Friday, November 27, 2009

The Village Blend coffeehouse

Re: "On What Grounds" by Cleo Coyle

The Village Blend coffeehouse is fictional, but darned if author Cleo Coyle doesn’t make you believe it’s real. It’s set in the middle of Greenwich Village and has been a fixture of the neighborhood since 1895. The only store sign displayed is an old, antique brass sign which simply says: “Fresh Roasted Coffee Served Daily”.

Many famous and infamous folks from all walks of life have visited the Blend for a savory cup of coffee over the years. Artists, musicians, authors, poets, actors, painters and politicians to name a few. Along with local workers in office buildings and hospitals, and the average Jane and Joe on the street.

I think author Coyle’s website is a real treat. It’s a virtual Village Blend. There is a ton of information on coffee to be found on the site, plus recipes and other fun tidbits. You could easily spend an hour or more browsing around. I certainly have!

(Photo courtesy

Thursday, November 26, 2009

“On What Grounds” by Cleo Coyle

This book starts out with a quote from the poem “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” by T. S. Eliot: “I have measured out my life with coffee spoons”. I remember a college English professor of mine reciting that quotation with a look of rapture on his face. He often spoke about that poem, but oddly enough never made us read it. And to this day I still haven’t read it.

“On What Grounds” is the first book in the Coffeehouse mystery series featuring female-sleuth Clare Cosi. Clare is 39, divorced and living in New Jersey while raising her daughter Joy. Clare supports herself by doing several odd jobs, one of which involves writing a small column in the local newspaper called “In the Kitchen with Clare”.

But now her 19-year-old daughter has just gone off to college in Manhattan and Clare finds herself suffering from empty-nest syndrome. So when Clare receives a call from her former boss and mother-in-law Madame, she answers and decides to relocate to Manhattan to manage Madame’s coffeehouse, The Village Blend.

Well, actually to RETURN as manager - Clare had managed the coffeehouse for 10 years before settling in New Jersey to raise Joy. Her other reason for leaving is named Matteo Allegro - Clare’s ex-husband, and Madame’s son.

The book opens with Clare finding her young employee Anabelle at the bottom of the Village Blend’s stairs. Anabelle is still alive, but just barely. The police have investigated and ruled the mishap an accident, but Clare doesn’t believe it. Anabelle is a dancer and Clare doesn’t think her so clumsy as to have fallen down the stairs. She thinks Anabelle was pushed and is determined to find out the truth.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Book Giveaway

I have a new, autographed paperback copy of “Murder Takes the Cake” written by Gayle Trent, the first in her Daphne Martin cake decorating mystery series. Ms. Trent graciously offered to send me a copy so that my blog readers would have a chance to win it.

For more information on the series, go to her website

Since spammers can obtain email addresses on blog comments, to win this book send me a private email at with your name and address. If you wish, you could include the name of your favorite mystery series or your favorite female-sleuth. This for my curiosity only. It is optional and is not required to win the book.

I’ll choose the winner randomly on Tuesday, December 1.

Thanks for participating and good luck!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Guest Blog by Author Gayle Trent

I am very pleased to have my first guest blog post by author Gayle Trent. Ms. Trent writes a mystery series featuring female-sleuth and cake decorator Daphne Martin. There are two books in the series set in a small Virginia town. Book number two is called “Dead Pan” and it was released earlier this month by Bell Bridge Books.

In “Dead Pan”, several people fall ill at a company Christmas party. When one of the victims dies, police intensify their search for the culprit, including the cake Daphne made for the occasion.

This should be an interesting series for me as my aunt used to bake and decorate cakes for special occasions. So please stay tuned to this blog for more info about Daphne.

