, gave up a county, and suffered personal losses that have left her wishing for a good day’s sleep. She’s tried to focus on her responsibilities—training Quentin, upholding her position as Sylvester’s knight, and paying the bills—but she can’t help feeling like her world is crumbling around her, and her increasingly reckless behavior is beginning to worry even her staunchest supporters.

To make matters worse, Toby’s just been asked to find another missing child…only this time it’s the changeling daughter of her fellow knight, Etienne, who didn’t even know he was a father until the girl went missing. Her name is Chelsea. She’s a teleporter, like her father. She’s also the kind of changeling the old stories warn about, the ones with all the strength and none of the control. She’s opening doors that were never meant to be opened, releasing dangers that were sealed away centuries before—and there’s a good chance she could destroy Faerie if she isn’t stopped.

Now Toby must find Chelsea before time runs out, racing against an unknown deadline and through unknown worlds as she and her allies try to avert disaster. But danger is also stirring in the Court of Cats, and Tybalt may need Toby’s help with the biggest challenge he’s ever faced.

Toby thought the last year was bad. She has no idea. 


Title : Ashes of Honor
Author : Seanan McGuire
Series : October Daye (book six)
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 363
Genre : urban fantasy
Publisher : DAW
Release Date : September 4, 2012

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ 


Hollis’ 2 star review

I highly doubt anyone will be reading these reviews anymore because I’m becoming somewhat predictable. I’m saying nothing new and living through the same disappointments and clinging to the same small, itty bitty, hopes. It’s like a weird Groundhog Day.

Though there are some differences in details, I might as well just say “see previous reviews” but I mean.. there are differences. Like, the ship I was shipping? It has sailed. And I want to be happy but lolz, I’m not? I won’t say I wasn’t moved a bit by some of the confessions and big reveal moments but I’m going to reserve judgment until we get a whole book of them being coupley. There was too much of the maiming, running around, “we’ll talk later”s, etc, to revel in the moment. Also for all that I had settled into a slowburn for this.. things kinda went two time speed on busting out a certain phrase. At least on Toby’s part.

I’ve stood by and watched you throw yourself against the walls of the world, because I hoped the impact might shake the sense back into you.” <– this was a nice moment but the quote makes me laugh out of context because the second part of this. what a mood.

As for the mystery of the week? Snooze. Toby takes a case, Toby goes up against a strident terrible person being terrible even as Toby tries to help, Toby drinks a lot of coffee (always and forever), Toby talks about wanting coffee, Toby hates her own blood, Toby drinks her own blood, Toby loses lots of blood, Toby lets go of a breath she didn’t know she was holding (second time in six books.. not bad overall but my brain, it bleeds).. over and over. It’s the worst procedural ever. There is no sense of stake in anything because Toby nearly dies multiple times in each book and the only thing that seems to change is who is being unreasonably rude to her, what new information is revealed that Toby will just go on to ignore, who she’s into, and.. well, that’s it.

That said, I would die for Raj and the Sea Witch. Protect them at all costs. 

I don’t know how McGuire can occasionally write amazing characters like the Sea Witch (so far Raj is just adorable, not complex) and then have so many others that are either one dimensional or inconsistent or both. Some of the shine has even come off the King of Cats for me as I found him way more interesting before his motivations were revealed. It made him more interesting, gave him an edge. I want that back. Additionally, the flip between all the formal talk and then the modern slangs for almost every character who bothers with the formal stuff (I’m not counting the regular modern speakers who dip into formality when the occasion calls for it) drives me nuts. It was particularly bad in this one. Also there were some missed moments on continuity in editing in this one that made me cringe in sympathy because yikes that’s never fun.

So, yes, for those playing the home game : yet another October Daye read. Yet another two star rating. Yet another “maybe next time..” I’ll like/love/enjoy, etc. 

THE GUY ON THE RIGHT by Kate Stewart

Strike One-My mother named me Theodore after her favorite chipmunk.

Not cool, Mom.

I‘ve spent most of my life answering to Teddy, because I couldn’t make Theo work. Except for here. College. The place where all bets are off, and I’ve managed to redeem myself. There’s only one problem, my new roommate, Troy, is football royalty and looks like he stepped off the set of an Abercrombie shoot.

Doesn’t matter, I cook a mean breakfast for his panty parade, and we get along well. And anyway, this year I got the girl. And she’s perfect.

