Sunday, January 31, 2016

The Good Neighbor

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Title: The Good Neighbor

Author: A. J. Banner

Published: 2015 by Lake Union Publishing

Pages: 196

Genre: suspense, mystery

Obtained Through: library

Summary:  Sarah McDonald lives in a house in a cul-de-sac with her husband of three years.  When there is a fire in the neighbor's house, possibly arson, questions start to arise which bring out neighborhood secrets causing Sarah not to know who she can trust.

Thoughts:  This book is a simple story that is a quick read.  It is an entertaining page turner.  Although the story itself is mediocre, the way it is written with twists and turns and lots of unanswered questions, made me continue to want to know what happened next, so I didn't put the book down.  The author really keeps the story moving and I finished it in a couple of days without much time to read.
     I like the author's writing style.  She writes clearly and concisely.  She has good descriptions of the characters and settings.  The downside is that there is just nothing really special about the characters or the setting.  Nothing stands out.  Also, the characters seem shallow and superficial.
     This is the type of book where you're entertained while you're reading it, but you don't really remember it after a couple of days.
     If you're looking for a book to entertain you while you're at the beach, jury duty, or on an airplane, this would be a good choice.  If you are looking for a book with depth and developed characters, look somewhere else.


Tea: Darjeeling Quince

Company: Tea Forte

Obtained: gift

   According to their website, Tea Forte is "presented at leading hotels, restaurants, prestige resorts and luxury retailers" in "over 35 countries".
     I received my tea in a gift box called "Lotus", which is described on the box as "a collection of relaxing teas for mind, body, and spirit".  There are five different teas in "single steep" packages.  This loose tea is premeasured to steep twelve ounces. 
     I easily opened the package of Darjeeling Quince tea.  It immediately gave off a strong fruity scent.  The leaves were black and mostly long and flat.  There were pieces of dried fruit mixed in.  The fruit was bigger than the tea leaves.  Some pieces were orange and white and others were a purplish red color.
     I put the leaves in a teapot and poured 12 ounces of water that had been boiled over the leaves.  On the box, it suggested the tea steep for 3-5 minutes.  I steeped mine for 3 minutes.
     The liquid was a deep orange.  There was a fruity smell after brewing, but not as when I opened the package.
     When tasting the tea, it had a brisk fruity start with an astringent, dry after taste.  The astringent after taste lingered.
     I didn't quite care for this tea, especially the after taste, but I drank it anyway.  

Saturday, January 23, 2016

M Train

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Title: M Train

Author: Patti Smith

Published: 2015 by Alfred A. Knopf

Pages: 253

Genre: Memoir

Obtained Through: gift

Summary:  In this memoir, the reader enters not the physical world in which Patti Smith lives, but the world of her mind.  The author follows her train of thought to relay to her audience moments and events of her life that are important and meaningful to her.

Thoughts:  This book was given to me as a gift.  It is not a book I would have picked out to read for myself.
     The book started with a dream that the author had about a cowpoke.  This was a bad start for me.  Reading about dreams and cowpokes does not interest me in the least.  Next, I started having a hard time following the author's writing.  I started to lose track of where and when she was writing about, and if she was writing about a dream or reality.  By the third chapter I became familiar with the way the author writes and I was able to follow along.  After a couple more chapters I finally started to get into the book and was glad that I had stuck with it.
     The author is an artist.  She is a poet, visual artist, and performer, as well as a writer.  She includes the Polaroids she has collected and poems she has written that relate to her memoir in the book.  This added to the experience of reading this book.  Her writing style is sometimes poetic and at other times straight forward.  Sometimes, I just do not get poetry or poetic writing, but she writes so that a matter-of-fact person like me can understand it.  She writes about her memories in an open and honest way which is what held my attention.  She has a unique way of putting pieces of different parts of her life together.   I was also entertained by the way she finds "signs" in everyday life.
     My favorite aspect of this book was to read about different authors, books, and detective shows that I never heard of.  At first I felt ignorant that I did not know about these authors, books, and television programs, but then I found myself looking up these references so I could better understand this memoir.  I have added "The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle" by Haniki Murakami, "The Beach Cafe" by Mohammed Mrabet, "The Thief's Journal" by Jean Genet, and "The Confusions of Young Torless" by Robert Musil to my list of books to read.  I also liked reading about places that I will most likely never travel to.
     This is a book where you learn mostly about how the author thinks and her internal world, not what she has done on earth.  She does describe her artistic lifestyle which was intriguing for me to read about because I have always lived so much differently.  It was interesting to find out how the author visits places described in books and graves of writers all over the world, and how she brings objects that symbolize something important to the writer to their grave sites.  I was enlightened about the Continental Drift Club and the remains of the French penal colony in Saint-Laurent-du-Maroni.  Reading this book I was able to discover things I would not have otherwise experienced.

