He never raised his voice. That was the worst thing. The fury of the Time Lord. And then we discovered why. Why this Doctor who had fought with gods and demons, why he’d run away from us and hidden. He was being kind. — Doctor Who’s ‘ The Family of Man’
I’m a long term fan of British writer Simon R. Green and am very pleased to be reading a galley of his Jekyll and Hyde Inc. novel, the first in a new series. It’s one of two new series he’s writing, the other being his Gideon Sable series. These series come as he’s wrapped up two of his long running running series, the Nightside and Secret Histories series, both of which got wrapped up in the Night Fall novel.
We’ve decided to share some of our ale reviews this time as Gary had a review of a good dark beer he just discovered, so I dug deep into the Archives and added some of the other ales we’ve tasted and written notes on, and added two books on American beers as well.
Cat has a small treat for us: ‘Neil Gaiman’s “How The Marquis Got His Coat Back” is a fun appetiser of a story though it really should be put back into Neverwhere: The Author’s Preferred Text where it really belongs instead as an appendix at the end, or as a separate audio story, as it’s really just a chapter within that greater story. It’s wonderfully played here by the cast of Paterson Joseph, Bernard Cribbins, Samantha Beart, Adrian Lester, Mitch Benn and Don Warrington with a special appearance by Neil Gaiman as he always does in his radio productions.’
He next has a collection with an an interesting premise: ‘Now we can add to the list of great Sf and fantasy pub tales this Larry Niven collection, The Draco Tavern, which collects all of the previously printed Draco Tavern tales, with a few new pieces thrown in for a bit of value added like all the extras we get on DVDs these days.‘
Gary read recent editions of the first and third novels of Iain M. Banks’s Culture series , Consider Phlebas and Use of Weapons. It wasn’t the first time he’d read them, but he still found both gripping, as he says in his dual review.
Gary also reviews a book of literary criticism about the Culture series. He says Simone Caroti’s The Culture Series ‘is valuable reading for anyone who wants to move into a deeper understanding of what that series is really about, where it stands in the history of SF and literature, and why it’s important.’
We don’t like all books that we read and review. Really. Truly. And Jack proves that here: ‘I’m a fiddler. I like Steven Brust. I love most any novel with folk music as a theme, particularly when musicians are the characters. So why the fuck did I find Cowboy Feng’s Space Bar and Grill to be not even worth finishing? Good question — and one that I will answer in some detail. Perhaps more detail than this badly written novel deserves.’
One of my fave Summer reads gets a look-see by Mia, a Charles de Lint novel to be precise: ‘Seven Wild Sisters advertises itself as a modern fairy tale. Including the seven sisters, it certainly has all the trappings: an old woman who may be a witch, an enchanted forest, a stolen princess. But Sisters is not just borrowing the clothes of fairy tale. It sings with the true voice of fairy tale: capricious, wild, and not entirely safe, but rich and enchanting.’
Michael has the first in a truly literary series, Jasper Fforde’s The Eyre Affair: ‘Enter a world where things are very, very different. Where in 1985, Britain is a virtual police state, engaged in border wars with the People’s Republic of Wales, and well into the 131st year of the Crimean War. Where all told, thirty divisions of Special Operations take care of business, everything from Neighborly Disputes (SO-30) to Art Crime (SO-24) to Weird Stuff (SO-2) and Weirder Stuff (SO-3), to ChronoGuard (SO-12) and Internal Affairs (SO-1). Thursday Next is part of the Literary Detectives (SO-27). Her beat: manuscripts, forgeries, literary crimes, and keeping tabs on Britain’s national treasures, including the much-beloved first editions of Dickens, Swift, Shakespeare, Austen and the Brontes.’
Naomi is a big fan of Fred Saberhagen, including his series that incorporates elements of Greek mythology: ‘I’ve enjoyed reading Fred Saberhagen’s novels for almost twenty years now. He is very talented, having the ability to breathe life into the worlds which he creates, worlds which become, for all intents and purposes, real, and which many of us would love to live in, no matter the dangers to be found there. His new series, Book of the Gods, which begins with this book The Face of Apollo, is highly imaginative and thought-provoking.
Other entries in this series Naomi reviewed include Ariadne’s Web, The Arms of Hercules, and God of the Golden Fleece.
Meanwhile, Rebecca reviewed another offering from the prolific Mr. Saberhagen, Merlin’s Bones, and we … think … she liked it. ‘Saberhagen tells his story well. It is full of action, suspense, and magic. (There are also instructions on how to fight trolls, which some of you may find helpful.) There are many surprises in this novel; some of which I guessed long before they were revealed, but one which truly startled me.’
