I was approached on Instagram by Joanell, the lovely author of this book and asked if I would like a Kindle copy in exchange for an honest review. After giving me a quick rundown of the book (diverse characters, contemporary themes, wine and horses) I happily accepted, intrigued to find out more (she said wine right?)
It didn’t take me long to fly through the pages. Set in Sonoma Valley, California, the book was a refreshing read with the right amount of drama and tension, not to mention excellently crafted characters.
My rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️.5
Uriel is from a large Mexican family and lives in a cabin on his Uncle and Aunt’s land, tending horses and helping with the family business. Two years ago, his wife Flavia was tragically killed in a car accident on her way home from work and he is still struggling to move on from the ordeal, steering clear of relationships and preferring his own solitary company.
That is until Uriel’s ex Amanda returns to Sonoma after finding out her dad Jim is ill.
“…a figure from the past that gave him a sense of historical vertigo.”
Leaving abruptly years before, Uriel doesn’t know how to react to her sudden reappearance. The pair clearly still have feelings for each other and Amanda is determined to make another go of things. However, with her father hiding more than a couple of life-shattering secrets, including information about Amanda’s adoption, she has a habitual urge to run away rather than face the truth. With Uriel left in the dark, he questions whether they can ever trust each other again. Throw into the mix his aunt facing immigration issues and emerging information about Flavia’s past, Uriel has more than enough to deal with. Can Amanda put her issues aside and fight for their relationship before its too late?
“Loyalty was woven into her character, a thread that couldn’t be yanked out without unravelling her very being.”
Each chapter is from the POV of a different character (switching between 5 people – Uriel, Jim, Amanda, Gloria and Elena), enabling insight into each main character’s thoughts and troubles. This was particularly refreshing as it made a change from other novels that only focus on the narration of 1 main character. I felt that the author managed to create meaningful characters with struggles that you could sympathise with. It never felt like the story jumped around as all the characters where intertwined and I found myself anticipating the revelations of characters in each chapter. This in my opinion, gave the book a good pace.
Metaphors for Days
The language choices created a beautiful setting in the Sonoma Valley. The author perfectly drew on her own personal knowledge of the area which was noticeable throughout – it felt like the words came from the author’s heart as opposed to hours of topical research. The vineyard descriptions created vivid images, making it easy to get lost in the setting of the story. The scattered use of metaphors was also an excellent way to bring the words to life:
“The steam lifted around him, a murky curtain where he could hide his tears.”
Each chapter begins with a quote relating to wine from different sources (e.g. Proverbs, Shakespeare, Galileo). For me, this was an original addition (I haven’t seen this in any book I’ve read before), reminding readers about the recurring theme that ties many of the characters together. It gave an extra dimension to the story and characters.
I was unable to put this book down, always anticipating each character’s next chapter insight. It is a book I would recommend to anyone looking for an easy read with vivid imagery and a tale to get completely lost in.
You can purchase a copy of The Vines We Planted here: Amazon
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Genre: Contemporary Fiction/Family Saga
Pages: 285 (paperback)
About the author: Born in New Jersey, Joanell Serra now lives in the setting of her book, the beautiful wine region of Sonoma Valley. On top of being a writer, she is also a parent and a licensed therapist. The Vines We Planted is her debut novel and she is currently working on her highly anticipated second.