One True Loves by Taylor Jenkins Reid | Book Review

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From the author of Maybe in Another Life—named a People Magazine pick and a “Best Book of the Summer” by Glamour and USA Today—comes a breathtaking new love story about a woman unexpectedly forced to choose between the husband she has long thought dead and the fiancé who has finally brought her back to life.

In her twenties, Emma Blair marries her high school sweetheart, Jesse. They build a life for themselves, far away from the expectations of their parents and the people of their hometown in Massachusetts. They travel the world together, living life to the fullest and seizing every opportunity for adventure.

On their first wedding anniversary, Jesse is on a helicopter over the Pacific when it goes missing. Just like that, Jesse is gone forever.

Emma quits her job and moves home in an effort to put her life back together. Years later, now in her thirties, Emma runs into an old friend, Sam, and finds herself falling in love again. When Emma and Sam get engaged, it feels like Emma’s second chance at happiness.

That is, until Jesse is found. He’s alive, and he’s been trying all these years to come home to her. With a husband and a fiancé, Emma has to now figure out who she is and what she wants, while trying to protect the ones she loves.

Who is her one true love? What does it mean to love truly?

Emma knows she has to listen to her heart. She’s just not sure what it’s saying.

Publisher: Washington Square Press

Date of Publication: June 7, 2016

Date Read: May 19, 2017

No. of Pages: 327

Setting: Massachusetts | California

Genre: Adult Fiction, Romance, Contemporary

Get Your Copy Here: Book Depository | Amazon

 

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“There are all kinds of love in this world, but never the same love twice.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald

This quote from F. Scott Fitzgerald is One True Loves in a nutshell. I honestly don’t know where I am drawing my strength from. This book had my heart shattered in its rawest form. I feel like a huge part of me is still grieving. I kid you not. I feel like crying every.damn.time I think about it. I had to compose my self every hour or so. But a review has to be made, has to be shared, so here I am trying my best to relive everything, but boy is it hard. One True Loves is the second book I’ve read by Taylor Jenkins Reid. The first one being Maybe In Another Life, you can check my review of it here.  I don’t know why it took me almost a year to pick up another Taylor Jenkins Reid book. Had I known that it would be this good, I would have read it sooner. (Take this as a public service announcement, if you are second guessing if you should read this book or not, do yourself a favor and read it already. Yep, you’re welcome.)

Well, for starters, DON’T READ THE BLURB or do, it’s up to you. This book is best enjoyed if you have the littlest of idea of what’s about to go down. I don’t know why they had to write the blurb like that. (NOTE TO PUBLISHERS don’t give away major details). It may or may not have given away the whole story, but it depends on how you look at it. In my case, I didn’t read the blurb until I was half way through the book – if you already know me by now I seldom read blurbs. I only know small details and take it from there. I always crave the element of surprise. So yes, take my word for it and DON’T READ THE BLURB or at least skim it if you can’t help it. Don’t worry there is so much more in the story that the blurb wasn’t able to ruin, so just read on.

“I am finishing up dinner with my family and my fiancé when my husband calls.”

Note that first sentence, if you’re not in for some emotional ride then I don’t know anymore. That first sentence is enough to send my brain haywire.

One True Loves will bring you immense pain yet come out of it with a profound understanding of what true love really is. It is complicated, yes, but at the same time it was as real as it could get. There was no sugar-coating it, there was no cushioning the blow, there was no beating around the bush, it presented everything in its rawest glory, its ugly head rearing in the surface. Isn’t that how life really is, it was never perfect, and this book made it a point to tell a story that would encompass everything about love and loss – and yes it isn’t always rainbows and butterflies, it had ugly parts too. And did I mention I cried buckets? It was literally river of tears, my tear glands have been working like crazy and I can’t seem to pacify myself, I had to pause once in awhile because I feel that gnawing ache in my chest – yep much like feeling of a true blue breakup. I didn’t know how I was able to survive it, but I tell you it was hard, it was a struggle. Not because the book was bad, but because the book was so heartbreakingly beautiful you have to risk your heart to be completely cut open. And you’d be a willing victim.

