Hardcover: 400 pages
Publisher: Simon Pulse (3rd May 2016)
“I made the wrong choice.”
Lina is spending the summer in Tuscany, but she isn’t in the mood for Italy’s famous sunshine and fairy-tale landscape. She’s only there because it was her mother’s dying wish that she get to know her father. But what kind of father isn’t around for sixteen years? All Lina wants to do is get back home.
But then she is given a journal that her mom had kept when she lived in Italy. Suddenly Lina’s uncovering a magical world of secret romances, art, and hidden bakeries. A world that inspires Lina, along with the ever-so-charming Ren, to follow in her mother’s footsteps and unearth a secret that has been kept for far too long. It’s a secret that will change everything she knew about her mother, her father—and even herself.
People come to Italy for love and gelato, someone tells her, but sometimes they discover much more.
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Another contemporary bites the dust - alas! The word “cute” is probably plastered all over everyone’s reviews, and that is exactly what I wanted it to be, but it failed on so many counts that this just became a roller-coaster of eye-rolling for me whilst reading. I wanted to love this, trust me, I really did - it’s all there, Italy, gelato, cute falling in love in a beautiful city (there’s that word cute again) but the characters (or a certain character I should say) waft of insta-love and lack of actual chemistry, really set the ball rolling in my unwanted conclusion to really dislike this book.
The storyline was promising - Lina, our main character, arrives in Italy to stay with the father she hasn’t seen for 16 years, as a dying wish to her mother. She then discovers her Mum’s diary, learns more about her past which intricately links into her future. Along the way, she finds romance. I feel like this would have made the perfect movie - not dissimilar to Letters to Juliet (the immediate movie that pops to mind) but mainly also because as a story, as a book, this should have been oodles and oodles of cute and fun - but for me, it failed in that sense. I can’t even summarise coherently why, except for the reasoning that I didn’t much like Lina - to me at least, she came across as quite rude, judgemental, immature and not a likeable character. She meets Ren, who was likeable enough I guess, but in the long run of the book, these two together just lacked any real chemistry, everything with them felt too fast and stumbling rather than the slightly slower and sweeter burn I was expecting.
Also, Lina discovers her now deceased Mum’s diary, and is it just me, but if you discovered something like that, would you not be speeding through it at breakneck speed to find out everything as soon as you can? Rather than how Lina did it, in chunks, drips and drabs, at some snail pace? Kinda reminds me of Clay from 13 Reasons Why, who took 5eva in listening to all those tops (but fair enough for the book and TV show, you kinda had to long it out to actually move the plot along).
In terms of the rest of the characters, I really liked Lina’s Dad and felt bad for him, having to deal with this stroppy unappreciative teenager - fair enough she’s just moved all the way across to Italy, to live with the Dad she hasn’t seen in 16 years and her Mum has passed away - but her rudeness towards him is not warranted, also given she has no idea why she hasn’t seen him in so long - something she does find out later on, but still.
The writing style was okay, nothing spectacular, but readable - though the use of metaphors definitely could use some help. “My voice was like weak tea”. The upside however to this book, was the description and imagery of Italy, the hidden nooks and crannies of the places Lina and Ren go on to visit, and of course - the fooooood. The need for gelato and pasta as I read this book was unreal. This just wasn’t the book for me in the end - I’m glad others loved it enough to compensate for my dislike, but just the execution, the character growth and general feel of the book, just wasn’t for me.