What’s New for the 7th of February: chicha music, not so great chocolate, Toll House cookies, North Carolina music, Hungarian and Japanese folklore in fiction, music from the Taraf De Haïdouks and much more!

Discourse is not discord.  Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

Red hollyI overheard Cat and Robert debating in our Pub over who was the best stylist when writing fantasy currently. Cat choose Brokedown Palace as reviewed by Robert to bolster his contention that Steven Brust was the best, but Robert added a number of other others including Ellen Kushner. You can read Cat’s review of The Swords of Riverside audiobook for a look at how great she is.

Glen Cook was another writer cited by Robert, and an early work of his, A Matter of Time, was well regarded by him: Cook, as he says here, ‘at that stage of his career was an mesmerizing writer.’  Cat agreed with Peter Beagle, the final writer on Robert’s list, whose Tamsin is reviewed here.

Wen Spencer’s Japanese based fantasy, Eight Million Gods, was well received by Cat:  ‘It’s very important that you know that we receive for review far too many titles a month here at Green Man Review to expect they’ll get reviewed, and that an increasing number of number of those titles are digital copies which mean they end up on nthe Infinite Library, my iPad, where they reside until I look at them. And my rule, which is very firm, is that a novel must interest me enough by the end of the first chapter or I won’t read it.’ Read  his review to see why this novel made the cut.

Kestrell has a choice bit of horror for you: ‘As a horror fan in the twenty-first century isn’t easy, especially if you prefer the literary vein of horror over the more violent and gory variety. For those horror fans searching for the sort of atmospheric stories reminiscent of M. R. James and Algernon Blackwood, I would point you to F. G. Cottam’s The Magdalena Curse.’

A Book of Tongues by Gemma Files got this note from Richard: ‘Generally speaking, the supernatural western rests roughly at the heart of Joe Lansdale’s run on Jonah Hex. You can shift it a little toward Briscoe County here, a little toward the Deadlands RPG there, but really, the metaphor’s pretty solidly set. Until, of course, something comes along like Gemma Files’ A Book of Tongues, which takes the traditional supernatural western, sizes it up, and then calmly shoots it in the back of the head.’

Kim liked the manner in which magic was illustrated in a certain beloved  novel ‘This is a magical book, and the finest of Alan Garner’s young adult novels. Now, a lot of people associate magic with ethereal forces, great quests and spells and all that, and indeed spells can be found in several of Garner’s other books. The Owl Service reveals a different kind of magic, the kind that arises from the interaction of people with patterns, of desires that unwittingly mesh with the larger forces around us, harsh magic that people employ without knowing it.

A novel by Tanya Huff found favour with Robert: ‘The Enchantment Emporium  is the first volume in what I find myself hoping will become an extended series.’ His review details why this was so. Oh, and yes, a series was indeed what would happen!

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Robert takes a look at ParaNorman, an animated feature with a lot of charm and some controversy: ‘All in all, if you can tap into the seven year old that is hiding in you somewhere, it’s a very satisfying film. It occurs to me that the denouement could have been more than a little treacly, but it avoids the saccharine neatly, giving us a comforting finish — although not without a little barbed humor.’

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We like chocolate a lot here, as you can tell from our reviews of many things chocolate, and we’re always pleased to see a new way of appreciating it, but even I was surprised by the amazingly good dessert Mrs. Ware and her Kitchen staff served up this past eventide meal: dark chocolate bread pudding with cardamon flavored ice cream! Sounds weird but actually tasted great!

Now  I suggest we  had down to the Kitchen as there’s Toll House cookies right out of the oven being offered up with eggnog per the recipe of Jennifer, one of our Winter Queens offered up once upon a Winter evening.

Amy Stewart’s book might be a novel from its title but as Gary notes ‘No, it’s not a murder mystery or a light romantic comedy. The Drunken Botanist is a botanical exploration of “The plants that create the world’s great drinks,” as its subtitle says.’

