Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Pearls of Daily Life

Title: Pearls of Daily Life

Author: Antonia Loschner

Publisher: independently published by author, 2016

Pages: 117

Genre: short stories, poetry

Obtained: from author in exchange for an honest review

Summary: A collection of short stories and poems as a reminder of the importance of self.

Thoughts: I just loved this little gem.  When it arrived, my first thought on seeing the cover, was what a wonderful gift this would make.  I am not someone that usually gets into poetry, but the simple poetry in this book had meaning to me.  The short stories each had something to do with self... rediscovery, self-care, being present, passion, etc..  The stories were independent with various characters on their own life journeys.  More than one of these stories encouraged and inspired me in my personal life.  The stories were not what I expected.  They were not your usual inspirational stories. They got me thinking.  I believe there really is something for everyone in this little book.

The book is translated from German to English. In a couple of places the writing seems a bit awkward, but the meaning is very clear.  I would use the book by reading a story or poem each morning to have something to reflect on throughout the day.  It might also be a good book to carry with you, reading a story on your lunch break or while waiting for someone.  This is a book that can be read over and over.  The stories may have distinct meanings at different points in life.

This book would make a meaningful Mother's Day gift, birthday gift, Christmas gift, or thinking of you gift.  It would also be a wonderful present to give to yourself.


For Christmas this year I received the Glass Teavana Perfectea Maker.  This plastic tea maker works by pressing a button to open the lid.  Put in the leaves.  Pour in the hot water. Close the cover.  Let it steep.  Put the maker on top of a cup.  The pressure to the bottom releases the tea into the cup. When the cup is full, lift the tea maker.

There are a couple of cons to this maker. It is not dish washer safe.  It does not work with wide rimmed tea cups. You can't see if your cup is full if you don't use a glass one.

I really liked that this maker held 16 ounces of water.  This is just enough tea for me. It is very simple to use and easy to rinse out.  It would be great for small blooming teas. 

Today I made jasmine pearls from Art of Tea, one of my favorites. I enjoyed watching the leaves unfurl.  This added a sense of peace as I prepared my tea.  I will be using this tea maker often.


Thursday, February 22, 2018

The Marriage Lie

Title: The Marriage Lie

Author: Kimberly Belle

Narrator: Johanna Parker

Publisher: Blackstone Audio, 2016

Format: 9 compact discs, 10 hours and 28 minutes

Genre: mystery, thriller

Obtained: library

Summary: The airline calls Iris to tell her that her husband has died in a plane crash.  The plane was headed for Seattle, but Will was not supposed to be on that plane.  He was going to Orlando for a conference.  What other lies has he told?

Thoughts: I started listening to this audio book on a car ride with my husband.  The relationship between Iris and Will described at the beginning of the book was so over the top, we were laughing.  After that first scene, however, the mystery and suspense kicked in and I really got into the book.  It had surprises, twists and turns, kept me guessing, and I really wanted to know about Will's past and what was going to happen next.  I looked forward to listening to this book each day. I, personally, did not like the way it ended, but it was unexpected to me.

The characters had depth and came alive to a point, but sometimes were not believable. I could picture the characters and the story unfolding in my mind.  The author's writing style was organized, but repetitive.  This author can write suspense, but other aspects of her writing need to be tightened up a bit.  The book was wordy and overly descriptive at times, but moved along at a fast pace, which made for nice a balance.

At the beginning of the book, I didn't particularly care for the narrator, but this could have had to do with what she was reading.  As the story moved along, I got used to her voice.  She spoke very clearly and read with emotion.  It did annoy me that Iris' s southern accent would come and go.

If you can get through the first scene, the rest of the book is an amusing, suspenseful story.   It is far from believable, but it is fiction.


Company: Adagio Teas

Tea: Ceylon Sonata Cold Brew

Obtained: free sample with purchase

I received a sample of Ceylon Sonata Cold Brew tea from Adagio Teas with my last order.  I had never tried their iced tea and was looking forward to it.  When I opened the bag, there was a large tea bag inside.  The tea bag contained long, thin, black leaves that had a sweet earthy scent.  I placed the tea bag in one quart (four cups of water) and left this to brew overnight.  The next day, I removed the tea bag and poured myself a glass over ice.  The tea was a dark orange brown and had a strong, rich, smooth flavor.  This glass of iced tea was exactly what I think of when I think of iced tea.  It was crisp, clean, refreshing, and had plenty of flavor even after the ice began to melt.  I just loved this iced tea.  Not only was it easy to brew, but it made the perfect glass of traditional iced tea with no measuring. Adagio Teas suggests steeping the bag in hot water for five minutes and then adding ice for quicker preparation.

