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!

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!