Review: Wake Me Up Inside by Cardeno C.

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Genre: Paranormal Romance, M/M
Pages: 250
Series: Mates #1 (Can be read as Standalone)
Release Date: August 15, 2012
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

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2 Stars

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A few days ago, I would’ve been happy to forget this book. But about a week after I read it, I decided to give the sequel/spin-off a try. I ended up skimming though the other three books of the series and I like them all better than this one.

Unfortunately, since I only skimmed through them, I won’t be reviewing them. And there’s a chance that I liked them more than I normally would have because I skimmed them. But that doesn’t change the fact that I liked them. Which is why it sucks that the one I’m review is the one I didn’t like. It also makes me reconsider the reason I didn’t like it.

The synopsis I read on Goodreads said that this book was about two best friends falling in love, which stands true. One guy, Zev, is the alpha of a werewolf pack. The other, Jonah, is human. And because the shifter community isn’t accepting of a relationship with a human, or a “half-soul” as they call them, or one between two guys, they would never accept that Zev and Jonah could be True Mates, which is something very special and rare. There’s also the issue of Jonah having left for college twelve years ago. Now, the two are finally going to come together and try to overcome all the obstacles between them and their happy ending.

And see, that’s a good synopsis. I was especially interested in the werewolf part because I wanted to know if that was a trope I still liked (loved it when I was 16). Only, no one told me that it was all a lie!

Well, that might be a but of an exaggeration. The issue is more about the fact that, after the prologue, the next 100-150 pages are focused on the journey from Zev and Jonah as toddlers to them as adults. And I hate it when books are all like ‘here’s what happening right now. But before I continue, let me just go back a few decades’. Why the hell would you do that?! And why wouldn’t you inform the reader beforehand?!

If not in the description, the book could’ve been divided into two parts to make things clear. But no, we just got to wait for the book to get to the fucking point!

I’ll admit though, at first it was cute. Who doesn’t love two kids becoming friends. And I accepted that we’d read up to Jonah’s highschool graduation. But then it just kept going on and on… They met plenty of times during the twelve-year “separation”. And after about a 100 pages of backstory mode, I lost patience. I even sped through a couple of chapters. And when we finally did get to present time, it was disappointing. I wanted to see them battling archaic stigma! What I got was a sex montage followed by a bunch underwhelming stuff. It pissed me off.

But the reason I found myself reconsidering some things is the fact that the synopsis was misleading. If I hadn’t been expecting something completely different, I might have liked the book more. Not a lot more because there are still other problems, but a little for sure.

The other problem is with the werewolves. The pack, the terminology used, the customs and traditions, it was all so… unimaginative. It was like I was reading a book on Wattpad. The writing was better than you’d usually find there but creating terminology by capitalizing the first letter of a common word… it felt lazy and corny. There was also stuff like when the alpha would be all alpha-like and the other person/wolf would expose his throat or roll over on his back. It made me cringe.

This stuff is still prevalent in the other book to some degree, but two of them have a main characters who’s a vampire so it’s not as bad. Also, the story is better in them and if I were to recommend a book from this series, it’s be Until Forever Comes which is much better, in my opinion. This one I’d suggest avoiding.

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Review: When the Moon Was Ours by Anne-Marie McLemore

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Genre: Young-Adult, Fantasy, Magical Realism, LGBT
Pages: 288
Audiobook Duration: 8 hours and 18 minutes
Narrator: Raviv Ullman, and Bailey Carr
Series: None
Release Date: October 4, 2016
Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books/Audible Studios

Amazon   Goodreads   Audible Link

4 Stars

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I listened to another audiobook! And I actually finished it this time, thank God. I tend to not be very good at that. But anyway, this was a good experience. I loved the female narrator. I think she did an amazing job with the voices of all the character and with conveying the perfect amount of emotion. The male narrator, in comparison, was a bit monotonous. Though I do see why it was significant to have a male narrator for Sam.

Sam is a teenage boy with a secret only a few people in his life know. One is his mother. Another is his best friend Miel.

This book has a surrealistic setting. On one hand, we’re in the real world. On the other hand, there are people who can cure heartsickness and people who have roses growing from their arm. Miel came to the town when an old water tower was tipped and broken by the townspeople. She came out of the water tower. People find her to be peculiar because of that, and because the bottom of her skirt is always a little damp and because roses grow from her wrist.