The characters were painted in a realistic way, they were flawed much like any other human, and that’s what drew me in. TJR didn’t make her characters to be likable, she wrote them to represent real humans with real struggles. Emma for an instance, her character was a very conflicted one but you’d understand where she was coming from. You would get why she acted the way she did, you would get why she made such and such decision. It was simple yet complicated altogether, something you cannot quite explain fully but you get her. And Jesse, after all that he’s been through. You feel for him too. You understand what he was demanding, he saw it in black and white, it is this or that. Then we have Sam, oh boy, Sam. Majority of the book I cried for him. He was everything good and then some. God how selfless he was! I want to hug him! You’ll end up as conflicted as Emma when it comes to choosing between Sam and Jesse. Both are good men! And though I already knew who she’ll end up with because of the subtle hints in the beginning, I still wanted to stick around to see how the author would play out the characters, how everything will come about. And when it did, I was left awestruck and basically broken. I had to compose myself every now and then. It was hard to read through the exchange between the characters. It is as if you feel the pain emanating from them, it is as if the collective pain they are feeling are now induced inside of you. I was inconsolable to say the least.  I also love how Emma and Marie’s relationship grew, I loved that part when Marie explained things to Emma (but I can’t say it because that would be a spoiler). Just ugh, please read this book!

You have to give it to TJR for writing an unrealistic story and making it something that hits home. It may have been too unrealistic but the essence of it is still there, the wisdom and all that realization will hit you without preamble. It is as if Taylor Jenkins Reid had a one on one sit down encounter with you to tell you how things are, how they truly are. Again without sugar-coating or over-analyzing stuff, that it is what it is and you have to accept it even if you don’t want to at first. I love that in a book, it is as if it offers you a brand new perspective towards the real world, and yet it is just there waiting for you to finally acknowledge it, it may have come under different circumstance but the result is all the same. You just have to slightly veer away from what you believe in and take what is offered in front of you. Reading this book is heartbreaking yet it was satisfying. And I don’t know how much more I could give it justice, but all I know is you have to read this even once in your life. And oh this is the first book since a very long while that I’ve finished in a day! So if that doesn’t spell how invested I was then I don’t know what would.

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“Don’t think that true love means your only love.

I think true love means loving truly.

Loving purely. Loving wholly.

Maybe, if you’re the kind of person who’s willing to give all of yourself, the kind of person who is willing to love with all of your heart even though you’ve experienced just how much it can hurt . . . maybe you get lots of true loves, then. Maybe that’s the gift you get for being brave.”
Taylor Jenkins Reid, One True Loves

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I’ve Got Your Number by Sophie Kinsella: Book Review

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I’ve lost it. 😦 The only thing in the world I wasn’t supposed to lose. My engagement ring. It’s been in Magnus’s family for three generations. And now the very same day his parents are coming, I’ve lost it. The very same day! Do not hyperventilate, Poppy. Stay positive 🙂 !!

Poppy Wyatt has never felt luckier. She is about to marry her ideal man, Magnus Tavish, but in one afternoon her “happily ever after” begins to fall apart. Not only has she lost her engagement ring in a hotel fire drill but in the panic that follows, her phone is stolen. As she paces shakily around the lobby, she spots an abandoned phone in a trash can. Finders keepers! Now she can leave a number for the hotel to contact her when they find her ring. Perfect!

Well, perfect except that the phone’s owner, businessman Sam Roxton, doesn’t agree. He wants his phone back and doesn’t appreciate Poppy reading his messages and wading into his personal life.

What ensues is a hilarious and unpredictable turn of events as Poppy and Sam increasingly upend each other’s lives through emails and text messages. As Poppy juggles wedding preparations, mysterious phone calls, and hiding her left hand from Magnus and his parents . . . she soon realizes that she is in for the biggest surprise of her life.

Publisher: The Dial Press

Date of Publication: October 31, 2011

Date Read: April 2017

No. of Pages: 433 pages

Setting: London

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This book sent me into a laughing fit!

I’m not going to be nit picky this time. I was looking for a funny book, chanced upon this one and it truly served its purpose. It got me through something depressing, well not really but it was able to keep my mind off things I’d rather not dwell on. So to say I am grateful for the existence of this book would be an understatement.

