Friday, January 27, 2017

Choices and Illusions

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Author: Eldon Taylor

Narrator: Mikaal Waters

Publisher: Hay House Audio, 2016

Format: 7 compact discs

Genre: nonfiction, self-help

Obtained: from publicist in exchange for an honest review

Summary: Through stories, quotations, studies, testimonials, and personal experience, the author shows how our unconscious false beliefs can prevent us from becoming who we are meant to be.  He then goes on to show us what we can do to change our unconscious false beliefs to become our true selves.

Thoughts:  Wow! Information overload!  That is how I felt when I finished listening to this audio book. I was given just so much information that there is just no way I could remember it all.  I have a BS in psychology and MS in rehabilitation counseling.  None of the ideas presented here were new to me, and I still felt like this.  I wonder how someone without any prior knowledge in these areas would feel reading this book.  I would think, overwhelmed.  On the other hand, the author attempts to get his ideas across in many different ways, giving more than one example for each point he is trying to make.  If you are to read or listen to this book, at least one way of understanding what he is trying to get at will probably get through.  If you understand each example, it reinforces his point and helps you to remember it.  Also, he does repeat what he feels are the key statements which helps you to recall the most important points.  The fictitious stories the author told to demonstrate his points also stayed with me.  So, even though I couldn't remember everything, the main ideas did stick.  To me, this is a book to read a little at a time and let sink in, maybe rereading parts important to you.
     The author provides evidence backing up his ideas throughout the book.  I liked this because readers serious about implementing the techniques described, or about the author's programs, can look up the actual studies. They can see how many test subjects there were, if there was a control group, the procedure of the experiment, if the results were statistically significant, etc..  The author cited MANY studies in different settings, countries, and with different populations.  The research noted was from over a number of years.  The author provides the names of books where more information can be found on different subjects.  Toward the end of the book the author has testimonials about his program "Inner Talk" with an appendix containing more.  I was very glad that most of the testimonials were in an appendix because the book started to feel like a sales pitch for his compact discs.
     The narrator had a pleasant voice and held my attention with his lively reading.  He read at a good pace,  pausing appropriately.  However the tracks were very long.  If I wanted something repeated or wanted to switch compact disc players in the middle of a track, it was annoying.
     This book contained many ideas that have been around for a long time and that are known to increase quality of life.  The author brings them together looking at the whole mind (conscious and unconscious).  He also discusses both the spiritual and scientific aspects of the brain and mind.  I found this book to be inspirational, interesting, and well-organized.  I will listen to this book again to digest it, and I will reflect on these ideas.  Personally, I have found doing "good deeds" and meditating rewarding.  Maybe I will try some of the other suggestions the author has made.  After completing the book, even though I had that overwhelmed feeling, I still wanted to know more!
     This is an in depth self help book.  It focuses on mostly why you should follow the author's suggestions rather than how.  However, the author does give enough information on how to start on this path and where to get more information to continue.  The goal of the book is to help to increase quality of life by changing unconscious false beliefs.  To see huge results, this is a major journey and commitment.


Company: Yezi Tea

Tea: Bi Luo Chun

Obtained: purchased

     Yezi Tea sells delicious, high quality tea grown in China.  This company is one of the best finds I have made while doing this blog.  The company allows you to try six samples for only $5.99, and you can choose 3 free samples with every order!  This is a great way to explore their teas so you can order your favorites.  Their teas have no additives.  They are simply tea and taste like tea.  I have not yet tried a sample from them that I did not like. Their tea is always very fresh and of excellent quality.
     Bi Luo Chun is a green tea.  This sample was from the Farmer's Favorites Tea Sampler.  The long black and  grey leaves had a grassy or hay like scent.  I poured 10 ounces of water that had been boiled over 5 teaspoons of leaves.  I let this steep for one minute.  The liquid was a very light greenish yellow that had the same hay like scent as the leaves.  There was much more to the taste.  It was a blend of grassy, hay, and woodsy flavors with a very slight astringent aftertaste.  It was a very flavorful, refreshing green tea.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Waking Lazarus

