Thursday, September 28, 2017

The Bakersville Dozen

51P7WhXyncL._SX338_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg (340×499)Title: The Bakersville Dozen

Author: Kristina McBride

Publisher: Sky Pony Press, August 2017

Genre: young adult, thriller, mystery

Pages: 304

Obtained: from publisher in exchange for an honest review

Summary: Thirteen high school senior girls were featured in a video created by someone anonymous.  The video focused on something about each girl's sex life and quickly went viral online.  Now the girls are disappearing.  Bailey Holtzman, one of the girls from the video, receives a note taking her on a scavenger hunt that begins by leading her to the body of one of her missing friends.  Can she figure out who is kidnapping her friends before another loses her life or goes missing?

Thoughts:  I loved this author's suspenseful, tense writing style.  She has a good grasp of teens, the issues they face, and what they like to read.  (She had a love triangle in there.  That was a must when I was a teen.)  I wanted to keep reading and finished the book in three days.  The mystery was a good one and she was able to put a creepy feel into it, which I love. There were plenty of suspects, red herrings, and lots going on.  It kept me guessing all the way to the end.

There were some things about this book, though, that bothered me and seemed over the top.   This may just be a personal preference, but there was mention about drugs and alcohol that I thought was not necessary, especially in a book for teens.  Lines just seemed kind of thrown in there.  For example, when talking about what munchies to bring to a get together, one girl said she wanted "magic" brownies.  Maybe this was put in because this is what is selling, but I just didn't think the story needed it and would have been better without it.  Also, there were some things that were just not consistent with the characters personalities which is hard to describe without giving too much away.  Since I mentioned in the summary that the protagonist finds the body of one of her missing friends, I will use that as an example.  Baily leaves the body there.  This is a girl that seemed to really love her friends and I could not believe she would just leave the body there.  The author tried to show that she was trying to save her other friends and leaving the body there would help to rescue them, but it somehow didn't work for me.  The whole book was not like this, but there were a couple of other small things that just didn't fit.  I felt like if this book had been cleaned up a little more it would have been fantastic.  Nevertheless it was a really entertaining, fast paced whodunit with lots of secrets and lies.

I recommend The Bakersville Dozen to any mystery / thriller lover that is okay with over the top.  It is recommended for ages 14 and up, but I would say 16 and up due to the drugs, alcohol, and sex.  This author has three previous novels and because of her fantastic psychological suspense writing I am hoping to read at least one more.


I ordered the "Breakfast Tea Sampler" from The Whistling Tea Kettle which is an online tea store.  I stumbled upon this company while surfing the web and just loved the name. The company also has two tea houses located in New York- one in Troy and one in Ballston Spa.  My order arrived quickly and was well packaged.  The tea samples were in a colorful box which had a card inserted in the top describing each of the six teas and providing brewing instructions.  Each tea was in a black and orange, good quality resealable bag.  On the back of each bag was a sticker with recommended brewing instructions and a brief description of the tea.  My thought when opening this package was what a wonderful gift this would make if the tea was good.

The first tea I chose to sample was Ancient Forest , an organic, black tea from the "ancient trees" of the southwest province of Yunnan in China.  I cut open the bag with scissors. The leaves were black and light brown.  They were long and thin.  They had a sweet, earthy scent.  I put 2 teaspoons of leaves in my teapot and poured 12 ounces of water over the leaves.  I let this brew for 3 minutes.  The liquid was a dark orange brown and also had an earthy scent.  The taste was sweet and earthy, smooth and rich.  It was a high quality tea.  I really enjoyed this tea and brewed another cup later on in the day.  I tried brewing for 4 minutes and did not taste much of a difference.

At $18.90 and $4.95 for shipping, and the website stating that the sampler provides enough leaves for 18-36 cups of tea, this is a reasonably priced high quality gift or way to try new teas.  It is such a nice feeling to receive something so pleasing to the eye in the mail, but then to have the tea be enjoyable as well really makes your day.  I will review the other samples in future posts.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Night of the Living Cuddle Bunnies

51n5ZvZ2GtL._SX342_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg (344×499)Title: Night of the Living Cuddle Bunnies

Author: Jonathan Rosen

Publisher: Sky Pony Press, August 2017

Pages: 268

Genre: fantasy, children (8-12)

Obtained: from publisher in exchange for an honest review

Summary:  Devin and his cousin Tommy see unusual items being moved into the new neighbor's house.  When this neighbor, Herb, gives a cuddle bunny (the most popular new toy that can't be found anywhere) to Abby, Devin's sister, strange things start to happen. Could the cuddle bunnies be alive?

