Monday, December 22, 2014

A Note from Cleo {+ Awesome Giveaway}

Once Upon a Grind by Cleo CoyleIt is with great delight that I welcome award-winning author Cleo Coyle here today to talk about her latest Coffeehouse Mystery, ONCE UPON A GRIND, the 14th installment in her fascinating series.

To celebrate the release, Cleo is offering an awesome giveaway – an autographed copy of ONCE UPON A GRIND and a durable canvas Coffeehouse Mystery Tote Bag! Please see the end of the post for more details.

First here’s a brief description of this amazing story:

When coffeehouse manager turned amateur sleuth Clare Cosi roasts “magic” beans for a Fairy Tale Fall event, she brews up a vision that leads to a sleeping beauty in Central Park; a big, bad wolf of Wall Street; and an East Side enclave with storybook secrets…
        Fairy tale fever has descended on New York City. Broadway fans are flocking to Red Riding Hood: The Musical; museums are exhibiting art inspired by the Brothers Grimm; and Clare Cosi and her merry band of baristas give their coffee truck a “Jack and the Beanstalk” makeover for a Central Park festival. Clare’s coffee hunter ex-husband contributes a bag of African beans with alleged magical properties. His octogenarian mother entertains customers with readings of the grinds, but Clare remains skeptical—until she receives a vision that helps her find a young model’s body in the park’s woods.
        The police dismiss “sleeping beauty” as the victim of a drug overdose. Then Clare uncovers evidence that points to a list of suspects—from a New York Giant to quite a few wicked witches—and a cold case murder that reaches back to the Cold War. Now Clare is really in the woods with a dangerous predator on her heels and an investigation that leads from a secret Prince Charming Club right back to her own NYPD detective boyfriend. If she doesn’t solve this mystery, those magic beans predict an unhappy ending.
Now join me in giving a warm welcome to Cleo and she shares a note with us. Welcome, Cleo.

For over a decade, our wonderful readers have been meeting us at the Village Blend, where coffee and crime are always brewing. This latest entry in our Coffeehouse series is more than a murder mystery. It’s also a novel about the magic and power of story. That’s why we chose the most basic and beloved stories of our culture—fairy tales—to serve as our motif. 

Like any good fairy tale, Once Upon a Grind takes you through secret doors; plays with your sense of reality; introduces you to an array of colorful characters; and while the ending may be happy, not everyone survives.

Intertwined with the murder mystery is a very personal story for our amateur sleuth. Coffeehouse manager Clare Cosi doesn’t want to admit it, but her life has become a grind. “If you ever find yourself in the wrong story, leave.” This is the epigraph that opens Once Upon a Grind, and it applies directly to Clare.
Coffeehouse-Mystery-Checklist-PDF-CoverShe wants to leave her story and start another, but she’s afraid of disappointing the people she loves. Is Clare able to change her story by the end of the book? No spoiler here. But if you’re a fan of our series, you won’t want to miss this entry.

On the other hand, if you’ve never read our Coffeehouse Mysteries before, no worries. Once Upon a Grind can be read as a stand-alone novel. And if you enjoy it, you’ll have 13 more books you can read, as well. 

To download a free checklist of all 14 Coffeehouse Mystery titles, click here. 

To read the Prologue and First Chapter of ONCE UPON A GRIND, click here. 

To sample some of the book’s wicked good RECIPES, click here.


Thank you to Mason Canyon and her excellent Thoughts in Progress blog for hosting us today. 

May your holidays be bright and your New Year be caffeinated!
~ Alice and Marc, who write as Cleo Coyle

Leave a comment and you will be entered to win an autographed copy of ONCE UPON A GRIND and this durable canvas Coffeehouse Mystery Tote Bag!

Cleo, thanks so much for visiting with us today and sharing this look at Clare and her current adventure. The setting and subject matter of this story quickly pulls you in.

For those not familiar with Cleo (aka Alice and Marc), here’s a bit of background.

Cleo Coyle is the pen name for Alice Alfonsi, who writes with her husband, Marc Cerasini. This popular married writing team was born and raised in Pittsburgh, met in New York City, and married in Las Vegas. 

Together they've authored a number of bestselling books. As Cleo Coyle, they write The Coffeehouse Mysteries. As Alice Kimberly, they write The Haunted Bookshop Mysteries.

