I Got a Library Card!

Library loot via the Books & Tea instagram

Library loot via the Books & Tea instagram

I used to walk into book stores without an agenda, spend hours perusing bookshelves, and walking out happily with $70.00 worth of books. When I walk into book stores now, I am overcome with anxiety. It’s this weird pressure that developed once I entered the book blogosphere, and it makes book shopping an awful experience. Seriously. The new releases offend my pocketbook and I’m still waiting for the hype for last years books to fizzle out and how do I find a book that hasn’t made its rounds on blogs yet anyway? And when I’m spending money, I become reluctant to venture outside my comfort zone because what if I don’t like the book? Most of the time I walk out of the bookstore with empty hands and a heavy heart.

So on Saturday I decided to go to the library instead.

I had been meaning to for the past five months, but I kept coming up with excuses for why I couldn’t go. Mostly I was afraid to go there by myself, but this Saturday was perfect library-going weather– chilly and rainy. The library staff wasn’t nearly as warm and welcoming as I expected them to be, but the atmosphere was still delightful. My library is open and spacious, and large windows line the walls letting in plenty of natural light. Perhaps the shelves aren’t stocked to the brim, but there are more than enough books to choose from. The library also has a fireplace, so I already know I will want to spend cold, winter afternoons here. And perhaps, once I pluck up enough courage, I’ll attend the writers group that meets twice a month. We’ll see…

I spent two hours studying the stacks trying to decide which books to bring home with me. My goal was to bring home books I would never pick out at a book store, books I’ve never heard of, genres I’ve never read. I’d say I was pretty successful, too. I feel like this has rejuvenated my desire to read because as soon as I got home, I brewed myself a cup of coffee, I snuggled in to my armchair, I cracked open Sleight of Paw, and devoured the first half of the book in one sitting.

Have you experienced a reading slump recently? How did you reignite your passion for books?

Staycation

We are entering busy season at work, which is why I was up until 3:30 on Tuesday morning working on payroll. Luckily, this weekend has been all about R&R, so I’ll be bright-eyed and bushy-tailed for work on Monday. Jon and I were asked to dog-sit for his aunt, so we’ve turned this weekend into a Staycation. We’re in the super nice part of town, where all the houses are big and the backyards look out on to the golf course. Of course it’s sunny and warm too, there is a case of Bells Two Hearted Ale in the fridge, and it’s quiet. So, so quiet.

Last night, we treated ourselves to Max & Erma’s for dinner and an evening in Schuler Books, but for the move part, I’ve been drinking too much coffee and binge-reading. Which makes me feel simultaneously relaxed and productive considering the reading slump I fell in to recently. Jon’s aunt had a copy of If I Stay by Gayle Forman, which I devoured in two sittings– sadly unheard of in my world these days. The only thing missing is chocolate and my cat, Fargo. Truly, I miss him, and I feel guilty leaving him alone for so long, especially since I’m just across town with another person’s pets. Of course I swing by the apartment to check up on him. To make sure he has food and water and to play a couple of rounds of fetch with him. Yesterday I left the TV on the Animal Planet for him (with a TV timer of course). This time spent away from each other makes his heart grow fonder of Jon and I though. He actually paid attention to us when we stopped by to check on him yesterday. Today I suspect he may even let us pet him without biting our hands!

Have you enjoyed a Staycation recently, or perhaps a real vacation where you had the opportunity to steal away to some place exciting? Where did you go? What did you do?

Caramel Tea is a Sweet Treat

Via the Books & Tea Instagram

Via the Books & Tea Instagram

If there is anything good about my work office running out of coffee for two weeks, it’s this:

I’m rekindling my relationship with tea because I have to wake up earlier to get my caffeine fix at home.

Actually, the tea thing was happenstance. I normally have a stash of coffee beans in the freezer for weekend mornings, but I had run out this particular week, so I brewed myself two mugs of Irish Breakfast and read through a couple of blogs instead. Then I ran out of Irish Breakfast, so I’ve been working my way through my shoe boxes full of tea. Aside from rekindling my relationship with tea, I’ve also discovered two things: first, I should buy tea tins, because who stores their bags of tea in shoe boxes, and second, Adagio’s Caramel Tea is really, really good.

It’s a little strange that I ended up with Caramel Tea since I don’t go out of my way to buy caramel anything. However, when you are checking out online at Adagio, you have the option to “share” your purchase with your followers on social media, and in return Adagio lets you choose a free sample from a long list of teas. I’m pretty sure I thought to myself, “What would I never want to spend my money on?” as my attention settled on Caramel Tea.

The joke is on me though, because this is me after drinking Adagio’s Caramel Tea:

shut-up-and-take-my-money

The ingredients are just black tea and caramel flavoring, and just like Adagio’s Chestnut tea, how much I enjoyed the Caramel Tea took me by surprise.

