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

Bannerless

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.