#80 The Sugar Queen & #81 Garden Spells

Ariadne Meyers’s warm and whimsical performance invigorates a colorful cast of characters. Since most of them come from the same small North Carolina town, nearly all carry Southern accents, yet Meyers makes each voice uniqueand believable: the elderly yet forceful and intimidating tone of imperious Margaret; the initially soft, timid voice of Josey, which grows stronger and more confident as the book goes on; the sassy, brassy twang of feisty Della Lee; the lazy, sexy drawl of charming-but-dangerous Julian. The abridgement is seamless. Meyers’ rich, nuanced performance adds an extra dimension and will keep listeners captivated from beginning to end.

There were some disturbing elements here and there (the whole closet mystery, ghost and mother’s jealousy/hatred toward her daughter, etc.) but over all, it was another Allen’s novel full of magical elements though I would say, this is more eerie that magical…

Two gifted sisters draw on their talents to belatedly forge a bond and find their ways in life in Allen’s easygoing debut novel. Thirty-four-year-old Claire Waverley manifests her talent in cooking; using edible flowers, Claire creates dishes that affect the eater in curious ways. But not all Waverley women embrace their gifts; some, including Claire’s mother, escape the family’s eccentric reputation by running away. She abandoned Claire and her sister when they were young. Consequently, Claire has remained close to home, unwilling to open up to new people or experiences. Claire’s younger sister, Sydney, however, followed in their mother’s footsteps 10 years ago and left for New York, and after a string of abusive, roustabout boyfriends, returns to Bascom, N.C., with her five-year-old daughter, Bay. As Sydney reacquaints herself with old friends and rivals, she discovers her own Waverley magic. Claire, in turn, begins to open up to her sister and in the process learns how to welcome other possibilities. Though Allen’s prose can lean toward the pedestrian and the romance subplots feel perfunctory, the blending of horticultural folklore, the supernatural and a big dollop of Southern flavor should find favor with a wide swath of readers.

This was the fourth and last novel by Allen that I read. I must have liked her books since I read them all in two months time period! :-) Garden Spells was “sweeter” than other novels I thought and I liked all the characters in the book. One thing I have noticed with Allen’s book is that she always tells the whole story of every character (both good and bad), which keeps me from disliking any one but understand where he or she is coming from.

A great combination of magical elements and food as usual, which always leaves me hungary! :-)

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