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!

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

The Couple Next Door

Title: The Couple Next Door

Author: Shari Lapena

Narrator: Kirsten Potter

Publisher: Penguin Audio, 2016

Format: 8 hours and 40 minutes, audio book download

Genre: psychological thriller, mystery

Obtained: library

Summary: Anne and Marco Conti go next door to a dinner party and leave their baby home asleep in her crib.  They bring the baby monitor with them and check on her every half hour.  When they get back home from the party, their baby is gone.

Thoughts: This psychological thriller was not as good as the last couple I read.  The characters were all terrible people- all of them.  Usually if there is an unlikeable character that is interesting, that doesn't matter to me, but having all the characters unlikeable was just plain depressing.  The world that was created was grave and I felt that I was not rooting for any of the characters and didn't really care how the story ended.  The writing style was good in that the story was easy to follow, the pace was good, and I wanted to know what was going to happen.  The down side was that it was more like someone was telling me a story than I was experiencing it.  I also felt that the writing style was almost too simple and definitely too repetitive- like the author thought her audience was not too bright.

The narrator was just okay.  She spoke clearly and I could follow the story.  She did not seem to add much to the experience, though.

All in all this was a simple, entertaining story, but if likeable characters are important to you, this is not for you.  Also, if repetition is annoying to you, don't even try this one.  Would I read something else by this author?  Absolutely.


Company: Plum Deluxe 

Tea: Dragonfruit Desire Herbal Tea

Obtained: sample with tea of the month club

I received this sample of Dragonfruit Desire Herbal Tea with a monthly subscription from Plum Deluxe.  The ingredients were green rooibos, mango pieces, apple pieces, hibiscus, orange peel, lemon peel, strawberry pieces, blue malva flower, and calendula.  The leaves had a fruity scent, and were different shades of brown. They were small, thin, and short, and there were chunks of fruit mixed in with the leaves.  I poured about 12 ounces of water that had been boiled over about one and a half teaspoons of leaves and let this steep for three minutes.  The liquid was a brownish yellow and the scent was of tart fruit.  The taste was a blend of tart berries and fruit with floral mixed in.  There was a sweetness after swallowing that balanced out the tartness of the fruit.  This was a soothing, refreshing blend for those that like fruity herbal teas.

Thursday, November 1, 2018

In a Dark, Dark Wood

Title: In a Dark, Dark Wood

Author: Ruth Ware

Narrator: Imogen Church

Publisher: Simon & Schuster, 2015

Format: 8 compact discs, 9 hours

Genre: psychological thriller, mystery

Obtained: library

Summary: Nora gets an invitation to a weekend hen party for a college friend she has not seen in many years.  She thinks it odd, but decides to attend.  When she gets there, strange things start to happen.  Then someone dies and Nora can't remember what happened.

Thoughts:  I was not going to read this book because a few people that had really liked some of Ruth Ware's other books told me this one was not good, but I'm very glad I read it.  I enjoyed it.  It had a creepy feel, and I looked forward to listening to it.  The clues to what was going to happen were not hidden well, but to me this didn't matter.  The story was a good one and the characters were interesting.  The setting was perfect for this tale, and I really like Ruth Ware's writing style.  She pulls you in with the way she creates her characters and setting and the menacing feel her books possess.  Even though, most of the time I had a sense what was going to happen, the suspense was still there and I was never disappointed with where the story went. 

Imogen Church does a good job reading the book.  She reads at a good pace and uses voice inflection well to keep the listener engaged.  She did a great job portraying the main character.

If you don't like predictable moments or obvious clues, skip this one.  If you don't mind, and like a sinister story and Ruth Ware's writing style, you will probably enjoy this.


Company: Verdant Tea

Tea: 2016 Gu Hua Sheng Pu'er Tea

Obtained: purchased

I purchased the 5 teas for $5 special from Verdant Tea which is available to first time customers.  This is the last tea of my 5, which I am sad about.  Each of these teas were excellent quality and delicious in their own way.  I also enjoyed the short steep times and that I could keep using the same leaves over and over until I had my fill, without loosing the flavor.  I will definitely be trying more teas from this company.

The 2016 Gu Hua Sheng Pu'er Tea is from Mt. Ailao in the Yunnan province of China.  The trees are grown at an elevation of 2140 meters.  The leaves were long and twisted and were many shades of brown.  They had a sweet earthy scent.  I put 5 g (the envelope) of tea into my tea maker and poured 6 ounces of water that had been boiled and then cooled slightly over the leaves.  I let this steep for approximately 6 seconds.  The liquid was pale yellow and had a spicy, earthy scent.  The taste was full bodied and rich, but lighter than most pu'ers I have tasted.  There were fruit and vegetal notes in this tea that balanced with the earthy base to make a wonderful, unique flavor.  I highly recommend trying any tea from this company.  They deliver quickly, and have high quality, unique teas.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

The Ex

Title: The Ex

Author: Alafair Burke

Narrator: Xe Sands

Publisher: Harper Collins and Blackstone Audio, 2016

Format: 7 hours and 44 minutes, audio book download

Genre: psychological thriller / mystery

Obtained: library

Summary: Olivia Randall, a criminal defense attorney, is called when her ex-fiance becomes a suspect in a triple murder.  She knows Jack could not have done this.  Can she prove it?   

Thoughts: This was another good psychological thriller / mystery.  I didn't particularly find Olivia, the main character, likeable, but she was certainly developed and interesting, and I felt like she was a real person.  All of the characters were believable and had distinct personalities.  The story itself was less believable, but very entertaining and kept me engaged- wanting to know what would happen next.  This book was a nice combination of legal, mystery, and psychological thriller.  It did not get bogged down with alot of time in court. The question that the book focuses on is How well do we really know someone?. I liked the author's writing style.  It was organized and I particularly liked the way she used dialogue to tell the story, along with the personal thoughts of the main character.  Figuring out who committed the murders came early to me, but I wasn't positive, and needed it verified at the end.

