Thursday, December 29, 2016

The Missing Kennedy

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Title: The Missing Kennedy    

Publisher: Bancroft Press, 2016

Pages: 215

Genre: nonfiction, memoir

Obtained: received copy from publisher in exchange for an honest review

Summary: This is the story of two families effected by disabilities- the author's family and the Kennedys. The author herself was afflicted with dizziness and episodes of blindness (misdiagnosed as epilepsy) at one point and had relatives who suffered from mental illness.  Rosemary Kennedy had what is now thought to have been a learning disability.  She also had emotional outbursts, which at the time was thought to be a mental illness.  She had a lobotomy to help with these issues, but it just resulted in more problems.  Rosemary Kennedy's caretaker for many years was the author's aunt, Sister Paulus. The author weaves these separate stories together to demonstrate that we all have family secrets and to show just how important compassion and empathy is to us all. 

Thoughts:  This book is not just a biography of Rosemary Kennedy which I believe most people would assume by the title The Missing Kennedy and the beautiful picture of Rosemary Kennedy on the cover.  Underneath this title, in very small print, are the words "and the Secret Bonds of Four Women".  Even that seems to be misleading.  To me, this book was about disabilities and how they affected two families- the author's family and the Kennedy's.  Although a big part of the book was the story of Rosemary Kennedy, it was just a part.  Another equally big part was the story of Sister Paulus, Rosemary's caretaker for many years.  Then there were the stories of members of Rosemary's family and members of the author's family- all interesting stories.  The cover just did not seem to grasp what was inside.
    This was a very open and honest book.  It was not a book about gossip and blame.  The author wrote this book after doing research and interviews, and obtaining information from her aunt's personal papers.  She also incorporated her memories into the book adding an intimate feel which I believe is what made this book really good.  
     I read this book in three sittings, but could have done it in one.  It was an easy read- not boring at all.  There were many people discussed in the stories and it could get a little confusing who was who, but there were family trees in the back that I referred to.  Although the author sometimes gives opinions, they were ones I wanted to hear and the author makes it clear they are her thoughts, not facts.  The author's writing was easy to follow.  She did not ramble, but it was as if she was sitting there telling the reader the story rather than writing it.  She did not dramatize anything, just stated how things were.  The book was written in a positive way, pointing out the good that was there even when there was tragedy and sadness.  There were also many pictures included which really added to the experience of reading this book.  Also, in the back of the book are listed the programs the Kennedy family created and the accomplishments John and Ted Kennedy achieved through their political careers  that helped (and are still helping) people with disabilities.
     If you are looking for an in depth biography about Rosemary Kennedy, I don't think you'd be very pleased with this book.  It gives a picture of what life was like for Rosemary after her lobotomy and a brief glimpse of what her life was like before the operation- that is all.  If you are interested in the Kennedy family or just want to read a good, honest nonfiction story about people and families, you will probably enjoy this book as much as I did.  


Company: Tea Forte

Tea: Chocolate Rose

Obtained: gift

     I received the Noir Single Steeps Sampler as a Christmas gift.  The samples came in a beautiful box and contained three packages of five different teas.  Each package is premeasured for twelve ounces of water- just enough for a cup of tea.  The packages are easy to open without scissors and would be great for those who bring loose leaf tea with them anywhere.
     The first tea I tried was the Chocolate Rose, a black tea. The leaves were long and dark brown.  There were small light brown leaves mixed in along with thin bark-like pieces.  The scent of the leaves was of sweet chocolate with a hint of rose.  I added twelve ounces of water that had been boiled to the leaves and let this brew for three minutes.  The liquid was a reddish brown and smelled of warm chocolate with a hint of rose.  The scent was not strong.  The taste was of a sweet, yet full-bodied tea.  Rose and black tea were the prominent flavors with a hint of warm, sweet chocolate in the background.  This would make a nice dessert tea.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Anne of Green Gables

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Title: Anne of Green Gables

Author: L.M.Montgomery

Narrator: Kate Burton

Publisher: 2008 by Random House, Inc., originally published 1908

Format: 8 CDs, playing time 10.5 hours

Genre: classic, young adult

Obtained: library

Summary: Marilla and Matthew Cuthbert, sister and brother, decide to adopt an orphan boy to help Matthew with his farm work.  Matthew goes to the train station to pick up the boy, but when he gets there he finds there has been a mistake.  The boy is a girl, Anne Shirley.  Where will Anne's path take her from here?

Thoughts:  I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of this book.  It was a wonderful escape to a simpler time.  I loved the realization that many things have changed, but many more have not.  Also, it encompassed all emotions, but the parts that were most memorable to me were the humorous ones.  Although there were serious issues written about in the book, such as sickness and death, the author wrote in a way that still made the book cozy and uplifting, rather than depressing.
     The setting of the story is Prince Edward Island in Canada.  The author made me feel that I was there and I could picture each beautiful place in my mind.  The real  Green Gables still stands and can be visited.  The house was owned by the author's cousins, but has been a National Histiric Site since 1985 and is in Prince Edward Island National Park.  L.M. Montgomery visited the house as a young girl.  "Lover's Lane", "the Haunted Woods", and "Balsam Hollow", all places in the book, can also be visited.  In fact, if traveling to Prince Edward Island, there is a whole "Anne Itinary" available to follow so that you can encompass yourself with the story.
     The characters were brought to life by the author.  I could picture the physical appearance of each one along with their mannerisms.  I found myself wanting to know the stories of the minor characters, as well as the main characters because each character was interesting in their own way.  This was one of those stories that felt as if the characters were real people.
     The narrator helped to bring the characters to life even more and I felt like her portrayals of Anne, Marilla, and Matthew were right on.  Her voice was clear and she read the story at a pleasing pace.  The tracks were also not too long, so it was easy to find my place if I lost it.
     I believe this is a book for all ages, not just children.  I think that girls and women would like it most since it deals with a lot of female issues and concerns. I tried listening to it with my two sons (ages 9 and 14), but they could just not get into it.  My fourteen year old found Anne annoying because she was dramatic and talked too much.
    This is a cozy book, with terrific characters, and a beautiful setting. It is more than just an entertaining story.  It is about community, friendships, families, life and love.