I’ve Got Your Number is definitely something I could see to be turned into a RomCom film. It might be too fictional for someone else’s taste, but I think it could be a big possibility to see this one in the big screen. A little tweaking can do the trick. This has been my second Sophie Kinsella read, the first one being The Confessions of a Shopaholic which I enjoyed immensely as well. And now Sophie Kinsella is now my go-to author if I want to read something light and funny. I’ve Got Your Number cracked me up a lot of times. Don’t get me started with Mr. Yamasaki and the singing telegram, I really lost it. I was in a laughing fit for a good ten minutes or so. I’ve Got Your Number isn’t the conventional kind of love story. It was something out of the usual, it has a meet-cute which I’m such a sucker for. It has the right amount of drama and fluffiness, another plus points for me since I’m not looking for something heavy. I was aiming for a light and fluffy read and this book did its magic.

Poppy Wyatt is a fun character to read, she may be a little pushover sometimes but there are also redeeming qualities I saw in her. She’s relatable too, making her character something realistic. Sam Roxton on the other hand is a no-nonsense type of guy. What I liked most about him was he was able to see or analyse the real Poppy Wyatt. How he was able to pinpoint what was wrong and give out the right advice. I also commend that their love story gradually happened, it was sweet and cute and gahhh that ending! The exchange of emails was a clever one. The twist and how everything came about was thoroughly though-out which made everything coherent, just like Confessions of A Shopaholic. I really enjoyed this book, total pick me-upper!

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“Lover? I don’t know. I don’t know if she loves me. I don’t know if I love her. All I can say is, she’s the one I think about. All the time. She’s the voice I want to hear. She’s the face I hope to see.”
Sophie Kinsella, I’ve Got Your Number

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Confess by Colleen Hoover: Book Review

Kombibros.

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Synopsis from Goodreads:  Don’t miss #1 New York Times bestselling author Colleen Hoover’s beloved novel about risking it all for love—now an Awestruck original series, coming soon to go90.com and the go90 app, available for iOS or Android.

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?

With her moving and compelling prose, Hoover “will pull heartstrings in this second-chance love story” (Booklist).

Publisher: Atria Books

Date of Publication: March 10, 2015

Date Read: March 2017

No of Pages: 306 pages

Source: Own copy from National Book Store

Get it Here: Book Depository and Amazon

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I don’t know if it is just a case of bad timing, or if my heart has grown stone cold that I didn’t feel any of the giddiness I usually feel when it comes to Colleen Hoover romance novels. Or maybe Colleen Hoover’s power lost its brilliance on me or maybe the fact that I already have seen the trailer for the mini series that ruined it for me. I honestly can’t pinpoint what went wrong with this one. All I know is that this book didn’t work out for me. Let’s just say, I just wanted it to end just to be over and done with. And I’m starting to think that maybe I am done with Colleen Hoover’s books, just as much as I am done with John Green’s. I hope not, I really hope not. But the last two books (I read November 9 last October and boy did I hate it) by her made me want to pass up for the next ones. I have not read all of her books, but I’ve read enough, so don’t discredit me on this one. Let me say my piece.

Confess didn’t offer anything new on the table. I commend the idea of “Confess” and all the paintings, it was original I have to at least give them that, but everything else was mediocre. Nothing I have not read or seen before. To be quite honest I had no intention of reading this book immediately, I was waiting for the right moment and state of self to read it, because that’s how I decide what to read next, I go with the gut feel. I go with the book that calls me, this book didn’t. The only reason I read it this time around was because of the mini series. Of course there will be a lot of spoilers in the internet. God knows how everyone can’t seem to shut the hell up about those stuff haha. So to avoid further spoiling myself and ruining it all for me, I went ahead and read the book. That’s the only way to battle spoiler. And now I felt like I forced it on myself, I did not enjoy the reading experience. If I have read this one the moment it came out, maybe I would have a different opinion than I do now. And now it is a lesson learned the hard way – always go with the gut feel.

I’ve seen the pattern of Colleen Hoover’s writing. She always surprises her readers in the end. Confess was no different. If it weren’t for that last chapter, which to be completely honest is the only redeeming quality I found in this book, I could have given it a lower rating. You have to give it to Colleen Hoover to salvage everything in the end – sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes I’m amazed and sometimes I’m underwhelmed, the case with Confess is the latter.

