Sunday, October 30, 2016

Murder Never Smelled Lovelier






Holy shit.

That was my initial reaction after reading Perfume: The Story of a Murderer by Patrick Suskind in over three hours today. Never had I been hit so hard by a book that also terrified me (except Syrenthia Falls by my dear friend and creepy brother Alexander Brown - love you!). There are only a handful of books that have terrified me. This is now a part of that list. I purchased Perfume yesterday and began reading it today. I think I got up twice to get snacks and prepare a cup of tea. I missed watching a film at the Brooks Museum of Art and didn't return a phone call until I had completed the book and was on my way to have dinner with the parental units. This is a book worth reading and adding to your collection.

The story is thus: 18th century France. A woman gives birth to a baby that she doesn't want, the fifth time that she's been pregnant. All of the other babies were stillborn except for this one. He is unlike any baby anyone has ever seen before. While the child doesn't look out of the ordinary, the baby is quite remarkable - he smells things. After being passed from wet nurse to orphanage, the young boy, Jean-Baptiste Grenouille, becomes an apprentice to a tanner. Yet, his sense of smell is still greater than the average human and soon, he learns how to use it to his advantage. By sheer chance, he arrives one night at the establishment of Monsieur Baldini, a maker of perfumes and soon, his descent into the darkness begins. For although he uses his canny sense of smell to create such heavenly delights for the wealthy Madames and Monsieurs of France and the rest of the world, he also uses it in a sinister way. From flowers and spices to emotions and feelings, anything can be made into perfume.

Yet, Grenouille doesn't stop there. Because of his own lack of body scent, he seeks to create scents to bend people to his will - a scent to drive people towards him in adoration; a scent, made with cat poop, rancid cheese, and other sordid things to make people take notice of him as a human; and even a scent to make people "forget" they even saw him. Finally, towards the pinnacle of his career as a mixer of scents, he decides to create scents "made" from young and innocent women - with a dash of murder, of course!

As I stated, I read Perfume in three hours. I felt compelled to read every action of Grenouille - the book does not have that much dialogue, of which actually works in the book's favour. You encounter every sensation that Grenouille encounters, whether for good or evil, creating such a sensual and intimate experience that for a moment, you want to know if anyone could create such perfumes. Even the death of Grenouille is quite glorious in a Grand Guignol-esque fashion. It is quite a sensory overload.

Halfway through the book, I immediately looked up Suskind and found that he is a recluse in Munich. He doesn't do interviews and doesn't like his photo taken. I also learned that he's written other books - I'll probably order them all once I complete this review. Yes, he is just that good of an author.

If, however, he happens to discover this review: Danke, Herr Suskind. Danke.

EX LIBRIS!

Saturday, October 29, 2016

An Obsession with an Apex Predator






My love of great white sharks started when I watched a certain film about a certain island town being terrorized by a great white shark . . . something about "needing a bigger boat" and that "back home, we got ourselves a taxidermy man - he gonna have a heart attack when he see what I BRUNG 'im!". I am a lover of marine animals: great white shark, octopus and squid, whales (go whale watching very soon - it's quite the adrenaline rush), and manta rays/stingrays. Although the planet Earth is 70% covered in water, a great portion of it has not been explored. Scientists are constantly discovering marine animals that were either thought to be mere legend, or something new and completely different (not Monty Python).

(photo from National Geographic)

So it was that, while talking with someone dear to me (I call him Viking - long story), I told him about a recent CNN video regarding a caged diver and a great white shark. He claimed he'd already seen it. I was entranced by what took place in the video. If you want to see it, click HERE.


