Sunday, May 29, 2016

The Best Place on Earth is Everywhere . . . .

This weekend, I gave into a guilty pleasure and devoured a book, something I don't do often due to my many obligations and projects. However, the book devouring was well worth it as I finally read The Best Place on Earth by Ayelet Tsabari. I first met her at the Jewish Book Council's Sami Rohr Prize Speaker Series at the Memphis Jewish Community Center several months ago. Although I initially felt a little out of place, I soon got over that feeling and enjoyed the night while learning quite a bit about the Jewish faith and culture. I dug into her book during this three day weekend and the short version of this review is - everyone needs to purchase this book. Seriously.

The Best Place on Earth is eleven short stories involving Mizrahi Jews, yet each story tells of a different aspect of not only Israel but also of the world. From Canada to India, from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, the stories touch upon family and friendship, and first love and heartbreak. More importantly, the stories reflect upon identity within a culture and religion that is very much part of a pillar of history of this planet. Tsabari weaves these stories with a voice that smells of lemon trees and spices that is strong and of a storyteller. She tells these stories to welcome us into her world with hope that we will want to know more.

I won't go into each story, yet I will talk about my favourite story in the collection: The Poets in the Kitchen Window. Uri lives in quiet Ramat Gan, a suburb of Tel Aviv, amid the sounds of sirens and bombs. His sister, free spirited Yasmin, has returned from spending time in India, providing somewhat relief for Uri against their broken father and mentally unavailable mother. Tsabari give us a view into the bond between shy poet brother and Bohemian older sister as they face the knowledge that every day could be their last. However, the siblings act upon such knowledge in different ways: while Uri writes poems in secret, Yasmin continues to live in the same vein of carelessness as before. Through Tsabari's words, we can smell the cigarette smoke, feel the fear with Uri as he hears sirens while purchasing lunch, and nod with approval as to the sibling bond that is much stronger than the bombs that fall. This story is Tsabari's finest in my not so humble opinion.

I truly do hope that Tsabari will continue to write more books; hers is a voice that deserves more than one book as representation.

It was great meeting you, Ayelet. Thank you for your words.


Friday, May 27, 2016

The Philosophy of Getting Lost

I love adventure. That feeling of getting in Malachi, my car, and setting off to locate a new place of wonder is beyond compare. When I was in college in Washington DC, I used to ride the Metro all around and do what I lovingly call "getting lost". To me, that was how I learned a city - get lost and find my way back to my starting point. Whenever I did that, I would always locate some new spot to visit again as well as a site for new adventures. Author, historian, and activist Rebecca Solnit expresses the same kind of desire in her book, A Field Guide for Getting Lost. The book is comprised of several narratives regarding her life and the ways in which we as humans can seek the Unknown by getting lost. Not so much lost like, "I have no frakkin' clue where I am!", but rather of becoming lost within ourselves and the world around us, allowing ourselves to be vulnerable in a good way. The Unknown is within us all, yet we spend too much time worrying about our phones, our latest fashion trends, or what someone said on Facebook. Yes, I worry about those things as well sometimes, yet like Solnit, I like to pull away from that which is known to me and search for the Unknown and perhaps a breath of fresh air away from the noise.

(Yves Klein - Leap Into the Void - taken from  Smithsonian Magazine)

Solnit speaks to us in the form of narratives, as I stated before: from the colour blue in the distance and its source, to tracing family through questionable stories and muddied history, to people and their connections with each other like arrowheads, to artist Yves Klein and his search into the Void, to Rosicrucians and their beliefs, to what makes a home a home. Each narrative is an aspect of her life and her accounts and each lends to the questions, "What exactly is the Unknown?" and "How do we go about looking for it if we don't know what it is?" What form does it take, if any? Are we even supposed to go searching for it? Is it better to just remain in the routine of it, or perhaps we truly are meant for bigger and greater things? Solnit thinks so, for if not then why? As I saw on Facebook once - "I'm not here to just pay bills and then die." Not at all. Solnit tells us that yes, the Unknown is there, ready to be embraced by us and to take it fully on. The blue of distance is always out of reach, and yet it shows us that nothing is impossible. The blue reminds us to never stop wondering, never stop dreaming, for as long as the blue is there, there is always a chance for something more.

