What’s New for the 31st of January: A Philip Glass chamber opera, the Two Fat Ladies, The Faeries’ Oracle, Irish drinking songs, live music from Mari Boine Persen, feline centric fiction and much more

Never try to outstubborn a cat.– Lazarus Long in Robert A. Heinlein’s Time Enough for Love, also found in The Notebooks of Lazarus Long

ivyThe felines here are a story all by themselves. That’s Ysbaddaden (‘King of all Giants’ from the story of Culhwch & Olwen), who’s sometimes affectionately known as ‘Bad Daddy’ by the human staff. He’s the ‘alpha male’ Tom of the cats, all black with yellow eyes, nearly thurts now. Fiercly loyal and protective towards the other cats, he still packs a hell of a wallop and a frightening turn of speed for an old ‘un!

Note the lack of a tail beyond a stump under the rear skin, That combined with the yellow eyes makes them a rare breed, so rare that they can be traced back several centuries as noted by stories in The Sleeping Hedgehog. We’ve been offered rather large amounts of money for them but the only ones that leave the Estate are as gifts to departing Several Annies who fell in love with one of them or to the surrounding Estates as they are most excellent ratters.

Oh and Tamsin, our hedgewitch, says that the felines and the owls have an understanding, as the owls never prey upon the felines, even the youngest of them, and in return the felines, who could easily reach the nests of the Estate owls, do not go near their nests.PCat to the Dogs was warmly regarded by Naomi: ‘To be honest, I owe Ms. Murphy an apology. The first paragraph of this novel elicited an audible groan from me, and some fast second thoughts. After all, who wants to read about a woodrat dangling (still warm by the way), from the mouth of the protagonist, even if he does happen to be a tomcat? Well, I persevered, and by the end of the first page was intrigued, if not engrossed, in the unfolding tale.’

Charles de Lint’s The Cats of Tanglewood Forest with illustrations by Charles Vess is based on A Circle of Cats by the same talented duo which s reviewed below in our Graphic Novels sections. Cat found a lot to like in this charming novel, so read his review to see why he liked it.

Twists of the Tale: Cat  Horror Stories got a good review from Kestrel: ’As Ellen Datlow points out in her introduction to this anthology, human beings’ fascination with felines goes back as far as the ancient Egyptians, whose tomb paintings and statues clearly connect the cat with the realms of power and mystery. Later, medieval artists would portray cats as having an affinity with the forces of evil, and it was at this point that cats became associated with witches.’

Carole Nelson Douglas’s Cat in a Kiwi Con proves not all feline-centric fiction does well with our reviewers, as No’am says in summation of that novel: ‘There’s one passage in the book which I have to quote: “On the other hand, a novel dealt with characters and issues, and no matter the genre, the writer could always invest the material with underlying significance. That was the beauty of a book.” I quite agree, but unfortunately the characters in this book are shallow, and there doesn’t seem to be much underlying significance to the material.’

A novel by Erin Hunter drew this comment from Wes: ‘Warriors #1: Into the Wild would have been a favorite of mine if I had run across it when I was nine or ten. It has the mythic elements of a warrior tale, recast through the eyes of a young cat named Firepaw who joins the Thunderclan. The storyline, while being predictable for an older reader, is charming and engaging, and I can see this novel setting a solid stage upon which many more stories can be told, and told well.’

Andrea finishes our feline-centric book reviews off with this charmer: ‘Ghost Eye, written by Marion Dane Bauer and illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman, is a short story-length, charmingly told tale of ghosts, cat shows and lonely little girls — pretty much in that order. The book contains only 82 pages of rather large print. I would imagine its intended audience is girls of around 7 or 8 who are just beginning to read books for themselves. However, anyone who enjoys a bit of whimsy and ghosts or cats would be bound to enjoy this little book.’

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James sums up a film very nicely: ‘If all you need in a movie is Halle Berry in a tight, revealing leather outfit cracking a whip, stop reading this right now and go see Catwoman. If you care about anything else in a movie – like plot, acting, originality, or excitement – see anything else.’

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Kathleen and her sister Kage wrote up the matter of Two Fat Ladies whose DVD series documented that they were brilliant English cooks who rode a motorcycle with a sidecar, drank excessively, smoked and cooked using bloody great hunks of meat, butter and anything else that isn’t good for you. And funny as all Hell as well. Which the review is as well.

Robert brings us a look at some fairly intense chocolates from Lindt’s Excellence line: ‘The latest treat to cross my desk was a package of chocolate bars from Swiss chocolatier Lindt & Sprüngli, who have been doing this since 1845. The line is billed as “Lindt Excellence” and comes packaged in elegant slim boxes. But enough of that — what does it taste like?’

Pliny the Elder is a deservedly legendary beer from the Russian River Brewing Company in Santa Rosa, California. Stores don’t even put it on the floor as one overily enthusiastic beer drinker will buy all of it up. So did our taster, Kelly, find that it lived up to its reputation? Let’s just say you really should read his story!

