One True Loves by Taylor Jenkins Reid

 

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Emma Blair married her high school love Jesse Lerner. Together they built a life that revolved around their shared love for travel and adventure. They may be living in a crappy apartment, and broke most of the time. But they were together, and doing the things they have always planned on doing together. Ever since that drunken night in high school when he told her how much he hated swimming, and how much she hated working in her parents’ bookstore, Jesse and Emma always knew that they were meant to fall in love, stay together for a long time, and eventually get married. That’s exactly what they did, and life was perfect.

Until one day, it wasn’t. Just a day before their first wedding anniversary, Jesse flew to Alaska for a work assignment. The helicopter he was flying in crashed somewhere in the North Pacific, killing all four people on board. Jesse’s body was never found, and he was tragically presumed dead.

Losing the love of her life nearly drove Emma insane. The pain was nothing she’d ever known. Then she realized that if she let herself hurt every single day, she would waste away the best years of her life. She made the decision to leave California and move back to her hometown of Acton, Massachusetts, to start all over again.

And then just like that, she meets her old friend Sam Kemper. And then just like that, Emma finds herself feeling genuinely happy, alive, and in love again. So happy, alive, and in love that when Sam asked her to marry him, yes was the only possible answer. Sam was perfect, and life was perfect.

Until, again, it wasn’t. Three and half years since that fateful day, Jesse Lerner has been found and was finally on his way back home to her. Forced in an impossible situation, Emma finds herself with two wonderful men she both loves desperately, and who love her back just as much.

Can a person ever really have more than one true love? Should she be with the man that she has loved all her life, or should she be with the man who made her believe in love again? Does she want to be the Emma that Jesse has always known, or does she like this new version of herself that Sam helped her to become?

Like with any Taylor Jenkins Reid novel, this is an emotional tale from start to finish. I love that it’s a quiet and beautiful story, one that you don’t even realize how much it hurts to read and see the whole story unfold. It’s not your typical love triangle wherein you can easily hate one and then love the other. It feels so real, and it will make you wonder what you’ll even do if you were ever in the same situation. It’s enough to drive a girl crazy having two great loves in your life at the same time. But having to make a choice on who stays? How can you even?

There are so many takeaways in this book. I highlighted so many lines, because they are just so simple yet stunning words. Always so deep and emotional, raw and honest. It’s beautiful and sad and happy, with an ending that feels just right. I agree that true love doesn’t always last. Sometimes you only just have to experience it to know that it’s real. Consider yourself really lucky if you end up with your true love, but count yourself even luckier if you find it twice in one lifetime.

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Burn for Burn Trilogy by Jenny Han and Siobhan Vivian

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Lillia Cho is rich, smart, beautiful, and popular. She also knows her childhood best friend, Alex Lind, is in love with her. He’s also rich, smart, handsome, and popular. He’s one of her oldest, most dependable, and most trusted friends. Unfortunately, she just doesn’t feel anything romantic for him. So when Lillia finds out that Alex has his sights set on her younger sister Nadia, and that something went down during one of their many wild parties, Lillia swears he’ll be sorry he ever laid a hand on her sister.

Kat DeBrassio used to be friends with the most popular girls in school, Rennie Holtz and Lillia Cho. They were thick as thieves, and summers were always a blast. Until queen bee Rennie decided to stop being her friend shortly after Kat’s mother died of cancer. Rennie chose Lillia. And if that wasn’t awful enough, Rennie made Kat’s life a living hell from then on. She bullied and spread malicious rumors about her just because she wanted to. One day, Kat decides that she’s had enough. It’s time for Rennie to have a dose of her own medicine.

Mary Zane has been holding on to the humiliation and heartbreak caused by her erstwhile friend Reeve Tabatsky for years. That fateful day at the ferry dock is something that Mary will carry with her for the rest of her life. What hurts the most is that Reeve doesn’t even know how much damage he’s caused. He’s still loved by all, still popular, still good-looking, his life so full of excitement, and his future so filled with promise. But he can’t get away with what he did. It’s time people knew what a horrible person he truly is. And Mary Zane is back to make sure that he pays for what he did. No matter what.

These three girls are brought together by their desire for revenge. They cannot do it on their own, but together, they can plot the sneakiest, juiciest, and most flawless revenge plan.

What can I say? It’s wild, shameless, and fun — I loved it! I wanted to hate it simply because these teenagers are horrible. All they do is drink, party, sleep around, and hate on each other. But those things are what actually make this trilogy such a delicious read. Plenty of booze, boyfriends, bitches, and bestfriendships here. And oh, not to mention revenge plots and ghost stories that will have your heart racing and your hands clammy.

