Sunday, September 30, 2018

An Erotic Obsession with Lunch

While on a small vacation, I ventured into a bookstore to see what would whet my appetite. Lunch, an erotic fiction novel by Karen Moline, grabbed my attention. I've only read a handful of erotica, but I figured I would give it a shot. I read that 369 page paperback in one day, only to take a break to go shopping and eat dinner. That was it. I honestly couldn't put it down. I've never read the Fifty Shades trilogy although the blurb on the back of the book stated that Lunch was for those readers. I have to say that, from what I know of the books, Lunch is much, much better.

Nick Muncie is a man who has it all - looks, women willing to throw themselves at his feet, money, and an acting career that is poised to make him immortal. However, while enjoying lunch in a restaurant in London while on location for his latest film, he meets the painter Olivia Morgan. As much as he is bored by the hordes of women who throw themselves at him, he is however intrigued by Olivia because she has no idea who he is and doesn't really care. He is then determined to make her notice him and fall under his spell under the guise of her doing his portrait. While Olivia thinks he's nothing more than a pompous ass who gets what he wants, Nick finds himself at her aloof mercy. Sounds somewhat interesting, right? Well, how about if we throw in the fact that Nick has a very very very dark side, one that he enjoys unleashing on naive women. And, let's also throw into the mixture his "friend" and bodyguard known as either the Major or M (and also the narrator of the story) who assists Nick with whatever he wants. The two have a history and while you get only a glimpse of it, it's enough to understand their dynamic. It's also good to have M as the narrator as we witness the spiral of darkness, sensuality, erotica, depravity, control, and obsession between Nick and Olivia because he is neutral . . . to a point.

This was a damn good read. There, I said it. I wanted to know the fates of all of the characters and my desire was satisfied. I've always stated that if an author can make me become a part of their world, they've hooked me. Moline did a fantastic job of that with Lunch and even beyond. However, I will also give kudos to her because while this novel is very erotic, you don't have explicit sex scenes. You have just enough (and hopefully, you have a good enough imagination) to give you wave after wave of thrills. Several times, I put the book down and stared off into space; not because I was imaging those scenes with my boyfriend but because they were that intense. Moline pulled something deep within me (my own darkness) - very few authors can do that to me. Moline is a natural.

I've already added her other book, Belladonna, to my Amazon shopping cart but I'll probably begin looking for it in bookstores around here - I want to return to her words, her sensuality.

Thank you, Karen, for Lunch.


Thursday, September 27, 2018

Tea Review - Cucumber Lime Oolong (TeaSource)

TeaSource is celebrating their 20th anniversary - huzzah! When they sent their latest newsletter email out, I noticed that they had an oolong tea that grabbed my attention: Cucumber Lime Oolong. Oolong teas are my weakness, so of course I had to try it. After a grueling day at corporate followed by several hours of cleaning my apartment, it was time to enjoy a cup (or three!) of this oolong tea blend. When I smelled it in the bag, the cucumber walked right up to me and shook my hand. Years ago, I never would have considered cucumber to be a possible ingredient in tea, yet it's one of the better ingredients out there. The taste is not overpowering and works well if you are trying to make a "lighter than air" blend. The Cucumber Lime Oolong is just that - it reminded me of walking through a small artsy beach town (I have no idea why that popped in my head, but there ya go). Whoever came up with this blend was spot on.

I love to watch an oolong tea unfurl in hot water. The leaves are poetic when they move in the water. I'm not sure if I waited long enough for the tea to steep because I HAD to have a cup. When I poured the first cup, the cucumber greeted me again while the lime remained in the background. When I sipped it, the cucumber refreshed my mouth and gave a boost as well. This tea cooled me down - yes, some teas have the ability to cool you down, even while served hot. This tea blend did just that as the cucumber and the oolong blended rather well on an equal footing. The lime was faintly in the back, lending a bit of itself to meld with the cucumber. It's so faint that you almost wonder if there is lime in the blend. However, that is not a complaint at all but merely my observation. Other people may be able to taste the lime more than the cucumber. I'm thinking of making it iced this weekend with a bit of honey to see if perhaps the lime will come out a bit stronger that way. With my second cup, the cucumber became more pronounced yet still held onto the refreshing and cooling aspects. Again - excellent tea! 