If you like Irish music, you should read this review by Lars: ‘I seldom drink anything stronger than fortified wine, but I can always tell an Irish strong one from a Scottish. It is quite easy really. In Scotland they spell it “whisky” and in Ireland “whiskey.” Just look at the label. But it is a well known fact that, in spite of Scotch conquering the world, the Irish drink is much more commonly found in song titles, not to mention in the lyrics. And sometimes the song will be about whiskey, but the word itself will not be mentioned. The English often sing the praises of beer and ale, but the Irish prefer something stronger.’

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Mia says that ‘A Circle of Cats is intended to be the prequel to the de Lint/Vess collaboration Seven Wild Sisters. Since I’ve been thwarted in every attempt to procure a copy of Sisters, and haven’t had a chance to read the story sans Vess artwork in Tapping the Dream Tree collection, I have no idea how A Circle of Cats stands in relation to that rare release. In relation to de Lint’s body of work as a whole, and indeed to the field of modern fantasy and fairy tale overall, this piece is simply outstanding.’

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A Brian Froud and Jessica Macbeth project got a review by Andrea ‘The Faeries’ Oracle is a lovely book and deck set. I thoroughly enjoyed reading the book and playing with the cards. Because of the high quality of the artwork and text, I think The Faeries’ Oracle would be well worth owning even for someone who, like me, is not lucky enough to posses any oracular prowess.’

Robert brings us his comments on his second Folkmanis hand puppet, which is not a cat: it’s the Piglet: ‘ I have to confess, as I sat here looking at him reclining on my bed — he’s rather large, about 14 inches from nose to curly tail (not corkscrew curly, but it’s making a good start) — the first thought that came to my mind was the title of a Tony Hillerman mystery, The Sinister Pig. With his half-closed eyes and slightly open mouth, he looks — well, hungry.’ Hmm — maybe that’s not so different than cats after all.’


Barb leads off our music reviews with a look at two Nordic offerings, Eight Seasons and Remixed: ‘Mari Boine is one of the many artists brought to American audiences by way of Northside. These recordings were originally released by Lean in 2001 and 2002 and licensed by Northside for USA release in 2003. Boine is the embodiment of an ancient, present, and future musical spirit. From a part of the world I call “reindeer country”, she sings the soul of her native Sámi culture and melds it with modern technology, transporting the listener to a magical, spiritual place.’

Dori Freeman’s self-titled debut album is the birth of a major new voice in Americana music, Gary says. ‘This talented young woman from Galax, Virginia, has a gift for songwriting that runs as deep as the veins of coal in her native Appalachia, and a voice that can sing pretty much any style of country music.’

Scheherazade, Freakwater’s eighth album, stands a chance of being the hardest-hitting country album of the year, Gary thinks. Their music is ‘a blend of hardcore country and the most indie of indie-rock sounds, the lyrics full of literate, dark (often darkly humorous) wordplay.’

Gary really liked Divided and United: The Songs of the Civil War, a two-CD set with 32 songs by singers from across the folk, rock and country spectrum. “This musical project, which presents the songs that were sung by soldiers and civilians all over the country on both sides of the war, indeed shines a light on those thoughts and feelings that divided and united Americans then and continue to do so now,’ Gary says.

The songs on Chris Eckman’s Harney County evoke that Oregon locale so clearly that Gary found it a bit unnerving in light of current events there. ‘The recent occupation and standoff at Malheur, which has led to one shooting death so far and is still ongoing at this writing, helped me find my way into this record, and I’m glad it did,’ he says. Find out what he means in his review.

Gary also takes a look at Songs for Quintet by Kenny Wheeler. “This quintet album represents the last ensemble sessions the American expat flugelhornist Kenny Wheeler played, and it’s a quietly powerful date,’ he says.

Robert takes us on a tour of music of the Northern Renaissance, courtesy of Les Witches: ‘Les Witches is an early music ensemble who, according to their Web site, seek to “resurrect the ambience of the bars and taverns of Shakespeare’s time. . . .” They certainly seem to have done that, although when their focus moves to the court music of the seventeenth century, it’s not quite so obvious.’

Don’t let the title of A Madrigal Opera fool you — it’s by Philip Glass, and it’s anything but “early music,” as Robert notes: ‘A Madrigal Opera shares something with [Glass’] film scores, being designed as a backdrop as much as anything else. Glass created what he called “a chamber opera with an unspecified story line,” intended to adapt to different narratives at the discretion of the director.’

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I’ve got a real treat for you in the form of ‘Mojas Katrin’,  which is from an FM broadcast of Mari Boine Persen performing in Schauburg, Bremen, Germany, May 23, 1992 — She’s yoiking  which originally referred to only one of several Sami singing styles, but in English the word is often used to refer to all types of traditional Sami singing. And she has a charming explanation in English of what the song’s about.

About Iain Nicholas Mackenzie

I’m the Librarian for the Kinrowan Estate. I do love fresh brewed teas, curling, English mysteries and will often be playing Scandinavian or Celtic  music here in the Library.

I’m a violinist too, so you’ll me playing in various contradance band such as Chasing Fireflies and Mouse in the Cupboard as well as backing my wife Catherine up on yearly Christmas season tours in the Nordic countries.

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