So, I reviewed the first of a trilogy (?) of a Hades and Persephone retelling, A Touch of Darkness. Just this last week, the sequel dropped and I had it read in a few days. I thought I would take the time to review both of the books to support the author, Scarlett St. Clair. I think newer writers can use all the help we loyal supporters can give them.
A Touch of Ruin by Scarlett St. Clair takes place a few months after A Touch of Darkness. Persephone and Hades are officially public, though all still think Persephone is a mortal. Except for her best friend, Lexa who knows the truth ( who gets a whole story within this book as well). Persephone is still dealing with the pressure of her mother’s displeasure of being with Hades, her boss is requiring an exclusive story on her and Hades relationship, and now she just found out, her friend Sybil, an oracle of Apollo’s, has lost all her power since she won’t sleep with Apollo. Justice warrior Persephone to the rescue!
Everything is going wrong. Hades past is catching up to him, and Persephone is still dealing with her feelings on trust and love. Her powers are manifesting in ways she can’t control, and all the general stress of life and being in the public has gotten to Persephone in ways that are not helping matters.
Basically, everything is going wrong. By the way, this is classic sequel territory. You have the set up in the first book, the fall down in the second, and redemption comes in the third book. You start to see some redemption by the last quarter of A Touch of Ruin. But this is long after you’ve wanted to shake the dickens out of Persephone. How could she be so stupid? Answer? Because we all do stupid things when we are insecure, unsure, and afraid. (Perse, I’ve been there). But redemption is sweet. While Hades isn’t the best communicator of all times, : insert dark and brooding types never are : he desperately loves Persephone and he really is trying. There are even current social issues of death. I won’t say more as it will spoil.
This book still left me with certain questions, like how in the first one, Hades uses his powers of invisibility to ‘spy’ on Persephone, but you are left wondering if he really was. And if other gods can bestow favors, why can’t Persephone? And while I love how Scarlett inserted one of the myths of Pirithous, I found it slightly rushed towards the end and I was hoping Persephone was a tad bit stronger. Just a tad. But hey, I’m a writer, I will always want to put my spin on a perfectly lovely story.
I love how we get tastes of other gods in this one. Apollo (I actually love his character), Hermes, Hecate, Aphrodite, and even Helen of Troy are brought in. Hermes and Hecate are truly great supporting characters. Well written and fun and full of depth, they are just the perfect ensemble cast for Persephone.
This book, while not the level of flair as A Touch of Darkness, is still really enjoyable and makes me anxious for book number three. I would give it 4 out of 5 stars, but then, most sequels hit this way.
If, like I said in A Touch of Darkness review, you are looking for a fun retelling of the classic myth, then check out books one and two. I can’t wait for number three!
I’m kind of hoping Ms. St. Clair tackles other myths over time. I can see her going to town on so many.
I love classic story retellings. Emma by Jane Austen to Clueless, Twelfth Night by Shakespeare to She’s the Man, and Taming of the Shrew by Shakespeare to 10 Things I Hate About You, just to name three films of that ilk. So when I was on Pinterest browsing one day and came across quotes and lines from a Hades and Persephone retelling, I knew I just had to check it out.
A Touch of Darkness by Scarlett St. Clair is one of this guilty pleasure books that tickle the fancy of any mythology junkie, which I happen to be. I have already read other versions of Hades and Persephone, Cupid and Psyche, Jack Frost and his “winter princess”. Basically it’s like glorified fan fiction, but who cares.
A Touch of Darkness is a modern twist on the ancient myth. Here you have Persephone, an almost college graduate living in New Athens, striving to become an investigative journalist, all while trying to get away from the crushing pressure of her goddess mother, Demeter. Persephone is an unknown goddess herself, but her powers are killing plants. That’s it. She can’t use glamour magic to hide her divine self, so she has to borrow her mother’s, something that irks her and keeps her under mommy’s control.
Persephone has an internship at The Daily which is what leads her to end up celebrating at Nevernight, one of Hades casinos. And also one of the places Demeter has forbid her daughter from visiting. Interacting with any of the divine in general is a big no no for Persephone as well as she has not had her coming out, so to speak, so she is 100% unknown. But well, sheltered girls are apt to want to spread their wings. Not only does Persephone end up at the nightclub, but she also ventures into single players club and sits down to a card game with a handsome stranger. Oops. Can we guess who this is? Not only is it a god, but it’s Hades himself, where she also inadvertently ended up making a deal with Hades. Boy, how to take mommy’s rules and in with them.
