Books & Tea: The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen

Years ago, I read Just Listen by Sarah Dessen, and what I remember most about it is how mediocre I thought the story was, and after reading through summaries of her other novels, largely formulaic:

  • Girl experiences some kind of hardship and withdraws from the world
  • Girl falls in with a new crowd
  • Girl meets handsome teenage boy and starts to feel human again
  • Girl and boy have a misunderstanding and experience a falling out
  • Girl and boy make up at the end and live happily ever after

So, considering my previous experience with this author, it’s strange that by the end of my first library visit in months, one of the books I borrowed was The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen. And even more surprising? I devoured the book in just a few sittings.


The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen book coverThe Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen

Contemporary YA
374 Pages
Published May 11, 2004
Penguin Group, Inc.
Add to Goodreads
★★★☆☆

A long, hot summer…

That’s what Macy has to look forward to while her boyfriend, Jason, is away at Brain Camp. Days will be spent at a boring job in the library, evenings will be filled with vocabulary drills for the SATs, and spare time will be passed with her mother, the two of them sharing a silent grief at the traumatic loss of Macy’s father.

But sometimes, unexpected things can happen—things such as the catering job at Wish, with its fun-loving, chaotic crew. Or her sister’s project of renovating the neglected beach house, awakening long-buried memories. Things such as meeting Wes, a boy with a past, a taste for Truth-telling, and an amazing artistic talent, the kind of boy who could turn any girl’s world upside down. As Macy ventures out of her shell, she begins to question her sheltered life.

Is it really always better to be safe than sorry?


My Thoughts

I appreciated reading about Macy’s journey. She is grieving the loss of her father and with the help of her boyfriend, Jason, she has established a very strict routine. One that includes working at the library information desk, studying for the SAT, and ironing and starching her clothes to perfection. It helps keep her mind from dwelling on her father’s death, and it shows people that she’s carrying on with life and everything is fine, just fine. But, her routine is threatened when her boyfriend goes away to Brain Camp. And worse, wants to take a break so he can focus on his future.

Then comes along a new job opportunity and a group of new and ragtag co-workers, who turn her life even more topsy-turvy. They draw her out of her shell, they introduce her to the chaos and imperfections of catering and of high school parties, and most importantly, they allow her the opportunity to be vulnerable without judgement— a stark contrast to her boyfriend.

But, while enjoyable, The Truth About Forever doesn’t deviate far from the plot structure outlined above. The Truth About Forever doesn’t introduce anything new to Contemporary YA. It doesn’t even attempt to put a clever twist on any of the genre tropes. But, I don’t think that’s why people reach for novels by Sarah Dessen. Dessen has been around for a while. A long while. Like, she was writing YA back when I was… YA. She’s a constant in this genre, so many people reach for her novels for the comfort of likable characters, the familiar summertime settings in North Carolina, specifically the fictional town of Colby, and a plot that is…well, predictable— one where despite all the hardships, all the characters end up okay at the end. At least, that’s why I reached for The Truth About Forever; and that’s why I’m inclined to continue picking up other books by Dessen in the future.

The Tea

The Truth About Forever takes place during the summertime in the south, and only one thing comes to mind— sweet, iced tea! Stereotypically Lipton, sweet iced tea, but I’m choosing Ceylon Sonata Cold Brew from Adagio Teas instead. Adagio’s Ceylon Sonata is a black tea that comes from the Kenilworth Estate in Sri Lanka. It is a medium bodied, black tea with bright citrus notes. 

It’s balanced and refreshing, and it’s one of those teas that makes me break my no-caffeine-after-3PM bans because it’s so, so good. This is exactly the kind of iced tea I think the characters in Dessen’s fictional town of Colby, North Carolina would sip on during summer vacations.

What is your favorite Sarah Dessen book? Do you have a favorite Contemporary YA author you reach for when you’re looking for comfort?

Earl Grey Supreme from Harney & Sons

I associate Earl Grey tea with the Autumn and Winter months. With mornings when I wake up before the sun, where there is a cold nip in the air, and the clouds hang heavy in the sky. We have had plenty of Earl Grey mornings lately even though it’s only the beginning of September and still technically summer. Is it just me, or does it seem like Autumn is rolling in early this year? You won’t find any complaints about that here; I live for Autumn! Plus, it just means I get to break out my Earl Grey a little earlier. The first Earl Grey of the season was Earl Grey Supreme from Harney & Sons.