For more on this writing duo, visit their website and connect with them on Facebook and Twitter.

Now for my thoughts on the book:

Fairy tales are a popular commodity right now and author Cleo Coyle knows how to blend the magical stories with murder, suspense, and coffee for a tantalizing outcome.

A weekend storybook festival in New York’s Central Park is the perfect setting for this cozy murder mystery. With visions of Prince Charming, various princesses, Jack and the Beanstalk (with magic coffee beans), and many other fairy tale characters, readers are quickly pulled into a fascinating world of greed, deception, and murder.

As the story speeds along, the twists and turns will keep you wondering who the real villain is. The characters are captivating, likable and realistic. The mix of fairy tales with magical coffee beans makes for a mesmerizing story.

You don’t have to be a coffee fan to enjoy this suspenseful mystery, but the tasty recipes included might tempt you to try a cup of Snow White Chocolate Mocha or ‘The Great Pumpkin’ Spice Latte. You can also try your hand at coffee tasseography (the art of reading coffee grinds).

The well-developed characters, the mystical setting and the suspense will have you quickly turning the pages of ONCE UPON A GRIND. A spellbinding mystery you won’t be able to put down.

Once Upon A Grind by Cleo Coyle, Coffeehouse Mystery Series Book #14, Berkley, @2014, ISBN: 978-0425270851, Hardcover, 416 Pages 

FTC Full Disclosure – A copy of this book was sent to me by the author. However, receiving the complimentary copy did not influence my review. The thoughts are completely my own and given honestly and freely.


This giveaway is for one autographed copy of ONCE UPON A GRIND and a Coffeehouse Mystery Tote Bag. The giveaway is open to U.S. residents only and will end at midnight on Wednesday, Dec. 31.

Just leave a comment (be sure to include your email address, if it’s not in your profile) and you will be entered to win. If you wish not to enter the giveaway but want to comment, just say not entering in your comment.

Thanks for stopping by today. Christmas is almost here and ONCE UPON A GRIND would make a wonderful gift for the mystery lover on your list. I’ve said it before and have to say it again, without Cleo’s encouragement in 2009 this blog won’t exist. Thanks Cleo for that and for the continued installments in one of my most favorite series.

*SIDE NOTE: I want to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. I may not be back online until Friday. I hope everyone has a wonderful time with their family and friends. Be safe and take care, my friends.

*This post contains affiliate links.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Blue Labyrinth by Preston & Child

Blue Labyrinth by Preston & Child - Thoughts in ProgressAuthors Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child pull you in with two intriguing storylines featuring odd murders and propel you to a breathtaking finish as the two expeditions collide in their latest release, BLUE LABYRINTH.

Narrator Rene Auberjonois does an excellent job giving distinct voices to the varied and eccentric characters. His vocals enhances the rich dialogue as his mannerisms add depth to the emotional roller coaster the characters play out. His portrayal of Pendergast is spine-tingling. 

Special Agent Aloysius Pendergast finds one of his most merciless enemies dead on his doorstep. The mystery grows as a piece of raw turquoise stone is found lodged in the dead man’s stomach.
The stone leads Pendergast to a small abandoned mine and to a mysterious illness that has ties to his own ancestors’ ominous past. This new killer is bend on revenge that has roots in a long-buried Pendergast family secret. As Pendergast races to find the killer, the killer become more determined to destroy all that Pendergast holds dear.

The twists and turns in this story will keep you on the edge of your seat as the highs and lows leave you breathless. The suspense is maddening and the murders diabolical. 

The characters are well-developed, most are likable while the rest are despicably villainous. The secondary characters play are larger role in this story and thrive. The setting changes, but the authors’ detailed descriptions places the reader/listener in the middle of the adventure.

While BLUE LABYRINTH is the 14th installment in the Special Agent Pendergast series, it can be read/listened to on its own. There are references to prior excursions in Pendergast’s life, but not to the point that new readers/listeners are lost.

This is an adrenaline drive, fast-pace thriller that will be hard to put down once you begin.

