Sunday, May 29, 2016

Turn the Ship Around!

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Title: Turn the Ship Around!: A True Story of Turning Followers into Leaders

Author: L. David Marquet

Published: The Penguin Group in 2012

Pages: 227

Genre: nonfiction

Obtained: library

Summary:  The author shares his story of taking the crew of the worst naval submarine in the fleet and turning things around so that they became the best.  The captain's focus was to change the leader-follower model to a leader-leader model which focused on giving the crew control and responsibility over their jobs.  The crew would not follow orders, but would let the captain know what they were going to do.  Therefore, they needed clarity of the goals of the submarine and navy and needed to be competent at their jobs.  The captain also gave the crew support in reaching their own personal goals.

Thoughts:  This book is supposed to show how to go from a leader- follower organizational structure to a leader-leader structure.  The author is successful in presenting what the mind sets need to be in the organization at all levels so that everyone is a leader.  There are also some really good ideas and examples in this book about how to be a supportive supervisor,  how to assist in increasing the happiness of employees in their jobs, and how to promote worker's ability to grow in their jobs and careers.  There are also great examples showing how sometimes processes can be a hindrance to success or time waster rather than helpful, and how steps may be able to be cut out of a process or the process may be cut out altogether and the action just taken.
     The team on which the leader-leader model is used in the book is a military crew on a submarine which is a unique work environment.  It is an extremely high stress atmosphere and since it is a military organization, the crew has ranks.  So, at times it is hard to relate what the author did with the submarine to a company or other organization where you might want to use the leader-leader model.  Most companies are not life and death and have job titles rather than ranks.  The workers are also not confined to cramped quarters for months at a time.
     If you are looking for ideas to improve your work place success and morale, this is a good book to read.  If you are looking for a step by step plan to do this, you will not find it in this book.


Company: Art of Tea                                                     

Tea: Banana Dulce

Obtained: gift

     Banana Dulce is a caffeine free tea blend created by Art of Tea.  Ingredients include rooibos, chamomile, lemongrass, lavender, banana, and coconut.
     The tea is packaged in a foil-lined brown paper bag which keeps the tea protected.  When you open the bag, there is a strong scent of very ripe bananas.  The blend is made up of very small pieces of brown leaves, long green and brown leaves, and many chamomile flowers- a pretty tea.
     I poured 8 ounces of water over 1 tablespoon of leaves and let this brew for 5 minutes.  The liquid was an amber color and some of the very small leaves had gone through my tea ball into the liquid.  They did sink to the bottom, and were very small so I didn't bother to strain the liquid.  The scent of the liquid was very, very faint.  It was reminiscent of warm banana bread.  The taste was stronger, but more of chamomile with a tropical background of bananas and coconut and a hint of lemon.
     This is a very comforting tea.  It is the end of May and feels like a summer day in New England.  I see this as a winter tea- something to enjoy and be comforted by after coming in from the cold.  To me it is a sweet tea or dessert tea- enjoyable.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Library Challenge

                                                   I-Love-Libraries-RC-BBN.jpg (298×400)

     I am joining the 2016 "I Love Libraries Reading Challenge" at the "early reader" level.  I will read or listen to at least 9 books by the end of the year that I have checked out of a library.  For more information on this challenge, or to join in, please click here.
     I have always loved libraries.  Just walking in and seeing all those books gives me a wonderful feeling.  Even better, I am then able to browse through them all and then actually borrow some.  Along with the books, at my library, I can borrow music cd's, dvd's, audio books, magazines, digital material, and now even a telescope.  There are free programs offered at the library all the time, not only for me, but for my whole family.  The library has discounts and free passes to museums and other educational places.  Librarians are always willing to help me find information I need.  I am there at least once a week.  Libraries are a fantastic resource that everyone can use.  Please, support your local libraries so all of this can continue to be available to us all.
     I will list the books I have checked out of the library and read here.

Friday, May 20, 2016

At the Edge of the Orchard

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Published: March 2016 by Penguin Random House

Pages: 289

Genre: historical fiction

Obtained: library

Summary:  Robert Goodenough grew up in the Black Swamp of northwest Ohio.  His father and mother had settled where their wagon got stuck.  His father was determined to have 50 apple trees growing on this land, so he could stake his claim.  His wife did not have the same goal.  When something terrible happens, Robert leaves the Black Swamp and makes his way across the country alone, bringing with him his father's love of trees.  Robert is running away from his past, but it catches up with him at last.

