Friday, December 28, 2018


Title: Dracul

Authors: Dacre Stoker and J. D. Barker

Publisher: Penguin Random House, 2018

Pages: 493

Genre: horror, gothic fiction

Obtained: from publisher in exchange for an honest review

Summary: Ellen Crone, the nanny of Bram Stoker when he was a child, was a strange woman.  At times she would disappear and then return, acting like nothing was out of the ordinary.  After some murders in a nearby town, Ellen disappeared for good.  Years later Ellen has been spotted by Bram's sister Matilda.  This sighting has coincided with Matilda seeing an obituary with a picture of one of the murdered victims who has not aged since his first death.  How can the same man die twice?

Thoughts: Dracul was written as the prequel to Dracula by Bram Stoker.  Dacre Stoker, the great grand nephew of Bram, teamed up with author, J.D. Barker to create this novel.  The authors used a combination of notes from the journals of Bram Stoker (which included such things as story ideas and information about vampires), and the actual history of the Stoker family, weaving both fiction and nonfiction together to construct this novel.  The result is a book written with a similar writing style to Bram Stoker, which again brings the world of Dracula to life, giving the reader more information and insight into this character.  In addition, it also brings Bram Stoker and his family to life since they are characters in the novel.  The atmosphere and pacing are much like that of Dracula (although I actually found the beginning of this book to be even more creepy), but the story is new. Although the book was 493 pages and looked long, the book did not seem too lengthy while reading it.

Dracula has always been one of my favorite books and I was very skeptical of a prequel to it, but this did not disappoint me at all.  I loved it, and I don't think it could have been done any better.  I was sucked right into the story and stayed there until the end.  This is a must read for anyone that likes the old school horror stories.  Well done!

 I now want to reread Dracula.


Company: Davids Tea

Tea: Strawberry Rhubarb Parfait

Obtained: purchased

Today I tried Strawberry Rhubarb Parfait tea from Davids Tea.  Did you know that, in Romania, hot teas are thought of as something to drink when you have a cold or other physical ailment, and that in a restaurant you would probably only be able to get a fruity, sweet herbal tea?  Well, this is what I read on .  And isn't this the perfect color tea for a vampire novel?

Anyway, the leaves of this tea were not really leaves, but looked mostly like chunks of dried fruit, which had a strong, fruity scent.  The ingredients of this herbal tea were apple, hibiscus, raisins, carrot, yogurt bits (milk powder, sugar, maltodextrin, modified starch, citric acid), beetroot, strawberry, rhubarb, and natural and artificial flavouring.  I put about two teaspoons of tea into my teapot and poured sixteen ounces of water that had been boiled over this.  I let this brew for about five minutes.  The liquid was a stunning red and the light scent was of sweet strawberries.  The taste was a mix of sweet and tart fruits with the strawberry in the forefront.  It reminded me of strawberry rhubarb pie, maybe with whipped cream on top because it had a creamy aftertaste. If you like sweet strawberry herbal tea, I'm sure you'd like this!

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Rogue Lawyer

Title: Rogue Lawyer

Author: John Grisham

Narrator: Mark Deakins

Publisher: Random House Audio, 2015

Genre: mystery, legal thriller

Format: 9 compact discs,  11 1/2 hours

Obtained: passed on from friend

Summary: Sebastian Rudd is a criminal defender who works out of his van and has one employee, who may also be his only friend.  In this book, the reader follows Rudd's life along with his cases.

Thoughts:  I really enjoyed the characters in this story, especially Sebastian Rudd.  If he was a real person, I don't think I would even like him, but I enjoyed reading about him.  The book itself was a collection of Rudd's cases with his life story intertwined.  I enjoyed this format which was quite different for John Grisham.  It kind of shook things up.  I also enjoyed learning about different aspects of the legal system through the various cases.

I like John Grisham's writing style, and although the format of this book was a bit different, the writing style remained the same.  He seems to write about complicated legal matters in a way that an individual not involved with the courts could understand.  He also has many things going on in the story at the same time, but writes so as not to confuse the reader.

The narrator portrayed the characters very well, and spoke clearly.  He told the story at a good pace.  The narrator and the story held my attention and I looked forward to listening to this book.

If you like legal thrillers and interesting characters- give this one a try.


Company: Davids Tea

Tea: Organic Cream of Earl Grey

Obtained: purchased

Today I tried the Organic Cream of Earl Grey from Davids Tea.  The ingredients were black tea, marigolds, cornflowers, and natural flavouring.  This tea has a high caffeine content.  The black tea leaves were long and thin and there were marigold petals mixed in with the tea leaves. They had a sweet scent, not of bergamot like I expected.  I didn't see any cornflower petals.  I put a little over a teaspoon of leaves into my tea ball and poured about 8 ounces of water that had been boiled over the leaves.  I let this steep for 3 minutes.  The dark orange liquid had a faint sweet scent.  The taste was a mixture of flavours. There was a taste of bold, rich black tea, and in the background was a bit of citrus and a bit of sweet vanilla.  I really liked this tea.  It was very different from other earl grey cream teas I have tried.  It wasn't quite as creamy and the background flavour was more of citrus than the usual bergamot taste.  I also liked that the black tea was so bold.  This was a wonderful blend that I really enjoyed on this cold winter day.

Thursday, November 29, 2018


Title: Colossal (Issue #1)

Author: Lennox McCaskill

Publisher: self published, 2015

Genre: mystery, fantasy

Pages: 372

Obtained: from author in exchange for an honest review

Summary: Detectives Wreings and Donnelly are assigned to investigate a fiery crime scene in which a body has been found.  When they begin their examination, they make some very odd discoveries, eventually leading to the revelation that this was no ordinary crime.