 

Earl Grey Supreme from Harney & Sons is a classed up version of your usual cuppa. It’s a blend of black tea, silver needle white tea, and bergamot oil (not flavoring!). When I open the bag of tea, I am greeted with the familiar scent of malty black tea and zesty, powdery lemon.

My steeping notes are a little hazy since I couldn’t find my measuring spoon. (How does a tea drinker lose that?!) But it was just under two teaspoons per 12 oz. of boiling water for five minutes. The tea yielded a cup of dark caramel brown liquor.

Harney & Sons Earl Grey Supreme is more delicate than your average mug of Earl Grey. It’s a light-bodied tea, and the maltiness of the black tea was subdued and almost sweet with the addition of the white tea. The Harney & Sons website mentions they blend this tea with a higher amount of bergamot than usual, but I found the bergamot flavor to be light and well balanced against the tea.

But, for as lovely as this cup of tea was, it’s not what I want to reach for first thing in the morning. I’m a former coffee-drinker, so my first cup of tea has to have more…chutzpah! It would be perfect for Second Breakfast though ;).

Do you have a favorite kind of Earl Grey, and what is it? Or if you don’t like Earl Grey, what is your favorite breakfast tea?

Looking for other tasTEA recommendations? Try these:

Back to Hogwarts with THE BOY WHO…tea from Adagio Teas

It’s September 1st, which means the Hogwarts Express departed without fail from Platform Nine and Three Quarters today. I can’t help but reflect on how this magical story has been in my life for TWENTY years, now. I never could have suspected the impact this series would have on me the day I pulled this book* randomly from one of the shelves at Walden Books. I held it in my hands, staring at the artwork almost debating whether to spend my allowance money on it or not. A mother passed by me, and seeing the book in my hands, told me the book I held was an incredible story. That was enough to convince me to bring it home with me, so thank you random mother who convinced me to buy Harry Potter some day back in 1999.

*This book actually being Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. My experience with book series back then was the Boxcar Children, Fear Street novels, and the Time Warp Trio. I had no idea there were series that were meant to be read in order!

Today couldn’t be a more perfect Back-to-Hogwarts day here in Michigan either; 67 degrees, overcast, and occasionally drizzly. The perfect day to cozy up and enjoy the Harry Potter marathon on television, while sipping THE BOY WHO…tea from Adagio Teas. THE BOY WHO… tea is one of the fandom teas blended by Cara McGee. It is a blend of Black Tea, Ginger, Cloves, Cardamom, Cinnamon, Natural Pumpkin Spice Flavor, Natural Caramel Flavor, Marigold Flowers & Natural Cinnamon Flavor.

I can easily see see black tea leaves, Ginger pieces, cinnamon pieces, and cloves. I don’t see cardamom like I expected despite it being high on the ingredient list. The dry tea smells warm and inviting and most prominently of clove and cardamom.

I brewed this tea a little differently this time. Typically, I would steep the tea leaves in hot water and then add milk and sugar, but this time I steeped the tea leaves directly in milk. I put two teaspoons of tea into one cup of milk in a sauce pan, brought it to a boil, and then steeped for about 3-4 minutes. I added sugar to taste.

I find that this tea isn’t as spicy as one would expect considering the ingredient list, and I’ve steeped it both in water and in milk. That being said, I still find this blend enjoyable and appropriate for Autumn. The black tea and the pumpkin flavor were the most prominent flavors, followed by cardamom and ginger. I much prefer steeping this tea in milk (as opposed to steeping in water and then adding milk). It adds a creaminess and mouthfeel that cannot be achieved if this tea were to be steeped in water. It actually has me reconsidering how I steep any of my spiced chais.

Already tried THE BOY WHO…tea? Check out these other tasTEA recommendations:

If you love Harry Potter, what is your favorite book from the series? For me, it’s hard to choose. It’s a toss-up between book 1, 3, and 5! It’s possible I love those three equally, albeit for different reasons.