Blue Labyrinth by Preston & Child, Special Agent Pendergast Series Book #14, Narrated by Rene Auberjonois, Hachette Audio, @2014, ISBN: 978-1478982845, Unabridged, 12 Discs, Run Time: 14 Hours and 10 Minutes 

FTC Full Disclosure – A copy of this audio book was sent to me by the publisher in hopes I would review it. However, receiving the complimentary copy did not influence my review. The thoughts are completely my own and given honestly and freely.

Thanks for stopping by today. Hope you’re having a wonderful Sunday and have all your Christmas shopping finished. Do you enjoy thrillers that have you holding your breath waiting for the next move?

*This post contains affiliate links.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Sugar-Free Mom On Tour

Sugar Free MomI’m delighted to be participating in author Brenda Bennett and Cedar Fort Publishing’s virtual blog tour for Brenda’s latest release, SUGAR-FREE MOM: NATURALLY SWEET AND SUGAR-FREE RECIPES FOR THE WHOLE FAMILY.

With the holidays comes parties and family gatherings with loads of food and lots of sweet treats. It’s always difficult to find ways to prepare healthy food that your family will enjoy.

Author and food blogger Brenda Bennett has created helpful tips and delicious recipes in SUGAR-FREE MOM: NATURALLY SWEET AND SUGAR-FREE RECIPES FOR THE WHOLE FAMILY that will help when trying to lead a healthier lifestyle.

I found this book very informative and straight forward in that the author stresses this isn’t a diet book of low-calorie or even low-fat recipes. The mission of the cookbook, she explains, is cooking and baking without processed sugars. She incorporates natural sweeteners such as honey and coconut sugar in her recipes. She goes on to explain how her obsession/addiction to sugar created a roller coaster ride for her life for many years before she changed the way she approached cooking.

There are sections on what items the author has in her pantry, her kitchen essentials, sugar-free alternatives and avoiding refined flour products. All the recipes in SUGAR-FREE MOM include a nutritional information section that is calculated per serving. In addition, beautiful color photographs accompany the recipes depicting the delicious results.

The book is divided into the following categories: breakfast; light bites, salads, sides and more; main dishes; condiments; beverages; and sweet treats. Some of the yummy recipes include: Baked French Toast Sticks, Mock Tater Tots, Turkey Taco Stuffed Peppers, Quick Ketchup, Mocha Protein Coffee Frappe, and Chocolate Macaroons. 

This cookbook will give you delicious recipes to prepare for your family and friends, while also helping you make healthier choices for your lifestyle. Removing process sugar from one’s diet can’t be done overnight, but SUGAR-FREE MOM provides techniques and tips for making the transition easier with tasty results.

Sugar-Free Mom: Naturally Sweet and Sugar-Free Recipes for the Whole Family by Brenda Bennett, Front Table Books, @2014, ISBN: 978-1462114498, Paperback, 224 Pages 

FTC Full Disclosure – A copy of this book was sent to me by the publisher in hopes I would review it. However, receiving the complimentary copy did not influence my review. The thoughts are completely my own and given honestly and freely.


Brenda Bennett’s passion for cooking began at the age of 5 kneeling on a chair by her grandmother’s side helping roll homemade gnocchi’s on a flour covered butcher block table. Her love affair with cooking was a mere hobby while teaching as a special educator and earning a Master’s Degree in Education. After the birth of her second child, she had to give up sugar.  

With sear determination and a deep desire to still enjoy chocolate, her love affair with food embarked on a new journey learning to develop recipes free of refined sugars and flours. After discovering peanut, tree nut and soy allergies in 2 of her 3 children making homemade healthier versions of the treats they loved became a necessity. She transitioned to the position of homeschooling mom of 3, recipe developer, food writer, photographer and blogger. She focuses on wholesome delicious food free of processed flours and sugars to feed her family and share with friends and fans on

Brenda lives in RI with her husband, 3 children and their dog, Ruby. When she isn’t cooking, blogging or writing she can be found at spin class, camping, volunteering in cub scouts, or in the position of transportation engineer shuttling her children to karate, dance, boy scouts, soccer or softball.

Thanks so much for stopping by today. Hope you’re having a great Friday. If you’re looking to cut down on sugar in your recipes, be sure to check out SUGAR-FREE MOM. It’s a very informative cookbook. Do you use natural sugar in your cooking?

*This post contains affiliate links.