This is a book that needs to be read once a year as a reminder when things turn murky. We need to be reminded to truly stop and stare at what is around us. Perhaps not all who wander are lost, yet I think they're having more fun. Thank you, Ms. Solnit, for reminding me to get lost.


Monday, May 23, 2016


Time is inevitable. 

Of course, our minds are no longer working in accordance to the rest of the body. We think, therefore, we can not possibly imagine what degree of damage has been dealt to our flesh sins, corrupted and rusted. Yet we still move forward in some futile attempt to collect what was once lost, mittens buried deep in snow left by a child who was too cold to care to handle the responsibilities. Violets, somehow, are saved from cruel hearts that forget the truth that they are human. Flowers, rare and delicate, made into a crown to bless the queen of seasons while she walks the trails, her feet made of morning dew and baby’s breath. Time, spent in frugal measures, can be seen as primal and short lived. Understand, then, that this must be a religious experience, one to surpass the once popular notion that sin would forever control us. And yet, and yet, eyes still seek out something greater. We encompass the right, split down middle, to evolve in our fashion and become more than human, more than machine. Puritanical to replace the lustful, surprising even our own selves to die withered on a cross created by steel and rusted nails. This is the gift we have all agreed to accept with such frowns on our faces. No, it is no longer here: our words, sins, deeds, creatures created strictly from the mind, of desires reached and faintly grasped. Do we have a prophet, now, living among us, ready to speak for us all? Is she in great pain that only she created for her words will not make any sense if otherwise? We have been led to believe that she must suffer before we will take her words as truth. She used to be our queen of seasons until we, her followers, killed everything leaving the land barren and sick. Her crown was replaced with screams, her dress tattered greys and blacks and still we want more, raping her mind to search for sweet and bloody secrets she holds from us. Religion is our saviour and she is its mother.

(photo by Carlton Johnson)

Sunday, May 22, 2016

fortune cookie - poem

This is not the end.
These are not the “interesting times”
foretold in my fortune cookie I refused
to eat.
I feel khaki: safe, too much
comfort with no way of escaping
to a possible unknown.
I never meant to say “I am”
but rather “I was” so that I do not forget
where I came from,
although the colour of my skin
keeps me alive.
Reminder of my place
to not stand aside and allow others their turn.
My interesting times have not occurred
and the scenery is still here and static.
Escape, perchance to finally dream

of slowly wasting away.

(photo by Carlton Johnson, copyright 2016)

Thursday, May 19, 2016

One Who Writes is a Dreamer

"There's no need to speak, return to sleep. 
But when you rise, try to remember me. 
And to keep awake."
(from the poem Encounter by Yahia Lababidi)

(photo taken from the website Famous Poets and Poems)

The world of technology is simply fantastic - thanks to Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and other forms of social media, a woman in Memphis, Tennessee can correspond with people in New Orleans, Boston, Europe, South America, and other far corners of the globe without leaving her apartment or even car. Since diving into the world of social media years ago, I have met many wonderful, insightful, creative, and just good people - while I have met some in person, others remain only a face or words in the aether. However, it is no less real or meaningful if a friendship is developed through those means. So was the case when I "met" Egyptian-American poet Yahia Lababidi through a mutual friend on Facebook. Lababidi is one of the most prolific poets I've ever read, alive or dead. 

I do love poetry; I think it has a place in today's world and needs to still be loved and enjoyed by all. Lababidi's words speak across race and genders, ages and religion. His words come in the form of a mystic dreamer, one who has seen and experienced much and can only translate his sights into words that flow from his mouth like perfumed breezes. When he contacted me to read and review his newest book, Balancing Acts: New and Selected Poems 1993-2015, I was flattered. When I read the book this morning, I printed off poems that especially spoke to me and will keep them in a special place.

