Why Cynthia Leitich Smith Is So Awesome...

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Please note the fabulous picture of one of my lead members of our Library Advisory Board who happens to have  a birthday tomorrow (Happy Birthday, Molly!).  She was listing which new book she was going to read first.  I realized when I put it up that this is actually a pretty good shot of the library floor from our information bar (we think circulation desk is too limiting a term).  I'm sending a different photo to our benefactor to thank her for such a great present. Who is our mystery philanthropist?  Well, we have a favorite author in the library this week, and it's Cynthia Leitich Smith.  Why you ask?  Oh, I don't know - maybe because SHE SENT US AWESOME FREE BOOKS!!!! (Check out her shout of us on her great Spookycyn blog.)

Yes, you read that right, I had participated in a competition on one of Smith's great blogs (she has two, Spookcyn and Cynsations) which she had named the "Spooky Cynsational October Giveaway" and I won!  The library ends up with a terrific crop of books Eternal by Cynthia Leitich Smith (Candlewick, 2009) which she was kind enough to sign for us; an ARC of Coffeehouse Angel by Suzanne Selfors (Walker, 2009); Far From You by Lisa Schroeder (Simon Pulse, 2009); How to Be a Vampire: A Fangs-On Guide for the Newly Undead by Amy Gray (Candlewick, November 2009); Jessica's Guide to Dating on the Dark Side by Beth Fantaskey (Harcourt, 2009); Kissed by an Angel by Elizabeth Chandler (Simon Pulse, 2008); and Vamped by Lucienne Diver (Flux, 2009).  The coolest cover award goes to How to Be a Vampire: A Fangs-On Guide for the Newly Undead by Amy Gray - what must the publisher have gone through to make one so cool?  It's actually embossed so the eyes and puncture wounds are indented and the eyes are all silvery and holographic - very eyecatching.

I look forward to posting the reviews as I read through these delicious novels.  I'm particularly interested in Eternal, Cynthia's latest book (which, please note, is published by Candlewick Press who I always trust to publish high quality young adult titles).  I recently read Tantalize and I really enjoyed the tone of it.  Told in the first person, Quincie Morris lives in a world in which vampires and werewolves exist, but aren't particularly liked.  She has an extremely attractive male best friend who is a werewolf/human hybrid (I love it that Smith uses "hirsute" as an adjective to describe him) and a somewhat negligent uncle who is her guardian.  Her parents are both dead and Quincie is focused on helping her uncle reinvent the family restaurant while finishing high school.  Her uncle is fixated with his somewhat skanky girlfriend, Ruby and it just so happens she is fascinated with vampires (think a hotter, Elvira Queen of the Night vibe).  Result? The restaurant is going to have a vampire theme.

There's only one problem.  The restaurant's head cook (who took better care of Quincie than her bachelor uncle) is dead, murdered in the kitchen, in fact, and it seems like either a werewolf did it or someone wanted the police to think that one did.  And despite the bad karma the restaurant appears to suffer from, a thin, pale head cook with a talent for creating indescribably delicious food shows up.  He seems very taken with Quincie and as she gets to know him, she becomes less and less interested in her friends and the things that used to matter to her.

I was impressed with Smith's writing - there was a real wit to Quincie's inner monologue and the strong sense of place (I could feel the Texas heat and hear the twang of that accent) was extremely compelling and had me fully believing in her world.  Quincie's H-O-T friend, Kieren, produces some serious sexual tension and as we grow to understand why he doesn't think he can have a relationship with Quincie, we also get a window into the world of discrimination against werewolves in this uneven society.  Kieren realizes that something is wrong with the restaurant's new situation but Quincie ignores his warnings and finds herself in a difficult situation from which she may not be able to extricate herself.  Tantalize is a page-turner filled with characters to whom you immediately feel attached.  I can't wait to read Eternal!