And then there’s a book about a baseball game which lasted almost as long as a cricket test match, which is reviewed by Richard: ‘Bottom of the 33rd, as scribed by Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist Dan Barry. The book is his ode to the longest baseball game ever played in an organized league, a 33 inning behemoth staged between the AAA Rochester Red Wings and Pawtucket PawSox in 1981. Playing third base for the Red Wings that day was a guy everyone agreed was too big to play shortstop: Cal Ripken Jr. His opposite number for the PawSox was Wade Boggs. Mixed in with these two all-time greats were a few quality players (Bruce Hurst, Bobby Ojeda, Rich Gedman), some journeymen and cup-of-coffee types, and of course the guys who never made it at all.’
Robert brings us two reviews of works that also occupy places outside of what we’ve come to expect in fantasy and science fiction. The first is Octavia E. Butler’s Parables series: ‘The late Octavia E. Butler is one of those science fiction writers whose work can — and does — stand easily in the company of the very best “mainstream” literature being produced today. She is, I regret to say, another one whose novels I am only just discovering, and at this point I can’t think why I waited so long to investigate her writing: she wrote with power and authority and was one of those writers who brought the formal and stylistic tools of literary fiction into the service of some of the best genre writing available.’
He follows that with Butler’s Lilith’s Brood: ‘Octavia E. Butler, at the time of her emergence as a major voice in science fiction, was a rarity because she was a woman and she was African-American. In neither area was she unique, but the combination was. Lilith’s Brood, also known as Xenogenesis, has been called Butler at her best and for that reason alone would deserve a close look. There are, however, many reasons to look at these books closely, because they raise so many issues and operate on so many levels.’
Robert also reviewed Dark Jenny: ‘What do you get when you mix the legend of King Arthur with the detective fiction of Raymond Chandler? It seems you come up with Alex Bledsoe’s stories of Eddie LaCrosse, sometime mercenary soldier, sometime hardboiled detective.’ In this novel, he’s in the wrong castle, a situation not uncommon for him.
Warner leads off his reviews with an SF story: ‘J.S. Dewes’ The Last Watch is the first novel in a planned series which combines an imperial setting with the far future in familiar manner, and as a result Dewes needs more to distinguish her work. Fortunately good plotting and an enjoyable set of elements and characters go a long way towards drawing reader interest.
Next up is a neat sounding mystery: ‘Col. David Fits-Enz’s The Spy on Putney Bridge: A Mystery Novel of Espionage, Murder, and Betrayal in London is a fascinating use of the mixture of family history, wartime spy thriller, and crime novel. The result is a fast moving novel that nonetheless spans decades, and a steadily twisting bit of intrigue that is believable and difficult to assess in equal measure.’
A nifty set of short stories wraps up his reviewing: ‘Isabel Yap’s Never Have I Ever is a wonderful collection of clever and inventive stories. Ranging in genre from fantasy to horror to weird, Yap has a style that will remind readers of authors like Yolen and Blume at times.’
Great beer, good food. Chris reviews a book that bring them together: ‘Garrett Oliver is the Brewmaster of the Brooklyn Brewery. His hefty tome, The Brewmaster’s Table: Discovering the Pleasures of Real Beer with Real Food, is part brewing history, part culinary advice column, part travelogue and all useful information for anyone with an interest in (a) eating, (b) drinking, or (c) both. In other words, anyone whose health does not require absolute abstinence from alcohol in any form.’
Denise takes a sip of two non-alcoholic brews: BrewDog Elvis AF and BrewDog Punk AF. Besides the nice play on acronyms, what’s she got to say? Well, for Elvis, ‘[t]his beer is A Lot, y’all. Hemp + cherries + Weißbier? Deeeeeam. Get ready, as that hemp comes straight at you as soon as you pop the top.’ For its cousin Punk, ‘…there’s a whole lot for hop-lovers to enjoy here. At 0.5% alcohol and 37 calories – no that calorie count isn’t a typo – brew snobs? Get ready to be shocked and amazed.’ Read her reviews to find out why beer lovers should give these a try!
‘I’ve always enjoyed a good dark beer, even when here in the States that meant the dark lagers you’d occasionally find at a pizza parlor,’ Gary says. ‘Finally in the late ’80s or early ’90s you could get Guinness’s stout in most places, and since then with the craft beer revolution you can get a decent porter or stout in just about any pub you find.’ Read his review of Block 15’s The London Chronicle, a London-style porter, to see what he thinks about this particular brew.
