Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Death and Taxes

Title: Death and Taxes (first book in a series)

Author: Mark Zaslove

Publisher: Aperient Press, 2018

Pages: 219

Genre: mystery / crime, humor

Obtained: from author's publicity manager in exchange for an honest review






Synopsis: When Mark Douglas' friend and supervisor, Lila, is brutally murdered, he is determined to find out why and catch the bad guys.

Thoughts: This book begins with an action packed, humorous raid to collect back taxes, and quickly introduces the good guys.  The main character, Mark, was a Marine and is now an IRS agent.  There are some quirky, colorful characters in this book.  In a way, in the beginning, this book reminded me of Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum series, but with a male protagonist.  The story line itself was simple and easy to follow. The focus of the writer seemed to be the humor, but even more so than in Evanvich's writing.

I have never liked comedy shows and there are many comedy movies that I just can't get into.  I find about the first five minutes funny, and then, I just lose interest with line after line of jokes that are supposed to make me laugh.  They're just not funny to me after those first few.  The same happens when I read comical books.  I enjoy a book more when there is a really good story and all throughout the book, every once in awhile, there is something funny unexpectedly thrown in.  When there is just line after line of humor, I lose interest.  Unfortunately that is what happened with this book and it was hard for me to get through.  Now I know MANY people just love this type of humor, and you'll probably love this book, especaiily if you like unconventional characters.  So, if you're looking for a good old fashioned mystery or crime novel, this is not what you are looking for, but, if you are looking for a comical book that doesn't let up on the funny lines, this is for you.  This book is definitely for adults.


                                                                    



Company: Davids Tea

Tea: Toasted Walnut

Obtained: free sample with order


Today I tried Toasted Walnut tea from Davids Tea, which is a green tea that has a low caffeine content.  The ingredients were sencha green tea, nut brittle (sugar, hazelnut), pineapple (pineapple, sugar), coconut (coconut, coconut fat, sugar), walnuts, almonds, and natural and artficial flavouring.  Some of the leaves were long and thin, while others were small, short pieces.  There was quite a large piece of walnut in my sample, along with chunks that looked like dried, sugar coated pineapple.  The scent of the leaves was of toasted coconut, sweet nuts, and a hint of fruit.  I put my sample packet in my tea steeper and poured 16 ounces of water that had been boiled over the leaves.  I let this sit for 3 minutes.  The liquid was a cloudy yellow with a scent of toasted coconut and nuts.  The taste was a nice combination of coconut, nuts, and fruit and had a slight sweetness to it.  This was a warming tea that gave me a cozy feeling.  This would be a great tea for a relaxing, snowy day.  I think it would go great with any book. 

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Memory Man

Title: Memory Man

Author: David Baldacci

Narrator: Ron McLarity with Orlash Cassidy

Publisher: Hachette Audio, 2015

Format: 11 compact discs, 13.5 hours

Genre: mystery, crime fiction

Obtained: borrowed from friend




Synopsis: Amos Decker, a police detective, arrives home to find his family brutally murdered.  Over a year later a man turns himself in to the police, confessing that he was the one who murdered Decker's family. Decker feels the need to meet this man and ends up getting himself involved in helping the police with another high profile investigation.  Can Decker use his gifts to solve both of these crimes?

Thoughts: I listened to this book while doing mundane chores and driving.  It kept me entertained and I enjoyed it.  The story itself was not believable, and there was too much repetition at times, but it did hold my interest.  There was a lot going on throughout the book which is a big plus to me.  The author also gave details throughout the book which helped me to picture the story in my mind, along with the characters.

Although the main character was not exciting or charismatic, I liked that he was different- overweight, homeless, and couldn't forget anything due to a brain injury that occurred playing football.  To be honest, it was hard to connect to him at first, but by the end I sort of liked him.  The narrator did help to bring him to life.  The other characters were interesting and I was pleased that the author gave the reader some of their stories, but I wanted to know more.  This is the first in a series though, so maybe the author will share more about these characters in future books.  I have actually started the second book, which I am, so far, enjoying even more than the first one.

I would definitely recommend this book to mystery / crime fiction lovers looking for a new series.  I do have to say that some of the crimes are quite gruesome, so if this really bothers you, skip this one.


