In her latest enchanting novel, New York Times bestelling author Sarah Addison Allen invites you to a quirky little Southern town with more magic than a full Carolina moon. Here two very different women discover how to find their place in the world...no matter how out of place they feel.Kelly's thoughts are in blue and mine are in black
Emily Benedict came to Mullaby, North Carolina, hoping to solve at least some of the riddles surrounding her mother's life. For instance, why did Dulcie Shelby leave her hometown so suddenly? Why did she vow never to return? But the moment Emily enters the house where her mother grew up and meets the grandfather she never knew—a reclusive, real-life gentle giant—she realizes that mysteries aren't solved in Mullaby, they're a way of life.
Here are rooms where the wallpaper changes to suit your mood. Unexplained lights skip across the yard at midnight. And a neighbor bakes hope in the form of cakes.
Everyone in Mullaby adores Julia Winterson's cakes - which is a good thing, because Julia can't seem to stop baking them. She offers them to satisfy the town's sweet tooth but also in the hope of rekindling the love she fears might be lost forever. Flour, eggs, milk and sugar... Baking is the only language the proud but vulnerable Julia has to communicate what is truly in her heart. But is it enough to call back to her those she's hurt in the past?
Can a hummingbird cake really bring back a lost love? Is there really a ghost dancing in Emily's backyard? The answers are never what you expect. But in this town of lovable misfits, the unexpected fits right in.
It seems right to start a joint review of a fantasy book with the words once upon a time, so here we go...
Once upon a time, Kelly and Marg used to chat a lot about the books that they were reading and even wrote buddy reviews quite regularly. Whilst the former still happens, it seems something of a surprise that we haven't written a joint review for nearly 3 years. How did that happen Kelly?
Uh, probably because we both are really bad at reviewing? Or maybe it is because we were reviewing a series that I haven't read a book in for 3 years, while you are still carrying on? lol The important thing is that we are reviewing a book together now! So, we both have read all three books by Sarah Addison Allen. Which of the three do you consider your favourite?
Picking favourites is a hard thing for me because I really, really like them all. If I had to choose I would probably say Garden Spells simply because I was so pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed both the story and the style of Sarah Addison Allen's writing. These days I have a fair idea of what to expect, so the question is more whether or not the latest book lives up to those expectations. In the end, I have rated them all as 4.5/5, so she is consistently good for me! How about you? Which is your favourite of her novels.
I didn't think I was going to look any of her books. I had seen Garden Spells reviewed in several places, but it seemed like a romance and I am not big on romances. I am not even sure what happened, but somewhere I read a review and it made me curious about her first book. The library actually had it in, so I grabbed it one day on a whim to see what the fuss was about. I wound up loving the book and surprising myself. So, I think because it was my first book and because it caught me so off guard by liking it that it will remain my favourite. Although, in The Sugar Queen I really liked the character who had the books appear to her. I think she is my favourite character. Speaking of characters, what did you think of the characters in this book?
As always I found the characters eminently likable. From Emily who has just come to the town to live with the grandfather she never knew she had, to Julia who bakes cakes from her heart, but who was in her younger days the high school outcast, to the dapper young man Emily meets whose family secrets are somehow connected to the departure of her mother from the town and the fact that she never, ever mentioned her family or her past, to Julia's past flame who has a very sweet tooth. Whilst at superficial glance, each of these characters are nothing more than likable, each of them has their secrets waiting to be discovered by the reader. What did you make of Emily's mother who in a way was a character without actually appearing in the book?
I was actually rather impressed with Emily's mom. It must have been hard to grow up with a mother who appeared so perfect to everyone. I think moving to her mother's town and getting to know a different side of her was actually a really good thing for Emily. It's hard to deal with perfection, even if the person isn't actually perfect. It just seems like they are and that is who you are competing with. Even if she is not actual in the book, Allen still managed to make her come alive so that the readers got to know her better. I was even surprised by her once in a while. I guess I got a picture in my head of who she was and she wasn't entirely who I thought. I can just imagine what it would be like being her daughter and having that happen. What did you think of the people in the towns strange abilities? Was it too much, or did they work within the story?
For the most part I think that the strangeness of the people in the town, and their abilities fit the type of books that Sarah Addison Allen's Allen writes. I love the whimsical natures of her characters. You mentioned before about Chloe from The Sugar Queen who has books appear near her all the time that help her in her life. Julia was very much like that with all the different cakes that she cooked, knowing which flavour cake each person that she was making for needed! If there was one thing I didn't quite appreciate as part of the book it was the changing wallpaper in the grandfather's house. It is a very whimsical and fun idea but itdidn 't really make a difference to the story. Thinking about the wallpaper brings me to Emily's grandfather, who was over 8 feet tall. I really enjoyed him as a character. He wasn't whimsical or magical, just very large, but I loved that we see him progress from someone who was very rigid and set in his ways, and very distant, and we got to see him as he slowly allowed himself to get to know Emily and to want to protect her from the kind of things that affected his daughter during her formative years.
Did all the magical elements work for you? If you could have some kind of magical or whimsical talent, do you have any ideas what you would like it to be?
************Head on over to Kelly's blog, The Written World to read her answer to my question, and more!
This book counts for the 2010 Pub Challenge and the Once Upon a Time IV challenge.