Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Reenactment of a Killer and Serial Rapist: Cold-Eyed Mark Shirley

51AToaK3ibL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg (333×499)Title: Reenactment of a Killer and Serial Rapist: Cold-Eyed Mark Shirley

Author: Helen Stockford

Published: AuthorHouse, 2016

Pages: 219

Genre: nonfiction, true crime

Obtained: from publisher in exchange for an honest review

Summary: Helen Stockford tells the true story of how Mark Shirley, a serial killer and rapist, attacked her in 2009 and her experience with the United Kingdom's justice system.

Thoughts: This book was difficult to read for two reasons.  The first was the subject matter and the frankness with which the author describes her experience.  She is open and honest about both her physical and mental experience throughout her attack and fight with the justice system. It is not a bad thing that the author was forthcoming, it was just a horrific experience.  The author did a great job expressing her feelings along with the facts of her story.  The second was the editing.  This was a problem.  The spelling, grammar, and sentence structure were the worst I've ever seen!  I don't know if the publisher was trying to show that this book was written by a victim, not a writer, but this was not just typos.  Luckily the content is organized and the writer's thoughts are clear, so the book is readable.  There is repetition consistently throughout the book which slows down the flow at times.  A good editing job would greatly improve the reader's experience with this book.

Even though this was not an easy read, it is a story that I am glad this brave, strong woman could tell.  The author states she wrote the book as "a tool to spark changes in our laws, culture and services for victims of sexual assault".  I hope that the spark becomes a blazing fire, but we all know that change is usually slow even if the spark catches.

For me, this book was an eye opener as to how a victim's whole family is affected by an attack on one member.  I never really thought past the individual victim.  I am also glad that I read this book because it showed me what a victim goes through after an attack and that this person could really use compassion and support, not just around the stress of what has happened to them, but around the battle through the justice system.  A victim has to keep reliving their horrible experience throughout the trial and cannot even begin to move on until the criminal is in prison.  He or she is also battling a system to try to get justice.  It was quite interesting learning about the justice system of another country.  It sounds to me like the United Kingdom's justice system has some very similar problems as that of the United States. Maybe we could learn from each other to work toward making sure victims know their rights and where to get the help they need.  Also, in both countries, many times, criminals are released only to commit another crime.

I recommend reading this book if you can cope with bad spelling, grammar and sentence structure.  Even though the subject matter is hard, we can all learn something from this courageous woman's story.


Chamomile tea is said to relieve anxiety and menstrual cramps, boost the immune system, fight insomnia, help relieve migraines, fight depression, reduce the risk of cancer, reduce blood sugar levels, and sooth an upset stomach.  Scientific studies seem to have mixed findings.  Personally, I have found it to be a soothing and relaxing tea that I enjoy drinking, especially at night.

For the past couple of years, I have been growing chamomile to make my own tea.  It is better than any chamomile tea I have purchased.  I bought Bodegold seeds (a German chamomile that blooms early and has larger flowers than some other types of chamomile) the first year.  The past two years the plants have reseeded themselves and I just wait for the flowers to bloom.  The plants are in a mostly sunny, well- drained location.  I pull weeds out from around the plants, but don't give them any other special care.

When the flowers bloom, I pick them off - just the flowers with no stems. They are ready to pick when they are completely open as in the above picture.  When the petals begin to bend down or fall off, they have gone by.  The plants are annuals and only last a few months.  I then lay the flowers on a paper towel to dry inside my house for 2 weeks.  Finally, I store them in a mason jar so that I will have chamomile tea all winter.  If a creative label is added to the jar, along with a tea ball, this would make a great gift!

 To make tea with the leaves, I put 2 teaspoons of dried leaves into my teapot and pour 12 ounces of water that has been boiled over the leaves.  I let the boiled water sit for a few minutes before pouring it over the leaves.  I usually let this steep for 10 minutes because I have read letting it steep this long results in more medicinal benefits, but if I am short on time, it tastes just as good if it only stands for about 5 minutes.  Many books and online articles say to use 1 tablespoon of leaves per cup of water when brewing chamomile tea, but I have found this to be excessive.

After the tea has steeped, I pour the pale yellow liquid into my cup to enjoy.  The scent of the liquid is reminiscent of sweet apples.  It has a unique taste.  It is sweet and tastes almost like apples, but with a slight earthy and flowery background.  It is a light, calming tea.


