This edition, we have tales of the most popular of all Kurdish singers, trolls, spiced pumpkin ale, three new mystery series, one reviewer's feel-good disc of the summer, changelings, a discourse on the history of science fiction, a revisionist fairy tale... But first, let's listen as Gus, our gardener, gives us his thoughts on some projects he recently undertook...

Oh, hello. It's you again. How is it that every time we meet up, I'm clomping around in muddy boots? Come out to get some fresh air, have you? Give me your name again? I'm Gus, if you remember, the gardener around these parts. Here, I need to head out to the kitchen gardens, come walk with me a bit. They're behind that wall over there.

Well, it's a busy time in the garden, going into Autumn, which is why you haven't seen me around. I don't believe in this blowsy end-of-summer sort of thing that's so popular in borders these days. What's wrong with a little order? There's the deadheading to keep up with, taking a look at the bulbs that have been ripening on the racks behind the greenhouse, and of course there's any number of bulbs and perennials that do well with an Autumn planting or that need dividing. And we've got quite a collection of magnificent old nerines ready for their autumnal showing in the walled garden, and of course we're still bringing in the harvests in the various parts of the estate as they come due.

And soon it's time to collect some seed -- see that blue larkspur there? I need to save some of that . . . some of my favorite flowers, those.

I've been keeping my boys on their toes, too. Keeping up with the squash alone is a full time job for one person. I suppose I really shouldn't call them 'boys' any more; some of them aren't actually young enough to be called boys, and some aren't actually male, either. They're a good lot, though.

Oh, stop on a minute, this is called the Oak King's Walk...see along here, the brick wall opposite the oaks? We're taking out half the lawn there and putting in a long border, next week. Dig, settle, plant. I've been planning it all summer, just the sort of thing I like to do, really. A mixed border, heavy on the structure, because this is a major walkway in the winter these days, oh yes. It'll mainly be the usual kind of thing, but with a few variations.

Trelliswork there, there, and there, with some climbers, and then there'll be old apothecary roses by request of Mrs. Ware, who wants more strewing roses for her still rooms. Lavender and iris for the same reason. Tall phlox along the back, heather along the front for winter color, and then some of these new Echinaceas look good -- interesting colors. Alliums throughout, of course. Clematis for some tuteurs that Gabriella, our carpenter, is knocking together, out of the same cedar for the trelliswork.

Also . . . don't tell anyone! But I've got a full complement of tree peonies ready to go in! It'll take them a while to get settled in, but it'll be quite the spring show once they start flowering. Ten-inch flowers, some of them, and beautiful tissue petals.

When? Oh, probably about three years from now. Maybe four or five. Gardeners have to be a patient lot. But . . . give it the right amount of amendments to prepare the soil, and then give it all the time to get established, and Bob's your uncle.

But I'll tell you the part that I like . . . the evergreens! Chamaecyparis pisifera comes in these lovely varieties, with forms from weeping to upright, and colors from gold to blue. I've also got some beautiful Thuja ready to put in as well.

Have to have some patience there, too. Thank goodness for annuals, really.

All right, well, you'll probably be wanting to get back to the main hall, and I can see that I'd better get in to the kitchen garden now; whatever is that lad doing to that pumpkin vine, there? Mr. Eldridge wants most of that patch for Bjorn Brewmaster for spiced pumpkin ale this winter, he said so just today at breakfast, and the rest is slated to Cook for pies and soups, so we won't have very many for the Yanks' pumpkin lanterns this year. Perhaps I'll save the prize ones for that, to make up for the scanty numbers.

Talk to you soon, then. Hey, you, boy! What're you doing there?!

Our featured reviews are about a new mystery series that's more than a bit different from that of your typical gunsel and his tight skirted, peroxide blonde, good-time moll sitting on, errr, his desk. Would you expect us to review anything with a premise that boring? Of course not! Well, if it was Raymond Chandler...

Which is why Jasper Fforde, famed for his Thursday Next mystery series, has not one, but two novels in his new mystery series, reviewed this edition by J.J.S. Boyce: 'You may be familiar with Fforde's previous (and ongoing) Thursday Next detective series, starring the detective of the same name, whose specialty is crimes of a 'literary nature'. The Big Over Easy marks the beginning of the Nursery Crimes series, a slight departure, though still well in the same quirky neighbourhood that Fforde's chosen to explore. Our hero is underdog Detective Inspector, Jack Spratt, head of the NCD (Nursery Crimes Division), in Reading, Berkshire. The necessity of such a division to handle the unique challenges of a 'nursery-related inquiry' was first argued by Detective Chief Inspector Jack Horner in 1958, and his legacy has been carried on by dedicated, underfunded, and overlooked officers ever since.' Cool, very cool! Another novel to add to what I should read someday!

