Thursday, September 13, 2018

Free and Clear

Title: Free and Clear: 7 Steps to Declutter Your Home and Your Head

Author: Karen Kiser

Publisher: Camino Chronicles Press, 2018

Pages: 66

Genre: self-help

Obtained: from author in exchange for an honest review

Summary: This book shows you seven steps to declutter your surroundings and mind and how to stop the habit of re-cluttering, so that you can become "free and clear".

Thoughts:  I loved this book!  Yes, most of it is advice that I have heard again and again from clutter experts and books on living more simply, but the difference is that this author not only reminds me of all this information, but tells me MORE and in only 66 pages.  I felt like she decluttered the decluttering process!  Her book is so organized!

First she tells readers that they have a habit that needs to be broken.  She describes each of the seven steps of her method to declutter and break the habit of just collecting more things.  Then she gives specific examples of how to use these steps when dealing with your surroundings and mind, and goes through each step, with each example, making the process extremely clear.  It is just enough information and is an easy, step by step guide to follow.  Some people might think going through the process step by step a few times is repetitive, but I felt this was a wonderful way to present her material and a great way to learn the process.

If you're looking for a simple, easy guide to free up space in your home and mind, I highly suggest this book!


Company: Davids Tea

Tea: Organic Detox

Obtained: purchased

I purchased the David's Top Twelve Sampler.    Today I tried the Organic Detox, which I not only thought went well with decluttering, but I feel a little under the weather and thought a detox tea would do me some good.  This is a green tea with a low caffeine content.  The ingredients (rooibos, sencha green tea, lemongrass, ginger, juniper berries, ginkgo, and natural lemon flavor) are supposed to have many antioxidants that help to cleanse your body.

I could pick almost everything out in the blend- lots of lemon grass, rooibos leaves, and green tea leaves, a couple of chunks of ginger and I saw only one juniper berry.  The scent of the leaves was of sweet herbs and citrus.  I put 2 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 amber liquid had the scent of lemon and herbs.  The taste was a lemon and ginger blend in the forefront, but it also tasted woody and medicinal.  The lemon and ginger taste was not over powering and blended very nicely with the other herbs.  It also had a slight sweetness.  This was a fresh, soothing, warming tea.  The ingredients were blended so well.  It is not something I would drink all the time, but would enjoy drinking it when not feeling great because of its medicinal taste and the comforting feeling I had when drinking it.

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

The Death of Mrs. Westaway

Title: The Death of Mrs. Westaway

Author: Ruth Ware

Narrator: Imogen Church

Publisher: Simon and Schuster Audio, 2018

Format: 12 compact discs, 14 hours and 14 minutes

Genre: psychological thriller, mystery

Obtained: library

Summary: Hal, a tarot card reader, gets a letter stating that her grandmother has passed away and that she will be getting an inheritance.  Knowing that the letter is not intended for her, but really needing some money, Hal decides to attend the funeral and claim the inheritance using the skills she has gained at her job.  As Hal gets involved with the Westaways, she realizes there are many dangerous secrets within this family.

Thoughts: I am finding Ruth Ware's books to be getting better and better to the point where she is one of my favorite authors.  The settings were perfect for this story.  The atmosphere was  amazing.  I could feel the creepiness, eeriness, fear, doubtfulness- everything. The book started off slow, but gradually picked up pace- faster and faster until the end- perfect. The writing style was detailed and organized with dialogue that helped to move the story forward as most of the story came from Hal's thoughts.  There were twists and turns, red herrings, and suspense. I like that the author puts in clues throughout the book for the reader to figure out the mysteries.  Most readers will probably figure them out before the protagonist, but I loved that the reader had the information to try to solve these mysteries too. I think the reason that this is my favorite Ruth Ware book so far is due to the characters.  They seemed more developed and interesting in this book than in some of the author's previous novels.

