The Starless Sea

Books, Favourites, Pink in Ink

Erin Morgenstern

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Far beneath the surface of the earth, upon the shores of the Starless Sea, there is a labyrinthine collection of tunnels and rooms filled with stories. The entryways that lead to this sanctuary are often hidden, sometimes on forest floors, sometimes in private homes, sometimes in plain sight. But those who seek will find. Their doors have been waiting for them. Zachary Ezra Rawlins is searching for his door, though he does not know it. He follows a silent siren song, an inexplicable knowledge that he is meant for another place. When he discovers a mysterious book in the stacks of his campus library he begins to read, entranced by tales of lovelorn prisoners, lost cities, and nameless acolytes. Suddenly a turn of the page brings Zachary to a story from his own childhood impossibly written in this book that is older than he is. A bee, a key, and a sword emblazoned on the book lead Zachary to two people who will change the course of his life: Mirabel, a fierce, pink-haired painter, and Dorian, a handsome, barefoot man with shifting alliances. These strangers guide Zachary through masquerade party dances and whispered back room stories to the headquarters of a secret society where doorknobs hang from ribbons, and finally through a door conjured from paint to the place he has always yearned for. Amid twisting tunnels filled with books, gilded ballrooms, and wine-dark shores Zachary falls into an intoxicating world soaked in romance and mystery. But a battle is raging over the fate of this place and though there are those who would willingly sacrifice everything to protect it, there are just as many intent on its destruction. As Zachary, Mirabel, and Dorian venture deeper into the space and its histories and myths, searching for answers and each other, a timeless love story unspools, casting a spell of pirates, painters, lovers, liars, and ships that sail upon a Starless Sea

After ten years of waiting for fans of Erin Morngenstern’s hugely successful debut The Night Circus, we’re transported to another wonderfully fantastical world of magic doors, mythical libraries and legendary stories.

We follow Zachary Ezra, our protagonist. During his regular visit to the local library, he stumbles upon a book full of fantastical short stories that looks to be very old. As he flicks through this mysterious book of tales, the is a tale of romance involving what is called the starless sea in an underground world. But as he continues reading, he finds one that reads like a very unusual moment in his life. In perfect detail. Can he find out who wrote about this moment in his life? Will he find the starless sea?

I loved The Night Circus and became a die-hard fan of Morgenstern’s from its last page. So, when I saw she was finally coming out with another title, I was beyond excited!

As I began to read, I discovered why it took so long between publications. This book is impeccably crafted. Not only do we have a wonderful, beautiful and captivating main plot with excellent character-building, but we find that this is just book-inception. The short fairy tales are published inside the main story, giving it even more unique qualities. But these extra tales aren’t rushed, far from it. They are immersive in-and-of themselves. If she published a book with just the short tales, I’d be throwing my money everywhere!

I loved her descriptive writing of this world and the magical painted doors, I really felt I could see everything and just wanted, desperately, for someone to invent a way to travel to these fictional worlds, to hear, see and smell the surroundings.

Despite all that, I became a little annoyed at the amount of filler-words there were (more specifically the word ‘and’). I ended up skipping over these words so often because they really were over-used and took me away from the story. This AND this, AND this… it just got annoying.

But for a negative, it’s a pretty minor one which I can easily look past (literally) because the level of craftsmanship was staggering.

This really made me feel festive, for some reason. Maybe something to do with when I ordered it? I can’t recommend this more and Erin Morgenstern remains one of my all-time favourite authors.


Hardcover

498 pages

Published – 5th February 2020

Publishing Company – Doubleday Books

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The Guest List

Books, Favourites, Pink in Ink

Lucy Foley

Rating: 5 out of 5.

The bride ‧ The plus one ‧ The best man ‧ The wedding planner ‧ The bridesmaid ‧ The body        On an island off the coast of Ireland, guests gather to celebrate two people joining their lives together as one. The groom: handsome and charming, a rising television star. The bride: smart and ambitious, a magazine publisher. It’s a wedding for a magazine, or for a celebrity: the designer dress, the remote location, the luxe party favors, the boutique whiskey. The cell phone service may be spotty and the waves may be rough, but every detail has been expertly planned and will be expertly executed.          But perfection is for plans, and people are all too human. As the champagne is popped and the festivities begin, resentments and petty jealousies begin to mingle with the reminiscences and well wishes. The groomsmen begin the drinking game from their school days. The bridesmaid not-so-accidentally ruins her dress. The bride’s oldest (male) friend gives an uncomfortably caring toast.          And then someone turns up dead. Who didn’t wish the happy couple well? And perhaps more important, why?