Okay, I have to let this one out as well. WHAT’S WITH ALL THESE CHARACTERS’ WEIRD NAMES! Seriously Auburn Reed? I wanted to laugh, but I’m more annoyed than pleased. And Owen Mason Gentry, OMG, do you really have to sell it as OMG, I was cringing to say the least. (Let’s not forget about Lily Bloom who owns a flower shop, like seriously a flower shop, from It Ends With Us, okay?) Can we for one second make a believable character. Im sorry but this story didn’t connect to me as one good story should. I know it is a work of fiction, but it wouldn’t hurt to make the characters to feel real ones, like a person you would meet in your lifetime.

I had issues with the characters in the book, Auburn was a little immature, and doesn’t speak up to defend herself. She keeps on masking her cowardice by saying she didn’t have a choice on the things that has been happening to her. That her hands were tied and all that excuse, I found her character to be too weak and too passive. She takes what she could get, and let people do the same to her. Which was toxic. Owen on the other hand had issues of his own, well all of them always have some horrible skeleton inside their closets. I mean it has been a pattern, a person in a book would always be too damaged to fully commit to someone else. Again, another too unrealistic scenario for my own liking. They always have this baggage, always. Well they had to tell a story anyway, to explain their actions and their motives over things. I get it, I do, but sometimes it is too much. Too much drama, which is getting old for me. Auburn and Owen’s love story is forgettable. With Colleen Hoover books, I always take something out of the story of each characters – but with Confess it fell short. I had nothing to bring with me. It ended, and that was it, no impact whatsoever. If you haven’t noticed that I’m disappointed, where were you this whole time? Anyway, I won’t be stopping with Confess, I’ll still give her books a try. I wouldn’t want to think that my relationship with Colleen Hoover books has run its course, no, I could salvage this. I’ll try.

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“I love you so much.” His voice is breathless and full of fear. “I’ll love you forever. Even when I can’t.” My tears fall harder at his words. “And I’ll love you forever. Even when I shouldn’t.”
Colleen Hoover, Confess

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Between Here and The Horizon by Callie Hart: Book Review

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Synopsis from Goodreads: “You think you know me. You think you want to know me. But trust me, Miss Lang. Pursuing me will be the worst mistake you ever make. I’m broken beyond repair…


…and I take great pleasure in breaking everyone else around me.”

Ophelia Lang needs money, and she needs it bad. Her parent’s restaurant is going under, and ever since she lost her job teaching third grade elementary, scraping enough cash together to pay the bills has proven almost impossible. Her parents are on the brink of losing their home. The vultures are circling overhead. So when Ophelia is offered an interview for a well-paid private tutoring gig in New York, how can she possibly say no?

Ronan Fletcher is far from the overweight, balding businessman Ophelia expected him to be. He’s young, handsome, and wealthy beyond all reason. He’s also perhaps the coldest, rudest person she’s ever met, and has a mean streak in him a mile and a half wide. A hundred grand is a lot of money, however, and if tolerating his frosty temperament, his erratic mood swings and whatever else he throws at her means she’ll get paid, then that is what Ophelia will do.

Her new boss is keeping secrets, though. Awful, terrible secrets.

The ghosts of Ronan Fletcher’s past are about to turn Ophelia’s future upside down, and she can’t even see it coming.

Note: Between Here and The Horizon is a brand new standalone contemporary romance novel from USA Today bestselling author, Callie Hart. Between Here and the Horizon does contain some scenes of violence and sexual content, and so is directed at audience 18+

Date Published: October 18, 2016

Date Read: October 23, 2016

Source: Kindle Edition

Setting: The Causeway, Maine

 

REVIEW

This book is anything but a typical romance novel. 

Who puts a shocking twist in the first 20% of a book? Apparently this author. To be completely honest I was about to DNF this one, it felt like I’m not going to enjoy it or I need to read other books that are more to my liking and more of something I was in the mood for. I was in the mood for romance novels, and upon seeing that this book fell under that category plus look at that gorgeous cover, I started it immediately. But as I’ve mentioned, the first few chapters proved to be hard to get into, I couldn’t see where the romance will come in or how it will play out, but then after that shocking twist, I knew I had to continue or it will forever haunt me. And so here I am, writing this review. The first tip is, be patient with this one, I swear it gets better. It just needs some getting used to, but once you’ve moved past the hard parts, it will be rewarding. Trust me on this.

