Tag: Sarah Jio

Dec 08

The Look of Love by Sarah Jio (Or, How Pop Culture Ruined My Life)

Chick Lit, Flowers, Romance 17

Hello Bookworms!

I think that pop culture may have ruined my life. I may have gone into Sarah Jio’s new novel, The Look of Love, tainted, simply because certain associations it aroused in my psyche…My word, I’m digressing before I’ve even started. *Before further tangents take wing, I should inform you that I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher for review consideration.This in no way hampers the honesty of the following review, as you will no doubt notice in short order.*

29 year old Jane Williams is a Seattle florist (yay flowers!) She’s lived her whole life with what she believes to be a neurological condition that causes her vision to blur at unpredictable moments. One Christmas she receives a greeting card telling her that this condition is actually a rare gift that allows her to *see* love. Unfortunately, the “gift” comes with strings, and if Jane can’t identify the six different types of love before her 30th birthday, she will have to live without romantic love in her life FOREVER.

lookoflove

I’ve read and enjoyed Sarah Jio novels before, but, to be blunt, this one just did not work for me. I have to give Jio credit though, this is the first of her novels I’ve read that breaks from the dual narrative formula, so high five for branching out. Unfortunately, the book and I had some issues, most of which I blame on popular culture and my ravenous absorption of it…

First, the song “The Look of Love” evokes creepy for me, not romance. There’s a scene in Austin Powers where the song plays, and I can’t help but associate it with skeezy 60s men of mystery. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed the Austin Powers movies (though maybe I shouldn’t admit that my sense of humor is that of a 12-year-old boy.) It’s just that I can’t think of that song as in any way romantic, so I went in with a pre-conceived expectation of cheesiness.

Second, did any of y’all watch That’s So Raven on the Disney Channel? I was WAY too old to be watching it when it was on, but I used to binge watch Disney shows to combat hangovers in college. No real rationale behind this, it just was a thing my roommate and I did. In any case, the title character Raven was psychic, and every time she’d have a vision, they’d do a weird closeup on her eye and it would be all melodramatic and crazy-like. Every time Jane’s vision went blurry, I heard the That’s So Raven theme song play in my head.

thatssoraven

Thank you, internet, for animated gifs.

Finally, I am a big cynical grump. I have a problem with insta-love. I simply cannot buy into the idea that someone could walk into my kitchen one day and I’d instantly fall for them. The first time I saw my future husband, I said to my companions once he left the room (direct quote here) “Is it just me, or is that one good-looking lab monitor?” (Yes, my husband was an audio-visual lab monitor. We are the dorkiest couple EVER!) So, I thought he was hot, sure, but even my sappy 19 year old self didn’t buy love at first sight. There were several instances of love at first sight in this book, most of which popped up despite the characters having other romantic entanglements and responsibilities (spouses, children, the odd cat.)

Love can certainly be a messy business, and I appreciated that even thought Jio had a lot of insta-love going on it wasn’t always an easy road to happily ever after. That said, I felt like she was trying to juggle SO MANY tales of love that I found it difficult to connect to any one of them in a meaningful way. It’s pretty clear that my personal associations and experiences made this book a no-go for me, but hopeless romantics who loved the movie Valentine’s Day might just discover a new favorite in The Look of Love.

 Let’s chat, Bookworms! Have your personal associations with pop culture ever ruined a book for you?

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission.*

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Jun 19

The Violets of March by Sarah Jio

Flowers 22

Happy Thursday, Bookworms!

Sometimes after having read something outside of my comfort zone, I like to follow it up with a comforting read. My happy place is women’s fiction. I hesitate to call it “chick lit,” because I tend to think of chick lit as sassy, but my comfort reads are decidedly sweet. I was in need of some comfort after reading (and maybe being a teeny bit traumatized by) Hannibal: Enemy of Rome so I picked up another Sarah Jio novel, The Violets of March

violets of marchSarah Jio man. She never disappoints with the sweetness, I tell you. The Violets of March begins with Emily Wilson attempting to recover from her recent divorce. After her picture perfect New York life crumbles, Emily takes refuge with her eccentric Aunt Bee on Bainbridge Island (a mere ferry ride away from Seattle.)

As Emily settles in with her aunt, she discovers a diary tucked into the guest room night stand. Completely enthralled by the story told in the diary, Emily’s own writer’s block begins to thaw as she uncovers a mystery dating back to 1943. Of course, it’s a Sarah Jio, so her trademark dual narrative style is on display in full force.

Y’all I think this is my favorite Sarah Jio to date. I liked the story lines in both the present and the past. It had quirky old ladies, mystery, flowers, and (of course) romance! If you’ve ever harbored a desire to escape your surroundings or suspected that flowers have mystical healing properties, you and this book will get along famously!

Fess up, Bookworms. How many of you have daydreamed about leaving your grown-up existence behind and holing up on an island? 