I may have stayed up until 3am to finish this book… it’s only taken me a day to read.

I first came across Lucy Foley’s writing with The Hunting Party that was gifted to my better-half for Christmas and had to read it as soon as possible… I read it first (sorry, honey!) and I instantly fell in love with her writing and immersive storytelling with the tang that this could really be real life.

Needless to say, after I read her first book I immediately jumped online to see if there were any new books on the horizon. Sure enough there was. INSTANTLY PRESSED THE PRE-ORDER BUTTON! (Yes I’m using capital letters to get across my child-like excitement).

I was nervous once I received my copy in fear that it wouldn’t match the excitement and suspense of her first book… I WAS SO WRONG! (it’s tempting to use multiple exclamation marks to try and drive home my excitement a little more, but I’ll stick to the capital letters for now).
I don’t know how but it was better than I could have ever expected. It had the same formula as The Hunting Party but it didn’t feel like a formula at all. I was (literally) hooked from the first page. The only time I put down my book was to eat.

The descriptive writing about this perfect island away from the rest of the world with beautiful places to explore and staying in a grand hotel. Similarly to The Hunting Party, we follow multiple perspectives and jump a few days into the future until it all collides at the apex of the book.

Every character was so well fleshed out and our key players were exceptionally crafted. Some I loved, some I hated, envied or didn’t trust. The very last chapter just left me clawing for more!

It’s now 4am while I’m writing this because I just can’t help but want to rave about this book. I cannot contain my excitement and adoration until morning.

Needless to say, I will be keeping a very close eye out for any new books to be released by this extraordinarily, talented writer. (Do you think my partner elbowing me in the face while he’s sleeping is a hint to go to sleep?)


Hardcover

320 pages

Published – 20th February 2020

Publishing Company – Harper Collins

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Come Again

Audiobooks, Books, Favourites, Pink in Ink

Robert Webb

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Kate’s husband Luke – the man she loved from the moment she met him twenty-eight years ago – died suddenly. Since then she has pushed away her friends, lost her job and everything is starting to fall apart. One day, she wakes up in the wrong room and in the wrong body. She is eighteen again but remembers everything. This is her college room in 1992. This is the first day of Freshers’ Week. And this was the day she first met Luke. But he is not the man that she lost: he’s still a boy – the annoying nineteen-year-old English student she first met. Kate knows how he died and that he’s already ill. If they can fall in love again she might just be able to save him. She’s going to try to do everything exactly the same…

When I first saw this, I thought it sounded like such a bittersweet story. A take on the throws of grief, loss and depression.

After I learned it was written by Robert Webb, quite a well-known name in our home for his comedy, I was even more intrigued to see the whit that would come up. Despite it sounding like a rather sad tale, it did make me audibly laugh more times than I ever have while reading!

Our leading lady, Kate was such a character! She was so well crafted, I began to really feel like she was a friend of my own; trying to help her see that people love her and grief doesn’t take centre-stage forever.

I think my favourite part of this was when Kate wakes up to find she’s in her dorm room at uni on the day she met her future husband. With every change of history she made, I couldn’t help but think “has the world imploded? Or has a huge nuclear explosion wiped out the human race because of the changes?”

I really enjoyed this story. For a debut with such heavy expectation, it was so enjoyable and I just loved the ease and flow of it and I loved the retake on the butterfly effect.

This was an audiobook listen for me. Olivia Colman is a great actress, on screen, and just as great on audio. Her emotions she showed were so easy to connect with. The annunciation at perfect points in the dialogues were spot on. I would highly recommend to listen to the audiobook, it gives such a wonderful extra-layer to the already excellent writing.

Did I mention I loved it?