Celebrating 31 with Birthday Tea!

I’m starting my 31st birthday off with a cup of Birthday Tea from Adagio Teas. This super special blend of black tea, caramel flavoring, sugar sprinkles, vanilla flavoring, and Creme flavoring is a treat I look forward to every year. It’s not available for sale on the Adagio Teas website; they slide a sample pack into your shipment if you order during your birth month (and you already have an account with them).

I love this tea sweetened because it tastes like just a like sweet birthday treat. The caramel, vanilla, and cream flavors compliment the black tea nicely.

As for turning 31…well, it’s strange being IN my 30s, but I’m excited to find out what this year has in store for me. I want to make friendship, family, community, and my health a priority this year. Becoming part of the community where I live and finding friendship is terrifying to me, and I don’t really know where to begin. But, I’m already off to a good start for health and family. I have a doctors appointment today (who schedules doctor appointments on their birthday?), and Jon, Oliver, and I are going to the fair tonight!

Going to the fair is one of my birthday traditions (as well as drinking Birthday Tea). Do you have any birthday traditions?

Looking for a dessert tea? Try these:

March Empties: Adagio Teas, DavidsTea, T2 Teas, and more!

I’m nearly a month into my tea buying ban, and I’m still staying strong despite the temptations broadcasted on YouTube and in my Instagram feed. I sipped my way through 22 teas this month, although that hardly made a dent in my collection. You can watch the YouTube video to learn about everything I tasted in March, or you can just check out these favorites from the month:

Earl Grey Lavender from Adagio Teas: This twist on Earl Grey is no stranger to my site, and three and a half years later, I’m still a fan of this blend of black tea, bergamot, vanilla, and lavender.

Berry Creme Compote from Adagio Teas: Okay, I know I’ve raved about this tea plenty already, but this fruit and cream blend is seasonal and only available for a short time. Don’t miss out on your opportunity to taste this one!

French Early Grey from T2 Teas: This is another floral twist on a classic, this time with rose instead of lavender.

Nut Crunch Rooibos from Tea Sparrow: This tea was reminiscent of apple pie and tasted amazing both plain and as a latte. It appears it was a seasonal blend, but if the quality and flavor of this tea is representative of their product, I bet anything on their site is dreamy. Tea Sparrow is a monthly subscription service, but you are able to purchase the current month’s featured teas.

Carribbean Crush from DavidsTea: I can’t get this herbal blend of apple, pineapple, papaya, hibiscus, and cranberry out of my head! It tasted tropical and sweet, and I can’t wait until my tea buying ban is over, so I can buy more!

What were your favorite teas from March?

Tea Vlog: What I Drink in a Day

We ran out of Bubly (which is just flavored seltzer water, like La Croix, but I feel less like a hipster drinking it), which means in attempt to avoid drinking plain water, I decided to drink a cup or two more tea than I usually do.

Teas tasted in this vlog:

Twinings Earl Grey – I might write a lot about loose leaf teas, but most mornings, I tuck in to a cup of Twinings Earl Grey tea. It’s a quick, easy, and consistent cup of caffeine to get me going in the morning. Plus, it’s inexpensive and I can pick it up at my grocery store whenever I’m running low

Mint Verbena from Harney and Sons – This tea is a blend of mint and lemon verbena. I personally did not pick up the lemony aroma from the verbena, but the mint was bold and refreshing. It was a great caffeine-free tea to drink to improve alertness.

Rooibos Mango from Adagio – This tea is a blend of rooibos tea, natural mango flavor, apple pieces, mango pieces, and marigold flowers. This particular rooibos blend from Adagio did not work for me, and I was unable to pick up the mango notes. That’s not to say this tea is bad, but there are just other rooibos blends by Adagio that I’m over the moon about.

Caribbean Crush from DavidsTea – This tea is a blend of apple, pineapple, papaya, hibiscus, cranberry, and artificial flavoring. I cold brewed this tea, and even though my sample size was not the ideal amount of tea for a cold brew, I still thought this fruit, herbal blend tasted amazing. When I’m finally done with my tea buying ban, I definitely want to get more of the Caribbean Crush.

