Tuesday, December 27, 2016

The Wild Hunt Has RETURNED!






Bobby Nash is one of the most prolific and coolest authors I've ever known. He's always writing, or plotting, or doing something to further his career. He just never stops. So it was that, while a rainy yet profitable day of selling at the Cooper Young Community Farmers Market, I dove into Alexandra Holzer's Ghost Gal: The Wild Hunt, a published by Raven's Head Press. Wow, what a ride!  The story is thus: Alexandra Holzer follows in her famous father's footsteps (say THAT three times fast!) in her career choice of being a paranormal investigator in 1960s New York City. Between her and her fiance, Joshua, ghosts don't stand a chance! However, due to an honest mistake, an ancient and dangerous spirit is freed from his prison, seeking revenge on the one who imprisoned him so many years ago - Hans Holzer. This spirit, known as a sluagh, seeks to bring back The Wild Hunt once more!

The slim book is chock full of great action, memorable characters, and a distinct longing for book two! I will freely admit that of the characters, my favourite has to be Jacob Black. When you read the book, you'll know why. He is sleek, dangerous, and . . . well, that's all I'm going to say about him. Nash's take on the The Wild Hunt was well done; I never get tired of reading about such a terrifying event within the Otherworld. Nash's writing is pure and true with this book; if you have never experienced the mind of Nash, Ghost Gal: The Wild Hunt is a great place to start. If you are familiar with his works, you won't be disappointed. A great book to read on a rainy day!

EX LIBRIS!


Sunday, December 25, 2016

Happy Holidays with POETRY!




No matter what you celebrate, I wish each and every one of you Happy Gothic Holidays!

No, on to POETRY!

Poetry is still relevant in this world. Sometimes, a thought or a complex emotion can't be conveyed properly unless if it's through poetry (look up the works of Eric Syrdal, for example). Author, professor, bellydancer, and all around Amazing Woman (trademark) Kathryn Hinds is no stranger when it comes to conveying thoughts and images into beautiful words. Her poetry book, Candle Thread, and Flute, as published through Luna Station Press, is filled with words that will transport you into a different realm and mindset. By the end of her book, you will definitely see the world through different eyes.

The book is divided into three sections: Masks and Voices, Turnings, and Water and Other Elements. Although each section has its own "feel" to it, the words are all Kathryn. Some of the poems could easily be sung to music or chanted. She possesses the ability to weave words together without sounding overly dramatic or wooden. She speaks what she knows, of which encompasses a great deal. Several of my favourites are: "Tuxedo Cat's Haiku", "Two Dreams", "A Meditation", "Call to the Darkness", and "Sunset Over Lake Ontario". Although all of the poems are incredible, these particular ones stand out for me, either for a moment of smiling or a rush of creativity.

Thank you, Kathryn, as always. See you soon!

Now, time to open presents and have a cup of tea!

EX LIBRIS!


Saturday, December 24, 2016

Of Rampart and Toulouse





Rampart and Toulouse proves that yet again, author/photographer Kristin Fouquet is blessed with the gift of storytelling. This collection includes Becoming Obsolete, Varietals, Paris is the Pretty One and the novella, Rampart and Toulouse. Each story is part of the grand puzzle that makes NOLA . . . NOLA.

Becoming Obsolete is the short story of Lucky and Chris who are both repairmen with a hint of shyster to them. However, they do show a sense of humility when it comes to fleecing certain customers. Varietals is a touching story of a well to do woman named Helene and a homeless man named Cyril and their connection regarding wine. Paris is the Pretty One tells the bittersweet story of sisters Claire and Simone and how beauty can be most destructive. After reading that story, I sent a quick message to Kristin regarding my feelings about it. For those of you who have ever read the book The Bell Jar, this story will remind you of that tragic tale. Funny how madness can take many forms.

The novella, Rampart and Toulouse, was quite a delight to read - artist Vivienne Diodorus rents a small apartment from a lovely and morbidly obese woman named Sweet Sue. The place has neither electricity nor any air conditioning, yet it is Heaven for Vivienne. After getting acquainted with Father Tim and Lance, other residents of the establishment, Vivienne sets her sights to paint and live the life of a bohemian. However, her life changes when she is witness to a shooting and when she takes a lover who is twice her age and soon, not even her artwork is enough. Yet, as Vivienne comes to realize, friends are angels in disguise, no matter how far they have fallen.

