Review: First Frost by Sarah Addison Allen

Wednesday, 15 June 2016





Book: First Frost

Series: Waverley Family 

Author: Sarah Addison Allen

Publisher: St. Martin's Press

Pages: 291 Pages

Format: Hardcover

Source: Purchased at Chapters




From the New York Times bestselling author of Garden Spellscomes a story of the Waverley family, in a novel as sparkling as the first dusting of frost on new-fallen leaves..

It's October in Bascom, North Carolina, and autumn will not go quietly. As temperatures drop and leaves begin to turn, the Waverley women are made restless by the whims of their mischievous apple tree... and all the magic that swirls around it. But this year, first frost has much more in store.

Claire Waverley has started a successful new venture, Waverley’s Candies. Though her handcrafted confections — rose to recall lost love, lavender to promote happiness and lemon verbena to soothe throats and minds — are singularly effective, the business of selling them is costing her the everyday joys of her family, and her belief in her own precious gifts.

Sydney Waverley, too, is losing her balance. With each passing day she longs more for a baby — a namesake for her wonderful Henry. Yet the longer she tries, the more her desire becomes an unquenchable thirst, stealing the pleasure out of the life she already has.

Sydney’s daughter, Bay, has lost her heart to the boy she knows it belongs to.. if only he could see it, too. But how can he, when he is so far outside her grasp that he appears to her as little more than a puff of smoke?

When a mysterious stranger shows up and challenges the very heart of their family, each of them must make choices they have never confronted before. And through it all, the Waverley sisters must search for a way to hold their family together through their troublesome season of change, waiting for that extraordinary event that is First Frost.

Lose yourself in Sarah Addison Allen's enchanting world and fall for her charmed characters in this captivating story that proves that a happily-ever-after is never the real ending to a story. It’s where the real story begins.




God I missed the Waverley family. I didn't even know that I had missed them until I started this book, but g o d I missed them so much. First Frost is a companion to SAA's Garden Spells, which totally stole my heart. While Garden Spells revolves around Claire and Sydney, the Waverley sisters, First Frost takes place years in the future, and focuses more on Bay, Sydney's daughter. 

Sarah Addison Allen writes the best magical realism i've ever read. Actually, probably the best magical realism ever, period. The worlds she creates are so vivid and the magic makes them almost hyper realistic, as if it's obvious that there is magic in our world, but we're just not looking close enough. The magic that the sisters have isn't Harry Potter or Wizard level. It's in the way food is cooked, how when Bay runs by, everyone knows exactly where they belong - it's the magic apple tree that only blooms on First Frost. God that magic is so intoxicating.

I hadn't realized that I missed Claire and Sydney until I started reading First Frost. I haven't read a SAA book since her last novel, First Frost, and I had forgotten how great her characters are. They get under your skin in the best way possible. They nestle their way into your heart, or at least they found their way into mine, and I don't think they'll be letting go anytime soon. Her characters and the characters in Rainbow Rowell's books are very similar, in my mind. They're all realistically flawed, but they aren't defined by their flaws entirely, or by their successes. They are who they are, and you love them for it.

The plots of SAA's books have always been interesting, but never the main focus, but with this one? I was sucked in. I needed to know what was going to happen with Claire. Bay's storyline had me on the edge of my seat. And who is that newcomer that's staying at the inn, and what does he want with the Waverly family? These questions raised the stakes in the book, and while it all could have fallen flat, it soared.

I love Sarah Addison Allen, and I feel  like this was exactly the book to read at the point where i'm at now. I just finished my semester, and I needed to get back into reading things on my own terms. I loved it. I highly suggest you read this one. It's enchanting, and captivating, and every other positive adjective you can think of.

5/5 stars


2016 Winter Semester Recap

Wednesday, 13 April 2016






So here we are. At the end of my 2nd semester. I'm halfway done university and i'm only freaking out a little bit! Anyway, I made a first impressions post on my classes back in January, so I thought i'd follow that up with a semester recap!


