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

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Review: Conspiracy Girl by Sarah Alderson

Title: Conspiracy Girl
Author: Sarah Alderson
Publication Date: 2015 (Simon & Schuster)
Pages: 306
Genre: Thriller
Format: Paperback

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

Everybody knows about the Cooper Killings .
There was only one survivor – a sixteen year-old Nic Preston

Now eighteen, Nic is trying hard to rebuild her life. But then one night her high-security apartment is broken into. It seems the killers are back.

Finn Carter – hacker, rule breaker, player – is the last person Nic ever wants to see again. He’s the reason her mother’s killers walked free from court. But as the people hunting her close in, Nic has to accept that her best and possibly only chance of staying alive is by keeping close to Finn and learning to trust the person she’s sworn to hate.

But the closer they get to the truth and the closer they get to each other, the greater the danger becomes.

To survive she has to stay close to him.
To keep her safe he has to keep his distance. [Goodreads]

Nic is trying to lay low and hide from the past.  But after her involvement in the killing, it’s become tricky to know who to trust, because people seem to be leeching on Nic so they can sell stories of her to the press.

But then the killers are back. Or killers who work just like the ones in the past and Nic has to run. She’s teamed up wth Finn, a genius hacker, and together they dig deep into the network and servers to figure out who the real murders are. It’s the first time that Nic lets go and trusts someone else who isn’t herself. But the closer they get, the more risky everything is and people they hold closest to could also get hurt.

I really loved this book! It was super quick to get through but packed with fast paced action and I was constantly flicking through the pages wanting to know what happens next.

Nic’s exhausted with the fact that she can never feel safe. When Nic and Finn get reacquainted it’s full of lots of awkward tension. He was the one who let Nic’s mothers killers run loose after all. They both know they need to be cautious around one another. Yet they both have flaws and a long unfortunate history, which they are trying to improve from the present, and they find comfort in one another. An escape from the manic chaos that’s happening around them.

Finn was by far my favourite character out of the two (the story being a duel narration). He is perceived to be the ‘baddie’ at the beginning, but when it comes to crime, he always seeks one thing: justice. Alderson planted lines about Finn early on, that almost made us see the worst in him! You’re not only guessing who the killers are but also who Finn is. Seriously fell hard for him and he’s definitely someone I’d like to have by my side if killers are chasing me down.

The climax of the book, wasn’t as climatic as I thought it’d be. The ‘reveal’ threw off the speed and excitement that build the whole book up and suddenly it was like I had to read through a GCSE science text book. The overwhelming pressure that kept Nic and Finn moving was gone and everything came to a stop. It didn’t work well for me. I also predicted who was behind everything…

I was really underwhelmed after reading the Hunting Lila duo, but Conspiracy Girl stole my heart away, crushed it a bit and then fixed it back up together… I thoroughly recommend!

My rating
I really liked it

4 cup

Review: Wicked Lovely (Wicked Lovely #1) by Melissa Marr

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Title: Wicked Lovely (Wicked Lovely #1)
Author: Melissa Marr
Publication Date: July 2008 (HarperCollins)
Pages: 328
Genre: Fantasy
Format: Paperback

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

Rule 3: Never stare at invisible faeries.

Aislinn has always seen faeries. Powerful and dangerous, they walk hidden in the mortal world.

Rule 2: Never speak to invisible faeries.

One of them, a beautiful faerie boy named Keenan, is trying to talk to her, asking questions Aislinn is afraid to answer.

Rule 1: Don’t ever attract their attention.

Now it’s too late. Keenan is the Summer King and is determined that Aislinn will become the Summer Queen at any cost. Without her, summer itself will perish… [Goodreads]

I don’t read enough fantasy novels, but I’ve always found myself instantly sold when I read a blurb about faes.

Aislinn has always been able to see fairies but they never bothered her so they were easy to avoid. But then she crosses paths with Keenan, a king searching for his Summer Queen, who’s a mortal who can overthrow the Winter Queen. Keenan has been searching for centuries and convinced that Aislinn is the queen so won’t leave her alone. It’s quite an uncomfortable read to be honest. Seeing this guy obsess over a female because of what he ‘thinks’ is right. He becomes a huge stalker, which is apparently okay because he’s the king. I absolutely hated Keenan because of this. He constantly spoke like he was superior to everyone and it was so horrible.

The narration jumps from three character’s: Aislinn, Keenan and Donia, a fae under the chill of the Winter Queen and the previous mortal that Keenan pursued thinking she was the queen. Through the different narrations we are able to learn everyones intentions and their ‘role’ in the story, which made it easier to differentiate the characters from one another. The narration jumps were smooth and easy to follow.

Seth, Aislinn’s best friend, was probably the only person I really loved. He was the only one who made sense to me. It is astounding that he didn’t freak out or laugh when Aislinn told him the truth but I thought the actions after were adorable. Seth was constantly trying to think about things logically and give Aislinn as much help as possible. His living situation is a little confusing (a train carriage??) but it adds to a quirk in his character right? A single male character gives whole book a higher rating. I’m too easy to please…

I will admit that by the end of the book I was confused. Still a little confused. I am definitely missing something. Because although it was a pleasing ending, the pieces didn’t click properly and the emotions on Keenan’s side felt very forced.

My rating:

It was okay

2 cups

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

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