I really, really tried to slow down in reading this book yet that attempt proved to be futile. As I have stated before in my other reviews of Fouquet's works - she is her own voice to the spirit of NOLA. I truly hope that people will purchase her works - if you enjoy stories filled with larger than life characters that seem all too real, wrapped in wrapping called the city of New Orleans, Kristin Fouquet is your author. I have one last book of hers and I am honestly reading as many other books as I can before I read it.

In case you are interested, here is the book trailer for Rampart and Toulouse!


Thank you again, Kristin!


EX LIBRIS!

Friday, December 23, 2016

Boo Daddies and Voodoo Chickens in NOLA





I never get enough of books set in New Orleans; it's considered to be my Second Home for years as well as  occupies a special place in my black heart. Jake Istenhegyi: The Accidental Detective by Nikki Nelson- Hicks and published through ProSe Press, is now a part of the list. This two day devour of a read was well packed with good action, great characters that will not be forgotten, and chickens. We can't forget the chickens.

A Chick, A Dick, and A Witch Walk Into a Barn starts the book off on a good note - Jake, formerly known as Janos who hails from Hungary, is owner of the Odyssey Shop, a book and antiquities shop in NOLA. He and his friend and Barrington "Bear" Gunn, a private investigator and lover of all pulp stories, co-exist in the building under the watchful eye of Mama Effie, one of the many colourful characters in Jake's life. One day, Bear decides to take up the case involving a missing man . . . and never returns to the shop. It's up to Jake to discover his partner's whereabouts and avoid getting killed in the swamps of Louisiana! Golems, Goons, and Stone Cold Bitches, the second story, has Jake facing two sisters who would do anything to avoid the cold brush of Death as they race to obtain the Vitae Aeternam Sal! It's amazing what a little salt can do. The last story, Boo Daddies, Bogs, and A Dead Man's Booty thrusts Jake into a group of treasure hunters who are seeking the Cross of Trismegitus, an object that apparently holds a piece of the Vitae Aeternam Sal. However, all is NOT quiet on the NOLA front as Jake encounters vengeful spirits, giant rats, stinking boo daddies, sweet sweet love making, and Death, again (of which doesn't harm him - you'll have the read the book to find out why!) It's never a stroll in the park for Jake as he assumes the role of the Accidental Detective!

Nelson-Hicks shows she's got good chops when it comes to telling good pulp action stories; Jake Istenhegyi is a character that I hope she will do more with very soon. As I read the book, I instantly heard his "voice" - very Eastern European with a hint of weariness and determination. In fact, although Jake Istenhegyi is the "narrator" of the three stories, one can clearly hear each of the characters' rich voices - from the deep bellow of Bear, to the wheedling and simpering Radu, to the sultry and seductive Pearl, to the shifty and devious (yet with a small kind heart) Mama Effie, these stories do come to life. The action and gory scenes are quite a nice touch as well (the scene with Rosie, Joe, and Judd is one that I won't forget for a LONG time - that was just damn . . . damn!) It also helps to play music from the 20s and 30s while reading this book - I suggest Benny Goodman.

I had spoken with Nikki several months ago about creating a tea blend for this book; now that I've read The Accidental Detective, the tea blend can't wait to be made! Look for a post coming soon!

EX LIBRIS!



Wednesday, December 21, 2016

A Season of Murder in Iceland!





It's really hard to write a review when you've got The Maltese Falcon playing in the background. Such an amazing movie (haven't read the book yet!) that is a grand mixture of lies, murder, deceit, and acting! Icelandic author Arni Thorarinsson's book Season of the Witch is a dazzling combination of those same elements, all wrapped up in the country of Iceland.

The story is thus: Reykjavik crime reporter Einar is assigned a newspaper position in the small town of Akureyri, a job that doesn't seem to promise much. However, after a woman falls to her death during a wilderness trip, things begin to pick up. It seems as though it was an accident until a young male actor is found burned to death in a junk yard. The two murders appear to not be related . . . or are they? Suddenly, Einar and his friend and photographer Joa find themselves in a web of myths, murder, drugs, and greed, not to mention spoiled dogs and birds! The last scene of the book caused me to smile - poor Einar. When you read it, you'll know what I'm talking about.

