Cleo Coyle

Just in time for Halloween, I’ve been binge-reading the coffee house mystery series, written by Cleo Coyle.  Focusing on Claire Cosi, amateur detective and coffeehouse manager, each book in the series focuses on a new murder mystery.  This isn’t just any coffee house either, it’s the Village Blend, located in a family-owned building that’s over a hundred years old in Greenich Village.  What I love about the series is the coffee shop – they roast and brew only the most premium beans, imported from all over the world.  Included in the mysteries are facts about coffee – how it is grown and where, brewing tips, and coffee and food pairings.  In the back of each book are a set of recipes (some of which were featured in the book), with coffee as a main ingredient.  Although I haven’t tried any of the recipes, but I’ve really wanted to, especially the cherry-cordial fudge that’s featured in Holiday Grind (my current read).

9780425192139_p0_v3_s260x420The first book in the series is On What Grounds, here Claire is introduced.  After years of living in New Jersey raising her daughter, she’s back in the city working at the Blend.  The Blend (and building) is owned by Madame Dreyfus Allegro Dubois, who asks her to manage the blend, and offers a place to stay in the building.  Madame happens to be her ex mother-in-law, who has also jointly given the building to her ex-husband.  In the first few weeks of working at the Blend, one of the coffeehouse’s young employees has been pushed down a set of stairs.  It could have been an accident, but Claire’s not buying it.  In attempting to solve this mystery, she meets an NYPD detective named Mike Quinn.

9780425197141_p0_v1_s260x420Through the Grinder is book two in the series, and she continues her amateur sluething.  Here she is getting used to life in the city, and as a single woman.  In every book in the series, her romantic life is complicated by her ex-husband, and this book is no exception.  As she starts dating in the city, her ex-husband attempts to rekindle their relationship.  She also develops a serious crush on Quinn – who is the perfect hottie in uniform.  In Latte Trouble, book 3 in the series, the Blend starts to expand.  As Claire’s business partner, this is one of Matteo’s (her ex-husband) priorities.  After setting up a coffee kiosk at an NYC fashion show, Claire discovers that someone has been served a poisoned latte.  One her baristas is arrested and charged with murder – but Claire knows that he’s not the guilty party.  It becomes her mission to set Tucker free – and find the real murderer.

9780425204450_p0_v2_s260x420Claire has discovered a real knack for solving mysteries.  It’s something quite unexpected for her – and in the first book she’s quite surprised but as the series continues she gains a reputation as an intuitive PI.  In book 4, Murder Most Frothy, the Blend is experimenting with another business venture – this time in the Hamptons.  While serving up iced coffees, one of her host’s employees turns up dead.  Although out of town, and slightly out of her element, Detective Claire goes to work.

I haven’t read all of the books in the series, I’m actually on book 8.  Like other mystery series I’ve read – this one too was introduced to me by my Mom.  Now I can’t put the books down!  Since discovering the series, I’ve noticed many other similar mystery series.  Not sure if I’ll venture out – especially while I’m finishing up the books in this series.  I love this series because it combines two things I absolutely love – books and coffee!  Any fans out there – of this series, or any other mystery series??

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In need of suggestions!

I’ve been in a book rut lately.  I’ve been reading, and have enjoyed reading, it’s just been a while since I’ve read something really great.  I haven’t been really wowed by anything in a while.  It’s a little discouraging, and that’s why I’m looking for suggestions.  Have you read anything great lately, anything you’d recommend??

Busted!

9780062085443_p0_v4_s260x420The nation is still recovering from the events in Ferguson, Missouri.  There have been protests, rallies, and investigations.  This is still a scandal for the city of St Louis, one they won’t be recovering from anytime soon.  I recently finished reading Busted: A Tale of Corruption and Betrayal in the City of Brotherly Love, which details one of the worst cases of city corruption in recent history.  The investigation began in the Philadelphia police department, and the suspected corruption was worst in the narcotic.  The investigation revealed that corruption was rampant and widespread in the PPD.

Two Philly newspaper reporters were involved in the investigation of the PPD beginning with Jeff Cujdik, their work made him more hated by the PPD than the criminals pursued by the department.  These two women, who had been working for The Philadelphia Daily News, happened upon the story of their careerrs.  Over the course of many weeks and months, the newspaper published a series of articles based on their work.  Also during this time the newspaper they worked for was on the verge of extinction.  It faced bankruptcy, mergers, format and leadership changes.  As if the story wasn’t … enough, facing the possibility of losing their jobs was …  Ultimately, their work earned them the Pulitzer Prize.