Our reviewer also looks at the sequel, The Fourth Bear: 'My new favourite Welshman, Jasper Fforde, presents his sophomore effort in the Nursery Crimes detective series. The novel starts out strongly. After a brief first chapter describing a mysterious event (like the teaser trailer before the opening credits in a crime show), we jump into a hilarious stakeout situation with all our old NCD (Nursery Crime Division) pals, wherein they try to catch The Great Long Red-Legg'd Scissor Man, a parental myth come to life that holds an entire neighbourhood under a curtain of fear. Don't suck your thumb or it'll get snipped off, parents say, only in 'Cautionary Valley', it's actually true. The result? Well-behaved children who always eat their soup, don't slouch, don't lean back in their chairs, and would never, ever dream of sucking their thumbs. Ghastly!'

Another fine historical novel pleased Donna Bird: 'Sometimes books come to us by roundabout means. [Karleen Koen's] Dark Angels showed up in the Lost and Found box in the Green Man Pub a month or so ago. When Reynard sent the pub brownies to clean out the box, one of them (one I help out whenever I can) decided to pass Dark Angels along to me. It's an Advance Reader's Edition in a trade paper format. By the time I write this and it gets posted to the Web site where you can read it, the hardcover should be available at your favourite bookstore. Like a lot of Advance Reader's Editions, this one has marketing information printed on the cover flaps. Looks like Crown (a Random House imprint) plans to market this to female readers and to pursue in particular the romance novel set. Since I am not into romance novels at all, I found that a little off-putting, and had to force myself to sit down and start reading the book before I could come to my own conclusions about it.' Read her review to why this novel set in the time of English King Charles the Second hooked her so well that she went looking in book stalls near our Offices for Koen's earlier novel Through a Glass Darkly, which is actually a sequel to Dark Angels.

Barbara Nadel's The Ottoman Cage is the other historical novel reviewed by Donna and this is a mystery as well: 'This series is set in contemporary Istanbul, a most intriguing locale for murder mysteries! The book is not as rich in detail about the city itself as I would have liked. Nonetheless, Nadel gives quite a few clues to suggest that she has a good understanding of contemporary Turkish culture, which is still working through the transition into a Western, secular society over eighty years after the fall of the Ottoman Empire! For example, many of the characters smoke cigarettes, although smoking tobacco is forbidden under strict Muslim law. One character even makes a sick joke about cigarettes killing more Turks than the Christians ever did. Some of the characters are practicing Muslims, while others are Armenian Christians. A few characters come from old Ottoman families; they are still uncomfortable calling themselves Turks. A couple of minor characters say they are 'from the hills', which I construe to mean that they are Kurdish.'

A book worth knowing about warts and all would be a good summation of what Jayme Lynn Blaschke thought of a reference work we sent him to review: 'Adam Roberts' The History of Science Fiction is a deeply flawed book, but a deeply interesting one as well. And really, what else could one expect from a tome with so audacious a title as this one? Measured examinations of genre writing have historically been few and far between, as any form of genre -- be it science fiction, fantasy, horror, mystery--is normally restricted to its respective literary ghettos, never to be acknowledged by legitimate academic researchers. Billion Year Spree by Brian Aldiss has long been the benchmark for intelligent SF discussion and debate. Roberts' book is unlikely to supplant Aldiss', but for all its shortcomings, it is a welcome new voice joining the conversation.'

Craig Clarke found a bit of very good horror to read in this collection: 'T.E.D. Klein has never been truly prolific. The 1980s saw the publication of several short stories, in addition to his novel, The Ceremonies, and the terrific novella collection, Dark Gods. Klein also edited magazines during that period, and his editorials were always a joy to read. Then something happened. A second novel, Nighttown, was on Viking's 1989 schedule but has yet to surface. And, whether due to writer's block or simply a personal choice, the 1990s saw only four short stories from him (and the anomaly of a screenwriting credit for Dario Argento's film Trauma). Reassuring Tales, Klein's first book since Dark Gods, brings those four stories together with earlier ones that were never collected, and a 3,000-word introduction from the author (not included in my reviewer's copy). And that's it, making for a very slim volume. But Klein's work was always a perfect example of quality over quantity, and these stories are no different in that respect.' Read his review for some chilling commentary.