     One of my favorite scenes in Anne of Green Gables is when Anne has her best friend Diana over for tea.  Anne is very excited to be serving Diana a special drink, raspberry cordial, which was left over from the church social.
     Instead of tea, I just had to make raspberry cordial to go along with this book.  I searched online and quickly found this wonderful blog post that has a recipe, created by the blogger, for raspberry cordial.  So, I have done a recipe review in place of a tea review this time around.
     I halved the recipe created by Tori Avery and this resulted in plenty of the drink.  The whole recipe would have been too much for my family of four.  I had some raspberries from my garden in my freezer, so thawed those (about 3 cups).  I mixed 1/6 of a cup of lemon juice with the thawed raspberries.  I then brought 6 cups of water mixed with 1 1/2 cups of sugar to a boil.  I poured the boiling liquid over the raspberry mixture and let this cool (about 2 hours) before placing it in the refrigerator to sit overnight.  The next day I strained the liquid through a fine sieve, the end result being a pitcher full of a beautiful red liquid.
     I mixed 1 cup of the red liquid with one cup of water to create the raspberry cordial that would be something like Anne served in Anne of Green Gables.  The concoction was delightful.  It was a beautiful red that had the scent of raspberries.  The taste was very sweet, smooth, and refreshing. It, of course, tasted of raspberries.  Tori Avery also suggests mixing the liquid with seltzer, which I did the next day.  This created a raspberry soda that reminded me of Izzy's Sparkling Blackberry Juice.  I also might try adding the raspberry juice to a small amount of ginger ale or lemon-lime soda.
   Just like Anne of Green Gables is really a story for all ages, so is this drink.  Making raspberry cordial after reading this scene with your young kids would be fun.  It would also show them how "juice" is made and I am sure they will love the color.  My 9 and 14 year old boys loved it and have requested that I make it again for Christmas.  It is also an elegant, refreshing drink for adults anytime of the year!  Thank you, Tori Avery, for this wonderful recipe.

Monday, December 12, 2016

The Girl With No Past

41jQa-3cH8L.jpg (326×500)Title: The Girl With No Past

Author: Kathryn Croft

Publisher: Bookouture, 2015

Pages: 300

Genre: psychological thriller

Obtained: library

Summary: Something happened in Leah Mills' past.  She believes she should be punished for this. She works at a library during the day and goes home to her apartment at night and reads.  She has no friends and the only family she has is her mother, who she does not see often.  Just as Leah starts to believe she has punished herself enough and begins to form some realationships, her past comes back to haunt her.  Someone else believes Leah should continue to be punished, but who?

Thoughts:  This was a really good psychological thriller. It reminded me of I Know What You Did Last Summer by Lois Duncan because both involved the question- who's seeking revenge on a person / people  that did something bad in their past?  The story is told by the protagonist and goes back and forth from her past (teen years) to present (14 years later).  The stories happening in each time period are good ones.  The writing is easy to follow, flows well, and kept me reading.  It was one of those books that is hard to put down because you want to know what is going on.  If I had the time, I could have read it in one sitting.  I really liked the author's writing style. There was enough description to picture what was taking place.  Some parts were creepy and chilling, other parts should have felt this way, but didn't- something was missing.
     Leah's character was developed throughout the story and by the end the whole person was revealed.  The other characters were not well-developed, but the story would not have worked if they had been.  Leah was telling the story and had just gotten to know most of the other characters.  Also, the reader was not supposed to know the characters that well because it added to the sense of mystery as to who was out to get Leah because of her past.
     The one major problem that I had with the book was the title.  I still do not understand how the title relates to the book in any way.  All in all, this was not a deep book, but a very entertaining one.  The author is an excellent storyteller.  She hooked me at the beginning and kept me hooked untilthe very end.


Company: Teema Teas

Tea: Jasmine Green

Obtained: purchased

     This Jasmine Green tea is another from my Teema Teas gift pack.  The gift pack came promptly when I ordered it with no problems and was nicely packaged.  This is the second tea I have sampled from the gift pack- the Moringa Green being excellent.
     I cut open the well sealed, pre-measured (for twelve ounces) package of tea and poured it into my teapot.  The scent of the leaves was a delicious sweet jasmine.  The leaves themselves were large and all different shades of green.  There were brown twig-like pieces mixed in.  I poured twelve ounces of water over the leaves and let this steep for two minutes.  The liquid was an amber color and smelled of the same sweet jasmine, but not as strong as the leaves.  The taste was of green tea with a light jasmine flavor in the background.  This was a good jasmine tea.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

The Quantum Door

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Title: The Quantum Door

Author: Jonathan Ballagh

Publisher: 2015 by Jonathan Ballagh (self-published)

Pages: 288

Genre: Science Fiction, Young Adult

Obtained: author gave me a copy in exchange for an honest review

Summary: A fence and "no trespassing" signs go up around the woods in back of Brady and Felix's house.  So, what would anyone want to do?  Find out what was behind the fence of course!  What they find is a fantastic adventure involving lots of cool technology and remarkable beings.

