Book Review | “Reading the Sweet Oak” by Jan Stites

Posted Thursday, 29 October, 2015 by jorielov , , 0 Comments

Ruminations & Impressions Book Review Banner created by Jorie in Canva. Photo Credit: Unsplash Public Domain Photographer Sergey Zolkin.

Acquired Book By: I am becoming a regular tour hostess and reviewer for BookSparks, as I began to host for them in the Spring ahead of #SRC2015. I am posting my Summer Challenge reviews during November due to the aftereffects of severe lightning storms during July and August. As I make amends for the challenge reads I was unable to post until Autumn; I am also catching up with my YA challenge reads and the blog tours I missed as well. This blog tour marks one of the books I felt curious to read independent of the previous selections. I look forward to continuing to work with BookSparks once I am fully current with the stories I am reading for review.

I received a complimentary copy of “Reading the Sweet Oak” direct from the publicist at BookSparks in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein.

Why this title stood out to me to read:

I fancy family centered stories inasmuch as relationship-based Romances as I grew up in a close-knit family where it was key to maintain the connection to both the past and the present. I grew up with living histories of my relatives who were not alive at my birth, of whom, I felt a close bond too all the same due to how their stories were translated through memories.

I think we need more stories of home and hearth showing how courage and strength of family can overtake adversity as much as it can become the glue that binds you through the uncertainty of life itself. Without a circle of people to sound off when times are tightly taut with stress or to celebrate when life enfolds you with blissitudes that launch smiles as round as the moon; it’s a hard walk to find where you fit inside the world.

I have held a deep appreciation for multi-generational sagas for a long time as well; not only for those historicals which arch over centuries but for inter-connected story-lines where characters are of different age and station in their lives. To find a story about a grand-daughter and her grandmother facing the world together felt like a good fit for a next read! Especially since family can denote different things to different people – in this case, a young girl came to live with her grandparent when her parent(s) had passed; finding both comfort and freedom. I like finding stories which curate a non-traditional family life because there are as many families out there as their are fish in the sea.

Fun Stuff for Your Blog via

Book Review | “Reading the Sweet Oak” by Jan StitesReading the Sweet Oak
by Jan Stites
Source: Publicist via BookSparks

Along the banks of the Sweet Oak River, deep in the heart of the Ozarks, a romance novel book club takes five women on stunning journeys of self-discovery.

After losing first her husband, then her daughter, seventy-eight-year-old grandmother Ruby wants to teach her risk-averse granddaughter, Tulsa, that some leaps are worth taking, no matter how high the potential fall. Tulsa loves her grandmother dearly, but she has a business to run and no time for romance—not even the paperback version. But when Ruby ropes her into a book club, Tulsa can’t bring herself to disappoint the woman who raised her.

Together with Ruby’s best friend, Pearl, as well as family friends BJ and Jen, the women embark on an exploration of modern-day love guided by written tales of romance. What they discover is a beautiful story that examines the bonds of friendship and the highs and lows of love in all its forms.

Genres: Contemporary (Modern) Fiction (post 1945), Women's Fiction

Places to find the book:

Borrow from a Public Library

Add to LibraryThing

ISBN: 9781503945159

Published by Lake Union Publishing

on 29th September 2015

Format: Paperback ARC

Pages: 375

Published By: Lake Union Publishing
Available Formats: Paperback, Audiobook and Ebook

About Jan Stites

Jan Stites

Jan Stites is the author of the novels Edgewise and Reading the Sweet Oak . She received a bachelor’s degree from the University of Missouri and a master’s degree from Purdue University, both in history and English.

She has held a multitude of jobs, including screenwriter, screenwriting instructor at San Francisco State University and the University of California–Berkeley, waitress, secretary, middle school teacher, scuba diving travel writer, journalist, transcriber for doctors and documentary filmmakers, teacher in Kenya and the Yucatán, and translator for American doctors in Mexico.

She is from Missouri, where she has vacationed extensively in the Ozarks. She currently resides in Northern California with her husband.

An Introduction to the novel by the author:

Visiting the Ozarks:

Through my readings of INSPY fiction, I know I have carted myself off into the Ozarks at some junction or another, but to be honest – each time I find myself settling into the Ozarks, it nearly feels like the setting has been re-envisioned. Each writer has their own unique way of translating this area to readers, but what I felt was appreciative about Stites is how she truly gave a fuller view of the area. How the environment of the Ozarks are as compelling as the townes; in many ways, moreso as the people who live there are called by the land and the water.

I have found this mentioned in those previous readings, how the land calls residents of the Ozarks and how the natural world is not only the backdrop to their lives but a component of their existence.