Thoughts: There were so many things that I liked about this book.  It started out as a police investigation mystery, but I soon found that this was not a typical mystery.  As the story progressed, it almost had an X-Files feel to it. I found the story to be fresh, and new, and I liked how the author combined a mystery with the story of super humans.  I also liked the author's writing style.  It was organized, descriptive, and his characters were developed.  The story was told at a good pace, and the writer held my attention throughout the book. 

The only thing that may bother readers is that there were so many unanswered questions at the end of the book.  This gave me an unsatisfied feeling, but did make me want to read the next book.  It is the first book in the series and I'm sure at least some of the questions will be answered in the books that follow, but I know some readers do not like loose ends at the close of a book.  So be aware- this is not a stand alone read.  Although there is violence in this book (not more so than movies and video games), I would recommend it for young adults and up.


Company: Davids Tea 

Tea: Organic Cold 911

Obtained: purchased

Today I tried the Organic Cold 911 tea from Davids Tea.  The ingredients of this caffeine free, herbal tea were peppermint, apple, juniper berries, and natural eucalyptus and orange flavouring.  According to the Davids Tea website, this tea may help you feel better if you have a cold because it is "cooling and cleansing on the respiratory system".  The leaves were a potpourri of tiny brown and green leaves, orange brown chunks, and dried berries.  The leaves had a light mint and herbal scent.   I put 1 1/2 teaspoons of tea into my tea ball and poured 8 ounces of water that had been boiled over the tea.   I let this steep for 5 minutes.  The yellow liquid had a peppermint / eucalyptus scent.  The taste was of peppermint with a hint of fruit and eucalyptus.  It had a slight sweetness to it. This was a soothing, comforting tea, not only to drink, but just to hold and take in the scent.  I have a slight cold and this tea seemed to drain my sinuses and sooth my sore throat.  I highly recommend this tea if you have a cold.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Behind Closed Doors

Title: Behind Closed Doors

Author: B. A. Paris

Narrator: Georgia Maguire

Publisher: Macmillan Audio, 2016

Format: 8 hours and 23 minutes, audio book download

Genre: psychological thriller

Obtained: library

Summary: Jack and Grace seem to have the perfect marriage, but what goes on behind closed doors?

Thoughts: The best thing about this book was the way the author told the story.  I loved the little unexpected twists and turns, not huge ones, just little ones, throughout the book.  The story did not always go where I thought it would.  Also, I liked the way she organized the story, jumping around in time.  It was not confusing, but creative.  She told the story in a way that was quite different from other psychological thrillers I have read.  It was not fast paced, although it was a quick read.  I wanted to know what would happen next, but it was more horror than suspense. 

The downside of this book  was that  it was really unbelievable.  The characters had unique personalities, but did not seem realistic and I didn't feel like I got to know them on a deep level.  The actual story was disturbing and did not seem plausible.

The narrator was a good match for this book.  She told the story in a clear voice and at a good pace.  She portrayed the characters wonderfully and made me shiver the way she had the villain say "perfect".  I would love to listen to more books that Georgia Maguire has narrated.

If you can read about domestic abuse and animal cruelty without being offended and don't mind fiction that is unbelievable, you might appreciate the author's way of writing a psychological thriller. 


Company: Davids Tea 

Tea: Just Peachy

Obtained: purchased

The Just Peachy tea from Davids Tea is supposed to make the "perfect peach iced tea", according to the website.  I tried it and it was just too sweet for me.  My review can be read here.  Today I was in the mood for something warm and sweet since  I just came in from driving my kids to school in the snow.  I tried the Just Peachy tea hot.  This is a caffeine free herbal tea which includes apple, apple pomace (apple pomace, citric acid), sweet blackberry leaves, peach (peach, sugar), and natural and artificial flavouring.  The leaves had the scent of peaches and were really chunks of brown and off white fruit with some green leaves mixed in.  I put 1 1/2 teaspoons of leaves into my teapot and poured 16 ounces of water over them.  I let this steep for 5 minutes.  The pale yellow liquid had a strong peach scent.  The taste was of sweet peaches with a hint of berry in the background.  The aftertaste was a bit too sweet for me.  I am a person who does not like sugar in her tea, so for those that do, this would not be too sweet.  I did love the strong peach flavour with the hint of berry.  I did like this tea better hot than cold, but I was craving sweet, so that may have been why.  If you love sweet peach tea, this one is for you.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Title: Lessons From Life: Four Keys to Living with More Meaning, Purpose and Success

Author: Steven M. Darter

Publisher: self-published, 2018

Genre: self-help

Pages: 233

Obtained: from author in exchange for an honest review

Summary: The author describes how human beings are designed for certain things and how each person is given a specific set of talents and gifts to use toward his or her purpose.  How can we use what we have been given to do what we were intended to do successfully? 

Thoughts: I really enjoyed this thought provoking book.  The author describes a process of self exploration using his life experiences as examples.  He looks at identifying gifts and interests, making sure they are being used in a positive way, and how to stay on the right track to achieve meaning, purpose, and success in one's life.  Some of the ideas the author presented were very familiar to me since I worked as a career counselor, but many were new.  I kept thinking how, if I had read this book when doing this work, my clients would have benefited from this information.  I also liked that though the author's background is in career counseling, especailly at the excecutive level, he writes this book so that ANYONE can benefit from it, even those that don't necessarily have a career (someone retired, or a stay at home Mom or Dad).  The best part about the book, though, was the author's inspirational, amusing stories from his own life and how he used and continues to use the ideas in this book to grow.  He told his story in such a way that I could relate to it.  His struggles were not the same as mine, but I believe anyone could use his examples to help understand the points he was trying to make.