The Caramel Tea was a fairly mellow cup of tea considering it was a black tea with “natural” flavoring. The black tea seemed a little thin, and it wasn’t astringent, which allowed for the aroma of the Caramel to take center stage. And, unlike some of the flavored black teas I’ve reviewed in the past, the flavoring didn’t assault the taste buds at all. I took my Caramel Tea with sugar, which is rare, but it transformed the mug in to dessert; it tastes like the burnt sugar topping of creme brule, which is only one of my favorite desserts ever.

I’m used to drinking black coffee in the mornings, so I need something unsweetened and bold, but Adagio’s Caramel Tea is a great after-lunch pick-me-up. And, I feel less guilty about drinking that than consuming Meijer brand pound cake, which I’ve been over-indulging on during the weekends.

Do you have a favorite dessert tea?

Fairy Tales and Tea

Fables_Book-Cover“Who doesn’t love a good fairy tale adaptation?” I thought to myself as a perused the internet in search of fairy tale themed mugs; I was certain this Fables-inspired edition of Just My Cup of Tea would be a breeze to put together. In the book world, there are so many fairy tale adaptations, so I assumed the world of hot beverages would have just as many fairy tale themed mugs. I was sadly mistaken. Or at least it was a challenge to find fairy tale themed mugs that didn’t have Disney characters plastered across them.

While I definitely find these mugs charming, it’s Taryn K.’s fairy tale inspired tea collection that I have my eye on– especially the Princess Aurora blend! I’ve never actually watched Sleeping Beauty, but how could I say no to a blend of chamomile, cream, and wild strawberry. It sounds dreamy!

Fairy Tales and Girl Powa!

Fables_Book-CoverFables Vol. 1 & 2 by Bill Willingham
Released:
October 2009 (Fables originally released 2002)
Publisher: Vertigo | DC Comics
★★★★☆
Synopsis:
 When a savage creature known only as the Adversary conquered the fabled lands of legends and fairy tales, all of the infamous inhabitants of folklore were forced into exile. Disguised among the normal citizens of modern-day New York, these magical characters created their own secret society-within an exclusive luxury apartment building on Manhattan’s Upper West Side-called Fabletown. But when Snow White’s party-girl sister, Rose Red, is apparently murdered, it is up to Bigby, Fabletown’s sheriff, and a reformed and pardoned Big Bad Wolf, to determine if the culprit is Bluebeard, Rose’s ex-lover and notorious wife killer, or Jack, her current live-in boyfriend and former beanstalk-climber. (from Goodreads)

Aside from the occasional manga I read back in middle school and the handful of Batman comics I’ve read since I’ve been dating Jon, I haven’t read too many graphic novels. But, that doesn’t mean they’ve never been on my radar throughout the years– granted, my wish list has grown significantly longer over the past couple of months as more and more bloggers seem to be featuring graphic novels. The series that has been on my wish list the longest though is Fables by Bill Willingham. I stumbled upon it about ten years ago, and it took me that long before I finally purchased myself the first two books. I was a little reluctant to start reading Fables. First, it’s such a popular series, and how disappointed would I be if I didn’t like it? Second, I had been building it up for nearly ten years, so even if I just thought it was mediocre, Fables would still have a long way to fall. I am happy to report though that what I’ve read of Fables has met my expectations. Whatta relief!

Fables takes all of our favorite fairy tales and turns them in to reality. Kind of like the Sisters Grimm or the TV show, Once Upon a Time, but seedy because it takes place in New York City, and it’s meant for mature readers. Beware, there is violence, foul language, and sexual situations amongst the pages. Vol. 1, Legends in Exile, is a twisting, turning whodunnit story complete with a parlor room scene that took me by surprise, and Vol. 2, Animal Farm, is a suspenseful tale of revolution. The cover artwork is stunning, but the artwork frame-to-frame is just good (and that’s absolutely just a personal aesthetic  taste). And sure, the banter between characters is a little silly at times, but that doesn’t detract from how fun and magical the story is. Perhaps most satisfying of all is (so far) women take charge in this series. Snow White is a Director of Operations of Fabletown. Goldilocks is a radical revolutionary leader. Cinderella goes toe-to-toe with Bluebeard in a fencing match. Girl power!

As a graphic novel newbie, there was a lot to take in while reading Fables. The artwork is rich with detail, the world is wonderfully complex, and a diverse cast of characters have their own unique story arcs. It was a rewarding read, and I look forward to picking up Vol. 3, Storybook Love.

Sunday Afternoon Pick-Me-Up

CasablancaTwist

Tomorrow is the first of June, but today feels like a brisk October day; it’s overcast and drizzly, windy, and brisk. I’m not quite sure how to feel about that. On one hand, I adore Autumn. On the other hand, I’ve actually been looking forward to sunshine and warm weather since this winter was so brutally cold. Still, I managed to get so wrapped up in the nostalgia of Autumn that I went to the store to buy a Spiced Apple Cider scented candle that takes me back to an afternoon at the Cider Mill or to Pig-a-Palooza.