Audiobook

13 hours 08 minutes

Published – 12th November 2020

Publishing Company – Penguin Audio

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The Ocean at the End of the Lane

Books, Favourites, Pink in Ink

Neil Gaiman

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Sussex, England. A middle-aged man returns to his childhood home to attend a funeral. Although the house he lived in is long gone, he is drawn to the farm at the end of the road, where, when he was seven, he encountered a most remarkable girl, Lettie Hempstock, and her mother and grandmother. He hasn’t thought of Lettie in decades, and yet as he sits by the pond (a pond that she’d claimed was an ocean) behind the ramshackle old farmhouse, the unremembered past comes flooding back. And it is a past too strange, too frightening, too dangerous to have happened to anyone, let alone a small boy.          Forty years earlier, a man committed suicide in a stolen car at this farm at the end of the road. Like a fuse on a firework, his death lit a touchpaper and resonated in unimaginable ways. The darkness was unleashed, something scary and thoroughly incomprehensible to a little boy. And Lettie—magical, comforting, wise beyond her years—promised to protect him, no matter what.          A groundbreaking work from a master, The Ocean at the End of the Lane is told with a rare understanding of all that makes us human, and shows the power of stories to reveal and shelter us from the darkness inside and out. It is a stirring, terrifying, and elegiac fable as delicate as a butterfly’s wing and as menacing as a knife in the dark.

This book is so amazing. This edition is one of the most stunning on my shelves and sits pride-of-place with many of my other favourites!

Neil Gaiman is, for many, the king of paranormal, fantasy fiction. And, being the winner of the GoodReads Choice Awards in 2013, it’s become a timeless piece.

We follow the nameless boy through his early years of living with his single father. And when he brings home a lodger and asks the nameless boy to move into his older sisters room, everything changes.

On one of his wanderings around his hometown, he meets Lettie Hempstock, a girl who claims to have seen the moon being made and adamant that the pond on her estate is an ocean.

I was absolutely gripped from the start by this book. This was so lyrical and had some very thought provoking messages of life, death, friendship and memories. The overall message, to me, is a different take of reincarnation. That we simply let the earth and water heal our hurt bodies and gives it back when the time is right, that no one truly dies.

The illustrations by Elise Hurst are absolutely beautiful and really adds to the story, making the suspenseful, darker and more gothic. I adored that the illustration was done using simple line-shading and negative space, leaving you to imagine how the characters look.

All in all, I absolutely loved this tale and its messages. I would have to put this as a firm-favourite of mine and this edition is an absolute treasure.


Hardcover Illustrated Edition

336 pages

Published – 12 November 2019

Publishing Company – Headline

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House of Earth and Blood

Audiobooks, Books, Favourites, Pink in Ink

Sarah J. Maas

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Crescent City #1


Bryce Quinlan had the perfect life—working hard all day and partying all night—until a demon murdered her closest friends, leaving her bereft, wounded, and alone. When the accused is behind bars but the crimes start up again, Bryce finds herself at the heart of the investigation. She’ll do whatever it takes to avenge their deaths.          Hunt Athalar is a notorious Fallen angel, now enslaved to the Archangels he once attempted to overthrow. His brutal skills and incredible strength have been set to one purpose—to assassinate his boss’s enemies, no questions asked. But with a demon wreaking havoc in the city, he’s offered an irresistible deal: help Bryce find the murderer, and his freedom will be within reach.          As Bryce and Hunt dig deep into Crescent City’s underbelly, they discover a dark power that threatens everything and everyone they hold dear, and they find, in each other, a blazing passion—one that could set them both free, if they’d only let it.          With unforgettable characters, sizzling romance, and page-turning suspense, this richly inventive new fantasy series by #1 New York Times bestselling author Sarah J. Maas delves into the heartache of loss, the price of freedom—and the power of love.

This book was one Hel of a rollercoaster of emotions. I’ve never read such a full, saturated story in many years. I laughed, I cried, my heart broke, my soul sang. I can’t explain it any better than that.

Bryce is, as you’d expect after her best friend is murdered, wears both physical and emotional scars. Determined to solve her murder, she falls into all the worst possible scenarios but our antagonist, Hunt; a slave to the Archangels, begins as stand-off-ish character with a lot of his own opinions, right or wrong… but who wouldn’t be if you were enslaved!