Sam befriended her the moment she came. Sam, who’s also a bit peculiar, being the boy who paints and hangs moons all over town. The two live close by. They’re the same age. And Sam’s mother is friends with Miel’s guardian, Aracely, aka my favourite character.

But before I get to her, I want to stress that this book is absolutely gorgeous. The writing is magical and it makes you feel like you’re gliding with the poetry of it. It’s also very diverse book. Sam’s family is from Pakistan and the culture and stories he’s heard deeply affect him. You can tell that the author has a lot of respect for all that she’s writing because it shines through in the way she tells the stories. There are other factors that makes the book special, but I’m not sure if they would be considered spoilers so I’ll avoid them.

Getting to the characters. We have many. There are, of course, Sam and Miel. There’s Sam’s mother, and Aracely. We also have the Bonner sisters. The four sisters who could make any boy fall for them but are now losing that ability. And they think Miel’s roses will fix everything and are willing to do whatever it takes. They’re the villains, but they’re also just young girls and so much more complicated.

Every character is complex and well-developed, with flaws and vulnerabilities and things that make them want to be strong. I can’t explain, exactly, what it is about Aracely that makes me love her. I think it’s because of how unfazed she is by most things. She also has no patience for whining or moping or rude behavior. She’s so confident in herself and you can tell that she’s worked hard to achieve that. She’s probably the most fascinating character, and so is Sam’s mother. I honestly liked the adults more than the kids.

Not that I didn’t like the kids. But they could be very dramatic and inner monologue prone. Every time Aracely was in a scene, she made things more interesting. And the inner-monologue-prone-ness is my one issue with the novel.

I’ve already said this book is beautifully written. But toward the end, it got wearying. The prose is full of metaphors and similes relating to colours and smells. Its’s all about our senses. But if you were to read it all in one to three sittings, you might get tired of the paragraphs upon paragraphs of those descriptions. It felt repetitive and, when we were close to the end, unnecessary.

Overall, a beautiful book that I highly recommend. It sometimes goes overboard with the prose but everything else is perfect. The is exactly the kind of diversity we need. The kind that feels genuine and respectful, instead of diversity just for the sake of it.

Review: Finders Keepers by N.R. Walker

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Genre: Contemporary, Romance, M/M
Pages: 218
Series: None
Release Date: January 31, 2018
Publisher: BlueHeart Press

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4 Stars

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…And my N.R. Walker binge(ish) continues! I have no regrets. Her books are just so fun and easy to read that I can’t help myself. You should just get used to seeing lots of reviews of her books because she has lots and I’m planning to read ’em all.

This might be the most adorable one yet. Dane is away at a week-long conference and, in the meantime, left his dog, Wicket, with his parents. Only, Wicket ran off. Dane is still stuck hours away and worried sick. Until he gets a text saying that someone found his dog. That someone is Griffin.

Griffin moved to town for his new job and while he was out exploring, he came across a dog who looked lost. He contacted the owner via the number on the collar and that’s how his and Dane’s romance started; through text messages and phone calls, and pictures sent by Griffin of all the places he and Wicket are having fun while Dane is still away. And I’m saying it again, it was adorable.

Theirs is a very simple story. Except for maybe the met-via-a-lost-dog part. They start to like one another during the contact over the phone and by the time they meet, both are interested in getting to know each other better. They’re maybe even interested in dating and seeing how things would go from there.

This isn’t an “exciting” book. Some might even say it’s too simple and doesn’t have enough conflict. But it’s really cute and enjoyable. Dane and Griffin are such genuinely nice guys and you like them immediately. Seeing them connect, whether it’s because of Wicket or their jobs or something else, it’s all a joy to read. And the book is funny too. And what you get in the end is a novel that has you smiling throughout.

Overall, great characters (and side-characters) and a very sweet story. A book I’d recommend to anyone who needs a bit of cheering up.

Review: Autoboyography by Christina Lauren

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Genre: Young-Adult, Contemporary, Romance, LGBT, M/M
Pages: 407
Series: None
Release Date: September 12, 2017
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

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3 Stars

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I had high hopes for this book. And while this wasn’t an entirely bad experience, it was enough to make me think that maybe Christina Lauren and I just aren’t meant to be.

