Thursday, March 30, 2017

Touch the Earth

5156bEamVdL._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg (260×214)Title: Touch the Earth
Author: Julian Lennon and Bart Davis
Illustrator: Smiljana Coh
Publisher: Sky Pony Press, 2017
Pages: 40
Genre: picture book (ages 3-6)
Obtained: advanced copy from publisher

Summary:  Children get on board a magical plane and go on an adventure to provide water to people that need it, clean the ocean to protect the fish, irrigate the desert, and deliver a filtration machine to those in need of clean water.
Thoughts:  Touch the Earth is the first book in a trilogy of similarly themed picture books that will be released for each Earth Day over the next three years beginning in April 2017.  Touch the Earth was inspired by a white feather.  John Lennon, Julian Lennon's father, told his son that if he passed away he would let Julian know that everything would be okay through a white feather.  While on a tour in Australia Julian was presented with a white feather by an Aboriginal tribal elder seeking help for her tribe.  This white feather was also the inspiration for the creation of the White Feather Foundation, which Julian established in 2007.  It is an organization that supports both people and the environment.  All proceeds from the sale of Touch the Earth go to the White Feather Foundation.
     Touch the Earth is interactive, playful, and educational.  Children are encouraged to touch the pictures.  They can press "buttons" and tilt the book to fly the White Feather Flyer, a magical plane.  They can also make things happen on the next page by shaking the book and pressing "buttons".  The book uses mostly simple language that children can relate to such as "yucky", but introduces some more complex words such as "filtration" and "irrigation", explaining them in a way that kids can understand. The book attempts to teach cardinal directions (north, south, east, and west), which I believe is very hard for young children to comprehend.  At first it shows a compass and has kids point to the directions, which was good, but later it has them tilting the book north to take the plane into the air and south to land it.  I think the authors should have stuck with up and down for take-off and landing.
    This book introduces simple concepts:
        1. People need clean water.  Not everyone has it.  There are ways to get it to them. 
        2. Fish need clean water.  We need to keep it clean for them.
        3. We all can and should help keep the earth clean.
        4. All of us should help others.
Touch the Earth helps promote discussion with children about all sorts of things- the earth, the world, the environment, how others live, natural resources, water, airplanes, directions, parachutes,  diversity, etc....
     The illustrations in this book are colorful and the White Feather Flyer has eyes and looks very friendly.  The people are all different colors and show diversity in a simple way.  On Smiljana Coh's website it is written that she combines traditional and digital illustration in her art.  The cover is a great representation of the artwork found inside.  In the back of the book is a poem and personal message written by Julian Lennon.
     This is a book for ages 3-6.  I like that it is interactive, that it very simply touches on some big ideas, and that it provides families with many topics for further discussion.  There is no tea review today.  This is a book to enjoy with a cold glass of water.


Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Mrs. Sherlock Holmes

51iqKIE4h9L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg (229×346)Title: Mrs. Sherlock Holmes: The True Story of New York City's Greatest Female Detective and the 1917 Missing Girl Case that Captivated a Nation

Author: Brad Ricca

Published: January 2017 by St. Martin's Press

Pages: 436

Genre: nonfiction, history, true crime

Obtained: library

Summary: This is the story of Grace Humiston, a lawyer and investigator, from the early 1900's.  Her story centers around the case of Ruth Cruegar, a young woman from New York that went missing.

Thoughts: This was a very well researched, interesting book from which I learned a lot about Grace Humiston and America in the early 1900's.  Grace Humiston was the first woman in the NYU daytime law program, the first female consulting detective to the New York City police department, and the first female district attorney.  She was an advocate for women and immigrants and a female investigator at a time when it was rare for a woman to have this role.  She helped fight against white slavery and helped save people on death row that were innocent of the crimes for which they were found guilty.  She helped expose police corruption and to show how legal and police processes did not always work.  The author described some of Grace's cases in great detail, making sure to include all sides to a story and conflicting viewpoints, leaving it up to the reader what to believe.  The author brought in people having to do with Grace's cases and projects and told some of their stories too.  He showed what society and culture was like in the United States in the early1900's through Grace's story.
     The author must have done so much research and found so many interesting stories and facts while doing this that it was very hard to cut things out.  In a way this is great because the reader gets all this information and learns so much about history.  On the other hand, if the reader is someone looking for an organized story about Grace Humiston, he or she does not get this.  This book is more for those wanting to learn rather than those looking for a well written true story.  The author described events, weather, and settings that reminded me that I was not in the present, but not to the extent that I could really picture all this in my head or feel like I was there.  He tells facts about Grace Humiston and other people from the time period, but at the end of the book I did not feel like I knew much about any of these people's personalities, just the facts of what they did.  At the end of the book, the author gives a summary of what happened to each key player in the book.  I thought it was an excellent wrap up.
     When I read a nonfiction book it is to learn, not necessarily to enjoy a great flowing story, which I look for in fiction.  The author is working with information that is available and I don't want him or her to add in information that he or she creates to add to the story.  This would not be a true nonfiction book.  To me the research and presentation of interesting information that holds my attention is the most important part of a nonfiction book.  So, I really enjoyed this book.  I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in any of the topics I mentioned above.  If you are looking for a well organized and edited, smooth flowing story, this is not for you.


