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: 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: Before We Were Strangers by Renée Carlino

Title: Before We Were Strangers
Author: Renée Carlino
Publication Date: August 2015 (Atria)
Pages: 320
Genre: Romance
Format: Paperback

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

To the Green-eyed Lovebird:
We met fifteen years ago, almost to the day, when I moved my stuff into the NYU dorm room next to yours at Senior House. You called us fast friends. I like to think it was more.

We lived on nothing but the excitement of finding ourselves through music (you were obsessed with Jeff Buckley), photography (I couldn’t stop taking pictures of you), hanging out in Washington Square Park, and all the weird things we did to make money. I learned more about myself that year than any other.

Yet, somehow, it all fell apart. We lost touch the summer after graduation when I went to South America to work for National Geographic. When I came back, you were gone. A part of me still wonders if I pushed you too hard after the wedding…

I didn’t see you again until a month ago. It was a Wednesday. You were rocking back on your heels, balancing on that thick yellow line that runs along the subway platform, waiting for the F train. I didn’t know it was you until it was too late, and then you were gone. Again. You said my name; I saw it on your lips. I tried to will the train to stop, just so I could say hello.

After seeing you, all of the youthful feelings and memories came flooding back to me, and now I’ve spent the better part of a month wondering what your life is like. I might be totally out of my mind, but would you like to get a drink with me and catch up on the last decade and a half? – M

[Goodreads]

I saw this book back in 2015 when I was interning. There was a small stack of review copied on the side but I was too shy to ask about them.

Now skip two years and I have finally got my hands on it – having no idea what the story was about and only remembering the cover and the title.

Matt is painfully dragging himself through work everyday. Not only does he have to work with his ex-wife but is reminded that she had an affair with someone else everyday as they all work in the same office. He’s exhausted of life. But then, whilst waiting at a train station, he spots Grace – someone he used to love and he fell out of touch with. It’s fate! His ‘angel’ is back. But she’s gone in a blink as the doors shut and the train leaves and he’s left on the platform. Luckily they have that important eye lock and the story can progress…. Matt craves to be reconnected with Grace and so posts it online, hoping she’d find it, and hoping they can find the closure that they never got before.

So this story is split into Four Movements, jumping backwards and forwards in Matt and Grace’s relationship, seeing them fall in and out of love. Matt is miserable. But can you blame his lack of enthusiasm when he has to witness his wife have a successful relationship with a close colleague? Even worse is that his boss is a total sleaze. But when he spots Grace, all the memories of their youthful times together floods back and he needs to know what went wrong all those years ago.

It was really easy to enjoy Matt and Grace together. They click so quickly. Their friendship is easy and simple. But it’s Grace who doesn’t feel adequate with her lack of money and Matt has to ‘come to the rescue’. This is only one of the clichés in this book, among this is the ‘virgin’ trait. What makes up for these are the flaws that both Matt and Grace have. They moved on and found what’s best for themselves. It was a relief to know they don’t become static. It’s a huge part of what I love about Matt and Grace. Romances typically dwell on the one that got away and actually end up at a dead end. Grace and Matt carved the best lives they could for themselves despite their fall out. And a fifteen year gap is definitely not the biggest break I’ve read about **Where Rainbows Ends by Cecelia Ahern.

Their journey was very predictable, and does fall very classically into the romance and NA genre, but that doesn’t take back from my enjoyment of the novel. I found it very entertaining and fun to read. It’s amazing what they made for themselves and I always love reading about those in the Arts.

The final ending was anti-climatic and felt rushed. After the majority of the book covering how they met and their time at university, there wasn’t much time to show their reconnection. It relied a lot on the past feelings. The defining theme at the end of the novel makes the conclusion somewhat pleasing.

My rating
I really liked it

4 cup

TV Review: Confess

As a huge fan of Colleen Hoover’s work, I was excited to see the TV adaptation of her ninth novel, Confess.

For a refresh, and for those who haven’t read the book, here’s the summary:

Auburn Reed is determined to rebuild her shattered life and she has no room for mistakes. But when she walks into a Dallas art studio in search of a job, she doesn’t expect to become deeply attracted to the studio’s enigmatic artist, Owen Gentry.