I liked the author's writing style.  It had a down to earth flare and was engaging.  I liked the humor the author used throughout the book.  He used just the right amount of repetition to make the most pertinent information stick in my brain.  The small problem I had with the book, and it may have been the way I process information, was that I had trouble bringing everything together at the end.  I could take in each piece and understand it and think about my life in regards to it, but at the end I felt like I had a bunch of pieces and not a full picture.  It may be a book I just have to read more than once because I just cannot pinpoint how it could have been organized differently to bring everything together more tightly for me.  I do think one more read through with pauses for thinking and reflecting would bring it all together.

Although I would not describe this book as religious, one of the central parts of the book is God.  How can I say I would not describe it as religious?  I believe that even if the reader does not believe in God, the other pieces of the book would be beneficial and thought provoking.

This is a fantastic book for self reflection and self exploration.  It would be helpful for an adult of any age, no matter where you are on your life journey. 


Company: Plum Deluxe

Tea: Oregon Breakfast Black Tea

Obtained: sample with tea of the month club

I got this sample of Oregon Breakfast Black Tea with my November, Plum Deluxe tea of the month club delivery.  The ingredients were black tea, honeybush tea, orange peel, and hazelnut essence.  The brown and black, small, thin leaves were mixed with white and light brown chunks and smelled of hazelnuts.  I put 1 1/2 teaspoons of leaves into my teapot and poured 16 ounces of water that had been boiled over the leaves.  I let this steep for 3 minutes.  The brownish orange liquid also had a hazelnut scent.  The taste was of hazelnuts and was slightly sweet.  I could taste a hint of orange in the background, but I don't think I would have noticed it if I hadn't read the ingredients first and knew there was orange peel in the tea as it is very subtle.  I really had to search for it.  This was a delicious, rich, warming tea that is perfect for breakfast.  I imagine this would go wonderfully with most desserts as well.  If you are like me and love the scent of hazelnut coffee, but are not a coffee drinker- definitely try this one!

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

The Couple Next Door

Title: The Couple Next Door

Author: Shari Lapena

Narrator: Kirsten Potter

Publisher: Penguin Audio, 2016

Format: 8 hours and 40 minutes, audio book download

Genre: psychological thriller, mystery

Obtained: library

Summary: Anne and Marco Conti go next door to a dinner party and leave their baby home asleep in her crib.  They bring the baby monitor with them and check on her every half hour.  When they get back home from the party, their baby is gone.

Thoughts: This psychological thriller was not as good as the last couple I read.  The characters were all terrible people- all of them.  Usually if there is an unlikeable character that is interesting, that doesn't matter to me, but having all the characters unlikeable was just plain depressing.  The world that was created was grave and I felt that I was not rooting for any of the characters and didn't really care how the story ended.  The writing style was good in that the story was easy to follow, the pace was good, and I wanted to know what was going to happen.  The down side was that it was more like someone was telling me a story than I was experiencing it.  I also felt that the writing style was almost too simple and definitely too repetitive- like the author thought her audience was not too bright.

The narrator was just okay.  She spoke clearly and I could follow the story.  She did not seem to add much to the experience, though.

All in all this was a simple, entertaining story, but if likeable characters are important to you, this is not for you.  Also, if repetition is annoying to you, don't even try this one.  Would I read something else by this author?  Absolutely.


Company: Plum Deluxe 

Tea: Dragonfruit Desire Herbal Tea

Obtained: sample with tea of the month club

I received this sample of Dragonfruit Desire Herbal Tea with a monthly subscription from Plum Deluxe.  The ingredients were green rooibos, mango pieces, apple pieces, hibiscus, orange peel, lemon peel, strawberry pieces, blue malva flower, and calendula.  The leaves had a fruity scent, and were different shades of brown. They were small, thin, and short, and there were chunks of fruit mixed in with the leaves.  I poured about 12 ounces of water that had been boiled over about one and a half teaspoons of leaves and let this steep for three minutes.  The liquid was a brownish yellow and the scent was of tart fruit.  The taste was a blend of tart berries and fruit with floral mixed in.  There was a sweetness after swallowing that balanced out the tartness of the fruit.  This was a soothing, refreshing blend for those that like fruity herbal teas.

Thursday, November 1, 2018

In a Dark, Dark Wood

Title: In a Dark, Dark Wood

Author: Ruth Ware

Narrator: Imogen Church

Publisher: Simon & Schuster, 2015

Format: 8 compact discs, 9 hours

Genre: psychological thriller, mystery

Obtained: library

Summary: Nora gets an invitation to a weekend hen party for a college friend she has not seen in many years.  She thinks it odd, but decides to attend.  When she gets there, strange things start to happen.  Then someone dies and Nora can't remember what happened.

Thoughts:  I was not going to read this book because a few people that had really liked some of Ruth Ware's other books told me this one was not good, but I'm very glad I read it.  I enjoyed it.  It had a creepy feel, and I looked forward to listening to it.  The clues to what was going to happen were not hidden well, but to me this didn't matter.  The story was a good one and the characters were interesting.  The setting was perfect for this tale, and I really like Ruth Ware's writing style.  She pulls you in with the way she creates her characters and setting and the menacing feel her books possess.  Even though, most of the time I had a sense what was going to happen, the suspense was still there and I was never disappointed with where the story went. 

