Thursday, October 27, 2016

White is for Witching

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Author: Helen Oyeyemi

Publisher: Doubleday, 2009

Pages: 227

Genre: paranormal, horror

Obtained: library

Summary: Miranda Silver and her twin brother Eliot lost their mother.  Their father, Luc, is devastated by this loss as are the twins.   Miranda blames herself for her mother's death.  Also, Miranda's pica (eating disorder where she consumes inedible things) is getting worse.  Then Miranda disappears. Where did she go?  We get three perspectives from three different narrators as to what may have happened to her.

Thoughts:  Strange.  If I had to describe this book in one word, that's what it would be.  There is good strange and bad strange.  I think this was a little of both.
     The house was a narrator and character in the story.  This was a good strange to me.  Imagine everything a house could see and hear.  I thought this aspect was just kind of cool.  Also, the author blended real horrors (mental illness / pica, xenophobia, murder) with paranormal horrors (ghosts, houses that are alive) - very clever!
     The bad strange to me was that the book was written in a way, that at times, it was hard to figure out who was narrating the story.  With the story jumping from narrator to narrator, this sometimes disrupted the flow.  Also, it was written in a dreamlike way so that it was hard to tell what was actually happening and what was just imagination.  
     This novel can probably be interpreted in many different ways.  I am assuming the author did this on purpose.  I enjoy literal stories best, so this wasn't a great book for me, but there was a cleverness here that I really liked, along with underlying themes and some depth. Also, the author made me think, which is always a good thing.  This would make a fantastic book club book.  Just the question- What really happened to Miranda?- would make for a great discussion!


Company: Perkse

Tea: Apple Crisp

Obtained: purchased


     I wanted to try something new this month, so I did an online search for "unique tea blends" and came across Perkse.  Their website has herbal, black, white, oolong, and rooibus tea blends.  I ordered a tea sampler.  They send six different tea samples with 20 tea filters.  The customer can pick the 6 samples, or Perkse will send 6 of their best selling blends.  I opted for the best selling blends.  The cost is $14.99 + shipping.  I ordered my tea on October 4th.  The website says they have same day shipping if ordered by 4pm.  I ordered before 4pm.  On October 12th, I emailed the company because I expected the tea within 5 days and when I tried to track my order, it stated the order was being prepared for shipping.  I got a quick response back with an apology and explanation that it sometimes takes a long time for delivery when shipping over the Canadian border.  Perkse is located in Canada and I am in the United States.  I received the tea on October 19th.  I did receive an email from Eugene Kim, I believe the owner, of Perkse following up to make sure I got the order.  This email came on the 20th.  The package was postmarked October 11th.  Hmmmm...
     The tea came in 6 individual, brightly colored, good quality, resealable bags.  I decided that the first sample I would try would be Apple Crisp.  The package was easy to open, but there were no ingredients or brewing recommendations listed.  I went to the website for more information.  This blend was not on the site.  I brewed it, treating it like an herbal tea.  It was delicious!  Unfortunately, it doesn't seem to be available to order more.  I emailed Eugene Kim asking him why it was not on the site, but have not gotten an answer.  This was a week ago, so I don't expect a response.  I looked to see if the other samples are available for order.  Only two of the six samples are currently on the Perkse website.
     Since the Apple Crisp was not available, I have decided to do a review on the Elderberry Blossom tea, which can currently be ordered.

Company: Perkse

Tea: Elderberry Blossom

Obtained: purchased


          Elderberry Blossom is a black tea with elderberries, cranberries, blackberries, safflower petals, lime leaf, and natural flavors added.  The leaves were medium in length (for tea leaves).  Most were black, but there were some red, white, and yellow leaves mixed in.  I did not see any berries, but could smell them along with a floral scent.  The scent of the tea leaves was very strong.  I poured 8 ounces of water over 1 teaspoon of leaves and let this steep for 3 minutes.  The liquid was a brownish orange and had a scent similar to the leaves, but not as strong.  The taste was a berry / floral combination.  There was no astrigency to this tea.  It has a slight sweetness to it.  This was a light and refreshing tea.
     Perkse has some unique tea blends, that are enjoyable, but it seems that the customer can't always get what they want when they want it.....


Tuesday, October 18, 2016

The Night Circus

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Narrator: Jim Dale

Format: 11 discs, 13 1/2 hours

Publisher: Random House Audio, 2011

Genre: fantasy

Obtained: library

Summary: Celia and Marco, two illusionists, have been bound by their teachers to compete against one another in a "game".  The venue is Le Cirque de Reves, a magical circus like no other.  They are given minimal information about the contest, and Celia is not even told the name of her opponent.  Things get more complicated when Celia and Marco fall in love.

