Review: That Alien Feeling by Alessandra Hazard

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Genre: Science Fiction, Romance, M/M, LGBT+
Pages: 196
Series: Calluvia’s Royalty #1 (works as a standalone)
Release Date: May 30, 2017
Publisher: Self-published, I think

4 Stars

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I’m not sure if anyone remembers, but a few months ago, I went on a kind of reading spree/binge/whatever-you-wanna-call-me-reading-eight-books-in-48-hours. I basically read everything the author had written (which was the Straight Guys series) minus a novella that I read a few days later. But somehow, I missed this book! How?! Actually wait, I think the sleep deprivation may have had something to do with it.

I came across this one yesterday while I was looking up when her next book was coming out, read it in one sitting and here we are. I do wish I’d waited a few more months because the wait for the sequel is going to kill me, but more on that later.

The main characters in this book is an alien. Yup, the book’s name is totally a pun, and that cover is so simple and so cute. The book is not cute. It’s probably the saddest book the author’s written. It’s starts off with Harry, his alien name is very long, on earth. He was sent there a couple of months ago to teach him a lesson about the value of family. By earth standards, he’s quite strange despite the efforts to fit in. He works at a coffee shop and is unusually happy and nice to everyone. That’s where he meets Adam.

Adam’s human and is immediately charmed by Harry. I don’t blame him. Harry is just so fucking cute and innocent. Adam is also very much attracted to him. But Harry’s straight and engaged so initially, there’s nothing to be done. Adam just gets to be miserable because he’s hopelessly in love with a straight guy.

And that’s just the start of his misery. The moment one issue gets resolved, another one pops up. It makes you think that maybe the book is specifically designed to torture Adam. Things weren’t much easier for Harry but Adam definitely had it worse. First because of his unrequited feelings, then because Harry couldn’t actually stay with him. There are a lot of laws regarding what you can’t and can’t do with the less developed civilizations (like earth). It was very interesting, the restrictions, the type of aliens, the intergalactic government, the alien planet we got to visit. There wasn’t much about it (don’t want to make the book info-dumpy, I guess) but there was enough. I’m really looking forward learning more though.

The romance was… very Alessandra Hazard. In the author’s own words, “I love romance with an edge: a bit twisted, a bit unhealthy and messed up“. It was definitely a little messed up, what with the neediness and the urge both Harry and Adam had to somehow climb into each other and stay there. These kind of relationship are not something I usually read but Alessandra Hazard won me over a long time ago.

The thing I like most about her stories is that while the relationship aren’t… conventional, they’re always about two people who want to be together, who are happy together. They defy social norms and the great thing about that is that they urge you to reconsider why we condemn certain things. Society can be so limited in its thinking. So much that it often makes people miserable for not fitting in. These book show relationships that many wouldn’t accept but ones that are okay because the people involved in them are more than so. This book took it a little too far at one point for my personal comfort, but there was a biological explanation for it so I’m not sure what to think.

But yeah, I like Alessandra Hazard’s brand of unusual, I like her characters and I like her side-characters. Mainly Harry’s best friend Seyn, who’s very smart and very bold, and his brother Ksar, who is a cold-hearted bastard most of the time but has a soft side, which we will hopefully see more of in the sequel, which comes out on July 20th.

Ksar and Seyn are the protagonist and you have no idea how hard it was to not mention how freaking excited I am to read that book. I was to read it so badly because from what I’ve seen of Seyn and Ksar, it’s going to be amazing and I’m dying over here. How am I supposed to wait that long? The only consolation is that it’s a much longer book’s than the author’s usual, and that waiting is acceptable if the book is awesome. Which it will be. In the meantime, go read this one. It’s really good.

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Review: Rattlesnake by Kim Fielding

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Genre: Contemporary Romance, M/M, LGBT
Pages: 240 (slightly larger pages)
Series: None
Release Date: August 31, 2015
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Star

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Jimmy Dorsett is a drifter. He’s doesn’t have any family that he’s in contact with and he’s spent most of his life on the road, going from one city or town to another. He sometimes stays for a few months, gets a job to make some money, then he’s off again. It’s not a glamorous life but it’s the one he’s chosen and is comfortable with it. He can’t stay in one place for long.

