adult fiction · contemporary · review · romance

All That She Can See – Carrie Hope Fletcher

“Cherry’s bakery was a safe haven, a place where people could forget their troubles for an hour or two. And when their bad feelings latched back onto them as they left, Cherry noticed that their troubles seemed a little smaller than before.”

 

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Blurb: “Cherry has a hidden talent. She can see things other people can’t and she decided a long time ago to use this skill to help others. As far as the rest of the town is concerned she’s simply the kind-hearted young woman who runs the local bakery, but in private she uses her gift to add something special to her cakes so that after just one mouthful the townspeople start to feel better about their lives. They don’t know why they’re drawn to Cherry’s bakery – they just know that they’re safe there and that’s how Cherry likes it. She can help them in secret and no one will ever need to know the truth behind her gift.”

When Carrie Hope Fletcher made her mark on the fiction world, I bought it on the day of release. I was so excited to see her power of creativity channelled into a book only to be left feeling cheated when I finished it. There was something just not quite right about it. In fact, a lot of “somethings.” So I was very wary when she made the announcement for All That She Can See. But, as a big admirer, I decided that this would be a “make or break book” for me and that maybe, her types of stories just weren’t for me after all if I didn’t enjoy it.

All That She Can See follows a woman called Cherry who is able to see bad feelings. They manifest themselves as physical creatures (for example, worry looks like a tangled ball of wool) and attach themselves to person. Through a series of circumstances, Cherry discovers she can add good feelings to cakes and sets up a bakery, aiming to counteract the bad feelings with a whole lot of good. She becomes a sort of “Mary Poppins of cake” and moves her bakery to different places once she feels her work is done in her current location. In her latest stop, she meets Chase who can see feelings too; except he can see good feelings and he plans to make that change.

This book was utterly brilliant. Everything about it felt like it really had come from Carrie and that her magic had been well and truly mixed into the pages. The personification of the feelings had me in complete awe and I loved the descriptions of them following characters round. I found it interesting that Cherry was able to see her own bad feelings too and almost became close friends with them, rather than it taking the route of her not being able to see her own.

There’s enough time spend getting a footing in the world and the side characters are so well fleshed out that they became a solid part of the story too. When I returned from my short breaks to pick up the story again, it felt like I was being invited into a family gathering. It was warm and wonderful.

Chase created a nice balance, while not being a particularly nice man. I like the idea of him being able to see the opposite of Cherry as it showcased the fact that no two people really view the world or certain situations in the same way. It just made the story fuller.

However, in the last quarter of the book it did seem to fall down a little and start to feel like the story was rushing to get finished but overall this is a truly wonderful story that I could easily see being adapted into a visual format.

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contemporary · review · romance · young adult

When Dimple Met Rishi – Sandhya Menon

“Hello future wife,” he said, his voice bubbling with glee. “I can’t wait to get started on the rest of our lives.”

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Blurb: “Dimple Shah has it all figured out. With graduation behind her, she’s more than ready for a break from her family, from Mamma’s inexplicable obsession with her finding the “Ideal Indian Husband.” Ugh. Dimple knows they must respect her principles on some level, though. If they truly believed she needed a husband right now, they wouldn’t have paid for her to attend a summer program for aspiring web developers…right?”

When Dimple Met Rishi is another one of those books that I wasn’t really interested in but had a massive buzz around it. So I decided to give it a go.

The story follows a girl called Dimple who has bagged herself a place at Stanford University and wants to spend her summer at Insomnia Con- a coding camp. When her parents do a U-turn and pay the fees so that she can go, Dimple finally feels like they are giving her more freedom and not so focused on her finding the “perfect Indian husband.” Little does she know that her parents have been talking to another family and a boy called Rishi is being sent to the same camp in the hopes of securing a relationship.

As I seem to have a big aversion to Young Adult Contemporary – yet still find myself reaching for it occasionally – I did not really expect much from this book apart from a light-hearted summer romance read. In some ways I was pleasantly surprised. Dimple is a stand out character. While she does fall to some “not like other girls” tropes, she is a very abrasive character at times compared to Rishi who is softer and the typical “boy that gets everything wrong no matter how hard he tries.” I’ve seen a lot of controversy online about Dimple throwing her iced coffee on someone and how it promotes that sort of behaviour etc but when you look at the context of the scene, it makes sense that she did that and was very fitting with the type of character she is.

