Sunday, August 12, 2012

Book Review: The Sugar Queen by Sarah Addison Allen

Twenty-seven-year-old Josey Cirrini is sure one 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 her closet 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 forgetting 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 inexplicable 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. 

I read this because it was described as a follow up to Garden Spells, and expected it to be a sequel; while it wasn't, I wasn't disappointed by what I got. I loved it almost as much as I loved Garden Spells. The plot had a familiar premise with some interesting twists, and I loved the way Sarah Addison Allen was able to explore subplots and other characters without ever getting off track. The story was perfectly paced, and although it wasn't suspenseful and took a few chapters to get into it, it kept me reading. 

All of the characters were unique, dynamic, and just came to life. While I disliked some of them, I could also sympathize with them and thought they were brilliantly written; I disliked them as people, not as characters, which shows how real they were. Josey was an endearing main character, who was easy to relate to and root for, and her relationship with Adam and her friendship with Chloe and Della Lee were all believable and perfectly written. The sections from other characters' perspectives and the myriad of subplots added so much to the story and never distracted from the main plot. The ending was perfect and made so much sense. 

This book was just magical story, and I loved it. When I checked it out, my librarian commented, "Don't you love her?" [Sarah Addison Allen.] Then, when I said yes, I meant, "I loved Garden Spells," which was the only book of hers I'd read at the time. Having read a second book by her, I feel justified in saying she's a great author and I can't wait to read the rest of her books. 


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