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: 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

Amazon   Goodreads

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: 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

Amazon   Goodreads

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

Amazon   Goodreads

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.

Review: The Knocked Up Plan by Lauren Blakely

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Genre: Adult, Contemporary Romance
Pages: 302
Series: None
Release Date: June 23, 2017
Publisher: Lauren Blakely Books

Amazon   Goodreads

Star

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I’d been excited to read this book for months just because the synopsis sounded perfect. The female protagonist is Nicole and she’s pretty tired of the dating game. She just doesn’t see herself falling in love. But she wants to be a mom and, to her, using a donor seems like the best option. After a long time spent looking through lists, she finally decides on Ryder Lockhart …who isn’t on any file. He’s a co-worker and she plans to ask him to knock her up.

And that’s what I loved. I love people who are self-aware and confident, who know what they want and take initiative. I can also relate to Nicole wanting children but not having the patience to wait for the “perfect guy”. So it’s an obvious win-win.

Now, if you’ve read any of Lauren Blakely’s contemporary novels, you know that these books are funny, they have a simple story, and are always enjoyable reads with likable characters and not much angst. They’re the kind of books that you’d read if you need cheering up or have just about had it with drama. Had-it-with-drama is my default setting so the books are perfect for me. And this one was awesome. I loved the story, and Nicole and Ryder were perfect.

And yes, Ryder agrees to be the donor. They strike a deal of sorts since her needs help with his work. But mostly he agrees because he’s a really good guy and he respects Nicole a lot. And let’s focus on that part. I love that the author writes about guys who are just… good. I’m not saying I don’t like the cocky and sarcastic guys, but it’s refreshing to read about the really good ones. You know, the ones who are charming and confident, but also respectful and nice and sweet without putting up a front that makes it seem like they don’t care. Who aren’t “players”.

That’s not to say that Ryder is open to a relationship. After the way his ex-wife hurt him, he’s not ready to put himself out there and he’s not sure he ever will be. But he’s still a great guy despite what happened to him. And it makes sense why Nicole wants him as  a donor. He’s got the looks, and a personality to match.

As for the romance, it’s everything you’d want to see in a relationship. They both like each other, they have a lot respect for each other and they genuinely enjoy spending time together. I mean, Nicole thinks of Ryder highly enough to want him to be the father of her child. And the reason Ryder is willing is because he thinks she’d be an amazing mother. It’s only a matter of time before they fall in love and the only conflict is their hang-up with relationships, ones that have nothing to do with their feels towards one another. It’s a very healthy and happy dynamic, and I was all for it.

Overall, this book was exactly what I wanted it to be. It also put me in a better mood after the terrible luck I’ve been having with finishing books, and I definitely recommend it.

Review: Shattered Glass by Dani Alexander

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Genre: Adult, Romance, Mystery, Crime, M/M
Pages: 360
Series: Shattered Glass #1 (Can be read as standalone)
Release Date: January 31, 2012
Publisher: Dani Alexander, via CreateSpace

Amazon   Goodreads

3 Stars

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Does anyone else think that the cover of this book gives a distinct ‘Twilight movie poster’ vibe? Like if Bella was a guy, or maybe Edward and Jacob decided they’d had enough of her whiny ass and hooked up? Because that’s what it looks like to me.

But that’s just the cover. The book is very different. There’s no sparkly vampire who stalks underage girls. Instead we have a very human cop who finds himself inexplicably attracted to a guy wearing bunny slippers. Austin is working on a case that involves human trafficking. Peter, of the bunny slippers, is just a guy he sees at a diner and wants to bone. There wouldn’t be a big problem if Austin wasn’t totally sure he was straight, and if he wasn’t engaged.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the problems between the two. The engagement is actually resolved a lot simpler than one might think (don’t worry about cheating) and him being “straight” is only an issue when we come to the reason for why he never knew he was gay.

The real issues are regarding Austin’s case and how Peter is involved in it. There are also the infinite number of trust issues because of bother of their pasts; and all the ways in which the two of them are fucked up. Seriously, these two couldn’t have a heartfelt and honest conversation if you held them at gunpoint. It actually got frustrating how difficult their dynamic was. Austin was an ass a lot of the time, even if his narrative was quite funny, and Peter, for the life of him, could not tell the truth. But the reason for why they were the way that they were… it was well explained, and I enjoyed reading about them and their relationship. It was interesting.

I wasn’t much attached to any of the characters, though. I wouldn’t even say I liked them much. The whole thing was just interesting to read. I wanted to know more and to see how things would end up, even if I didn’t have any particular fondness for either protagonist. The experience was a little unusual.

