Every year when I’m ready to compile my best of the year list, I feel like I haven’t read anything for a year. That isn’t the case for 2018. I read a ton this year…it just wasn’t published in 2018. My reading habits took a shift from consuming almost entirely Contemporary Romance (with some Young Adult) to suddenly powering through the backlists of several Regency Romance bestsellers. I don’t know what happened! It did mean that my list for what I’d read that was actually published this year was shorter, but I have a handful I loved and want to share.
I know both of Peckham’s books have some controversy around them because they’re definitely not your typical Historical Romances, but that is part of what made me love them. I spent a lot of 2018 reading older Regency titles that were well reviewed, and after a time they start to look the same. I think Peckham has a remarkable skill for writing emotion and description, which is key in romance, so both books completely drew me in. On top of that, her characters get to break away from the traditional mold set for historical heroes and heroines, making the Secrets of Charlotte Street series a breath of fresh air.
Robert did an incredibly skilled job of making readers want to read a book starring the villain of the rest of the series. Dmitri comes off as plain evil throughout the O’Malley’s series, yet it was clear he would eventually have his own book with the youngest O’Malley sister. The chemistry between them had been simmering in the background for some time, and once they stepped up as leads it was not a disappointment at all. I really adored this whole series and I’m still sad that it’s over, so it may be time for a reread.
If you don’t know how great Lucy Parker’s books are, now’s the time to give them a chance. I’ve loved all three books in the series almost equally, but I liked how Making Up had almost a circus feel compared to the more traditional theater predecessors. Trix and Leo were a great couple, and Trix especially stood out to me as a fun, sassy heroine. I’m already looking forward to the next installment in the London Celebrities series.
I’ll probably be the millionth person to add The Kiss Quotient to a Best Of list this year, but anyone who has read it probably knows why. Hoang created a book that has both all the elements of a tropey, sexy Contemporary Romance as well as the fresh voice and inclusivity that make this book a standout. Stella and Michael jump off the page (and steam up the page), and I personally couldn’t put it down once I started reading. Some books just come along and have the right je ne sais quoi to make everyone fall in love with them, and The Kiss Quotient is one of them.
Eva Leigh is somewhat to blame for my return to reading Regency. I saw a tweet promoting her older title, Temptations of a Wallflower, and ended up really enjoying it. I’ve never wanted to review historical titles because I don’t read them much, but I gave Dare to Love a Duke a chance and I’m so glad I did. I just adored this book. Leigh’s writing works for me on a lot of levels, namely it’s very sexy and her heroines are strong, independent, smart women. Now that I’ve read the whole London Underground series, I’d venture to say this final book might be the best of the three, with the first giving it stiff competition.
Although I’m behind on reading the sequel, I’d be remiss to not include A Princess in Theory. Cole’s voice for Contemporary is very fresh, and I really liked the inclusion of a scientist heroine. Also, I’m always a fan of Contemporary Romance where young heroines don’t just seem to have gobs of money with no obvious source or from an unrealistic job that wouldn’t pay much, like a cupcake bakery. This book is an excellent example of how to take a classic Cinderella story and make it new by both grounding it in reality and broadening who gets to be included in the happily ever afters.
2018 has turned out to be kind of a tough reading year, not only for me, but for many of the readers in my life. Fortunately though, I’ve managed to read several stellar books amidst the mediocrity. Here they are in no particular order…
The Great Alone is a lovely mixture of engrossing family drama and beautiful romance set against the backdrop of 1970s Alaska. I can honestly say it’s the best thing Kristin Hannah has ever written, and the story and the characters are sure to remain with me for a long time to come.
This historical novel focuses on the influenza epidemic of 1918, and is the story of one family’s struggle for survival and redemption against seemingly unsurmountable odds. Ms. Meissner is a true master of her craft, and this heart-wrenching story kept me glued to my iPad for hours. It’s a book I hated to put down.
No one writes sexy, forbidden romances like Tiffany Reisz, and The Lucky Ones is definitely one of her best. This story of adopted siblings who are struggling to lay the ghosts of their past to rest while fighting the deep attraction they feel for one another is not for the faint of heart, but if you’re not put off by a healthy dose of darkness, you should definitely give this one a try.