Lababidi is a storyteller wrapped carefully in the package of a poet - his words and images will amaze and make you think, or give you pause to wonder just what and why everything is the way it is. When you read his poetry, you can actually hear his voice (although I've never heard his voice!) and it is calming. He chooses the words carefully so as not to waste neither his time nor yours and the result is worth it.

One of my favourite poems in his book is Discarded People - simple, haunting, and truly shows off his imagination:

Discarded people like plastic bottles
litter streets sidewalks and benches
out to air their cramped crumpled spirits
from roaming in long forgotten drawers
 - staring intently at Nowhere, in particular.

Another one of my favourites is The Museum-going Cannibal; here, he shows off his whimsical and darker side while retaining the flavour of his voice and refusing to go to extremes. The last four lines wrap up the mini story quite nicely in the form of lingering beauty that quickly turns evil when you blink:

What a mixed bag of bones - when not frenzied
and teetering at the abyss of some bestial appetite,
turning around and donating blood to unknowns:
as charitable and vulnerable as a winged thing.

When I told him that I thoroughly enjoyed his book and to look for my review, he sent me several nature photographs from his friends - "One can never have enough beauty," he said. I will admit that it touched my heart to receive such beautiful photos and words from him. It also made me realize that in this world, there is still hope. People still dream. 

Thank you, Yahia, for your words and dreams. I look forward to "listening" to you again very soon.

Truly, the soul of a poet. 

Friday, May 13, 2016

Chado Dreaming - Tea. Earl Grey. Hot.

As much as I love tea, I turn into a fangirl when it comes to Earl Grey. Especially Bigelow Earl Grey.  Every time I prepare a bag for my mug, I always sniff the bag. The bergamot oil mixed with the black tea sends me into a cloud of pure bliss as it increases my anticipation for the tea. So, it just seemed appropriate that my next "tea meditation" would use that blend. . . .

(photograph by Kimberly B. Richardson - copyright 2016)

A summer in the county.

Small house.

Wildflowers everywhere.

Feelings of peace and solitude.

I receive a letter in the mail from a dear friend - he wants to visit me.

Freshly grilled asparagus for dinner.

Time has slowed down here.

A cool breeze flows through my hair as I sit outside reading my friend's letter.

I smile and later prepare for his arrival.

I have to admit that I have enjoyed these moments of "chado dreaming" so far - they have been great moments to drift away from the problems of the day, drink my tea, and simply dream.

Until next time. 

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Chado Dreaming - Chocolate Cinnamon Pu-Erh

If someone were to offer you a cup of fermented tea, you'd probably say no. However, if they offered a cup of Pu-Erh tea, you'd probably say yes. Pu-Erh is a fermented tea produced in the Yunnan province of China and it is sometimes sold in the form of "bricks" or "cakes". Some people use this form of tea as a substitute for coffee - good taste with a nice amount of caffeine. The flavour is bold yet not harsh and it is good for any time of the day, not just in the morning.

I recently purchased Rishi Tea's Chocolate Cinnamon Pu-Erh tea and found it to be quite delightful. Since giving up coffee over a month ago, tea has been my replacement for my "morning cup". Having a cup of this particular Pu-Erh has been satisfying without me feeling buzzed. I decided to have my next tea mediation using this blend and what I "discovered" was quite interesting -

Climbing a mountain under a sunny sky.
I'm dirty and tired yet I keep climbing.
I hear different languages spoken all around me and I understand them all.
I reach the top, a plateau, to find a bazaar. 
Merchants selling spices, indigo coloured cloth, chocolate. Old books.
A sense of coming home.
I hear a woman singing in an archaic language.
I can smell freshly turned earth.
Ancient lore and gods that have returned.
I feel old.

(New Mexico, photograph by Kimberly Richardson, copyright 2015)

If you are curious to try Pu-Erh tea, I highly recommend trying the Chocolate Cinnamon from Rishi, or the Chocolate Pu-Erh from Numi Tea .

Viridian Tea Company does not have a Pu-Erh . . . yet.

