Summer Reading: Intro & Sarah Addison Allen

This summer, I was determined to “rediscover” reading. As a child, I rejoiced over the Summer Reading List that most students dreaded. I have memories of excitement bubbling up in my stomach as my mom took us to Borders (R.I.P.) or Barnes & Noble to purchase our needed novels. I loved the smell of the unexplored books, knowing how much I would gain from their pages. I remember distinctly devouring the entirety of one slim book the day that school let out, before summer had even started.

Now that I’m on the other side of the classroom, summer reading isn’t a requirement, and sometimes falls by the wayside. This year I discovered an invaluable resource in the form of Modern Mrs. Darcy’s Summer Reading List. I haven’t followed it strictly at all, but used it as a starting point. One of my favorites so far has been Sarah Addison Allen’s Garden Spells.

Garden SpellsIt’s been so long since I read any light-and-fluffy modern fiction, but this was the perfect reintroduction to the genre. It was sweet, Southern, and about sisters, with just the right amount of common magic. The main character, Claire, is comfortable in her enviable old house with its magical garden until her estranged sister and her young daughter come into town. The plot and ensuing romances are predictable, but the heart of the novel is so pure that I easily overlooked that potential fault. Allen’s books dig deep into the landscape and social norms of the South, which grounded the novel enough that the magic did not feel forced or faked. I ate it up in the first couple of days of summer, and it left me hungry for more.


Since Garden Spells, I’ve read two more of Allen’s books: The Sugar Queen and Lost Lake. Both were good, with the same mix of Southern roots and magic. Ghosts even come into play in their plots, but what Southern author can stay away from ghosts for very long? I preferred The Sugar Queen, which is a cozy, autumnal read set in the area around Asheville, North Carolina (where Allen grew up and currently lives). Lost Lake has a lovely cover, which attracted me to it, but lacked the interest of her other novels. It was a fun summer read, though, set at an aging summer getaway in the depths of south Georgia, with flashbacks set in Paris, which immediately endeared the novel to me.

Sarah Addison Allen has published three other novels: The Peach Keeper, The Girl Who Chased the Moon, and First Frost. I began The Peach Keeper this morning, which promises to be a sort of murder mystery. I recommend Allen’s books to anyone looking for a light summer read with a lot of heart and a bit of magic.

Now, your turn: What are you reading this summer? Light reads? Required? I’m always looking for more recommendations!


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