Friday, November 8, 2013

GIVEAWAY and Book Review: The Last Camellia by Sarah Jio


Title: The Last Camellia
Author: Sarah Jio
Publisher: Plume
Publication Date: May 28, 2013
Source: won in a giveaway on Nadia's blog (A Bookish Way of Life)

Plot Summary from Goodreads:

On the eve of World War II, the last surviving specimen of a camellia plant known as the Middlebury Pink lies secreted away on an English country estate. Flora, an amateur American botanist, is contracted by an international ring of flower thieves to infiltrate the household and acquire the coveted bloom. Her search is at once brightened by new love and threatened by her discovery of a series of ghastly crimes.

More than half a century later, garden designer Addison takes up residence at the manor, now owned by the family of her husband, Rex. The couple’s shared passion for mysteries is fueled by the enchanting camellia orchard and an old gardener’s notebook. Yet its pages hint at dark acts ingeniously concealed. If the danger that Flora once faced remains very much alive, will Addison share her fate?


My Review:

I have to admit--I was a little unsure of how I would do with this novel.  You may remember that I read my first Sarah Jio novel (Blackberry Winter) earlier this year, and it left me feeling kind of "eh".  Liked it, didn't love it.  I was surprised, because so many people had raved to me about Jio's work, but Blackberry Winter was too predictable for me to completely get on board.  However, I was determined to give her another shot, and this giveaway win from Nadia came at the perfect time for a second try.

The Last Camellia fits well into a variety of genres: romance, historical fiction, and mystery being the primary categories.  I'm not usually a romance reader, but the relationships in this novel are not overly schmoopy or steamy.  They add a warm and fuzzy "background music" to the plot, if you will.  As for the historical fiction, that is one area that I knew Jio would excel in after reading Blackberry Winter.  I really enjoy how she merges the past with the present rather seamlessly, as modern-day Addison entwines herself in the question of what happened to Flora and the residents of Livingston Manor in the 1940's.

As for the mystery--this is where I was wary at first.  I was afraid that I would see the finale a mile away, and I simply can't stand a mystery that lacks, well, mystery.  HOWEVER, that was completely not the case here.  While I did have some hunches along the way about "whodunit", in the end I was quite surprised by the ending.  There are so many complicated players in this story that I think even the hints you do receive leave you feeling hesitant before you draw any big conclusions.

I'd say that my only hiccup with this novel is that some of the major events that occur happen rather abruptly.  For example, Addison is hiding a big secret from her husband (don't worry, not a spoiler--you find that out pretty much on page one), and when it's finally revealed, the unveiling is rather quick and terse.  Same goes for some of the events that wrap up the ending.  Given the flowing, beautiful prose of the rest of the novel, these too-quick bursts of action stick out like a sore thumb.  However, I'd say this is more an issue of styling than anything else, and it doesn't detract from how much I liked the story overall.

Sarah Jio was originally recommended to me as "the lesser-known Jodi Picoult", and I absolutely see that comparison in The Last Camellia.  A fluid blend of past-meets-present, a little bit o' love, and a good mystery = a reading win.  I'm feeling much more interested in trying Jio's other novels!

GIVEAWAY TIME!
When I won the giveaway on Nadia's blog, I received not one, but FIVE copies of The Last Camellia!  So I am keeping one, and graciously giving the other four away.  Just fill in the Rafflecopter below for your chance to win!  :)  (US/Canada only please)
a Rafflecopter giveaway

29 comments:

  1. I usually find it hard to give an author a second try. I buy a lot of books, and don't want to spend my money on something I may not enjoy. That being said, I would try an author again, if reviews and fellow bloggers recommended her/him and I could find a different title at the library.

    Reply
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    1. I agree about the money spending, usually when I give an author a second try it's because the library has it, or someone loans it to me.

  2. I really liked Blackberry Winter. I listened to it. I think it was probably a better audio book. That happens with me sometimes. I would never have stuck with a certain book if I was reading it but listening to it I do.