Faith J. Cormier looks a novel by Frank Beddor that's readers either love or hate a lot: 'The Looking Glass Wars is a revisionist fairy tale. You know the sort of thing: 'What if 'insert name of story here' was based on something that really happened?' In this case, the idea is that the Alice Liddell who inspired Lewis Carroll to write Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass was really Alyss Heart, heir to the throne of Wonderland, who ended up in Victorian England through a series of bizarre events that I will not spoil by explaining here, and was adopted by the Liddell family. She eventually met Carroll and told him her story, which he butchered in his novels.'

Faith says Keith Donohue's novel, The Stolen Child, 'is a tale of madness. There is some sort of redemption at the end of it, but it is dearly won. The premise of the story is that all the old stories of changelings are based on a nasty truth. There is a race of beings, the faeries or hobgoblins, who look like disfigured children. They live in the wilderness, spying on humans. At some point, the eldest in each clan will change places with a human child, taking over his or her life. The kidnapped child will be transformed into a faerie, condemned to forget the old life for a hundred years or more till it is his or her turn to make the change.' Go read her Excellence in Writing Award winning review for all the chilling details.

Like Donna, Faith too likes a good historical novel: 'Tom Lalicki comes to novel writing from the non-fiction world, as is very obvious in Danger in the Dark. This is good. Thanks to meticulous research, he immerses the reader in turn of the 20th century New York, describing clothing, vehicles, buildings and all the rest in great detail. One can imagine him poring over period maps and newspapers to make sure everything is just as it was back then.'

What an intriguing first line Faith offers us in this review of a novel penned by Robina Williams: 'Angelos fascinated me. I have never read a clearer or more convincing apologia for the love of God. It is, however, accompanied by a bewildering swirl of quantum physics.' Eh? Read her review to see if you understand what she's saying. I, not being Christian, have not a clue! And asking The Daughters of Brigid didn't help one bit. . . .

Christopher Fowler's Ten Second Staircase, fourth in a new English mystery series, gets reviewed by Cat Eldridge: 'What an odd but delightful affair that this mystery novel is. If you've read my reviews before, you know that I love a good mystery series with fantastical elements like there were in Deborah Grabien's Haunted Ballads series where 'the ghosts are very real and many, many folk can experience their presence'. Well, things are even weirder here with everything from Bryant and May to the city of London itself being every so quirkily out of kilter. I must confess that I asked the gold folks at Bantam to send along a review copy (which they promptly did) because a local bookstore had Ten Second Staircase face out in its mystery section and the cover art with its odd neo-victorian look caught my eye. Just having finished the Haunted Ballads series, I was looking for another mystery series to spend some time with, and I do believe that I have found it!' Read his review to see why he enjoyed this novel.

(Our Editor is eagerly awaiting the arrival this Winter Holiday season of the Hill House publication of Ray Bradbury's The Martian Chronicles: The Definitive Edition, as two lettered chapbooks by that wonderful author arrived in our mailroom from Hill House this past week, The Wish which their Web site says is 'a timeless story of a crystalline Christmas eve on which one man's wish is granted -- the chance to transcend the bounds of mortality and share with his father those words they never spoke in life' and another called How I Wrote My Book which is a charming look at how The Martian Chronicles came to be. The latter is, like something from the October Country itself, a magical little object which is only available when you purchase The Martian Chronicles: The Definitive Edition.)

A novel by Kelly McCullough was a light read for Lory Hess: 'If the three Fates of Greek mythology existed in the twenty-first century, what would they be using to keep track of billions of life threads? The mweb, of course, a magical computer network complete with programs, viruses, bugs...and hackers . . . .So, enjoy WebMage for what it is--a light, entertaining bit of genre bending'

Kestrell Rath is confused by a novel from Lois McMaster Bujold: 'Like many bibliophiles, I am a bit obsessed with book cataloging systems. One of my favorite quotes is 'To read is human; to cross-reference, divine.' At the same time, I am always pleased when an author does something unexpected with a story, particularly if the result manages to stretch the confines of genre. And so it is that, as a reader, I find myself beguiled by the originality of Beguilement, the first book in Lois McMaster Bujold's The Sharing Knife series, while at the same time, my inner librarian is tearing her hair out as she tries to decide where to shelve it on her bookshelves. Beguilement doesn't just stretch genre categories; it manages to simultaneously exist as a fantasy novel, a romance, and to a great extent, a Western (anyone else out there recall with fondness Mike Resnick's Santiago?). There are also a few elements of science fiction which, I suspect, will turn out to be significant as the series unfolds.'

Ahhhhh, a novel that grabbed our reviewer, Lenora Rose: 'Charles Coleman Finlay has made a name for himself already with a variety of experimental short stories and novellas that span almost every branch of fantasy and science fiction (many of which can now be found in his collection, Wild Things). His first novel, The Prodigal Troll, was highly anticipated and has been strongly lauded, and it's a book that I can recommend even as I can say that aspects of it were not to my own taste. Everything Charlie Finlay wanted to accomplish in this book he did, successfully. I was well intrigued by the prologue, and from part two onward, I was entranced by the story.' Read her review for a look at a not very typical fantasy!