The narrator did a fantastic job, especially the way she portrayed the main character.  She told the story at a good pace and her voice inflections and the emotions and energy she put into telling the story really kept my attention.

There was some bad language in the book, but it went along with the personalities of the characters, so it wasn't distracting to me.  I could see this bothering some people.  If you like a book with twists and turns and some suspense, and realistic characters are important to you, this is one to try.


Company: Plum Deluxe

Tea: Slowly Unwind Herbal Tea

Obtained: free sample with tea of the month club

I got a sample of Slowly Unwind Herbal Tea with my monthly tea subscription from Plum Deluxe.  The ingredients of this caffeine free herbal tea were honeybush tea, linden flower, elderflower, elderberries, apple pieces, strawberries, blueberries, raspberry leaves, rose petals, and strawberry / blueberry essence.  The leaves were a potpourri of berries, apple pieces, and leaves of all colors, shapes, and sizes.  The scent of the leaves was sweet berries.  I put two teaspoons of leaves into my teapot and poured sixteen ounces of boiling water over the leaves.  I let this steep for five minutes.  The liquid was a light orange brown with a delicate scent of sweet berries.  The taste was a blend of berries and florals.  This was a delicious, sweet herbal tea.  I just loved it.  Instead of "slowly unwind", I would call it "immediately unwind".  It definitely put me in a calm, relaxed state very quickly.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Darling Girls

Title: Darling Girls (The Vampires of Candle Bay and Crimson Cove: Book #1)

Author: Tamara Thorne & Alistair Cross

Publisher: Glass Apple Press, 2018

Pages: 365

Genre: fantasy, horror

Obtained: from publisher in exchange for an honest review

Summary: Amanda, a powerful and evil vampire, wants to be queen.  Will she succeed, or will the more civilized vampires stop her?

Thoughts: This book was kind of hard for me to get through.  It wasn't the type of book I usually choose to read, and it was very long.  It wasn't scary or creepy, just gross- lots of violence and flagrant sex.  There was humor, but it was not the type of humor that is funny to me. 

The characters in the book were developed and interesting.  The book was organized, easy to follow, and easy to understand.  The plot was one that has been done over and over, but the characters did add to it, making the story more interesting.

If you like stories about vampires that are a bit humorous and don't mind disgusting scenes, try this book.  The two authors have separate vampire series and this book combines the two.  For a book that combines two series, the authors did a fabulous job bringing two worlds together.  If .you are like me and like more creepy vampire stories, this is not for you.


Company: Davids Tea

Tea: Organic The Skinny

Obtained: purchased

Today I tried Organic The Skinny from Davids Tea.  The ingredients were oolong tea, pu'erh tea, ginger, orange peel, eleuthero root, and natural flavoring.  There was a medium caffeine content.  The leaves were thin browns and blacks of all lengths with off white chunks mixed in.  The tea leaves had a wonderful orange and ginger scent.  I poured about eight ounces of boiled water over about 1.5 teaspoons of leaves and let this steep for four minutes.  The liquid was a dark orange brown with an earthy scent in the forefront and orange in the background.  The taste was full bodied, yet refreshing- a blend of earthy tasting tea, orange and ginger.  The Davids Tea website states this tea is good for digestion and increases metabolism.  I really enjoyed this blend from Davids Tea.  This along with Organic Mother's Little Helper have been my favorites from this company so far.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

The Other Widow

Title: The Other Widow

Author: Susan Crawford

Narrator: Madeleine Maby

Publisher: Blackstone Audio, 2016

Format: 9 hours and 40 minutes, audio book download

Genre: psychological thriller, mystery

Obtained: library

Summary: Dorrie is in a car accident. She gets out and walks away.  Why?  The man she was having an affair with was driving and is dead, and Dorrie will not risk losing her family and job.  But then the accident begins to look like it may have not been an "accident" at all.  Is Dorrie safe?  What is going on?

Thoughts:  I needed a book to listen to while cooking, so I listened to the first psychological thriller, audio download from my library that was available.  I lucked out.  I wasn't sure if I would like this book, but after the first chapter I was hooked.  After the first day of listening, this was one of those books that I'd want to do a boring chore around the house so I could listen to more of the story.  There were interesting characters, mystery, and suspense.  The writing style was organized and detailed.  I could picture the setting, story and characters in my head.  The author gave details, but never let the story drag.  It was a great pace and had lots of twists and turns.  The resolution was a bit weak- everything was tied up, but the ending could have been built up to give more suspense before the reveal.  Since there was not much build-up to the climax, the ending seemed rushed after a drawn out beginning and middle.  This did not spoil the story, though.  The narrator was excellent.  She read at a good pace and spoke clearly.  I liked her portrayal of the characters.  It was very clear she has an acting background.  I will definitely read more from this author and am hoping she has the same narrator.


Company: Plum Deluxe

Tea: Citrus Mint Green Tea

Obtained: free sample with tea of the month club subscription

This Citrus Mint Green tea came as a sample with my tea of the month subscription.  This is a caffeinated tea which consists of Chinese green tea, lemongrass, spearmint, orange peel, and lemon essence.  The leaves were a mix of long green and off white leaves and short pieces of small green and brown leaves.  The scent of the leaves was a very faint lemon mint.  I put one teaspoon of leaves in my teapot and poured eight ounces of water that had been boiled and then slightly cooled over the leaves.  I let this steep for three minutes.  The pale yellow liquid had the scent of citrus and mint.  The taste was a wonderful citrus mint blend.  This was a light tea that gave me that feeling of being calm, yet alert, not sleepy.