Monday, February 16, 2009

French Pressed by Cleo Coyle

This was a deviation from my "normal" genres. Once upon a time I read mystery novels and decided that I didn't really like them. Apparently, not much has changed. I picked up this book while searching the library for books about coffee history.

This is the sixth book in a series, but I didn't get the feeling I was really missing anything by not having read the previous books. Clare Cosi manages a coffee house in New York. She sort-of shares the apartment above it with her ex-husband (with whom she works), but is dating a cop. Her daughter is interning at a flashy restaurant and is having an affair with the married head chief. People start turning up dead, Clare's daughter is implicated, and Clare and her boyfriend help solve the case.

The story wasn't thrilling, the characters were not all that deep, and the situations seemed somewhat ludicrous. For some reason, though, I found myself turning the pages almost eagerly. In fact, I almost want to read the rest of the series. It's like seeing the flashing lights of a police car on the side of the road - you turn your head to see what is happening, even if you don't really care.

I suppose I would recommend this book to mystery fans. I don't have a lot to compare it to, but it wasn't horribly written or anything (aside from using the term "cuppa" which just bothers the hell out of me).

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Chocolat by Joanne Harris

My family and I stumbled upon the movie version of this book a few weeks ago. Once I discovered it was a book, I knew I had to read it. For those who do not know the story, Vianne Rocher and her daughter Anouk arrive in a small French town during Carnival. The locals do not accept outsiders easily and the resident priest only compounds the prejudice. Inch by inch, Vianne and Anouk work their ways into the hearts of the locals while teaching them a thing or two about acceptance.

Do not expect the warm love story that the movie turned out to be. As with most books, it is quite different from the movie adaptation. Both stories are similar and yet completely unique. Occasionally in the book I felt as though I must have missed a paragraph here and there because the narrative seemed to jump. Aside from the momentary confusion that this caused, I was completely drawn into the story - always wanting to know what would happen next. Vianne is a wonderfully rich character that was made very real with her own insecurities and memories. I immediately disliked the priest - I assume this was intended. In the movie, you can feel a sympathy with the "bad guy" but in the book, I found no redeeming qualities whatsoever.

There is a sequel to this book and I look forward to reading it (after I've worked though this huge pile of library books). Chocolat is a fast, enjoyable read. I warn you, though, you will find yourself searching the internet for chocolate recipes by the end.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Kitty and the Dead Man's Hand by Carrie Vaughn

Kitty Norville is at it again in Kitty and the Dead Man's Hand by Carrie Vaugn. This time, she and Ben are headed to Vegas to get married. While there, Kitty will be doing The Midnight Hour on television. Could that possibly be all there is to it? No! Of course not! To top everything off, Kitty and Ben are staying at a hotel that is hosting a gun convention where Ben runs into some old "friends" and Kitty makes some new enemies. Throw into the mix an unlikely group of lycanthropes and a Master Vampire or two and you've got a typical weekend in Kitty's shoes.

As with the previous books in the series, Carrie Vaughn does not disappoint. Kitty provides a great escape. I did feel that the story built up nicely and then sort of jumped to an unrealistic speed. Not much of consequence happens and then it all hits the fan - in volume. I also found some of the character relations unlikely - I won't go into detail for fear of spoiling the excitement, though.

I'd recommend this to the crowd that enjoys werewolves and fantasy in urban settings. Anyone who wants a few hours worth of diversion without having to invest too much brain power is likely to enjoy this one.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Interred With Their Bones by Jennifer Lee Carrell

Interred With Their Bones by Jennifer Lee Carrell is a Shakespearean mystery. Kate is directing Hamlet at the Globe when Roz, her mentor of old, hints at a mystery and then is murdered. Kate embarks on a crazy adventure chasing clues over four hundred years old. She is aided (and sometimes hindered) by a handful of diverse characters. Roz's words "I found something" chase Kate as she tries to outwit a killer intent on preventing her from solving the puzzle.

I originally heard of this book through a giveaway mentioned on a LibraryThing forum. The reviewer didn't seem to really enjoy the book, but for some strange reason that made me want to read it even more. The characters were decent, though I never felt that they were anything more than made up people in a book. The mystery itself was intriguing and I found myself always wanting to know what was going to happen next. Overall I enjoyed this book. Parts of it dragged and the author seem to have gotten bored partway through and changed the focus a bit.

Shakespeare's plays were never something I was fond of reading (though I do love to watch the plays performed). Somehow this story made me want to pick up a play or two and give them another try - which gives it major points in my opinion. I would happily suggest this book to people who like mysteries and historical fiction tied together.