Thoughts:  This was a really good book!  The best part of the book was the unique worlds created by the author. I don't read many science fiction books, but I felt like these worlds were something new.  The book was reminiscent of The Wizard of Oz and The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe because in all three of these books kids enter another world and go on a magical adventure where they meet beings that could be either friend or foe.  They have a mission to complete in this world before they return home.
     The main characters were presented right away and I felt I knew them immediately.  The other characters were introduced as they were encountered.  They had distinct attributes and all had believable personalities.  The only thing I felt that was missing was some quirk Brady might have, or some special interest.  He just seemed like your average fourteen year old.  He was well-developed, but I wanted him to be more interesting.
     The author's writing style was simple and straightforward, not wordy or flowery at all.  The technology was described in a way that non-technological people (like me) could grasp and actually understand what was happening.  The author wove the explanations into the story masterfully.  I did not have to reread any part to understand it.
     There was just enough description throughout the book so that the settings and characters could be pictured, but the author focused more on the action which I believe is perfect for fifth grade and up.  The story was not predictable.  It was great not knowing what was going to happen.  This is one of those books that can be read by almost any age and enjoyed.  Also, although it is a science fiction book, it has a really good story to it, so those that are not huge science fiction fans would also find it entertaining.
     Throughout the book, there are groups of 0's and 1's sectioning off different sections of chapters.  I am assuming these are binary codes.  I couldn't figure out any meaning from them.  If anyone reads the book and figures out that the numbers mean anything, please let me know!


Company: Teema Teas

Tea: Ginger-Lemongrass

Obtained: purchased

     I purchased the gift pack from Teema Teas.  Today I sampled the pre-measured pack of caffeine-free ginger-lemongrass tea that came along with it.  I cut open the package, ready to put the tea into my teapot and to my surprise, there was a teabag in the package!  It was a pyramid shaped bag that could be seen through.  Inside were long yellowish brown leaves, some yellow curly pieces and chunks, and some yellow leaves.  The scent was of lemon with subtle ginger in the background.  The dry tea was very pretty.
     I poured 12 ounces of boiling water over the tea bag and let this steep for 3 minutes.  The liquid was a pale, cloudy yellow with a ginger scent.  There was still the lemon scent as well, but that was now more in the background.  There was also another scent mixed in that I just could not place.  When I tasted the tea it was of sweet lemon with a ginger background.  Again, that other scent / taste was still there.  I really tried to place it, but still can't.  The only way I can describe it is a corn oil taste.  The tea did not have an oily texture at all, it was just something I could taste.  It was not bad, just different.  If anyone tries this tea, please let me know if you can place the smell/ taste!
     My favorite lemon ginger tea is still French Lemon Ginger from Art of Tea.  Teema Tea's ginger-lemongrass tea was not bad, I just like the Art of Tea blend much better.  I did think the dry leaves and packaging were prettier in the Teema Tea ginger-lemongrass tea, but the taste is more important to me.


Thursday, November 17, 2016

The Luckiest Girl Alive

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Author: Jessica Knoll

Narrator: Madeleine Maby

Publisher: Simon & Schuster, May 2015

Format: 10 cd's, 11 hours and 50 minutes

Genre: fiction

Obtained: library

Summary: Ani FaNelli seems to have it all- a fantastic job, a perfect and rich fiance, a great figure and beautiful clothes.  But is this who she is?  Is this what she really wants?  When Ani's tragic, shocking past meets her present, what will happen?

Thoughts:  I started out not liking this book very much.  It kept my attention, was well written, had good descriptions, and had some good humor in it.  But, it was all about the perfect life of a mean person and it was really getting old hearing about eating, losing weight, clothes, and sex.  The book seemed pretty shallow with no freshness to it.
     By the middle of the book I realized that my first impression was wrong. It was wanting to know what happened in Ani's past from the little hints that got me hooked and kept me reading.  The novel ended up being much deeper than I first thought.  Also, the main character was developed in an interesting way.  Furthermore, there are some really heavy issues that are dealt with lightly.  The story was told in a way that the reader hears it from the main character rather than living her life with her.  I think this was a good thing for this novel since it had some really disturbing content.  The way the author told the story made it a good read, not a depressing one.  The author knows how to tell a story in a unique way.  By the end I decided this was a really good book!
     The narrator was great.  She gave the characters distinct voices and was able to bring out both the men and women's personalities with her voice.  The problem I had with the audio version was that the tracks were very long. When I lost my place by pressing a wrong button on my mp3 player, or moving my cd from the car to the house, I had to listen for a long time to part of the book that I had already heard to get back to where I had left off.
     This would make a great book club book since there is lots to discuss.  There is so much to like and not like about the story, the way it was told, the characters, and how the author dealt with societal issues.