Now she’s stuck having to fulfill a bargain with Lord of the underworld, fighting her attraction to him, dealing with Adonis, who steals her exclusive story on Hades, among a host of other problems. How in the world is a “useless” goddess going to handle all the pressure?
This book has so much more in it than I have even scratched the surface of. Several of the divine make appearances, not to mention the pesky nymphs and backstabbing mortals with favors. Do Persephone and Hades work out? And just what is going on in the Underworld?
I read this book in a day and a half last summer, loved it so much, I reread it again right off the bat, then had to wait till April of this year for the sequel! The romance and attraction between Hades and Persephone is palpable and sucks you in, in just the best ways. I loved this book. I purchased the kindle version which doesn’t have some of the extras the paperback has. I am tempted to get the paper copies.
5 out of five stars for fun off the top. Side warning, this book is definitely for adults. Nut read it if you like myth retellings. And then the sequel is next for me to review. The next in the series is A Touch of Ruin.
There’s this guy I like. But sliding into his DM’s so did not work. So, once this Covid thing is over, I don’t suspect anything will ensue. But for the last month, since I knew where he lived, and where his parents lived I figured I might just see him passing the highway when I walk. Why I would assume the time I walked would be “The” time makes no sense. But since when does fascination ever have any sanity. And there I was, every day, glancing up at every truck that whizzed on by.
If A Cowboy Picked Up A Handkerchief
Every day I walk, to the highway
where when a truck barrels down the blacktop
I look up hoping it’s him.
Just to wave and give my heart a boost of giddiness.
A touch of wishful thinking.
It’s not like I have a chance.
Since sliding into his DM’s was a complete splat—
A faceplant. A trip made on flat ground.
A wobbly ankle in stiletto heels—
How do you know if he likes you?
If you have to ask, then maybe you should
move along, pardner.
He ain’t gonna tip his hat at you, ma’am,
or pick up that hanky you just had to happen to drop
in front of his horse.
More n’ likely the horse is gonna pick it up
munch on the lace and linen.
Considering he’s a bit of a pie bald bug-eyed crazy cracked in the head
crazy son of a gun of a horse.
Maybe his cowboy is a two-bit crazy too.
It’s so weird. Tax day came and went, the three month mark of my grandmother’s death is today, I need to talk to Jersey Boy about coming back to work, Covid-19 has taken it’s toll on the country. I fight against my body. My sugars dropping every day as I become more and more like my father. Menopause makes me moody. I forgot that when I talked to Nathan this last week and mentioned I was moody on Easter. I forget that I can go from bright and cheery to gray cloud and teary in a flash. As fast as my sugar falls. Hostess Extraodinaire, I need Pepsi, stat! No, I just need normal.
I combined all thoughts and it kind of flowed into this poem that while not perfect, has it’s points. We all feel a little indecisive. And poet Susan Wooldridge challenged me last year to write a poem about lettuce. I never got around to having anything that worked, until adding it into this gem today. So much is in here, unpacked, emotional. I know Christa would understand. Dona and Mels too.
And for a chuckle, watch this bit from an old NBC show called Ed. It explains a line from this poem.
A Ripple of Distortion
It’s tax day, but taxes aren’t due.
Overcast — the sky is more subdued
less spangle sparkle bright — perfect.
I wake up praying. Things are so uncertain.
A line of wobbly silver reflection run down the page
a mosaic of reflection as effective as a rippling pool
distortion is only as good as the subject known
A cow could be a boulder
a tree turns to a feather
What if I’m not who I seem to be?
Maybe I’m not who you’ve ever known
Plant lettuce seed, it looks like a weed
until it has three fourfivesix leaves
say it funny, Le-toose, it’s not what it seems till it is.
What have I become? Where do I fit in ?
I bite, snarl, fall apart into a puddle of razor blade teeth.
Sugar coat me and I’ll be as sweet as the sun is fierce.
Take me out in the rain, I melt
you see the rust hiding under a silk exterior
I’m a heartbeat of uncertainty
a weight of indecision
my feet slap the pavement
I’ve walked more miles than you could imagine
wearing a hole in the asphalt,
a groove runs down my pat
parallel to the imaginary yellow lines.
I’m wobbly two faced in the tiled reflection
Two things at war.
Let me get back to the thick of things.
Or let me sit in the sun and take in all the sky has to pour down on me.
