Rating: 4.75 stars
Buy Links: 
 Amazon | All Romance
Length: Novel

As a wolf shifter, Zev Hassick has always been warned to stay away from humans, but also knew that wasn’t possible. Zev has known, for as long as he could remember, that he belonged with his human best friend, Jonah. At first Zev was sure that his attraction to Jonah was strictly as a friend because all male shifters know that in order to keep their humanity, they must tie with a female shifter. When Zev realizes his attraction to Jonah is something more, he has to re-evaluate everything he knows and everything he has been taught about shifters and mates. First and foremost, is that shifters cannot be gay. Second, is shifters most certainly cannot mate a human. But even after all he has learned about his kind, Zev knows with a certainty that Jonah is his true mate and Zev can’t imagine his life without Jonah by his side.

Jonah Marvel spent his childhood and teenage years knowing that he would always be with Zev. Leaving Zev and their brand new romance behind to attend college and then medical school was the hardest thing Jonah had ever done. But both men knew a long distance relationship would be their only option. Not only did Jonah find himself lonely for months at a time, but the distance from Zev was physically painful for them both. Strange psychological symptoms begin to plague Jonah when he is not with Zev. And Jonah is worried that he may have some sort of mental illness from his deceased mother’s side of the family.  Jonah sets out to find a solution to his problems before he can let himself return to Zev because he doesn’t want to place his problems on his lover.

Waiting three decades to claim a mate is not only unheard of among wolf shifters, but also dangerous. Zev only waited to claim Jonah so that Jonah could achieve his dream of becoming a doctor. But as more time goes by, Zev has a harder keeping his wolf under control.  The wolf wants nothing more than to hunt down Jonah and claim his mate. Zev knows that it’s only a matter of time before his human half is lost and his wolf half takes over. And even though his time is running out, Zev refuses to tie his mate to him before Jonah can return home to him permanently. As the past finds them, Zev and Jonah come to realize that being gay and human may be the least of their worries.

Wake Me Up Inside is the first book in the new Mates series by Cardeno C. It’s also the first paranormal/shifter book the author has written. I will start off by saying that I was extremely excited to read this book. I am a fan of Cardeno C.’s work and I’ve been looking forward to this book for months now. And I was not disappointed.

The story is about two young men who, against all shifter rules, are true mates. Zev is the strongest wolf in generations and destined to be Alpha. Jonah is human and male. Everything he’s ever been taught led Zev to believe that shifters couldn’t be gay and could not mate a human. It’s their journey from childhood, through their teenage years, and their growth into adults.  And a story about the struggles and secrets Zev and Jonah face in order to eventually spend their lives together.

There are certain rules that usually follow shifter stories around. They’re not always the same, but they are often similar. In the case of wolf shifters, wolves mate for life. Wolves often have a mate destined by fate, but not all wolves find their true mates. Fated mates are a gift. Wolves are fast healers. Wolves mark their mates with a bite, usually while having sex. Mates are meant for the purpose of furthering the pack by having babies. Whereas, all of these “rules” are hit upon at one time or another in Cardeno C.’s book, the author finds a way to add to the rules in a way that makes it creative and believable. Male shifters are meant to tie themselves to a female shifter in order for the male to maintain his human half and the female to maintain their wolf half. Essentially, each shifter in a mate pair balances the other one. I like reading a story of any genre that reaches outside the box of what is normal, and this story is a breath of fresh air to the usual paranormal/shifter reader. It’s written in a contemporary world with school, real careers, family problems, bigotry, and relationship insecurities. But along with that contemporary world is the fantasy quality of the shifter world. It’s a great balance of real and fantasy.

If a character or characters are able pull me into a story emotionally, I’m usually hooked to the point of being unable to put the book down. And these main characters were able to pull me in easily. Zev Hassick is the Alpha of the Etzgadol pack. He’s the strongest known wolf in generations. He has also led a very sheltered life, which makes him adorably innocent when it comes to learning about sexual relations with a male. As a human, Jonah is physically strong as well; whereas, Zev has always wanted to protect Jonah, Jonah has proved to Zev more than once that he’s able to take care of himself. Jonah is smart, funny and determined. They grew up as best friends and that only added to their romantic relationship. Where they were eventually lovers, they always remained best friends – able to talk about anything and not able to lie to each other. They were always able to laugh and trade witty or sarcastic comments with one another. One of the things that I love most about these two is that when times get hard or mistakes were made, they didn’t give up or walk away. They discussed any problems they had, and while one may not have always understood the others actions, they didn’t let that drive them apart. Life was not always perfect for them, but they stuck by each other no matter what. There are also several supporting characters within the story that are equally as lovable. The family relationships and friendships are all presented in a way add to the storyline. There are a few characters I could see with their own stories within this series in the future.

The story kept me on my toes, so to speak. There were so many variables at play, as the story is very plot-driven, that it kept me guessing as to the outcome of the book. It’s written in third person POV of both main characters. It’s told alternating between Zev and Jonah’s present and flashbacks of their past as far back as age one. The flashbacks gave a history of the main characters as well as giving more definition to the plot and storyline. The only complaint I have is that, during the flashbacks, the POV alternates rather quickly and sometimes it was hard to keep up with who the focus was on.

The title of the book comes from the song “Bring Me to Life” by Evanescence. I’ve found myself listening to the song and admiring the author’s ability to relate his meaning of the song to the characters, world, and storyline of this book. I admire the author’s creativity.

As well as being a sweet, creative love story, Cardeno C. brings a little humor and mystery to this story. I highly recommend it and look forward to reading the next book in the Mates series in the future.

Cover: Another work of art by Reese Dante. It shows the length of Zev and Jonah’s friendship. From childhood, when Jonah used to play with Zev in wolf form, to the loving embrace that represents their relationship as adults. I love the cover.

Cardeno C. has generously offered up a copy of Wake Me Up Inside to one lucky reader.  Be sure to leave a comment at the end of this post for your chance to win.  The contest will run until Saturday, August 25th at 11:59 pm EST.

  • By entering the contest, you’re confirming that you are at least 18 years old.
  • Winners will be selected by random number.
  • If you win, you must respond to my email within 48 hours or another winner will be chosen. Please make sure that your spam filter allows email from Joyfully Jay and leave your email address if it is not in your profile.