Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Group Review: First Frost

Author: Sarah Addison Allen
Series: Waverley #2
Publication Date: January 20, 2015
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Pages: 304
Obtained: publisher
Genre:  Contemporary Fiction, Magical Realism
Rating: 5/5
Bottom Line: Like coming home
Grab, Just get it at the library, or Remove from your TBR list? Grab!
Summary: From the New York Times bestselling author of GARDEN SPELLS comes a story of the Waverley family, in a novel as sparkling as the first dusting of frost on new-fallen leaves...It's October in Bascom, North Carolina, and autumn will not go quietly. As temperatures drop and leaves begin to turn, the Waverley women are made restless by the whims of their mischievous apple tree... and all the magic that swirls around it. But this year, first frost has much more in store.Claire Waverley has started a successful new venture, Waverley's Candies. Though her handcrafted confections; rose to recall lost love, lavender to promote happiness and lemon verbena to soothe throats and minds;are singularly effective, the business of selling them is costing her the everyday joys of her family, and her belief in her own precious gifts. Sydney Waverley, too, is losing her balance. With each passing day she longs more for a baby, a namesake for her wonderful Henry. Yet the longer she tries, the more her desire becomes an unquenchable thirst, stealing the pleasure out of the life she already has. Sydney's daughter, Bay, has lost her heart to the boy she knows it belongs to…if only he could see it, too. But how can he, when he is so far outside her grasp that he appears to her as little more than a puff of smoke?When a mysterious stranger shows up and challenges the very heart of their family, each of them must make choices they have never confronted before. And through it all, the Waverley sisters must search for a way to hold their family together through their troublesome season of change, waiting for that extraordinary event that is First Frost. ~powells.com

Jenn's Review: This is my second time starting the new year off with a Sarah Addison Allen novel and I think it's a New Year's tradition I will keep, even if it's just re-reading one of her novels  --which I also did.   If you visit this blog with any frequency you know that we are all huge fans of Sarah Addison Allen; I'm actually not sure there are enough wonderful words to describe her work.  Re-reading Garden Spells, I fell in love with it all over again --I fell in love with the characters all over again and I fell in love with Sarah Addison Allen's writing all over again.  Of all her novels, Garden Spells has always been my favorite, so much so that after re-reading it I almost didn't want to read First Frost because everything was so perfect the way it was.  But if there is any author I trust not to let me down, it is Ms. Allen, so I dove in with a hopeful heart.

Sarah Addison Allen did not disappoint.  It has been ten years since we last visited the Waverley's and the promise that life will be good continues to blossom from the garden.  Lately however, the women are trying too hard:  trying to prove themselves, trying to be more than who they are, trying to be accepted for who they are.  Being a Waverley has become more acceptable in Bascom due to Claire and Sydney's overwhelming success, but it still comes with social stigma. For Bay, even though she is accepted as a Waverley, she still isn't allowed to socialize with the popular crowd. While this doesn't bother Bay, it is hard on Sydney who remembers all too well what it is like not to fit in. It makes it hard for Sydney and Bay to communicate which is sad because they used to be so close. Claire is struggling too, having closed her catering business to make candy full time. Her business has grown beyond her capabilities and it's causing her to question herself.  I'm talking about the characters as if they were real again, but they are to me.  That is the real magic of Sarah Addison Allen's writing. You leave each novel with new friends.  I didn't realize how much I missed the Waverley's until I went back.

Ms. Allen's style is mellifluous and enveloping.  Her novels are full of hope, beauty, and strong women.  Her books are ones you don't want to rush through and miss a single delectable morsel, but at the same time you find you can't quite put them down.  It is through her work that I became obsessed with food lit.  (I can almost smell the delicious scent's in Claire's kitchen!)  However with her added touch of magical realism, no one quite compares to Sarah Addison Allen.  If you have never read her work, we all recommend it.  Start with Garden Spells.  You don't have to have read it to enjoy First Frost, but it helps you appreciate the scope of these women's character's lives and the allure of Ms. Allen's writing.

Julie's Review: First Frost is magic. At least it was for me. Coming back to the Waverley's was like coming home for me. I missed Bay, Sydney and Claire.  While the book did focus on all three Waverley women, the hook for me was Bay. I loved coming back to her and seeing how she has grown up. Bay is so comfortable being a Waverley, that her mom, Sydney, almost can't relate. You see, Sydney didn't like being a Waverley until she came back to Bascom.

You see in Bascom, being a Waverley has a certain connotation to it. Depending on people's needs it's either a good thing or bad thing. Claire's gift is food and Sydney's gift is hair. That's all I'll say about their gifts. We learn that Claire has switched from catering to a candy making business and that it's taking up all her time. It's exhausting her and not leaving her much time for anything else.

Sydney is desperate for another child. She's doing anything she can to make that happen. She's also not sure what's going on with Bay and how to handle it. Bay is in love. She knows where she's supposed to be and know that Josh is supposed to be with her but she's made a fool of herself.

What I adore about Ms. Allen's novels is her characters. I never fail to fall in love with them. They are the people you want to have in your life. I also adore the setting. There's something a bit special about Bascom and the people who inhabit it.

There's always magic in her novels. It's not the sweeping kind of magic in some novels but it's understated and part of each character.What I always walk away from after reading, is that all of us have a little magic in ourselves. What that magic is, is up to us. Perhaps this is her gift to us. Ms. Allen's magic is her ability to write books that I love to savor and devour at the same time!

Did you have to read Garden Spells to read/love First Frost? No. Does it help with the history of the characters? Absolutely. Plus Garden Spells is one of my favorite stories of Ms. Allen's and that's saying a lot.



Anita LeBeau January 20, 2015 at 11:02 PM  

I haven't read any of her books, but both of you have written such beautiful reviews of this book, I believe I need to go back and give Garden Spells a read. I'm sure the library has it. Thanks Julie and Jenn.

Julie January 21, 2015 at 12:08 PM  

All of her books are very worth it.

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