I am what I am. I would tell you what you want to know if I could, for you have been kind to me. But I am a cat, and no cat anywhere ever gave anyone a straight answer. — Peter S. Beagle’s The Last Unicorn.
Spring Peeper Ale is what you’re enjoying — one of our long-standing traditional May offerings here in the Green Man Pub. Drink up — it’s an ale that stands up to several pints being consumed! And they’re perfectly paired with the Estate native apple, bacon and cheddar biscuits.
It’s officially Spring today and we’re getting one of those rare days where the temperature is over twenty Celsius, there’s full sun and not a hint of a cooling breeze, so Ingrid, our Steward who’s my wife, has declared there shall be an outside feast under the stars followed by a contradance in the evening in the slate-covered Courtyard with Chasing Fireflies being the band and Gus the caller.
My staff has set up the outdoor taps — I see a cask of that Spring Peeper Ale, another cask of the Shut Up and Dance IPA and yet another of a three-year aged cider that Bjorn, our Brewmaster, calls Cheddar Cider as its got a nice sharp bite like an aged cheddar. Join us if you can as it’ll be a lovely evening!
Steven Brust and Emma Bull’s Freedom & Necessity epistolary novel elicited this comment from Richard: ‘There are enough fantasy authors out there intent on sidestepping clichés to keep readers who crave something different and challenging on their toes. Chief among their ranks are Steven Brust, who had the chutzpah to go Milton one better in To Reign in Hell, and Emma Bull, whose War for The Oaks ever more clearly revealed these days as one of the cornerstones of modern low fantasy. Put the two of them together on one project and the safe money is that the book is going to be witty, urbane, fast-moving and utterly fearless.’
Robert brings us a novella by an author who is destined to become a perennial favorite, Alexander C. Irvine’s The Life of Riley: ‘Take Escape from New York, mix in an echo of A Mirror for Observers and a generous helping of The Book of Revelations as interpreted by your worst nightmare, and focus very tightly on the crisis point. You’re coming close to Alexander C. Irvine’s The Life of Riley.’
Warner’s first review is a Holmsian pastiche: “C.S Harris’ latest mystery Who Speaks for the Damned is another fascinating tale of the early Victorian period. As part of a long running series the reader may see a returning character or two, or fear that as a new reader they will be lost and confused as to the nature of relationships and past events in the book. The latter turns out to be a great concern, with a story that is accessible and characters who have a history but do not rely on unexplained past events for narrative purposes.’
Warner brings us his thoughts on a work of classic, or nearly classic, gothic fiction: ‘Rebecca James’ Woman in the Mirror represents a return to classic gothic fiction in many ways, and a proof that that storytelling style still has some vitality to it. The book is filled with classic mysteries, questionable supernatural occurrences, loves real and false, hopeless and destined. Featuring a plot that spans time from the mid-nineteenth century to the present day, the story centers around one estate, and the women involved with the family that inhabit it. Yet connections between times do exist, some predictable and others somewhat less so.’
He also ran across an early science-fiction novel subject to a variety of interpretations: ‘Muriel Jaeger’s The Man with Six Senses is a mostly forgotten piece of fascinating early 20th century science fiction recently brought back to the fore by the British Library. A first person narrative looking back at a set of events surrounding one man, he finds that he is telling a different story than the one others might wish.’
Robert was a little ambivalent about Trader Joe’s Organic Dark Chocolate PB&J Minis, but decided that, on the whole, they’re a plus: ‘I don’t know if I’ll go searching for these at my local Trader Joe’s, but they are a nice treat if you’re in the mood for PB&J and don’t feel like making a sandwich. And the chocolate is a plus. But be warned: it occurs to me that it would be very easy to work through a whole bag without realizing it.’
