Saturday, January 31, 2015

PBW's Book of the Month

Reading is a pleasure I had to give up for most of the second half of last year, and since my eye surgeries completely reversed my vision I've also had some trouble adjusting to the changes. The good news is that I can finally focus well enough to read regularly again, and managed to knock out seven books in January:

As promised I picked one of my reads to be my book of the month for January, and (probably to no one's surprise) it is First Frost by Sarah Addison Allen, the long-awaited sequel to her enchanting novel Garden Spells.

First Frost takes the reader back to the magical little town of Bascom, North Carolina, home of the Waverley sisters. The story takes place some ten years after the events that unfolded in Garden Spells, so a great deal has changed -- both Claire and Sydney Waverley are married and settled down, and the next generation of Waverley women are growing up fast. Trouble in several forms has been brewing or blown into town, and the challenges all the Waverleys face are not of the common, contrived purely for conflict variety. Commercial success has distracted Claire so much that it's shoved her into the realm of self-doubt, while Sydney has been valiantly trying (and failing) to give her husband a son. Sydney's daughter Bay has come into her unique gift but it's causing her nothing but heartache and trouble. And then there's the old carny drifter, and the secrets he's brought with him to Bascom as he watches Claire from a discreet distance.

I chose this book as my January pick as it is a wonderful, beautifully written story that did not disappointment me in the slightest, and it's been a awhile since I can say that about any book. It's definitely one of the wisest sequels to a beloved novel I've ever read, and demonstrates in innummerable ways just how talented the author is, and how great her affection for her characters has grown over time. I also adore the subtle, magical cover art; whoever at St. Martin's Press is responsible for it deserves a huge hug and a hefty raise. Those of you who are devoted Allen readers will enjoy this one a lot. Those of you who haven't tried this author should first read Garden Spells because it makes reading First Frost that much more enjoyable.

So what book did you read in January would you pick as your book of the month, and why? Let us know in comments.


  1. Actually, I managed the time to read "Garden Spells". It came highly recommended.
    Loved the feeling of the book, the setting, the pace. It carried me along, without sagging middle or boredom, right to the end, & I hated when it was over.
    A nice, easy-to-read style, & I came to care about the people.
    But my favorite character? The apple tree. :)

    1. I grew very fond of that tree, too (and you'll be happy to know it does return in this sequel to cause more mischief.)

  2. My book of the month for January is undoubtedly Stardoc. It's become one of my favorite science fiction novels, and I've spent over a decade dabbling in works written by Gibson, Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, Richard K. Morgan, James Somers, Jeff Campbell, ad infinitum.
    Stardoc's narrative is a living organic thing which confers a noticeably pleasant affect with nearly every line. I have yet to find a dry sentence.
    There's been something missing for me in my experience with science fiction, and in my experience of reading the aforementioned authors. My general sense is that many science fiction authors seem preoccupied with a pissing contest of sorts, and they invest time in producing narratives to demonstrate their narcissism and/or self-aggrandizing ideas, rather than producing narratives that usher their readership into a pleasant experience. Of course everyone likes what they like.. but their narratives are implicitly cold and harsh, cerebral, and obsessed with their castles in the sky. However, with Stardoc I feel welcomed and colorfully ushered towards a fun visceral experience that isn't bound by these ordinary problems of so many other authors.
    To risk making a crude assessment, I'd have to say that Asimov didn't understand what it's like to be human. Perhaps he understood what it's like to be human thousands of years from the present, but present humanities daily concerns are impossibly irrelevant to his narratives.
    Stardoc is so openly human without risk to the higher concepts. I didn't know work like this existed until I found Stardoc and I'm so glad there are so many of them!
    Goodreads told me that this was your blog, and I'm so glad I have the opportunity to thank you for your work! Thank you! It's very valuable to me and I'll be reading through the Stardoc series and I'll probably start reading them over again once I'm done.

    1. I appreciate the kind words and very generous praise, Johnathan. StarDoc has always been special to me, not only because it was my first published novel but for all the wonderful readers who have reached out to me after reading it.

    2. Thank you, I'm honored by your reply! :)
      I work in a public library, and was asked by an East Indian couple for a book recommendation. They didn't specify which genre, or even what they were interested in. So I ushered them to the science fiction sanctuary, plucked StarDoc from the shelf, and handed it to them with a smile.

  3. Oooooh... I've been meaning to see if she had anything new out!
    [adds to reading list]

    As for what I've been reading? Discovered that Robin Hobb has a new book with trilogy to follow that are more closely connected to the Farseer & Tawny Man trilogies than her other recent works. It's been so long since I read - and loved - those six books that I decided I needed a re-read before the new book, and so far, oh my, have they been all that I remembered! Finished Assassin's Apprentice and Royal Apprentice, might finish Assassin's Quest today or tomorrow, and there's no determining a favorite between them - it's been one dreamy indulgence.

    There's nothing better than discovering that a much-loved world and characters - that you wish had never ended - has new books more than a decade after the fact. Same day, I discovered that Elizabeth Haydon is finally publishing more Symphony books, too. Such delight and joy - totally what I needed to brighten this winter's gloom!

    1. I know that thrill -- a few weeks ago I came across an old Elizabeth Lowell novel that I had never heard of or read; I think I actually shrieked out loud.

  4. I've been re-reading Jana Deleon's Ghost in law series as I got books 5 & 6 and felt I needed to go back to the start. I've also knocked out books 17-21 in Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum series, but I think my fav book this January was No Ghouls Allowed by Victoria Laurie. I like this series and the Psychic Eye series, and really enjoyed this book. Scary enough that I had to take a break but totally readable. I'm really looking forward to reading First Frost.

  5. Anonymous12:25 PM

    I've been reading Once Bitten, Twice Shy by Jennifer Rardin. This was a happy accident; a friend and I were talking about how I did not have a copy of the first book in a series I was reading, and she loaned this to me, at which point we figured out we were talking about two different series. I have really enjoyed it though. It has rich story-telling and characters that are interesting and fun. I am almost done (I leave the book at work and didn't have time to finish it last week), and I'm looking forward to the rest of the series.

  6. The Bookman's Tale by Charlie Lovett. Weaves the past of an antiquarian bookseller with the present and throws in happenings 400 years earlier which could lead to a huge breakthrough about the question "Did Shakespeare really write the plays?" And it all starts with a small watercolor painting of Peter Byerly's deceased wife in the pages of a book on Shakespearean forgeries which would place her in Victorian England. Sounds crazy, but it works.


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