Tea Time At Reverie: Yezi Tea’s Yi Fu Chun Black Tea

Yezi logo

Remember last time when I mentioned I was battling the winter blues? Well, the weather hasn’t improved much since then, so I’m craving a good ol’ black tea this time. Since it was time to rotate back to my Yezi Tea samples, I went straight for their Yi Fu Chun Black Tea.

Yi Fu Chun is a Chinese black tea grown near Fuqing City along the country’s Nanhu Mountain range. Climate plays a crucial role in tea-growing; and according to Yezi’s website, the Nanhu Mountains can be covered in fog for 200 days a year. Read on to learn more about this smoky, classy gem.

The Basics

Yi Fu Chun Yezi Tea 1

Image courtesy of Yezi Tea

Yezi’s Description: Yi Fu Chun is an organic tea, and Yezi is proud to bring you this offering sourced, like most of our teas, directly from the farmer. You will find drinking this golden brown brew as smooth as riding in a Rolls-Royce on a newly paved highway. A light and natural sugarcane sweetness is a distinguishing characteristic of Yi Fu Chun. Notes of apple and peach add to its complex flavor.”

Ingredients: Yi Fu Chun Black tea leaves

Steeping Instructions: Use 1 tsp of tea for every 3 oz of water. Heat water to boiling (194 – 203 degrees Fahrenheit / 90 – 95 degrees Celsius) and steep for 20 seconds. Add 10 seconds for each subsequent brew.

Multiple Brews?: 4 to 5 times

Bagged or Loose Leaf?: Loose leaf

Caffeine Level: High

The Experience

Image courtesy of Yezi Tea

Image courtesy of Yezi Tea

I’m so used to seeing black tea leaves as… well, black in color. So when I laid my eyes on Yi Fu Chun’s dry leaves for the first time, I spent a loooong time admiring them before I made my first cup. *lol* Yi Fu Chun comes in fine, twisted tendrils of black-brown, with lots of silken, deep golden tips. The coloring reminds me of Red Dragon Pearls, but I think Yi Fu Chun contains more tips. The leaves themselves are quite delicate. Each time I scoop in with my teaspoon, I do so gently for fear of breaking them.

Yi Fu Chun’s fragrance also reminds me of Red Dragon Pearls. It’s predominantly smoky, with an oak-like wood tone and traces of cocoa. The image it conjures up is a log cabin in the woods, smoke puffing out from the chimney during a winter’s day. Familiar and comforting so far. I know Yi Fu Chun and Red Dragon Pearls are grown in different parts of China, but if they have similar aromas, I wonder if they’ll taste alike, too.

Originally I was concerned that Yezi Tea’s instructions for Yi Fu Chun (1 teaspoon for every 3 ounces of water) would make the brew too strong for my tastes. However, my favorite cups are the ones brewed closest to Yezi’s ratio. (I should trust vendors’ instructions about black tea from now on. *wink*)

Using 2 teaspoons of tea and 8 ounces of boiling water, I steep the leaves for about 30 seconds. The liquid turns a dark golden brown, and the heady scents of smoke and oak are much stronger now compared to the dry leaves. The first couple sips are perplexing – not in a bad way, but it took me a while to sort through the flavors. I taste smoke, stone fruit (especially plums), and malt. There’s also a dark, complex sweetness akin to brown sugar and molasses. It’s smooth, sophisticated, and very different from Red Dragon Pearls, but in a good way.

Most vendors don’t recommend resteeping their black teas. However, Yezi’s instructions call for incremental increases in Yi Fu Chun’s steep times after the short first brew. And to my surprise, the later brews are just as delicious as the first one. Steep #2 in particular (1 minute) develops a toasted undertone and a rich heartiness that reminds me of baked bread. A slight cinnamon sweetness pops in the aftertaste once the liquid cools, too.

What surprises me the most about Yi Fu Chun, though, is its lack of tannins. Even after my fourth and final cup of the 2-teaspoon batch (2 minutes), the drink isn’t harsh or bitter. No wonder Yezi says to resteep Yi Fu Chun: It’s wonderfully long-lasting for a black tea.

Out of curiosity, I try a single-steep cup of Yi Fu Chun, letting it brew for 4 minutes. It’s good, but a little robust for me. The smoke, stone fruit, and brown sugar flavors bombard the tastebuds all at once. You could definitely drink Yi Fu Chun this way if you wanted to, but I prefer the shorter, multiple brews so I can experience the flavors as they unfold over time.

