Blog Tour: Swear on This Life by Renee Carlino

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for Renee Carlino's Swear On This Life! Since reading it last month I have been beyond excited to share my thoughts about it. I flew through this amazing novel and it instantly became one of my favorites of 2016. If you love stories that draw you in completely, that completely capture you as the story unfolds, that are heartfelt and emotional, I think you'll love Swear On This Life

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?

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Sometimes you pick up a book and just instantly click with it. If asked, you may not even be able to explain why. Is it the characters? The story? The writing? Chances are it’s not just one thing (or even all those things) because some books just have that indescribable something that speaks to you. It doesn’t happen often for me but it sure happened with Swear on This Life.

Swear on This Life is a love story - a love story between a boy and a girl that withstood poverty, abuse, neglect and separation. Emiline and Jase formed a bond that started as friendship and developed into a love and understanding that they were sure would see them past their current circumstances. But Life was far from kind to these two.

"We didn't have any grown-ups in our lives to guide us. 
Jax and I were raising each other."

Emiline’s present and her past unfold in parallel. Carlino’s choice to share Emiline’s past via a fictional novel was brilliant and worked so well – a story within a story. I felt as though I were reading right along with Emiline – she reliving her past, me experiencing it with such heartache for her childhood. In present-day, Emiline is dissatisfied; a frustrated writer in an uncomplicated relationship going nowhere. When she learns of a new book sensation, one that recounts her own childhood albeit with characters named Emerson and Jax, she knows the writer can be no one other than Jase. She is appalled by his cruelty at profiting from her story and is left questioning why he would do such a thing. Determined to confront Jase, just as she is confronting her own past on the page, Emiline begins to finally deal with the demons from her childhood.

"We didn't know it at the time, but we were lovesick."

I loved the connection between Jase and Em. They had such an incredible bond – not just two kids who were thrown together by circumstance, but two people who found love at an early age and who were truly meant to be. While their situation often seemed hopeless, there was still always a sense of hope with their plans for “one day.” It was impossible not to fall in love with them and hope desperately for a happy ending.

"Jason Dean Colbertson, how'd you get so great?"

"You made me this way, Em."

I think it’s safe to say that I was completely enamored of Swear on This Life. I loved Carlino’s writing style, I was captivated by the story, and I was smitten with Emiline and Jase. Swear on This Life instantly became one of my favorites of 2016 and I can’t recommend it highly enough. Do yourself a favor and read this remarkable story.


During the winter we pretended our way through the classics, read every popular kid’s book and by spring of our sixth grade year, the spring of all the rain, we were ready to be outside and explore again. There was a creek about half a mile back from our houses, past the tree line. Because of all the rain that year, it had become more of a river with the strongest currents right behind where we lived. Every adult warned us to be careful, even my dead-beat dad would say, “You better use that big brain of yours and stay out of the creek. You want to go swimming, you can go to the pool in town.”

Funny he would say that because the community pool was a seven-mile bike ride and it cost three dollars to get in. There was no way I was going unless Leila, Jax’s mom gave us a ride and even then, I would have to borrow the money to get in. Frankly, going to the town pool was a pipe dream. It became a myth to us, a fantasy like Disneyland or Europe. Jax and I would try to imagine what it was like to go there.

“I bet they sell popsicles and popcorn and they probably have clowns too,” I said.

It was a warm day; we had made a picnic in the weeds. I laid out my Toy Story sleeping bag I’d had from when I was a kid. Jax brought a jar of applesauce and I brought Fun Dip that my dad had bought me at the 7-11. We mixed the fun dip into the jar and took turns eating spoonfuls.

“Community pools don’t have clowns, genius.”

“How do you know?” I said.

“Because I just do.”

“I bet there’s a high dive, like fifty feet in the air.”

“Do you know how high fifty feet is? You would die hitting the water. The impact would kill you.”

“You’re such a know-it-all, Jackson. Why can’t you let a girl dream? We’re never going to that pool because no one will ever take us, plus, it costs money, and last time I checked you weren’t making any.”

He lay back on the blanket and propped his hands behind his head and closed his eyes. “I’m not a know-it-all, I just have cable. And as soon as I turn sixteen, I’m getting a job. I’ll pay for us to go to the pool. You’ll see, it’s just a big hole with water in it.”

I never really stared at him until that day. His eyes were closed so I took the time to inspect every inch of him. I was so curious about his body. My own body was changing and I was terrified of it. Jax was getting taller. He was going to be tall like his father, but he looked more like his mother in coloring and features. Jax’s mom was French, so they had this creamy skin that looked sun-kissed year around and his brown hair and brown eyes had streams of gold running throughout it. He was letting his hair grow longer because he’d been watching some show on TV that took place in California. He said everyone in California had long hair.

I was trying to grow my own unruly, brown locks out. I don’t know why, I always had it in a braid. Maybe because I thought I would go to California with Jax one day. We both yearned for more than weeds and corn. All the books gave us those silly ideas and filled our heads with things that might never be.

I lay down beside him and stared directly into the sun. He turned on his side and propped his head on his elbow.

“You’ll go blind doing that,” he said in a low voice.

“Leave me alone.”

“Why are you in such a bad mood? You PMSing?”

“What do you know about it?”

“A lot.”

“I doubt that and even if I were, it’s beyond rude to talk to me about it.” I hadn’t started my period yet but I wasn’t going to tell him that.

Renée Carlino is a screenwriter and bestselling author of contemporary women's novels and new adult fiction. Her books have been featured in national publications, including USA TODAY, Huffington Post, Latina magazine, and Publisher's Weekly. 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. Learn more at


  1. YAY!! I loved this one too. Em and Jase were the best. Great review!!

    1. Thanks Grace! I was loving those two so hard. And every time Em's roommate or Jase kept telling her "just finish the book!" I was totally telling her right along with them. LOL

  2. Great review! I'm glad you loved this! I think I would have liked it more without the whole Trevor aspect -- that just felt so off to me. Em was so wishy-washy about it but refused to take action and then the addiction was so convenient. But I still love the premise and Jase!

    1. Thanks Eva. Em was definitely complacent at the beginning. And bitter about the critiques of her work and others success. Not wholly likable, for sure. But I guess I liked seeing the change in her.

  3. I love the idea of this one and that she knows the story is about their shared past! It kind of reminds me of Ezra and Aria from Pretty Little Liars and the situation with Ezra's first writing project! Glad to hear you enjoyed this one Tanya!
    Emily @

    1. Thanks Em! You lost me with the PLL talk (LOL) but this really was a wonderful story. I was 100% invested and now I want to read everything by Renee Carlino!

  4. I was so in love with this book!! I'm so happy you loved this one!

    1. Thanks Gen... and now I'm dying to read everything by Renee Carlino! :)

  5. Great review!
    I'm glad my library got this one. As we talked about forever ago, I really really disliked the first and only Carlino book I read a few years ago. It turned me off of her, at that point anyhow. But second chances are always given. So here's hoping I end up loving this one as much as you!

    1. Oh man, the pressure is on. I wonder is Renee senses that her future with you hangs in the balance. Oh, the drama! :) I do hope you love it. Maybe her writing just isn't for you but I hope that's not the case - because this became an instant favorite for me. So naturally I want everyone else to love it, too. :)