Tuesday, March 27, 2018

A Darker Wonderland

I found a copy of The Floating World in a used bookstore here in Memphis. Being a lover of Japanese culture, I figured that it would be an interesting read. I was wrong. The Floating World by Cynthia Gralla is an excellent read, one that I would like to read repeatedly. This book is lush and sensual, allowing the reader to dive into a darker Wonderland with hopes of never returning home.

Liza, a student at an Ivy League university, leaves it all behind to travel to Japan after being entranced by the world of ankoku butoh, meaning the dance of utter darkness. She sees a different world and longs to become a part of it. Her life in Japan soon consists of dancing butoh, starving herself, taking in new lovers while she taunts her former lover back home, and meeting and befriending a strange woman who leads the way. Maboroshi, a woman who dwells in this Wonderland, lives a life of decadence, extremes, and never ending pleasures. She and her group of women dressed as maiko (apprentice geisha) wreak havoc in the streets of Tokyo with perfume scented kimonos, daggers, and distorted visions. They lure Liza into their world and it is here that she evolves and becomes something stranger and deeper than she could ever imagine. The Floating World is a novel of a woman's attempt to discover her hidden side, the one she knew possibly existed yet never met it until now. Reading this book was like having a delicious erotic dream.

When I was halfway through the novel, I knew I had to reach out to the author. I had to let her know just how much I adored her book and that I had to create a tea blend for it - The Dance of Maboroshi tea blend will be coming out in two months - be on the lookout for it!

I fell in love with Gralla's writing - she makes you feel everything you read. You want to see the horrific because it pleases you so. A light brush of silk across the face as you are blindfolded, your heart beating fast because you are in someone else's hands. You desire more and you know that you'll get it, yet be warned. The darkness never leaves this Wonderland, this modern ukiyo. It will crawl across your skin like the sushi placed on the naked woman in the more expensive restaurants. You take your chopsticks and delicately pluck the darkness from the woman's body and eat it, feeling the slight warmth from the skin envelop around your morsel. Gralla gives us morsels to savour just like Liza and we feel full from it. We feel lighter than air and stronger than ever because we have tasted true desire. I could go on and on but I'll just end this review with - Buy The Book.

Arigato, Cynthia-san!


Saturday, March 24, 2018

Harney and Sons Organic Bangkok - Tea Review

I may have found a new Spring/Summer favourite.

Harney and Sons Tea Company has done it again with Organic Bangkok Tea Blend. This green tea is quite the refreshing blend, as you enjoy the tastes of ginger, coconut, and vanilla along with the green tea. The smell of the tea is quite grassy and fresh, making me burn my mouth in the process because I didn't want to wait for it to cool down.

The overall experience of this tea is exotic, delicious, and for me, simple. Although the tea smelled grassy and fresh, the taste was very much a pleasing blend of green tea, coconut without being overpowering, and vanilla. I tasted only the barest hint of ginger at the very end of the sip - that surprised me, as ginger tends to be strong and sometimes bitter at times depending on how much is used. Yet with every sip, the flavours came alive for me while the mouthfeel was wet and satisfying. The instant I took a sip, I felt as though I was in another land, enjoying a Spring day while people watching in a cafe. This is a tea for when you are on vacation - adds to the overall excitement of being somewhere else! This tea is a good "comfort the soul" tea blend as well and I would love to try it iced. I didn't need any sugar or sweetener for this tea; however, I did eat some mango sorbet before sipping the tea (works well - try it if you can!) and that flavour enhanced the tea. This tea came in my Murder on the Orient Express tea order as a free sample and I'm glad I had a chance to try it. I will definitely be ordering this tea very soon.

Much thanks to Harney and Sons!

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Murder on the Orient Express - New Tea Review

Murder on the Orient Express is one of my favourite films and books - someone has died on a snowbound luxury train, and it's up to Hercule Poirot to solve the murder! When I learned that Kenneth Branagh would be directing an all new version of the classic film, I knew I had to watch it. However, when I learned that Harney and Sons Tea Company made a blend for the film/book, I really knew that I had to have it. I decided to enjoy a cup of the tea while watching the film and the experience was more than I bargained for.

Let me start by saying that I truly enjoyed the film. While the first film will always be my favourite and the book is a lovely piece of work, the Kenneth Branagh version is worth watching. An all star cast against a luscious and colourful backdrop with a heinous murder underneath it all - go rent the film!

Now - on to the tea!

