The Thing Around Your Neck by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie with Earl Grey Tea

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is one of my favorite authors because of her skill with creating characters. In The Thing Around Your Neck, Adichie manages to create characters that are rich, deep, real, and enticing in a few short pages. It is difficult to understand how she can create characters of such depth in short stories (some of which are only about ten pages). He

Adichie is unafraid of the honesty of being human. She never shies away from the dark and filthy parts of humanity. Her ability to tackle the unpleasantness is one of the reasons that her writing feels so honest. There is nothing fake or unbelievable about the stories. She never wraps up a story so that the characters feel stunted or impossible and that honesty is refreshing.

One of the characters mentions drinking Earl Grey and I found this a perfectly suitable choice for this collection of stories. I sweetened my Earl Grey with sugar and added a bit of milk to make the perfect reading companion. Pour yourself a cup of tea and enjoy this collection of stories by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.

The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje with Earl Grey Tea

I decided to read The English Patient after reading Ondaatje’s In the Skin of a Lion because they share the same characters. Ondaatje’s style is so poetic and sensual that it was powerful to have the backstory for the characters. Although the novels are not dependent on each other, there is a benefit to having a deeper or richer connection to the characters.

Ondaatje asks a lot of his readers. His stories are not plot driven and do not adhere to any timeline but instead follow more in the way of memories that you drop in and out of at his whim. Although this can make the novel difficult to follow at moments,  it generally gives an organic and real feel to the novels. When you recall memories they are not often chronological or uninterrupted and his characters meet these same dilemmas. It allows the characters to be more flawed, more honest, and more human.

I love the way Ondaatje gently touches on issues of a war-torn world, while still focusing solely on the emotions of the four main characters. The war is there in every detail, damaged buildings, danger in just walking and living in mined lands, corpses, morphine addictions, loss, and suffering. These things surround the characters and their every move and yet do not overrun the novel – it still remains human, poetic, and sensual.

The most powerful moments for me were when Ondaatje confronts issues of race. The sapper opens this discussion and his experiences are there to be painfully digested. The race issues climax with the bombing of Hiroshima. This part of history is always gut-wrenching painful and Ondaatje’s handling of it is yet another viewpoint and another way for your heart to break while your anger burns at the injustice.

The English Patient is not a simple chronological read but instead a book that must be read with the heart or the soul. Don’t expect to be carried along by a streamlined plot but instead by the beauty of the words and the humanity of the characters.

I recommend earl grey tea with The English Patient.  Earl grey is strong while remaining tender, dark yet brightened by that floral citrus, and that mending of dark and light fits well with this novel by Michael Ondaatje.

In the Skin of a Lion by Michael Ondaatje with Whiskey Flavored Tea

Michael Ondaatje is a poet and In The Skin of a Lion is beautifully poetic. The writing is non-linear. At times, the jumps in time caught me off guard and I would have to re-read a section to catch my bearings. I wasn’t sure, at first, how I felt about the jumps in time, I thought it would interrupt or confuse, but I found myself pulled along by the poetry of the storytelling. I didn’t even mind needing to stop and sort out the plot.

My favorite part of the story was Ondaatje’s portrayal of the beauty in work. I grew up in a family of construction workers and farmers and I always saw a strong beauty in their labor. Ondaatje shows the grime, the work, the sweat, the precision, the human in the work. In one of my favorite passages, he describes the dyers of leather in such beauty and color that I could imagine a painting of them. He doesn’t glorify the worker but just makes the beauty and human visible.

Ondaatje also does a powerful job of portraying the immigrant and the role of language. At one point Patrick, the main character, walks through the streets not sharing the language. The power of silence, the power of shared languages like laughter, the power of culture is shown in Ondaatje’s writing. The immigrant is shown as the heart of the city and the outsider blended as one. This portrayal felt honest without bitterness and loving without false optimism.

I can’t recommend this book saying that you will love it. I can see how it could be hated or loved until the pages wear thin. I forsee a second reading in my future and when I read it, I will drink whiskey flavored tea. In The Skin of a Lion doesn’t shy away from the grit of life and whiskey flavored tea always suits that attitude well.