Intermediate German - GERM 2000X/Y
German was a whirlwind of emotions this year. I was torn between loving my class because I love learning the language, and rueing the day I ever took it, because man, I am bad at languages. My teacher was incredibly patient with me and my resistance to the German Grammar, and I thank her for that. But we'll have to see if I go back for another year.

Shakespeare - ENGL 2214 X/Y
By far my favourite class that i've ever taken. My Prof made the class so much fun, and made all of the plays super accessible. Not to mention how hilarious our lectures were. I actually loved his class so much that i'm taking a summer class with him in a few weeks. Loved it.

American Literature - ENGL 2003
I was really excited about this class, and I was not disappointed. I have read a good amount of the American Literature canon, but I was able to read so much more, and learn about the different style and generations. We started with the founding documents, meaning yes, we read Common Sense by Thomas Paine,


and we read all the way up until the 1950s, where we finished with the epic Howl by Allen Ginsberg. I loved that poem, and this class, and I cannot wait to take another class with this professor.



Close Reading - ENGL 3000
This class was one of the most interesting ones i've ever taken. I learned so much grammar and rhetoric and it's insane how that knowledge can change your reading and consuming. It was difficult to do well, and it required you to go through ever text with a fine tooth comb, but it was so rewarding.



Paris in the 19th Century - HIST 20
This class was maybe my biggest mistake. My teacher made this class so inaccessible to non history students, and bombarded the entire class with tangent after tangent, and then tested us on things she never talked about. The class was overwhelming in the worst sense of the word, and i'm super disappointed. I really wanted to love the class, but combine the teacher with the fact that the majority of her slide info came from Wikipedia? I was not too happy.

So that was my second semester! I just finished exams yesterday, and am looking forward to spending my summer in Halifax! How were your classes this year? Let me know, and happy reading!



ARC Review: Worlds of Ink and Shadow

Monday, 11 April 2016



Book: 
Worlds of Ink and Shadow

Author: Lena Coakley

Publisher: HarperCollins Canada

Pages: 342 Pages

Format: ARC

Source: Provided in exchange for an honest review by the lovely ladies at HCCFrenzy




Thanks to HCC Frenzy for providing an ARC in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own. Sorry this took so long to get to and review!



Charlotte, Branwell, Emily, and Anne. The Brontë siblings have always been inseparable. After all, nothing can bond four siblings quite like life in an isolated parsonage out on the moors. Their vivid imaginations lend them escape from their strict upbringing, actually transporting them into their created worlds: the glittering Verdopolis and the romantic and melancholy Gondal. But at what price? As Branwell begins to slip into madness and the sisters feel their real lives slipping away, they must weigh the cost of their powerful imaginations, even as their characters—the brooding Rogue and dashing Duke of Zamorna—refuse to let them go.

Gorgeously written and based on the Brontës’ juvenilia, Worlds of Ink & Shadow brings to life one of history’s most celebrated literary families.




I got to hear Lena Coakley pitch this book to a room full of bloggers last summer at an event, and I was intrigued. As I am when I hear really cool book premises, I was optimistic because this could be a really cool book, but also a tad hesitant. I really wanted to love this one, which is why I think I put it off for so long. But now that my semester is over, I was able to dive into it on my day off and I was so excited that this book lived up to my wildest expectations.

To be frank, i've never read a book by a Brönte. I know i'm a horrible English major, and you can get in line to shame me. But I was so excited to get into this. 4 Siblings creating fictional worlds together? Sign me up! And since the focalization switches every chapter, I was excited to get to read about each character. Each character -- Anne, Charlotte, Emily, and Branwell -- had their own distinct voice, and the way that their stories were told were different, but they still made a cohesive narrative. Certain characters were more protective than others, some more observant. It was so interesting to read about characters that were so different from each other, yet worked so well together.

