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VINE VOICEon October 19, 2012
Seattle is the setting for Blackberry Winter: A Novel, the story of two women, living many years apart, linked by an event. A late winter snow storm in May 1933 and again on the same date nearly eighty years later.

We open with Vera Ray's story on a night she has to go to work, leaving her three-year-old son Daniel alone. And then we feel her pain and loss when she returns after her shift to find her son missing, on that day of the memorable snow storm.

Flash forward to present day Seattle and a young reporter named Claire Aldridge, who must write a feature story on the storm and the amazing coincidental event that occurred in 1933.

But Claire's life has been unraveling since the previous year when her child was stillborn after a tragic accident. Her marriage to Evan Kensington, from one of the richest families in Seattle, seems to be falling apart, too. She isn't too keen on this story, but suddenly, as she begins to research the events and as the threads start coming together, she is definitely invested in it.

Narrated by the two women, we gradually see their stories unfold. Slowly, with a remarkably intense pace, we come to wonder about the strange connections between them that are gradually revealed. What happened to little Daniel Ray, and who has tried to bury the evidence? What happened to Vera so inexplicably, and why was that story also buried? Will Claire finally unearth the secrets of the past and find resolution for her own story?

Sarah Jio has the uncanny ability for drawing the reader into the characters' worlds and making the reader care deeply for what is happening to them. We become invested in their stories, even as our minds leap ahead to conjure up our own hopes for them. Another winning tale from a talented storyteller, I give this one five stars and recommend it for all Jio fans, as well as anyone who enjoys a good suspense tale.
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VINE VOICEon September 25, 2012
Blackberry Winter
By
Sarah Jio

My "in a nutshell" summary...

Claire...who lives in the present...becomes involved in solving a mystery that took place in the past.

My thoughts after reading this book...

I found this to be a sad sweet and soulful book. The tragedy that Claire experienced recently sort of draws her in to finding out what happened to Vera and her son Daniel earlier in the century. I loved the alternating voices. I loved the connection that Claire felt to Vera and Daniel. I loved the mystery.

What else I loved about this book...

You might be able to tell that I loved the idea of this book. It was extremely sad to be reminded of how difficult a time this was for Vera and other women...working for pennies, always at the mercy of men...very very sad. What happened to Vera should never have happened. No one would help her...not even the police. Her sweetness, her love for her son, her situation...were all very compelling parts of the book.

What I did not love...

Hmmm...let's see...Claire and her husband pulled apart after their shared tragedy. I didn't love how easy it seemed for Ethan to hang out with an old girlfriend and sort of abandon Claire.

Final thoughts...

This is a sweetly sad story...with a mystery at its heart. It was captivating.

I received this book from the publisher through Edelweiss. This did not affect my love for the book. I have all of her other books on my Kindle! Thank you Amazon! Thank you Edelweiss! Thank you Sarah Jio for a lovely book!
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on September 26, 2012
This was a great mystery story. The story alternates between Seattle in 1933 and then, in 2010. In 1933, we are introduced to Vera. She works long hours in a hotel to just make enough for her and her son to survive. One wintry morning, she returns home to find her 3 year old son missing without a trace.
Then the story flashes forward to 2010 and we met Claire. A newsreporter, who seems to have a troubled marriage and a tragic accident in her past that still haunts her. When a strange May snowstorm hits Seattle, Clair is assigned to write a feature story on a similar storm that hit Seattle in the 1930s. As she begins investigating leads, she learns of the story of Vera and the unsolved case of her missing boy. She becomes very dedicated to unraveling the truth and as she does, she realizes she may somehow be linked to Vera's story.
This was a real engrossing read. At times the story seemed a little Charles Dicken's with so many coincidences and connections between all the characters, but it definitely did not alter my enjoyment of this book. I kept wanting to pick this book up every chance I got to read more about Vera and Claire. I liked that the chapters alternated between both characters. Great book!
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on October 19, 2012
I have never read anything from this author. It is the first for me but will not be the last. Book was an easy fast read,a book you won't want to put down. I love the way the author pulled the story together in the end. I wasn't expecting the end quite like it was, I had it wrong.I cried at the end. It ended as happy as it could when a missing child is involved. I felt the love that Vera had for her child. I think of that time period and now think to the present. Times have not changed,we hear about missing child all the time. Depending on the wealth of the family or their resources makes a difference how the child's investigation is handled or how much news coverage is spent on the disapperance. My opinion it makes no difference of race, religion, level of income or whatever, that child no matter what age has a Mommy with a broken heart and there is a child with a broken heart remembering their Mommy.
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on October 10, 2012
I had tears in my eyes as I finished this book. It was a beautiful story of love between a mother and her child and a woman and her husband, of family and justice that reached across time and came full circle. Woven in between all of this was a mystery that, once solved, made that love stronger than ever. And even though the mystery element was secondary to the story, I didn't see the ending coming! The story is told in first person by both women involved, one living in the present time and one during the Depression in 1933. I have come to love that type of storytelling lately. You get insight into what was happening in the past without someone from the present having to flesh it out for you. All in all this was a beautiful story and I highly recommend it. It encourages you not to give up on those you love and on whatever situation might seem hopeless.
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on October 17, 2012
Since we live in the Seattle area, books that are written with a backdrop of the Pacific Northwest always catch my eye. This particular book was reviewed in the Sunday paper so thought since I needed to read something by an author I'd never read, the reviews were good, why not. At first I thought perhaps I wouldn't like the style since a lot of it is in the first person and it jumps back and forth between then and now, but I quickly got over that and have thoroughly enjoyed this wonderful book. The author is able to capture the emotions of the time when so many people were poor and homeless through no fault of their own, ring any bells here? The characters are well rounded and totally believable emotions. Finished this one and immediately purchased another one by the same author. Hope she writes more.
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on September 29, 2012
I had been anxiously awaiting this book as I loved the two previous novels Violets of March and The Bungalow by Sarah Jio. This novel did not disappoint. It was quite an emotional story for a Mother to read. Anyone who has experienced the loss of a child will want to keep a box of tissues handy. Sarah artfully described the anguish a mother feels at the loss of her child. I appreciated that she touched on the pain the father felt as well. Claire's loss was very close at heart to me and Sarah did a wonderful job writing her character. The book held great emotion and a mystery as well. Be prepared for a wonderfully written emotional rollercoaster! In addition if you enjoyed Sarah's former book Violets of March I would recommend Kristin Harmel's The Sweetness of Forgetting.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon February 17, 2013
Blackberry Winter: A Novel is the first book I have read by Sarah Jio and I selected it for my February book group read based upon the wonderful things I have heard about her work.