Season of the Witch is the only book by Thorarinsson that has been translated into English, unless if you speak Icelandic. Maybe I'm late in noticing this, but it seems that there has been a bumper crop of mysteries and thrillers from the Nordic part of the world. And, from what I've read or seen as movies so far, these stories are NOT for the faint of heart (Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, anyone?) These mysteries stay long with you after you've turned the last page, albeit with a bitter chill that runs down your spine. As much as I love British mysteries and the "I must have a cup of tea when I read them" feeling, Nordic mysteries are much darker and more sinister. After reading Season of the Witch, I want to either: learn Icelandic so I can read Thorarinsson's other books, travel to Iceland and see this country for myself, or enjoy more Einstok Icelandic White Ale . . . . or hell, do all of it!

EX LIBRIS and SKAL!



Sunday, December 18, 2016

April Enchantment . . . and Beyond





I'm a sucker for British period dramas: Middlemarch, Jane Eyre, Bleak House, you name it. As much as I enjoy reading the books, I also love watching the stories come to life. Such is the case with The Enchanted April by Elizabeth Von Arnim. For years, I have been a fan of the film Enchanted April starring Miranda Richardson, Alfred Molina, and Joan Plowright. The film is simple and sweet amid a healthy dose of British-isms; a perfect film to watch with a cup of tea and cookies.

In reading the book, I realized that this is a rare moment in which both the book and the movie are excellent. The story is thus: four women from various backgrounds in 1920s England spend the month of April at San Salvatore, a castle in Italy. Two of the women, Mrs. Lotty Wilkins and Mrs. Rose Arbuthnot, use the time to escape their ungrateful and uncaring husbands. Lady Caroline Dester (or Scrap as she's affectionately called), uses the time to escape a life filled with "grabbing" admirers and a posh life that leaves her drained. Mrs. Fisher uses the time to enjoy her old age and to constantly reminisce about her dead literary friends, for she has no use for the living. These four women escape Hampstead and London in search of "Wisteria and Sunshine" in Italy and, after some initial bumps and language barriers, get that and so much more.



Von Arnim's delightful book is just that - delightful. The characters come to full bloom within Italy as they reach outside of their London comfort zone for something different, something wonderful. Even when Mr. Wilkins, a boorish and dominating man, and Mr. Arbuthnot, a writer of sordid and entertaining novels, visit their wives at San Salvatore, they can not escape Life fueled by beauty. Scrap only wants to be left alone, to enjoy her solitude among the flowers, yet she is denied that due to her beauty and blue blood; everyone wants to be around her and to take in her beauty. All she wants is a nap. However, when Mr. Briggs, the eccentric and kindhearted owner of the caste, stops by for a visit, Scrap finds herself to be the target of his admiration, even after he initially bestowed them upon Rose due to her classical looks. Mrs. Fisher wishes to remain with the dead, yet the dead speak words that have been repeated in her life for many years. Through San Salvatore, she finally realizes that she wishes to live among the living. Rose is a pious woman whose husband pays little attention to her; why spend time under the glaring eyes of God when there are so many admirers of his "naughty" books, one being Scrap herself? Lotty is scared to live her life with her husband; he tells her what to do and thinks nothing of it. However, Lotty is a free spirit, one who blossoms the most at the castle, thereby infecting everyone else with her willingness to reach out to something new.

How many of us want to do just that? Reach outside of our comfort zone to try something new, or make a new friend, or change our lives completely? Sometimes, all it takes is one small decision, one choice, and our lives are changed forever. As so many people say - Life is short. Don't waste it with regrets or "if only's". Hike that mountain, swim that ocean, travel, read a new book, make a new friend, etc. Although the book takes place in the 1920s, The Enchanted April is a guide for those who want more in their lives. Wisteria and Sunshine are quite nice.

EX LIBRIS!