You'll never look at tea the same way again.


Thursday, May 5, 2016

Chado Dreaming - Sencha

For quite some time, I have had a fascination with the East - the history of China and Japan, the samurai and their Bushido, the Forbidden City, the "belief" of Taoism, and so much more. A while ago, I began incorporating meditation into my daily routine and I'm glad I did. However, today I stumbled upon a form of meditation that I hope to do more of in the near future. I'm going to share it with you tonight.

I call it: chado dreaming.

Chado is literally The Way of Tea, a philosophy and way of life that makes tea much more than just leaves in a cup of hot water. The process of chado dreaming is thus: make a cup of tea then, when you are about to take a sip, deeply inhale the fragrance of the tea, close your eyes, and allow yourself to be "overpowered" by the tea. Today, I did this by accident with a cup of sencha green tea. When I slowly inhaled the fragrance of the sencha, I allowed myself to enjoy the tea with more than just my taste buds. I want to share with you my thoughts during the "dreaming":

I "find" myself in the middle of a verdant valley after a rainfall. 
The clean and fresh smell is quite intoxicating and it feels as though it is a new beginning. 
Wiping the slate clean. 
To forgive past wrongs. 
Calming wave. 
A gentle breeze comes through the valley. 
Although I am alone, I feel here and now. 

I think I'll be doing more of this with other blends. If you try out this form of "meditation", I'd love to hear what you "dreamt" of during that time.

Happy Cups!

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Joe Goldberg - A New Face of Terror

When I first saw the movie Misery, I was slightly scared of Annie Wilkes; I vowed to run whenever someone said they were my number one fan. Then, I read the book . . . and was completely terrified of her. In my life as a bibliophile, there have been several books or characters that have made going to bed a horrible experience for me. In being a dark fantasy author, I have been told repeatedly that my character Hilliard Ravensdale was quite evil. I took that to be a compliment. However, all that changed when I was introduced to Joe Goldberg. In Caroline Kepnes' first book, YOU, we see through the eyes of Joe, a mild mannered and reasonably attractive man who works in a bookstore in New York. However, his world is turned upside down when he meets the sexy Guinevere Beck. Suddenly, all hell breaks loose as the facade falls and we see Joe for what he truly is. When I read YOU, I didn't just read it - I devoured it. I wrote a review of YOU last year; go check it out! I will freely admit that I'm sucker for characters who are messed up and Joe fit the bill quite nicely. Thankfully, Joe makes a return in the book Hidden Bodies and this time, Joe kicks it up a notch.

The story is thus: after the events in YOU, Joe meets a young woman named Amy who comes into his life like a whirlwind. He knows she's broken and loves her for it, and she sees him as a kindred spirit. However, Amy breaks his heart and trust, thereby sending Joe into a downward spiral (again) fueled with revenge, murder, and above all, hate. He leaves New York behind and follows Amy across the country until they both land in the City of Angels. Joe begins to plot his revenge, yet LA gives him more than he bargained and could ever hope for. Do the dead stay dead, or do they follow us to our graves? Joe wants the dead to remain dead, yet under the bright lights of LA are eyes that have no mercy.

Kepnes' writing grips your heart and plunges it into cold water. Over and over and over again. Joe Goldberg is a terrifying character because, gosh darn it, he looks just like everyone else. However, if one stares into his eyes for a second longer than necessary, the madness becomes quite apparent. Kepnes' writing is so tense that you feel Joe taking you by the hand and showing you the locations of his murders, all the while telling you that you are safe with him. Don't believe it. I purchased my copy of Hidden Bodies at Square Books in Oxford, Mississippi; at midnight, I finished the book and took a deep breath, followed by a lot of curse words. (I can't believe he f**&ing believe he did that! and so on)

Although Joe is quite dangerous, I also felt sorry for him. All he wanted was love and instead, his heart got trampled on repeatedly. At one point, I found myself agreeing with him in his actions. Even the damned are human. When I closed the book, I wondered if Kepnes would write a third book as a way of "wrapping up" everything. Does Joe deserve that? I think so.