I was unsure of the world and the characters at the beginning and in the middle of the book but the final half of this book was what really sold me. Every little detail in this book was part of the story and it all came together so brilliantly. Also, I wish Hunt really existed because I was swooning! The love story in this was amazing and the ups were so sweet and heart-warming and the downs really felt like a break-up.

I did a combination of listening to the audiobook and physically reading this purely because I wanted to keep reading it when I was doing chores. The voice actor, Elizabeth Evans, was amazing at really bringing the characters alive more than they were already. After I started listening, I kept hearing Evans voice for Bryce because it fit so well to the character I pictured.

I don’t think I’ve ever been so invested in characters before.

This is the first book from Sarah J. Maas I’ve read and already have another popular series of hers waiting to be read.

Amazing, shocking and enchanting. I can’t recommend this enough! For her first novel in the adult-fantasy world, it was incredible. I can’t wait to see where this series goes.


Hardcover

803 pages

Published – 3rd March 2020

Publishing Company – Bloomsbury Publishing

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Sick Kids in Love

Audiobooks, Books, Favourites, Pink in Ink

Hannah Moskowitz

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Isabel has one rule: no dating.          It’s easier–          It’s safer–          It’s better–          –for the other person.          She’s got issues. She’s got secrets. She’s got rheumatoid arthritis.          But then she meets another sick kid.          He’s got a chronic illness Isabel’s never heard of, something she can’t even pronounce. He understands what it means to be sick. He understands her more than her healthy friends. He understands her more than her own father who’s a doctor.          He’s gorgeous, fun, and foul-mouthed. And totally into her.          Isabel has one rule: no dating.          It’s complicated–          It’s dangerous–          It’s never felt better–          –to consider breaking that rule for him.

October is a particularly important month for me because it’s Dysautonomia Awareness month. As I’ve said in my bio, I’m chronically ill with a list of sydromes, many of them under the umbrella diagnosis of Dysautonomia. To find out more about Dysautonomia and other chronic illness myths and thoughts, click the link below to my Advocacy page.

Now, lets get to the book-

Usually, for me, a life-changing book is a five-star read.

However, this is the first time I have read a book where main characters have chronic illness but DO NOT DIE!
Suffering from chronic illnesses is so lonely and isolating because if you don’t look sick, not many people care or care to understand. But this book is literally what my mind says every day! The representation of life with long-term chronic illness is spot-on for me and after some digging, found Hannah’s Instagram page and sees she also suffers with chronic illness.

Isabel was a character that I could understand fully with her life and struggles and the messages that this book gives the reader. It’s important to see that, for most of those suffering with chronic illnesses, suffer in silence because of fear that they will be ignored or told that their illness isn’t real (yes, that does actually happen). So creating an outlet for these discussions to be had is a great way to educate people that people can still suffer without a terminal diagnosis.

Similar to Isabel, she struggles every day to try and be like her friends and not let her diagnosis affect her life and keeps how she’s feeling from her father out of fear of being ignored.

Then she meets Sasha, a boy who also suffers from a rare disease who is trying to show her that her illness does not define her and that making adjustments so she doesn’t suffer more than necessary is OK too. And mobility aids!

I found that so much of the dialog between the main characters and their friends and family talk about topics and phrases that are harmful to those suffering with an illness and why it’s so hurtful to hear them. If there were more titles that spoke of chronic, invisible illness like this, we would live in a much more, respectful, unprejudiced world.

My only issue, I couldn’t get invested in the love story. I just couldn’t FEEL it, but it, to me, wasn’t the primary focus, more an added bonus.

If you or someone you know has long-term chronic illness, PLEASE READ THIS! It says what I wish I could say to people around me without coming across like a bitch…


Hardcover

300 pages

Published – 5th November 2019

Publishing Company – Entangled Teen

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The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle

Audiobooks, Books, Favourites, Pink in Ink

Stuart Turton

Rating: 5 out of 5.