Thoughts: This author does an amazing job with descriptive writing!  I felt like I was at the circus and in the other settings of this book completely.  I could not only see what was in these places, but I could smell and hear what was going on.  On top of that I felt so much- excitement, anticipation, happiness, etc...   It was a magical experience, entering this extraordinary world that the author created.  This is what made this book stand out to me and why I really consider it special.
     This book was not fast paced, but kept me engaged.  It did not have deep characters, but they were entertaining.  The plot was simple, but there was a lot going on and to me, it was woven together well, so that at the end it all came together. It did have many time jumps, so I had to pay attention to what year I was reading about, but this was not a problem.
     The narrator did a great job reading the book.  I felt he added to the atmoshere of the story and to the character's personalities.  He was easy to understand and follow.
     This author is a master at creating vivid imagery which makes for a terrific experience.  She also created a magical world.  This was a great fantasy novel.  On the other hand, if you are looking for very developed characrters that you can connect with, this is not the book for you.  It is also not for you if you are looking for an intense competition.  It is quite laid back.


Company: Yezi Tea Company

Tea: Shui Xian Da Hong Pao

Obtained: purchased

     I purchased the Farmer Favorite's Tea Sampler from Yezi Tea Company.  The company provides free shipping for their samplers and the order arrived very quickly.  So far, I have not been disappointed with this tea company.  I have tried 5 out of the 6 samples, and enjoyed every one.
     This time I brewed a cup of Shui Xian Da Hong Pao or "Big Red Robe".  This is an oolong tea grown in the Wuyi Mountains on a rich carpet of lichens and moss (according to the Yezi Tea website).  There are legends surrounding the name of the tea.  One is that it was grown by Buddist Monks on inaccessible cliffs and picked by trained monkeys wearing red vests.  Another is that someone important (the person varies) was cured of an illness by the tea, so laid out a red robe or robes to give thanks.
     The tea came in a bag that was easy to open.  The leaves were long and dark brown (although the website said they are yellow-purple) and had a sweet, woodsy scent.
     I poured eight ounces of hot water over four teaspoons of the tea leaves and let this steep for 45 seconds.  The liquid was a pale yellow, much lighter than it came out in the picture. (The website said it would be dark orange?)  The taste was woodsy with a hint of floral which was very subtle.  There was no bitterness to this tea and it was light, yet very flavorful.  This was an enjoyable, refreshing oolong tea.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Lie Still

41HL-+38ljL._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg (324×499)Title: Lie Still

Narrator: Rebecca Gibel

Format: 10 cd's, 12 hours, 3 minutes

Published: Blackstone Audio, 2013

Genre: mystery, thriller

Obtained: library

Summary: Emily Page and her husband, Mike, move from Manhattan, New York, to Clairmont, Texas.  Mike will be the new police chief in this small, wealthy, close-knit community.  Emily begins to receive mysterious mail, calls, and messages that are sometimes threatening and horrifying.  Caroline, the "leader" of the local women, is found dead.  Is what is happening to Emily being done by the same person who murdered Caroline?  Are the threats Emily is getting related to something from her past or present?

Thoughts: There was so much going on in this book that it kept me engaged and interested throughout.  It was also entertaining, especially the humor and the colorful characters.  Each character had their own interesting story, and was unique and well developed.  Most of the characters were hard to connect with, but their personalities were so amusing, this didn't seem to matter so much.  All of the characters had secrets and many of them had horrific things happen in their past.  There were so many characters with these terrible pasts that it made the story quite unbelievable at times, but it also made for an excellent mystery and it kept me reading.
     The weakness of this book was that it was full of disparity.  For example,  at times it was very serious and at others it really had some excellent humor.  Sometimes this made a nice balance, but at other times it just didn't work.  Also, sometimes the story seemed quite realistic, but then other times quite far-fetched.  This made for an odd mix.
     The narrator had a distinct voice for each character, so I always knew who was talking.  She also read at a good pace, was easy to follow, and kept me engaged.
     So, if you like an entertaining story with a lot going on, lots of secrets, a good mystery, and colorful characters, you'll love this book.  If you are looking for a believable story where you connect with the characters, this isn't the one for you.  I believe this novel would make for a great book club discussion.



Company: Yezi Tea Company

Tea: Li Shan

Obtained: purchased

     Li Shan tea is an oolong tea grown in Taiwan.  This sample came from the Yezi Tea Company.  According to the Yezi Tea website, this tea is harvested at 6,600 - 7,800 feet above sea level.  Therefore, the harvest is limited due to the small amount of agricultural land at this high altitude.
     The sample arrived in a lined bag which kept the leaves fresh.  The bag was easy to open.  The leaves had an earthy scent.  They were gray and green clumps of all sizes.  They looked like they had been wet when collected, crumpled up and dried like that.
     I put three teaspoons of leaves in my tea pot and poured nine ounces of hot water over the leaves.  I let this brew for forty five seconds.  The liquid was a pale yellow.  The scent was of sweet flowers with a background of the earthy scent.  This was very different from just the scent of the leaves.
     The taste of the tea was similar to the scent.  It was a mix of sweet flowers and an earthy flavor.  The tea was light, smooth, and refreshing, but also relaxed me.  This tea was delightful!