A Notorious Vowby Joanna Shupe
This historical romance set in Gilded Age New York filled my heart with excessive amounts of joy. The hero is completely swoon worthy, the heroine is spunky without being anachronistic, and the sexual tension between them is almost palpable. The hero is deaf, and I was particularly pleased by Ms. Shupe’s handling of his disability in a time period when any disability was equated with weakness and undesirability.
I’ve been completely addicted to Kelley Armstrong’s Rockton series since I first read City of the Lost back in 2016. This Fallen Prey, book three in the series, continues the story of Casey Duncan, a police detective in a mysterious small town located deep in the Yukon territory. The town is populated with a dangerous assortment of people who need to live off the grid for a host of reasons. The suspense is spine-chilling, and Casey’s slow burn romance with the chief of police is bound to leave you breathless.
The English language does not contain enough words to adequately express my love for this fabulous blend of romance and mystery set in Gilded Age New York. The characters are utterly enchanting, and the story kept me engrossed from beginning to end. This was my first experience with Ms. Willig’s writing, and I can assure you it won’t be my last.
The Summer Wives contains everything I love in a historical novel. It’s a book I’m sure I’ll return to again and again, and I urge anyone who loves complex characters, beautiful settings, and lush, evocative prose to give this one a try. I’m pretty sure you won’t regret it.
This book broke my heart in all the best ways, and that’s exactly what I’ve come to expect from Amy Harmon’s work. This novel, which is loosely connected to The Law of Moses, tells the story of a group of three friends, two of whom are destined to end up as a couple. Ms. Harmon doesn’t pull punches as she explores the loss and love these characters experience, so be sure to have all the tissues handy as you read this.
This was the standout novel of young adult fantasy for me. Ms. Foody deftly crafts a world filled with unimaginable magic, danger, and a hint of romance. I absolutely cannot wait for the second book to be released in the spring of 2019.
I’ll be the first to admit that contemporary romances rarely work well for me, but there’s something so incredibly special about this tale of first love that I flew through it in less than a day. The characters are far from perfect, but I honestly wouldn’t change anything about them. Their imperfections made them feel so real and relatable. Ms. McGuire has crafted a multi-faceted love story that I want the world to embrace.
I’m really pleased to be welcoming author Sally Malcolm to AAR today. Back in August, her first m/m novel, Perfect Day, was published by Carina Press, and I was utterly enchanted by both the characters and her writing; the novel is a modern-day retelling of Jane Austen’s Persuasion, and yet, as I said in my review, Ms. Malcolm managed to keep to the spirit of the original while imbuing her characters with distinctive lives and personalities of their own. Her recent seasonal novella, Love Around the Corner was a similarly superb read; another reimagining (this time of a classic movie), it’s simply… lovely, doesn’t seem strong enough a word to describe my feelings as I read, but it really is the only word that will do. Now, she’s returning to the fictional Long Island resort of New Milton that featured in those two books with Between the Lines, an enemies-to-lovers romance between a property developer and a prickly hotel owner.
I asked Sally to hop over to AAR for a chat to tell us a a bit more about herself and what she’s got in the pipeline; thanks for joining us!
SM: Hi Caz, thanks for having me. It’s exciting to be here!
CO: You’ve received a lot of excellent reviews for your first published m/m romance, Perfect Day, which was a modern retelling of Persuasion. I’ll ask you about that in a minute, but first of all, give us a bit of background about you and your writing.
SM: Like many writers, I cut my teeth writing fan fiction—starting with ER, moving on to Stargate SG:1, The West Wing, and Supernatural. And I’m still a huge fan of fanfic!
CO: Yes, fanfic is where we first met all those years ago! Full disclosure, Sally and I have known each other “virtually” for over a decade – we first bonded online over our shared love of The West Wing
SM: We did! My first published works were for Stargate SG-1, writing tie-in novels for MGM. But I’ve always loved romance. I published a m/f historical romance back in 2015, called The Legend of the Gypsy Hawk, but couldn’t quite find my feet in the romance genre. Then I discovered m/m romance (thank you K.J. Charles!) and became completely obsessed. Perfect Day was my first published m/m romance—hopefully the first of many!
CO: By a strange coincidence, yours wasn’t the only m/m modern-day version of Persuasion that was published this year! What appealed particularly about that story – why choose that rather than another of Jane Austen’s novels to update as an m/m romance?
SM: Yes, that was an odd coincidence. GMTA?
As for why I chose Persuasion, first off I’m a huge fan of all Jane Austen’s books. I’ve read them countless times, watched all the adaptations, stage plays—everything.
