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.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Watership Down

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Author: Richard Adams

Narrator: Ralph Cosham

Format: 13 cd's, approx. 16 hours, tracks every 3 minutes

Publisher: 2010 by Blackstone Audio, Inc., originally published in November 1972

Genre:  classic, fantasy, adventure

Obtained: library

Summary: A band of rabbits abruptly leave their warren and set out to find a new way of life.  Along their dangerous journey they encounter many new and strange things.

Thoughts:  This book is a masterpiece!  It is amazing that someone could create a story about rabbits that is believable, never mind the whole rabbit culture, history, and mythology that the author brings into the story.  Wow!  There is just so much going on and the attention to detail makes you feel like you are right there along with the rabbits.  On top of that you have these lovable, complex characters that stay with you even when you move on to your next book.
     This book is also unique in that the story is told from the perspective of animals, but the animals have human traits and emotions and even think like humans.  They also have rabbit words for things that we humans don't, for example, "solflay" is the act of grazing or grass itself.
     This story can be read at surface level for the fantasy and adventure, but there are MANY deeper themes, such as leadership, teamwork, roles in society, freedom, responsibility, friendship, loyalty, and survival.  These themes really got me thinking.
     The book can get slow at times, but it is not difficult to continue with it at all.  The book is long, but I didn't want it to end.
     The narrator had a pleasant story telling voice that made the story easy to follow.  His voice was clear and he did a great job giving distinct voices to different animals.  He read at a good pace.
     My kids and I spent the summer listening to this in the car.  It was way over the head of my 8 year old, but my 14 year old really enjoyed it and didn't want it to end either.  I would say it is really an adult book.  Yes, an adult book about bunnies, but the author makes it work!  There is violence and the book deals with adult concepts such as war, survival, ethics, and human nature.  This is a must read.


                                                                  Company: Yezi Tea

Obtained: purchased

     Yezi is the Chinese word for leaf.  Yezi Tea is a company that sells tea specifically from China.  I purchased the Farmer's Favorites Tea Sampler.  It came with samples of 6 different teas and only cost $5.99.  Shipping was free.  This offer is only offered once per customer, but it is a wonderful way to try some new teas!
     White Peony, or Bai My Dan, is a white tea.  According to the Yezi Tea website, their Bai My Dan is composed of "spring leaves dried in natural sunlight on bamboo trays".  It comes from the Jian'ou County of the Fujian province of China.  It has a low caffeine content. 
     The sample came in a pouch.  The pouch was not resealable, but it did not tear easily and could be rolled down and clipped shut with something.  The brown and light gray leaves were long and looked rolled.  They had a woodsy or earthy scent.
     I poured 8 ounces of water over 4 teaspoons of tea.  The tea was hard to measure because of the long leaves.  I let this brew for 1 minute.  The liquid did not have much color.  It was clear with a slight golden tint.  There was a slight floral scent to the liquid.  The taste was mild.  It had a  sweet, almost fruity taste, with a light floral background.  The taste was much different from the scent of both the leaves and liquid.
  This is a delicious, enjoyable white tea that I would most appreciate when relaxing at the end of the day.