I was flipping through a notebook I started early on when working at my restaurant. I found it in a stack of things I was going through. I’m not sure why I stopped writing in it other than for the reason of insane frustration that started being recorded in another book titled ‘Night Shift Notes’. My nights have never been that crazy, but if something of note comes along that is important, I record it.
There were some absolutely lovely and funny moments I wrote down in this glittery notebook, and I honestly need to pick it up again.
This is from July 2018:
“The days are calmer with less stress on everyone, so it seems. Nickelle is still a nutcase and is having too many issues, so she freaks out, and doesn’t know what the fat she is doing most of the time. Poor Chef is like at his wits end with her.
I can do the tart dough just fine. The roulade cake alludes me still.”
Ah Nickelle, she was an interesting one. And Coffeeman came into a world of crazy at the beginning. Her, Lucifer, Wildflower. These were the days before Will Turner and me up on pizza. I was a lowly prep chef. Tackling desserts, but the gopher. Golden Oldie has moved up to pantry, out of dish, and now he’s the new gopher. I don’t envy his job. Laughing.
Here’s another gem from July 2018:
“But I must go back to Saturday. Dinner service was starting and Chef, Twin C, and I were busy with Sunday Prep. I think NY Lady (she is our everything manager) was in and out. Then Lucifer called for all of his squirt bottles to be filled and he was impatient and I was rushing to try and fill them. One I started filling with white wine vinegar instead of white wine and the Chef had to stop me, thank goodness. But Lucifer was super impatient and went and got a bottle himself. Then I went to fill his saffron bottle and said I had to go get the saffron on Chef’s desk, and Lucifer snapped at me that it just needed Hot water!
I went back to the prep sing and slammed the top on the sink and must have let out an exasperated sigh because Chef turned to me and told me to tell him “mise en place!”
“Take the bottle back to him and say ‘The Chef says mise en place mother f*cker!”
“I can’t say that to him.”
“Yes you can.”
“But he’ll come back at me.”
“No he won’t. Fill the bottle and I’ll be right behind you.”
So I fill the bottle and walk back up to Lucifer and present it with both hands and say, “Lucifer, Chef says mise en place, mother f*cker.” Lucifer looks at me, then glances behind me and says, “Yes Chef.”
And that was that. I didn’t know till later that Coffeeman had stood behind me crossing his arms where his favorite statement “Mise En Place” is tattooed across both arms so they connect when he crosses his arms. ”
To this day, we still all remind each other to “mise en place!” It’s probably the highlight of one of my memories of working with Coffeeman. I may have talked about it in the past, but I can’t remember. I’m just glad I wrote it down.
Those first months were probably the best time of my job, though this last year’s July and August with Coffeeman on pizza were a dream.
For some reason all of these memories had me remembering my panic attacks that were happening later that year when suddenly I went from being behind the scenes to being out in front. And just the overwhelming feeling of not getting it all done in time. I had a sugar crash yesterday while making lunch, and I’m freaking out because my brain is on zero function, and I’m thinking “Gosh, I do this all the time with the added stress of not being able to get something to eat because I have ten tickets up on my board.” I needed my Hostess Extraordinaire with her glass of Pepsi for me!
I miss work like crazy right now. I have not accomplished half of what I wanted while home, but I’ve got a start. If I could just not collect books…. as I consider ordering a couple I wish I had right now. I need help people.
These are just some musings from pulling out a notebook. I have some good poetry to type up here too, I just haven’t taken the time to post it.
Whoops, I went back and started reading other posts about work. They all make me smile a little ruefully, tear up a little cause I still miss Coffeeman too much, and roll my eyes at myself. At least I can laugh at myself.
She did notice him, though, when she came out of the door, yelping in surprise as he leaned next to the opening. She didn’t have any more time to get out more than the shriek before Gerrit grabbed her clipboard and pen and tossed it to the counter. She watched the pen roll off just as Gerrit’s palm enclosed around hers and he swung her around in a spin. He pulled her close and slow danced with her to a Crystal Gayle song.
“Gerrit,” Hela protested, pushing on hand against his chest and tugging against the hand he gripped. Her heart was pounding and to say butterflies were taking flight in her stomach was an understatement. She shivered as she felt his other palm, quite warm, settle against her waist.
“What?” was his innocent reply.
Hela did not believe a minute of his wide blue eyes.
“Oh stop struggling. You love this song. You sing it whenever it comes on, you always spin around and glide through like you’re on stage.”
“I don’t spin, I twirl,” she corrected.