The Aftertaste

Complex, smooth, and elegant, Yezi Tea’s Yi Fu Chun is a black-tea luxury ride that cruises along your tongue. It plum and smoke overtones, brown-sugar sweetness, and lack of bitterness all contribute to its unique profile. Yi Fu Chun is also quite versatile, producing flavorful single brews as well as shorter steeps of evolving depth and presence. You can use fewer leaves if you don’t like your black tea too strong, but you’ll lose the full effect that way. I can’t find anything bad to say about Yi Fu Chun. It doesn’t floor me the way my favorite teas have, but it’s very lovely and definitely worthy of keeping in my personal stash.

Grade: 8.5 / 10

Recommended For:

  • Tea Drinkers Who: Like black tea
  • Time of Day and Year: Autumn or winter mornings, either during or after breakfast
  • Possible Book Pairings: Something tells me that Matthew Clairmont from Deborah Harkness’ All Souls Trilogy would appreciate this sophisticated black tea. If you haven’t read A Discovery Of Witches, Shadow Of Night, or The Book Of Life yet, Yi Fu Chun would make a great companion beverage.

You can purchase Yi Fu Chun Black Tea directly from Yezi Tea here.

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In addition to being a tea enthusiast, Sara Letourneau is an avid reader and a writer who… well, enjoys writing! Currently she’s working on a novel, and she writes book reviews and articles on the craft of writing. She’s also a published poet with works available in various print and online publications. Visit Sara at her personal blog, Facebook, or Twitter.

If you’re a tea seller and would like to have one of your products reviewed here, please visit the Contributors page for contact information.

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Interview with Bestselling Author Tess Gerritsen/Review of “Die Again”

die again

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Interview with Tess Gerritsen:

Tess Gerritsen, © Leonardo Cendamo / Blackarchives

Notes About Interview-“BR”=Bibliophile’s Reverie & “TG”= Tess Gerritsen
1. BR: What sparked the idea for this latest Rizzoli and Isles novel? Do you have a preconceived idea of how far you’ll continue going with both these characters?

TG:Like most of my novels, DIE AGAIN started with a real-life incident that gave me an emotional “punch in the gut,” as I like to call it.  My husband and I were on safari in Africa.  A group of us were in the bush, enjoying sunset cocktails, when a leopard suddenly walked into our clearing and came toward us.  Our guide quickly placed himself between us and the leopard, protecting us.  It was a frightening moment, and it emphasized how dangerous the bush can be, and how much you have to rely on a guide to keep you safe.  But the thriller writer in me couldn’t help thinking: What if we trusted the wrong person?  What if the guide who met us at the landing strip isn’t the man he claimed he was?  What if the most dangerous creature in the bush is one who walks on two legs?  That inspired the plot, which involves leopards, big-game hunters, and a series of murders in Boston.

 

I don’t know how far I’ll go with the characters Rizzoli and Isles.  There is a point at which every series should end, but I’m not sure I’ve reached it yet.   

 

2.BR: What type of research was involved when coming up with the concept of Die Again?

TG: I had to do quite a bit of research on leopard biology and behavior, and on the biology of cats in general.  Leopards are fascinating creatures — solitary, powerful, and surrounded by all sorts of mythology.  I also did some research on taxidermy, and even helped skin and break down a deer carcass, just so I understood the process that a hunter goes through to turn his kill into meat.

3. BR: Having never watched the TNT series before, based on your book series, how does the television adaptation differ from the books series? Will people familiar with your books have a wholly different experience w/ the series than those who haven’t read the books?

TG: There are certainly differences between the books and the TV show.  In the books, Jane is quite an ordinary looking woman, and a large part of her personality has to do with struggling to be noticed.  On TV Jane and Maura are both beautiful, and there’s no way any man wouldn’t notice them both.  The TV show also has quite a bit more humor, which is a big plus, and it focuses more on the friendship between these two women.  In the books, that friendship develops slowly over the course of multiple books, and it remains somewhat wary, with many ups and downs.

4. BR: What other types of areas of crime would you love to explore in future Rizzoli and Isle novels?

TG: I’ll be starting on #12 in the series, and I already have some fascinating subject matter for the plot — which I’m not ready to talk about!