While an inner peace settles over my soul in this kind of weather, it also makes me feel a little drowsy, so I needed a little pick-me-up– especially since I have a house-warming shindig to attend later in the afternoon. I’ve settled on Adagio’s Casablanca Twist, which has been my favorite tea lately. I was disappointed when I tipped the last remaining tea leaves in to my mug, only to feel relief moments later when I discovered I accidentally bought another sample pack. This tea is a play on Moroccan Mint tea; instead of Peppermint and Gunpoweder Green tea, Casablanca Twist is a blend of Peppermint  and Darjeeling Sungma Summer tea, a black tea with a subtly sweet and floral aroma. In other words, I’ve got a dose of eye-opening caffeine and invigorating mint to keep me going. Truly the best of both worlds, it leaves me feeling refreshed.

Sample of Casablanca Twist provided by Adagio Teas in exchange for an honest review.

Admitting Defeat with Delirium by Lauren Oliver

Delirium by Lauren OliverDelirium by Lauren Oliver
Released:
January 2011
Publisher: HarperCollins
NO RATING, DNF
Synopsis: Ninety-five days, and then I’ll be safe. I wonder whether the procedure will hurt. I want to get it over with. It’s hard to be patient. It’s hard not to be afraid while I’m still uncured, though so far the deliria hasn’t touched me yet. Still, I worry. They say that in the old days, love drove people to madness. The deadliest of all deadly things: It kills you both when you have it and when you don’t.

Lauren Oliver’s writing style is incredible. It’s beautiful. It’s poetic. I want to read it out loud so I can hear it. It leaves a hole in my chest, but in a good way. I remember thinking that when I read Before I Fall, and if you haven’t read that book, I definitely recommend it. So, when I picked up a copy of Delirium, I couldn’t wait to read it. It started out promising. I devoured the first eight chapters. And then, everything came to a screeching stop. Don’t get me wrong– Lauren Oliver’s writing style is still impeccable in this book. It was just…boring.

The last time I felt this bored reading a book was when I read the Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare. That was another book that started out promising but then bored me to tears a few chapters in. I kept reading because so many people praised Cassandra Claire, and I wanted to find out why for myself. Yes, there was a chapter or two at the end that piqued my interest, but upon finishing the novel I just resented the whole experience. I wasn’t prepared to let that happen again.

Not to mention, I couldn’t buy in to the premise of love as the demise of a society. Or the scapegoat, at least. It made as much sense to me as the idea that different personality types lead to the demise of a society. Just no. With the exception of the Hunger Games, I haven’t read a dystopian novel and loved it, so I’m starting to think the dystopian genre really isn’t a good niche for me after all.

I don’t often admit defeat. Especially when it comes to books that I own! I typically see not reading or not finishing books I own as a waste of money, but today I’ve decided that my time is more valuable than my money.

There is no start rating for Delirium (not to be confused with a zero-star rating). I didn’t finish it, so I don’t think I can rate it fairly.

Pass Me the Cup, Darjeeling

Giddapahar Muscatel from Golden Tips TeaWhen I drink black tea, I often compare it to drinking coffee or red wine or even beer. It’s bold and usually full-bodied. It’s rich and astringent and malty. It’s the kind of tea I drink on cold, overcast days because it warms me up and keeps me extra alert. But then, Giddapahar Muscatel from Golden Tips Tea takes everything I knew about black tea and flips it on its head.

The scent of dried tea leaves is sweet– the kind of sweetness you might find in a (semi-dry) white wine, although I didn’t think this sweetness carried over in the flavor. It had a brightness and fruity (read: grape-like) aroma to match, and sometimes, I thought the aftertaste was a little tart.  The aroma of this tea lingered too, just the way I like it– unlike some of the other teas I’ve tried from Golden Tips Tea (Avaata Supreme Nilgiri Green Tea). I did find this tea to be pretty astringent though, but it wasn’t offensive to my taste buds.

Of the teas I’ve sampled from Golden Tips Tea, Giddapahar Muscatel is my favorite so far. The aroma and flavor are powerful and interesting, and the tea stands up to multiple steeps (although, I’m not sure I could get a third cup out of the leaves). I only wish I had some rock sugar to sweeten my experience.

Sample of Giddapahar Muscatel provided by Golden Tips Tea in exchange for an honest review.