My Review of Reading the Sweet Oak:

This novel is broken into six equal parts of narrative and each section of the story entertains a full month of repose from the characters. We begin our journey in May and end in October. Quite a clever way to lay the groundwork for a novel and to give the reader much delight in the discovering! Appreciated this ARC included the extra bits too – such as the Discussion questions and author interview!

As soon as I tipped my eyes towards page one of the first chapter, a heart-warming sense of ‘home’ washed over me because it’s not just the girls living in the Ozarks who have an attachment to shore birds such as the blue heron! This connection of my own to the birds who call my region their habitat anchoured me into Tulsa’s scene as she paddled down river. Tulsa’s personality and angling of thought reminded me dearly of why I love Southern Lit – even if this story is set in the Ozarks, there are similarities to the regions in both dialect and sensibility of expression!

Entering this story is like returning home to your Aunt and Grandmother who are trying to sort out their affairs whilst facing a difficult choice between self-sufficiency and admitting the tides had turnt against them. Tulsa is as sure footed as an Auntie who has set her mind and heart on rooting in place whilst giving her a sense of pause for the surrounding environ being such a welcoming spot of joy to her soul. River edge and tucked into the oaks of the land, Tulsa is soul-centered by where she feel emotionally free and uncluttered by contemporary life. Her grandmother, Ruby is a spitfire self-assured woman who despite being in her eighties has the spunk of a sixty year old! She nearly comes across as having found her second wind through inspiration to help secure Tulsa’s future.

Their business is tied into the business next door – people only rent their canoes if they have a comfortable accommodation and thus, when a bloke without a true conscience comes by to rub it in their noses how difficult it would be to buy the secondary business, it starts the catalyst of how Tulsa and Ruby have to set their path towards what they are each willing to sacrifice if the plan goes to smoke.

The grand-daughter in me recognised a cheeky grandmother in Ruby if there ever were one to be had in fiction! Laughs with mirth. Ruby is the kind of grandmother who likes to challenge her grand-daughter out of her comfort zones (in this case, reading a Romance novel to encourage IRL dating!) and give her something to chew on that is outside the scope of her daily chores. This was quite endearing on behalf of Ruby not only for being the instigator to try to curb Tulsa’s refusal to contemplate dating but also, to bring together a motley crew of friends into the fray: BJ, Jen and Pearl!

BJ took to the book like a duck to water, finding inside the Romance novel a hope of what could happen if you found the right bloke of whom not only complimented you but held within him a resonance of the attributes all women hope to find. BJ is a feisty middle-aged woman (the mother of Tulsa’s half brother Guy) who refuses to accept the diagnosis her is so bent on giving her as she finds it too incredible for words that a life unfulfilled could cause physical symptoms of pain. Jen on the other hand, has an interfering mother, of whom she hasn’t yet addressed their issues with each other. Pearl meanwhile was dealing with the reality of how her grandson’s secret truly upset her heart and left her speechless for words.

Sweet Oak might be a river,…

Sweet Oak might be a river, but the lives interconnected by this setting remind me of stories I’ve read where the close bonds of sisterhood friendships and towne communities truly won over my heart. This is a novel where nothing is out of bounds to discuss amongst confidantes; where friendship truly unites the generations of these women. They openly converse about their relationships and what gives them the most to worry their brow about why certain relationships work and others fail outright.

They band together in a hodgepodge reading circle started by Ruby, who wanted to instill a bit of renewing hope into her grand-daughter Tulsa to seek more out of life than everything she’s known thus far into her early twenties. She fears Tulsa has become jaded – not only against a solid and supportive relationship with a man, but with a life lived in full balance of embracing your hopes alongside your joys.

To me, the title became a bit of a metaphoric way of expressing how throughout our days living our lives forward, we have to live through the signs of where we’re being guided to traverse inasmuch as understand how our journey enables us to gain growth through what we’ve learnt. Reading a river is a good illustration of how life ebbs and flows out of eddies; wrinkles our frustrations at unexpected obstacles and turns; celebrates the innocence of how light joy can touch our fingertips; and allows us a renewing chance to come through the wash of where the tides our of footpaths have taken us.

A homey atmosphere and a tap on the natural world, give Stites story a welcoming hug for contemporary fiction:

I felt quite at home from the very first words I read out of Reading the Sweet Oak because I could gather a sense the author was inspired by her surroundings in nature inasmuch as I am myself. You can sense this if your a nature lover and a person who likes to hike near bodies of water; there is a finger pulse of awareness that can translate through what is being said and observed; even if your environs are located in different regions, there is a heart connection to nature.

I loved seeing how Stites gave her characters such a heart-warming knowledge of their environment but also, gave them a firm rooting of place; centering on the river but also on their family history.