In the meantime, enjoy the following post:


Thorough Investigations
A mystery writer has to be thorough, right? I’ve often stopped what I was writing to call a police officer to make sure I had the protocol and procedures down correctly. You can’t come across to your readers like you don’t know what you’re doing. Especially when you don’t.
My daughter’s Spanish teacher wanted a copy of the first book in my Daphne Martin Cake Decorating Mystery Series, Murder Takes the Cake. I decided to be really clever and translate my inscription into Spanish. I’ve never had a Spanish class, other than what I’ve gleaned from Dora the Explorer—and that was several years ago, but how hard could it be? I did a search for online Spanish translations, entered my inscription in English and then copied it verbatim from the Spanish I was given.
The next day when I picked up my daughter from school, I asked, “Did your teacher like her book?”
“How about the inscription?”
 I knew from the drawn-out “well” that something wasn’t quite right.
“She asked me if you speak Spanish,” my daughter continued. “And I said, ‘no, she Googled it.’”
My attempt at cleverness was leaving me with a feeling of dread. “What did it say?”
“She said it said, ‘Relax and enjoy this mountain of . . . .’ something. She mumbled that last word, and I didn’t understand it.”
My eyes nearly popped out, and then I started laughing. I bent over the steering wheel laughing. My daughter, son and I all laughed until we cried.
An inscription that had begun as “wishing you lots of sweet surprises” had morphed into “relax and enjoy this mountain of ?”? Mountain of what? That plagues me still. My older brother has been quick to provide possibilities (none of which I can print here), and I’m afraid he might be right since the teacher “mumbled that last word.”
I e-mailed the teacher, apologized and told her what the inscription was supposed to say. I offered to send her a signed bookplate she could place over her so proudly-written Spanish inscription. She declined. She did, however, tell me later that she loved the book. That was some consolation.
The moral of this story is not to let your investigating slide. You might concede to “not sweat the small stuff;” but if you’re going to plaster the “small stuff” in a book to be immortalized and come back to haunt you for the rest of your life (and your children’s lives), you’d better thoroughly investigate the “small stuff.” And when you don’t know something, don’t try to pretend you do.


Interesting post! I remember reading some funny lost-in-translation phrases. Thanks again Gayle!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Done with “The Chocolate Cat Caper” by JoAnna Carl

Lee puts two and two together to figure out who killed Clementine Ripley. Along the way there is another dead body. It’s ruled a suicide, but Lee wonders if it wasn’t murder? Even the cat Yonkers had a hand, or should I say paw, in helping to solve the mystery.

And if that isn’t enough, a budding romance between Lee and local hunk Joe Woodyard develops leading to some long kisses and hopes for a continued relationship.

Author JoAnna Carl includes a lot of factual information on chocolate in this book. For example, you can read about the difference between making truffles and bonbons. She also includes several pages on chocolate trivia, which she calls “Chocolate Chat”. There are chats on the origins of chocolate, it’s health benefits, types of chocolate, how chocolate is used for romance and chocolate crimes.

There is even a chocolate quiz at the end of the book. For example, you can find out how many pounds of chocolate Americans eat per person per year. (Hint: it’s in the double-figures).

You can buy the book here:

Friday, November 20, 2009

Lee’s Malapropish Tongue

Re: The Chocolate Cat Caper by JoAnna Carl

Lee McKinney has a problem. She has what she calls a ‘twisted tongue’. For example, she says things like:

‘financial sentiment’ (for financial settlement)
‘none of my busybody’ (for none of my business)
‘cardboard suspender’ (for cardboard dispenser)

The problem is very embarrassing and frustrating for Lee, although I bet author JoAnna Carl had some fun coming up with the phrases.

Lee likens the problem to a malaprop, which I recall learning about in my high school English class. Since that was many years ago, I thought I’d refresh my memory by going out to Wikipedia to look it up.

There is a character named Mrs. Malaprop in a play from Sheridan called “The Rivals”. She speaks this way, and so the term 'malaprop' was named for her. Here is one example from the play: "...she's as headstrong as an allegory on the banks of Nile." (i.e. alligator; Act III Scene III Line 195).

A malaprop means to substitute one word for a similar sounding word. The result is a non-sensical, and somewhat comic, phrase. My favorite one of Lee’s is ‘armadillo truffles’ (for amaretto truffles)!