Like everyone, I love Pride and Prejudice, but I’ve always felt that Persuasion is the most romantic of Austen’s novels—it’s the only book solely about love and its power to endure, even when all hope is gone. For me, it’s the ultimate second chance romance, which is one of my favourite tropes. I’m a sucker for angst-with-a-happy-ending, and Persuasion delivers that in spades—hopefully Perfect Day does too!
CO: Well, I think it does – especially after seeing Josh and Finn again in both Love Around the Corner, and Between the Lines. Which is your next release from Carina Press and takes place in the same location as Perfect Day. Tell us a little about that.
SM: Between the Lines is a book close to my heart. It’s about Theo Wishart, a property developer, and Luca Moretti, whose family hotel Theo wants to redevelop. Luca’s at odds with his mom and her new husband, who want to sell the hotel, and is determined to derail Theo’s plans. But when Luca’s mom invites Theo to stay at the hotel for a couple of weeks the two guys find themselves drawn to each other despite their conflicting visions for the hotel’s future…
CO: I loved that premise, and now I’ve read it, I have to say I loved the book, too. What made it such a personal endeavour for you?
SM: What makes Between the Lines special for me is Theo. For a while I’ve wanted to write a character who has dyspraxia, which is a developmental coordination disorder that my daughter also has. It affects people in widely different ways, but for my daughter (and Theo) it primarily impacts physical coordination and certain social skills.
Watching my daughter grow up with dyspraxia made me want to write a character who shared some of her challenges, but what I definitely didn’t want to do was write a book about dyspraxia or write a character whose dyspraxia was their character. I hope I’ve achieved this with Theo—dyspraxia is part of who he is, it impacts how he interacts with the world, but it doesn’t define him. I based Theo’s experience of the condition on my daughter’s and she kindly read Between the Lines to make sure I was getting it right—although she did refuse to read the sex scenes. (Let’s face it, nobody wants to read sex scenes written by their mother?!)
CO: Hahahah! I can completely understand that!
CO: You’re a Brit, like me… what made you want to set these stories in the US?
SM: When I was thinking about writing Perfect Day, I wanted the setting to take the story as far away from the original as possible. I was keen to reimagine Persuasion, rather than retell it, so you probably noticed that I stripped out some of the elements that were harder to translate into the 21st century. As part of that, I decided that setting it outside the UK would help distance it from Regency England. And I’ve written a lot of American-set stories over the years, so I’m relatively confident of being able to carry it off—plus, having an American editor helped me avoid any glaring Briticisms.
In Between the Lines, I actually made Theo British—just for the fun of being able to write my own dialect. Although Theo’s lived in the States for quite a few years, so he’s kind of bilingual!
CO: What do you do when you’re not reading or writing? Do you have time to read for pleasure?
SM: The short answer is, since reading and writing are my favourite things to do, I tend to do them both as much as I can. I’m the sort of person who finishes one book and immediately jumps into the next one—and that goes for both reading and writing. I feel like an addict at times!
When I am dragged away, I enjoy the movies and the theatre (when I can afford it). I have a couple of history degrees, so I’m always interested in politics and history and will drag my family off to see particularly interesting exhibitions. Living in London means there’s a lot to see.
CO: Can you tell us a little about what you’ve got in the pipeline?
Well I’ve just released a Christmas novella, also set in New Milton, called Love Around the Corner—which is about two guys who are enemies in real life, unaware that they’ve fallen in love online. It’s fun and sweet and very Christmassy!
Up next is a project I’m calling Last Kiss, which is set in 1919 and is about two British soldiers who met and grew close on the Western Front. The Honourable Mr Ashleigh Dalton is an upper-class officer who lost a leg in the fighting, and Harry West is the man who saved his life. The story is set just after the end of WW1, when Harry, unemployed and desperate, comes to work for Ashleigh’s father at their house in the country. Ashleigh, angry and traumatised by his wartime experience, finds solace in his renewed friendship with Harry. But a friendship across the boundaries of class—never mind the intense love affair Ash and Harry embark upon— is impossible in the eyes of Ashleigh’s aristocratic family. And storm clouds soon threaten the fragile happiness the two men have found in each other’s arms…
I’m planning to finish Last Kiss over Christmas and will publish it next year. It’s another book I’m passionate about, so I hope readers will love it too.