The history of beer is, if nothing else, tasty. And that’s why I’m offering you this review as done by Kelly of a Russian River Brewing Company release: ‘Wandering through my neighborhood grocery store on a Saturday afternoon, I came across a wine tasting. “What the heck!” I said to myself and sauntered up to the guy with the wine glasses. I was chatting pleasantly with a couple sipping next to me when the male part of the party stopped a young man in an apron walking by and asked if they had any Pliny the Elder in the back. The young man scowled, but said he would bring one. My fellow taster boldly asked for a second bottle for his wife and received another black look.’
He notes that he greatly expanded his appreciation of beer by reading one particular guide: ‘even with my recent development of my palate to include dark ales and porters and bitters and IPAs (but not quite stouts; I just can’t get into those), I never really knew the difference between a lager and an ale until I read Ken Wells’s book Travels with Barley: A Journey Through Beer Culture in America.’
Camille, while basically live-blogging it, has a good time skewering Robert Zemeckis’s Beowulf, in which a lot of Vikings get, well, skewered: ‘The gore is considerably more graphic than the sex. Lots of thane-bodies flying around, pierced and skewered on random sharp spikes conveniently incorporated into the feast hall decor. And another! And another! Right through the mead-gut. These guys must’ve seen that all spikes home decorating special issue of Metropolitan Home.’
Joseph was impressed by James Cameron’s popular SF film Avatar … up to a point. ‘While Cameron is a great story teller, the story he tells is not that great. Avatar retells the classic cowboys versus Indians or, more accurately but lesser known, US Marines versus Hawaiians. All the right tropes of the American mythological landscape appear. All the expected morals play out sans a challenging twist to make a viewer reflect.’
April has mixed feelings about Fables Vol. 8, Wolves. ‘This eighth installment of Bill Willingham’s long-running series of fairy tale characters alive and well in our world (and at war with a fierce Adversary) finds Mowgli of Jungle Book fame still hunting down the Big Bad Wolf on behalf of Prince Charming, embattled mayor of Fabletown.’
And Cat’s ready to break out the champagne for the 75th issue of Fables: ‘I don’t recall us ever reviewing a single issue of an ongoing series, nor do our master review indexes — as maintained by our Library staff — show that we have done so. So why the seventy-fifth issue of Fables? What makes it worth reviewing? Oh, damn near everything in it is worth talking about, particularly given that it ends a story line that has run for the entire seventy-fifty issues of this groundbreaking series.’
Richard feel sorry for the hero of Brian Azzarello & Victor Santos’s Filthy Rich, in spite of the lovely boss’ daughter: ‘Pity the protagonist of noir fiction. Because he dwells in that world of dangerous dames, brawny gangsters and flashy period cars — not to mention impressive and stylish men’s hats — he does not have the opportunity to read noir, to learn its basic tenets and thus avoid falling into its most commonplace traps.’
Big Earl has something to say about Sleepy LaBeef’s Rockabilly Blues, an archival release from one of the greats of the early era of rock ‘n’ roll. ‘Sleepy LaBeef was the last artist that the original Sun Records (of Elvis fame) promoted in the 1950s. Bridging the gap between Presley and Chuck Berry, LaBeef continues to be the real bridge between country and the blues, the true king of Rockabilly.’
David dug into the trove of 21st century reissues put out by the great Memphis soul label Stax, for a couple of cool reviews. ‘Stax Records re-introduced itself to the world with a series of brilliant retrospective CDs celebrating their long history.’ First up is his look at Steve Cropper & Felix Cavaliere’s Nudge It Up a Notch, and Eddie Floyd’s Eddie Loves You So. Then he dives head first into two collections, Soulsville Sings Hitsville, and Stax Does the Beatles.
David waxes enthusiastic about Maria Muldaur’s 35th album, a collection of protest songs called Yes We Can! ‘This is a beautifully constructed, wonderfully played collection, and it’s as funky as all get out. Gotta love it! And, if it inspires just a few people to work toward making this world a better place, then Maria will have done her job.’
Donna listened closely to a couple of discs from the estimable label GO’ Danish Folk Music – one of which she liked a lot, the other not so much. Of Kristine Heebol’s 10 Point, she says, ‘This is a charming, highly listenable CD. My only complaint is that it’s just over 40 minutes long. You’ve barely gotten into it and it ends!’ Of the latter … ‘Henrik Jansberg’s Omnivor is a whole other kettle of fish, if you know what I mean.’ Read her review for the full story.
