BLOG TOUR REVIEW: The Disappeared – by Amy Lord #blogtour #RandomThingsTours @annecater

Hello and welcome to my little stop of the The Disappeared Random Things blog tour! A huge thanks to Anne Cater for inviting me to be part of this blog tour. I think 1984 is one of my favorite dystopian classics along with Fahrenheit 451, so the promise of another dystopian bookish story instantly made me curious. I was definitely happy with what I found! Want to know why? Please join me while I share my thoughts on The Disappeared.

Title: The Disappeared
Author: Amy Lord
Genre: Dystopia, Science Fiction
First published: May 2nd 2019
Publisher: Unbound
Finished reading: May 27th 2019
Pages: 368

“Our stories are how we grow and understand our place in the world. They give us a voice. They are fundamental to our being. We shouldn’t have to live without them.”

*** A copy of this book was kindly provided to me by Anne Cater and the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Thank you! ***

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Both 1984 and Fahrenheit 451 are among my favorite dystopian classics and I love books about books in general, so it’s easy to understand that when I read the blurb of The Disappeared I was immediately intrigued by the premise of this story. I definitely don’t complain about what I found instead either… It might be true that certain aspects of the plot might not be all that original, but there is also no doubt I highly enjoyed my time with The Disappeared. If you enjoy dystopian fiction with a bookish focus, you will be in for a treat with this story.

The Disappeared is set in a near future alternative UK where a new government is in power and controls absolutely everything. Think 1984, think censorship and being forbidden to read certain books or having thoughts that are against the government. The story is set in a terrifying alternative world where there are almost no books, no phones or modern gadgets and people are forced to live in tiny apartments and are no longer allowed luxury… Unless they form part of the new government of course. This contrast between this ‘elite’ life and the rest of the population is a big one, and is described very well with the help of the main character’s mother. The stark contrast between the different lifestyles is showed in Clara’s mom, particularly in how she had to make a choice after Clara’s dad was taken away all those years ago. It’s true that she lives in luxury now, but it came at a price… And would that price be worth it? Clara herself never accepted the new situation and was soon shipped off to boarding school in Scotland. This is yet another example of this contrast as ‘normal’ difficult people tend to disappear into thin air rather than relocated to a remote but safe location.

The story is told in different times and with different perspectives, and that way we learn more about past and present and how things came to be. As always, the younger generation doesn’t really remember the situation before the drastic changes. And with the censorship oppressing free thought, the new generation is not able to learn about it either if they don’t want to be in danger of being taken away. This danger is always present and one wrong thought or word can be your end… As is shown in examples throughout the story. Clara is of course aware of this danger as well, but even though she knows the consequences she is determined to rebel and go against the government anyway.

It’s true that some dystopian cliches are involved and not all aspects of the plot are all that original, but overall it didn’t distract too much. The Disappeared has some pretty brutal moments, especially those related to the interrogation and torture scenes. Action scenes are mixed with slower and more psychological ones, but well enough balanced to keep you going. I’m not sure if the ending was all that credible as things were wrapped up a little too conveniently. Still, there is no doubt that The Disappeared is a very interesting debut that pictures a terrifying alternative world we will hopefully never encounter ourselves. Imagine not being able to read your own books anymore!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Amy Lord is a writer, blogger and digital marketer from nort-east England. She won a Northern Writers’ Award in 2015 for The Disappeared and was also longlisted in the inaugural Bath Novel Award. An earlier manuscript saw her shortlisted for Route Publishing’s Next Great Novelist Award. Amy is currently working on a new novel, which was developed as part of a year-long mentoring scheme with Writers’ Block NE.

 

 


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DNF ARC REVIEW: Middlegame – by Seanan McGuire

Title: Middlegame
Author: Seanan McGuire
Genre: Fantasy, Fiction
First published: May 7th 2019
Publisher: Tor.com 
Finished reading: May 4th 2019
Pages: 528
DNF at 41% (217 pages)

“Numbers are simple, obedient things, as long as you understand the rules they live by. Words are trickier. They twist and bite and require too much attention.”