5. BR:Do you have any comments for our devoted blog readers, many of whom are huge fans of your books?

TG: I just want to thank each and every reader who has ever bought one of my books.  I could never be a writer if there were no readers!  (And no, I don’t yet know what happens between Maura and Father Brophy…)

Thanks so much Tess Gerritsen for taking the time to answer these questions, and I look forward to reading any future installments in your Rizzoli & Isles series! :D

Review:

Increasingly, I seem to be developing a steady love for well-written thriller fiction, the kind that keeps you on the edge-of-your-seat, and instantaneously wipes away all muddled storm-clouds of doubt hanging over you like a funeral pall. The only dark, menacing “pallor” of sorts hanging,unnervingly, over this type of deftly-written thriller mystery, written by popular writer Tess Gerritsen, is the futile sense of mystery and intrigue behind several unrelated, sketchy murders in the book, all stemming from the first discovered murder of a noteworthy taxidermist in the second chapter of the novel . Unpredictably, the novel,though, begins first six years prior to the murder that sparks the later investigation, within the remote region of Okavano Delta, Botswana. In this suspense-drenched beginning scene, Tess Gerritsen meticulously utilizes skilled minimalist language, which sets the scene, allows the suspense to slowly emerge through the progression of the scene, till the explosive “bang” towards the end of the introductory chapter, leaves you reeling for what could follow after. This is the point in the novel, analogous to the black-out in a police procedural, or even an episode of Bones (one of my personal favorite crime-scene investigation type television series),before the light comes back on, to resume at a scene further in the future.

For, we are then reintroduced to the main crime-investigating duo, Rizzoli and Isles, whom I am meeting for the first time,. Already, I immediately understand their popularity, in that their banter, their sharply contrasting personalities, are a dynamic as meaty and rich, as that of some of the best teams of crime investigators from other series, from Scully and Mulder, to Bones and Booth. Of course, it is refreshing to see two women take center-stage, and show off their own charming, distinct personalities, and their skill with crime-solving abilities in a totally non-flashy, non-gimmicky way. The author takes the necessary time to really let their unique personalities shine through such scenes that  routinely involve heavy-duty  scientific explanations, behind some of the crime-scene evidence, or for the two characters to feud over what is the most plausible solution to the riddling crime. I love the way Rizzoli and Isles also represent the different modes of approaching criminal investigations, with the clinical observation of the real evidence that Isles, the medical examiner specializes in, or the interviewing of witnesses/corroboration of witness facts that Rizzoli and her various criminal investigators are trained to handle, and the way that these two branches converge, uniquely, as if to reflect the friendship both Rizzoli and Isles share. I hope to read from the beginning of the series, chronologically, to the end to get the full understanding of their development.

We also get a carefully-research, well-implemented section about taxidermy, an intriguing discussion on the psychology of violence, as compared with the ruthless patterns of hunting which feline species of animals have adapted to use, while foraging for prey in the wild.  Tess Gerritsen, in these sections, conveys cerebral  knowledge of the complex workings of the human psyche and the areas of that psyche which may be deemed “amoral” by some. All of this is written in clear, effective language, through the use of slight metaphors, and carefully-incorporated, recurrent motifs.  In another sense, the author even rewards the scrupulous reader, digging down layers into layers of the text, providing some interesting and fascinating (sometimes troubling) insights on human nature.

For the most part, Die Again is a briskly-paced mystery novel , and it can be read and enjoyed by any voracious reader of thriller novels, regardless of whether they have any familiarity with the Rizzoli and Isles series of books. There are slight hints of continuity throughout the book, which does not stifle the ongoing suspense of the core mystery, but does add a hefty amount of rewarding continuing development of the central characters of these series of books. I personally loved being introduced to the rich comparison between the burgeoning tensions of the family dramas of both Rizzoli and Isles, which offers sometimes a great respite from the tense, exhilarating “crime scenes,” where various clues, expertly sprinkled throughout the book’s 330 or so pages, slowly reveal themselves, allowing you the chance to ponder the mystery at hand, in the midst of gaining more insight into the characters in these novels. And without having ever read a Rizzoli and Isles book, I was surprised that I grew so attached to both central characters so fast, even while confronting their various sources of upheaval in their private lives, away from crime, for the first time.  Again, Tess Gerritsen, impressively, can write stories that appeal both to newcomers and seasoned fans, without depriving either type of reader of any enjoyment of the series.

Sometimes, elements of the progressing crime story feel a bit contrived and formulaic, but again it is the richness of the main characters, and even well-developed side characters, that really differentiates this book from the litany of other thriller novels out there. This series is highly-enjoyable, fun, and dangerously suspenseful, and even with its “rough-around the edges,” feeling at times, it is never overwrought, or too lengthy, but instead is a book that will chase away hours of your day and provide you with some much-deserved, though high-caliber suspense during your down-time.  After reading this, I definitely have both a new-found love and appreciation for this series, but also I will be venturing to the library to find the first season set of DVDs of this incredibly fun thriller/crime investigation series!

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Steampunk Month on A Bibliophile’s Reverie-Celebrating the Most Zany Artistic Aesthetic Around!

