I should strive to keep an open mind. I judged a book by its cover. Literally.
My friend Theresa gave me a copy of Barbara Bretton's Casting Spells. I picked it up last week and on the cover is a basket of knitting and a black cat.
"This is going to be fluff," I thought.
I read the first two pages.
"OK, so it has some humor. I'll give it another page or two."
Well, I kept on turning pages and reading. And it turned out that I really enjoyed it. It takes place in a tiny Vermont town and our heroine is the daughter of a sorceress and a human. In fact, the place is populated by fairies, trolls, werewolves, vampires, etc. Our heroine, Chloe Hobbs, is the only person in town with no magical powers. Three hundred years earlier, Chloe's ancestor, Aerynn, cast a spell over the town to protect it from meddling outsiders. The spell does not keep out anyone, especially tourists, but humans (except for Chloe) think all the residents are normal, everyday people, although they're all quite good-looking. The spell is weakening and as Aerynn's only descendant, Chloe is the one who needs to strengthen it. But this cannot happen until she comes into her powers, and that won't happen until she falls in love, so all the townspeople keep trying to fix her up with their friends and relatives. A murder happens and a possible love interest comes to town. Everybody becomes rather desperate for Chloe to realize her powers because an evil fairy is threatening to take over, which will destroy the town. There are several knock-down-drag-out fights between supernatural beings, mostly in Chloe's house and knitting shop. The action gets very intense and the solution to all the problems, while not exactly predictable, is expected. It was good reading. I've put the sequel, Laced with Magic, on my wish list.
My other latest book, though not involving the supernatural, was nonetheless exciting. It was Even Money, by Dick Francis and his son Felix Francis. The main character, Ned Talbot, is a self-employed bookie with a bipolar wife and a computer-whiz assistant. The self-employed bookies have to compete with the big betting conglomerates, who keep trying to take over the small guys' businesses. Ned's father, who Ned thought died 37 years earlier, shows up one day and introduces himself, then less than hour later he's stabbed by a very efficient killer. Ned has to solve his father's murder, deal with his wife and assistant, and try to outwit the big betting houses. I learned a little about the bookmaking business, although I'm hopeless when it comes to understanding just how betting and odds work (even though I bought The Complete Idiots's Pocket Guide to Betting on the Horses). The climax of the book was classic Francis, and included an elaborate plan for finding the killer and getting the big boys off his back. It was, as usual, exhilirating. I love Dick Francis.
I'm currently reading Fire Sale by Sara Paretsky. She really can write a gritty, hard-boiled mystery. I'll let you know about that one when I finish it.