If you enjoy thrillers that don't let go AT ALL, pickup a copy of YOU, devour it in a day, then purchase Hidden Bodies immediately. When you do, tell Joe I said hello and that I blocked him on Facebook.


Tuesday, May 3, 2016

One Story, Two Endings

This morning, I cranked out a short story that takes place in a universe I created several years ago. The words flowed out of me like water and soon, I had written several pages with an ending. However, as I thumbed through the story, I had a change of heart: Should the ending stay as I had written it, or should I change it? Being me, I then posed the question on Facebook and received a plethora of responses. In the end, both sides were right and because of that, I decided to write the story as well as BOTH endings.

Ready? Here we go!

He had broken her heart. Emma sat in her cubicle and stared at the double monitors, each blinking off spreadsheets and emails gone unanswered. She made several clicks using her mouse then turned to face the window. It was more than him breaking her heart, she thought as she sighed and looked at a woman jog down the street. He left me. He disappeared. She opened an email that talked of nothing important then stared out of the window again. The last time she saw Lucian, he professed his love for her.
"Yet," he said as he pulled away from her embrace as they sat on his couch, "I saw more. I want more."
"You have more."
"No. Not yet. That's why I'm leaving. I found it." She couldn't understand it; did she actually know him at all? Why, if he so claimed to love her, did he leave her? Over that?
Emma typed a response to one of her co-workers who was starting to be a pain, only to stop once more and lower her eyes. She wanted to cry but she wouldn't give him or the situation the satisfaction.

He, as he told her so many times, was a Believer of the Olde Ways. That's what he called it - the Olde Ways. When she jokingly asked if he was Wiccan, he merely patted her leg and sadly smiled. The Olde Ways, he claimed, was older than Time itself. Older than humans. Older than limiting thoughts. And he found the source, or so he claimed that night.
"You can always come with me," he said after kissing her. "You too can feel what I feel."
"Stories and faery tales? I have a job to go to and rent to pay. I don't have time for . . . that. Besides," she continued as she got up to clear the dishes from the table, "aren't you a little too old for such things?" Lucian hung his head low as she cleaned up then later grabbed his house keys and walked out without a backward glance and no further argument. She later returned to his house that night to talk some sense into him and found it shrouded in darkness. She went inside and noticed that he had taken nothing with him. No clothes, no food. Nothing. She walked into the living room and saw a large envelope with a sticky note attached to it. She turned on the lamp and read the note. It simply said - Take it. All of it. I love you. Lucian. She peered inside the envelope and gasped; it was his entire life savings, $100,000 total. She quickly placed it in her bag and left the house while a cold sweat covered her body. She didn't sleep that night.

"Wasting his life over nothing," she murmured to herself as she edited a spreadsheet then sent it to the annoying co-worker via email. Having completed at least one job in a half-assed way, Emma got up to stretch her legs then quickly left the office and walked down the brightly lit hall and slipped inside the women's bathroom. She chose the furthest stall on the left and went inside. She closed her eyes and again fought back tears, only to slowly pull out a folded piece of paper from her pants pocket. She unfolded it and stared at it for the third time today - it was a map of sorts with strange characters on either side, while Lucian's writing was on the bottom. He had left that for her with the money.
"Should you change your mind," he wrote, "follow the map. I'll be waiting for you. I love you." One long road, followed by a thick forest that she'd never heard of. Finally, a small town and then an immense wall shrouded in smoke. Emma sighed and finished up, placing the folded paper in her pants pocket and left the stall.

OKAY - here is the first ending - THEY REUNITE!

