Sunday, 2 August 2015

Before We Were Strangers by Renee Carlino - ARC Review

 Released: 18th August.


For fans of Jojo Moyes and the movie Before Sunrise, a sweeping love story inspired by a real-life missed connections story, from the USA TODAY bestselling author of the romantic women’s novels Sweet Thing, Nowhere But Here, and After the Rain.

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.


Kristine's Review:

Reviewed: July 2015.

Where do I even begin with Before We Were Strangers, the day it dropped to my kindle I dove in, I devoured the story of Matt and Grace so very quickly, with tears in my eyes I turned the last page with a quiet reverence because I had just finished what was arguably one of my favourite books, I attempted to write a review then and there but no words I found did it justice, there were not enough superlatives to describe it's sheer beauty, no words that were eloquent enough to hold a candle to this enigmatic story about two people who were perfect for each but at the wrong point in their lives.

Time changes people, we go from carefree and full of dreams and plans for the future to not always living the reality we expected, Matt and Grace were wise for their years and yet held a youthful exuberance and sense of wonder as they took in the world around them, their creative passions no doubt adding to this, in college Grace is a talented cellist, with an ear for music and natural ability that is obvious to anyone who hears her play, she knows all to well the life of a struggling musician, financially barely scraping by, this young woman is captivating from the outset, Grace is complex, nuanced, she's intriguing and beguiling and she demands you to look at her, to see what lies beneath the face she wears for the world, Grace owned me, heart and soul in Before We Were Strangers, her strength and courage, her conviction, her resilience, I was enchanted by her every thought, by every word that fell from her lips, the more I read the more I wanted from her.

Matt's voice began as one of quiet acceptance, his voice conjured this feeling that once upon a time his life was filled with joy and wonder, with simple pleasures and a sense of adventure, the wistful tone of his voice in the present day led me to believe this was no longer the case, that despite excelling in his chosen career as a photographer, a career that had seen many highs,  that age and responsibilities wearied him, changed him, the passion no longer burned in his eyes, Matt intrigued me because I knew with absolute certainty that Before We Were Strangers was more than just young lovers drifting apart, the blurb hints at it, we get a sense there's a bigger story there, but what sealed my fate as I swan dived into this story for the second time, feeling every emotional responses wrenched from me all over again, was just how much these characters spoke to me on a deeper level, within the first chapters they were ingrained in my psyche, they were tying chains to my heart, begging me without words to love them, to listen to their story, to experience their world.

Before We Were Strangers enveloped my senses, took hold of my heart branded itself on my soul, Carlino has a way with words where time becomes inconsequential when reading, hours slip by like minutes, every time I begin one of her books I settle in knowing with certainty that I'm about to experience something special, I turn the pages with a hunger and desperation that few other author's match, I sit there awed as I turn the last page declaring that she has just written her best work yet and then I do it all over again, Carlino has this uncanny ability to draw me in so completely that I experience her words like I'm living the story, she doesn't write books, she gives you a world outside if your own to experience, and with each book I read I'm left with a thirst for more, more characters to love, more stories to lose myself in, more words to cherish. I often refer to Carlino as the pied piper, her words have the ability to transcend time and space, I lose myself in what she creates and to be honest I never want to find my way back again, I want to draw out every possible moment with these characters because I don't want to say goodbye to them, I want their memory branded on my mind, I want the ink from the pages to seep into my soul and stay there marking me permanently. The story of Matt and Grace has seared itself on my heart, and after living in their world twice now, I don't think I'll ever want to let them go.

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About Renee Carlino:

Renée 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.

Also by Renee Carlino:

Sweet Thing
Sweet Little Thing
Nowhere But Here
After The Rain



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