Just My Cup of Tea: a Constellation of Mugs

these broken starsLately, I’ve rambled on about how much I enjoyed These Broken Stars by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner. What can I say? I’m a sucker for romps in outer space. I’m also a sucker for these mugs that are out of this world. I definitely need to make space for one of these in my cupboard.


These Broken Stars cups1

tea mugs these broken stars

I love the Painting the Universe mug. Which mug catches your eye?

Review: These Broken Stars by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner

these broken stars

These Broke Stars (Starbound #1)

by Amie Kaufman & Meagan Spooner

Released: December 2013
Publisher: Disney Hyperion
Age Group: Young Adult
Genre: Science Fiction
Pages: 374
Source: Gift from the splendid Kate @ Literary Kate

Synopsis: Luxury spaceliner Icarus suddenly plummets from hyperspace into the nearest planet. Lilac LaRoux and Tarver Merendsen survive — alone. Lilac is the daughter of the richest man in the universe. Tarver comes from nothing, a cynical war hero. Both journey across the eerie deserted terrain for help. Everything changes when they uncover the truth.The Starbound Trilogy: Three worlds. Three love stories. One enemy.

This is what I loved about These Broken Stars:

1. Lilac LaRoux. So often are female characters written into un-flexible molds. They are princesses and tomboys and bookworms and the girl next door, but rarely do they cross over. That is not the case for Lilac LaRoux, who has an appreciation for jewel-toned dressed and designer shoes, but can also navigate around printed circuit boards and electrical wiring. Heart-throb Tarver Merendsen may be a hero in the headlines, but Lilac LaRoux is the true hero in this story, driven by her brilliance and bravery.

2. Soft Science Fiction. I love science fiction movies, and I love science fiction video games, but I do not often read science fiction books. It seems silly, but I’m intimidated by science fiction books because I’m afraid that the ideas will fly right over my head. Soft science fiction makes the genre more approachable though. Even though the ideas may be a little more fantasy than fact, the backdrop is fascinating nonetheless.

3. Of all the beautiful descriptions about stars and space, this line about Lilac LaRoux’s father is my favorite: “But who names a starship the Icarus? What kind of man possesses that much hubris, that he dares it to fall?” It’s brief. It’s simple. It’s powerful.

4. This book is equal parts science fiction and romance, but there are no traces of insta-love here. Lilac LaRoux and Tarver Merendsen come from two different worlds and both are influenced by their pride. They are forced into showing each other their vulnerabilities after the Icarus has fallen, and they only have each other to rely on for survival. Watching the pair grow up and grow together revealed more about the two characters than any cliché love triangle.

5. The mysterious visions. Is it trauma? Is it fantasy? Is it an alien life form? I needed to know what caused Lilac and Tarver to hear voices and see impossible visions. The revelation at the end did not leave me feeling disappointed at all.

This is what I did not like about These Broken Stars:

1. The pacing was slow during parts of the book. I suspected that might be the case with These Broken Stars since a majority of the story takes place on a deserted planet. With the exception of the elements and one wildcat, there are very few external conflicts in this book. This can be okay, but their fight for survival became mundane after a few chapters. What kept my drive to read to the end alive was my love for the characters, the mystery of the abandoned terraformed planet, and the strange visions.

2. I was left with so many unanswered questions about humanity’s role in the universe. They’ve colonized a handful of planets, and wars and rebellions were briefly mentioned, but the authors seemed to gloss over the causes. I wanted to know more, especially what was causing the rebellions.


Despite the pacing and the unanswered questions, I really enjoyed These Broken Stars. Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner crafted a beautifully written book with intriguing characters and mystery. The end of These Broken Stars filled me with so much wonder that I cannot wait to get my hands on a copy of This Shattered World. Even more exciting is the next installment follows two new characters and dives into wars and the rebellions that plague humanity. It’s rare that I want to read beyond book one in a series, which is why I have to give These Broken Stars four stars!