Also, hats off to Lena Coakley because this book is an example of suspense done well. Things only mentioned in passing grab you, and then aren't revealed until the end. Or some things are referenced and never mentioned again. It works to build up the family dynamic present -- of course these kids would have things they can reference and not explain. Of course they don't need to always say exactly what they mean. They're siblings, and they know each other quite well. But the main plot, which really starts to build towards the end, left me on the edge of my seat. I had no idea how they were going to end up, or how the story was going to end. And with all of the build up that she had created, when the ending was revealed, it was so great and it fit so well.

Another thing that I think should be mentioned is how well this works in the literary canon. Of course, some of the things Lena wrote about are actually creations of the Bröntes, such as Verdopolis and all of the characters, but Lena was never reckless. Everything that happened to the siblings worked with what historically happened. It's so interesting to read a story about these people, and know that while they are just characters, and these personas are fictionalized, that the story isn't a wild fictionalization. She paid attention to the rules and made them work.

The book was fast paced, the story intriguing, romantic and heartbreaking at the same time, and I flew through it in 24 hours -- a feat since I haven't read a book that wasn't for school in absolutely too long. I loved this, and have already started shoving it into the hands of my friends.  

5/5 Stars. Can't wait to see what Lena Coakley has in store next.

Happy reading!


Books and Musicals

Monday, 1 February 2016


I have this weird love for musical theatre. I don't know where it comes from. Neither of my parents are super into theatre, although they will bust out a show tune or two. I can't sing to save my life. I have no idea where this love came from, but it's there. 

So since two of the things I love most are books and musicals, I thought i'd take a stab at pairing some of my favourite musicals with some of my favourite books.
Let me know if I paired any of your favourites, and feel free to suggest more musicals or books in the comments below!


Let's get to it!


Fiddler on the Roof and Born Wicked by Jessica Spotswood



2015 Revival Cast lead by Danny Burstein (Photo from Birdlaces on tumblr)




The show is so classic, so pairing it with Born Wicked might come as a bit of a surprise, but hear me out. Both stories tell of tradition, and groups of sisters, and family dynamics. Matchmaker is one of my favourite songs, because Hodel, Tzeitel, and Chava are some of my favourite characters, and I love Cate, Maura, and Tess just as much. And we all need more sister dynamics in our lives.

I cannot wait until the 2015 Revival cast records an album, but I do love the 2004 revival with Laura Michelle Kelly and Alfred Molina. 








The Last Five Years and Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler and 


Jeremy Jordan and Anna Kendrick as Jamie and Cathy in the 2014 Last Five Years film





The Last Five Years is told in two different ways. You have Jamie, telling the story of his and Cathy's relationship from beginning to end, and Cathy, telling the same story but from the end to the beginning. This inventive story that Jason Robert Brown created is why i'm reminded of Why We Broke Up. Handler's novel is beautifully crafted, and Min and Ed's story is just as heartbreaking as it is hopeful. And you feel that in The Last Five Years. The show starts with the post-break up song so you know how it ends. But you can't help but root for the characters, not necessarily the relationship.

If you're going to listen to the cast album, I prefer the Original Off Broadway Cast, because I think there's more emotion in it, but the 2014 cast album has better and fuller orchestrations. But Betsy Wolfe does the best Summer in Ohio. Take your pick!





Next to Normal and The Perks of Being A Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky



Original Broadway cast featuring Alice Ripley, Aaron Tveit, J. Robert Spencer, and Jennifer Damiano





Next to Normal is one of those shows that feels like a raw nerve. I had no idea what the show was about, but I heard the Prelude and knew that I had stumbled upon something special. And i've paired it with Perks partially for that reason. From the first 'Dear Friend', I knew that Perks would be a special story. But i've also paired these two because of the content and the way that mental illness is discussed. 

In Next to Normal, Diana is a bipolar depressive with anxiety and delusional episodes. She can see the son she lost 16 years ago. She's watched her son grow up, but he's not there. But the show doesn't stop there. The show discusses issues surrounding treatment and medication, and it focuses on her daughter Natalie, and how it's affected her life. And Dan, her husband, tells the story of watching his wife go through all of this. The show is as much about coping and family and support systems as it is about Mental Illness. And Perks is the same way. The story is as much about Charlie and his coping and living as it is about Sam and Patrick. There's just something that connects these two in my head. 