Thoughts:  The book starts out in 1838 with the story of James and Sadie Goodenough and their families.  Just as I was getting into their story and starting to feel a connection with these characters, the story stopped and jumped to letters written from 1840-1856 to the Goodenough family by Robert, the youngest son.  The third chapter was Robert's story after he left the Black Swamp.  I didn't like Robert's character at the beginning of the book, so I was disappointed.  Chapter four went back to 1838 and continued the story of James and Sadie.  At this point I felt better about the book because I had grown to like Robert and understood who everyone was and how the story was jumping to and from different times.  Chapter five is letters that Robert's closest sister wrote to him from 1844-1856.  Chapter six goes back to Robert's story in 1856.  By the end, everything is connected.
     This book pulls a lot together which kept my attention.  There is the story of the Goodenough family, but also thrown in are "real" people from history- John Appleseed, William Lobb, and Billie and Nancy Lapham.  I really enjoyed how the author used people from history in her story in a believable way.  There is also the gold rush in California, the Black Swamp, Calaveras Grove (giant sequoias), the redwood forests of California, what it was like to be a botanist in the 1800's, and apples (especially the Pitmaston Pineapple).  The settings change, but are all interesting places and the author does a terrific job of making you feel like you are there. The writing style is easy to follow and clear which helps the story to have a good flow. 
     I believe the weakness of this book is that it takes a long time to get to know the characters, but by the end, the author did accomplish this.  The characters do have their own voices, but the book concentrates so much on settings and history that character development is not at the forefront.  I ended up really enjoying this book once I got to know the characters.  Also, major topics of this book are trees, plants, apples and family relationships.  If you don't like these things, this book is not for you.    


Company: Tea Forte                                               

Tea: Tupelo Honey Fig

Obtained: gift


   Tupelo Honey Fig tea, from Tea Forte, is a white tea.  It is described on the tin as follows: This tea was "inspired by a New England garden of fragrant herbs and summer ripe fruit....."  "A summer medley of organic rare white tea, delicious sweet figs and the taste of tupelo honey.  Cooling peppermint and sunny citrus join in perfect harmony for a most fragrant cup."
     The tea was packaged in a good quality tin with an appealing label.  When I opened the tin, there was the scent of sweet citrus and herbs.  It reminded me of an herbal shop or an herb garden.  The tea leaves were olive green and brown and were all shapes and sizes.  There were chunks of dried fruit and fennel seeds mixed in.
     I poured 16 ounces of water over 2 teaspoons of tea leaves and let it brew for five minutes.  The liquid was a bright yellow.  (The liquid is really a little brighter than in the picture.)  The scent of the leaves was of sweet citrus and herbs.  The taste was more of a citrus / mint with herbs in the background.  The fennel stood out at the end, but was not overpowering.
     This was an enjoyable cup of tea.  I have had some teas from Tea Forte in the past, and most have been just okay.  This one is my favorite from Tea Forte so far.  It is perfect for sitting down to relax with a good book.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

A Study in Scarlet

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Title: A Study in Scarlet

Format: 4 discs, 4 hours, 3 minute tracks

Published: 1999 by Blackstone Audio, Inc., originally published in 1887

Genre: mystery, classic

Obtained: library

Summary: A dead man is found in an abandoned house. There are blood spatters around the corpse which does not appear to have any wounds.  A gold ring falls out of the dead man's hand, and the word "Rache" is written in blood on a wall.  Scotland Yard is baffled, so they call in Sherlock Holmes as a consultant.  Holmes asks his new flatmate, Dr. Watson, if he would like to accompany him to the crime scene.  Dr. Watson readily agrees because he has become quite interested in Holmes and his oddities.  Holmes, with the assistance of Dr.Watson, takes on the job of solving the case and catching the murderer.

Thoughts: The story has two parts.  The first part begins with Dr. Watson's story and how he meets Sherlock Holmes and comes to live with him at 221B Baker Street.  We learn all about Dr. Watson's life up until this point and then learn about Sherlock Holmes through Watson's eyes.  I really enjoyed finding out how Holmes and Watson met and became partners.  The mystery is then introduced.  We learn about the deductive reasoning and techniques Holmes uses to solve cases.
     The second part is the story of why the crime was committed, which is a good yarn within itself.  It does not include Holmes and Watson.  The second part was at the beginning of the third disc and I thought I had the wrong disc because it was really the beginning of another story!  I checked the disc and found I had the right one, though.  I really liked this added bit- the murderer's story and why he committed the murder.  At the end, the two stories were brought together- an creative presentation.
     I loved the characters.  Both Watson and Holmes are bizarre, yet seem so real.  Neither is very successful in life, but they do make a successful crime solving pair.  It was fascinating to discover what the original Holmes and Watson were like since they have been portrayed in so many different ways since their characters were first created.
     I loved the author's writing style.  The pace of the story was perfect- not rushed, but not drawn out.  The writing was clear and organized.  I liked how the majority of the book was from Dr. Watson's perspective.   The only thing that was not believable was the way Holmes figured out how a crime was committed- the deductive reasoning made sense, but not the clues themselves.  For example, he does a lot with footprints and marks in the dirt.  There are just so many factors that could have affected these markings. It was just presented simpler than it would be in reality.  But, it sure did make for a good story.
     The narrator seemed as if he was reading fast at first, but I got used to it quickly.  I didn't notice it after about 10-15 minutes.  The speaking was clear and lively.
     Any mystery lover should read this book.  The story is a great one, but even more important is that you find out how Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson came to be. 