 

 

Beginning late next week on Saturday (March 7th),we encourage you all, everyone of you overzealous fans of the Steampunk genre, to kick off Steampunk month- the whole entire month of March,2015- to celebrate the most stellar selection of Steampunk-oriented novels out there.

We are proud to unveil our first highlighted title for Steampunk month, which will be none other than Key: The Steampunk Vampire Girl and the Dungeon of Despair,  written by Anne Rice’s own assistant/talented writer himself Becket! (and illustrated by Raven Quinn). You can find more information about this title, and how to purchase it for your Kindle, or a bound copy, so you may read the entire book, well in advance of the planned review on the first Saturday of March!

 

 

We’re also be proud to feature and promote a slew of other very exciting things for you hardcore Steampunk fans for the entire month of March!

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Review of “The Glittering World” by Robert Levy

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Intrinsic to the human experience, there is an unshakable, almost restive disturbance at our core that constantly tells us that there has to be a higher, more transcendent form/entity w/ self-consciousness that may allay our burden of feeling so alone in the universe. This pallor of existential dread  that frames our lives is what is articulated both subtly and artfully in some of the best written psychological thrillers, which do a great job at bringing these secret thoughts and disturbances of the human psyche to light. And once again, The Glittering World- a wonderfully terrifying supernatural, psychological thriller- is yet another well-written, cerebral, even unnerving psychological thriller from Simon and Schuster that does just that!

Combining four different, unique perspectives  who each witness the mysterious supernatural, surreal phenomenon occurring in a  small town in Nova Scotia, the reader is given four very fluid stories that finely fuses the traumas of these character’s pasts with the story of how each of them are psychologically experiencing the events happening all around throughout this story.  The story is set in a Nova Scotia town, where there is an esoteric group of hippies in the town, known for supposedly having made communion with the “Fey” or the faeries that are said to live underneath the mountain near this small town.  These Fey or Faeries are the central antagonists of this story, though they’re much more complex than just mere adversarial bogeys. They are neither completely benign nor completely evil, as this story focuses more on the perceptual grey area that represents how the supernatural is perceived through the human psyche.

But their mythology still plays a rather interesting role, nonetheless. The Fey’s  origins are depicted in mythical language, in that these faeries have purportedly existed long before the emergence of self-conscious human beings. There are excerpts of songs and poems, included in the story, which shed deeper meaning into the mysterious presence of these faeries in the lives of the inhabitants of this Northeastern Canadian town. Songs, stories, poems with enchanting, mysterious, elusive passages, phraseology have long been a part of horror stories, adding to the element of mystery, and even wonderment that is the channeling emotion that really draws the reader into these sorts of stories.  If we didn’t have a strong yearning for the mysterious, neither ourselves or the characters of this story would care about these faeries, or about a kooky newspaper written by some the eccentric members of the tribe that sheds some skeptical light into these faeries.

In the story,there is even a slight nod to Octavia Butler’s fabulous Xenogenesis series (one of my personal favorite scifi series), which is revealed towards the end of the first perspective section of the story, the section that concerns the  character of Blue,  and his mysterious, traumatic past. But this story opens the door to his rather complicated, though relatively unknown connection with the faeries that inhabit this area , and this is the part that alludes to a significant motivation for the alien’s chief interest in other species besides themselves. Blue is the one character who appears to have drawn several people from his life on this yet undiscovered journey into the terrain of the unknown. And it is  his. slow, gradual psychological breakdown that occurs all the way up  towards the end of the chapter  for Blue that induces madness for the other characters of this story. Their  exciting,though terrifying perspectives of the events that transpire is in some ways shared by us because we initially get anchored into Blue’s perspective. And our mixture of doubt, unease,  curiosity and even terror, is mirrored by the way we first feel about Blue in the story. He is the focal reference for how we perceive everything else, through everyone’s else eyes, and this neat technique is well utilized by Robert Levy, to  avoid making what could have been a convoluted mess of a psychological thriller feel tightly-plotted, and very exciting. Even when you believe that these faeries are very real, the mind-bending,psychological intensity and ingenuity of the novel makes you wonder about just how tangibly real the faeries are in this story are, and what they really represent psychologically to each of the characters, and weirdly to yourself.

Throughout many stories featuring the supernatural, we have always envisioned either aliens, faeries, or some other mysteriously smarter, more mysterious foe, friend, or fiend as being a form of sentience that may befriend us, or prove to have a terribly complex, psychological terror of a relationship with us.  This potent psychological vibe in this story reminded me fondly of a  wonderfully-written X-Files episode, in which we get a wonderful dichotomy between skepticism and pure superstition, as Robert  Levy uses the psychological responses of the characters to the inexplicable things happening around them as a way  to heighten the psychological terror and unease of the whole story. This is where he really succeeds with keeping this story riveting and deeply fascinating, as the monsters in these well-fashioned psychological thriller, which is both haunting and oddly mesmerizing/enrapturing at times, are not merely mindless monstrosities to fend off through boring action scenes, but manifestations of one of the four character’s various terrors.

