Sunday, July 16, 2017

The Monster of the Mansion

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley is one of my favourite novels and classic films. Boris Karloff played the part of the Monster rather well. His face is the one that sticks in my mind whenever I think of the Monster. I also enjoyed the Monster in Penny Dreadful, for he showed intelligence, cognitive skills, and the ability to live among men without raising too much suspicion. At the end of the novel, the Monster tells Walton that he will kill himself then drifts out to the arctic sea on an ice raft. Yet, what if the Monster decided not to kill himself but rather live? Thanks to the digest novel Monster in the Mansions by Lou Mougin and published through ProSe Productions, the answer to the question is given.

The Monster does not die but rather decides to live. He leaves the arctic land in search of a new life, one that (he thinks) may get him away from his bloody past. Mougin provides a story that is filled with seafaring action, treachery, growing sympathy for the Monster, and even one of the most unique death scenes I've read in a long time - it involves peeing. Adam Frank/Frank Cain is a terror to behold on the seas, yet he maintains his Beast and uses it only when necessary. Through much bloodshed and ships plundered, he finally reaches his destination of South America. Will South America prove to be the Monster's place of final peace, or the continuation of his Hell on Earth? Read the book and find out! This was my first time reading Mougin and I found myself flying through the digest novel with great pleasure. Although the ending felt like a cliffhanger to me, it was nonetheless satisfying. Highly recommended for those who enjoyed Frankenstein as well as for those who love well written stories regarding the sea and naval fiction.


Monday, July 10, 2017

Flash Story - For the Love of Satie

She walked into the room, the one that smelled of lavender. He played in that room only yesterday, yet the final notes still lingered in the room. When he played the piano, she was on his mind. He caressed the keys as though it was her neck or delicate arms that he loved to kiss after drinking wine. Each note played was a declaration of his love for her. She walked up to the piano and touched the keys that were still warm from his last performance. Just then, she felt his hand touch the back of her neck, his slender fingers barely brushing through her hair. She leaned into him and sighed as his lavender scented shirt enfolded her in a double lover's embrace. The faint sounds of Erik Satie now moved through the room, replacing his ghostlike fragments of music.

(model - Jean Marie, copyright 2014)

Sunday, July 9, 2017

City of Refuge, City of Hope

I was first introduced to New Orleans when I was very young. My mother used to take me down there for Mardi Gras and then later, Jazz Fest. While we were in the Crescent City, we would spend time in the French Quarter, soaking in all of the history, food, culture, decadence that the city had to offer. Although I no longer go to Mardi Gras with my parents, I still visit the city while I'm attending conventions as an author guest, or just visiting friends for the hell of it. There is no other city like New Orleans and that is the solid truth.

Author Tom Piazza's book, City of Refuge, shows the city in all its glory as we are introduced to Craig Donaldson, a white man from the Midwest who lives in NOLA with his family and SJ, a black man born and raised in NOLA who lives in the Ninth Ward. Both men love the city in their own way and what She has to offer. Everyone who lives in NOLA understands that they live in a "soup bowl" well below sea level. Hurricanes are, unfortunately, a part of their lives - get news of the hurricane, pack up and board up the house, leave for a while, then return and slowly return to a normal life. However, when Hurricane Katrina (or as I've heard NOLA people call her The Bitch) arrives, the two men must make desperate decisions to ensure the safety of their friends and loved ones, not mention themselves. Lives are lost, houses destroyed, and true darkness settles into the city as well as those who left and those who stayed. While Craig and his family escape to Chicago, SJ fights to help those who remained behind while getting his family to safety. When the water finally recedes, choices are made with tears and rage as NOLA struggles to regain Her life.

(Oak Street)

I'll be blunt - I couldn't put this damn book down. Piazza blew me away with his writing, although it was no surprise to me. I first read his book, Why New Orleans Matters, several years ago and fell in love with not only his words but with NOLA all over again. I had the pleasure of meeting him at Jazz Fest and he was quite a delight. City of Refuge needs to be read by those who have never lived in NOLA and wondered about what really happened during the time of Katrina. The book is also for those who are already in love with NOLA. I will admit that this book brought tears to my eyes many times while reading, mainly because my mind thought about my NOLA friends who dealt with Katrina and what they had to do to evacuate. Even my ex told me his story of how he, his wife at the time, and their child stayed in the Convention Center and the conditions they endured while there. My dad went down there when he worked for State Farm and he told us stories of what he saw. My mom soon joined him and told me of the water lines on the houses and how she only saw two people wandering around as she explored what she could at the time. During one of my recent trips down there, I drove through neighbourhoods that still had the spray paint markers on the houses while the water lines were faint yet still there.

Some claimed the storm to be the work of God trying to flush out the evil in NOLA. Others couldn't feel anything at all except to get through the water. Piazza's novel threw me right in the middle of the water that flooded the streets. I saw the floating bodies, the cars that ended up in people's backyards. I wanted to hug Lucy as she and SJ stayed upstairs while the water continued to rise. I was even with Craig as he sat in the coffee shop in the suburbs of Chicago, looking around at all of the white people in their comfort zones, while he felt anger towards them because they had no idea.

I can't recommend this book enough to people. Please, read City of Refuge.

Tom, I hope we can have a cup of tea sometime. By the way, thanks for mentioning some of my favourite places like Igor's and Rue de la Course on Oak Street - I always go to the coffee shop first then Blue Cypress Books afterwards. It's a ritual of mine.

(upstairs at Rue de la Course)


Friday, July 7, 2017

Flash Story - Creative Starvation

Emma watched the play with interest; it had been quite some time since she last went to the theatre. She used to treat herself to the theatre, followed by either dinner out somewhere followed by a nice cup of tea. Unfortunately, she stopped going after she started dating Paul, a nice guy who had no interest in anything that would stimulate his mind. Before long, several months passed and soon, she dumped Paul and returned to herself, gathering up the lost pieces she so carelessly threw aside when she was “in love”. Now that she was happily single again, she resumed her theatre nights. As she watched the actors perform the drama with great earnest, Emma recognized one of the actresses. There was Matilda, an older woman who used to work with her at her corporate job until she decided to quit to pursue her career as an actress. Emma had dreams of becoming a full time novelist yet decided to remain at her current job until she was able to make enough through sales of her first novel before leaving. She knew that both Matilda and her husband were actors and, although they did not make much, they both had passion for what they did.

Creative people, like Matilda and Emma, were driven by their passions no matter where they lay, but Emma knew that she had to eat and do more than just survive. Those thoughts drove her as she worked nightly on her second novel. When Emma saw her friend on the stage doing her best (which was always damn near perfect) she felt glad for her friend and wished her nothing but luck. Once the play finished, Emma went home to change clothes and then left out again to find a coffee shop to enjoy a cup of Earl Grey tea while reading. Emma put in one of her jazz CDs as she drove and hummed along with the bebop melody while her eyes scanned the streets. Suddenly, Emma saw an older woman dressed in shabby clothes clutching a bright red bag on her shoulder as she trudged along the sidewalk. It was Matilda. She passed Matilda by, wondering why she didn’t have a car to get herself home. Emma thought about slowing down so she could give Matilda a ride to her home yet hesitated in her actions. Something inside of her did not want to carry out the action. Emma listened to that part of her mind and drove off as the silhouetted figure of Matilda struggled with her belongings. Emma was an artist who did not want to live a starving life like her comrades. Ten minutes later, she had forgotten her dilemma as she  walked into the coffee shop with thoughts of Earl Grey and the plot of her novel in progress.  