Writers are always looking for a good story.  Wendy Ruderman and Barbara Laker thought this series of article would spark outrage, yet they were surprised to find that the public was shocked with the charges of corruption – and turned their anger on the writers.  They seemed to critize them more than the PPD, the public seemed to believe that the ends justified the means.  Can that ever be true?  They didn’t think so -and I don’t either, not when it comes to corruption in a police department.  There were cases of theft, sexual assault, planting false evidence, all within the narcotics deaprtment.  What they needed to do was clean house, but that didn’t exactly happen.  As evidenced by the fact that the public was more outraged about the exposure of the PPD than with them, change was going to be difficult.

One of Cujdik’s best informants, Benny, approached them with a story.  Once the story broke in the newspaper, the FBI was outraged that Benny hadn’t come to them first.  Benny wasn’t the most reliable source – but he had been a great informant, often turning in neighbors, friends.  Through his work with Cujdik, he was responsible for numerous arrests.  (Almost as many as Cujdik himself).  In turning in some of these friends and neighbors, he found himself a hated man,

“He’d begun working with Jeff Cujdik in late 2001, after Jeff caught him selling marijuana on a corner. Benny was 35-years old and on probation for a prior drug conviction. He didn’t want to go to prison, so he accepted Jeff’s offer to turn informant…So Benny became Confidential Informant 103.”

As they worked with him, there were other informants who began working with them as well.  One disadvantage of going to a newspaper instead of the FBI – these two women could not offer protection.  There was incredible bravery on the part of these women in trying not to bring the PPD down, but just get the  turth out.  There was also incredible bravery on the part of these informants who were willing to risk their lives to tell this story.

I loved, LOVED this book.  Way more than I thought I would – even if you’re not a fan of nonfiction, it’s worth the read.  It reads more like a suspense novel.  The level corruption in this big city police department is shocking.  And I will not give the ending away, or the result of the investigation (which coincided with what the FBI was also doing – these two just uncovered the store first).

Midnight Crossroad

9780425263150_p0_v4_s260x420I am so ready for Halloween! I love this time of year, breaking out sweaters and jeans, and all the Halloween candy! For October, I love reading something a bit spooky.  I recently finished reading Midnight Crossroad which was the perfect read for this time of year.  Kelly and I are both fans of Charlaine Harris – both the Sookie Stackhouse books and True Blood.  I think for her, it was supposed to be a departure from her popular series of vampire books – but for me it’s not that different.  There were many parallels with the Sookie series.  Sookie hails from Bon Temps, Louisiana – a town just slightly bigger than Midnight, Texas, where this story takes place.  There was also a vampire, a clairvoyant, and a witch.  Sound familiar??

Fiji seems like the town’s busybody, and at the very beginning of the story she seems to know everyone’s business.  She’s at first trying to arrange a town get together, which seems unimportant but it’s what happens there that guides the rest of the story. People are hesitant to join Fiji in her efforts to get everyone together, but later it’s revealed that she is a practicing witch and has a talking cat.  Oh – and she throws the town’s best Halloween parties!!  The mystery of a young woman named Aubrey is the real center of the story.  Aubrey was a waitress who had been involved with another townie named Bobo.  Bobo was close friends with Fiji, and the absence of Aubrey was tough for both of them.  He was working at the town’s only pawn shop, and becomes the number one suspect of Aubrey’s murder when the weapon is believed to have been used in her murder was from the pawn shop.

The town picnic is held, and seriously – how small can this  town be if everyone is invited to the same picnic??  Fiji discovers Aubrey’s body – as the picnic had been held at a remote location, that no one seemed to visit often.  When the body is discovered there can be no more speculation about her disappearance – she is most certainly dead.  Details later emerge about why she may have been targeted – Bobo too.  Bobo’s family had once been involved with a white supremacist group, and it was rumoured that their stash of weapons was kept in  the pawn shop.  Bobo, already mourning the loss of his girlfriend, is incredibly hurt when he finds out she may have only been pretending.

When the killer is revealed at the end of the book, it’s quite a shock.  Another shocking detail near the end of the book – the entire town wakes up one morning, reporting to have had the same dream.  Totally creepy, and yet Fiji is intrigued.  Despite the book’s similarities to Harris’s previous series (one that has finally concluded – with no more books planned, as far as I know), I did enjoy the book.  It’s the perfect October read!!  Any other Sookie fans out  there?

