Tantalize by Cynthia Leitich Smith; current cover art is here.
The Bad: Anticipated publication date is March 2007. Yep, that's 2007. Mental note to self: bump this review up when it's closer to the release date. And I promise: no spoilers!
So why review it now? Because I just finished it, and if I wait too long I'll forget details, and I have no patience. And before you email me to get a copy, it's already been passed along to another librarian. How did I get a copy? BEA, a reader's best friend.
The Plot: Quincie Morris, 17, has a lot on her plate. Her parents died three years ago, leaving her in the care of her 20something uncle, Uncle D. And while Uncle D has been there for her, lately, he's been absent, all his time taken up with his new girlfriend. Quincie is trying to make a success of her parent's legacy, an Italian restaurant started by her maternal grandparents; but business has been bad recently, so the restaurant is being remodeled to have a vampire theme and menu. Quincie is a bit of a loner, except for her best friend Kieren. She has a crush on him; problem is, Kieren is half werewolf. And there's the matter of a dead body in the restaurant kitchen.
The Good: A dark fantasy with plenty of humor that will also make you very hungry. Quincie is constantly trying out new Italian dishes for the restaurant; and CLS includes the menu for the finished restaurant. Are you a predator? Or prey? CLS also arranges the book as if it were a menu: sections are labeled antipasto, primo, secondo, dolce, conforno. (I swear, between all the food mentioned in CLS's blog and now this book, I've gained two pounds just from reading.) Chapter headings are serious and humorous: "from blah to bite"; "little freddie munster."
I liked that this is an alternate world, much like our own, where vampires and werewolves are real (as are werecats and werepossums and the like), but still shrouded in myth and mystery. There are prejudices and misconceptions of vampires and werepeople alike. It's as if someone opened a restaurant in Sunnydale.
Quincie is a likable main character, strong in some areas and fragile in others.
Finally, I liked that this is a straightforward vampire story. It has horror, it has chills, it has things that go bump in the night. And, as I mentioned, it brings the funny.
Now time to find something to eat... I wonder if there's any red wine in the house?