Tuesday, May 5, 2015

First Frost

Just after I graduated from college, I was given an unexpected summer break. The economy was crashing, I had no job experience, and I was burned out from the previous sixteen years of school, four of which I studied English and had no free time to pleasure read. I was hungry for pleasure reads but was oblivious to the current book market as I had been pulled out of it for so long. A friend suggested Garden Spells and once I had it shipped to my house, I devoured it and quickly placed it on my mental "favorite reads" shelf. Since that summer, I have read each book that Sarah Addison Allen has released and I have always come away feeling warm, comfortable and content.

I knew First Frost was coming out and planned to buy it. I had heard about the book, from the cover reveal and beyond, but then work and school carried me away, and before I knew it, spring had arrived and the book had been out for awhile. Oops. To my Kindle it was downloaded and quickly it was read -- a treat for myself while I was finishing up my final for a class.

I'm ashamed to say I didn't write much about Garden Spells, which is the precursor to this book. The blog entry was quick and didn't really dive into how much I hold that book to my heart. What I love about Sarah Addison Allen is that she writes about real life people but with a spark of magic tied in. It's not enough to label her books as fantasy or scifi, but it's all still curious stuff and happenings that one wouldn't--necessarily--find in the real world. I love this, I love this tie of regular life with something more special. I feel that the world does have magic if you know how to look for it and that Sarah applies that to her books.

Garden Spells is one of my favorite books by the author, but this book is coming up right behind it. I enjoy all of her books but I think I have a special place for the Waverley family. If you haven't read Garden Spells, do so now and wait to read this post, as everything past this point will be spoilers.

The Waverley family all has special gifts which, one could say, are regular senses and talents heightened in real life with a splash of magic. Claire can cook recipes that have a great impression on the people who eat them, Sydney has a way about doing hair that gives the boost of confidence (or any other feeling) to the person getting their hair done, and Bay (Sydney's daughter) simply knows where things are meant to be.

While the first book focused a great deal on Claire and Sydney (sisters) crashing into each other's lives once more and rebuilding their relationship, it also focuses on the acceptance both sisters needed to have of each other and themselves; this book moves past that by ten years and sees everyone a little older, a little wiser, and much more comfortable in what they call home.

Bay, the adorable little girl from the previous book, is now a teenager which took me a little getting used to. I mean, it happens, and it was that slow understanding of anyone who knows a little kid that suddenly grows up. It's an adjustment to realize that the child is now a teen--and it's great that these books create such relationships between reader and character that you even have to adjust to one of the characters growing up. Claire is running a candy-making business and Sydney has her beauty shop. Everything's great for the Waverley's, they're doing well, but they also find themselves a little off center. They can't complain about life, generally speaking, but each find there is something they are both missing.

Claire is making bank with her candy company but misses catering and cooking. The whole family silently agrees, because who wouldn't miss Claire's cooking? Sydney is desiring a child with her new husband but can't seem to conceive, and Bay is finding herself amongst high school drama and her first heartache.

There is a lot of emphasis focusing on the first frost of the year, a magical time for the Waverley family where things seem to be a little off-putting until the first frost arrives and everything is set right again. So while the previously mentioned issues loom large, there are other problems that show their ugly faces as well.

What I enjoyed about this book is that while I was wrapping up finals and a month-long haul of important documents for work, I was able to escape to the pretty town and garden of the Waverley's home. The issues the characters face are all very understandable issues that we all will face in some form, they're issues we as people can identify with, and none are too stressful. When I'm coming down from a high-stress month, I don't want to read a drama-ridden book, I don't want suspenseful, I want something that's pleasant and ends on a good note.

These books always make me feel happy and it's what I needed.

As always, I loved First Frost and I expected nothing less--I've enjoyed every book of Sarah's! I'm uncertain if there will be more books focusing on the Waverley family but I hope there are. I feel a little like I'm coming home when I read about them and their world. It ignites the specific sense of childhood in the Catskill mountains, of farms and making pies, of the magic I felt my childhood always possessed. And that's nice. It's nice to be reminded of simpler times and read a book that makes you feel good about yourself and First Frost did exactly that.

Last Week's Review: The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson
Next Week's Review: Travels with Charley by John Steineck

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