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Books that make the grade.

Tag Archives: Sarah Jio

The Look of Love

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Just in time for Valentine’s Day, The Look of Love (A) by Sarah Jio is the book to read.

Sarah Jio is one of my favs and her newest book was so much fun to read. A simple love story with a twist of whimsy, The Look of Love gives a nod to the song with the same name. “The look of love is in your eyes” are the beginning lyrics to this popular song. Jane was given a gift at birth, the ability to “see” love. Only now, as she approaches her 30th birthday is she aware of this gift.

The woman who passed the gift to her sends Jane a Christmas card asking to see her. At their visit, Jane is told that she has till midnight on her 30th birthday to “see” the 6 kinds of love and document them in the ancient journal. Should she fail to complete this task; she will never herself experience love.

Six or more relationships are followed throughout the book each with their own characteristics and identities. You can’t help but root for each one to succeed.

On this bitter cold and snowy Valentine’s Day weekend, I recommend you read this book of love. It will warm your heart and tickle your fancy and perhaps make you “see” your Valentine in a whole new way.

Goodnight June

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Sarah Jio’s novels have never disappointed me and Goodnight June (B) is no different.

The author’s note tells the reader how important Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown has been to her young family. She has read it to each of her boys in turn. She has even written a humorous parody for Parenting magazine. Though a very popular children’s author, there isn’t much known about Margaret Wise Brown. In Goodnight June, Jio has brought her to life as “Brownie” a friend to Ruby who owns “Bluebird Books” a children’s bookstore.

When Ruby passes away she leaves her precious bookstore to her niece June. June leads a very successful but extremely stressful life in Manhattan working as a VP at a bank. Her primary job there is to close failing businesses when their debt to the bank becomes impossible to repay. When she travels to Seattle to assess her inheritance; she intends to return to work within the week. What she doesn’t expect is to be flooded with loving memories of her Aunt and Bluebird Books.

While you can pretty much guess at the rest of the story, it is so beautifully written that you will want to read every word. And yes, there are several surprises you might not see coming.

Goodnight June is a delightful book that can keep you company on a chilly weekend this fall. After you may even want to visit your local bookstore and sit among the children’s books.

Morning Glory

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How happy I am that I have read Sarah Jio’s newest, Morning Glory (A). Once again she has created exciting authentic characters that lead the reader through an imaginative mysterious story.

Penny is a young woman who meets a very wealthy older man Dexter.  They fall in love and marry beginning what they imagine to be an idyllic life. Years later, it is Ada who finds her true love, James. They have a beautiful little girl named Ella who they love and adore. Fate controls both their destinies shattering their lives. So, two stories, one existing in the present day and one many years before are woven together.

In alternating chapters, Penny and Ada deliver their stories. When Dexter distances himself from Penny, she becomes involved with Colin a younger boat builder who resides on a houseboat near hers. Their love blossoms like the morning glories that are scattered along the lake.  Complications arise and Penny goes missing.

Similar to Penny, Ada has been happily married.  She looses everything when an accident takes the life of both her daughter and husband.  Ada rents a houseboat in Seattle removing herself from everything that reminds her of her loss. It turns out that the boat she rents is the very same one that Dexter and Penny lived in at the time of her disappearance.

As in all her books, Sarah Jio tells a story that fully engages the reader.  She slowly but consistently allows the tale to evolve with each chapter enriching the plot until it’s completion.  Consistent with all her other books, there is always the unexpected which happily surprises the reader.

I believe that once you read Morning Glory; you will become a follower of Sarah Jio too. When you do, be sure to read all her previous novels as well. I am confident you will enjoy every one.

The Last Camellia

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Once again, Sarah Jio has captured my attention with her newest novel The Last Camellia (B+). This fascinating story spanning decades from WWII to present day is as enchanting as her previous novels.

Addison is married to Rex. While their marriage is a good one, Addison has been unable to be honest with him.  She lives with a secret. She fears that once Rex knows the truth about her; he won’t love her anymore.

Her husband’s family has just purchased Livingston Manor, an old estate in London. While there, Rex and Addison discover that the Livingston family has secrets too. Anna Livingston, a young wife and mother, died in her camellia orchard. The circumstances of her death have often been questioned. With renewed curiosity, Rex and Addison investigate this age-old mystery.  While doing so, long held secrets reveal themselves.

I love the way Sarah Jio tells a story. She captures the essence of characters and weaves an intricate tale that is a joy to read. She is an author always on my radar. With me, she has a life-long fan.

 

2013 Reviewing Begins

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So with Christmas over I have time to read again. Blackberry Winter (B+) by Sarah Jio was the first book I picked up.  I can officially say that I am a fan of the author having now read all of her books. (The Violets of March and The Bungalow)

Claire Aldridge, a reporter for the Seattle Herald has been off her game since her accident a year ago. Her life and her career are in shambles. She has been given some banal events to report and now her editor wants her to cover the unusual weather. This spring, as in 1933, a blizzard has covered Seattle in enormous amounts of snow. What could be more boring than reporting on a weather event? With the help of her friend Abby, Claire uncovers the story of a child that went missing on the day of the 1933 blizzard.  Not much was ever reported regarding the “abduction “ of three-year-old Daniel Ray.  The unresolved crime tugs at Claire’s wounded heart and it becomes her personal mission to discover what happened to that toddler so many years ago.