Friday, December 16, 2016

Epicurious in the 901 - Trolley Stop Market






Going to Trolley Stop Market in The Edge District of Memphis  is quite an adventure. Arriving ten minutes late for dinner with my friend Jean Marie, my mind was already thinking about what I wanted to order. Trolley Stop Market has a wide variety of items to choose from, yet they are known for their HUGE slices of pizza. However, as much as their delicious pizza slices do tempt me, I decided to try their veggie burger.

Oh. My.


Let's face it - who can resist a milkshake? Even a person who is lactose intolerant?! Their strawberry milkshakes are thick and full of flavour . . . and they bring all the boys to the yard. I hope I did that right. Anyway, my meal began with a lovely strawberry milkshake and Elvis singing in the background about a Blue Christmas. Only in Memphis.




When our waiter brought out our food, I almost wondered if he got my order right - I wanted a VEGGIE burger. However, after mashing that sandwich you see above into something that could fit into in my mouth without too much embarrassment, my taste buds began to sing in operatic glee! The only other veggie burger that I truly enjoy is the one at Huey's, yet this one proved to be a close second, if not nudging Huey's out of the number one slot. I'm not really sure what they put in their veggie burger, but I can tell you this: you won't miss eating beef or turkey. The sauteed mushrooms, onions, and green bell peppers were done right with just enough accompanying flavour to the patty. The potato salad was divine as well; as much as I wanted to try their hand cut fries, the potato salad called out to me. Glad I chose it.



After my friend ordered a slice of their strawberry cake, I just knew I had to order a slice as well. Choosing from carrot, banana, strawberry, and chocolate, I decided upon the chocolate. Again - Oh. My. Everything about my slice of cake rounded out a perfect (and VERY filling) dinner. They also have cookies and pies, so the choice for your sweet tooth craving is quite vast!



Trolley Stop Market is not only a restaurant with good and hip food, but it's also home to merchandise made by local artists! From jewelry to spices, from coffee to artwork, Trolley Stop Market is a great place for food and gifts . . . and Elvis!


FOODIE ON!

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

The Tale of an Imaginary Boy





Meeting one of the founders of The Cure was something I never thought I would do in my life, yet thanks to The Booksellers at Laurelwood, I did.

I was introduced to the Goth scene during my years at university; during my time, it was known as the Second Wave of Goth - bands like Rosetta Stone, Switchblade Symphony, Machines of Loving Grace (yes, they were Industrial), The Shroud and many others. When I went to my first Goth Night, I felt as though I had slipped into another world, one in which people didn't look at me like I was some freak, or that I was trying to "be" something else. I was simply a young woman who liked a lot of black and read a lot of vampire and other novels. The Goth subculture may have evolved with more cyber influences, yet the feeling, the music, is still the same. Goth is very much a state of mind. Being an Elder Goth is awesome! But I digress.

(Letter to Elise)

Cured: The Tale of Two Imaginary Boys is the story of Lol Tolhurst, co-founder of The Cure. Within this quick yet highly insightful read is the rise and fall and rise again of one of the most influential bands in the history of music. To some, The Cure was just a Goth band. To many others, they were what they felt yet didn't know how to express it. From their debut album, Three Imaginary Boys, to 4:13 Dream, The Cure's music has been a place where people who think outside of the norm could feel understood. The founders came from a small suburban town in England and dreamt of escaping. Through their music, they were able to do so. Cured is about The Cure, as seen and experienced through Tolhurst, who went to Hell and back several times on a wave of alcohol. Yet, after many years of abusing himself, he finally found the strength to clean himself up and return to what he loved - music.

(39)

This memoir is a short read yet you will never listen to The Cure's music the same way again. While reading the book, I listened to Three Imaginary Boys and Pornography as well as some of my favourite Cure songs like 39 and Letter to Elise. I hate to sound cliche, but they really are works of dark and intelligent art. Tolhurst spoke about his friendship with Robert and that they are still friends to this day. Tolhurst, like Robert, were and still are people who are not meant to be in cubicles. They were meant to make the imaginary so very real.

Excellent read, Mr. Tolhurst. Thank you for visiting Memphis!



EX LIBRIS!

Monday, December 12, 2016

Frank Savage: The Dark Cowboy





I first met author Greg Norgaard  at Pulp Ark several years and decided to take a chance on Savage Noir: The Complete Adventures of Frank Savage, published through Pro Se Press. As the cover of the book states, the book is comprised of THREE BOLD TALES OF WESTERN NOIR!