My Rating: Four Star Review

Teaview: Of Insecurities and the Jewel of the Arya Estate

Arya Ruby

Spring officially begins in a few days, but today it seems more like Autumn; its brisk and windy and overcast. I started getting drowsy in the afternoon, so I brewed myself a mug of Arya Ruby Darjeeling tea from Golden Tips Tea for a mid-day pick-me-up. Lately, I’ve managed to sip on teas that seemed to pair perfectly with the weather, and today is no different. Honestly, it’s just dumb luck though. I actually picked up the package of Arya Ruby Darjeeling because according to the Golden Tips Tea website, it’s supposed to have the aroma and flavor of a “bouquet of flowers & an orchard of fruits”. Upon opening the packet, I am greeted with a sweet and fruity scent– luscious is a word that comes to mind. Alas, that all changed once I steeped the tea leaves, because to me Arya Ruby Darjeeling tea tastes like a crackling fire in a fireplace, perhaps the first in Autumn when the temperatures begin to drop. At first, it’s smoky and woody, and after those aromas have mellowed, a sensation of sweetness dances all around my mouth.

Kind of like this:

reading by the fire

I debated writing about this tea on my blog. Not because the tea was bad and not because I struggled to conjure up the words to describe my experience, but because of insecurity. Sometimes I feel really insecure about reviewing new teas because my experience seems so different compared to other people’s experiences. How can I perceive woody and smoky aromas from a tea that is supposed to have fruity and floral aromas? Is my sniffer busted? Are my taste buds faulty? Am I just inexperienced, and I cannot taste subtle differences in a tea’s flavor? Perhaps it seems silly, but I’m afraid that a more savvy tea-drinker will stumble upon Books & Tea and tell me that my review for a tea is…wrong. Is that possible– for a review to be wrong?

For any blogger that posts reviews, be it books or tea or whatever, are you ever reluctant to share your thoughts about an experience because you’re afraid someone will tell you you’re wrong or you don’t truly understand it?

Teaview: the Iron Goddess

Iron GOddess

It’s that time of year when Michiganders are blessed with a week of unseasonably warm weather that fills us with false hope that springtime is right around the corner. Sure, it will be 52 degrees on Wednesday, but realistically we still have about two months of cold temperatures and snow left. But, that doesn’t deter us from enjoying this weather while we can, no matter how briefly it sticks around. February’s brutal winter weather has done weird things to us northerners. After nearly a full month of single digit temperatures and wind chills in the negatives, temperatures in the teens and twenties are embraced. Today, it’s sunny and 36 degrees…and we have the back door propped open to enjoy fresh air, chirping birds, and a nice breeze.

Jon and I should probably be out and about, exploring our new hometown, but instead we loafed around, binge-watching Portlandia on Netflix. It’s been a low-energy sort of day, and I felt myself growing drowsy for a nap around noon-time. But, I have so many blogs to catch up on and books to read that a nap was out of the question. I was about to reach for some English Breakfast Tea for a quick kick of caffeine…but that I remembered I had still had some samples of Oolong tea provided to me by Teavivre. I decided to try that even though Oolong tea has low caffeine.

Much like the Avaata Supreme Nilgiri Green Tea that I wrote about last month, the Tie Guan Yin “Iron Goddess” Oolong Tea from Teavivre makes me feel nostalgic for springtime. Upon opening the packet containing tightly rolled Oolong tea leaves, I am greeted with the scent of Michigan’s springtime. It smells like fields of wet grass and wild flowers, and it makes my heart ache for blue skies, warm sunshine, cool breezes, and fields of green, green, green. I could not have picked a more perfect tea for a quiet, almost-springtime afternoon.

Iron Goddess Oolong is forgiving for a distracted steeper like myself. The package suggests brewing between 3-10 minutes, and it supports multiple steeps as well. The first cup I made, I steeped for about 4-5 minutes. The second cup I made, I steeped for about 8-9 minutes. The tea leaves also unfold into full, dark green leaves. When I poured my sample into my tea strainer, it just covered the bottom. After four minutes, the tea had bloomed and expanded and completely filled my tea strainer.

Iron Goddess Oolong Tea from Teavivire The color of the liquid is light yellow, and it smells vegetal. The flavor is more complex though. The first flavor that comes through is a crisp, grassy flavor, something that I associate with green teas. Then there is a sweet floral taste followed by a tart aftertaste that for some reason I associate with pineapple. These flavors are more pronounced during the first steep, and they become more mellow with each preceding steep. This is unlike any other Oolong tea I’ve tried, which have had more earthy aromas.