Pippin and Going Bovine by Libba Bray


2013 Broadway Revival Cast lead by Patina Miller as the Leading Player




Oh Pippin. What to say to you? Now, Pippin's story still makes me do a double take, and go "wait, what?" It's actually about the prince Pippin, son of Charlemagne, and his life's journey. But to me, that's not what stands out.
 it's the music. The music. The show and the music is all a little crazy but it's super fun. Especially the revival which was directed by Diane Paulus and was circus inspired. But it reminds me a lot of Going Bovine. I've always described Going Bovine as an acid trip that will have you in tears for the last 30 pages. And Pippin, while it's so crazy and kooky, it's got a heart of gold, and it's ultimately about finding your 'corner of the sky'. The show is so bright, and full of so much life, and even thinking about Going Bovine, I just smile. I love both of these so much.

Also, Patina Miller's glorious voice. Need I say more?







Once and Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz


Original Broadway Cast of Once, lead by Steve Kazee as Guy and Cristin Milioti




I saw Once twice this past summer with the all Canadian cast, and I fell in love. The show is all about these two people: an Irish Guy who's lost love and has given up hope on love and music, and a Czech Girl who won't let him. The music is absolutely gorgeous, and it's got this Irish folk music influence. The show is so beautiful and understated, with all the music being played onstage by the ensemble, and the same set throughout the entire show. 

This show reminds me so much of Aristotle and Dante's story. It's so beautiful and honest. Ari and Dante's story is just as much about learning to love who you are, and learning to accept yourself as it is about loving others. There's this quote from the book that I just love, and it's "I don't always have to understand the people I love.”  It's lines like this that make me connect it to Once. You'll get it once you listen to it.








An American in Paris and Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins


Original Broadway cast of An American in Paris at the 2015 Tony Awards, featuring Robert Fairchild, Leanne Cope, Max Von Essen, Brandon Uranowitz, and Jill Paice 





I mean, this pairing is a bit self explanatory. Both are stories about an American in Paris, but tell very different stories. The musical is all about Jerry, an American soldier, and Lise, a French ballerina, in Paris at the end of WWII. The show, directed and choreographed by Christopher Wheeldon, is dance (specifically ballet) heavy, and is just so classic. And of course we all know the story of Anna and the swoon worthy Etienne St. Claire.

Both the show and the book are so romantic, and beautiful, and there's just something about this show that seems like a breath of fresh air. I love it. I love it. I love it.




Hamilton: An American Musical and All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr


Original Broadway Company of Hamilton, lead by the shows creator, writer, and composer Lin-Manuel Miranda as Alexander Hamilton






Hamilton is my current obsession. Well, it's everyone's current obsession. But there something about the show that just grabbed me and it has yet to let go. Honestly, I don't think it will ever let go. Hamilton is the story of Alexander Hamilton, the first US Treasury Secretary. It chronicles his life as a bastard, orphan, son of a whore who grew up in the Caribbean, moved to America, fought in the American Revolution, found love, became Washington's right hand man, and all the stories in between and after. 

Lin Manuel Miranda's writing makes you feel taken care of. There's something about the writing, and the way that the story is told that makes you care, and that makes you feel included in this story; like just by listening to the album, or watching the show, you're part of the story they're telling. There's a similar tone in All The Light We Cannot See. Anthony Doerr's characters come alive on the page and totally envelop you, and you feel like you're witnessing such an intimate moment when reading this book. Both stories are tell the stories of incredible people, and they narrate history in such new and innovative ways.

The cast album for Hamilton is insane and is probably the only thing i've listened to in months. I get to see this show this summer (My first Broadway show!!) with the original cast and I cannot wait for it.




Thanks for reading you guys! I'm really excited to share this post with you all! Leave me a comment, and tell me what your favourite musicals are!
Happy reading, and happy listening!
Make sure to connect with me on Twitter so we can talk show tunes!