Seeing that video reignited my passion for great whites and soon, I was off to the library to check out the book The Devil's Teeth by Susan Casey. Casey explains how, while being ill, she watched a documentary regarding the Farallones, thirty miles west of San Francisco, and the great whites that repeatedly traveled there. Soon, she began her obsession with the apex predator and the beginning of her travels to the islands. Known as the Devil's Teeth, they are stretches of rock that are hard to travel to, a source of terrible weather that will wreak havoc on any boat, and did I mention the sharks? In her book, Casey talks of her times with biologists and fellow lovers of sharks Peter Pyle and Scott Anderson and their discoveries regarding the affectionately named sharks (the girls were of the Sisterhood and the boys were of the Rat Pack). While studying them, Casey and the biologists stayed in a 120 year old house, complete with strange phenomenon and a ghostly woman, cannibalistic gulls (that section made me cringe), seals that often met their doom in a rush of blood, and "anus" flies. Don't ask - just look them up. They're real.

(Farallones - photo by Jan Roletto)

One part that I would like to bring up is how Casey and her fellow shark lovers felt more at home in the "wilds" of the islands, yet felt constricted by modern society. I found myself thinking back to all my adventures and how I felt more alive then than being in a corporate office, or in line at a fast food place. When I traveled to the White Sands National Monument in New Mexico, that was the first time I'd ever been in a desert. It was exhilarating and terrifying at the same time - one wrong step, one moment of looking at my camera more than my current location, and I would have been wandering the desert with no water. Out in the desert or in a boat staring into the face (and mouth) of a great white shark, one can't help but feel a bit insignificant. And yet, at the same time, we also can't help but feel honoured to be able to appreciate such beauty, even if it comes in the form of a seal being killed by an apex predator.

Sharks are strange creatures, yet terribly fascinating. Casey and the biologists experience a world so foreign yet so close to modern civilization, and her experiences will make you want to discover this world for yourself. Hell, within minutes of beginning the book, I was already looking up the Farallones and considering joining their Society. Casey's writing is a mixture of journalistic integrity and "holy shit, did you SEE that?" She has no qualms writing about the plumbing problems on the yacht Just Imagine that was later lost and was discovered floating far away, nor about the mysterious blood found in the boat the next day after a night of high winds. Or getting covered in bird droppings. Or not bathing for weeks and being proud of the grime under her fingernails. Casey writes her experiences and "gives" them to you. You can't help but be right next to her, wondering if perhaps Stumpy will ever show.

The Devil's Teeth has reinforced my love for sharks by 158% - if I ever had a chance to see one in their natural habitat, I would truly do it. After reading this book, you WILL need a bigger boat. .  . .

EX LIBRIS!



Sunday, October 23, 2016

The Wild Hunt Calls . . .





So.

I'm deep in Song of Susannah, the sixth book in the Dark Tower series by Stephen King. Although I've read the series before, I'm seeing Mid World through different and older eyes. However, while Susannah/Mia are lost in New York, Jake and Father Callahan are in New York searching for her, and Roland (say thankya) and Eddie are in Maine, I figured I would take a small detour and meet up with them later. However, I did not realize that the detour would make such an impact on me.

The Wild Hunt by author Jane Yolen was the result of me looking through the Children's section of the Library Book Sale yesterday. I figured I would take a chance for 75 cents.

Devoured the book in 30 minutes.

The Wild Hunt is about two boys, Jerold and Gerund, who live in different houses in a forest of some sorts under a blanket of a harsh Winter. Jerold has no idea how or why he is in the house, only that he has all the books he wants and never goes hungry. His only companion is a talking white cat.

The Wild Hunt is about two boys, Jerold and Gerund, who live in different houses in a forest of some sorts under a blanket of a harsh Winter. Gerund is loud in his house and knows that the Wild Hunt is fast approaching. Gerund has no idea why he is called Gerund, only that he has no worries. His companions are a talking dog named Mully and a talking white cat.

The Wild Hunt is about an eternal battle between the Hunter of Dark and the Queen of Light and the "warriors" of their choosing in a forest of some sorts under a blanket of a harsh Winter.

The Wild Hunt is one of those children's books that is for children who have active imaginations and adults who believe in the Otherworld, as they visit a forest of some sorts under a blanket of a harsh Winter.

The Wild Hunt is about a place that is not of Human yet not of Faerie in which everything is real and anything can kill you. A river made of the blood of heroes flows in the basement of the house, and a talking dog eats "fruit" made of maggots - of nightmares and dashed hopes in a forest of some sorts under a blanket of a harsh Winter.