The Iron Goddess Oolong tea (named as such because the tightly rolled leaves supposedly make the pinging sound of small, iron pellets when you pour the leaves into your cup) is a tea that I would absolutely encourage you to try. Not only does it challenge ones perceptions of Oolong tea (sort of like Adagio’s Oooooh Darjeeling), it is also just a beautiful tea. I will drink it in winter while yearning for springtime, and I will drink it in springtime as a compliment to sunny, Sunday afternoons.


Wednesday Wanderings: Outer Space

While I’d love to visit Cambodia or Antarctica or the whole Appalachian Trail  and see it for myself, it’s not an opportunity I’ve afforded myself. This is one of reasons why I love reading so much– when my pocketbook doesn’t allow it, I can still travel the globe with every turn of the page. This week, I launch myself into outer space with Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner’s These Broken Stars.

But first, a monumental THANK YOU to Kate @ Literary Kate. During the Book Blogger Love-A-Thon event, she actually gifted me a copy of the These Broken Stars e-book. I am incredibly blown away by her generosity! She told me it was one of her favorite books, and even though I’m only a quarter of the way through the book, I can understand why.

outer spaceImages from NASA @ HubbleSite.org

I’m a sucker for star-gazing and day dreaming about living on terraformed planets, and These Broken Stars (rocket)fuels my curiosity about what lies beyond our blue planet. I want to know about earthlings in the future, I want to know why the Icarus is falling, I want to know who lives on the foreign planet, if anyone at all. The dynamics and banter between Lilac LaRoux and Tarver Merendsen is just icing on the cake.

I can already tell this is a series that I will want to continue, and that’s kind of a big deal. But even that won’t satiate my desire to read books that let me coast among supernovas and solar systems. What are some of your favorite books that take place in outer space?

OTP: My Favorite Couples

It’s the last day of February, so I wanted to get one more post up to celebrate the month of luuuurve. Love stories can be a hard sell, especially if they contain any of the trends I mentioned in my post about things I love and loathe about romance in books. But, I’m not a curmudgeon all the time. Here are my top of OTPs (one true pairings) of all time:

Amy and Rory from Doctor WhoAmy Pond and Rory Williams

I don’t care if this is an unpopular opinion. The eleventh Doctor is my favorite, and Amy and Rory’s love story is my favorite. Never has a TV show made me feel so many ups-and-downs. Laughing and cheering one episode and sobbing the next. There were a couple of times I didn’t think they were going to make it. Amy was so preoccupied by adventure and Rory was so insecure. But then I saw The Angels Take Manhattan, and I ugly cried because it was an all too perfect ending for Amy and Rory.

Holly Marten and Douglas FargoDr. Holly Marten and Fargo

The best TV show you’ve never watched is called Eureka, and I talk about binge watching the series on Netflix from time to time on Books & Tea. It is my absolute favorite TV show because it balances nerdiness and science fiction and drama and comedy and romance. And it’s perfect. (In fact, I might watch an episode or two after I publish this post). It also has the best theme song. Check it out:

Okay, but this isn’t about my love for the show (not entirely). It’s about my love for my favorite Eureka power couple, Dr. Douglas Fargo (yes, I did name my cat after this character), an accident-prone junior scientist who later becomes head of GD in an alternate universe and Dr. Holly Martin (played by Felicia freaking Day), who is a socially awkward rocket scientist and assists on Eureka’s mission to Titan, one of Saturn’s moons. Dr. Parrish can suck it!

ron and hermioneRon and Hermione

I don’t care what J.K. Rowling said. And I don’t care that Harper Honey has really sound arguments regarding the Romine Controversy. Ron and Hermione was the first ship I ever cared about.

Tidus and Yuna from FFXTidus and Yuna

There are usually some great love stories in the Final Fantasy games. Cloud and Areith/Tifa/Yuffie or Rinoa and Squall or Selphie and Irvine. The sort of love stories that seem to cross time and space, kind of like Rory and Amy. Yuna and Tidus from Final Fantasy X is my favorite couple, even if they are a little star-crossed. I think that’s what makes it so much more emotional.

jackie and jonJon and Me!

