Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Smooth and Frothy Espresso Shot Reviewed

During the lazy, hazy days of Christmas break I like to read something light and fun. I like to do this reading snuggled under a cozy blanket and sipping one of my classic vanilla lattes or peppermint white mochas. I wasn't disappointed in a new mystery series (note, it is new to me) I discovered before the holidays.

The book I picked up for this occasion was Espresso Shot. It is a Coffeehouse Mystery series by internet java-diva, New Yorker, coffee lover, and writer, Cleo Coyle.


Photo of the book courtesy of her website

Currently a bestseller



As I'm not a big follower of the Independent Mystery Booksellers Association or really mysteries for that matter, this author and her work is entirely new to me.

If you've read my other writing, The Musings of a Latte Queen, you will know that I absolutely love coffee. There is something magical about the aroma in the morning and seeing the crema form as this soothing brown wonder flows from my Breville. This is on the list for whenever I take my last breath, I want vanilla lattes served at my repass! It is that serious with me.

Equally serious is my love of independent coffee houses and my disdain for Starbucks and anything at all like corporate coffee shops. I love the intimacy, familiarity, and atmosphere of my local favorites like STL Java & Cafe' out in Florissant or Kaldi's here in Kirkwood. I love the stuff. That is probably the reason why I was attracted to the book in the first place. It brought my love of reading with my love of espresso drinks together, what better way to enjoy two weeks of Christmas break!

The cover intrigued me and honestly, anything fiction related to coffee piques my interest. I purchased the book at Pudd'n'Head Books in Webster Groves. It looked like it would be fun.

Cleo doesn't disappoint. It is a good and delightful book. I enjoyed meeting Clare Cosi and her dashing ex-husband, Matteo Allegro. I fell in love with the many coffee and espresso recipes and use of the lingo. I learned a thing or two about New York's underground restaurants and some dining pleasures. She included some recipes for the food served at Breanne Summour's wedding dinner parties and I may give a couple of them a try.

There were many twists and turns in this mystery novel about a fake socialite who reinvented herself as a mover and shaker in New York's competitive magazine publishing scene. She was about the marry Clare Cosi's ex-husband, a traveling coffee buyer and known ladies man. The peaks and valleys of the book included many attempts on Breanne's life and her ultra snobbish behavior. The characters were believable and Cleo even created Avitars of Clare, Matteo, and Madame on her website.

The book reminded me a little of the behind-the-scenes of the novel by Lauren Weisberger and the resulting movie, The Devil Wears Prada with Meryl Streep starring as the fashion magazine maven with the crumbling personal life. The scheming to-be-seen and move-up-by-any-means-necessary, Monica, reminded me of the uber skinny first assistant Emily in the movie. Breanne could've easily been a Miranda Priestly. I'd put this book's Clare as an adult Andrea (Andy) played by Anne Hathaway.

I would recommend this for the amusing read. It is great for book clubs and espresso lovers. I would caution that her descriptions use a lot of adjectives and can be a bit tiring after a while. She seems to be developing into a good writer since she began this series in 2005. She has well thought out and believable characters, an identifiable area in Greenwich Village, and a sure love for independent businesses.

She is commended for her deft handling the intimacy between Clare Cosi and Mike Quinn. It was as if I could visually see the couple go into the bedroom, close the door, and whatever happened in there was their business, I didn't need to know the erotic details. This is something refreshing in modern writing and frankly, is a welcome change from even the overly sexualized television programs.

Cleo has a keen understanding of high fashion labels and being a midwestern bohemian, I tired after a while of all the high fashion brands. I've been to New York and even LA's fabled Rodeo Drive and to this MBA trained ex product manager, it was all like a picture of American waste, but I digress.

This book was written in Clare's voice and this added a personal element to it, like she and I could sit down over coffee and dish on her ex-husband's pursuits, her daughter Joy's culinary education, taste her friend Janelle's pastries (I liked how Cleo included the bit about Janelle being black, she used African-American, and a New York transplant who survived Hurricane Katrina) or simply sip that can-taste-it-now Esmeralda Especial.

I've never seen the book at any bookstore other than Pudd'n'Head but I'm sure it can be found online, at some coffee shops, of course on Amazon.com, at Borders and Barnes & Noble.

Like a really smooth and creamy vanilla latte with my favorite organic milk from my favorite barista, this book was really satisfying.

If you like fun and light fiction, a chance to experience a virtual coffeeshop world, love to become familiar with characters and love a good mystery, this series is perfect. Espresso Shot was No. 7 in her work but I felt as if I knew what was going on because she added a few lines about Clare's other amateur PI work as well as as few nuances of the Matteo (Matt) and Clare relationship. I'm sure it would be great to read them in order but I'd venture to say they could stand alone, much like watching one of the old Murder She Wrote re-runs starring Angela Langsbury as writer and amateur detective, Jessica Fletcher.

