What’s New for the 15th of April: Furry fiction, Live music from Danú, Pamela Dean’s favourite ballad, Welsh music, a Stonewall Kitchen chocolate bar and other tasty matters

My feeling says there is history here. But sometimes a thing might feel true to me, not because it is, but because the writer believes it is. — Pamela Dean’s The Dubious Hills

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Iain, our Librarian, has the Several Annies, our Library Apprentices who are actually Estate Apprentices as they learn butchering, carpentry and other hands on skills, is off with Guðmundsdóttir, a botanist who’s our expert on The Wild Wood, for a lesson on spring foraging. And because the weather is splendid on this afternoon with both warm temperatures and sunny skies, the Pub’s more than quiet enough for me to work up this edition.

I’ve dipped into the Archives for most of our book reviews this time, a repository of myriad reviews, most not yet imcluded here on this version of GMR. China Miéville is one of favourites so we look at Kraken, one of at lest there London sort urban fantasies that he did; we’ve also reviewed a lot of work by the late Diana Wynne Jones and an awesome look at her work gets reviewed by us: and I also single out the Juniper, Gentian, and Rosemary novel by Pam Dean that is also figures into our What Not this edition.

Shall I pour you some of our freshly tapped Spring Ale for you to sip while reading this edition? I think it’ll go well with the Irish trad music by Danú that is our Coda this time…

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But first, for something new — and more than a little out of the ordinary:  Cat R. takes a look at, not a book but a genre, in her survey titled An Armload of Fur and Leaves: ‘In the last year or so, I found a genre that hadn’t previously been on my radar, but which I really enjoy: furry fiction. Kyell Gold had put up his novel Black Angel on the SFWA member forums, where members post their fiction so other members have access to it when reading for awards, and I enjoyed it tremendously. The novel, which is part of a trilogy about three friends, each haunted in their own way, showed me the emotional depth furry fiction is capable of and got me hooked. Accordingly, when I started reviewing for Green Man Review, I put out a Twitter call and have been working my way through the offerings from several presses.’

Kestrell has a look at a novel that  mixes magic and science and a bloody big squid as well: ‘Don’t let the tentacles fool you — yes, China Miéville’s Kraken takes as its starting point a tentacular god of the deep reminiscent of the stories of H. P. Lovecraft, but then Miéville adds to it the baroque psychogeographies of Moore and Moorcock, the whimsy of Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere and American Gods, the surreal imagery of a Tim Powers novel, and a dizzying barrage of geeky pop culture references, not to mention what is probably the best use of a James T. Kirk action figure ever.’

Farah Mendlesohn’s Diana Wynne Jones: The Fantastic Tradition and Children’s Literature also gets a look by Kestrel: ‘Diana Wynne Jones (DWJ to her fans) is one of those writers who, despite the fact that she is frequently referred to as a “children’s author,” has a significant following of adult readers. Although there are an increasing number of literary critics addressing the subject of children’s and young adult fantasy, there is still a lack of literary criticism addressing why those books often shelved in the children’s sections of bookstores and libraries hold such a strong appeal for so many adult readers. Despite the title of this book (a title chosen by the publisher, not the author), its subject is a sophisticated exploration of Diana Wynne Jones’s complex approach to writing and storytelling.‘

Rachael has a cool sounding novel for us: ‘In her novel, Juniper, Gentian, and Rosemary, Pamela Dean offers a story inspired by a traditional ballad, a familiar and fascinating blend of lyrical writing spiced with literary references and a perceptive glimpse into everyday life touched with mystery and magic.’

Richard looks at the last, or perhaps that’s not the correct framing, novel in Robert Holdstock’s Ryhope Wood series: ‘So why Avilion now as my reading material? As you well know, late November is a cold, rainy, and often simply nasty time as regards the weather ‘ere in the place where the Green Man offices are located. This being the case I decided to read the Green Man Library copy of Avilion, the latest novel in the Ryhope Wood series. These tales seem born of the colder time of year even when the story is set in warmer months, and fiction with a strong seasonal feel to it — such as Emma Bull’s midsummer-set War for The Oaks — is something I always enjoy. This series handles seasonal changes in its corner of Albion very well indeed.’

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Robert brings us a look at another nature documentary, Wild North, that he thinks is in every way superior: ‘Wild North is another treasure I found on Netflix. It’s a nature/wildlife series but not from the BBC or the Discovery Channel — this one’s an independent film from Norway. There are three episodes, “The Coast,” “The Forest,” and “The Mountains.” And, although the series talks about the wildlife of Scandinavia, it seems that it was filmed almost entirely in Norway.’

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Cat, one of our our West Coast based reviewers, reviews a surprisingly spicy chocolate bar from Stonewall Kitchen: ‘It is dark as a stormy night, but carries a surprising amount of heat (of the various chili-augmented chocolate bars I’ve tried, it is the most fiery.)’

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Lars has a look at the latest release that Arc Music sent us, The Ultimate Guide to Welsh Music: ‘Cerys Matthews of Catatonia fame, and also an author and a readio presenter, has tackled the task of giving us an overviewof Welsh folk music and I must say she has done a brilliant job. Two CDs packed with music, in total 48 tracks with 48 different acts, clocking in at two hours and 36 minutes, complete with extensive liner notes presenting every artist or group taking part. The oldest recording are from the 1940s, the newest from 2015.’

Gary takes note of the second release of Balkan songs by American singer Eva Salina. This one, Sudbina, is a duet with accordionist Peter Stan, presenting the music of Serbian Roma singer Vida Pavlović. ‘These two musicians have amazing chemistry between them, and bring great passion and joy to the music.’

Gary also reviews an album by various artists called Hummingbirds & Helicopters, a benefit for those affected by Hurricane Harvey, which devastated the Houston, Texas, area last year, spearheaded by folk singer Jolie Holland. ‘It opens with an intriguing cover by Holland of Randy Newman’s “Louisiana 1927,” with the avant-garde percussion ensemble Thor and Friends backing Holland’s vocals and piano.

Sarah Shook & the Disarmers have just released their second CD, titled Years. It’s a rip-roaring collection of punk-influenced country. Gary says Shook’s ‘refusal to be heartbroken even when she has a broken heart runs through most of this album’s 10 songs.’

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Our What Not comes courtesy of  Pamela Dean: ‘As I went through all the Child ballads when I was trying to think of a frame for Juniper, Gentian, & Rosemary, and the only other remotely feminist ballad I could find was ‘Riddles Wisely Expounded,’ which is not nearly as active for the young woman as ‘Tam Lin’ is. Well, there is the one where a young woman ransoms her guy and says, ‘The blood had flowed upon the green afore I lost my laddie,’ which is nice, but all she does is take all her money and hand it over.’

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So how about some Irish music for our Coda this time? ‘Old Ruined Cottage In The Glen’ and ‘Think Before You Think’ is on found on the Think Before You Think album as well by Danú, a somewhat newish group by the standards of some groups we’ve reviewed. This recording is from their performance at  Johnny D’s in Cambridge, Massachusetts on the eighth of March sixteen years ago.

About Diverse Voices

Diverse Voices is our catch-all for writers and other staffers who did but a few reviews or other writings for us. They are credited at the beginning of the actual writing if we know who they are which we don't always. It also includes material by writers that first appeared in the Sleeping Hedgehog, our in-house newsletter for staff and readers here. Some material is drawn from Folk Tales, Mostly Folk and Roots & Branches, three other publications we've done.
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