Don’t be quick to hate because there’s more to Lillia, Kat, and Mary than meets the eye. It’s not all about boys and catfights. It’s not all about fun and games, either. It also talks about serious issues like date rape, suicide, sex, and depression. They look like a mindless read, judging from the book covers, but I can’t say that they totally sucked. I enjoyed reading them and didn’t think for one minute I wasted all those hours for nothing.

The ending leaves a lot to be desired, but I can’t really talk about it without spoiling it for you. Now that I’ve finished reading all three books, I actually miss the rich and beautiful people of Jar Island. Especially Kat and Reeve. It really sucks that they’re not real, because in my head, we’re like BFFs. Once again, I’ve managed to crush on a fictional high school quarterback, who’s an asshole most of the time, but really sweet and romantic when nobody’s looking. And once again, I have to break up with these book characters and move on to my next book. Oh, I hurt.

After You by Jojo Moyes

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Image from www.jojomoyes.com

After You picks up on the events that happened after Will Traynor’s death, which took place in the first book, Me Before You. Louisa Clark is still trying to find her way back into the real world, one without Will in it, but with all of his memories everywhere. She goes through life on autopilot; working her crappy pub job at the airport to pay the bills and buy the groceries, living in a colorless and lifeless London flat, and attending a grief support group called Moving On Circle once a week.

Everything in her life feels like a major letdown, and for once, she’s glad that Will is no longer around to see what has become of her. If that’s not depressing enough, she suffers a freak accident right in her own home, forcing her to stay with her parents in her hometown of Stortfold where more family drama awaits. Lou is so ready to accept her fate; that this is as good as it gets, and that she’s simply just not that person Will was convinced she could be.

And then one day, someone from Will’s past turns up at her door. Someone who could’ve possibly been one more reason for Will to want to live, if only they had met sooner. But this someone is even more messed up than Lou, and she finds herself asking: What would Lou have done?

For the first time in a long time, Lou finds a purpose.

What follows next is a rollercoaster of emotions as major life problems unravel and then get sorted out, families break up and make up, and broken hearts are mended and made whole again. Lou finally understands that she need not live in sadness and misery to keep Will alive in her heart forever.

Me Before You was what made me a big Jojo Moyes fan. It’s beautiful, sad, and heartbreaking, and I will forever remain a fan of Will and Lou’s love story. It was such a great book that didn’t need any follow-up book. However, if you know a second book exists out there, you just can’t ignore it. You can’t just not read it.

Overall, After You is not quite as beautiful as Me Before You, but it’s still a nice and entertaining read. For something that deals with grief and moving on, it didn’t feel dark and depressing. It’s actually light, positive, and even laugh out loud funny. Thank you to Ambulance Sam and the guys at the Moving On Circle. They pretty much saved this book for me. I loved the whole flirtation game with Ambulance Sam, and he’s just the kind of man who can get someone like Lou to start loving again.

The sudden appearance of that new major character plus the Clark and Traynor family drama just felt contrived, so I wasn’t too happy about those. I think this plot twist is just tired and too convenient. I would have enjoyed reading a story told from Will Traynor’s point of view, possibly his life before the accident, or his life while with Lou. That would have been loads better than this plot twist straight out of a daytime soap opera. This, however, doesn’t make me less of a Jojo Moyes fan.

Before I Go by Colleen Oakley

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Like a cruel twist of fate, on the eve of what should have been her third year of being cancer-free, twenty-seven-year-old Daisy Richmond finds out that her cancer is back, and there’s lots of it. It’s not good. The cancer has spread to different parts of her body in a very rapid and aggressive manner. Doctors break the news that her stage four cancer will give her about four months. But the clinical trial can give her more, if she agrees to participate.

Having cancer, or dying of cancer, does not terrify Daisy anymore. She did everything to make sure the cancer did not come back, but still it did, so surely this must be her life’s course. It’s out of her hands now. What truly haunts her every waking moment is the thought of leaving her husband Jack behind.

Who will make sure that he’s eating right, that his dirty socks don’t pile up by the foot of the bed, that he gets the windows caulked, and that he doesn’t lose his keys? Who will hold his hand, kiss his face, and keep his bed warm? Who will make sure that he will finish his doctorate and graduate on time? These are the thoughts that keep Daisy awake at night and sick to her stomach. She cannot leave her kind and brilliant husband to his own devices. Jack will come apart at the seams when she’s gone. Daisy’s certain of it. And that’s the last thing she wants to happen.

It’s time to find him a new wife.

