Sunday -- the 12th of March, 2006

We will publish again in a fortnight!

'If I danced with my feet as I dance in my dreaming,
As graceful and gleaming as Death in disguise;
oh, that would be sweet, but then would I hunger
To be ten years younger, or wedded, or wise?'

Peter S. Beagle in The Last Unicorn

It's been jocularly observed that the presence of many books in one place can actually warp both space and time.

I'm Iain MacKenzie, the Head Librarian here at the Green Man Building, and I'm not sure that this view is so very far from being right. The stacks here at the Library, for instance, can be rather frighteningly extensive. Though we've never actually lost anyone, that I know of.

And did you know there is a unique little bookshop in the Green Man building? You didn't, did you? I was here for years before I stumbled upon it, just last year.

I was restless late one winter night a month or so ago, unable to sleep no matter what I did, so I came down from my garret lodgings to the Library to do some cataloguing, escorted by Fenodyree, one of the cats. I noticed a warm, yellow light coming from a hallway where I didn't recall any light before, so I went to investigate.

The light spilled from the open top-half of a door; the door had a small sign hanging on it that read, rather simply, 'Books'.

Peering through the door, I saw a rather small, gnarled-looking individual sitting at a tiny desk surrounded by what looked to be thousands of books, shelf after shelf of them. Library-style ladders ran along the walls on the left and right.

The whole lot was in a space barely wider than the doorway itself, but seemingly running deep into the building.

The proprietor appeared to be deeply immersed in a book, and didn't seem to notice me and the cat standing rather hesitantly just outside the door, even when Finn jumped up onto the top ledge of the half-door and leaned in, waving his stumpy tail around for balance, to get a closer look.

All in all, it put me in mind of one of those tiny bookstores where the proprietor must be talked into parting with one of the books for sale. Finn and I exchanged a glance, and after a moment I decided to continue on my way to my catalogues, Finn jumping down with a soft thud to the floor and running ahead of me across the hall.

And then, as so often happens, I was busy with thing after thing, and I haven't managed to make my way back to the strange little bookshop to explore. One of these days. . . .

A very cool Tarot deck illustrated with scenes from Prague . . . an MP3 player which comes complete with a full reading of Neil Gaiman's Anansi Boys novel . . . the complete Jorken tales of Lord Dunsany . . . and the very first career retrospective for English folk rocker / singer-songwriter Richard Thompson... Our featured reviews represent a look at the gamut of what is sent to Green Man for review!

Karen Mahony's The Tarot of Prague from The Magic Realist Press of that lovely Czech city gets a detailed review from Donna Bird: 'I picked up this beautiful Tarot deck when it arrived in the Green Man mailroom a year or so ago. I had to use it a few times before I established enough familiarity to review it. Now I'm ready!' Read her Excellence in Writing Award-winning review for all the details on this tarot deck and its accompanying book!

Next up is Denise Dutton with her Excellence in Writing Award winning review of a rather special MP3 player: 'You may wonder why GMR is revisiting this tale. Wasn't Anansi Boys already reviewed? Indeed it was, and well done, too. But sometimes we get something new and interesting here in the offices, and that lends itself to another look. The version of Anansi Boys I got my hands on wasn't your typical hardback novel. The publishing house came up with a Playaway version, a sort of MP3 player pre-loaded with an unabridged audio version of a book. It's fantastically portable, and slips into a pocket or purse easily, going just about anywhere you'd take an audiobook.' Cool!

Lord Dunsany once recounted a lot of tales that a fellow named Jorkens told. Here's how Dunsany describes this fellow: 'Jorkens is a good-hearted fellow, and will always tell a story in the evening to anyone who offers him a small drink; whiskey and soda is what he prefers; and he really has seen a good deal of the world, and the Club relies on stories in the evening. . . .' Sounds a lot like our own Jack Merry! Gary Turner, Editor of Golden Gryphon Press, was the reviewer for this impressive set from Night Shade Books and he has this to say about them: 'After reading all 154 Jorkens stories in this three volume set, I was truly sad that I'd read them all, and I would never, ever again read a new Jorkens story. These three books are worth owning, for the stories, for a glimpse of an age now past, and also for the examples they give would-be writers.' Read his Excellence in Writing Award-winning review for a look at tales which have stood the test of time!