He picks up an old hitchhiker who’s trying to deliver a letter to the son he abandoned. But then the guys dies in Jimmy’s truck and Jimmy can’t help but want to deliver the letter. It takes him to the town of Rattlesnake and to Shane, the guy’s son. Shane is a bartender. He’s charming, resilient and optimistic despite the accident that injured his leg gravely enough that he’ll never walk without pain or a limp. Shane is also very persistent about seducing Jimmy and you can’t help but love him.

This book is from Jimmy’s perspective (third person) and usually, in cases like this, you spend a lot of time wondering what the other guy is thinking. But Shane is so open and cards-on-the-table that I didn’t have to wonder. I knew he liked Jimmy and wanted him to stay because his actions and words made that clear. And I, being a lover of honesty and transparency, couldn’t get enough of him.

Jimmy was more complicated. He was adamant about the kind of life he thought he wanted and about not staying. And see, while I wanted him to stay and live happily ever after, I understood the desire to go. I could relate to him because it’s something that I want as well. So even though he was stubborn, I understood him and he didn’t annoy me. Besides, he was never an ass about leaving. He was always so kind and the perfect gentleman. His desire to leave was more about his own distrust of life and his insecurities than about the people he was leaving behind. I liked both Jimmy and Shane a lot. Great characters.

Also, Jimmy told stories. Most of them were probably made up but they were fascinating. This entire book was fascinating. It’s written very beautifully and the details about the life of travel and about the town of Rattlesnake were so vivid, I felt like I was there. It’s a book that immerses you in the setting and makes you care.

The isn’t a dramatic story. It’s very ordinary and feels homey, almost. I didn’t love how things played out with the letter Jimmy was supposed to deliver and there was an epiphany that felt like too much of an epiphany (sorry if that makes no sense) but overall, this was a great book. I didn’t cry through it like many readers did; it was more of a slow-burn, feel-good book for me, but that’s a good thing. Books that make you cry are great too, but I prefer happier things. Definitely a story worth checking out.

Review: Empty Net by Avon Gale

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Genre: Adult, Contemporary Romance, M/M, LGBT+
Pages: 200 (slightly larger pages)
Series: Scoring Chances #4 (also works as a standalone)
Release Date: September 2, 2016
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

5 Stars

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We have a new favourite of the series!  Before this one, it was Breakaway, the first book. But this book caught me completely off guard.

For one thing, Laurent St. Savoy. I knew there was some kind of redemption arc coming for him. I mean, when we first saw in him Power Play, he was on a different ECHL team and took it way too far when he spit on Isaac for being gay. And now that he and Issac are protagonists in a book and he’s part of Isaac’s team, there couldn’t not be an explanation for him being such a dick.

What I didn’t expect was that we wouldn’t need a redemption arc for him. Just a chapter from his perspective. Laurent’s father was the coach of his previous team. He’s a horrible person, I knew that, but I had no clue just how horrible. And no, that doesn’t make his actions okay but, after seeing what things are like for him, you don’t want him to pay, you want to help him get better. Because seriously, it’s so bad. He doesn’t know how to be nice. His father never showed him and never let him have friends. This is the first time he’s on his own and he’s completely out of his element. He needs help. That’s where Issac steps in.

Isaac grown a lot since we first met him in Power Play. He’s happier now, he has people who care about him and he’s the caption of a team he loves. And at first, he hates Laurent, which makes total sense. But when he sees behind the bigoted asshole facade, he tries to help.

That’s the biggest and most important part of the book. Yes, the romance is great and sweet and you’re totally rooting for a happily ever after. But it was the development with Laurent that really hit it home for me. It’s a slow process and the things he’s been through… it’s something that he’ll probably be dealing with, in part, his whole life. But he comes so far and it’s all written and paced so well. Avon Gale has written a very complex and hurt character and shown him getting better. It’s a heartbreaking journey but an uplifting one. It’s done right.