That’s right. Theodore Houseman, former band geek, now marching band rock star has finally landed the girl of his dreams.

Everything is perfect.

That is, until Troy takes a good look at her.

I’m not going down without a fight. As a matter of fact, I’m not going down at all. As glorious as these days may be for my all-star roommate, Laney is my end game. 

I may not know much about play strategy, but I’ve been the good guy my whole life. I’ve been listening and I know exactly what women want. Framed in a picture standing next to me, Troy may seem like Mr. Perfect, but he’s underestimating the guy on the right.

Spoiler alert: In this story, the underdog is going to win.


Title : The Guy on the Right
Author : Kate Stewart
Series : The Underdogs (book one)
Format : eBook
Page Count : 364
Genre : NA/college romance
Publisher : KLS PRESS/indie
Release Date : July 25, 2019

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★ .25


Hollis’ 4.25 star review

So, funny story, I had never actually read the synopsis for this book, only inferred from the cover what it might be about, plus friend reviews and word of mouth, and I’m glad I didn’t glance over it before one-clicking and picking this up, because I don’t think the summary is accurate to the vibe of this book at all! My advice? Don’t read it, just read the book.

That said, I’m left feeling a little bowled over by this read. I had been hearing rave reviews from friends for ages but, like most good things, kept putting off actually reading it. But after a recent string of disappointing fantasy reads I though, well, I need to mix things up anyway, so..

I’m so glad I reached for this.

I’ve got mabs.”
Mabs?
Maybe abs?

This is a nice-guys-don’t-finish-last best-friends-to-lovers romance and it might be my new favourite friends to lovers story. I don’t read many of them, it’s just not the trope I lean into very much, but this one? Puuuuurrrrfection.

We shouldn’t fit, but we do, and our fit is nothing short of spectacular. There’s no wool in the world thick enough to make me blind to that.

The enduring hilarity and loveliness of this friendship, the epic tension and build to the shift in their relationship, the steamies.. everything was (chefs kiss). I expected the big blow up, and the why, and I never really love that anyway, and so I didn’t really love this one either, but the grovel, the make up, moment? Oh wow. Fabulous. Grand gestures don’t always land for me, but this one? It fit so beautifully.

Both characters are a little offbeat, a little unexpected, though neither come off as a manic pixie dreamgirl or the alternative loner that another author might have made them out to be, and the complexity of both characters is what makes them feel real, genuine, and like people you’d want to be friends with. It rounds out the story and makes the whole thing that much more memorable, too.

Also, that cover? So perfect with context.

If you want laughs, feels, swoons, and just a really great feel-good story (she says, with tears drying on her face)? You need this in your life.

TIME OF OUR LIVES by Emily Wibberley and Austin Siegemund-Broka

A boy desperate to hold on, a girl ready to let go.

Fitz Holton waits in fear for the day his single mother’s early-onset Alzheimer’s starts stealing her memory. He’s vowed to stay close to home to care for her in the years to come–never mind the ridiculous college tour she’s forcing him on to visit schools where he knows he’ll never go. Juniper Ramirez is counting down the days until she can leave home, a home crowded with five younger siblings and zero privacy. Against the wishes of her tight-knit family, Juniper plans her own college tour of the East Coast with one goal: get out.

When Fitz and Juniper cross paths on their first college tour in Boston, they’re at odds from the moment they meet– while Juniper’s dying to start a new life apart for her family, Fitz faces the sacrifices he must make for his. Their relationship sparks a deep connection–in each other’s eyes, they glimpse alternate possibilities regarding the first big decision of their adult lives. 

Time of Our Lives is a story of home and away, of the wonder and weight of memory, of outgrowing fears and growing into the future.


Title : Time of Our Lives
Author : Emily Wibberley and Austin Siegemund-Broka
Format : ARC
Page Count : 384
Genre : YA contemporary
Publisher : Viking Books for Young Readers
Release Date : April 21, 2020

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 3 star review

I totally respect what this book is trying to do. And what, I imagine, it will successfully do for many readers. It just didn’t quite work for me.

This is such a great representation of the mixed emotions young people (I was young once!) feel going into the next stage (ie, post-high school) of their lives. The momentum that pushes them forward to escape their current situation (overbearing family, no room to be yourself, too much responsibility at too young an age, etc) and the reluctance to go too far afield (family obligations, health, anxiety, worry, etc). These characters were perfect representations of those, often conflicting though sometimes singular, feelings. I felt it.