I flew through the first half of the book and loved the use of duo-narrative to get both sides of the story as that balance between the characters was needed. However, past the halfway point it felt like the plot was struggling and that things were added to try and get the story to the final part. I was so invested but then found myself taking longer breaks between reading and when I did read it I was flicking through a couple of pages at best. It just seemed like the first half had had more focus on it than the latter half. When I finished the book I didn’t feel fulfilled. I felt let down a little.

I suppose it’s my own fault for delving into a book with so much hype expecting high things but it’s not something I’ve thought about since I put it down.

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review · romance · young adult

Jaded – K.M.Robinson

“I have always been warned to stay away from Roan Diamond. He is the enemy. He is dangerous. But today I will marry him. And it’s not my choice.”

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Blurb: “Her father failed in his mission to take control from the Commander, a defeat that has cost Jade her life. She will die as punishment. Now she belongs to the Commander’s son—as his wife. Knowing his intent is to quietly kill her in revenge, Jade’s every move is calculated to survive—until she learns her death ensures the safety of her father and her entire town.”

Jade’s father tried to overthrow the commander and failed. As a result, Jade must marry the commander’s son, Roan. But not everything is as it seems and Jade knows all too much about the plot to have her killed.

This is the second book from K.M.Robinson and showcases one of my favourite things: author growth. As I read more books from the same author, I look for signs of improvement from their previous book. Not to sound super critical or that I’m purposely looking for fault, but it’s wonderful to see a writer evolve with every new story , and K.M.Robinson achieves this with Jaded.

The pacing was perfect. Everything felt like it happened when it needed to and allowed enough time to get to know and understand the characters as well as get a solid footing in the world. A multi-perspective narrative is used at first which, given the plot, I thought might ruin the mystery as you could see Roan’s side and what plots were made to kill Jade, but it did the opposite. It made it more exciting. I was on the edge whenever Jade did anything; unaware of what was about to be thrown at her. I found myself falling for Roan at points only to pull back, realising everything he was doing was artificial, a trick to lower Jade’s defences.

Jade is the kind of female character I’ve been yearning for. I loved how she wasn’t like the ‘strong typical female;” she was everything. Brave but not afraid to cry. Strong and outspoken, but quiet when she needed to stay alive.

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contemporary · lgbt · review · romance · young adult

History Is All You Left Me -Adam Silvera

“If bringing up the past annoys you now – as I know it did when you left New York for California – know that I’m sorry, but please don’t be mad at me for reliving all of it. History is all you left me.”

 

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Blurb: “When Griffin’s first love and ex-boyfriend, Theo, dies in a drowning accident, his universe implodes. Even though Theo had moved to California for college and started seeing Jackson, Griffin never doubted Theo would come back to him when the time was right. But now, the future he’s been imagining for himself has gone far off course.”

Adam Silvera is another author who’s quite popular within the book community but I’d never read before. The reason for that is, in part, due to the fact that his  debut More Happy Than Not is actually available in the UK. I started to hear about History Is All You Left Me frequently as the hype for his new book started to bubble. However, I wasn’t really sold on it until he posted a video on his YouTube channel where he read the first chapter of the book. After that, the book sat patiently on my “to read” list as the release date drew closer.

The story follows a boy called Griffin who is about to attend the funeral of his ex-boyfriend Theo and the narrative flits between the past and present, building up a picture of their lives together from friendship to their relationship,  what happened after they split up and then, inevitably, how Theo died. Griffin speaks directly to Theo throughout the book almost like a long letter that he will never get to read and that aspect added extra emotion and heartbreak to the story, especially when Griffin comes face to face with Jackson; Theo’s current boyfriend.

