Thursday, April 13, 2017

The Journey Home

512I3CEv+hL._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg (260×260)Title: The Journey Home

Author & Illustrator: Emma Levey

Publisher: Sky Pony Press, March 2017

Pages: 32

Genre: picture book (ages 3-6)

Obtained: from publisher in exchange for an honest review

     This is the second book in the Hattie Peck series.  In Hattie Peck, since Hattie is not able to lay her own eggs, she travels the world looking for abandoned eggs (not all bird eggs) and hatches them.  The Journey Home continues the story of Hattie Peck.  She has raised all these diverse children and it is time for them to "leave the nest".  She goes on a journey to return them home.  At the end, she is alone for the first time for their collective birthday and all the children surprise her by returning home with a gift for her.
     I just love the illustrations in this book.  They are all bright colors, cheerful, and busy.  The animals are adorable.  These are pictures that families can look at again and again, talking about the details.
     The story is heartwarming and teaches about diversity, family, adoption, and love.  There are some difficult words for those that are 3 to 6 years old (examples: elements, chaotic, hatchling), but the writing is not complicated and is brief.  A parent can easily explain any new words in this book to children without them getting overwhelmed, making a good opportunity to teach new vocabulary.
     The Journey Home can be read alone, but I recommend reading both touching stories to your child.


Company: Joy's Teaspoon                                 

Tea: Mahalo

Obtained: purchased

     Joy's Teaspoon, located in Las Vegas, Nevada offers over 70 loose leaf teas and brewing accessories.  The company is involved in the green initiative and does its part in making sure workers involved in the production of their teas are paid fairly and have access to things such as medical care and education.
     I purchased the Top Teas Sampler Pack.  It came in a nice box that could easily be gift wrapped.  There were 10 small, good quality tins inside.  Each tin makes at least 2 cups of tea.
    The Mahalo tea is a green tea blended with pineapple cubes, mango cubes, flavoring, safflower, and sunflower blossoms.  The leaves in my tin were long and green.  There were some smaller red and yellow leaves mixed in along with small chunks of fruit.  The scent of the leaves was of sweet tropical fruit.  I put one teaspoon of leaves in my tea pot and poured 8 ounces of water that had been boiled over the leaves.  I let this steep for 2 minutes.  The liquid was a pretty yellow and the scent was almost nonexistent, but I could detect a very faint tropical fruit aroma.  I was surprised at this because the scent of the leaves had been so strong.  The light taste was a delicious blend of tropical fruit and green tea with the pineapple standing out.  There was a very pleasant mild sweetness to it.
     This is a smooth, refreshing tea.  The website states this is an excellent thirst quencher in hot summer months.  I bet it is!  This is definitely one to try if you are looking for something tropical.    

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

The Eye of Nefertiti

5132SfmBaML._SY346_.jpg (230×346)Title: The Eye of Nefertiti

Author: Maria Luisa Lang

Publisher: Maria Luisa Lang, 2016 (self-published)

Pages: 203

Genre: fantasy

Obtained: from author in exchange for an honest review

Summary: Wrappa-Hamen, a time-traveling cat from ancient Egypt who has been given the abilities to talk and walk upright like humans, continues his adventures.  This cat first began to relay his adventures and how he got his gifts in The Pharoah's Cat.  In this new book, Wrappa-Hamen must help Nefertiti to end her immortality.

Thoughts: This is a fun book for those looking for a light, humorous read.  The writing style is simple and straight forward.  The story is told at a great pace.  It is very easy to follow even though there is time travel and the settings are frequently changing.  The reader is able to picture the settings because of the great descriptions.  Even though this is not a deep book, family and love are themes throughout the story.
     Wrappa-Hamen, the narrator, is a fantastic character.  He is charming and funny, and through her writing, the author never lets the reader forget that Wrappa-Hamen is a cat. The other characters don't compare to Wrappa-Hamen, but they are still developed and likeable.
     The reader weaves ancient Egypt and Nefertiti throughout this story.  I kept thinking it would be great if the author did a short nonfiction book to go along with her fiction story - kind of like in the Magic Tree House series, but for adults.  I wanted to know more about these topics as I read, especially about Nefertiti.       This would be a terrific book for any cat lover, or anyone that would like to follow the grand, humorous adventures of an Egyptian cat that frequently gets himself into trouble.  Even though the book is the second written about Wrappa- Hamen, the author gives enough back information so that the book can be read alone.