The main reason is that I simply didn’t connect with the characters or the romance, just like with Roomies. But where Roomies didn’t start to go bad for me until halfway through, this one had issues right from the start, when Tanner, a closeted bisexual teenager living in Utah, joined a writing seminar in his final semester at high school and fell into instant infatuation with the class assistant.

The class assistant is Sebastian. He took the seminar the previous year and the book he write during the semester was so good that it’s getting published. The moment Tanner sees him, there’s an “instant connection” moment. And I’m not sure if I’ve said this before, but the insta-connect is not my cup of tea.

But I held on to the hope that their relationship would develop beyond the intensity of their feelings in each other’s presence. What happened was… not that. The two spent plenty of time together but during the entire thing, there was nothing that made me think that they liked each other. Sure, there were “feelings” and “intensity” but that doesn’t make a relationship. I could not, for the life of me, tell you what they liked about each other.

And, like in Roomies, we knew very little about the love interest. Sebastian, that is. Sure, we knew how he made Tanner feel and we knew about his life, but not much else. Until, that is, we got a few chapters from his perspective near the end.

The only thing that kept me from hating the book was the main conflict, which was prevalent throughout the novel. Sebastian is a Mormon. His father is actually a Bishop. And for those who aren’t familiar with Mormons (like I wasn’t), they’re a religious group and are not very progressive when it comes to member of the LGBT community or women in positions of power. Sebastian really has faith. And it leads to conflict of identity for him.

What I liked about that, first of all, is the plot obviously. I’m non-religious but I do like reading about different religions from various perspectives. They’re interesting. And I liked that the authors didn’t simply criticize the religion, but tried to understand the positives as well.

That said, I think that having Sebastian’s perspective right from the start would have been very helpful. It would’ve made the book a lot more interested, as evidenced by the fact that when we didn’t get Sebastian’s POV, the book became better. That was the reason I started to warm toward both the book and Tanner and Sebastian’s relationship, near the end. Unfortunately, it was a little too late by that point.

Overall, the characters were a weak point, their development and their likability. The romance was more infatuation than love. But the religious plot was good. Though maybe not enough for me to recommend the book.

Review: The Bird and the Sword by Amy Harmon

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Genre: Young Adult/New Adult, Fantasy, Romance
Pages: 252
Series: The Bird and the Sword Chronicles #1 (works as standalone)
Release Date: May 6, 2016
Publisher: CreateSpace

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4 Stars

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I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again, I love Amy Harmon. She is an extremely talented author. I love her prose and her characters. And how she always manages to deliver an emotional punch. I love her stories and this time is no exception.

Bird and the Sword is a book about a girl, Lark, whose mother was killed but the king because her words had magical abilities. Lark has similar abilities. Before her mother died, she took away Lark’s voice and placed a curse that meant that if Lark were to die, her father would too. Her purpose was to make sure he protected Lark. Only, Lark grew up as a prisoner of her own father.

And I’m not sure what else I’m allowed to say here. The synopsis I read before reading the book was very simple and didn’t give much of anything away. I kind of want to do the same. But since you already know it’s a romance, I’ll mention the male protagonist.

His name is Tiras and he’s the king. He’s also the son of the man who killed Lark’s mother. But he’s not like his father. He’s not prince charming by any means, but he wants to change the kingdom for the better. To bring safety and justice, to maybe eliminate the prejudice against the gifted that prevails for so many generations. He’s a good king and he cares much for his kingdom, willing to go to any length for it.

As a love interest though, I had some difficulty with him. His intentions with Lark were to use her for the kingdom. And he never lied about that. He also gave Lark freedom and knowledge. But there was possessiveness there and he could be a bit of a dick. I didn’t hate him like some readers did, but it took a while before he grew on me. Mainly because of his practicality.

As for Lark, she was great. She was a little thing who had so much fire in her. She didn’t let her father and the imprisonment break her spirit. She took any opportunity she could get to learn and to live the life that had been taken from her. She could be unreasonable at times but she also accepted things for what they were. She was strong and she knew to choose her battles. Her and Tiras made a good pair. He would always try to be bossy and she’s refuse to listen. He’s be sweet and she would reciprocate. I didn’t love the romance but it was good.

