Tag Archives | Sarah Jio

Books And Music: The Playlist For Blackberry Winter

At She Reads we’re endlessly fascinated by the process of storytelling. And for many authors, part of  that process includes a playlist that they write to–a musical collage of sorts. In many cases once you know the playlist you can recognize those emotional undertones running through the story.

We asked this month’s featured author, Sarah Jio, to share her playlist for Blackberry Winter. I’m not sure about you but we can “hear” the story in these songs.

Playlist for Blackberry Winter:

-“Blackberry Winter” by Hilary Kole

-“Sometimes You Can’t Make It on Your Own” by U2

-“Wintersong” by Sarah McLachlan

-“You & Me” by Dave Matthews Band

-“You Don’t Know Me” by Ray Charles

-“Love Theme From Sparticus” by Jean-Yves Thibaudet

-“A Little More of You” by Ashley Chambliss

-“I Think It’s Going to Rain Today” by Norah Jones

-“Heartbreak Warfare” by John Mayer

-“From Embrace to Embrace” by Joy Wants Eternity

-“Blackbird” by Sarah McLachlan

-“And So It Goes” by Karrin Allyson

Did any songs come to mind when you read Blackberry Winter?

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Literary First Love – Sarah Jio

Today’s post by this month’s featured author, Sarah Jio | @SarahJio

Sarah Jio

My heart broke a little when I heard the news, recently, that Maeve Binchy had passed away. The legendary Irish author dazzled readers with her heartfelt stories, many of which have been made into movies and anointed by the likes of Oprah Winfrey. But I didn’t know any of that when I stumbled upon one of her novels as a 15-year-old  in Poulsbo, Washington. Opening her books was like stepping into the pages of another world. I loved how she made me feel as a reader, and I loved how real her characters seemed, how relatable they were. I didn’t know it then, but in those early years of reading Binchy’s work, I was learning about the type of novelist I wanted to be. Someday.

I had always been interested in writing, perhaps since my first grade hand-written and illustrated book titled “A Tug Boat Dream” won a young author award (if the judges at Silverdale Elementary School only knew how that little award ended up propelling a future career in fiction!). Over the years, I experimented with different writing styles, different genres and voices. And, in the deep, dark depths of my computer, there may be a novel or two that I pray never sees the light of day. However, in all of my literary experimentation, I always came back to the things I learned through reading Maeve Binchy’s books. And before I sat down to write what would become my debut novel, The Violets of March, I thought about what made Binchy’s stories so beautiful, and I decided that I wanted to be an author who made you feel, who wrote from the heart (rather than wrote what would “sell”), and who created beautiful scenes, places and worlds that readers wouldn’t want to leave.

I thank Maeve Binchy for teaching me these lessons through her books.

If you haven’t had a chance to pick up a copy of Sarah’s latest novel, BLACKBERRY WINTER, now’s your chance. We’re giving a copy away today. Just leave a comment on this post.

The story, which takes its title from a late-season, cold-weather phenomenon, continues Sarah Jio’s rich exploration of the ways personal connections can transcend the boundaries of time.

Seattle, 1932. Single mother Vera Ray kisses her three-year-old son, Daniel, goodnight and departs to work the night-shift at a local hotel. She emerges to discover that a May snowstorm has blanketed the city, and that her son has disappeared into the heart of the storm. Outside, she finds his teddy bear lying face down in the cold snowy streets.

Seattle, 2010.  Seattle Herald  reporter Claire Aldridge is assigned to cover the May 1 “blackberry winter ” storm and its predecessor that occurred on the same date nearly eighty years earlier. Learning of the unsolved abduction, Claire vows to unearth the truth—only to discover that she and Vera are linked in unexpected ways.

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The Mother Load – Guest Post by Sarah Jio

Today’s post by this month’s featured author, Sarah Jio | @SarahJio

Sarah Jio

A lot of people ask me how I write books with three young children at home (I have three boys five and under), and I often don’t have a good answer. (Truthfully, I drink a lot of coffee and am chronically sleep-deprived. I’m also often really, really behind on laundry.) Sure, it also helps that I love what I do, so my “work” feels more like a hobby. But, aside from that, I think there are a few key things that contribute most to my ability to write in a focused and efficient way (I’m on a book-every-nine-months schedule with my publisher now, so I have to be efficient!):

*I’ve broken up with my TV: Alright, I have been known to go on Netflix binges (and may or may not have watched the entire first three seasons of “Mad Men” in the period of a few days), but that aside, I tend to watch very little TV. Instead of hitting the couch after the kids are in bed, I head to my desk, where I try to hammer out at least 10 pages a night before my eyelids get heavy. Writing at night works for me because it’s the only time when the house is quiet and I can hear myself think!