(model - Jean Marie Sheridan - copyright 2014)

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Love and Games in Buenos Aires

Happy Independence Day!

I was surprised to read negative reviews on The Foreigners by Maxine Swann. Someone wrote that they wanted to read about Buenos Aires and that this book did not talk about the city at all. Yet, I thought the complete opposite. The book IS about Buenos Aires, as seen through the eyes of three extremely different women - Daisy, a divorced American who travels to the city to get away from her past; Isolde, a lonely Austrian woman who finds comfort in the arts; and Leonarda, an Argentine woman whose moods and looks change from moment to moment. These three women present the city in all its beautiful and seedy glory as they attempt to make a life for themselves. Swann's writing reminds me of my friend's work, author Elise Blackwell - dreamlike, engaging, and well told.

Daisy, after arriving in the city, sets up in a less than desirable apartment while attempting to work on a grant project. She meets Leonarda through an ad for people who want to learn English, only to find out that Leonarda speaks perfect English. Together, the two embrace danger while telling lie on top of lie, all the while giving into what they desire. Leonarda even asks Daisy for help in a Master Plan - an attempt to seduce a well known Argentine man, yet Daisy suspects that even darker forces are at work. Isolde comes into the picture through Daisy and is shown to be a woman who wants something yet is not really sure what it is. She is herself when it comes to cocktail parties and art openings but without it, she is like a canvas with no paint. The three women go in search of what they think will make them happy and as it turns out, it's not what they expected.

To be honest, I wasn't sure if I was going to enjoy this book, yet once I began reading Daisy's words, I found that I couldn't put it down. I turned each page, wondering what they were going to do next. Would they accept that invitation to that party? How far would Daisy allow herself to fall with Leonarda leading her? Would Isolde ever be happy by being alone? Is Leonarda really who she says she is? I found this to be a quick and most enjoyable read and, like so many other authors I've recently read, I look forward to reading more of Swann's work.


Monday, July 3, 2017

The OTHER Side of California

When I first watched the film Deliverance, I had no idea that it would be THAT intense. Although I've seen it twice (yeah, I didn't learn my lesson after watching it the FIRST time!), the film is forever burned in my mind. Stories like that are hard to forget - big city folks wanting to spend time in peaceful Nature, only to have their world flipped upside down. The book Lost Canyon by author, teacher, and activist Nina Revoyr feels the same way.

I do want to say that this is by far the most multicultural book I've ever read. The story is thus: four people from Los Angeles - a half Japanese half white fitness instructor with a taste for reckless adventure, a young black woman who gives hope to those who have none, a Hispanic man involved in the real estate business, and a white man who lives the life of the upper crust - seek something more in Life. Tracy (the fitness instructor) decides to get her clients together for a camping weekend in the Sierra Nevada. Backpacking, hiking, roughing it in Nature, and being able to "get away" from it all. Each comes to the event with trepidation, excitement, and fear yet they all decide to go anyway. And that is when the shit hits the fan. Soon, they realize that the Sierra Nevada is truly untamed and wild but not in a good way. And it will take every ounce of their willpower and strength to overcome it.

This book had me riveted from page one to the satisfying end even though I had questions that I don't think have any answers. Each of the characters is real and not the "token" of their race. They are all Americans, all used to the comforts of home in LA. They are used to the occasional bouts of racism and they shrug their shoulders at it. It's all a part of living in the 21st century - we may be advanced in technology but skin colour is still a problem. Yet, these characters come out of this story transformed in a better way. The colour lines fall down and all we have left are Americans, people, human beings who can love and look out for each other. It gave me hope.

Revoyr also describes the Sierra Nevada right down to the rocks and flowers. I was right there with the four as they endured their long hikes through the "too beautiful to be real" areas. Her descriptions were just enough to give me a mental picture as I read. I almost expected to smell the clean mountain air wafting from the pages. Even when they faced multiple dangers (won't tell you what they are!), the area provided a beautiful backdrop. Death lived among untouched beauty.

Thank you, Nina. I'll be reading more of your work very soon.


Wednesday, June 28, 2017

The Witch and The Mute

The Cove by author and professor Ron Rash reads like a dark dream. We don't want to make up from it, yet its dangerous beauty will long linger in our minds. I had always been told that North Carolina was "different" with regards to the people, the "feeling", even the attitude. The Cove is proof of that Otherworldy strangeness in that state. The story is thus: it's the height of World War I and the world is gripped by fear. Even small town Mars Hill, North Carolina feels the shock waves of the war. However, they are also concerned about Laurel Shelton, the lonely and beautiful woman who lives in the Cove, a place that few visit. The townspeople fear her because they think her to be a witch, yet she is a harmless woman with a rather large birthmark and an affinity for herbal folk cures. Her brother, Hank, has returned from the war minus one hand, yet it does not slow him down as he assists in repairing their house and farmlands. However, one day, Laurel hears strange music by the river and discovers a young man with a silver flute. He plays with a gift that is beyond normal and Laurel is drawn to it and soon later, the man himself. Soon, the man who can not speak becomes a fixture at the house, giving Laurel moments of happiness, yet it comes with a price. The townsfolk are searching for Germans or "Huns" and their supporters, considering them to be the enemy of the United States of America. And soon, they will find their way to the Cove to sate their lust for blood and revenge. 

I absolutely loved this tragic novel and the characters who were resigned to their fate. Rash guides you by the hand back in time and delivers a story that is both powerful and mesmerizing. As I neared the end, I didn't want to leave the young "witch" and her mute friend to the limited mindset of Mars Hill. Both were more than the town yet circumstances prevented such obvious conclusions and gives the reader instead what could only be their fate. Laurel reminded me of my friends who are very much in tune with Nature and it's a beautiful thing. They live according to the "rules" of Nature and do more than just exist. Although very few people would even speak with Laurel, she lived her life in her own way and would play up the "evil witch" part if someone thought they could get the upper hand on her. Yet, when she meets Walter the mute, she realizes that even she can experience love and true kindness. 

I will admit that I loved reading about the food that Laurel cooked - from pumpkin pie to blackberry pie, to cornbread with blackberry jam, to snap beans. She claimed the kitchen as her own and spread her magick to even there. I would have enjoyed eating her warm cornbread with blackberry jam, plus a cup of homemade muscadine wine as we sit on the steps, while listening to a mute man play his silver flute. 

Welcome to the magick of North Carolina.


Friday, June 23, 2017

Aliens, Sex, and GORE!

