Category Archives: Plume

Review: The Last Camellia by Sarah Jio

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Plume (May 28, 2013)
  • ISBN-10: 0452298393
  • Source: Publisher

The beginning of the Second World War is eminent. Flora, an amateur botanist, works in her family’s bakery in New York City. Times are tough; her father is often approached by those he owes money to. So, when she is approached by a man offering a large sum of money in return for Flora’s assistance, she cannot possibly turn it down. She soon learns that the man who hired her is part of an international ring of flower thieves. Flora’s task: to infiltrate an English manor an obtain the last surviving specimen of a camellia plant known as the Middlebury Pink. She gains access to the home under the ruse that she is there to serve as a nanny for the children of a widower. Their mother died mysteriously over a year ago. The children, still suffering from the loss of their mother and the near abandonment by their father, are desperate for structure and stability. It doesn’t take long for Flora to bond with them and the other staff at the manor. In doing so, she uncovers a series of dark secrets surrounding their mother’s death.

Fast forward to the year 2000. Addison is a garden designer working in Manhattan. Her business thriving but, due to a threatening past that haunts her, agrees to join her husband, Rex, to an English manor recently purchased by his parents. Livingston Manor is the perfect escape she needs. The lush, yet overgrown, camellia orchard is full of deep, dark secrets. As she begins to explore the manor under the watchful eye of Mrs. Dilloway, Livingston manor’s housekeeper, Addison discovers that it is more than the orchard that holds a secret past.  As she attempts to avoid her own past that has come flooding into the present, Addison reveals a mystery surrounding the enchanting last camellia.

The Last Camellia isn’t the first novel I’ve read by this author but, by far, it is my favorite. It combines attributes of novels I’ve always been drawn to, including a rich gothic setting and a deep, dark mystery. Additionally, Jio creates to incredibly well-developed characters in Flora and Addison. While Addison’s past is a bit more jaded than Flora’s, both characters are genuinely attempting to do what is best, putting aside their own feelings and needs in order to provide for others. While I felt we learned a bit more about Flora than Addison, both women were truly remarkable characters I found myself rooting for.

The setting Jio creates at Livingston manor is breathtaking. From the sprawling grounds to the dark, and elusive orchards, readers will be instantly immersed in the setting, feeling as though you are walking through the grounds yourself. The manor itself seemed absolutely gorgeous, full of hidden rooms and chambers. The perfect setting for a mysterious death unsolved for over half a century.

Fans of mystery and historical fiction will be certain to adore this novel as much as I did. I cannot wait for Sarah’s next novel, Morning Glory, due out in September!

Thank you to TLC Book tours for providing me the opportunity to participate in this tour!

Read my reviews of Sarah’s other books:

Review: The Lion Is in by Delia Ephron

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Plume; Reprint edition (January 29, 2013)
  • ISBN-10: 0452298938
  • Source: Publisher

Three women are on the run. Tracee is a kleptomaniac, running from a life spiraling out of control. Her best friend, Lana, is alcoholic who just happened to be with Tracee when she decided to bolt. She stole a great deal of her father’s money and drank it away, so Tracee is really the only person of value in her life right now. Rita is a minister’s wife, desperate to escape her dull-drum life. She just happened to come across Tracee and Lana on the side of the road and joined in on their journey. When their car breaks down on a rural highway in North Carolina, they are forced to seek shelter in what they thought was an abandoned nightclub. Turns out, it wasn’t abandoned, just neglected. When they find a caged lion inside, everything changes.

Tracee, afraid that her past crimes will catch up with her, is unable to anyone to help with the broken down car. Instead, the three women agree to work at the nightclub, sharing a single salary, in order to earn the money to repair the car.  In doing so, each of the women embark on a journey of self discovery and healing, the impetus for such a grand transformation is the lion, Marcel, himself. Something about this caged king of the jungle sets each of the women free, allowing them to break through the restraints binding them to their current lives an allowing them to evolve into completely different, incredibly strong, women.

In each of these women, Ephron has created extremely flawed characters that readers can’t help but connect with. Compassion, friendship, and understanding are characteristics of this book that make it a truly heartwarming read. Personally, I read it in one sitting, sad when I finally turned the last pages. I wasn’t ready to let go of the characters quite yet. Days later, I still miss them, and I find myself wondering what the women (and Marcel!) are doing now.

If you are looking for a witty, humorous, uplifting read, The Lion Is in is the book for you. Highly, highly recommended.

Mx3 Review: The Coffee Table Book of Doom by Steven Appleby & Art Lester

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  • Reading level: Ages 18 and up
  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Plume; Original edition (September 25, 2012)
  • ISBN-10: 0452298660
  • Source: Publisher

Perhaps by the time you read this book some of the Doom scenarios included will no longer be global threats. Maybe the human race will have acted together to contain greenhouse gas production and tree felling. Or they will have developed a laser shield to deflect incoming asteroids.

 

Perhaps not.

 

And so begins The Coffee Table Book of Doom. Nothing like starting off on a light foot, eh? In the following 224 pages, authors Steven Appleby and Art Lester guide readers through the various ways the world may end, from robotic revolts, space earthquakes, and more. Told using dark humor and elaborately illustrated pages, each chapter focuses on the different ways our race may come to an end, from Climate Change Doom to Religious Doom and Cosmic Doom.

While the information is relayed in a tongue-in-cheek sort of humor, the authors do provide a great deal of information and background on each of the potential Doomsday scenarios, including explanations and evidence as to why these events are possible.

