Review: Swear on this Life by Renée Carlino

Title: Swear on This Life
Author: Renée Carlino
Publication Date: August 2016 (Atria)
Pages: 306
Genre: Romance
Format: Paperback

Links to buy: |Amazon UK| |Book Depository|

When a bestselling debut novel from mysterious author J.Colby becomes the literary event of the year, Emiline reads it reluctantly. As an adjunct writing instructor at UC San Diego with her own stalled literary career and a bumpy long-term relationship, Emiline isn’t thrilled to celebrate the accomplishments of a young and gifted writer.

Yet from the very first page, Emiline is entranced by the story of Emerson and Jackson, two childhood best friends who fall in love and dream of a better life beyond the long dirt road that winds through their impoverished town in rural Ohio.

That’s because the novel is patterned on Emiline’s own dark and desperate childhood, which means that “J. Colby” must be Jase: the best friend and first love she hasn’t seen in over a decade. Far from being flattered that he wrote the novel from her perspective, Emiline is furious that he co-opted her painful past and took some dramatic creative liberties with the ending.

The only way she can put her mind at ease is to find and confront “J. Colby,” but is she prepared to learn the truth behind the fiction? [Goodreads]

Carlino outdoes herself as she gives us two stories in one novel: the present world, which follows Emiline struggling with her current relationship, and a novel written by J. Colby. But the J. Colby novel is also Emiline’s childhood. It did get a little exhausting at times and I am guilty of skimming one part of it.

After Emiline’s housemate, Cara, raves about the novel From All the Roads Between, Emiline reads it to escape her real life dilemmas. She gets she’s sucked in straight away, not because of the fiction but because it rings the truth. Her truth. And she knows who J. Colby is, Jase, her childhood best friend and someone she hasn’t seen in over a decade. But now he feels it’s okay to write about her life?! Fury and rage! Especially when he spills the truth about her private home life, with exaggeration to make it more dramatic.

Emiline reacted like any normal person and I liked how Carlino touched on the complexity about using personal and real life situations in a novel. It challenges the idea of writing as a whole – what is real? what is made up? But also what is acceptable. To Emiline and everyone in the book it seemed acceptable. I didn’t feel that way but each to their own…

It’s funny how when we get older we think more about our childhood freedom and friendships, but there was something in Carlino’s writing that didn’t hit a cord as much. From All the Roads Between was too gimmicky and left me feeling detached from Emiline, as we weren’t reading Emiline’s real feelings but a retelling and from Jase’s view point.

Writing a novel for someone and reiterating the terrible life someone once had doesn’t sound like a romantic gesture, no matter what the ending.

My rating:

It was okay

2 cups

Review: Someday, Someday, Maybe by Lauren Graham

Title:Someday, Someday, Maybe
Author:Lauren Graham
Publication Date: 2014
Pages: 358
Genre: Contemporary
Format: Paperback

Links to buy: |Amazon UK| |Waterstones| |Book Depository|

Franny Banks is a struggling actress in New York City, with just six months left of the three-year deadline she gave herself to succeed. But so far, all she has to show for her efforts is a single line in an ad for ugly Christmas sweaters and a degrading waitressing job. She lives in Brooklyn with two roommates – Jane, her best friend from college, and Dan, a sci-fi writer, who is very definitely not boyfriend material – and is struggling with her feelings for a suspiciously charming guy in her acting class, all while trying to find a hair-product cocktail that actually works.

Meanwhile, she dreams of doing “important” work, but only ever seems to get auditions for dishwashing liquid and peanut butter commercials. It’s hard to tell if she’ll run out of time or money first, but either way, failure would mean facing the fact that she has absolutely no skills to make it in the real world. Her father wants her to come home and teach, her agent won’t call her back, and her classmate Penelope, who seems supportive, might just turn out to be her toughest competition yet.

Someday, Someday, Maybe is a funny and charming debut about finding yourself, finding love, and, most difficult of all, finding an acting job. [Goodreads]

After finishing all episodes of Gilmore Girls, and enjoying it, I thought I’d try reading Graham’s novel, Someday Someday Maybe.  (Funnily enough I was very close to ordering this book a few years back).

Fran is still trying to find her big break in NYC and her deadline of three years is almost over. She’s awkward, nervous and self-conscious. She has to please an agent, a director, her fellow acting class members. And she’s constantly in battle with herself internally. Fran over-analyses everything, which is realistic but very dense to read, and then her thoughts would jump everywhere and anywhere they wanted. It became overwhelming and difficult to read. I had to take frequent breaks from the novel because I had to focus so hard when reading it.