Sometimes, the descriptions of the Fey making their first appearance are written in a rather tedious, verbose way, making it hard to visualize them, and that is really the only thing that impedes this fast-moving, slightly scary first novel from a very skilled first writer. I am a huge fan of novels of this kind, which prove to not just simply be supernatural “monster of the week” romps, but instead transcend those boring, hackney limits, and instead strive to actually create a psychologically substantive work that offers us a much deeper, even more existentially terrifying message at the core of the story. And when you’ve returned from the abyss of this deeply moving, thought-provoking, existential dread driven  novel, you won’t just feel uneasy with terror, but l increasingly terrified by the grim reflection this novels offers back. The Glittering World is definitely a great novel for those looking for something that could coexist in both horror or fantasy, but it is mostly a cleverly written,thought-provoking psychological thriller that would interest fans of novels by Peter Straub , HP Lovecraft and other contemporaries of this genre.

My main reason for having so much respect and ardor for the horror and psychological thriller genre is their ability to plumb the deepest cavities of the subconscious, and I think The Glittering World succeeds on that level of being lucidly reflective of the terrors that obsess us.

LITERARY TEA RECOMMENDATION:

INTEGRITEA’s ENERGIZE BLEND

Click the picture below for more information on this specific recommended tea blend!

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Being fully informed now of the psychological terrors that are in store for you when you adventurously read Robert Levy’s The Glittering World, I suggest that you brew Integritea’s, which is essentially vibrant, uplifting green tea, with a slight, mellow, even soothingly tart Lemon Myrtle aftertaste (comparable to a lemon drop). This will prove to be your energizing, consolation tea, which you will need to brew, if you are to dare venture into this story, and wish to be psychologically prepared for the enigmatic Fey, who are purported to live underneath the mountains in the outskirts of the small Nova Scotia town, which serves as the setting for this novel. Of course, they may dwell elsewhere, perhaps a dark nook in your corner, or even be the proverbial “monster under your bed.”

The Energize Tea Blend, from Integritea is aptly named, as the tea contains Green Tea and Gingseng, serving to double the energy-enhancing effects of  your regular, more sober green tea blend. So in order to remain psychologically impervious  to the tempting allure of the faerie’s mystifying essence, this tea will also shield you from their mind-altering effects. And it will of course generally help you to stave off the terror of reading the blood-curdling descriptions of how they appear to the human psyche (grotesque and without skin), when they finally reveal themselves in your worst nightmares. These faeries are neither benign nor entirely evil, so that is why I am recommending this blend for you, which is not just conventional green tea, but green tea serving to help you shield your mind against the powerful charms of the dangerous Fey in Robert Levy’s new supernatural thriller. You cannot survive this novel without this tea! Believe me!

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Review of “My Sunshine Away” by:M.O. Walsh

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Review:

Before delving into my review, I wanted to share two endorsements from two writers, who published two of my favorite reads of 2014, for M.O. Walsh’s wonderful first release- My Sunshine Away.

If you are interested in reading my in-depth review of either title, you may click on the respective author’s name and title:

“I really loved this book. I am in awe, swept up in the quiet beauty of the prose, and in the wisdom and compassion of the narrator. I can’t praise it enough. My Sunshine Away is not a thriller; it is not genre fiction; but it’s realism at its finest, and it is a page turner—a story made memorable in paragraph after paragraph by the brilliance of its author, and by the scope of the questions he asks as to how we live this life to the fullest as loving and moral beings. It’s about love, obsession, and pain. Such a beautiful book. Such a remarkable book. I can’t praise it enough.” —Anne Rice, #1 nationally bestselling author of Prince Lestat

“This is literature of the highest order. Although the book snaps with the tautness of a thriller––and Walsh keeps the reader guessing until the end, as the best mystery writers do––My Sunshine Away also asks essential questions, like how much responsibility we have to each other, and whether we can we ever fully reassemble the pieces of broken lives. And while Walsh hints at answers, it’s his willingness to engage such ideas that makes My Sunshine Away an important work of fiction. We need more novelists with the guts and clarity of M. O. Walsh.” ––Matthew Thomas, New York Times–bestselling author of We Are Not Ourselves

Many times, people scoff at endorsements, relying on the cultural myth attached to endorsements that authors them are giving them on commission, and doing it, obligingly, to help a friend in the trade. Very often in all trades, this is typically the trend for endorsements, in that they are normally written by friends of the person seeking endorsements. Even so, I have found that a high percentage of the things I read are recommended through the endorsement, written by a writer whose work I am very familiar with.

