Lost Lake

Lost LakeLost Lake by Sarah Addison Allen
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Number of pages: 304
My copy: Kindle edition

Suley, Georgia, is home to Lost Lake Cottages and not much else. Which is why it’s the perfect place for newly-widowed Kate and her eccentric eight-year-old daughter Devin to heal. Kate spent one memorable childhood summer at Lost Lake, had her first almost-kiss at Lost Lake, and met a boy named Wes at Lost Lake. It was a place for dreaming. But Kate doesn’t believe in dreams anymore, and her Aunt Eby, Lost Lake’s owner, wants to sell the place and move on. Lost Lake’s magic is gone. As Kate discovers that time has a way of standing still at Lost Lake can she bring the cottages—and her heart—back to life? Because sometimes the things you love have a funny way of turning up again. And sometimes you never even know they were lost . . . until they are found.

* * *

Sarah Addison Allen is one of my go-to authors for comfort reads. I think everyone who’s ever read any of her books know this. There’s something about her words, the magic realism in her novels that just hits the right spot. So I was very excited when Lost Lake came out, and I couldn’t wait to get lost in this new, magical world crafted by her SAA’s words.

A year after her husband’s death, Kate Pherris wakes up. Her mother-in-law, Cricket, plans to move her and her daughter Devin with her, but Kate didn’t want anything to do with it anymore. When Devin finds a postcard from her Kate’s Aunt Eby from Lost Lake, the mother and daughter drive off to Lost Lake. Eby Pim knew Lost Lake is going bankrupt, and with a heavy heart, she finally decides to sell it. When this news comes out, Eby’s old friends started coming back, to spend one last time in the lake. Eby thinks she made the right decision, but something doesn’t sit well with her. Lost Lake is a place where lost people find themselves, so what happens when they lose it?

I got lost in Lost Lake a few pages in, and I mean that in a good way. There’s the usual magic and beauty in this book. It’s not quite the same as Garden Spells, a bit more similar to The Girl Who Chased the Moon, but still unique in its own way. I really liked the setting. Most of my vacations by the water involve the beach – sun, sand and whatnot. Lakes aren’t too common here in the Philippines (at least, there’s not much of them that I know), so a lake vacation is interesting to me. I loved the old cabins, the lake that seemed like magic, and all the other memories that the cast of characters had in the lake. The history gave the place a lot more personality, and it was so nice to dip into all of it and see how much the place meant to everyone in Suley. I wanted to be there in Lost Lake, too, to witness the magic of the place first hand.

But in a way, I guess I was there, too. True to form, SAA’s words brought me there, too, and it was such a pleasure to be there. Reading this felt like a vacation, the one where I made new friends in the form of the characters in the story. I loved Eby and Kate and Devin, but the people who really shone here were the secondary characters – Lisette, Selma, Buhladeen (I love her name), Wes, the alligator. I loved them in their signature quirkiness, their whimsy and the little magic that they call carried in their own. The thing with SAA novels is that even if there is a little bit of magic, somehow you’d still believe that they were just normal, everyday things. That’s what I love the most about magic realism – how magic is not new, and how it’s all so subtle but it leaves a big mark in the character’s lives.

Lost Lake was good, except maybe compared to the other SAA books, it had a little of a lost quality to it, too. I don’t mean it in a bad way; perhaps there was just too many things to love that I couldn’t really settle into any of them to love them fully. I suppose this isn’t bad, but I had a lot of books for comparison and Lost Lakepales just a little bit in comparison to the others. If you’re new to SAA and you want to dip your toes into her stories, then this may be a good one to start with, and then I would recommend you read her others, too, because trust me: it gets better from there.

Number of dog-eared pages: 37

Favorite dog-eared quotes:

There was so much happiness in the world. It was everywhere. It was free. Eby never understood why some people, people like her family, simply refused to take it.

Magic is what we invent when we want something we think we can’t have.

All the women in their family had sturdy frames. They weren’t meant to break, but most of them did anyway, blown down by that perfect storm called love.

If we measured life in the things that almost happened, we wouldn’t get anywhere.

We are conduits for happiness. Remember that.

You can’t change where you came from, but you can change where you go from here. Just like a book. If you don’t like the ending, you make up a new one.

When your cup is empty, you do not mourn what is gone. Because if you do, you will miss the opportunity to fill it again.

Sometimes, the best endings are the one that surprise you. Sometimes, the best are the ones that have everything happening exactly how you want it to happen. But the absolute perfect endings are when you get a little of both.