I did love the prose. Seriously, Amy Harmon writes so beautifully. Her prose is utterly captivating and you can’t help but get swept up in the magic. And that’s the main reason I’m recommending this book. Though there’s also the really interesting world and story with a half-bird species attacking the kingdom. Really great book and I can’t wait to read the sequel.

Review: The Vile Village by Lemony Snicket

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Genre: Fiction, Young-Adult
Pages: 272
Series: A Series of Unfortunate Events #7
Release Date: April 24, 2001
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers

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3.25 Stars

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At this point, these reviews seem more like progress updates. But I might have something relatively new to say.

Violet, Klaus and Sunny are, once again, in need of a guardian. And when Poe gives them options as to where they could go next, they come across the name V.F.D. and find out it’s a town. A really weird one too. The people there take the saying “it takes a village to raise a child” way too seriously, but only in the matters that suit them. So the kids get the chores of the entire town but no one wants to keep them or feed them. And that’s without all the crows.

Thankfully, the town council selects someone for them, and he’s a good guy. He treats the kids well, which is a nice change for them after the events of the last six books. There were a few changes in this book, but certain annoying things prevailed.

One was the sheer incompetence of every single adult ever. I know the kids are supposed to do stuff on their own, but would it really hurt to have one adult in there who isn’t useless? Olaf seems to be the only one around with half a brain. It wasn’t fun in The Bad Beginning and it’s still not fun. We’re also still getting multiple dozed of being told what each of the kids’ interests are. Sunny still makes no sense.

But things are slowly changing and maybe, in time, Sunny will learn to speak, and will develop an interest other than getting into sword fights using her teeth —that scene is still the most bizarre thing in this series.

Anyway, there were positives. Like how short and easy-to-read these books are. And there were a couple of surprises, one regarding Count Olaf. But mainly, I’m really happy about the direction the book took near the end. It was something that could really change the series. It gave me hope that maybe the old formula is about to change, which makes things interesting.

Review: Out of Her League by Samantha Wayland

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Genre: Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Pages: 294
Series: None
Release Date: November 1, 2015
Publisher: Loch Awe Press

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4 Stars

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If you’ve read Home and Away, then you know that Michaela Price fake dated Callum Morrison for years just so the media would leave her the fuck alone. But then Callum, who is still  her best friend, wanted to be with someone else and the whole story came out, making the paparazzi unbearable. So when Michaela decides to enroll in college, she knows that things could go badly.

Lachlan Morrison is a professor at the university, not Michaela’s professor though, and Callum asks him to help Michaela settle in. Of course, for that to be possible, Lachlan would actually have to talk to her. And he can’t, for the life of him, say a single work in her presence. Lachlan’s never been a fan of social gatherings but when he encounters woman he finds attractive, words desert him. And Michaela is one of the most beautiful woman in the country so he’s doomed.

And hence starts a relationship in which Lachlan, initially, has to gather his thoughts for ten minutes before he’s able to say a word in her presence. And it’s adorable.

Both Lachlan and Michaela are really good people. They’re smart and nice and they enjoy each other’s company, despite the hangups. It’s slow going, the building of their relationship, but for me, the pace was perfect. I loved how supportive Lachlan was of Michaela, who’d been having shitty luck since she was eighteen, after a horrible ex decided to release a sex tape that went viral. Now she’s in a position in which everyone thinks that they have a right to judge her. No one see’s her for the successful businesswoman she is. And seeing Lachlan slowly, in his sweet way, help her realize that she deserves so much better… it was beautiful.

Also, I loved how patient Michaela was with Lachlan. She helped him gain confidence in social situations. It was a very happy, cute and healthy relationship. There was a period in the middle of the book when things winded down a little too much but other than that, things were really good, and I need Samantha Wayland to release more books. In the meantime, I’ll reread Home and Away again.

Review: The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith

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Genre: Mystery, Crime
Pages: 550
Series: Cormoran Strike #1 (works as standalone)
(First) Release Date: April 18, 2013
Publisher: Sphere

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3 Stars

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I’d heard mixed things about this book but I had a feeling that some (or a lot) of the negative reviews were from people comparing the book to Harry Potter. So I went in pretty open-minded.