In the case of M.O. Walsh’s first novel My Sunshine Away- a rather provocative, finely-written, trenchantly psychoanalytic first book- was recommended by one of my favorite writers: Anne Rice. For anyone that is a regular reader of my blog, you are probably more than aware of my profound respect, borderline fervid appreciation for Anne Rice’s novels.  With that being said, you can already assume that any recommendation from Anne Rice is one that I mostly likely will take a serious interest in by default. Of course, another writer, Matthew Thomas, whose recent release We are not Ourselves-a thorough, exhaustive literary examination of the progression of the American nuclear family in the twentieth century-  also endorsed this work, further compelling me to seek out a reviewer copy of this book.

And my high, somewhat lofty expectations for this work were not only met, but they would greatly surpassed. My Sunshine Away is masterfully written, and has a layered approach, to the way different levels of depth are exhumed by the interpretive reader.  These disparate levels of depth can be missed, but they are consciously there, and the perspective of this whole story is somewhat incredulously told by a somewhat unreliable narrator,who we have no firm idea what place in time he is telling this story from. And that is one facet of the much deeper, more intricate mystery at work at the core of  this novel. The concrete mystery,though, is the tragic rape of Lindy Simpson, for whom the narrator seems to have a certain overweening possession with. And we get a handful of different chapters, detailing the main character’s leading suspicions about the different boys of the neighbor, while allowing the mystery element of that core relationship to magically increase, or be maintained, all throughout.

Utilizing the art of subtle, non-didactic writing, M.O. Walsh never explains from the outset the level of this obsession the main character has with Lindy Simpson, leading the reader to immediately remain suspicious of his motives, and the manner in which he is recalling certain key events. The flow of the story, interestingly, even throws any of our solid suspicions of the perpetrator of the rape because the story defies any clear chronological flow. This unclear, somewhat non-linear flow of time is comparable to the non-linear, unfixed flow of time and events  in William Faulkner’s Southern Gothic classic The Sound and the Fury, which this works seems to pay very discrete homage to. M.O Walsh, using this tried and true method of modern/post-modern narrative structure,  is allowed to keep the suspence and intrigue of the entire story well-maintained throughout the course of the book.

Another brilliant feature of this work was M.O Walsh’s mastery with balancing rich, almost languorous, descriptions (suffused with some deceptive restful ease) with his continued streak of providing very deep psychoanalysis of the many colorful characters that make up this story. In a sense, the narrator’s descriptions of Louisianna are almost a character in of itself in the novel. M.O. Walsh waxes eloquent about the rare, somewhat elusive beauty of Baton Rouge, LA. His artful way of painting the rain-drenched grass during a hurricane, or the dry, humid air that seems to add a certain foreboding density to the air adds an extremely rich, well-detailed, yet weirdly unnerving aesthetic to many of his pages. Enviably, M.O. Walsh juxtaposes these rich descriptions of the narrator’s memory of the development of his home-town, alongside the way he remembers how his life, his recollections, his insights into various scenes in his life are altered throughout his life, culminating in the final, oddly emotionally-fulfilling scene, that dovetails all the loose thematic ends of the novel into a richly satisfying, even thought-provoking philosophical end to a novel that really is a soulful ode to one’s halcyon memories of childhood and the psychical impressions left on their minds on so many different levels to each individual spot of memory from their lives.

The most impressive feat, though, for My Sunshine Away was the poignant, sensitive, artful use of the rape plot-line in this story. It is never cheaply used to drive an otherwise interminable plot along, and it is never used like some cheap romances as something frivolously romanticized/titillating. Real writers of skill incorporate elements like this sensitively, with a keen focus on trying to put as much realism and purpose to the entire thing, to make sure it doesn’t become repugnant and stale, to the reader. The rape provides a much deeper message in the story about empathy, and learning to really see beyond our own egotistical, or myopic views (mired in guilt sometimes) of how people are affected differently in the work. And M.O. Walsh’s message echoes the core meaning/ethical thrust of the wonderful American poet Elizabeth Bishop’s work, which is the importance of us to always include the perspectives of “the other” into our work. And Southern writers do not get enough credit for this, and M.O. Walsh joins the pantheon of other equally talented Southern writers, like William Faulkner, Harper Lee, Anne Rice, who brilliantly always provide introspective look on those that are marginalized in many other stories. This is the one strident element of this book, which really marks this book as being a veritable Southern novel.

