Garden Spells and The Lace Reader

Titles: Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen and The Lace Reader by Brunonia Barry

Summary: It was sheer coincidence that I read these two novels back to back, so I thought it would be nice to review them together.  The two stories have a lot in common and share many similar themes, but each one evokes a completely different (and wonderful!) reading experience.

Garden Spells is a delightful story about two half-sisters, Claire and Sydney, their magical garden, and life in the small town of Bascom, North Carolina.   The Waverly women have always had mysterious gifts, but they’ve not always embraced them.  Claire’s magic comes through the herbs and spices she uses from the famous Waverly garden, while Cousin Evanelle intuits exactly what item people will need the most and gives it to them.  Sydney spent most of her life running away from her gifts, but finds herself returning to Bascom with her daughter when her boyfriend becomes abusive.  As the bond between Claire and Sydney grows, so does their appreciation of their unusual talents.  This book was a pleasure to read, the perfect summer novel.

If Garden Spells is the perfect summer novel, then The Lace Reader is its perfect cold weather counterpart – it’s a bit darker, but still a fantastic read.  We meet another family with mystical powers, the Whitneys of Salem, Massachusetts.  The Whitney women can read your future in patterns of the Ipswich lace that they help to make, which leads some people to believe they are witches.  Towner Whitney thought she’d left all of that behind when she moved to California, but she’s called back home when her beloved Aunt Eva goes missing.  Her return to the family home sets off a series of events that are a more than a little unsettling.  There are some fascinating people and places in this novel.  I particularly loved reading about Salem and Yellow Dog Island, a fictional island of the coast of Massachusetts that’s inhabited by hundreds of wild Golden Retrievers.

By the way, The Lace Reader is one of the books that created a buzz at this year’s Book Expo America.  It’s being published in hardcover this month, but we happened to have a previously-published paperback edition on our shelves – and I’m so glad we did!

Who will like these books?:  Any fan of Alice Hoffman and Laura Esquivel.

If you like these try: Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman; The Sugar Queen by Sarah Addison Allen.

Recommended by: Mary, Reference Librarian

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