Rating: [rating=3]

Other reviews:
Dear Author

The Peach Keeper

The Peach Keeper by Sarah Addison AllenThe Peach Keeper by Sarah Addison Allen
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton

Number of pages: 320
My copy: UK paperback, birthday gift from Chachic

It’s the dubious distinction of thirty-year-old Willa Jackson to hail from a fine old Southern family of means that met with financial ruin generations ago. The Blue Ridge Madam—built by Willa’s great-great-grandfather and once the finest home in Walls of Water, North Carolina—has stood for years as a monument to misfortune and scandal. Willa has lately learned that an old classmate—socialite Paxton Osgood—has restored the house to its former glory, with plans to turn it into a top-flight inn. But when a skeleton is found buried beneath the property’s lone peach tree, long-kept secrets come to light, accompanied by a spate of strange occurrences throughout the town. Thrust together in an unlikely friendship, united by a full-blooded mystery, Willa and Paxton must confront the passions and betrayals that once bound their families—and uncover the truths that have transcended time to touch the hearts of the living.

* * *

Just recently, some girl friends from the book club and I started having our own girls’ night out. They’re usually just dinner and some drinks, and a night of girl talk, which isn’t really different when we’re with the other boys except that we get to talk about the boys sometimes because none of them are there when we’re on a night out. :P Anyway, it’s becoming one of those sort of impromptu things that I’m really starting to like, because a girl must always have time for her girl friends, right?

I remember that I actually finished reading Sarah Addison Allen’s The Peach Keeper on the afternoon before our first girls’ night out last month. I find it quite fitting because The Peach Keeper is a story of two women who were friends from years ago and were fiercely loyal to each other, and their granddaughters who are not friends, but are drawn together because of a certain house history. There’s romance, mystery and magic realism that makes SAA’s fourth book just like her old ones, but also a little different, in a good way.

I’ve read mixed reviews about this book, so I wasn’t really sure if I was going to like it as much as I liked Garden Spells or The Sugar Queen. There’s still that comfort-read feel in this Sarah Addison Allen book, and the magic realism, as I mentioned, but the mystery is an entirely new thing. I felt that there was more going on in this book, so it took me a while to read it but then I fell in love with the characters and their stories soon after.

My favorite part of this book would have to be Paxton and Willa’s “unlikely” friendship. I liked how each of them was described, with their own problems and faults, and how they ended up being on each other’s side. I liked how this developed, how they weren’t friends before even if they knew each other from way back and then they all became important in each other’s lives later on. There’s something about a well-written friendship that really gets to me, and I am reminded of the friendships that I have made now.

I find that I actually liked The Peach Keeper as much as I liked The Sugar Queen, which was my second favorite SAA book. I think I read it at the right time, just as I met (and had quite an adventure) with some of my favorite girls. It left me wanting to share this book to all my girl friends, and more than excited to build and keep my friendship with them. :) The author said it quite well:

Because we’re connected, as women. It’s like a spiderweb. If one part of that web vibrates, if there’s trouble, we all know it. But most of the time, we’re just too scared or selfish or insecure to help. But if we don’t help each other, who will?

I feel a little sad that I have no more SAA books to read after this, but count me as one of her fans now. I will definitely read anything else she comes up with. :)

Rating: [rating=4]

Required Reading: March

Other reviews:
Chachic’s Book Nook
Jinky is Reading


The Extraordinary Secrets of April, May and June

The Extraordinary Secrets of April, May and June by Robin BenwayThe Extraordinary Secrets of April, May and June by Robin Benway
Publisher: Razorbill
Number of pages: 288
My copy: paperback, bought from Fully Booked

I hugged my sisters and they fit against my sides like two jigsaw pieces that would never fit anywhere else. I couldn’t imagine ever letting them go again, like releasing them would be to surrender the best parts of myself.

Three sisters share a magical, unshakeable bond in this witty high-concept novel from the critically acclaimed author of Audrey, Wait! Around the time of their parents’ divorce, sisters April, May, and June recover special powers from childhood—powers that come in handy navigating the hell that is high school. Powers that help them cope with the hardest year of their lives. But could they have a greater purpose?

April, the oldest and a bit of a worrier, can see the future. Middle-child May can literally disappear. And baby June reads minds— everyone’s but her own. When April gets a vision of disaster, the girls come together to save the day and reconcile their strained family. They realize that no matter what happens, powers or no powers, they’ll always have each other.

Because there’s one thing stronger than magic: sisterhood.

* * *

I don’t have a biological sister, so I don’t know how it feels to have one (I do have a very awesome sister-in-law, but that’s for another post), so I often live vicariously with books with sisters. When I first heard of The Extraordinary Secrets of April, May and June by Robin Benway, I wanted to read it not only because I really enjoyed her other novel, Audrey, Wait!, but because of the magic realism and the sisterhood angle. I figure it’s a fun novel with all those elements, right?

