Sunday, September 15, 2013

Deathless Press: Summer 2013 Review

Do you know what's more delicious than dipping your toes in the ocean or going parasailing? Indulging in Deathless Press's summer released chapbooks:

I've never considered myself an eloquent reviewer, but I want to make reviewing Deathless Press chapbooks a tradition. There are never, ever enough fairy tales in the world - and I've been enjoying the ones coming from this press.

Considering that my own chapbook POCKET FOREST was released in this bunch, I'm going to skip over it (of course) and focus on the other two chapbooks.

Catskin by Sylvia Linsteadt

CATSKIN is a retelling of a the same-named fairy tale, where a princess runs away from home disguised in a coat made of cat skins to avoid being married to her own father. This dark tale is a classic - but if you're not familiar with it, you may have read Donkeyskin, which is the most popular variant (at least, when it come to retellings).

Linsteadt breathes new life into her version of Catskin. The story opens with a girl named You (or Yew, as she prefers), living with her father in a lighthouse that demands time and care. When her father, heavy with drink, considers marrying his daughter, Yew runs away to escape him. Her travels take her into the woods where she meets the Mistress of Bobcats. The Mistress of Bobcats offers Yew a new identity and power, but not without payment.

The Mistress of Bobcats is a fascinating character: incredibly wise, yet untrustworthy. I enjoyed how well Linsteadt described the bobcat-who-is-also-a-woman, with shifting shadows and sharp teeth. When Yew becomes Catskin, she gains freedom from her father, and any other man who threatens her, but she also loses her humanity - which is perhaps a good thing, by the end of the tale. Maybe she becomes the best of herself. CATSKIN reminds me of "The Tiger's Bride" by Angela Carter: lush description, shifty characters, and an unforgettable ending.

Throw Down Your Hair and Then Yourself by A. A. Balaskovits

Rapunzel remains one of my top favorite fairy tales. There's something incredibly relatable to me about being trapped or limited in some way, no matter how much your "jailer" loves you. And then... there's always my favorite part, when Rapunzel's tears bring back the prince's sight (yes... I'm a sap. And proud!). However, Balaskovits's retelling, THROW DOWN YOUR HAIR AND THEN YOURSELF, is probably the most twisted and darkly shocking version I've read so far. And that's what made it so enjoyable, despite my penchant for the happier variants, haha.

Our Rapunzel narrator begins her tale telling us what her auntie has always told her: that she's a sharp thing. She's stuck in a tower, surrounded by soft things to combat her sharpness, until one day when a sweet-talking prince convinces her to leave her auntie and become a queen.

Life as a queen isn't easy, especially when her husband starts ordering the deaths of every citizen with a physical blemish. But as her auntie once said, our narrator is a sharp thing. And boy, does she ever strike back against her husband.

Even though this story started out as a Rapunzel retelling, I felt that by the end, I watched the narrator transform into the Evil Queen from Snow White. Did you ever see the movie Snow White and the Huntsman? Frankly, I dislike that movie, especially when people try to tell me that it was better than Mirror Mirror (weird, right? MM is totally better). BUT Charlize Theron played an amazing Evil Queen and her scary-wrathful beauty is quite like the narrator's transformation. Making, of course, a great ending to this chapbook.

So what are you waiting for? Go read these books! ;)

Monday, September 2, 2013

Crepes, Please. Arigatō: Ninja Ice's Desserts

I watched many cartoons as a kid, but one of them was certainly Sailor Moon. I remember getting home from school, plopping down on the couch, and ignoring my homework in order to watch Serena, Amy, and the other Sailor Scouts kick the Negaverse's butt. That was back when Toonami was a thing and finding manga in stores was impossible (so suck it up and convince your parents to order it on... What's that?).

I also recall many an episode where the girls chowed down on desserts, including crepes. And man, did they ever look delicious.

The 'rents and I decided to use Labor Day as an excuse to go outside.... temporarily... in order to walk into the Westfield Brandon Mall (and yet I have sunburn. Hmm). While perusing the shops and grabbing lunch, I discovered Ninja Ice.

When I saw that Ninja Ice was selling legit Japanese Desserts, including crepes and kakigori, I had to rub my eyes to know I wasn't dreaming! After scrutinizing the menu, trying to narrow down our order to merely two things (which was hard, because every dessert looked intricate and fun to try), we ended up going with the Orchid Passion kakigori and the Matsuri (festival) crepe.

The Matsuri (festival) crepe was almost like having a meal! The crepe was nice and thick, slightly sweet, and folded snugly within the container. We watched the owner, Ric, make it step by step, and I couldn't help but admire how smoothly he handled crafting the crepe (as a queen of microwaving, I doubt I could ever make a successful crepe).

I chose green tea ice cream for the filling - a-mazing. Ric said that his green tea ice cream was made locally; it had a strong flavor, much tastier than any other green tea ice cream I've had in the past. The crepe also had a kind of vanilla custardy filling drizzled in (as you can see by the photo), along with mochi balls and strawberries. The combination of flavors was excellent!

The other item we ordered was the Orchid Passion kakigori. Sorry for the photo - we already tucked into it before I fumbled for my camera, haha. Image that it was a lot rounder, with many little Mochi balls (pounded sticky rice) around the outside.

Ninja Ice uses a shaved ice machine that hails straight from Japan, so you'll notice that the texture is a lot different. It almost looks like cotton candy.

The best part about this treat was the syrup flavor: as the name implies, it's a orchid vanilla cream syrup! Exciting, right? Sure beats the usual cherry or lime flavors. You know that I've been on a huge flower-flavored foods kick, so this discovery was very exciting, haha. Because the syrup is made with a dairy component, the syrup tastes milky and delicate. The mochi balls have a dull sweetness that complimented the syrup.

Eating at Ninja Ice was a great experience. I loved watching the desserts being made, as well as listening to Ric tell us about the different ingredients, machines, and methods that work together to create authentic and tasty Japanese desserts. I wish all the best to Ninja Ice - I hope they'll be sticking around for a long time!

I feel energized to continue working on my revisions and plotting out my next writing project (My lips are sealed, mwahaha). Good dessert will do that for you!

I think Tuxedo Mask would agree.