Release Day Review: Swear on this Life by Renée Carlino

Swear on this Life by Renée Carlino
Series: Standalone
Publication Date: August 9th 2016
Links: EbookPaperbackGoodreads
Source: I received an ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review

From USA TODAY bestselling author Renée Carlino (Before We Were Strangers), a warm and witty novel about a struggling writer who must come to grips with her past, present, and future after she discovers that she’s the inspiration for a pseudonymously published bestselling novel.

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?

Once again, I’m probably in the minority for Renée Carlino’s latest release. As much as I wish I could’ve loved this book, I didn’t enjoy it at all. Back when I read Before We Were Strangers, my first book by this author, I didn’t see the appeal and I wasn’t a fan of the writing, so I was hesitant to read Swear on this Life. But the blurb hooked me in (as always), and I ended up disappointed nonetheless. The writing was mediocre, I didn’t care for the characters, and the second chance romance (which is one of my favorite tropes ever) failed to make me feel anything but annoyance. Looking at the ratings, I’m sure most readers will enjoy this book, but honestly, I’d only recommend SotL to those who loved BWWS.

“I love you, Emiline. I loved you before I even knew what it meant.”

The premise of this story is amazing – the heroine, Emiline, reads a bestselling book only to realize it’s a book about HER life… and the childhood she shared with her one and only love. She figures the author of the book must be Jase Colbertson, the lost love she hasn’t seen in over a decade, and she gets pissed. She can’t believe he would share to the world such private details about her not-so-savory childhood. Luckily, he’s about to show up in San Diego for a book signing, and she has to decide whether she wants to confront him or let the past stay in the past.

My main problem with this second chance romance is how much focus is on the past. We’re given passages from Jase’s book (which honestly didn’t read anything like a top bestselling novel) and we learn about Emiline’s past through them. Her past is sad, tragic, and pretty predictable, but what really killed it for me was how LONG and drawn out it was. Every time I read the passages from the book, I already wanted to get back to the present and the upcoming reunion (which fyi, doesn’t happen until over halfway through the book). I didn’t even end up liking the scenes where Em falls in love with Jase as a young girl, because the Jase from the past is NOTHING like the Jase from the present, so I had no real point to invest my time in his past self.

Unfortunately, the present couldn’t save the novel for me. Emiline, who is in her late twenties, acts like she’s a teenager, one even more immature than she was as a child. She also has a long-time boyfriend, Trevor, whose character I really saw no point in existing other than to take even more time for Emiline and Jase to get back together. And the reunion with Jase? Such a let-down, because guess who’s grown up to become a smug, smirking manwhore, like every other boring hero ever? Can you tell I don’t really like those kinds of heroes? I honestly didn’t see why Jase was acting so smug, when Emiline had every right to be angry with him and not fall directly into his arms and crotch when they saw each other again.

And this is slightly spoilery, but what kind of man tells the woman he’s supposedly loved his whole life that he’s currently fucking another woman, his agent who he sees practically every day no less? Obviously, he stops when he reunites with Emiline, so what exactly is the point of saying it anyway?

So this book was disappointing, but I can’t say it’s a surprise. I felt the same disappointment and annoyance with the author’s previous book – I really don’t think Renée Carlino is for me. I’m not a fan of her writing – it’s all telling, no showing, except for those rare paragraphs that are pretty deep and meaningful, which throws me off. I’m probably going to give up on her books now and let others enjoy it, no matter how enticing her future stories sound.

2 hearts
lacey

Quotes are taken from the arc and are subject to change in the final version.


Also by Renée Carlino

Sweet Thing by Renee Carlino Nowhere but Here by Renée Carlino After the Rain by Renée Carlino Before We Were Strangers by Renee Carlino

Sweet Thing: Ebook • Paperback • AudibleGoodreads
Nowhere But Here: Ebook • Paperback • AudibleGoodreads
After the Rain: Ebook • Paperback • AudibleGoodreads
Beofre We Were Strangers: My Review • EbookPaperbackGoodreads


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Blog Tour + Excerpt & Giveaway: Before We Were Strangers by Renée Carlino

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Before We Were Strangers by Renée Carlino is now available! Check out my review for it here.