As if I would think of ending this post any other way? A year ago, I never thought I would be where I am today. Even four months ago, when this picture was taken (don’t mind my crazy hair! It was windy), I never thought I would be where I am today. “Blessed” is not a word that is usually apart of my vocabulary, but that’s how I feel with Jon in my life. I get to wake up next to someone who still thinks I’m lovely with sleep in my eyes, and I get to share dinner with someone who thinks my cooking is delicious even though the steak is a little too salty. I feel like we’re constantly encouraging each other to be better people, too. Don’t get me wrong, we accept each others “flaws”, if that’s what you want to call them. But, he brings me out of of my shell and makes me feel less cold, more human.

Who are your OTPs?



Love-A-Thon Hi-Five!

If you haven’t already heard, Alexa from Alexa Loves Books is hosting the 2015 Book Blogger Love-A-Thon, which is a weekend long event dedicated to exploring new blogs, celebrating the bloggers behind them, and spreading positivity in the community. If you haven’t already signed up, it’s not too late! Click on over to Alexa’s blog to find out more.

My experience with the Love-A-Thon has been spectacular. I’ve never participated in a Twitter chat before, and I was blown away by how fun it was. I was tweeting at and receiving tweets with bloggers I’ve never interacted with before. I definitely need to participate in more Twitter chats in the future (especially the one scheduled for 8:00PM tonight!). I also spent most of last night and this morning checking out the blogs of those who are participating in the event, and I feel like my feed reader has exploded with new blogs and new content. Seriously, all of you are so creative, and that’s one of the reasons why I love this community so much. Plus, the love and positivity everyone is spreading makes my heart pitter-patter.

Normally, if I post on a Sunday, I write the Weekend Review, but this Sunday I decided to participate in a Love-A-Thon mini challenge: Hi-Five! Here are some of the books, genres, authors, bloggers, and bookish merch. that make me happy.


Fellowship of the Rings book CoverThe Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien. I was obsessed with the Lord of the Rings movies in middle school and high school. The first year after the Fellowship of the Ring was released, I watched the movie at least 15 time– 3 times in the theaters! So, of course I went out immediately and bought the trilogy, but I soon discovered I did not like the books. I was devastated. Since then, I have always wanted to re-visit the series to see if my tastes have changed. And boy, have they! I am simply devouring the Fellowship of the Ring, and it’s so exciting.

loveathongenresWhile I may predominantly read young adult novels, the genres I read from are fairly diverse. My absolute favorite genres seem to be polar opposites of each other though:

  • Fantasy: When I was a teenager, I often read realistic fiction or contemporary novels. I had a bad experience with the Lord of the Rings books, and I immediately decided fantasy was NOT for me. I imagined all fantasy novels had dense writing, too much world building for my attention span, and not enough character driven stories. Of course, I loved Harry Potter, but I assumed that was an anomaly. These days, I cannot resist escaping into a whimsical fantasy realm…even the ones full of treachery like the Game of Thrones.
  • Science Fiction: This is another genre that I grew in to. Science fiction terrified me as a young adult because I thought the concepts would fly right over my head (based on my experience with the Time Machine by H.G. Wells). It would seem classic novels deterred me from exploring different genres when I was a teenager. But, the science fiction genre offers so many diverse sub-genres. Honestly, the very popular dystopian and steampunk novels are usually a miss with me. But, I do love apocalyptic/post-apocalyptic novels and superhero fiction, and I absolutely want to read more novels that take place in outer space.
  • Non-Fiction: Then there is non-fiction, which is the exact opposite of fantasy and Sci-Fi. As much as I love getting lost in fantasy realms, the world around me makes me ever so curious, so sometimes it’s fun to get swept up in reality too! Bill Bryson’s books are the first non-fiction books I read for pleasure, and it opened up an entirely new genre to explore. I love travel writing, books about history (especially the War of the Roses), books about Science, and I love micro-histories (I’m reading one right now that is about the periodic table, and it’s so fascinating!).

loveathonauthorsI don’t have many favorite authors. That seems silly considering I run a book blog, right? The two I talk about most on Books & Tea are J.K. Rowling and Bill Bryson. I’ll spare you, since I’m sure I’ll tell you again next week how much I love those two. Then, there is Joe Meno who writes…I don’t know…literary fiction. A bit of magical realism. His books are beautiful, but they are also usually quite sad. And his words, they hang heavy in my heart. Sometimes his writing just devastates me. But in a good way, you know?

