Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Miller's Valley

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Title: Miller's Valley

Author: Anna Quindlen

Narrator: Brittany Pressley

Format: 7 discs, 8 hours and 14 minutes

Published: 2016 by Brilliance Audio

Genre: fiction

Obtained: library

Summary: Mimi Miller shares her life story, most of which involves growing up in Miller's Valley, a small close-knit town in Pennsylvania.  She also relates the stories of her family, friends, and neighbors and how they influence, affect, and help to shape her life. Throughout the story, in the background, is the story of Miller's Valley.  This is a story about how people and places may come and go, but they always remain in your heart.

Thoughts:  This book is about life- the ups and downs, , choices we make- right and wrong, family, relationships- good and bad, surprises, secrets, problems, coping, celebrating, moving on, going back, deaths and births, and day to day activities.  There is no suspense and no action packed adventure.  It is not needed.
     The characters and setting are brought to life.  The characters are realistic, yet diverse.  They have different perspectives and they don't always share everything they know which makes them even more real.  The settings are described in just enough detail, so that I could picture them in my mind.  I felt like I knew each person and could visit Miller's Valley and see them all there.
     The writing style is simple, not flowery or over dramatic, yet the points conveyed are deep and thought provoking.  There are some clever, meaningful lines that I really thought about after.  This is a deep book- not one where you have to really think to understand what the writer is trying to convey, but one where there is so much meaning in a few simple lines.  At the same time, the author is able to move the story along and not get caught up in these underlying notions.  It is up to the reader to do the thinking.  The author tells you just enough.
     The narrator read the story at a good pace and had different voices for each character, which must have been a challenge because of the diverse individuals.   I have no criticism for the narrator, but for those that really like to think about what they are reading, I would recommend a printed copy to make it easier to go back and reread some of these amazing lines that pop up.


Company: Joy's Teaspoon 

Tea: Cinnamon Roll

Obtained: purchased

     Cinnamon Roll is a black tea with cinnamon chunks from Joy's Teaspoon.  It was in a box of tea samples that I purchased.  Each sample is packaged in a good quality tin.  When I opened the tin, there was a sweet cinnamon scent.  The tea was composed of black tea leaves and light brown chunks of cinnamon.  I pored eight ounces of water that had been boiled over one teaspoon of tea.  I let it brew for four minutes.  The liquid was an orange brown color and the scent was of cinnamon.  It was a strong scent, but not overpowering.  The taste was of sweet cinnamon.
     If you love cinnamon, you'll love this tea.  It would make a wonderful tea to have with dessert, especially  fall desserts like pumpkin and apple pie.  It would also be wonderful for breakfast with a coffee cake or even oatmeal.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea

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Author: Jules Verne

Narrator: James Frain

Format: 12 cd's, 15 hours, and 10 minutes

Published: 2011 by Random House, first published 1870

Genre: science fiction, adventure, classic

Obtained: library

Summary:  Professor Aronax along with his assistant Conseil, and harpoonist Ned Land, end up as captives aboard a submarine which is home to Captain Nemo and his crew.  These three men go on a great adventure exploring the world under water all the while looking for a way to escape their captor.

Thoughts:  This book is indeed a great adventure!  The con of it is that I wanted to edit about half of it out.  Although the story is presented in a clear, organized manner, there are way too many details about the submarine and how it works, descriptions of flora and fauna, and classifications of sea creatures.  While some people may look at this as amazing attention to detail (which it is), it caused me to zone out while listening to it because it became monotonous.  It really took away from the plot.
     The book did have intriguing characters that I now feel like I know.  There was also a sense of mystery throughout the book, which I enjoyed.  I kept questioning who Captain Nemo really was and what was really going on.  The attention to details did make the setting come alive.
     The narrator was excellent.  He is a clear speaker with a pleasant voice.  He read at a good pace.  You can tell he is an actor by the way he reads, especially the dialogue.
     I don't know how readers in the late 1800's felt about all the details and classifications in this book.  Maybe this was a positive back then to get all this description.  Times are much different now with all our technology and the pictures and videos we can view. A picture is definitely worth a thousand words.    