“I beg pardon. You twirl,” he teased, then released her waist to twirl her around again, before catching her and dipping her back. She was laughing but when his face was inches from hers she thought in an instate he might kiss her. His eyes flashed to her open mouth then back to her eyes, but he quickly righted her and they went back to dancing, the song now a one.
“You are stressing too much, Helena, he said, using the name no one ever called her, except for close friends or family. She looked up at him ready to argue and deny it.
“Oh, no, you are not going to get out of this one. I’ve been here three weeks, and you are like a time bomb waiting to go off. Or on pins and needles. I’m not sure which, but you know you are doing amazing, don’t you?”
She stared at him. “Um.” She bit her lip. She always felt like she was falling apart. Snapping at line chefs, getting impatient with the pantry girl, ready to throw her hands up at servers who asked bizarre questions. Constantly thinking about the new menu and the changes in flow. She was mentally exhausted and she felt like she was cracking at the seams.
“You are. You’re keeping things running smooth. You’re good, Hel. You’re a whiz at plating, you can take over the line when one of the guys is in the weeds or goes down. Organized, on your toes, you leave me amazed at how you keep things flowing in this madhouse. You’re already better than you think.”
Hela couldn’t respond. She had hoped someone had noticed. Micah had been her person to work with, but even he had sometimes left her wondering if she was as good as she hoped. She and Gerrit worked well together, like she and Micha could. Quiet, handing each other things as they needed it without even a word. Notes on boards were underlined from agreements; they could bounce ideas off each other like two kids playing catch.
“Obviously you doubt yourself too much.” He gave her a chastising look, as he spun them around. “Stop.”
She wrinkled her nose at him. “Obviously you don’t know how my brain works,” was her caustic reply.
“I do. More than you know.” He grinned, his eyes twinkling. “Now, what was that thing about something sweet?”
So part two, mostly because it was a 1200 word document. Thought it might overwhelm you all. Like I said, I’d like someone I could relate to at night when I close. Currently I can’t relate to anyone. At least on the level I’m at. But one can dream of a dream chef and dream team and someone I might have as a close colleague. One day.
The restaurant was empty but for Carlos polishing glasses at the bar and Johnboy mopping the front dining while Hela and Gerrit went over new ideas for the upcoming menu. Prep lists, schedules, ordering, and a menu marked up, crossed out and notes scribbled in the margins. A giant whiteboard leaned against shelves on a prep station and occasionally one or both of them would walk over and scribble something else on the entire menu written out in black dry erase marker. The notes were in red and blue; for Gerrit and Hela, respectively.
Hela had teased Carlos into playing something new tonight. The “Bread” station was on and now the two of them were humming and singing their way through 1970s classic light rock. Ambrosia, Dan Fogelberg, Randy Vanwarmer, and other smooth classics. Hela had finally parted from her whites, slipping into a loose white gauze button down, the front tails tucked into her sensible slacks. She’d pulled out the plethora of bobby pins, groaning at the release of tension from all the metal bits biting into her scalp. A sharp pencil replaced the pins, turning her mass of kinked hair into a messy bun, tendrils brushing her cheeks and neck. She’d also snuck into her locker in the office and grabbed her moka pot. She needed something better than the sludge sitting in the pot for the last two hours since the last guests had left.
She hummed to the music as she heated water on the closest gas range and rooted through the lowboy in the pastry section for her hidden stash of Guatemalan dark roast coffee. Fingers tamped down the grounds, a towel to remove the nearly boiling water. The moka pot was back on a low blue flame as she went out to the bar and snagged four coffee cups. She grabbed some spoons, a carton of cream, a ramekin of sugar, then back over to grab the now spitting pot.
She didn’t see Gerrit watching her quietly from the whiteboard. He held a clipboard and pen where he had been marking the garnishes they had in stock and what he wanted to use next. He grinned, nearly laughing when she groaned after running the base of the pot under cold water at a prep sink. She set the pot down on a towel and marched out to the bar then came back with a shot glass. She measured out two shots of rich coffee to three cups, then glanced up in his direction.
“You want?” she waggled the shot glass in her hand and held the spout over it.
She poured two more shots and added them to the fourth cup.
“Carlos! Johnboy! Espresso’s up!” She had more water simmering on the stove and she topped off her cup with that, adding a pinch of sugar and a very light dollop of cream. “Fix yours how you like,” she directed at Gerrit.