History Is All You Left Me is an incredibly bittersweet story. The reader gets the joys of seeing the relationship between these two characters form, the duo coming out to each other, first dates, first time having sex (which is very realistic and positive might I add) and there’s even an incredibly awkward scene where they buy condoms together only to bump into someone they know in the store. There are segments where Griffin discusses his OCD and how Theo helps him and discussions of Theo’s bisexuality (I really feel like 2017 is finally going to be the year for more bisexual characters) and relationship issues are really dealt with rather than being left to fester. It’s all truly wonderful and heart-warming to read until you’re hit in the face with a present day chapter and you, along with Griffin, remember that Theo is no longer alive.

Something I found rather unexpected was Griffin and Jackson finding solace in each other, despite having been previous quite averse to each other. They both share that loss of love even though they have different memories of Theo and Griffin even expresses that he feels Jackson is the only one who truly knows what he’s going through; how big of an imprint Theo has left on their lives.

I couldn’t work out whether I liked Griffin or not. Through his narrative you can really feel how much he cared for this other person, even after Theo had moved on to someone else. Griffin made a lot of sacrifices for Theo and that loss ran so deep and it’s really gut-wrenching to read in the present chapters. However, he made some choices out of spite and ignorance to sort of “get back” at Theo which I didn’t like and he treated a lot of other characters badly, but maybe that was just part of his healing process.

I did find the book to be very slow moving at points but that’s to be expected as this is a story not just about reliving memories, but the process of moving on and adapting to a part of life where there won’t be new memories created with the person no longer alive.

This week I’m going to end on a heart-breaking quote from the book:

“I don’t know what will be left of me if love and grief can’t bring you back.”

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contemporary · lgbt · review · romance · young adult

The Upside Of Unrequited – Becky Albertalli

“Certain nights have this kind of electricity. Certain nights carry you to a different place from where you started. I think tonight was one of the special ones.”

 

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Blurb: “Seventeen-year-old Molly Peskin-Suso knows all about unrequited love. No matter how many times her twin sister, Cassie, tells her to woman up, Molly can’t stomach the idea of rejection. So she’s careful. Fat girls always have to be careful.
Then a cute new girl enters Cassie’s orbit, and for the first time ever, Molly’s cynical twin is a lovesick mess. Meanwhile, Molly’s totally not dying of loneliness—except for the part where she is. Luckily, Cassie’s new girlfriend comes with a cute hipster-boy sidekick. If Molly can win him over, she’ll get her first kiss and she’ll get her twin back.
There’s only one problem: Molly’s coworker, Reid. He’s a chubby Tolkien superfan with a season pass to the Ren Faire, and there’s absolutely no way Molly could fall for him.
Right?”

*This book was sent to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review*

When I finished Becky Albertalli’s debut novel Simon Vs The Homosapiens Agenda, I knew that she was going to be an “auto-buy” author for me. As known if you keep up date with me on my various social media channels, I am not always the biggest fan for contemporaries but that one spoke to me in a way not many books too. So when I got wind of a new book from her, you bet I was dancing around to kill the time until I could have it in my hands.

The Upside of Unrequited follows a girl called Molly who really wants a boyfriend and feels that she is quickly falling behind her peers (including her twin sister Cassie) who seem to find mutual love easy to obtain and are having sex or already in relationships whereas she is yet to experience any of those “firsts” that are so important to a teenager. The only experience she has is her list of 26 unrequited loves; one of which includes Lin Manuel Miranda. When she bumps into a Korean-American girl called Mina in the toilets of a nightclub she has no idea how much this girl will change things.

This book does a fantastic job of depicting what it really feels like to be a teenager from the concerns about lack of experience, to those constant buzzing questions when you do find someone attractive, to body image. Whatever you can think of, it’s covered and it isn’t glossed over either. Each topic is addressed with the right amount of time paid to it. Even the heart-breaking ones such as Molly being concerned that her weight will be a turn-off and how big girls don’t get boyfriends or have sex unless it’s a joke and she doesn’t want to be one. It all adds a layer of authenticity to the story because, as we all know, problems don’t disappear straight away.

The sexual diversity in this book is a breath of fresh air with characters identifying as straight, pansexual and bisexual which are all presented in positive and healthy ways. I’ve already spoken to the author about my thoughts but I am going to share them here too: I’ve spoken out in the past about the lack of bisexuals in YA, let alone female bisexuals and this book made me cry in the best way possible: because I was happy. Becky Albertalli included a female bisexual character and I felt valid. Representation is so important.