Also, I really love how wonderful a person Isaac is. Even when he didn’t like Laurent, he was fair and, afterward, he was strong and kind. I really liked spending more time with Misha and Max (from book 3) too. Misha is like a father to Isaac and there were sweet moments and funny moments. The funny moments were usually because of Max.

Overall, I completely love this book and series, and it’s possible I’ll try to read everything the author has ever written. Starting with the fifth book, which will happen in a couple of weeks. Most definitely recommend.

Review: Power Play by Avon Gale

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Genre: Adult, Contemporary Romance, M/M, LGBT
Pages: 200 (slightly bigger pages)
Series: Scoring Chances #3 (Also works as a standalone)
Release Date: May 9, 2016
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Star

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Both Misha and Max were NHL players, on opposing teams. An accident during the Stanley Cup playoffs was the end of both of their careers. For Max, it was because of an injury and for Misha, it was part punishment for injuring a player (even though it was an accident) and part guilt. It’s been five years since that happened and Max is back on his feet. He can no longer play professional hockey but he’s working to become a coach.

Misha has been coaching for a few years and when he takes a job coaching the worst team in the ECHL, the Spartanburg Spitfires, he doesn’t expect his assistant coach to be Max, the guy whose life he still blames himself for ruining, even if Max never blamed him.

The reason they find themselves working together is because their team’s owner and general manager is an asshole who’s hoping to use their tragic history to sell game tickets (what a sleazebag, right?). For obvious reason, neither the Misha nor Max are okay with that. But they don’t have much of a choice. So they focus their energy on making things turn around for the team.

The two of them are attracted to each other right from the start. Misha is a great guy and a great coach but he’s quiet and very big on brooding and self-hatred and would never make a move. Max, who is surprisingly upbeat and optimistic, is the one who tries to bring Misha out of his shell a little, who tries to make him smile. Misha is kind of defenseless against Max. It’s actually really cute.

But Max can only do so much. He can love Misha but he can’t make him love himself. Max is good for him though. And I love how positive all the relationships in this series are. The two protagonists are always good for each other. Their lives are better, happier, together. With so many angsty and unhealthy relationship floating around in the romance genre, this series has been a breath of fresh air. I love all the novels by Avon Gale. They follow a similar pattern and pace, but the character dynamics are always different. Max is like sunshine shining through Misha’s perpetual dark cloud. I loved the relationship.

Another thing I loved was the addition of Isaac Drake. He’s the goalie for the Spitfires and, at first, I was hoping he’d get traded but he turned out to be much more than a short temper. His incorporation in Misha’s life was important. He brought out another side to Misha.

Overall, this was great book. The most different of the four, I think, because we dealt with coaches instead of players. I highly recommend it, and the others in the series.

Review: Save of the Game by Avon Gale

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Genres: Adult, Contemporary Romance, M/M, LGBT
Pages: 200 (slightly larger pages)
Series: Scoring Chances #2 (Also works as standalone)
Release Date: January 29, 2016
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

4 Stars

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Just because I’m now talking an organized approach to my M/M reads, doesn’t mean I don’t have to make up for the reads during my unorganized bender. In which I read four books of a series in 2.5 days. Honestly, when reviews pile up, I get antsy. But no worries, I’ve caught up on worse. Still, these reviews might be short.

In Breakaway, we met Riley. He’s the goalie for the Sea Storms, an ECHL team. We found out that his family is very rich but not the least bit loving. It’s not something he likes to share because he doesn’t know how people will react. We also found out that he’s curious about whether or not he may be bisexual. None of that has changed in this book. He’s still curious, still rich and still wants to somehow use his money to help his friends, even if they refuse to accept help.

Ethan is his teammate and roommate. Riley is attracted to him. Ethan is an unrestrinable ball of energy. He’s an enforcer on the team, he’s loud and very passionate about social justice. Riley is the complete opposite, quite and focused.

Riley doesn’t think anything will happen between them until a little bit of snooping and a marginally larger bit of alcohol change the game. They work. It’s unexpected but they bring out the best in each other because they want the best for each other. It’s a good balance between Riley’s composure and Ethan’s energy. They fit. And even more, their lives fit. Riley, who didn’t even know what an actual loving family would be like and Ethan, whose family is the most important thing in his life and who are so sweet to Riley when they meet him. It was a great dynamic.