Fittingly, the novel’s true emotional climax comes earlier than the last page, when the narrator is recalling one memory in a confluence of memories that this novel represents, and that was of watching a crime mystery show, narrated by a suitably baritone voiced announcer. This small, but significant piece can be intuited by the careful reader to hold that the spots of unresolved darkness in the many loose fragments of our memories may not always be resolved in the end. We can only learn to forge healing for them through our actions in the immediate future.  And that is really the strongest message of this book,  entangled in a multifaceted, large New Orleans oak tree that is really the best metaphor for this very sensitively-written, brilliant work of literature that offers so many different insight into the human condition and the somewhat mysterious nature of our memory. It is a book that any serious fan of great literature should definitely check out, to ponder the many great staggering mysteries in store that will enthrall you until the very last bold-faced word on the page!

I wish talented newcomer writer M.O. Walsh the best of luck with his very promising, bright future in the publishing world, and I’ll be sure to check out the next book he has in store for all the many readers I hope he gains with this masterful work of literature!

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News about Prince Lestat Live Chat #5/ Special “World of Vampires” Paperback Giveaway!

Live Chat Details: For approximately an hour or so, I will be discussing two or more chapters of Anne Rice’s Prince Lestat. Throughout the live broadcast, you are invited to leave comments or questions-interact in real-time- by doing either one of the following (1) leaving questions on the enabled Question APP, as part of the Google Hangout Live App. (2) Leave comments directly on the Google Hangout Event Wall (arranged in a similar way to a Facebook Event Page) (3) Leave Comments and Questions on the Lestat Book Coven Facebook Group Page.

To RSVP for this coming Thursday’s Prince Lestat Live Chat, Be sure to click  to be redirected to the event page wall for this week’s chat, which will be on February 12th, 2014!

SPECIAL LESTAT BOOK COVEN CONTEST:

***Win a signed paperback of the first volume of author Dani Hoot’s “World of Vampire” stories, which are a brilliant rehashing of various cultural vampire stories, where the classic horror notions of vampires are reintroduced to help remind you of the horror and psychological potential of the character of the vampire, which has been lacking as of late in more lackluster forms of vampire stories.

I was lucky to have had the opportunity to edit all four short novellas in the book, which are exciting,  heart-racing adrenaline rushes, and intimate psychological portraits of four very diverse characters, who find themselves becoming vampires without any choice in the matter.

Even though, I have had to read all four stories closely a number of times,in the course of meticulously editing them, I still find myself re-reading several stories because they’re very intense and very easy to get esnared by Dani Hoot’s briskly-paced, concise prose.

For more details about the book, you may want to read the following enticing synopsis of this exciting volume of vampire stories:

Vampires around the world are coming forth to remind humans they are not romantic fantasies to be sought, nor are they souls that can be redeemed. These are the stories they must tell. This is the collection of the first four novellas of A World of Vampires Series: Hooh-Strah-Dooh, Baobhan Sith, Strigoi, and Jiangshi. Hooh-Strah-Dooh: Anne Fitzgerald gives the tale of her involvement with the Irish gangs in the 1930s and how her life is full of love, loss, and abuse as she is forced to turn into the Wyandot’s vampire, the hooh-strah-dooh. Baobhan Sith: Captain Henry Williams had everything he wanted back home in England, the woman of his dreams waiting for him, all he had to do was make it home after the war. But as he travels through the Highlands, he finds that fate has another plan for him. Strigoi: Amalia loved living as a traveler through the country of Romania, listening to the music of the night, until she found out the evil that was behind the music. Now she must decide to save her own skin, or bring forth the most evil strigoi ever to roam the world. Jiangshi: Hui Zhang was given a chance to follow his dreams in San Francisco and he took it, but was the money worth the price he paid? Especially when the evil he had done haunts him and his family?

If you are a self-published writer, you may be interested in the adept editing,formatting, and audio-book recording services, offered through my other website- A Bibliophile’s Workshop!

******To enter to win a signed paperback volume of Dani Hoot’s World of the Vampires: Volume 1″click the awesome cover art photo below to be redirected to the Rafflecopter App, where you’ll need to complete certain tasks, in order to win entries for the contest.

IMPORTANT RESTRICTION: Contest only open to those, living in the United States. 

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Tea Time at Reverie: Sanctuary T’s Spring Harvest Green Tea

I’ve had enough of winter. It’s only the first week of February, but after a January full of bitter cold and slushy roads – and then being buried under 3+ feet of snow within the past 2 weeks – I’m already counting down to spring. If I just close my eyes, I can already feel warmer temperatures, see new leaves on the trees, and smell the fresh flowers and the sweet dampness of earth after a rainstorm. Of course, that’s all in my imagination.