Just Chamomile from T2 – This chamomile night-cap was absolutely dreamy. The flavor was very honey-like, and overall it was a very soothing tea for the evening.

What teas do you drink in a day?

I’m on a Tea Buying Ban! Plus, 9 TasTEA Recommendations

Of course I love tea. I wouldn’t have named my (old) blog Books & Tea otherwise. But, brewing tea is a ritual that takes time, and I rarely afforded myself the time to make myself a good cup of tea on a regular basis before Oliver came in to the world. I still went on tea buying benders whenever my favorite brands had great sales on their websites though.

At the height of my collection, I had nearly 200 types of tea that occupied an entire kitchen cupboard, the bottom shelf of the pantry, and it even spilled out on to the kitchen floor. Once I went on maternity leave in October though, I made it a point to finally sip through my collection to make it more manageable. And also to get it up off the kitchen floor in case Jon and I finally decided to buy a kitchen table (we’ve lived in this house for over two years now, and we still don’t own a kitchen table…). Here are some of the sipworthy blends from that time period:

Teaster Marshmallow Tea from Adagio Tea is a limited edition tea that is blend of green rooibos, apple pieces, candy sprinkles, vanilla creme flavor, marigold flowers, and apricots. It’s like eating marshmallow peeps but without all of the guilt of consuming bunny shaped marshmallows coated in sugar.

Strawberry Rhubarb Parfait from DavidsTea is an herbal blend of apple, hibiscus, raisins, carrot, beetroot, yogurt bits, strawberry, rhubarb, and natural and artificial flavoring. It’s fruity sweet, dreamy creamy, and slightly tart.

Vanilla Nut Chicory Roasted Tea from Teeccino is a blend of roasted organic carob, organic barley, organic chicory, dates, almonds, organic figs, natural vanilla extract, and natural vanilla nut flavor. When paired with milk and sugar, this tea tastes just like a cappuccino but without the caffeine

Berry Creme Compote from Adagio is a seasonal tea available in Spring.  It’s an herbal blend of rose hips, hibiscus, apple pieces, blue cornflowers, natural creme flavor, raspberries, natural blueberry flavor, natural strawberry flavor, raspberry leaves, strawberries, blueberries, and natural blackberry flavor. It is berry creamy and tart and is best sipped slightly sweetened.

English Breakfast Tea from Adagio is a classic black tea, and I prefer mine with a splash of milk and a spot of sugar

Rooibos Vanilla from Adagio is rooibos with natural vanilla flavor and is perfect to cozy up with on a cold afternoon.

Creme Brulee Tea from T2 is a blend of black tea, natural and artificial flavor, and hazelnut praline. I don’t think creme brulee is supposed to taste like hazelnut, but I’ll make an exception for T2.

Key Lime Pie Herbal from Adagio is another seasonal tea that is available in summertime. It is a blend of hibiscus, rose hips, apple pieces, orange and key lime pie flavor. With a little bit of sugar, this tea taste just like a key lime pie.

Just Peachy from DavidsTea is a blend of apple, apple pomace, sweet blackberry leaves, peach, and natural and artificial flavoring. Might I suggest cold brewing this tea?

 

So…I’m ignoring all of the tantalizing coupons my favorite tea stores send to my inbox. I’m resisting the urge to snag a box of Adagio’s new Matcha Sticks…FREE! (with $49 purchase 😂). I’ve even paused my Sipsby subscription until I sip my through my collection of tea. We will see how long I can last on my tea buying ban!

2018 Tea Advent Calendar from Adagio Teas

Tis the season! Well, almost. And Adagio Teas has something to make your holiday season more jolly– their 2018 tea advent calendar.

Their advent calendar has 24 doors hiding individually wrapped, loose leaf quality tea bags. Some of the teas are Adagio’s most popular blends, and some are their cozy, holiday favorites. All are 100% delicious, and I can hardly keep myself from poking through all of the doors in one sitting. I’ll give you a sneak peek behind door #1, at least.

