Tea Sampler: Downton Abbey® Crawley Sisters Tea

TeaSampler_RdsMy Republic of Tea catalog came this morning.  I decided to brew the sample, Downton Abbey® Crawley Sisters Tea, while I waited for the dryer to finish.  This has a red tea base, flavored with chocolate, strawberry, and vanilla.  Personally, I don’t know how Lady Mary figures in this blend.  For her, I’d expect something with more of a kick.

As it steeps, the air is filled with a rich chocolate scent.  If you lift the cup to your nose and inhale the steam, you catch the slightest floral note of strawberry.  It’s the same with the flavor.  The strawberry is very subtle.  I quite like this, but not enough to add it to my next order.

January Reads 2016

ReadingRoundup_dsI had three Five-Star Reads this month.  That’s amazing.  Usually, I’m lucky if I read one every two or three months.

I, the Sun by Janet E. Morris – I love Hittite history and Suppliluliuma is one of its most dynamic figures.  It was he who built the Hittite Empire, literally, from the ashes.  He brought the Great Kingdom of Mitanni to its knees and managed to expand his borders into the Levant without overly antagonizing Egypt.  Of course, that might have gone differently if anyone else but Akhenaten was Pharaoh.  The story of his reign also includes the mysterious disappearance of one queen, a shocking request from another, murder, and plague.  In other words, Janet Morris had a lot of raw material to work with in weaving a dramatic “autobiography” of Suppiluliuma.  So much that, if I wasn’t familiar with the history, I’m not sure if I’d have been able to keep everything straight.  Rating:  4 out of 5 stars

The Lady Queen: The Notorious Reign of Joanna I, Queen of Naples, Jerusalem, and Sicily by Nancy Goldstone – The murder of Andrew of Hungary, Duke of Calabria, by his adulterous wife, Joanna, Queen of Naples, was one of the great scandals of the Middle Ages.  It was made even more so by her exoneration purchased by the enormous bribe of Avignon.  That, at least, is the version of the tale found in most books.  Goldstone, however, puts a different spin on it.  Or, to be more accurate, wades through centuries of spin to find the truth.  Joanna, it seems, was completely innocent.  And she didn’t sell Avignon to the papacy, she rented it to them at a steep discount.  But it’s still a thrilling, scandalous, story of family intrigue, treason, scheming, and murder.  Rating:  4.5 out of 5 stars

Duke of Scandal by Gaelen Foley – This is the first full length novel in Foley’s new Moonlight Square Regency series.  There’s a prequel novella called One Moonlit Night which I didn’t like at all.  It was boring.  But, since I like most of Foley’s books, I decided to give this one a go despite that.  And was surprised that I liked it.  Felicity and Jason were neighbors, growing up, and they have become more if not for the intervention of her overprotective big brother, who, of course, is Jason’s best friend.  Jason then becomes a manwhore and Felicity and prim and proper miss who prefers the shadows to the spotlight.  But, then, they realize they’re grown ups now and can be together.  Or Felicity does, and she’s not shy in going after who she wants.  Jason’s a little slow on the uptake, but men generally are.  This was a fun read.  Rating:  3.5 out of 5 stars

The Royal We by Heather Cocks and Janet Morgan – I adored this book.  It was hilarious and tragic at the same time.  Equally as likely to make cry with sadness as it is with laughter.  Rating:  5 out of 5 stars

The Rogue Not Taken by Sarah MacLean – This first novel of Sarah MacLean’s new Scandal and Scoundrel series, begins with an awesome “You go, girl!” moment involving an ass (in two senses of the word) and a pool.  It was great.  I was very proud of our heroine, Sophie.  But then, she meets the hero and promptly loses several IQ points.  I enjoyed this book while I was reading it, that’s the power of MacLean.  Rating:  4 out of 5 stars

Only the Stones Survive by Morgan Llywelyn – Blurbage is often misleading, but, not here. As skillfully as any ancient bard, Llywelyn takes the tales ofLebor Gabála Érenn (The Book of the Taking of Ireland or The Book of Invasions), and weaves them together with wonder and ruin into a stirring, absorbing narrative of the epic struggle between the Children of Milesios and the Children of Light.  Amergin himself couldn’t have done better.  Rating:  5 out of 5 stars

The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto by Mitch Albom – I loved this book, told to us by Music with music.  Be sure to read it with YouTube open so you can listen to the music as you read.  It really does enhance the experience.  Rating:  5 out of 5 stars