If I have one complaint, it’s about the ending and the path that Ethan chose. It felt sudden. There wasn’t enough in the book to suggest that that would be something he truly wanted and, in the end, it seemed a convenient choice than a genuine one.

Overall, this is probably my least favourite book of the series (of the four books that I’ve read) but I love the series so that’s not a really bad thing. I liked the book. Riley and Ethan had an interesting story. Definitely more kinky than the others but good. It’s a book worth checking out and a really good installment of the series.

Review: On Davis Row by N.R. Walker

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Genre: Contemporary Romance, M/M, LGBT
Pages: 330
Series: None
Release Date: November 25, 2017
Publisher: BlueHeart Press

5 Stars

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Before I start the review, I just wanted to inform y’all that over the next few weeks or months, you’ll be seeing a lot of M/M reviews on the blog. You see, I tend to go off on benders (from my TBR) but this time, I wanted a more controlled bender so I made a list of books that I wanted to read, of the genre. There will be other books as well, but also plenty of M/M romances.

Notice over. Let’s get to the book, which is awesome. Over the past several months, five stars rating have been less and less frequent for me and while that’s a bummer because I feel like I’m turning snobbish, it’s very gratifying when I do give five stars.

The book is about CJ Davis who lives at a shabby house at the end of Davis Road. The locals, and the cops, call it Davis Row because no one in the family can seem to stay away from prison. CJ has manages fairly well so far but he’s on probation and everyone in town agrees that it’s only a matter of time before he ends up behind bars. The amount to judgement has had a predictable effect on CJ. He hides behind a harsh exterior that makes it look like he’s nothing but trouble.

Noah Huxley is CJ’s new parole officer. He’s young and optimistic and he really wants to help people, to rehabilitate them. It doesn’t take him long to see that there’s more to CJ than meets the eye and in the few weeks of time he has before CJ’s probation ends, he wants to do whatever he can to help him …If CJ would let him.

CJ has had a hard life. No one has ever thought much of him. He has one family member he can count on and still, he hasn’t known much kindness. When Noah shows up with all his enthusiasm, it’s difficult for CJ to trust him. It’s a slow process, convincing CJ that it’s okay to strive for more in life, that he’s worth it. When CJ’s father is, once again, released from prison, that’s another wrench in the plan because his father is bad news times a hundred.

In between all that, Noah and Cj’s growing feels for one another are a huge help. You’d think they’d be a problem because you can’t be involved with your probation officer, but instead, it proves CJ with the support that he needs to keep going.

It’s a beautiful and heartwarming relationship. I was melting inside every time they hugged (I’m partial to hugs). Seriously, so sweet and so good. They both have the best of intentions and are really good for each other. The two of them and the show-born relationship were hands down the best part of the novel. I loved getting to know them both and I wish we’d gotten a little more on how Noah dealt with what happened with his family, the emotional repercussions of it.

Overall, I loved this book to pieces and I highly recommend it. And since I’ve heard nothing but good things about the author, I’m eager to read more by her.

Review: Breakaway by Avon Gale

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Genre: Contemporary Romance, Sports, M/M
Pages: 240
Series: Scoring Chances #1 (Also works as a standalone)
Release Date: November 27, 2015
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Star

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I read this book (obviously) but didn’t immediately review it because I was too busy reading the next three in the series. I read those and then, just ’cause, I came back to revisit this one and I realized that I missed Lane! How I managed to miss a character in the two days that it took me to read the three books, I will never know. I just did.

Lane. by the way, is the protagonist. He’s Canadian. which is important because it means he’s all mannered and stuff. He’s in America because he’s part of an ECHL hockey team (if you don’t know what ECHL means, don’t worry, the author tells you). And despite being “mannered”, he’s also socially inept and sucks at talking. In fact, he manages to make his entire team hate him before they even play a single game. During the first game, he figure it might be a good idea to pick a fight with a player from the opposite team. He loses the fight but is somehow successful in winning the team over.