The Murder on the Orient Express tea blend is a decadent mixture of black tea, oolong tea, jasmine tea, and bergamot oil. When you open the tea tin, the first thing you smell is the bergamot - a winner in my book. However, when the tea is prepared, the levels of the flavours change. First sip was quite smoky - a nice surprise to the tea. When I let it cool down somewhat, the smoky flavour remained yet now with a bergamot/jasmine end. The mouthfeel was wet and longing for a another sip. As the tea continued to cool down, the mouthfeel increased as wet and now soft. The best way to describe drinking this tea is: getting on a train with adventure in mind, wearing all black clothes, packed with books and a trusty camera, a feeling of decadence and longing to see the world. All of that in one cup.

This tea is perfect for all day but I think I'll be enjoying this tea on the weekends or in the evening, preferably while watching a foreign film or enjoying a really good book. This tea blend should be savoured little by little - no slurping it down.

Much thanks to Harney and Sons for creating such a delightful tea!

Tuesday, March 20, 2018


I love it here.

An eternal sense of bliss. Nothing to do but just breathe. The clouds crawl across the sky. My eyes barely move to watch them. There are others near me. They feel the same as I. One woman never moves her head as she rests against a tree. An older man lifts a flower to his face as he lays in the grass. He eats the flower then lets his hand drop to his side to locate another one. Three children dressed in white breathe in unison. I raise my arms to the clouds and watch them move back and forth. So slender. I can see my bones protruding under my skin. When was the last time I ate? Ah, another cloud.

I remember one time when my world was filled with noise. Rushing to get out of bed, rushing to get to work, rushing to get home to my husband, rushing through uninspired sex, sleep for three hours then do it all over again. One rainy day, a man with a dented tea pot stood at my door. He said he could slow me down. At first, I thought he was insane until he gave me a cup of his tea. One sip and I felt my eyelids grow heavy as the man became a blur. I blinked ever so slowly and soon found myself in a vast valley. I saw people of every race, gender, and age either laying on the grass, leaning against trees, or just walking around. I then heard the voice of the man telling us all to breathe. I slowed down. I took a deep breath then fell on the extremely soft grass. I slowed down. I'm still slowing down.

I see the man every so often. He calls us his friends.

Sometimes . . . I see . . . someone suddenly jump . . . .up and look around . . . .in fright. . . . as though . . . . . . . they don't know why they are here. . . . . . . . . . . they try to . . . . . . . . . . run . . . . . . . . . . . . and the ground holds them . . . . . . . . . . . . . fast. . . . . . . . . . soon they . . . . . . . . . .  . . . . return to just breathing . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . I raise . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . my . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . arms . . . . . . . . . . . . to the . . . . . . . . . . clouds . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . when did . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . I last . . . . . . . .  . . . . . . . eat . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

(time for tea, my friends)

(breathe just breathe)

 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . breathe . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Condemnation of the Soul

I stand before you a condemned man. This rope around my neck will soon end my life, thanks to you out there. Scoff at me all you want but I speak the truth. Each and every one of you are to blame for this. You claim that I committed such an atrocious act, yet I know my innocence. I would never do what you claimed I did. Rachelle was my life, my love. I wanted to grow old with her. To kill the one thing that brings me joy . . .I'm sorry, what used to bring me joy. You know how much I loved her.

Yell at me all you want but I didn't kill her! Never in a million years!

Are you through screaming at me? In fact, I should be the one screaming at you. Yes. Look at you, so smug, so blissfully unaware. I may die an innocent man but I am still condemned thanks to my beliefs. You have no idea what you're a part of now. Remember when your lives were as fulfilling as the slop you gave the pigs? Remember those days? We were all poor yet we were content. And then . . . She arrived. Dressed in a simple dress, she appealed to your sense of wanting something more and gave it to you. No more wishing for a decent bed to sleep in, no more hidden fears, no more loss of coin. She revealed her true nature as She erased your faults and gave your perfection. You took it willingly. She saved you in exchange for unwavering loyalty, of which you were all too happy to give. Tell me: when was the last time any of you left this town? When was the last time you desired to walk the forests to search for the delicious red apples? When was the last time you did anything? I refused to give in so easily and She knew it. At first, She offered me lands in other worlds, then a chance for unlimited wealth. I continued to refuse. Then, that bitch of a goddess turned my love against me. I thought that Rachelle would soon see reason yet that never happened. And yet, I still loved her. I knew she would come around soon enough. Then oh then She showed Her true nature. She . . .drained my Rachelle's life right before my eyes. That goddess you claim to love so much, SHE killed my love!

I have nothing more to say to you people.

You there, take your mask off and get this over with. I know they can't wait to see the life fade from my eyes. I just hope that Rachelle's soul is cleansed through Death. I can only hope for the same with me.

Make it quick. Do it now.


Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Sensei of the West

I refuse to be angry. When one is angry, one feels less than what they were yesterday. I want to remember him, how he moved around me and talked about which poets turned him on. We were never meant to be together, I realize that now. For us to say YES to each other would have meant a year of crying under a grey sky. He wants to see me. I still tell him no. He smiles for himself, now. I want to remember him. The words, words, words strike cold on my skin, causing blisters. I feel at a crossroads - take one to forget or take the other and be in pain. His green eyes. My brown ones. His full shock of salt and pepper hair. My dark brown hair that has a mind of its own. So much older yet I was his equal. My Sensei of the West.

(the mind of Sophie, older from my novel The Decembrists)

Monday, March 5, 2018

Speaking Into Infinity

My grandmother refused to speak with me after she died. I was warned about that, of course. He told me to expect silence after they have passed on. "I wanted to tell her one last thing," I said to him, to which he only smiled and took my hand in his.
"It's not possible," he said. "The dead become deaf to this world and only hear the Winds. Your prayers, pleas, promises, all of that falls short." I wanted to believe him. I wanted to show him and everyone else that I was okay, that I could move forward with no regrets. I saw others and how they handled their losses - screaming, crying, wondering, thanking. They were different to me  - apples to apples, dust to dust. He told me that their eyes become golden when they reach whatever they reach.
"Why tell me this?" I asked him. "Why do you know what the rest of the planet does not?"
"You," he replied, "wanted to know the truth." I suppose I should fault my damn curiosity for this. I see my grandmother, in her whitest of white, seated at a table in the middle of a vast something (can't place it, I refuse to lie) as she watches the clouds drift by. Her golden eyes see everything before her and nothing behind. No flesh wrapped worries of paying bills, getting to work on time, enjoying records with the person you love, feeling heartbroken when the person you want doesn't want you back. She shed all of that when she died.
"And who," I asked my friend as we sipped on our Oolong tea, "are you?"
"I am nothing, everything, listening for a single drop of water to fall in an ocean. I am within you and outside. I am here." I took another sip of my tea, knowing that my friend was more than what he showed me. I noticed his delicate white skin that held a dull glow. He told his name, once. I wanted to forget it. He called himself a Poet. I wanted him to love me for I knew that I would never survive the ordeal. He came here to find me. I know that. He saw my grandmother and she said nothing about me. He wanted to tell me that the Cycle is real (feel this and guide me through it). He loved me before I was born. I wanted to laugh until I saw his eyes shift. Can I believe in gods now, I wondered. Will he let me?

Saturday, March 3, 2018

All Hail the NEW Vampire Master - Book Review

I really hope this isn't the last of the Black Knight Chronicles. Since book one, I've been with Jimmy and Greg, Charlotte's geeky and kick ass vampires, as they fight their way through the OTHER side of Charlotte, complete with fallen angels, Lilith, renegade vampires, the Fae, the Goblin Market, etc. And every time, they seem to come out on top. However, book five, In the Still of the Knight, left me wondering about their future, albeit an undead one. At the end of book five, Jimmy was (somewhat) made the Master Vampire of Charlotte after Tiram was killed. I remembered closing the book and thinking, "Now what?" Thanks to Renaissance man and friend John G. Hartness, Man in Black answered my question.

Man in Black literally picks up right where book five left off. Jimmy, now Master Vampire of Charlotte, doesn't know the first thing about ruling a city. Nor what to do when a representative of the Vampire Council shows up to "evaluate" his actions befitting a Master. Nor what to do that Greg, his best friend, is still pissed at him. Nor what to do that Sabrina, his I-think-she's-my-ex-girlfriend, has left him as well. Nor what to do when the entire city seems to be flooded with otherworldly creatures. All he knows is to stay (un)alive when many want him Final Dead. Not to mention trying to solve a kidnapping of the daughter of a crime boss who would make any vampire actually tremble.

Did I also mention snake men? Yep. Pumped up werewolves? Check. Demons eating actors? Got it.

Man in Black is a damn roller coaster of a ride AGAIN through Hartness' city of Charlotte. Just when you think you can take a breath after In the Still of the Knight, Man in Black straps you in even tighter, gives you a helmet, then pats you on the back while saying, "I warned you. . . " Non stop action, fights, MUCH gore, and above everything else, Jimmy's smart ass humour. Gotta love that. I always know that whenever I read a Hartness book, I know that I will cringe, laugh, and plow my way through it. I was glad that a certain character showed up at the end - kinda missed him (grin).

If Man in Black just happens to be the final book in the Chronicles, then I would be satisfied. But. . . if there is another book in the works, then YES! If you have not read the Black Knight Chronicles, you REALLY need to invest in the books. Trust me.

Thanks John, as always. Love your work!