Review: Blackberry Winter by Sarah Jio

Book Title/Author: Blackberry Winter by Sarah Jio
Publisher/Year
:  Plume 2012
Genre: Mystery/historical fiction – Adult Fiction
Series
: No
Other Books From Author: The Violets of March, The Bungalow

Amazon| Goodreads | Sarah Jio’s website |

I checked this out from my wonderful library. LIBRARIES ARE COOL, y’all!

 

 

 

Told in alternating perspectives, Blackberry Winter tells the story of two woman, decades apart, but whose stories become intertwined when a freak weather phenomenon in May, a blackberry winter, unearths an unsolved kidnapping from the 1930s. Vera Ray is a single mother who is struggling to pay rent with her low paying job as a maid at a ritzy hotel. With no way to pay for childcare, she tucks her three year old son in bed to work the night shift, only to return home to discover that there has been a freak snowstorm and Daniel has gone missing with only his favorite teddy bear left behind. Almost 80 years later, Claire, a reporter and wife in the midst of a failing marriage, wakes up to Seattle covered in snow and her boss wanting a great feature connecting the blackberry winter of today to the one in 1933. Claire finds the story of the missing child that went unsolved and sets out to find out what happened as Vera’s story becomes personal to her — even more so than she’d ever realized.

I really, really loved Blackberry Winter! It was a captivating story that and has made me a huge Sarah Jio fan with just one book. The way the two women’s stories were intertwined and told in alternating chapters really worked for me as I learned more about each women & their life in smaller pieces — which really piled on the suspense! I was so invested in both Vera & Claire’s stories that I’d finish one chapter and be all, “Oh man! I don’t want to switch perspectives” but then immediately be absorbed in the other woman’s story.I loved learning about Vera’s back story and how she became a single mother (umm rather swoony and then completely heartbreaking) while simultaneously learning more about what happened to her and Daniel through Claire’s investigation. That storyline REALLY got to me and Sarah Jio knows how to deliver bits of answers in a way that you can’t help but hastily read because you really care so much about what happened.

I was afraid I wasn’t going to really connect with Claire with the nature of the fact that so much of what she does in the book is help us learn more about Vera and Daniel but Sarah Jio really made her into a character I loved as she had so many of her own heartbreaking issues to deal with that really drew her to this story. While obviously her investigation about Vera was the shining storyline, I thought that Claire’s marital issues and the unfortunate accident that happened in their life was really interesting and I loved the healing that went on throughout the story in different ways. The only thing that I will say is that sometimes I thought things were a little bit too much of a coincidence but not in a way that really detracted from the story at all. But besides that, this book was fantastic & I’ll be reading all of her books!

 

Blackberry Winter was the perfect blend of mystery and historical fiction, laced with romance, and a serious page-turner. The  pieces of the mystery were revealed in that way that just makes on ravenous and the two intertwined stories were heartbreaking and beautiful. Truly a moving story that will leave you a bit misty-eyed while reading about Vera’s story — both through the back story & Claire’s investigation. Sarah Jio has just such smooth & exquisite writing — the unraveling of the mystery, the scenes that make your heart ache, the amazing characterization & more — it was just all so deftly and wonderfully written. Even if you typically don’t read adult fiction, I’d recommend still checking this one out!

 

You May Also Like: Kate MortonLucinda Riley, The Bird Sisters by Rebecca Rassmussen (it has that some sort of amazingly revealed mystery without being an overly “mystery” book — great characters, stories that make a mark on your heart, etc). 

 

Let’s Talk: Have you read this one? Heard of it? Did you guess how they were tied together? Have you read either of Sarah Jio’s other novels?  Which one should I tackle next?

Review: The Unbecoming Of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin

Publisher/Date: Simon & Schuster – 9/11
How I Got It: Got an ARC at BEA!
Read a summary here.
Pre-Order It here.

I’m going to preface this with: I normally don’t write reviews like this. I mean,  my reviews tend to be more conversational and laid back rather than a literary analysis that is eloquently written with excellent usage of literary terms straight from your college textbook. But this review…I’ve tried to write this 10 times since I finished it and this is the only way it’s worked…to gush and then to rant like I’m calling up my sister and telling her about it.

Oh goodness. This book and I…we have a real complicated relationship. I finished this book in a day. To say I devoured it would be an understatement. It was like the kind of head-over-heels-and-so-deliriously-drunk-on-lust infatuation….you know the kind that might make you go and get hitched after a day together. THAT is how smitten I was with this book.

From the very first page I was undeniably locked in. The mystery and intrigue had me in its grips, I fell in love with Noah (who weirdly enough I kept picturing as a cross between Logan from Veronica Mars and Heath Ledger in Ten Things I Hate About You…more so Logan with his bad boy swagger and adorableness) and Hodkins unraveling of the plot and ability to balance the paranormal, romantical and realistic aspects of the story was brilliant.  There was some sexy, steamy tension and that was a nice distraction from the mysteries and general confused (in a good way!) state I was in.

I mean, there were some bizarre things going on in this book. Good bizarre…in a way that I was DYING to figure it out and trying to formulate guesses as to what is going on. I felt just as crazy as Mara felt trying to grapple with what I was reading — is this a dream? Are these ghosts? Parallel universes? Is she dead or something bizarre like that? WHAT IS REAAAAAL?!? WHAT IS HAPPENING?!? Freakin A. I felt like David after the dentist for goodness sake. Seriously. The screaming and all. AND THIS IS ALL IN A GOOD WAY! MIND-BENDING!