Company: Perkse

Tea: Love Tea #8

Obtained: purchased

     I purchased the tea sampler from Perkse.  Although it took quite some time to arrive, I received 6 samples in brightly colored, good quality, resealable bags.  The tea was fresh and each tea that I have sampled so far has had a very strong scent compared to teas from other companies.
     Love Tea #8 is made up of long black tea leaves with dried flowers mixed throughout.  It has a VERY strong rose scent.
     I put 1 teaspoon of Love Tea #8 into my tea pot and poured 8 ounces of water that had been boiled over the leaves.  I let this steep for 3 minutes.  The liquid was an orange brown.  It had a strong rose scent.  When I tasted the tea, I was expecting an overpowering rose taste, but this is not what I got.  It was a nice blend of floral and black tea.  It reminded me of spring, not perfume, which is what I was expecting.  This tea is definitely for rose lovers.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Interview with Andrew Joyce

Yellow Hair is an American historical fiction novel about the injustices done to the Sioux Nation from 1805 through 1890.  Andrew Joyce, the author, based this story on real life events and people, even using their real names.  He tells the story through a white man adopted by a Dakota (Sioux) tribe.

With the recent event of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe' s litagation on the Dakota Access pipeline, I believe this book may be of interest to those following this current event.  Also, many American's were taught in childhood that the Wamponoags and Pilgrims shared America's first Thanksgiving together.  Over time it has been questioned why we tie Native Americans in with Thanksgiving since our treatment of the Native Americans was unspeakable and the relationship described in these stories is most likely false.  With Thanksgiving coming, and our thoughts on this, it might be a good time to read Yellow Hair.

Although I have not read his book, I am excited to have Mr. Joyce tell us about Yellow Hair and answer a few questions.

Me: Please tell us about your new book.

Andrew Joyce: Through no fault of his own, a young man is thrust into a new culture just at the time that culture is undergoing massive changes. It is losing its identity, its lands, and its dignity. He not only adapts, he perseveres and, over time, becomes a leader—and on occasion, the hand of vengeance against those who would destroy his adopted people.

Yellow Hair documents the injustices done to the Sioux Nation from their first treaty with the United States in 1805 through Wounded Knee in 1890. Every death, murder, battle, and outrage written about actually took place. The historical figures that play a role in this fact-based tale of fiction were real people and I use their real names. Yellow Hair is an epic tale of adventure, family, love, and hate that spans most of the 19th century.

Me: What made you decide to write about the Sioux Nation?

AJ: The inspiration for the book came to me when I was reading a short article and it made reference to the Great Sioux Uprising of 1862. It also mentioned that the outcome involved the largest mass execution in the history of the United States. That piqued my interest.

When I started my research into the incident, one thing led to another and before I knew it, I was documenting the entire history of the Sioux, who are also known as the Dakota, vis-à- vis the relationship between them and the United States.

Me: How much of your story is actually fiction?

AJ: I would say that it’s about 50/50.

Me: What was the most interesting or important fact you discovered when doing the research for this book?

AJ: There are so many things that I learned while writing Yellow Hair. But I guess the most important thing I discovered was that our treatment of Native Americans was so much worse than I could ever have imagined.

Me: What does it take to research thoroughly enough so as not to be criticized by historians and experts on the time period you are writing about?

AJ: I want to say that I learned the hard way how important proper research is. But it wasn’t really that hard of a lesson. In my first book, which takes place in the last half of the 19th century, I made two mistakes. I had the date of an event off by one year and I had my hero loading the wrong caliber cartridge into his Winchester rifle. I would have gone blissfully throughout life not knowing how I had erred if not for my astute fans. Both mistakes were quickly pointed out to me in reviews of the book. One guy said he would have given me five stars if not for the wrong caliber bullet mistake. I had to settle for only four stars. Lesson learned!

For Yellow Hair, I had to know both points of view, the white man’s and the Sioux’s. Getting to know the whites’ take on things was easy. There are many, many books (non-fiction) that were written at the time. I even found a book written by Custer detailing his strategy for wiping out the Sioux entirely. That was hard reading. Then I went looking for diaries and obscure self-published books written by the participants. Then it was onto newspaper articles written at the time; the archives of universities and historical societies were also a great help.

As to the Sioux’s point of view, there are a few books that were dictated to newspapermen years later by the Indians that took part in the various battles that I weave into my story. I found a lot of material from Native American participants of the Little Big Horn, written twenty to thirty years after the fact.

But I wanted to immerse myself in the Sioux culture and I wanted to give them dignity by using their language wherever possible. I also wanted to introduce them by their Sioux names. So, I had to learn the Lakota language. And that wasn’t easy. There is a consortium that will teach you, but they wanted only serious students. You have to know a smattering of the language before they will even deign to let you in. I had to take a test to prove that I knew some Lakota. I failed the first time and had to go back to my Lakota dictionary and do some more studying. I got in on my second try.

Me: What is your favorite part about the completed book?

AJ: The “twist” I put in at the end.

Me: Is there anything else you could share with us that would make us want to read Yellow Hair?

AJ: If you are at all interested in what is happening in North Dakota concerning The Dakota Access Pipeline and the treatment of the protesters, Yellow Hair will show you the genesis of that treatment and how it has not abated one iota since our first contact with the Sioux.

Me: Will you be writing another book? If so, what can you tell us about it?

AJ: The tentative title is Mick Reilly. It is about three generations of Irish whose patriarch immigrates to America in 1840. I know where I’m going with it, but I have more thinking to do before I say anything else.

