Saturday, June 24, 2023

In a Nutshell Reviews


In a Nutshell Reviews are my version of mini-reviews, because sometimes, you just want the highlights.

Twelve Months and a Day 
by Louise Young
Published by G.P. Putnam's Sons on January 31, 2023
Age/Genres: Adult, Fiction

A poignant, modern love story about a young widow and widower and the two ghosts that bring them together because although love changes form, it never dies.

Two couples. Four unfinished lives. A love that transcends space and time.

Rasmus and Jay, Róisín and Nico: two couples, strangers to each other. Two beautiful, ordinary love stories, cut short. Both in their thirties and too young to be widowed, Róisín swears she still feels Nico beside her in bed and Rasmus hears Jay as he writes songs at the piano.

Jay and Nico don’t even believe in ghosts, yet here they still are. Still in love with Rasmus and Róisín. And maddeningly powerless. Until Jay has an idea that Nico wants no part of—bringing Róisín and Rasmus together. It’s crazy enough that it just might work, but playing matchmaker to the living is no easy feat and one that will require all four of them to discover the meaning of love after loss, and the importance of fighting for happiness against all odds.

Moving and thought-provoking, playful and bittersweet, Twelve Months and a Day asks what is love? And what are we to do with it?

This book starts off with the saddest bits, as it should. The first few chapters involve the death of Rasmus’ wife, Jay, and Róisín’s fiancé, Nico. The twist was that I didn’t just experience the deaths from the surviving partners’ points of view, both Jay and Nico played a role in the story as ghosts. It brought an interesting perspective. I loved that Nico and Jay had each other to lean on as they navigated their deaths, and Róisín and Rasmus found their way to each other with a little help from their dearly departed ones.

There was a romance, of sorts, brewing between Róisín and Rasmus, but it was a slow-burn type, which was appropriate given their situation. The relationship was one that grew over the course of many months, via correspondence. There were several in person meet-ups along the way, but mostly, it was them revealing themselves to each other via correspondence. It was lovely and touching, sometimes even funny, but it mostly showed their healing process. Young did an amazing job conveying the sadness of this story while also injecting it with hope which really kept the story balanced emotionally.

Overall: A beautiful love story filled with all sorts of emotions and some very bittersweet moments.

Garden Spells
 by Sarah Addison Allen (Waverley Family #1)
Published by Bantam on August 28, 2007
Age/Genres: Adult, Enchanted Realism, Fiction

In a garden surrounded by a tall fence, tucked away behind a small, quiet house in an even smaller town, is an apple tree that is rumored to bear a very special sort of fruit. In this luminous debut novel, Sarah Addison Allen tells the story of that enchanted tree, and the extraordinary people who tend it.…

The Waverleys have always been a curious family, endowed with peculiar gifts that make them outsiders even in their hometown of Bascom, North Carolina. Even their garden has a reputation, famous for its feisty apple tree that bears prophetic fruit, and its edible flowers, imbued with special powers. Generations of Waverleys tended this garden. Their history was in the soil. But so were their futures.

A successful caterer, Claire Waverley prepares dishes made with her mystical plants—from the nasturtiums that aid in keeping secrets and the pansies that make children thoughtful, to the snapdragons intended to discourage the attentions of her amorous neighbor. Meanwhile, her elderly cousin, Evanelle, is known for distributing unexpected gifts whose uses become uncannily clear. They are the last of the Waverleys—except for Claire’s rebellious sister, Sydney, who fled Bascom the moment she could, abandoning Claire, as their own mother had years before.

When Sydney suddenly returns home with a young daughter of her own, Claire’s quiet life is turned upside down—along with the protective boundary she has so carefully constructed around her heart. Together again in the house they grew up in, Sydney takes stock of all she left behind, as Claire struggles to heal the wounds of the past. And soon the sisters realize they must deal with their common legacy—if they are ever to feel at home in Bascom—or with each other.

Enchanting and heartfelt, this captivating novel is sure to cast a spell with a style all its own….

I am so glad I decided to delve into Allen’s backlist after reading Other Birds. Once again, the combination of family drama, romance, and magic was perfection for me.

It’s amazing to see me, a steadfast contemporary reader, be so delighted by the magical elements in this story. Claire’s way with food, Evanelle’s gifting, and Sydney’s way with hair. It was fascinating the way Allen fleshed out their talents and wove them into this enchanting tale.

I loved learning about the Waverley family’s gifts, adored watching the sisters mend their relationship, reveled in seeing them find love, and rather enjoyed that apple tree too. I think the only storyline I could do without was that regarding Emma, but in the end, she ended up having a conscience and redeemed herself a bit. I am greatly looking forward to returning to Bascom and catching up with the Waverley family.

Favorite dish made with apples?
Let us know in the comments!


  1. I've never heard of fabulism before lol, but glad to know these were good reads!
    My favorite dish to make with apples is an apple pear pie we make every year for Thanksgiving.

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    1. Fabulism is the more general term for magical realism. I use it because magical realism originally was linked to Latin American writing (which this is not). You can never go wrong with apple pie and pears go perfectly. Yum.

  2. I was indeed surprised to see you love a book with magical elements Sam! I must add that one to my TBR then LOL

    1. Magical realism/fabulism is close enough to contemporary, you know, and Allen uses the magical elements well

  3. Garden Spells was such a good book. I'm glad you enjoyed it.

    1. I am sad because I have now read all of Allen's books. I really enjoy her writing.