The book features Private Investigator Cormoran Strike as the protagonist. He’s ex military and very good at what he does. But his business hasn’t been going well (at all). In fact, after the very recent breakup with his fiancée, one might say that he’s in a rut. He’s approached by John Bristow to investigate what Bristow claims was murder but police ruled as a suicide. The death was of Bristow’s sister, a highly renowned model named Lula Landry. And at first, Strike only agrees to take the job because he needs the money. He doesn’t think it was murder.

At some point during the investigation he still diligently conducts, he starts to believe that Bristow may be right. I couldn’t tell you when he started to suspect that or why though, because we were never actually told that. And yes, that was me complaining.

But let’s focus on the positives first. I’ve read a couple of reviews in which reviewers criticized the writing, feeling that it was strange or pretentious. I didn’t mind the writing because, for the most part, the style didn’t disrupt the flow. But I do agree to some extent that the author may have gone a little overboard with a thesaurus. Nevertheless, the writing was good.

I also liked the approach the author took with presenting the case. There were a lot of interviews conducted by Strike through which we got to know the various people who were involved in Lula’s life. We heard what they all had to say about what went down with Lula in the days and hours before she died, without much commentary from Strike. I think the author was trying to let the readers developed their own opinions. But there was a problem with that.

I understand the approach to present information without nudging toward a certain conclusion. But it’s still important for the reader to know at least something of what’s going on in the mind of the protagonist. It would show us how smart Strike is and keep us engaged. Unfortunately, things were kind of dull.

I think that most of the book’s issues boil down how impersonal it felt. There was so much time spent on conversations with one person after another, going to inspect different scenes, without any clue about what Strike took away from it. The first 250 pages were just Strike talking to one or the other person. Afterwards, things started to pick but it wasn’t until the last 100 pages that I really started to enjoy the book. I liked the ending.

That said, I think that because of the over-subtlety of the book before the end, we didn’t get that click! moment. The one where the identity of the killer is revealed and it all makes sense. It also really bothered me how I was often surprised whenever Strike did something clever. And it was because we’d been repeatedly told that Strike was smart and not shown.

Strike did grow on me though. He wasn’t the most lively protagonist but by the end, I liked him. He had his funny moments and he is clever. I also liked his assistance Robin, who put some well-needed life into the story.

Overall, lots of ups and downs. I can’t really say if this is a book I would recommend but I’m glad to have read it. I’m also going to be reading the sequel. Like I said, I liked the characters and, even in the dull moments, something always kept me reading. I’m also hoping it sequel is better. But that’s a matter for when I read it, whenever that may be.

Review: Deal Maker by Lily Morton

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Genre: Adult, Contemporary Romance, M/M
Pages: 335
Series: Mixed Messages #2 (Can be read as standalone)
Release Date: December 22, 2017
Publisher: Lily Morton

Amazon   Goodreads

3.5 Stars

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I’ll admit that, after how much I loved Rule Breaker, and after seeing the wealth of positive reviews this book has received, I may have had high expectations. But I don’t think that’s coloured my opinions much. At least, I hope it hasn’t.

And I wanna add that the reason for the lower rating in this case may be more subjective than it usually is. Something I’ll elaborate later.

The book is about two guys, as one would expect from an M/M romance, and a kid. Jude is a highly successful model. We met in him in Rule Breaker and I loved him. His apartment is having some… maintenance done after a bathtub fell through his ceiling. Due to family reasons, he needs to find a cheap place to live in until the apartment gets fixed. One of his model friends suggest his cousin, Asa.

Asa is actor who’s been taking some time off for the past few years to raise his son, Billy, who is now seven years old. Asa agrees to let Jude stay in his house as long as Jude helps him with some assistant stuff.

The two of them are attracted to each other. The point of contention is that Asa is very prejudiced against models. He thinks they’re all shallow and dumber than a bag of bricks. Can’t entirely blame him since his ex and his cousin fit “shallow” and “dumber than a bag of bricks” respectively, almost to a T. That’s doesn’t mean Jude has to put up with him being as ass. And instead of trying to prove Asa wrong, Jude decided to prove him right.

This is followed by a very fun segment of Jude messing everything up on purpose and Asa having to resist the urge to strangle him. This book was funny and both Jude and Asa were good and likable characters. I also loved everything that involved Billy, who was absolutely adorable and had an equally adorable relationship with Jude.