The ghosts of Ronan Fletcher’s past are about to turn Ophelia’s future upside down, and she can’t even see it coming.

That part of the blurb, OH MY GOD, it foreshadowed what’s about to happen! And yep, no one saw that coming! I was at a public transportation when I reached that part and it was so hard to contain my shock. This is the internal struggle of a reader, everyone is going through the notions of their own lives and there I was battling with all the emotions I am struggling to contain inside me. And I tell you, it ain’t easy.

Writing this review is harder than I thought. I want to tell you about the goodness of this book but how can I when I can’t tell you who ends up with who and what happens to this and that. Okayyy. How do I go about this without spoiling something? I guess I would have to be as vague as possible. So please bear with me on this one. I just don’t like to kill the mood for you by accidentally revealing a major plot twist, I will do the best I can to give you a somewhat good review, despite me going around the bush.

This book had the mystery/thriller element to it that made it different from a lot of romance novels out there. It wasn’t what you are expecting. It will continually surprise you until the very end. This is the reason why I enjoyed this book so much, there was the element of surprise, the readers are constantly guessing what will happen, conjuring up theories as to where will the story might lead, and then everything will not go the way they imagined it to. It was hard to pull off something like it but Callie Hart made it look effortless. This is the first book I have read by her, and to say that I am missing out would be an understatement. If all her books were as shocking and as unique as this, then count me in. And my favorite thing in the world, MILITARY men! Haha I don’t know what is it with stories about military men, but I love reading books about them!

So if you like:

Brooding and angsty male protagonist with a soft side deep down the recesses of his being

A strong female protagonist who takes no shit from anybody

Steamy steamy moments (Oh boy)

A shocking twist

Coherence of story from the prologue down to the last page

The search is over, you have found your match! This book is definitely for you!

I appreciated the coherence of the story, from the prologue, which had set the perfect mood but did not give anything away, down to the last chapter where everything made complete sense. It was the kind of book that will leave you in awe. The book was well thought-out, save for the few issues I have, all in all, it was an amazing read. I couldn’t wait to start yet another book by her and see where Callie Hart’s imagination will take me!

 

 

RATING: rating_4stars

“He was a man possessed. I was a woman lost. Together, we were two halves of something fragile and delicate, beautiful in its complexity.”

Callie Hart, Between Here and the Horizon

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Best Kind of Broken by Chelsea Fine: Book Review

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Synopsis: Pixie and Levi haven’t spoken in nearly a year when they find themselves working―and living―at the same inn in the middle of nowhere. Once upon a time, they were childhood friends. But that was before everything went to hell. And now things are… awkward.

All they want to do is avoid each other, and their past, for as long as possible. But now that they’re forced to share a bathroom, and therefore a shower, keeping their distance from one another becomes less difficult than keeping their hands off each other. Welcome to the hallway of awkward tension and sexual frustration, folks. Get comfy. It’s going to be a long summer.

Date Published: March 14, 2014

Date Read: September 21, 2016

Publisher: Forever

No. of Pages: 272

Setting: Copper Spring, Arizona

 

Review

Cute Banters and Palpable Sexual Tension, what’s not to love?

 

Best Kind of Broken brought out the fun in reading New Adult books. I have been on a New Adult reading spree these days. It doesn’t happen often, and so I took advantage of it. Often times after reading a new adult book, I would immediately jump to a different genre – in need of a palate cleanser. I’m not one who binge read one after another, I tend to mix it all up or over-compare the stories, making me favour one more than the other. It’s like choosing a favourite child (well, I don’t have kids yet, haha but I’m sure you get my point). I wanted to savour every story, value them as one should – this is the main reason why I seldom read books in the same genre consecutively. And so because I am in a New Adult streak, it was surprise that I loved almost every book I have read, Best of Broken being the latest. I never expected anything out of this book. I never read the blurb or others’ review for that matter, I went into this blind. I never wanted to be influenced by what others thought of it.

I LOVED THIS BOOK!