Denise dug into a packet of Huang Fei Hong Spicy Crispy Peanut, and she’s a fan. ‘Peanuts are my jam. Okay, my butter. My soup. My sauce. My everything. *cues up Barry White* Any way I can get ‘em, I get ‘em. I especially love a touch of spice to my peanuts, so hello Huang Fei Hong!’ Read her review to see exactly why she was so impressed.
Denise also decided to balance spice with sweet this week, as her review of Family Volcano Popping Candy – Lychee shows. ‘You’ll want to sit back and enjoy this posher version of those ice cream truck candy favorites, remembering the good ol’ days, when our greatest worry was where we were gonna come up with the next bit of change for a wee candy packet of fun.’ Looks like somebody‘s not pleased about those murder hornets…
Cat ended up in-hospital this past week, needing surgery for a dislocated right knee, so he turned to some favourite films to pass the time. One of them was the animated Hellboy film, HellBoy: Sword of Storms: ‘If you’re looking for a fix as you wait for the long-awaited Hellboy film, this animated film along with the other animated film, Hellboy: Blood and Iron, will hopefully tide you over. They certainly fulfilled my Hellboy jones!’
Robert was catching up on the Avengers and had some thoughts on yet another reboot, named, appropriately enough, The New Avengers: ‘OK — I’ve encountered the Avengers, the Young Avengers, the Dark Avengers, and now, the New Avengers. All this goes to show, as far as I’m concerned, that the new generation of comics writers are real patient with strict continuity. But it’s Brian Michael Bendis doing this script, a definite plus, with David Finch’s pencils — another real plus.’
He wasn’t quite as happy with the second collection, The New Avengers: Sentry: ‘New Avengers was a series that grabbed me right off the bat, and I finally got my hands on the second collection, Sentry. As you might imagine, it focuses on Robert Reynolds, the Sentry, who doesn’t remember who he is. The problem is, neither does anyone else, which, when you consider that he’s probably the most powerful superhero ever, is pretty strange.’
Heartbreaker Please gets thirty lead-off from Gary; ‘It’s hard to believe that this year marks the 20th anniversary of Teddy Thompson’s recording career. He’d been singing and playing guitar on mom Linda’s and dad Richard’s recordings since the mid ’90s when he released his self-titled debut (which Lars reviewed here) in 2000.’
Gereg says of a CD he reviewed before the artist passed on that ‘Let’s start with the obvious. David Bowie is a genius. Musician, composer, actor, and mime, his versatility is always impressive. He defined — and very nearly created — glitter rock; he was the first white man inducted into the Soul Hall of Fame; he narrated a superb version of Peter and the Wolf; his film performances have ranged from Pontius Pilate to the Goblin King to the most alienated alien in cinematic history.’ So now you’ll need to read his review of David Bowie: Rare and Unseen to see why it left him rather underwhelmed.”
Robert brings us a commentary on a nineteenth-century work that may be very appropriate for today, Giuseppe Verdi’s Messa da Requiem: ‘Giuseppe Verdi is one who should need no introduction. However, not as many people as should know that in addition to writing many, possibly even most of the most popular operas in the repertoire, he also wrote a stunning requiem mass.’
This week’s What Not is a special deal. Last week we published a review of Max Barry’s Providence. The publisher has kindly offered a special treat for GMR readers. Courtesy of Putnam, one of our readers will be getting a complimentary copy of the book. To enter, simply send an email with your name and shipping address here, and a winner will be chosen at random. This give-away is open to those in the continental US, and ends on June 15. Please enter and enjoy. Good luck.
Our music coda this time is “Bad Moon Rising” by Credence Clearwater Revival. Recorded exactly fifty years ago at Madison Square Garden. The band initially consisted of lead vocalist, lead guitarist, and primary songwriter John Fogerty; his brother, rhythm guitarist Tom Fogerty; bassist Stu Cook; and drummer Doug Clifford. These members had played together since 1959, first as the Blue Velvets and later as the Golliwogs. Fogerty and the other band members would become bitter foes over who had the rights to the name and use of the vast catalog.