When I Admit I Just Don’t Feel Like Reading Right Now

Yes, it’s true. Ever since I finished These Broken Stars, I haven’t felt like reading, and this is why:

  1.  I’m busy entertaining family and friends. For once in my life. When Jon and I moved in together, I didn’t think about inviting people over because I’m a bit of a homebody, who keeps to herself. But, I know Jon has been really excited about our new place, so he’s been inviting all the people over. I expected this place to be a sanctuary, but socializing here has been a positive experience too. It motivates me to do weekend chores and try out new recipes. I mean, I made crock pot pulled BBQ chicken sandwiches. With homemade BBQ sauce. Let me say that again with emphasis– Homemade BBQ Sauce. What an accomplishment! Plus, sometimes they bring us presents, like these house plants Jon’s dad brought us. It seems like his family members are plant-loving people, and they have green thumbs, so I felt like these house plants were a test. So far they are still alive, which is a miracle since I have no idea what I’m doing. Also, we have a cat.Fargo and the house plants
  2. I spent a weekend catching up with an old pal. I haven’t seen Bianca since high school, which was almost ten years ago. But, she came to Michigan recently, and when I heard the news, I couldn’t pass up this rare occasion that we were in the same state. I didn’t even hesitate to steal a day with her even though that meant driving to and navigating Detroit proper to get to her.

    We went to a night club in the bottom of the Leland Hotel, but like most of Detroit, I think it had hit its prime in a prior decade. It used to be a well-known industrial/goth night club, but these days it only has a handful of patrons– mostly middle-aged closet goths. It actually made me feel kind of sad, but at least the music was good.

    Then we went to American Coney Island (one of the most famous coney island restaurants in Detroit). It was even featured on the Travel Channel once. Coney dogs are kind of a big deal in Michigan, so I was excited to try out some of Michigan’s most famous. The novelty of it was exciting, but I’ve had better coney dogs. For example, if you want a dry sauce coney, you head to a small food cart on Detroit St. in Jackson, Mi called Tommy Dogs. He’s only open in the summer, and if you arrive at noontime for lunch, be prepared to wait a while. If you like your coneys smothered in saucy sauce, might I suggest Zeus’s Coney Island in Lansing? The coney sauce is swell, but the hot dog exceeds expectations. It’s got dat snap!
  3. We got an Xbox One, and I snagged myself a copy of Dragon Age: Inquisition. Last Saturday, I played for 17 hours straight. Part of me feels embarrassed to admit that, the other part doesn’t really care because the game is just that good. I also have Assassins’s Creed: Black Flag, Assassin’s Creed: Unity, and Destiny. Did I mention this was actually Jon’s birthday present? It was unintentional that I ended up with the most games.
    Dragon Age Inquisition
  4. I think maybe my mind is just exhausted too. Lately, I’ve struggled to focus on the books I try to read. I think about work or how I don’t really want to make spaghetti again, but I don’t want to go to the grocery store either or I think about how I’m excited to cook chicken caprese pasta before realizing I forgot to thaw the chicken, so it looks like it’s a grilled-cheese-and-tomato-soup night, except I forgot to set the butter out to soften, so how does a bowl of Waffle Crisp sound?
  5. I kind of just don’t want to read the books I have. Most of them are YA books, which of course I adore. But, I think I’m at that point in my life where I need more diversity because they just don’t satisfy me like they used to. The problem is, I’ve been in this YA niche for well over ten years, and I have no idea where else to look.

Part of me is okay with not reading much lately because having friends over is kind of neat, seeing Bianca was amazing, and OH MY GOSH, DRAGON AGE!!!!! You know? But, I don’t really like ghosting from the blogosphere, which tends to happen when I haven’t finished a book in a long time. How have you been dear readers? Have you done anything out of the ordinary lately?

Tealated for Green Tea

Green Delight TeaI don’t remember from where I discovered Tealated tea— I was reading a review on a blog, and I’m kicking myself that I didn’t bookmark the website because I owe them a hundred “thank you”s. I signed up for the Tealated newsletter, and I had the opportunity to try two free samples of tea. I chose Green Delight tea and Moroccan Mint. The samples of tea arrived quickly and with a package of tea bags for loose leaf tea, a coupon offering 10% off my first purchase, and a handwritten thank you note from the owner of Tealated. I hadn’t even tried the tea, and I was already impressed by the personal touch from this family owned tea company. Did I mention that a percentage of all sales is donated to water.org?

As much as I love mint tea, I decided to taste the Green Delight tea first. Green Delight tea is a green tea with dried raspberries and pomegranate flavoring. I think there may also be some dried strawberries. The scent of the tea was sumptuous. It smelled AND tasted fresh and fruity and juicy, and there was a perfect balance between the fruity aromas and the green tea. I daydreamed about how this tea would be a perfect ice-cold and slightly sweetened refreshment for summertime afternoons spent reading on my balcony.

The Green Delight tea is Tealated’s best seller, and I understand why. I don’t often crave green tea, but I cannot get Green Delight tea out of my mind.  I think this I will definitely be stocking my cupboard with this tea.