Yellow Hair was published by William Birch and Associates on September 28, 2016. It is 498 pages.  It is available on Kindle or in paperback from Amazon.


It is also available from Barnes and Noble, Smashwords, Kobo, and iTunes.

Friday, November 4, 2016

The Racketeer

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Author: John Grisham

Narrator: J. D. Jackson

Format: 10 cd's, 12 hours and 45 minutes

Published: 2012 by Random House, Inc.

Genre: Thriller, mystery

Obtained: library

Summary: Malcolm Bannister, a lawyer, has been sentenced to 10 years in jail.  He has 5 more years to serve, but has a plan to be released early.  Will it work?

Thoughts:  I have not read a book by John Grisham for many years.  I remember reading his books in the early '90's.  At the time, I loved his books because of how he combined the legal aspect and the mystery of what is really happening with action and suspense.  He also had likeable characters that were well developed.  I think I stopped reading his books because they always seemed to follow a certain pattern, and I just needed something new.  When I saw this book, I thought it was time to read another John Grisham legal thriller.
     This time around, the characters were not as likeable and some were not as well developed.  Also, I found some of the relationships between the characters to not be totally believeable.  Other than that, I was not disappointed because the rest of the novel was exactly what I expected.  The author still seems to use the same pattern and has the same writing style.
     The narrator did a terrific job with the main character.  He was able to bring the character to life and was able to make you feel the emotions the character would have throughout.  It felt like I was listening to a real person tell me his story.  The narrator was easy to understand and easy to follow.  He added a lot to the experience of listening to this story.
     If you haven't read John Grisham, try the older ones first.  If you haven't read him for awhile, you might be happy you picked up one of his books again.  Although this was not the best John Grisham book I've read, I really enjoyed it.  I'm ready for another one!


Company: Teema Teas

Tea: Moringa Green

Obtained: purchased

     I came across Teema Teas on twitter and decided to check them out.  They are a company that sells a variety of organic teas and participate in direct-trade.  Ten percent of their annual profits are donated to disadvantaged women.  Five percent goes to the woman owned plantation in northern Thailand where Teema Teas gets its tea leaves.  The other five percent goes to Grameen America which "helps women who live in poverty build small businesses to create better lives for their families".  They offer microloans (very small, short-term loans at low interest), training and support to these women.
    I wanted to order the gift pack, but it was not available.  I sent a message asking about it, and was told that it had been sold out, but that it should be back up online soon if it wasn't already.  I checked back and it was there!  The gift pack arrived within a few days.  There were six pre-measured envelopes of different teas in a burlap bag.  They also send an additional sample with each order.  The cost is $14.00 + shipping.  I thought this was a little on the expensive side since this is only for 6 cups of tea.
     I decided to sample the moringa green first.  I was not familiar with moringa, but the Teema Teas website lists that it has 4x the calcium of milk, 7x the vitamin c of oranges, 3x the potassium of bananas, and 4x the vitamin a of carrots.  I did a quick internet search and found that moringa is high in antioxidents, may reduce inflammation, and may lower blood sugar and cholesterol levels.
      I emptied the pre-portioned moringa green tea pack into my teapot.  The leaves were a mixture of long dark green and brown leaves that looked like they had been rolled, small light green leaves, and some grass and small twigs mixed in.  The leaves had a grassy scent, reminiscent of dry hay.   I poured 12 ounces of water, which had been boiled, over the leaves.  I let this steep for 2 minutes.  I poured the tea into my glass teacup.  The liquid was a medium yellow.  The scent was not strong at all, but smelled faintly of dry hay.  The taste was not as vegetal as most green teas, but it did have that slightly grassy taste to it.  There was no bitterness.  This tea was smooth, thirst quenching, and refreshing- delicious.  Lots of vitamins, minerals, and health benefits from something that tastes this good?  Wow! This is a tea I will purchase again.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

White is for Witching

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Author: Helen Oyeyemi

Publisher: Doubleday, 2009

Pages: 227

Genre: paranormal, horror

Obtained: library

Summary: Miranda Silver and her twin brother Eliot lost their mother.  Their father, Luc, is devastated by this loss as are the twins.   Miranda blames herself for her mother's death.  Also, Miranda's pica (eating disorder where she consumes inedible things) is getting worse.  Then Miranda disappears. Where did she go?  We get three perspectives from three different narrators as to what may have happened to her.

Thoughts:  Strange.  If I had to describe this book in one word, that's what it would be.  There is good strange and bad strange.  I think this was a little of both.
     The house was a narrator and character in the story.  This was a good strange to me.  Imagine everything a house could see and hear.  I thought this aspect was just kind of cool.  Also, the author blended real horrors (mental illness / pica, xenophobia, murder) with paranormal horrors (ghosts, houses that are alive) - very clever!
     The bad strange to me was that the book was written in a way, that at times, it was hard to figure out who was narrating the story.  With the story jumping from narrator to narrator, this sometimes disrupted the flow.  Also, it was written in a dreamlike way so that it was hard to tell what was actually happening and what was just imagination.  
     This novel can probably be interpreted in many different ways.  I am assuming the author did this on purpose.  I enjoy literal stories best, so this wasn't a great book for me, but there was a cleverness here that I really liked, along with underlying themes and some depth. Also, the author made me think, which is always a good thing.  This would make a fantastic book club book.  Just the question- What really happened to Miranda?- would make for a great discussion!