Company: French Creek Tea Company
325 Mt. Rushmore Road, Custer, SD 57730
Phone: 695-673-5383,

Tea: Working Girl

Obtained: sample from French Creek Tea Company

     The French Creek Tea Company, located in South Dakota, was launched by Royia and Duane Hrncir.  They do not sell their teas online at this time.  So, I included their contact information above.  Their tea can be purchased at Annie's Emporium, which looks like a fun place to spend some time if you are planning on visiting the Black Hills of South Dakota.
     Working Girl is a blend of black teas flavored with cranberries, apples, and assorted dried fruits.  Even samples from the French Creek Tea Company come in good quality, easy to open, resealable bags, as seen above.    When I opened this package I got a whiff of sweet fruit that instantly put a picture in my mind of a penny candy store.  The blend was mostly black tea leaves with a few pieces of dried fruit.
     I poured twelve ounces of water that had been boiled over two teaspoons of leaves.  I let this steep for four minutes.  The deep orange liquid had a light, sweet, fruity scent that still reminded me of a candy store.  The taste was a wonderful blend of black tea and slightly sweet fruit.  This was a delicious, warm blend with a fall flavor.  It was one of the best black tea and fruit blends I have ever had.  It was slightly sweet, not overpowering, and there was no bitterness.  What I love most about this company is their ability to get a blend - the flavors are not overpowering and the tea flavor is still there.  I just loved Working Girl!

Friday, March 24, 2017

Still Life

51EUk4qVx3L._AA300_.jpg (300×300)Title: Still Life

Author: Louise Penny

Narrator: Ralph Cosham

Publisher: Blackstone Audio, 2006

Format: 8 compact discs, 9.5 hours

Genre: mystery

Obtained: library

Summary: Chief Inspector Armand Gamache is called to investigate the death of Jane Neal, a well-liked, retired school teacher living in Three Pines, Canada.  Jane has been shot with an arrow in the woods near her home.  Was this an accident, or murder?  If it was murder, who would want to kill a lovely elderly woman?

Thoughts: This is the first book in the Three Pines Mystery series featuring Chief Inspector Gamache.  My mom had passed the fifth in the series on to me.  So, I listened to that one first.  That was a mistake.  This is one of those series that really needs to be read from the beginning.  Not only do the characters grow and change, but their relationships do too.  Also, it's pretty easy to guess who the murderers are when they are in the first novels, but not the later ones.
     Reading a later book first, did let me see that Louise Penny's writing grows as well.  Although there were themes and layers in Still Life, The Brutal Telling, the fifth in the series, was deeper and had more layers.  The mystery was more intricate and interesting in the fifth book.  The author also shows more than tells in the later novel, which makes for an even better read. The writing style remains the same, focusing on characters and their relationships with one another, and bringing the reader into a wonderful setting using all the senses.  Three Pines is a charming small town where everyone cares about one another (for the most part) and all help each other out.  Art, music, literature, antiques, and food are topics throughout this author's stories.  She has a nice way of describing with details, but not to the point that it takes away from the story.  Her writing is not plot driven, but there are mysteries with red herrings and twists and turns.  Her style is not suspenseful and fast paced.  It is slow and rich.
     Ralph Cosham just seemed like the perfect person to portray Chief Inspector Gamache.  He really brought him to life and added to the experience of listening to the story.  He had a clear voice that held my attention.  He gave different voices to each character which made the story very easy to follow.  Unfortunately, this narrator passed away a couple of years ago.  It must have been very hard to replace him with a narrator for the newer books.
     I recommend this audio book to those that want characters that grow and develop throughout a series.  The mystery is not the highlight of the book.  The characters have their personal stories that are interwoven throughout the book with the mystery bringing everything together.  I believe you have to like "cozy" settings and series books to enjoy this one. Also, if you like fast-paced suspenseful mysteries, this is not for you.


