Friday, September 4, 2015

Review: Before We Were Strangers by Renee Carlino

Rating: ★★★★★ stars
Date published: August 18th, 2015
Publisher: Atria Books
Synopsis: 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?


What I Thought:

Why have I never read anything written by Renee Carlino before? If her other books are anything like this one, I've been doing myself a serious disservice by not having read them yet. It's funny because I knew moments after looking at the cover and reading the blurb I was going to love it. Don't laugh at me, but I can usually tell whether or not I'm going to click with a book and I clicked with it big time. I loved everything about it.

One of my biggest things when I love a book is how hard I find it to explain why I loved it so much using technical terms. You know the ones that make the book sound like the piece of art it is. I'm going to try my best to try and get what I loved about this book across. First is the feelings. Oh the feelings this book gave me! I really connected with all of the emotions the characters projected. Whether it was Matt's anger and joy or Grace's happiness and sadness. I was with them both for the good times, the tumultuous ones, and the ones that brought them to their knees. I felt like I was there with them in every scene, every memory and so I experienced what they did. 

The next thing I loved about this book was the story. Grace and Matt fell in love with each other while in their senior year of college. Their timing was wrong, but I loved how I was able to experience it all, from the first moment they met through their reconnecting a second time. I loved that the majority of the story was told from Matt's point of view. Renee Carlino really nailed it. I loved the back and forth between the past and present. It was done wonderfully and never created any confusion about what was happening in the story. The moments in the past really took me back to that time in my own life. I even loved the turns and twists in the story, even when they left me agape, made me furious, or had my heart pounding in my chest.

There was just something about the way Matt was that made you want to be his friend or grab him for a snuggle and kiss. I also loved being in Grace's head and seeing how her life unfolded after meeting Matt. I loved seeing Grace transform from this determined awkward girl into this serene well adjusted woman. I admired both of them so much it's hard to say. Both Matt and Grace are likable and so easy to relate to. It was so easy to fall in love with this book. There are light moments and there are moments pregnant with meaning. There were even a few tears. It's a book I couldn't put down and kept me up late after I finished it. It'll certainly stick with you long after you've finished it. I have a feeling you'll love this book as much as I did. I in the meantime will be counting down the days to Renee's next release and catching up with her back list.

Purchase Links:

About the Author
Renee CarlinoI’m Renée Carlino, author of Sweet Thing, Sweet Little Thing, Nowhere But Here, After the Rain and my latest novel, BEFORE WE WERE STRANGERS. I’m a California native currently residing in a beach town in Southern California where I live with my husband, our two boys, and our sweet dog, June. Even though I’ve lived in the small towns of Southern California my whole life, I’ve had a long-standing affair with the big city. New York City, Chicago and Los Angeles are some of my favorite places. I like to place my characters in different settings where I can use the unique qualities of the location to help tell the story.

*Thank you to the publisher for providing a copy via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own and I was not compensated for them in any manner.*

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