‘Marc Ribot is the guitarist you go to if you want someone whose choices will never be formulaic or expected,’ Gary says, by way of introducing Hope, a new album from Ribot’s trio Ceramic Dog. ‘His Ceramic Dog noise rock trio is a vehicle for some of the most experimental of this highly experimental artist’s works (and also one where he employs his voice in addition to his prodigious guitar skills).’
Gary also reviews Happy Again, an album of sad songs by Bill and the Belles, which doesn’t have anybody named Bill in it. How’s that? ‘Happy Again … is an excellent showcase for Bill and the Belles that deserves attention outside this group’s home base. It’s fun music on themes ranging from silly to serious, and it synthesizes a wide swath of American styles from jazz to bluegrass and beyond.’
Gary enjoyed a new album from a new group, two young musicians who play accordion and violin from Spain’s Celtic region, Galicia. ‘Galician music has long been a favorite in my household, and it’s good to know it’s in good hands of yet another generation of enthusiastic and capable musicians. Caamaño & Ameixeira’s Aire! is a real winner.’
Gary also reviews two new collections in the Naxos World series Folk Music of China. Of Vol. 13: Songs of the Tibetan Plateau, he notes, ‘It’s a bit different from those I’ve reviewed so far, in that its selections include some pop songs based on traditional and folk music, as well as pop instrumentation on most of the tracks, which purport to be traditional songs.’
And of Vol. 14: Songs Of The Tibetan Plateau – Monba and Lhoba Peoples, he says ‘This one has songs from the Monba and Lhoba peoples, ethnic groups who live around the border with India. Both are farming, herding and hunting peoples traditionally, with only small populations of about 10,000 of the Monba and about one-third as many of the Lhoba people.’
Mike has something to say about Thinkers & Fools, the second album by UK singer-songwriter Darren Black. ‘Everything about Thinkers & Fools is likeable. Black’s lyrics are thought provoking and reflective; the instrumental arrangements are accomplished but never intrusive.’
Mike also reviews U.S. singer-songwriter Johnny Duhan’s Just Another Town. ‘Johnny Duhan is one of the few songwriters who can move me to tears with just one well-placed, exquisitely written line. This 2007 release contains countless such lines. The title track of this album alone stands tall as an absolute masterpiece of song writing; Duhan takes a blank canvas and fills it line by line with the rich and vivid imagery of the buildings and characters that make up “Just Another Town.” ‘
Happy Pride everyone! Cheers to all our guys, gals and non-binary pals! Denise, your friendly neighborhood graysexual, here. And I hope you’ve been having the very best month ever, or at least the very best month since lockdown. And to help with that, I’ll be reviewing two Pride-esque (it’s a word; I just made it up) brews for everyone to enjoy.
First off, I dove into The Stone Wall Inn IPA by Brooklyn Brewery. It’s in honor of The Stonewall Inn, a place – and perhaps THE place – where LGBTQIA+ activism started. Heck, I dig it for the rainbow can alone, though the brew is pretty darn good as well. ‘It’s the official beer of The Stonewall Inn Gives Back Initiative, and that makes my wee heart go pitter-pat with joy.’ So read my review, already!
Next on the agenda is one big mouthful of a beer name, which is apt for one big mouthful of a beer. Devils Backbone Wine Barrel Aged Glitter Bomb fits into the sour category, but doesn’t make me feel like I need to call my gastroenterologist after I’ve finished the bottle. Plus, with a name like Glitter Bomb, I had to share it with you. ‘And though smooth won’t be a word folks call the citric acid-y punch Bomb delivers, it’s much more drinkable than the sours I’ve tried in the past. … I want to enjoy my pours, and Bomb is something I enjoy.’
Intrigued? Well, I hate to shill for my own reviews, but give it a look and see if you’ll want to add either of these – or both – to your Pride month wrap-up party.
So let’s take our leave of each other this time with some spritely music in the form of ‘Love Shack’ by the B-52s whose only official live recording got reviewed by Cat: ‘If you’re a fan of the band, you’ll definitely want Live! 8.24.1979, because official live recordings of this band are scarce. The liner notes are both informative and entertaining — kudos to Real Gone Music for these. Oh and ‘Rock Lobster’ is wonderful played live!’ Alas the Live! 8.24.1979 recording predates ‘Love Shack’ so you’ll need to enjoy it here instead! It’s a feel good summertime song that’s guaranteed to give you an earworm for days after you hear it. The ‘Love Shack’ I have for you to enjoy was recorded in Atlanta sometime in 2001.