Imogen Church does a good job reading the book.  She reads at a good pace and uses voice inflection well to keep the listener engaged.  She did a great job portraying the main character.

If you don't like predictable moments or obvious clues, skip this one.  If you don't mind, and like a sinister story and Ruth Ware's writing style, you will probably enjoy this.


Company: Verdant Tea

Tea: 2016 Gu Hua Sheng Pu'er Tea

Obtained: purchased

I purchased the 5 teas for $5 special from Verdant Tea which is available to first time customers.  This is the last tea of my 5, which I am sad about.  Each of these teas were excellent quality and delicious in their own way.  I also enjoyed the short steep times and that I could keep using the same leaves over and over until I had my fill, without loosing the flavor.  I will definitely be trying more teas from this company.

The 2016 Gu Hua Sheng Pu'er Tea is from Mt. Ailao in the Yunnan province of China.  The trees are grown at an elevation of 2140 meters.  The leaves were long and twisted and were many shades of brown.  They had a sweet earthy scent.  I put 5 g (the envelope) of tea into my tea maker and poured 6 ounces of water that had been boiled and then cooled slightly over the leaves.  I let this steep for approximately 6 seconds.  The liquid was pale yellow and had a spicy, earthy scent.  The taste was full bodied and rich, but lighter than most pu'ers I have tasted.  There were fruit and vegetal notes in this tea that balanced with the earthy base to make a wonderful, unique flavor.  I highly recommend trying any tea from this company.  They deliver quickly, and have high quality, unique teas.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

The Ex

Title: The Ex

Author: Alafair Burke

Narrator: Xe Sands

Publisher: Harper Collins and Blackstone Audio, 2016

Format: 7 hours and 44 minutes, audio book download

Genre: psychological thriller / mystery

Obtained: library

Summary: Olivia Randall, a criminal defense attorney, is called when her ex-fiance becomes a suspect in a triple murder.  She knows Jack could not have done this.  Can she prove it?   

Thoughts: This was another good psychological thriller / mystery.  I didn't particularly find Olivia, the main character, likeable, but she was certainly developed and interesting, and I felt like she was a real person.  All of the characters were believable and had distinct personalities.  The story itself was less believable, but very entertaining and kept me engaged- wanting to know what would happen next.  This book was a nice combination of legal, mystery, and psychological thriller.  It did not get bogged down with alot of time in court. The question that the book focuses on is How well do we really know someone?. I liked the author's writing style.  It was organized and I particularly liked the way she used dialogue to tell the story, along with the personal thoughts of the main character.  Figuring out who committed the murders came early to me, but I wasn't positive, and needed it verified at the end.

The narrator did a fantastic job, especially the way she portrayed the main character.  She told the story at a good pace and her voice inflections and the emotions and energy she put into telling the story really kept my attention.

There was some bad language in the book, but it went along with the personalities of the characters, so it wasn't distracting to me.  I could see this bothering some people.  If you like a book with twists and turns and some suspense, and realistic characters are important to you, this is one to try.


Company: Plum Deluxe

Tea: Slowly Unwind Herbal Tea

Obtained: free sample with tea of the month club

I got a sample of Slowly Unwind Herbal Tea with my monthly tea subscription from Plum Deluxe.  The ingredients of this caffeine free herbal tea were honeybush tea, linden flower, elderflower, elderberries, apple pieces, strawberries, blueberries, raspberry leaves, rose petals, and strawberry / blueberry essence.  The leaves were a potpourri of berries, apple pieces, and leaves of all colors, shapes, and sizes.  The scent of the leaves was sweet berries.  I put two teaspoons of leaves into my teapot and poured sixteen ounces of boiling water over the leaves.  I let this steep for five minutes.  The liquid was a light orange brown with a delicate scent of sweet berries.  The taste was a blend of berries and florals.  This was a delicious, sweet herbal tea.  I just loved it.  Instead of "slowly unwind", I would call it "immediately unwind".  It definitely put me in a calm, relaxed state very quickly.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Darling Girls

Title: Darling Girls (The Vampires of Candle Bay and Crimson Cove: Book #1)

Author: Tamara Thorne & Alistair Cross

Publisher: Glass Apple Press, 2018

Pages: 365

Genre: fantasy, horror

Obtained: from publisher in exchange for an honest review

Summary: Amanda, a powerful and evil vampire, wants to be queen.  Will she succeed, or will the more civilized vampires stop her?

Thoughts: This book was kind of hard for me to get through.  It wasn't the type of book I usually choose to read, and it was very long.  It wasn't scary or creepy, just gross- lots of violence and flagrant sex.  There was humor, but it was not the type of humor that is funny to me. 

The characters in the book were developed and interesting.  The book was organized, easy to follow, and easy to understand.  The plot was one that has been done over and over, but the characters did add to it, making the story more interesting.

If you like stories about vampires that are a bit humorous and don't mind disgusting scenes, try this book.  The two authors have separate vampire series and this book combines the two.  For a book that combines two series, the authors did a fabulous job bringing two worlds together.  If .you are like me and like more creepy vampire stories, this is not for you.