I've never read Yolen before until today - she's now on my list of I Must Read Everything The Author Has Written.

I deliberately wrote out my review in the style of the book, in case if you were wondering.

Just read the book, say thankya.

EX LIBRIS!







Saturday, October 22, 2016

Epicurious in the 901 - Robata Ramen and Yakitori Bar




Thanks to two of my friends in NOLA, I was introduced to the world of Ramen Noodle Bars. Delicious noodles coupled with different choices of meats and vegetables, all simmering in broth - Heaven in a Bowl. My first Ramen experience was at Noodle and Pie on Magazine Street in NOLA. Not only do they offer great noodle bowls, but they also offer tasty and unusual PIE (hence the name - I know, I'm being Captain Obvious!) If you ever find yourself in NOLA, I highly recommend having lunch there. It's well worth it!


Anyway, it delighted me greatly to learn that Memphis has a noodle bar as well - Robtata Ramen and Yakitori Bar in Overton Square of Midtown Memphis. Nestled in a charming yellow house, Robata is THE place for noodle bowls and really tasty Japanese food, not to mention a killer sake selection! My Friday lunch consisted of ebi gyoza (deep fried shrimp dumplings) and the Shoyu Spinach Ramen Bowl - thin cut noodles, chicken broth, spinach, marinated boiled egg, green onion, BBQ pork, bamboo shoots, and bean sprouts. The food arrived literally three minutes after I had placed my order and it was well presented. I quickly dug in and found myself unable to stop eating.


It may not look like a lot of food, but I had to take a good part of it with me, only to devour my leftovers an hour later, even cold. Reasonable prices, delicious food, and a great atmosphere - you owe it to yourself to check out Robata! This has become one of my new favourite hangouts in the 901!




Friday, October 21, 2016

~ Standing ~



She stands on her balcony, overlooking the
Busy streets, traffic, silence. It is warm
Outside; the mosquitoes buzzing around her
As if she were a goddess.

Sweat trickling down her skin, causing her
Thin cotton dress to stick on her back, arms,
Legs. . . 

Everything is a glare, the sun the ruler
Here, blinding her from too much. She squints,
Creates a shield with her heads, and watches.

A bright sunny day, a day when she knows
She is dead in such a realm of life. Dead
For ideas, escapes, adventures, a journey, religions
Sanctification. She realizes this and understands.


Her sweat is her payment.


Tuesday, October 18, 2016

The Land Will Weep . . And The World Will Break





As many of you know, I LOVE World of Warcraft. When I first played WOW, it was on a Friday evening. The next time I looked up, it was early Saturday morning. Since that time, I have loved and hated characters, explored ancient lands with wide eyes, and killed many, many enemies. Not to mention create a lot of Blood Elf characters. Glory to the Sin'Dorei!

However, I will admit that to date, I have not played the latest expansion - LEGION - for a myriad of reasons, and that I haven't played in several months. Something about writing books and making tea blends. So, it was a special treat for me to return to Azeroth through Christie Golden's book, The Shattering: Prelude to Cataclysm. For those of you who don't play WOW, Cataclysm is the event when Deathwing, a dragon of terrifying existence, escaped his prison and returned to Azeroth with destruction in mind. In fact, thanks to him in the game, Azeroth was forever changed after he broke free - many of the lands changed into something remotely like their former selves. There was even a goal that involved Deathwing killing you for no reason. The only "warning" you had would be that the land under you would suddenly turn red, followed by fire and death and a note claiming that you achieved that goal. Um, right . . .