Nineteen pages into Night Creeps by Michael D'Ambrosio and I was already gagging. So much gore, so much alien sex . . . I LOVED IT! From the first page all the way to the (literally) bloody end, I was gripped by the story and the characters of good, evil, and even more evil. So much torn flesh . . .

The story is thus: small town Parmissing Valley soon "welcomes" three new visitors - aliens from another world who are bent on destruction, control of the "stupid" human masses, and eating human flesh. The aliens Grimwold, Shurek, and Kroll have the uncanny ability to turn humans into either flesh eating ravaging mutants or half alien half human beings that are linked through the mind. The three descend upon the town without a second thought and eat their way through with glee. They soon get the "brilliant" idea to turn three women - Jane, Suzie, and Pam - into their "companions". However, all goes to hell in an entrails covered hand basket as the body count increases, betrayals are made with fanged glee, and long wiggling tongues are used in the most unique way. Oh and did I mention strange pulsing lumps of DNA? Or eggs with tentacles? Or jellyfish looking creatures with a higher intelligence than the entire planet????

Like I said earlier, this book had me gagging all the way through and yet I couldn't put it down. Although the majority of the book was gore and really, really kinky alien sex scenes, the book held enough humour, action, and twists to make for a damn good read. This book reminded me of the film Tremors and in a good way (if you've never seen that film, I highly recommend watching it!) There are only four authors that have ever made me gag and want to vomit repeatedly - Alexander S. Brown, Jason Fedora, Clive Barker, and Michael D'Ambrosio. Yet, all four of these authors can tell a story rather well, showing off their creativity. Three of them I call good friends. Even if you take the gore out of their stories, they still are worthwhile reads. I highly recommend these four if you are into horror, splatterpunk, dark fantasy, and just good books.

While doing the social media research for this review, I noticed that there is a Night Creeps II on the AZ Publishing website. . . . . . I'm really not sure if I want to read it . . . . . yeah, I probably will!


Thursday, June 22, 2017

Speak the Word ASHMITA Again


When you hear that word, be warned and look up in the sky to see a bolt of blue flying through the heavens! It's Bombay Sapphire, the superhero and servant of Agni, the Indian god of storms! Episode II - The Deccan Dholes, written by Tyree Campbell, head of Alban Lake Publishing, picks up the story a year after the first book, with more action, more of the fight between good and evil, and even . . . . romance?

Nakushi, a young Indian woman whose name means Unwanted, still fights the good fight for her beloved India of the 1960s as Bombay Sapphire, all the while assisting soldiers as they face a new enemy - China. She is also still in pursuit of locating her sister who ran away as well as taking down the Deccan Dholes' crime boss. However, Ganesh Bose, leader of the Dholes, has been searching for her as well, requiring the assistance of an immortal giant named Kazeem. And, to top it all off, she must fight the greatest enemy of all - LOVE. Bombay Sapphire may be the kick ass servant of Agni, but does she have what it takes to take down an immortal, not to mention a civil engineer who may be falling for her? Read Episode II and find out!

I knew that Episode II would be just as good as the first book, yet I will admit that this book was a bit darker with regards to the sick pleasures of Bose and Kazeem. However, the action and cast of characters against the backdrop of India is more than enough to make you want to fly through the book. One MAJOR kudos that I give to Campbell is that he can write women characters rather well. All of his women are intelligent, "real", have emotions yet they don't faint at the drop of a hat, and are independent. Bombay Sapphire is an amazing superhero for anyone to enjoy, but I hope that more women and young girls will pick up the two books and read them with joy. Bombay Sapphire is a hero for the downtrodden and those who feel that they have no fight in them. She will fly from her clouds, give you a smile, and let you know that you do have someone in your corner. Someone who will fight for what is right.

You can purchase Episode II through Amazon or at the ProSe Productions table at conventions, or at the Alban Lake Publishing table at conventions. I've been told that the third book is coming out soon and I look forward to devouring it! (UPDATE: the third book is OUT on Kindle so far - go check Amazon!)



Tuesday, June 20, 2017

A Dagger To the Heart

I, like other bibliophiles, have more books than we can count. It's even harder when you have friends who are authors because you know that you'll be taking home their books after hanging out with them at a convention. Such was the case when I met author Chris S. Hayes at Contraflow (a fantastic con in NOLA - check them out!) several years ago. I purchased a copy of her book Sikkiyn and it sat in my library for quite some time. However, I decided to read it several days ago . . . . WOW!!!

Sikkiyn is, at best, a perfect blend of sci-fi, romance, humour, and action that will have you turning the pages late into the night. You may even want to call in "sick" at work so you can read it in the privacy of your home. It kept me entertained and I'm eagerly awaiting the second book. The story is thus: Johan Larsen, captain of the space ship the Valkyrie, decides to take on the job of transporting a deadly assassin for some extra money to purchase another ship. However, what he didn't plan on was the fact that the deadly assassin is a woman, and a very attractive one at that. Lara, the sikkiyn (assassins who can tap into people's minds and emotions by touching their skin) from Alaran, wants nothing more than to get away from her past - mistakes made, lies told, and vengeance that continues to rear its ugly head. From the first moment that Larsen sees Lara half naked, he is consumed with a desire to be near the small woman with cat eyes. As much as he desires her, she can't figure out why she feels the way she does towards him . . . Add in mobsters with oceanic DNA, French diplomats with no emotions, and descendants of Vikings that look to be on super steroids, and you've got one amazing story to read.

One thing that I will say about Hayes' writing is that it's solid. She can both tell a story and write well, a foot in both realms that shows. She gives just enough description without overloading the readers, yet leaves out just enough so our imaginations can run wild. Her characters are full and rich against an outer space background that provides an interesting answer to the question of What If? What if humans are bred to have certain abilities, like breathing underwater, having giant like strength, or cat like reflexes? To be altered is the wave of the future - extend the life cycle and even be able to repeat it several times. Ah, the Future.

I really liked the romance between Johan and Lara - seeing it bloom from awkwardness and protection to gentle touches and declarations of calling each other elsekede and habibi while in the throes of passion. They belong together because they are alike in many ways (can't give it away - no spoilers!). Their passion and love for each other is real on the pages. When they finally do come together, you sigh because it was done well and at the right time.

Kudos to Hayes for writing such an awesome book! I hope we'll see each other at Contraflow this year! Maybe Farspeaker will be out by then!

Here are her social media links:

Facebook - Chris S. Hayes

Twitter - @chrishayesmd

Please follow her and purchase a copy of her book  - well worth the money and time!


Friday, June 16, 2017

Only In Asheville

For quite some time, people had been telling me that I needed to visit Asheville, North Carolina. It was, as they put it, "right up my alley". I knew what they meant. So, not too long ago, I visited the city for a short period of time, yet that was all I needed to agree with my friends. Asheville is a fun, quirky, eccentric city and those who "get it" are there in abundance. While visiting, I decided to purchase a book from the city so as to cement my visit. Although I'm a big fan of Thomas Wolfe, I wanted something else. And so, I spotted Only in Asheville: An Eclectic History by Marla Hardee Milling. This slim book is a love letter to her hometown that will have you wanting to visit the city as soon as possible.