Fun Stuff for Your Blog via

This book review is courtesy of: BookSparks

The blog tours with BookSparks are quite interesting for book bloggers because none us truly know whose made the blog tour until we try to find each other after the fact! It’s quite a lesson in serendipity to see who is getting the chance to read the same title as you are and finding who else appreciates hosting for BookSparks. The publicity team at BookSparks continue to be gracious and lovely to work as a tour hostess and reviewer.

Reading the Sweet Oak A Woman of Note Blog Tour via BookSparks.

Readers | Books Bloggers : Impressions of Reading the Sweet Oak:

{ a quick search + the twitterverse provided me the road map! }

This is not an ordered list as I simply found links in succession of each other.  Be sure to follow the ‘A Woman of Note’ on Twitter to find more reader impressions and guest author features. Likewise as most of these bloggers did not mention if they were on the blog tour, I am unsure if they simply requested the book for review independent of the tour or are honestly a part of it.

Review: Reading the Sweet Oak by Jan Stites | Book Reviews & More by Kathy

Review: Reading the Sweet Oak by Jan Stites | Harlequin Junkie

Review: Reading the Sweet Oak by Jan Stites | Kimberly’s Bookshelf

Review of Reading the Sweet Oak | vvb32 Reads

Review: Reading the Sweet Oak by Jan Stites | Kritters Ramblings


A Conversation with Jan Stites: Sweet Oak and Sweet Books | HuffingtonPost

Fun Stuff for Your Blog via

Be sure to visit my Bookish Events for (2015)
Earlier today, I shared my Q&A with BookSparks author Carol M. Cram, on behalf of her Musical Historical Fiction release A Woman of Note! Be sure to visit & leave your commentary!

Fun Stuff for Your Blog via

I look forward to reading your thoughts and comments on behalf of this review. Especially if you read the novel or were thinking you might be inclined to read it. I appreciate hearing different points of view especially amongst bloggers who picked up the same novel to read on a blog tour.

Comment Box Banner made by Jorie in Canva.

{SOURCES: The cover art for “Reading the Sweet Oak”, the synopsis, author biography, and author photograph of Jan Stites along with the blog tour badge were provided by BookSparks and used with permission. Comment Box Banner made by Jorie in Canva. Ruminations & Impressions Book Review Banner created by Jorie in Canva. Photo Credit: Unsplash Public Domain Photographer Sergey Zolkin. Post dividers by Fun Stuff for Your Blog via Pure Imagination. The author interview with Jan Stites  had either URL share links or coding which made it possible to embed this media portal to this post, and I thank them for the opportunity to share more about this novel and the author who penned it.}

Copyright © Jorie Loves A Story, 2015.

I’m a social reader | I tweet as I read:

About jorielov

I am self-educated through local libraries and alternative education opportunities. I am a writer by trade and I cured a ten-year writer’s block by the discovery of Nanowrimo in November 2008. The event changed my life by re-establishing my muse and solidifying my path. Five years later whilst exploring the bookish blogosphere I decided to become a book blogger. I am a champion of wordsmiths who evoke a visceral experience in narrative. I write comprehensive book showcases electing to get into the heart of my reading observations. I dance through genres seeking literary enlightenment and enchantment. Starting in Autumn 2013 I became a blog book tour hostess featuring books and authors. I joined The Classics Club in January 2014 to seek out appreciators of the timeless works of literature whose breadth of scope and voice resonate with us all.

"I write my heart out and own my writing after it has spilt out of the pen." - self quote (Jorie of Jorie Loves A Story)

read more >> | Visit my Story Vault of Book Reviews | Policies & Review Requests | Contact Jorie


Posted Thursday, 29 October, 2015 by jorielov in 21st Century, Bits & Bobbles of Jorie, Blog Tour Host, BookSparks, Brothers and Sisters, Coming-Of Age, Compassion & Acceptance of Differences, Equality In Literature, Indie Author, LGBTTQPlus Fiction | Non-Fiction, Modern Day, Mother-Daughter Relationships, Siblings, Small Towne USA, Vulgarity in Literature, Women's Fiction

All posts on my blog are open to new comments & commentary!
I try to visit your blog in return as I believe in ‘Bloggers Commenting Back
(which originated as a community via Readers Wonderland).

Comments are moderated. Once your comment is approved for the first time, your comments thereafter will be recognised and automatically approved. All comments are reviewed and continue to be moderated after automated approval. By using the comment form you are consenting with the storage and handling of your personal data by this website.

Once you use the comment form, if your comment receives a reply (this only applies to those who leave comments by email), there is a courtesy notification set to send you a reply ticket. It is at your discretion if you want to return to re-respond and/or to continue the conversation established. This is a courtesy for commenters to know when their comments have been replied by either the blog's owner or a visitor to the blog who wanted to add to the conversation. Your email address is hidden and never shared. Read my Privacy Policy.

Leave a Reply

(Enter your URL then click here to include a link to one of your blog posts.)