I sliced strawberries with all my attention. They were particularly fine ones, large and white clear through without a hint of pink. (Wild Borderland strawberries are one of the Border’s little jokes. They form bright red, and fade as they ripen. No strawberry has ever been so sweet.) — Orient in Emma Bull’s Finder
I’ve been visiting Gus, our Estate Head Gardener, in The Conservatory this morning as he was lecturing our Librarian’s Several Annies on the members of the ginger family, Zingiberaceae. He grows ginger of several types, as well as turmeric and cardamom there. Given a warm environment, humidity, enough light and proper soil, the rhizomes will grow rather well and give you quite large plants within several years.
At some point, they will all give an amazing fragrance. I’m looking forward to that day. Or rather many, many days there as it won’t happen all at once obviously.
‘What’s appealing about Ysabel is how believable all the characters are,’ Cat says of Guy Gavriel Kay’s YA novel about a teen boy’s encounter with the Summer Queen. ‘If for no other reason, read Ysabel to see how one can accurately depict fifteen-year-old characters. Most Young Adult fiction that I have read simply treats the young adults as miniature adults, not as beings who are both child and adult, but really neither.’
Warner leads off his book reviews with a choice piece of SF: ‘Paul Cornell’s Rosebud is an interesting little novella from an expert creator. While the title certainly brings to mind either horticulture or the works of Orson Welles, this volume is instead very much of the post-post-transhuman society. The basic plot features a handful of entities on a ship with the same name as the title of the book as they encounter an extremely smooth black sphere in space. As the reader is educated on the Strange World these characters inhabit, they find themselves investigating the sphere and learning more about themselves and it than they would have thought possible.’
Now he has a Bond that’s been updated: ‘Anthony Horowitz’s With a Mind to Kill is his third James Bond novel. This one features Bond going undercover and pretending to still be under a level of brainwashing. He must contend with the Soviet forces, the fact that many of his own people believe him to be a traitor, and Colonol Boris who managed to break him once already. Characters in this book feel approriate to a James Bond story, with more than a little addition of personal pathos and consideration.’
Next he at a review of a revisionist bit of Arthurian fiction: ‘Nicola Griffith’s Spear is a brilliant fusion of a number of old legends and ideas, queer yet period appropriate. It features elements of multiple eras of Arthurian lore as well as certain Irish legends. The combined story follows a familiar structure without seeming overly clichéd.’
We are shortly getting a new Doctor so it’s appropriate this reviewer looks at a series of audio adventures involving classic Doctors: ‘Doctor Who: The BBC Radio Episodes Collection contains a wonderful combination of stories whose uniting theme is exactly what the title implies. This collection includes most of the early audio material featuring the Doctor Who characters.’
I did read the novel he’s now reviewing just once. That was enough: ‘The very lightest interpretation of Dalton Trumbo’s Johnny Got His Gun is that it is an extremely dark book. With a new edition of the volume out from Suntup, it is hard not to explore the book in detail. While a famous volume, it has a contentious history, as would any anti-war book published in 1939.’
Cat looks at Doctor Who‘s The Unicorn and The Wasp episode starring David Tennant, his favorite of the new Doctors: ‘One of my favourite episodes of the newer episodes of this series was a country house mystery featuring a number of murders and, to add an aspect of metanarrative to the story, writer Agatha Christie at the beginning of her career. It would riff off her disappearance for ten days which occurred just after she found her husband in bed with another woman. Her disappearance is a mystery that has never been satisfactorily answered to this day.’
He also looks at a Doctor Who adventure involving his favorite classic Doctor: ‘The Talons of Weng Chiang featured Tom Baker, one of the most liked of all the actors who’ve played The Doctor, and Leela, the archetypal savage that the British Empire both adored and despised, played by Louise Jameson. The Victorian Era is something that British have been fond of setting dramas in, well, since a few years after the era ended. Doctor Who has had stories set in this era myriad times.’
Denise has her review of the first season of the the Thirteenth Doctor Who, and she enjoyed almost every moment of Season Eleven. ‘The new Doctor loves bobbing for apples, candy floss, purple sofas, and fast talking…. I love it. Yes, I’ve said that I love things several times here. I’m not sorry.’ Why is Denise so enraptured? Only one way to find out; give her full review a look!