Asheville is a quirky city, filled with free spirits and those who seek something different in life. It is a city that is welcoming and accepts all, just as long as you respect the eccentricity that is Asheville. Asheville is different from other artistic and quirky cities in that there is also a deep sense of something else there. A spirit that thrives and nourishes the city. When I drove through Downtown Asheville, my head turned this way and that because there was so much to see and feel.

Milling tells how the city came to be while talking of those who played their part in putting Asheville on the map. From the construction of the Biltmore Estate, to the buskers such as the Man in White, to those who wrapped cloth around buildings to prevent a mall from being constructed, to entrepreneurs who took a chance  to open restaurants, to on and on and on, it is these people and so many more who created Asheville and breathed life into it when it was on its last leg. She also talks of how, thanks to the boom that is showing no signs of slowing down, there is a thin line between remaining true to what the city's all about and becoming an Anytown, USA - having large chain stores that will entice outsiders to move there.

Yet, and I mean this in all honesty, I don't see that happening. Asheville is just too funky to be tamed. And good for them. I love visiting "funky" cities - New Orleans, Santa Fe, Albuquerque, even my home city of Memphis. These cities may have their large chain stores, but the core of the city seems to stay true. As a Memphian, I've seen Memphis go from really beautiful city to "what the hell" to making an awesome comeback. We now have several breweries, two distilleries, tons of local places to eat, a thriving music scene, a kick ass artistic scene, tons of festivals and events that celebrate Memphis, and Elvis! However, where Memphis does have its moments of toning it down at times, Asheville seems to let the freak flag fly non stop. How cool.

Thank you for the love letter, Marla. I look forward to visiting Asheville again really soon.

Oh yeah, I DO have an Asheville story: while I was there, "Viking" took me to an IHOP to eat because I was starving, although we had just left a beignet place owned by a former New Orleanian (Bebettes Beignets and Coffee is awesome!). Anyway, our waitress was this multicoloured hair young woman who, after learning I was from Memphis, welcomed me to Asheville. She then told me of how she visited the city then just never left. As she talked, she certainly had the vibe that Milling spoke of in her book. To date, that was still one of my best food experiences. She was cool and my omelet was quite good.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

The Quantum of Tea

I have always enjoyed reading about physics, especially quantum mechanics. For those of you who don't know what quantum mechanics is all about, it is basically the physics of nature at a smaller scale. The components of what makes everything . . . everything! However, one running joke in quantum mechanics is the thought that "if you don't understand quantum, then that means that you understand it". I even have a shirt that says I'm Uncertain About Quantum Mechanics. Funny stuff.

Ever since I began this little tea blend company, I'd always wanted to make a tea to reflect my love of the unknown and the "maybe". So, without further ado, may I present to you Quantum Mechanics Tea Blend!

This blend of bai mu dan white tea, lemongrass, and spearmint will assist in clearing your mind so as to fill it with physics! SCIENCE RULES!

The blend will be available through my Etsy store, through me at the Cooper Young Farmers Market, and other places coming soon.

If you are interested in learning more about quantum mechanics, click HERE to check out the Wikipedia page, or corner me at a convention and let's discuss QUANTUM!

Join The Leaf!

Thursday, June 8, 2017

This Way To Death . . . .

I hate being redundant but here goes:

Whenever I tell people that I'm a thanatologist, I get several responses:

The Blank Stare

The "you need a boyfriend" look

The throwing of holy water on me (okay, that's never happened . . . yet)

In any case, thanatology is a subject that most do not want to talk about. What happens to us when we die? Do we just become worm food, or perhaps we reach the Pearly Gates? Are we stuck in Limbo until we are born again?

Brom, may the Dark Gods adore him, has created an answer that made me want to believe in it. Welcome to Lost Gods. This story transcends the Dark Fantasy subgenre and becomes something else, something more tangible and fearful than we can ever imagine.

The story is thus: average guy Chet Moran has just left jail (again), yet this time, he wants to do the right thing. Trading in his old clunker for something more reliable, he makes his way to pick up his pregnant girlfriend, Trish, in the hope that she will run away with him to become his wife. She does, and the two travel to his grandmother's home in remote South Carolina. They are welcomed by the loving(?) grandmother named Lamia and given a place of refuge as long as they need it. Yet, all is not right in this pretty picture, and soon Chet must literally die to save the life of his wife and child.

The majority of the book takes place in the netherworld a la Brom, filled with mysterious robed women who are protectors, bottles of alcohol that will make you forget everything, a rising group of souls who want to free themselves from the gods of old, and battles fought between darkness and "not as dark". The netherworld that Chet encounters welcomes him with poison drenched hands and tongues that are black and rotting. Chet rises up to the challenge, proving that it takes more than Death to keep him from the ones that he loves. I loved the fact that Chet was a flawed hero. I honestly did not expect for him to succeed in his task. Not only did he succeed but he also changed to something harder and more mature. He becomes more human than human (thank you White Zombie!) because he risks it all for the woman who loves him.

This book grabbed me from page one and did not let go of me, even after closing the book once completed. Brom extended his mastery of the Darkness from art to words and it shows. I completely forgot at times that Chet was in the LAND OF THE DEAD, that everyone he encountered was dead. The "life" that exuded from the netherworld reminded me of the film The Corpse Bride - how the land of the living was dreary and dull, while the land of the dead was simply not. I've been a fan of Brom's art for years, yet now I want to read all of his other works. I know I won't be disappointed.


Tuesday, June 6, 2017

The World's Most Famous Monster Tells All

It's been years since I read Beowulf, yet the story remains inside of my mind. A monster like no other. A hero who comes to the aid of others and smites the "dangerous beast". Good shall win while Evil will perish. Yet, what about the monster? Do we just watch him get killed without wondering about his life and background? Thankfully, John Gardner answered those questions.

Grendel is the most philosophical monster book I've ever read and I'm ashamed to admit that it's taken me this long to read it. Yet, it was quite a delight to read as I stumbled through the woods with Grendel, watched him eat the humans, and sat with him and his "mother" in the cave. From the time he is a child to his gruesome death, Grendel's view of the world is that of a hairy and brutal philosopher. He questions what he sees, chooses to believe what he wants to believe, and enjoys taunting the humans on an almost daily basis. I enjoyed the conversation he has with the cantankerous dragon as well as how he torments the would be hero Unferth with much mirth. The death scene was short yet Grendel's mind and thoughts continued to ramble on. He will live in eternity.

I look forward to sampling more of Gardner's works and views on Life and Death and the Absurdity of It All.


Friday, June 2, 2017

To Tell the Truth . . . .