Company: Art of Tea

Tea: Golden Pu-erh

Obtained: gift

     This is the second pu-erh tea I have tried.  To be honest, it tasted very much like the first one.  I think I would have to taste them one after the other to distinguish the differences.  What stood out for me, was the dark color of the liquid (as can be seen in the picture).  Pu-erh tea also has a very distinct taste- to me an earthy taste that reminds me of a barnyard.  It also is supposed to have many health benefits including reducing "bad" cholesterol levels and increasing "good" cholesterol levels.
     I received "Golden Pu-erh" in a Pu-erh tea sampler.  It came in a good quality tin.  The long brown leaves had a very light scent of damp woods.  I steeped one tablespoon of leaves in eight ounces of water for five minutes.  The liquid was a very dark reddish brown that smelled of fresh hay.  It had a bold earthy taste.  I would describe the taste as robust.
     Pu-erh tea is unlike any other tea I have tried.  When I smelled both the leaves and the liquid, I thought I would not like the tea, but I enjoyed it.    

Monday, May 2, 2016

The Magician's Lie

51jd-TuTZTL._SX310_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg (312×499)Title: The Magician's Lie

Author: Greer Macallister

Narrators: Julia Whelan and Nick Podehl

Format: 9 CD's, 10hours : 24 minutes

Published: 2014 by Brilliance Audio

Genre: historical fiction, mystery

Obtained: library

Summary:  It is 1905.  Virgil Holt, a young policeman from Janesville, Iowa, has just had some devastating life changing news.  He goes with the Waterloo sheriff to see a magic show featuring "The Amazing Arden", a woman illusionist, to get his mind off it.  At the end of the show a man is found dead beneath the stage.  It is suspected that Arden is the murderess.
     That evening, Virgil happens upon the illusionist and takes her into custody.  He handcuffs her to a chair and interrogates her.  She insists on starting from the beginning and through the course of the evening tells Virgil her life story.  She denies murdering the man.  Virgil must decide what to believe and make the decision of setting Arden free or arresting her.  He knows that if she is not set free, she will be tried and treated like a witch because she is a magician.

Thoughts: This whole book was clever.  It is really two stories.  It begins in 1905 with a murder mystery, but when the suspect is captured she tells her life story.  The two stories flip back and forth throughout the book as Arden relates her life story to Virgil.   Nick Podehl reads the 1905 story and Julia Whelen reads Arden's life story.  The stories come together toward the end of the book.  It is quite a creative presentation.
     Both narrators are excellent.  They do not just read the stories.  They perform them.  The pace is good and each character that speaks has a voice that you recognize immediately.  It was odd at first when Arden's voice was different in the 1905 story than in Arden's back story, but I caught on quickly.
     Both basic plots were simple, but so much was added to the story that they held my interest.  I believe Arden's back story could have been a stand alone book, but the way the writer put Virgil and Arden together was fantastic.  It gave the story more mystery and suspense.  Also, the author writes with a lot of description, bringing the setting to life.  The main characters are very well developed and so are the minor characters.  They are creative characters as well.  I enjoyed the personalities.
     I loved the sense I got throughout the book of trying to decide what was real and what was an illusion, or what I should believe and what I shouldn't believe.  This book just seems to have everything- action, adventure, romance, mystery, magic, history.  It would seem that the author tried to incorporate too much, but the book reads smoothly and everything is woven together so intricately that it seems simple when it is not.  I really enjoyed this audio book and believe the narrators enhanced the tale.


Company: Art of Tea

Tea: Velvet Tea

Obtained: gift

     "Velvet Tea" from the "Art of Tea" is packaged in a foil-lined brown paper bag.  It protects the tea leaves and keeps them fresh.  It is an organic rooibus tea mixed with mint and honeybush leaves, along with chocolate, apples, and a hint of vanilla.
     When I opened the bag I got the scent of sweet chocolate mint.  The leaves were browns and greens and there were different sized brown chunks mixed in, which must have been the chocolate and apples.
     I steeped one tablespoon of leaves in eight ounces of water for 5 minutes.  The liquid was opaque.  It was orange brown in color.  It had a light chocolate scent that was somewhat sweet.  The taste of the tea was mint with a chocolate after taste.  I could taste a hint of vanilla.  It is a somewhat sweet tea and is very smooth- no bitterness or sourness to this tea.
     I recommend this as a dessert tea, or a tea to drink when you are craving something sweet.  It is a treat.