Monday, February 2, 2015

Sugar And Snow

It's been COLD out here!  Normally I prefer the cold to heat, but it's getting downright ridiculous.  Instead of whining, I've decided to embrace winter and read a winter book (that's not true, I'm still whining, but at least I had a good book to read while freezing my hinney off).  The book is The Sugar Queen by Sarah Addison Allen and it was the perfect winter treat.  As always SPOILERS AHEAD!
Josey Cirrini is a woman in her late 20's who is devoted to assisting her aged and frigid mother.  Josey is the daughter of Margaret and the late Marco Cirrini, a southern belle and her entrepreneur husband.  Marco has been gone for a while, leaving Josey to care for her aging mother who has convinced Josey she is meant for nothing more then her current duties.  To combat this monotonous life, Josie keeps sweets and books hidden in the back of her closet for comfort.  She also very much enjoys winter, finding comfort in the snow and cold.  Her simple and predictable life is interrupted on afternoon by the appearance of one Miss Della Lee Baker in her closet.  This woman is a local waitress with a past and for some unknown reason has decided to take up residence in Josey's closet.
While there, Della Lee imparts much street wisdom unto the sheltered Josey, including on how to dress like a grown up, wear make-up and just live a life in general.  Della Lee sends Josey to a very specific sandwich shop for a grilled cheese and tomato sandwich (which sounds soooo yummy right now!) from Chloe Finley.  Chloe is a special girl herself, she has a boyfriend Jake (who she has just kicked out for cheating on her) and the weird gift of having apt books just randomly appear when she needs them (my dream come true!).  Chole's ex-boyfriend Jake is friends with the mailman Adam, on whom Josey has had a crush on for years.  Josey and Chloe end up hitting it off and help each other out through various going ons.  Della Lee finally reveals to Chloe that she is actually her half-sister, and that Chloe is as well (even though she does not know it).  It turns out that Marco was a lady's man and had women pretty much at will (which seems to be par for the course for rich, powerful men).  The result was at least two children and when Margaret found out, she got pregnant out of spite, as she and Marco had agreed to not have children.  This explains a lot of the coldness Josey's mother feels towards her, as she was never really wanted in the first place.  Josey finally accepts this and she and Adam finally hook up and decide to travel the world.  Chloe and Jake decide to make another go at it after Chloe discovers that she can live with out him and it would be her decision to take him back and not one of desperation.  Josey goes to her closet to let Della Lee know what is going on, when she discovers that Della Lee has actually been dead ( a suicide) and it is her ghost that has been passing along the sisterly advice.  Josey decides to accept this and goes on to live her own, full life, away from her mother and the tiny town that she was suffocating in, returning only when Chloe needs her to be the maid of honor at her wedding.
I really liked this book a lot.  It reminded me of what I loved about this authors first book Garden Spells.   This book had a subtle magic woven through out a very serviceable tale.  Let's start with the characters.  Josey was a great main character, she was pretty, but not stunning, normal shaped, not thing and willowy, she was living an expected life, but had yearnings of something more, in other words she is most people I have ever met.  This is great because I would guess that the vast majority of readers could identify very closely with her right away, I mean who doesn't have some sort of secret stash of hidden treats of some sort?  I liked her story arc and that the author gave a background and reasoning for Josey being who she is and then a fairly realistic arc to who she became.  Chloe was fun, I liked her book magic and her determination to find herself apart from her true love, but be able to be adult enough to not use that to ditch him permanently...if that makes any sense at all.  Margaret had her own arc, which included its fair share of heart ache and angst and while explained why she was the way she was, never made it an excuse for her treatment of her only daughter.  The boys Adam and Jake got their pages in as well, and while not as fully fleshed out, at least made them distinguishable from each other.  Della Lee was my favorite though, she was in equal parts tough, sad, sassy, and defeated, she was the voice of everybody else, the embodiment of the sheer weight of feelings that we all experience and sometimes have a hard time she wore a tiara
through a good portion of the book :-).  The magic and setting was perfect for a snowy afternoon.  It is set in a little ski resort in North Carolina and while it has it's share of Southern charm, it was not the typical languid, warm setting I am used to associating with the south, it was a great change of pace.  The magic like I said before was subtle, but pervasive, with every person having their own unique bit of it.  It is never explained, just accepted and it adds just the right flair to get the reader immersed in this world. In keeping with the sweets theme (which was wonderfully carried through the whole book in very clever ways) each chapter was named after a treat and their was plenty of treats eaten along the way...don't read this without a snack at hand. I found the story of Marco and Margaret to be very a good way if that makes any sense.  The dysfunction, the hurt, the secrets all led not only to their unhappiness, but to the screwing up of their kid, who did nothing to deserve it.  There were a few flaws as every book has.  I wasn't totally on board with the reason for Jake cheating on just didn't ring true for his character.  Also I wanted something a bit more substantial for Adam's secret, other then he fell down a mountain and got hurt...again, kind of not in the character that was laid out of for us. Josey's weight was seen as a negative more often then I wanted it to be...but I guess that's just reality for you.  Overall I felt the book to be a good winters read, it was able to immerse me in the story, and was written in a way that I did not feel the need to have every bit of it explained to me.  It is the type of book I like to describe as a story, a moment in time that is told to the reader and then left as is.  I give it 7 out of 10 vials of peppermint oil and would recommend it to anybody who needs to escape the cold without to much effort.
What is your hidden stash treat?  Could you read a winter theme book in any other season?  Do I use () and ...way to much?

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