 

The Awakening by Kate Chopin with Heather Tea

Kate Chopin explores feminism by challenging what it means to be a woman. I have heard many criticisms of this novel based, almost solely, on if the reader liked the character of Edna. It seems unforgivable to many that she abandons her children or desires the affections of someone other than her husband.

I saw Edna’s desires as challenging the stereotypes laid out for women. It was refreshing to see a woman want more than just the domestic parts of life. Chopin’s novel is about a woman realizing the desires of her heart and not just the desires given to her by society. Edna is able to awaken to herself, but that awakening is not beautiful, it is painful. I love that Chopin honestly addressed this pain instead of pretending that finding oneself and challenging society would be pleasant.

This novel is about an internal struggle, it is not full of action or events. Be ready to read more with your heart than your head. Try to understand and sympathize with Edna and try not judge. Chopin addresses some of the darker aspects of being female and that requires understanding instead of judgment.

I enjoyed heather tea while reading The Awakening, I loved the contrast of the black tea with the hints of floral. I think it blends well with the condition of Edna’s soul. Enjoy this strong tea while you gently examine Edna.

The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd with Sleepytime Tea

The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd is honey – sweet, healing, comforting. Sue Monk Kidd tackles a story of a broken and motherless girl, the warmth of female bonding, grief and all of this against the backdrop of the civil rights movement in the south.

I always find myself totally in love and absorbed by books that shed light on the love, healing, and power that can come from the bond between females. Often we are told how women tear each other apart, and too often we do, but there are also restorative bonds among women. Stories that highlight those bonds are important to the way we as women learn to relate to each other. Sue Monk Kidd establishes this bond across races. I think this message is vitally important in a world that is so divided. People need a reminder that the bonds of humanity are not limited by skin color.

This book has so much depth of meaning that I cannot lay it out here in the review. I will say that appreciated the tender nature that Kidd used when addressing the south. She humanized a dark time, as racism brought out the worst in people while showing the beauty and kindness that still exists. The south is a living oxymoron full of hospitality and hatred.

I spent most of this book sipping sleepytime tea overloaded with honey. I was drinking this mostly because I’m fighting off some virus, but it was a sweet and healing combination with The Secret Life of Bees. Honey is the first image that appears to me when I think of this book. Honey is healing and this book talks to me of the healing nature of female bonding. The sweetness and comfort of relationships are like sipping on warm honey tea.

Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe with Tension Tamer Tea

Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe is a powerful novel. It welcomes the reader into an Ibo village in Nigeria. The reader is given a unique insight into the village and is able to relate, empathize, and become emotionally invested in the well-being of the villagers. The great strength of literature is that it allows people to experience worlds outside of their own, and to relate to people who have different customs than their own. Achebe is gifted in the ability to create an organic connection between the reader and the characters.

This book is powerful because just as you have become completely invested in the villagers, their lives are uprooted and devastated. The devastation is slow and stealthy, it creeps in innocently and then tears apart the world. Achebe shows the humanity behind the horror of colonization. He writes,

“The white man is very clever. He came quietly and peaceably with his religion. We were amused at his foolishness and allowed him to stay. Now he has won our brothers, and our clan can no longer act like one. He has put a knife on the things that held us together and we have fallen apart.”

Allow Things Fall Apart to challenge what history has taught you about colonization. Allow it to open your perspective to the pain that it brought to the world. As you read this book and you allow it to challenge you, sip some tension tamer tea. I actually started drinking tension tamer simply because I was having a difficult day, but I found it to be a nice companion to the novel. The combination of chamomile and ginger root are soothing and pair nicely with

As you read this book and you allow it to challenge you, sip some tension tamer tea. I actually started drinking tension tamer simply because I was having a difficult day, but I found it to be a nice companion to the novel. The combination of chamomile and ginger root are soothing and pair nicely with a novel that will change your perspective — if you let it.

 

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking-Glass by Lewis Carroll with Chamomile Tea

There are so many people who are completely in love with Alice and all of her crazy adventures. As a child, I found the movie frightening and therefore never had any desire to read the book. It felt like a hole in my reading and its pretty pink cover called to me from my bookshelf. I finally decided to sit down and read it.