This is the kind of romance I enjoy reading, I love Levi and Pixie’s banters and the palpable sexual tension is not hard to miss. I loved that it is funny where it is supposed to and serious when it should be. It is entertaining and engaging you wouldn’t want to put it down. Their story though a typical one as new adult theme, was presented in such a way that you would want to eat up every words and savour every page. It is a decent new adult book, nowadays we are bombarded with new adult books with either too heavy topic the world could not bear it or with too much explicit contents it is not even new adult anymore. In Best Kind of Broken, you will get the right amount of romance and drama. It is an easy story yet an unforgettable one. The story unfolded with ease and the readers are taken on this story of healing and forgiveness, of fear and despair yet choosing to risk it all over again. It was everything and then some.

The blurb hardly gave anything away, you see, blurbs like this can either be a hit or miss. It could work to lure someone into reading the book or make someone pass up completely. And because I don’t often read blurbs, including this one, I went ahead reading this book without passing any preconceived notion. I just went ahead and read through. Glad that I did. The book will take us into the story of two people trying to tiptoe through the wreck of the year that changed their lives. And I tell you, it is not just “awkward” as mentioned in the blurb, it is beyond that. It was hurt and guilt masked by annoyance, anger and indifference. How the author played around the two characters will make you see the depth of this book, it is not just a simple summer read, it has a story, it has sense of gravity and seriousness to it that one could not simply miss. And I wish more people could see that, it is not simply a book categorized under “cute-read, swoon-worthy male protagonist, love-hate relationship” it was so much more than that.

I loved how the two characters were going around in circles suppressing what they truly feel towards each other. Levi and Pixie had issues they soon need to address, and the journey on how they developed and grew in this book is really a fun thing to read. Again, the banters and the palpable sexual tension is such a delight to read, I laughed a lot of times, and tear up at some parts. It was the perfect combination of comedy, romance and drama. The sure hit formula for a good book. And oh yes!! I love love love that goat, cracks me up all the freaking time! The alternating point of views is also a big plus for me! It was beautifully written. The writing style is clean and polished. I think Chelsea Fine is an underrated author. People should seriously take a look at her works. Best Kind of Broken sure won’t be the last book I will be reading by her.

 

Rating: rating_5stars

“Love isn’t safe and life isn’t guaranteed. So yeah, I could die and you could lose Levi and your heart could hurt again, but that’s just life. The only alternative is living without fully loving anyone else. And that’s not living at all.”
― Chelsea FineBest Kind of Broken

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Before We Were Strangers by Renee Carlino: Book Review

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Synopsis from 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

Publisher: Atria Books

Date Published: August 18, 2015

Date Read: September 15, 2016

No. of Pages: 320 pages

Source: Kindle version

Setting: New York

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This has got to be my favorite Renee Carlino book!

Well, at least out of the three I have read by her. (Sweet Thing, Swear on This Life and Before We Were Strangers).

The blurb! Oh my goodness that blurb! I don’t know about you, but the blurb simply drew me in. It was my fantasy put into paper. I have always fantasized about chance meet-ups at places you only see in movies, like coffee shops, train stations, and all these common places. It was a common place to meet someone, yet in reality it never really happens, have you wondered about this? I am so fixated about this idea that what if that someone meant for you is just sitting right across you in a subway on your ride home, or the next person in line while you’re getting your morning coffee at an over-priced coffee shop, or that someone you bumped into when you were running late to catch your 9am meeting, those simple yet unrealistic way of meeting someone. This was what my fantasies are made of, and reading Before We Were Strangers’ blurb had ignited this fixation on chance meet-ups. I knew I had to read the story and eventually find out where it will take me. And it got me here, writing this review that hopefully could give justice to this beautiful book.

If you haven’t noticed already, I have been binge reading Renee Carlino books. The very first book I have read by her was Swear On This Life which I loved to bits! Back then I made a vow that I would read everything she wrote and will ever write. Before We Were Strangers is the third book I have read by her, and again it blew me away. I will say it now, I loved this one a hundred times more than Swear On This Life. This might be my favorite Renee Carlino book! I suffered the proverbial book hangover over this one. It was all I was thinking about for days on end. I immediately wanted to reread it after I finished. That’s how good it was for me. Before We Were Strangers is the kind of book I have been craving for so long. This is the kind of book that made me fall madly in love with reading. This is the kind of book I live for.