BUT I WAS LOVING IT ALL. I was getting ready to slap a “Jamie’s Pick for Best Book Of The Year”…and, friends, that carries more weight than the big O book club sticker…and mine are sparkly.

BUT THEN…about 3/4 of the way through..something happened. Some may call it a plot hole but I just call it plain old WTFery. It involves alligators and that’s all I’m going to say. But what happened is that it really deviated from what I had come to expect from the story…and not in a good way for me. The whole situation seemed illogical to me and I didn’t quite find it believable in the scope of the book. I can’t really explain it without giving things away but that scene and some of their decisions and conclusions afterward just really seemed off. I mean, maybe it’s just me. I still pressed on because I NEEDED and wanted to know what was going on. I read just as quickly through until the end….and the ENDING…OMG. Cliffhanger central. And a real doozy of a cliffhanger too. I will most certainly be reading the second book.

My other tiny gripe is that, while I really did love Noah because I’m always rooting for that bad boy who isn’t really bad, I found him to be a bit cliched in some ways…not too terribly..but I feel like I must note it. With his playboy, jerk ways…I didn’t ever really BELIEVE that just having met Mara was enough to change. I mean, I guess they have a different connection as you’ll find out when you read it…but I don’t know. There were also some whiffs there of instalove and you know that is one of my personal bookish pet peeves. But again with that…by the end I could kind of see why he might have instantly been drawn to her.

My final thought:  Mara Dyer was a riveting and hair-raising read that will have you turning the pages ravenously with that insatiable desire to know and understand all the little mysteries and the intricacies within the book. I really did enjoy the book but some of the bizarre plot holes and some directional choices of the story coupled with some personal pet peeves prevented me from slapping a “BEST BOOK EVAHHH” kind of label on it. I would highly recommend it for readers of YA who love to be on the edge of their seat trying to figure out a HUGE mysterious puzzle and are looking for well-written supernatural stories and can maybe turn a blind eye to some bizarre plot holes. I will definitely be reading the second book because I am wholly invested in figuring out what the heck is going on!!

Review On A Post It: 

Edit: I found out via Twitter from Michelle Hodkin that there are some  changes from the ARC (that I read) and the final copy…like one major sentence that was missing somewhere. Soooo we shall see if that clears some things up for me!

Review of The Diviner’s Tale by Bradford Morrow

The Diviner's TaleBook/Author: The Diviner’s Tale by Bradford Morrow
Publisher/Year: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt – January 20, 2011
Genre: Adult Fiction — Mystery/Thriller
How I got this book: An e-galley from the publisher on NetGalley
Why I read it: I’m trying to read outside my normal genres and so I wanted to try a good mystery.

Cassandra Brooks, a diviner by trade and a single mother of two boys, is hired to dowse the land for a developer in search of a water source. She finds much more than that as she sees a young girl hanging from a tree. She rushes to call the police and returns to show them the body only to find it has disappeared or been removed. Known for being an outcast because of her trade, it is speculated that she just had a weird vision. The police bring her back to revisit the scene when a girl, identical to the hanging girl, is found wandering in the woods confused about where she is and refuses to answer questions. Who is this girl and what happened to her? Her visions and divinations uncover a bigger mystery that put her and her family in serious danger.

I don’t typically read mystery/thriller type books but this year I’m trying to discover new genres. I call myself an eclectic reader but there are some genres I just haven’t yet explored. I was craving a good mystery, and this one sounded really interesting, but I think I got a lot more than what I thought I’d get from this one! It was a lot more than a lady with some sort of psychic powers helping to solve crimes–all fun and reminiscent of various tv shows I’ve enjoyed. It deals with familial issues and truly accepting yourself. That all sounds corny but it just a lot deeper than your typical mystery/thriller (at least ones that I’ve read). It also had some incredible beautiful prose describing some of the natural world–which was a huge element of this story considering her profession. Basically what she does is walks about the land with a divining rod and listens to the land in order to find water sources and minerals and such.

The plot was interesting and there were plenty of twists and turns. Some of the things seemed very predictable (I don’t know if it’s just me because I always figure out “who dunit” during shows like CSI) and I think I would have felt a little unsatisfied had the book not had the kind of substance it did. I thought the various relationships were interesting and well explored and I really started to adore Cassandra. Nep, her father, was my favorite though!  I loved her relationship with her boys although it seemed like they took care of her but you could tell they just thought the world of their mom. The only thing that irked me was these boys seemed WAY to smart for their age. I’ve seen a lot of clever kids their age but they just seemed a little over the top.

My final thought: If you like your mystery/thriller books with a little more substance, beautiful prose and a dash of the supernatural, you will enjoy The Diviner’s Tale. The mystery of her visions and ability to sense things most can’t are just as interesting as figuring out all the tangible mysteries. If you are expecting a mystery/thriller that is mostly plot driven and has you on the edge of your seat every second of the book, you might want to look elsewhere as sometimes it was a slower pace. It wasn’t some action packed, twists and turns at every page type of novel. I really enjoyed it but I know it won’t be as fast paced as some readers like it.

Any other suggestions for mystery/thrillers with a little bit more substance like this one?

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