Friday, May 25, 2018

The Chemist

Title: The Chemist

Author: Stephanie Meyer

Narrator: Ellen Archer

Publisher: Blackstone Audio, 2016

Format: 16 compact discs, approximately 17 hours

Genre: thriller

Obtained: library

Summary: "Alex" (the name she has today) has been running from the US government, her former employer, for too long.  Someone wants her dead.  She spends her life moving from place to place, changing her name, and finding ways to keep herself safe from attack through her specialty- chemicals.  Her job with the government was to make criminals talk by any means necessary.  Now she must use what she learned through her job, to get her life back. 

Thoughts: A plot that twists and turns.  Characters that are extreme, yet complex.  A basic story with lots of action.  Romance.  Blood.  Fights.  Flights.  Torture.  Dogs.  Love / hate relationships.  This got me through staining and painting yet another room- my bathroom. 

I really liked this narrator, who read at the perfect pace, drew me in, and kept me there.  She had distinct voices for each character and read with fantastic expression.  I also really liked the author's writing style in this book.  Many people know Stephanie Myers from The Twilight Series.  I enjoyed her detailed, organized writing style there, and here as well.  Although this book was an adult book, and a very different genre than her previous works,  she is able to carry her personal style over, but changing it just enough to better suit this genre.  She did this wonderfully in her science fiction book The Host, as well.  I really like that this author tries different types of writing.  I feel she has been successful with all three.  The other plus of this book was that, although it was a spy thriller, I liked the spy being a doctor / chemist of small stature.

In each of her books, Stephanie Myers has the most unlikely of romances happening.  To me they are just not believeable and in each book, I have had trouble accepting the romance, but eventually do.  Her books are entertaining and the details are what I enjoy the most in her storytelling.  It is the details that bring the story to life.

If you like thrillers with strong female characters, this is a good one.  If realistic romance is the most important thing to you, look elsewhere.  If you like audio books, I highly recommend this one.  It just works as an audio book, maybe because of its movie-like feel, or maybe I just really enjoyed this narrator. 


Company: Plum Deluxe

Tea: Contemplative Blend Guayusa Tea

Obtained: sample with tea of the month club

I received a sample of Contemplative Blend Guayusa Tea with my tea of the month club through Plum Deluxe.  The ingredients were guayusa tea, green rooibos, orange peel, apricots, mango pieces, calendula, and lemon / orange essence.  Most of the leaves were flat and green and of all shapes and sizes.  Mixed in were long, thin, twig-like leaves of browns, and long white flower petals.  The scent of the leaves was lemon and orange.  I put one teaspoon of leaves in my tea ball and poured eight ounces of boiling water over it.  I let this brew for three minutes. The light yellow liquid had a grassy scent, but a delicate, fruity taste.  This cup of tea was refreshing, calming, and smooth.  It does contain caffeine, but the content did not seem high.

Friday, May 18, 2018

The City of Lost Fortunes

Title: The City of Lost Fortunes

Author: Bryan Camp

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2018

Pages: 367

Genre: fantasy

Obtained: from publisher in exchange for an honest review

Summary: Jude Dubuisson, a demi-god, who has the ability to find lost things, has been struggling since Katrina hit New Orleans.  There were so many things lost in the hurricane that Jude just could not cope, so disappeared from his old life.  After six years, the fortune god of New Orleans calls in a "favor" from Jude.  When the fortune god winds up murdered, Jude finds himself back in a world from which he tried to escape, with more depending on him than he could have imagined.

Thoughts:  This is not the type of book I would usually choose to read, but the book summary sounded like there was a complex plot which I have really been enjoying lately.  I was not disappointed.  Along with an intricately woven plot, the book had a dark atmosphere, bringing the post Katrina city of New Orleans to life to the point that the setting's presence was almost like a character.  It made me realize that towns and cities, in a way, have a soul, part of which is the architecture, buildings, landmarks, and history, but also the community. 