We follow the story of Matt and Grace (Matthias and Graceland, loved this), two senior college students who started out as good friends. Their characters are relatable and likable. We have Matt, who is into photography and we have Grace who plays the cello, just by this premise alone you could very well tell that you are in for a good story. A good boy and a good girl, well that doesn’t happen often in new adult books – more often than not it will be about a brooding boy with issues he wants to keep hidden and a broken girl with past she’d rather forget, which we all know too well. Before We Were Strangers is different, it is more than a story, it embodies second-chances and life choices. It will make you see things in a different perspective. Matt’s character has always been a likable one, he is as real as the next person you come across with.What drew me in was the fact that he was latching on to something he lost before. Grace on the other hand was a reserved girl but with care-free vibe that you would not miss. She knows fun when she needs to, and knows the weight of responsibilities on her shoulder at the same time. I love that Grace’s character was not the usual whiny female protagonist. I love love love their adventures, the way they portrayed New York, it sounded so amazing I wanted to book a ticket to New York and just relive what they did. And don’t get me started with the free breakfast as their dinner meal whilst wearing their sleepwear! Gahhhhd I want to hug Matt and Grace!!!!

The One That Got Away stories always have a special place in my heart. It was in the way that the story transitions, it is looking at it in a different light, oh the what might have been(s) and the what ifs, these are the stories I automatically gravitate towards. Before We Were Strangers pulled me into an embrace that I wouldn’t want to remove myself from. The character development was impeccable, you grow as the characters grow, you feel their regrets and pain and you share their joys as well. There was something so innocent and pure about Matt and Grace’s relationship, it was never rushed, it has its own perfect timing. I loved how the book transitions and pave its way to an engaging course where readers can pick bits and pieces of themselves along the way. It was just so beautifully written and so heartbreakingly true.

The story is told in an alternating point of view, which was something I really like in a book. We are taken into this confluence of the life Matt and Grace had back then and the life they have in the present, how much of it have changed and how much of it they regret. It was a series of choices one after another but not without fate working its way that led them to where they are. It was the embodiment that you never know where life will take you or where you will end up no matter how much planning and plotting you do, it is just the way things should be – of how destiny do its magic. And there is some sense of comfort in that thought. It was like grabbing uncertainty and giving it a hug. This was what this book is all about, it kinds of give you the taste of what happens when you lose someone you loved without knowing how or why and then at some funny stroke of luck you find them again, with the same intensity of emotions you had back then, and realising that things lost will always find its way back. This book will bring you to a journey of a love that was lost and found again. It will fill your heart with warm and fuzzy feeling, much like watching a good romantic film. This book is screaming to be made into a movie, it has the perfect setting, plot and twist with characters you can fully relate to.

I see now the writing style of Renee Carlino, she always put things into perspective. She writes books not only to tell a story but to give out a scenario of what could have been, her books are reassurance that in life there is no such thing as too late, that taking chances is a part of the choices we make day in and day out, that everything will lead us back to where we are supposed to, however long the journey or how rough things were. This realization hits me hard, and I will forever seek that wisdom her books give.

This is definitely one of the best reads I’ve had this year. Without a doubt I will be recommending this one incessantly to people and probably begging them to read it as if their lives depend on it.

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“You can’t re-create the first time you promise to love someone or the first time you feel loved by another. You cannot relive the sensation of fear, admiration, self-­consciousness, passion, and desire all mixed into one because it never happens twice. You chase it like the first high for the rest of your life. It doesn’t mean you can’t love another or move on; it just means that the one spontaneous moment, the split second that you took the leap, when your heart was racing and your mind was muddled with What ifs?—that moment—will never happen the same way again. It will never feel as intense as the first time. At least, that’s the way I remember it. That’s why my mother always said we memorialize our past. Everything seems better in a memory.”
Renee Carlino, Before We Were Strangers

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Sweet Thing by Renee Carlino: Book Review

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Synopsis from Goodreads: “You have to teach your heart and mind how to sing together… then you’ll hear the sound of your soul.”