*** A copy of this book was kindly provided to me by Netgalley and Tor.com in exchange for an honest review. Thank you! ***

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WARNING: it’s unpopular opinion time again!

I never in the world expected to end up writing a DNF review for Middlegame. I absolutely adore the Wayward Children series and while I’ve yet to try her other work, I had full confidence this new story was going to be another winner. All those raving reviews and 5 star ratings only reconfirmed that belief… But I guess it wasn’t ment to be. First of all I have to stress that I feel really bad about the decision to DNF, especially since I almost never have to resort to such a drastic decision and Middlegame is such a highly anticipated title. Trust me, I haven’t taken this decision lightly,and I have really tried to overcome my initial feelings and warm up to the story. But after a second, third and fourth chance, I’m throwing in the towel at 41%. I’m very happy most people seem to be having a complete opposite experience from mine though. It’s easy to deduct Middlegame is able to provoke very strong reactions; either you get the story and you absolutely adore every single page, or you feel like a mighty confused heap of mess and are left clueless and lost in the woods. Spoiler: I’m part of the second group. Again, I’m feeling really bad for having to take this decision, but it is what it is I guess.

I’m having a hard time properly expressing why I struggled so much with this story, but a lot of it had to do with the fact that (especially in the beginning) I had no idea what I was reading. I was extremely confused and frustrated by the fact I didn’t understand what all those different characters and events had to do with each other, and with the fantastical elements left without a proper explanation it was mostly guesswork and question marks instead of me starting to understand the world. Middlegame can mostly be classified as urban fantasy with sci-fi elements, although some POVs are definitely hardcore fantasy. Those are without doubt the most confusing ones as no proper explanation was offered (or at least up to that point). I admit things got slightly better with some POVs, especially when we follow Roger and Dodger, as they offer an almost ‘normal’ world where things are easier to understand. I loved that Roger is all about words, that Dodger is a math genius and how they are connected. I wasn’t a real fan of the writing style, although their chapters are probably the most readable. I really disliked those chapters with Reed, but again part of the problem was that I felt information was missing and I couldn’t properly understand it. Ever read a sequel without reading the first book, finding yourself confused all the time because you are missing crucial information? That was how I felt most of the time while I was trying to read Middlegame. Again, I seem to be the exception here as most people seem to love this story, so don’t give up on Middlegame on my account. Just remember that if you do find yourself being a confused pile of mess when you are reading it, you are not the only one.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #97 – Before She Knew Him & These Broken Stars

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around a new release and a backlist title; a winner and a story that wasn’t for me. I’ve been wanting to read more of Peter Swanson ever since I finished The Kind Worth Killing, and I’m glad I finally did. I absolutely loved Before She Knew Him! On the other hand, I wasn’t sure if These Broken Stars would be for me as I feared it would be too heavy on the romance, and I definitely should have listened to my instincts.


Title: Before She Knew Him
Author: Peter Swanson

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: March 5th 2019
Publisher: William Morrow
Finished reading: April 26th 2019
Pages: 320

“I’m on a small boat in the middle of a huge storm. I need to ride the waves and wait for it all to blow over.”


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I’ve been meaning to read more Peter Swanson ever since I read The Kind Worth Killing back in 2017. When I saw the @criminallygoodbookclub on Instagram had chosen his newest story Before She Knew Him as their April read, I knew I had to join them and finally follow up on my intentions. I’m glad I did, because the story definitely lived up to expectations… What a read! After a string of reads that failed to blow me away completely, I finally found myself fully absorbed in a story again and posponed all plans until I had reached the final page. Before She Knew Him is well written, suspenseful and has an enormous plot twist bomb towards the end that will leave you with your mouth hanging wide open. With the help of different POVs we get an insight in the lives of Hen and her neighbor Matthew. Both are flawed and fascinating characters and the driving forces behind the story. I don’t want to reveal too much to avoid spoilers, but between the mental health angle and the unsolved murders, you will have a lot of suspense and intrigue waiting for you. The fact that Hen knows things early on, but nobody believes her because of her past with mental health (bipolar) problems, is both a very interesting and almost hardbreaking situation as people tend to judge without getting the full picture first. Not every character is all that likeable, but they feel real and their flaws are what makes Before She Knew Him so fascinating. This story also packs a HUGE surprise you won’t see coming at all… And I love it when a story is able to mislead me so well I actually yelled ‘WHAT?!?!’ when I stumbled across the reveal. If you enjoy the genre, Before She Knew Him is definitely a story not to miss.