Sisters April, May and June share more than a last name — on their first day of school in a new town, the three sisters discover that they have some kind of powers: April can predict the future, May can disappear and June can read everyone’s minds. They all freak out on their own terms when they discovered this, but they have to pull themselves together when April gets a vision of a disaster that she doesn’t know how to stop. But with their constant bickering and wishes and selfishness, will they be able to do that?

I was looking for fun, and yes, I wasn’t disappointed! I really liked The Extraordinary Secrets of April, May and June with all its cute quirks. The three-person narration was interesting, and I was glad to see that the voices of the characters were totally different and easily distinguishable. I saw a bit of myself in each of the sisters, but mostly in April because even if I am the youngest in the family, I tend to have that “mother hen” instinct for people I care for. I kind of liked June the least because she’s the kind of person who would care more for discount jewelry than the real things that matter, but she did kind of win me over in the end. I liked their sister dynamics, and I bet that if I had a sister close to my age, we would probably bicker like that.

However, there seemed to be too much bickering in some of the parts that it made me a bit exhausted. I kind of missed the wit and lines that was in Audrey, Wait!, and instead, there was more dialogue of bickering rather than descriptions of scenes. I guess it’s part of having three narrators, but reading the fighting and arguments and doors slamming for several pages was just kind of tiring to read.

But I really did like how the sisterhood “magic” factored in the story. I liked the brief idea of a history behind their powers (and I wished it was explored more!), and I liked how despite there were some romance in the story, it didn’t take the spotlight (that much, anyway) over April, May and June’s relationship as sisters. The ending was just right, and it made me shed a few tears when things finally went down.

I liked this book. Maybe not as much as Robin Benway’s debut, but I like this enough to watch out for her other books and put her in my contemporary YA to-read list. If you’re looking for a feel-good, quick-read book with a lot of heart, or if you have sisters, then I hope you will enjoy The Extraordinary Secrets of April May and June as much as I did. :)

Rating: [rating=3]

Required Reading - June

Other reviews:
Persnickety Snark
Fluttering Butterflies

The Girl Who Chased the Moon

The Girl Who Chased the Moon by Sarah Addison Allen

The Girl Who Chased the Moon by Sarah Addison Allen
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton

Number of pages: 261
My copy: UK paperback, Christmas gift from Angus

Emily Benedict came to Mullaby, North Carolina, hoping to solve at least some of the riddles surrounding her mother’s life. Why did she leave her hometown so suddenly? Why did she vow never to return?

But in a place where unexplained lights skip across the yard at midnight, where the wallpaper in your bedroom changes so suit your mood, and where a neighbour bakes hummingbird cakes in the hope of bringing back a lost love, Emily will find that the answers are not what she expects…

* * *

The Girl Who Chased the Moon is my third Sarah Addison Allen book, and I must admit that I was pretty excited to read this book mostly because I like the title and the UK cover. Of all covers, I think this one had the most magical feel to it — even the text on the cover affirms it: Discover a place where magic lights up the dark. How pretty, right?

Emily Benedict moves to Mullaby, North Carolina to join her grandfather Vance Shelby, after her mother dies. Besides not having a place to live anymore, she also longs to solve the mystery surrounding her mother and her past, and she figures the best place to find it was where her mother grew up. But what she comes home to surprises her, on top of the other mysterious things in town: the darting lights she sees behind the house, the changing wallpaper in her room, and just why everyone has an opinion of Emily and her mom when she knows nothing. Next door, there’s Julia, who spends her time counting the days till she can leave the town and baking cakes to call someone, until someone unexpected (and unwanted) comes to her instead. Julia befriends Emily in hopes of shielding her from the repercussions of her mother’s past, but there are just some things that Emily has to find out for herself.

As usual, there’s a certain comfort in getting lost in a Sarah Addison Allen novel, one that makes me just want to keep reading and keep getting lost. There’s a little bit more heartbreak and sadness in this book, though, but not so much that it makes it a sad novel all in all. I just found that there seemed to be a little bit more characters with serious issues in this book compared to the ones in the previous books. The magic stuff didn’t come from the two female leads, too, but more in the place and the people around them.

The Girl Who Chased the Moon read a bit like a fairy tale, and this fact was emphasized up to the end. I liked the dynamics of the characters with one another, how one avoided the other with all her might but couldn’t, and how one chased the other but had to stop because of old issues. I thought there was more romance in this book too, and even one that kind of borders on a paranormal romance type with the secrets and the secret bedroom visits. It’s not as bad as it sounds like for those who don’t like paranormal romance — it’s actually okay, although that wasn’t my favorite pairing in this book. I guessed the huge family secret chapters before it was finally revealed, so the surprise factor wasn’t there anymore, but it unfolded pretty nicely and SAA painted a pretty sweet picture of a happy ending for them that I couldn’t help but forgive those nitpicks after. I do love that there’s talk of cake in this book. I love baking, even if I can’t bake a cake yet to save my life. The significance of the cake and the sugar and all the sweet things made me yearn to not just eat one but make one. Someday, I will make a double layer cake successfully.

