Review – The Sugar Queen

About two or so years ago I picked up Garden Spells and was completely entranced by Sarah Addison Allen’s writing. While I’m not a huge fan of magical realism, I’m good with a small, semi-believable bit and I think that’s what she does so well. I also introduced a co-worker to her books, and thanks to that same co-worker, I got to read The Sugar Queen which was the last of Allen’s books I needed to finish.

Josey Cirrini is the daughter of the man who made the small North Carolina town where she lives what it is today thanks to his Bald Slop Ski Resort. Josey lives a boring life caring for her mother’s every whim and constantly being put down even when she does things right. When Della Lee Baker, a woman from town, shows up one morning in her house, her life changes forever and Josey, for the first time in her life, is starting to experience life, friendship, love, and happiness.

Poor Josey spends her days trying to make up for being an awful child but her mother keeps putting her down as if she were the same rude, ill-mannered child of ten. Della Lee, someone Josey knew about from town but never really met, helps her see that life has much more to offer than a closet full of candy and cookies. With a little help from Della Lee, Josey meets Chloe Finley and for the first time in her life, has an actual friend. It’s a happy and sad moment because up till this point, Josey did nothing but cater to her mother’s needs and comfort herself with snacks she keeps hidden in her closet. The whole world begins to open up and she realizes how much she’s missed. She wants to travel, see the world, and experience new things. Really, the woman needs an adventure.

I feel I should say something about the ending here because it did bother me slightly. While I don’t mind a vague ending, as long as the main story is somewhat wrapped up, this one felt rushed and one story line ignored all together. Everything doesn’t need to be wrapped up nice and neat for me but I prefer to feel like I’m not being pushed through a door and told not to worry about any of the things I’m seeing on the way. I kind of felt that way about the ending of The Sugar Queen. I did enjoy the book but it did feel rushed to the point where I was wondering why she was keeping one particular storyline hidden.

Now that I’ve read all of Allen’s books, I have to say Garden Spells is still my favorite. The Sugar Queen is a happy story, short and sweet, with moments of reality to ground it. I was looking for this type of read when this book just happened to come my way. It was a perfect little read for me — comforting, funny with a bit of a happy ending. Sometime I need that in my reading.

Thanks to my co-worker who graciously loaned me this book. I hope you enjoy it.

The Sugar Queen

By Sarah Addison Allen

Bantam Books

ISBN: 9780553384840

3.75 stars


Review – The Hard Way

The Hard Way

By Lee Child

Bantam Dell


4 stars

I’ve read a number of Lee Child’s books and there is one overriding thing I need to remind myself to do each time I start one — forget reality.  Please don’t take this to mean that I don’t like the books, because I do, it’s just that his characters, Jack Reacher in particular, always end up in the craziest situations that a person, a sane person, would have walked away from or never become involved in to begin with.  But, that is what also makes them interesting, so now I just go with the forget all reality tactic and I find enjoy the books much better.

Jack Reacher is back in New York City and spending time in a café drinking coffee, a favorite pastime of his.  One evening, he sees a man get into a car and drive away.  The next day, he’s approached about the small but rather forgettable event and ends up drawn into a kidnapping case that also involves a handful of rouge mercenaries on call for the U.S. government.  Unsure of how to walk away from the group he’s found himself oddly tied to because he can’t be certain that the kidnapped mother and daughter will be safe, he gets drawn deeper into the case and goes out of his way to help rescue two people he’s never met.

Oh, Reacher, how do you manage to rescue so many people in so short a time?  Also, how is it you manage to always be in the right place when trouble happens?  I want to be annoyed with these books because there is a huge disconnect between what happens and general reality (You know, reality for normal people.) but I can’t be.  Once I let go and fall into these books, I can’t help it, I’m stuck until I find out that Reacher has managed to save someone, stop something from blowing up, or just save the world in general.  I’m not a thriller reader either but these books put me into some sort of catatonic reading mode and I have to finish and find out that everything has worked out fine in the end.  I say that because everything always works out fine in the end.  At least that’s been the case for the books I’ve read in the Reacher series.

A co-worker of mine lends these books to me and I’ll admit there have been a few bombs along the way but for the most part, I enjoy them.  They’re one off books which can be read in one sitting and you don’t have to have read them in any sort of order to understand the plot.  By the way, the plot is pretty much always the same — something bad happens, Reacher shows up, saves the day.  These are books you pull out on a rainy or slow day and you just read.  You’ll be entertained by the end and glad that a co-worker loaned you that book.  You’ll also be tempted to write something nice about their sharing abilities so they loan you more.