Company: Davids Tea

Tea: Organic The Skinny

Obtained: purchased

Today I tried Organic The Skinny from Davids Tea.  The ingredients were oolong tea, pu'erh tea, ginger, orange peel, eleuthero root, and natural flavoring.  There was a medium caffeine content.  The leaves were thin browns and blacks of all lengths with off white chunks mixed in.  The tea leaves had a wonderful orange and ginger scent.  I poured about eight ounces of boiled water over about 1.5 teaspoons of leaves and let this steep for four minutes.  The liquid was a dark orange brown with an earthy scent in the forefront and orange in the background.  The taste was full bodied, yet refreshing- a blend of earthy tasting tea, orange and ginger.  The Davids Tea website states this tea is good for digestion and increases metabolism.  I really enjoyed this blend from Davids Tea.  This along with Organic Mother's Little Helper have been my favorites from this company so far.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

The Other Widow

Title: The Other Widow

Author: Susan Crawford

Narrator: Madeleine Maby

Publisher: Blackstone Audio, 2016

Format: 9 hours and 40 minutes, audio book download

Genre: psychological thriller, mystery

Obtained: library

Summary: Dorrie is in a car accident. She gets out and walks away.  Why?  The man she was having an affair with was driving and is dead, and Dorrie will not risk losing her family and job.  But then the accident begins to look like it may have not been an "accident" at all.  Is Dorrie safe?  What is going on?

Thoughts:  I needed a book to listen to while cooking, so I listened to the first psychological thriller, audio download from my library that was available.  I lucked out.  I wasn't sure if I would like this book, but after the first chapter I was hooked.  After the first day of listening, this was one of those books that I'd want to do a boring chore around the house so I could listen to more of the story.  There were interesting characters, mystery, and suspense.  The writing style was organized and detailed.  I could picture the setting, story and characters in my head.  The author gave details, but never let the story drag.  It was a great pace and had lots of twists and turns.  The resolution was a bit weak- everything was tied up, but the ending could have been built up to give more suspense before the reveal.  Since there was not much build-up to the climax, the ending seemed rushed after a drawn out beginning and middle.  This did not spoil the story, though.  The narrator was excellent.  She read at a good pace and spoke clearly.  I liked her portrayal of the characters.  It was very clear she has an acting background.  I will definitely read more from this author and am hoping she has the same narrator.


Company: Plum Deluxe

Tea: Citrus Mint Green Tea

Obtained: free sample with tea of the month club subscription

This Citrus Mint Green tea came as a sample with my tea of the month subscription.  This is a caffeinated tea which consists of Chinese green tea, lemongrass, spearmint, orange peel, and lemon essence.  The leaves were a mix of long green and off white leaves and short pieces of small green and brown leaves.  The scent of the leaves was a very faint lemon mint.  I put one teaspoon of leaves in my teapot and poured eight ounces of water that had been boiled and then slightly cooled over the leaves.  I let this steep for three minutes.  The pale yellow liquid had the scent of citrus and mint.  The taste was a wonderful citrus mint blend.  This was a light tea that gave me that feeling of being calm, yet alert, not sleepy. 

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Free and Clear

Title: Free and Clear: 7 Steps to Declutter Your Home and Your Head

Author: Karen Kiser

Publisher: Camino Chronicles Press, 2018

Pages: 66

Genre: self-help

Obtained: from author in exchange for an honest review

Summary: This book shows you seven steps to declutter your surroundings and mind and how to stop the habit of re-cluttering, so that you can become "free and clear".

Thoughts:  I loved this book!  Yes, most of it is advice that I have heard again and again from clutter experts and books on living more simply, but the difference is that this author not only reminds me of all this information, but tells me MORE and in only 66 pages.  I felt like she decluttered the decluttering process!  Her book is so organized!

First she tells readers that they have a habit that needs to be broken.  She describes each of the seven steps of her method to declutter and break the habit of just collecting more things.  Then she gives specific examples of how to use these steps when dealing with your surroundings and mind, and goes through each step, with each example, making the process extremely clear.  It is just enough information and is an easy, step by step guide to follow.  Some people might think going through the process step by step a few times is repetitive, but I felt this was a wonderful way to present her material and a great way to learn the process.

If you're looking for a simple, easy guide to free up space in your home and mind, I highly suggest this book!


Company: Davids Tea

Tea: Organic Detox

Obtained: purchased

I purchased the David's Top Twelve Sampler.    Today I tried the Organic Detox, which I not only thought went well with decluttering, but I feel a little under the weather and thought a detox tea would do me some good.  This is a green tea with a low caffeine content.  The ingredients (rooibos, sencha green tea, lemongrass, ginger, juniper berries, ginkgo, and natural lemon flavor) are supposed to have many antioxidants that help to cleanse your body.

I could pick almost everything out in the blend- lots of lemon grass, rooibos leaves, and green tea leaves, a couple of chunks of ginger and I saw only one juniper berry.  The scent of the leaves was of sweet herbs and citrus.  I put 2 1/2 teaspoons of leaves into my teapot and poured 16 ounces of water, that had been boiled, over the leaves.  I let this steep for 3 minutes.  The amber liquid had the scent of lemon and herbs.  The taste was a lemon and ginger blend in the forefront, but it also tasted woody and medicinal.  The lemon and ginger taste was not over powering and blended very nicely with the other herbs.  It also had a slight sweetness.  This was a fresh, soothing, warming tea.  The ingredients were blended so well.  It is not something I would drink all the time, but would enjoy drinking it when not feeling great because of its medicinal taste and the comforting feeling I had when drinking it.

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

The Death of Mrs. Westaway

Title: The Death of Mrs. Westaway

Author: Ruth Ware

Narrator: Imogen Church

Publisher: Simon and Schuster Audio, 2018

Format: 12 compact discs, 14 hours and 14 minutes

Genre: psychological thriller, mystery

Obtained: library

Summary: Hal, a tarot card reader, gets a letter stating that her grandmother has passed away and that she will be getting an inheritance.  Knowing that the letter is not intended for her, but really needing some money, Hal decides to attend the funeral and claim the inheritance using the skills she has gained at her job.  As Hal gets involved with the Westaways, she realizes there are many dangerous secrets within this family.

