As I mentioned yesterday (just before I jinxed my good news, which turned out to be bad news, which serves me right) I have two books to talk about, and the first is 100% Charlene Teglia's fault. I say this because she sent me Garden Spells, Sarah Addison Allen's debut novel, which otherwise would not have been touched by any ten-foot pole I own.
I am not a fan of magic stories. A) I don't believe in magic and B) most of the time I find it annoying in fiction. Unless the magic is extremely well-written, logical to the world-building and therefore believable (i.e. anything written by Patricia Briggs, Rob Thurman, Marjorie M. Liu, who are masters at this) reading it for me is exactly like watching porn -- what is supposed to excite just ends up looking fake and silly and rather pathetic.
Much to my dismay Ms. Allen did not write the porn-variety kind of magic novel, and now I have to dine on my chapeau (again.) Garden Spells is actually about more than just magic in the real world, though, and tells the story of the Waverly family, a bunch of oddly-gifted characters who are trying (and not trying) to cope with themselves, the past and life in general. They are alternately helped and hindered by their garden, which grows very special flowers, herbs and one very eccentric apple tree with Biblical powers. This all set in a small town in North Carolina populated by the most wonderful assortment of characters I've read in a long time.
I didn't want to like this book, so to end up falling in love with it really singed my southern regions. Who doesn't hate it when they're wrong? But it's worth the pain, because Garden Spells was exactly the book I needed to read right now. I think that makes Charlene psychic, but that doesn't surprise me. Ms. Allen's debut novel does not read at all like a debut novel, and it's the kind of book you end up sharing with everyone you know, even people who don't like to read, so it can work its magic on them. This is a novel that will rejuvenate your faith in great books, and God, we all need that kind of real magic in our lives.
As always, you don't have to take my word for it. In comments to this post, name an author or title who you think makes something fantastic believable (or if you're still a skeptic, just toss your name in the hat) by midnight EST on Monday, March 7, 2011. I will draw five names at random from everyone who participates, and send the winners an unsigned hardcover copy of Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen. This giveaway is open to everyone on the planet, even if you've won something from PBW in the past.