“In our town there is a secret spot where you can still see the stars at night, believe it or not. It is the only spot like that left, unclouded by the dwindling skyscrapers rising nearby. It is a good place to go to walk and talk in whispers. Following the little hill that rises from the park to a small clearing which overlooks the statue of the armless general on his bronze steed, most of us later remember this spot as the first place we knew we might be in love.”

from The Boy Detective Fails by Joe Meno

loveathonbloggersI didn’t know how else to accomplish this next part creatively. So behold! A link dump! Honestly, this probably isn’t even half of the blogs that I follow, but they are the ones that I follow most closely. I’ve also included a couple of blogs that I just discovered through Love-A-Thon!

Aeropapers Artsy Musings of a BibliophileBibliophilia: a Love Story ♥  A Touch of Madness ♥  Alexa Loves BooksBitches with Books ♥ Boats Against the Current ♥  Bookish Broads ♥  Bookmark Lit ♥  Books and Baby, etc.Bookshelf Reflections ♥  Bruna WritesConfessions of a Book Geek ♥ Cover 2 CoverCrazy Red PenDiva Booknerd ♥  Effortlessly ReadingEscaping RealityEx Libris ♥  Feed Me Books NowFlowers in My BooksFuelled by FictionGirlxoxo ♥  Happy IndulgenceIt Starts at MidnightIt Was Lovely Reading YouJoyous ReadsLose Time ReadingMy Friends are FictionMy Reading DressOf Spectacles and Books ♥ Oh, the Books! ♥ Paper Riot ♥ Playing Jokers ♥ Queen of Contemporary ♥ Readerly Geek ♥  Read Me Away ♥  Respiring ThoughtsReviews and Cake ♥ River City ReadingRosie Reads ♥ Stay BookishTea Between Books ♥  The Artsy ReaderThe Book Addicts Guide ♥ The Bevy Bibliotheque ♥ The Mile Long BookshelfThe Pretty Good Gatsby ♥  The Novel HermitThe Red Bookmark ♥ These Paper Hearts ♥  The Simple Tales ♥  The Social Potato ♥  Thoughts by J ♥  What Sarah Read ♥  What She Reads Where is WallisYA Asylum

loveathonbookmerchthe Lord of the Rings mugsThese Lord of the Rings mugs are Just My Cup of Tea! What? Like you didn’t see this coming?

the Fellowship of the Ring mugSecond Breakfast ClubThe Furrlowship of the RingTea and Tolkien

While I think the Second Breakfast Club is clever, I’m a cat lady, so I adore the Furrlowship of the Ring.

Which mug is your favorite?


Book Blogger Love-A-Thon Kickoff!

If you haven’t already heard, Alexa from Alexa Loves Books is hosting the 2015 Book Blogger Love-A-Thon, which is a weekend long event dedicated to exploring new blogs, celebrating the bloggers behind them, and spreading positivity in the community. If you haven’t already signed up, it’s not too late! Click on over to Alexa’s blog to find out more.

Behind the Blog

If you don’t already know, I’m Jackie, and I hail from the Mitten State (ie. Michigan, USA). I’ve been involved in the blogosphere for almost fifteen years now. I don’t remember how I was introduced to blogging. I was a pre-teen? I was bored? I just discovered the internet? I thought I had something to say. I started back in the day of expage and envy.nu and geocities, and eventually one of my online pals hosted my site through her own personal domain. I just spent about an hour shuffling through the Internet Archive: Way Back Machine to see if I could find one of my old layouts, but alas they do not exist. Imagine if you will, my layouts featured bands like Tiger Army and AFI, and I drew sharp, erratic squiggles for borders because I wanted to be edgy. I didn’t have a niche back then; I blogged about my teenage life and color guard and AP classes and the Lord of the Rings. Thrilling, right? I still keep in contact with a few of my blogging buddies from back then. One of them even sent me a Christmas gift this year. I think I’m due to return the favor. Double Bubble Jo, I’m lookin’ at you!

It wasn’t until my last semester at college that I discovered niche blogging– more specifically, a handful of young adult book blogs that kept me entertained between classes when it was too cold to walk home. After college, when I was bored and unemployed and looking for something to bide my time, I decided to start Books & Tea. Here is my first post EVAR! Mostly I write about young adult books– fantasy, contemporary, sci-fi— I don’t have a preference. Sometimes I write about non-fiction books, especially those by Bill Bryson. Oh also tea. I write about that too, of course. Which reminds me, I’m supposed to tell you about how I came up with my blog name, but I don’t have an interesting story to tell. Just like Siegfried & Roy or Barnes & Noble, Book & Tea make such a superb pair, and that is, as they say, is that.