*I use my daily jogs as brainstorm sessions: I realized a long time ago that my brain gets really, really creative when I run. I have no idea why, but there’s something about my feet pounding the pavement that sends a signal to my brain to go on creative overdrive. As a result, I always tuck my phone into the jogging belt that’s strapped to my waist (I refuse to call it a fanny pack) and pull it out whenever an idea strikes so I can email myself. I’ve come up with new novel titles and fixed multiple plot problems while out jogging, and when something isn’t feeling quite right in one of my drafts, I’ll go on an extra long run.

*I’m fortunate to have a hands-on husband: Behind every successful author with children is a supportive spouse, and when people ask me how I write books with young children at home, I’m quick to point to the photos covering my refrigerator of Jason, my husband, and my three boys on Saturday trips to the zoo. They mark every visit with a stop in the photo booth, and each of these photos represents a quiet morning for me where I was able to write.

Moms, how are you able to accomplish your career goals with kiddos? I’d love to hear what works for you!

Sarah’s latest novel, BLACKBERRY WINTER, is this month’s book club selection. If you haven’t taken a moment to learn more about the book or enter our fabulous giveaways, you can do so here.

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The Story Behind The Story – Sarah Jio on Blackberry Winter

Today’s post by the wonderful Sarah Jio | @SarahJio

Sarah Jio

Hi She Reads friends! I’m so honored to be back with the publication of my new novel, BLACKBERRY WINTER! This novel is tremendously special to me and as  I shared in the author’s note in the back of the book, this was a story that really reached out and grabbed me. After hearing a beautiful song on the radio called “Blackberry Winter,” I immediately researched the phrase and lean red that it’s  old-fashioned weather jargon for a late-season cold snap–think of plunging temperatures and snowfall in May, just when the delicate white flowers are beginning to appear on the blackberry vines. Before I knew it, I was sketching  out the concept for this novel. The story came to me quickly and vividly: Vera and Daniel and the little apartment they shared in the 1930s; his beloved teddy bear, lying face-down in the cold snow; Claire and her curious reporter’s mind and her own deep pain and grief; snowflakes falling on the spring cherry blossoms.

For the next many months, I lived and breathed Blackberry Winter. At the heart of this story, for me, were the raw emotions of motherhood. I began writing the novel when I was pregnant with my third son, and I channeled Vera and Claire’s pain and often-heartbreaking experiences. I thought a lot about how it would feel to lose a child, and what I would do.

Then, in a heartbreaking turn of events, shortly before I finished the book, one of my dearest friends, Wendi, lost her two-year-old son to a rare form of brain cancer. It broke my heart to watch her say goodbye to her precious boy, and I wept with her on the phone as she held her son against her chest in the final hours of his life. But, I also saw her strength, and the light in her eye–the one that told me how thankful she is to have been the mother of this beautiful child, and how excited she is to know, with certainty, that she’ll be seeing him again, in heaven. Wendi reminds me, always, that motherhood–life–no matter how short, is a gift.

While my characters’ challenges are great and their stories tragic, like my dear friend, I like to think that they found their own sense of peace and truth–swirling in a late-season snowstorm and hidden amongst the protective thorns of the blackberry vines.

Thank you for reading.

BLACKBERRY WINTER is our October book club selection. Click here to learn more about the novel and to enter this month’s giveaways.

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October Book Club Selection

The author of this month’s book club selection is a huge favorite around She Reads. She is smart and talented and generous and happens to be one of the cutest people on the West Coast. We first introduced her to our readers last year with her debut novel The Violets of March. And we heard from readers for months afterward about how much they loved the story. So it was no surprise that we were drawn to Sarah Jio’s latest novel, BLACKBERRY WINTER.