Imogen Church did a wonderful job narrating this novel.  Her voice was a great match for Hal and she portrayed the other characters very well.  She used expression and made the character's voices unique which helped to keep them straight.

If you like psychological thrillers / mysteries with a sinister atmosphere, try this one.


Company: Verdant Tea

Tea: Big Red Robe Wuyi Oolong

Obtained: purchased

I purchased the 5 teas for $5 for new customers- a great way to try out this company and to try some new teas.  Today I tried the Big Red Robe Wuyi Oolong.  I put the large, long, black pre-measured leaves into my teapot.  The leaves had an earthy scent.  I poured 8 ounces of water that had been boiled then slightly cooled over the leaves and let this steep for 10 seconds.  The amber liquid also had an earthy scent.  To me this was a very different tasting oolong.  It had a rich, nutty, roasted flavor (almost like coffee) that was prominent, but in the background there were fruits, florals, and spices.  The texture was creamy.  If you are looking for a bolder, more savory oolong, I highly recommend trying this one.  It is very different and delicious.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018


Title: Bannerless

Author: Carrie Vaughn

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2017

Pages: 274

Genre: mystery

Obtained: from publisher in exchange for an honest review

Summary: This story takes place in a time after the world as we know it has collapsed.  The Coast Road region is a civilization that consists of small towns with different households that will receive a banner if they are able to show that they can care for a child, thus giving them the privilege to conceive.  People are also not allowed to have surplus, except for a small amount to trade, so only grow and make what they need.  Enid is an investigator who helps to enforce these rules and mediate disputes.  She is called to investigate a suspicious death, a very rare occurrence.  Could it be murder or is it just an accident?

Thoughts: A couple of weeks ago I did a review of The Wild Dead, which was the second book in The Bannerless Saga.  I really enjoyed it, so read the first book.  Bannerless is almost two stories in one.  There is a mystery, but there is also the story of Enid and how she became an investigator.  Enid is the protagonist in the series.  This book switched from past to present to tell these two stories.  This presentation was not confusing and added a bit of suspense to the book.

I like this author's writing style.  I could picture what was happening and enjoyed the dialogue.  The characters were developed, although I didn't feel like I knew them intimately.  I just loved the new world the author created.  I felt like this was a real place.  The setting made the mystery a bit old fashioned as technology was limited.  Both stories, Enid's coming of age, and the mystery were both interesting and well told.  This is a slow moving story, but a quick read.

I recommend this series to mystery lovers, and for those that like creative settings, this is definitely a series to try.


Company: Davids Tea

Tea: Frozen Raspberry

Obtained: purchased

Today I tried Frozen Raspberry tea, a caffeine free herbal tea from Davids Tea.  The ingredients were apple (apple, citric acid), sugar, raisins, hibiscus blossoms, carrot, yogurt pieces (yogurt powder, sugar, maltodextrin, modified starch, citric acid), beetroot, raspberry, natural and artificial raspberry, and strawberry cream flavoring.  I purchased the single serving packets, so I put the contents into my tea strainer.  The leaves had a raspberry scent.  They were small red and orange brown leaves with flat orange pieces, raisins, and chunks that resembled square pieces of glass mixed in.  I poured ten ounces of water (that had been boiled and cooled slightly) over the leaves and let this steep for four minutes.  I then poured the liquid over ice.  The tea was a beautiful, bright red and smelled almost like raspberry kool aid.  The taste was of raspberry cream.  The tea was sweet, but not as sweet as fruit juice or kool aid.   This would make a good low calorie drink option, but I still prefer traditional iced tea.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Held Together

Title: Held Together

Author: Jenny Q

Publisher: self-published, June 2018

Pages: 456

Genre: nonfiction

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

Summary: This is the true story of a woman whose life is ripped apart by sepsis and how this trauma affects her, her family, and the close- knit community in which she lives.

Thoughts: Wow!  This is a powerful story.  Jenny Q is an amazing, strong woman who loves life.  I don't want to write too much because I believe it is best to read the words of those who experienced this first hand.

