Only thin, weak thinkers despise fairy stories. Each one has a true, strange fact hidden in it, you know, which you can find if you look. — Diana Wynne Jones in Fire and Hemloc
Now it is by some storytellers said that the very first Jack here got lonely for the sound of music that could be made with other musicians. So he invited in a few fellow fiddlers and a smallpiper to play for the Kinrowan Estate residents in exchange for s place to bed down, a bit of grub and some ale. Keep in mind that it was a typically cold and damp Scottish winter evening when he did this, so the musicians weren’t terribly inclined to leave.
One of ’em got the somewhat bright idea that if they didn’t stop playing, they wouldn’t be asked to leave, so they didn’t. And they weren’t asked to leave, as it was convenient to have musicians here. So a deal was struck — food, drink and a place to bed down for all musicians who were playing, so long as the music never, ever stopped. So it hasn’t. Ever. Down through the centuries, human and fey alike have made sure the music has gone on without ever stopping. A player might drop into the session here for a few hours, or stay playing for longer than you and I would believe possible. But there’s always at least several players keeping it going.
Now let’s see what we’ve got this edition…
We definitely don’t like everything we review as you’ll see in this review of The Owl Mage Series by Mercedes Lackey and Larry Dixon. Now, Christine likes other books by Lackey, so she was anticipating good things from these three books (Owlflight, Owlsight and Owlknight). But… ‘The Owl Mage books weren’t entirely bad, but neither were they very good.’ Christine’s review is fair, highlighting the things she thinks Lackey and Dixon do well, but in the end she gives the series a thumbs down.
Gary takes a look at an alternate history adventure by Ian McDonald. ‘Although it deals in djinni and green men (!) and miraculous-seeming nano-tech, The Dervish House is more grounded in a reality Westerners will recognize than were McDonald’s two India books… Surely, though, one can wish for more books of this caliber from Ian McDonald.’
J.R. Campbell and Charles Prepolec are the editors of Gaslight Grimoire: Fantastic Tales of Sherlock Holmes of which Kage says, ‘All in all, Gaslight Grimoire is well worth picking up if you enjoy lighting the fire, curling up in your armchair with a glass of sherry at your elbow in the gloom of a winter afternoon, and having a good Victorian-era read.’
Kelly has a review of the audiobook version of a novel jointly written by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman. She says, ‘If you’ve never heard Good Omens, you should. Whether or not you give a damn about theology or metaphysics, I prophesy you’ll find yourself chuckling often — or, like me, barking — as Martin Jarvis and these two well loved masters poke fun at everything most people hold dear and bring you to the brink of Armageddon.’
Robert brings us a look at a memoir that’s more than a little out of the ordinary, Jean-Marie Déguignet’s Memoirs of a Breton Peasant: ‘It is not often that one gets to read the memoirs of a peasant, because it’s not often that a peasant writes a memoir. This particular peasant was Breton, which is, for those fascinated by a part of the world that is unique and mysterious, a plus. As editor Bernez Rouz points out in “The Story Behind This Story,” Jean-Marie Déguignet was not a particularly nice man, and much of his story has been left out of this volume, particularly the paranoid ravings of his later life.’
Robert has a dark fantasy film for you to consider: ‘The films of Guillermo del Toro have often dealt with innocence in a corrupt world; sometimes the innocence is found in surprising places, as in Hellboy, in which a demon becomes a savior. He also plays with the idea of redemption through transformation in such a way that the concept becomes almost Wagnerian in scope. And in Pan’s Labyrinth, he hinges these ultimately profound themes on a child’s belief in fairy tales.’
If you enjoyed the first Hellboy film, Cat has a look at a Hellboy graphic novel set in the years after WW II: ‘I must profusely thank the publicity department at Dark Horse for sending literary treats such as B.P.R.D. 1946 for us to review, as they make for a wonderful reading experience!’
Robert has some thoughts on one of Marvel Comics’ forays into noir fiction, Daredevil Noir: ‘One has come to expect tight, absorbing writing from Alexander Irvine, and one is not disappointed in the Daredevil installment of the Marvel Noir series. Daredevil is not one of those superheroes who’s been very much on my radar, so I had the added attraction of a new character without, in my mind, any history to muck things up.’
Kelly takes a look this week at Sara Perry’s The Tea Deck. She says, ‘As the now almost mythical door-to-door encyclopedia salesman knew, the opportunity to sell your product goes up exponentially once you’ve gotten it into the hands of a customer.’ How does this relate to a Tea Deck… and just what the hell is one?
Robert ran across a book that tells almost more than we wanted to know about Lobster: ‘Richard J. King’s Lobster is part of a series on “Animals” from Reaktion Books, and, in spite of what we might expect when dealing with a creature mainly interesting for its gustatory qualities, the culinary history is a minor part of the story.’
Barb has a story to tell us in her review of Trio: ‘Väsen is Olov Johansson on 3-row chromatic nyckelharpa and kontrabasharpa, Mikael Marin on viola, 5-string viola, and pomposa, and Roger Tallroth on 12-string guitar and bosoki. Having had the opportunity over the last few years to immerse myself in many of Väsen’s recordings, see them perform live, and interview Olov Johansson, these musicians (unbeknownst to them) have become old friends.’
Pat really likes Brendan Begley’s It Could Be a Good Night Yet: ‘This is Breandán’s second solo effort, following on his 2000 release We Won’t Go Home ’til Morning — and mighty fine it is too.’
The New York-based guitarist, singer and songwriter Cecilia Villar Eljuri, who performs under the name Eljuri, has released a new record that fuses various Latino genres and reggae and rock. She’s a somewhat rare breed of Latina rocker and electric guitarist, as Gary points out in his review of Eljuri’s La Lucha.
Vonnie has good things to say about this recording: ‘An Echo of Hooves has June Tabor returning to what, in my mind, she does best, delivering ballads or songs that tell a tale. For this she has chosen eleven Medieval ballads. Some of them are very well-known, like “The Cruel Mother,” “Hughie Graeme,” “Sir Patrick Spens” and “Bonnie James Campbell”. Others are new to me.’
Our What Not this time is our oft asked question about what a favored libation is. Kathleen Bartholomew, sister of the late sf writer Kage Baker and a fine writer as well, waxes nostalgic: ‘Nova Albion of blessed memory – a bright copper, richly hopped ale with an aftertaste of roses. But in the world of beers I can actually get my hands on … maybe Sierra Nevada Southern Hemisphere Harvest Ale, full of fresh new Zealand hops. Or Lagunitas Censored Ale. Or even the venerable Bass Ale — served room temperature, of course. With straw floating on the top. I like hops…’
Although Guy Clark has been gone nearly five months now, we’re still missing that Texas troubador mightily. He’s especially been on our minds now that our tomato harvest is coming to a glorious end. Here’s what is perhaps Guy’s second-best-known song, ‘Homegrown Tomatoes’ recorded at Douglas Corner Cafe in Nashville, Tennessee, in 1996, as released on Keepers by Sugar Hill in 1997.