Hispanic Heritage Month

Hispanic Heritage Month began September 15, and lasts until the middle of October.  Though not celebrated traditionally as a “calendar” month, the date marks an important event in Latin American history – five countries achieved their independence that day.  And as lovers of books, there happen to be some of our favorites that were written by Hispanic writers.  One of my favorite writers, Junot Diaz, has broadened my horizons.  These writers are a unique voice, helping give voice and identity to those in the Hispanic community.  Through them, we learn more about Hispanic culture and language.  Last year the community, the world, lost one of the most influential voices in Gabrial Garcia Marquez.  In honor of this occasion, here is just a short list of our favorites:

9780062105639_p0_v2_s260x420The House on Mango Street By Sandra Cisneros – this book was first published over 25 years ago.  Then there weren’t that many popular Hispanic writers.  Now there seem to be quite a bit more, but Cisneros helped to pave the way.

Isabelle Allende has published a few books, but just a few months ago I read Maya’s Notebook.  I really enjoyed reading it, and through the eyes of a troubled teen learned so much about Chilean culture.

Junot Diaz has written a few books in a relatively short writing career.  I have read each one, and 9780439120425_p0_v2_s260x420loved each one.  I first read The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao a few years ago.  It was chosen by my book club and I remember being the only one who really liked it.  Last summer I read This Is How You Lose Her and was equally amazed.

Pam Munoz Ryan is known for writing several books for young readers, focused on strong female characters.  A friend recommended Esperanza Rising, and it has been on my TBR list for a while.  Maybe this month I’ll actually get around to reading it!!

Like Water for Chocolate  by Laura Esquivel is a great example of Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s style.  I loved the book, and I really loved the movie!  Going deep into Mexican culture and history, there is love, magic, and revolution.

We are always in search of a good book.  In celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month, this can be your guide to some of the most prolific Hispanic writers.  Of course there are many more – and this only the beginning!  For more information, please visit http://hispanicheritagemonth.gov/.

Counting by 7s

9780142422861_p0_v2_s260x420I remember the days before my daughter was born, I loved a trip to the bookstore.  A latte in hand, browsing the latest best-sellers.  Now, in life A.K. (after kids), a trip to the bookstore means heading straight to the kids section and hoping to catch a title of one or two of the books on display before reading Olivia books for an hour straight.  In several of my recent trips to the bookstore, I saw Counting by 7s.  It had been on my TBR list for too long, and I’m happy to say that I have finally read it – and I loved it!  Written by Holly Goldberg Sloan, this is one of the best YA books I’ve ever read.

There’s no dystopian society, no vampires, the main character has no love interest, and apparently the target audience for the book is 10 yrs old.  Don’t let that dissuade you, Willow Chance is only 12, but she  is brilliant and wise beyond her years.  She also has nothing in common with any other 12 year old.  She’s naturally curious, a gifted gardnerer, and seems to be concerned about the health and well-being of those around here – specifically, diagnosing their problems.  One thing that also makes her stand out – she is Vietnamese, and was adopted by an American couple and brought to this country when she was an infant.  She was actually orphaned twice – once by her birth parents in Vietnam, and again when her adoptive parents die in a car accident while she is at school one day.

The majority of the story follows what happens next.  Her parents had no family or close friends to take her in.  Instead, she ends up with the family of a fellow Vietnamese student that she met at the school counselor’s office.  She barely knows the other girl, and after going home with her that first night, realizes that she and her brother live with their mother inside a converted garage behind the nail salon where she works.  Their school counselor, Dell Duke, becomes closely involved in their lives and making sure that Willow is properly cared for by this family.  Her world is obviously changed after the loss of her parents.  What’s unexpected is the change she brings to these individuals.  This will be one of the darkest times in her life, but she still brings light to those around her.

Beyond her grief, beyond her incredible mind and memory (what originally brought her to Mr. Duke’s office was a perfect score on a standardized test – sparking accusations of cheating), is her ability to see the best in everyone.  And that’s what I love most about this book.  Mr. Duke himself is kind of a loser, living in Bakersfield, California, is a middle school counselor, bored and uninterested in his job.  He lacks the motivation to even dream of a better life.  Willow will change that, and it’s something unexpected for both of them.

I loved this book – and you might too!  This girl is lost after her parents’ death, and I have felt lost before too.  Willow shows incredible courage and resolve in their absence.  She grieves, and eventually finds the strength to go on.