The incredibly detailed illustrations add a bit of levity to the overall feel of the book. Pictured here is an example of an illustration, detailing what sort of material items we would be without should fossil fuels be depleted:

As indicated, there is a great deal of humor interspersed throughout the book, so the overall feel isn’t as dark as one would think. That said, the content provided does make the reader think about their impact, their carbon footprint, on the world some of us take for granted. While I don’t recommend reading this book cover to cover in one sitting, it is a truly informative novel that I would recommend flipping through.  Highly recommended to fans of dark humor, doomsday scenarios, those obsessed with the potential impending apocalypse…but perhaps not those terribly frightening survivalists who, in my opinion, are a doomsday scenario in and of themselves.

 

Review: The Bungalow by Sarah Jio

  • Paperback:320 pages
  • Publisher:Plume; 1 edition (December 27, 2011)
  • ISBN-10: 0452297672
  • Source: Publisher

The summer of 1942, young Anne Calloway sets off to the Pacific island of Bora-Bora to serve as a nurse for the Army Nurse Corps.  She’s engaged to get married; this venture is her last bit of adventure before becoming a married woman.  She goes to Bora-Bora with her best friend, Kitty, a flirtatious, free-spirited young woman.

Once they reach Bora-Bora, an island full of military men who haven’t seen women in ages, it doesn’t take Kitty long to find a few potential love interests.  Anne, still questioning her engagement, yet also feeling guilt for “abandoning” her fiance to embark on this adventure, soon forges a friendship with a soldier named Westry. They find solace in one another at an abandoned bungalow, leaving notes to one another using fictitious names. Soon, their friendship blooms into something much more.  A horrible murder & the ravages of war threaten their budding romance.

The reader “meets” Anne decades later, an elderly woman now.  As she ages, she can’t help but look back upon this time spent in Bora-Bora, wondering “what if.” She’s taken back in time when she receives communication from the island that forever changed her.

Spanning not only time but location, The Bungalow is a breathtakingly beautiful look at undying, endearing, true love. Those that know me well know that I’m not really a fan of love stories, yet for some reason the power of Jio’s writing envelopes me, takes me away to a completely different time and place. She did so with The Violets of March and succeeded and doing it again with The Bungalow.  The love that is shared between Anne & Westry is a genuine one, not over the top or forced. The setting, despite taking place in the midst of World War II, is a beautiful one. It adds to the romance shared between these to young individuals.

Bottom line: The Bungalow is a book that will completely engage you; don’t be surprised if it forces to be read in one sitting. It’s a story of love in the midst of death, love that continues despite the passing of time. Highly recommended!

Review: The Violets of March by Sarah Jio

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Plume (April 26, 2011)
  • ISBN-10: 9780452297036
  • Source: Publisher
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    At one point in her life, Emily Wilson had everything she wanted: a bestselling novel, a handsome and wonderful husband, a bright outlook on her future.  Ten years later, however, things have changed.  While her novel was successful, it didn’t come from her heart.  Her agent is pressing her for another book but the words simply aren’t coming.  To make things worse, Emily and her “perfect” husband have filed for divorce. Everything that was important to her seems to be crumbling away.

    When Emily’s great-aunt Bee invites her to spend a month with her on Bainbridge Island in Washington State, Emily readily agrees.  The beach has always been a source of comfort and reprieve for her. The calming setting would be the perfect location for her to start researching her next book.

    Shortly after she arrives on the island, Emily discoveres a red velvet diary in nightstand of the guest room.  The diary belongs to Esther, who details life on the island in 1943.  Emily starts reading it, instantly realizing the author of the diary has ties to her and her family.  Her family has always had its secrets; her mother & aunt have a strained relationship to say the least.  It becomes Emily’s mission to uncover the secrets kept hidden for so long, and in doing so, reveals a bit about herself and her own hopes and dreams. She soon releazes it is her destiny to share the life described in this journal, to write the words the world was meant to read.  Ultimately, the words revealed not only heal Emily, but other members of her family as well. 

    The Violets of March is a beautiful & stunning debut novel. Jio accomlishes the oftentimes difficult task of multiple storylines, in this case Emily and the reader are taken back in time via the text within the red diary. Jio taskes on this task with masterly talent that typically is only achieved through years of writing, yet Jio is able to do it in her first book.

    The characters are very detailed and and complex; I fell for each of them individually within a matter of pages.  It’s impossible to read this book and not feel sympathy for Emily.  She’s tried so hard to lead a happy and perfect life that she’s forgotten what is most important in life: one’s own personal happiness.  I rooted for her and the various opportunities at love made available to her, despite the fact that I’m not really a fan of romance in fiction. When she uncovered the diary, I was just as anxious as she was to learn more about the owner & the stories revealed in the text.

    Aunt Bee? Who couldn’t love her?  She’s strong in mind & spirit, never afraid to say just what she’s thinking.  While she holds tight on to secrets that have been hidden for several decades, she’s prepared to reveal them to Emily when she feels the time is right (and it can no longer be avoided!)

    The island itself is a character as well.  Jio describes it so vividly that I can hear the tide rolling in, smell the sea water. She describes the feeling of sand between one’s toes, making me wish I was on the beach alongside Emily.

    Bottom line: I can’t recommend this book enough.  Family secret, second chances at life, love, mystery….The Violets of March literally has it all. It’s a book you will want to give to all the woman in your life: sister, mother, friend. I’m dying to read more from this incredibly talented author. Highly, highly recommended.