What’s New for the 15th of December: Gwyneth on Chestnuts, Reynard on De Lint, the Ministry of Hades, Live Music by Tull and Other Wintery Matters

Let me bring you songs from the wood:
To make you feel much better than you could know
Dust you down from tip to toe
Show you how the garden grows
Hold you steady as you go
Join the chorus if you can:
It’ll make of you an honest man

Jethro Tull

So, you’re curious about that pile of books? You know that we’re very fond of the music, food, drink and, of course, the literature of the Appalachian Mountains?  Charles de Lint wrote a children’s book, A Circle of Cats, that was set there, which was marvellously illustrated by Charles Vess, an artist extraordinaire. Just take a look at it.

Years later they took this work and created The Cats of Tanglewood Forest, a full-blown children’s book rich in the folklore of that region that has even more astonishing illustrations by Vess. Yeah, it’s lovely too. Though marketed to a younger audience, I’d recommend to anyone looking for a excellent read, including you. I’ve got a copy on my iPad that I’m reading right now.

Now for something more adult. Yes, that is a chocolate malted rye straight bourbon whiskey. There’s actually no chocolate in it, just simply a malted grain that’s been toasted to bring out a lot more of its sugars, which yields chocolatey notes in the finished whisky. Yes it’s pricey but oh, so worth it. Shall I…? Good.

Gary says it takes a while for the action to start in the new book by C.J. Cherryh and Jane S. Fancher, but it’s worth the wait. ‘Alliance Rising is approximately the umpteenth book set in Cherryh’s Alliance-Union Universe, a space opera series that starts on near-future Earth and extends far into the future and a good way into our galactic neighborhood.’

Matthew says cautiously ‘it is with hesitation that I read a book that is a “prequel” to another book I’ve enjoyed. But when that “prequel” is by one of my favorite authors, I set aside the reluctance and dive right in. Kage Baker, in The House of the Stag, delivers us the background history of the Lord of the Mountain, the half-demon father of spoiled lordling Lord Ermenwyr, who we met in Baker’s previous fantasy novel, The Anvil of the World.’

Robert brings us three stage adaptations of three stories by Orson Scott Card: ‘Adaptations for the stage or screen are often problematical, as witness the critical brickbats thrown several years ago over the relative merits of the screen renderings of The Fellowship of the Ring and Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. Stage adaptations are subject to much the same criteria for examination. What is most interesting, for those who do take interest in such things, is the circumstance in which the adaptations are done — such as with the willing connivance or (in the case of Posing As People) more or less at the instigation of the author of the original story.’

Warner says ‘Overall, Chloe Neill’s Wicked Hour is a rather good volume. It tells a complete supernatural mystery where the rules are fairly straightforward and motivations are understandable. The romance is believable and the interactions between the loving couple appreciated. If one likes Eileen Will’s World of the Lupi or Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files, this work might appeal.’

Befitting the time of year, we asked Gwyneth what her favorite winter comfort food was and here’s the lead-in to her long and delightful answer: ‘Chestnuts, I’m obsessed with chestnuts at Christmas. The obsession dates back to childhood, when chestnuts roasted over the coals on a fire-shovel were a winter treat, back in the primitiive and labour intensive days when my parents’ house was heated by an Aga (solid fuel range) in the kitchen, and coal/wood fires elsewhere. And marrons glacees were the ultimate in sophistication. . . until I finally tried them, and wondered what the fuss was about. (I’m sure they’re very nourishing, by the way) Now I live in Sussex, I expect to forage a kilo or so of sweet chestnuts in October or November. After that it’s hit or miss. One year I slung them in the freezer wet and still in the shell & they defrosted as mush. Another year I left them in a copper bowl in a corner they went mouldy & the bowl suffered too. The supermarket then provides, boring!’

Robert brings us his thoughts on the beginning of an anime series that he describes as “supernatural adventure with comic elements’: ‘Vampire’s Lure introduces us to the Summons Section of the Ministry of Hades, which is charged with leading the souls of the recently deceased to the afterlife, and with investigating any anomalies among such souls — like the ones who are supposed to be dead but haven’t shown up in the afterlife yet. The hero of the series, Asato Tsuzuki (voiced by Shinichiro Miki), is a very powerful shinigami (basically, “death god”) who happens to be a real slacker with an obsessive desire for sweets: as he says, he always makes sure to have dessert after every meal. At any rate, there has been a series of killings in Nagasaki, which is in Tsuzuki’s territory, all involving puncture wounds and bodies drained of blood. Tsuzuki is sent off to investigate. His new partner will meet him there.’

Gary say ‘if you’re looking for kick-up-your-heels Celtic rock, the Clumsy Lovers have it by the keg-full on Barnburner. A toast to these musicians, who not only write most of their own music, but also self-produce and distribute their own CDs and tapes.’

Kim says ‘Altan were one of the first truly traditional groups I came to love, and they will always be one of my favorites! I hadn’t seen Altan in five years or so–last time was at the World Theater in St. Paul–so this evening was a great treat, and anticipated with bated breath.’

The idea of four Finnish cellists playing Metallica didn’t appeal initially to Mia: ‘How often is an album of cover tunes the most original, creative, and enjoyable CD imaginable? Well, how about when the self-styled “Four Bowmen of the Apocalypse” released Apocalyptica Plays Metallica By Four Cellos? Yes, that’s right, four classically trained cellists playing music by one of the loudest, angriest bands in the heavy metal universe. Sound strange? Not being a big fan of Metallica to begin with, I wasn’t overwhelmed with any great desire to listen to Apocalyptica. Then I heard the first track, and discovered my mistake. Apocalyptica is amazing.’ As good as that album was, she also reviews a second album by them, Inquisition Symphony, which she says is even better!

Stephen reviews a CD that, well, never actually officially existed: ‘Overall, this is a fine piece of work from a talented, versatile and engaging group. The CD isn’t commercial available, and the criticisms expressed are almost certainly associated with recording on a ‘shoestring’ budget, rather than with musicianship. Rambling House should get lots of bookings on the strength of this ‘demo’. Hopefully, Mr. Brandon will still find the time to write a book or two!’

Our What Not this time is an authors’ look at his work, a work deeply infused with Arthurian, Celtic and English folklore, to wit Robert Holdstock on his Mythago Cycle. Richard reviewed for us the entire Mythago Cycle as the author calls it here  but it’s illuminating to hear what the author has to say: ‘It came as a shock to realise that 2009 is the 25th anniversary of Mythago Wood, the novel I wrote from my dreams, and under the influence of my grandfather’s eerie tales, told to me when I was a child. I loved his stories: frightening and vivid. They shaped me.’ You can read his article here.


Now indeed ’Songs From The Wood’ is one of the great Tull songs — full throated, pagan in nature and with Ian at his very best in this take of it. It was recorded some forty years ago at the LA Sports Arena off the soundboard by the band themselves, so it’s a great recording.

About Reynard

I’m the Pub Manager for the Green Man Pub which is located at the KInrowan Estate. I’m married to Ingrid, our Steward who’s also the Estate Buyer. If I’m off duty and in a mood for a drink, it’ll be a single malt, either Irish or Scottish, no water or ice, or possibly an Estate ale or cider.

I’m a concertina player, and unlike my wife who has a fine singing voice, I do not have anything of a singing voice anyone want to hear!

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