The Phoenix Guards.. Five Hundred Years After... The Viscount of Adrilankha... The Paths of the Dead... The Lord of Castle Black... Sethra Lavode... Of that listing, Robert M. Tilendis says: 'That somewhat dizzying array of titles may give some indication of the scope of the series that Steven Brust calls The Khaavren Romances. It's a trilogy, but the third volume is itself composed of three books, even though it's really one book . . . Maybe I should let Brust explain this: 'The Viscount of Adrilankha is not a trilogy, it is a three volume novel. That is, it should be thought of as a single book. The Khaavren Romances are, in fact, a trilogy, of which Viscount is the third novel. Therefore, these five books are clearly seen to be a trilogy consisting two one-part novels and one three-part novel. Each part consists of two 'books.' Therefore, chapter four of book two of part three of the third book is easily seen to be chapter fifty two of the third novel, or chapter one hundred and twenty of....' There. Got it?' Now go read his superb review!

Another sf reference work gets looked at by Robert: 'It's interesting to see the history of something as told by some of the people who made it. In the case of James Gunn's Inside Science Fiction, the 'something' is, indeed, science fiction, and Gunn was one of the history makers.' He goes on to say 'It's a fascinating set of essays, some originating as articles, some as speeches, some as chapters in books, collected together in this volume (this is the second edition, newly revised and updated).'

A legend in the sf genre is the subject of Robert's final review this edition -- To Be Continued -- the Collected Stories of Robert Silverberg, Volume One which covers (obviously) his early works: 'Silverberg notes that he was pretty good at the beginning of his career, in the early 1950s. He's right. For those who have come late to science fiction ('late' being, in this case, any time after the New Wave and cyberpunk), it will be, I think, illuminating to see the kind of things that were filling the magazines, which were the source for science fiction in those days, and the kinds of things that Zelazny, Aldiss, Delany, Gibson, Willis, Simmons, whoever, built on and rebelled against. These are classic sf stories, first contact, post-Apocalypse, time-travel, every kind of story that was the province of this (relatively) new literature of exploration and the future.' Cool, very cool -- now read Robert's review for a fascinating look at this collection!

Elizabeth Vail disappointed by this lengthy reading: 'T.A. Barron's The Great Tree of Avalon trilogy, recently completed, is a series that begins with a wonderful potential that it can't live up to, and contains complex themes that it eventually betrays. While it begins with an excellent, adventurous first volume with a focus on environmentalism and free will, it ends with bloated second and third volumes that steadily corrode those themes as they proceed. In many ways, this trilogy is harder to read than a series that begins badly (see Eric Van Lustbader's Pearl Saga), because it raises the readers‚ hopes fairly high before utterly disappointing them.

Donna Bird has developed a serious jones for all things Ottoman so let's see what she says about Min bêriya te kiriye: 'In A Thousand Sighs, A Thousand Revolts, Christiane Bird refers to Sivan Perwer as 'the most popular of all Kurdish singers.' Later in the same book, she relates a story about him that she heard from a group of Kurdish performing artists in Istanbul. In the mid-1970s, Perwer sang Kurdish songs in a Turkish stadium before a sell-out crowd. Since the singing of Kurdish songs, the speaking of Kurdish, and indeed any other expression of Kurdish culture was banned in Turkey at the time, Perwer nearly caused a riot, and had to be spirited away by his fans before he got arrested.' Now go read her Excellence in Writing Award winning review for all the details on this impressive recording!

Richard Condon looks at North African Groove: 'This CD is much more 'pop' than the similar Rough Guide compilation of four years ago. It gives a very good overview of the sort of popular music that is now being listened to in both the Middle East and in the North African-descended communities in Europe, especially in France. The dilution of traditional Arab forms and styles is a fascinating illustration of what is happening to musical cultures everywhere. Much of it is not really for me once my curiosity has been satisfied, but it's worth a listen and if you hear the samples on the Putumayo Web site you may decide that you want to explore this genre further. You may also like to know that a portion of the proceeds from the sale of this CD will be donated to Search For Common Ground in support of their efforts to find peaceful solutions to conflict in the Middle East and around the world.'