Friday, February 16, 2018

State of Emergency

Title: State of Emergency

Author: Mary Hallburg

Publisher: independently published by author

Pages: 158

Genre: young adult, horror

Obtained: from author in exchange for an honest review

Summary: Can Dallas and her friends find shelter from zombies?

Thoughts: Just like modern day zombie movies, this book is the simple story of a teenager and her friends trying to get away from zombies before they are eaten or become zombies themselves.  The writing is simple and organized.  There is humor and gore.  The book is all about the escape, but also about the relationships between the group of teens.  The characters have distinct personalities, but I would have liked to have seen them developed a bit more to add some meat to the book.  The author lets the reader know how the zombies came about which I really liked, but other than that it is basically just the group trying to get someplace safe.  It is a short, quick, entertaining read (if you are into zombies).


Company: Art of Tea

Tea: Endurance

Obtained: gift

I received a tin of Endurance tea for Christmas.  This blend from Art of Tea includes herbs used to increase stamina.  The ingredients are organic cinnamon, organic pu-erh tea, organic eleuthero root, organic goji berries, organic schisandra berries, organic nettle leaf, organic oatstraw, organic ashwaganda powder, and natural flavor.  The tea has a medium caffeine content. 

The leaves came in a good quality artisan tin and there are supposed to be enough leaves to make about 50 cups of tea.  The tin was easy to open, close, and store.  The potpourri of leaves, berries, and other plant pieces was really pretty, as can be seen in the picture on the left.  The leaves had the scent of berries and cinnamon.

I put one tablespoon of leaves into my tea ball, which just fit.  It will be easy to measure next time- one full tea ball.  I poured eight ounces of water that had been boiled over the tea ball and let this steep for five minutes.  The liquid was a cloudy orange brown and had a scent of berries and cinnamon.  The taste was a very flavorful cinnamon and berry blend.  This was a smooth tea and was not delicate like many berry tea blends.  After drinking it I did have a bit of an energy boost, especially a mental one.  Having a cup of this tea would be a great way to start out the day.  It would also be a fantastic way to revitalize in the afternoon to get through work or anything that needs to get done.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

The Beginning Woods

Title: The Beginning Woods 

Author: Malcolm McNeill

Publisher: Sky Pony Press, 2018

Pages: 522

Genre: fantasy (ages 10+)

Obtained: from publisher in exchange for an honest review

Summary: Max appeared in this world and at the same time people started to vanish.  He wants to discover where he came from and believes he can stop the vanishings if he finds this out.  He goes into the Beginning Woods in search of an answer.

Thoughts: Imagination.  This author has this wonderful gift.  In this book he creates an unusual world and characters in a modern, whimsical fairy tale. He really puts a fresh twist on the fairy tale, making the characters a bit nontraditional and the story complex, very dark in places, and sometimes quite deep.  I could liken it to stories such as Peter Pan, Alice in Wonderland, or A Wrinkle in Time, combined with Grimm's Fairy Tales, but it really is not a copy of any of these classics.  It comes straight from the author's imagination.

This is definitely not a quick read, but it also does not have a bogged down feel to it.  It is slow paced, enjoyable, and surprises you.  It keeps you guessing what's going to happen, but not in a suspenseful, I need to know what happens next way, more of in an interesting way that makes you think.  If you like stories that are very clear as to what is going on at the very beginning and also jump right into action, this is definitely not the book for you.  This author takes his time, letting the reader get to know the players in the story gradually, and prolongs understanding of what is actually happening almost by giving the reader pieces to a puzzle.  He is a detailed writer and even has stories in the story.  It all comes together in the end, but the reader needs to be willing to put in the time for this one.