Company: Upton Tea Imports

Tea: Poire Creme

Obtained: gift

     I received  an 8 ounce mason jar of tea leaves for Christmas from Sweets N' Java, located in Holden, Massachusetts.  With only a sticker with the name of this community coffee house on the top, and the name of the tea on the bottom, I tried to get more information about the tea online.  I found that Sweets N' Java get their leaves from Upton Tea Imports which can be purchased directly online.
     Although the label read "Poire Creme", I believe this blend was Green Rooibus Poire Creme, which is a caffeine free mix of small, thin green and brown Rooibus leaves and larger sunflower petals, flavored with pear and cream.  The scent of the leaves was of sweet pear.  I poured 8 ounces of water that had been boiled over 1 tablespoon of tea leaves.  I let this brew for 8 minutes as recommended on the Upton Tea Imports website.  The liquid was a beautiful orange that was cloudy at first, but became clearer as the tiny leaves settled to the bottom of the cup.  The scent was of fruit.  When tasting the tea my thought was of a kiwi smoothie.  There was both a sweetness and sourness at first with a sweet pear and cream aftertaste.  Not until I swallowed did I taste pear.  There was a fruity taste at first, but it tasted more like kiwi to me.  There was a lot going on here.
     This was a refreshing tea. The blend was very different with a nice combination of sweet and sour- not too overpowering on either end.  It was not a simple flavor.  I would describe it as busy.  Although I usually would not want to try a cream tea iced, because this was so refreshing, I may keep this one in mind for the summer.  Also, Sweets N' Java looks like a delightful place to go.  I will have to stop in soon!

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Northanger Abbey

51n1BveP8FL._SX421_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg (423×500)  

Title: Northanger Abbey

Author: Jane Austen

Narrator: Anna Massey

Publisher: Audiogo, 2011

Format: 8 CD's, 7 hours and 40 minutes

Genre: classic

Obtained: library

Summary: Catherine Morland is invited to accompany her neighbors, Mr. and Mrs. Allen, to Bath. This is Catherine's first time away from home.  Although she, at first, has no acquaintances, she eventually meets the Tilneys and the Thorpes.  She becomes quick friends with both Isabella Thorpe and Eleanor Tilney.  Both John Thorpe and Henry Tilney also take a liking to Catherine.  The Thorpes do not like Catherine's friendship with the Tilney family and John even tries to sabotage the relationships Catherine has with the Tilneys.  What will happen when Catherine is invited to Northanger Abbey to spend a few week with the Tilneys?

Thoughts: Northanger Abbey is said to be the first novel written by Jane Austen.  It was bought by a publisher who held onto it for many years.  Austen bought it back and her brother had it published after her death.
     This is a coming of age story with the usual humor, satire, and writing style Jane Austen has in all her books.  In this novel, the characters were excellent.  They were all unique with certain traits exaggerated.  For example, Catherine loves Gothic novels.  Reading these novels has been her world experience thus far. So, she believes life to be like a Gothic novel to the point that she has a hard time telling the difference between fantasy and reality.  The characters grow through their experiences in the story.
     The story contained romance, drama, and misunderstandings.  I love Austen's books because I believe she had a great understanding of human behavior and relationships and was able to use this to tell humorous, entertaining stories.  There is also depth to Austen's novels.  Some of the themes in this novel were fact versus fiction and appearance versus reality.
     I thought this novel was set up differently than other Austen books I have read.  The first part of the story takes place in Bath and the second at Nothanger Abbey.  I felt like this could have been written as two separate novels, but really liked that Austen chose to do it as one with the two separate settings.  Also, the end was written almost like a prologue.  It was a quick wrap up which was really all that was necessary, but not characteristic of Austen's other works.
     The narrator seemed to read at a fast pace at first, but I did get used to the pace quickly.  The narrator's voice was pleasant.  Although, this was not one of the best narrators I've listened to, I was still able to follow the story with no problem and enjoyed it very much.  