Blogosphere Love

The older I grew, the more my preference in reading material made me feel like a black sheep. I’m and English Major who never developed an appreciation for the classics (but, I am trying to change that with the Classics Club). I’m an adult who never truly graduated to grown-up novels. What can I say? I’m a sucker for young adult novels– those feelings of falling in love for the first time and almost-kisses to saving the world from a dark lord while away at boarding school to cyborg Cinderella finally making it to the ball. So, when it comes to discussing books “in real life”, I approach the topic with reservation. I feel like a lot of people will think I’m silly for reading young adult novels.

The blogosphere has provided me with an outlet though. Sure the book blogging community has had its fair share of drama, but for me its easy to look past that because there are a plethora of book blogs out there spreading positivity and sharing their love of books with the world. On top of that, I’ve discovered a community of readers similar to me– in their mid-twenties, some older, and still suckers for young adult literature. It makes me happy that I’m not the only twenty-six year old re-reading Harry Potter or eagerly waiting to read the next installment in the Lunar Chronicles.

Books on My Radar

I mentioned before that I don’t have a genre preference, although I do tend to avoid romance and westerns and the self-help sort of non-fiction. Lately though, I’ve been gobbling up fantasy novels, like the Seven Realms series by Cinda Williams Chima, which I would totally love to see turned into a movie or even a TV show. I’m also really loving science fiction novels and graphic novels.

The next part in the Love-A-Thon questionnaire asks us to list five books we’re looking forward to in 2015, but I don’t get super geeked over new releases. That sounds ridiculous, I know! But I’m stingy and I don’t request ARCs. I seek out cheap e-books, paperbacks, and library loot; a lot of the books I read and review on Books & Tea are usually over a year old. So, I’mma change up this next part to books I’ve had my eye on for a while now and am still dying to read.

fantasy graphic novels Science fiction

Jackie in Real Life

I love playing video games as much as I love reading and blogging. I have a hard time choosing my favorite game, but I’m a huge fan of Borderlands and its sequels, the Elder Scrolls games, the Mass Effect series, and the Fallout games. Binge watching TV shows on Netflix is also a fun pastime, and lately I’ve been a little obsessed with Supernatural, Pretty Little Liars, and Gilmore Girls. My all-time favorite is Eureka, though. I also like to plan the stories that I want to write, but I haven’t found the courage to actually write the stories. Ugh! I have a tendency to be a homebody, by my boyfriend breaks me out of my shell on occasion– like the time we went to the cider mill or the time we went to the pig roast.

I also love trying new kinds of tea and new kinds of coffee, so outside of buying books, I probably spend most of my extra cash on these two things. I actually haven’t purchased any more tea since last fall, but I also have three shoe boxes full of tins and unopened bags. I unofficially put myself on a tea buying ban. I’m sure this will dissolve once I find a great sale. As for coffee, I buy it when I run out, but I make sure I try new brands, new blends, new flavors every time. I really should make a post about some of the coffees I’ve tried because there are a few Michigan-based roasters that provide a wonderful product, and I cannot resist showing some love for my home state.

Your turn, reader! Tell me a little about yourself. Who are you? What do you love about our blogging community? What do you love to do when you’re not reading or blogging?

Ten Things We Did (and Probably Shouldn’t Have) by Sarah Mlynowski

Ten Things We Did and Probably Shouldn't Have by Sara Mlynowski Book Cover

Released: June 2011
Publisher: Harper Teen
Age Group: Young Adult
Genre: Contemporary
Pages: 368
Source: Purchased

When April’s dad relocates to Cleveland, April begs to move in with her friend Vi instead of leave behind everything that is comfortable to her, especially her boyfriend Noah. April’s dad agrees to this arrangement without knowing Vi’s mom won’t be present (she’s traveling the U.S. in an off-Broadway production). The girls provide April’s dad with a fake e-mail address, and Vi responds to every e-mail as if she were her mom. Let the bad decisions begin!