CO: I’m a bit of a WW1 buff myself, so that sounds like something I’ll be eager to snap up! Sally, thanks for joining me at AAR today – it’s been great to chat, and I wish you every success with future books.
SM: Thanks so much for having me, Caz, and for the great questions—it’s been really fun!
Between the Lines
Theo Wishart has given up on finding love.
Luca Moretti doesn’t want to find it.
A handful of summer days may change their lives forever—if they’re brave enough to look between the lines.
Eyes might be windows to the soul, but for Theo Wishart they’re all shuttered. His dyspraxia makes it hard to read people. He doesn’t do relationships and he certainly doesn’t do the great outdoors. Two weeks spent “embracing beach life” while he tries to close the deal on a once great, now fading seaside hotel is a special kind of hell.
Until Luca. Gorgeous, unreachable Luca.
Luca Moretti travels light, avoiding all romantic entanglements. Estranged from his parents, he vows this will be his last trip home to New Milton. His family’s hotel is on the verge of ruin and there’s nothing Luca can do to save it. He’s given up on the Majestic, he’s given up on his family and he’s given up on his future.
Until Theo. Prickly, captivating Theo.
No mushy feelings, no expectations, and no drama—that’s the deal. A simple summer fling. And it suits them both just fine. But as the summer wanes and their feelings deepen, it’s clear to everyone around them that Theo and Luca are falling in love. What will it take for them to admit it to themselves—and to each other?
Sally writes emotional and sweetly angsty romances, always with a happy ending. Perfect Day was her first published male/male romance, with Love Around the Corner and Between the Lines following swiftly behind. She lives in London with her American husband, two lovely children, and two lazy cats.
The Romance genre holds a special place in my heart, but I tend to read across genres and I think my Best of 2018 really reflects that. Looking over my Goodreads history, it was easy to pull out reads that stood head and shoulders above the rest, and they happened to be a sampling from several different kinds of reads. Nonfiction, True crime, Fantasy and of course Romance – 2018 really brought me great reads in every sector. Hopefully my list either points you in the direction of something you may have overlooked, or helps you buy a gift for a tricky person on your list!
This was such a powerful read about a time in a woman’s life that I feel like is never discussed enough. It was such an eye-opener into the vast experience that is carrying and then having a child. I couldn’t go two weeks after I finished it without bringing it up in conversation. And all anyone heard me say was “a book about having a baby,” which only made the book itself more relevant to me.
If you are into true crime and hearing true crime stories, but also addicted to podcasts, this YA novel is the perfect read for you. It was the marriage of so many things that I love, and I finished reading it in little more than two sittings because it was just such good story-telling. There’s also an accompanying serialized “podcast,” cut straight from the full cast audiobook, which I highly recommend to enhance your reading experience (if you don’t just go full audio).
Michelle McNamara was all of us; a true crime junkie of the highest order. But her unbelievable research skills allowed her to investigate the crimes of a mystery murderer, rapist and burglar who remained a mystery for thirty plus years. Michelle McNamara unfortunately died before the release of her book, which made listening to it a little bittersweet, but the writing was flawless and the narrator, Gabra Zackman, helped make this a truly harrowing experience.
I am so glad to have caught the debut of this new cozy series this year! A classic cozy formula and a little paranormal made for a DIK read for me. This was a great mystery with many suspects, and you’ll be guessing all of the way to the end.
This is the third novel in the Wayward Children series, and it was just as good as the first two. With some new characters and a new world, it kept up the inventiveness of the series and, as always, it was the quickest read I’ve had all year.
I loved this young adult historical fiction novel. Kang is actually a doctor in real life and author of several other medically/biologically focused novels. Her expertise really comes across in this one and it’s an easy-to-follow compelling mystery with an excellent heroine who isn’t overshadowed by the romance of the book.
Decker Thorne (aka Pont Epine, aka Ponty Pine, aka Falconer, aka slow your nomenclature roll, dude) has always loved Jonna Remington, the woman running Remington Shipping, never mind that she’s like 24 and that’s kind of questionable for anybody running a multi-continental logistics empire, let alone a woman in the 1840s. The problem is that they both have Big Secrets keeping them from each other. Jonna’s home is a station on the Underground Railroad, and if she marries a man, she jeopardizes the safety of her escapees. But ta-da, Decker’s secret is that as Falconer, who is not at ALL a rip-off of the Scarlet Pimpernel, he secretes runaway slaves on Remington ships and whisks them north. Meanwhile, fellow shipping line owner Grant Sheridan (Union generals Ulysses S Grant and Philip Sheridan’s love child, I suppose?) is a well-known abolition activist, but also is Jonna’s unwelcome and harassing suitor, so you will not be at all shocked to learn that he’s a secretly trading slaves, because people cannot be complex.