This was a clever, original book.  It reminded me of a slow roller coaster ride.  There were twists and turns but they were at a moderate pace, not fast.  The author brought mythology and religious figures from many cultures into the book, showing how they merged, sometimes being one and the same.  The book was deep, with devastation and loss always in the background, but also a glimmer of hope.  There were underlying themes, the most prominent to me being destiny versus luck.  The characters were unique and had differing personalities and I enjoyed the minor characters as much as the main ones. 

The only negative I came across was in the middle, a couple of times my mind wandered, and I thought the book was just too drawn out.  It felt too long at points, like some additional editing would have helped.  It was not repetitive, but just got too far away from the action, losing its drive. 

If you like dark, fantasy books, especially mythological, this is a great one to try.  If you are a New Orleans fan, definitely read it.

The author has an additional "Crescent City Novel" that he is working on which has the same setting, but takes place about a year and half after this book ends.  It will have a different main character this time- a woman who is a psychopomp (a guide that leads the dead into the afterlife). 


For Mother's Day my family gave me a membership to the Plum Deluxe Tea of the Month Club.  Both a one tea membership and a two tea membership are available.  Each membership comes with one ounce of a seasonal tea made especially for the club, and a small sample of a tea from their online shop, along with additional benefits.  The two tea membership comes with an additional one ounce of tea from their online shop.

I received my first tea the day before Mother's Day- perfect timing.  The specially blended tea for the club this month was English Berries and Cream Black Tea.  Sometimes berry tea is just too tart for me, but the tartness in this one was balanced with vanilla and cinnamon.  I particularly loved the cinnamon with the berries.  I bet this one is wonderful iced too.

Since the tea of the month seasonal teas are not available for individual purchase, I won't write about them on the blog.  I will, however, review the samples since they are available for purchase.  Contemplative Blend Guayusa Tea will be reviewed in a future blog post, since this is the one I received for May.  I will also share my thoughts on the tea club teas on my Facebook Page.  Please follow me there if interested in hearing about my tea club experience.

Friday, May 11, 2018

The Flight Attendant

Title: The Flight Attendant

Author: Chris Bohjalian

Narrators: Erin Spencer, Grace Experience, and Mark Deakins

Publisher: Penguin Random House, 2018

Format: 9 compact discs, approx.  11 1/2 hours

Genre: thriller, mystery

Obtained: library

Summary: Cassandra Bowden, a flight attendant, wakes up in a hotel in Dubai next to a dead man after a night of drinking and blacking out.  Did she kill him?  If someone else killed him, why was she left alive?

Thoughts:  I listened to this audio book while I painted the walls and stained the woodwork in my son's room.  This book made me look forward to this monotonous task each day until it was completed.  That is how much I enjoyed it.

Why did I appreciate it so much?  This book was original.  I didn't feel like I had read something like it before.  It was not predictable.  I was surprised at what happened at times, especially at the end.  The attention to detail, especially the life of a flight attendant, drew me into the book and kept me there.  This was an intricate story that was slow paced and character driven.  The characters were developed to the point that they seemed like real people, always doing things true to their personalities.  The narrators helped bring these characters to life, especially the main character, Cassandra Bowden.  Each narrator read at a good pace and spoke clearly. Their voices matched the character's personalities.

If you liked Midwives, the only other novel I have read by this authorthis is nothing like it.  I really enjoyed that one as well, but this is a different genre, and type of book.  If you are looking for a similar book to Midwives, you may be disappointed.  Also, this is a thriller, but very slow paced for a thriller, which I prefer.  Interesting characters, details, and intricate plot are what I look for most in a book.  If you like fast-paced thrillers this is not for you.


Company: David's Tea

Tea: Organic Cinnamon Rooibos Chai

Obtained: purchased

I read an article that I came across online about Teavana going out of business and David's Tea expanding and opening many new stores in the United States.  I was never a big Teavana fan, but decided to try David's Tea since this is the first time I became aware of this chain.  I ordered the David's Top Twelve gift set along with the Summer Time Favourites iced tea singles collection, and received three free samples with my order.  The order arrived the next day! 