Although I read all kinds of books, I am a sucker when it comes to certain British authors. Ian McEwan, although I haven't read his latest, is the top of my list (read Atonement, Amsterdam, The Cement Garden) in the "British overload with just the right amount of tweed" moment. Iain Pears is another author whose books I devour. I truly think my IQ goes up whenever I read Pears' works. Stone's Fall, The Portrait, The Dream of Scipio - all great works to get lost in. However, I think his magnum opus is An Instance of the Fingerpost. The 683 page tome sat in my library for quite some time before I decided to read it. It came in handy when my city recently experienced Hurricane Elvis II. With no power, the book was my friend until my utilities were restored. And what a friend I made.

The story is thus: we travel back in time to 1660s Oxford England. A time of discoveries, treachery, revolutions, faith, ignorance, and the vast differences between men and women. A member of New College is found dead in his home and all fingers point to a young servant woman named Sarah Blundy. The story is told from four different perspectives: a young Italian Catholic man who visits England for further studies in medicine, the violent and angry son of a Royalist traitor, a cryptographer who truly has no heart, and an esteemed antiquarian who is also a bibliophile. From their words, we "see" the events leading up to and surrounding the murder as well as whom each person thinks committed the heinous act. However, while each person offers their "truth" of what happened, only one story is the Actual Truth.

I could not put this book down. At all. I found myself tearing through the pages I walked with the characters, shared their awful food and ale, and listened to secrets being told that would never see the light of day. We the readers will be called upon to question everything and to deny nothing, for everything you read in this book, as I said before, is a certain form of the Truth. Pears masterfully blends mystery, history, a bit of romance, politics, and especially religion into a novel that you will miss once you reach the shocking end. I will not give out spoilers but the ending floored me. I had no idea.

I think it's always good to engage in events that challenge our minds and make us think rather than just blindly accept and move on. An Instance of the Fingerpost will challenge you and, hopefully, make you want to learn more about the presented historical figures and time period.

A well done novel!


Thursday, June 1, 2017

The Order Welcomes You . . . NEW TEA BLEND

I blame it all on Rick Johnson.

On the last day of  the Memphis Comic and Fantasy Convention several years ago, Rick was sitting at his table, working on a commission piece. It was of a plague doctor. Being a fan of his work, I asked him about the piece, all the while a story idea began to brew in my head. Minutes later, I sold the Order of the Black Silk Trilogy to ProSe Productions. The first book came out March of this year. However, it wasn't enough. I wanted to not only write more about the world I had created, but also create a tea inspired by my words.

Ladies and gentlemen, may I present the new Viridian Tea Company blend - Order of the Black Silk Tea!

The blend of assam tea, lemongrass, dried orange peel, and dried cranberries is an excellent way to enter the Otherworldy city of Cinis! The blend will be available at the Broom Closet in the South Main Arts District of Memphis, on my Etsy site, and through me at the Cooper Young Community Farmers Market.

THIS SATURDAY (3 June 2017) I will be throwing a sale - if you purchase a copy of the book from me at the Cooper Young Community Farmers Market, a regular bag of the tea will only be $4 and a sampler will be $2! I'm only doing this one day, so stop by the booth.

May your Cup never dry!

Friday, May 26, 2017

901 Story - Cookie Shaped Boots

Thanks to technical difficulties in the showing of a classic film starring Marlon Brando, I instead learned about the role Memphis played (and still plays) in the film industry. After the engaging lecture, I felt the need to enjoy a cookie, and so drove to the coffeehouse that stays open late and houses a drink called Funky Monkey. When I reached the place, the nice barista sold me a freshly baked cookie the size of a saucer, and so I found a place to sit and enjoy the warm goodness. Something caught my eye and as I looked up, I noticed a man tuning his guitar. He wore a wide brim hat and looked like a rough hipster version of Harry Connick Jr.. I was immediately interested as he introduced himself as Frankie Boots. Born in California, now living in New Orleans was his line. He sang of being an only child, living in California, being in love and being hurt with a voice that seemed older than his supposed years. At one point, he dedicated a song to me about a bar stool far away and I wanted to look away, yet found myself staring at him even more so. After an hour of solid playing, he took a break and sold his music to anyone who wanted to take him everywhere. He asked for my name and I felt a connection, one that creatives get when they are able to find each other amid the sea of white noise and "fitting in". When I finally left, glowing on the inside and out, I waved goodbye to him as he sat rolling his cigarettes outside of the coffee shop. Maybe our paths will cross again - I wanted to take a photo of his guitar and the soul that possessed it.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Mind Over Murder . . .

When I first met author Steve Bradshaw, I knew he either was a cop or used to be a cop. People in law enforcement have that LOOK, the one that easily tells you that they are not to be trifled with. Although he does have that look, he is also quite a nice man and apparently one hell of an author. I tore through Evil Like Me: A Forensic/Paranormal Thriller, as published through Griffyn Ink, and I was sorry to leave that version of Memphis. It was, in short, a ride through the mind that I'll never forget.

The story, based on actual events, is thus: the United States Government began a program that utilized the talents of psychics as weapons. Years later, the program is stopped to a grinding halt and all future research has been cancelled . . . or so everyone thinks. Speed up to current time in Memphis, Tennessee, where Homicide Detective Tony Wilcox is looking for a man who may or may not be responsible for four deaths. However, as he soon teams up with Medical Examiner Dr. Victoria Petty, the two slowly realize that there's more to the deaths than they think. Everything that they consider to be of logic and reason is thrown out the window as they must handle matters of the mind . . . . literally.

This book read like a really really good episode of Law and Order, except that rather than watching the show from the comfort of your home, you are right there with Wilcox and Petty, stumbling through the dark in an attempt to understand just why a man named Hunter Keller is so important to the United States Government. Every bullet shot out and received in a bloody fashion, every chase that leads to more bodies and more questions, and every moment of suspended disbelief will have you turning the pages. You don't get bogged down with forensic details, nor is the book one giant car chase through Memphis - Bradshaw paces out the story just enough so that you get to take a breath and maybe get some water. His writing style reminds me of author Harlan Coben (I LOVE his work!) in that you are thrown into it all right from the beginning but it's so good that you don't care.

I do know that Bradshaw will be at the Memphis Comic and Fantasy Convention this year - if you get a chance to attend, do yourself a favour and attend his panels. Having the pleasure of being on a panel with him, I have to admit that he's a delight to talk with and the dude knows his stuff. If, however, you can't wait to purchase copies of his books, you can either order them through Amazon, or purchase them at South Main Book Juggler in the South Main District of Memphis.