Company: Eastern Shore Tea Company                                           

Tea: Vanilla 

Obtained: gift


     When I looked at the website for Eastern Shore Tea Company, I was pleasantly surprised to discover they have many different tea flavors that I'd like to try.  The company puts their tea in reusable muslin tea bags which are made of oxygen whitened non-bleached paper.  The tea bags are all individually wrapped in foil, keeping them fresh.  The tea bags do not have tags, string, or staples.  They are eco-friendly and can be microwaved.  All their teas are pesticide and gluten free.  Their decaffeinated teas are done so naturally.
     My vanilla tea came in a "ribbon bag".  The bag was pretty (as seen in the picture above) and of good quality.  I thought it was a beautiful gift.  Inside were 20 individually wrapped tea bags.  The foil wraps were good quality and also very pretty.  The scent of the tea bag was of black tea and sweet vanilla.  I put the tea bag in my cup and poured 8 ounces of water that had been boiled over the tea.  I let this steep for 5 minutes.  The liquid was a dark reddish brown.  The scent of the liquid was of sweet vanilla and black tea.  The taste was of bold, strong black tea and sweet vanilla.  The feel was smooth.  There was no astringency to this tea.
     I thought this was a delicious blend.  It would make a wonderful dessert tea or a sweet, calorie- free treat anytime.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Beastly Bones

26173411._UY200_.jpg (200×200)Title: Beastly Bones

Author: William Ritter

Narrator: Nicola Barber

Publisher: Recorded Books, 2015

Format: 6 compact discs 

Genre: mystery, fantasy, paranormal

Obtained: library

Summary: It is 1892 in New Fiddleham, New England.  Abigail Rook and her employer, R. F. Jacoby are very busy with their paranormal investigations. They are asked to investigate a cat that has turned into a fish.  The next day the owner of the "cat" is found murdered.  In Gad's Valley, where Charlie Cane, a friend of Rook and Jacoby, is a policeman, there are more strange occurrences.  These include the theft of a dinosaur bone, and another mysterious death.  Charlie asks Rook and Jacoby for some help in figuring out what is happening.

Thoughts:  This is the second book in the Jacoby series.  I just loved the first book and I thought the second was just as good, if not better.  This book had the same terrific characters as the first with some additions.  The author creates wonderful, lovable characters that he brings to life through the pages.  Both his major and minor characters are distinct and quirky and the reader feels like they are there with them.  The author also has created a magical world that he brings to life, complete with all sorts of supernatural beings.  As I read the book, I couldn't wait to see what being I would discover next.  What this author does with his world and characters is similar to J. K. Rowling.  How they come up with characters and settings, and make them seem real is amazing to me!
     There were more subplots in this book than the first in the series, making the book more layered, which held my interest even more than in the first book.  Although I figured out the major mystery quickly, this was okay, because there was so much else going on, and of course, just experiencing the characters and the world was enjoyable.
    The author's writing style is light and humorous.  The writing is easy to follow and keeps the reader engaged and entertained throughout.  I love how the author brings folklore and myths into the stories.  The author makes sure to wrap everything up at the end, and lets the reader know what is to come next in Ghostly Echoes, the third in the Jacoby series.
     The narrator is excellent.  She helps bring the characters to life, adding to their personalities.  She speaks clearly and reads at a great pace.  She reads with emotion.
     This is a fun, enjoyable series.  You don't have to be a mystery lover to enjoy this series.  The characters, settings, and supernatural beings are what makes these books so enjoyable.  I recommend this book for middle school to adult readers.


Company: French Creek Tea Company
P.O. Box 5021, Custer, SD 57730
phone: 605-673-5383

Tea: Mountain Berry

Obtained: sample from company

     Mountain Berry Tea from the French Creek Tea Company is a blend of black teas flavored with huckleberry, blackberry, and vanilla.  The sample was in a resealable zip lock bag that was of good quality, pleasing to the eye, and most importantly, kept the leaves fresh.  The leaves were mostly dark black and of all shapes and sizes with some whitish leaves mixed in.  The scent of the leaves was of sweet berries and vanilla.
     I measured 2 teaspoons of leaves, put them into my teapot, and poured 12 ounces of water over the leaves.  I let this steep for 4 minutes.  The liquid was a beautiful dark orange.  The scent was of vanilla, black tea, and berries.  The taste was a delicious blend of tea, berries, and vanilla.  Blending is a major strength of this company's teas.  There was no sourness or bitterness to this tea at all.  I find that with most berry flavored teas, there is a sour taste after swallowing. This is not the case with this one.  This tea was extremely refreshing and went down quickly.   Annie's Blend, from this company, was my favorite berry blend, but I may like this one even more.  It is a hard call.  I highly recommend this if you like berries and vanilla.
     The French Creek Tea Company does not have online ordering at this time, so I have included their contact information above.  Their teas are available throughout South Dakota and I saw on their facebook page that it is now being served in Colorado.  Click here to see where you can go to purchase some of this wonderful tea.    