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Title: Waking Lazarus

Author: D. J. Williams

Publisher: Forgotten Stories, LLC, 2016

Pages: 308

Genre: thriller, mystery

Obtained: from author in exchange for an honest review

Summary: Jake Harris has been battling alcoholism, attempting to change his wife's mind about getting a divorce, and hasn't seen his daughter in a very long time.  He does not remember his mother, and the relationship he has with his father is not a good one.  He is unemployed and out of money.  Finally, his life is about to turn around, or so he thinks.  He has been hired to ghostwrite a memoir for an old family friend.  Jake's life does take a dramatic turn after he agrees to ghostwrite the memoir, but not in the way he has imagined.

Thoughts:  This book starts with a prologue that does not discuss the protagonist of the story and is set in Mexico.  The writing is very dramatic and intense.  It sets a tone that I was not sure I was going to like.  I started the first chapter- major writing style and tone change.  The protagonist is introduced and the setting is now California.  I started liking this a bit more.  Then the writer starts to feed the reader a little information at a time.  Some of this information starts to tie in with other information and some is still questionable.  Then I was hooked. I wanted to know how the past and present were connected. As the story starts to unfold the twists and turns begin.  And the best part- the story was not predictable!  I did not always know what was going to happen!
      Waking Lazarus ended up being a face-paced, page turner that kept me guessing.  The settings were described well and the characters were developed.  The story did jump to and from the perspectives of different characters, but was well organized, so it was not confusing.  I was guessing at times what was really happening, but it is clear this was the author's intention, and added to the mystery and suspense.  This author has a talent for being able to set a mood.  As I was reading, it felt like a movie.  The only problem I had with this book was that I had to stop and figure out some of the abbreviations which I didn't want to take the time to do.  I realize that's how the characters in the book would talk and think, so this made the story more believable, but I was reading a suspenseful thriller!  Also, be aware, this is not a cozy mystery.  There is lots of bloodshed.
     This book is the second in The Guardian trilogy.  Usually I do not like reading a series out of order, but it felt okay not reading The Disillusioned first.  The way Waking Lazarus ended, however, I do feel that I will have to read the third in the series.  The story had an ending, but there was clearly more to come.
     There is a soundtrack by Jene Nicole Johnson that goes along with this book.  This really caught my attention.  You can hear some clips from the soundtrack here.  I thought this was so cool!  I listened to a couple of the clips.  Wonderful music!  Each song goes with specific chapters in the book.  As I mentioned, there were many different tones set expertly throughout the book by the author.  Listening to the music, I didn't always get the same feel as I had when reading the book, but I just loved this idea!  Just think about when it is hard to get into a book how much a well written soundtrack could help.
     D. J. Williams has agreed to do an interview with me, so please check back for more.  If you "follow" my blog by email, you will get new posts in you mailbox!


Company: Tea Forte

Tea: Blood Orange

Obtained: gift

     "Blood Orange" was the second tea that I sampled from the "Noir Single Steeps Sampler" from Tea Forte.  The sampler consisted of 15 single steeps that came in a pretty box.  There were five different flavors, three of each flavor.  The single steep package was very good quality and easy to open.  I would not hesitate to carry this in my bag or purse.  It is a very sturdy envelope.
     I emptied the envelope of tea into my teapot. The leaves were long and black with pieces of light brown leaves and orange peel mixed in.  The sweet orange scent was strong.  I poured 12 ounces of water over the leaves.  (I love that the tea is measured for 12 ounces of water, not eight.  I always feel like 8 ounces just isn't enough.)  I let this steep for three minutes.  The liquid was a beautiful orange brown color.  The scent of the liquid was faint orange and I could smell the tea leaves as well.  The taste of the tea was of tart oranges with a black tea taste in the background.  The finish was somewhat bitter and this taste lingered for some time.
     I was a bit disappointed with this tea.  I think when I smelled the sweet orange of the tea leaves, I was looking forward to this sweetness, even though I am not usually one for sweet teas.  I just wanted more sweetness to this tea without adding another flavor.  Also, I didn't really care for the bitter aftertaste.  I will drink my other two single steeps, but not when I am in the mood for something sweet.  This is more of a crisp, wake me up sort of tea.