I was pleasantly surprised. It is crazy and so full of whimsy that you need to release your thinking mind and just enjoy the experience. My favorite part is the word humor. There is a lot of play on words that I found clever and intriguing. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass by Lewis Carroll are quick reads that leave you feeling a little confused and hungover.

I enjoyed chamomile tea with lavender honey. The lavender honey gives the chamomile a sense of whimsy that is perfect for traveling with Alice. Let your mind go and enjoy the craziness of Lewis Carroll’s creations.

 

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho with Wine or Peppermint Tea (or Wine)

It is my personal opinion that when I take the time to read a book it should give me something. It should change me, grow me, challenge me, or allow me to experience something new. If I were just looking to be entertained, I would watch tv.

Paulo Coelho has become a favorite author of mine because he challenges and changes me. The Alchemist is a book that has been translated into 56 languages because it challenges and changes everyone who reads it.

Coelho has a different perspective on life than most of us. It is a perspective that is more at peace with life and death. A perspective that calls you to wonder about things like souls, purposes of life, and omens.

“To realize one’s destiny is a person’s only real obligation.” — The Alchemist

In The Alchemist we are told, “To realize one’s personal destiny is a person’s only real obligation.” This book made me think about my own personal destiny, to ponder the Soul of the World, to think about God in a grain of sand, and to examine the things that stop you from reaching your personal destiny. You mind is allowed to explore these thoughts alongside Santiago as he journeys on his personal destiny.

I love the way this book challenged my thoughts and helped me gain a new perspective. Personally, I enjoyed a glass of wine but I would recommend peppermint tea. Peppermint tea is refreshing and awakening, which is good for focusing on this beautiful story.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (Illustrated Edition) with Chai Tea

I have been a Harry Potter fan for as long as I can remember. My best friend became my best friend when I accidently hit her in the head with a Malfoy lego in the fifth grade. I majored in Literature in college because of a love of reading that was inspired by J.K. Rowling. Hermoine showed me that a girl could be smart and strong and that it was good to have those traits. The  Harry Potter series has played a potentially odd, but extremely important role in making me the person that I am today.

So, when I got the illustrated edition of J.K Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, I realized that it was time to enter this world again. Opening this book and reading these familiar words felt like getting a hug from an old friend. Sounds cheesy (I’m aware), but it is honestly the way it felt. 2017 is full of uncertainty and I didn’t realize how much I needed the familiar comfort of this book.

The illustrations by Jim Kay take this well-loved story and bring a unique and wonderful beauty. If you have ever read Harry Potter, you know that you become completely engrossed in the story and forget your surroundings. These illustrations actually had me stopping to admire them and appreciate how much they added to the experience of reading. I look forward to when my son is old enough for me to read him this story and see him enjoy these stunning illustrations.

I love to enjoy a chai tea when reading Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. The spices of chai tea are so warm and always fill me with some feelings of magic. This book is innocent and warm and magical so I love the way chai tea pairs with it. If for some reason you haven’t read Harry Potter, START NOW. If you have read it and you just want to rejoin that place then check out this amazing illustrated version.

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J.K. Rowling, John Tiffany, & Jack Thorne with Irish Breakfast Tea

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J.K. Rowling, John Tiffany, & Jack Thorne has taken me awhile to finally decide to read. Harry Potter is deeply important to me as it fostered a deep and constant love of reading. I grew up with the characters and fell deeply in love with their stories. I feared that this new addition would change my characters or change their stories after an ending that I was satisfied or at least had made peace with overtime. Eventually, curiosity and the need to finish their stories made me succumb to the pressure to read  The Cursed Child.

In honesty, my reaction is one of relief. I think I probably need to read it again to draw a true opinion. I am just relieved to find that my characters are as I expected them and their stories generally unchanged. So, if you are a Harry Potter fan, and like me afraid of what this might do to your beloved fictional friends, fear not and enjoy Harry Potter and The Cursed Child.

I liked Irish Breakfast tea with a splash of creamer and sugar as a companion to The Cursed Child.  In all honesty, I barely noticed my tea as I tore through the book in a few short hours. Plays are almost always quick to read and The Cursed Child is not an exception. Welcome back to the Harry Potter universe even if the stop is brief.