Other books by Cleo Coyle in this series, in order, include:
1. On What Grounds
2. Through the Grinder
3. Latte Trouble
4. Murder Most Frothy
5. Decaffeinated Corpse
6. French Pressed
7. Espresso Shot
8. Title under secret guard coming out later in 2009

The catchy titles, great graphics, plus her interactive and virtual coffeeshop make this one I will visit often. She is one writer who does answer emails from her readers and she is fantastic at listing information on all things coffee bean! She brought together two of my great loves and I will add her to the sites I visit on my main site!

Now with the cold weather about to come on us here in St. Louis, in addition to Cleo Coyle's books, here are some other fun ones to whyle away the time until spring. Some I've read, some are waiting-their-turn on my bookshelf:

1. Sisters, Ink. I enjoy scrapbooking and so ordered this from Crossings.com. It was a refreshing, not preachy, new addition to the Christian fiction genre. This is about four multi-racial adopted sisters from a small town who scrapbook and help each other though life's challenges. The first one is about Tandy who lives in Orlando though her heart is back in Tennessee. I imagine a series brewing from this.

2. Coming Unglued is the second installment in this series. It features the black sister, Kendra, who is the quirky artist. The book promises to be a delightful experience. Again, it looks like Rebeca Seitz has developed some identifible and returning characters. The Sinclair sisters are Tandy, the red head of the first book, Kendra the bohemian artist, Meg the mommy, Joy the baby sister and fabulous cook.

3. Mim Warner's Lost Her Cool by Lynn Messina. Haven't read it yet, looks like another installment on the fashion world. Could be a fun read, the cover is fun.

4. Ditto for The Ivy Chronicles by Karen Quinn although I picked this one up because of the funny quasi-memoir I read this past fall about the private school world here in St. Louis. They scuttlebutt that the book was entirely fictional, however, everyone recognized MICDS and the other uber-illusive and ultra-private prep school world of the West County Suburbs. And for the life of me I can't recall the book.

I am putting down my fun and chic'lit for some serious reading. I'm reading Race Rules by Dr. Michael Eric Dyson this week in time for his January 10th keynote address. Next I'm picking up To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee for the January 16-18th theatrical performance here in St. Louis as part of the collaboration between Washington University, The Big Read, and the National Endowment for the Arts to get an entire community to read a book. I'll end January with reading The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald for a Mocha Mom's Movie Night In. My February pick is A Mercy by Toni Morrison to tie in with my declaration of 2009 as the Year of Black Female Literature. My nose will be buried in a book and the reviews will show up here!

Happy reading and sumptuous sipping!

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Happy New Year of Reading for Babies and Toddlers

I declared 2009 the year of Black Female Literature. I probably should have declared it the year of family reading. This blog is dedicated to books and book reviews. What is on my bookshelf, what is on my children's bookshelf, what my daughters are reading, what my sons' request. This is the place to turn off the TV and open the book.

Beginning with the very youngest.

I am a new aunt of a precious little micro-preemie named Taylor. The baby will have a hard journey to her real due date now that she is out-of-the-womb at only 24-weeks gestation. I told her mom, Kim, that one soothing thing she can do in addition to loving and touching her is to read to her. Here are some favorites:

1. The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle - really any of his books. The colors are engaging and the hard-back books have held up well with my two daughters. I actually read this story to my baby girls when they were nuzzled in my womb. There is something to this utero-hearing thing because they remember the story of all the food the catepillar ate to become a beautiful butterfly. This makes a perfect baby gift.

2. Goodnight Moon - a classic by Margaret Wise Brown, great for bedtime, board book version is best for babies. This makes a great ritual for daddy to read at bedtime.

3. If You Give a Mouse a Cookie - by Laura Joffe Numeroff (this is the best of her books). I love the adventure of this little mouse. It is also a great one for the baby to grow up with. My children love all the If You books. The illustrations are really good.

4. All Fall Down - a great board book by Helen Oxenbury (my copy is 20 years old). This board book is barely holding together, having been loved by four of my children. The multi-cultural babies on the bed, the simple cadence, the great pictures, this is a timeless favorite.

5. Please Baby Please - this is a great book written by Spike & Tonya Lee with fantastic illustrations, it reminded me of trying to get my little girl to do anything especially go to bed

6. Hush Little Baby by Sylvia Long - this is one of the girls' favorite bedtime books, it is a less materialistic version of the classic song, make up your own cadence and baby will love it. The girls still like to snuggle up and hear this and now that the older one can read, she tries to imitate the way I sang it to them.

Get the blanket, hold the baby, and read, read, read! Happy New Year

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