A career retrospective for English folk rocker / singer-songwriter Richard Thompson is a treat for even the most jaded of music fans. Our Editor-in-Chief nearly had to have this set pried out of his fingers so Gary Whitehouse could review it. He only relinquished it when the folks at Free Reed said they'd send along another one from him to have! In his Excellence in Writing Award review, Gary says 'RT is, like the man himself, too diverse to really fit in a box. But this sprawling box comes about as close as possible to capturing the art and artistry and sheer humanity of Richard Thompson.'

Kathleen Bartholomew was the reviewer fortunate 'nough to review the new edition of Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett's Good Omens -- The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch: 'Both Neil Gaiman (Anansi Boys, Coraline) and Terry Pratchett (Thud, Where's My Cow?) are world class fantasists and giants of popular literature. But back in 1990, when they were, in their description, 'not yet Neil Gaiman and just barely Terry Pratchett' (Locus, February 2006), they wrote a book together. They did it for fun, thinking it would be amusing. And it is. However, since they were themselves (even if they didn't quite know it at the time), it is much more than that. Over the years it has grown in audience and import, and now -- mirabile dictu! -- it has been reissued.' Read her review to see why she really, really liked this edition!

Kathleen also looks at Night Shade Books' limited edition printing of Gwyneth Jones' Bold As Love: 'Her prose is etched in silvered glass, with acid: it is hard and bright and sharp, and it smokes. In Bold As Love, she is cutting her script into a magic mirror, at that, and the images reach past the edge of the mortal world and into myth.' Read Kathleen's review to see why, despite a few minor caveats, she thinks 'Night Shade Books has done its usual stellar job of presentation.'

Vonnie Carts-Powell says Patricia McKillip's Something Rich and Strange 'is nearly a prose-poem. The writing is lyrical, the events mysterious, the metaphors shadowy and aquatic. The plot suffers from it, as it does from turning the ocean into a character. This is a diffuse mystery, and the reader has to trust the writer that a point will eventually emerge from the pages. McKillip is both good enough and well-known enough to entitle her to our trust, but at its best, this novel is not a page-turner. Even more so than most of her books, the best way to enjoy Something Rich and Strange might be to read it aloud, enjoying the leisurely trip rather than racing to the destination.'

Faith J. Cormier says 'Grail legends are a dime a dozen, and some of them are barely worth that much. What makes The Greenstone Grail worth a look?' Go read her review to see what makes this Grail novel worth reading!

Blood And Roses, the first novel in the Jayne Taylor series, gets an enthusiastic review from Denise Dutton: 'Sure, the first time I saw the title of this book I thought of the Smithereens' song of the same name. Which worried me, because many stories that nick song titles for their own tend to be twee or pretentious. Luckily, that's not the case here. Zeddies writes an addictive page-turner that keeps a lively pace without losing its reader in the action.' Read her review for a look at a promising new series!

Cat Eldridge loves a long series of books, which is why he's working his way this decade through George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series! Unfortunately, he finds good series rather hard to find, which is why he was so pleased by Christopher Golden's The Myth Hunters: 'What Golden has created is fully-realized parallel realities where myths are as real as we are. Jack Frost is both an individual and a force of nature -- and an almost likable being. Oliver is human, but shows that he can stand alongside the Myths Themselves if need be. And the story here is fast-paced and allows time to develop the plot as it goes along. This is not the full-blown horror which Golden can write -- for that experience, I recommend the forthcoming Bloodstained Oz from Earthling Publications that I'm reading in galley form right now. This is a ripping good dark fantasy akin to Mulengro, Charles de Lint's Rom mystery. I know it's but a matter of degrees separating dark fantasy from horror, but the blood splattering here is, errr, more tastefully done than it would be in a horror novel such as Bloodstained Oz.' Read his review for all the details on this impressive novel!