The book is a compilation of the thoughts and accounts of Jenny Q, her family members, her close friends, and other people in her life.  Individuals share what their feelings were when they heard Jenny was extremely ill, what they did, their views on seeing Jenny after she is out of the hospital, and how Jenny is doing after settling back into her house, work, and community.  Intermingled throughout these experiences is Jenny's own story.  At times the accounts seemed repetitive because people would be describing the same experiences, but when I was finished I was glad the similar points of view were not edited out.  Each had something to add and the similar entries just backed each other up.

I thought this would be a sad, depressing book, but it really is not.  It is horrific what happened to Jenny Q, but she provides hope, courage, and motivation to all to move forward, live life to the fullest, and to love yourself.  Her story is also one that educates in many ways.  The story of the community, both local and extended, coming together in prayer, healing circles, and hands on help is also incredible and inspiring.

And how could I not add a link to her apothecary website, the Grateful Desert?  Tinctures and aromatherapy products can be purchased here.


Company: Davids Tea

Tea: Organic Mother's Little Helper

Obtained: purchased

I purchased the David's Top 12  tea sampler.  Today I tried Organic Mother's Little Helper, which is an herbal tea.  The ingredients were peppermint, lemongrass, hibiscus, rose hips, chamomile, valerian root, cornflowers, and natural peppermint flavoring.  The "leaves" were a potpourri  of shapes and colors.  I could make out the pieces of rose hips, chamomile flowers, cornflower petals and lemon grass.  The scent was of flowers and herbs.  I put about a teaspoon of leaves into my tea ball, covered this with eight ounces of water and let this steep for five minutes.  The liquid was a light pink and had a lemon scent.  The taste was of lemon and mint.  It was slightly tart and had an herb flavor in the background.  This was a soothing, relaxing tea.  I have not been that happy with the teas I have tried from this collection up until now, but this one I would purchase again.  It was very calming.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

The Wild Dead

Title: The Wild Dead (The Bannerless Saga #2)

Author: Carrie Vaughn

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2018

Pages: 264

Genre: science fiction, mystery

Obtained: from the publisher in exchange for an honest review

Summary: The world has long ago collapsed and people have rebuilt their own separate communities, each group living differently.  Coast Road, made up of separate settlements, lives by strictly managing rations and resources.  When a house proves they are responsible, productive, and sustainable, they may be given a "banner" and one woman in the house may have her implant removed to have a child.

Enid, part of Coast Road, is an investigator called to mediate a dispute about a building in one of the far off settlements with her new partner, Teeg.  While investigating the dispute, a body of one of the "wild folk" women (an outsider) is found.  Did one of the Coast Road folks commit murder or was it someone from the outside?  Enid is determined to find the truth.

Thoughts:  This is the first mystery I have come across where the world has collapsed and the story takes place in a new civilization, so that in itself intrigued me- a who-dun-it with a twist.  This was the second book in the series, but the author did a good job showing what the world was like right from the beginning of the book.  I do still want to go back and read the first one, but more for that story rather than because I think I missed something. The way the author set up the world with different communities living in different ways, but having some groups united and others "wild" gave the characters and reader much to think about- moral issues, ethics, how to solve problems, how to get along, how to communicate amongst each other, respecting each others way of life, etc.  It also gave another level to the mystery itself.

I enjoyed the characters.  They were developed and interesting, but I didn't feel like I knew them personally.  Enid, the protagonist, definitely grows throughout the novel, but from looking at the reviews of the first book, Bannerless, it looks as if this is where the reader would really get to know Enid and her background.

The mystery was a good one.  Although there were not many people with motives, there were many people that could have committed the murder. At the beginning the reader is at a loss to why this woman was murdered, but it is clear toward the end who the murderer is, so the reveal is not a big one.  The writing style was a bit odd.  Every once in a while there would be a phrase written as a sentence.  Sometimes I understood what the author meant by these phrases and sometimes I'd have to read the phrase again.  For the most part the author wrote in a clear way.  The author was also able to establish atmosphere, so that I felt like I was in this world.  This was a quick read for me.

