Saturday, July 30, 2016

The Night Gardener

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     Title: The Night Gardener
     Author: Jonathan Auxier

     Published: 2014 by Amulet Books

     Pages: 350
     Genre: young adult, fantasy, paranormal, mystery, horror

     Obtained: library

Summary:  It is the late 1800's.  Two Irish children, Molly, age fourteen, and Kip, age ten, travel to England to work as servants at an old English manor that has a tree growing up through it.  Strange things are happening, and as the children try to discover what is going on, they stumble upon many secrets along with a mysterious man.  Can they saves themselves and the family they are working for from the Night Gardener?

Thoughts:   I was at the library with my soon to be 14 year old son who was looking for a book.  As I started to browse, I came across this book. The cover and title of  "The Night Gardener" just made me want to read it.  So, I checked it out.
     This is a good old fashioned tale that has a creepy feel and setting, but also a good full story, and interesting, well developed characters.  The writing style is engaging and easy to follow with descriptions that help you to picture the story unfolding in your mind.
     I would call it a kid's horror book, but unlike most kid's horror stories, it is deeper and thought provoking.  Throughout the story two questions that kept coming up in various ways were:  What if we got what we wished for? and  What is the difference between a lie and a story?   This sure made me think!
     For an adult, I wouldn't say this story is scary, but it could be for a tween.  I would say it is a middle school book, but adults would enjoy it too since there is a lot to the characters and story itself.


Company: Tea Forte

Tea: Orange Jasmine

Obtained: gift

     This jasmine green tea with orange blossoms, orange peel , and citrus flavorings from Tea Forte was in a premeasured packet that came in the Lotus Single Steeps collection.  The packet was easy to open.  The black leaves and chunks of orange smelled of jasmine and oranges.
     I poured 12 ounces of water over the leaves in my teapot and let this steep for 2 minutes.  The liquid was a light yellow with the scent of jasmine.  The tea had the taste of jasmine with sweet orange in the background.  This was a delicious combination that was  blended nicely.  This is my favorite tea from Tea Forte so far.  I do have to say that jasmine tea is one of my favorites. 

Saturday, July 16, 2016

The Silent Wife

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Format: 7 CD's

Publisher: Blackstone Audio

Genre: psychological thriller

Obtained: library

Summary:  Jodi and Todd have been in a relationship for twenty years.  Although the relationship is far from perfect, they have fallen into a routine that they are both happy with.  As the relationship starts to unravel, the reader is told that the end result will be that Jodi will become a murderer and Todd will be the victim.   What happens to lead to this?

Thoughts: This was a very clever book.  The story was presented in a unique way.  The reader learns the ending of the story right at the beginning.  So, the reader does not read the book to see how it ends, but to see why it ended the way it did.  Also, there was not much action in this story.  The story takes place in the minds of two people.  The reader gets to know both main characters intimately through their daily routines, what they are thinking, and how they justify all their actions.
     Both characters are psychologically analyzed throughout the book.  Todd is analyzed by Jodi, who is an Adlerian therapist.  Jodi keeps recalling her therapy sessions from when she was studying psychology in college.  So, we also learn how their pasts affect who they are and what they do.
     The story had twists and turns with other interesting characters on the outskirts.  There was some suspense there.  I didn't want to stop listening because I wanted to know what would happen next.
     When I first started to listen to this book, I thought the narrator's voice was annoying because it sounded snotty, but as I got into the book I found this was the perfect voice for Jodi and it was actually great acting.  The book went back and forth between the voice of Jodi (Karen White) and Todd (Donald Corren).  Both narrators did an excellent job at portraying their characters and reading at a good pace.
     I was sad to find out that the author passed away shortly after this book was published.  I would have loved to read more psychological thrillers written by her.
     This book would make a great one for a book club discussion.


Company: Joy's Teaspoon

Tea: Almond Cookie

Obtained: purchased

     I purchased this Almond Cookie Tea online from Joy's Teaspoon.  The sample tin can be seen in the picture above.  It is good quality and easy to open.  The tea looked more like chunks of fruit and nuts rather than leaves and smelled of oatmeal cookies.  The chunks were all shapes and sizes and the colors were of oranges, browns, and very dark red.
     I added 2 teaspoons of this tea to to my teapot and poured 8 ounces of water that had been boiled over the tea.  I let it steep for 10 minutes as recommended.  The liquid was a beautiful bright pink color, which reminded me of watermelon.  The scent was of oatmeal cookies.  The taste was the same, but with a sweet almond after taste.  This tea was blended so well, that I could not pick out any individual flavors except the almond.  The ingredients were listed on the website as apple pieces, planed and crushed almonds, cinnamon pieces, beet root pieces, and flavoring.
     This was a bizarre tea.  The color did not go with the taste at all.  The color was beautiful and bright, but all I could picture was an oatmeal cookie!  I didn't feel like I had a cup of tea.  I felt like I had a liquid dessert.
     This would make a great dessert tea, especially for those trying to skip dessert and wanting something sweet as a replacement.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

The Little Red Chairs

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Author: Edna O'Brien 

Published: Little Brown and Company, March 2016

Pages: 297

Genre: fiction

Obtained: library

Summary: A stranger, Dr. Vladimir Dragon arrives in the small Irish town of Cloonoila.  Most of the people there come to like and trust him.  Then, one day, Dr. Vladimir is arrested for being a war criminal who has orchestrated mass murders.  This deeply affects the people of Cloonoila, especially Fidelma McBride who has been romantically involved with him.  We travel with Fidelma on her journey to come to grips with what has happened.  