Sugar Free Mom blog tour banner - Thoughts in Progress

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Olivia Dunst Shares Her Opinion {+ Giveaway}

9780425268254 Spell Booked by Joyce and Jim Lavene - Thoughts in ProgressOne of the protagonist from SPELL BOOKED (by authors Joyce and Jim Lavene) visits today with a little insight into her current circumstance.

SPELL BOOKED is the first installment in the Retired Witches Mystery series by the Lavenes. Olivia Dunst is one of three witches featured in this brand new supernatural series. To celebrate the release of this new book, thanks to the lovely Danielle at Penguin Group, I have a print copy to giveaway. Please see the end of the post for more details.

First, here’s a brief synopsis ….

Once upon a time in Wilmington, North Carolina, three witches ran a curio shop named Smuggler’s Arcane. But as the years passed, their magical powers started to fade—leaving them no choice but to conjure up a retirement package…
        Before they could blink their eyes or twitch their noses, Molly, Elsie, and Olivia somehow became eligible for AARP. But they can’t fly off to Boca Raton just yet. First they must give up their magic, recruit and train three new witches, and pass on their cherished spellbook.
        They’ve barely begun to consider potential practitioners when Olivia winds up dead and their spellbook is stolen. To honor their friend and reclaim their spells, Molly and Elsie are about to go wand-to-wand with a dangerous young witch more powerful than the trio was in their prime. And this time they’re going to need more than magic up their sleeves…
Now please join me in welcoming Olivia as she shares her opinion with us. Welcome, Olivia.

I know the world can’t always be the way you want it to be, but come on! It doesn’t seem fair that I should be the one to die early out of the three of us. I wouldn’t wish anything on my friends, Molly or Elsie—although Elsie IS the oldest! I really wouldn’t want them to die alone in a dark alley as I did.

But I had just discovered my daughter. After all these years, there she was at the New Hanover Public Library. She’s a strong witch too, though she doesn’t know a thing about it. It’s not going to be easy training her, not like the way the three of us were trained by our mothers and grandmothers. But I had to make that decision for her sake. Her father would have taken her away in a heartbeat and I would never have seen her again. Not to mention that he probably would have taught her to be evil.

Yes, he was an evil, possibly immortal witch, but he was so handsome and had such an air about him. We had a wonderful time together. I came down from my pink love haze quickly when I found out I was pregnant. It was one thing for me to have a short dalliance with him and another to give him our daughter. Naturally some sacrifices had to be made. I must say that I think I choose to give up the worst part of her life, completely missing the poopy diapers and awkward teenage years.

Now she’s a beautiful young witch—and I’m dead. How is that fair? I was supposed to be there to teach her and watch her grow wise, and possibly more fashionable, each day. We should have been able to travel the world together. Now I’m a moldy old ghost who can’t even change my dress. 

Oh there are some advantages. I could eat whatever I want and never gain weight. I wouldn’t have to worry about having Elsie’s matronly figure. But I can’t eat at all! I have a chip on my nail polish that I’m going to have to live with for the next hundred years. That’s the lifespan for a ghost.

Maybe it’s not all bad. I can’t do magic anymore but I’ve known a few ghosts who had some amazing powers. There was this wonderful ghost of a handsome Revolutionary War captain on Fifth Street at the bed and breakfast. He had some smooth moves! I hated when they tore that place down.

I have to reinvent myself. I have to learn how to be a ghost. Not a puny, pathetic ghost like those young girls looking for a ride home in every town. I want to be a strong ghost. A dashing, sexy ghost. It’s time that I took charge of my afterlife.

As soon as I figure out how to get through this door!

“Elsie? Molly?”

Olivia, thanks for sharing your dilemma with us. It’s a shame you had to die, but I’m sure you’ll make everything work just the same. Smile


Joyce and Jim Lavene have written more than forty novels together. They also write short stories, non-fiction articles and teach writing workshops. They also use the pseudonym J.J. Cook. Their hobbies include gardening — they are certified Master Gardeners — and photography.

For more on the Lavenes and their writing, visit their website.

Now for my thoughts on SPELL BOOKED ….

This is an enchanting story with protagonists of a certain age many readers can relate to. The secondary characters add depth to the story. Overall the characters are likable and well-developed.