Sunday, August 13, 2017

Anne of the Island

51-ztPXnauL._SX376_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg (378×499)Title: Anne of the Island (Anne of Green Gables #3)

Author: Lucy Maud Montgomery

Narrator: Renee Raudman

Publisher: Tantor, 2008 (originally published in 1915)

Format: 7 compact discs, 9 hours

Genre: classic

Obtained: library

Summary: Anne Shirley is off to Redmond College in Kingsport, Nova Scotia.  This third book of the series tells of Anne's life from ages 18 to 22.

Thoughts: Though most of this story takes place away from Green Gables and Avonlea, I was very happy that Anne continues to return home so that the reader finds out what is happening while Anne is away.  After reading this book, I realized that one of the reasons I love this series is because of Avonlea and all the folks there.  I did not enjoy the book as much when Anne was at Redmond, even though new, interesting characters are introduced and become a part of Anne's world.  I kept looking forward to Anne's return to Avonlea.

Since Anne is a young woman off on her own, this book focuses on becoming an adult, romance, and time with friends which is somewhat different than the first two books in the series.  L. C. Montgomery does such a wonderful job keeping Anne's traits consistent, while showing how she changes as she matures.  She did this with each character.  I also was impressed how she shows Avonlea slowly changing as any town does, making everything seem real.

L. C. Montgomery's writing is as beautiful as ever and the reader can picture everything in great detail.  Her characters are entertaining and very well developed.  She definitely brings her characters and settings to life.  I love the way she takes everyday occurrences and makes them entertaining, exciting, or gripping.  I love the humor that is weaved in throughout this series.

The narrator read clearly and at a good pace.  It was easy to tell when each character was speaking since the narrator gave each a distinct voice.  Again, it was hard for me to get used to this narrator because I listened to two different narrators for the first two books.  Each narrator has a slightly different way of portraying the characters.

I thought by the third book I would have had enough of Anne and her world, but no, I could keep going.  I love returning to Avonlea and following not only Anne's life, but all the other characters in this series.


Company: French Creek Tea Company
P.O. Box 5021, Custer, SD 57730
(603) 673-5383

Tea: Afternoon Delight

Obtained: from owners

Afternoon Delight is "a smooth blend of Ceylon black teas flavored with wild cherry, amaretto, and rose petals".  The leaves were long and black with a few light brown rose petals mixed in.  The scent of the leaves was sweet cherry.  I poured 12 ounces of water that had been boiled over 2 teaspoons of leaves and let this brew for 4 minutes.  The scent of the dark orange brown liquid reminded me of cherry pie.  The taste was a delicious blend of black tea and cherries.  This tea was mildly sweet with with no sourness or bitterness.  Though it reminded me of fall, I believe this tea would be wonderful in any season, maybe even iced.

I am very disappointed to learn that the French Creek Tea Company has closed.  The owners have moved and are selling their business.  If interested in buying the business, contact information is on Facebook.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Treasure Hunters

61aaYKVEHbL._SL300_.jpg (300×300)Title: Treasure Hunters (Book 1)

Authors: James Patterson and Chris Grabenstein

Narrator: Bryan Kennedy

Publisher: Hachette Audio, 2013

Format: 5 compact discs, approximately 6 hours

Genre: children (ages 9-12), adventure

Obtained: library

Summary: Bick, Beck, Tommy, and Storm are the children of world-famous treasure hunters.  When their parents disappear, what else can they do but continue with the family's treasure hunting business and, of course, try to locate their parents along the way?

Thoughts: While looking for some audio books for our family to listen to on a long car ride, my 15 year old son recommended this one.  It was one of his favorite books from 5th or 6th grade.  He does not like to read, so this told me it must be good.  At the beginning of the first cd, the narrator lets the listener know that there is a pdf on one of the cd's which includes the illustrations from the book.  I am guessing that most readers listening to an audio book would not bother with a pdf.  Individuals I know that listen to audio books do so when doing tasks, riding in a vehicle, while lying in bed at night with the lights out, or because they have a visual disability.  It's great the pictures are there, but my family was unable to look at them in the car.  My son said at the end that he had forgotten that the pictures were really one of the best parts of the book!  Nevertheless, we all enjoyed the book without the illustrations.

The narrator told the story with energy, enthusiasm, and excitement.  He really got into the story.  He was a great narrator for children's books.  I believe his energy would hold kid's interest.  He also had distinct voices for each character, making the story easy to follow.

