Juliet, Anne Fortier. I fell in love with Romeo and Juliet at age 13 in high school (Shakespeare version--which evidently is *not* the original, though that shouldn't have surprised me since I now remember the whole thing was based on the myth of Pyramus and Thisbe anyway). If I'd discovered R & J at a more mature age, I would have been annoyed at the two star-crossed lovers being OMG SO IN LOVE after, like, ten minutes and then going so far as to die over it. But hey, pretty poetry.
So it was refreshing that Anne Fortier gives her version of the medieval couple--Giuletta and Romeo, in Siena (not Verona)--a longer and more interesting courtship, with even more family complications and ultimate tragedies than Shakespeare gave them. As for her modern-day pair (Julie and Alessandro), I found them too grumpy and snarky with each other for the first three-quarters of the book, and wished they'd have more fun. There *is* a lot of humor in the narrative, even in the retelling of a tragedy, which I appreciated, and I would have liked to see Julie partake of the humor a bit more. I almost liked her bitchy sister better. Almost. Sometimes. Anyway, one thing for which I'll take a star off a book is when I wouldn't really want to hang out with the characters, and that was the case for most of these characters a lot of the time. But luckily not all the time. Eva Maria was fun, and she can invite me to her awesome castello anytime.
Great plotting, though: I thought I had the twists figured out, but I was wrong on most counts, and pleasantly surprised. By the "mortal peril" section toward the end, I was drawn in and turning pages with deep interest, and really did want Julie and Alessandro to break the Giuletta curse and end up together. So, full marks for a very cool story idea and one heck of a gorgeous setting. Someone get me to bella Toscano prontamente!
Sky Between the Branches full-leaf loose green tea, from The Republic of Tea. What it said in the catalog regarding this tea (and on the canister too): "Gu Zhang Mao Jian Tea. This pure and delicate green tea is only harvested ten days each spring on the banks of the Qiushui River in the Wuyi mountains in China. Renowned for its tender, silver tips and unique, chestnut character, this leaf rarely makes its way beyond China's borders."
Okay, with a description and a name like that, I had to order it. My thoughts: the loose leaves are pretty, shriveled up into little green squiggles. I don't know what chestnut tastes like, so I can't comment on that, but the aroma and flavor remind me of summery vegetal things: mowed grass that's been piled up to dry and gotten wet again a few days later in the rain; a persistent hint of dried apricot. These are barely-there flavors, however. It's a gentle and light green tea, easy to like and hard to be offended by, and as such I wouldn't have guessed it was so amazingly exclusive from its flavor alone. This doesn't have the magnificent floral bouquet of jasmine green, or the robust toastiness of matcha green. Those are my two favorite green teas; can you tell? But I certainly like Sky Between the Branches and will finish the canister.
Yerba Maté Latte full-leaf tea, by The Republic of Tea. Ingredients: Roasted yerba maté, cocoa, rooibos, almond pieces, cactus flowers, sunflowers, and blue bottle flowers. I've never tried yerba maté before, and approached it with a little trepidation. Was it going to taste like dead leaves and mud from a forest floor in Argentina? Since I didn't have a gourd handy to drink it from, was my whole experience going to be null and void?
Well, I did drink it from a regular old mug, but no worries on the flavor. In the canister, and brewed too, it smells scrumptious and rich, like chocolate-covered almonds, with darker tones resembling pipe tobacco. And it may be that I still don't know what yerba maté tastes like, because the cocoa, rooibos, and almond could well have accounted for that toasty, rich sweetness. Regardless, this blend is tasty, especially with a dab of honey. As for its "mateine" (caffeine, basically) levels, I didn't notice anything untoward. I felt fine after drinking it--good energy levels, general sense of well-being, as I feel with rooibos or other nice herbals--but not the "eyes propped open with toothpicks" feeling that caffeine can sometimes give me. I see how yerba maté could indeed be a comfortable and healthful thing to drink. Will try it on its own if I can find some at the store.
CHOCOLATE REVIEW: Chocolove Almonds and Sea Salt in 55% Dark Chocolate: Nom nom nom. Delicious. Not overly sweet (so glad it's not milk chocolate), perfect amount of saltiness, satisfying crunch. Only problem is the fact that I shouldn't eat a whole bar of this with every single meal. Which I would really like to do.