Goodman did lots of historical research for this book, and I even learned some new things from it. For instance, Sheridan is transporting people from Africa in spite of the 1808 ban on the transatlantic slave trade. I had never heard about this. Although my research suggests that trade between the Deep South, the Caribbean, and Brazil was more common than Grant’s transatlantic route, that trip did continue to happen, and I appreciate Goodman for alerting me to it.
However, that degree of accuracy makes the lack of accuracy about the Underground Railroad a worse failure. The fact that she is right about something odd and obscure raises her credibility, so we mistakenly trust that her portrayal of a more famous area of history won’t be riddled with stereotypes and racism.
But it is. Because at its core, My Reckless Heart is a white savior narrative.
In his piece “Myths about the Underground Railroad,” historian Henry Louis Gates, Jr. writes, “Often well-meaning white people crafted … stories that placed white “conductors” in heroic and romantic roles in the struggle for black freedom, stealing agency from supposedly helpless and nameless African Americans (who braved the real dangers).” And this is precisely what happens here. A safe house, statistically, probably belonged not to white, non-Quaker Jonna but to a free black person like Philadelphian William Still, who for fourteen years coordinated the escapes of more than 800 individuals. The title of legendary conductor is stolen from a self-made and self-freed brilliant black woman (Harriet Tubman; “dope as hell”) and given to Decker, a white male.
And their greatest threat? Not the whites who own and trade slaves or hunt fugitives as bounty hunters or civil law enforcement. Nope, the person working to bring down Falconer’s escape path is Rachel (note no surname), Grant Sheridan’s black mistress.
See, Grant ordered Rachel south to pose as an escaping slave to find and betray Falconer. She goes because she loves Grant even though he decides that Rachel’s escape story should involve desperately breaking out of a pair of manacles, so he creates a convincing wound by HOLDING HER DOWN AND HAVING A DOG CHEW OFF THE BASE OF HER HAND. (sets table back up so I can flip it again)
(flips it again).In fairness to the author, and Rachel, it does seem that Rachel was planning to disappear, except her rescue placed her at Jonna’s house where Grant spotted her. But once Stockholm Grant is back on the scene, Rachel goes back to helping him uncover Falconer, which is weird since, you know, she’s a free woman back in Boston and doesn’t really have to do a goddamn thing for Grant.
So Rachel is emotionally abused and physically mutilated AND DID I MENTION she’s posing as mute, because let’s get LITERAL about excluding black voices, y’all. Eventually, she strategically moves paperwork in such a way that both Grant and Decker are revealed to each other, and then gets the hell out of town, where she spends the rest of her life as a pirate queen with a steampunk gadget on her injured wrist that can pop out a shiv or spray whipped cream, depending on what she’s in the mood for.
No, just kidding. She goes back to Grant, who beats her almost to death and traps her, alive, in a coffin alongside one holding Decker. Placing both on the deck of his ship, he tauntingly asks Jonna to pick which one he should kick into the Atlantic. After Grant lets her out and Decker returns to whitely save the day, Rachel is shocked to learn that Jonna and Decker want to spare Grant’s life to take him back to Boston and put him on trial (slave trading, by the way, was a death penalty offense, so it’s not like they’re sparing him – just avoiding responsibility). Rachel hits her breaking point (about damn time) and stabs Grant. But she still loves him, so she cradles his body and sings to him as he dies. Then she commits suicide by flinging herself into the ocean. Expedient, because Jonna and Decker’s love affair with due process probably wouldn’t go so well for a black woman.
(takes axe to table, then sits deliberately among splinters, because discomfort is necessary for growth)
I don’t even know how to conclude this but I guess here are some points for white authors.
Find out if there were non-white people in your setting. If they were there, include them.