In fact, on her website,
Ms. Carl says that Lee is a 'direct descendant of Mrs. Malaprop'.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Clem the Ripper

Re: The Chocolate Cat Caper by JoAnna Carl

It’s not nice to speak ill of the dead, but there were many folks that did NOT like prominent defense attorney Clementine Ripley, AKA The Ripper. Her prowess at keeping many seemingly guilty parties out of jail had brought her much fame, but few friends. Even those who worked for her felt she had no heart.

Lee’s kind Aunt Nettie certainly did not like Ms. Ripley. Lee’s Uncle Phil was killed in a car accident by a drunk driver: a repeat drunk driver who was able to get his license back because Ms. Ripley was his defense attorney.

It’s unfortunate that Ms. Ripley died while eating a TenHuis Amaretto truffle. Amaretto is a sweet almond-flavored liqueur. Evidently cyanide is found (in small amounts) in almonds, so someone comes to the conclusion that Ms. Ripley was poisoned because they smell almonds by her body. Poisoned by one of Aunt Nettie’s chocolates nonetheless.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Texas vs. Michigan

Re: The Chocolate Cat Caper by JoAnna Carl

Texas vs. Michigan sounds like a college sporting event, but here it refers to Lee McKinney’s comparison of the places she’s lived.

In Texas, Lee was married to an older, wealthy attorney who preferred she have big hair and bright red lips. Now that she’s divorced and back in Michigan, she prefers to tone down the glamour and pull her hair back with a barrette. And wear medium pink lipstick.

It’s hot in Texas and Lee says air conditioning is a must. It’s everywhere: houses, cars, office buildings, industrial plants, buses, trucks and even tractors. Not so much in Warner Pier, Michigan. Most people, including Lee’s Aunt Nettie, don’t have air conditioning in their homes.

Then there’s the matter of the accent. Lee says that to a Texan, the Michigan ‘yeah’ sounds a lot like the Dutch ‘ya’. I’m from Wisconsin, which is not too far from Michigan. In our travels across the U.S., I can tell you that sometimes people can’t understand what I’m saying due to my ‘accent’.

My aunt and uncle, who are also from Wisconsin, moved to Oklahoma many years ago and picked up an accent which I think is a lot like a Texas twang. Just don’t tell them that. They might be offended!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

“The Chocolate Cat Caper” by JoAnna Carl

This is the first book in the Chocoholic mystery series featuring female-sleuth Lee McKinney. Lee is back in Warner Pier, the small Michigan resort town where she grew up, after serving a stint as a ‘trophy wife’ to a rich Texan. After Lee’s divorce, her aunt Jeannette TenHuis (known as Aunt Nettie) offers her a place to stay and a job working as a bookkeeper for the family business TenHuis Chocolade.

Lee is happy to be back and is taking advantage of this time to study for the CPA exam. She also enjoys the special perk allowed to each employee: two free chocolates each working day. Mmm, sounds good to me!

The opening chapters find Lee and her Aunt Nettie preparing to deliver a special order of handmade chocolate truffles and bonbons to high-powered attorney Clementine Ripley (AKA The Ripper). Ms. Ripley has a summer home in Warner Pier and is entertaining several guests for a charity fund-raiser.

Ms. Ripley has a purebred cat, and so Aunt Nettie has made several chocolates in the shape of a cat by using a special mold she previously ordered from the Netherlands. She’s hand-detailed the chocolates so they look like Ms. Ripley’s Birman male cat named Yonkers, which is short for Champion Myanmar Chocolate Yonkers. Lee thinks the cat looks like a Siamese cat with long hair.

Lee delivers the chocolates to Ms. Ripley’s home, and after returning to TenHuis Chocolade, is asked to help the local caterer do some serving at the party that same evening. Lee gladly accepts as she wants to see the inside of the home. She also needs the extra money as the divorce left her practically penniless.