Before We Were Strangers by Renee Carlino

Before We Were Strangers by Renée Carlino
Series: Standalone
Publication Date: August 18th 2015
Add to Goodreads

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.

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

Buy Links:
Amazon • Barnes & Noble • iTunes

Now here’s an excerpt from Before We Were Strangers! ❤

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2. Five Days After I Saw You

MATT

I took the damn F train, an hour-long ride to Brooklyn from Midtown and back every day, at lunch, hoping I would run into Grace again, but I never did.

Things were bad at work. I had submitted a request to go into the field three months earlier but had been denied. Now I had to watch Elizabeth and Brad walk around in bliss as people congratulated them on the baby and Brad’s promotion, which came right after the announcement.

Meanwhile, I was still rejecting any forward motion in my life. I was a stagnant puddle of shit. I had volunteered to go back on location to South America with a National Geographic film crew. New York just wasn’t the same anymore. It held no magic for me. The Amazonian jungle, with all of its wonderful and exotic diseases, seemed more appealing than taking orders from my ex-wife and her smug husband. But my request hadn’t been approved or denied. It just sat in a pile of other requests on Scott’s desk.

I pondered the current state of my life while I stared at a blank wall in the office break room. Standing next to the water cooler, holding a half-empty paper cone, I tallied the insubstantial years I had spent with Elizabeth and wondered why. How had things gone so terribly wrong?

“What are you doin’, man?” Scott’s voice came from the doorway.

I turned and smiled. “Just thinking.”

”You seem a little brighter.”

“Actually, I was thinking about how I ended up thirty­six, divorced, and trapped in cubicle hell.”

He walked to the coffeepot and poured a mug full then leaned against the counter. “You were a workaholic?” he offered.

“That’s not why Elizabeth was unfaithful. She fell right into Brad’s skinny arms, and he works more than I do. Hell, Elizabeth works more than I do.”

“Why are you dwelling on the past? Look at you. You’re tall. You have hair. And it looks like”—he waved his hand around at my stomach—”you might have abs?”

”You checking me out?”

”I’d kill for a head of hair like that.”

Scott was the kind of guy who was bald by twenty-two. He’s been shaving it Mr. Clean-style since then.

“What do women call that thing?” He pointed to the back of my head.

“A bun?”

“No, there’s, like, a sexier name for it. The ladies love that shit.”

“They call it a man-bun.”

He studied me. “Jesus, you’re a free man, Matt. Why aren’t you prowling the savannahs for new game? I can’t watch you mope around like this. I thought you were over Elizabeth?”

I shut the break-room door. “I am. I was over Elizabeth a long time ago. It’s hard for me even to remember being into her. I got caught up in the fantasy of it, traveling with her, taking photos. Something was always missing, though. Maybe I did work too much. I mean, that’s all we talked about, that’s all we had in common. Now look where I am.”

“What about Subway Girl?”

“What about her?”

“I don’t know. I thought you were gonna try to get in touch with her?”

“Yeah. Maybe. Easier said than done.”

“You just have to put yourself out there. Get on social media.”

Will I find Grace there? I went back and forth between wanting to do everything I could to find her and feeling like it was totally pointless. She’d be with someone. She’d be someone’s wife. Someone better than me. I wanted to get away from everything reminding me that I still had nothing.

“If you care so much, why haven’t you approved my request?” I asked.

He scowled. I noticed how deep the line was between his eyebrows and it occurred to me that Scott and I were the same age…and he was getting old. “I don’t mean the actual savannahs, man. Running away isn’t going to solve your problems.”

“Now you’re my shrink?”

“No, I’m your friend. Remember when you asked for that desk job?”

I walked toward the door. “Just consider it. Please, Scott.”

Right before I left the room he said, “You’re chasing the wrong thing. It’s not gonna make you happy.”

He was right, and I could admit that to myself, but not out loud. I thought if I could win an award again, get some recognition for my work, it would fill the black hole eating away at me. But deep down, I knew that wasn’t the solution.