Once you include them, do a quick read to see if they are flat or 3D, if they are villains or heroes, stereotypes or not. If your only black characters are helpless escaped slaves and a villainess, go back and rewrite. (Make Jonna’s housekeeper black, and the original mastermind who leads Jonna into conducting! Make one of Falconer’s Southern contacts black! MAKE ANYBODY BLACK WHO HAS AUTHORITY OR AGENCY!)
Also, don’t inflict violence on PoC bodies as a plot device
If you are adapting actual historical achievements for your protagonists, find out who did them in real life. Do not steal achievements by PoCs and attribute them to white characters.
If you DO make your white characters do or lead things PoCs did or led in real life, then make them or the narrator talk about or respect the real PoCs.
If you do NONE of these things, apologize for it in your afterword, and recommend a better book.
This has been an interesting year for romance. It was one where contemporaries have thrived, YAs have blossomed – but it’s been harder to find the right kind of historical. In reverse order, here are my favorite books of 2018!
YA has had one heck of a year; I can name at least six books in the genre I’d give an easy best of recommendation to. Lee’s book makes the grade for so many reasons, but the first is that it’s terribly absorbing and easy to fall into. A rip-roaring adventure that gives us the next step in Felicity’s adventures, this book is about self-discovery and self-assuredness. An asexual, aromantic heroine who dreams of becoming a doctor and finds her calling in the world at large, a lesbian Muslim pirate looking for a treasure and family, a society rose who’s been smothered by social expectations – together they make a sound family, and I wait with anticipation to see what the next slice of Lee’s world does for us.
None of the books I’ve read this year have stuck with me as strongly as Fine’s fable about a girl born in the rotting body of her mother, whose ability to curse those around her with eternal life or death determines the future she will live. It’s not a pretty story, but it’s a powerful one filled with thickly-brewed worldbuilding.
Some stories feel like you could just reach out and enter their pages. Quinn Anderson’s Fourteen Summers – about two men whose long-term childhood friendship blossoms into true love – tells the story of a small seaside town and two lives that are straining to grow in a way that feels familiar yet fresh.
There are a number of wonderful writers (Katherine Ashe, Meredith Durran, Maya Rodale, Beverly Jenkins, Margurite Kaye, Heaths both Virginia and Lorraine, Jo Goodman) who produced historicals that were excellent this year, but my absolutely favorite was Charles’ Heyer parody, which paid loving tribute to regency tropes while gently tweaking them and showing us the relationship between a rake and a retiring country squire that takes place during the meeting of a Hellfire Club (of sorts).
There’s a reason why everyone you know has been raving about Long’s sweet contemporary romance about a school principal and a PTA mom who manage to fall in love among a lot of laughs; it was meltingly sweet and hot. A treat of an experience.
You don’t need me to tell you how good Helen Hoang’s The Kiss Quotient is. The story of a mathematician who hires an escort to teach her the basics of physical affection, it’s charming and sweet and tender and funny without being saccharine. If you haven’t been swept away by Stella and Michael’s story yet, please pick it up – you won’t regret it.
Trying to pick my favorite contemporary romance of the year, as you can see, was one heck of a difficult task. Jenny Holiday’s It Takes Two makes the list because of all of the ways it manages to emphasize how difficult it can be to fall in love when you’ve got baggage. Nothing about the long pathway that Wendy and Noah take toward true love is smooth – which is what makes the book such a richly rewarding experience.
Guillory put forth two great books this year, but The Proposal was my favorite by far. Part sparkling romantic comedy, part a story about two people thrown together by circumstances who instead are richly rewarded by finding true love with each other – and a trenchant observation about what public scrutiny can do to people in this day and age of viral online media. Nik in particular is a heroine for the ages.
Sherry Thomas’ Lady Sherlock series has been one of the best historical mystery series ever published. Yes, I’m willing to say that much about it, because it really is just that good. Her take on the much-trod Holmes mythos is impeccably researched, well-populated with interesting characters, and deliciously written. It’s impossible to come away from one of these novels dissatisfied.
Sometimes, you open the pages of a book and find an incredibly relatable character staring right back at you. Menon’s Twinkle Mehra is someone most adults, tweens, and teenagers can look at and feel total sympathy with, but for me she was a kindred chum. As an aspiring filmmaker, following Twinkle’s journey through dealing with losing her best friend, gaining a crush, and trying to make her filmmaking aspirations come true, was like watching a little flickering piece of the person I once was – and still am – winking back at me from the pages of my e-reader. The novel is beautiful, and still the best thing I’ve read all year.