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission. I will put it into the “buy myself a private island” fund, but give up and just put a clod of dirt in my bathtub and call it my island.*

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Jun 02

Goodnight June by Sarah Jio

Chick Lit, Contemporary Fiction 14

Goodnight Bookworms,

I don’t have kids, but I love children’s books. Remember that whole Bookish Baby Shower my book club put together for one of our members? It was an incredible stroke of luck that “C” didn’t receive a single double copy of a book for her baby girl’s library, especially since I’ve known people to get two or three copies of Goodnight Moon in a single (non bookish) baby shower. “C” got a copy, but just the one :). But that’s the way of Goodnight Moon. It’s iconic and everyone remembers it fondly. That is part of the reason I was so intrigued when I was offered a review copy of Sarah Jio’s new novel, Goodnight June. Goodnight June imagines an origin story for Margaret Wise Brown’s quintessential nursery tale. It didn’t hurt that I enjoyed one of Sarah Jio’s other books, or that my friend just had a baby girl named June. (I’ve never met a June I didn’t like. True story. I can think of three off the top of my head and each one is a treasure, I tell you!) *I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. I promise in the name of the Junes that I’ll tell it like it is!*

goodnightjuneIn typical Sarah Jio style, Goodnight June is told in a dual narrative. More specifically, it’s told in the present (well, 2005) but employs letters written between the fictional Ruby and her good friend Margaret Wise Brown in the 1940s. Our protagonist is named June. She inherits her beloved aunt’s children’s bookstore in Seattle after she passes away. A high powered banking executive based in New York, June is accustomed to shutting down struggling businesses, not attempting to save them. June begins a journey of self discovery as she explores the history of the store, her aunt’s legacy, and the influence the bookstore had on one of the most famous children’s books of all time.

There’s a bit in Goodnight June where Margaret Wise Brown is concerned that her work as a (ridiculously successful) children’s author gets little respect from her peers. She considers writing an adult novel in order to gain some credibility. Her friend and confidant Ruby tells her that her work as a children’s author may not be as celebrated as writing novels for adult, it is no less important. I guess what I’m trying to say is that I enjoyed this book for what it was. I don’t go into a Sarah Jio novel expecting intense literary prose or to be bamboozled by plot twists. It may not have been the most artfully executed book, and it was, perhaps, a bit melodramatic. In the end, though, it was a very sweet story, and that’s all I really expected and wanted. Goodnight Junwill make you want to hug the story time reader at your local bookstore or library, I can promise you that.

Nostalgia time, Bookworms! What is your favorite children’s book?

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Jan 27

The Last Camellia by Sarah Jio

Flowers, Historical Fiction 19

Hidey Ho Bookworms!

I’ve been feeling more blah than usual this winter. Perhaps the double dose of polar vortex is taking its toll, but I’ve got cabin fever something fierce. I’ve been finding refuge in my comfort fiction- short-ish novels with pretty covers and garden motifs. A while back, one of my favorite people in the UNIVERSE, Jennifer AKA The Relentless Reader, offered up some spare copies of Sarah Jio’s novel The Last Camellia. I said, “me, me, pick me!!!” into the twitter, and she sent me a book out of the goodness of her heart. (Shout out to Jen, she’s got winter way worse than I do, she’s up in Northern Wisconsin.)

thelastcamelliaThe Last Camellia is written in a dual narrative, which is delicious, because I love ping ponging back and forth in time. I’m a regular Marty McFly. The first part of the story is set on the eve of World War II. Flora is a young woman living with her parents in Brooklyn. She has a passion for horticulture (girl after my own heart) but her ambitions are stymied by her family’s poverty. Her parents are extremely kind and generous in the running of their bakery, but when you’re not getting enough dough for your, uh, dough, shady characters show up and try to shake you down for money. When Flora is offered the opportunity to go to England and hunt down the last remaining Middlebury Pink Camellia, she jumps at her chance to make some money for the family. Unfortunately. she’s stealing the rare flower for a crook who plans to sell it to the Nazis, but her conscience takes a back seat when it comes to her family’s welfare.

The second narrative is that of Addison… Addison married Rex, the son of a well-to-do family with connections to England’s aritstocracy… Or part of the aristocracy? Titles confuse me. Anyway, they two end up spending their summer in the very same manor Flora occupied 60 years earlier, and Addison is particularly entranced by the camellia orchard. Sadly for Addison, she can’t just get her garden on, because she’s being stalked by her scandalous past. This book has intrigue and drama and mystery. A few of the mystery elements seemed a little rushed at the end, but all in all, I found this book to be a nice little read. I think it’s impossible for me not to like a book about flowers.

Alright Bookworms. Let’s talk about comfort reading. Is there a genre of books you feel drawn to? What’s your happy place?

*If you choose to make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission. I will not be spending the proceeds on camellias, because APPARENTLY, it’s too cold for them in central Illinois. Hmph.*

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