The story itself was a crazy, fast paced adventure.  Most of the story took place on (and in) the ocean, but the children did go to different ports, meeting many interesting characters.  Not only were the main characters unique and quirky, but so were the minor characters.  The story is told in first person by one of the children, Bick, and his twin sister, Beck, told her version through the illustrations.  The children's adventures involved pirates, sharks, kidnapping, martial arts, surfer dudes, secret agents, mysteries, scuba diving, treasures, guns, helicopters, food, and much more.  Some themes in the book are working together, everyone has strengths and weaknesses, valuing others for who they are, don't give up, have hope, look outside the box.  The plot is not deep and is far from realistic.  This is a humorous, entertaining book.

Although this is a children's book, it did entertain our whole family for our car ride. We'll be listening to the second book in the series on our next car trip.  Also, readers may want to check out the print version to experience the illustrations.


Company: French Creek Tea Company
P.O. Box 5021, Custer, SD 57730
Phone: (605) 6735383

Tea: Toodles

Obtained: from owners

Toodles is a "blend of black teas flavored with coconut, mango, vanilla, and lemon".  It came in a high quality, resealable black bag.  The bag was labeled with the name of the company, the name and a description of the tea, and brewing instructions.  The bag was easy to open.  The long, black tea leaves had a few chunks of light brown fruit mixed in.  The strong scent of the leaves was of tropical fruit.

I put two teaspoons of leaves into my teapot and poured 12 ounces of water that had been boiled over the leaves.  I let this brew for four minutes.  The dark, orange brown liquid had a black tea scent combined with sweet, tropical fruit.  The taste of the tea was of black tea with a subtle tropical fruit and sweet vanilla background.  The coconut did not stand out as it does when added to many tea combinations.  This is a smooth, sweet tea.  I was expecting this tea to be light, but it was not.  It had some body to it which was different from many tropical teas I have tried.  This tea would be great for anyone that likes black tea and fruit blends.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Tempest in a Teapot

51Vo0mK8H8L._SX308_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg (310×499)Title: Tempest in a Teapot

Author: Amanda Cooper

Publisher: The Berkley Publishing Group, 2014

Pages: 294

Genre: mystery

Obtained: purchased

Summary: After her upscale New York City restaurant closes, Sophie Taylor returns to a small town in the Finger Lakes region of Upstate New York to her Nana's tea house.  When her old friend Cissy Peterson's future mother- in-law is murdered by poisoning at Cissy's grandmother's tea house, Sophie is determined to find out who committed this heinous crime.

Thoughts: This was the first of three books in the Teapot Collector Mystery series.  I just loved the cover which definitely portrayed a cozy mystery with lots of tea, food, teapots, and cats, which is exactly what was inside.  I loved the setting- the beautiful Victorian tea house of a teapot collector.

There were many characters, some developed much better than others.  The back stories of the characters were interesting and helped with character development, but those that didn't have a back story could have been developed more.  I liked how the author had Sophie, the protagonist, returning to the town that she hadn't lived in for years because the reader found out information about the suspects along with Sophie.  I did not like that Sophie's character didn't always seem consistent.  At the beginning she seemed well mannered, but then when she really got into her investigation, she became pushy and rude.  Since the story took place in a small town, in which the residents had been around for many years, there were plenty of motives to murder.

The writing style of the author was organized and clear, although repetitive in giving particulars to the point that it became a bit annoying at times.  I lost count of how many times the author reminded the reader that there was just one cupcake on the plate that was not red velvet.  The writing was descriptive, but I didn't feel like I was there.  I could picture the characters as I read, though.  The pace was slow, but I did not feel that it dragged.

I really enjoyed this book, mostly because of the setting and tea theme, but it was a good whodunit as well.


At the end of this book was a recipe for these delicious Cranberry Pecan Yogurt Scones.  I already had all of the ingredients, except for the pecans.  The directions were easy to follow.    The ingredients were easy to mix, especially with the pastry blender that I received as a Christmas gift.

The pre-baked scones were easy to cut- no sticking.  The process went smoothly and the final product was a huge success.  The scones were not extremely dry, like some.  They were about as moist as I would like a scone to be.  The cranberries and pecans made a scrumptious blend.  The recipe made eight good sized scones.  Although I had them for breakfast, they would be wonderful with tea anytime of the day.  What a great added bonus to this book!


I purchased Tempest in a Teapot from Mystery on Main Street, a small, independent bookstore in Brattleboro, Vermont.  This is a wonderful bookstore for mystery lovers.  It is quiet and neat and had all types of mystery books imaginable, along with other mystery themed items.  Even though it is not a huge bookstore, there is plenty of room to browse comfortably and there is a pleasant sitting area.  The proprietor is friendly, not pushy at all, and is willing to help customers find any book even if it is not in the store or a mystery book.  If you're in southern Vermont I highly recommend this store!