Title: These Broken Stars
(Starbound #1)
Author: Amie Kaufman & Meagan Spooner

Genre: YA, Science Fiction, Romance
First published: December 10th 2013
Publisher: Disney Hyperion
Finished reading: April 27th 2019
Pages: 384

“Funny how I was old enough by sixteen to drink, fight, and vote, but eve two years later, I’m too young to respect.”


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I’ve had this series on my TBR for a long time, never actually picking it up as I wasn’t sure the story would be for me. Let’s face it: the cover is a strong indicator that These Broken Stars would be very heavy on the romance… But after Across The Universe pleasantly surprised me earlier this month, I decided to risk it. Unfortunately, my instincts turned out to be right this time around. Because there is one thing that is certain, and that is that These Broken Stars is oozing with sappy romance scenes. What I hoped would be an interesting science fiction story set in space, soon turned into a survival story on a foreign planet after only a few chapters… The main characters more busy with ‘ignoring’ their feelings and the whole forbidden love vibe than actually exploring or having interesting things happening to them. The survival angle could have been interesting enough once you get over the fact you won’t be getting more space actions or a true explanation behind the crash, but to be honest I was rather bored instead most of the time. For such an interesting setting, nothing much was actually happening. The story instead focuses almost completely on Lilac and Tarver and their complicated relationship. The rich heiress and the poor soldier stranded on an unknown planet after a crash; a forbidden love bout to happen. Can it get any more cliche than that? The only reason I decided to stick it through until the end is that the writing itself is engaging and made it easier to keep turning those pages even though nothing interesting was happening most of the time. Overall These Broken Stars had some very interesting ideas and a promising setting, but sadly those elements weren’t developed or taken advantage of. Romance fans who enjoy a forbidden romance story with a space setting will probably appreciate this first book of the Starbound series a lot more though.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #95 – Across The Universe & The Wolf Border

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time two completely different genres… The first a YA scifi story that turned out to be a pleasant surprise and also surprisingly light on the romance: Across The Universe by Beth Revis. I can’t say I was a fan of The Wolf Border by Sarah Hall though.


Title: Across The Universe
(Across The Universe #1)
Author: Beth Revis

Genre: YA, Science Fiction, Romance
First published: January 11th 2011
Publisher: Razorbill
Finished reading: April 14th 2019
Pages: 399

“Everything is wrong here. Shattered. Broken. Like the light.”


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I’ve been wondering whether I should try this series for years, mostly because I was fearing a romance overdose and wasn’t sure if it would be for me. I’m glad I finally gave in and tried Across The Universe, because my instincts turned out to be wrong this time around. Despite the romantic cover, this first book of a YA science fiction series set in space is surprisingly light on the romance. There are hints of it now and then, but the main focus is the fact that the story is set on a space ship and the mysterious attacks that take place. And as you might guess, that is a huge bonus for me! The writing is engaging and this story is really easy to read. I liked the setting on the ship and how the story is able to show us the effect of having to live on a ship for generations has on its inhabitants. The story has a dual POV, where we alternated between Amy and Elder. Amy’s situation is without doubt interesting and is the driving force behind the plot. I wasn’t sure about the whole Elder/Eldest idea and I did guess some of the plot twists, but overall Across The Universe was a very entertaining story to read and I liked how a murder mystery was mixed in with the science fiction elements. I’m definitely curious to find out how this series will continue now.


