Wednesday 1 July 2015

Reviewed: If You Don't Know Me By Now by A.L. Michael.

If You Don't Know Me By Now will be published by Carina on July 2, 2015.

Thanks to the author and publisher for auto-approving me for a copy of this book on Netgalley.

If You Don’t Know Me By Now is the third book I have read by A.L. Michael and I have loved every moment of them all. This one is the funniest of the lot and it was hugely entertaining to read, such a fresh and modern plot with a boundless group of characters that had me whooping and smiling and unable to stop reading.

Imogen has dreams of becoming a writer. She leaves her quiet life with her dad (and his new woman) behind to pursue her dreams of a writing job in London but instead finds herself working in a coffee shop and getting endlessly frustrated at how annoying the customers can be with their ridiculous requests, their snobbery and the way they talk down to her like she must be completely unintelligent to be working there. With the help of a new friend, Imogen turns the infuriating duty of working in a coffee shop into writing inspiration as she creates a blog under the name Twisted Barista and begins recounting the hilarious tales of the customers she deals with and the silly stuff they come out with. Imogen is a character you can’t dislike. From the first page she’s witty, ambitious, truthful and just really genuine. I loved her character and also her blog which is brilliant! I would sit and read that blog all day long. It’s snarky, bitchy, comical and so very honest. Anyone who has worked in a customer service job or even anyone who has just found themselves stuck behind that very bloody annoying person in the queue who is not happy and has a million different nonsensical requests which leave you screaming on the inside can relate to the stories she has to tell. Twisted Barista Tales goes viral and becomes super popular as Imogen strikes a deal and turns it into a job – all she has to do is hope nobody finds out she’s behind it else her coffee shop job will be gone, as well as her writing career.

I loved the set of characters the author wrote. There was Harry and Tabby (from another of A.L.’s books called The Last Word which is crying out on my Kindle for me to read it) – who employ Imogen to write a weekly column for online newspaper The Type. There was such chemistry between Tabby and Harry and they weren’t main characters in any aspect but they were lots of fun. We see a lot of Imogen working in the coffee shop and her interaction with colleagues Agnes and Emanuel, especially earlier on when they’re more involved, was very amusing. I loved Agnes who was quite terrifying but just with the one line she’d utter every few chapters, she cracked me up. I don’t think she was as scary as she liked to make everyone believe…! Emanuel was inimitable – always eyeing up the ladies and disappearing for days on end, up to no good but he was very honest with it and very funny. Early on, he introduces Imogen to a barista from a different store, Declan, who I may have fallen for just a little bit (teeny understatement).

Declan was lovely. He builds up such a nice friendship with Imogen at the beginning which felt so natural and I loved how he kept popping in to borrow stock when really he just wanted an excuse to see Imogen. I seriously, seriously adored the romance element to this book. It was just so refreshing to read. Firstly, when Imogen meets Declan for the first time, she isn’t instantly falling at his feet. She doesn’t think he’s the hottest, most amazing guy she’s ever laid her eyes on and she doesn’t find it impossible to focus on anything else in her life because she’s so much as looked at him. All the clich├ęs are gone and that felt so good to read. They’re friends who explore the possibility of casually seeing each other – without any insta-love or other vices I have with a lot of contemporary romance novels. I loved the banter between both characters and how laid-back they were and we join them as they learn more about each other and some of their stories are not as predictable as you may imagine.

If you can’t tell, I kind of completely loved If You Don’t Know Me By Now. A.L. Michael writes such uplifting books and she has such a fresh voice in the contemporary romance genre where you know her stories are going to be a little bit different and a little less formulaic. Imogen’s blog made me laugh on so many occasions and I loved how the blog posts broke up parts of the story and so when the story moved on to the more romantic elements and less coffee-shop incidents, we don’t lose any of the rants and humour because we still catch on to the annoyances of customer service through Imogen’s blog. If You Don’t Know Me By Now was an intelligently put-together, feel-good book with sharp wit and the ability to put an insanely huge grin on your face. All I want to know is, why do the best books end so quickly?!

Brilliant blog posts from a frustrated barista, a beautiful realistic romance and everything delivered with sharp wit - hugely satisfying.

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