Thoughts: I am finding Ruth Ware's books to be getting better and better to the point where she is one of my favorite authors.  The settings were perfect for this story.  The atmosphere was  amazing.  I could feel the creepiness, eeriness, fear, doubtfulness- everything. The book started off slow, but gradually picked up pace- faster and faster until the end- perfect. The writing style was detailed and organized with dialogue that helped to move the story forward as most of the story came from Hal's thoughts.  There were twists and turns, red herrings, and suspense. I like that the author puts in clues throughout the book for the reader to figure out the mysteries.  Most readers will probably figure them out before the protagonist, but I loved that the reader had the information to try to solve these mysteries too. I think the reason that this is my favorite Ruth Ware book so far is due to the characters.  They seemed more developed and interesting in this book than in some of the author's previous novels.

Imogen Church did a wonderful job narrating this novel.  Her voice was a great match for Hal and she portrayed the other characters very well.  She used expression and made the character's voices unique which helped to keep them straight.

If you like psychological thrillers / mysteries with a sinister atmosphere, try this one.


Company: Verdant Tea

Tea: Big Red Robe Wuyi Oolong

Obtained: purchased

I purchased the 5 teas for $5 for new customers- a great way to try out this company and to try some new teas.  Today I tried the Big Red Robe Wuyi Oolong.  I put the large, long, black pre-measured leaves into my teapot.  The leaves had an earthy scent.  I poured 8 ounces of water that had been boiled then slightly cooled over the leaves and let this steep for 10 seconds.  The amber liquid also had an earthy scent.  To me this was a very different tasting oolong.  It had a rich, nutty, roasted flavor (almost like coffee) that was prominent, but in the background there were fruits, florals, and spices.  The texture was creamy.  If you are looking for a bolder, more savory oolong, I highly recommend trying this one.  It is very different and delicious.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018


Title: Bannerless

Author: Carrie Vaughn

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2017

Pages: 274

Genre: mystery

Obtained: from publisher in exchange for an honest review

Summary: This story takes place in a time after the world as we know it has collapsed.  The Coast Road region is a civilization that consists of small towns with different households that will receive a banner if they are able to show that they can care for a child, thus giving them the privilege to conceive.  People are also not allowed to have surplus, except for a small amount to trade, so only grow and make what they need.  Enid is an investigator who helps to enforce these rules and mediate disputes.  She is called to investigate a suspicious death, a very rare occurrence.  Could it be murder or is it just an accident?

Thoughts: A couple of weeks ago I did a review of The Wild Dead, which was the second book in The Bannerless Saga.  I really enjoyed it, so read the first book.  Bannerless is almost two stories in one.  There is a mystery, but there is also the story of Enid and how she became an investigator.  Enid is the protagonist in the series.  This book switched from past to present to tell these two stories.  This presentation was not confusing and added a bit of suspense to the book.

I like this author's writing style.  I could picture what was happening and enjoyed the dialogue.  The characters were developed, although I didn't feel like I knew them intimately.  I just loved the new world the author created.  I felt like this was a real place.  The setting made the mystery a bit old fashioned as technology was limited.  Both stories, Enid's coming of age, and the mystery were both interesting and well told.  This is a slow moving story, but a quick read.

I recommend this series to mystery lovers, and for those that like creative settings, this is definitely a series to try.


Company: Davids Tea

Tea: Frozen Raspberry

Obtained: purchased

Today I tried Frozen Raspberry tea, a caffeine free herbal tea from Davids Tea.  The ingredients were apple (apple, citric acid), sugar, raisins, hibiscus blossoms, carrot, yogurt pieces (yogurt powder, sugar, maltodextrin, modified starch, citric acid), beetroot, raspberry, natural and artificial raspberry, and strawberry cream flavoring.  I purchased the single serving packets, so I put the contents into my tea strainer.  The leaves had a raspberry scent.  They were small red and orange brown leaves with flat orange pieces, raisins, and chunks that resembled square pieces of glass mixed in.  I poured ten ounces of water (that had been boiled and cooled slightly) over the leaves and let this steep for four minutes.  I then poured the liquid over ice.  The tea was a beautiful, bright red and smelled almost like raspberry kool aid.  The taste was of raspberry cream.  The tea was sweet, but not as sweet as fruit juice or kool aid.   This would make a good low calorie drink option, but I still prefer traditional iced tea.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Held Together

Title: Held Together

Author: Jenny Q

Publisher: self-published, June 2018

Pages: 456

Genre: nonfiction

Obtained: from author's friend in exchange for an honest review

Summary: This is the true story of a woman whose life is ripped apart by sepsis and how this trauma affects her, her family, and the close- knit community in which she lives.

Thoughts: Wow!  This is a powerful story.  Jenny Q is an amazing, strong woman who loves life.  I don't want to write too much because I believe it is best to read the words of those who experienced this first hand.

The book is a compilation of the thoughts and accounts of Jenny Q, her family members, her close friends, and other people in her life.  Individuals share what their feelings were when they heard Jenny was extremely ill, what they did, their views on seeing Jenny after she is out of the hospital, and how Jenny is doing after settling back into her house, work, and community.  Intermingled throughout these experiences is Jenny's own story.  At times the accounts seemed repetitive because people would be describing the same experiences, but when I was finished I was glad the similar points of view were not edited out.  Each had something to add and the similar entries just backed each other up.

