Today’s Tea Tidbit is a bit unusual. I want to share a new tea item that someone gave me as a gift. It’s a wonderful little plastic pot with a built-in loose leaf tea strainer. You can put up to 12 oz. of water in it with your loose leaf tea, then heat it in the microwave, then let it steep. When ready, you fit the pot over your tea cup or mug and the there’s a piece on the bottom that lifts when on the cup, and the tea pours down into your cup but doesn’t let any of the loose tea into the cup of tea. It’s a wonderfully easy way to make a cup of loose leaf tea.
by Emily Dickinson
Just lost when I was saved!
Just felt the world go by!
Just girt me for the onset with eternity,
When breath blew back,
And on the other side
I heard recede the disappointed tide!
Therefore, as one returned, I feel,
Odd secrets of the line to tell!
Some sailor, skirting foreign shores,
Some pale reporter from the awful doors
Before the seal!
Next time, to stay!
Next time, the things to see
By ear unheard,
Unscrutinized by eye.
Next time, to tarry,
While the ages steal,–
Slow tramp the centuries,
And the cycles wheel.
In the past couple years, I’ve heard about a new style of historical fiction stories. The authors weave an historical fiction story and a contemporary fiction story and put them in the same book, and there’s something that connects the historical with the contemporary. The Writing Desk by Rachel Hauck is one of those stories and it is the first story like it that I have read.
The historical story follows the life of a young woman named, Birdie, who is from a prominent American family during the Gilded Age. She is a free-thinking independent woman, but her parents try to force her to marry a man she doesn’t love, so that the two will be even more wealthy, and put Birdie at the height of society. Her mother is much more adamant about it than her father. However, Birdie wants to marry for love, and she wants to write stories.
The contemporary story follows the life of a young woman who wrote a book in the midst of her grief over the death of her father, and it quickly becomes a New York Times Bestseller. Therefore, Tenley is pressured to write another one, but she is paralyzed by writer’s block and struggles with her emotions and who she really is. Then her mother, who deserted her twenty years ago, calls and announces she has cancer and needs Tenley to come to Florida to take care of her. However, the man Tenley has been involved with gives her an engagement ring and asks her to marry him, and he invites her to go to Paris to write.
The lives of both women are so different, yet they are connected by several threads.
I found this book impossible to put down. Last night I stayed up an hour and a half later than I usually do because I just had to finish it. I always say that a book that can make me laugh and cry is on my list of “best books”, and this one struck both of those chords within me, and there was one tremendous surprise twist in the story that I never suspected that made me laugh and cry tears of joy!
Because I, too, am a writer, I could relate to both the women in this story, and I continually cheered them on throughout the book. The other characters also evoked strong thoughts and/or emotions within me and I either, cheered for them or wished for them to go away.
Not only was this an incredible pair of stories woven together, it was also an incredible story of loss, hurt, guilt, pain, hope, healing, and love. Birdie, Eli, Tenley, Jonas, and even Alfonse, Rose, Blanche, and Holt will live on in my memory and heart for a long time to come. This book has endeared itself to me. It is the kind of book I LOVE to talk about with friends who have also read it, and it is a book I will highly recommend to anyone who loves a wonderfully, skillfully told story that includes all of the things I’ve listed above.
The Writing Desk by Rachel Hauck gets five stars from me.
I also have to say it is the first and only book that I have ever read by Rachel Hauck, but I will definitely be looking for more.
Julie rushed through the library clasping her folder to her chest, tears stinging the backs of her eyes. As she burst out the library doors, she gulped the warm fresh air, relieved to be rid of the feeling of suffocation. She fast-walked toward home, longing for the safety and solitude of her bedroom.
As she walked, the dam broke, and tears gushed forth. Why are people so mean? Why are they so critical and judgmental? Hadn’t anyone ever taught them that “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all”—words Grandma Rose had drilled into her head?
Julie’s family’s house came into view, and Toby Jefferson, her best friend for the past three years, sat on the top step of the large front porch. She slowed her pace and scrubbed her tears away with one hand, while retaining her tight grip on her folder. She hoped her eyes didn’t look too red and puffy.
Julie turned onto the gray stone walkway leading to her house. Her eyes met Toby’s, and he grinned. She offered a small smile.
She stopped before him, and he patted the porch floor next to him. “Have a seat.”
When Julie was seated, Toby turned to look at her. “So, how’d it go? What did they say?”
One look into his kind, encouraging, chocolate brown eyes and she came undone. Sobs shook her slight frame.
Toby wrapped an arm around her and stroked her long black hair. He just held her until her sobs subsided, then she sat up, looked at him through watery blue eyes, and sniffed. “Oh Toby, I don’t think I can do this. Apparently my writing isn’t any good. They hated it—said the characters aren’t developed enough for them to like them, let alone care about them. They said I have no idea how to write a story people will want to read, and I shouldn’t waste my time.” Another tear spilled from her eye.