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Lucy Loves Sherman

51-FrsTj-5L._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg (260×260)Title: Lucy Loves Sherman

Author: Catherine Bailey

Illustrator: Meg Walters

Published: Sky Pony Press, March 2017

Pages: 32

Genre: picture book (ages 3-6)

Obtained: from publisher in exchange for an honest review

Summary: Lucy discovers Sherman in the tank at Flotsam's Fish Market, and instantly loves him.  When she discovers he is being sold to be eaten, she knows she must save him.

Thoughts: Most kids love watching the lobsters move about in the tank at the fish market or grocery store and are surprised and sometimes disturbed when they realize they are being sold to be eaten.  Such is the case for Lucy in this story which "was inspired by true stories of adults and children who saved oversized lobsters from their fate on a plate".  The story, even though discussing life and death of a "friend", is told in a humorous, light way which makes for a feel good story.  The book consists mostly of short, simple sentences.  Most of the words children have heard before, but some less common words such as "antennae", "camouflaged", and "delicacy", are present so that children can learn some new words.
     The illustrator does an excellent job of bringing the story to life and has a talent of expressing emotions through her artwork.  A child could look at the pictures and understand most of the story without being able to read.  This is a great book for children learning about emotions and those that like to look through picture books on their own.
     I love picture books where children can learn a whole assortment of things.  This story teaches kids about taking action, persistence, and that kids can make a difference.  It also teaches that some animals make fine pets, but others do not.  On the last page is information about lobsters with vocabulary words related to this crustacean.  The author and illustrator have some free down loadable activities on their websites that go along with Lucy Loves Sherman.  A cute book!

"If you love something, set it free.  It will come back if it's meant to be."


Company: French Creek Tea Company
325 Mt. Rushmore Road, Custer, SD 57730

Phone: 695-673-5383


Tea: Up and At 'Em

Obtained: sample from company

     The French Creek Tea Company blends tea in the Black Hills of South Dakota.  Their tea is not available to order online at this time, but I have included their contact information above.  French Creek tea can be found in shops throughout South Dakota including  Annie's Emporium.
     French Creek tea is packaged in black resealable pouches.  The pouches are good quality and sophisticated looking.  They keep the tea fresh.
     "Up and At 'Em" is a blend of Ceylon and Indian black teas.  The thin, brown and black leaves in my pouch were all lengths.  The scent of the leaves had a fresh hay scent.  I added 2 teaspoons of leaves to my teapot and poured 12 ounces of water that had been boiled over the leaves.  I let this steep for 3 minutes.  The scent was earthy.  The color of the liquid was reddish brown.  There were a few tea leaves on the bottom of the cup.  The taste was full-bodied, robust and bold.  There was a very slight astrigency to the finish.
     Up and At 'Em is a great name for this wonderfully bold tea. I could tell the caffeine content is high.  This is a good tea for those that like milk in their tea and maybe even a little sweetener.  It is also good without.  Definitely a great breakfast tea!

*The first time I brewed this tea, I did so for 4 minutes.  It just tasted overbrewed to me, so I did it over reviewing the 3 minute brew.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Touch the Earth

5156bEamVdL._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg (260×214)Title: Touch the Earth
Author: Julian Lennon and Bart Davis
Illustrator: Smiljana Coh
Publisher: Sky Pony Press, 2017
Pages: 40
Genre: picture book (ages 3-6)
Obtained: advanced copy from publisher

