Thursday, August 30, 2018

Tea Review - Orchid Isle Oolong, Second Alarm Farm, Hawaii (TEALET)

In setting up a wholesale account with Tealet for my tea company, I have been quite fortunate to discover some delicious teas from all over the world. The tea I tried today was the Orchid Isle Oolong from Second Alarm Farm in Hawaii. Although I over steeped it (I know, I know - shouldn't have done that), it proved to be quite an excellent representation of oolongs. What makes an oolong is the special rolling of the leaves during the processing stage - that is what gives the oolong its flavour. When you try an oolong tea, there is nothing else that comes close to its flavour. Oolong is my favourite kind of tea, in case you can't tell.

The scent of the leaves was quite bright and crisp with that signature scent that all oolongs seems to have to me - a combination of heady, vegetal, and floral. Each twist and curl of the leaves looks like art to me - I love to watch the leaves unfurl and give out their essence to the hot water in creating the perfect cup of tea. The scent of the tea was grassy and mild and not unpleasant even with me over steeping it. When I finally had my first cup, my senses went into overdrive. The taste reminded me of walking through a botanical garden with every kind of flower represented. Floral, light, still heady, grassy, and just delicious - all in one cup. This tea can be consumed all day because it is not too heavy nor too light. However, after two cups, I feel that Orchid Isle Oolong would really make a good afternoon tea - just getting in from work or after a full day of activities. It is settling and calming but then again, the art of preparing and drinking tea is calming as well (Chado). This is a tea that I could enjoy alone or blended with other ingredients like dried lemon peel or lemongrass. I may be using this tea in a future blend within my tea company.

Much thanks to Elyse Petersen for sending my samples!

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Public Enemy No. 1 of France

I first learned about Jacques Mesrine through a friend of mine - she told me about the two movies in which French actor Vincent Cassel portrayed Mesrine. I decided to rent them and well, I lost track of time. I remembered that I kept asking my self, "Did this guy really exist?" How could a man escape from prison so many times? How could he do the things he did and get away with it? I found myself fascinated with Mesrine and knew that I had to read his book. He wrote The Death Instinct while in prison and worked with secret channels to smuggle the book out and get it published -

In The Death Instinct, Mesrine tells of his life from childhood to becoming one of the most feared people in France and Canada. He tells of the women he loved and married, his children (especially his relationship with his daughter, Sabrina), and the life of crime he willingly chose. He only had one regret in Life and it was due to a misunderstanding. His was a life of money, power, control, and danger. His life was of decadence and having it all and the banks were going to "assist" him with that dream. Although he did try to live a normal straight life, Fate threw him back into the life he truly loved and wanted. And although he usually was several steps ahead of the police, he was gunned down in a firing squad style takeout on November 2, 1979 in Paris.

I flew through this book, mostly because I knew of some of his life through the Vincent Cassel films. This book read like true hard-boiled crime fiction and I had to keep reminding myself that everything in this book REALLY HAPPENED. This book is not for the squeamish. Mesrine's writing kept me glued to the pages - he tells you everything and you can't look away. Escaping from prison (repeatedly), attempting to kidnap a billionaire, robbing banks, settling scores with people who harm women - Vive le France, indeed. After watching the films, I asked my parents if they remembered hearing about Mesrine in the news, to which they said no. I shook my head - when Mesrine was gunned down, I was 4 years old.

Enjoy the trailer for the first film - Mesrine: Killer Instinct!

Thursday, August 9, 2018

The Darkness Within Rome

I was a late bloomer to Anne Rice. Truth be told, I went the route of Clive Barker when it came to seductive horror and Brian Lumley for unique vampires. However, when I finally read Interview with the Vampire, my whole world changed. As much as I loved New Orleans, Anne Rice showed me a different side to the city, one that I truly believe in. if the city is host to so many Strange and Unusual things, why not vampires as well? I read her books, okay devoured, and wanted only more. When I began writing my own version of Gothic, I left her books behind. However, due to a conversation between me and several of my NOLA Sisters, I decided to return to her world - I knew the just the one to return with. Pandora: New Tales of the Vampires, tells the story of Pandora, nee Lydia, as she converses with David (formerly of the Talamasca and now a vampire) and finally decides to write her story.