Overall, if you enjoy a good oolong tea, I highly recommend the Cucumber Lime Oolong. Also, if you are looking to get into tea and not sure where to start, I would recommend this tea blend as well. Don't let the thought of "drinking" hot cucumbers bother you - when you have that first cup, you will sigh with pleasure. Much thanks to TeaSource for creating such a lovely blend!

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Tea Review - Indonesian Green Tea (Upton Tea Imports)

A representative of Upton Tea Imports emailed me some time ago to ask if I would be willing to review several of their teas for them. Of course I said yes. While in the midst of preparing my tea blends for an upcoming health fair and watching The Grand Budapest Hotel (I have a very big crush on Ralph Fiennes, but I digress), I decided to try one of their teas tonight. The Indonesian Green Tea seemed like a lovely choice. I am not affected by the caffeine content within green tea, so I knew I wouldn't be staying up half the night.

The scent of tea in the bag is light vegetal with a hint of crisp and fresh. The first time I smelled it in the bag, it reminded me of a valley after a light Spring rain - delicate and luscious. In making the tea, the scent remained crisp and grassy. I love my green teas to have that grassy smell with a hint of sharp; I think it adds to an overall pleasant mouthfeel and finish. When I tasted the tea, however, I was met with a little surprise: the tea is velvet smooth with a dash of buttery. It's like enjoying creamy butter with chives on a piece of toast. The grassy crisp taste blends with the smooth and buttery, making an overall wonderful cup of tea as my mouth feels as though it has been revived. I normally enjoy Japanese green tea (sencha), yet this green tea from Indonesia was a delight to try. I will be adding it to my Teas That I Will Order list. I don't recommend adding any kind of sweetener to the this tea. Enjoy it as it is and you will love it.

Much thanks to Upton Tea Imports for this opportunity - I'm on my second cup and the taste is even better than before. Smoother and more "spring rain over green vegetables" than the first cup but still beautiful.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

TEA REVIEW - Buddha Moon (East Indies Coffee and Tea)

I met the folks of East Indies Coffee and Tea while at the World Tea Expo earlier this year. After smelling several of the tea blends, I made a request to have samples mailed to my home. Buddha Moon, one of their herbal tisanes, seemed like the perfect way to enjoy my Wednesday night. I will admit that while writing this review, I've been sniffing the bag - the tisane hits my senses like walking right into the sun. Spicy, sunny, citrusy - all of that in one sniff.

I was surprised at the delicate colour that Buddha Moon took while preparing it. The colour reminds me of a somewhat cloudy Spring day - a sense of warmth from the sun yet you have the cool breezes to balance it. The smell still held the citrus, spicy, sunny flavour. The taste is a delicate nature, of which surprised me. I expected it to be bold and "in your face" but not so. It held a buttery, spicy, and sunny flavour, one that made my mouth feel quite relaxed and . . . loved. Yes, I went there. Such a delight to enjoy - I will be adding this blend to my Must Order list.

Much thanks to East Indies Coffee and Tea!

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

The Art of Forgiveness

This is one of the best books I've read this year.

Okay, now for the review!

Within the span of a weekend (and beyond), author Cherise Wolas has weaved a story that will make you have a conversation with yourself when you finish it. And then you'll want to discuss the book with your friends, even when they haven't read the book (I did that with my very patient boyfriend). The question is this: what does it truly mean to ask or wish for forgiveness? In The Family Tabor, the main character - Harry Tabor - is our representative for such a question as he attempts to answer it himself with his actions.