Title: The Wolf Border
Author: Sarah Hall

Genre: Fiction, Contemporary
First published: March 24th 2015
Publisher: Faber & Faber
Finished reading: April 20th 2019
Pages: 435

“There seems no need for anything else now. There is no wound. The only wound is life, recklessly creating it, knowing that it will never be safe, it will never last; it will only ever be real.”


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I got a copy of The Wolf Border at a hostel book exchange during our Europe trip last year, intrigued by the cover and blurb and the promise of a story set in the wilderness. I’ve been looking forward to finally read it, and I thought the O.W.L.s Readathon was a great excuse to do so… I didn’t expect to have the reaction I had to this story though. Why? The fact is, The Wolf Border was very close to getting me in a slump, and not in a good way. I literally made every possible excuse to not pick up my copy and do something else instead, and it took me considerably longer to finally reach that last page. I even thought about just DNFing it multiple times… In short, I don’t think The Wolf Border and me were ment to be. The first thing that surprised (and disappointed me) was the fact that the wilderness and wolves don’t play as much of a significant role in the story as the blurb lets to believe, the plot instead mostly focusing on Rachel and her complicated life. This story is mainly something that can be classified as a family drama with an overdose of unnecessarily explicit adult scenes (another turn off for me), with the wolves playing a background role rather than being the main attraction. Sure, some things can be said about the comparison of animal instincts and behavior between human and animal. This can be considered an interesting aspect of this story; the underlying message that we are still basically animals in the end. BUT. It’s hard thinking about this comparison and its cleverness when you can’t stand the characters and don’t feel a connection to them at all… The same goes for the writing style. The sentences are halted and the prose doesn’t seem to flow at all; making it hard to stay invested and focus on the story. I know some have loved The Wolf Border and I’m glad, but I personally had a really hard time finishing it for various reasons. It wasn’t my cup of tea, but I’m hoping others will like its taste.


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ARC REVIEW: The Fever King – by Victoria Lee

Title: The Fever King
(Feverwake #1)
Author: Victoria Lee
Genre: YA, Fantasy, Dystopia
First published: March 1st 2019
Publisher: Skyscape
Finished reading: March 5th 2019
Pages: 376

“Everything worth doing had its risks. Sometimes you had to do the wrong thing to achieve something better.”

*** A copy of this book was kindly provided to me by Netgalley and Skyscape in exchange for an honest review. Thank you! ***

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It was coverlove at first sight when I saw The Fever King first mentioned and after investigating further I really liked the sound of the blurb was well. I think that magic acting like a virus is a fascinating idea and a great starting point for a new series… The Fever King is set in a dystopian alternative future where a magical virus has been killing a lot of people for more than a century; the survivors end up being witchings with supernatural powers. They are basically a mix between witches and superheroes and it is an interesting take on the whole ‘a spider bit me’ phenomenon. Not everything about the plot might be all that original, but it is the characters who make this story stand out for me. For a YA dystopian series, there is a lot of focus on the characters rather than the dystopian world, but in this case I didn’t mind that much. Would I have liked to see more development of the alternative future the characters have to struggle in? Maybe. But Noam, Dara and even Lehrer make up for those holes and make this story worthwhile. Noam and Dara are easy to like and it was interesting seeing their characters and interaction evolve over time. Even Lehrer proved to be an interesting character, although I did had my guesses about him which turned out to be right… The other characters could have had more character development though. I did like how none of the three main characters is clearly good or bad, the author instead opting for blurred lines and basically humanity. The story started out quite slow, but picked up in the second half up to the point that it felt like a race against the clock. The writing is overall engaging and makes it easy to get to know and root for certain characters. Some of the plot twists were easy to guess and I didn’t agree with everything, but overall this was without doubt a very entertaining start of a new series. It does end with a cliffhanger though, so you’ve been warned…