The Seven 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle


At a gala party thrown by her parents, Evelyn Hardcastle will be killed–again. She’s been murdered hundreds of times, and each day, Aiden Bishop is too late to save her. Doomed to repeat the same day over and over, Aiden’s only escape is to solve Evelyn Hardcastle’s murder and conquer the shadows of an enemy he struggles to even comprehend–but nothing and no one are quite what they seem.          Deeply atmospheric and ingeniously plotted, The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle is a highly original debut that will appeal to fans of Kate Atkinson and Agatha Christie.

Set in an illusive mansion in the deep countryside, we follow a man who has no memory of how or why he is there.

I don’t know how to explain the mastery of crossing fantasy, science fiction, crime and mystery. It is a marriage like no other I’ve read before. It’s set, in a way, following different characters of entirely different backgrounds that reveal ghastly secrets and the many twists and turns to finally reveal who killed Evelyn Hardcastle.

Despite it being written from different perspectives, each character has intentionally been written to seem like the same point of view. However, each character has their own ways of speaking and thinking so is easy to follow along. To add to the suspense, it is written from different points of time. It’s impossible to make a clear review without spoilers! All I can say is, it is a plot that is unmatched in it’s execution and each twist leaves you with more questions. Stuart Turton is an author to watch. I can’t wait to see what worlds he creates next.


Hardcover

505 pages

Published – 8th February 2018

Publishing Company – Raven Books

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The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue

Books, Favourites, Pink in Ink

V E Schwab

Rating: 5 out of 5.

A Life No One Will Remember. A Story You Will Never Forget.          France, 1714: in a moment of desperation, a young woman makes a Faustian bargain to live forever and is cursed to be forgotten by everyone she meets.          Thus begins the extraordinary life of Addie LaRue, and a dazzling adventure that will play out across centuries and continents, across history and art, as a young woman learns how far she will go to leave her mark on the world.          But everything changes when, after nearly 300 years, Addie stumbles across a young man in a hidden bookstore and he remembers her name.

From the best-selling author, V. E. (Victoria) Schwab, comes a lyrical tale that has been anticipated by fans all over the world.

I only discovered Schwab this last year and she has rapidly become a favourite author that will send me swooning after every page. Known for her many series of fantastical fiction including A Darker Shade of Magic which won the hearts and souls of so many.

Combining fantasy, mythical, contemporary and historical fiction, I was surprised at how smooth and easy to follow this was.

We follow Adeline LaRue, or Addie, who, desperate to change her fate and explore the world, makes a deal with the darkness. But, after begging for freedom, she made a terrible error by not choosing her words wisely and everyone she ever meets will never remember her. Until she meets Henry, a lost employee of a quaint bookstore in New York who is the first and only (other than the dark) to remember her and give her the power to say her name.

Written so we follow Addie and Henry, we also follow their past, making it a captivating read. During the time-jumps to centuries past, it paints our history in a more realistic, less romanticised fashion giving it that little more believability.

This is a much slower and (for Schwab and her previous works,) a subtle plot leaving all the extra room for the emotional suspense this book provides of love, loss, grief, identity, loyalty, depression, suicidal thoughts and the trickery of war. Schwab has been very open that this single novel has been ten years in the making. As I was reading I couldn’t help but see the real-life turbulence of the mind reflect in the characters situations. I can see that this tale and Addie will resonate with so many and is a tale that will stay with me for another 300 years.


Hardcover

560 pages

Published – 6th October 2020

Publishing Company – Tor Books / Titan Books

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Every Heart a Doorway

Books, Favourites, Pink in Ink

Seanan McGuire

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children
No Solicitations.    No Visitors.   No Quests.            Children have always disappeared under the right conditions; slipping through the shadows under a bed or at the back of a wardrobe, tumbling down rabbit holes and into old wells, and emerging somewhere… else.          But magical lands have little need for used-up miracle children.          Nancy tumbled once, but now she’s back. The things she’s experienced… they change a person. The children under Miss West’s care understand all too well. And each of them is seeking a way back to their own fantasy world.          But Nancy’s arrival marks a change at the Home. There’s a darkness just around each corner, and when tragedy strikes, it’s up to Nancy and her new-found schoolmates to get to the heart of the matter.          No matter the cost

Though it was a short tale, it left me wanting more.

