The Sweetest Spell – Suzanne Selfors

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“Emmeline Thistle, a dirt-scratcher’s daughter, has escaped death twice–first on the night she was born, and second, on the day her entire village was swept away by flood. Left with nothing and no one, Emmeline discovers her rare and mysterious ability, she can churn cream into chocolate, a delicacy more precious than gold.

Suddenly, the most unwanted girl in Anglund is desired by all. But Emmeline wants only one–Owen Oak, a dairyman’s son, whose slow smiles and lingering glances tempt her to believe she might someday be loved for herself. Others, however, will stop at nothing to use her gift for their own gains, no matter what the cost to Emmeline.

Magic and romance entwine in this fantastical world where true love and chocolate conquer all.”

Sometimes I copy the synopsis right from the dust jacket (or the authors website which you can find here and by clicking the image above) because there’s just no better way to succinctly summarize the perfection that is the novel. I could wax poetic about the story of Emmeline Thistle who overcomes challenges without hesitation, who is a bit naïve but pure and good. I could prattle on tales about Owen Oak’s bravery and compassion. I could whip up prose about Griffin Boar and his own journey. I could angrily script about the injustices of a class system. But, the dust jacket did a perfect job of keeping me in line so there you have it.

Though I said I wouldn’t prattle on you may have gathered from my tangent above that I am very in love with this book. You may also know from reading my gushing exclamations about Mad Love, Saving Juliet and Coffeehouse Angel that I do indeed tend to love anything Selfors produces. This book however is by far her strongest work. The characters were fuller, the story was fanciful and riveting. It was the kind of book where you go “oh just one more chapter” and then suddenly it’s midnight and the book is over. I do have a tendency to binge read my books but this book really did flow seamlessly from beginning to end: perfect, complete story telling. I love the way she always blends magic into seemingly ordinary things; and I loved that this one felt like a fairy tale. Sweetest Spell was set in a time of Kings, Queens, curses, knights, so the whole magic element was beautifully crafted through a fantasy storyline that was completely submerges you into this world and these characters. Unlike the others where magic is thrust upon a modern world (which is wonderful in its own right) the slight change in setting really bring out the romanticism and fantasy of magic.

I could probably talk all day about how strong Emmeline is and how inspiring of a character she is. Or how heroic Owen is, with his charm and wit. Or Beau! Who defies all things and comes into his own. Griffin who struggles and flourishes in his own way. Lara, Peddler, Nan, Henry, every single person in this book is there with purpose but not wooden or boring or plot devises. The book is really just perfectly packaged!

I’m going to stop talking about it so you can go read it.

As Old As Time – Liz Braswell

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“Tale as old as time, song as old as rhyme, beauty and the beast…”

In this clever reimagining of the beloved story it is revealed that Belle’s own mother is the enchantress which cursed the Beast. How does this affect the story we know and love? What changes? Explore the classic story in a new way, in As Old As Time.

I thought this book was quite well done! It had enough of the classic to feel familiar but there was enough originality to keep it fresh. It didn’t feel rushed or overly extended; a perfect mix. I loved also the complexity of the characters. I feel like in the typical stories you see Gaston bad, Belle good, Beast changed, it’s very simplistic. One of the main components of this retelling is that it’s not so straight forward, there is complexity and surprise in every character.

I’m a huge fairy tale fan, I devour new ones, old ones, you name it I’ve read it. I’m glad I can add this to the well done retakes list.

Talking As Fast As I Can – Lauren Graham

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Lauren Graham’s book Talking As Fast As I Can: From Gilmore Girls to Gilmore Girls (and everything in between) is a collection of essays and anecdotes about life, showbiz, what it was like to revisit a character after saying goodbye for years in between. The book is personal without being exposing; like this is just a small layer of a very interesting life (and I think Graham would appreciate that statement).