Emma checked her backpack straps for the fifth time in an hour. She was nervous, hell, beyond nervous. Scared. Fearful. Did she do the right thing? She checked the map again then looked up at her current surroundings; while the road proved to be boring and tedious, the clear path through the forest was quite soothing. She met no other humans on her travel and while it would have been nice to have said hello to someone, she enjoyed the peace much more. When she reached the clearing, she checked her map then looked up again. He was right. It was a small town dressed in the colours of Autumn. She placed the map in her pocket then walked on. A large sign that said WELCOME TO MABON greeted her with colours of warm red, orange, and yellow. Emma took a deep breath and smiled as the scent of burning leaves welcomed her. She walked in a faster pace. What if he wasn't here, she wondered, only to push down that thought. She came this far. . . . Soon, the sounds of the town greeted her, and she stared in amazement as what was thought to be imaginary was quite real. A woman with green scales down her arms sat in a pool and flicked her enormous fish tail. A winged being no bigger than an apple flew by her head and rainbows streaked behind it. The trees moved with no wind. Laughter all around her. Emma stopped in front of a store then sat down on a bench and took it all in. Too much, she thought.
"And why is it too much?" said a voice next to her. She turned with no surprise to find Lucian seated next to her. It was Lucian . . .and yet it was not. He cupped her face with a golden coloured hand then pulled her forward for a kiss. When their lips met, she tasted apples.
"I'm here," she said with a sad smile when they pulled away. "Now what?"
"Now, you dream."

And, she did.

OKAY - here is the second ending - THEY DO NOT REUNITE!

A strong rain came during the beginning of the funeral; no one was prepared for it. Soon, those who wanted to say good-bye were drenched, yet they remained. All three of them. The priest spoke his words with such care and respect, yet even he wanted to return to his warm home and enjoy a cup of tea. He said his words, blessed the grave, then everyone paid their respects and left. The single mound of dirt with the coffin underneath was now the latest in the small crumbling cemetery in the city. When the last car drove away, a lone figure suddenly appeared from behind a statue of a weeping angel. While the rain fell from the sky with a vengeance, he remained quite dry in his long brown coat and wide hat. He slowly walked up to the mound and crouched down. He placed a golden coloured hand on the dirt and closed his eyes.
"I waited for you," he suddenly said, his voice now deeper and richer. "I waited. You didn't come. Were you that afraid?" He lifted his face to the grey sky and, with a whisper, caused the rain to stop and the clouds to part, revealing a patch of blue sky and the sun. "That's better," he said to himself then returned his focus on the grave. "Such wonders! Fruit too sweet to enjoy, music that would melt even the hardest of hearts, and places of unheard beauty. There's also sadness, much darkness. Evil in the fringes, yet even their beauty is wondrous to behold." He sat on the ground yet kept his hand on the mound. "I knew you were coming. I could feel it. Why didn't you? I have a home in a small town on the other side. I knew you would have loved it." He quickly stood up and brushed off his coat. "I even returned to try and take you with me, yet I changed my mind when I saw you. The shell. Loneliness and a refusal to change your life and take that leap. You died for nothing. I wish I could bring you back, but even I don't have that kind of power." He took off his hat, allowing his long brown hair to gently fall around his shoulders, then ran a slender hand through his thick locks. He stared at the mound for a full minute in silence, then placed his hat on his head. "Goodbye," he said as he turned and walked towards the weeping angel. He touched it and soon disappeared.

The mound stood in silence, easing Emma to into her final rest.

Thanks to everyone who participated in my post earlier today. I hope you enjoy my story.

For the record, this is based in the Mabon universe.

Yes, I really will write and finish Equinox very soon, but a cyberpunk goddess of knowledge has currently claimed my attention . . . .

Monday, May 2, 2016

The Eerie, The Profane, The Darkness

9:33 on a Monday night.

