Friday, May 30, 2008

The Sugar Queen by Sarah Addison Allen

The Sugar Queen by Sarah Addison Allen
Released May 20, 2008
Bantam Fiction
276 pages

She looked over to the door and locked eyes with Jake. The force of it nearly knocked her over. As much as Julian could do, as much as he wanted to do, he could not affect her the way Jake could. It was the difference between a tickle and a punch.

Jake walked toward her, Adam on his heels. They got caught in the group of shiny women on their way. Walking through that group was like walking into a sudden dust devil. They emerged on the other side looking rumpled and windblown.
[pp. 109-110]

"Books can be possessive, can't they? You're walking around in a bookstore and a certain one will jump out at you, like it had moved there on its own, just to get your attention. Sometimes what's inside will change your life, but sometimes you don't even have to read it. Sometimes it's a comfort just to have a book around. Many of these books haven't even had their spines cracked. 'Why do you buy books you don't even read?' our daughter asks us. That's like asking someone who lives alone why they bought a cat. For company, of course."
[p. 180]

What led you to pick up this book?
I loved Garden Spells, by the same author, and was fortunate (as in "Wow, this is like winning the lottery!" -- it's the simple things in life you treasure) to find an advanced reader copy of The Sugar Queen for free at my public library.

Summarize the plot but don't give away the ending. Josey Cirrini was a terrible brat, as a child and, at 27 years of age, is still trying to make up for her early years by caring for her elderly widowed mother, Margaret. More than anything, Josey desires to escape from the Bald Slope, North Carolina, where her wealth and her history are known to everyone. From a distance, Josey admires her handsome mailman, Adam, but she's not really allowed any social life and is totally inexperienced with men. To assuage her frustrations, she frequently hides in her closet and eats from her stash of candy and goodies. Then, one day she opens the closet and finds Della Lee Baker sitting on her closet floor. Shocked at first, Josey allows her to stay and even offers to bring her food. Della Lee sends Josey out for sandwiches from a shop at the courthouse. As Josey and shop owner Chloe Finley become friends, Josey slowly gets up the nerve to leave the house more often. There are quite a few threads that eventually interconnect and the story is really about three women whose lives are intertwined and who must all learn to be true to their own hearts.

What did you like most about the book? Golly, everything. It's just a lovely, heartwarming, witty, magical tale. I think the author has a way of creating incredibly warm characters with some sort of magical abilities. Chloe, for example, attracts books; they magically pop up nearby and even sometimes follow her around. Josey is a really nice person, much more of a social creature than she realizes after years of doing little but serving her bitter mother. She always senses the mailman's presence as he arrives at her house. The housekeeper is funny and charming with her superstitious ways and has her own special ability, which doesn't become clear until late in the book.

What did you think of the characters? Wonderful, wonderful characters. I felt like they all made sense in light of their pasts. The author has a way of making characters that are so likable that you can't help but think, "I just know I could be friends with that author if I knew her. I'll bet she's nice." Don't worry; I'm not a stalker.

Share a favorite scene from the book: I particularly loved the scenes in which Chloe was chased around by books like Finding Forgiveness. Chloe would tell them to just leave her alone, but then she'd walk into another room and whatever book wanted her attention would pop up, again. In one scene, an entire stack of books practically stalks her, inching their way into the bathroom.

Thumbs up - Absolutely enchanting. I love Sarah Addison Allen's writing.

In general:
The author has officially become a personal favorite with this second delightful book.

Now reading:
Mrs. Lieutenant
by Phyllis Zimbler Miller (just started!)
Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert (the second section isn't keeping my attention, but we'll see)
The Queen of Sleepy Eye by Patti Hill (crazy about this one, so far, and hope to find more reading time to spend with it, soon)

Oh, I almost forgot! Since The Sugar Queen is set in North Carolina (and so is the author -- I mean, she lives there), it qualifies as book #2 for the Southern Reading Challenge. Woohoo!

25 comments:

  1. Oh, good! It sounds just as fun as Garden Spells! I sure hope my sister gets it for me for my birthday!

    It's a great review, Nancy, thanks.

    cjh

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  2. WOW! I want a copy! You were meant to have that book, seems it hopped out there onto the sale rack just for you! :D

    Now that it is fresh in your mind,see if you can dream up an Haiku for the Southern Haiku Contest!

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  3. This does sound good, Nancy. I am definitely looking forward to reading Garden Spells.

