On Tea: Beethoven’s Best

The Tea: Beethoven Melange®, TeeGeschwendner.
Caffeinated: Yes
Water Temperature: 212° (boiling)
Steep Time: 2 minutes
Milk/Sugar: I put in milk, but you can feel free to add sugar as well or neither!
Ingredients: Black tea, green tea, flavor, rose petals, jasmine petals, sunflower petals, vanilla
Aroma: A sweet, floral smell, backed with black tea bitterness.
Taste: Floral with a slightly tangy bite. There is a sweetness that comes through due to the many types of flower petals. A lovely and fragrant tea.
Would I venture to buy a whole box?: I would – this is one of my favorite teas. It is smooth, not overly bitter, and has such a unique and wonderful floral component. I always enjoy a cup of Beethoven Melange®.
Overall score: 5/5 enthusiastic stars



On Books: A View of America

The Book: American Gods – Neil Gaiman

Some books are in the back of your mind for a long time, telling you you should read them, telling you to look for them, to find them, and snatch them up when you do. American Gods was such a book for me. I didn’t go out on a specific mission to find it, but in every used bookstore and thrift shop I went to, my eye was searching.  Finally, I bought it new from a bookstore down the street, having remembered I wanted it while I was searching for a friend’s birthday gift.

American Gods follows Shadow Moon, a man who has just been released from prison only to find that his wife has died in a car accident and that he is now being recruited by the mysterious ‘Mr. Wednesday’. What follows is a journey that goes through an America filled with gods and goddesses and leads up to a war between the new gods and the old.

Now, the novel takes a while to get off to its plot. Gaiman is a world builder, so it might seem at first that the story is disjointed or episodic in nature. However, once the reader gets past this, he/she is thrown into an epic display of imagination. The story is gritty, dark, and tinged with humor. It takes a good hard look at America and displays an essence of it that many people do not see or want to see.

Gaiman’s writing is at times a bit clunky in the novel, but for the most part his prose is well put together, and there are a few passages that are simply beautiful. I personally enjoyed the interludes (or “Coming to America” stories) that were interspersed throughout the book and described how different gods and goddesses arrived in the United States. It really showed how the US is a conglomeration of many different and ever-changing peoples and beliefs, and that, though they may not get along, they can work together when it is necessary.

The book definitely dealt with a lot of heavy topics that are not easy to read about – loss, death, religion. Because of this, it was start and stop for me at the beginning due to my own personal anxieties. However, working through them with the book (and with Shadow) was worth it in the end. American Gods now has a place of honor amongst​ my favorite novels.

Overall score: 5/5 stars



Sitting on the balcony, you stare into the distance, over the rooftops behind your apartment and into the sky, which is turning pink as the sun sets, and you watch the planes go by.  One by one they pass, going higher and higher, off to their destinations.  You wish each of them a safe flight.  You wonder where they’re going, and you wonder if it’s better than where you are now.

It’s warm. Warmer than it has been in a long time, and you relax in the metal chair you’re sitting in, comfortable because of the cushion you brought out, comfortable because it’s not cold.  Your gaze falls from the sky to the plant on the table in front of you, and you talk to it, low, soft tones.  Maybe you sing to it too, don’t plants like music?

A helicopter passes overhead and you look up, squinting to see if it has wheels or if it doesn’t, but you can’t tell.  You wish it a safe flight as well, and go back to staring beyond the rooftops into the pink horizon.  It’s calm.  You’re calm.  You let the moment last as long as you can.


On Books: Music Heals

The Book: The Cellist of Sarajevo – Steven Galloway

Continuing with my musical theme, I picked this book up off the shelf to be my next read.

The Cellist of Sarajevo is inspired by the true story of Vedran Smailović, a cellist who played Albinoni’s Adagio in G Minor during the siege of Sarajevo in various areas of the city. The book, however, is much fictionalized (which Smailović was [understandably​] displeased about).

Galloway’s novel features four different characters, each with different stories. It opens with an unnamed cellist who witnesses a shell attack that kills 22 people, and thus decides that he will play Albinoni’s Adagio at the same time every day for 22 days in honor of each victim. This is the only time we see from his perspective – the rest of the novel switches between the other characters; a female soldier who calls herself “Arrow”, a father, Kenan, who is living with his family, and Dragan, an older man who works in a bakery.

These three characters’ stories are twined together as the book goes on, each chapter swapping between them. Though they never meet, it is clear that each one of them is similar in that their lives have been destroyed by the war, and that they are no longer who they once were and can only dream of how life was in the past. It is only through hearing the cellist play that they are able to regain hope and the belief that peace will one day return to Sarajevo.

In terms of writing style, I thoroughly enjoyed Galloway’s. It flowed seamlessly between characters and time frames, and I felt as if I were in the novel myself. Each individual was dynamic and their stories were moving, and I felt I could connect with them and was rooting for them. I also enjoyed that the cellist’s playing truly was a medicine for the pain and suffering each citizen of Sarajevo was going through – by listening to him, they could imagine life as it should be – the city would rebuild itself, years would shed off friends and family, those lost would be found again. For me this was a true connection – there has been many a time when I myself have found solace in the notes or lyrics of a song. Music is powerful – it has indeed saved lives. Why should it not also help people cope with war?

I would recommend this book for people who are interested in the influence of music on a population, or for people who are interested in historical fiction. Or for anyone who just wants to read a beautifully written and sad, but, in the end, hopeful story.

Overall score: 5/5 stars