The book is recommended for ages 10+.  I started reading this to my ten year old and he quickly lost interest.  After reading it myself, I thought of it more as a fairy tale for young adults and adults than for children.  It is intricate and has adult themes.  A mature middle school student would probably really enjoy it too.


Company: Adagio Teas

Tea: Chocolate Chip

Obtained: purchased

I purchased the Sweet Tooth Teas Sampler from Adagio Teas. The four samples, each yielding eight to ten cups of tea, were in resealable bags.  Each bag listed ingredients and brewing instructions for the tea.  The four bags were in a gift box which gave a description of each tea on the back.

Today I tried the Chocolate Chip tea which contains Ceylon black tea, natural chocolate flavor, dark chocolate chips, and cocoa nibs.  When I opened the bag, there was a strong chocolate scent.  The black leaves were all shapes and sizes and I could see miniature chocolate chips mixed throughout the tea. I put one teaspoon of leaves in my tea ball and poured twelve ounces of water that had been boiled over the tea.  I let this brew for three minutes.  The dark orange liquid had a faint sweet chocolate scent.  The smooth, rich taste was of light, warm cocoa. There was a slight astringency at the end which blended nicely with the chocolate.  I did not find this to be as sweet as the other teas in the Sweet Tooth Teas Sampler.  The leaves definitely smelled sweeter than the tea tasted.  Not liking my tea very sweet and chocolate being one of my favorites, I loved this tea- delicious!

Friday, February 2, 2018

The Lying Game

Title: The Lying Game

Author: Ruth Ware

Narrator: Imogen Church

Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio, 2017

Format: 11 compact discs, 13 hours and 39 minutes

Genre: mystery, thriller

Obtained: library

Summary: Isa, Kate, Fatima, and Thea, close friends from boarding school, have a secret.  The four have not been together for many years, but when Kate sends a text to her three friends saying "I need you", they drop everything and go to her.  What will happen when the secret and lies from the past make their way into the present?

Thoughts: My favorite aspect of this author's writing is the atmosphere she creates with her setting and characters.  She makes you feel not only through the complex characters, but through the settings.  She was able to change a beautiful and relaxing setting into a scary, menacing one depending on what was happening in the story.  The author brought the characters to life.   It felt like they were real people. Isa, the character that relates the story was so much more believable to me than Lo, in The Woman in Cabin 10 , also written by this author.

The story itself was a good one, but the author's way of telling it made it even better.  She has a way of giving the reader snippets of information and clues a little at a time adding to the suspense and mystery, and she doesn't stop until the end.  She also writes with detail, but not enough to weigh the story down- just enough so that the reader can easily picture it in his or her head.  The book switches back and forth from present to past, but it is easy to follow and not confusing in the least.

The narrator did a fantastic job portraying the characters, and their emotions with her voice.  She used clear, precise speech which was very easy to follow.  I did hate that this audio book had such long tracks, though.  This was a story I couldn't wait to listen to, even if I only had a couple of minutes.  Many time I'd have to move a disc to another device and would end up having to listen to half a track I had already listened to when I really wanted to hear what was going to happen next.

If you like books with interesting characters, secrets, mystery, suspense, mood and atmosphere you can feel, intriguing settings, and a book with some depth that is hard to put down- look no further.....


Company: The Whistling Kettle

Tea: East Frisian Blend

Obtained: purchased

I purchased the Breakfast Tea Sampler from The Whistling Kettle.  The samples were in a good quality, colorful box.  Each was in a small resealable bag as pictured above.  Information about the teas was attached to the box and the bags which included brewing suggestions. Today I tried the East Frisian Blend, which is a blend of black teas from Assam, Java, and Sumatra.  The short, black and brown, crinkly leaves had a sweet, earthy scent.  I put 2 teaspoons of leaves into my tea pot and poured 12 ounces of water that had been boiled over the leaves.  I let this steep for 4 minutes.  The deep reddish brown liquid had a sweet, earthy scent like the leaves, but the taste was not sweet at all.  This tea had a strong, full, round, malty flavor.  It would make a great breakfast tea.  I made a piece of toast to go with mine, but I wished I had a scone to go with it.  If you like strong teas, this is one to try.  It only has a medium caffeine content.  It is not a wake-me- up type of tea.  It is more of a soothing tea even though it is strong.