Compared to Garden Spells and The Sugar Queen though, this didn’t feel as magical despite its whimsical title. Garden Spells still feels the most magical, and I thought The Sugar Queen explored the friendships of the characters better. The Girl Who Chased the Moon kind of scratched the surface on those ends, but I think it did pretty well with town secrets and finding forgiveness from each other and from the past. Overall, while it’s not my favorite SAA, I still think it’s a good read. :)

This is my third Sarah Addison Allen novel, and I think it’s enough to consider myself as a fan. I’m glad I still have The Peach Keeper waiting for me on my TBR the next time I want a Sarah Addison Allen fix. :)

Rating: [rating=3]

Required Reading: MarchMy reviews of other Sarah Addison Allen books:
Garden Spells
The Sugar Queen

Other reviews:
Chachic’s Book Nook

Garden Spells

Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen

Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen
Publisher: Bantam

Number of pages: 290
My copy: hardbound, gift from Kwesi. Thank you! :)

 The women of the Waverley family — whether they like it or not — are heirs to an unusual legacy, one that grows in a fenced plot behind their Queen Anne home on Pendland Street in Bascom, North Carolina. There, an apple tree bearing fruit of magical properties looms over a garden filled with herbs and edible flowers that possess the power to affect in curious ways anyone who eats them.

For nearly a decade, 34-year-old Claire Waverley, at peace with her family inheritance, has lived in the house alone, embracing the spirit of the grandmother who raised her, ruing her mother’s unfortunate destiny and seemingly unconcerned about the fate of her rebellious sister, Sydney, who freed herself long ago from their small town’s constraints. Using her grandmother’s mystical culinary traditions, Claire has built a successful catering business — and a carefully controlled, utterly predictable life — upon the family’s peculiar gift for making life-altering delicacies: lilac jelly to engender humility, for instance, or rose geranium wine to call up fond memories. Garden Spells reveals what happens when Sydney returns to Bascom with her young daughter, turning Claire’s routine existence upside down. With Sydney’s homecoming, the magic that the quiet caterer has measured into recipes to shape the thoughts and moods of others begins to influence Claire’s own emotions in terrifying and delightful ways.

As the sisters reconnect and learn to support one another, each finds romance where she least expects it, while Sydney’s child, Bay, discovers both the safe home she has longed for and her own surprising gifts. With the help of their elderly cousin Evanelle, endowed with her own uncanny skills, the Waverley women redeem the past, embrace the present, and take a joyful leap into the future.

* * *

I’ve heard so many good things about Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen, but it took me a while before I acquired it and even some more time before I decided to read it. Every now and then, there’s a book that comes along and takes you in and makes you comfortable with every page. They’re those books that you just sink into effortlessly, almost like it was an old friend welcoming you with warm food after a long day’s travel. I am very, very glad to say that Garden Spells is one of them. :)

Claire Waverley has lived alone for a long time now, choosing to stay in the Waverley house, running her catering business that offers the strangest but life-altering delicacies. Being a Waverley, Claire possesses a kind of magic that is unique to her: she can cook food from their garden that can shape the minds and moods of people who eat them. Claire is content with living alone and is not in any hurry to relinquish control over her routines until her wild and rebellious sister Sydney comes home with her daughter. Claire’s quiet life is turned upside down as she deals with her sister’s homecoming, and she tries desperately to stay in control even if she’s afraid of the changes this would bring in her life.

Garden Spells, in a word, is lovely. This book reminds me of Marisa de los Santos’ books, Love Walked In and Belong to Me, both of which I loved. The prose is lyrical but never flowery, the characters quirky but never too much that they’d be annoying or forced. I love that all characters had something going on with them — even the apple tree had a personality. Just like Waverley magic, there’s something really magical about this book, just enough that you wouldn’t question the people’s abilities or the things they believed in the little town of Bascom. Granted, there isn’t anything that surprising with regards to the book’s plot, but there’s just a certain charm in this book that would stop you from caring too much. It’s like you want to live with them there. This book should also not be read while hungry (or if you’re on a diet, like the HCG diet Austin) because all the descriptions of food made me hungrier! It makes me wonder if there is some truth in the life-altering food that Claire makes. Maybe if I put candied violets in my cake…? Haha, right. I can dream.

It’s not often I let out a contented sigh at the end of a book, but this got one out of me. Sigh. If all of Sarah Addison Allen’s books are as yummy and as magical as Garden Spells, then consider me a fan. I can’t wait to get my hands on her other books. :)

Rating: [rating=4]

Other reviews:
Chachic’s Book Nook