The Shattering, however, tells of the events that took place BEFORE Deathwing's escape, affecting both the Alliance (good guys) and the Horde (bad guys). I won't go into the plot yet I will state that Golden has a way of telling a story that you already know and making it her own. She is quite gifted when it comes to storytelling; the first time I ever read her work was when I discovered the Ravenloft series - Vampire of the Mists was AWESOME.  About a third of the way in of The Shattering, I realized that I had read the book before, yet that did not lessen my enjoyment of it. It was simply great to be in Azeroth again. If you are interested in playing WOW, this is a great book to read to familiarize yourself with some of the most well known characters in the game - King Varian of Stormwind and his son Anduin; Jaina Proudmoore and her "friendship" with Thrall, the leader of the Horde who is also a mighty shaman; Garrosh Hellscream, the leader of the Horde who is courageous, fearless, and quite brash and dangerous. Plus, The Shattering also delves into many of the lands of Azeroth; Golden makes you feel as though these lands are real and can be visited at any time via zeppelin or boat, or even the Deeprun Tram! She is also a delight to meet, as I was overjoyed to meet her at MidSouth Con this year!

Looking forward to reading War Crimes very soon, yet I received a message to return to Mid World. Seems Roland and his Ka-Tet need me to find the Dark Tower.


EX LIBRIS!
 GLORY TO THE HORDE!

Monday, October 17, 2016

Violet Van Gogh - poem




La tristesse durera toujours.
-The sadness will last forever.
(Last words of Vincent Van Gogh, 29 July 1890)



Yellow. 
I think he had it right
although he probably did not realize it.
I wish I had met him, told him what people thought.
An ear sliced for the sake of his own delusions,
although sincere and thoughtful in their own way.
Is it too late to wish
to kiss your lips, to feel what drove you insane
so as to be closer?
Those of violet blood
seek softer insults, our pain driven harder than others.
A muse I shall become for you,
inspiration to the dead.



(taken from the website http://www.ibiblio.org)



Saturday, October 15, 2016

Life and Death in a Cyber World





High Tech, Low Life.

Those words are my somewhat "credo" when it comes to Cyberpunk. As I have told people, although I love Steampunk, I LOVE Cyberpunk. When I first read Neuromancer, I was blown away by not only the writing, but also the "concept" of Cyberpunk. Since then, I try to look for any representation of Cyberpunk, be it books, music, art, coffee mugs . . .

The Killswitch Review, written by Steven-Elliot Altman and Diane DeKelb-Rittenhouse and published through Yard Dog Press, is one of the best representations of Cyberpunk out there. They truly grasp the concept of Cyberpunk with one twist - there is somewhat hope at the end. Welcome to the year 2156, a year in which, thanks to stem cell therapy, people are living longer than ever with no worries of diseases. It's practically normal for someone to live to be 140 years old, yet only look 30. The United States of America has closed themselves off from the rest of the world, relishing in their somewhat paradise. Yet, in the midst of the bliss is a small black box that, when pushed, kills you instantly. The Killswitch was made as a response to those who wanted to die in a peaceful manner. One press and it's all over.

Americans, known as Conscientious Citizens, live long lives. They keep their jobs well into their hundreds and retirement is a thing of the past. Each couple is able to conceive one child. However, as those who are CCs are living longer, the Junior Citizens have no chance of anything in the world. Therefore, drugs, branding, piercing and other forms of torture pleasure are the norm among the JCs. They have nothing else to live for, so why not just do it all? However, during a concert by the band Clone Jesus, three JCs rush to the stage and press their buttons, sending the city of NewVegas into a panic. Jason Haggerty, an investigator who works for the company that creates the Killswitch, makes sure that a death caused by the Killswitch was legal and handled well. Everyone gets assigned a box; there is no room for illegal tampering. Yet, he is soon thrust into the investigation behind the triple deaths, sending him on a path that will change his thoughts about Life and Death forever.

This book had me guessing from the first page to the very end and the ride was well worth it. This is more than just a Cyberpunk book - this is about the choices we make to live and die. How much suffering is enough to kill yourself? How much pleasure can the human body withstand before it turns into pain? When we realize that we will all die, does it make us want to live more? In the beginning of the book, Haggerty wants to kill himself in an attempt to end his suffering over many losses. Yet, as the story progresses, he gradually changes his mind and instead, looks to understand why we live, even at extended ages. I have to admit that the scene at the Last Supper Club was well done; I truly hope that the club is never made but if it is, dear gods . . . When you get to the scene, you'll know what I'm talking about. The dolphins actually made me cringe a bit.