Dr Who anyone? We have a number of Whovians here on staff, so it's no surprise April Gutierrez, our beloved Book Editor, snarfed up Paul Cornell, Martin Day and Keith Topping's The Discontinuity Guide: The Definitive Guide to the Worlds & Times of Doctor Who: 'Originally published in 1995, this revised volume takes a decidedly irreverent look at one of science fiction TV's more enduring, endearing institutions: Doctor Who. Remembered by many for its wobbly paper-mache Pinewood Studios effects, frequently changing casts and cheesy incidental music, Doctor Who is, nonetheless, a unique experiment in television, and one that has been frequently engaging and entertaining, despite the production quality. There have been numerous books about the show, some more serious than others; here's one that refuses to take itself seriously, and fans will love it.' Whovians, go read her review!

James Lynch looked at the poetry of Ray Bradbury in the guise of the They Have Not Seen The Stars: The Collected Poetry of Ray Bradbury collection. His opinion is 'If you'd like to see a new side, or several new sides, of Ray Bradbury, I recommend They Have Not Seen The Stars. His poems may not revolutionize the field of poetry, but you will be entertained as you read them.'

Sequels are always a fickle affair. I loved Tolkien's The Fellowship of The Ring, but thought The Two Towers was a dreadfully boring affair. So when Robert M. Tilendis tackled the sequel to a novel he really liked, was he pleased with it? Let's hear what he says: 'Steve Augarde's Celandine is the second volume published in the trilogy that began with The Various, centering on the Wee Folk, who in these tales inhabit a patch of wood on a farm owned by Celandine's family and their descendants. . . . Celandine is, overall still an engaging story. One of the most interesting things that remains to be seen, however, is where Augarde will go from here.' Read his review to see why the sequel didn't suck!

Cathy Fenner and Arnie Fenner are the editors of Spectrum 12 -- The Best in Contemporary Fantastic Art which reminded Robert of an important lesson he learned long ago: 'I learned early in my career as an art reviewer to avoid group exhibitions, especially those with very large themes. I find many of the same problems in discussing the newest Spectrum: disparate visions, a wide range of approaches, and, since these are all illustrations, a variety of assignments. Not an easy thing to discuss.' Now go read his review to see why, despite these reservations, he found this art book to be both 'absorbing and stimulating'.

Sometimes a book is around here longer than one might wish before it gets reviewed. That's what happened to Beautiful Angiola -- The Great Treasury of Sicilian Folk and Fairy Tales Collected by Laura Gonzenbach a nineteenth-century collection of Sicilian folktales which Jack Zipes edited. It's sort of worth your checking out as Robert notes in his review: 'I have to consider the book of more value as source material for the folklorist than as general reading, although the tales themselves are well told and the translation is fluent and engaging.'

Superman. . . . The Martian Manhunter. . . . Lobo . . . . Three, errr, characters from the DC Universe are first up for Elizabeth Vail as Alan Grant's Last Sons novel is reviewed by her: 'As shining icons of the DC Comics universe, Superman and J'onn J'onnz have many volumes' worth of adventure, backstory, and character development to their names. As instantly-recognizable comic-book characters, in the graphic novel world their names carry weight. In the science-fiction novel world? Eh, not so much.' Do read her review to see why this novel didn't quite work!

The Hickmans' Mystic Empire -- Book Three of the Bronze Canticles wasn't 'tall to the liking of Elizabeth: 'It turns out that I made a bit of error in my previous reviews of The Bronze Canticles. In my reviews for Mystic Warrior and Mystic Quest, I believed that the Hickmans were building a fantasy trilogy encompassing the adventures of the humans, faeries, and goblins, and their various interactions within the world of dreams. However, with the third volume, Mystic Empire, the story is left hanging in the air, leaving plenty of space for several future volumes. The unfortunate part of this realization however, is that with this third part of the series, the story runs out of steam.' Do read her review for an look a how a series went horribly wrong with the current novel!

The first book in a new series, however, gets a nod of approval from Elizabeth: 'With this first novel in what looks to be an extremely promising new series, John Ridley gives us a mixture of X-men and Philip K. Dick's 's Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? with a touch of The Incredibles thrown in for good measure. With swift prose and dialogue sharp enough to cut vegetables on, Those Who Walk In Darkness is an excellent science-fiction police thriller.'

