Book Review: Other Birds by Sarah Addison Allen

Thank you to NetGalley and St. Martins Press for an advance copy in exchange for an honest review.

Publisher Summary:

Down a narrow alley in the small coastal town of Mallow Island, South Carolina, lies a stunning cobblestone building comprised of five apartments. It’s called The Dellawisp and it is named after the tiny turquoise birds who, alongside its human tenants, inhabit an air of magical secrecy.

When Zoey Hennessey comes to claim her deceased mother’s apartment at The Dellawisp, she meets her quirky, enigmatic neighbors including a girl on the run, a grieving chef whose comfort food does not comfort him, two estranged middle-aged sisters, and three ghosts. Each with their own story. Each with their own longings. Each whose ending isn’t yet written.

When one of her new neighbors dies under odd circumstances the night Zoey arrives, she is thrust into the mystery of The Dellawisp, which involves missing pages from a legendary writer whose work might be hidden there. She soon discovers that many unfinished stories permeate the place, and the people around her are in as much need of healing from wrongs of the past as she is. To find their way they have to learn how to trust each other, confront their deepest fears, and let go of what haunts them.

Delightful and atmospheric, Other Birds is filled with magical realism and moments of pure love that won’t let you go. Sarah Addison Allen shows us that between the real and the imaginary, there are stories that take flight in the most extraordinary ways.

My Thoughts:

Sigh. This book was beautifully fantastic. I loved it so much! Just everything about it, every detail, every character, every surprise revealed, was perfect.

Zoey is filled with youthful enthusiasm, dreams, and gumption. She moves into The Dellawisp hoping to learn more about her deceased mother, but is also looking for community, for a sense of belonging, friendship, and she is determined that the residents of The Dellawisp will become that for her. Her character’s life was not all roses all the time, but she is filled with optimism and fun that is hard to deny.

Her neighbors are a quirky lot. There is Charlotte, a bohemian spirit and henna artist, Mac, a James Beard award winning chef who is known for his use of cornmeal, the Lime sisters who maintain separate apartments and don’t interact, and Frasier, the caretaker. They each have their own stories, the stories that have defined them up until now, full of love and love lost, full of shadows with rays of light.

The Dellawisp itself is a magical place. It has been a sheltering comfort for those that live there, hidden behind the main street that smells of sugar, with its special birds that exist only there, in that one place. Until Zoey arrives, and shakes things up in her own sweet way.

I don’t want to delve too much further into this story here, because I don’t want to give anything away. But this book made me smile and and cry and I was under the spell of its beauty the entire time I read it. When it ended, I wanted more and I sincerely hope that Allen visits this world and these characters again in a future book.

Before I wind this up though, lets talk about the food in this book. I love when food and memory and love are intertwined through the pages of a book. I think so many of us have food based memories – I know that I do. I think of my grandmother and my uncle when I make coconut tarts and Empire biscuits; hot cocoa on snowy days, the chicken and stars soup and Vernors that my mom would make me when I was sick – I could seriously go on and on. And in this book food is wound up here and there and everywhere, but most of all with Mac, whom I adored. I was so inspired by this book that I actually spent five hours the other day cooking and baking, standing in the kitchen barefoot and cooking up Carolina Chicken Bog and Plum Berry Cornmeal Cake. And dang, was everything so delicious! We will be eating the chicken bog for days and I have been eating the cornmeal cake for breakfast and it tastes amazing paired with my cup of coffee.

I absolutely adored and loved this book! I actually can’t wait to read it all over again.

Book Review: Sunset Beach by Mary Kay Andrews

sunset beach

Goodreads Summary: 

Drue Campbell’s life is adrift. Out of a job and down on her luck, life doesn’t seem to be getting any better when her estranged father, Brice Campbell, a flamboyant personal injury attorney, shows up at her mother’s funeral after a twenty-year absence. Worse, he’s remarried – to Drue’s eighth grade frenemy, Wendy, now his office manager. And they’re offering her a job.

It seems like the job from hell, but the offer is sweetened by the news of her inheritance – her grandparents’ beach bungalow in the sleepy town of Sunset Beach, a charming but storm-damaged eyesore now surrounded by waterfront McMansions.

With no other prospects, Drue begrudgingly joins the firm, spending her days screening out the grifters whose phone calls flood the law office. Working with Wendy is no picnic either. But when a suspicious death at an exclusive beach resort nearby exposes possible corruption at her father’s firm, she goes from unwilling cubicle rat to unwitting investigator, and is drawn into a case that may – or may not – involve her father. With an office romance building, a decades-old missing persons case re-opened, and a cottage in rehab, one thing is for sure at Sunset Beach: there’s a storm on the horizon.

My Thoughts:

I love to read Mary Kay Andrews. Always a great warm weather location, interesting premise, and madcap, zany characters. I first started reading her when I found the Savannah Blues series, and haven’t stopped. When I received a free review copy from St. Martin’s Press via NetGalley, I was so excited! I was feeling a bit down and out over this everlasting, non-stop winter we seem to be experiencing in Michigan, and I needed a bit of a Vitamin D boost, even if it was vicariously through fiction.

At first, it was not quite what I was expecting. Not quite as madcap and zany, there was a different tone right from the start. Poor Drue was going through one of the lowest moments of her life, losing almost everything in her life all at once. Her estranged father shows up to her mom’s funeral with an offer she thought she could refuse – until the rest of her world came crashing down, like the kite board that rendered her injured on top of everything else.

Drue reluctantly accepts the offer, which was sweetened by the prospect of living her in Noni and Popi’s cottage on the beach, where she had spent many a happy summer. The cottage needs some work, but in the beginning, so does Drue. I have to be honest – Drue kind of bugged me at first. She was a bit whiny, had a bit of a chip on her shoulder, and while I guess in part it was a well-earned one, she didn’t seem to be swayed by her father’s attempts to reconcile their relationship, and it just seemed sort of…bratty. And this character was over the age where that is acceptable. However, Drue’s wall starts to come down, and as it did, she was a much more likable character. Perhaps this was intentional by the author, for us to meet her in such a bad place, at less than her best, then see how she blooms as she heals.

Judging by just the cover, I expected a lot more beach time romance, and while there was a bit of romance, there was a lot more depth to this story as well. While working for her father’s law firm, Drue is drawn into two unsolved murders – one from more recent times, and another from 1976. The more I read, the more fascinated I was. There were a lot of layers to unwrap in both of these mysteries, and I loved when a new clue was dug up by Drue, who went to any length to find out the truth.

All in all, a bit of a slow start for me, but really picked up in the end. I didn’t want to put it down. I hope that Andrews writes more books involving these characters, as I feel that Drue has more adventures ahead of her!