Daisy’s search for the perfect new wife will leave you feeling conflicted. At first, I thought it would be a cheesy drama with lots of hysterical tears in the end. There were tears, yes, but they were both happy and sad tears. Colleen Oakley’s “Before I Go” succeeded in striking a balance between heartbreak and hope, and joy and sadness. I didn’t bawl my eyes out, but I felt like there was something lodged in my throat most of the time, and I was blinking away hot tears before anybody could notice. It’s not your first choice of a book to read because of its gloomy subject, but the author had written the story in a way that is light, funny, and heartbreakingly real. More than the cancer, it focused on how this disease eats away at relationships, and how this disease can also bring people together. I loved that the book didn’t feel like a death sentence, but more of a bittersweet, melancholic, and thoughtful journey of a young and courageous woman, and it felt just right.

“Homecoming”

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I guess today is a big day for me. Sort of. It’s been like, what, five years? It’d be great to see you again. I try not to think about what I’d say to you when you’re finally in front of me. Should I hug you? Is that okay? I think that’s okay, right? I mean, you’re like family. I guess a hug is okay. Maybe even a peck on the cheek if you’re feeling generous. Did you know that I almost changed my mind about going but decided against it? Nah, I ran away once, and I’m not doing that again to you.

Today I decided to just wear a pair of denim shorts and a simple floral top. Nothing too pretty or dressy. I don’t want you to fall even harder for me. Haha, kidding. It’s a clear and sunny day out, and it’s quite a long drive from my apartment to the airport. Might as well wear something nice and comfy, right?

At a red light, I stop and tap my fingers on the steering wheel to Coldplay’s Sky Full of Stars. Distractedly, I look down at the big, shiny scar on my right knee. I think of you, for the millionth time today. Coldplay, my scar, and you.

I have come to love my big, shiny, sometimes ugly, but most of the time beautiful, scar. Just like I have come to love you.

The story of this scar, ‘our scar’ as you used to call it, is something I like to tell people. Depending of course on the manner they ask. “What happened to that?” would usually get a snarky reply, like ‘biking accident’, or ‘never play with blunt knives’, or worse, nothing at all. But almost always my first response would be a smile, followed by a fond recollection of that day when you held up that dead, filthy rat to me while I stumbled majestically and ran for dear life. That wound bled like a bitch, and I really thought I’d be dead at six years old. I laugh at it now, but I cried like a banshee then, and you laughed and pretended not to be scared, but I swear I saw beads of perspiration on your forehead, and your lower lip quivered like it usually did when you’re feeling intense emotions.

Thankfully, my big sister Jill had been home at that time, and she managed to clean the bloody mess up without having the need to go to A & E, all the while reprimanding you for roughhousing me, all the while throwing disapproving looks at me. But what could we do? We were kids. We were supposed to cry and break stuff and get wounded. But from that day on, we shared this scar, and we were bonded for life.

It annoyed me how you’d made yourself out like a hero the following day. You told our classmates how I nearly bled out had it not been for your awesome first aid techniques. How I had been barely coherent with pain and panic. How you had tried to stop the bleeding by tearing off your favorite Harry Potter t-shirt. How I’d been so in love with you and wanted to marry you after high school.

But at least you’d gotten that part right.

After that bloody knee episode, we’d been inseparable. I’d been the only girl you allowed to play with you and your friends. I’d enjoyed building Lego castles and playing mud soccer with you as much as you’d enjoyed coming to my Barbie tea parties and going comic book hunting with me. I’d encouraged you to read books, and the following year, you were tagging along with me to bookstores and book fairs. When I was thirteen and I’d lost my mom to cancer, you called every morning before going to school to say hello and ask how that morning was. I’d answered you with ‘it hurts so much’ every single day for more than a year, but you called every day without fail, until my answer became ‘I think I’ll be ok now’.

When my dad gave me a puppy for my fourteenth birthday, you’d been the more excited one. You’d insisted on naming him Jackson, after Michael Jackson, of whom you were the biggest fan. You’d been so devastated by his death, and that puppy made all the difference. I’ve always been a softie and I really felt bad for you that time. Anyway, Jackson sounded like a really cool name for a Labrador Retriever. So we named him Jackson, and you’d been over the moon with happiness.

We’d been the coolest parents to Jackson, and he loved us both so much. He’d truly enjoyed shared custody. Everybody at school wanted to know if you were my boyfriend and I was your girlfriend. Surely something romantic was going on? I knew I had feelings for you, very strong feelings. But we were fourteen, and you were the closest person in the world to me. I had no idea whether what I felt for you was just a phase, a teenage crush, or something else. All I knew back then was that I didn’t want things to change between the two of us, and I was so not ready to be kissing you like that.

I had no idea you felt so differently.

We’d been dancing around the fact that there was unmistakable chemistry between us. The first sign you showed of trying to get closer, I had run in the opposite direction. Hundreds of times you tried to tell me, and I’d always managed to change the topic. I’d been hoping you’d get the message without the need for an awkward conversation.