Summary:  Children get on board a magical plane and go on an adventure to provide water to people that need it, clean the ocean to protect the fish, irrigate the desert, and deliver a filtration machine to those in need of clean water.
Thoughts:  Touch the Earth is the first book in a trilogy of similarly themed picture books that will be released for each Earth Day over the next three years beginning in April 2017.  Touch the Earth was inspired by a white feather.  John Lennon, Julian Lennon's father, told his son that if he passed away he would let Julian know that everything would be okay through a white feather.  While on a tour in Australia Julian was presented with a white feather by an Aboriginal tribal elder seeking help for her tribe.  This white feather was also the inspiration for the creation of the White Feather Foundation, which Julian established in 2007.  It is an organization that supports both people and the environment.  All proceeds from the sale of Touch the Earth go to the White Feather Foundation.
     Touch the Earth is interactive, playful, and educational.  Children are encouraged to touch the pictures.  They can press "buttons" and tilt the book to fly the White Feather Flyer, a magical plane.  They can also make things happen on the next page by shaking the book and pressing "buttons".  The book uses mostly simple language that children can relate to such as "yucky", but introduces some more complex words such as "filtration" and "irrigation", explaining them in a way that kids can understand. The book attempts to teach cardinal directions (north, south, east, and west), which I believe is very hard for young children to comprehend.  At first it shows a compass and has kids point to the directions, which was good, but later it has them tilting the book north to take the plane into the air and south to land it.  I think the authors should have stuck with up and down for take-off and landing.
    This book introduces simple concepts:
        1. People need clean water.  Not everyone has it.  There are ways to get it to them. 
        2. Fish need clean water.  We need to keep it clean for them.
        3. We all can and should help keep the earth clean.
        4. All of us should help others.
Touch the Earth helps promote discussion with children about all sorts of things- the earth, the world, the environment, how others live, natural resources, water, airplanes, directions, parachutes,  diversity, etc....
     The illustrations in this book are colorful and the White Feather Flyer has eyes and looks very friendly.  The people are all different colors and show diversity in a simple way.  On Smiljana Coh's website it is written that she combines traditional and digital illustration in her art.  The cover is a great representation of the artwork found inside.  In the back of the book is a poem and personal message written by Julian Lennon.
     This is a book for ages 3-6.  I like that it is interactive, that it very simply touches on some big ideas, and that it provides families with many topics for further discussion.  There is no tea review today.  This is a book to enjoy with a cold glass of water.


Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Mrs. Sherlock Holmes

51iqKIE4h9L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg (229×346)Title: Mrs. Sherlock Holmes: The True Story of New York City's Greatest Female Detective and the 1917 Missing Girl Case that Captivated a Nation

Author: Brad Ricca

Published: January 2017 by St. Martin's Press

Pages: 436

Genre: nonfiction, history, true crime

Obtained: library

Summary: This is the story of Grace Humiston, a lawyer and investigator, from the early 1900's.  Her story centers around the case of Ruth Cruegar, a young woman from New York that went missing.

Thoughts: This was a very well researched, interesting book from which I learned a lot about Grace Humiston and America in the early 1900's.  Grace Humiston was the first woman in the NYU daytime law program, the first female consulting detective to the New York City police department, and the first female district attorney.  She was an advocate for women and immigrants and a female investigator at a time when it was rare for a woman to have this role.  She helped fight against white slavery and helped save people on death row that were innocent of the crimes for which they were found guilty.  She helped expose police corruption and to show how legal and police processes did not always work.  The author described some of Grace's cases in great detail, making sure to include all sides to a story and conflicting viewpoints, leaving it up to the reader what to believe.  The author brought in people having to do with Grace's cases and projects and told some of their stories too.  He showed what society and culture was like in the United States in the early1900's through Grace's story.
     The author must have done so much research and found so many interesting stories and facts while doing this that it was very hard to cut things out.  In a way this is great because the reader gets all this information and learns so much about history.  On the other hand, if the reader is someone looking for an organized story about Grace Humiston, he or she does not get this.  This book is more for those wanting to learn rather than those looking for a well written true story.  The author described events, weather, and settings that reminded me that I was not in the present, but not to the extent that I could really picture all this in my head or feel like I was there.  He tells facts about Grace Humiston and other people from the time period, but at the end of the book I did not feel like I knew much about any of these people's personalities, just the facts of what they did.  At the end of the book, the author gives a summary of what happened to each key player in the book.  I thought it was an excellent wrap up.
     When I read a nonfiction book it is to learn, not necessarily to enjoy a great flowing story, which I look for in fiction.  The author is working with information that is available and I don't want him or her to add in information that he or she creates to add to the story.  This would not be a true nonfiction book.  To me the research and presentation of interesting information that holds my attention is the most important part of a nonfiction book.  So, I really enjoyed this book.  I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in any of the topics I mentioned above.  If you are looking for a well organized and edited, smooth flowing story, this is not for you.


Company: French Creek Tea Company
325 Mt. Rushmore Road, Custer, SD 57730
Phone: 695-673-5383,

Tea: Working Girl

Obtained: sample from French Creek Tea Company

     The French Creek Tea Company, located in South Dakota, was launched by Royia and Duane Hrncir.  They do not sell their teas online at this time.  So, I included their contact information above.  Their tea can be purchased at Annie's Emporium, which looks like a fun place to spend some time if you are planning on visiting the Black Hills of South Dakota.
     Working Girl is a blend of black teas flavored with cranberries, apples, and assorted dried fruits.  Even samples from the French Creek Tea Company come in good quality, easy to open, resealable bags, as seen above.    When I opened this package I got a whiff of sweet fruit that instantly put a picture in my mind of a penny candy store.  The blend was mostly black tea leaves with a few pieces of dried fruit.
     I poured twelve ounces of water that had been boiled over two teaspoons of leaves.  I let this steep for four minutes.  The deep orange liquid had a light, sweet, fruity scent that still reminded me of a candy store.  The taste was a wonderful blend of black tea and slightly sweet fruit.  This was a delicious, warm blend with a fall flavor.  It was one of the best black tea and fruit blends I have ever had.  It was slightly sweet, not overpowering, and there was no bitterness.  What I love most about this company is their ability to get a blend - the flavors are not overpowering and the tea flavor is still there.  I just loved Working Girl!

