I only laid the cobbles for the streets of Bordertown; it took all of us, an entire community, to bring the city to life. And that’s as it should be. Community, friendship, art: stirred together, they make a powerful magic. Used wisely, it can save your life. I know that it saved mine. ― Terri Windling in her introduction to the Welcome to Bordertown anthologyIt’s just a week past Candlemas but I can easily feel that Spring is coming out as there’s both longer days and shorter nights, but it more importantly feels in my bones as if Winter’s truly passing and Spring’s now actively thinking about arriving. Mind you that also means the skiing is difficult as the snow’s melting on the surface and the Mill Pond has to be checked twice daily to see if if it’s still safe for wandering onto.
Despite the turning of the season in my bones, I’ve been just a wee bit tired this week as the Council of Shadow Libraries met here for the last fortnight. Fascinating conversations, lots of whiskey imbibed and friendships renewed and made. What shadow libraries are is something I’ll discuss another time, but now let’s turn our attention to this edition…A first novel in a new series by Genevieve Cogman found favour with Cat: ‘The Invisible Library combines storylines I love: alternate Earths, steampunk, and libraries. That it is well-written comes as a pleasant surprise, as usually the stone soup approach to writing fiction results in indigestion from too much grit and too little real flavour. This is really tasty!’
Jack looks at a book he eagerly devoured: ‘Some books are just too good not to review as soon as they arrive. Such is the case with Tales from Earthsea, five mostly new tales of Earthsea, the delightful universe created by LeGuin more than 30 years ago.’
Richard says that Tim Powers’ Nobody’s Home: An Anubis Gates Story is a cautionary tale. ‘Returning to the world of a much-beloved story doesn’t always work; George Lucas can tell us all about that. Any revisiting, especially one done after a long hiatus from that world, runs multiple risks. It can come across as a cheap nostalgia ploy, lacking the inspiration of the original.’
Robert says that ‘A Confederation of Valor’ is the omnibus edition of Tanya Huff’s first two novels in the Confederation series, Valor’s Choice and The Better Part of Valor. They demonstrate that Huff, whom I first encountered as a writer of sharp, witty urban fantasy, is equally at home in the realm of military sf.’Ready to relax with some superheroes? Robert brings us a look at one such film from director James Gunn: ‘If you’re longing for a superhero/science fiction action-adventure film that doesn’t take itself too seriously, Guardians of the Galaxy is it.’
Robert also takes a look back at one of the original superheroes — you might almost say, the original superhero: Renny Harlin’s The Legend of Hercules. The whole legend? you might ask. Well: ‘If you’re looking for the story of Hercules’ early years, forget it. Greek mythology and the legends of Hercules are not part of this film.’ Oops.A Taste of Ale definitely appealed to Lars: ‘I must confess I find it very hard to be impartial about this one. Choosing to fill a whole CD with songs about one of my favourite subjects, English beer, Magpie Lane has surely won my heart.’
Robert looks at three chocolate bars from Equal Exchange which are Dark Chocolate with Almonds, Chocolate Espresso Bean and Extra Dark Chocolate Panama, which weren’t exactly the best bars he’d encountered. Read his review to see why this so.
Vonnie went to a lecture, David Ingle’s The Bacchanalian Tradition in British Isles Songs, 1600-1900, in a historic building with a bunch of fellow folk music lovers to experience, well, much more than a boring lecture. Read her write-up to see what she experienced that night.April reviews the first volume in an ongoing series by David Petersen: ‘The year is 1152, treachery is afoot, and the Mouse Guard, defenders of all mice, must suss out the traitor in their midst before the Guard is destroyed. So goes the basic plot of Mouse Guard: Fall 1152, a graphic novel collection of Petersen’s award-winning comic. And just so there’s no confusion, Mouse Guard isn’t a nickname or colloquialism — the protagonists really are mice, the small, furry rodent kind.’Gary reviews How to Dance, the new release by Mount Moriah, an indie Southern rock trio from North Carolina. It’s a tour of the American South, he says. “Not so much a geographic tour, though plenty of places are name-checked, but more a survey of the spiritual, literary and mythic landscape of singer-songwriter-guitarist Heather McEntire’s homeland.”
Gary also reviews a new release of some old music: two discs of jazz from 1976, when Stan Getz and his quartet played a week of shows in San Francisco, with special guest João Gilberto. See what Gary has to say about Moments in Time and Getz/Gilberto ’76.
Lars says Eilean mo Ghaoil: The Music of Arran ‘is the brainchild of Gillian Frame, fiddler and Arran native, and if the Arran tourist board doesn’t adopt it as its official soundtrack (assuming there is such an animal as an Arran tourist board) then they’re definitely missing a bet.’
Mike says ‘Stockholm 1313 Km is a greatest hits compilation of a fine Swedish folk band. The tunes are great out of the gate, and I actually became nostalgic upon hearing the fourth and fifth selections, “Pojkarna pa landsvagen” and “Hambomazurka efter Blomqvistarn,” respectively.’
Speaking of greatest hits, if not folk music of any particular stripe, Robert takes a look at a “best of” album from a duo who borrow from a lot of traditions: ‘I was first introduced to the music of Dead Can Dance a number of years ago, when cassette tapes were state of the art. (Yes, that many years ago.) With my interest in offbeat popular music and music from other cultures, they were a good fit, but it wasn’t until I picked up their “best of” release, Wake, that I realized how much in tune (if you’ll pardon the expression) we were.’
Robert continues with a look at an album that almost defies description: Depeche Mode’s Delta Machine: ‘It’s like Götterdämmerung — it looks like any other grand opera, then you realize you have three operas’ worth of history — leitmotivs that come into play and pull the whole cycle right back into your head.’
Reynard recently recently reviewed the Horslips authorized biography, Horslips: Tall Tales, The Official Biography, so let’s give you a WNEW FM broadcast recording of them performing their ‘Trouble (With a Capital T)’ at The Bottom Line, NYC, on the 26th of November, 1979.
Because I’m very fond of the newish wave of Scottish band that started up some thirty year ago, I’m also giving you the Peatbog Faeries, Peaties to their fans, doing ‘The Great Ceilidh Swindle’ at the 2006 Celtic Connections in Glasgow. This band’s a favourite among the Fey including a friend of mine, Jenny Thistlethwaite.