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!