Friday, May 19, 2017

901 Story - Cold Tea

The hip coffee shop was half full when I walked in. Due to my latest round of frustrations with my job, I figured that a cup of Darjeeling tea and a muffin would set me right. After receiving my super sized tea and muffin warmed just right, I found a table and soon started jotting down thoughts before I forgot them. As I wrote, I overheard several of the baristas talk about a young man who recently died due to a caffeine overdose. I had heard of the story and remembered shaking my head in sadness over it. Just then, one of the baristas said that when he used to work in a corporate office, he would drink cup after cup of coffee not for the caffeine but for the warmth. Soon, another barista who sat behind me agreed that that particular place had been too cold for words. I turned to face her and offered my story - that my corporate job space was cold every day and how one could almost see their breath while working. We shared a nice laugh and I returned to my tea as the stress of corporate left me. Even though I had to return soon, I knew that the tea and muffin were enough good juju to finish the day.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

901 Story - The Old Men and the Vinyl

(sample of my vinyl collection)

While searching for book titles in the library bookstore in an attempt to kill some time, I overheard two older men talk about the good ol' days via vinyl. They reviewed each album that was on sale, each asking the other if they owned a copy of it, all the while talking about their obviously massive vinyl collections. As much as I wanted to go through the vinyl to possibly add to my nice sized collection, I continued searching for books and let the men have their fun. They spoke of how they locate their vinyl at estate sales with such pride as though they were talking about their children and grandchildren, complete with photos in their wallet. Did they, I wondered, enjoy their vinyl with friends and flowing cocktails? Showing off their latest find to those who were of the Vinyl Faith? Perhaps they saved that experience for themselves, considering it to be too sacred for the masses. Vinyl spoke through the ages and those two men continued to answer the call. 

Monday, May 15, 2017

901 Story - Pie of the Bibliophiles

We met at our usual spot, ready to play catch up and enjoy good cups of tea. Every time we get together, I'm always reminded that we met through a love of art. While eating my warmed up slice of vegan blackberry pie, she spoke of books that influenced her writing and that she adored children's books. Bibliophiles have that uncanny ability to find each other - perhaps we give off a scent that smells of used bookstores. We shared laughter and even moments of pain to show that our sums were stronger than the parts. I looked around at the other patrons in the coffee shop and realized that this was a perfect moment. Even the blackberry seeds caught between my teeth felt natural and not an annoyance. As the sun began to set, we went our separate ways as strings of words we hadn't written yet trailed behind us.

(for my friend Jenny)

Thursday, May 4, 2017

A Love Story Set to Music

An Unfinished Score, written by my aether friend Elise Blackwell, is a love letter written to music. This book was an absolute delight to read and I'm just sorry that I didn't read it sooner. The story is thus: Suzanne Sullivan, a viola player in a quartet, learns that famous conductor Alex Elling has died in a horrible plane crash. She's distraught, not only for the sake that the world lost quite a talent, but that she was his lover for several years. As the book progresses, we experience Suzanne's day to day life, now that the man she truly loved is dead. Her husband, Ben (cellist and composer), and best friend Petra (violinist) with her deaf daughter Adele, all live in the same house yet Suzanne feels only grief and loss. However, as she begins to receive strange phone calls from Chicago, Suzanne will soon learn that not everything she knows is the truth and that lies are more comforting to the heart.

I will admit that I really didn't like Suzanne, yet I still wanted to know what would come of her once she learned of her lover's death. Her husband seemed to love her but in a different way, while Alex, as excellently portrayed in past memories by Blackwell, ignited her passions and dared her to feel the music rather than just play it. Although I found Suzanne to be a weak character in emotions at the beginning, she carried the story to the very end and became stronger and better. Out of all of the characters, I truly enjoyed reading about Alex the most. Although he came off as such a pompous ass while alive, his death showed us that he had a human side, one that he showed to Suzanne frequently. The scene in which he and Suzanne make love as a violinist plays in their hotel room while blindfolded was one such example. Although Alex was married, the love he had for Suzanne was genuine and raw. True, he did have other lovers before her, but it felt as though he showed his true nature to Suzanne. I actually felt sorry for his wife, Olivia.

Thank you as always, Elise, for your beautiful words. I look forward to reading whatever else you write.


Tuesday, May 2, 2017

SYR - Celtic Folk Rock At Its Best

I love it when people in my life introduce me to different music groups. For example, I have "Viking" to thank for my now fangirl status in liking Great Big Sea (I HIGHLY recommend checking them out - they've broken up but their music is still amazing!), Alan DoyleTuatha Dea, and now SYR. After receiving a lovely care package with several CDs inside not too long ago, I decided to pop in SYR and see what would unfold.

Wow. That's all I can say. Just wow.

I've loved Celtic music for a long time - call it my Irish roots (I did the research and yes, I do have Irish blood), my love of Celtic history, or how some "Raven Headed Being Who Represents War and Death" has infiltrated my life. Regardless, I love how goosebumps appear on my skin whenever I hear that kind of music. The music of SYR does that to me and I'm gad for it. Their first self titled CD is a solid CD - there are no bad or weak tracks at all. From the first blood pumping song "Mo Gradh" to the last, and quite funny, song of "I Drove My Father To Drink", this CD will appeal to those who can appreciate good music with well thought out lyrics. Although I love all of the songs, my all time favourite is "Who Are You" - great message and beautiful accompanying music!

I look forward to many more CDs from this band - if any of the band members happen to read this post: PLEASE COME TO MEMPHIS!


Monday, May 1, 2017

A FIRE That Will Never Die

Last week, I attended an interview of underground comic artist Peter Bagge at the Brooks Museum of Art and it was quite educational. Although I'd never read his comics, I was familiar with HATE and his style of drawing. However, what really pricked my interest was when he discussed two of his works involving women who made a difference in America. One was Margaret Sanger and the other was Zora Neale Hurston. She is one of my inspirations on many levels, so it was quite pleasing to hear how much he enjoyed not only researching her life but also completing the graphic novel FIRE: The Zora Neale Hurston Story.

I will freely admit that I've read this book at least three times since purchasing it and I found something different with every read. Although it's not the complete story of her life, the book gives you enough that you can't help but want to read all of her works. Hurston was an adventure seeker, a woman who refused to allow anyone to dictate her life to her, and someone who was a force to be reckoned with. Whites and blacks admired her and if they didn't, she couldn't have cared less. She had a voice and she refused to be silent. Bagge, in his art and conception, gives her more than proper credit and respect. Even if you know nothing about Hurston and her works, this book provides just enough to educate and enlighten you on such a fascinating woman.


Sunday, April 30, 2017

The Theatre of the Mind

Memory Theater is a slim look into the philosophy of the memory. Written as fiction by renowned philosopher Simon Critchley, the story unfolds as he discovers several boxes, each assigned an astrological sign, from a friend of his. This friend was a great French philosopher who, although lived a fine life, succumbed to madness in the end during a terrible summer heat wave. As a result, the boxes appear in the narrator's office, and so he goes through them to discover that his friend was involved with more than he had initially thought. He discovers the Memory Theater, a tool used to remember one's memories as well as store them for later use. The narrator also discovers documents and other things with regards to conversations held, meetings planned, and the like. Finally, in the last box marked Pisces, the narrator discovers several charts of different lives as mapped out by his deceased friend, including one for the narrator. Each chart lists the accomplishments of that person and even the death (with date, time, and cause), sending the narrator into a sort of calm panic. As the narrator begins to prepare for his death, he undergoes psychosomatic episodes of pain in his body, hallucinations, and voices that only he can hear, all wrapped within a calm readiness to end his life. As the narrator sits in a chair on the date of his death, only to continue living well beyond the time allegedly planned, he realizes that he must live again. The death of one way of thinking to make room for the "next life". And so, he does.

