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