All in all this was a good book and I recommend it to anyone liking mystery and / or dystopian-type novels.


Company: Verdant Tea

Tea: Spring Tieguanyin

Obtained: purchased

I purchased the 5 teas for $5 which is a fantastic way to not only try out this company, but sample some new teas without having to buy a large amount.  The company sends just enough tea for one cup, but the leaves can be steeped many times.

The envelopes holding the tea were excellent quality and definitely protected the tea's freshness.  Today I tried Spring Tieguanyin.  My sample was from 2017 and the company is now selling the 2018 tea, so it may differ slightly.  The leaves had a sweet, earthy scent.  They were dark green leaves that looked like they had been squished up and left to dry.  I put the 5g sample packet into my tea pot and poured about  eight ounces of water that had been boiled over the leaves.  I let this steep for just ten seconds.  The liquid was a very pale yellow, almost clear.  It had a fresh, sweet, floral scent.  This was a light, savory tea with a depth of flavors.  There was a lot going on- a sweetness, florals, fruity, a bit grassy, and, finally, a slight peppery aftertaste.  This was a delicious, anytime tea, that reminded me of spring.

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

The Apprentice Witch

Title: The Apprentice Witch

Author: James Nicol

Narrator: Elizabeth Knowelden

Publisher: Scholastic Audio, 2017

Format: 7 compact disks, 7 hours and 34 minutes

Genre: children's fantasy (ages 8-12)

Obtained: library

Summary: Arianwyn did not pass her assessment to become a witch.  She must remain an apprentice, and is given the assignment of being the witch of Lull, a far off, supposedly quiet town.  When she gets there she discovers that things may not be as uneventful as she thought.

Thoughts: I really enjoyed this book right from the beginning and all the way to the end.  This is exactly the type of book I looked for as an older child.  I am very excited that A Witch Alone (The Apprentice Witch #2) comes out on September 25, 2018.

Arianwyn Gribble is a lovable character.  She always tries to do what she thinks is right, but things don't always go as planned.  She never gives up and is strong.  She gives people second chances and still cares about them when they treat her badly.  The other characters in the book are interesting and have personalities, even the magical creatures.  The author brings them all to life.

The world that the author created is similar to reality, but with magic, less technology, and witches added in.  I loved the "Spellorium"  in which Arianwyn lives and the cozy (except for the evil creature that resides there) town of Lull.

The author writes in a clear, descriptive way, with added humor throughout.  He is able to bring creepiness in when needed and I felt all different emotions throughout the book.  The dialogue flowed well.  The pace of the book was good and there were no unnecessary spin offs.

The themes of the book were good and touched on problems all of us go through.  They were great themes for kids- don't give up, trust yourself, sometimes we fail and it's okay, growing up, friendship, being picked on, etc.

The narrator of the book on cd was excellent.  She set moods and helped to bring characters to life with her voice.  She spoke clearly and with emotion and read at a great pace.

If reading the book rather than listening to it, I would recommend this book for advanced young readers ages 8 to 10 or 11 and up to read on their own.  It is also a great book to read to or with 8-12 year olds.  The book on cd would be great for 8 and up.  There are some dark parts, but the setting is cozy so I wouldn't categorize it as scary.


Company: Verdant Tea

Tea: Spring Laoshan Roasted Oolong (2017)

Obtained: purchased

I purchased the five teas for $5, available to new customers, from Verdant Tea.  The teas were packaged nicely and were in heavy duty packets that keeps this good quality tea fresh.  Today I tried the Spring Laoshan Roasted Oolong, which is the second tea I have sampled from this company.  I received just enough tea for one cup, but the leaves can be steeped multiple times.  My sample was from the 2017 batch, whereas the 2018 batch is the one available online for sale.