She goes on to review the second novel in the series, What Fire Cannot Burn , which 'builds on the success and entertainment of Those Who Walk In Darkness, maintaining the first novel's excitement and momentum while at the same time providing an original story with some genuine surprises. John Ridley provides a cast of well-drawn characters, engaging moral commentary, a suspenseful murder mystery, and a thread of continuity between the two novels.'

Do pay attention to Gary Whitehouse when he says 'Not often does a piece of fiction move me to tears, I with my hardened shell of 50 years. But twice while reading Brad Kessler's intensely moving Birds In Fall I had to put aside the book because the tears blurred my vision.' Read the rest of his succinct review to see why he was so affected by this novel!

Michelle Erica Green takes a look at a film that got the short end of the stick when it was released several years ago. But as anyone who has ever picked up a DVD at a rental store and hoped for the best will tell you, sometimes a movie's box office isn't an accurate predictor of a film's true worth. Such is the case with the film Snake Eyes. But why take it from me? As Michelle says in her review, '[t]he advertising slogan for Brian De Palma's film about filmmaking, Snake Eyes is 'Believe everything except your eyes,' but it could be, 'Don't believe your eyes . . . believe the video.'' Michelle's review isn't as mysterious, but it's entertaining and informative nonetheless. She adds another Excellence in Writing award to her roster, which may not be big box office, but is definitely a more accurate predictor of quality. So give this review a look!

Vonnie Carts-Powell headed out to catch Pipeline in Arlington, Massachusetts. Part of the Robin Blecher Celtic Arts, Inc. (RBCA), a.k.a. Music for Robin series, 'If you enjoy bagpipe music as well as Celtic music in general, then you're likely to enjoy Pipeline. If, on the other hand, you think you dislike bagpipe music, you should definitely give this group a try anyway. Pipeline, the duo of Dermot Hyde and Tom Hake, features Dermot playing uilleann and Scottish small-pipes. Both are more amiable instruments than the more-famous Scottish Great Highland bagpipes: in Hyde's hands, they are quieter, less nasal, and blessedly well-tuned.' Well, it's good to hear that the pipes are on key, but how'd they do overall? The answer can be found in her review.

Jack Merry 'ere. I'm in me office listenin' to Bittersweet Sixteen, the career retrospective recording from Black 47 which the post man delivered earlier today. I've got 'My Love Is In New York' cranked way up and now it's time to see what our music reviewers were excited 'bout this edition!

Christopher Conder ponders the question of too many felines. Well, perhaps: 'Les Barker is the kind of guy you want as your granddad. Sweet, jovial and slightly bumbling, his poetry is endearingly silly, without lacking the sharp wit to hold his own amongst the spiky humour of many of today's comedians. Always a cult figure, he has gained most of his success as one of the few comedians to emerge, dignity intact, from the folk club scene. The first Guide Cats for the Blind, released in 2003, has so far raised £21000 for the British Computer Association of the Blind, and this sequel is contributing towards the same cause. The format is unchanged: names from the worlds of broadcasting and music performing the poems and songs Les Barker.'

Chris is waxin' enthusiastic about a recording he was given to review: 'England has Eliza Carthy, daughter of Martin Carthy and Norma Waterson. In Spain, there is Estrella Morente, whose father is famed singer Enrique Morente. In North America it is Rufus and Martha Wainwright, the children of Loudon III and Kate McGarrigle. So often in folk / world music, it is the offspring of the established stars who claim the limelight. Pure, the live album that is quickly gaining Kaushiki Chakrabarty international acclaim, is bound to set people talking. Although Chakrabarty has been trained as a singer in the Hindustani (North Indian) tradition since the age of ten, practicing for an average of six hours a day. Classical Indian music is a sternly studious tradition, where singers are not expected to reach their peak until at least their late 30s. Thus, the praise that is being heaped upon Chakrabarty is extraordinary at the youthful age of just 26. However, Chakrabarty has no ordinary guru, being taught by her father, the celebrated singer Pandit Ajoy Chakrabarty.'