What, as I began the reading the book several days ago, is Western Noir? Well . . . . imagine, if you will, if the Maltese Falcon occurred in the West. Literally. That may be a weak interpretation of the genre, yet that's exactly how Savage Noir felt as I read it. Yes, the stories were set during the time known as the Wild West, yet there is a gritty and dark underbelly to the stories. After reading this book, you will want a shot of whiskey, or several.

Frank Savage, retired from the US Government, is a cowboy who likes his whiskey strong and his women even stronger with a dash of hot. When confronted with those who mean to do others harm, Savage becomes a man you don't want to tangle with in a dark alley. When he fights, he usually fights until someone is dead or completely regretting their choice. Welcome to the Savage Noir, where everyone has secrets and nothing is sacred in the West.

A Savage Retribution - the first story - introduces us to Savage and the world he occupies. During a stagecoach trip, Savage must face those from his past and handle them in a way he thought buried and hidden away. However, thanks to a decision made years ago, he must now stain the earth with blood again.

A Savage Darkness leans more towards Noir than Western: Savage and his friends must track down a group of coldblooded killers to Chicago who kill for the amusement. Death becomes a close friend of Savage as he must search for not only the group of psychopaths but also their anonymous and highly dangerous leader.

An American Savage is the final story in the book - Savage must travel to England to wrap up one last "loose end" thought long gone, thanks to a fan of his who loves reading dime store novels!

Savage, clearly the good guy in this book, does have his moments of darkness, moments when he reacts with no remorse. His bloody past haunts him yet all he can do is move forward. It's all he knows. He's like a great white shark: when he's on the case, he must move or die.

In short, this book was a fantastic read, thereby giving me more reason to love Western stories beyond the movies. Norgaard's writing is harsh and brutal, leaving nothing to the imagination. The scene of Gil's thumb and a man's eye . . . wow. I read that section twice because it was just that graphic. People die in bad, bad ways in Savage's world and justice is just as brutal. Nice.

Another winner from Pro Se Press!

EX LIBRIS!


Saturday, December 10, 2016

~ putty ~





Of course, when I sit alone in my space
My refuge when I no longer wish to be human
I smoke, horrible, and think -
Dreaming of times when I was a thought
And not just a smear upon the wall.
Perhaps this is melodramatic; a sign of weakness
Among those who live for the written word
But I must confess that I am
In this way…unhappy.
Sacrificed like so many other times
When I was young and flexible like putty
Able to be molded into whatever others wished of me
Now, the clay is hardened;
Whatever was last implanted upon me
Has remained.
So, I drink tea made of clouds to forget
And instead turn myself towards the unseen

To melt my clay and give me sanity.


(Elmwood Cemetery - copyright Kimberly B. Richardson 2015)

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

~ intellect ~



She is not moved,
Affected by the world around her-
She has thoughts keeping her busy.
She never turned from understanding,
Only wanted more like an addiction,
Savoring each drop, teasing herself as if
It were the last; so much a student.
She is not moved by material, bane -
She has no concept of the world around her -

Only the universe within.

(photo taken at Elmwood Cemetery - Memphis, Tennessee)

Monday, December 5, 2016

From Iceland Comes a GREAT Beer




One of my friends, author JC Crumpton, used to live in Iceland when he was a child. I told him that the only things I knew about Iceland were the author Sjon and Bjork. However, ever since delving deep into the Nordic thanks to Viking (yes, he is a real person in my life), I've been wanting to know more about the countries that make up part of that world. To date, I love Wardruna, have always been a fan of Garmarna, know enough Swedish to get me into trouble, and think that the works of R R Hunsinger are amazing!

For a while, I'd been eyeing a most interesting beer, wondering if I should try it. Well, when in Rome or in this case - Iceland. Welcome to the world of Einstok Beer Company, made in Akueyri, Iceland!




My initial dive into Einstok began with the Icelandic White Ale. WOW! Great taste with just the right mix of coriander and orange peel - heaven! This beer should not be gulped down but rather sipped and enjoyed. If you are looking for a great light beer that is beyond your "comfort zone" - look no further than the Einstok Icelandic White Ale!