Toby, one arm still around her, rubbed her shoulder. “Didn’t they offer suggestions on how to do the things they think are missing?”
Julie shook her head and sighed. “Don’t ever suggest another writers’ group to me again. The people in those groups are mean and cruel. First, it was the two groups you suggested online that said I shouldn’t write again until I take a college creative writing class, and now this. Maybe I’m not really cut out to be a writer after all.” She laid her head on Toby’s shoulder and leaned into him.
“May I see the piece you shared?” Toby spoke into her hair.
Julie sat up and looked at him, tears, once again, pooling in her eyes. She shook her head and wrapped both arms around the folder.
“Come on, Jules. You’ve let me read your stuff before. You know I’d never be like those other people.” He gently brushed a few strands of hair from her face.
She lowered her gaze. “I’m sorry. I can’t. Not today.” She rose to her feet. “I’m going to my room. I’ll talk to you later.” She turned toward the house.
Toby got to his feet. “Jules…”
His pet name for her always made her breath catch in her throat. She wondered if he knew, that six months ago when he became the champion for her writing, she’d fallen in love with him. She turned to look at him.
“Aw, never mind. I’ll talk to you later.” He turned and walked down the porch steps.
The next day, Toby met Julie at her locker at lunchtime like he did everyday. She greeted him with a large smile.
He quirked an eyebrow at her. “Didn’t expect to see such a bright smile on your face.”
“Oh Toby, you’ll never guess what’s happened!”
“Well, don’t hold me in suspense … tell me.”
“Do you remember I told you, Miss Wilson, my English teacher convinced me to enter one of my short stories in a contest a few months ago?”
“Well, today she informed the whole class that my story won first place!”
Toby wrapped her in a hug, lifted her from the floor, and spun her around. Then he set her down and looked into her eyes. “That’s great, Jules! One day you’ll have a bestseller.”
Heat crept into her cheeks, as he still had his arms around her, and other students stared. She nodded, looking up at him, his face so near to hers. “Miss Wilson also said she’s part of a very good writers’ group, and she wants me to go to the next meeting with her … this Saturday.” She bit her lower lip.
“Are you going?”
Toby grinned and they walked to the lunchroom, his arm around her lower back.
Today’s Tea Tidbit:
The daintiness and yet elegance of a china teacup focuses one to be gentle, to think warmly, and to feel close.
—Carol and Malcolm Cohen
Ode to Enchanted Light
by Pablo Neruda
Under the trees light
has dropped from the top of the sky,
like a green
latticework of branches,
on every leaf,
drifting down like clean
A cicada sends
its sawing song
high into the empty air.
The world is
a glass overflowing
translated by Ken Krabbenhoft
Traiven’s Pass by Jessica Marinos is a debut novel and also the first book in the “Trimont Trilogy”. It is set in medieval times in a land where the king is missing, but a steward king is ruling the land. There are knights and peasants. There is mystery, intrigue, romance, and adventure, and through all of that, there is good and evil at work.
I struggled through reading the first four chapters of Traiven’s Pass because it is told in first person, which I am not a fan of. However, it wasn’t just the fact that it is told in first person, but that the first person Point of View changes from character to character, although each chapter is told from a different character’s first person Point of View. However, after getting through the first four chapters, there were more chapters told from the same character’s first person Point of View–the character’s didn’t change so often.
Because the story is told so well, and Ms. Marinos did such an excellent job of creating well-developed characters, after chapter four, the first person Point of View character switching ceased to bother me. I became so caught up in the characters’ lives and the story that it was quite difficult to put the book down. Ms. Marinos did an excellent job creating and describing her world without overdoing it, and she is quite masterful at weaving back story throughout the story and not simply dumping paragraphs of information from the back story in the middle of an important scene.
Ms. Marinos did such an excellent job showing her character’s emotions that I felt them with them. I have to say that my heart broke over Sir Danek, as I understood his character and so hoped that he could soften. I love Lydia and felt all of her joys and pains throughout the book. Galen has spent his life in a small town and has a lot to learn. I loved the children of Trimont and Meklon and Lady Vala and Rose. I could go on and on. Even after putting the book down, I would think about the characters and the struggles they were going through. They became real, living, breathing people to me, and I can’t wait to read more about them.
It was also wonderful to read a novel all the way through without finding grammatical and typographical errors. This book was obviously, painstakingly well edited.
This is the best debut novel I’ve read in quite a while. It will remain a favorite of mine for years to come. I cannot wait for the next installment of the “Trimont Trilogy”.
I highly recommend this book to anyone who loves medieval stories, and though, I rarely give a book five stars, in my opinion, Traiven’s Pass definitely deserves five stars!