I know I have told the entire plot of this book, yet I highly encourage everyone to read it. It's a slim read (will take up an afternoon unless if you take tea breaks) yet it is brain food. What is memory? Why are some better at keeping it than others? When we die, where do the memories go, if anywhere? Are we the total sum of our memories? And if so, can we therefore change our lives by changing those memories? Every now and then, I love reading philosophy. I love to "wake up" my brain with questions that may or may not have answers. This book did that for me in a simplistic way with much depth. Critchley is quite talented in both the fiction and philosophy realms. Even the black humour sprinkled through the book gave me quite a chuckle as I imagined hearing him speak the words with a British accent.

As they say in the movie Yellow Submarine (one of my favourite movies) - It's All in the Mind.


Friday, April 28, 2017

The World of Jonah Mason - New Tea Blend!

Why do bad things happen to good people?


In the ancient war between the Angels of Light and Darkness, the Dark won. Now it is the job of an undercover force simply known as the Army to rectify that . . . .

And thus begins Angelkiller, the first in the Angelkiller triad by author H. David Blalock, as published through Seventh Star Press.

Sounds like a HELL of a book . . . and TEA!

May I present you the newest blend from Viridian Tea Company - Angelkiller Tea Blend!

This blend of assam tea, dried orange peel, cloves, and vanilla will have you flying to the heavens!

The tea will be for sale on the Viridian Tea Company Etsy store, as well as the VTC booth at the Cooper Young Farmers Market in Memphis, and other places coming soon.

And while you're at it, order a copy of the book today! Blalock is an amazingly talented author, not to mention a dear friend.

May your Cup never dry!

Thursday, April 27, 2017

~ coffee stains ~

Listening to a folk singer
sing about coffee stains
and love lost and gained.
Forgive me, but I feel more solid
because I refused to break.
Last time was my fault - 
he gave me the hammer when he pushed
me away.
Amid my dreams of tea leaves,
I have a desire to eat pancakes in bed
with a man who has eyes 
blessed by Odin.
One who likes my unhealed cracks.
The coffee stains have dried,
and I can breathe better now.
The breaking is broken.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

A Love Letter to Pawpaws


Now that I have your attention . . . .  How many of you know what a pawpaw is?

For the longest time, I had heard of this thing called a pawpaw yet never knew exactly what it was, let alone even tasted one. Thanks to the brilliant writing of Andrew Moore, the mystery is over. Pawpaw, a fruit native to this country, was a staple in the diets of several Native American tribes as well as the settlers who came to this land. Throughout the years, pawpaws enjoyed a nice and well deserved recognition among people who lived in the Middle and Eastern part of the country. With a creamy custard/banana/mango/caramel flavour, pawpaws were THE fruit for a very long time. And then, it almost slid into oblivion.

Andrew Moore has carefully crafted a love letter to pawpaws and I'll be honest - I'm quite smitten with the fruit myself and I have yet to taste one. In his book Pawpaw: In Search of America's Forgotten Fruit, as published by Chelsea Green Publishing, he takes you by the hand and leads you through America's history by way of the pawpaw. He gives a detailed and interesting journey of the fruit that will leave you drooling and more than ready to eat your first pawpaw. He then continues to share the "love" by meeting up with pawpaw farmers and distributors, attending the Ohio Pawpaw Festival (I'm hoping to attend this year - woot!), and even going "hunting" with legendary people who fell in love with the fruit and never looked back. There is also a serious side to the pawpaw - not only is it nutritious, but it is also a major fighter in the war against cancer. Just let that sink in. A fruit, native to this country, has the possibility to ERADICATE cancer.

(photo from

However, it's not just Americans who grow and love the fruit - according to Moore, other countries have taken up the rallying call of the pawpaw to grow it as well. More restaurants, farmers markets, and other establishments are looking into the pawpaw and liking what they see. However, as Moore points out (and this is in my OWN words), pawpaws seem to be the Diva of the fruit world - their skin bruises easily, you can't pick them before they are ripe or else they will go bad, you can't pick them well into their ripeness, and they have a very short shelf life. Is it really worth all the trouble, then? Why yes. Yes it is.

I had the pleasure of meeting Moore at a book signing at South Main Book Juggler and I have to say that it was truly a delight meeting him. Here was a man who could easily be called an authority of pawpaws; after reading the book, I know it for sure.

Pawpaws To The People!

Sunday, April 23, 2017

The Samurai and the Teashop Owner - Three

Consider this to be the "prequel" of the Samurai and Teashop Owner poetry I've been posting lately. This is a snippet that will continue on as the characters speak to me.


(Taken at Memphis Botanical Gardens)

One upon a time, or so the mystics claim, the rain fell in a steady pattern when he arrived at the teashop. She drank from her small cup as she watched him slowly walk down the path that led to her place of business. When he reached the lower step, he carefully raised his head and looked at her directly in the eyes as she leaned against the entry way. She raised her cup to him and he nodded. I am in need of a place to stay for the night, he said in a quiet tone, as if he thought of every word before saying it. So I see, she replied with a trace of honour. Please, she said as she stood aside, come inside and get dry. The samurai nodded as he walked up the stairs. She moved to one of the walls as he walked by her. The teashop owner smiled as a faint yet detectable scent of cherry blossoms wafted from his soaked clothing. She noticed that his clothing looked to be quite worn and that his hair was messy, yet she placed her cup on the table and said, Give me a moment to prepare a room. Sit here and I shall bring you food and tea. The samurai nodded again as she left him then sat down at one of the tables and placed his katana on the floor next to him. He stared out of the windows for a while, watching the rain continue to fall, then looked down at his weapon. How many times have I brought down an enemy against my Lord?, he thought. How many times have I taken the head of this one or that, to claim the right and power of him? He sighed then closed his eyes. He could still hear their screams, feel the splash of warm blood against his face. He fought them by his Code, the one that all samurai must learn and follow to the death. And yet . . . He opened his eyes and looked down at his weapon once more. I . . . am tired, he thought.

Some time later, the teashop owner returned to the main room with tea and steamed buns on a tray, along with grilled mackerel that smelled quite delightful. The samurai felt his stomach growl as she placed the items before him with a quiet grace then sat down next to him. Itadakimasu, he said as he nodded at her then picked up his chopsticks and began to eat. The teashop owner poured his tea then reached for her cup and sipped from it. You have come from a long way, she said in a form of conversation. I can smell the cherry blossoms on you. The samurai stopped eating then nodded. We haven't seen the cherry blossoms in quite some time here, she continued. Tell me, mighty samurai, why do you feel of defeat? The samurai stared at his food, his appetite somewhat diminished. I prefer not to answer such a question, he said as he took his cup in his hand, until I learn your name. My name?, she asked with a soft smile. Why must you know that? Because I need to give prayer to the spirits in thanks to you for this, he replied. She lowered her eyes then looked at him. My name is Murasaki, she replied as she sipped from her cup. And you? I am Fumio, he replied. Murasaki finished her cup then got up and left the room, while Fumio continued to eat by the rhythm of the falling rain.

