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: 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

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.