Cool Beans (Maya Davis book 1)–Erynn Mangum

This one has been languishing in my drafts for too long. Time to push it out the door.

Erynn Mangum (it took me a while staring at that name to work out that it’s a “creative” spelling of Erin) has an Amazon page, but no Wikipedia page. She has a personal page as well. There we learn that she’s fanatic about coffe, the colour pink, all things girly, and the Food Network. She also offers a critique service, which is something I’d not heard of. Of which I had not heard. Huh, prepositions.

I made some notes on my phone as I read the book. Therefore, this review is a little more stream-of-consciousness in style.

Cool Beans is the first of the Maya Davis series by Mangum; the series has finished up at three books. The blurb reads: “Everything seems to be going perfectly for Maya Davis: She has a great job at a coffee shop, gets along with her parents, and is happily single. That is until her best friend starts dating Maya’s high school sweetheart.” A fair summary.

The kindle has a strange feature of opening the book at the first page of the story, rather than at the graphic for the cover. So, I always flick back, look at the cover page, read the bibliographic information, check out the contents, the dedication–all of the normal stuff (right? I’m not that strange, am I?) Doing so with this book, I notice that this is a book about Christian people supported by Christian activities, and so on and so forth. My initial reaction isn’t positive. I’m not a fan of organised religion in general, I feel that it leads to harm in the world, and has been the cause of a lot of very bad things. I’m not going to go on further than that. However, I was aware from the start that this was going to be a book with heavy Christian overtones, and that gave me pause.

Despite that, (clearly, else why would I be writing this review?), I pressed onwards. I did spend quite a bit of my reading time wondering when the preachiness was going to start, and was happily surprised to find that it wasn’t too over-the-top, in-your-face, or excessive. At least, not for a while. It did arrive, and when it did, it was a little jarring. Actually, that’s not fair on the book–it’s not a bad story, in fact, it’s quite readable, even if all of the characters put too many points into their Earnest and Cuteness skills. There was a constant feeling that this novel had been sketched out first with all of the major plot-points noted down, and then the gaps were filled in.

Oh, and there are side-hugs. That was a giant warning sign to me. (For those are not aware of the Christian side-hug, allow me to mockingly explain. The side-hug is designed to prevent contact between people for fear that if two people happen to have their fronts touch, it will lead to sinful activities. Apparently having breasts pressed into your chest/having your breasts pressed into another’s chest means that you will lose all restraint, and be caught up in a whirlwind of lascivious activities. Ahem. *fans self*)

The lists. Our protagonist makes little lists of four or five reasons for something that’s bothering her. It’s a coping mechanism, nervous tick, way of organising her thoughts. At least, that’s what it’s presented as, until it is revealed that it’s supposed to be part of her daily devotions. I don’t think it works if she’s just trying to justify the latest development in her romantic entanglements.

I realise that this a Christian book about Christian people for Christian people, but I still find it odd that everyone seems to have a bible at hand. Who keeps a bible under the desk at a coffee shop? Or is that just one of the things that I should not be questioning?

Alright, a problem that is not specifically about the Christian preaching intrusions: the author attempts to include “colour” into her descriptions–little interactions with customers, or a description of the milk being frothed for a mocha. I understand that these are attempts at colour, but they seem superfluous. I don’t think that I’m being overly-critical here, several times I was left wondering why I’m being told about the age, clothing, demeanour of a customer whose only purpose appears to be lengthening the novel by a paragraph or two.

The love story for the protagonist is telegraphed from a mile away. Or, and this is a valid hypothesis, I’m just cynical and figured the shape of the story. (When I was making notes from this review, I left myself one “Was I wrong about this?” No, no I was not wrong. Things developed pretty much as I expected them to develop.) It’s all a bit obvious.

I know that it sounds like I’m being critical, and you’re wondering why I bothered reading and finishing the book if there were such issues: the story actually wasn’t too bad, and skimming over some of the more preachy bits worked for me. The characters do their job, but the subplots don’t go anywhere. We’re introduced to characters who are essentially filler. They’re not quite caricatures, but nor do they make it much beyond one-dimensional single-purpose backstory.

I don’t remember when I purchaed it; probably during a “I have an Amazon giftcard, let’s spend it” evening. It’s not terrible. I won’t be seeking out books two or three in the series though.

Amazon links. (Clicking and purchasing from this link earns me the tiniest sliver of money, and doesn’t cost you anything!) Paperback and Kindle versions are both available.