Audience's alive&kickin'&screamin'&shoutin' got David Kidney rappin: 'Art Rock! Remember him? Was he Kid Rock's grandfather? According to Wikipedia this is the story: 'Art rock is a sub-genre of rock music that is characterized by ambitious lyrical themes and melodic, harmonic, or rhythmic experimentation, often extending beyond standard pop song forms and toward influences in jazz, classical, or the avant-garde. The art rock designation is a vague one since few of today's rock and pop artists openly aspire to the title.' That's the key right there... nobody wants to belong to a club that would have them as a member! Especially if you call it Art Rock.' Now go read his review to see what the 'ell he's talkin' 'bout!

Willie McCulloch's Auld Tales & New was a truly outstandin' Scottish affair that got Peter Massey very excited: 'I get to listen and review literally hundreds of albums each year, so it would be easy to just gloss over albums from performers I have never heard of before or maybe am not familiar with their work. But every now and again you put one of these albums on to play, and it makes you sit up and take notice, - this is one such album.'

Street Theater was not to Peter's liking at all: 'This is a CD released for promotional purposes, or at least that is what it says on the front cover of the copy that arrived in the post to me. This is normally the sort of 'taster promo CD' a band might send out to provisional venues / organizers when they are looking to break new ground or perhaps get a gig. So it is only right I listened to it with that in mind. (I later found out from the band's Web site that it is available commercially.) Feathermerchants are a five piece band based in New York. A pop band that performs a cross breed between heavy rock/dance/light acoustic with shades of folk.' Read his review to see why this recording was, errr, less than likable.

According to Robert M. Tilendis, 'Claudio Monteverdi is one of those seminally important composers about whom astonishingly little is heard these days. He is probably best known as the composer of the earliest extant opera, L'Incoronazione di Poppaea. He is really much more important than that. His career spans the period from the late sixteenth to the mid-seventeenth centuries (his first published work, the Sacrae cantiunculae, appeared in 1582, when he was fifteen; he died in Venice in 1643), when art and music underwent a fundamental change. It would have happened without Monteverdi, but I very much doubt that it would have happened the same way.' Now go read his Excellence in Writing Award -winning review of Vespro della beata vergine, a recording of this work that he says 'deserves a place in our library of essential music. Most definitely.'

Gary Whitehouse says 'Neko Case's Fox Confessor Brings The Flood is a startlingly original album by an artist who just keeps growing in depth and power.' Now go read his review of an artist who 'has entered a realm all her own with deeply poetic and symbolic lyrics played out over a rich tapestry of darkly textured noir-rock.'

Gary writes truly great opening paragraphs: 'Dominos is surely a joyous celebration of music out of southwest Louisiana's Cajun country. There's a lot of Cajun music being made and recorded these days, but Steve Riley and the Mamou Playboys are making some of the best. The proof is in this disc.' And proof in his review as well!

Gary says 'The Escondida label continues its releases under the Cuban Essentials title, highlighting some of the best music and musicians from the vaults of the Cuban state recording studios, EGREM. Begun in 2005 with career overviews of some of the famed members of the 'Buena Vista Social Club,' the series now delves into some other essential artists from Cuba's past and present.' Read his Excellence in Writing Award winning review for a look at five cool recordings!

A double dutch treat of Värttinä finishes off this edition. First off, Scott Gianelli looks in an Excellence in Writing award winning review at their new recording: 'Miero continues a long line of quality albums from a band that refuses to rest on its laurels and may, over 20 years after its inception, still be approaching its peak in popularity. The musicianship in Värttinä remains superb, and the vocals on Miero reach a new height for the band. Most of the songs are solid, with 'Riena,' 'Maaria,' 'Mustat Kengät,' and 'Lumotar' ranking in the upper echelon of Värttinä's work. Long-time followers of Värttinä who know what to expect in terms of quality should be quite pleased, if not necessarily overwhelmed. And, like every album Värttinä has released before, Miero will lure in new converts wondering what exactly it was that they just heard.'

Not content to just review this recording, he also interviewed 'Janne Lappalainen, who plays wind instruments and the bouzouki, has been a part of Värttinä since the very beginning. He is currently in Toronto overseeing the final revisions to the Lord of the Rings stage production, which will premiere in Toronto later this month. He graciously took the time discuss both Lord of the Rings and Miero with me over the phone.' Read their conversation for a fascinating look at Tolkien, Finnish music, and what elves sing about!

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Archived by LLS at 8.54 PM PST -- 25 March 2006