The David's Top Twelve teas came in a very sturdy, cheery gift box.  Each of the twelve teas came in a twist top container and were set in the box with a corresponding description of the tea and brewing instructions on the lid, which reminded me of Russell Stovers candy.  The only thing I did not like about the presentation was that it said to use "1-2 perfect spoons" of tea per 16 ounces of water.  I had to go searching to find that David's "perfect spoon" is equal to 2.5 teaspoons.

The Organic Cinnamon Rooibos is the first tea I sampled from this collection.  The ingredients listed on the website were organic rooibos, apple, cinnamon, and natural cinnamon flavouring.  It is a caffeine free tea and certified organic, kosher, and fair trade.  The small, thin, brown rooibos leaves were mixed with brown and pink chunks.  The scent of the leaves was cinnamon.  I poured sixteen ounces of water, that had been boiled and set for a minute, over 2.5 teaspoons of leaves.  I let this steep for four minutes.  The liquid was dark orange and had a wonderful cinnamon scent.  The taste was of cinnamon with apple in the background.  I did not think of chai when I drank this tea because it did not have that peppery spiciness to it that I think of when I want chai.  I thought of cinnamon tea.  The tea did have an odd texture to it that is hard to describe- oily?, syrupy? thick? 

I enjoyed the scent and the cinnamon apple taste of this tea, but I didn't care for the texture.  If you love cinnamon and don't mind different textures, this is one to try.  It did have a delicious taste!

Saturday, May 5, 2018

The Constable's Tale

Author: Donald Smith

Publisher: Pegasus Books, 2015

Genre: historical fiction, mystery

Pages: 287

Obtained: library

Summary: It is 1759.  A family is found murdered at their home by a traveler.  Harry Woodyard, the volunteer constable of Craven County, North Carolina, sets out to clear the name of a Native American who is arrested for the murders.  Can he find the real murderer?

Thoughts:  The book's setting was before the American Revolution at the time of the French and Indian Wars.  This setting, combined with there being a mystery involved, is what made me pick up this book.  The author did a good job with the historical piece of the novel, making me feel like I was there, and bringing in different aspects of the setting- culture, different social classes, terrain, daily life, etc...  I am not very familiar with this time period and don't know if the historical details are accurate, but the going back in time feeling was there for me.  Unfortunately, I just couldn't get into the story itself, and the mystery was not a very good one.  There were not many suspects or clues and the motives of the suspects were weak.  I like a murder mystery where there are clues and lots of people who had a reason to commit the murder.  I love trying to figure out the identity of the murderer.  I couldn't do that here. 

The characters were just okay.  As I read I got to know them, but they just didn't seem real to me.  The book was not predictable and the ending was a surprise to me, although I can't say that I liked it.

The author's writing style was organized and clear, not exciting nor anything that really stood out.  At times there was an unconnected feel like the author wanted the story to go in a certain direction, but didn't know how to get it there, so just did it in a way that didn't mesh. Also, the same people would keep popping up in different places all along the eastern part of the United States- a huge area.  There were reasons given for this, but they just weren't believable.

If you're looking for a good mystery, skip this one.  If it's the time period you're interested in, you might enjoy it, but not if you're expecting a really good story.


Company: David's Tea

Tea: Midsummer Night's Dream

Obtained: free sample with purchase

I received a sample for one cup of Midsummer Night's Dream tea with a purchase from David's Tea.  It was an herbal tea which was caffeine free.  The ingredients were apple (apple, citric acid), gooseberries, spearmint, marigold blossoms, safflower petals, rose petals, and artificial flavoring. 

I tore open the packet easily.  The tea consisted of big yellow, brown, and red fruit chunks with long yellow and red flower petals, and very small, broken green leaves.  I put the contents of the envelope in my teapot and poured 16 ounces of water that had been boiled over them.  I let this steep for 4 minutes.  The bright yellow liquid had a citrus scent that was sweet.  The taste was a sweet citrus / vanilla blend with a hint of florals.  There was a tart berry and subdued mint flavor in the background.  This was a flavorful, refreshing, enjoyable tea that relaxed me.  I think it would be great iced. This is definitely a tea for citrus lovers.