The player he fights is Jared Shore. He’s a veteran player and while fighting on the ice is kinda what he does, as an enforcer, he doesn’t appreciate Lane being a douche. The first conversation they have after the game, Lane exhibits his usual tact (which is none) and Jared has to resist the urge to punch him again.

But that’s the things about Lane; people who don’t know him often want to punch him for opening his mouth. But those who do know him can appreciate his brand of awkward honesty. I sure did. Seriously, I freaking loved him. His narrative, his thought process and everything he said. He made me laugh out loud many times and, just like Jared, I was completely charmed by him. He’s cute, earnest, vulnerable and just… lovable. Here’s a little sample of Lane being Lane. It’s after he tells his name to a waitress at a restaurant.

“You’re not going to say, ‘Remember it, because you’ll be screaming it later,’ are you?”
“No. Why would I want you to scream at me?” Lane asked, bewildered—and then flushed hotly as the meaning became clear.

He’s great, isn’t he? You have to read the book, if just for him. But if you require more reasons, then you must know that Jared is also great and I loved him almost as much as I love Lane. The dynamic between the two is funny and sweet. Jared understands what Lane is like and appreciates him, while Lane makes Jared be less jaded and grumpy. They teach each other to love themselves and it’s wonderful.

But the story isn’t just about that. It’s about Jared and Lane as hockey players, which is a very important part of their lives; about Jared finding out what he wants and Lane finding his place in the world and growing into himself. This is a great book and I highly recommend it.

 

Review: The Weight of It All by N.R. Walker

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Genre: Contemporary Romance, MM Romance, LGBT
Pages: 244
Series: None
Release Date: September 12, 2016
Publisher: BlueHeart Press

4 Stars

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I found another great author! Yes!

The Weight of It All is about a guy who gets dumped by his boyfriend of eight years because he’s “old and fat”. Thirty-five, newly single and heartbroken, Henry sees that he really is overweight and unhappy with himself. He decides he wants his ex back and joins a gym. His personal trainer is Reed. Reed is very tall, ridiculously handsome and about as fit as you’d expect a fitness trainer to be. He pushes Henry and doesn’t let him give up, and the two really hit it off.

At first glance, Henry and Reed don’t seem to have much in common. But they share a love for cooking and they’re both genuinely nice people. They become friends very easily and even as Henry realizes that he doesn’t want to get back together with his asshole ex, he doesn’t think anything could happen with all-too-perfect Reed.

First of all, Henry is not an unnecessarily self-conscious guy. He likes what he likes and he doesn’t apologize for it. He is prone to self-deprecating humour, but there’s no self-hate there. Henry is just a really funny and humble guy with absolutely no brain-to-mouth filter. He rambles and jokes and I love him. He was a brilliant protagonist and he basically made the book for me. But that doesn’t mean he’s immune to feeling a little bad every once in a while, or that he isn’t more of a pessimist that normal. And his recent break-up hasn’t been great for his self-esteem either.

Henry and Reed’s relationship starts as friendship and evolves naturally in a very cute way. It wasn’t the highlight for me, personally, because I found Reed’s personality to be… less developed. Maybe it’s that Henry is such a big and bold presence that Reed fades in comparison. Whatever the case, Reed seemed too generic to me and I felt ‘okay’ about the romance as a whole.

What I loved, along with Henry himself of course, was the message. This book is very body positive but where a lot of books fall into this hole where they seem to say that it’s perfectly fine to be overweight and that losing weight would somehow be a method of body-shaming, this book encourages health, both physical and mental. It tells you that it’s never okay to ridicule or judge someone based on their appearance, but it’s also okay to not be satisfied with yourself and to makes changes. It shows how good it feels to be healthy, not “thin”. It talks about labels such as ‘fat’ and ‘thin’ and about how the most important thing is to accept and like yourself.

This is a great novel with a funny, relatable and endearing protagonist. That’s not to say Reed wasn’t also great. He was! He was cute and sweet and shy and supportive. I just liked Henry more, is all. And just for him, I highly recommend checking this book out.