Company: Joy's Teaspoon                         

Tea: Emperors 7 Treasures

Obtained: purchased

     This is another tea that was in the Top Tea's Sampler Pack I purchased from Joy's Teaspoon as a treat for myself.  The eight tea samples come in individual good quality tins.  Each tin is supposed to hold enough leaves for two cups of tea, but I believe there is enough for three or four cups.
     "Emperor's 7 Treasures" is a combination of green and black teas with rose and sunflower blossoms and flavorings.  When I opened the tin, the scent was a combination of fruits and flowers.  The leaves were mostly blacks and greens of all different shapes and sizes with a few bright yellow leaves mixed in.  I poured eight ounces of hot water over one teaspoon of leaves and let this steep for four minutes (4-5 minutes is recommended).  The liquid was an orange brown.  The scent was of a fruity green tea.  I did strain the liquid through a fine sieve because there were many tea leaves that went through my tea ball.  The taste was of a green tea with a light sweet floral background.  This was a very refreshing tea.
     Floral teas are not my favorite, but this one is very pleasant.  It would make a nice spring tea and I would like to try it iced.  

Thursday, June 9, 2016

The Oxford Inheritance

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Title: The Oxford Inheritance

Author: Ann A. McDonald

Published: 2016 by Harper Collins

Pages: 320

Genre: mystery, paranormal

Obtained: library

Summary: Cassie Blackwell applies and is accepted to Raleigh College at Oxford.  She is there for one purpose- to find out the secrets of her deceased mother's past. While she searches for clues, she turns up additional information related to deaths- past and present.  Have these people been murdered, and if so, can she stop the murderer?

Thoughts:  I liked this author's writing style.  It was clear and organized and most of the story flowed well.  The book kept me interested and I wanted to read on until a little over three quarters through when there was a twist.  I didn't like the twist.  It just didn't seem to go along with the beginning and middle of the story. Also, I thought that the climax and ending were hurried.
     I really enjoyed the setting and the mood the author created.  The author did a great job giving the story a mysterious, kind of creepy feel through the setting, especially the parts that took place in an old restricted library.  I would say that this is the best part of the book.
     Some of the characters had distinct personalities, but some were just sort of generic.  Unfortunately, this included the main character, which really was disappointing.  Sometimes she did things that didn't seem to fit with who she was.   I would question what she was all about, but the different ways she acted at times and things she did never came together to make a believable character.  This was similar to the plot.  After the twist I didn't like, the rest of the story did not completely fit in with the beginning and middle, so to me, it made the last quarter of the book not believable, almost silly.
     I think this is one of those books that you could love or hate, depending on who you are and what you are looking for in a book.


Company: Joy's Teaspoon

Tea: Earl Grey

Obtained: purchased online

     I bought myself a present. I usually don't do this, but I ran out of tea I haven't reviewed and I had to keep blogging, right?  Tea is what people usually give me for my birthday, Christmas, Mother's Day, etc..  Anyway, I came across a really cute name of a tea company- "Joy's Teaspoon".  So, I decided I'd be daring and try something new.  (Yes, I picked it because of the cute name.)  I ordered a "Top Teas Sampler" box which would give me eight teas to sample.  I would get two cups of tea from each sample.  The cost was $10.49 plus $4.50 for shipping.  I received the tea very quickly in the mail and was delighted with the cute box the teas arrived in (just like a present).  I opened the box up and sure enough, eight samples, all nicely labeled in high quality tins.  I wanted to try something new, but I was reading "The Oxford Inheritance", so I picked the Earl Grey for something English.
     I opened the tin, and got a strong whiff of very sweet bergamot.  The leaves were long and dark brown.  I put a teaspoon of leaves in my tea ball and poured eight ounces of water over it.  I let it brew for four minutes (4-5 minutes was recommended online).  I have to say, there are way more tea leaves left in the tin than one teaspoon.  I will definitely get three cups, if not four out of the tin.
     The liquid was a yellowish brown (the picture's color above is off).  The scent of the liquid was that of the leaves - a very strong, sweet bergamot.
     I sipped the tea.  It did not taste as sweet as it smelled.  I could taste the bold black tea and the light sweet bergamot- a nice blend.  The sweet was very pleasant, not overpowering like I thought it was going to be. I usually put a little honey and milk in my Earl Grey tea.  This Earl Grey does not need anything added.
     If you like Earl Grey tea, I would definitely recommend trying this one.  Joy's Teaspoon also has an Earl Grey Creme that I'd really like to sample.  I can't wait to taste my other samples!  I need to be daring more often.