To Be Continued . . .

Saturday, April 22, 2017

A Colourless Man

Haruki Murakami is one of those authors in which everything they write feels like a dream. Or nightmare, depending on how you look at things in the world. In Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage, a young man discovers just how much his life affected others even when he thought he was"colourless" to do anything.

Meet Tsukuru Tazaki, a young Japanese man who thinks of Death. He lives a very normal and ordinary life with no passion because he feels he should die. In fact, the desire came from when, after moving to Tokyo from his hometown of Nagoya, his four friends from school cut him off for good. His friends were all named after colours except for him, and he felt as though they all lead colourful lives. He was simply, as he thought, the bland one. However, once he is cut from his friends, Tazaki undergoes a kind of Death and then Rebirth, changing him for the better. And it is during this transformation that, thanks to a woman he's seeing, he decides to go on a pilgrimage to learn the truth behind his exile. Murakami also weaves in stories within the main story - the one regarding a man named Midorikawa (green river) who stays in a hot springs resort was beautiful to read.

This entire book read like a dream, one that I hated to leave. Tazaki felt as though he was a soul aimlessly wandering around Japan (and Finland), yet that was far from the truth. As he learns during his pilgrimage, he was the one who was the most solid of the group. He was the one that everyone relied upon, even when they cast him away from the group. Due to a horrible accusation, the four knew that he would make it because he was just that strong - that colourful. And in learning that truth, Tazaki realizes that he can finally live and love in a world filled with colour, just for him.

Arigato gozaimasu!

Monday, April 17, 2017

Vive le Bohemian France!

Bonjour Tristesse (Hello Sadness) by Francoise Sagan  is ultimately France from a Bohemian point of view. Sagan wrote the book when she was only 18 years old, yet the story has a feeling of worldliness, experience, and adulthood. The story is thus: Cecile, a 17 year old girl, is our narrator as she and her father live their lives to the fullest in all aspects. Her father is "involved" with a younger woman named Elsa, cementing the trio as solid . . . but only for so long. During one summer, as Cecile and her father are on summer vacation, they receive a visitor - Anne, a friend of Cecile's deceased mother. Distinguished and graceful, she enters their lives once more with much poise and grace, thereby ensnaring Cecile's father and kicking Elsa to the curb. Thus begins Cecile's plan to get things back to the way they were, although consequences will be seriously paid.

I read this book in three sittings and enjoyed every minute of it. Sagan's descriptions enhanced the overall reading pleasure and made it more than just a book written by an 18 year old French girl. Love, despair, jealousy, sex, and even regrets play rather well with each other in this book. Seeing as how I'm a Francophile anyway, Bonjour Tristesse was like eating a delicious croissant with a hint of almond in it (yes, I love almond croissants and would actually pursue a degree in how to search for the perfect one, but I digress . . . actually, that might be a really cool blog post . . . )




Sunday, April 16, 2017

Child of God, Son of the Devil

First, let me wish each and every one of you a Happy Easter!

Now, on to the book review!

Child of God by Cormac McCarthy left me shivering and not because I was cold. This gritty Southern Gothic novel is slim yet will stay with you for a very long time. In the backwoods of Tennessee lives Ballard, a young man who has been falsely accused of rape. When he is released, Ballard then turns his poisoned mind towards his fellow man and shows them just "what fer". Setting fire to a house means nothing to him, nor does killing people with a blast from his shotgun. He does not live, only merely exists beyond the grace of God yet with the full blessing of the Devil himself. Some of Ballard's actions were evil, while others left me realizing that there was truly something wrong with him mentally. His "end" was suitable for such a life lived.

I got hooked on McCarthy's sparse style of writing while reading No Country for Old Men - the lack of punctuation, the raw feeling exhibited by his characters, the backgrounds that are harsh and unforgiving. After that, I knew I had to read more of his work. Child of God threw me right back into McCarthy's "world" and I loved every minute of it. You are locked into his writing from the first page. Actually, you are strapped into your chair, given no water, and made to look at each scene unfold into its gory beauty. Reading No Country for Old Men was such an experience out West (the film was the same!) and Child of God was the repeat performance in Tennessee.


Wednesday, April 12, 2017

The Mysterious Continent

I turn around one last time to view my home for the past several weeks. Cold. Way below freezing. Death. And yet, I'm sad to leave, because as I stated before, it was my home for several weeks. Sighing, I turn towards the ship and board. As someone hands me a cup of hot tea, I sit by a window and watch the ship bid farewell to Antarctica, the Mysterious Continent. After having a dream that I visited the ice continent and took in the wonders there, I decided to learn more about this place. All I knew of Antarctica was that it was the only continent not inhabited by humans, with ice and snow and temperatures I've never experienced before.

I was dead, dead wrong.

Thanks to the fabulous Gabrielle Walker, Antarctica comes alive through her words in the book Antarctica: An Intimate Portrait of a Mysterious Continent. She speaks Science in such a way that everyone can understand and learn from with ease. From the first page of her Introduction to the last page inciting hope to save the continent from global warming, you'll feel as through you're right there with her, braving every moment of sheer frozen terror and wonderful discoveries. As much as I enjoyed the book, I didn't want it to end. Walker's writing is just that good. Plus, the people she met were colourful and eccentric  - you had to be in order to be there.

The explorers Amundsen, Scott, and Shackleton braved the continent with hardly the equipment used today. They dared to do what others could not and would not do. And, because of them and many others, Antarctica is a little more understandable and still just as mysterious. From those who dig deep into the ice for core samples that date several thousands, if not millions, of years old, to those who survey the landscape and feel as though they are on the planet Mars, Walker shows us that Antarctica is not for the faint of heart. It is for the different heart. Eccentric seal and penguin watchers, children being born there so they can claim that they are Antarticans, even a gift shop that provides coffee mugs and souvenirs.  There's even a sickness known as going "toast" when you lose all sense of self and just . . . exist. Actually, not even that.

Many people know that I am an Adventure Seeker and will try (mostly) anything once. Yes, I found myself looking up ways to visit Antarctica on several occasions, all the while wondering how I would pay for such a trip. To explore a place where your neighbours are seals, penguins, whales, strange creatures of the deep, not to mention that your life hangs by a fragile icy thread every time you stepped outside of the camp. . . . yep, I was actually talking myself into it.

To visit Antarctica, as many researchers and scientists informed Walker, is to understand surrender. If you visit with an ego the size of New Jersey, be prepared for it to be coldly crushed. In Antarctica, no one is better or worse than others. Everyone who is stationed there is equal, although that wasn't the case not too long ago between men and women. However, everyone plays a part to assist in keeping everyone safe, alive, and healthy there. One screw up could cost some one's life.

This book was a phenomenal read - I HIGHLY recommend it to everyone.

So, with a final wave, I say goodbye to Antarctica, a la Midnight Oil.