After many years of heading a very successful non profit organization called CST, Harry will soon be the recipient of the Man of the Decade award. His lovely wife Roma and his three adult children Phoebe, Camille, and Simon, will all be there to watch him receive such a bestowed honour. The children all live in different cities and are all successful in their own way - a product of being Harry and Roma Tabor's children. Harry wakes up the day of the award ceremony in a fantastic mood and enjoys a game of tennis with his friend . . . only to have it all come crashing down on him. Thanks to a vision, a very black moment in his past returns to his life, leaving Harry dumbfounded and more importantly, finally ready to do the right thing. In wanting forgiveness, the secret must come to life once more. In fact, as Harry must deal with his very horrible secret, we learn that everyone within the family has a secret to keep as well. As each person comes to grips with their secret, they also want forgiveness as a way of understanding just why they have their secret.

This book gripped me from beginning to end and when I finished it, I read the final pages just to make sure I understood what happened. I read for so long that I forgot to turn on my lights when day gave way to night outside. I sat on my couch and didn't move for 2-3 hours because I had to know. I had to know if Harry succeeded in his quest for forgiveness; if Phoebe would ever tell the horrible (and somewhat pathetic) truth of her so-called perfect life. Would Camille finally ask forgiveness of her real self, and would Simon finally ask for forgiveness of his religion? Would Roma, the absolute glue of the family, reveal what everyone else wanted to keep behind closed doors? Yes, I thought way too hard about this book.

Wolas' writing reminds me of Woody Allen films - these people live in a completely different world than the rest of us that is still part of this world. Yes, they have problems and issues like the rest of us, yet they make their tragedy so damn glorious. As I read The Family Tabor, I kept wishing I could actually meet Camille and have tea with her because out of all of the characters, she reminded me of myself and several of my friends. These characters demand more from themselves in all aspects of their lives and it shows from their job choices to how they spend their free time, to even what books they will read. Wolas' writing reminds me of the books of Ian McEwan (love his work), Claire Messud, and C. Morgan Babst - tragedy never looked so beautiful and intellectual.

Much thanks, Cherise - I will say that I did not expect the ending and yet it was the only way to end the novel.



Sunday, September 16, 2018

Two Women - One Me

She woke up from a dream and went into the bathroom. She stared into the mirror and noticed two women staring at her . . . . 

ONE - 

This one listened to what others told her. Don't make mistakes, they would say. Why dress like that? Black, yellow, white, purple, orange, blue is not your colour, dear. Flat affect, a sense that no, I'm not trying to make waves. I can't make waves. I can only place my ear to the ground and watch the thin trickle creep toward nothing. This one wanted to please everyone. Smile, dear, they tell her. You're so pretty when you smile. Show teeth, dear, but not too much. Watch those who want to use you. She tread carefully along the sidewalks, making sure not to step on any cracks. No backs broken, no buttons popping off her dress. When the boys began to look at her strangely, they rushed in with gates and fences. Don't give in, they scream. Don't let them take it, so soon, too soon. She felt their gazes on her, wanted to know what it was all about. She wanted to know what a kiss meant. She gave in. And regretted it. It wasn't for love, he told her. Only because I was bored. Rising through the clouds, she took what was offered to her. Black window-less buildings that towered over her. Come in, they said, and we'll give you a number. Leave your name at the door. Assistant to one, servant to another. Blinding beige everywhere. She closed her eyes and waited for her lunch break. Every. Damn. Day. Still assisting, still nearby, always quiet. Quiet, dear, they tell her now. Quiet.

TWO - 

That one was born in a forest. Leaves stuck to her body while bugs crawled all over her. She cried with the foxes and drank from the rivers. Her hair, long, uncombed - symbol of her presence. She saw colours when none could be seen. She flew with immense raven wings. She read the stories of gods and goddesses of old and wondered - where did they go? She wanted to meet Hades and ask him why he was so sad, then persuade him to take her as his lover. She dreamt of swimming with whales, killing seals with great whites, and attacking prey with the pythons. She wandered through jungles and wrote her adventures. She fell in love. Again. Again. She slept with men and women, always seeking a new sensation. She met one who understood. Verboten, the others hissed at her. Keep away. She ignored them and gave him her heart. He refused. She threw herself into the river like Ophelia, her Saint. Not to die but to baptize herself. Cleanse yourself of the limited, her Saint told her.  Madness wanted to touch her, only to recoil when they realized who (what) she was. She kept her heart in a glass box. Never again, she screamed into the winds. Free me. She stopped bathing - she liked her smell of pine needles and burning sage. Running faster, faster, even when her lungs threatened to burst from her chest. To run meant that she could dream. Drink tea with the ghosts of regrets, make love in an Parisian bookstore, walk through a cemetery and cry on the tombstones, travel with gypsies through forgotten kingdoms, and listen. Hear the stories of those who answered the Call. Listen, dear Childe. Listen. Stand up. Fight. 