After work, I sat on a bus bench just outside the National Geographic building. I watched hordes of people trying to get home, racing down the crowded sidewalks of Midtown. I wondered if I could judge how lonely a person was based on how much of a hurry he or she was in. No one who has someone waiting for him at home would sit on a bus bench after a ten-hour workday and people-watch. I always carried an old Pentax camera from my college days in my messenger bag, but I hadn’t used it in years.

I removed it from the case and starting clicking away as people flooded in and out of the subway, as they waited for buses, as they hailed cabs. I hoped that through the lens I would see her again, like I had years before. Her vibrant spirit; the way she could color a black-and-white photo with her magnetism alone. I had thought about Grace often over the years. Something as simple as a smell, like sugared pancakes at night, or the sound of a cello in Grand Central or Washington Square Park on a warm day, could transport me right back to that year in college. The year I spent falling in love with her.

It was hard for me to see the beauty in New York anymore. Granted, much of the riffraff and grit was gone, at least in the East Village; it was cleaner and greener now, but that palpable energy I had felt in college was gone, too. For me, anyway.

Time passes, life goes on, places change, people change. And still, I couldn’t get Grace off my mind after seeing her in the subway. Fifteen years is too long to be holding on to a few heart-pounding moments from college.

about the author button

Renee CarlinoRenée Carlino is a screenwriter and bestselling author of romantic women’s novels. 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.

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Release Day Review: Before We Were Strangers by Renée Carlino

Before We Were Strangers by Renee Carlino

Before We Were Strangers by Renée Carlino
Series: Standalone
Publication Date: August 18th 2015
Links: EbookPaperbackGoodreads
Source: I received an ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest 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.

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

There are so, SO many amazing reviews for Before We Were Strangers, but I’m floundering on what to think about it. I loved some aspects of the book, but my overall feel for the book is that it was only… okay. I was expecting something sweepingly romantic (second chance romances are my favorite kind of books) and pretty epic, but what I got disappointed me. I wouldn’t say it’s a bad read – like I said, there were things about the book that I enjoyed very much, but there were also plenty that I couldn’t enjoy. I really, really wish I could have loved this book more, since so many people seem to love it, but this missed the mark for me.

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

I absolutely LOVED the idea of Before We Were Strangers – a chance encounter with a first love you lost touch with for fifteen years, only to meet up again because of a Craigslist ad? YES PLEASE! I thought the premise was so unique and sweet – I expected to fall so hard for this second chance romance, and I did enjoy it in the beginning. It starts off with Matt seeing Grace for the first time in fifteen years and meeting her eyes just as she’s pulling away on the subway. It takes him a while and some courage before he puts up a Craigslist ad for Grace asking her to reach out to him.

I felt it for Grace before I even had a name for it. I might have said the word a million times, but it sounded different now that I meant it. When I thought about what we had, it didn’t matter that it was just friendship. I loved her.

Unfortunately, what brought the book down for me was the big chunk of the book that is set in the past, fifteen years ago. Here, we meet college Matt and Grace – who I greatly disliked. I honestly couldn’t connect with them – their personalities in college were so not what I was expecting, and they clashed with what I thought about them in the present. I felt so disconnected from them and their story, and I just wasn’t invested in their budding romance. College Grace and Matt sometimes came across as irritating, much to my disappointment. The main reason for this was the writing – it was very, very flat. All tell and no show. It’s the kind of writing that’s too simple, with short sentences, and feels slightly choppy. This is the first book I’ve read by Renée Carline so I didn’t know what to expect, but I was disappointed with the writing in Before We Were Strangers. If the writing in this is similar to the writing in her other books, I’m not sure I’d be able to read them. An author’s writing greatly influences the way I perceive a novel, and flat writing means flat characters to me.

Also, the reason why Grace and Matt fell apart for fifteen years was such a disappointment. I wanted a solid reason that would break my heart, but it was only a miscommunication that could have easily been solved that broke them apart.

Time passes, life goes on, places change, people change. And still, I couldn’t get Grace off my mind after seeing her in the subway. Fifteen years is too long to be holding on to a few heart-pounding moments from college.