The leaves had a fresh earthy, somewhat malty scent.  They were large, dark gray leaves that looked as if they had been scrunched up and twisted when they were wet, and then dried.  I poured approximately eight ounces of water that had been boiled and then cooled slightly over the 5g of leaves.  I let this steep for 30 seconds.  The orange brown liquid had a roasted scent.  This savory tea had many flavors going on- roasted and earthy, fruity, a bit of spice, and even a touch of floral.  This was a high-quality, warm, comforting tea that reminded me of relaxing around a camp fire- delicious.

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

A Better Ten Commandments

Title: A Better Ten Commandments

Author: James Miller

Publisher: self-published, 2017

Pages: 77

Genre: self help

Obtained: from author in exchange for an honest review

Summary: The author provides the reader with ten commandments to follow to live life with, and on purpose.

Thoughts: This book starts out with an introduction that really turned me off.  The author stated that his intent "is not to offend any person of faith", but offending people of faith is exactly what he does.  He states on page xv: "Last, and certainly not least, I'm not afraid to have an opinion on the matter, as I don't believe in imaginary friends (insert random god) meting out justice in the here and now or deciding my fate after the death of my brain."  The introduction is filled with statements like this one.  The author is obviously not a person who believes in a god, but I believe he could have shared his opinions more respectfully to those that do.  Once I got to chapter one, I found his words to become less insulting, but the damage of making me not want to be like him, or live a life following commandments that he does, had already been done.  I would suggest whether you are a person of faith or not, it is better to skip the introduction unless you are just looking for ideas to contemplate.  It is not helpful.  I don't think the path needs to be cleared to accept the author's commandments.

Starting in chapter one and in all of the following chapters, the author states a rule to live by, gives inspiring quotes and historical and scientific examples to back up his rule, and then explains how and why to follow this rule.  I loved the quotes and his rules to live by were good ones.  In my opinion, they even went along with the ten commandments, not against them, so I don't understand why the majority of his introduction is necessary.  This book could have been named something totally different and been helpful to people of all different beliefs.  So, his commandments, if called "alternate commandments" or "additional commandments" or something much more creative than I could ever come up with, could also help most people of faith.

The author writes in a simple, easy to follow way and is well organized.  He puts a bit of humor in, although some of it may not be humorous to everyone.  His examples are relevant to his commandments, but sometimes, he tries to over explain specific exceptions.  If anyone has ever tried to make a list of rules, they know that there are always exceptions to them.  The book was thought provoking, but I did find myself wanting to point out to the author that at times his statements were going against his own commandments.  This was distracting.

All in all, if you are interested in thought provoking books, this is one.  If you can ignore the religious bashing, underneath are some very helpful rules to live by.


Company: Plum Deluxe

Tea: Pineapple Pop Herbal Tea

Obtained: free sample with tea of the month club subscription

I obtained this sample of Pineapple Pop Herbal Tea with my June tea of the month club delivery from Plum Deluxe.  This tea contains no caffeine.  The ingredients are green rooibos, pineapple bits, apple bits, mango bits, apricot bits, rosehips, lemongrass, orange peel, calendula, cornflowers, and pineapple essence.

I love pineapples, but I wasn't sure how I would like pineapple in tea.  The leaves were long and rectangular in all sizes and in colors of greens, browns, and off white.  Chunks of fruits were mixed in.  The leaves had a sweet pineapple scent.  I put one teaspoon of leaves into my teapot and poured eight ounces of water that had been boiled over the leaves.  I let this steep for three minutes.  The liquid was a light yellow with a slight fruity scent.  The taste was also very light and fruity with a hint of floral.  The pineapple did not stand out for me.  I tasted more of a fruit blend.  This was a delicious, calming, relaxing tea with the feel of chamomile tea, but with a slight fruity taste instead.  This would be perfect at night to wind down at the end of a hard day.