Sanctuary T logoChasing away the winter blues was my priority for this Tea Time. Luckily, Sanctuary T has a remedy in the form of tea: Spring Harvest, a blend of green and white teas with passionfruit flavoring. Turns out it was a rather delectable choice!

The Basics

Sanctuary T Spring Harvest loose

Photo courtesy of Sanctuary T

Sanctuary T’s Description: “It may be raining outside, but that doesn’t mean you can’t relax like you’re in a sunny spring garden. Spring Harvest is a rare medley of green and white tea inspired by the flavors of freshly squeezed passionfruit. Fragrant and fruity, this is the perfect after-dinner detox tea or a mid-afternoon stress reliever.

Ingredients: Green tea, white tea, dried / candied fruit pieces, and passionflower petals

Steeping Instructions: Use 1 teaspoon per 8 oz of water. Heat water to 175 degrees Fahrenheit (79 degrees Celsius), and steep for 3 minutes.

Multiple Brews?: No

Bagged or Loose Leaf?: Loose leaf

Caffeine Level: Medium-low

The Experience

Spring Harvest has the fresh, colorful appearance that complements its namesake season. It’s a mixture of sage-green (green tea) and greenish-brown (white tea) leaves, sprinkled with rose-orange flower petals and tiny bits of dried pineapple, papaya, and strawberry. The green tea leaves in particular have a distinct flatness that reminded me first of Dragonwell green tea from China. After closer observation, though, I’m more certain it’s Japanese Sencha, which is darker in color and more vegetal in taste than Dragonwell.

When I open my sample packet of Spring Harvest, the first thing I smell is… FRUIT! A strong, almost heady fruit perfume pours out. I’d say pineapple is the primary scent here instead of passionfruit. (In fact, I’m not sure if I smell passionfruit at all.) There’s also the grassy sweetness of the Sencha leaves. Combine the two, and you get a refreshing, intoxicating bouquet that sings the lively song of spring.

Following Sanctuary T’s instructions above, I brewed 1 teaspoon of Spring Harvest in 175-degree F water for 3 minutes. The liquid takes on a pretty golden hue with a hint of green. The fruity scent is less overpowering now, and more balanced with the clean green tea aroma. Each sip reflects this equilibrium while offering a study in contradiction. It starts off sweet, crisp, and vegetal, with a honey-like fullness on the tongue and a tropical flirtation minus the coconut. The fruit flavors then punch their way through on the aftertaste. Which flavors depends on which fruit pieces were brewed in that particular cup. For example, my first one was bursting with pineapple and papaya, with a trace of mango; while my second one sparkled with a strawberry tartness. Yum!

My only question is, where’s the passionfruit flavor? Maybe it’s mingling there among the other fruit essences, but it’s not very potent. Its absence doesn’t detract from my experience with Spring Harvest, which I enjoyed down to the last drop. I’m just curious, that’s all.

The Aftertaste

Sanctuary T’s Spring Harvest is a lovely way to add a seasonal “spring” to your step – er, cup. Sweet and crisp, tropical and grassy, brisk and delicate, it’s the more thoughtful cousin of Marianne’s Wild Abandon from Bingley’s Teas, which uses similar ingredients but features black tea instead of white tea. The variety of fruit flavors also make this an ideal choice for anyone who wants to try green tea without a dominant vegetal or seaweed presence. Again, I don’t smell or taste much passionfruit, but maybe you will. Either way, Spring Harvest brightened my winter doldrums, and I highly recommend it to other tea drinkers who are looking for their own tropical tea escape.

Grade: 9 / 10

Recommended For:

  • Tea Drinkers Who: Like green, white, or fruity teas, or want to try a green tea that doesn’t have a strong grass or vegetal taste
  • Time of Day and Year: Afternoon and evening year-round
  • Possible Book Pairings: Spring Harvest’s tropical liveliness reminds me of the Illiais Jungle from Maria V. Snyder’s Study series. Readers will visit the rainforest in the second and third books, Magic Study and Fire Study. However, you may want to start with the incredible first installment, Poison Study, so the events of the later books make more sense. ;)

You can purchase Spring Harvest directly from Sanctuary T here.

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In addition to being a tea enthusiast, Sara Letourneau is an avid reader and a writer who… well, enjoys writing! Currently she’s working on a novel, and she writes book reviews and articles on the craft of writing. She’s also a published poet with works available in various print and online publications. Visit Sara at her personal blog, Facebook, or Twitter.

If you’re a tea seller and would like to have one of your products reviewed here, please visit the Contributors page for contact information.

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