Company: Perkse

Tea: Apple Crisp

Obtained: purchased


     I wanted to try something new this month, so I did an online search for "unique tea blends" and came across Perkse.  Their website has herbal, black, white, oolong, and rooibus tea blends.  I ordered a tea sampler.  They send six different tea samples with 20 tea filters.  The customer can pick the 6 samples, or Perkse will send 6 of their best selling blends.  I opted for the best selling blends.  The cost is $14.99 + shipping.  I ordered my tea on October 4th.  The website says they have same day shipping if ordered by 4pm.  I ordered before 4pm.  On October 12th, I emailed the company because I expected the tea within 5 days and when I tried to track my order, it stated the order was being prepared for shipping.  I got a quick response back with an apology and explanation that it sometimes takes a long time for delivery when shipping over the Canadian border.  Perkse is located in Canada and I am in the United States.  I received the tea on October 19th.  I did receive an email from Eugene Kim, I believe the owner, of Perkse following up to make sure I got the order.  This email came on the 20th.  The package was postmarked October 11th.  Hmmmm...
     The tea came in 6 individual, brightly colored, good quality, resealable bags.  I decided that the first sample I would try would be Apple Crisp.  The package was easy to open, but there were no ingredients or brewing recommendations listed.  I went to the website for more information.  This blend was not on the site.  I brewed it, treating it like an herbal tea.  It was delicious!  Unfortunately, it doesn't seem to be available to order more.  I emailed Eugene Kim asking him why it was not on the site, but have not gotten an answer.  This was a week ago, so I don't expect a response.  I looked to see if the other samples are available for order.  Only two of the six samples are currently on the Perkse website.
     Since the Apple Crisp was not available, I have decided to do a review on the Elderberry Blossom tea, which can currently be ordered.

Company: Perkse

Tea: Elderberry Blossom

Obtained: purchased


          Elderberry Blossom is a black tea with elderberries, cranberries, blackberries, safflower petals, lime leaf, and natural flavors added.  The leaves were medium in length (for tea leaves).  Most were black, but there were some red, white, and yellow leaves mixed in.  I did not see any berries, but could smell them along with a floral scent.  The scent of the tea leaves was very strong.  I poured 8 ounces of water over 1 teaspoon of leaves and let this steep for 3 minutes.  The liquid was a brownish orange and had a scent similar to the leaves, but not as strong.  The taste was a berry / floral combination.  There was no astrigency to this tea.  It has a slight sweetness to it.  This was a light and refreshing tea.
     Perkse has some unique tea blends, that are enjoyable, but it seems that the customer can't always get what they want when they want it.....


Tuesday, October 18, 2016

The Night Circus

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Narrator: Jim Dale

Format: 11 discs, 13 1/2 hours

Publisher: Random House Audio, 2011

Genre: fantasy

Obtained: library

Summary: Celia and Marco, two illusionists, have been bound by their teachers to compete against one another in a "game".  The venue is Le Cirque de Reves, a magical circus like no other.  They are given minimal information about the contest, and Celia is not even told the name of her opponent.  Things get more complicated when Celia and Marco fall in love.

Thoughts: This author does an amazing job with descriptive writing!  I felt like I was at the circus and in the other settings of this book completely.  I could not only see what was in these places, but I could smell and hear what was going on.  On top of that I felt so much- excitement, anticipation, happiness, etc...   It was a magical experience, entering this extraordinary world that the author created.  This is what made this book stand out to me and why I really consider it special.
     This book was not fast paced, but kept me engaged.  It did not have deep characters, but they were entertaining.  The plot was simple, but there was a lot going on and to me, it was woven together well, so that at the end it all came together. It did have many time jumps, so I had to pay attention to what year I was reading about, but this was not a problem.
     The narrator did a great job reading the book.  I felt he added to the atmoshere of the story and to the character's personalities.  He was easy to understand and follow.
     This author is a master at creating vivid imagery which makes for a terrific experience.  She also created a magical world.  This was a great fantasy novel.  On the other hand, if you are looking for very developed characrters that you can connect with, this is not the book for you.  It is also not for you if you are looking for an intense competition.  It is quite laid back.


Company: Yezi Tea Company

Tea: Shui Xian Da Hong Pao

Obtained: purchased

     I purchased the Farmer Favorite's Tea Sampler from Yezi Tea Company.  The company provides free shipping for their samplers and the order arrived very quickly.  So far, I have not been disappointed with this tea company.  I have tried 5 out of the 6 samples, and enjoyed every one.
     This time I brewed a cup of Shui Xian Da Hong Pao or "Big Red Robe".  This is an oolong tea grown in the Wuyi Mountains on a rich carpet of lichens and moss (according to the Yezi Tea website).  There are legends surrounding the name of the tea.  One is that it was grown by Buddist Monks on inaccessible cliffs and picked by trained monkeys wearing red vests.  Another is that someone important (the person varies) was cured of an illness by the tea, so laid out a red robe or robes to give thanks.
     The tea came in a bag that was easy to open.  The leaves were long and dark brown (although the website said they are yellow-purple) and had a sweet, woodsy scent.
     I poured eight ounces of hot water over four teaspoons of the tea leaves and let this steep for 45 seconds.  The liquid was a pale yellow, much lighter than it came out in the picture. (The website said it would be dark orange?)  The taste was woodsy with a hint of floral which was very subtle.  There was no bitterness to this tea and it was light, yet very flavorful.  This was an enjoyable, refreshing oolong tea.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Lie Still