For once, Auburn takes a chance and puts her heart in control, only to discover that Owen is hiding a huge secret. The magnitude of his past threatens to destroy everything Auburn loves most, and the only way to get her life back on track is to cut Owen out of it—but can she do it? [Goodreads]

I tend to tread lightly into adaptations of books, mostly because they are a disappointment. Confess wasn’t my favourite Hoover novel, so I was less worried about them ‘ruining’ the book and more excited to see how it’s adapted.

The series is made up of seven episodes, each lasting 20 minutes. I am super impressed that Elissa Down, the writer and director, managed to jam the major events in the book into the series. So of course, that’s great and the story arc remains very much the same. The actors also did a fabulous job with the script.

I really didn’t like the book version of Auburn. She was a bit flat and nothing made her stick. What Katie Leclerc, who plays Auburn Reed in the show, brought forward was better than in the book. She’s awkward and unsure about herself, especially when it comes to Owen. She is also always with food, which I love more than I should but awkarward+food is also me. Auburn’s always being told what she needs to do and you can really feel how alone she is  because of this. She’s got the pressure of everyone around her but seeking the company of Owen Gentry is her first personal choice.

But of course, this creates conflict in what she’s really moved for and her internal battle is shown through unsent text messages. This was a very awkward, especially when it came to the end of the first episode when AJ is introduced. It made the end of that episode anticlimactic and wasn’t as a big moment as I would have liked.

It was still very true to the book in the case of Trey and Linda. Once a villain, always a villain. I don’t think there is anything that could make me feel anything but hate for the duo. Rock Myers plays the bastard cop, Trey, pretending he’s doing Auburn favours when he’s disturbingly creepy and greedy with his social power as a police officer. Linda (Sherilynn Fenn), acts coolly as she brushes Auburn off several times, refusing to let her see AJ, and scorning Auburn throughout. I do feel like Auburn should have been a bit more sassier with Linda, just because I found many of Auburn’s reactions to Linda annoying and like a child. Though maybe this was to show her helplessness with their relationship.

Ryan Cooper, or as I like to call him ‘fifty shades look alike guy’, also exceeded my expectations. The whole looks thing bugs me, although I’ve read many trailer comments and no one else seems to have a problem with the similarity. I honestly just don’t want people to buy into the TV series as another Fifty Shades! Owen is one of the more complex main characters in the book and although there were touches of his relationship with his father (played by Kyle Secor,), I wish there was more, especially when it comes to his gallery. Secor was a brilliant as Callahan Gentry, calm collected in the presence of other people and nothing like a father when with Owen alone. Even though Callahan pulls through at the end, it isn’t enough to redeem himself from being a shitty father.

I would have liked to seen and hear about Owen’s past relationships. In the book, Owen has always had relationship problems because he’s so focused on his work. But his art doesn’t seem to be too time consuming… we hardly see him do any work!

Inevitably, due to the short series, there are some things that had to be compromised. The most disjointing thing about the series was the time frame that it was given.  It goes from Auburn and Owen meeting to three months later.

Auburn and Owen’s romance becomes an insta-love story instead of the slow build in the book. It was definitely up several notches, including too many ‘steamy’ scenes that just felt like a bit too much. The bar scene after the gallery show was cut. I loved that scene because it was the part of the book where we first read about Owen trying to impress Auburn, as she tries to keep him at arms length. Compromising, they did however they include the ten seconds of dancing, which I did appreciate and found super cute.

Sadly, no shell soaps but they have a variation of the blue tent.

They also seemed to have a really odd backing music throughout many of the scenes and music transitions that were noticeably awkward. Sometimes I felt like the scenes could have done with no music in the background as it took away the moments that were happening on screen.

Overall, I really enjoyed it – I think the first episode is my favourite!

My rating
I really liked it

4 cup

 

There’s a bunch of things that I’ve definitely left out so I’d love to hear what everyone else’s thoughts are about the series!

Even more interesting, I’d love to hear anyone’s thoughts about it if you haven’t read the book.

Comment below and leave your thoughts about the series! Let’s discuss!

Watch the Confess trailer below!

All seven episodes are streamable on Go90. They are also slowly releasing the series on YouTube for those who can’t watch it on Go90!

Read my review of the novel Confess here.

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