At times it felt almost as if I was reading an old diary from my teenage years because it captured certain experience so well and I am sure everyone will be able to find something that reminds them of a moment when they were a teenager (even if it’s a memory that is best forgotten). Becky Albertalli does not miss the mark with this one and not picking up a copy should be considered a crime.

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contemporary · review · romance · young adult

Optimists Die First -Susin Nielsen

“Optimists believe things will always work out for the best. Optimists live in a rainbow-coloured, sugar-coated land of denial. Optimists miss warning signs.”

 

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Blurb: “Sixteen-year-old Petula de Wilde is anything but wild. A former crafting fiend with a happy life, Petula shut herself off from the world after a family tragedy. She sees danger in all the ordinary things, like crossing the street, a bug bite, or a germy handshake. She knows: life is out to get you.”

*This book was sent to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review*

Optimists Die First centres on Petula who is struggling to cope with family tension and the death of her younger sister; of which she feels personally responsible for. Petula is terrified of doing anything that may result in a negative outcome, mainly death, and keeps a scrapbook of freak accidents to prove her point. She suffers from panic attacks, attends counselling, and a weekly Youth Art Class with other teens needing support.

Through this class she meets a variety of people, each with their own struggles, one of which is a new boy called Jacob who lost his arm in a car accident. Jacob and Petula are paired together to work on a class assignment in which they have to adapt a scene from Wuthering Heights into another format.  As is to be expected, they bond over their time together and learn about each other and what problems they’re trying to work through and they become quite close.

Oddly enough, it’s rare that I read books where the actual protagonist really sticks with me after finishing but Petula really surprised me. I’m not a big fan of YA contemporary as they always steer to romance (and this had its fair share) but Petula felt so real. The reasons for how she was, while unhealthy, felt justified given her backstory and the book being from her perspective really helped gain an understanding of trying to fit in and learn to live, even within the tight restrictions she’d placed on herself. Several times I found myself wanting nothing more than to climb into the book and give her a hug. As her relationship with Jacob develops she starts to take more risks, doing some things even though she’s analysed the dangerous outcomes several times and then there comes a point when she doesn’t even think about them anymore. And if that isn’t a beautiful progression of a character then I don’t know what is!

Another seemingly minor aspect I really enjoyed was the mention of birth control. When it comes to that stage of a relationship, especially in a novel about teenagers, I don’t think birth control is mentioned that much so it was wonderful to have a character like Petula who, not only decides to go on birth control but actually involves a parent in her decision. There’s even a segment where Petula recalls going to the doctors and getting the implant.

The Youth Art Class teens starting to talk to each other and spend time together reminded me of The Breakfast Club gang and it was just really nice to see these characters start to open up a little to each other.

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contemporary · review · romance · young adult

We ComeApart – Sarah Crossan & Brian Conaghan

“I can’t put on a brave face and pretend that at

The end of this

Things will be different.”

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Blurb: “Nicu has emigrated from Romania and is struggling to find his place in his new home. Meanwhile, Jess’s home life is overshadowed by violence. When Nicu and Jess meet, what starts out as friendship grows into romance as the two bond over their painful pasts and hopeful futures. But will they be able to save each other, let alone themselves?
For fans of Una LaMarche’s Like No Other, this illuminating story told in dual points of view through vibrant verse will stay with readers long after they’ve turned the last page.”

 

*This book was sent to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review*

Sarah Crossan won the 2015 Carnegie Medal for her free-verse novel One, which I’ve heard a great deal about and Brian Conaghan is shortlisted for the Costa Book Prize for Children’s fiction for his novel The Bombs That Brought Us Together. This was the first book that I had read from either author and I am always a sucker for co-written books; there just seems to be an extra bit of magic decorating the pages. While I requested this book from the publisher, which they approved, I didn’t expect much from this book. This is one of those many times when my preconceived ideas have been wrong.