Monday, July 17, 2017

A Love Story

51ARRt5j1OL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg (333×499)Title: A Love Story: How God Pursued Me and Found Me 

Author: Samantha Ryan Chandler

Publisher: Crossbooks, 2011

Genre: nonfiction, Christian, memoir

Pages: 130

Obtained: from author in exchange for an honest review

Summary: Samantha Ryan Chandler looks back at her life, thus far, and explores how God was present through both the good and bad times, guiding her along the way.

Thoughts: The author wrote this story to herself looking for God in her darkest moments, the most strenuous time being the process of her divorce from a rich and powerful man in which she lost just about everything including her children.  It is a short, quick read that could be a great inspiration or provider of hope to someone going through hard times, especially divorce, or someone struggling with their faith.  It also could act as encouragement to reflect on one's own life or simply provide food for thought.  The author's faith and courage shines throughout the book.

What I like most about this book is that the author writes about her difficult life in a light and, at times, humorous way, but still is able to show the hard times, pain, and suffering she went through.  Although the book is insightful, it is unorganized and jumps around quite a bit, especially at the end where I felt like the author found she wanted to add some things, so just stuck them at the end, rather than weave them into her story where they made sense.  She does state this book was not written in the traditional way, for someone to read, but rather, written to herself which explains how the book is arranged.  Nevertheless, it has been published for others to read and I believe it would be a much better read if it was more organized.


Company: French Creek Tea Company
P. O. Box 5021, Custer, SD 57730

Tea: Emerald Dreams

Obtained: from owners

Emerald Dreams, a "blend of green teas flavored with vanilla and assorted fruits", is produced by the French Creek Tea Company in the Black Hills of South Dakota.  The tea is packaged in a simple, yet sophisticated looking, good quality, resealable bag which keeps the leaves fresh.

When I opened the bag, there was a strong, sweet fruity scent. The long, green leaves were mixed with chunks of fruit.  I measured one teaspoon of leaves into my tea ball, placed it in my cup, and poured 6 ounces of water that had been boiled and then slightly cooled into the cup.  I let this steep for 2 minutes.

The pale yellow liquid had a slight sweet vanilla scent.  The delicate, sweet taste was a vanilla and fruit blend with a vanilla aftertaste.  This was a sweet treat and would be great when craving something sugary, but not wanting the calories.  I am not a vanilla lover but the flavor was light and not overpowering so I enjoyed this tea.  I believe fans of vanilla would really enjoy this tea since the vanilla flavor lingers.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Murder, She Wrote Trouble at High Tide

517NOgGxIuL._SX308_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg (310×499)Title: Murder, She Wrote: Trouble at High Tide (#37)

Author: Donald Bain

Publisher: Obsidian, 2012

Pages: 276

Genre: mystery

Obtained: gift

Summary: Jessica Fletcher has accepted an invitation from Judge Thomas Betterton to vacation in one of his cottages located on the same private beach as his family mansion in Bermuda.  After a dinner party at the mansion, Jessica finds the body of one of the guests on the beach.  Is this murder tied into the copycat Jack the Ripper killings that have been happening in Bermuda, or was this murder more personal?

Thoughts: I have always loved the Murder, She Wrote television series, especially the episodes set in Cabot Cove, Maine.  I have been hesitant to read the books because I was afraid that Jessica Fletcher, and the other characters that I love from Cabot Cove, would not be depicted in the same way as in the television series.  I got this book as a gift from my sister-in-law who knows how much I delight in the show.  The book did not disappoint.  It could have been one of the television episodes.  Jessica was depicted in the same way.  The mystery was more detailed than on television, but very similar.  Although the setting was Bermuda, and not Cabot Cove, and the Cabot Cove characters were not in Bermuda, it didn't matter.  I felt like I was on vacation with Jessica at the beach, one of my favorite places to be.
     The author did a great job with descriptions.  I could picture the places, people, and the action.  The many characters were distinctive.  I did not get them mixed up and could picture each one.  The writing style was organized and the author kept the story moving.  The mystery was a good one.  Although I guessed whodunit, it was just that- a guess.  I was not completely sure I was right until the culprit was caught in the end.  There were believable red herrings and twists thrown in throughout the book.  I really liked that Jessica did not know her host too well and did not know the other family members and friends of the family at all.  This way the reader learned about the characters right along with Jessica.
     This book would be a great read while on vacation or at the beach.  I read it on a camping trip myself.  It was a fun, entertaining read that was light and cozy- great for relaxing!  I will definitely read more Murder, She Wrote mysteries.