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    1. Good point! I've had that happen before...where the audio version clearly makes the book seem better (or worse) than the print.

  3. If I have been enjoying books by an author I would try again and hope that this book would be enjoyable. thanks for this giveaway. saubleb(at)gmail(dot)com

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    1. Oh yes, if I loved an author's work the first time, I am definitely going back for more!

  4. I've been thinking of trying her work, but I think I'd pick Blackberry Winter as I'm not sure about 'Flora' being the name of someone looking for flowers, it just seems a bit much.

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    1. Haha so true. I was a little skeptical about that one detail...it was over the top. Everything else was less contrived though, I promise. :)

  5. It sounds terrible, maybe it is, but if I've read a book by a particular author and don't like, it I never read anything else by that author. Maybe I'll change that one day :)

    heatheranne99 at gmail dot com

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    1. Hey, sometimes you just have to put your reading time where you know it will pay off!

  6. I don't remember. I have hard time giving them a 2nd chance, as there are so many good books waiting for me, lol. thanks for your generous giveaway Emma ehc16e at yahoo dot com

    Reply
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    1. Yup that is definitely true, you don't want to waste good reading time!

  7. I really enjoyed Joanne Harris's Blackberry Wine but was disappointed when I read Coastliners next. However, I then picked up Chocolat and others and have enjoyed them all.

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    1. oooh I actually have 2 Harris novels on my shelf that I haven't tried yet, this is good to hear.

  8. I've had that experience a few times in the past...it always makes me glad I gave the author another chance :) Thank you for the giveaway!!!

    -Amber Terry-

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    1. Oh good! Glad you haven't been disappointed!

  9. Sometimes I've found that an excellent author can become to formulaic. Otherwise, I try to give a second chance if I've been ambivalent. Thanks for a chance to win this wonderful giveaway!

    Reply
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    1. I definitely understand what you mean about formulaic. Sometimes that doesn't totally turn me off to an author, but it makes me not want to read too many of their books in a row, so they don't get repetitive.

  10. I guess that I am the oddball here. I usually look for a writers second or third book to see if they are getting better. lol

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    1. Yeah I usually don't start with a debut either...I'll go back to it once I've read something good in their later works, if possible.

  11. I honestly hop around so much that unless I absolutely fall in love with the way an author writes like John Green or Larissa Ione I rarely read more than one book by an author. I should probably get out of doing that.

    Anyways. Great review, I am usually not a fan of historical novels but I would like broaden my book horizons. This book does sound good although some of the events happen too fast.

    Thanks,
    Kayla Graham
    K.G. INC

    Reply
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    1. I hop around a lot too--that definitely makes it harder to give an author of a so-so book another try. I'm happy to make exceptions once in a while though.

  12. I've not Jio's Blackberry Winter, but I did read Violets in March which I really liked. In answer to your question, yes, I've stepped out a time or two and picked up a second book by someone whom I had previously read and didn't enjoy. And yes,, I was pleasantly surprised. Good review, BTW!

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    1. That should be "I've not read Jio's . . ." DUH!

    2. Ah, haven't read Violets in March yet--maybe that should be my next Jio pick.

  13. I was disappointed in this one but LOVED her other book, Violets of March. I'm glad you liked it, though! It's pretty popular!

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    1. Yes I saw your review right before I wrote mine...not for everyone! I may try Violets of March soon though.

  14. I was also complete surprised by the ending, but I shared Alison's complaint that the ending seemed incomplete. I didn't find it very believable and I didn't think it completely filled in how we got from the past to the present. However, there were a lot of things I liked about it, especially that the two characters were exploring the same location. It was a fun way to do a dual narrative :) At the end, I think I felt about this one the way you did about Jio's other book - good but nothing special.

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    1. The two characters in the same place (just in different eras) seems to be Jio's m.o. from what I've read so far. It does make for an interesting storyline.

 
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