We Come Apart is told in two perspectives:  a Romanian boy named Nicu who wants to improve his English and fit in while worrying every day that he may be sent back to his home country, and a girl called Jess who lives in an abusive household. Both end up in series trouble which results in the pair having to spend time on a rehabilitation scheme which is where the two characters meet.

The unique factor of this book is that it’s free-verse, meaning it is essentially several poems from the point of view of each character. (Crossan’s novel One was written in the same format)  Normally I hate “simple” things. I need tons of description to really enjoy a book but the format of this book took that away. I hate to use the word “simple” but I’m sure you understand what I mean. I was left stunned by how such small verses could pack an almighty punch.

The characters are both loveable in their own ways and I found it interesting how Nicu’s character spoke in broken English; it added to the factor of how separate his and Sarah’s lives were.

I feel that it’s so easy to get caught up in the romance with this book but it’s about so much more than that. We Come Apart is about not letting differences separate you, that it’s okay to embrace them and stand up for what you believe is wrong and help someone out, regardless of what other people may think. It’s about standing up for yourself, being willing to learn about others and most importantly knowing that sometimes you have to let things go.

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contemporary · review · romance · young adult

The Sun Is Also A Star – Nicola Yoon

“To be clear, I don’t believe in fate. But I’m desperate.”

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Blurb: “Natasha: I’m a girl who believes in science and facts. Not fate. Not destiny. Or dreams that will never come true. I’m definitely not the kind of girl who meets a cute boy on a crowded New York City street and falls in love with him. Not when my family is twelve hours away from being deported to Jamaica. Falling in love with him won’t be my story.

Daniel: I’ve always been the good son, the good student, living up to my parents’ high expectations. Never the poet. Or the dreamer. But when I see her, I forget about all that. Something about Natasha makes me think that fate has something much more extraordinary in store—for both of us.

The Universe: Every moment in our lives has brought us to this single moment. A million futures lie before us. Which one will come true?”

*This book was sent to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*

It’s actually an interesting story how I ended up with two copies of this book: I put in a request for an advanced copy and when nearly a month had passed with no response and the publication date rolled around, I bought a copy of my own accord. Two days later, the lovely people at Penguin Random House sent me a copy. As stated above, this does not change my review in any way.

This is the second book from best-selling author Nicola Yoon and after the success and brilliance of her debut Everything, Everything it was exciting to see what she would create next.

The Sun Is Also A Star is a multiple perspective novel that follows Natasha and Daniel. Natasha is an illegal immigrant from Jamaica who, thanks to her Dad’s foolishness, is about to be deported, Daniel is a Korean-American buckling under the pressure his parents place on Natasha met but time is quickly running out.

Quite simply, this book is beautiful. Both Natasha and Daniel were such interesting, well-developed characters and I feel that the use of multiple perspectives worked really well at giving an insight into each of the character’s lives and revealed secrets that the characters don’t actively admit to each other. In addition to that, various thoughts/ideas and insights into the lives of people the duo meet in passing are explored. The latter I found to be a truly wonderful touch as when interact with strangers, for however brief the period of time, we never really think about their lives or how much we can help that individual by paying them just a little bit of kindness.

Given that Natasha has until 10pm that day to leave the country and makes several attempts to change that fact, the story doesn’t have that sense of time running out because it’s so easy to get caught up in the growing relationship between these two characters. I started reading and before I knew it the book was over.

Nicola Yoon does a brilliant job of using her platform to add to the pool of diverse books. As a white, privileged woman, I appreciate any opportunity to grow as a person by learning about other cultures and situation I myself will never experience and to that I am truly grateful for Nicola Yoon and her work.

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contemporary · review · romance · young adult

Holding Up The Universe – Jennifer Niven

“Too many people in this world think small is the best they can do. Not you, Libby Strout. You weren’t born for small.”

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Blurb: “Everyone thinks they know Libby Strout, the girl once dubbed “America’s Fattest Teen.” But no one’s taken the time to look past her weight to get to know who she really is. Following her mom’s death, she’s been picking up the pieces in the privacy of her home, dealing with her heartbroken father and her own grief. Now, Libby’s ready: for high school, for new friends, for love and for every possibly life has to offer. ‘I know the part I want to play here at MVB High. I want to be the girl who can do anything.’”

