Title: Remembering Everly
Author: J.L. Berg
Genre: New Adult, Romance, Contemporary
On sale: July 05, 2016
Format: Trade Paperback
Price: $11.99 USD
Book synopsis and promotional spiel:
After a stunning cliffhanger ending in Forgetting August, USA Today bestselling author J.L. Berg delivers the happily ever after that fans have been waiting for in the sequel, Remembering Everly.
After two years in a coma, August Kincaid has forgotten the darkness in his past. But his past hasn’t forgotten him. His beautiful former fiancée, Everly, remembers every tumultuous moment of their stormy relationship. The sizzling passion. The web of lies. And the terrible secret Everly’s been hiding since her last fateful night with August.
Now the truth is out and August remembers everything. As his long-buried memories come flooding back, he begins to understand why Everly would want to move on with her life. Why she would give her heart to another man. And why August should try to forget her once and for all.
But he can’t give up on the only woman he’s ever loved. Even if he has to reopen old wounds—and face the darkest demons of his past—August will do whatever it takes for a second chance with Everly. He let her slip away once. He’s not about to spend the rest of his life remembering Everly when he could be holding her in his arms forever.
Remembering Everly, the second installment of The Lost & Found series, is now available in print for the very first time!
I’d like to extend my gratitude to Forever for not only inviting me to participate in their release day blitz but for also providing a digital ARC for me to review. Again, to emphasize, I received a digital Advance Reading Copy (ARC) of the book from the publishers in exchange for an honest review. (Short, unnecessary babble: For the release day blitz, I opted against merely posting an excerpt from the book out of personal principles. One of my blog’s objectives is to have book-related discussions deeply rooted from complete honesty. The same holds true for any promotional post and/or featured book.)
When I gave Forgetting August four solid stars without any hesitation, it probably was not much of a surprise that Remembering Everly became one of my most anticipated reads for this year. In fact, if I recall correctly, I wrote this in my book review: The ending shows a lot of potential and promise for the next book! I am hoping to immediately get my hands on a copy of Remembering Everly because I badly want to know what happens next!
Just by the two and a half stars found above a couple of paragraphs from this very sentence, I guess it’s obvious that I found the sequel significantly underwhelming compared to its predecessor. Typing that sentence alone makes me feel really, really sad. On that note, I’d like to keep this review concise and straight to the point as the thought of giving one of Berg’s works a less than exemplary review almost physically pains me.
Even the tiniest white lie had the power to corrode—to shatter and dismantle everything you loved.
The second book immediately picks up right where Forgetting August left. I won’t elaborate so as to avoid any major spoilers. For the first one-third of the story, I was eagerly reading, finding myself drawn to how things were shaping up now that August started regaining his memories. I found myself empathizing with both Everly and August as they faced their respective inner demons; Everly second-guessing her future with Ryan (unsure if it was just pre-wedding jitters or genuine regret over her decision) and August struggling with his identity.
However, above everything else, I fell more and more in love with Ryan. In my earlier review of Forgetting August, I mentioned (in detail) how much I admired the strength of his character and how effortlessly easy it was for me to emotionally connect with him. Honestly? That did not change. Although Ryan’s exposure in the sequel was quite limited, every scene Ryan was in easily became one of my favorites throughout my reading experience. He was just it, you know? That probably was not a helpful description at all. I think August’s narrative summed up Ryan’s overall personality perfectly:
He was a dying breed—the last of his kind. The gentle giant, a class-act gentleman who carried his heart on his sleeve and cared with every fiber of his being.
Kudos to August for recognizing that Ryan will always be a better man than whatever it is he hoped to be. But I digress. As I never wholeheartedly adored Everly, I was perfectly fine with the idea of her and Ryan not ending up together. I was not rooting for Ryan and Everly; I was just rooting for Ryan. Still despite my concern (or lack thereof) for their relationship, there were instances that the two of them tugged at my heartstrings.
He chuckled, shaking his head. “I’m pretty sure that’s not true. But, don’t worry. I want to be surprised when you walk down that aisle.”
“Oh, you will be. Especially when you find out I’m wearing a burlap sack. So sexy.”
“Oh yeah?” He took a few steps closer, until we were nearly touching. “And how does this burlap sack fit? Is it really tight around here?” His hands wrapped around my backside, curving around each shapely, round cheek.
“Totally. Chafes like a bitch, but fits me like a glove.”
“I’m trying to woo you here,” he laughed, shaking his head was his shoulders shook.
“Oh, okay. My bad. I’ll try to be more accommodating. Try again.” I immediately went blank in the face, looking up at him with doe-like eyes.
His deep unfiltered laughter was all I heard as he threw me over his shoulder and we both toppled onto the bed.
Here’s where this review takes a sharp left turn, fellow reader. I struggled to appreciate the latter two-thirds of the book. In fact, I could not. I had a great deal of issues with a little bit of everything, which came as a shock to me considering how emotionally swept away I was with Forgetting August. Let’s break them down, yes?