Friday, January 13, 2017

Staking Her Claim

Publisher: High Plains Press, 2008

Pages: 303

Genre: nonfiction, American history, anthology

Obtained: gift

Summary: In the early 1900's, many single women became homesteaders in the western United States by taking advantage of the Homestead Act.  Here, some of these women's stories are told, mostly in their own words, through letters, articles, and historical records and documents.

Thoughts:  My mother and father-in-law brought this book back to me after a trip across the United States.  When I read the title and description on the back cover, my first thought was that I had never even thought about a woman homesteading on her own during this time period.  Everything I ever read about or watched about this topic involved families or men moving out west to claim land and prove up.  What a wonderful topic to research and write about!
     This book ended up being a wealth of information.  The topic was exceptionally well researched, and I really liked that the author put parts of the original letters and articles written by these women in the book.  I also liked that she used so many different sources and included pictures.  Also, some of the writing included was done while the women were homesteading and some was done after the fact.  So, the reader gets some of these women's perspectives during and some after their experiences.  It felt like no stone was unturned.  The book was very well organized, so I did not feel like it was jumping all around.  It had very good flow.
     In the beginning of the book, the author does an excellent job at explaining the similarities and differences she found among the women that she researched.  Personally, I thought some parts of the first few chapters were repetitive and some of it could have been edited out.  Also, the letters written by these women when they were homesteading, for me, got monotonous to read.  There was a lot of information about the weather, daily chores, the mail, people's health, and the wildlife.  I realize how important all these topics were and loved that the actual letters were there to read, but I tried to read this book like a novel, which was a mistake.  My favorite part of the anthology were the memoirs toward the end.  The stories and memoirs had been written for an audience, so for leisure reading, were much more enjoyable.
     This is an excellent book if you are researching this topic or are very interested in it.  If the interest is not huge, the book would be more enjoyable to read a chapter here and there, rather than all at once.  Also, the book is set up so that you can jump around and pick the woman that you want to read about.  This book shows how strong and capable women can be, so may be an inspiration to women.


Company: French Creek Tea Company

Tea: Annie's Blend

Obtained: gift

     Over the summer my mother and father in-law drove across the United States.  One of their stops was  Annie's Emporium, a unique store selling local items including those of crafters and artists.  The store also launched their own teas under the name French Creek Tea Company.  So, I was lucky enough to get as a gift a bag of "Annie's Blend", a blend of black teas flavored with blackberry, raspberry, and vanilla.  This blend was named after Anna Parks, a 30 year old widow who, around 1894, established "The Palace" in the house that is now Annie's Emporium, although it was then located in Keystone, South Dakota. "The Palace" was a place men, mostly from the "Holy Terror Mine" would pay the madame (Annie) for dinner, drinking, dancing and the companionship of women.  Between 1903 and 1910 Annie sold the house and the new owner moved it to the place it is now located.
     The resealable bag the tea came in was high quality and I loved that it had brewing instructions, ingredients, and an expiration date right on the bag.  As can be seen in the picture above, the package looked sophisticated. The medium black tea leaves had lighter colored leaves mixed in. The scent was of berries with a hint of vanilla in the background.
     I put 3 teaspoons of leaves into my teapot and added 16 ounces of water that had been boiled.  I let this brew for 4 minutes.  The amber liquid smelled of a mix of sweet vanilla and berries.  The taste was a blend of berries and black tea with a very faint sweet vanilla mixed in.  There was no sourness to the tea like in some berry flavored teas.  I loved this tea hot and it was even better iced!
     Unfortunately, this tea is only served in South Dakota (click here for a list of places serving this tea) and available for retail sale at Annie's Emporium. So, if you are in the Black Hills of South Dakota or know someone traveling there, keep Annie's Emporium in mind.  I would love to try some of their other blends!