She stirred her cup while she watched Gerrit add a generous spoonful of sugar and only a splash of water. She made a face when Gerrit downed half the cup. Carlos came through the swinging doors baring a tall highball glass of peach effervescent liquid, a lime wedge suspended between the ice cubes. He handed it to Hela who tilted her head in thanks.
“Bitters and soda,” She clarified. “I mix my drinks.”
Johnboy and Carlos fixed their coffees and headed back out to the front of house. “I’ll have something sweet in a while,” Hela called after them, Johnboy grinning at her statement.
They went back to their notes. Carlos changed the station and a Juice Newton song played Hela didn’t see Gerrit watching her as she hummed and swayed as she wrote things down, stopping for random sips of coffee and her soda water. Nor did she see him grin as she sang a few lyrics and swayed her way into the produce walk-in…..
I was missing work the other day and I had this thought about how I’d love to have a good moka pot at work. A nice Bialetti, for when the sludge in the pot has been sitting for hours. Normally I use the French press, which is fine, but it’s still not quite like how I like my coffee. I’d love to have a nice Chef at night that I could work over prep, orders, and ideas, and drink a good cup of coffee. But no one I work with appreciates coffee at night quite like I do. Oh, and part two is in the next post.
Oh, and if anyone notices my conflicting verb usage, would you please point it out. I have issues with passive voice. Bleh, and mixing my verbage.
When I write something good, I hate to post it here because I think, Ooh, maybe I can submit it. But I think right now while we are all a little anxious, we could all use a little poetry in our lives. I hope this all means something for each one of you.
I read an Instagram post about how we all need a little extra grace these days. If that isn’t the truth! And if you know anything about ravens, they are solitary creatures. I think writers gravitate towards ravens. Poe, well, he was best known for them. But I love them. All of their aspects and they chatter out this wooden marimba sound when they are in trees. It sounds like they are playing instruments. I love hearing it. I channeled a bit of Cinderella, and Lucy from It’s Christmas, Charlie Brown, and all kinds of thoughts. Short, but sweet.
Moving Forward in Grace
Now in the key of raven,
Sing sweet nightingale, sing sweet–
No no! That isn’t it at all.
While spring is in the lawnside violets
Granite snow and ice hunker down up on highest peaks
Topsy-turvy is how we all feel right now.
Let’s all give each other some extra grace
Pulled out of a pocket, see, shiny as a raven’s treasure
All in the key of raven now,
We tinker, we give, we’ve become solitary birds
We fly solo back to our roots
Don’t forget to shed those black feathers when the sun comes out!
And the old pine sits there in a setting sun
Maybe we can all move forward with a bit of grace
Some for you, some for me, go crazy and grab a handful of starbright wishes
You can’t have a monopoly on too much kindness.
This is something from puttering around with all kinds of thoughts in the last week and a half. From meeting this guy that I just now can’t get to know for a bit…. Thank you Covid-19, I hate you right now. To big 1980s hair and makeup and smelling my grandparents cabin in an instant déjà vu moment. The lava soap on the counter, Irish Spring soap in a metal shower. And well, wishing for a little more than I have right now. Ah, spring is in the air. Here I go again.
2AM Is For
Smell Lava soap , a linger of a déjà vu of a memory
Stepping into the side door of the cabin’s
to the upstairs and all else room
Concrete sinks, and propane and the old wood and canned food pantry
When 2 AM rolls around and the Irish Spring bubbles spiral
down the metal shower drain
spreadsheets have been left behind, sitting open on a screen
Orderly columns and rows, lists for this, itemized for that—
For standing naked in a mirror, curls bouncing on your shoulders
a nineteen eighties fashion girl, big makeup, big hair
Maybe he’s watching a film
Maybe you’re hoping for more than might be there
But you wear your hair down a little more, a little longer
Maybe he’s drinking that drink you wish you were sharing
And you dress a little more carefully
2 AM isn’t for the mundane, it’s for the magic
Past the witching hour,
When all the poets are awake
When night air slips in through screens
Taste the ice on the tongue, mountain’s metal coldness a cold cloak
To your Gypsy’s hide, it’s been tanned smoothed down soft and skin fresh
Aquamarine earrings swing back and forth
Put on a little Pharrell and dance around naked
Your unbridled you, that part of yourself you hide all day
Moonlight could be your sunlight
You are the alive in these waking hours
a longing for something to happen
when colors and magic spells flow
out of your fingers and the air shakes and shimmers around you
Spin out, spin around, dress in silks and feathers,
2 AM is the time to roost and let the whispers in
let the shimmering bubbles slide down the drain
2 AM is for…