Mia Kelly thinks she has it all figured out. She’s an Ivy League graduate, a classically trained pianist, and the beloved daughter of a sensible mother and offbeat father. Yet Mia has been stalling since graduation, torn between putting her business degree to use and exploring music, her true love.

When her father unexpectedly dies, she decides to pick up the threads of his life while she figures out her own. Uprooting herself from Ann Arbor to New York City, Mia takes over her father’s cafe, a treasured neighborhood institution that plays host to undiscovered musicians and artists. She’s denied herself the thrilling and unpredictable life of a musician, but a chance encounter with Will, a sweet, gorgeous, and charming guitarist, offers her a glimpse of what could be. When Will becomes her friend and then her roommate, she does everything in her power to suppress her passions—for him, for music—but her father’s legacy slowly opens her heart to the possibility of something more.

Publisher: Atria Books

Date Published: August 30, 2013

Date Read: September 6, 2016

No. of Pages: 320 pages

Source: Kindle Version

Setting: New York

 

REVIEW

Love and Music, what could go wrong?

 

And because I made it my life’s mission to read all Renee Carlino books, I immediately followed Swear On This Life by Sweet Thing. I understood that Sweet Thing was one of her earlier works, but I could not help but compare. Renee Carlino truly evolved as a writer. Her writing style was so much better in Swear On This Life. But that doesn’t mean that Sweet Thing wasn’t just as good, let’s just say Sweet Thing had potential, but kind of did not live up to its promise.

The prologue was the first thing that captured me, it was set in this tone where you can already feel a good story is about to unfold. In Sweet Thing we follow the story of Mia Kelly and Will Ryan. I am the kind of reader that doesn’t dwell too much on the blurb. I want to go ahead reading a book as blind as possible. There is really fun in that. As I was reading this book, I thought it was just another typical NA story. A goody girl falling for a guy in band, how many times have we read a book like that? But this book, despite it being a little mediocre had redeeming qualities as well. It focused on life’s choices, on life’s ever present predicament of choosing what you want and choosing what is right – which more often than not are two different things. In this book we see the struggle of a girl who thought she had it all figured out, and ending up somewhere she did not plan. We are taken into this journey of self-discovery and the constant pursuit of passion despite all the reasons not to and despite all the setbacks.

This book is perfect for readers who enjoy stories about music, this one is brimming with it. I loved how music is incorporated in this book, I loved how it played an important part in forming Mia and Will’s story. It kind of reminded me of the movie Begin Again, but the similarity of it ended there and nothing more. Mia and Will’s story was painted in such a way that readers should be patient in reading it. Or at least be patient with Mia. Mia’s character had goals she had worked so hard for to achieve, but then when reality hits her, she was lost completely. Her character was in a crisis, for lack of a better term. She was always at war with what her mind dictates and what her heart desires – happens to the best of us. It worked for me for quite sometime, but then as the story progressed, I found her character to be a annoying to a fault. There was this sick cycle of one-step-forward-two-steps-back that Mia’s character kept on doing, and to be completely honest, it was a little frustrating to read. Will on the other hand, is as sweet as ever. He was a free-spirit with a huge heart. I loved that his character was carefree, a stark contrast to that of Mia, maybe that’s why they clicked.

I am always drawn to books with New York as its setting. More often than not, books set in New York end up being a favorite. I don’t know about you, but the premise of New York alone is enough for me to pick a book up. Same reason with Sweet Thing, I loved how the city was portrayed in this book, again back to the Begin Again feels. There is just something so real and yet so magical about it. Mia and Will’s story could be anyone’s story. I loved that Renee Carlino made it into something believable and relatable. Her writing style is beautiful too. I think that’s one of the reasons why I kept coming back to her books. She has a way with words that would just hit you, something that connects to your body and soul – and not every book could do that.

Sweet Thing is about finding who you are amidst all the chaos, it is knowing what you want and going for it. It was real portrayal of life, love, loss and everything in between. It is not just a love story, it was about friendship and family too. It was always something more than meets the eye. Renee Carlino will now be a staple on my shelf.

 

Rating: rating_3stars

“You are your experiences and your fears and the love you let yourself feel. You are your degree and your talent and your passion. You are your pain, your joy, and your fantasies.”
Renee Carlino, Sweet Thing

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