High Tech, Low Life, indeed.

EX LIBRIS!

Saturday, October 8, 2016

To Experience Murakami . . . .





All things happen for a reason, or so the tea mystics claim.

One of my dearest friends, author Eva Vanrell, is completely in love with author Haruki Murakami. She claims that one doesn't read Murakami - you "experience" him. When she first told me that, I wasn't really sure what to make of that, even though I'm still trying to get through the entire works of Marcel Proust (he holds the same ideal, only in French). As part of her love for everything Japanese, she read The Wind Up Bird Chronicle, a 600+ masterpiece that when she finished it, loved it, yet had no idea as to what she had read. I knew I wanted to experience that same feeling, yet put it off due to writing and other books appearing before me (re-reading the Dark Tower series, reading the Dune books, reading the Erlik stories by author R R Hunsinger, etc, etc.). However, when Patti Smith mentioned "experiencing" Murakami in her book, M Train, I knew that I was getting a gentle tap on the shoulder.

Fine, I thought - I'll read Murakami.

Although I have copies of the books The Wind Up Bird Chronicle and Kafka on the Shore, I began my trek into the world of Murakami through his novel After Dark. This short and thoughtful read did not have me scratching my head so much as finally understanding the "experience". After Dark takes place during one night in Japan, as seen through the activities of nineteen year old Mari. For her own reasons, she decides not to go home and instead read a book, halfway eat, and smoke cigarettes in a restaurant. Yet, through this one night, she encounters other people who are making the most of their night in various fashions. She soon takes part in assisting a Chinese prostitute who was badly beaten by a client, takes life lessons from a former female wrestler, and engages in deep conversations with a trombone player who wants to attend law school. Yet, as the reader will soon learn, all is not well in Mari's life - her older and very beautiful sister Eri has been asleep for several months with no signs of waking up. Yet, and this is the COOL part, she has been waking up, just not on this side of Reality.

Is this Reality the REAL Reality, or perhaps are we simply watching ourselves through a mirror? Is the mirror self our true selves and if so, do they feel more than we do? Murakami delves deep into the human psyche and what makes us "tick"  - are we real? Is this nothing more than a dream? When we truly wake up, are we seeing a lie? After Dark does not "tie up" loose ends, nor does it offer any explanations as to why we are viewing what we are viewing. We are left to our own devices, as it were, to decide what we think is right and even then, we may still be wrong.

To "experience" Murakami is to visit a dream - so glad I finally arrived.

EX LIBRIS!

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Fear the Kinslayer!




Several years ago, while attending a convention in Birmingham, Alabama, I met author R. R. Hunsinger through friends (and fellow authors), M. B. Weston and R. D. Stevens. We later friended each other on Facebook and that was that. Recently, I struck up a conversation with him over the film The Maltese Falcon and we've been talking ever since. During our time of getting reacquainted, I decided to read one of his tales involving his Viking character, Erlik Rowenson, also known as Black Erlik and "Kinslayer". I quickly admitted to him that I knew nothing about Vikings and so dove in with only his words to guide me.

I think the proper word for what I did was DEVOUR.


As of now, I have read three of the Erlik stories and I have already pestered him about any upcoming works involving the Viking. As I love to say: these stories do not disappoint at all. I confess that I did not read them in "order", yet the impact is no less. These are damn good stories that will make you want to read more about the Vikings and the world they inhabited. Hunsinger's writing makes you want to learn.

Weregild, the first one I read, is a telling of WHY Erlik is known as the "Kinslayer". This fast paced story is filled with oaths created and broken, honour defended, and much action and spilled blood. Weregild is set ten years before Tides of Fate, yet like I said before, the "reading order" is not really that crucial. Tides of Fate, the second one I read, tells of Erlik's encounter with a beautiful woman who proves that beauty is in the eye of the beholder and to beware of things that are from the deep. Death Head, the third story, is of Erlik and his friend, Palladius Mauricius Veratius, a Byzantine nobleman, facing an ancient and deadly evil that has struck fear into the hearts of simple folk.