*This book was sent to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review*

I first heard about this book when the negativity surrounding the Goodreads description first emerged. It’s safe to say that maybe it wasn’t the best synopsis to put forward for the book and a lot of people were angry. It eventually led to Jennifer Niven addressing the issue and expressing that the topics tackled within the book are close to her heart and that she did not write the Goodreads synopsis. Shortly after it was changed but still wasn’t much better.

Like many others, I was put off by it based on what I saw on Goodreads. However, when I had the opportunity to read an advanced copy of her new book, I took it. I expected to hold the same feelings I had prior to reading it while doing just that. I was wrong. I thoroughly enjoyed this book.

The story follows two characters (switching through their perspectives throughout) Libby and Jack. After the death of her mother, Libby found comfort in food which lead to an event that was widely reported, earning her the title “America’s fattest teen.” She has since shed some of the weight and is returning to school. Jack’s dad is having an affair and on top of that, Jack is convinced that he has a condition called “prosopagnosia” which is the inability to recognise faces. (Imagine not being able to recognise your own family) Through a series of events, Libby and Jack are brought together in an unexpected way.

I know what you’re thinking: story about a fat girl who happens to become friends with someone who can’t recognise faces? Pretty convenient right? I thought the same. However, these aspects are something that’s more so dealt with separately minus a few things that lead to their eventual friendship. Also, through reading the acknowledgements, Jennifer Niven details her experiences of anxiety and weight issues and how she actually has a family member with prosopagnosia so she had a lot of access to information (and she did extra research too) that would help make the representation of the condition accurate in her story.

Libby was incredibly well written and I felt like she was someone I would be friends with. I was there with her every single word of the way through this story and I yearned to read more once I’d finished the book. Jack on the other hand was lacking. I found myself wondering when I’d get back to Libby’s narratives while reading his ones. It would be really difficult to do this story without him but I just didn’t connect to his character in the same way.

Whatever preconceptions you may have about this book (All The Bright Places is very marmite in terms of reviews), please at least give this story a try.

I only wish I could read more of Libby’s story.

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review · romance

Always With Love – Giovanna Fletcher

“And what if she’s not the one? What if this is all for nothing?”
“Then at least I’ll know I did the best I could. That I acted decently – always with love.”

 

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Blurb: “Sophie’s got used to being the girlfriend of Billy Buskin, the biggest movie star in the world. Sort of. But when she and Billy take a trip to visit his family in Los Angeles, she quickly discovers she’s totally unprepared for the chaos of Hollywood, the paparazzi and Billy’s controlling moth. And when Billy extends his stay in LA, leaving Sophie to fly home alone to Rosefont Hill alone, it seems there’s more than just miles between them. Now Sophie must decide if they can overcome their differences for good. Because not all love stories and with happily ever after…”

This is the sequel to Giovanna’s debut novel Billy And Me.

Sophia May is about to partake in the most monumental part of any relationship: meeting the parents. The story opens with her waking up on a plane to LA, anxiety bubbling under the surface. Billy is taking a break from the acting world and the pair decide to spend the festive Christmas/New Year period with his family. LA is a complete different world to Sophia’s tea shop on the hill and she finds it hard adjusting to the flashing cameras following her around. When a hotshot director offers Billy a role in his new movie, the break quickly comes to an end and Sophie finds herself flying back to England; alone.

In a recent interview, Giovanna said that she never feels like stories end at the last page as the book, much in the same way that life continues after monumental events take place in life. She finished the short story Christmas With Billy And Me then found herself wanting to know what happened when the couple made it to LA. So she wrote it to find out.

This is a really good, solid sequel. It was full of wonderful moments and very well paced. Everything felt like it happened exactly when it needed to in order to push the story forward. The lost act of letter writing being brought in as a romantic way of communication between the pair was just so heartfelt.

The only thing that let this book down for me was the horrible “can a man and woman really be friends?” cliché. It wasn’t really needed and I just dislike that concept.

Other than that, this book was another fantastic creation from the mind of someone who was born to write.
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