Company: French Creek Tea Company
P. O. Box 5021, Custer, SD 57730

Tea: Silverheels

Obtained: from owners

     Silverheels is a "blend of Mutan white and green teas flavored with pear".  Mutan white tea is made from the leaves of the da bai bush mixed with buds from the shui hsien tea plant.  When I opened the resealable, good quality bag, I immediately received a sweet fruity scent with a somewhat earthy scent in the background.  The leaves were a potpourri of brown, green, silver, and yellow leaves of all shapes and sizes mixed with brown fruit chunks.  I measured two teaspoons of leaves into my teapot and poured 12 ounces of water that had been boiled and cooled slightly over the leaves.  I let this steep for two minutes.  The pale yellow liquid had a sweet fruity scent.  The light taste was smooth, yet crisp. It was sweet with no sourness or astringency.  It had a pleasant pear aftertaste.  This was a delectable tea!

Friday, July 7, 2017

Anne of Avonlea

51GR-vs2w5L._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg (260×216)Title: Anne of Avonlea (Anne of Green Gables #2)

Author: L. M. Montgomery

Narrator: Tara Ward

Publisher: Dreamscape Media, LLC, 2017 (originally published in 1909)

Format: 8 discs, 9 hours and 20 minutes

Genre: classic, young adult

                                                                                           Obtained: library

Summary: Anne Shirley is growing up.  She is now 16 and is about to start her job as the Avonlea school teacher.  This book tells of Anne's life over the 2 years that she teaches and at the end closes this chapter of her life, getting the reader ready for the next.

Thoughts: I joined the Anne Read Along hosted by Greenish Book Shelf and Death by Tsundoku because I had read Anne of Green Gables recently and really enjoyed it.  Since I haven't heard much about the other books in the Anne series, I figured they would not be even close to as good as the first in the series, but was curious.  Well, I enjoyed Anne of Avonlea just as much as Anne of Green Gables.

I listened to the book on cd's.  There was a different narrator for this second book, and it took me awhile to get used to this because the narrators interpreted the characters a bit differently, and of course their voices were different.  I can't say that one narrator was better than another.  Tara Ward read at a great pace, spoke clearly, and brought the characters to life just as Kate Burton did.

The same delightful characters from Anne of Green Gables were present in Anne of Avonlea, but more were added, each original.  Anne is growing up and L. M. Montgomery does an excellent job showing Anne mature, yet keeping her personality intact.  Her wild imagination is there, but toned down a bit.  She continues to get herself into mishaps, but they are age appropriate.  There is more romance and, I believe, more humor in this second book.

L. M. Montgomery's writing style is just beautiful, especially her descriptions.  I love the way she describes people and how she is able to weave descriptions in throughout the novel without stopping the actual story.  I also am amazed at how she writes about such simple everyday occurrences, but is able to make them so entertaining.  The pace is perfect.

The cozy setting of Prince Edward Island remains the same, although the author has the people of Avonlea and Avonlea itself changing over time, which really makes the reader feel like this story is real.  Reading this novel is such a great escape to a simpler time and place!

I really think these should be read in order.  Anne of the Island will be next!


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

Tea: Gilded Lily

Obtained: from owners

Today I sampled Gilded Lily, a blend of white teas flavored with orange, tangerine and marigold.  This tea came in a resealable bag that protected the tea and kept it fresh.  It was a good quality package and pleasing to the eye.  When I opened the bag, the scent was of oranges.  The leaves were long and green and all shapes and sizes.  There were little pieces that looked like small twigs and marigold petals dispersed throughout the leaves. I measured 2 teaspoons of leaves, put them in my teapot and poured 12 ounces of water that had been boiled and then cooled slightly, over the leaves.  I let this steep for 2 minutes.  The liquid was a very pale yellow, almost clear.  There was a faint orange scent to the liquid. This delicate tea had a light, sweet orange taste.  There was no bitterness or sourness at all.  This was a refreshing, yet calming tea that would be great anytime of the day.  After my first cup I couldn't resist making another!

The French Creek Tea Company, located in the Black Hills of South Dakota, blends black, white, and green teas.  They also blend tea specifically for iced tea.  There contact information is above.