41HL-+38ljL._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg (324×499)Title: Lie Still

Narrator: Rebecca Gibel

Format: 10 cd's, 12 hours, 3 minutes

Published: Blackstone Audio, 2013

Genre: mystery, thriller

Obtained: library

Summary: Emily Page and her husband, Mike, move from Manhattan, New York, to Clairmont, Texas.  Mike will be the new police chief in this small, wealthy, close-knit community.  Emily begins to receive mysterious mail, calls, and messages that are sometimes threatening and horrifying.  Caroline, the "leader" of the local women, is found dead.  Is what is happening to Emily being done by the same person who murdered Caroline?  Are the threats Emily is getting related to something from her past or present?

Thoughts: There was so much going on in this book that it kept me engaged and interested throughout.  It was also entertaining, especially the humor and the colorful characters.  Each character had their own interesting story, and was unique and well developed.  Most of the characters were hard to connect with, but their personalities were so amusing, this didn't seem to matter so much.  All of the characters had secrets and many of them had horrific things happen in their past.  There were so many characters with these terrible pasts that it made the story quite unbelievable at times, but it also made for an excellent mystery and it kept me reading.
     The weakness of this book was that it was full of disparity.  For example,  at times it was very serious and at others it really had some excellent humor.  Sometimes this made a nice balance, but at other times it just didn't work.  Also, sometimes the story seemed quite realistic, but then other times quite far-fetched.  This made for an odd mix.
     The narrator had a distinct voice for each character, so I always knew who was talking.  She also read at a good pace, was easy to follow, and kept me engaged.
     So, if you like an entertaining story with a lot going on, lots of secrets, a good mystery, and colorful characters, you'll love this book.  If you are looking for a believable story where you connect with the characters, this isn't the one for you.  I believe this novel would make for a great book club discussion.



Company: Yezi Tea Company

Tea: Li Shan

Obtained: purchased

     Li Shan tea is an oolong tea grown in Taiwan.  This sample came from the Yezi Tea Company.  According to the Yezi Tea website, this tea is harvested at 6,600 - 7,800 feet above sea level.  Therefore, the harvest is limited due to the small amount of agricultural land at this high altitude.
     The sample arrived in a lined bag which kept the leaves fresh.  The bag was easy to open.  The leaves had an earthy scent.  They were gray and green clumps of all sizes.  They looked like they had been wet when collected, crumpled up and dried like that.
     I put three teaspoons of leaves in my tea pot and poured nine ounces of hot water over the leaves.  I let this brew for forty five seconds.  The liquid was a pale yellow.  The scent was of sweet flowers with a background of the earthy scent.  This was very different from just the scent of the leaves.
     The taste of the tea was similar to the scent.  It was a mix of sweet flowers and an earthy flavor.  The tea was light, smooth, and refreshing, but also relaxed me.  This tea was delightful!


Thursday, September 29, 2016

The Traitor's Wife

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Title: The Traitor's Wife

Author: Allison Pataki

Publisher: Howard Books, 2014

Pages: 467

Genre: historical fiction

Obtained: library

Summary: This is the story of Peggy Shippen Arnold, Benedict Arnold's wife, and her part in the plan to deliver West Point to the British.

Thoughts:  This is a very light historical novel.  It is a quick read for 467 pages.  The writing style is straight forward and the story is easy to follow.  There are just enough details describing the setting and characters to make you feel like you are in Colonial America, most of the time.  At times, I questioned- Would people actually do this, or believe this during this time period? - but I have not studied the time period enough to be certain.  The characters were well developed, though at times, I felt like I didn't really know them completely.
     Other than these minor details, this was an excellent read!  The story was told from the perspective of Peggy Shippen Arnold's maid, Clara Bell.  So, the book is really two stories intertwined- the totally fictitious story of Clara Bell (who did not even really exist), and the story of Peggy Shippen and Bennedict Arnold (which is based on real life events).  Both stories were great.  Telling Peggy's story from the maid's perspective was a terrific idea.
     I believe that hard core historical fiction fans would find fault with this book, but for anyone that likes light historical fiction, fiction in general, or has any interest in Benedict Arnold or the American Revolution, would enjoy this book.


Company: Yezi Tea

Tea: Zheng Shan Xiao Zhong

Obtained: purchased

     Yezi Tea company specializes in Chinese tea.  Zheng Shan Xiao Zhong, which is also known as Lapsang Souchong, is grown in the Wuyi Mountains of the Fujian province of China.  The tea leaves are smoked over smoldering wood.
     I purchased the Farmer Favorite's Tea Sampler  and this tea was one of the samples.  The tea came in a lined bag which kept the leaves fresh.  The leaves were long, thin, and black.  They had a strong earthy scent to them.
     I poured 9 ounces of water over 6 teaspoons of the leaves and let this steep for 30 seconds.  The liquid was reddish brown.  The scent of the liquid was reminiscent of dried leaves on a fall day.  The taste was earthy, yet had a light smokey flavor.  The aftertaste was slightly sweet, yet tangy.  The strength of the tea was surprising for the short steep time.  This tea would be great to try if you are looking for a different tasting black tea.