I've always loved Ancient Roman history - from the emperors to the vomitoriums, from the Bread and Circuses to the inventions that we use even now, I've believed in the phrase: To Know Rome, You Must Honour and Love Her. The Rome that we get to see through Pandora's eyes is filled with opulence, decadence, blood, gorging, gods and goddesses, and above it all - literature and poetry. Lydia, even as a mortal child, is a free thinking outspoken young woman who is loved and adored by her father. Yet, one day, she meets a man named Marius who will change her live forever (literally). When she is older, she begins to be plagued by dreams of being a Blood Drinker under the gaze of the Ancient Ones - those who whisper to her and tell her of her Fate. From there, we see her rise, utter fall, and then her Rise into the Dark Gift.

I LOVED this book when I first read it, yet I couldn't remember too much of it. When I recently returned to it, I found myself loving it even more. Anne Rice is a natural when it comes to sensual horror - this books made me wish to be in Ancient Rome and experience it to the fullest.

I've ordered a copy of Merrick and I'm looking forward to returning to that book as well very soon.

Much love to my NOLA Sisters and see you soon!


Saturday, August 4, 2018

The Gothic Tragedy of Erik

For the longest time, the only thing I knew about the Phantom of the Opera was the musical and the Lon Chaney film. Some time ago, I read (and LOVED) Prince of Conjurers by my friend Laurie L. Bolanos - it gave me a wonderful introduction into Erik's world. I reviewed the book - check out the Archives of this blog to locate it. Knowing me, though, I knew that I needed to read the original work and so I did. The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux was a FANTASTIC read, one that I devoured within days. Even if the story were never turned into a musical romance, I still feel sorry for Erik. Let me explain why.

Erik is the Opera Ghost, the mysterious being who "resides" within and under the Paris Opera. He receives money on a monthly basis, uses Box 5 for performances, and is enamoured with Christine Daae, the opera singer with the angelic voice. If anyone tries to capture the Ghost, Erik pays them back dearly through death or eternal shame. No one seems to be able to stop him, except for Raoul, Christine's lover, and the Persian (LOVE THIS CHARACTER!) The two men stop at nothing to defeat Erik and rescue Christine from his clutches and they do . . .  However, after I finished the book today, I wondered: if Erik was normal looking or even handsome, would he still have been considered to be a monster? Would he have been instead a "misunderstood man"? true, Erik did revel in his deformity to a point, yet he still had a heart (black and twisted but it was still there). He found in Christine a special soul, one who could possibly understand and maybe love him. That was all he wanted - love. His parents hated him for how he looked and his mother never gave him a kiss. Yet, before he died, he shared kisses with Christine and their tears "mingled".  tragically beautiful - I'm such a sap for those things (grin).

As I read the story, I tried to imagine Erik's face followed by looking up pics online. I wanted to see Erik for who and what he was - a truly tragic character that used his intelligence and wits to stay ahead. Did he love Christine? Honestly, I'm not sure. I think it was more of an obsession than love but that's my opinion. In Prince of Conjurers, Laurie gives him the chance to love someone and she does it well. She shows that Erik, despite his appearance, can love and be loved despite what he has to go through to obtain it.

Well done, Monsieur Leroux and Madame Bolanos - Phantom of the Opera should be a must read for anyone who loves to read or wants to read a good story. And if you've read Phantom and want more of Erik, pick up a copy of Prince of Conjurers through her website (linked above) or through Tubby and Coos MidCity Bookshop in NOLA.


Wednesday, August 1, 2018

A Haitian Voice

When a Haitian wishes to tell a story, they say "Krik?" and the listeners reply with, "Krak!" Such is the title of Edwidge Danticat's book Krik? Krak! The short story collection is a wonderful representation of the people of Haiti as it shows outsiders the depth of their culture. These stories also delve into the relationships between women in and out of families. The men appear to be background characters as the women dictate the way to live and embrace their culture. The women, no matter where they are located, are representatives of the love and pain of Haiti.

The first story, Children of the Sea, was both depressing and horrifying to read, yet it conveyed the spirit of those who wish for a better life despite the price. The story is set up like letters as a young man and woman convey their continued love for each other: while he is on a boat seeking asylum, she is in Haiti seeking asylum as well. The desire for something better will overcome even the most futile of gestures. The story Between the Pool and the Gardenias disturbed me greatly when I figured out what was going on. I won't give the plot away but I will say that you need to savour it. The story is beautiful in that desperation never looked lovelier. All of the stories were incredible yet those two stuck out in my mind the most.

I can't believe it's taken me this long to read Danticat's works yet better late than never. She writes with such passion and spirit for her culture that you can't help but get caught up in it as well. She is the voice of Haitian women, proud and strong, free and terrorized. She tells the stories and we must listen. We must answer with Krak!