I also liked the story. You know, the history with Asa’s ex and how it affected him, as well as the things that were going on with Jude’s family. There were only two things that I didn’t like but they weren’t small things.

First is the humour. It wasn’t my kind of humour, I guess, since I’ve read reviews saying they loved it and I know the author is funny after reading the first book in the series. It just didn’t work for me. It felt like the book was trying too hard and worse, it kept telling me that a certain things was funny. Like a character would laugh or snort, indicating that I should be doing the same. It was almost like a laugh track, but in a sitcom that I didn’t find entertaining. It didn’t always bother me, but often enough to be grating.

The second issue is Jude’s career. I don’t claim to be an expert in how often models have to work, but it’s more than once a month, right? They have to make certain appearance and all that? But if one were to believe Jude’s life, models barely have to work at all. He doesn’t even work out much! And the I-don’t-gain-weight-no-matter-what-I-eat excuse only works to an extent.

Overall, this was an entertaining book and I still thinks you should give it a shot because it might work for you. But for me, it wasn’t that funny or that memorable. In fact, the misfiring humour even took away from my investment in the characters. I definitely liked Rule Breaker more and because of that, even though this one was a bit of a miss, I’m still excited about the third book, which follows Henry.

Review: Rule Breaker by Lily Morton

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Genre: Adult, Contemporary Romance, M/M
Pages: 302
Series: Mixed Messages #1 (Can be read as standalone)
Release Date: August 17, 2017
Publisher: Independently published

Amazon   Goodreads
It’s also on Kindle Unlimited.

5 Stars

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I love this book. Yup, that’s totally how I’m starting the review because I love this book and that’s very important to me. And I might say it a couple more times.

For protagonists, we have Dylan and Gabe. Dylan’s been working for Gabe for two years and hates the guy. The book is from Dylan’s perspective and the first line is “I want to kill my boss”. The reason he hates him is that Gabe is an asshole. The guy is never happy and never says a nice word. What makes things fun is that Dylan doesn’t just let Gabe get away with being a dick. He gives as good as he gets and it makes for some hilarious banter and it’s one of the main reason I freaking love this book.

Each chapter starts with a little snippet of sorts. It doesn’t really have much to do with the chapter, it’s just an email from Dylan to Gabe or vice versa that gives us an additional taste of their relationship. Here’s the one before the first chapter (it’s from Gabe):

Do you have the Houghton file to hand, or should I tell Mr Houghton that I’ll be activating my crystal ball today?

And here’s one from Dylan:

Mr Simmonds rang for you. Due to the strange noises coming from your office since Fletcher came to visit, and a strong desire not to have to bleach my eyes, I took a message.

And that’s how a lot of their conversations go. They’ve got all of the sarcasm and I, having a deep love for sarcasm, was living for it. But that’s just the humour aspect. There are lots of other parts to love. Like the fact that even though Gabe is often a total dick and he screws up many time, it’s really hard to dislike him.

One reason for that is the fact that he’s very honest about his intentions. He knows he’s too messed up emotionally to have a real, committed, relationship and he’s upfront about that. And what’s just as important is how obvious his feels for Dylan are. You can see it so clearly, that he absolutely adores Dylan and the last thing he wants is to hurt him. So when he does screw up, you’re mad but you also feel bad for him. And for me, personally, there were lines I was afraid he would cross that he never did. Did come pretty close though.

Moving on to Dylan. I love him. He is funny and sarcastic, but also the nicest, most giving person you’ve met. He’s also strong and self-aware. He knows that things with Gabe won’t end well, but to him, spending time with Gabe (after the romance starts, that is) is worth it because it makes him happy. He’s willing to risk heartbreak for happiness and that’s admirable, to say the least.

I also love the story. I’m not usually one for the boss-and-employee dynamic because of the imbalance of power. But I never felt an imbalance here. Gabe didn’t treat Dylan like an assistant. Gabe did have a boyfriend for a significant portion of the book but there was no cheating. Dylan had a best friend who was brilliant. There was angst due to all of Gabe’s issues but it was balanced by the humour and the romance, both of which was great. And overall, I loved the book and I highly recommend it. It’s sweet and engaging and entertaining and just… a really good read.