Personally, Problem #1 was how badly the storyline seemed to drag. The pacing was sluggish at best and frustratingly tedious at worst. For a significant bulk of the story, nothing relevant was happening and nothing was developing — nada. More than a handful of scenes were just mundane, filler-type content that collectively did not hold any bearing to the overall plot. It was the sort of thing you’d get from asking a random stranger, “Hey, how was your day?” as a sad attempt for small talk. Maybe s/he’d have something interesting to say, maybe not – either way, you can’t bring yourself to care.
Admittedly, Remembering Everly picked up at little in the last hundred pages or so, but it did extremely little to pique my interest.
Problem #2 was the dreadful monotony. What began as empathy for the complicated romance between August and Everly quickly morphed into a (seemingly endless) series of eye-rolls. There was a lot of back-and-forth drivel throughout the middle. I love August but he hates me now. I love Everly but she isn’t safe with me. I love August but I’m scared. I love Everly but I shouldn’t want her. Do I still want to be with August? Should I still fight for Everly knowing full well that Ryan is a faultless god compared to me? What do I do? What do I do? That sort of repetitive shebang with cheesy dialogue tossed into the salad. Needless to say, it was not my cup of tea.
In the end, the chemistry between the two fell flat probably because everyone got fed up with reading about how adamantly crazy they were for each other and how they kept trying to suppress their romantic feelings (keyword: trying). But that’s probably just me.
Trent’s character constitutes as Problem #3. As the self-appointed villain of the story, Trent appeared to be nothing more than the backside of a cereal’s cardboard box – the side that’s not graced by morning sunlight streaming through the kitchen’s open window. In other words, Trent was one-dimensional and forgettable as a villain.
Let’s move on to Problem #4 otherwise known as Everly’s character development and its poor execution. Similar to its predecessor, Everly and August were physically apart for a huge chunk of the book. A part of me appreciated this as it paved way for Everly to find herself and to unearth her personal goals and ambitions as a capable woman. She finally addressed one of her flaws as a character: her overly dependent nature. Which was great. She finally decided to reclaim her life and to pursue her dreams. Which was equally great. She finally realized that she had to get her act together before trying to fix other people. Which was, again, great. She finally learned the necessity of independence and personal strength. Also pretty fucking great.
All right, so what exactly are you struggling with here, Shealea?
While all her self-actualizations and tiny epiphanies were commendable, her actual progress as a developing character was ephemeral. At one point, Everly said this in her narrative:
But sometimes in life, we don’t get to pick what’s normal and what’s not. We only get to choose how we define ourselves in the process. I would not become the heroine who ran back to her man just because the story was coming to an end. He needed me and I needed him, but there was still so much left for us to figure out.
Allow me to reiterate that one sentence, love: I would not become the heroine who ran back to her man just because the story was coming to an end. Take a guess at how that eventually worked out, yes? (Note: This is technically not a spoiler as the book description in the first part of my post—which was provided by the publicist—promised a happy ending.)
My point is simple. Everly was not given the fullest opportunity to grow as a heroine. She should have been given more time to actually work through her issues. Instead, what we were given was an underdeveloped heroine and a ridiculously rushed resolution, the latter being Problem #5.
Overall, the second installment to this series was completely predictable—which isn’t necessarily a negative thing. In fact, I find most contemporary romance novels to be greatly predictable but I’ve still managed to enjoy reading a decent number of them. However, with Problems 1 to 5 in the mix of things, predictability quickly evolves into Problem #6.
Now, onto the more pressing matter: Shealea, why should this book be read?
1. Ryan’s character.
2. J.L. Berg’s writing style. Despite the monotony, tedious pacing and half-baked plot, it’s apparent that the author has a lovely way of weaving sentences and crafting eloquent prose.
3. My main struggle with Forgetting August (as mentioned in my review) was forming a solid opinion of August’s character. I had a lot of mixed feelings, and I could not really fathom whether I liked him or not. After reading this novel, I have finally made up my mind.
4. Closure. Truth be told, Forgetting August left readers, including myself, numerous questions—not just ones that wondered what would happen but also those that tackled what happened (e.g. Why did August mistreat Everly in the first place? What scared August?). The answers to these queries are all revealed in the sequel.
Despite everything I disliked about Remembering Everly, I am still a fan of the author’s writing. I honestly don’t believe that the first installment of this series was merely a fluke because I greatly enjoyed Berg’s other novel, When You’re Ready, which I have yet to review.
Would I reread Remembering Everly? Probably not. Would I be interested in a spin-off novel that centers around Ryan’s life? Most likely yes. Am I looking forward to the author’s next novel? Absolutely.
Excerpt from the book:
It was as if my life was an endless roll of film, and someone had come along, spliced it all up and tossed it to the floor. Now every film cell, or memory, was out of order. I didn’t understand how they all fit and I was beginning to fear I might never put them all back together again.