I thought this would be a sad, depressing book, but it really is not.  It is horrific what happened to Jenny Q, but she provides hope, courage, and motivation to all to move forward, live life to the fullest, and to love yourself.  Her story is also one that educates in many ways.  The story of the community, both local and extended, coming together in prayer, healing circles, and hands on help is also incredible and inspiring.

And how could I not add a link to her apothecary website, the Grateful Desert?  Tinctures and aromatherapy products can be purchased here.


Company: Davids Tea

Tea: Organic Mother's Little Helper

Obtained: purchased

I purchased the David's Top 12  tea sampler.  Today I tried Organic Mother's Little Helper, which is an herbal tea.  The ingredients were peppermint, lemongrass, hibiscus, rose hips, chamomile, valerian root, cornflowers, and natural peppermint flavoring.  The "leaves" were a potpourri  of shapes and colors.  I could make out the pieces of rose hips, chamomile flowers, cornflower petals and lemon grass.  The scent was of flowers and herbs.  I put about a teaspoon of leaves into my tea ball, covered this with eight ounces of water and let this steep for five minutes.  The liquid was a light pink and had a lemon scent.  The taste was of lemon and mint.  It was slightly tart and had an herb flavor in the background.  This was a soothing, relaxing tea.  I have not been that happy with the teas I have tried from this collection up until now, but this one I would purchase again.  It was very calming.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

The Wild Dead

Title: The Wild Dead (The Bannerless Saga #2)

Author: Carrie Vaughn

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2018

Pages: 264

Genre: science fiction, mystery

Obtained: from the publisher in exchange for an honest review

Summary: The world has long ago collapsed and people have rebuilt their own separate communities, each group living differently.  Coast Road, made up of separate settlements, lives by strictly managing rations and resources.  When a house proves they are responsible, productive, and sustainable, they may be given a "banner" and one woman in the house may have her implant removed to have a child.

Enid, part of Coast Road, is an investigator called to mediate a dispute about a building in one of the far off settlements with her new partner, Teeg.  While investigating the dispute, a body of one of the "wild folk" women (an outsider) is found.  Did one of the Coast Road folks commit murder or was it someone from the outside?  Enid is determined to find the truth.

Thoughts:  This is the first mystery I have come across where the world has collapsed and the story takes place in a new civilization, so that in itself intrigued me- a who-dun-it with a twist.  This was the second book in the series, but the author did a good job showing what the world was like right from the beginning of the book.  I do still want to go back and read the first one, but more for that story rather than because I think I missed something. The way the author set up the world with different communities living in different ways, but having some groups united and others "wild" gave the characters and reader much to think about- moral issues, ethics, how to solve problems, how to get along, how to communicate amongst each other, respecting each others way of life, etc.  It also gave another level to the mystery itself.

I enjoyed the characters.  They were developed and interesting, but I didn't feel like I knew them personally.  Enid, the protagonist, definitely grows throughout the novel, but from looking at the reviews of the first book, Bannerless, it looks as if this is where the reader would really get to know Enid and her background.

The mystery was a good one.  Although there were not many people with motives, there were many people that could have committed the murder. At the beginning the reader is at a loss to why this woman was murdered, but it is clear toward the end who the murderer is, so the reveal is not a big one.  The writing style was a bit odd.  Every once in a while there would be a phrase written as a sentence.  Sometimes I understood what the author meant by these phrases and sometimes I'd have to read the phrase again.  For the most part the author wrote in a clear way.  The author was also able to establish atmosphere, so that I felt like I was in this world.  This was a quick read for me.

All in all this was a good book and I recommend it to anyone liking mystery and / or dystopian-type novels.


Company: Verdant Tea

Tea: Spring Tieguanyin

Obtained: purchased

I purchased the 5 teas for $5 which is a fantastic way to not only try out this company, but sample some new teas without having to buy a large amount.  The company sends just enough tea for one cup, but the leaves can be steeped many times.

The envelopes holding the tea were excellent quality and definitely protected the tea's freshness.  Today I tried Spring Tieguanyin.  My sample was from 2017 and the company is now selling the 2018 tea, so it may differ slightly.  The leaves had a sweet, earthy scent.  They were dark green leaves that looked like they had been squished up and left to dry.  I put the 5g sample packet into my tea pot and poured about  eight ounces of water that had been boiled over the leaves.  I let this steep for just ten seconds.  The liquid was a very pale yellow, almost clear.  It had a fresh, sweet, floral scent.  This was a light, savory tea with a depth of flavors.  There was a lot going on- a sweetness, florals, fruity, a bit grassy, and, finally, a slight peppery aftertaste.  This was a delicious, anytime tea, that reminded me of spring.

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

The Apprentice Witch

Title: The Apprentice Witch

Author: James Nicol

Narrator: Elizabeth Knowelden

Publisher: Scholastic Audio, 2017

Format: 7 compact disks, 7 hours and 34 minutes

Genre: children's fantasy (ages 8-12)

Obtained: library

Summary: Arianwyn did not pass her assessment to become a witch.  She must remain an apprentice, and is given the assignment of being the witch of Lull, a far off, supposedly quiet town.  When she gets there she discovers that things may not be as uneventful as she thought.

Thoughts: I really enjoyed this book right from the beginning and all the way to the end.  This is exactly the type of book I looked for as an older child.  I am very excited that A Witch Alone (The Apprentice Witch #2) comes out on September 25, 2018.