While she might have loved Season Eleven, Season Twelve had her feeling a whole lot of different emotions…not all of them good. ‘Unfortunately, things get a bit messy this season, with the usual overarching story coming back into play with the thirteenth Doctor’s second season. There are stories and themes that work well, but most of the time? Things get a bit too heavy-handed.’ How so? Only one way to find out – give her review a look!
Elizabeth Bear was born on the same day as Frodo and Bilbo Baggins, but in a different year. Among her works are two White Space novels, Ancestral Nights and Machine, and two near future mysteries, her Sub-Inspector Ferron series. I interviewed her on all things foodie and you can read that conversation here.
Richard had high praise for a graphic novel that goes to unexpected places with a familiar character: ‘With Love in Vain, Joshua Dysart took over the reins of Swamp Thing from the rather more erratic storytelling of Andy Diggle, and the difference is obvious. What Dysart has to work with is an extended continuity that’s mostly been resolved and a Swamp Thing that’s mostly a tabula rasa. While the safer choice might have been to do a more straightforward, linear narrative, Dysart instead swings for the fences.’
Midsummer is the perfect time for live music, so I took a look in the Archives to see what kind of live music we’ve reviewed. Here’s just a small sampling:
Asher said Annbjørg Lien’s Aliens Alive is a live album for fans of the Norwegian hardanger fiddler, containing selections from many of her studio albums. ‘Annbjørg Lien finds, in folk music, everything from fairy tales to science fiction. Indeed, the title of her previous album, Baba Yaga is drawn from a fairytale. Aliens Alive is a selection of live performances culled from Annbjørg Lien’s 2001 Norwegian tour.
Judith reviewed Attila the Stockbroker’s Live in Belfast: ‘There are a LOT of words on this highly political album, recorded at the Warzone Centre in Belfast in February 2003. Only a minority of them are about “No Blood For Oil,” but many touch upon the ruling classes of Britain and the United States doing things they really shouldn’t. For the most part this is a simple spoken word album; sometimes the verses rhyme, sometimes they are in sentences or in rap lines. Sometimes Attila plays the guitar and sings down-home folk-punk.’
Lars said Patrick Street’s album Live From Patrick Street is ‘every bit as good as any of their studio albums. This is soft, gentle Irish music at its best, far from the bombastic reel and jig-playing or loud pub songs you sometimes get. Patrick Street dare not to be loud, and they dare not to fill out all the gaps. Instead, they weave a thin airy web which allows you to examine every detail of what is being played. No walls of sound here. They trust their listeners to be attentive and interested, and they do not underestimate them neither. This is clever music for clever listeners.’
Richard brought sad news about Lindisfarne’s Lindisfarne Live: ‘The first hint that Lindisfarne Live is going to be a disaster comes literally twenty-two seconds in on the disc, when lead singer Alan Hull shouts the magical words “Rock and roll!” to the audience. A simple rule of thumb for live albums is this: If the band has to remind you it’s rock and roll, then it probably ain’t.’
Scott reviewed a live album from the Celtic supergroup Mozaik. ‘The members of Mozaik all have reputations which precede them, and the musicianship on Live from the Powerhouse lives up to expectations. Long-time fans of any of the individual performers will want to have this CD. Newcomers looking for quality Irish or world music will find much to like about this as well, although they might want to catch up on Andy Irvine and Donal Lunny’s histories while they’re at it.’
Stephen thought Feast of Fiddles’ Live ’01 disc was quite good: ‘The decision to release a live CD is a very welcome one, as this is definitely music to be heard in the flesh. The musicians are all of a very high calibre indeed, taking a break from their “day jobs” and communing on stage with a sense of enjoyment that’s palpable even when filtered via a disc. If I’d actually been at these gigs I’d have doubtless got more excited, and you might even have heard my voice bawling along the closing “Drunken Sailor!” ‘
Our What Not is of a Musical Nature as Gary has some commentary for us complete with a playlist, a column he calls How the Pedal Steel Guitar Stole My Heart. ‘The pedal steel guitar has long been one of my favorite instruments. There’s just something about its sound that can go from quicksilver pure to rough and distorted in the blink of an eye that captured my heart at some point along my journey as a music lover.’
I rather like ‘Brown-Eyed Women’ quite a bit but my favorite version isn’t the one with Garcia singing that the Dead did as I find his voice rather flat, but rather is one someone here found some years back. The late Robert Hunter who wrote much of what they played including this song and my favourite version is done by him during a show at Biddy Mulligan’s in Chicago on the tenth of October over thirty years ago. So let’s now listen to him doing that song.