Friday, March 24, 2017

Still Life

51EUk4qVx3L._AA300_.jpg (300×300)Title: Still Life

Author: Louise Penny

Narrator: Ralph Cosham

Publisher: Blackstone Audio, 2006

Format: 8 compact discs, 9.5 hours

Genre: mystery

Obtained: library

Summary: Chief Inspector Armand Gamache is called to investigate the death of Jane Neal, a well-liked, retired school teacher living in Three Pines, Canada.  Jane has been shot with an arrow in the woods near her home.  Was this an accident, or murder?  If it was murder, who would want to kill a lovely elderly woman?

Thoughts: This is the first book in the Three Pines Mystery series featuring Chief Inspector Gamache.  My mom had passed the fifth in the series on to me.  So, I listened to that one first.  That was a mistake.  This is one of those series that really needs to be read from the beginning.  Not only do the characters grow and change, but their relationships do too.  Also, it's pretty easy to guess who the murderers are when they are in the first novels, but not the later ones.
     Reading a later book first, did let me see that Louise Penny's writing grows as well.  Although there were themes and layers in Still Life, The Brutal Telling, the fifth in the series, was deeper and had more layers.  The mystery was more intricate and interesting in the fifth book.  The author also shows more than tells in the later novel, which makes for an even better read. The writing style remains the same, focusing on characters and their relationships with one another, and bringing the reader into a wonderful setting using all the senses.  Three Pines is a charming small town where everyone cares about one another (for the most part) and all help each other out.  Art, music, literature, antiques, and food are topics throughout this author's stories.  She has a nice way of describing with details, but not to the point that it takes away from the story.  Her writing is not plot driven, but there are mysteries with red herrings and twists and turns.  Her style is not suspenseful and fast paced.  It is slow and rich.
     Ralph Cosham just seemed like the perfect person to portray Chief Inspector Gamache.  He really brought him to life and added to the experience of listening to the story.  He had a clear voice that held my attention.  He gave different voices to each character which made the story very easy to follow.  Unfortunately, this narrator passed away a couple of years ago.  It must have been very hard to replace him with a narrator for the newer books.
     I recommend this audio book to those that want characters that grow and develop throughout a series.  The mystery is not the highlight of the book.  The characters have their personal stories that are interwoven throughout the book with the mystery bringing everything together.  I believe you have to like "cozy" settings and series books to enjoy this one. Also, if you like fast-paced suspenseful mysteries, this is not for you.


Company: Upton Tea Imports

Tea: Poire Creme

Obtained: gift

     I received  an 8 ounce mason jar of tea leaves for Christmas from Sweets N' Java, located in Holden, Massachusetts.  With only a sticker with the name of this community coffee house on the top, and the name of the tea on the bottom, I tried to get more information about the tea online.  I found that Sweets N' Java get their leaves from Upton Tea Imports which can be purchased directly online.
     Although the label read "Poire Creme", I believe this blend was Green Rooibus Poire Creme, which is a caffeine free mix of small, thin green and brown Rooibus leaves and larger sunflower petals, flavored with pear and cream.  The scent of the leaves was of sweet pear.  I poured 8 ounces of water that had been boiled over 1 tablespoon of tea leaves.  I let this brew for 8 minutes as recommended on the Upton Tea Imports website.  The liquid was a beautiful orange that was cloudy at first, but became clearer as the tiny leaves settled to the bottom of the cup.  The scent was of fruit.  When tasting the tea my thought was of a kiwi smoothie.  There was both a sweetness and sourness at first with a sweet pear and cream aftertaste.  Not until I swallowed did I taste pear.  There was a fruity taste at first, but it tasted more like kiwi to me.  There was a lot going on here.
     This was a refreshing tea. The blend was very different with a nice combination of sweet and sour- not too overpowering on either end.  It was not a simple flavor.  I would describe it as busy.  Although I usually would not want to try a cream tea iced, because this was so refreshing, I may keep this one in mind for the summer.  Also, Sweets N' Java looks like a delightful place to go.  I will have to stop in soon!