True to Jio’s style, the story evolves into a very well written mystery that captures the reader’s attention until the very last word. Usually, I am not a fan of mysteries they make me anxious.  This is not the case when reading Jio’s stories.  She eases you in, keeps you involved and ultimately makes it a reading pleasure. I strongly recommend kicking off the New Year by reading Blackberry Winter.

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The second book that I  finished is Gone Girl (C+) by Gillian Flynn. Without a doubt this is the most discussed book of 2012 and from what I have read will be a blockbuster movie in the spring. Honestly I don’t think it’s worth all the hype.

The beginning part of the book relates the story of Amy and Nick Dunne.  They are to celebrate their Fifth Anniversary when Amy goes missing.  In chapters that are narrated first by Nick and then by Amy the days before and after her disappearance are discussed. The story develops in this fashion for about half of the book.  As Part II opens, the story does a complete 180.  At first I was excited for a twist, love a story with a twist.  Soon, I was not enjoying the story as much as before.  Clearly it was not going in the direction I expected.

I have said many times how I don’t enjoy mysteries.  Gone Girl is the reason why. I hate feeling anxious and while there should be a bit of tension in a good mystery, I don’t enjoy high anxiety. Without revealing spoilers, I will only say that Part II and Part III were extremely disappointing to me.  I have read some other reviews and comments and I know that there are many who feel the same as I do.  In an interview with the author, an article reported that she didn’t expect the reaction to her ending that she received.  For me, I felt as “had” as Nick was and thought Gone Girl went to close to becoming a copycat type of Fatal Attraction story.  If you read this blog regularly, you know that I don’t like that either.

So 2013 is off to a good start.  My book shelves are overflowing and I look forward to cold, snowy days cuddled up to them all and of course, I look forward to reviewing them all here on The Book Mark.

Bora Bora

Well last week I was in Oslo, Norway and this week I ventured to Bora Bora with The Bungalow (B+) by Sarah Jio.  I was first introduced to Sarah Jio when I won an early reader copy of The Violets of March (A).

We first meet Anne in 2006 as she is discussing with her granddaughter a project that Jennifer has been working on for sometime.  On her campus, there is a sculpture of a man and a woman holding a box between them.  Jennifer is determined to decipher the meaning of the box and the lives of the couple.  At the very same time, Anne receives a letter that was sent to her from someone who is in Bora Bora and would like to talk to her about the time she spent there during WWII.

As she reads the letter; she is encouraged by her granddaughter to discuss the events that took place a long time ago in the far away island in the South Pacific.  Secrets long kept and feelings so long buried come undone and so the story of Anne and Westry unfolds.

Jio knows how to spin a good tale and The Bungalow, while not as great as The Violets of March, is well done.  The twists and turns of the story are well paced so that the reader is interested and engaged.  While a bit predictable, The Bungalow incorporates all the important must haves of any good love story. Regardless of what you like to read, everyone needs a love story now and again and for me this fit the bill.

A friend of mine refers to light books  as “fluff”.  Well, probably she would consider The Bungalow “fluff”.  Nonetheless, I would encourage everyone to give it a go.

A Rose is a Rose is a Rose

I decided that I wanted to read The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh (B) the moment I saw the title.  Reading is my number one hobby, closely followed by quilting and gardening.  Recently, I discovered a book on Victorian flower appliqué. The pattern book briefly touched on the idea that different flowers meant different things.  Mostly the book depicted the flowers that spoke of romance but now I know that they can mean so much more.

Abandoned as a baby, Victoria was in foster care until the age of 18. Her life in foster care was troubled and unhappy.  She was hopeful that every new placement would become the home she was searching for. Not until she was placed with Elizabeth did she believe that it was possible to find love and acceptance. Victoria did her best to test Elizabeth’s resolve to adopt her by behaving badly and destructively. Elizabeth passed every test and never disappointed Victoria until adoption day.  When the big day arrives, Elizabeth is frozen with fear and the belief that she can’t provide the home that Victoria deserves.  This fear destroys Victoria’s dreams and cements her belief that she is incapable of loving or being loved.

Elizabeth shared her gift of flowers with Victoria.  She taught her that flowers can communicate messages that can be more powerful than words. Victoria is relaxed and comfortable in the presence of flowers and so she uses this part of her past to establish her future.  Her past does more than sustain her; it comes back to haunt her.  Once again, Victoria must struggle with acceptance, worth and love as well a very painful secret.

Honestly, I can’t say that I enjoyed reading The Language of Flowers.  At times, Victoria frustrated me.  I wanted to shake her up and end her pity party and have her get on with life selflessly.  A little tension in a story can be good but too much can make the reader crazy.  Often I was crazy and was thankful that the chapters were short so that I could take breaks. Also, I didn’t enjoy the portrayal of the foster care system as an evil institution that doesn’t do anyone any good.  This was unfair to the many wonderful foster families who provide shelter, comfort and love to children. Things can and do go wrong but not all the time.

I was not disappointed by the title.  I did learn the language of flowers and won’t look at a bouquet without deciphering its meaning.  My recommendation would be to “take time to smell the flowers” and have their scent carry you while reading this novel. Read more of this post