Sings the Best of Jimmy Webb 1967-1992 is a recording which impressed David Kidney: 'Glen Campbell is probably best known to this generation as one of those sad ex-stars who was arrested for DUI and posed for a horrible mugshot that then became fodder for a dozen jokes of late-night TV. When I was growing up, he was the clean-cut kid, all scrubbed, blonde hair, a great session guitarist, and then host of his own variety show. He actually played his guitar on the show, people sang live. They had a pickin' session with people like Norman Blake and John Hartford taking part. Sure he wasn't quite able to transfer all that guitar playing to his records -- there wasn't room what with all the orchestration -- but listening to these records for the first time in years, one is struck by just how good they are.'

Sisters Euclid's run neil run recording is a queer one indeed: 'It starts with a quiet organ prelude, 'Dixie,' that's it... look away, look away, look away Dixieland...' then some distorted slide guitar, some rumbling drums, all contained but pushing at the envelope. It's the first track on Sisters Euclid's new tribute to Neil Young. 'Southern Man' is transformed into a sizzling bottleneck workout...all instrumental! You heard me...the whole album is instrumental. Neil's lyrics will reside only in your memory banks as you listen to this fascinating and essential CD...' Errrr... Go read David's review to see why it works for him. (It didn't for me which is why it's good that we have so many bleedin' staffers!)

Peter Massey had mixed feelings about this recording: 'As good as the album may be, I can't see many, if any, of the songs becoming classics or being covered by other artists. Not that this is Jon Brooks' intention, for it is a poignant work spiked with bitter sweet nuances, highlighting a side of life not many choose to see, let alone care about.'

Peter also loved at the two old friends of Green Man: 'In this review I look at not one but three albums released by Mustards Retreat in 2005. I first discovered Mustards Retreat back in 1993 and I should have 2 other albums, Back To Back and A Resolution of Something in my library, but one of my friends borrowed them and they haven't been returned yet. Always a sign there is something good or special about an album' Go read his review of Mustards Retreat's The First Album Plus, A Gathering of Moments and R 7 for a look at a band that's always a crowd pleaser!

Two Celtic recordings, Allan Yn Y Fan's Off the Map and Malinky's The Unseen Hours remind Lars Nilsson of how quickly that scene changes: 'If anyone thinks folk music is just for middle-aged or old people, think again. In Britain there seems to be an endless stream of new and young performers and groups. Every year new faces pop up, and those branded 'new hopes' find themselves thought of as veterans just a few years later.' He liked both even if one was lacking a bit of fire, so read his review to see why.

Ok, I'll let Robert M. Tilendis explain this music: 'It occurs to me, in this continuation of the exploration of central Javanese gamelan (which is really the beginning, but that's the reviewing biz), that some explanation of terminology is in order, although I have touched on some of this information in discussions of both Javanese and Balinese music. First, the term 'gamelan' refers to the orchestra (also known as a kraton), the group of instruments played, and the music, although this last sense is more properly termed karawitan. (One might infer from this fluidity of meaning that most non-Westerners are not as fanatically precise as we in the Euro-American tradition, at least when it comes to technical terms.' Confused? You won't be if you go read his review!

Robert says 'Olivier Greif was one of those musicians: he entered the Paris Conservatory at age ten, and in 1967, at the age of seventeen, won the first prize for composition. The bulk of his output is chamber music, largely sonatas for any combination of strings and piano and sometimes voice. His works are not only a product of the last half of the twentieth century in terms of their musical foundations, but also in terms of the engagement with spiritual matters that marked his adult life.' Now read his review of Sonate de Requiem, trio avec piano to see why this recording was one he really liked!

I am not a good judge of Classical music as it simply doesn't appeal to me, but I trust Robert's opinion about Josqin des Pres' The Tallis Scholars Sing Josqin: 'Is it worth listening to? My answer presupposes a fondness for early European music, or at least a willingness to be exposed. It may help to note that two of the performances presented on this dual-disc set, the Missa Pange lingua and the Missa La sol fa re mi, won the Gramophone Record of the Year Award in 1987. Not the 'Classical Record of the Year' -- the Record of the Year. So, yes, I think it would be worth your while, to be much too laconic about it.'

Ahhhh, summertime and the living is fine indeed which is why Gary Whitehouse says 'The Sadies' In Concert Vol. One is my feel-good disc of the summer. But then I'm one of the lucky souls who got a promo copy about the time the summer began. The rest of you who've had to wait for the official early-August release, you've still got some summer left. Put these discs on, crank up the volume, and rock out!' Now go have a peek at his Excellence in Writing Award winning look at a most impressive Toronto band!

 

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Updated by CE -- 23.00 hours GMT, 06/09/06

Updated 9_09_2006 9:58 PM PST by LLS
Updated by CE -- 13.00 hours GMT, 10/09/06
Archived 09_23_2006 by LLS -- 20.38 PDT