I already know what the future holds. It’s right now that has the potential to be extraordinary.”

Where this book failed for me, I think, was I didn’t quite love the characters. I didn’t love what followed their initial meeting and connection, and how that all came about, and I was hard pressed to believe how quickly they just “got” each other. Thankfully this relationship wasn’t smooth sailing, I appreciated the arguments, the speed bumps, but overall it did kind of stretch my belief. Maybe if I had liked them more, I would’ve bought it? I don’t know. Part of me had hoped this had gone a different way, been a story that connected these characters but didn’t quite overlap.. she says, vaguely.

There’s a claustrophobia in comfort. The threads become a web, confining the person I want to be to the person I was.

There are definitely emotional elements to this story, with some suffocating but reassuring (for the character) familial roles (honestly, the first few chapters dealing with Juniper’s family made me want to break out in hives, but that’s just me) and some heartbreaking health issues when it comes to a parent. Again, like before, I could feel it. But..

But overall, no matter how great the writing, how stunning some of the turns of phrase, this was a story very character-focused, and I just couldn’t love them. The characters. Also, a certain cameo from IF I’M BEING HONEST made me so mad initially.. but that was redeemed. Had it not? I would’ve been devastated.

So this was a mixed bag, but also a strong read. These authors are definitely talented, and not writing the same story in each release (thank goodness for that), but this was also not what I got from IF I’M BEING HONEST and maybe, in part, that’s also contributing to some disappointment. Even though I said different things are great. And they are. If you’ve enjoyed this duo before, I think you’ll like this, too. Maybe not as much, maybe more. Who is to say. What I can say, though, is even though I didn’t love it, I’ll continue to read whatever they put out.

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

IT’S NOT ME, IT’S YOU by Mhairi McFarlane

Delia Moss isn’t quite sure where she went wrong.

When she proposed and discovered her boyfriend was sleeping with someone else – she thought it was her fault.

When she realised life would never be the same again – she thought it was her fault.

And when he wanted her back like nothing had changed – Delia started to wonder if perhaps she was not to blame…

From Newcastle to London and back again, with dodgy jobs, eccentric bosses and annoyingly handsome journalists thrown in, Delia must find out where her old self went – and if she can ever get her back.


Title : It’s Not Me, It’s You
Author : Mhairi McFarlane
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 545
Genre : women’s fiction/romance
Publisher : HarperCollins
Release Date : November 6, 2014

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ .5


Hollis’ 3.5 star review

At the onset of writing this review I was still hmm’ing and haw’ing over my rating for this one (but by the time you see if it’ll have a nice shiny star value up above) because sadly I’m still comparing everything to DON’T YOU FORGET ABOUT ME. This had a similar ish vibe to McFarlane’s latest, IF I NEVER MET YOU, in regards to where our leading lady finds herself relationship-wise at the beginning of the book but things spiral out much differently and I appreciated that.

Compared to the usual idiots I meet, he wasn’t a git. He was pleasant. He was.. benign.”
Tumours can be benign.”
That is so fucking deep! Write that down.”

I found this one easier to connect to on the emotional front than I did her latest, and I loved the complexity she made in the story’s romantic villain (I have to quantify this because there’s an actual villain). That’s the thing about this author’s books; I’m discovering that you may not always enjoy the journey, or love every second of it, but it’s all so painfully real and genuine and complex. You can’t fault her for that. This one did err a bit into the unreality with regard to where our lady finds herself along the journey to self-discovery and reflection and it was that bit I didn’t quite love. But it did get us on the road to the end game.

Oof. One night with you and he’s turned into a love-letter writer. You must have an incredible pelvic floor.

Additionally, I also appreciated how this could’ve gone an obvious route with regards to romance but it took a left turn along the way and I like that McFarlane made us wait a bit instead of just giving us the first available option. Well done.

So, again, yes, I enjoyed, one bit even had me howling so loud and long they probably heard me in the UK, but all around love, full body sobs of sadness or joy or both? Not quite and no. It does deserve a round up, though, because ontop of everything good or great mentioned? We have yet another fantastic female duo of besties, a delightfully awkward but also beautiful family dynamic (shout out to Ralph because he’s amazing!), and one of the best love letters I’ve had the pleasure to read. Delia might not have been my favourite McFarlane heroine (Georgie4ever), but I have absolutely no regrets about reading this or spending time with these characters.