Although my descriptions of the stories are quite short, I'm really trying very hard not to tell the entire plots - these stories are worth the Kindle download. After reading one, you might as well download the rest of them. Trust me. It would really not surprise me if Hunsinger admitted to being a modern Viking; he obviously knows a plethora about them and it shows well in his stories without being overly done or "data dumping". Hunsinger is the real deal as a Norse storyteller and I eagerly await more stories from him. In fact, I've had the pleasure of reading other pieces that will hopefully be published soon and they were just as good. (The one about the "game" was simply amazing and chilling - ask him about THAT one!) They fit well into Erlik's universe, expanding and enriching it all the while.


To keep up with Hunsinger in social media, look him up at rhunsinger.wordpress.com and his blog at rrhunsinger.blogspot.com. He is also on Twitter as @RRHusinger. You can also follow Four Fools Press, the "home" of Erlik and other great stories, at http://www.fourfoolspress.com/.

EX LIBRIS!

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Song of the Morrigan






Soft, with a hint of blood
Carried to my tongue.
She is near me,
The black robe comforting and inviting
As She draws closer to me.
She knows I will not refuse Her -
Her words speak across
The ice and stones that I see before me.
She stands next to me, holding Her staff, gnarled
And black, as we watch the battle begin.

“You see,” She whispers,
The blood trickling under my skin and tongue,
They are ready to die. They prepare.”
My hands, cold and numb, hide within my robe.
She continues to whisper words,
Songs, dirges, knowing of those
Who shall die in Her name today.
I feel the dirty cold air kiss my ears;
The ravens from above
Give me pause to see my “eyes”.

Towards the battle.
Towards the blood, red and freely given.

They scream Her name.
Her name, this honour.
They have seen the ravens and understood.

“Of Life, there is always Death.
Of giving, there is taking away.
You are Mine; you shall not be limited.”

The blood, thick and red,
Pulses deeper within me.
Fingers from the past reach towards me -
My own powers increasing.
I can hear Her smile -
Death, I am greater yet follow it so.

The trees stand as silent witnesses to the battle.
Man against man.
Shield against shield.
Human against Fae.

They all bleed.
They bleed for Her.


I hear the words spoken, yell, scream -
She comes before all.
She knows I will not turn away from Her.

I am Her maiden.

I lick my black lips,
Seeking moisture from within.
The blood is not enough.
I close my eyes. Hear the battle,
Yet still still feel Her coldness – my home.

– Give me your strength – I tell Her.
Nothing, then a soft laugh.
“You said yes to Me.”
I bow and feel the blood, now black and coming.


The wings, ebon, float towards me.
An offering to keep me forever there.



Of Death, She holds my hand.
Of the Raven, She kisses me.
Of the Fae, She comes before us all.





Tuesday, October 4, 2016

The Height of the Tower - New Tea Blend!



This past weekend, I was a guest a Contraflow, a sci-fi and fantasy convention in New Orleans. During that time, I got to see old friends, make new ones, participate in three photo shoots, sell lots of books and tea, and have great conversations, most of them so funny that I cried while laughing. So, it was during one of those conversations that, after a friend telling me to "get down from my ivory tower of  tea" to take the time to watch a particularly popular TV show, a new tea blend was born!

Ladies and gentlemen, may I present the newest tea blend of Viridian Tea Company:


Ivory Tower Tea Blend!



This blend of bai mu dan white tea, jasmine, and chamomile will send your taste buds to a new level of exquisite pleasure! Soon, you'll be dressed in your finest linen clothes, reading Ulysses, and wondering about the latest polo match!

Just kidding - just enjoy a bag of this delicious tea! This tea will be available at the Etsy store, ViridianTeaCompany, as well as other locations coming soon.

The tea will also be made available at my booth during the Cooper Young Community Farmers Market - stop by and say hello!


May Your Cup Never Dry!