                                                                    



Company: Davids Tea

Tea: Organic Super Ginger

Obtained: purchased


Today I tried a caffeine free rooibos tisane- Organic Super Ginger from Davida Tea.  The ingredients were ginger, green rooibos, black pepper, white pepper, pink peppercorn, and natural flavouring.  The small, brown, thin leaves were combined with chunks of ginger and pink peppercorns.  The scent of the dry tea was of ginger.  I poured about a cup of water that had been boiled over approximately a teaspoon of tea and let this steep for five minutes.  The liquid was yellowish brown and had a ginger scent to it.  The taste was of ginger and spice, which balanced each other out resulting in a delicious tea.  I could not taste the rooibos at all.  This tea left a soothing tingly feeling in my throat and cleared my sinuses.  This is a warming , comforting tea, that would definitely be good when fighting off a cold or the flu.









Friday, December 28, 2018

Dracul

Title: Dracul

Authors: Dacre Stoker and J. D. Barker

Publisher: Penguin Random House, 2018

Pages: 493

Genre: horror, gothic fiction

Obtained: from publisher in exchange for an honest review




Summary: Ellen Crone, the nanny of Bram Stoker when he was a child, was a strange woman.  At times she would disappear and then return, acting like nothing was out of the ordinary.  After some murders in a nearby town, Ellen disappeared for good.  Years later Ellen has been spotted by Bram's sister Matilda.  This sighting has coincided with Matilda seeing an obituary with a picture of one of the murdered victims who has not aged since his first death.  How can the same man die twice?

Thoughts: Dracul was written as the prequel to Dracula by Bram Stoker.  Dacre Stoker, the great grand nephew of Bram, teamed up with author, J.D. Barker to create this novel.  The authors used a combination of notes from the journals of Bram Stoker (which included such things as story ideas and information about vampires), and the actual history of the Stoker family, weaving both fiction and nonfiction together to construct this novel.  The result is a book written with a similar writing style to Bram Stoker, which again brings the world of Dracula to life, giving the reader more information and insight into this character.  In addition, it also brings Bram Stoker and his family to life since they are characters in the novel.  The atmosphere and pacing are much like that of Dracula (although I actually found the beginning of this book to be even more creepy), but the story is new. Although the book was 493 pages and looked long, the book did not seem too lengthy while reading it.

Dracula has always been one of my favorite books and I was very skeptical of a prequel to it, but this did not disappoint me at all.  I loved it, and I don't think it could have been done any better.  I was sucked right into the story and stayed there until the end.  This is a must read for anyone that likes the old school horror stories.  Well done!

 I now want to reread Dracula.


                                                                          


Company: Davids Tea

Tea: Strawberry Rhubarb Parfait

Obtained: purchased


Today I tried Strawberry Rhubarb Parfait tea from Davids Tea.  Did you know that, in Romania, hot teas are thought of as something to drink when you have a cold or other physical ailment, and that in a restaurant you would probably only be able to get a fruity, sweet herbal tea?  Well, this is what I read on kingofromania.com .  And isn't this the perfect color tea for a vampire novel?

Anyway, the leaves of this tea were not really leaves, but looked mostly like chunks of dried fruit, which had a strong, fruity scent.  The ingredients of this herbal tea were apple, hibiscus, raisins, carrot, yogurt bits (milk powder, sugar, maltodextrin, modified starch, citric acid), beetroot, strawberry, rhubarb, and natural and artificial flavouring.  I put about two teaspoons of tea into my teapot and poured sixteen ounces of water that had been boiled over this.  I let this brew for about five minutes.  The liquid was a stunning red and the light scent was of sweet strawberries.  The taste was a mix of sweet and tart fruits with the strawberry in the forefront.  It reminded me of strawberry rhubarb pie, maybe with whipped cream on top because it had a creamy aftertaste. If you like sweet strawberry herbal tea, I'm sure you'd like this!


Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Rogue Lawyer

Title: Rogue Lawyer

Author: John Grisham

Narrator: Mark Deakins

Publisher: Random House Audio, 2015

Genre: mystery, legal thriller

Format: 9 compact discs,  11 1/2 hours

Obtained: passed on from friend




Summary: Sebastian Rudd is a criminal defender who works out of his van and has one employee, who may also be his only friend.  In this book, the reader follows Rudd's life along with his cases.

Thoughts:  I really enjoyed the characters in this story, especially Sebastian Rudd.  If he was a real person, I don't think I would even like him, but I enjoyed reading about him.  The book itself was a collection of Rudd's cases with his life story intertwined.  I enjoyed this format which was quite different for John Grisham.  It kind of shook things up.  I also enjoyed learning about different aspects of the legal system through the various cases.

I like John Grisham's writing style, and although the format of this book was a bit different, the writing style remained the same.  He seems to write about complicated legal matters in a way that an individual not involved with the courts could understand.  He also has many things going on in the story at the same time, but writes so as not to confuse the reader.

The narrator portrayed the characters very well, and spoke clearly.  He told the story at a good pace.  The narrator and the story held my attention and I looked forward to listening to this book.