The story flows at a steady pace holding your attention as twists keep you guessing. The setting draws you in as the magical becomes believable.

Authors Joyce and Jim Lavene have crafted a fascinating new series that will have readers wishing for more. The story is magical and the characters are mesmerizing.

Spell Booked by Joyce and Jim Lavene, Retired Witches Mystery series Book #1, Berkley Prime Crime, @2014, ISBN: 978-0425268254, Paperback, 304 Pages 

FTC Full Disclosure – A copy of this book was sent to me by the publisher in hopes I would review it. However, receiving the complimentary copy did not influence my review. The thoughts are completely my own and given honestly and freely.


This giveaway is for one print copy of SPELL BOOKED. The giveaway is open to U.S. residents only and will end at 12 a.m. on Sunday, Dec. 28. 

To enter, just click on the Rafflecopter widget below and following the instructions. The widget may take a few seconds to load, so please be patient. The winner from this giveaway will have 72 hours to respond after being contacted or another winner will be selected. The email will have ‘Thoughts in Progress Spell Booked Tour’ in the subject line, just so you know what to watch for (in case it goes into your spam folder).

Thanks so much for stopping by today. What do you think of Olivia’s situation? Do you think a ghost can be of help to the witches?

*This post contains affiliate links.
  a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Christmas in Cupid Falls {+ One}

Christmas in Cupid Falls by Holly Jacobs - Thoughts in ProgressThere are times you need a story that inspires hope and magic. Author Holly Jacobs has created that type of story in her latest release, CHRISTMAS IN CUPID FALLS.

The narration by Tanya Eby brings the quirky characters to life. Her vocalizations enhances this delightful story. Eby performs the various emotions with heart.

In this first installment of Jacob’s Cupid Falls series, Kennedy Anderson has worked hard to be a part of the small town of Cupid Falls. Operating her late aunt’s flower shop, Kennedy has big plans to help the town grow as its mayor. With her kind heart, charming personality, and business sense, the town rallies behind her and doesn’t question that she’s a single woman about to give birth any day.

Malcolm Carter returns to Cupid Falls at the request of his grandfather. Working as a lawyer in the big city, Malcolm hasn’t returned home since his mother’s death almost nine months earlier. Arriving in Cupid Falls, Malcolm is surprised to learn the girl next door (Kennedy) is having his baby. It seems the night they spent consoling each other over his mother’s death has life changing consequences.

While she has had a crush on Malcolm since high school, Kennedy is determined to raise the child on her own with Malcolm out of the picture. The son of divorced parents, Malcolm is just as determined to do right by Kennedy and his child.

It will take the residents of Cupid Falls and some Christmas magic for Kennedy and Malcolm to accept what others already know.

This is an enchanting story of love and friendship. The small town atmosphere adds depth to the story and enhances the charm of the eccentric residents.

CHRISTMAS IN CUPID FALLS will have you laughing as it warms your heart. A fun story of Christmas magic that will brighten your mood no matter the season.

Christmas in Cupid Falls by Holly Jacobs, Cupid Falls Series Book #1, Narrated by Tanya Eby, Brilliance Audio, @2014, ISBN: 978-1491535073, Unabridged, 1 MP3 Disc, Run Time: 6 Hours and 44 Minutes 

FTC Full Disclosure – A copy of this audio book was sent to me by the publisher in hopes I would review it. However, receiving the complimentary copy did not influence my review. The thoughts are completely my own and given honestly and freely.


I just had to include a couple of photographs of my late mother-in-law’s Christmas cactus. They are in full bloom. Several of the plants are a beautiful shade of pink and the others are a deep red. The difference in the colors doesn’t show up well in these photos.

Pink Christmas Cactus - Thoughts in ProgressIt’s strange how the plants bloom. There are three Christmas cactus plants that stay on a shelf in front of the window in the utility room year round. These plants usually don’t bloom until January. Right now they don’t even have any buds on them.

The other plants (about eight larger plants) are placed outside in their contains during the summer months and only brought in when the weather begins to threaten frost. They are placed in a closed in porch where the temperature is a bit cooler than the utility room. These are the plants that are blooming now.

