Tag Archives: sarah addison allen

Scrumptious Romances: Paris Daillencourt is About to Crumble, Other Birds, and Chef’s Kiss

2 Nov

Paris Daillencourt is About to Crumble
by Alexis Hall

Paris Daillencourt is About to Crumble is the second in the Winner Bakes all Series, a series of novels set against a TV show similar to the Great British Baking Show.  Readers of the previous book will be pleased with a passing mention updating the previous relationship, but the main focus is a whole new group of bakers so it is not necessary to have read Rosaline Palmer Takes the Cake to enjoy this story.  I’ve been a fan of Hall’s for awhile and appreciate his complex well developed characters.  Paris is the son of a top fashion designer father and a super model mom, who are too busy living their jet set lifestyle to spend time or even communicate with their son.  Paris is entered into the show by his best friend and although at first successful, struggles with anxiety that he has been burdened by for most of his life.  His love interest is Tariq, another contestant, who hopes to one day be the host of a Halal cooking show.  I thought Paris’s mental health issues were handled in a nuanced and realistic way as was Tariq’s balancing of his sexuality and his religious beliefs.  Tariq’s family’s warmth was a lovely depiction of a functional family.  This sweet gentle read left me looking forward to what the next book and season will bring. You can also read my previous blog post including a review of Rosaline Palmer Takes the Cake and another baking competition romance, For the Love of Cake by Erin Dutton.

Chef’s Kiss,
by TJ Alexander

Another sweet LGBTQ romance, I recently enjoyed was Chef’s Kiss, the debut novel, by TJ Alexander.  Simone has always dreamed of working for The Discerning Chef, a cookbook publisher in New York, (think Gourmet or Bon Appetite).  But she feels out of her depth when they begin to demand writers not only create recipes but also create social media videos to try and advertise and expand the brand.  Ray Lyton the new kitchen manager’s relaxed attitude at first irks Simone, but soon the two are working together on the video project and Simone begins to develop feelings for Ray.  When Ray comes out as nonbinary, some of The Discerning Chef reacts in a prejudiced manner, which causes Simone, who had previously kept quiet about her own bisexuality, to rethink whether her “dream job” is where she really belongs.  There is a sequel planned for next summer, but details have not been yet released if it will continue Simone and Ray’s story or follow other characters from this novel.

Other Birds
by Sarah Addison Allen

It’s been a while since we had been gifted with a new novel from Sarah Addison Allen, but Other Birds is worth the wait.  Mallow Island, located off the coast of South Caroline, is named for the plants that grow there that were used to make the marshmallow confections that the island is famous for.  The Dellawisp condos are hidden down an alley and its residents are also hiding from their pasts, that is in until 18 year-old Zoey Hennessey arrives.  Zoey is moving into her deceased mother’s condo before she starts college on the main land and she is curious to find out not only more about her mother, but also about the residents of Dellawisp including a chef who wakes up each morning covered in cornmeal and can tell the story of the seasons through food and a Henna artist that he has had a secret crush on.  A charming story of not only romance, but also found family with Allen’s magical realism sprinkled throughout such as the invisible bird that accompanies Zoey on her adventures.  You can read a previous post about Allen’s work here.

Written by:
Aimee Harris
Information and Digital Services

Magical Realism on Both Sides of the Mason Dixon: Sarah Addison Allen and Alice Hoffman

27 Mar

Not quite urban fantasy, Magical Realism mixes details of magic into otherwise ordinary everyday life where you are never quite sure when a character cries a river if they are just being metaphorical or that truly something supernatural has occurred.  Magical Realism is most often associated with Latino authors such as Laura Esquivel and Gabriel Garcia Marquez, but several US authors have also embraced the genre.

Two of my favorite authors who write magical realism are Alice Hoffman and Sarah Addison Allen. Both authors rely heavily on place in their work.  Hoffman frequently sets her novels in New England where she lives with her husband or New York where she grew up, while Allen’s work highlights the atmosphere of the South.  I love the beautiful modern adult fairy tale quality many of their works have.

Both have strong female characters perfect for a read during Women’s History Month in March.  Notably both authors are strong women themselves.  Allen was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2011 and acknowledged all those who helped her get through her battle at the end of her latest novel.   Alice Hoffman herself is a fifteen year breast cancer survivor and frequently does charity efforts to raise awareness about the disease.

Sarah Addison Allen

Fans of Sarah Addison Allen were recently delivered an early Valentine’s gift in her latest novel Lost Lake.  Kate has just woken from a year of sleepwalking through life after the death of her husband.  She decides on the day she is scheduled to move in with her mother-in-law to take her daughter, Devin, on a spontaneous road trip to visit her Great Aunt Eby, who owns a set of vacation cabins in Lost Lake, Georgia.  The charming visitors and inhabitants of Lost Lake includes Eby’s Parisian best friend Lisette, Kate’s former childhood love Wes, heartbreaker Selma, the quiet Jack, and a mysterious alligator that has a secret to share.  Although some of the situations border on the cliché, the sweet depictions of the characters and the beautiful setting will have you moving quickly through the novel and wishing there were another hundred pages to savor like Lisette’s delicious French pastries.

Her other novels include Garden Spells, The Sugar Queen, The Girl Who Chased the Moon, and The Peach Keeper (which was a selection for the Library’s book discussion in 2012).  I especially enjoyed The Girl Who Chased the Moon, which depicts Emily Benedict’s move to her grandfather’s house where she hopes to learn more about her mother, Dulcie, who is remembered by the townspeople as being anything but sweet.  To me this is the most original and captivating of her works.  Be sure to check out Allen’s website for updates on what she is working on, recipes to go with the books (Allen is a foodie), and other fun extras like a virtual tour of the town from The Girl Who Chased the Moon.  Those who enjoyed Alice Hoffman’s most popular novel Practical Magic, should also enjoy Allen’s debut novel Garden Spells; both stories contain a set of sisters who learn to reconnect with each other and embrace their special talents.

Alice Hoffman

Some of you may remember the 1998 film version of Practical Magic starring Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman, but the film only hints at the enchanting writing of Alice Hoffman.  Her 1997 Bestseller Here on Earth was a selection of Oprah’s Book Club.  As in the case with some of Allen’s books it features a woman who must return to the town where she grew up, which motivates dramatic changes in her life.  We discussed 2009’s darkly haunting The Story Sisters for one of our library book discussions.  Besides her adult novels Hoffman has written several books for teens including Aquamarine, which was made into a film in 2006, and even a few children’s books.  You can learn more about her books at her website.

Hoffman’s latest novel, The Museum of Extraordinary Things, takes the reader back to 1911 New York.  Coralie Sardie is raised by her father in isolation and forced to perform as a living mermaid (she was born with webbing in between her fingers).  Her father owns the Museum of Extraordinary Things, a Coney Island Freak Show, which also exhibits a variety of other oddities.  Eddie Cohen is a Jewish Russian refugee who has become a photographer but still feels resentment towards his early poverty and empathy towards the suffering of those he captures in his photos.  Imagery of water and fire play heavily in the novel, which has slightly less magical elements as compared with some of her previous works.  It is a much denser and darker novel than Lost Lake.  I enjoyed the mix of first and third person perspective and the interweaving stories of the two protagonists set against the historical backdrop.

-Written by Aimee Harris, Head of Reference

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