Company: Pickity Place

Tea: Garden Harvest Tea

Obtained: gift

      Pickity Place is located at the end of a winding road in Mason, New Hampshire.  There sits a cottage that was built in 1786 and was used as the model for the illustrations in the Little Golden Books version of Little Red Riding Hood.  The cottage is now used to serve a 5-course luncheon.  There are 3 private seatings.  Reservations are required.  Behind the cottage, there is a gift shop, greenhouse, and beautiful gardens.  The focus is herbs. Pickity Place is a quaint, little place for gardeners and food lovers.
     It is in the gift shop that my Mom got me a 1 once package of "Garden Harvest Tea".  It came in a resealable pouch.  There were no ingredients listed and no steeping suggestions.  The tea was a combination of dried flowers, cloves, and what looked like chunks of fruit skin.  I poured 12 ounces of water over 1 tablespoon of tea and let this steep for 3 minutes.  The liquid was a light pink and had a faint floral scent mixed with the scent of cloves.  The taste was a blend of floral and cloves, making me feel as if spring had met autumn.  This was a light, refreshing tea.
     I have not been to Pickity Place in years, but when I went, everything about it was wonderful, especially the luncheon.  Unfortunately, their teas do not seem to be available to order online, but they do have herbal blends and beverage mixes in their online store.  If you are going to be in southern New Hampshire, I highly recommend that you make reservations for the luncheon and leave time to walk around the grounds and shops.

Thursday, March 9, 2017


51N5MNb8GmL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg (333×499)
Title: Jacoby

Narrator: Nicola Barber

Publisher: Highbridge, 2014

Format: 6 CD's, 7.5 hours

Genre: mystery, fantasy, paranormal

Obtained: library

Summary: In 1892, Abigal Rook arrives in New Fiddleham, New England with just a small suitcase of her belongings and the need of money and a place to stay.  While looking around town for a job,  she discovers a "help wanted" advertisement leading her to Jacoby, a paranormal investigator with the ability to see beings no one else is able to see.  She becomes his assistant.  Their first case together is to solve the mystery of a possible serial killer.

Thoughts:  I loved the characters, setting, atmoshere, and writing style in this book!  I also loved that the author combined some of my favorite things to read about when writing this book - mystery, paranormal, folklore, myths, and the late 19th Century.
     The characters had to have been the best part.  Abigal Rook told the story from her perspective, similar to what Watson did in the Sherlock Holmes books.  She was a likeable, humorous, honest narrator.  Jacoby was wonderful!  He was an eccentric, quirky fellow that had terrific lines.  There were also colorful minor characters and Harry Potter like beings throughout the novel.  They were well developed and complex.
     The setting was New England in 1892.  The author did a great job sticking with the time period, but then added in the paranormal world so there was never a dull moment.  I loved learning about these paranormal beings!  The best setting was Jacoby's house.  I really wanted to explore it.  People that could not pay Jacoby would give him items as payment.  He also had many articles and books related to the paranormal. So, the house was packed with interesting stuff. He had a laboratory/kitchen.  There was even a pond in the house!
     The writing style was wonderful.  The author had a way of providing many, many details without getting monotonous.  This made for a very clear picture of everything that was happening without slowing down the pace of the story.  The pace was slower at the beginning and picked up as the story went on.  The story had humor throughout, and was very easy to follow.
  I listened to this book on CD and really enjoyed how the narrator portrayed each character.  Each character had very distinct voices and the personality of each came out in their voice.  The narrator's voice was clear and full of expression, so that I never lost interest.
     I did guess whodunit right away, but this didn't matter to me because I still felt as if I were on a great adventure.  So, the major weakness of this book was the mystery itself.  It had twists and turns, but they were very predictable- to me anyway.
     This was a light book that was a great escape.  I didn't want to leave the world the author created.  Luckily this is a series, and I have already put Beastly Bones, the second in the series, on hold at my library.  I can't wait to go back!  I believe this would be a great book for young adults.