Christmas cactus - Thoughts in Progress Well, thanks for stopping by. I know it’s getting to be a busy time of year with holiday preparations going on. I hope I’ve enticed you to check out CHRISTMAS IN CUPID FALLS. It’s a fun story and I forgot to mention there’s a special cookie recipe included. Do you have any plants that bloom at different times even though they are the same type? Any ideas why these cactus bloom at different times?

*This post contains affiliate links.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Damascena: The Tale of Roses and Rumi

Cover_DamascenaIt’s always a delight to be able to share new books with you. Today I’d like to tell you about internationally acclaimed author Holly Lynn Payne’s latest fiction novel, DAMASCENA: The Tale of Roses and Rumi.

This is a story about a legendary girl saint whose life is changed forever when she meets the great Persian poet, Rumi, in the 13th century. Here’s a brief description of the book.

      Holly Payne's spellbinding tale brings the unparalleled poet, Mevlana Rumi, to life, and transports readers to the enchanting world of 13th century Persia. Simply but elegantly told, the story unravels the mystery surrounding a legendary orphaned girl, who discovers her gift of turning roses into oil.
      Named after the flowering rosa damascena, the girl reluctantly assumes the role of a living saint for the miracles she performs-longing for the only one that matters: finding her mother. Deeply wounded by the separation since birth, Damascena undergoes a riveting transformation when she meets Rumi and finally discovers the secret of the rose.
      Imbued with rich historical research and inspired by the devastating disappearance of Rumi's most lauded spiritual companion, Shams of Tabriz, Holly Payne has courageously opened herself to receive Rumi's teachings and offer a timeless love story. 

Here’s what others are saying about this tantalizing new release.
Damascena is a stunner. Holly Payne takes us into the yearning at the heart of the mystic’s search. She turns the Sufi quest for connection with God into a human drama that is both moving and soaring.” — Tamim Ansary, author of Games without Rules: The Often-Interrupted History of Afghanistan 

“Holly Payne has deftly captured the magic, beauty, and ecstatic energy of the Sufi's ancient sema dance with her story about a girl, Damascena, whose life transcends her own world, and ours. The prose transports the reader creating astonishing characters and at times, a thriller-like the plot, carrying us into a world that is part hallucination and part real as Payne weaves in themes of loss, beauty, devotion, evil, struggle, magic, and, ultimately, love.” — David Ewing Duncan, best-selling author of Experimental Man: What one man's body reveals about his future, your health, and our toxic world

“Holly Payne's latest novel touches Jelaluddin Rumi's essential beauty within the fragrance of 13th century Turkey and the rich tapestry of his life as a mystic, poet and honored scholar. Payne exposes the very human challenges Rumi encountered as he grew into one of the greatest poets of all time.” — Murshida Mariam Baker, author of Woman as Divine: Tales of the Goddess senior teacher, Sufi Ruhaniat International and the Mevlevi Order of America

“This is one of the most gorgeous novels I've ever read. Payne’s research was so thorough. It makes me want to learn more about the dervishes, their religious practices, and about Rumi and his achingly beautiful poetry. The themes of forgiveness, spirituality and all the different forms of love resonated with me on every page.” — Laura Marquez, Emmy Winner and former ABC News Correspondent


Holly Lynn Payne is an internationally published novelist in ten countries whose work has been translated into eight languages. Dutton/Plume published her first two novels, The Sound of Blue and The Virgin’s Knot, her debut novel, selected as a Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers and Border’s Original Voices book. Her third book, Kingdom of Simplicity, won the Benjamin Franklin Award, a Marin Arts Council Grant, Grand Prize for the Writers Digest Self-Published Book Awards and was nominated for a National Book Award in Belgium. It was published in Taiwan, China and the Netherlands. 

A native of Pennsylvania, Payne graduated from University of Richmond with a degree in journalism and earned a MFA from University of Southern California. She has taught throughout the San Francisco Bay Area, serving on the faculty at California College of the Arts and Stanford.  She lives in Northern California with her young daughter and serves the literary community as a writing coach, editor and volunteer producer for Litquake.

For more on Payne and her writing, visit her website and blog and connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.

DAMASCENA: The Tale of Roses and Rumi can be found at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Goodreads.

Thanks for stopping by today. I hope I’ve enticed you to check out this book further. Hope you’re having a great week and have all your holiday preparations underway.