If you like legal thrillers and interesting characters- give this one a try.



                                                                   




Company: Davids Tea


Tea: Organic Cream of Earl Grey

Obtained: purchased





Today I tried the Organic Cream of Earl Grey from Davids Tea.  The ingredients were black tea, marigolds, cornflowers, and natural flavouring.  This tea has a high caffeine content.  The black tea leaves were long and thin and there were marigold petals mixed in with the tea leaves. They had a sweet scent, not of bergamot like I expected.  I didn't see any cornflower petals.  I put a little over a teaspoon of leaves into my tea ball and poured about 8 ounces of water that had been boiled over the leaves.  I let this steep for 3 minutes.  The dark orange liquid had a faint sweet scent.  The taste was a mixture of flavours. There was a taste of bold, rich black tea, and in the background was a bit of citrus and a bit of sweet vanilla.  I really liked this tea.  It was very different from other earl grey cream teas I have tried.  It wasn't quite as creamy and the background flavour was more of citrus than the usual bergamot taste.  I also liked that the black tea was so bold.  This was a wonderful blend that I really enjoyed on this cold winter day.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Colossal

Title: Colossal (Issue #1)

Author: Lennox McCaskill

Publisher: self published, 2015

Genre: mystery, fantasy

Pages: 372

Obtained: from author in exchange for an honest review






Summary: Detectives Wreings and Donnelly are assigned to investigate a fiery crime scene in which a body has been found.  When they begin their examination, they make some very odd discoveries, eventually leading to the revelation that this was no ordinary crime.

Thoughts: There were so many things that I liked about this book.  It started out as a police investigation mystery, but I soon found that this was not a typical mystery.  As the story progressed, it almost had an X-Files feel to it. I found the story to be fresh, and new, and I liked how the author combined a mystery with the story of super humans.  I also liked the author's writing style.  It was organized, descriptive, and his characters were developed.  The story was told at a good pace, and the writer held my attention throughout the book. 

The only thing that may bother readers is that there were so many unanswered questions at the end of the book.  This gave me an unsatisfied feeling, but did make me want to read the next book.  It is the first book in the series and I'm sure at least some of the questions will be answered in the books that follow, but I know some readers do not like loose ends at the close of a book.  So be aware- this is not a stand alone read.  Although there is violence in this book (not more so than movies and video games), I would recommend it for young adults and up.


                                                                     




Company: Davids Tea 

Tea: Organic Cold 911

Obtained: purchased




Today I tried the Organic Cold 911 tea from Davids Tea.  The ingredients of this caffeine free, herbal tea were peppermint, apple, juniper berries, and natural eucalyptus and orange flavouring.  According to the Davids Tea website, this tea may help you feel better if you have a cold because it is "cooling and cleansing on the respiratory system".  The leaves were a potpourri of tiny brown and green leaves, orange brown chunks, and dried berries.  The leaves had a light mint and herbal scent.   I put 1 1/2 teaspoons of tea into my tea ball and poured 8 ounces of water that had been boiled over the tea.   I let this steep for 5 minutes.  The yellow liquid had a peppermint / eucalyptus scent.  The taste was of peppermint with a hint of fruit and eucalyptus.  It had a slight sweetness to it. This was a soothing, comforting tea, not only to drink, but just to hold and take in the scent.  I have a slight cold and this tea seemed to drain my sinuses and sooth my sore throat.  I highly recommend this tea if you have a cold.


Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Behind Closed Doors

Title: Behind Closed Doors

Author: B. A. Paris

Narrator: Georgia Maguire

Publisher: Macmillan Audio, 2016

Format: 8 hours and 23 minutes, audio book download

Genre: psychological thriller

Obtained: library



Summary: Jack and Grace seem to have the perfect marriage, but what goes on behind closed doors?

Thoughts: The best thing about this book was the way the author told the story.  I loved the little unexpected twists and turns, not huge ones, just little ones, throughout the book.  The story did not always go where I thought it would.  Also, I liked the way she organized the story, jumping around in time.  It was not confusing, but creative.  She told the story in a way that was quite different from other psychological thrillers I have read.  It was not fast paced, although it was a quick read.  I wanted to know what would happen next, but it was more horror than suspense. 

The downside of this book  was that  it was really unbelievable.  The characters had unique personalities, but did not seem realistic and I didn't feel like I got to know them on a deep level.  The actual story was disturbing and did not seem plausible.

The narrator was a good match for this book.  She told the story in a clear voice and at a good pace.  She portrayed the characters wonderfully and made me shiver the way she had the villain say "perfect".  I would love to listen to more books that Georgia Maguire has narrated.