Gingerbread tea

Adagio’s Gingerbread tea is a blend of black tea, natural gingerbread flavor, cinnamon bark, orange peels, and ginger root. When served with sugar, this tea is as delicious as a Christmastime dessert, but it doesn’t taste as spicy and gingery as the tea’s namesake suggests. The blend of spices seems muted, so the flavor doesn’t overpower the tongue, but it’s still perfect for a morning baking cookies or decorating the tree.  The addition of the sugar draws out an unexpected warmth and creaminess that transforms this cup of tea into a truly cozy experience. This holiday tea can’t be missed.

If you’re looking for a fun and cozy advent calendar for this Christmas, be sure to head over to Adagio Teas to snag one!

This advent calendar was received for free in exchange for a review.

Goodbye October

If I thought life moved fast before, adding a child into the mix makes life move in hyper speed. I can’t believe Oliver turns one month in just a few days. Parenthood is by far the hardest thing I’ve ever done, and I haven’t even gotten to the challenging part yet (which I assume is adolescence). I mean, look at him. He’s giving me so much side-eye. It’s like he knows I’m incompetent at this parenthood thing.

What I’ve learned so far:

  1. I knew nothing of anxiety before. Those times when I had to talk myself up just to take the laundry down to the laundry unit at the apartment or those times when I had to write out a script before making a phone call seem laughable to me now. That’s nothing compared to the time Oliver spit up so much that milk cake out his nose, and he started choking. Or the first time I had to drive him to a doctor’s appointment by myself. Or you know, bringing him home for the first time.
  2. Similarly, I don’t think I’ve been so aware of human mortality. I can’t keep track of how many times I check him just to make sure he’s still breathing.
  3. The advice “sleep when baby sleeps” is good advice assuming baby sleeps anywhere other than your arms. That being said, the stars have aligned these last two days, and I was able to take THREE three-hour naps. I’m handling the exhaustion better (and with almost no caffeine aside from a fun sized candy bar or two). That being said, in the throes of sleep deprivation, I became really frustrated while changing his diaper because he wouldn’t stop wailing, so I said to him, “I’m really mad at you”. I still feel guilty about it even though I know he didn’t hear me on account of his screams were as loud as a space shuttle launching into space.
  4. Speaking of diapers, I thought I’d be more grossed out by the various bodily fluids my son expels. On to me. Now it’s just mostly annoying because I have to do so much laundry.
  5. I remember during the first week, I cried during one of Oliver’s five-hour cluster feeding sessions because I had gone from full-time accountant to full-time food bag. Now I realize how hard returning to work will be. I planned to return after six weeks, but I pushed my return date back two weeks. Even that doesn’t seem like a sufficient amount of time, and I can’t help but dwell on how purposeless accounting seems now compared to being a food bag.

#currentlyreading

The one perk that comes with sleep deprivation (aside from bonding with baby) is I’m spending a lot more time reading. The books that are keeping me company right now are:

Fascism: a Warning by Madeleine Albright: This book isn’t easy to read in the wee hours of the morning, so I wait until my eyelids aren’t drooping to dive in to this non-fiction novel. Albright explores fascism in the early 20th century and draws parallels with contemporary world leaders.

Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers: I bought this book probably two years ago, and I just sat down to start reading it the other night. I wish I would have read this book sooner. So far, I’m loving the blend of fantasy and historical fiction. It reminds me of Skyrim’s Dark Brotherhood if it existed in the high court of Brittany instead.

October Teaviews

I’ve also started to work my way through my extensive tea collection hoard. Seriously, I have over 100 different types of tea in my cupboards/pantry/just sitting on my kitchen floor.

Faerie Garden tea from Dryad Tea: Spearmint, Peppermint, Lavender, Heather, Cornflower Petals, Cinnamon (all organic). You can read my review here, but this interesting blend of mint and cinnamon is worth mentioning again

Teaster Marshmallow Tea from Adagio: green rooibos tea, apple pieces, candy sprinkles, vanilla creme flavor, marigold flowers, and apricots. My greatest impulse purchase (this year) occurred around Easter. I had a promotional email from Adagio that prompted me to go on a scavenger hunt on their website for a chance to win a free bag of their Teaster Marshmallow tea. Not only do I not usually drink rooibos tea, but I also did not need any of the other teas I purchased that day (because you know…free shipping). But, OMG this tea! From it’s colorful Easter sprinkles to its vanilla creme flavor— I might be obsessed. A spoonful of sugar takes it to a whole new level. It really is like a marshmallow peep, except there is less self-loathing after finishing a bag of the Teaster Marshmallow tea.