Several pages were filled with Fran’s filofax with scribbles and doodles, which were a nice touch and a good way to break down the heavy text, though easy to flick through and ignore.

The romance is breezy and easy, and predictable. Their interaction was probably the only thing that managed to get me through, with their banter similar to Lorelai and Luke’s relationship in Gilmore Girls.

Not a lot happens, yet stuff does kinda happen.

My rating:

It was okay

2 cups

Review: It Ends With Us by Colleen Hoover

Title: It Ends With Us
Author: Colleen Hoover
Publication Date: August 2016 (Atria)
Pages: 376
Genre: Romance
Format: Paperback

Links to buy: |Amazon UK| |Waterstones| |Book Depository|

Lily hasn’t always had it easy, but that’s never stopped her from working hard for the life she wants. She’s come a long way from the small town in Maine where she grew up – she graduated from college, moved to Boston, and started her own business. So when she feels a spark with a gorgeous neurosurgeon named Ryle Kincaid, everything in Lily’s life suddenly seems almost too good to be true.

Ryle is assertive, stubborn, and maybe even a little arrogant. He’s also sensitive, brilliant, and has a total soft spot for Lily, but Ryle’s complete aversion to relationships is disturbing.

As questions about her new relationship overwhelm her, so do thoughts of Atlas Corrigan – her first love and a link to the past she left behind. He was her kindred spirit, her protector. When Atlas suddenly reappears, everything Lily has built with Ryle is threatened. [Goodreads]

A heartbreaking novel that delivers on everything that Hoover said she wanted it to reflect in her acknowledgements. I’m always unsure about how to books with serious topics but I’ll try my best, reviewing it as a piece of fiction.

The blurb itself sells the novel as a love triangle, which is what I found most troubling.I had no idea of the themes in this book and I wonder now if that would have had an affect on my reading experience. It makes Atlas seem like a huge part of the novel when he’s not. It’s not about Atlas, but Lily and Ryle and their relationship development.

Lily  falls, bends and breaks for Ryle. And I hated it. Everything that she did for Ryle and what she let slide because it was Ryle. I didn’t understand any of it. She wants to run from her past and never go through what her mother went through with her father, yet when she finds herself in the same situation, she does nothing.

I found myself watching Lily from a distance rather than really connecting with her. I was mostly angry with her because of what she allowed herself to go through. The worst part is that she knew and did nothing, as if she wouldn’t have the support from those around her.

The thing that made me keep going was that small bit of hope. I wanted and needed her to do the right thing.

And being a helpless reader, all I could really do was read on ’til the end.

My rating:

I liked it

Review: On The Fence by Kasie West

Title: On The Fence
Author: Kasie West
Publication Date: 2014 (HarperTeen)
Pages: 296
Genre: Romance
Format: Paperback

Links to buy: |Amazon UK| |Waterstones| |Book Depository|

For sixteen-year-old Charlotte Reynolds, aka Charlie, being raised by a single dad and three older brothers has its perks. She can outrun, outscore, and outwit every boy she knows—including her longtime neighbor and honorary fourth brother, Braden. But when it comes to being a girl, Charlie doesn’t know the first thing about anything. So when she starts working at chichi boutique to pay off a speeding ticket, she finds herself in a strange new world of makeup, lacy skirts, and BeDazzlers. Even stranger, she’s spending time with a boy who has never seen her tear it up in a pickup game.

To cope with the stress of faking her way through this new reality, Charlie seeks late-night refuge in her backyard, talking out her problems with Braden by the fence that separates them. But their Fence Chats can’t solve Charlie’s biggest problem: she’s falling for Braden. Hard. She knows what it means to go for the win, but if spilling her secret means losing him for good, the stakes just got too high. [Goodreads]

Charlie is the only female in the Reynolds household. The family is chaotic, but only in a normal family way, and I loved the dynamic between them. They look out for one another and annoy each other and have silly jokey dares. It’s nice yet amazing that they bonded so well, though there wasn’t anything remarkably rememberable about them individually. They were  a gang to hang out with and I wish there was a bit more to them. There’s also a point where Charlie says she’s closest to her eldest brother… didn’t really get those vibes and what was his name again?

