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.

REVIEW: GOODNIGHT JUNE, BY SARAH JIO

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A story that contains many of my favorite ingredients, Goodnight June: A Novel takes the reader to the 1940s through letters between Margaret Wise Brown and a woman named Ruby Crain, a bookstore owner in Seattle.

We first connect with June Andersen, a financial whiz working for a bank in New York. She is great at her job, but is beginning to suffer from high blood pressure and other evidence of stress.

And then, serendipitously, she inherits her Aunt Ruby’s bookstore, Bluebird Books, and goes to Seattle to settle the estate. Initially, she plans to sell the store, but it takes very little time before the memories of childhood moments in the shop with Aunt Ruby sweep over her and she is suddenly immersed in book love again. But then June discovers that the bank is about to foreclose on the store and she must pull out all the stops if she wants to save it.

Her discoveries of the letters between her aunt and Margaret Wise Brown are like a wonderful bonus, and become part of a literary scavenger hunt. Could the letters help save the store? And will the hunky restaurant owner Gavin help her make the decision about what to do next? How will a five-year breach between June and her younger sister Amy affect the choices she makes?

The secrets, the hidden treasures, and the wonderful settings of one of my favorite cities swept me up into the story, while all the unexpected surprises and moments kept me reading. The obstacles were like real frustrations in my own life, and I was rooting for June as if my own future happiness depended on it. Keeping bookstores alive in the future is a theme that many book lovers can relate to. There were sad moments, losses, and sister reunions. This story will go down as another favorite read. 5.0 stars.