I loved reading what Graham had to talk about. I love the way she’s sarcastic and sassy and never seems to take anything too seriously (or at least that’s the persona she’s presented to the world and I like to think she’s a rather genuine person). In reading her book it was like listening to her talk (as fast as she can) and it was perfect. I loved reading her thoughts, her experiences, her crazy analogies and tangents. I could probably listen to Graham talk all day so reading her talk all day is good too.

I first started to enjoy Graham’s work with Gilmore Girls which I came to much later in life (like when Netflix started streaming it, later) but I was just as excited as the lifelong fans that there was going to be a revival. I ended up finding a few other bodies of Graham’s work (Parenthood for example) and I always enjoy her characters and her style. I was eager to read her book because I felt like somehow we clicked. We were both quirky and fun and were constantly getting told to speak slower (or at least her characters were I couldn’t say for sure if she did in real life but I got that vibe).

I was really excited to see that as I was reading Graham does write as fast as she talks. This was somehow reassuring to me and made me feel as though I had made a good choice in people to find cool. (Lauren if you ever read this just realize you’re up there with people like Obama sooooo). As someone who is a bit quirky and who does talk rather fast and who does always seem to be tapping to her own beat it’s always so wonderful to read stories of other quirky, fast talking, beat tappers (Felicia Day I’m also looking at you). Anyway, cuddling up with Graham’s book was like cuddling up with hot tea in the middle of winter. It was comforting and cozy and perfect.

I really enjoyed getting to step into Graham’s head for a little bit and to relive Gilmore Girls (again!) through her eyes. I loved hearing tales of her early years and friends and advice! (I promise to listen to OLJ more often Miss Graham!)

It was a lot of fun and great story telling.

The Beast Is An Animal – Peternelle van Arsdale

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“Being a child is like a story someone once told me. A story I don’t believe anymore.”

Alys was just a child when the Soul Eaters came to her village, sucking the souls of the fearful adults and leaving only the children. Forced to travel to the nearby village of Defraid the orphans of Gwenith make the best of their new lives.  But the Soul Eaters aren’t all that the Defraider’s have to fear The Beast lurks in the woods as well; calling to Alys.  Burdened by what she saw the night the Soul Eaters came Alys goes through her days struggling with who she is and who she might become.

This book felt like a faerie tale. It was captivating and had that sense of submerging you in a different world – it felt like a story you’d grow up with along Red Riding Hood, or The Pied Piper, or any number of cautionary tales.

The storytelling really was what tipped this book into a favourites list for me. The characters, the concept, they were all wonderful but the way that Arsdale writes is submerges you in yesteryear and really feels like something purely mythical.

I loved the way the Soul Eaters were written and the mystery of The Beast and the Soul Eaters. The attention to historical accuracy about Witches was weaved beautifully into a fictional realm of faerie tale. It really is just a great story and beautifully written.

 

The Espressologist – Kristina Springer

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“What’s your drink of choice? Is it a small pumpkin spice latte? Then you’re lots of fun and a bit sassy. Or a medium americano? You prefer simplicity in life. Or perhaps it’s a small decaf soy sugar-free hazelnut caffe latte? Some might call you a yuppie. Seventeen-year-old barista Jane Turner has this theory that you can tell a lot about a person by their regular coffee drink. She scribbles it all down in a notebook and calls it Espressology. So it’s not a totally crazy idea when Jane starts hooking up some of her friends based on their coffee orders. Like her best friend, Em, a medium hot chocolate, and Cam, a toffee nut latte. But when her boss, Derek, gets wind of Jane’s Espressology, he makes it an in-store holiday promotion, promising customers their perfect matches for the price of their favorite coffee. Things are going better than Derek could ever have hoped, so why is Jane so freaked out? Does it have anything to do with Em dating Cam? She’s the one who set them up! She should be happy for them, right?”

