Saturday, October 31, 2009

Book Review: Coffeehouse Angel

Title: Coffeehouse Angel
Author: Suzanne Selfors
ISBN: 978-0-8027-9812-1
Reading Level: Young Adult
Genre: Contemporary/Fantasy
Theme: Angel
Binding: Hardcover
Length: 276 pgs
Published: 2009
My Rating:

Synopsis: When Katrina spots a homeless guy sleeping in the alley behind her grandmother’s coffee shop, she decides to leave him a cup of coffee, a bag of chocolate-covered coffee beans, and some pastries to tide him over. Little does she know that this random act of kindness is about to turn her life upside down. Because this adorable vagrant, Malcolm, is really a guardian angel on a break between missions. And he won’t leave until he can reward Katrina’s selflessness by fulfilling her deepest desire. Now if only she could decide what that might be . . .

**The following review may contain SPOILERS**

My Review: Before I review this book, I must note that sometimes during my search for new/interesting stories I tend to become obsessed with a particular theme. For example, before I bought and read Coffeehouse Angel, I picked up a book called Hush Hush (check back for my review) which was also about angels. I was disappointed with Hush Hush, so I was a bit skeptical when I picked this one up. Thank God, Allah, Odin, the Great Spirit, Zeus -- and anyone else I may have forgotten -- that I did not allow my previous misgivings to pass judgment on this book! There are quite a few reasons why I gave this book a 4 star rating. One is its originality. Let's put the angel thing on hold for a minute and focus on the main character. Katrina is a 16 year old girl who has been living with her grandmother ever since the tragic death of her parents. Their little apartment is nestled above Anna's Old World Scandinavian Coffeehouse, the family business that is just barely keeping a roof over their heads. Katrina knows every aspect of the store, could probably run it in her sleep. I really like the "life" that the author gave her main character. There are so many books out there where the lead heroine comes from either a good home with both parents alive or occasionally may come from a single parent home. Being a teacher, I am quite surprised at how many kids live with their grandparents or another relative. While this story takes the tragic death angle, in real life kids that live with a relative are usually abandoned because many parents are unfit to take care of their child, some falling into alcoholism and drug abuse. So this story, from the very beginning, takes on a very realistic tone. The fact that Katrina must also work adds to it. While many other readers may find it sad that she has had to work from a very young age, I think this gives her character. She has a sense of responsibility and a set of business skills that many teenagers her age don't really obtain until they are in or finished college. This working life style is so second nature to Katrina that she doesn't realize until the end how important these skills are.

Suzanne Selfors is also original with her angel mythology. Nowadays we have tons of vampire and werewolf books out there and I think it is safe to say that some of them can be boring because the mythology is the same. Angel themed books are becoming quite popular as I have just read two before this one. What makes Selfors' story stand out is that her angel, Malcolm, does not have wings on his back. Instead, his wings are located on the back of his feet, near his heels!

Another unique thing about Malcolm is the fact that...he WEARS A KILT!!! FINALLY an author that is not afraid to try something different! I was beginning to think I was the only one left that thought men in kilts are SeXy! Oh and did I forget to mention he also has a wee bit of a Scottish brogue? ^_~

Besides falling deeply in love with Malcolm, I also commend the author for creating such rich minor characters like Katrina's grandmother Anna and "The Boys," the group of old men that are fiercely loyal to the coffeehouse and its owners.

Lastly, Suzanne Selfors' sense of humor is contagious! I found myself quite a few times laughing out loud. Not only is Katrina funny but some of the things that Malcolm does are adorable. Remember, Malcolm is an angel in between missions, his last being in Scotland. He really doesn't live anywhere, therefore he is unfamiliar with the type of foods say you or eye grew up eating. For example, there was a part in the book where he was just tasting everything; one minute he had a mouth full of jam, the next he was squirting mustard or ketchup in his mouth. There are definitely many LOL moments in this story.

While I enjoyed Coffeehouse Angel, there are a couple of reasons why I gave it 4 stars instead of 5. One reason is due to the lack of development in the author's angel mythology. If Selfors kept her mythology normal, such as Malcolm having wings on his back instead of on his heels, I wouldn't have questioned anything. However, as soon as it was revealed that Malcolm is not your "typical" angel, my curiosity was piqued and I was waiting for the author to explain more. I even at one point thought that she was mixing Greek Mythology into her story since the location of Malcolm's wings reminded me of Hermes, the "messenger" of the Greek gods. Oh, and did I forget to mention that Malcolm is also a "messenger"? Must I say more? There is nothing wrong with crossing mythologies, but if you are going to do it, it better be thorough or else you are going to confuse the reader. I did have a moment where I thought, Ohhhh, wait, he isn't an angel, he is actually Hermes! But when I read on and it was finally, truly confirmed that he was an angel, I was kind of scratching my head at the end of the story. I commend Selfors for trying something new, I just wish she had expanded on it some more!

My only other complaint is I wish there had been more Malcolm. Selfors starts the novel strong. She creates this mysterious, sexy, kilt wearing Angel but really does not put enough of him on the pages. I know this is Katrina's story, but I think this is one of those cases where the author would have benefited more by alternating between her and Malcolm's point-of-view. I know us women love a mysterious man but it definitely would not have hurt if she had put a few more scenes with Katrina and Malcolm getting to know each other.

Overall, this was a funny, romantic story that I will definitely be recommending to my students and my friends. I will also be looking forward to reading more books by Suzanne Selfors.


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