Saturday, October 27, 2012

Book Review: The Violets of March

I wish I knew whom to credit with suggesting this novel by Sarah Jio. I absolutely loved it! It isn't anything earth-shattering nor headed for classic lit status, but The Violets of March was beautifully written and mesmerizing.

In her 20s, Emily Wilson was a best-selling author with a husband formerly on the "most desirable bachelors" list. Now in her 30s, she is a one-hit wonder author who is about to sign divorce papers. She has no idea what to do to reclaim her life until she receives a postcard from her Aunt Bee, requesting that she come to Bainbridge Island in Washington. Emily hasn't been to the family's summer spot in years, but she is hit with memories of the idyllic times she spent on the island with her aunt.

Emily commits to spending a month on the island, and on her first night, she finds an old diary. She doesn't know who wrote it, but the story captivates her. In the evenings she reads the diary, but during the day she finds that the island people, including her own family, hold a trove of secrets. She also meets and old love and possibly finds a new one.

This is just a lovely little book with all the right ingredients: family secrets, a mystery, romance, and great writing. I added several Sarah Jio books to my TBR list after reading this!

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Book Review: Tea-Olive Bird-Watching Society

I once read a post by a blogger listing all the things on his no-no list about posting reviews, and one of them was: "Starting a review with 'I really wanted to like this book.'" He went on to say that we all want to like a book—that's why we read them, right?

But here's the thing: some books we want to like more than others. Some books we have some kind of personal relationship with before reading—it's on all the best-seller lists, your friend recommended it with highest praise, etc. Or, in this case, it's your book club's next book.

So, I really wanted to like  Tea-Olive Bird-Watching Society by Augusta Trobaugh. I want to either love a book club book, or I want to hate it. Either way makes for great discussion. But this one? I don't really have a lot to say about it, certainly nothing passionate.

Tea-Olive is the tiny southern town. The bird-watching society party, a group of widowed or never-married women, was never developed much beyond the first couple of chapters and the mention of a bird sanctuary. It is in this sanctuary where the ladies spy on their newly married friend, who is in a terrible, abusive relationship with her thieving new husband. Right off the bat, I had a hard time identifying with the characters, who were all named from hymnals: Sweet Bye-and-Bye, Beulah Land, Marching to Zion. They automatically seemed goofy with such names.

I predict, however, that this book will be a big hit with my book club. It's cute. It's portrayal of domestic violence is polite—enough to make the reader sympathize with Sweet, but not so graphic that we feel outraged or contaminated. In fact, the whole book is too polite for my taste, too unrealistic.

If you liked the Miss Julia books by Ann Ross, I recommend this one for sure.