Not all chocolate we get is to the favor of our reviewers. And that’s what happened when Robert received three  bars from the Irish branch of Cadbury: ‘I’ve perhaps gotten spoiled by the opportunity to sample a range of high-quality chocolates, including a range of milk and dark chocolates in which chocolate comes first. It should serve as a word to the wise that the first two ingredients listed for each of these candies are milk and sugar…’

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Robert gives us some thoughts on a manga that isn’t, really: ‘It’s a little strange for someone who’s become addicted to Japanese comics, which generally use character designs that partake of no particular ethnicity (aside from the occasional parody of Utamaro), to read a comic in which the characters are identifiably Japanese. In the case of Crossing Midnight, there’s good reason for that: the story takes place in Nagasaki and Tokyo, and the main characters are a brother and sister who’ve gotten entangled with some rather difficult kami (spirits, we’d call them).’

Red hollyDonna looks at a well-known Scottish artist: ‘Now in his early sixties, Scottish folk musician Brian McNeill has been performing traditional and writing traditionally-inspired music since the late 1960s, when he co-founded the Battlefield Band.  Two of these three CDs are representative of some of his more recent work.  The third, The Road Never Questions, is a compilation of his work from earlier recordings.’

The now defunct Tinker’s Own released two albums as a band that Grey thinks has great pieces but which she says that: ‘If I have any criticism of these two albums, it is that they make me wish I could hear The Tinker’s Own live. “Some criticism!” you may be thinking. Well, hear me out. While sad airs and contemplative tunes can easily be listened to alone, humorous and rousing songs seem to require good company to have their full effect. They call for the ability to catch a friend’s eye across the table and grin; or to raise your mug in a cheer; or to banter with the band members; or to stand, linking elbows with your fellows and roaring out the chorus. Without this sort of companionship, they fall curiously flat.’

Lars looks at Old North State,  a release by a much loved Americana group: ‘Red Clay City Ramblers have been going for more than 40 years, but somehow they have slipped under my radar in spite of releasing lots of records, touring internationally and taking part in many theatre productions. The title of this CD is in celebration of their home state North Carolina, and on the web page it is described as a “North Caroliniana” record.’

He also looked at Scotland is Free: ‘It feels a little strange reviewing a CD titled ”Scotland is Free” a few months after the Scottish people voted ”no” in the referendum about breaking free from Great Britain. But in defence of Mr Morrison I must admit the CD was recorded and released well before the referendum.’

Gary looks at Shift and Shadow from a group with an eclectic sound: ‘XIXA, a new group out of Tucson, Arizona, plays music known as chicha. Chicha started as a working-class form of cumbia, using cumbia’s rhythm but largely played in Andean-style pentatonic scales and incorporating electric “rock” instruments and a host of other influences, much the way Tropicalia blended many Brazilian and international styles in the 1960s.’

Into The Silence, Israeli-born jazz trumpeter Avishai Cohen’s first ECM outing as a leader, is a ‘meditative album inspired by the death of his father in late 2014,’ Gary notes. ‘This recording was one of those that slowly grew on me as I listened to it on repeat.’

Gary rounds out our music reviews with a look at a re-release of tasty bluegrass music in the form of Ralph Stanley & the Clinch Mountain Boys’ The Complete Jessup Recordings Plus! Featuring Ricky Skaggs & Keith Whitley: ‘What a treat this collection is. Real Gone Music has re-released on two CDs three obscure LPs from the early 1970s when Keith Whitley and Ricky Skaggs first joined Ralph Stanley & the Clinch Mountain Boys. The titles originally were released on the small Michigan-based label Jessup and (the “Plus!” of the title) the Dayton, Ohio-based Jalyn.’

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Hmmmm… What would be fitting to end with musically speaking? Let’s listen to the Taraf De Haïdouks’s Hora Moldovenesca from the 2014 Førde Traditional and World Music Festival 25th Anniversary Sampler. It’s most likely the Central European equivalent of the ‘trad. arranged’ appellation in Celtic music as the name’s simply translated as ‘Moldovian dance’.

Of Lovers, Gamblers and Parachute Skirts, their latest album, is reviewed by Donna here; you’ll find our review by her of Band of Gypsies 2, an album whitch they did recently with  Kočani Orkestar thisaway .

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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