Friday Favorites: Tea Time!

new Friday fave
Friday Favorites is a post where I incorporate more of what I love into the blog. This includes films, anime, manga, music, you name it. Anything goes.  It will be an opportunity to share some of the things I love and discuss them briefly or at length, depending on my mood 😉

Okay, let’s be honest for a second, we knew that this feature could not go on forever without discussing tea.

Steeping Times

If you ask me or anyone who takes their tea even slightly serious, they short answer is yes. Steeping tea for the correct amount of time at the appropriate temperate greatly enhances the flavor and aroma. It took me a few years to grasp how much truth there is to this, but now there is no turning back. With my electric kettle and timer, I adjust the process for each cup. I keep a little cheat sheet handy for how I prefer to steep various blends. Keep in mind these are based on my own preferences.

Basic Steeping Times & Temps (1).png

A few things I have noticed are that green and white tea can easily be over-steeped, however, Roobios can steep all day and I still enjoy the flavor. When I am unable to control or measure my water temperature, I try to just keep it right below boiling for the green and white blends.

tea cup (1)

In the early morning, I really favor black teas and Oolong for the caffeine. I still prefer Twinings Earl Grey, but I continue to explore many options. Sadly my favorite Oolong is no more so I am on the hunt! London Fogs have been my latest go to.

London Fog
(I have honestly been making this so long, I do not remember the source)

Earl Grey Tea (loose leaf is preferred)
Pure Vanilla Extract
Milk (I use skim but any will do)
Lavender (Optional but a must for me)
Sugar (if desired, I do not sweeten my tea with sugar)

Brew the Earl Grey with a pinch of lavender flowers. I like to use these found on Amazon. While that is brewing, steam, and froth the milk. Strain your tea and add a splash of pure vanilla and sweetener if desired. Top with Steamed milk and enjoy!

Throughout the day, I try to stick with rooibos and herbal blends. I have been avoiding caffeine to help combat insomnia. I look for rooibos blends that are nutty and incorporate vanilla. Thanks to Liis at Cover to Cover, I have really been enjoying Java Republic’s Rooibos & Caramel Organic Infusion.

Favorite herbal blends:

Organic Serenity Now or Forever Nuts from DAVIDsTEA.
Night Time Tea from Pukka (Huge thanks to Claire from Brizzle Lass Books for my ongoing supply of this brand!).
Yogi Tea’s Honey Lavender Stress Relief.
Calm Chamomile 
by Tazo.


My go-to sweetener is a raw, organic wildflower honey. But I only use this with certain blends. I prefer most of my tea straight up.

Of course, this list could go on and on, but we will stop here. Do you enjoy tea? If so what are some of your favorite blends? Do you sweeten your cup or add milk?

Happy Friday,

Danielle ❤

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Nemesis by Brendan Reichs

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Nemesis (Project Nemesis #1)
By Brendan Reichs

Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons
ISBN: 9780399544934
Pages: 443
Genre: YA Sci-fi


He killed me. He killed me not. He killed me.

It’s been happening since Min was eight. Every two years, on her birthday, a strange man finds her and murders her in cold blood. But hours later, she wakes up in a clearing just outside her tiny Idaho hometown—alone, unhurt, and with all evidence of the horrifying crime erased.

Across the valley, Noah just wants to be like everyone else. But he’s not. Nightmares of murder and death plague him, though he does his best to hide the signs. But when the world around him begins to spiral toward panic and destruction, Noah discovers that people have been lying to him his whole life. Everything changes in an eye blink.

For the planet has a bigger problem. The Anvil, an enormous asteroid threatening all life on Earth, leaves little room for two troubled teens. Yet on her sixteenth birthday, as she cowers in her bedroom, hoping not to die for the fifth time, Min has had enough. She vows to discover what is happening in Fire Lake and uncovers a lifetime of lies: a vast conspiracy involving the sixty-four students of her sophomore class, one that may be even more sinister than the murders.


Nemesis was beautifully successful for me in an area that has been predominantly a miss for YA; It offers a complex and rewarding science fiction experience that feels not only well fleshed out, but incredibly entertaining. It was a welcomed change of pace that I openly embraced and look forward to continuing with the sequel. I recently shared a playlist as part of the tour, which can be found here if interested.

Best left to exploration and revelation, I am choosing to skip the traditional recap and fast forward to exactly what worked for me so well in the young adult, science fiction story.

Character development is a steady somewhat slow process as there is a mystery shrouding both of our protagonists Min and Noah. But it is also equally rewarding. Left to uncover secrets of their own pasts that they soon find will cross, there is something to be said for the leisurely approach Reichs has created. It is a well-balanced blend of getting to know who Min and Noah are while vying to learn why.

There is enough complexity contained within the overall storyline to boast Nemesis as a clever and often surprising experience. The reader is provided with just enough details to facilitate multiple theories while encountering a nice dose of the unexpected. I hold a certain appreciation for authors who refuse to spoon feed readers while also avoiding unnecessary and inconsequential details. Here Reichs has created the perfect mixture, and it goes down so well!