Thoughts:  My almost 10 year old son has a new favorite book!  He absolutely loved Night of the Living Cuddle Bunnies.  I read this book to him.  It had been a long time since we both looked forward to reading together at night.  Tonight will be a let down since we got to the end of this book last night.

My son was engaged the entire time and always wanted to read more.  We talked about the book and his comprehension of it was excellent.  It is recommended for ages 8-12 and I think that is right on, except that there are a couple of places that insinuate that Santa is not real, and I know some kids in this age group still believe.  I was concerned that it might be too scary for my son who gets frightened easily, but the writing style is light and humorous and he was absolutely fine.  I would not consider this book to be scary to the recommended age group.

The book is action packed with many physical altercations between the main characters and the cuddle bunnies.  Usually it is hard for me to follow fights.  I'm just not interested in the fight itself, just who wins, but this author made these exchanges amusing.  It is a long book, but never has a long book feel.  The pace is steady and the writing style is engaging.  With warlocks, magic, evil stuffed bunnies that come to life, lots of humor and excitement, amusing family dynamics, entertaining characters, and a witty writing style, I can see Jonathan Rosen's debut novel becoming a best seller.  I rarely give a book 5 stars, but this book is worthy.


Company: Pickity Place

Tea: Winter Spice

Obtained: gift

I have not been to Pickity Place for a very long time. Even though they have a kids menu, I still feel like it is not a place for children.  Since my kids are always with me, I never make it there.  My mom went last weekend and told me it is just as wonderful as ever and they have expanded and have many more plants.  I really need to get there.

Pickity Place is located in Mason, New Hampshire.  The link above has some beautiful pictures of this delightful place.  They feature herbs- herb gardens, herbal gifts, and herbal dining.  I highly recommend it.  Please note that reservations for their luncheons are mandatory.

I received their Winter Spice tea as a gift.  It came in a resealable plastic bag.  I really would have liked if they included the tea ingredients and recommendations for steeping on the bag.  This herbal tea was a mixture of everything- leaves, seeds, and barks- in all shapes and sizes in greens and browns.  The tea had a subtle spice scent reminiscent of winter potpourri.

I poured twelve ounces of water over two teaspoons of tea and let this steep for five minutes.  The liquid was yellow with a delicate spice scent.  The taste was stronger than the scent and was of spices.  It was suggestive of fall and winter holiday feasts.  It also had somewhat of a peppery taste.  I just loved this soothing, calming, cozy tea.  It is definitely my favorite tea from Pickity place so far.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

The Dark Net

51XwOOSIbnL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg (331×499)Title: The Dark Net

Author: Benjamin Percy

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2017

Pages: 272

Genre: horror

Obtained: from publisher in exchange for an honest review

Summary: In Portland, Oregon, twelve year old Hannah ( visually impaired but fitted with "the Mirage" to help her see), her Aunt Lela (a journalist), Mike (on the "spectrum" of mystical beings), Sarin (high on the "spectrum"), Derek (a hacker), Josh (a journalism intern) and Hemingway (a dog) come together to fight against evil gathering on the dark net.

Thoughts: After reading a book, I sometimes have to really think about it to make a decision if I liked it or not.  Maybe the plot was a bit lacking, but I just loved the characters.  Maybe the story was great, but I just hated the setting and feel to the book.  For me, after reading a horror story,  I can easily decide if I liked it or didn't like it.  It has to be creepy, scary, or terrifying.  (Having a mystery or mysterious feel is always a plus.)  It has to have creative characters.  It has to have some sort of plot to it that is entertaining.  And most importantly, it has to have a good ending.  Many times I feel cheated by the ending of horror stories.  The book just wraps up too nicely- good beats evil- the end.  It might also have some twist ending that makes no sense or is disappointing.

I liked the Dark Net.  The author did a great job of combining the present day evil of the dark net and technological vices with traditional, ancient evil, such as demons. He took the fear of digital vulnerabilities and dependence and used this to bring in the scare factor the reader could relate to.  He also was able to bring the real world, mystical world, and cyber world together in this book.   The author's writing style is a great match for writing horror stories.  He has a way of describing with minimal words, easily bringing the reader into the dark. This kept the story moving.  Even though the book is only 272 pages, it has tiny writing.  It is not a quick read.  One of my favorite parts was the characters who were all odd.  I didn't feel like I got to know them on a deep level or anything like that.  It was just that they added some humor and / or had clever lines that got me thinking.  The author jumps from character to character having them tell the story from their perspective.  This was never confusing, and kept me engaged.

