Tasty Teas at Harney & Sons

What goes better with your book than a freshly brewed cup of tea? Nothing.

On that note I’d like to introduce you to the last few varieties I’ve tried at Harney & Sons Fine Teas.

First off is the Oolong Dong Ding (Light). It has much less of an “earthy” flavor than what I usually associate with Oolong tea and more of a light, crisp taste. While it’s not quite as light a cup as a straight green tea it comes close and adds in a bit more flavor without being overpowering. Another plus with this tea is that (to me, at least) it goes a bit farther with it’s rolled tea leaves than an unrolled tea will.

Cinnamon green tea is a good substitute for Harney’s popular black tea with cinnamon flavoring. Just don’t expect it to last more than a single brewing. For some reason the flavorings seem to wash out the tea so that it never quite tastes right the second pot around.

Earl Grey Supreme is a good standard in black tea from their offerings. While it’s not exotic it packs quite a bit of flavor and makes a great morning or noon tea to pick you up.

Find all of Harney’s teas over at Harney.com or stop by their wonderful showrooms in NYC or the tasting gallery in Millerton, NY.

Puzzle Agent 2 Review

Game: Puzzle Agent 2
Publisher: Telltale Games

Puzzle Agent 2 from Telltale Games brings us back to Scoggins, Minnesota to delve into the unresolved secrets of the first installment. The FBI’s sole agent in charge of the US Department of Puzzle Research, Nelson Tethers, has decided there’s a puzzle left unsolved.

Graham Annable returns with his sketch-art animation and folk-lore hidden people. The animation and story board are a good bit of the selling point for the Puzzle Agent series, with Graham’s ability to pack emotion into a fairly low-detail form of art. The art’s fun, unpretentious, and surprisingly engaging.

Audio in the game sets the mood nicely, complementing the gameplay and settings without being overbearing. Voice acting is on par with anything I’ve watched. The best complement I can pay any game not about music is that I don’t remember the soundtrack, only recalling that it was good.

And that’s the case here.

Too many titles wedge in music that undercuts the gameplay rather than underscoring it because someone “did music” or they’re trying to get an extra sales angle in.

Puzzles in Puzzle Agent 2 are slightly easier than in the first game. Some of the aspects that could make solving puzzles irritating have been altered. I really didn’t find them hard, more along the lines of a brain-teaser or Saturday newspaper puzzle than MENSA material.

There are also abundant hints available if riddles are a bit too challenging. Or if you don’t have knowledge of a particular subject.

Coming in at about 4 hours of playtime, Puzzle Agent 2 is a bit longer than an episode but shorter than a traditional long-format game. Which is about right for a ~10$ pricetag.

I liked the game. It was fun all the way through. With the sketch animation style, puzzles, and clean content Puzzle Agent 2 delivers.

Footnote: you should play Puzzle Agent first, since Puzzle Agent 2 is somewhat of another episode. It’s not going to hurt to start on the second chapter, but why would you want to?

Jessica Abel and Gabe Soria’s “Life Sucks”

Cover of Jessica Abel and Gabe Soria's Life Sucks
Cover of Jessica Abel and Gabe Soria's Life Sucks
What if vampire’s were real? Not just some kind of blood sucking fiends of the night, but really real, needing to get a day job to eek by in an apartment. Or trying to impress the cutie that stops by the convenience mart?

That’s the premise of Jessica Abel and Gabe Soria’s Life Sucks, drawn by the talented Warren Pleece (notably contributed to ongoing series Hellblazer and The Invisibles). Vampire’s are here, they drink blood, avoid the day, and are taking our low pay night jobs.. mostly because of their resilience. We’re also treated to a light romp of a romance along the way.

Art in the series is reminiscent of Richard Moore in spots, although Pleece tends more toward lines than Moore’s more rounded look. It might be the emotive expressions that bring Boneyard to mind. In any case it’s smooth and lends a nice fluidity to the story, well matched to it’s tone and tenor.

Good stuff, give it a look!

R.A. Salvatore’s “The Ancient”

Book Cover - RA Salvator's The Ancient
Book Cover - RA Salvator's The Ancient
Having liked R.A. Salvatore’s last entry in this almost-series, namely The Highwayman, I thought I would pick up it’s chronological follow up, The Ancient.

Most of the story takes place in the northern reaches with the Church of Blessed Abelle, an institution founded on good intentions that it frequently only pays lip-service and the “Old God” worshiping cult of the Samhaists again playing a prominent role.

Coming on the heels of the events chronicled in Highwayman Bransen has set out to find out more about his mystic training and the book left for him by his father. Unsure on weather the training offered by the mystics responsible for his martial arts prowess and ability to harness power from Abellican stones he begins by diverting from his intended path, where our story begins to pick up.

While it’s not as gripping as the previous novel, Ancient does have some merits that make it worth a read. The characters and their surroundings are interesting and well thought out. The intrigue and interactions between church factions both within and without the politically gaining Abellican order remain a strong focal point for the story and the orders rise creates a interesting center-point for this chapter of Corona’s history.

If you like Salvatore’s other work or you’re looking for a solid swashbuckling read give The Ancient a look. Anyone unfamiliar with his work might want to check out The Highwayman first, as it gives this story a bit of context and otherwise lacking understanding of Bransen’s character.

Drawn by Pain – Internet Show

Showing us exactly what you can do with no budget and a good animator is Drawn by Pain. It’s a live action with drawn overlays series that arrived in my in-box courtesy of the fine folks at zero punctuation (they ran a trailer advert for it) and it’s turned out to be a good watch.

Drawn by Pain follows it’s sometimes heroine Emily as she confronts her inner demons while terrorizing NYC lowlifes (or possibly Connecticut’s south coast, there’s a 106.9 WCCC sticker in there). She appears to be slowly driven mad by her youth, hounded by forms given life through her odd artistic powers.

What really lies inside Emily’s abilities to injure and kill to defend herself with drawings and how she’ll tackle the problems they cause is the focus of the series.

Artistically the shorts are tight Drawing is sketchbook style and pops out of the screen from the city and ‘burb backdrop. Camera work is competent shot with (if I had to guess) a couple of Canons GLs or similar cameras and some good recording gear. Acting improves as the series gets its chops broken in.

If you want either an action/drama that’s fun to watch or a study in making a good mixed media film on a shoe-string budget this one’s for you. (Drawn by Pain drawnbypain.com)