So you may recall from my post a few days ago (this one) that two of my favourite things are angels and coffee. Well, this book doesn’t quite feature angels but it features coffee ad nauseam; and I was very pleased. I loved seeing all the different traits something as simple as your coffee could say about you. I even agreed with a lot of Jane’s assessments. (I myself am probably a Pumpkin Spice Latte or a Coffee Frappe No Whip). I loved the idea of this story. I liked the characters a lot. I just felt something was missing.

It felt a little bit like a lengthy short story. In a short story there are typically little roadblocks and only one main conflict; I feel this book hit that mark. Not to say it wasn’t good because it was; I just felt it could have been great and longer.

I did find that Jane, the main character, was a little bit annoying. She was slightly superficial and judgmental (but then the whole book is based on the premise that you can judge a persons personality on their coffee order so really I was kind of asking for that one).

Overall the book was good. It was a quick read, it was light and fun. It had the potential to be even better but it was good for what it was.

Since You’ve Been Gone – Morgan Matson

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“The Pre-Sloane Emily didn’t go to parties, she barely talked to guys, she didn’t do anything crazy. Enter Sloane, social tornado and the best kind of best friend—the one who yanks you out of your shell. But right before what should have been an epic summer, Sloane just… disappears. No note. No calls. No texts. No Sloane. There’s just a random to-do list. On it, thirteen Sloane-selected-definitely-bizarre-tasks that Emily would never try… unless they could lead back to her best friend.”

I really liked this book. I’d been meaning to read it for a while – I’d pick it up at Barnes and Nobel and make a mental note to read it. I finally did; was not disappointed. I have to say I think what I liked most about it was it’s flow. I enjoyed the pacing and the plot and I felt it kept you interested. I enjoyed the characters – even when they annoyed me. I liked the quirkiness and drama.

The only thing I can really criticize (not that I have to come up with a criticism) is that I can’t pinpoint exactly what made this book good. I mean, characters, plot, comedy, drama, romance, all the factors were there which made it good but I can’t say anything really stands out.

I did love Frank. I felt a little conflicted about his character toward the end bit but I think for the purpose of the story it made sense. (Being vague to avoid spoilers). I loved his running mix as well – you can’t go wrong with Mumford and Sons or Twenty One Pilots.

I would say overall this book was good and I think it was worth a read but it had the potential to be great.

 

Coffeehouse Angel – Suzanne Selfors

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Pessimists say “no good deed goes unpunished” well, what about all those good deeds that go rewarded? Katrina could easily have ignored the homeless man laying outside Anna’s Old World Scandinavian Coffehouse that morning… but she didn’t. She could also easily blame the next series of events on chance and happenstance but… Full of warmth, determination, and life lessons Coffeehouse Angel meets all your expectations and delivers a warm cup of caffeinated goodness!

I have a wee bit of an obsession with angels. Angelology is kind of a big pastime for me. So the second I even glimpse a title with the word “Angel” I’m probably at least going to be interested if not downright giddy. Since I’ve already got a history of love, love, loving Suzanne Selfors (re Mad Love and Saving Juliet) I figured combining three amazing things into one book would be a big hit in my life (coffee, angels, and Selfors) well, I was right. This book was great!

It had all the elements I expected, young kind of awkward human trying to navigate life, awkwardness being overcome by determination and confidence, conflicts between friends, true love, and oh yeah ANGELS. Honestly I was most sold on the angels bit but hey, like I said coffee and angels, can’t go wrong. I loved Katrina, she was pretty much me when I was a teenager. Okay, and me now who am I kidding. I think it’s very easy for people to feel lost and confused and I like when characters do because it’s relatable. I loved Malcom, he was fun and mysterious and I do wish we got more backstory on him. I love Vincent, Elizabeth, Elliot, Grandma Anna for sure, Irmgaard, The Boys. As usual Selfors created a beautiful cast of characters to wrap around her heroine. The story  moved at a decent pace and I was satisfied with the formula and outcome. Overall it was quite wonderful.

I’ve got another Selfors book coming in soon and I’m sure you’ll be getting a rave review about that soon.

Happy reading!