Thursday, January 22, 2009

Jenn's Review: The Sugar Queen

Summary: Twenty-seven-year-old Josey Cirrini is sure of three things: winter in her North Carolina hometown is her favorite season, she’s a sorry excuse for a Southern belle, and sweets are best eaten in the privacy of her hidden closet. For while Josey has settled into an uneventful life in her mother’s house, her one consolation is the stockpile of sugary treats and paperback romances she escapes to each night…. Until she finds it harboring none other than local waitress Della Lee Baker, a tough-talking, tenderhearted woman who is one part nemesis—and two parts fairy godmother…

Fleeing a life of bad luck and big mistakes, Della Lee has decided Josey’s clandestine closet is the safest place to crash. In return she’s going to change Josey’s life—because, clearly, it is not the closet of a happy woman. With Della Lee’s tough love, Josey is soon forgoing pecan rolls and caramels, tapping into her startlingly keen feminine instincts, and finding her narrow existence quickly expanding.

Before long, Josey bonds with Chloe Finley, a young woman who makes the best sandwiches in town, is hounded by books that inexplicably appear whenever she needs them, and—most amazing of all—has a close connection to Josey’s longtime crush.

As little by little Josey dares to step outside herself, she discovers a world where the color red has astonishing power, passion can make eggs fry in their cartons, and romance can blossom at any time—even for her. It seems that Della Lee’s work is done, and it’s time for her to move on. But the truth about where she’s going, why she showed up in the first place—and what Chloe has to do with it all—is about to add one more unexpected chapter to Josey’s fast-changing life. ~blurb

Review: Sarah Addison Allen's second novel is just as delectable as the first; it was like reading hot chocolate, warm, comforting and delicious. (Cliché, I know, but there it is.) It was yummy. I've actually been savoring it for days, not wanting to move on to a new book just yet.

Allen's character's are enchanting and she easily jumps back and forth telling the story from each character's point of view to round everything out nicely. It is hard to feel for Josey's mother, Margaret. She states early in the book that she had Josey out of desperation and spite and that, like her, Josey should have to "give up everything for this life, for this house, for this money." Margaret can't let go of the past and she has guilted Josey into living there too. But suddenly there is Della Lee, hiding out in the closet, who pushes Josey outside her comfort zone (and her stash of treats) into the world.

It's no surprise that, after years of observing life from a far, Josey is very astute at reading people. In meeting Chloe, who has problem's of her own, Josey develops her first real friendship and begins to interact with her secret crush, Adam. Against her better judgement, Josey even gets drawn into Jake and Chloe's passionate torrent. Chloe tells Adam that he is the object of Josey's affection (which surprised both Josey and me), figuring that Josey needs a little push. Between Della Lee, Chloe, and Adam, Josey learns about friendship, love, and forgiveness (most importantly, self-forgivness).

Like Julie, I didn't see the final twist(s) coming, which is a huge accomplishment for an author. Usually I pick things out a mile away, but I was so wrapped up in the characters that I missed all the signs. I was even empathetic towards Margaret by the end and saddened by her plight, her pride, and her stubbornness. As before (Garden Spells), Allen leaves us wanting more. I wanted to know more about the mysterious herbalist and Amelia, a forty year old woman with no dreams of her own. Allen even teases us with a little preview in the form of the candy names she gives each chapter.

The only slight let down, for me, was when Della Lee has Josey look into her father's philandering, intimating that there were illegitimate children around town, and Josey doesn't follow through with this investigation. I realize that originally she looked into it to prove her father's innocence and cling to living in the past, and, by the end with all she learns about life, Josey realizes that things are not always black and white and that the past is just the past, so it's no longer of dire importance... However, I would think she'd want to know, just for the sake of knowing, how many half-siblings are out there!

This was a fabulous read. I have come to love Sarah Addison Allen's work and I can't wait for the next addition!

Final: 5/5

Julie's Review: The Sugar Queen

4 comments :

Julie January 22, 2009 at 9:37 AM  

I'm so glad you liked it. She's a wonderful author!

Mary January 22, 2009 at 12:19 PM  

I really liked this book and look forward to her new one coming this year!

Jenn January 22, 2009 at 3:39 PM  

"...love, magic, barbeque, cake..." according to her website.

Sounds scrumptious! LOL

Staci January 22, 2009 at 8:11 PM  

I have this book on my nightstand. I loved Garden Spells and am so happy to read your positive review. I can't wait to jump into it!!

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