We’ve got some amazing things lined up this month: guest posts and interviews and behind the scenes glimpses of Sarah’s life and workspace (she’s writing her next novel on a houseboat–how cool is THAT?). And of course, in celebration of BLACKBERRY WINTER we’re giving away some really fun goodies:


For our main giveaway: one winner will receive this “box of blackberry bliss.” Leave a comment on this post and we’ll toss your name in the hat.

For our online book club: one winner will receive signed copies Sarah’s two previous novels, The Violets of March and The Bungalow, and a box of Fran’s Gourmet Chocolates (a Seattle favorite). We’ll be discussing the book all month long and we would love for you to join us!

About the book:

The story, which takes its title from a late-season, cold-weather phenomenon, continues Sarah Jio’s rich exploration of the ways personal connections can transcend the boundaries of time.

Seattle, 1932. Single mother Vera Ray kisses her three-year-old son, Daniel, goodnight and departs to work the night-shift at a local hotel. She emerges to discover that a May snowstorm has blanketed the city, and that her son has disappeared into the heart of the storm. Outside, she finds his teddy bear lying face down in the cold snowy streets.

Seattle, 2010.  Seattle Herald  reporter Claire Aldridge is assigned to cover the May 1 “blackberry winter ” storm and its predecessor that occurred on the same date nearly eighty years earlier. Learning of the unsolved abduction, Claire vows to unearth the truth—only to discover that she and Vera are linked in unexpected ways.

Sarah Jio is a journalist who has written for Glamour; O, The Oprah Magazine; Real Simple; SELF; Cooking Light; Redbook; Parents; Woman’s Day; and many other publications. For the past four years, she has been the health and fitness blogger for Glamour.com. She lives in Seattle with her husband, their three young children, and a golden retriever named Paisley, who steals rocks. Sarah is the author of The Violets of March, The Bungalow, and Blackberry Winter. Sarah is hard at work on her next novel.


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Love in the Time of War

I first became aware of the potential for love stories within World War II as a teenager watching the show “thirtysomething.” The season premiere for the second season revolved around one of the characters finding an old trunk full of letters and photos dating back to the war. The character got sucked into the love story between a young woman and the man she loved, who was fighting overseas. The main character felt a kinship with the woman who wrote the letters and the struggles she was facing, in spite of the  fact that they were separated by decades. After that show, I was hooked by the music, the drama, and the romance of that time period in our country’s history.

Apparently, I wasn’t alone. At She Reads we’ve read several titles that deal with this time period– each with their own unique take on the war. Think World War II has been done? Not like these novels!

The Discovery by Dan Walsh

Gerard Warner was not only a literary giant whose suspense novels sold in the millions, he was also a man devoted to his family, especially his wife of nearly 60 years. When he dies he leaves his Charleston estate to his grandson, Michael, an aspiring writer himself. Michael settles in to write his own first novel and discovers an unpublished manuscript his grandfather had written, something he’d kept hidden from everyone but clearly intended Michael to find. Michael begins to read an exciting tale about Nazi spies and sabotage, but something about this story is different from all of Gerard Warner’s other books. It’s actually a love story.

As Michael delves deeper into the story he discovers something that has the power to change not only his future but his past as well. Laced with suspense and intrigue, The Discovery is a richly woven novel that explores the incredible sacrifices that must be made to forge the love of a lifetime. Author Dan Walsh delivers yet another unique and heartfelt story that will stick with readers long after they turn the last page.

WHAT WE LIKED: As novelists we love the idea of a writer leaving a manuscript for his grandson meant to tell a story he couldn’t tell while he was alive– a story that’s unlike anything he’s ever told.

The Bungalow by Sarah Jio

In the summer of 1942, newly engaged Anne Calloway sets off to serve in the Army Nurse Corps on the Pacific island of Bora-Bora. More exhilarated by the adventure of a lifetime than she ever was by her predictable fiancé, she is drawn to a mysterious soldier named Westry, and their friendship soon blossoms into hues as deep as the hibiscus flowers native to the island. Under the thatched roof of an abandoned beach bungalow, the two share a private world-until they witness a gruesome crime, Westry is suddenly redeployed, and the idyll vanishes into the winds of war.

A timeless story of enduring passion, The Bungalow chronicles Anne’s determination to discover the truth about the twin losses–of life, and of love–that have haunted her for seventy years.