Arianwyn Gribble is a lovable character.  She always tries to do what she thinks is right, but things don't always go as planned.  She never gives up and is strong.  She gives people second chances and still cares about them when they treat her badly.  The other characters in the book are interesting and have personalities, even the magical creatures.  The author brings them all to life.

The world that the author created is similar to reality, but with magic, less technology, and witches added in.  I loved the "Spellorium"  in which Arianwyn lives and the cozy (except for the evil creature that resides there) town of Lull.

The author writes in a clear, descriptive way, with added humor throughout.  He is able to bring creepiness in when needed and I felt all different emotions throughout the book.  The dialogue flowed well.  The pace of the book was good and there were no unnecessary spin offs.

The themes of the book were good and touched on problems all of us go through.  They were great themes for kids- don't give up, trust yourself, sometimes we fail and it's okay, growing up, friendship, being picked on, etc.

The narrator of the book on cd was excellent.  She set moods and helped to bring characters to life with her voice.  She spoke clearly and with emotion and read at a great pace.

If reading the book rather than listening to it, I would recommend this book for advanced young readers ages 8 to 10 or 11 and up to read on their own.  It is also a great book to read to or with 8-12 year olds.  The book on cd would be great for 8 and up.  There are some dark parts, but the setting is cozy so I wouldn't categorize it as scary.


Company: Verdant Tea

Tea: Spring Laoshan Roasted Oolong (2017)

Obtained: purchased

I purchased the five teas for $5, available to new customers, from Verdant Tea.  The teas were packaged nicely and were in heavy duty packets that keeps this good quality tea fresh.  Today I tried the Spring Laoshan Roasted Oolong, which is the second tea I have sampled from this company.  I received just enough tea for one cup, but the leaves can be steeped multiple times.  My sample was from the 2017 batch, whereas the 2018 batch is the one available online for sale.

The leaves had a fresh earthy, somewhat malty scent.  They were large, dark gray leaves that looked as if they had been scrunched up and twisted when they were wet, and then dried.  I poured approximately eight ounces of water that had been boiled and then cooled slightly over the 5g of leaves.  I let this steep for 30 seconds.  The orange brown liquid had a roasted scent.  This savory tea had many flavors going on- roasted and earthy, fruity, a bit of spice, and even a touch of floral.  This was a high-quality, warm, comforting tea that reminded me of relaxing around a camp fire- delicious.

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

A Better Ten Commandments

Title: A Better Ten Commandments

Author: James Miller

Publisher: self-published, 2017

Pages: 77

Genre: self help

Obtained: from author in exchange for an honest review

Summary: The author provides the reader with ten commandments to follow to live life with, and on purpose.

Thoughts: This book starts out with an introduction that really turned me off.  The author stated that his intent "is not to offend any person of faith", but offending people of faith is exactly what he does.  He states on page xv: "Last, and certainly not least, I'm not afraid to have an opinion on the matter, as I don't believe in imaginary friends (insert random god) meting out justice in the here and now or deciding my fate after the death of my brain."  The introduction is filled with statements like this one.  The author is obviously not a person who believes in a god, but I believe he could have shared his opinions more respectfully to those that do.  Once I got to chapter one, I found his words to become less insulting, but the damage of making me not want to be like him, or live a life following commandments that he does, had already been done.  I would suggest whether you are a person of faith or not, it is better to skip the introduction unless you are just looking for ideas to contemplate.  It is not helpful.  I don't think the path needs to be cleared to accept the author's commandments.

Starting in chapter one and in all of the following chapters, the author states a rule to live by, gives inspiring quotes and historical and scientific examples to back up his rule, and then explains how and why to follow this rule.  I loved the quotes and his rules to live by were good ones.  In my opinion, they even went along with the ten commandments, not against them, so I don't understand why the majority of his introduction is necessary.  This book could have been named something totally different and been helpful to people of all different beliefs.  So, his commandments, if called "alternate commandments" or "additional commandments" or something much more creative than I could ever come up with, could also help most people of faith.

The author writes in a simple, easy to follow way and is well organized.  He puts a bit of humor in, although some of it may not be humorous to everyone.  His examples are relevant to his commandments, but sometimes, he tries to over explain specific exceptions.  If anyone has ever tried to make a list of rules, they know that there are always exceptions to them.  The book was thought provoking, but I did find myself wanting to point out to the author that at times his statements were going against his own commandments.  This was distracting.

All in all, if you are interested in thought provoking books, this is one.  If you can ignore the religious bashing, underneath are some very helpful rules to live by.


Company: Plum Deluxe

Tea: Pineapple Pop Herbal Tea

Obtained: free sample with tea of the month club subscription

I obtained this sample of Pineapple Pop Herbal Tea with my June tea of the month club delivery from Plum Deluxe.  This tea contains no caffeine.  The ingredients are green rooibos, pineapple bits, apple bits, mango bits, apricot bits, rosehips, lemongrass, orange peel, calendula, cornflowers, and pineapple essence.

I love pineapples, but I wasn't sure how I would like pineapple in tea.  The leaves were long and rectangular in all sizes and in colors of greens, browns, and off white.  Chunks of fruits were mixed in.  The leaves had a sweet pineapple scent.  I put one teaspoon of leaves into my teapot and poured eight ounces of water that had been boiled over the leaves.  I let this steep for three minutes.  The liquid was a light yellow with a slight fruity scent.  The taste was also very light and fruity with a hint of floral.  The pineapple did not stand out for me.  I tasted more of a fruit blend.  This was a delicious, calming, relaxing tea with the feel of chamomile tea, but with a slight fruity taste instead.  This would be perfect at night to wind down at the end of a hard day.