Review: Home and Away by Samantha Wayland

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Genre: Adult, Contemporary Romance, M/M Romance, LGBT+
Pages: 402
Series: None
Release Date: June 7, 2015
Publisher: Loch Awe Press

4 Stars

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Rupert is a self-proclaimed wimp. He’s just started running a hockey team even though he’s afraid of hockey players. He has his ways of coping and having to deal with a brash and bold hockey player who co-owns the team is not one of those methods. Callum is a little short-tempered, a lot pushy and makes a terrible first impression on Rupert, who’s already wary of his because of the brash-and-bold-hockey-player thing. Working together is neither’s idea of fun but they have little choice.

At first, there are a lot of disagreements and arguments. But they’re the fun kind. Rupert is composed, quiet and very organized while Callum is the complete opposite. They’re bound to butt heads and Rupert, despite being a “wimp” never backs down from a fight.

He’s actually not a wimp at all, but the way. But he thinks he his for reasons that are explained in the book. Rupert is a great guy. A little stiff at times but, to me, very relatable. He makes lists of everything. He gave me the idea for making a list of all my lists. I’m definitely getting on that because you know what, lists are very helpful! Whenever Rupert feels overwhelmed, he can organize his thoughts and it gets better.

When it doesn’t, Callum helps. Because first impression aside, Callum is great guy too. He’s not this confident and entitled a-hole that one might think. He has his own insecurities and he’s really nice. He and Rupert start to get along when Rupert’s four-year-old brother comes into the picture.

See, after Rupert’s father died, Rupert’s half-brother went to stay with his mother, who doesn’t seem to care for much, other than parties and cash. Rupert’s been trying to find his brother for months and when he finally does, he doesn’t know what to do. He’s never had a loving family life so he has no clue how to take care of a kid.

Together, Rupert and Callum manage. Their relationship develops as they work to provide a safe home for Oliver. There also another kid involved. He’s twelve and he and Oliver are two very important parts of the novel. They get a lot of page time and I realize there may be people who don’t like this type of thing. I, personally, love kids and can’t get enough of kids in books so it was all great for me.

The reason I’m giving the book four stars is because the writing isn’t always great. In the beginning, it doesn’t flow well, there are dialogues that don’t fit and just general clumsiness. It improves a lot throughout the novel but the starting chunk was problematic. Other than that, I loved the book. I loved Callum and Rupert and Oliver. I loved the dynamic between the three. I loved the theme of family and love and acceptance and I love that this book has one of the best first kisses ever. Great book, highly recommend.

Review: The Geography of You and Me by Jennifer E. Smith

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Genre: Young-Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Pages: 337
Series: None
Release Date: April 15, 2014
Publisher: Poppy

Star

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This feels like a Romance novel. Emphasis on the capital r. It’s the tone, the way it feels like it’s bigger than what it is. It has themes of self-discovery, exploring the world and even some fate thrown in there, which isn’t usually my thing but the author takes a realistic approach to it. Also, she never mentions the word fate, which is great.

The story starts when Owen and Lucy meet. They get in an elevator when there’s a city-wide blackout. They get out soon enough but the blackout lasts for more than a day and in that time, they hang out. It’s very cute and there’s obvious chemistry between the two. But that’s just the first meeting. Neither of their lives are uncomplicated and both are moving two different parts of the country (or in Lucy’s case, the world) so it’s not possible to have a normal relationship.

The rest of the novel focuses on their travels, the ways they find to communicate with one another, how they discover their feelings for each other and how they discover themselves.

This was a very lighthearted novel (which I always love) and honestly, kind of beautiful. The tone of the novel was soothing, optimistic and fresh. I loved both the characters and loved rooting for them not just romantically, but just as individuals who haven’t got the hand of things just yet, who’re having problems with their families, even small ones.

Also, the novel sucks you in. Every time you visit a new place, you feel like you’re there with the characters, seeing what they see, feeling what they feel. This is a feel-good book if I ever saw one and since I read it while I was sick, it was perfect. Probably my favourite by Jennifer E. Smith so far. And while I’ve seen a lot of mixed reviews, I personally recommend reading it. It’s a great book that makes you feel all the good emotions with a story that’s almost poetic in its execution.