With her new job at the boutique, tom-boy Charlie is dragged down into the world of fashion and make-up, something she has never touched before. Linda and Skye become Charlie’s outside family, people who she can discuss ‘girly’ things with. She keeps it hidden from her family, not wanting her brothers to tease her about her fashion choices. But it’s also a time where her father realises that Charlie has a lack of female inspiration, and bless him, he starts trying to get Charlie to open up. Although he only has a small part in the novel, you can tell Charlie’s father tries so hard to steer the family in the right direction.

With different people in her life expecting certain things from her, Charlie finds comfort in the longtime family friend and boy-next-door, Braden. Making nightly visits to the fence that separates their houses, they gather their thoughts in the quiet of the evening. And if this book has taught me anything about Wests’ writing, it is she can ace awkward scenes. It’s easy to jump to conclusions and make assumptions when you’re caught up in your own head and it’s exactly what Charlie does…. It plays out so so so well and I felt it all. It was totally relatable for me at my age and I am way beyond Charlie’s youthful sixteen year old age.

A fish out of water when it comes to adulting and trying to find her place, this is a coming-of-age-esque novel, this books sees through first romances, mistakes and mending of old wounds. Worth checking out and adding to your summer reading list!

I can’t wait to get through all her books – I wish I picked them up earlier!!

My rating
I really liked it

4 cup

Review: The Problem with Forever by Jennifer L Armentrout

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Title: The Problem with Forever
Author: Jennifer L Armentrout
Publication Date: 17th May 2016 (Mira Ink)
Pages: 474
Genre: Contemporary 
Format: Paperback

Links to buy: |Amazon UK| |Waterstones| |Book Depository|

For some people, silence is a weapon. For Mallory “Mouse” Dodge, it’s a shield. Growing up, she learned that the best way to survive was to say nothing. And even though it’s been four years since her nightmare ended, she’s beginning to worry that the fear that holds her back will last a lifetime.

Now, after years of homeschooling with loving adoptive parents, Mallory must face a new milestone—spending her senior year at public high school. But of all the terrifying and exhilarating scenarios she’s imagined, there’s one she never dreamed of—that she’d run into Rider Stark, the friend and protector she hasn’t seen since childhood, on her very first day.

It doesn’t take long for Mallory to realize that the connection she shared with Rider never really faded. Yet the deeper their bond grows, the more it becomes apparent that she’s not the only one grappling with the lingering scars from the past. And as she watches Rider’s life spiral out of control, Mallory faces a choice between staying silent and speaking out—for the people she loves, the life she wants, and the truths that need to be heard. [Goodreads]

After years of being homeschooled, Mallory wants to stop hiding. She wants to stop being the quiet one and fight her monsters. She wants to go to University to study but before that she must concur her fears and prove how much she has grown to her foster parents. The only way to do that is to go to a public high school for her senior year. And out of all the possibilities that she had in her mind none of them included Rider, her protector from the dangers in their childhood together, sitting next to her in class.

Mallory is an interesting and complex character to read about, even more so because Armentrout wrote in a first person narration. We don’t see her as quiet because her internal dialogue is so present. Her character arc is beautiful but it’s not perfect. Far from it and this is probably the downfall in this novel, but it’s also something that is realistic in a sense.

Both Rider and Mallory come from an abusive childhood and then they get separated. They both struggle. We’re so caught up in Mallory that Rider is sidelined throughout the novel and by the time we get to know him in the present it’s the end of the novel! So here’s what I make of it:
1) The main protagonist is Mallory and because of this we read around her. It’s her internal battle and her world. We are allowed to get caught up in our own struggles and achievements and goals.
But then 2) Mallory questions Rider and he is never responsive. She accepted that Rider was this “protector” figure but never asked how he really is. He is the one asking her the questions. Is she being selfish?

I did adore the interaction between Rider and Mallory. They knew one another so well as soon as they cross paths again it was like they were never apart. The ease in their friendship was really nice to read, though this novel does include the cliché mean and evil girlfriend. The events that rolled out with her were predictable… and there wasn’t really much to her than to be the enemy.

Rider Stark could have his own novel. Almost like Blood Brothers, both Mallory and Rider start out in the same place and part. I’d love to read about his life, though we get a glimpse into it near the end half of the novel.

**Recommend to those who’ve read or liked:
Until Friday Night by Abbi Glines |Goodreads|
The Sea of Tranquility by Katja Millay |Goodreads|

My rating
I really liked it

4 cup