The writing is smooth and knowledgable. Alternating perspectives are presented in a very concise and effective manner that help fuel the mystery and lead to a successful conclusion that feels gratifying while still accommodating an easy segue into the sequel. I find books that feel well researched to be extremely rewarding, adding the solid structure and execution of Nemesis, the end result is certainly so. My only small complaint would be how much I favored one character over the other. But even that served its own purpose in the end.

Nemesis will definitely find a welcoming home among the shelves of sci-fi fans old and young alike. I would love to see this one adapted into a series!

*I want to thank the publisher for this copy. The above review is my own, honest and unbiased opinion.

tea cup


Devoured over several cups of Darjeeling!

Purchase Links:  Amazon UK  Book Depository

226079About the Author 

Brendan Reichs was born and raised in Charlotte, North Carolina. He graduated from Wake Forest University in 2000 and The George Washington University School of Law in 2006. After three long years working as a litigation attorney, he abandoned the trade to write full time. He is the author of Nemesis, and co-author of the Virals series, written with Kathy Reichs. Brendan lives in Charlotte with his wife, son, daughter, and a herd of animals that tear up everything.

Follow Brendan Reichs: Website  Twitter  Facebook  Goodreads

Happy Reading!

Danielle ❤

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The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert

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The Hazel Wood
By Melissa Albert
Publisher: Flatiron Books
ISBN: 9781250147905
Pages: 368
Genre: YA Fantasy/Fairy Tale


Seventeen-year-old Alice and her mother have spent most of Alice’s life on the road, always a step ahead of the uncanny bad luck biting at their heels. But when Alice’s grandmother, the reclusive author of a cult-classic book of pitch-dark fairy tales, dies alone on her estate, the Hazel Wood, Alice learns how bad her luck can really get: Her mother is stolen away―by a figure who claims to come from the Hinterland, the cruel supernatural world where her grandmother’s stories are set. Alice’s only lead is the message her mother left behind: “Stay away from the Hazel Wood.”

Alice has long steered clear of her grandmother’s cultish fans. But now she has no choice but to ally with classmate Ellery Finch, a Hinterland superfan who may have his own reasons for wanting to help her. To retrieve her mother, Alice must venture first to the Hazel Wood, then into the world where her grandmother’s tales began―and where she might find out how her own story went so wrong.


The Hazel Wood seems to have generated a lot of buzz this year. There is this great divide between the love and dislike (hate is such a strong word).  I started off eagerly adding this one to my TBR with great enthusiasm that slowly began to waiver as reviews rolled out. Fortunately, in my case, my fears were unwarranted and this was a success! I lean heavily into the group of readers who embrace this darker tale with open arms.

Alice is a 17-year-old girl who has spent her entire life on the road with her mother Ella.  A life clouded with bad luck, they hurriedly pick up and relocate each time things go wrong. She also happens to be the granddaughter of Althea Prosperine, an author known for an elusive and famous collection of dark fairy tales entitled Tales from the Hinterland. But after her mother receives notice that Althea has passed and then mysteriously vanishes, Alice soon discovers that there is much to her grandmother’s collection. With the help of a young fan and classmate Ellery Finch, she sets out for her grandmother’s estate, The Hazel Wood, in search of her mother. But she finds more than she could ever bargain for.

I will be the first to admit that The Hazel Wood unfolds at a somewhat leisurely pace for nearly 70% of the book. Character development is slow and challenging. We are presented with a protagonist that is difficult to like but not hard to appreciate. While I struggled to “love” Alice’s rough attitude, I also found myself unable to fault her. I found the fact that she referred to her mother by name to be irritating and also often felt she was overly aggressive. But when reflecting on her disheveled life and lack of roots, it was still relatable or at least understandable at its core. It works. You do not have to like characters for them to be viable and rewarding. Alice is a prime example of this. I also found great appreciation in supporting characters such as Ellery and those she encounters during their journey that offered a complimentary balance to Alice’s flaws and shortcomings.

The storyline was where I found complete satisfaction with The Hazel Wood. Albert’s decision to incorporate the stories from Althea Prosperine’s book into the narrative was brilliant and countered the pacing issues I was facing. I thoroughly loved reading the dark and twisted fairytales. I think I may have favored them over the actual plot though so I can see how some found disappointment within depending on expectations. For myself, I was entirely okay with this fact and the brief tales drove me to want to explore Alice and her mother’s disappearance more. They were cleverly placed throughout, providing the necessary momentum and turning what might have otherwise been another YA fantasy into something special, a new collection of fairy tales.

My love he wooed me
My love he slew me
My love he buried my bones
His love he married
His love I buried
My love now wanders alone 

The writing is engaging and detailed while remaining plot oriented and forgoing the typical frivolities. The fairytales unfold with a poetic prose. There is an admirable lack of the normal tropes one would expect to encounter, and the end experience is hauntingly smooth and lingering. It has been a week since I completed the book, and I do not find myself struggling to review it. It remains as vivid now as the very night I completed it. That alone speaks volumes. Fans of those traditionally bleaker fairytales who enjoy a good mystery will want to sink their teeth into this one.

*I would like to thank the publisher for my copy. The above review is my own, honest and unbiased opinion.

tea cupPairs well with a nice cup of oolong and ginger.

Purchase Links: Book Depository

Happy Reading,

Danielle ❤

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