Listening to The Kilimanjaro Darkjazz Ensemble and enjoying the sinister grooves as it provides a perfect backdrop for this particular book review. When I was last in My Second Home, I finally ventured to Blue Cypress Books in the Oak Street area to enjoy a lovely walk through. Ten minutes later, I discovered a simple book that had a haunting cover; there were no notes on the book that explained the plot - only a simple photo of a woman with a camera to her face. The book was Surreptitiously Yours by Kristin Fouquet and within seconds, I walked out with copy in hand towards the Rue de la Course coffee shop. Several hours later, I finished the book and wondered, quite honestly, what in the hell I had read. Was it a love story, or perhaps a murder mystery? Maybe even a homage to David Lynch (yes, I do love his films, but I can only watch them during the day - long story). Whatever it was I had read, I do remember this: it stayed with me for a very, very long time. I love writers like that. I love books like that. And yes, Fouquet had grabbed my attention and wouldn't let go. Honestly, I didn't want to let go of the book. I sent Fouquet a message after learning that we were both members of the New Orleans Photo Alliance and soon, we struck up a convo.

Surreptitiously Yours is a story that should be made into a grainy black and white film with subtitles even though everyone speaks English. Yet, the book holds so much imagery and a feeling of the surreal that I wouldn't want anything to spoil it. I just contradicted myself - I tend to do that when certain things affect me like this book did. The story is thus: Claudette, a film student at a university in New Orleans, has an odd habit of recording people with a camera that is taped inside of her bag. She wants to show the raw and the real to her professor, Sheldon Talbert, yet seems to be unsure as to what she wants to do with any of it. She meets a young man named Tristan Maxwell who immediately wants to put her in one of his films as a femme fatale, yet Claudette refuses. Suddenly, Claudette finds herself the victim of a strange game that exposes herself to anyone willing to watch. In Surreptitiously Yours, all of the characters have secrets and yet they show them off proudly like badges of Life. Just ask Valentina and Lenore, the women who live above Claudette and her grandmother, but don't expect them to be nice about it.

I like it when books will keep me guessing to the very end and this one surely did. Framed with carefully crafted words and thoughts, plus characters framed with caliginous souls and desires (yes, I just looked up the word caliginous because it rolls of the tongue well and it's better than just DARK)
Surreptitiously Yours is a book that I highly recommend. Read it in a candle lit room with a glass of wine or a cup of tea and simply experience this story. You won't be disappointed.

Kristin - next time I'm in town, we've got to meet up at Rue de la Course. Deal?


Sunday, May 1, 2016

The Lower Quarter of New Orleans

Although I've never met author Elise Blackwell in person, I am happy to call her friend. I'm also happy to call her one of the finest voices in American Literature as well. Her voice is clearly her own and when you read her words, you become a part of her world and the emotions carried out by her characters. I was introduced to her writing by reading the book Hunger; when I finished it, I purchased many copies to give to my friends. I remember telling everyone, "Don't question, just read it." I waited for a long time before reading her newest book, The Lower Quarter, and suffice to say that it was worth the wait. With cover photo by Louis Maistros, The Lower Quarter was simply an exquisite return journey to a city I know and love so well. I even read the book while in New Orleans - like that's a shocker.

The story is thus: New Orleans after Katrina. People have returned home to salvage what they can and to move forward with their lives with what little (or more) they have. Within the city are four people - Johanna, Eli, Marion, and Clay - whose lives were not only affected by the storm, but also by the discovery of a body in a hotel room. Eli is a former art thief who has been hired to locate a stolen painting in New Orleans. He meets the enigmatic Johanna, an art restorer, who may or may have known the deceased. The two ultimately become lovers, yet her ex-husband Clay, a soft spoken man with strange appetites and harsh inner walls, remains to be an enigmatic influence in her life. However, Clay meets and becomes somewhat lovers with Marion, a free spirited and broken artist, and the walls begin to crumble, revealing secrets thought buried long ago.

Even if you've never visited My Second Home, The Lower Quarter will take you by the hand, offer you a muffaletta, and tell you welcome. No one is a stranger for long in New Orleans and may the gods have mercy if you find yourself falling under the city's spell. The Lower Quarter shows yet another side of New Orleans through the people who live and visit there - those who love and are saddened by her. Blackwell writes with a flair and style that makes her, as I stated earlier, a fine voice of American Literature. The Lower Quarter is a book to visit again and again because Blackwell's imagination is so inviting and fluid.

Thanks again, Elise. I hope that one day, we'll meet up in My Second Home and have lunch.