Thursday, December 29, 2016

The Missing Kennedy

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Title: The Missing Kennedy    

Publisher: Bancroft Press, 2016

Pages: 215

Genre: nonfiction, memoir

Obtained: received copy from publisher in exchange for an honest review

Summary: This is the story of two families effected by disabilities- the author's family and the Kennedys. The author herself was afflicted with dizziness and episodes of blindness (misdiagnosed as epilepsy) at one point and had relatives who suffered from mental illness.  Rosemary Kennedy had what is now thought to have been a learning disability.  She also had emotional outbursts, which at the time was thought to be a mental illness.  She had a lobotomy to help with these issues, but it just resulted in more problems.  Rosemary Kennedy's caretaker for many years was the author's aunt, Sister Paulus. The author weaves these separate stories together to demonstrate that we all have family secrets and to show just how important compassion and empathy is to us all. 

Thoughts:  This book is not just a biography of Rosemary Kennedy which I believe most people would assume by the title The Missing Kennedy and the beautiful picture of Rosemary Kennedy on the cover.  Underneath this title, in very small print, are the words "and the Secret Bonds of Four Women".  Even that seems to be misleading.  To me, this book was about disabilities and how they affected two families- the author's family and the Kennedy's.  Although a big part of the book was the story of Rosemary Kennedy, it was just a part.  Another equally big part was the story of Sister Paulus, Rosemary's caretaker for many years.  Then there were the stories of members of Rosemary's family and members of the author's family- all interesting stories.  The cover just did not seem to grasp what was inside.
    This was a very open and honest book.  It was not a book about gossip and blame.  The author wrote this book after doing research and interviews, and obtaining information from her aunt's personal papers.  She also incorporated her memories into the book adding an intimate feel which I believe is what made this book really good.  
     I read this book in three sittings, but could have done it in one.  It was an easy read- not boring at all.  There were many people discussed in the stories and it could get a little confusing who was who, but there were family trees in the back that I referred to.  Although the author sometimes gives opinions, they were ones I wanted to hear and the author makes it clear they are her thoughts, not facts.  The author's writing was easy to follow.  She did not ramble, but it was as if she was sitting there telling the reader the story rather than writing it.  She did not dramatize anything, just stated how things were.  The book was written in a positive way, pointing out the good that was there even when there was tragedy and sadness.  There were also many pictures included which really added to the experience of reading this book.  Also, in the back of the book are listed the programs the Kennedy family created and the accomplishments John and Ted Kennedy achieved through their political careers  that helped (and are still helping) people with disabilities.
     If you are looking for an in depth biography about Rosemary Kennedy, I don't think you'd be very pleased with this book.  It gives a picture of what life was like for Rosemary after her lobotomy and a brief glimpse of what her life was like before the operation- that is all.  If you are interested in the Kennedy family or just want to read a good, honest nonfiction story about people and families, you will probably enjoy this book as much as I did.  


Company: Tea Forte

Tea: Chocolate Rose

Obtained: gift

     I received the Noir Single Steeps Sampler as a Christmas gift.  The samples came in a beautiful box and contained three packages of five different teas.  Each package is premeasured for twelve ounces of water- just enough for a cup of tea.  The packages are easy to open without scissors and would be great for those who bring loose leaf tea with them anywhere.
     The first tea I tried was the Chocolate Rose, a black tea. The leaves were long and dark brown.  There were small light brown leaves mixed in along with thin bark-like pieces.  The scent of the leaves was of sweet chocolate with a hint of rose.  I added twelve ounces of water that had been boiled to the leaves and let this brew for three minutes.  The liquid was a reddish brown and smelled of warm chocolate with a hint of rose.  The scent was not strong.  The taste was of a sweet, yet full-bodied tea.  Rose and black tea were the prominent flavors with a hint of warm, sweet chocolate in the background.  This would make a nice dessert tea.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Anne of Green Gables

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Title: Anne of Green Gables

Author: L.M.Montgomery

Narrator: Kate Burton

Publisher: 2008 by Random House, Inc., originally published 1908

Format: 8 CDs, playing time 10.5 hours

Genre: classic, young adult

Obtained: library

Summary: Marilla and Matthew Cuthbert, sister and brother, decide to adopt an orphan boy to help Matthew with his farm work.  Matthew goes to the train station to pick up the boy, but when he gets there he finds there has been a mistake.  The boy is a girl, Anne Shirley.  Where will Anne's path take her from here?

Thoughts:  I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of this book.  It was a wonderful escape to a simpler time.  I loved the realization that many things have changed, but many more have not.  Also, it encompassed all emotions, but the parts that were most memorable to me were the humorous ones.  Although there were serious issues written about in the book, such as sickness and death, the author wrote in a way that still made the book cozy and uplifting, rather than depressing.
     The setting of the story is Prince Edward Island in Canada.  The author made me feel that I was there and I could picture each beautiful place in my mind.  The real  Green Gables still stands and can be visited.  The house was owned by the author's cousins, but has been a National Histiric Site since 1985 and is in Prince Edward Island National Park.  L.M. Montgomery visited the house as a young girl.  "Lover's Lane", "the Haunted Woods", and "Balsam Hollow", all places in the book, can also be visited.  In fact, if traveling to Prince Edward Island, there is a whole "Anne Itinary" available to follow so that you can encompass yourself with the story.
     The characters were brought to life by the author.  I could picture the physical appearance of each one along with their mannerisms.  I found myself wanting to know the stories of the minor characters, as well as the main characters because each character was interesting in their own way.  This was one of those stories that felt as if the characters were real people.
     The narrator helped to bring the characters to life even more and I felt like her portrayals of Anne, Marilla, and Matthew were right on.  Her voice was clear and she read the story at a pleasing pace.  The tracks were also not too long, so it was easy to find my place if I lost it.
     I believe this is a book for all ages, not just children.  I think that girls and women would like it most since it deals with a lot of female issues and concerns. I tried listening to it with my two sons (ages 9 and 14), but they could just not get into it.  My fourteen year old found Anne annoying because she was dramatic and talked too much.
    This is a cozy book, with terrific characters, and a beautiful setting. It is more than just an entertaining story.  It is about community, friendships, families, life and love.