The plot is fast-paced but not hilarious like the book’s blurb promises. Perhaps it is a sign of my old age (is 26 old?) that I found the characters’ decisions to be unrealistic and obnoxious. When does buying a several thousand dollar hot tub with grocery allowance sound like a reasonable way to pay someone back? The characters in Ten Things We Did (and Probably Shouldn’t Have) are kind of equally annoying. With the exception of Dean, Vi’s boytoy, I didn’t like any of the characters. Vi is bossy and rude (and Dean can do a whole heck of a lot better). Marissa, as it turns out, is a crappy friend. Noah is just gross. And April is…inept; what sixteen year old doesn’t know how to do basic chores– like washing the dishes or laundering their clothes? What kind of sheltered life does she live, and why didn’t her parents teach her this? Ultimately, I found it really hard to root for anyone or sympathize with anyone in this novel.

Amid preposterous decisions, this novel tried to break out of the contemporary fluff model by trying to explore difficult issues like divorce, feeling abandoned by family, adoption, and eating disorders. Unfortunately, there was too much to address in such a short novel (with sooooo much going on), that discussion of these topics lacked consistency– kind of like If I Tell by Janet Gurtler. The only topic that was explored fairly substantially in this novel was April and her relationship with Noah. The couple has been together for two years, and April feels confident that she wants to take their relationship to the next level. There is no beating around the bush here– we’re talking about sex. Initially, I appreciated how the author handled the subject. Both Vi and April look into and discuss birth control options– perhaps the only good decision made in this entire novel. Additionally, I liked how the author navigated April’s feelings toward sex. It explores the behavioral script of what losing one’s virginity should be like– reality rarely meets expectations, and her insecurities are also explored; she notices that Noah is distant, and she feels having sex will make their relationship more stable. Alas, sex does not equal love– a hard lesson learned, yet that kind of thought process is a very real one regardless of age, experience, and gender. Unfortunately, the outcome of this decision is awful, and I don’t think it really added anything to the story. It just made me feel uncomfortable and disappointed that the experience was portrayed in such a negative light. A very grey topic was painted black and white.

Ten Things We Did (and Probably Shouldn’t Have) by Sarah Mlynowski was a quick read. I devoured it in one sitting, but readability does not make a book great. Honestly, I think the real reason I couldn’t put this book down was because the characters made some train wreck decisions, and I was rubbernecking. Overall, the book was okay even if there were a handful of parts that left me feeling disappointed, which is why I give this book two out of five stars.

Rating: Two Star Review

Teaview: Avaata Supreme Nilgiri Green Tea

Avaara Supreme Nilgiri Green Tea from Golden Tips Tea

Perhaps it was kismet that I made a last-minute decision to take the day off– otherwise, I would have missed signing for this charming package from Golden Tips Tea! It’s not every day that you receive a package in the mail from India. Especially one wrapped in cloth and sealed with wax.

golden tips packageThe selection of samples I received from Golden Tips Tea are mostly black teas, which I expected because India is known for its black teas, especially from the Darjeeling and Assam regions. So, perhaps it’s a bit odd that the first tea I’m writing about is a green tea– Avaata Supreme Nilgiri Green Tea— from the Avaata estate in the Nilgiri region in southern India.

Upon opening the golden package of Avaata Supreme Nilgiri green tea, I am greeted with a vegetal scent– slightly grassy and a bit like hay, which makes me feel nostalgic for springtime weather and drives in Michigan’s countryside. The tea leaves were big and full and a beautiful spring green color with the occasional silver bud, and the liquid was a very pale yellow-green color similar to white grape juice. The taste was very light, but it seemed to stand out a little more once the tea had the opportunity to cool down. This is a stark contrast to the black teas and the flavored teas I’ve been drinking lately, so I welcomed the experience. Like the scent of the leaves, the taste of the tea was lightly grassy and minerally. But while other reviews described a floral aftertaste, the flavor seemed to end abruptly to me, nothing seemed to linger, and I did not pick up on any afternotes. Clean is the only way for me to convey this particular tea tasting experience.

Overall, I’m please and perplexed that a tea could be so light. Black coffee. Breakfast Tea. Earl Grey. Those are the bold flavors that fill my mugs each morning, yet I find myself returning to Golden Tips Tea’s Avaata Supreme Nilgiri time and time again.