Once there, Lee is put to work at the bar. The cat gets out of the room it was shut into and scampers across the bar. Lee takes it back and when she returns, she happens upon a shocking scene: Ms. Ripley has died while eating a Amaretto truffle from TenHuis Chocolade.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

An Old Celtic Prayer

On a personal note, I would like to offer up this old celtic prayer I found someplace, I'm not sure where.

It's for my father, who passed away a year ago. He was a veteran of WWII so I think it's fitting to post this on Veteran's Day and say a special thanks to all veterans, including my dad.

"You are above me O God,
You are beneath,
You are in the air,
You are in the earth,
You are beside me,
You are within.
Kindle within me a love for you in all things."

I miss you, Dad.

(Artwork of Celtic Cross courtesy Dover Publications)

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Why Female-Sleuths?

Why not Male-Sleuths too? Well, first and foremost - I’m a girl. When I started reading for fun as a teenager, I wanted to read about things that girls like myself were doing.

One day my mom was shopping at our local department store and I wandered over to the book section. There were several Nancy Drew books for sale and I persuaded Mom to buy me “The Secret in the Old Attic” - the 1944 version in yellow hardcover. I was hooked! To date, that is one of my favorite Nancy Drew books.

(I also saw the blue hardcover Hardy Boys books but didn’t get any. I still haven’t read any Hardy Boys yet. Hope to someday.)

Plus I’m drawn to the cozy, or traditional mysteries. The publishers are marketing these books to women and I’ve gotta say, I’m right there. sure has me pegged as they have tons of recommendations that are right up my alley.

I like that many of these mysteries feature women who have chosen many different career-paths, or who are interested in so many different kinds of hobbies. The lists are endless.

Plus these ladies are typically nice, or funny or interesting in someway. They are wives, moms, daughters, sisters, aunts and nieces. They have personalities and feelings that I can relate to.

Several years ago I was really into Jonathan Kellerman’s Alex Delaware child psychologist series. I thought the books were good and extremely well written, but the graphic descriptions of violence really bothered me. Sadly, I stopped reading him.

In general I’m not against reading about male-sleuths and I imagine there are several good ones out there. Feel free to leave a comment if you have some you’d like to recommend.

It’s just that there are many, many female-sleuths out there. I’d like to read about them all someday!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Done with “Catering to Nobody” by Diane Mott Davidson

Intense - that’s the impression I got from most of this book and the characters in it. Except for the police detective Tom Schulz - the one person I would expect to be the most intense. He seemed more laid back and pleasant than the other characters. But I suppose doing that kind of work for a living, you build up a layer of thick skin to become oblivious to the horror of it all. I imagine it’s the same for those folks that work in hospitals and the ER.

I like the way that author Davidson uses the title of the book to mean a couple of different things. One, in that Goldy’s business was shut down so she couldn’t cater food to anybody. Two, she mentions her son doesn’t cater to anybody either. Meaning that they are their own people and they aren’t beholden to what others say or think they should do.

You can buy the book here:

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Another Book Set During October and Halloween

Re: “Catering to Nobody” by Diane Mott Davidson

I didn’t realize when I randomly picked this book off my bookshelf that I’d be reading a book set during this time of year. Kind of a nice surprise, and it makes it easier to get into the events of the book since the season I’m in matches the one in the book.

Goldy is preparing for her fitness club’s Halloween party and also is spending time making her 11-year old son’s costume. He is into Dungeons and Dragons (D & D), something I’ve heard of but never participated in. So Goldy decides to make Dungeon Bars for a D & D party he is having with a friend. The recipe is included in the book and it sounds basically like oatmeal raisin cookie bars.

Her son is going to the Halloween party too, dressed as a lich. This is a character from D & D, and Goldy gets chills running up and down her spine when she reads that the lich specializes in vengeful activity against those who are wicked and evil. It will stop only when the evil one is dead. The lich’s face is like a skull.

Goldy is definitely worrying about her son’s involvement in this game.