Dawn Tea from Turmeric Tea: Assam Black Tea, Cinnamon, Ginger, Turmeric Root, Cardamom, Black and Pink Pepper Corns. I had high hopes for this tea. Just look at that beautiful blend! I expected it to be spicy and for flavors of cinnamon and ginger to explode on my tongue, but it ended up being a rather mild spiced chai. The dominant flavor was cinnamon, which I can’t complain about though.

Books on my Radar

There is just one book I added to my TBR list this month, which is the Clockmaker’s Daughter by Kate Morton. I’ve seen this book on just about everyone’s instagram feed lately.

From Goodreads: In the summer of 1862, a group of young artists led by the passionate and talented Edward Radcliffe descends upon Birchwood Manor on the banks of the Upper Thames. Their plan: to spend a secluded summer month in a haze of inspiration and creativity. But by the time their stay is over, one woman has been shot dead while another has disappeared; a priceless heirloom is missing; and Edward Radcliffe’s life is in ruins.

Over one hundred and fifty years later, Elodie Winslow, a young archivist in London, uncovers a leather satchel containing two seemingly unrelated items: a sepia photograph of an arresting-looking woman in Victorian clothing, and an artist’s sketchbook containing the drawing of a twin-gabled house on the bend of a river.

Told by multiple voices across time, The Clockmaker’s Daughter is a story of murder, mystery, and thievery, of art, love and loss. And flowing through its pages like a river, is the voice of a woman who stands outside time, whose name has been forgotten by history, but who has watched it all unfold: Birdie Bell, the clockmaker’s daughter.

 

How was your October? What are you currently reading, and what books did you add to your wishlist this month?

The Best of 2016

Yet another year passes, and I didn’t reach my goal of reading 52 books. How can I call myself a book blogger if I cannot even achieve such a minuscule goal? Surely there is a quota that must be met for this sort of thing. Still, I read some pretty incredible books this year. These books take the cake!

The Road to Little Dribbling by Bill Bryson — I knew this hilarious travel narrative by one of my favorite writers would top the list before I even started reading.

Open Road Summer by Emery Lord — This novel started out as a two-star read but shifted into a four-star read that changed my perspective on YA Contemporary novels.

The Sisters of Versailles and The Rivals of Versailles by Sally Christie — If you would have told me I was going to read and love this steamy romp through the palace of Versailles, I wouldn’t have believed you, but Sally Christie’s wit and storytelling abilities are irresistible. The final novel in this series, The Enemies of Versailles, is being released this year, and I cannot wait to read it!

The Vanishing Season by Jodi Lynn Anderson — I still can’t find the words to accurately praise this novel. It is my absolute favorite read of 2016 though.

The Art of Holding on and Letting Go by Kristin Bartley Lenz — This was a beautifully written novel about coping with grief and the healing powers of nature and rock climbing, and Lenz captured the essence of Michigan so perfectly (perhaps because she is a Michigander!).

Into the Wild Nerd Yonder by Julie Halpern — Halpern captures the voice of a fifteen year old girl so vividly in this hilarious contemporary novel about family, friendship, and Dungeons & Dragons.

Pique Tea Crystals — It’s a toss-up between their Earl Grey and their Mint Sencha, but Pique Tea Crystals is perfect for brewing a cup of iced tea on the go.

Lemon Soleil Tea from Adagio Teas — The bright and lemony black tea was, without a doubt, my absolute favorite tea to sip on in 2016!

Reading Nook Blend by Plume Deluxe — Just as the name of the tea suggests, this floral scented tea is perfect for keeping cozy while reading.

Charcoal-baked Anxi Tie Guan Yin Oolong Tea from Tea Vivre — This is another dreamy, floral-flavored tea that makes me wish Springtime were right around the corner.

Thai Chai Tea from Adagio Teas — this spicy and creamy blend of black tea, cinnamon bark, ginger root, dried coconut, cardamom, and lemon grass kept me warm this Autumn.

What were some of your favorite Books & Tea in 2016?