Monday, January 9, 2017

Precious and Grace

Title: Precious and Grace

Author: Alexander McCall Smith

Narrator: Lisette Lecat

Publisher: Recorded Books, 2016

Format: 8 discs, 9.75 hours

Genre: philosophical fiction, mystery

Obtained: library

Summary:  Mma Ramotswe and Mma Makutsi have a new case.  Susan Peters left Botswana as a young child, moving to Canada with her parents.  She has returned and has hired the Number One Ladies Detective Agency to find the house she lived in as a child and the woman who looked after her.  During the course of the investigation Mma Ramotswe and Mma Makutsi both feel that something just isn't right.  What is actually happening here?

Thoughts:  This is the seventeenth book in this series and I am still loving these stories.  Although they seem to be more and more philosophical and less of mystery solving, they are still just as enjoyable to me.  The author, as usual, uses humor, clever anecdotes, and the daily lives of lovable characters to teach life and moral lessons.
     The author's writing style is light and clear.  His writing takes you right into the setting and you feel like you know these characters.  The main plot and side stories are very simple, but he uses these to look at deeper issues in a light and humorous way.  One of the main themes of this book is forgiveness, and I found this aspect of the book enlightening.
     The narrator was excellent.  She spoke in a slow, clear voice.  You could tell which character was speaking just by her voice.  She definitely helped to bring this story to life.  Her voice added to the feeling that you were in South Africa in a slow paced culture.  The tracks were short, so it was easy to find my place on the CD if I lost it.
     This is the perfect book to read or listen to while you drink a cup of red bush tea and ponder life.


Company: Art of Tea

Tea: Rooibos

Obtained: gift

     I received a pouch of organic rooibos tea for Christmas.  Rooibus tea, or bush tea, as it is also known, is grown in South Africa. It is a caffeine free herbal tea.  I have been enjoying a huge tin of rooibos tea from the Grace Tea Company all through 2016, but my tin is almost empty.  So, I was very happy to receive this pouch from Art of Tea.   The tea was packaged in a brown resealable bag that was very easy to open.  Although not fancy or colorful, the foil-lined bag does an excellent job of keeping the tea fresh.
     The tea leaves were small reds, oranges, and browns, reminding me of the leaves on the ground in the fall in New England.  Since the leaves of rooibos tea are so small, I recommend using an extra fine tea infuser.   The scent was of sweet fresh hay.  I put 2 tablespoons of leaves in my teapot and added 16 ounces of water.  I let this brew for 5 minutes.  The liquid was a beautiful red color and the scent was earthy, yet slightly sweet.  The taste was earthy with a nutty after taste.  There was a sweetness to the tea both with the original sip all the way to the lingering after taste.
     This was a refreshing cup of tea that I enjoyed very much, but I have to admit that I like the rooibos tea from Grace Tea Company more.  The rooibos tea from Art of Tea has more of an after taste and seems much sweeter.  The one from Grace is more rounded and nutty.  The quality and freshness of both are equal, but the taste is definitely different.  We all have different preferences, so I hope this helps in deciding where to purchase your rooibos tea.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Share-a-Tea Reading Challenge

     Wow!  There could not be a more perfect challenge for me!  I have joined this wonderful challenge which encompasses why I started this blog- to slow down and think about what I am reading and drinking and to share with others!  This is a challenge about quality, not quantity.  It is not about how many books you read.   This challenge is open to everyone.  If you'd like to find out more about this challenge or like to join, please click here.  I will list the books with links to the reviews I do on them here.