The novel is set in Seattle and alternates between the years 1933 and 2010. In May of 2010, an unusual snowfall hits Seattle and newspaper journalist Claire Aldridge is assigned the story of writing about a similar snowfall that hit in 1933. Claire struggles with how to make it interesting and stumbles across the story of a three-year-old boy that disappears into that snowstorm and is never heard from again. The reader follows the story of what happened to the boy as well as what is happening to Claire and her husband in current time after a catastrophic event shakes their marriage.

I was intrigued by the premise and very eager to read the novel. I love books that are historical in nature and have intertwining storylines with the present. While the book was readable, it didn't live up to its potential in my opinion. While this had the possibility of being literary fiction, it ended up being a more light, beach-type read with implausible actions taken on the part of the characters that required non-critical thinking to be enjoyed. After I read the book, I looked at the other reviews here on Amazon and have to say that the January 31, 2013 review by Maryd523 pretty much nailed it on the head. I didn't feel as strongly about the book (I thought it was fine for what it ended up being) but she articulates so well where the novel fell short. The review does contain spoilers so be careful about reading it until after you have finished the book or it will ruin it for you.

Bottom line: Perfectly adequate light read but not the great novel it had the potential to be.
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on November 15, 2012
A sad and predictable tale that left me with a void after reading it. I must admit I read it to the bitter end, hoping something would happen that I hadn't expected, but to no avail.

I had to read the Amazon description again to refresh my memory, even though I just read it in Nov. Sorry, but this book doesn't have a lasting effect that I like in books before I recommend them to friends.
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VINE VOICEon January 24, 2013
Seattle, 1933: Vera Ray is a woman in pain, because her son is missing.
Seattle, 2010: Claire Aldridge is a woman in pain, because of a tragic incident.

This story alternates between 1933 (Vera's story) and 2010 (Claire's story). I thought I'd be more interested in Vera's story, but it turned out that I smiled each time I came to a chapter about Claire. I wanted to know what she was going to find out about Daniel - the investigation into his disappearance became more intriguing when I got to page 168, and then I really couldn't wait for the mystery to be solved. And I also wanted to know what was going to happen with her marriage.

Vera: Maybe I'm being too harsh, but while I wanted to feel for her, I was bothered by this character because she chose to leave her little three-year old home alone. I couldn't help but think about how afraid this child must have been each time she walked out the door. I don't know... maybe if I was one of the single mother's in this book who struggled to provide for their families, maybe if I was right there experiencing their hardships I'd feel differently, but then again, I just can't imagine making the choice Vera made. She was stuck in dire circumstances, and it seemed she did all she could think of to do, but still, I found it very difficult to sympathize with her. As I read her story, two questions came to mind: Why is this woman still living in poverty? What happened to Charles?

Blackberry Winter is a good read, and I really liked that I had no problem visualizing the places Jio wrote about - I love the look of cobblestone streets and brick buildings.
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