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Noam has spent his whole life trying to help refugees fleeing magical outbreaks and trying to live in the nation of Carolinia. He was born here, but his parents have always been illegal… One day, Noam wakes up in a hospital bed, the sole survivor of the magical virus that has been tormenting the country for over a century. Him surviving means he is now a witching, and powerful enough to attract the attention of the Minister Of Defense Calix Lehrer himself. They soon discover his ability to control technology, and Noam accepts Lehrer’s offer to train him personally as a way to fight for the rights of the refugees from the inside. But that is easier said than done…

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Gorgeous cover aside, this was without doubt an entertaining start of a new dystopian alternative future series. In The Fever King magic is in fact a virus that will kill most and leave the survivors with superpowers. A very interesting take on magic and without doubt one of the stronger features of this story. While the worldbuilding is a bit simple and not that developed, the three most important characters (Noam, Dara and Lehrer) mostly make up for it as they all have something special to add to the story. I would have liked to see the other important characters being more developed though, and the pace did start out a bit slow. But the story ends in a whirlwind and will definitely leave you craving for more.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #85 – Shatter Me (DNF) & Wintergirls

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around two books that have been published over five years ago and titles I’ve been meaning to get to for a while. The first, Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi, sadly turned out to be my first DNF of the year. The second, Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson, is without doubt an emotionally tough read to read with lots of trigger warnings and a prose that is both beautiful, almost bordering the magical realism realm and at the same time somehow started to irk me.


Title: Shatter Me
(Shatter Me #1)
Author: Tahereh Mafi

Genre: YA, Dystopia, Romance
First published: November 15th 2011
Publisher: HarperCollins
Finished reading: February 13th 2019
Pages: 357
DNF at 51% (182 pages)

“The moon understands what it means to be human. Uncertain. Alone. Cratered by imperfections.”


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WARNING: It’s unpopular opinion time again! Please don’t feel offended if you love this series. We are all entitled to our own reactions and feelings after all…

Ever had your sixth sense screaming at you to back off and stay away? Well, that is what happened to me whenever I started thinking about trying the Shatter Me series. I’m not sure why or how, but there was just something about it that made me think it wouldn’t be for me… But curiosity won in the end and made me ignore my instincts. I should have known better… Because sadly this turned out to be my very first DNF of the year. Why? There were various reasons, but the main one is this: I absolutely could not stand the writing style. The endless metaphors, the short sentences, the wacky grammar, the 1 2 3 4 numbers… It seemed like every single word and page was destined to annoy me to the limit and I simply reached a point where I couldn’t take it anymore. I feel sad for reacting this way to a story I know so many seem to love, but that doesn’t take away that Shatter Me and me definitely didn’t get a long. Nothing much was happening in the pages I read either; lots of words, metaphors and feelings, but no real actions or proper worldbuilding descriptions. The fact that I could already see a love triangle coming from a mile away didn’t really help either. Things might have improved in the second half, but since I had such an extreme reaction to the writing style and had already started skimreading just to reach the end faster, I decided to throw in the towel and leave this series alone to be enjoyed and treasured by those who can connect to it. Oh well, at least I know for sure now… Intuition, you were right. Sorry I didn’t listen to you.


Title: Wintergirls
Author: Laurie Halse Anderson

Genre: YA, Fiction, Contemporary
First published: March 19th 2009
Publisher: Speak
Finished reading: February 20th 2019
Pages: 300

“The sentences build a fence around her, a Times Roman 10-point barricade, to keep the thorny voices in her head from getting too close.”