Oh, you’d gotten the message, alright. On our senior year in high school, you’d casually dropped the bomb that you’d be going to California to attend film school. You’d told me that if I asked you to stay, you wouldn’t go. That it was completely up to me. You had no idea how much I wanted you to stay, Paul, but no, I couldn’t do that to you. I couldn’t be the reason you stayed, who kept you from pursuing your dreams. It was time for you to go and do bigger, greater things.

We’d promised to talk every day, promised that things wouldn’t change. So what if we were in different continents, different time zones? We’d gone through so much worse. We’d find a way to make it work. However, we both knew that it was only a matter of time. Life happened to the both of us and the daily conversations became weekly ones, until they became once a month… You get the picture.

I missed you every day you were gone. Jackson missed you so much, too. There had been so many times I cried myself to sleep, wishing for things to go back to the way they were. Before you left, I wasn’t sure if I loved you. After you left, I realized just how much I did. And I still do, Paul. So much.

My hands start to get clammy as I make my way to the arrivals hall. The electronic board tells me your flight has landed. I don’t know how to describe the thing that’s happening in my stomach. What if I throw up just as you’re about to hug me? Maybe this was a terrible idea, after all. I shouldn’t have offered to pick you up. I should’ve just shut my mouth and waited for you at home or something.

But then the phone in my pocket starts to vibrate, and I check it to see my sister Jill’s message:

It’s gonna be okay, Joey. It’s just Paul.

I quickly type a reply, ‘Thanks, just got here. TTYL’ and take a seat on an empty bench. I start to stroke the scar on my knee, our scar, a habit I have acquired over the years. When I miss you and it’s getting too tough to handle, I stroke this scar and somehow everything feels better. Any moment now, Paul, you will come walking through those doors and officially re-enter my life. Any moment now.

You know those ridiculously cheesy scenes in romantic movies where the guy catches the girl’s eyes, and everything around them starts to move in slow motion? I never thought I’d experience that same feeling, but clearly I am. I see you before you see me, and I thank God for small favors. I can look at you, I mean really look at you, without feeling self-conscious, and just take in all of you.

Oh, how I missed you, Paul. Your hair is longer now, curling around the collar of your shirt. Your hair still looks so soft despite your attempt to make it look unkempt and edgy. I see that you’re also sporting a neatly trimmed goatie. Nice, gives you that striking, rugged, sexy look. Those hipster eyeglasses look so hot on you, too. You look really great, Paul. You remind me of that cute busker in New York City I saw in one YouTube video. On your right arm there’s a long and cursive tattoo you never told me about. I feel a sudden sting in my heart as I realize again just how much we have drifted apart. A tattoo is a huge deal in my books. I would’ve told you if I ever got one.

It feels like an eternity has passed but it’s only just a few seconds. You turn towards my direction. Your face breaks into a huge grin as your eyes land on me. I manage a small wave and mouth ‘hi’. You wink playfully and you raise your arms to welcome me in a big hug. I need no further encouragement, and I walk-run towards you.

God, it feels so good to be in your arms again. We hug for a long time and you give the top of my head a kiss. I fight back tears as you whisper “I’ve missed you, Jo” and I just nod my reply. Too soon we break apart, and then you stare at me, and my heart goes whoosh, my knees turn to jelly, and my tummy goes crazy.

“There’s somebody I’d like you to meet,” you say.

I look at you expectantly. Oh, you decided to travel with your sister, too? You didn’t mention anything in your last Whatsapp message. God, I wish I dressed up and washed my hair. Phoebe will know I didn’t wash my hair! This is so embarrassing.

You motion to a guy standing a few feet away, watching us with a smile, to come over. Oh, not Phoebe, then. This must be your roommate Martin? Martin from So-Cal? The guy who hooked you up with that internship at Fox? I had no idea he’s such a good-looking guy. You guys can even pass as brothers!

Mystery Guy steps forward with a big, warm smile, the kind of smile that makes you feel like you’ve known each other for a long time. I smile back, ready to give him the warmest welcome, but then my heart gives a lurch when I see him take your hand, and then wrap one arm around your waist.

My mouth suddenly feels dry. I look at you, confused, thoughts running wild in my head, hoping he’s not who I think he is, hoping it’s not what I think it is. But you’re too busy looking at Mystery Guy, looking at him with that same look you gave me when you saw me in that beautiful green dress on our prom night, when you handed me that bouquet of roses after I got sick for an entire week, when you told me for the first time how you wanted to be more than friends.

“Jo, I’d like you to meet Martin, my boyfriend.”