Showing posts with label sarah jio. Show all posts
Showing posts with label sarah jio. Show all posts

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!

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

Friday, February 1, 2013

January 2013 in Review

And so January 2013 has come to an end.  A crazy month around these parts, for sure.  I had to dial it down on my posting a little bit, because things just got a little too crazy with work, home, and blogging all at once.  You'll be seeing fewer memes here, but I'm actually okay with that, because I never intended to participate in so many of them in the first place!  I think some memes are fun but can be a bit repetitive when done too often.

I still got a lot of reading done though!  The fave/least fave honors go to...

January 2013 Favorite: Where She Went by Gayle Forman
January 2013 Least Favorite: Dreamcatcher by Stephen King

In total, I read/reviewed 8 books:

I also posted mini-reviews for 2 books:

And one new Small Fry Saturday: Press Here by Herve Tullet

Beyond reviews, we chatted about my New Year's resolutions, bookish travels, and the merits (or not) of reading your book jackets.  I also hosted two more giveaways, and we all know how much I LOOOOVE spreading the free stuff around.  :)

Oh, and I got bangs.  BEFORE Michelle Obama.  Whatever Mrs. O, you can't start EVERY trend.
Why can't I make this photo smaller? Oh well, enjoy judging my pores.

What's on tap for February?  I actually have a lot of ARC/review copies to get to, so you'll be seeing more of that.  And on the personal front, my husband and I are going to try to have a "no spend month"...basically no spending beyond bills, groceries, gas.  Bye bye candy bars from the checkout aisle...and of course, no book purchases.  **sad trombone**  We'll see how this goes.  Luckily February is a short month.

However, I DID budget for my trip to Vermont to see Jodi Picoult on February 26!  WOOT WOOOOT!  So you'll hear about that soon.

What will you be reading in February, my well-read readers?

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Book Review: Blackberry Winter by Sarah Jio

Title: Blackberry Winter
Author: Sarah Jio
Publisher: Plume
Publication Date: September 25, 2012
Source: personal purchase via Kindle

Plot Summary from Goodreads

Seattle, 1933. Single mother Vera Ray kisses her three-year-old son, Daniel, goodnight and departs to work the night-shift at a local hotel. She emerges to discover that a May-Day snow has blanketed the city, and that her son has vanished. Outside, she finds his beloved teddy bear lying face-down on an icy street, the snow covering up any trace of his tracks, or the perpetrator's.
Seattle, 2010. Seattle Herald reporter Claire Aldridge, assigned to cover the May 1 "blackberry winter" storm and its twin, learns of the unsolved abduction and vows to unearth the truth. In the process, she finds that she and Vera may be linked in unexpected ways...

My Review:

I saw this book here and there around the blogosphere, but when someone told me "you'll like this if you like Jodi-Picoult-esque novels", I was sold.  You can get me to read the back of a deodarent stick if you tell me it reads like a Jodi Picoult novel.

I can see why Jio's book is compared to JP.  At its core is a mysterious and moving story, as Claire searches for the long-missing Daniel, and deals with her personal losses at the same time.  The story itself is what kept me turning the pages.  I wanted to know what happened to Daniel, I wanted to know what happened in Claire's past and whether she would reconcile with it, and I wanted to know where Vera went.  Jio always has a new mystery for you to uncover, and that's the best aspect of this book.  Plus, the mother/son relationship between Vera and Daniel is awesome.  Maybe I'm just a sucker because I have a son, but by the end, I was getting teary every time I learned more about them.  What can I say, motherhood turned me into a sap.  I AM NOT ASHAMED.

I do wish that the writing were stronger, though.  While there were a few unpredictable twists at the end, for the most part, Jio has a tendency to make the answers to her mysteries a bit too obvious.  And as a reader, I don't like to feel like I'm being hand-held through the plot.  I figured out one of the big "reveals" before I hit the 10% mark of the novel.  There are just too many blatant hints about how certain people will become significant to the plot, and with a little more creative wordcrafting, that could have been avoided.

Also, the writing itself (especially the dialogue) feels clunky and stilted at times.  It's clear that Jio skips out on certain details or emotional embellishments when she's trying to lead you towards the next clue in the mystery.  For example, at one point Claire and a companion are searching a house, and stumble across a broken window and some missing items.  Clearly a burglary.  But they oddly ignore it and move onto the next room in the house (where they, TA-DA, end up finding the next clue).  This felt strange, and illustrates how the author spent too much time only focusing on the important details, rather than fleshing out the full story.

Overall: an intriguing story that will tug at your heart-strings, for sure.  Despite my caveats about the way it was written, I don't regret jumping into this story at all.  I just wish the writing style made the plot shine a bit more.

Have you read this (or other) Sarah Jio novel(s)?  Thoughts, dear readers?
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