I do want to point out some things that I actually really liked about this book. After the large two-thirds of the story that is set in the past, we go back to the present, when Matt and Grace reunite. So many things have changed in those fifteen years for them, but the one constant is their love for one another. This last third of the book is definitely the more enjoyable part. I loved the touching way Grace and Matt reconnected, how their love endured so strong and for so long. My heart finally felt SOMETHING for these two characters. If the book had been set mostly in the present, I think I would have enjoyed Before We Were Strangers so much more.

As much as I hoped to fall in love with this, I couldn’t get past the surprisingly mediocre writing and I didn’t connect with the characters. I expected so much more, but I’m probably in the minority for not loving Before We Were Strangers. It was only an okay read for me – it didn’t wow me, most of the book didn’t make me FEEL, and I had too high expectations that weren’t met.

3 hearts
lacey

Quotes are taken from the arc and are subject to change in the final version.


Also by Renée Carlino

Sweet Thing by Renee Carlino Nowhere but Here by Renée Carlino After the Rain by Renée Carlino 

Sweet Thing: Ebook • Paperback • AudibleGoodreads
Nowhere But Here: Ebook • Paperback • AudibleGoodreads
After the Rain: Ebook • Paperback • AudibleGoodreads
Swear on This Life: My Review • EbookPaperbackGoodreads


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Release Day Launch + Giveaway: Before We Were Strangers by Renée Carlino

Happy Release Day to Renée Carlino – Before We Were Strangers is now available!

Before We Were Strangers by Renee Carlino

Before We Were Strangers by Renée Carlino
Series: Standalone
Publication Date: August 18th 2015
Add to Goodreads

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.

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

Buy Links:
Amazon • Barnes & Noble • iTunes

about the author button

Renee CarlinoRenée Carlino is a screenwriter and bestselling author of romantic women’s novels. 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.

Website • Facebook • Twitter • Instagram

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5 SIGNED BEFORE WE WERE STRANGERS POSTERS

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Promo Blitz: Nowhere but Here by Renee Carlino

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Nowhere but Here by Renée Carlino

Title: Nowhere But Here
Author: Renée Carlino
Genre: Contemporary Romance
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A Chicago reporter in her mid-twenties unexpectedly finds love in Napa Valley when she’s assigned to spend a week with a famously reclusive genius.

Kate Corbin has lost her spark. From the outside, her life seems charmed. She has a handsome, long-term boyfriend and a budding journalism career at a popular Chicago newspaper. But in reality, her relationship is going nowhere, and she’s quickly losing motivation for what she once believed was her dream job. When her boyfriend dumps her unceremoniously, Kate loses all hope of finding love.

With no living family and few friends, Kate confides in her boss. Trusting that the hungry, ace reporter is buried somewhere deep inside, he gives Kate the opportunity to jumpstart her career. The assignment: to interview the famously reclusive R.J. Lawson, a wealthy tech genius who disappeared years ago but recently reemerged as a Napa Valley vintner. The week takes an unexpected turn, however, when Lawson refuses to divulge any information. Desperate for a lead, Kate turns to Jamie, a vineyard hand who shows her the romance of wine country—and stirs her aching heart. But his connection to Lawson is ambiguous, and when Jamie disappears before the end of the week, Kate is left to investigate another story: the truth behind the man who stole her heart.

USA TODAY bestselling author Renée Carlino explored love and heartbreak in her beautifully written debut Sweet Thing, and her newest novel does not disappoint. For fans of Colleen Hoover, K.A. Tucker, and Katja Millay, Nowhere But Here is a stirring and satisfying romance that you won’t want to put down.

Purchase:
Amazon • iTunes • B&N

To read an exclusive bonus short from Nowhere But Here, click the following link:
Nowhere but Here bonus scene

about the author

Renee CarlinoRenee’s first friends were the imaginary kind and even though her characters haven’t gone away, thankfully the delusions have. She admits she’s a wildly hopeless romantic and she blames 80’s movies staring Molly Ringwald for that. 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 the next book, she likes to spend her time reading, going to concerts, and eating dark chocolate.

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