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I have been meaning to try one of Laurie Halse Anderson‘s books for years, but somehow other books always ended up getting in the way. The BTB Epic Bingo challenge was the perfect excuse to finally pick up Wintergirls. I didn’t know what to expect when I started reading this story, and if you go in blind you will definitely be up for a surprise. Trigger warnings are in place for eating disorders, self harm, cutting, suicide and mental health problems… Wintergirls is a story that will bring those cold and chilling winter feels and is an emotionally draining read that shows us the struggle of the main character with her eating disorder and the way she sees herself and her surrounding world. It’s not an easy or happy read, but I thought the topic was well handled and represented in Lia. The prose is both beautiful, almost bordering the magical realism realm and at the same time somehow irked me at points. I named magical realism because the writing sometimes almost has that otherwordly and magical feel, especially the descriptions of how Lia sees herself and the world. The story also has a hint of paranormal with a symbolic feel; those two aspects making it hard to properly place the story in just one genre. I suppose you can say this is mostly a realistic fiction story with a mental health angle, where we can see how the eating disorder takes over Lia’s life through her very own eyes. I had a hate/love relationship with the writing style, but there is no doubt that the writing has that original and almost otherworldly feel and I can understand why so many people seem to love this story.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #82 – A Wrinkle In Time & What If It’s Us

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time a modern classic I somehow never read when I was younger and a new release I have been really excited about. Both turned out to be really good reads! A Wrinkle In Time by Madeleine D’Engle and What If It’s Us by Becky Albertalli & Adam Silvera.


Title: A Wrinkle In Time
(Time Quintet #1)
Author: Madeleine D’Engle

Genre: Middle Grade, Science Fiction, Classics
First published: 1962
Publisher: Yearling Books
Finished reading: February 1st 2019
Pages: 211

“Life, with its rules, its obligations, and its freedoms, is like a sonnet: You’re given the form, but you have to write the sonnet yourself.”


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Somehow, I’ve managed to grow up without ever reading this modern classic. Don’t ask me how, don’t ask me why, but I sure wish I would have been able to read it twenty years ago… Still, A Wrinkle In Time made a more than solid impression on me as an adult. I definitely understand the love for this story now! The writing style draws you right in and is very engaging and timeless. Even though the story was first published over 50 years ago, it will still be easy for children and adults alike to connect to this story. The plot itself is simple, but the setting in space and the time warps give the story a little something extra. The main characters are easy to like and all have their own personality. I also really liked how Mrs. Whatsit and her friends were represented not only with descriptions but also in the way they talked. The ending was a bit too abrupt, easy and ‘clean’ for me, but overall I had a great time discovering A Wrinkle In Time. I’m not sure if I will continue the series any time soon, but I’ll definitely keep it in mind for the future.


Title: What If It’s Us
Author: Becky Albertalli & Adam Silvera

Genre: YA, Contemporary, Romance
First published: October 9th 2018
Publisher: HarperTeen
Finished reading: February 4th 2019
Pages: 448

“I believe in love at first sight. Fate, the universe, all of it. But not how you’re thinking. I don’t mean it in the our souls were split and you’re my other half forever and ever sort of way. I just think you’re meant to meet some people. I think the universe nudges them into your path.”


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I’m a fan of both Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera’s books, so I have been eagerly awaiting this collaboration ever since I first heard about it. I already had that feeling I was probably going to enjoy What If It’s Us, and it turns out my instincts were absolutely right. This was such an adorable read! The writing, the main characters, the geeky elements (go The Sims and Harry Potter references among others!)… It was just all so cute and fluffy and I had a wonderful time reading it. The story is told in alternate chapters going between Ben and Arthur. Each has his own personality shining through in everything and also has his own set of companion characters that will slowly merge together as one big group. I really loved the idea of the missed connection, the search of the so-called needle in the hackstack and what happens afterwards. The characters are all well developed, feel realistic and I love that they not only represent the lgbt community but also minority groups in such a natural way. The plot itself does have its moments where credibility is in doubt and there were also cliches as well as a love triangle involved, but overall this minor flaws fade away compared to the rest of the story. My heart melted for these characters, and as a Harry Potter and The Sims fan I’m stoked to see references to both incorporated into the story. There are other fandoms included as well and I just LOVE that Ben writes his own story. There is a lot to love in this cute, adorkable and fluffy read and fans of the genre will adore What If It’s Us. Without doubt a winner!


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