Two women stare at her through the mirror. 

Two women - one me.

 - end

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Ladies and Gentlemen . . . THE GRAND PUPPET SHOW OF DEATH

The Grand Guignol (French for large puppet show) was something to behold in Paris. People would flock to the theatre to witness people getting chopped up, mutilated beyond belief, driven insane, engage in questionable sexual practices, be witnesses to humorous events, and so on. It was common for someone (or several someones) to faint in the theatre after witnessing such gruesome spectacles. And yet, they loved it. Mel Gordon does a fantastic job in telling the story behind the Grand Guignol and this book was well worth the read.

In his book Theatre of Fear and Horror, published through Feral House, Gordon explains the origins of the Grand Guignol and how several of the founders were obsessed with Poe, Death, and all things strange and unusual. There had to be a way to tap into the deep darkness of Mankind and expose it in all of its gory detail . . . for a fee, of course. Regular patrons came to be known as Guignolers - they held special seats within the theatre. Madness, sex, humor, crass ways of living, horror, mutilation - just a regular night. Gordon then goes on to explain how making many of the special effects were quite protected by the crew, right down to the making of the blood before the show. It took skill to create such believable scenes without overdoing it. However, with WWII came a decline in enjoying the Grand Guignol - how could someone watch fake torture on stage when real torture and unspeakable acts were being committed all around them?  As the support for the Grand Guignol dwindled, a rise occurred for the Universal Monster films (inspired by the GG), then fell completely away and seen as campy until the Hammer Horror films appeared (I LOVE the Dracula films - just sayin). The book then ends with 100 plots of plays that were performed by the Grand Guignol as well as two full plays titled A Crime in the Madhouse and Orgy in the Lighthouse - oh yes.

Why are we obsessed with that which scares us? Why do we love what we fear? Why is it that people still enjoy being scared out of their minds even today? Is it a rush of adrenaline, or perhaps we love seeing others go through something horrific, knowing that we won't? Whatever the reason, the Grand Guignol gave the people what they secretly desired and returned it tenfold. In fact, as I was recently bitten by the GG Bug, I knew I wanted to collect as many books on the subject as well as possibly put one of the plays on in my home city. I'm already a lover of the Dark - what's one more grisly step closer?


Saturday, September 8, 2018

Tea Review - Farmer's Market Herbal Tisane (Elmwood Inn)

I received my sampler packet of Farmer's Market from Elmwood Inn Fine Teas while at the World Tea Expo in Las Vegas this year. I was drawn to the sight and smell of the herbal tisane and knew I had to try it. I figured that today would be a good day to try it before I head out to the International Goat Days Festival!

The scent of the tisane is quite heady and "oh, good morning". When I prepared it, I allowed for it to steep for quite some time before enjoying my first cup. The colour of the tea is a deep rich red and it was nice to watch it change as the tea steeped. My first cup gave me an immediate taste of apples and sun kissed tomatoes. I was reminded of walking through a farmers market in the early Spring, when there is still a slight chill in the air blended with the warmth of the sun. The tomato taste was truly sun kissed and I loved how it blended well with the apple. However, as it cooled down, I noticed that other flavours began to appear - cucumber and the citrus - making the cup even more enjoyable. I also noticed that the citrus was more pronounced when I left it longer in my mouth than just just swallowing it. All in all, a very good tisane to enjoy in the morning - it went well with my scrambled eggs and peach slices.

Since there is no caffeine in this blend, it can be enjoyed all day but I still think it goes better with the morning. It truly tastes like a stroll through a farmer's market, complete with people enjoying themselves and good weather.

Much thanks to Elmwood Inn Fine Teas!