Now, if you'll excuse me, it's back to writing and continued enjoyment of this beer.

Skol! 

(Yes, that's Swedish but you get the idea)

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Death in Memphis Comes Alive





When Kim McCollum with Elmwood Cemetery here in Memphis asked me if I wanted to be their photographer in residence last year, I was stunned. Yet, now over a year later, I'm humbled to have worked with such an amazing and quite historical place. I feel like family, if that makes any sense. I even have a tea blend made especially for the cemetery! Thanks to the book, Images of America: Elmwood Cemetery by Kimberly McCollum and Willy Bearden, my appreciation of the cemetery has grown. If you are looking for a holiday gift for someone who loves history, anything involving the South, Memphis history, cemetery history, or just a really cool gift, you can't go wrong with this book!



Elmwood Cemetery was opened in 1852 and since then has become the final resting place of many a famous (and infamous) Memphian. Elmwood was the final place of those who died from natural causes, epidemics like the Yellow Fever, or from strange and unusual circumstances. Although most memorial gardens and graveyards have the small square stone or tombstone for their dead, cemeteries like Elmwood are a part of an almost forgotten history. Once you cross the bridge into the cemetery, you feel as though you have traveled back in time, or that you have stumbled into a beautiful Necropolis. McCollum and Bearden have presented the cemetery in such a way that you can't help but feel life flowing through every page.



The book also mentions the meanings behind cemetery symbols on tombstones and statues like ivy (everlasting life), arches (portal in which the soul passes into immortality), weeping willows (death was final), and many others. Many of the lives of the "residents" are mentioned in the book as well; I had no idea that Elmwood was the final home to so many colourful beings who added to the overall spirit that is Memphis. Even the victims and heroes of the Yellow Fever are mentioned in the book with much care and detail to the tragic history.


The book is available through Elmwood's website or in their gift shop. I highly recommend taking one of their tours to get a feel of the place, or visiting during one of their events such as Spirits with the Spirits. I will warn you - plan to spend several hours at Elmwood if you want to try to see everything, yet the time is well worth it!

EX LIBRIS!


(all photos taken by me with much respect for the "residents")



Friday, December 2, 2016

The Beginning of a New End



As many of you know, I LOVE Cyberpunk. William Gibson, Wintermute, The Ghost in the Shell, The Matrix (only the first one!), all of it. I love the concept of "high tech/low life" and that we are honestly not that far away from such a world. As of now, our very lives are on a small thin device that can not only take phone calls but also tell you the weather, play songs, and even read stories to you. More and more people are getting body parts replaced with machines, possibly leading to far more extreme surgeries and enhancements.

Take Shelly, the main character in the book Cybergenesis, for example. Although she looks and acts human, she is a cyborg who is also a Diver. Divers are those who "use cybernetics to immerse themselves in computer programs", and Shelly and her crew are experts in the field. It may be a thankless job, but it is quite the exciting and sometimes frightening job to take. Shelly and her team, Beau (husband), Sophie (the new recruit), and Collin, receive a mission that will clear their debt and cut them loose from their obligation to their employer, the corporation Cyberize. However, their last mission proves to be their most dangerous and strangely enough, enlightening, one they've ever had. As for Shelly, it becomes the chance of a lifetime that may literally never die.

I first met author Amanda McCarter at GlitchCon and, after having several really cool conversations with her, I knew that I was going to enjoy her work. Needless to say, I LOVED this book! Cybergenesis has the right mixture of mystery and humour wrapped in a Cyberpunk frame, with a nice and believable dash of human limitation. When Shelly and her team reach the space station to conduct their last mission, they are met with hostile and bigoted people who want nothing to do with the cyborgs. The station residents see themselves as fully human and therefore right in the image of God. Anyone or thing who adds to God's design is seen as a freak, yet I found myself shaking my head in shock when the residents' secret is revealed. What makes one "human"? Thought, emotions, love, fear? The fact that one can eat or drink, or perhaps that one believes themselves to be alive? McCarter presents several interesting concepts in Cybergenesis regarding Life and Death, especially Life. This book will not only entertain you but also enlighten you.

There is a second book and if I were you, I'd order both so as not to get frustrated when you fly through the first one.

EX LIBRIS!