Wednesday, March 18, 2015

First Frost - Review & Giveaway

Review by Deb Czajkowski
The Waverly women are each born with a special gift; one might say they’re magical gifts. The Waverly magic is more than personal, it’s also environmental.  Their property is home to many edible flowers and plants that are not only tasty and pretty but also purposeful.  And then there’s the apple tree that has a mind of its own, frequently throwing its apples at people or to people, depending on each person’s motives.  Myth or magic?

Clare Waverly is a caterer turned candy maker.  Using her bountiful flora, Clare uses roses in her candy to recall lost love, lavender to promote happiness, and lemon verbena to soothe throats and minds.  Now incredibly successful, Clare struggles with how the cost of her success affects her life personally; she struggles with how to find joy in her life again.  She also wonders about her special Waverly gift:  Does she really have one?  Or is she just selling a myth?

Sydney Waverly is Clare’s younger sister.  Sydney is now happily married to Henry, who has adopted her daughter, Bay, and loves her as his own.   Still, Sydney feels insecure, wondering why her husband loves her (a Waverly), wondering if he will stay with her, even if she can’t give him a son.  Sydney has always struggled with being a Waverly and if, or how, that defines her, especially as she sees Clare as pure Waverly.  Can Sydney make peace with herself and her heritage?

Bay Waverly is Sydney’s daughter, born during Sydney’s rebellious “I am not a Waverly!” years.  Bay’s Waverly gift is to discern where everything fits; she knows this instinctively, whether it’s where the silverware goes in a friend’s kitchen or that a person somehow belongs in her life.  The “somehow” can sometimes be the tricky part for Bay.  First she questions how her evil and violent natural father fits into her life, any life, really.  Then there’s Josh, a boy she knows belongs with her, but, given their different economic worlds (never mind that she is part of the Waverly mystique!), Bay wonders if her gift has made a mistake.

Evanelle Waverly is a cousin to the Waverly sisters’ deceased grandmother Mary.  Evanelle’s Waverly gift is that an item is randomly dropped into her consciousness and also the person to whom that item must be given.  It might be a spatula or a bed sheets and pop tarts, a starry night night-light or two quarters.  She cannot rest until the item has been given to the specified person.  She cannot tell you why an item is given, only that she knows they will need it sometime in the future.  Evanelle has never been one to question her Waverly gift or the fact that it has labeled her as “strange.”  Evanelle has never been one to question at all.  She simply accepts.

And so I question you:  What’s your gift?  Everyone has gifts, or at least one! Perhaps your gift is cooking or baking and taking a sampling to a friend or shut-in.   Perhaps you have a listening ear that makes people feel heard.  Perhaps it’s your smile, given freely to everyone who crosses your path.  Perhaps you give up your seat, so someone else can ride more comfortably.  Every one of us has something that makes us unique, special.  It’s not always obvious or seemingly remarkable to us.  But just ask the person who has been on the receiving end of your gift.  To them it’s magical!
Whether or not you believe in magic, whether you’ve been told of your distinctive gift or you are still searching, read Sarah Addison Allen’s First Frost.  The author does a wonderful job of illustrating this in the lives of the Waverly women.  Even they struggle to identify the gifts that shape their individuality. Whether or not you find the Waverly heritage to be myth or magic, I predict you will enjoy the Waverly women’s stories.

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About the Author: 
New York Times Bestselling novelist Sarah Addison Allen brings the full flavor of her southern upbringing to bear on her fiction -- a captivating blend of magical realism, heartwarming romance, and small-town sensibility. Born and raised in Asheville, North Carolina, in the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Sarah grew up with a love of books and an appreciation of good food (she credits her journalist father for the former and her mother, a fabulous cook, for the latter). In college, she majored in literature - because, as she puts it, "I thought it was amazing that I could get a diploma just for reading fiction. It was like being able to major in eating chocolate."

After graduation, her big break occurred in 2007 with the publication of her first mainstream novel, Garden Spells, a modern-day fairy tale about an enchanted apple tree and the family of North Carolina women who tend it. Booklist called Sarah's accomplished debut "spellbindingly charming." The novel became a Barnes & Noble Recommends selection, and aNew York Times Bestseller.

After publishing four bestselling books in five years, Sarah took a hiatus when she was diagnosed with late-stage breast cancer at age 39. She returned to writing with her 2014 bestselling Lost Lake. She is now in remission. In 2015, she revisited the popular setting of her first book. First Frost continues the story of the Waverely Sisters from Garden Spells.

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First Frost by Sarah Addison Allen
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