If you can read about domestic abuse and animal cruelty without being offended and don't mind fiction that is unbelievable, you might appreciate the author's way of writing a psychological thriller. 


                                                            



Company: Davids Tea 

Tea: Just Peachy

Obtained: purchased


The Just Peachy tea from Davids Tea is supposed to make the "perfect peach iced tea", according to the website.  I tried it and it was just too sweet for me.  My review can be read here.  Today I was in the mood for something warm and sweet since  I just came in from driving my kids to school in the snow.  I tried the Just Peachy tea hot.  This is a caffeine free herbal tea which includes apple, apple pomace (apple pomace, citric acid), sweet blackberry leaves, peach (peach, sugar), and natural and artificial flavouring.  The leaves had the scent of peaches and were really chunks of brown and off white fruit with some green leaves mixed in.  I put 1 1/2 teaspoons of leaves into my teapot and poured 16 ounces of water over them.  I let this steep for 5 minutes.  The pale yellow liquid had a strong peach scent.  The taste was of sweet peaches with a hint of berry in the background.  The aftertaste was a bit too sweet for me.  I am a person who does not like sugar in her tea, so for those that do, this would not be too sweet.  I did love the strong peach flavour with the hint of berry.  I did like this tea better hot than cold, but I was craving sweet, so that may have been why.  If you love sweet peach tea, this one is for you.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Title: Lessons From Life: Four Keys to Living with More Meaning, Purpose and Success

Author: Steven M. Darter

Publisher: self-published, 2018

Genre: self-help

Pages: 233

Obtained: from author in exchange for an honest review





Summary: The author describes how human beings are designed for certain things and how each person is given a specific set of talents and gifts to use toward his or her purpose.  How can we use what we have been given to do what we were intended to do successfully? 

Thoughts: I really enjoyed this thought provoking book.  The author describes a process of self exploration using his life experiences as examples.  He looks at identifying gifts and interests, making sure they are being used in a positive way, and how to stay on the right track to achieve meaning, purpose, and success in one's life.  Some of the ideas the author presented were very familiar to me since I worked as a career counselor, but many were new.  I kept thinking how, if I had read this book when doing this work, my clients would have benefited from this information.  I also liked that though the author's background is in career counseling, especailly at the excecutive level, he writes this book so that ANYONE can benefit from it, even those that don't necessarily have a career (someone retired, or a stay at home Mom or Dad).  The best part about the book, though, was the author's inspirational, amusing stories from his own life and how he used and continues to use the ideas in this book to grow.  He told his story in such a way that I could relate to it.  His struggles were not the same as mine, but I believe anyone could use his examples to help understand the points he was trying to make.

I liked the author's writing style.  It had a down to earth flare and was engaging.  I liked the humor the author used throughout the book.  He used just the right amount of repetition to make the most pertinent information stick in my brain.  The small problem I had with the book, and it may have been the way I process information, was that I had trouble bringing everything together at the end.  I could take in each piece and understand it and think about my life in regards to it, but at the end I felt like I had a bunch of pieces and not a full picture.  It may be a book I just have to read more than once because I just cannot pinpoint how it could have been organized differently to bring everything together more tightly for me.  I do think one more read through with pauses for thinking and reflecting would bring it all together.

Although I would not describe this book as religious, one of the central parts of the book is God.  How can I say I would not describe it as religious?  I believe that even if the reader does not believe in God, the other pieces of the book would be beneficial and thought provoking.

This is a fantastic book for self reflection and self exploration.  It would be helpful for an adult of any age, no matter where you are on your life journey. 





                                                                      



Company: Plum Deluxe

Tea: Oregon Breakfast Black Tea

Obtained: sample with tea of the month club

I got this sample of Oregon Breakfast Black Tea with my November, Plum Deluxe tea of the month club delivery.  The ingredients were black tea, honeybush tea, orange peel, and hazelnut essence.  The brown and black, small, thin leaves were mixed with white and light brown chunks and smelled of hazelnuts.  I put 1 1/2 teaspoons of leaves into my teapot and poured 16 ounces of water that had been boiled over the leaves.  I let this steep for 3 minutes.  The brownish orange liquid also had a hazelnut scent.  The taste was of hazelnuts and was slightly sweet.  I could taste a hint of orange in the background, but I don't think I would have noticed it if I hadn't read the ingredients first and knew there was orange peel in the tea as it is very subtle.  I really had to search for it.  This was a delicious, rich, warming tea that is perfect for breakfast.  I imagine this would go wonderfully with most desserts as well.  If you are like me and love the scent of hazelnut coffee, but are not a coffee drinker- definitely try this one!