Company: Teema Teas

Tea: Immortality

Obtained: purchased

     Teema Teas gets its tea from a woman owned, certified organic plantation in northern Thailand in the foothills of the Himalayas.  Ten percent of this company's profits are donated to help empower economically disadvantaged women.
     "Immortality" was one of the four teas in the Discovery Gift Pack.  The four teas came in an envelope made of abaca fibers. These fibers are extracted from the leaf sheath around the trunk of the abaca or manila hemp plant, and are sustainable.  The teas came in pre-portioned packets measured for 12 ounces of water.  The packets were good quality, but had to be cut to open them.  One of the packets can be seen in the above picture.
     The tea leaves looked as if fresh, wet leaves had been squished up and left to dry leaving dark green squiggly bundles- very cool looking.  The leaves had a grassy smell reminiscent of fresh hay.  I put the leaves in my teapot and poured 12 ounces of water that had been boiled over the leaves.  I let this steep for 3 minutes.  The liquid was yellow and had a very faint grassy scent.  The taste was very different!  I had never tasted anything like this before.  At first I got a slight grassy flavor, but then this was followed by an astringent / sweet taste.  It was odd to taste a bitterness and very sweet taste at the same time.  The sweetness reminded me of stevia. The texture was also odd.  The tea just seemed thicker than water, almost a bit oily.
     This tea is made from jiaogulan.  This herb, which grows wild in China, is said to lower cholesterol and blood pressure and strengthen the immune system.  It is caffeine free.
     This tea was not for me.  I didn't even finish the cup.  If you are looking for a very different taste, you'll get it with this one!  

Friday, March 3, 2017

Lady Susan

519xclnyIrL._AA300_.jpg (300×300)Title: Lady Susan

Author: Jane Austen

Narrators: Harriet Walter, Kim Hicks, Carole Boyd, and cast

Published: 2001 by NAXOS Audiobooks

Format: 2 compac discs, 2 hours, 30 minutes, 42 seconds

Genre: classic

Obtained: library

Summary: Lady Susan Vernon, recently widowed, and one of the most flirtatious women in England, goes to visit her brother and sister-in-law.  Here she causes an uproar with her scandalous reputation, coquetry, and selfish schemes.  This story is told through a series of letters.

Thoughts: Lady Susan is a much different novel than Austen's more popular works.  Many consider it "unfinished".  It was not published until 50 years after Austen's death.  Austen had never revised it.  So, it does not seem as complete as Pride and Prejudice or Sense and Sensibility.  It is short (80 pages) and written in the form of a series of letters.  Austen originally wrote Sense and Sensibility in this form and changed it to prose before publication.  There are thoughts that Austen would have done this to Lady Susan as well, especially since the end of the book is written in prose.
     Lady Susan, the main character is not likeable, but is a brilliant character.  She is what we would consider a narcissist today.  The other characters in the story are developed, but not to the extent of Lady Susan or characters in the other Austen books I have read.  The writing style is beautiful and witty.  Parody and satire are used throughout the book.  Even though the story was probably written sometime before 1805, it is easy to follow.  Although many consider Austen a romance writer, I think she was so much more.  I believe she had a terrific understanding of relationships and psychology and uses this gift in her writing.
     The narrators read at a good pace.  They were easy to understand and follow.  There was classical music added in between some of the letters, which I enjoyed because it helped set the tone and put a pause between the letters so I could process them.
     This probably would have been an even better book if the author had readied it for publication, but I enjoyed it just as much as her "completed" works.  Read this if you like Austen, but don't expect another Sense and Sensibility or Pride and Prejudice.  It is a different type of book that cannot be compared to these novels.


Company: French Creek Tea Company
325 Mt. Rushmore Road
Custer, SD 57730
Phone: 605-673-5383,

Tea: Lady Jasmine

Obtained: sample from the French Creek Tea Company

     Lady Jasmine is another wonderful tea from the French Creek Tea company.  This company does not have online ordering, so their contact information is listed above.  The tea I have gotten from them is pakaged in lined, resealable bags which are easy to store and keep the leaves fresh.
     This green tea, scented with jasmine flowers, is composed of all different sizes and shapes of green and brown leaves.  The leaves have a light, refreshing jasmine scent.  I poured 12 ounces of water that had been boiled and cooled for a couple of minutes over 2 teaspoons of the leaves.  I let this steep for 2 minutes.  The liquid was a yellow color and had a wonderful, light jasmine scent.  The taste was of a delicate, yet crisp green tea blended with a subtle jasmine flavor.  It had a mild astringency.
     This was a delicate, light, well-blended tea.  I believe green tea lovers would enjoy this blend.  I myself prefer a stronger jasmine taste because jasmine is one of my favorite flavors, but still enjoyed this lightly flavored green tea.  I will try this one iced as I think it would be quite refreshing chilled.