Friday, September 23, 2016

The Wind in the Willows

Narrator: Shelly Frasier

Format: 6 cd's

Published: 2008 by Tantor Media, originally published in 1908

Genre: classic, adventure

                                                                                          Obtained: library

Summary:  This is a collection of stories about the adventures of the unlikely friends Mole, Rat, Badger, and Toad.

Thoughts: The author has created loveable characters and a setting that is perfect to retreating into when you are looking for a calm, quiet, contemplative, relaxing kind of book. He does a great job of transporting you to the river, meadow, and the "wild wood".  This book tells of the adventures of animals (who have human traits and emotions), but focuses on simple pleasures and ordinary lives.  Much of the book is about hospitality and friendship.  These friends spend much time going on picnics, boating, and enjoying long talks in one anothers homes.
     Toad is the character that does not have a life that is thought of as ordinary, so the little excitement in the book is the adventures of Toad.   When the friends visit the "Wild Wood" this may be seen as scary to children, but also adds a little excitment to the book.
     The narrator was able to speak calmly during the day to day activities of the characters, but was able to put enough energy into her reading to grab your attention when something more exciting was about to happen.  She was also able to bring life to the characters by giving them distinct voices which added to their personalities.
     If you are looking for an action packed book, you will not be happy with this one.  This is a book to read when looking for loveable charcters and a cozy read with just a little adventure to hold your interest.   It would be great to read while sipping tea or on a picnic.  This book did not hold my kid's (ages 8 and 14) attention.  There was simply not enough going on for them that they did not consider mundane.


Company: Joy's Teaspoon

Obtained: purchased

     Joy's Teaspoon is located in Las Vegas, Nevada.  This company gets their teas from more than a dozen sources including both growers and blenders.  Joy's Teaspoon promotes fair trade and environmental protection.  It is named after the owner's mother.
     I purchased a Top Tea's Sampler pack for $10.49, plus shipping.  The samples came in good quality tins packed in a gift box.  Blue Beauty Oolong was one of the eight samples.  Blue Beauty Oolong consists of Se Chung Oolong, licorice root, and ginseng.  The good quality tin was easy to open.   The leaves looked like gray pebbles (really cool), as can be seen in the above picture.  They had a grassy scent.  
     I steeped one teaspoon of leaves in eight ounces of water for one minute. The website recommended steeping for 50 seconds.  The liquid was a light gold with a very mild earthy scent.  The taste was mild as well.  The tea had an earthy taste with a background that was fresh and subtly sweet.  I could not taste the licorice, but I am assuming this is where the sweetness came from.
     This is a refreshing tea.  If you are looking for a licorice flavored tea, this is not the one for you.  If you are looking for an earthy tea with a subtle sweetness, this is the one.  A bonus is that the leaves can be steeped at least four times.  I didn't try more than four, but I did steep the same leaves 3 times and the flavor was the same each time.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

The Mirror Thief

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Title: The Mirror Thief

Author: Martin Seay

Published: May 2016 by Melville House Printing

Pages: 582

Genre: fiction, historical fiction

Obtained: library

Summary: Crivano, in 16th century Venice, Italy, has a scheme to sneak mirror craftsmen off the island. This is a crime punishable by death.  Stanley, in Venice Beach, California, in the 1950's, is on a mission to find the author of "The Mirror Thief".  Curtis, in the Venice Casino of Las Vegas, Nevada, in 2003, is trying to find Stanley so that he can help him out of a bad situation.  The three stories are interwoven on many levels.

Thoughts:  I really liked this author's style of writing which kept me engaged.  It was unique, and the descriptions were excellent.  He did a great job of setting the stage for each story, bringing both the time periods and places to life.  The problem was, none of the three plots drew me in.  I felt like most of the book was just one man looking for another.  Also, the characters had personalities and were somewhat developed, but I just couldn't bond with them and I didn't have any strong feeling toward any of them, positive or negative.
     There were some good themes, for example, how things are always changing, and how choices we make steer our lives.  The author was also very clever in making connections between the three stories, and continuing threads between time and space.  However, the ending was not good.  I just didn't get it.  It felt like the author wrote it in a way that you had to make up your own ending.  It was very unclear what, exactly, was happening.
     The book was long and at times I didn't want to finish it, but the writing style and the question of how the author would tie the three stories together kept me reading.  At the end I was disappointed and the book did not seem worth the read.  The author does have a talent for writing.  Maybe his next try will be better.


Company: Art of Tea

Tea: French Lemon Ginger

Obtained: gift

     French Lemon Ginger tea from Art of Tea comes in a resealable brown bag which keeps the tea fresh.  The tea is composed of organic lemon grass, organic rooibos, organic honeybush, organic lemon verbena, and organic ginger.  It is a mix of long, thin, light green leaves and very small pieces of brown leaves.  The leaves have a sweet grassy scent with a background scent of lemon.
     I poured 16 ounces of hot water over 2 tablespoons of leaves and let this brew for 5 minutes.  The liquid was an orange brown and had a wonderful aroma of lemon with a hint of ginger.  The taste was of sweet lemon with an after taste of ginger.  It was a smooth, well balnced blend.
     This tea was refreshing and soothing hot.  I also tried it iced and it made one of the best iced teas I ever had.  It was so refreshing!  If you like lemons, this is definitely one to try.  I am not a big ginger fan, but the ginger flavor was not strong and balanced perfectly with the rest of the flavors.