     One of my favorite scenes in Anne of Green Gables is when Anne has her best friend Diana over for tea.  Anne is very excited to be serving Diana a special drink, raspberry cordial, which was left over from the church social.
     Instead of tea, I just had to make raspberry cordial to go along with this book.  I searched online and quickly found this wonderful blog post that has a recipe, created by the blogger, for raspberry cordial.  So, I have done a recipe review in place of a tea review this time around.
     I halved the recipe created by Tori Avery and this resulted in plenty of the drink.  The whole recipe would have been too much for my family of four.  I had some raspberries from my garden in my freezer, so thawed those (about 3 cups).  I mixed 1/6 of a cup of lemon juice with the thawed raspberries.  I then brought 6 cups of water mixed with 1 1/2 cups of sugar to a boil.  I poured the boiling liquid over the raspberry mixture and let this cool (about 2 hours) before placing it in the refrigerator to sit overnight.  The next day I strained the liquid through a fine sieve, the end result being a pitcher full of a beautiful red liquid.
     I mixed 1 cup of the red liquid with one cup of water to create the raspberry cordial that would be something like Anne served in Anne of Green Gables.  The concoction was delightful.  It was a beautiful red that had the scent of raspberries.  The taste was very sweet, smooth, and refreshing. It, of course, tasted of raspberries.  Tori Avery also suggests mixing the liquid with seltzer, which I did the next day.  This created a raspberry soda that reminded me of Izzy's Sparkling Blackberry Juice.  I also might try adding the raspberry juice to a small amount of ginger ale or lemon-lime soda.
   Just like Anne of Green Gables is really a story for all ages, so is this drink.  Making raspberry cordial after reading this scene with your young kids would be fun.  It would also show them how "juice" is made and I am sure they will love the color.  My 9 and 14 year old boys loved it and have requested that I make it again for Christmas.  It is also an elegant, refreshing drink for adults anytime of the year!  Thank you, Tori Avery, for this wonderful recipe.

Monday, December 12, 2016

The Girl With No Past

41jQa-3cH8L.jpg (326×500)Title: The Girl With No Past

Author: Kathryn Croft

Publisher: Bookouture, 2015

Pages: 300

Genre: psychological thriller

Obtained: library

Summary: Something happened in Leah Mills' past.  She believes she should be punished for this. She works at a library during the day and goes home to her apartment at night and reads.  She has no friends and the only family she has is her mother, who she does not see often.  Just as Leah starts to believe she has punished herself enough and begins to form some realationships, her past comes back to haunt her.  Someone else believes Leah should continue to be punished, but who?

Thoughts:  This was a really good psychological thriller. It reminded me of I Know What You Did Last Summer by Lois Duncan because both involved the question- who's seeking revenge on a person / people  that did something bad in their past?  The story is told by the protagonist and goes back and forth from her past (teen years) to present (14 years later).  The stories happening in each time period are good ones.  The writing is easy to follow, flows well, and kept me reading.  It was one of those books that is hard to put down because you want to know what is going on.  If I had the time, I could have read it in one sitting.  I really liked the author's writing style. There was enough description to picture what was taking place.  Some parts were creepy and chilling, other parts should have felt this way, but didn't- something was missing.
     Leah's character was developed throughout the story and by the end the whole person was revealed.  The other characters were not well-developed, but the story would not have worked if they had been.  Leah was telling the story and had just gotten to know most of the other characters.  Also, the reader was not supposed to know the characters that well because it added to the sense of mystery as to who was out to get Leah because of her past.
     The one major problem that I had with the book was the title.  I still do not understand how the title relates to the book in any way.  All in all, this was not a deep book, but a very entertaining one.  The author is an excellent storyteller.  She hooked me at the beginning and kept me hooked untilthe very end.


Company: Teema Teas

Tea: Jasmine Green

Obtained: purchased

     This Jasmine Green tea is another from my Teema Teas gift pack.  The gift pack came promptly when I ordered it with no problems and was nicely packaged.  This is the second tea I have sampled from the gift pack- the Moringa Green being excellent.
     I cut open the well sealed, pre-measured (for twelve ounces) package of tea and poured it into my teapot.  The scent of the leaves was a delicious sweet jasmine.  The leaves themselves were large and all different shades of green.  There were brown twig-like pieces mixed in.  I poured twelve ounces of water over the leaves and let this steep for two minutes.  The liquid was an amber color and smelled of the same sweet jasmine, but not as strong as the leaves.  The taste was of green tea with a light jasmine flavor in the background.  This was a good jasmine tea.