Entertaining.  Creepy and dark.  Action packed and fast moving.  A great book for the Halloween season!


One of my favorite activities to do in the fall is to make grape jelly.  My husband and I pick wild grapes that grow at the edge of one of our fields.  They are usually ready to pick around Labor Day.  We can tell the grapes are ready by the wonderful scent, even before we have checked to see if they have turned purple.  This year must have been great weather for this fruit.  Usually we have just enough grapes for one batch of jelly.  This year there was probably four times the amount.  After making jelly, I had some left over juice.  I usually use the left over juice in a marinade or add it to smoothies, but today I decided on grape juice.

Yesterday I boiled the grapes in water and then let the juice run through cheese cloth for a few hours.  I stored the juice in the refrigerator overnight and made jelly today.  I took the juice that was left after making jelly, added sugar to it and heated it on the stove until the sugar melted.  I had to add quite a lot of sugar since the grape juice was very sour.  We picked the grapes before a frost and when they were just ripe.  I think if they had ripened some more, I would not have had to add so much sugar.  I let the juice cool and refrigerated it for a couple of hours.  When I sat down to read, I added ice and had a delicious grape beverage.  It still had a somewhat sour aftertaste, but the grape flavor was so much stronger than the grape juice bought in stores.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Treasurer Hunters Danger Down the Nile

61VoXF49XwL._SX340_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg (342×499)Title: Treasure Hunters: Danger Down the Nile (#2 in the Treasure Hunters series)

Authors: James Patterson and Chris Grabenstein

Narrator: Bryan Kennedy

Publisher: Hachette Audio, 2014

Format: 6 hours on 5 compact discs, 1 pdf disc

Genre: adventure, children

Obtained: library

Summary: Bick, Beck, Storm, and Tommy (the Kidd kids) set out on another adventure.  This time, they have formulated a rescue plan- to find a treasure to trade for the real treasure, their mom, who has been kidnapped.   Their adventures bring them down the Nile river.

Thoughts: I was very happy that the same narrator that read the first Treasure Hunter's book, also read the second.  Not only do I get used to the voices a narrator creates for each character and want them to be the same, but this narrator really has energy that keeps my whole family engaged.  Bryan Kennedy brings this book to life for kids.  It may be too much for some adults, but I enjoyed his portrayal of these characters.

This was another crazy, humorous adventure that included treasure, spies, the jungle, Egyptian pyramids, hippos, pirates, ships, and guns.  It was fast- paced with twists and turns.  The feel of the book is an amusement park ride.  It has likeable, funny characters (even the bad guys).  The Kidds travel all over the world giving young readers a sense of geography and culture (although just a small sense).  Along with all the action, this traveling from place to place seemed to grab the attention of my kids.  The themes of family, teamwork, and determination continued into this book from the first in the series.

The written version of this book may be something to check out.  Listening to this book on compact disc, my family did miss out on the illustrations which, my now 15 year old, who read the written format when he was younger, said was the best part.  Also, I know other parents who said this book really got their boys, who didn't like to read, to want to read, and read a lot. The chapters are short and encourage the reader to read "just one more chapter".  I do recommend the audio version.


Company: Sweets 'n Java  

Tea: Rooibos Rote Grutze

Obtained: gift

I received this tea, Rooibos Rote Grutze as a gift.  It was purchased at Sweets 'n Java in Holden, Massachusetts.  The tea came in a 4 ounce mason jar.  When I opened the jar, I got a whiff of berries.  The leaves were all different shades of brown. Dried berries were mixed in.  I put one teaspoon of leaves in my teapot and poured 8 ounces of water that had been boiled over the leaves.  I let this brew for 4 minutes.  The liquid was a dark yellow and the scent was of berries.  The taste was of sweet berries, but there seemed to be flavoring added to the tea because the taste reminded me of the candy Smarties.  There was no bitterness to this tea.  Rote Grutze is a German berry dessert and this tea definitely tasted like a dessert.  Since it is a rooibos tea, it is caffeine free.  If you like very sweet, berry tea, you will love this!  I enjoyed it myself and even made a second pot.