The main plot to this story was one reminiscent of Agatha Christie and Arthur Conan Doyle. A very well done ‘who-done-it’ with fantastical elements. It did leave you wondering who committed these acts right up to the reveal. However this didn’t feel like the main cause for this book.

Each character felt individual and, though it was a novella, I could really picture each character. It focused more on Nancy, our main character, what fantastical land she travelled to and why she came back. We also get to know a handful of other characters, Kade, Sumi, Jack, Jill and Christopher. Though they didn’t get as much focus, I still learnt enough about them to feel like I connected with them.

There was representation of asexuality, gender identity and gender fluidity, but it doesn’t just talk about gender identity, however. I felt that this spoke of a far more important topic that often gets forgotten until our later years: individuality, identity and self-acceptance. It really felt like an important read for teens to help understand their turbulent emotions

The brief times that parents are mentioned in this novella, they are unaccepting of change and just want their little baby back, which, as we can all agree, is a very true fact of life. It shows the split between teens and their parents, one wanting to start spreading their wings and learn who they are. And the other just wants to keep them just as they were. But by doing so, causes more damage to their relationships.

I also felt that it had a little nod to mental illness. That the doorways to these worlds is a symbolism for how many feel about a mental illness. Once you’ve gone through the door to the darker side of the mind, you can never forget it.

This story spoke to me in a way that made me feel like I wasn’t alone. It made me feel like individuality and difference was more common-place than society would care to mention and that there is always at least one person who has been through a similar door to a similar world. I can’t find any faults. It is without a doubt one of my favourite reads of this year. It is one, that I think, should be read by any new teen or anyone who is struggling to find themselves.

“… the only one who gets to tell you how your story ends is you.”


Hardcover

173 pages

Published – 5th April 2016

Publishing Company – Tor Books

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Eleanor & Park

Audiobooks, Books, Favourites, Pink in Ink

Rainbow Rowell

Rating: 5 out of 5.

“Eleanor is the new girl in town, and she’s never felt more alone. All mismatched clothes, mad red hair and chaotic home life, she couldn’t stick out more if she tried.          Then she takes the seat on the bus next to Park. Quiet, careful and – in Eleanor’s eyes – impossibly cool, Park’s worked out that flying under the radar is the best way to get by.          Slowly, steadily, through late-night conversations and an ever-growing stack of mix tapes, Eleanor and Park fall in love. They fall in love the way you do the first time, when you’re 16, and you have nothing and everything to lose.          Set over the course of one school year in 1986, Eleanor & Park is funny, sad, shocking and true – an exquisite nostalgia trip for anyone who has never forgotten their first love.”

 I went into this with no idea what to expect from this book. I had no idea what emotions it would ignite in me that I haven’t felt in years.

I really resonated with Eleanor. A young woman who is anything but invisible just wishing to be swallowed up by the world. A girl who wants to fit in but is just too different to even know how.
Being a young girl in high school is rough. Really rough. Being a plus size woman in high school and looking different is really, really rough. Just that is bad enough but contending with that and being the new kid is a million times more rough!

But Park also reminds me of a younger me who would do everything to stay invisible because people suck. He reminds me of a time when I started to grow into my own skin, learn who I am.
During the course of the book, Park grows as a person. He embraced his differences and became more vocal about how he felt with the people around him. And, he had great taste in music!

I think the most gut-wrenching, soul destroying part for me was seeing the abuse unfold.

A big question that is left at the end of this book was if it’s a fairy tale ending or a real-world one. The author wrote that it’s like we are ‘coming to the end of our journey with them’ and I completely agree. To me, these characters are real people.  Though it would seem like a sad ending, for me it feels like the start of a new life and maybe there will be another serendipity in store for them when they’re ready.

I can’t (personally) see any flaws in this book. It really did hook me in from the very beginning and beyond the last page. I have a feeling that sometimes I may sit and wonder: where are they now? What happened to them? Or their families?

I have fallen head over heels for this book and it’s absolutely wonderful leading roles. Eleanor and Park is a story to remember.


Hardcover

328 pages

Published – 26th February 2013

Publishing Company – St. Martins Press

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