REVIEW: ALWAYS, BY SARAH JIO

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Enjoying a romantic candlelit dinner with her fiancé, Ryan, at one of Seattle’s chicest restaurants, Kailey Crain can’t believe her good fortune: She has a great job as a journalist and is now engaged to a guy who is perfect in nearly every way. As she and Ryan leave the restaurant, Kailey spies a thin, bearded homeless man on the sidewalk. She approaches him to offer up her bag of leftovers, and is stunned when their eyes meet, then stricken to her very core: The man is the love of her life, Cade McAllister.

Flashing back to 1996, and then fast-forwarding to 2008, “Always” is a gripping and emotionally thrilling novel of first love, lost love, and the power of healing.

Set in a Seattle that vibrated with the music scene of the 1990s, Cade McAllister and Kailey Crain were in the heat of new love: they were full of dreams, plans, and the building of connections. They were soul mates.

But then something happened. Something inexplicable. During that summer of 1998, Cade disappeared. For ten years, Kailey would wonder, would grieve, and then finally move on with Ryan Winston.

What did Kailey discover during the winter of 2008, after finding Cade on that sidewalk? How does she finally uncover the events of that final summer together in 1998? Who was responsible for Cade’s injuries? Will she be able to put the pieces together in such a way that Cade can be restored to her and to his life?

I could not stop reading this story, feeling the strength of that first love, despite the obstacles and the loss, and rooting for Kailey and Cade…while still feeling a bit sad for Ryan. Yes, I could predict a lot of what would ultimately happen, but that did not make it a “predictable” read for me, as there were numerous questions along the way. Mysteries to solve. So this book was another winning tale by this author. 5 stars.

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My e-ARC came to me from the publisher via NetGalley.
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REVIEW: SHELTERING RAIN, BY JOJO MOYES

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Three generations of women–mothers and daughters–are the core characters in Sheltering Rain; we join the first of them in 1953, in Hong Kong, where young Joy and her best friend Stella are waiting to listen to the coronation ceremony of Elizabeth II. On that same day, Joy meets a young man, a naval officer, named Edward Ballantyne, and before the day is out, the two have pledged themselves to one another.

Leaping forward to 1997, in Ireland, we first meet Sabine Ballantyne, Joy and Edward’s granddaughter, aged sixteen and eager to put distance between herself and her mother Kate. We experience both Kate and the grandparents through Sabine’s eyes, as the teenager flails against her mother’s choices, while also finding her grandparents’ rules and regulations unbearable. She reaches out to the men who work with the horses, and soon finds solace in riding.

The story unfolds slowly, moving back and forth through time, until we begin to see how the secrets, betrayals, and pain of the past have affected each of them. Will they find a way to work through their differences? How will discovering what was hidden in the past help them in the present?

The author brings the reader right into the Irish countryside, into the pubs, and shows us the emotional terrain of the characters’ lives in very satisfying ways.

At one point or another, I found each of the characters frustrating. I liked that we began with Joy, as meeting her first through Sabine’s eyes would have made her unlikable. And understanding Sabine from her own perspective made it possible to overlook her rudeness and lashing out when we saw her through Kate’s eyes. However, I found it difficult to like Sabine, even understanding her point of view. Her self-absorption is probably typical for someone her age, but she seemed to go out of her way to be cruel to her mother.

Kate is the character in the middle, in a sense, sandwiched between a disapproving mother and a rebellious daughter. But as she begins to search through her past mistakes and learn from them, we see hope for them all. In the end, the climactic events bring closure and a sense of connection. 4.0 stars.