    I skipped your review for Tarnished Beauty for the time being, but will come back to it after I read the book. I try not to read reviews of books I plan on reading right away.

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  4. Great review! I only recently heard of this author, and I now want to read both Garden Spells and The Sugar Queen!

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  5. This is pretty great! Not only did you get a great read, but it was a freebie to boot! Can't beat that!!

    I can not wait to get a copy of Garden Spells. I added it to my "Irresistible Reviews" list (from you) as well!

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  6. CJ,

    Yep, I think it was every bit as fun. I had just as much trouble putting The Sugar Queen down as I did Garden Spells. Beg your sister. Loudly. LOL When's your birthday?

    And, thank you. :)

    Maggie,

    You've gotta read it; you've just gotta. I think you're right -- that book was meant for me. Do you know I also got Garden Spells at the library during one of their ARC giveaways? It must be magic that drew me to the library on the right day, both times. :)

    Oh, crud, I don't have time for a contest. Well, maybe. I'm packing to leave for home, but obviously I take "breaks". LOL

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  7. Wendy,

    Oh, you have some great reading ahead of you, if you haven't even gotten to Garden Spells! It's one of those rare books that makes me kind of envious when people read it for the first time. So magical.

    I skip reviews while I'm reading a book, also, to avoid coloring my impression or the way I word my own review. Can't wait to see what you think of it!

    Laura,

    Thanks! Definitely go for it. They're both terrific reads. I hope you love them as much as I did!

    Stephanie,

    Yeah, you can't beat a fabulous read that costs absolutely nothing. LOL

    Why, thank you. That makes me feel all glowy that you mentioned one of my reviews on your "Irresistible Reviews" list. :)

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  8. I want to be Chloe. Of course, books do seem to dog my heels....

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  9. Nancyroo, would you compare Allen to Alice Hoffman at all? From the blurbs I read it sounds like they might be sorta similar.

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  10. Andiloo,

    Yes, I would because Allen's characters are what I'd call "pleasantly quirky" like Hoffman's. I haven't read whichever Hoffman title it is that everyone compares to Garden Spells, but I can tell you I think Allen has a lovely way of creating characters that have some unique magical touch and I doubt anyone can call her a ditto, now. ;)

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  11. Oh my goodness...you've totally sold me...this sounds positively delightful!

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  12. Debi,

    Just tell Random House that, so they'll start sending me books and save me the library trip. ;)

    Seriously, it's a magical book. I loved it.

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  13. I still have Garden Spells sitting in my current TBR stack! I'm glad to hear you enjoyed both books.

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  14. Les,

    You really ought to read Garden Spells instead of just looking at it. Kidding, kidding. I admire my stacks all the time. They're just so darn pretty.

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  15. Alright, am I the last one to read Garden Spells? I have officially added it to my wishlist! Thanks for the review of her second book!

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  16. Stephanie,

    Nope, you're not the last. I know several people who have it on their stacks. I'll just keep nudging till they get to it. It's probably worth mentioning that I think her writing has actually improved with the second book. That's always promising, isn't it? :)

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  17. Of course, I'm not reading your review, just skimming! I don't want to know anything other than that you recommend it and that I can look forward to another enjoyable read by the author of Garden Spells!

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  18. Jenclair,

    I do that, too. Well, now you know. Actually, I'd say her writing improved with the second novel. Garden Spells is wonderful, but (at least in the ARC I read) there were enough grammatical errors to comment upon. This time, I didn't notice anything major and the storyline was just as magical, possibly more unique.

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  19. This is next up for me to read. I am so excited to read it. I LOVED Garden Spells!

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  20. April,

    You'll love The Sugar Queen; I just know it! :)

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  21. I'm glad that everyone likes this book and the author coz it is on my reading list.

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  22. I read Garden Spells for the Southern Challenge and now, I will look for Sugar Queen. I really like the author's writing. So enjoyable!

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  23. Violette,

    The author is officially a new favorite of mine. I hope you enjoy her writing as much as I do. :)

    Mary,

    I think her writing actually improved a little with the second book. You have a great read to look forward to! Enjoy your Southern reading!

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  24. Thank you for introducing me to this book! I have wanted to read garden spells for a while now,I had not heard of this second book! The way you have reviewed The Sugar Queen makes me really want to read it, ill be getting started on the books in the near future!

    Thank you again
    Priscilla x

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  25. Priscilla,

    You're welcome! I hope you enjoy both Garden Spells and The Sugar Queen as much as I did. :)

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