Tea: Mountain Oolong

Company: Tea Forte

Obtained: gift

     According to their website, Tea Forte is "presented at leading hotels, restaurants, prestige resorts and luxury retailers" in "over 35 countries".
     I received my tea in a gift box called "Lotus", which is described on the box as "a collection of relaxing teas for mind, body, and spirit".  There are five different teas in "single steep" packages.  This loose tea is premeasured to steep twelve ounces.
     The first time I brewed this mountain oolong tea, I let it steep for five minutes as directed for oolong teas by the box.  When I tasted the tea- yuck!  I could tell it had steeped too long from the bitter taste.
     I started over with a new packet.  The packet of mountain oolong tea was easy to open.  The tea had a deep peach smell with a hint of floral in the background.  The leaves were mostly blacks and browns with a few orange leaves.  They were long and twisted.  There were no stems or twigs.
     I put the leaves in a teapot with a fine sieve and poured twelve ounces of water that had been boiled over the leaves.  I steeped the tea for just two minutes this time.  The liquid was a pretty dark orange and there was a very faint peachy aroma coming from the tea.
     When I tasted the tea, it was so much better!  A floral taste stood out, and then came the after taste of a more peachy floral.  The flavor really lingered.  I really enjoyed this cup of tea!
     I did not add anything to this tea.  I recommend steeping for just two minutes.  As I sipped the tea, I wondered if it might be just as good iced.  I may have to get some more of this tea.


Friday, January 15, 2016

The Woman Who Walked in Sunshine / Rooibos (Red Bush) Tea

Published: October 27, 2015 by Pantheon

Pages: 213

Genre: philosophical fiction, mystery

Obtained through: library

Summary: Mma Ramotswe is encouraged by her friends and family to take a vacation from her job at the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency.  This proves to be a challenge for her.  Not only does she wonder what is going on at the agency in her absence, but she encounters a boy named Samuel who needs help from her and her agency.  We also find out how the agency fares in her absence.

Thoughts:  This is a light book full of life and moral lessons told through clever anecdotes, humor, and the daily lives of the characters.  It is a delightful book that I thoroughly enjoyed, although I did find some things that readers may not like.  
     Although the book is about a detective agency, there are no mysteries presented until over halfway through the book, which may be disappointing to hard core mystery lovers.  Also, when I first started reading this series, it bothered me that I did not know how to pronounce the names of the characters and some of the places.  Mma and Rra (formal terms of greeting and respect) were hard to get used to as well.  At first I just made up my own names for each of the characters. Then, I listened to an audio version of one of the books.  I quickly learned the pronunciations, so this is no longer bothersome to me.  Knowing how to pronounce the names adds to the story, making you feel as if you are in Botswana.  
     I really enjoyed this author's writing style.  The flow of the story was easy to follow even through time hops.  His characters come to life, and I felt like I was in Botswana, Africa.  I not only learned what the land was like, but I got a good grasp of the Botswana culture.  The author can be repetitive at times.  For example, hearing about cattle over and over got a little annoying, but the author was obviously showing how cattle are an important part of Botswana life.  Also, there is a lot of tea drinking in this book.  I can see how this may become dull for some readers, but this was enjoyable for me since I am a tea lover. 
     This is one of my favorite series and authors.  By the sixteenth book, most series have petered out, but this one is still strong.  The author always has new personal problems for the characters to solve along with mysteries for the detectives.
     This is the perfect book to read when you want to relax with a cup of tea.

Tea: Rooibos (South African Red Bush)

Company: Grace Tea

Obtained: gift

     According to their website, Grace tea, founded in 1959, is a small family run company in Athol, Massachusetts.
     The Rooibos tea that I brewed was packaged in a good quality black tin with a hinged cover.  The back of the tin describes this tea as follows: "Commonly known as red bush tea, Rooibos (roy-bos) is a unique herbal plant indigenous to South Africa.  Rooibos is naturally caffeine free, low in tannis and high in antioxidants, thus making it beneficial to your body's health and well being.  When brewed, Rooibos produces a reddish cup, tasting similar to a mild black tea. However, it drinks very smoothly with little after taste."
     When I opened the tin, there was a light, somewhat nutty scent.  The tea leaves were reds and browns.  They looked like finely ground bark rather than leaves.  There is a lot of tea in this tin!
     I followed the directions to brew on the back of the tin, adding one teaspoon of leaves to my tea ball and steeping for four minutes (directions said 4-5 minutes).
     There were many tea leaves left in my cup after removing the tea ball, so I poured my cup of tea through a tea pot with a very fine sieve.  I hate tea leaves in my cup of tea!
     The liquid was a pretty reddish color that was quite appealing.  I had to lift the cup up toward my face for the mild aroma which was earthy.
     I did not add anything to this tea.  It tasted as it smelled- light and earthy, but the taste was somewhat sweet.  It had very little after taste (just like the tin says).  This really stood out for me.  It did not taste like "a mild black tea" to me.  It had a distinctive taste.
     I tried brewing another cup for 5 minutes later on and liked this tea even more when brewed for the 5 minutes.  The one minute did make a difference.  I recommend using an extra fine tea infuser for this tea.