Thoughts:  This was a hard book for me to get into.  There were three parts to the book.  During the second part, I finally started to connect with the story, but then lost it again in the third part.  Throughout the book, I always felt like I was being kept at a distance.
       I also could not connect with the characters, especially Fidelma.  Dr. Vladimir was an interesting character, and I did start to connect with some of the characters Fidelma met in part two, but their stories did not seem to go along with the main story causing poor flow.  I felt like part two could have been developed into a separate novel.
     Then, there was the ending.  I usually like an unexpected ending, which this was to me.  But the ending was just too quick and disappointing.  The ending did not seem to go along with the story either.
     This was a depressing, dark tale with an incohesive, distant feel.


Company: Tea Forte

Tea: Lemon Lavender

Obtained: gift

     This lemon lavender tea is from a gift pack of Lotus Single Steeps.  Each pouch in the gift pack is premeasured to brew 12 ounces of tea.  The pouches are quite convenient, especially if you carry loose tea with you.
     I opened the pouch easily and put the contents in my tea pot.  I could see chamomile flowers, green leaves and chunks of dried apple.  The scent was of chamomile and lavender.  I poured 12 ounces of water that had been boiled over the leaves and let this brew for 5 minutes.
     The liquid was a brownish yellow and there was a very faint lemon and chamomile scent to the tea.  The taste was a nice combination of chamomile and lavender with a touch of lemon.
     This blend is composed of chamomile flowers, lavender, linden leaves, lemon balm, and apple pieces.  It is also caffeine free.  It is described as "relaxing and meditating" on the Tea Forte website.  I would agree. The only thing I did not like about this blend was that even though I used a very fine sieve, there were lots of tea leaves left in the liquid.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Peter Pan

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Title: Peter Pan

Format: 4 CD's, 5 hours, tracks every 3 minute

Published: Blackstone Audio, 2009, original book published in 1911

Genre: classic, fantasy, adventure

Obtained: library

Summary:   Wendy, Michael, and John Darling fly with Peter Pan (the boy who wouldn't grow up) to Neverland where they have great adventures with the Lost Boys and Tinker Bell, a fairy.  Their greatest adventures involve Captain Hook (the pirate with a hook for an arm) and the crocodile who ticks because he swallowed a clock.

Thoughts:  Peter Pan first appeared briefly in another book written by Barrie for adults in 1902.  Barrie then created a play in 1904 (making some changes to Peter) which told the story he later developed into the novel.  Some say the creation of Peter Pan was inspired by five boys to whom Barrie grew close.  Others say Pan was born from the death of Barrie's older brother, who died when he was only 14 in an ice skating accident.  Still others say it was a combination of the two.  Since then, Peter Pan has been adapted into many different forms.  The portrayal of Peter Pan and story that I always think of is Disney's cartoon version from 1953, probably because this is how I was introduced to the character.  I was surprised to find that the Disney adaptation held true to the original version in many ways, although the movie was made lighter by taking out some of the darker parts.
     I listened to this book on a long car ride with my two sons, 8 and 13.  Both enjoyed the book, although the 13 year old said it was the "weirdest story he ever heard".  The narrator had a pleasant voice, read with just the right emotion, and the pace was good.
     What did I like about this book?  The details the author added to the story that were woven throughout is one of it's greatest strengths and made the story intriguing.  Also, the characters showed unexpected traits.  For example, children were not portrayed as innocents like they are in most children's stories today.  The creativity and originality of, well everything- the characters and their way of life, the setting, and the story itself, is amazing.  
     This is a book that can be enjoyed by all ages.  The book contains symbolism and there are many underlying ideas throughout.  It would make for a very interesting discussion for a book club.


Company: Joy's Teaspoon

Tea: Sunny Passion

Obtained: purchased

     Sunny Passion is a blend of Pai Mu Tan (white tea) and three green teas- Lung Ching, Chinese Sencha, and Yunnan.  Added to the tea leaves are rosebuds, pineapple flakes, mango cubes, and pear flavoring.
     The tea was packaged in a small, good quality sample tin.  The leaves were long- some brown and some green.  There were a couple of fruit chunks visible.  The scent was of sweet fruit.
     I poured 8 ounces of water over my tea ball which contained 1 tsp of of leaves.  I let the leaves brew for 2 minutes (2-3 minutes were recommended).  The liquid was a very pale yellow.  The scent was of tropical fruit with a floral background.  The taste was of a delicate tea with some sweetness.  After I swallowed there was a tropical fruit taste that lingered.
     Fruit teas are not my favorite.  I find many are overpowering with their strong, sweet taste and others have a sour taste that I do not find pleasant.  This tea, however, was blended nicely.  It was not overpowering, but refreshing and light.  There was no sourness, it was definitely sweet.  The tropical fruit taste did linger for quite some time.