By: Renee Carlino
Publication Date: 8/9/2016
My Rating: 5 Stars +
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?
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A special thank you to Atria and NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
Hauntingly Beautiful. Soul-Wrenching. A tender, and moving love story! The complexities of human relationships gracefully portrayed.
Talented and prolific author and screenwriter, Renee Carlino returns following Before We Were Strangers (2015), with her latest emotional bittersweet hit, SWEAR ON THIS LIFE — when a struggling writer sees her past before her very eyes, in a published bestselling novel.
“When you read a story or a scene where exactly what you think should happen, does happen. When the events are too perfect or precise. But in real life we have a hard time recognizing serendipitous moments because we’re not making the story up as we go along. It’s not a lie—it’s really happening, and we have no idea how it will end.”
Emiline is a writing instructor at UC San Diego with a stalled literary career. She is having a hard time with her writing and does not want to be in her current career forever.
Trevor the guy she has been dating since their senior year at Berkeley seven years earlier, has put her short story aside and recommends a book for her to read. He says Emiline is not writing what she knows. Their relationship is strained.
J. Colby, a new writer everyone is talking about. A Columbia grad. A new book: All The Roads Between. Cara, her friend is in love with this book. She gives it to Em to escape her own flawed love story.
From the moment she begins reading the second line in the first paragraph, her heart rate tripled. Instantly, she was sweating. By the end of the first page she was almost hysterical.
Flashing back and forth from a "book within a book", readers hear tidbits of the past, from the emotional book, All the Roads Between. She had examined the book jacket and copyright page carefully with no photo or bio.
Emiline knew exactly who had written this book. The only mystery to her was where the author had been for the last twelve years. Jason. Her first love. The chapters alternate between Em’s current life and her childhood, with the most compelling parts of the book being the retelling of her youth.A complicated history.
From the first line she saw herself in J. Colby’s story, because she was in his story. The long dirt road, the hour and a half long bus ride to school, the alcoholic dad, the mom who vanished, the secret lunches and meals in the shed.
These were the intimate personal details of her own life. Emerson was none other than her. And Jax, he was definitely Jason Colbertson, the boy next door who had once been her everything. Her first. The same person she had not talked to in over a decade.
Even though some girls might be flattered to be the source of inspiration for the protagonist of a bestselling novel, she was too busy planning out his murder in detail. A million questions:
Why did he write this book? Why is he telling it from her perspective? Was he hoping she would read it, or did he just want to use her story for his own bestseller? She needed answers. She demanded answers. These wounds won't seem to heal. This pain is just too real. There's just too much that time cannot erase.
Of course, he would write a book before her. He was brilliant at the age of ten, so why wouldn’t he be at age twenty-seven? He even quotes that even though the book was a work of fiction, he credits his childhood in rural Ohio for his biggest inspiration.
He was benefiting from her pain and horror. She will send an email via his website, tell him what she really thinks and then drink more wine, write more, and delete it. He wrote just one book. The book about her. Them.
"She thought about Jase and their history, and wondered if it would always be there, lingering like a creaking wood slat in the floor, to remind us of what we had endured.”
J & E Forever. She thought loving someone meant fighting for them. Was it too late? It was him, her old friend, her protector, the love of her life. Will they ever be able to make their own stories together? Will fate step in for a reunion? “There once was a boy and a girl . . . ”
“We can’t always control our circumstances, who our parents are, where we live, or how much money we make, but in those rate moments when we can shape our fate, when we do have the power to make our own happiness, we can’t be too scared to do it.”
I was fortunate to have been introduced to this extraordinary author with her last book, and was delighted for an opportunity for an advanced reading copy of SWEAR ON THIS LIFE. Both 5 star+ winners! Carlino has proven she most definitely knows how to tug at your heartstrings.
Not typically a chick-lit romance fan; however, there are certain women’s fiction contemporary authors which are on the top of my list, being Renee Carlino, Colleen Hoover, Sarah Pekkanen, Jennifer Weiner, Nicholas Sparks, and Emily Giffin.
Bridging the past and present, from childhood joys and pain to adult complications— a poignant tale of young love, a painful past, torn apart by life and circumstances, united once again by fate.
The pacing was perfect, the unraveling of the precious moments was beautifully told and revealed. A voice lends it a surreal, magical quality, and the prose- poetic. A couple separated by years and experience.
Yet their lives will converge with unexpected poignancy, reminding us all that even the most difficult decisions can yield extraordinary journeys to the farthest reaches of the human heart. First love is always powerful, and for some people, that love really does last forever.
For fans of Colleen Hoovers’ It Ends with Us. Both, are on my Top Books of 2016.
Absorbing! A book you will want to savor like sweet dark chocolate, from sadness and beauty--and at the same time you will be hooked, glued to the pages, addictive-while driven to read in one single sitting.
Movie worthy—move over Nicholas Sparks!
August Top Reads
“Swear on This Life is Renée Carlino at her finest. Raw, real and gripping; I read it in one sitting.”--Colleen Hoover, #1 New York Times bestselling author of It Ends With Us
“Carlino fans will love this one, and so will readers who have not yet made her acquaintance. The tale is engaging and paced to keep the pages turning long after the lights should be out.”--Kirkus Reviews
“Mysterious and compelling, Swear on this Life is the epic love story your summer needs.” Bustle.com (11 New Romance Books Perfect for Summer Beach Reading)
“[Readers] will find themselves simply smitten by both the novel in front of them and the story within the story. Romance readers and women’s fiction fans should snap up this charming love story.” - Booklist
"Romance fans will find this heartfelt story of resilience and first love hard to put down." -Library Journal
"This bestselling author knows how to deliver a literary punch, and Swear on this Life is her strongest yet.” - Redbook Magazine
Before We Were Strangers
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By: Renee Carlino
Publisher: Atria Books
Publication Date: 8/18/2015
My Rating: 5 Stars
Read My Review
From the USA TODAY bestselling author of Sweet Thing and Nowhere But Here comes a love story about a Craigslist “missed connection” post that gives two people a second chance at love fifteen years after they were separated in New York City. 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. Read More
Renée Carlino is a screenwriter and bestselling author of contemporary women's novels and new adult fiction.
Her books have been featured in national publications, including USA TODAY, Huffington Post, Latina magazine, and Publisher's Weekly.
She lives in Southern California with her husband, two sons, and their sweet dog June. When she's not at the beach with her boys or working on her next project, she likes to spend her time reading, going to concerts, and eating dark chocolate. Learn more at www.reneecarlino.com Read More