WHAT WE LIKED: We loved Sarah Jio’s debut novel The Violets of March, and she’s back with a story of love and loss set in the Pacific. Romance on a tropical island in a bungalow hideaway? Yes, please!

Bridge Of Scarlet Leaves by Kristina McMorris

Los Angeles, 1941. Violinist Maddie Kern’s life seemed destined to unfold with the predictable elegance of a Bach concerto. Then she fell in love with Lane Moritomo. Her brother’s best friend, Lane is the handsome, ambitious son of Japanese immigrants. Maddie was prepared for disapproval from their families, but when Pearl Harbor is bombed the day after she and Lane elope, the full force of their decision becomes apparent. In the eyes of a fearful nation, Lane is no longer just an outsider, but an enemy.

When her husband is interned at a war relocation camp, Maddie follows, sacrificing her Juilliard ambitions. Behind barbed wire, tension simmers and the line between patriot and traitor blurs. As Maddie strives for the hard-won acceptance of her new family, Lane risks everything to prove his allegiance to America, at tremendous cost.

Skillfully capturing one of the most controversial episodes in recent American history, Kristina McMorris draws readers into a novel filled with triumphs and heartbreaking loss–an authentic, moving testament to love, forgiveness, and the enduring music of the human spirit.

WHAT WE LIKED: This novel focuses on the lives affected by the Japanese interment during the tumultuous time after Pearl Harbor from the viewpoint of those who lived it. McMorris tells a side of the story that we rarely hear about.

The Baker’s Daughter by Sarah McCoy

In 1945, Elsie Schmidt is a naive teenager, as eager for her first sip of champagne as she is for her first kiss. She and her family have been protected from the worst of the terror and desperation overtaking her country by a high-ranking Nazi who wishes to marry her. So when an escaped Jewish boy arrives on Elsie’s doorstep in the dead of night on Christmas Eve, Elsie understands that opening the door would put all she loves in danger.

Sixty years later, in El Paso, Texas, Reba Adams is trying to file a feel-good Christmas piece for the local magazine. Reba is perpetually on the run from memories of a turbulent childhood, but she’s been in El Paso long enough to get a full-time job and a fiancé, Riki Chavez. Riki, an agent with the U.S. Border Patrol, finds comfort in strict rules and regulations, whereas Reba feels that lines are often blurred.

Reba’s latest assignment has brought her to the shop of an elderly baker across town. The interview should take a few hours at most, but the owner of Elsie’s German Bakery is no easy subject. Reba finds herself returning to the bakery again and again, anxious to find the heart of the story. For Elsie, Reba’s questions are a stinging reminder of darker times: her life in Germany during that last bleak year of WWII. And as Elsie, Reba, and Riki’s lives become more intertwined, all are forced to confront the uncomfortable truths of the past and seek out the courage to forgive.

WHAT WE LIKED: This novel tells the story of a German woman forced to be part of Hitler’s plan to create a master race, giving us  a harrowing look at what life was like as the Nazis grew in power while tying this woman’s story to a contemporary woman facing challenges of her own.

Next To Loveby Ellen Feldman

Set in a small town in Massachusetts, Next to Love follows three childhood friends, Babe, Millie, and Grace, whose lives are unmoored when their men are called to duty. And yet the changes that are thrust upon them move them in directions they never dreamed possible—while their husbands and boyfriends are enduring their own transformations. In the decades that follow, the three friends lose their innocence, struggle to raise their children, and find meaning and love in unexpected places. And as they change, so does America—from a country in which people know their place in the social hierarchy to a world in which feminism, the Civil Rights movement, and technological innovations present new possibilities—and uncertainties. And yet Babe, Millie, and Grace remain bonded by their past, even as their children grow up and away and a new society rises from the ashes of the war.

Beautifully crafted and unforgettable, Next to Love depicts the enduring power of love and friendship, and illuminates a transformational moment in American history.

WHAT WE LIKED: This author gives us an original take on the war by giving us a glimpse at how the war shaped the perspective  of three women, their family members, and a nation.

If you’re fascinated with this time period, consider picking up one or all of these novels and immersing yourself in the romance, the drama, the history that is WWII.

Have you read any novels set during WWII that captured your heart?

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