The thing that I didn’t like about the book was how disjointed it felt. The mystery/crime element was there but for most of the novel, it felt like one event taking place after the other with not much connecting them other than the main characters. I couldn’t have told you what the overarching plot was and how each indecent connected to the next. We did find out the connection toward the end but it wasn’t a light-bulb moment. The connection was flimsy and didn’t change the fact that, for most of the book, it was just stuff happening. The plot lacked cohesion. It also came off as convoluted because we couldn’t see the cause-and-effect.

Overall, this book had issues but I enjoyed reading it. It was funny and a “page turner”, you could say. I liked it.

Review: Heaven by Jet Mykles

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Technically, the cover has art of two mostly naked guys who resemble the MCs. I’m just not putting on my blog.

Genre: Adult, Romance, M/M
Pages: 123
Series: Heaven Sent #1 (Can be read as standalone)
Release Date: May 30, 2006
Publisher: Loose Id, LLC

2 Stars

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I read this one for a reading challenge and while I don’t regret it, some things really didn’t sit well with me. It was readable and the writing was okay enough. I guess it had some entertainment value, mainly because it’s a really short read.

It’s about a band called Heaven Sent. They’re performing at the opening of a club and Tyler is one of the owners of the club. Not to mention, a huge fan of the band. Tyler’s father is dying and his hotel is suffering. The club is his only hope so it means everything that they got such a popular band to agree to play at the opening. Tyler didn’t expect to be so attracted to Johnnie, the lead singer, because he thought he was straight. He thinks it’s just hero-worship, that he’ll get over it. Little does he know that Johnnie has other plans.

There were two main things that bothered me. One was Tyler’s whole “I’m not gay” insistence, all the while he was practically salivating over Johnnie. He kept saying that he was attracted to women, which, of course, would mean he was bisexual. Only, he’s didn’t seem familiar with the concept. He kept telling Johnnie that they couldn’t sleep together or whatever because he liked women. It was stupid. Then the term bisexual actually came up …and was promptly forgotten in favor of more “I’m not gay” bullshit. As if no other sexuality exists outside of straight and gay.

The second thing I didn’t like is worse. The GR synopsis insinuates that Johnnie would seduce Tyler. I don’t think seduction means what the book thinks it means, unless it mean pressuring someone. It was in one scene and I wouldn’t call it rape since there was no sex and there was some form of consent (I think), but it definitely toed the line, enough for me to not approve at all.

So yeah, I read it and it wasn’t terrible experience. I still want to change the rating to one star but for now, I sticking with 2.

Review: Dawn of Eden by Julie Kagawa

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Genre: New Adult (though the series is YA), Fantasy, Paranormal, Dystopia, Romance
Pages: 122
Series: Blood of Eden #0.5 (You can read it before the series)
Release Date: July 1, 2013
Publisher: MIRA

Amazon   Goodreads

3 Stars

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I could easily divide the book into two parts, plot-wise. One I found to be very interesting, the other I more or less hated.

The one I liked was related to the world building. There is a deadly plague that has spread and it is dangerous enough to be an apocalyptic event. Kylie is a doctor. She has set up a free clinic to help the sick. There’s no cure and there are (very) few who recover, but she’s wants to at least be doing something; even if it’s just making them comfortable until they die.

Ben comes to the clinic with a heavily injured friend, asking for help. Kylie knows there’s something going on with the two when she sees the nature of the injury and when Ben is less than forthcoming about what happened.

That’s the part that was good. This is a well-written novella that does a good job of introducing us to the world that it’s set in. Things are bleak and getting no better and I found that plot of the book to be interesting and I definitely wanted to read more. I still do actually, which is why I’m going to be reading the series despite the part of the novella I didn’t like.

That was the romance. It was pretty obvious that there would be one, from the moment Ben showed up. And I wouldn’t have minded; I like romances. But this was so poorly done. It was beyond rushed, the attempt to make Kylie and Ben like each other was transparent, and things got way too serious way too fast.

I think it was the author trying to give a well-rounded story without any open endings regarding the characters and how they would end up. But sometimes, when it’s just a novella and the romance isn’t even the main plot, you have to leave it open, especially if the protagonists have just met. I get wanting to write a complete story—open ending can be annoying—but it’s better to suggest what would happen or give an epilogue, than to rush things. The romance, by the end, was just gushy and gross. Didn’t like it at all.

But that doesn’t dissuade me from the series because even though there will likely be a romance there as well, the author will be able to take her time with it. I liked all the other aspects and that’s what’s important. I can’t say whether fans of the series will like it, but I thought it was pretty good.