Where You Once Belonged by Kent Haruf – Somehow, I missed this one.  I always enjoy my visits to Holt, Colorado, and this was no exception.  The ending, however, is unsatisfying, to say the least.  Rating:  4.25 out of 5 stars

After Rome by Morgan Llywelyn – This was bit of a disappointment after the awesomeness of Only the Stones Survive.  I spent most of it wondering why Cadogan didn’t just sell Quartilla to the Pict.  She was annoying.  And what was with Dinas, Meradoc, and the flying horse prophecy thing?  Cadogan’s story was interesting, and I would have liked to see more of Saba and Pelemos.  Rating:  3 out of 5 stars

The Things We Keep by Sally Hepworth – Anna is thirty-eight years old, and she as Alzheimer’s.  Luke is forty-one, and he has frontal-lobe dementia (trouble with finding the correct words and with the physical act of speaking).  Their story is sweet and tragic.  Keep a box of tissues close.  Rating:  4.5 out of 5 stars

 

New research into the origins of the Austronesian languages

Complex genetic data now confirms that mitochondrial DNA found in Pacific islanders was present in Island Southeast Asia at a much earlier period.

Source: New research into the origins of the Austronesian languages

Fairytales much older than previously thought, say researchers | Books | The Guardian

Study of fairy story origins traces some back thousands of years, with one tale dating back as far as bronze age

Source: Fairytales much older than previously thought, say researchers | Books | The Guardian

The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto by Mitch Albom

As befitting a book written by Music, The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto has a soundtrack.

Presto_AlbomOn an evening in the small Spanish town of Villareal, a young woman, heavily pregnant, enters a church to light a candle. Then the raiders come, followers of Franco, and her labor begins. In a hidden room attended by a single nun, her son, Francisco Presto, enters the world, grabbing a giant handfull of Music as he comes. In a desperate attempt to keep him quiet, his mother hums to him Francisco Tárrega’s Lágrima.  As the church begins to burn, the new mother, the nun, and the infant huddle together.  Only one of the women make it out alive.

Thus begins the life of musical legend, Frankie Presto who would die so spectacularly.  His life and music touched and was touched by so many.  Django Reinhardt, Duke Ellington, Elvis Presley, Lyle Lovett, Tony Bennett, and many, many more.

I loved this book, told to us by Music with music.  Be sure to read it with YouTube open so you can listen to the music as you read.  It really does enhance the experience.

Rating:  5 out of 5 stars

 

Evidence grows for giant planet on fringes of Solar System : Nature News & Comment

Gravitational signature hints at massive object that orbits the Sun every 20,000 years.

Source: Evidence grows for giant planet on fringes of Solar System : Nature News & Comment

Ancient genomes reveal that the English are one-third Anglo-Saxon

For the first time, researchers at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute have been able to directly estimate the Anglo-Saxon ancestry of the British population, using ancient skeletons. Human remains excavated from burial sites near Cambridge provided the material for the first whole-genome sequences of ancient British DNA. The study estimated that approximately a third of British ancestors were Anglo-Saxon immigrants, showing how Anglo-Saxon immigrants mixed with the native population.

Source: Ancient genomes reveal that the English are one-third Anglo-Saxon

Mounting evidence suggests early agriculture staved off global cooling

New ice core data and other evidence confirm that early human agriculture cancelled natural cooling of Earth’s climate, says University of Virginia environmental scientist William Ruddiman.

Source: Mounting evidence suggests early agriculture staved off global cooling

Not sure I buy this one.

Evidence of a prehistoric massacre extends the history of warfare

Skeletal remains of a group of foragers massacred around 10,000 years ago on the shores of a lagoon is unique evidence of a violent encounter between clashing groups of ancient hunter-gatherers, and suggests the ‘presence of warfare’ in late Stone Age foraging societies.

Source: Evidence of a prehistoric massacre extends the history of warfare

Before Hatshepsut: Early Egyptian Queen Revealed in Hieroglyphs

The hieroglyphic symbol at top, showing what looks like a rod with many arms beside a building, is the name for a queen called Neith-Hotep.
Credit: Photo and drawings courtesy D. Laisney

Sprawling hieroglyphs dating back around 5,000 years have been discovered in Egypt’s Sinai Desert. Carved into stone, the symbols reveal secrets of the early pharaohs, including a queen named Neith-Hotep who ruled Egypt.

Source: Before Hatshepsut: Early Egyptian Queen Revealed in Hieroglyphs

Turns out Neith-Hotep wasn’t the wife of Narmer, but regent for another pharoah, and that Memphis is older than was thought.