Review: Swear on this Life by Renee Carlino

01 aa Talk about a book fog. Ever since I saw the cover for Swear on this Life I was intrigued. After my mad love for Before We Were Strangers part of me was nervous though. I mean that book was my #1 book for 2015, so that’s mighty big shoes to fill. But let me tell you, Renee totally nailed it. I woke up early on a Saturday morning, and never left the bed until I finished the book. I never stopped. I was pulled in and there was no stopping me.

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?

There are so many things one can take away from the books they read. For me, this book makes me think of regret. Emiline had a very rough beginning in life, and to be honest, I fell like she’s been living in a fog for the past few years. Going through the motions, even though she doesn’t think so. When she discovers that J.Colby is none other than her best friend/boyfriend, from when she was younger, and that he has basically written about her life, she is completely blown away. While this book is technically fiction, there’s too much real life to just let it go. As she reads it, slowly, she starts to relive a past in which she has so desperately tried to forget.

When she comes face to face with Jase, all those feelings come fully out. She decides to take a good hard look at her life and decides what she wants out of it. She makes decisions that I don’t believe she could’ve made without this book’s nudging. Em and Jase’s lives were nothing like the fairy tales you wish for. They were raw and gritty and very real. They learned to rely on each other for their sanity basically. I think after reading Jase’s book, Em starts to realize that there’s more to her than she realized.

My heart was racing and quite a few places in this book. I mean legit racing. I wanted a HEA. I needed a HEA. But not everything in life is happy, so I had to hold on tight and hope. If you like second chance romances, with a hefty dose of angst and emotion, then be sure and grab this book. You can thank me later.


Buy Swear On This Life

Review: Before We Were Strangers by Renee Carlino

01 here How does one put into words a book like this? It was happy and sad, uplifting and devastating. I am typing and crying, and yet, my heart is full.

This book will leave you emotionally satisfied and physically drained, but your heart will thank you for it. It makes you look closely at your life at all the “what ifs” and “If I’d only knowns.

A lot can happen in 15 years. You can fall in love and break hearts. You can move up in the world and be accomplished. You can have a completely fulfilled life, and then you catch a glimpse of someone from your past, and all of this means nothing.

During their senior year of college, in an NYU dorm tucked into the heart of the East Village, Grace and Matt struck up a friendship over Jeff Buckley, Pearl Jam, and the Ramones. She was going to be a world-class cellist and he was going to be a famous photographer, their paths destined to diverge after graduation.

Even after an afternoon pub crawl ended in their drunken, spontaneous wedding, their visions for the future never overlapped enough for them to be together. The summer after college, he left his “ex-wife” on good terms and went to Brazil to work for National Geographic. They vowed to stay in touch and see each other soon.

They never did.

Fifteen years later, back in New York City, Matt sees Grace as she boards the J train. They’re both different in a hundred ways, and yet they’re still the same. But just as they recognize each other, just as he understands what he left behind all those years ago, the train pulls away. His only recourse is to send a missed connections letter out in the world, and hope she remembers where to look.

When we first see Matt he seems unhappy with his current life. Even though he’s an award winning photographer and has a fabulous job, there is something missing. And one night, on his way home, he catches a glimpse of that missing piece. Grace.

This book takes you into the past. We see how Grace and Matt meet and fall in love and fall apart. It was a beautiful tragedy. Bad timing all around. They were perfect for each other. They never wanted to be separated. But life and school has a way of pulling even the closest of people apart. My gosh, they had a connection. I loved watching them together. They were hilarious. They were sweet. They were meant to be together. Forever. But sadly, that wasn’t in the cards for them.

The book was in dual pov, but I loved seeing it from Matt’s. He loved Grace so much and when he saw her, all his memories come crashing back and he discovers, through discussing it with the people around him, that there were so many missed connections that he had no idea how to make heads or tails of them. The past is the past, and you have to move on. But how can you move on and forward, when you’re missing half of your heart. It was given away 15 years ago.

As you read this book, you catch things that make you sit make and wonder why. Why didn’t they try harder? Why didn’t they keep looking? Why did she not push? Why did he settle? At one point it all comes crashing down around them and the pieces are scattered. But through all that, they decide to start picking up the pieces. The hurt and loss become clear and they need to decide if it’s been too long, or can move on from the last 15 years. Will life give them a second chance?


Release Date August 18, 2015
Buy Before We Were Strangers: A Love Story