What’s New for the 13th of November: SF from G. Willow Wilson, R F Kuang, Emery Robin, Everina Maxwell, Larry Niven, and some detective fiction; Persepolis; Vonnegut-inspired jazz, English and Welsh folk music, Balkan music; truly bad candy; some Tolkieniana, and more

Every book tells a different story to the person who reads it. How they perceive that book will depend on who they are. A good book reflects the reader, as much as it illuminates the author’s text. — Charles de Lint’s The Little Country


I can smell garlic, cumin, nutmeg, cardamom, and even a hint of ginger on the whole baby lamb being slowly cooked as  I approach our Kitchen… All welcome smells, especially on this raw, slefty afternoon on this Scottish estate where the temperature will be hard pressed to reach freezing on this November day. Yes, everything is getting a thin coating of ice too. Nasty indeed.

It’ll be a day of naps, reading and noshing for most of the Estate staff who can avoid going out into the treacherous weather. Rebekah, our newish Kitchen staffer who’s from Haifa, uses a day like this to do a stunning array of Jewish sweets, to wit date-filled hamantash, krembo (a chocolate-coated marshmallow treat), rugelakh, some filled with raspberry jam and some filled with chocolate, and even ma’amoul, small shortbread pastries filled with dates, pistachios or walnuts.

And that yeasty smell that is ever appreciated is freshly baked whole wheat sourdough rolls more than warm enough still as they are covered with a soft cloth to keep them warm to warrant butter and the jam of your choice on them.Me, I go for them strawberry jam or raspberry jam…  Join me in the Kitchen after you peruse this Edition.

PAre you horrified that you’ll have to wait another whole year for Halloween to come ’round? Fear not! Kestrell brings a review of three timely books: A collection of horror stories, a book on writing horror, and an annotated Lovecraft. Check out her thoughtful review of Al Sarrantonio’s Halloween and Other Seasons, Matt Warner’s Horror Isn’t a Four-Letter  Word, and H. P. Lovecraft and S. T. Joshi’s The Annotated Supernatural Horror In Literature.

Lis says of Larry Niven’s Hugo Award winning Ringworld: ‘Louis Wu is 200 years old, and … bored.When a Puppeteer, a member of a species that’s been absent from Known Space for a bit over 200 years, diverts Louis’ transfer portal shift in the course of his birthday celebration, Louis Wu is ready to be recruited into a new offworld adventure. The fact that this will involve traveling with the Puppeteer, called Nessus; Speaker-to-Animals, a very junior diplomat of the predatory, big-cat-like species humans have been at war with multiple times, the Kzin; and a fellow human, Teela Brown, who is genetically “lucky”; and all of them in an untested, experimental hyperdrive ship much faster than any existing hyperdrives…what could possibly go wrong?’

Now she looks at a novel from G. Willow Wilson, a favorite around here:  ‘Alif the Unseen takes us on a wild ride through life in a Middle Eastern city-state, cyber-duels between State Security and gray hat hackers, jinn, a magic book, Arabic mythology,political chaos, and the difference between infatuation and love.’

Paul exclaims lovingly ‘R F Kuang’s Babel is an audacious and unrelenting look at colonialism, seen through the lens of an alternate 19th century Britain where translation is the key to magic. Kuang’s novel is as sharp and perceptive as it is well written, deep, and bears reflection upon, after reading, for today’s world.’

And he looks at another novel as well: ‘Emery Robin’s debut novel, The Stars Undying, attempts, with uneven success, to transplant the story of Cleopatra and Gaius Julius Ceasar to a space opera setting.’

Warner has a brought few interesting reads. The first is Ocean’s Echo by Everina Maxwell, a return to her sci-fi setting from the previous Winter’s Orbit.

He had good things to say about Loren D. Estleman’s Paperback Jack, starting with the fact the author is ‘best known for his detective novels, and this book brushes closely up against that area without quite matching.’

On the topic of earlier detective novels, E.C.R. Lorac’s These Names Make Clues made an impression as ‘a recently rediscovered or at least republished volume by a popular author.’ At the same time Tasha Alexander’s Secrets of the Nile calls back to an older style.


Gary has a look at Michael Wadleigh’s Woodstock, The Director’s Cut: ‘What started as a three-day music and art festival in the farmlands of upstate New York in July 1969 became one of the touchstones of a generation and an era. This 25th Anniversary “director’s cut” edition of the movie that documented the phenomenon that was Woodstock captures the event in all its sprawling chaos and unlikelihood.’

Oh, we review some odd things as Denise proves in her review of the Kit Kat Fruity Cereal Candy Bar:  ‘Limited Edition Froot Loops candy? Sure. I’m game. Though I guess KK couldn’t spring for the rights for the official cereal, or didn’t want to do a collab. I can see why. DAMN this smells like candy plastic. You know what I’m talking about; when a food has so many chemical reactions going on that all you can think of is an ’80s Strawberry Shortcake doll and that “strawberry” smell. But with more plastic. It was so weird-in-a-gross-way I was actually scared to bite into this bad boy.’

Donna took a dive into Marjane Satrapi’s The Complete Persepolis, which might offer some recent historical background on current events in Iran. ‘Persepolis relates events of Marjane’s childhood, adolescence and young adulthood, living through the so-called Islamic Revolution and the Iran-Iraq War. It’s sometimes mordantly funny, but more often scary and sad. She and members of her very secular family are often arrested or otherwise persecuted for engaging in activities that violate the rules of the Islamic republic – like neglecting to wear a veil in public, or serving wine at parties.’


Gary enjoyed the Welsh chamber folk trio Vrï’s Islais a Genir. ‘The multitude of sacrifices people make in everyday life, the oppression of hard and low-paying work, and the way their humanity shines forth through music and song – that’s the spirit and message of Islais a Genir</i> the second release from the Welsh trio VRï.

Gary reviews the influential English folk album, The Watersons’ Frost and Fire: A Calendar of Ritual and Magical Songs, on the occasion the release of a new vinyl LP version. ‘The Watersons – Norma, Mike and Lal Waterson and their cousin, John Harrison, were known for their stunning, muscular four-part vocal performances, usually unaccompanied, of traditional songs from around the U.K. Their importance is hard to overstate.’

Pianist and composer Jason Yeager has created a suite inspired by the works of Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., called Unstuck in Time, played by a nine-piece ensemble. Gary, a big Vonnegut fan himself, says ‘Yeager has very nicely captured Vonnegut’s eccentricity, and his thematic and stylistic depth with a musical pallette to match – aided and abetted by the varied colors and styles accessed by the big band.’

The turning of the weather put us in the mood for some Balkan music, so we combed through the archives for a few reviews.

To Brendan fell the enviable task of reviewing one of the greatest Balkan compilations ever, Balkans Without Borders, which at the time raised funds for Doctors Without Borders (medecins sans frontieres). ‘This CD cuts across the spectrum of Balkan music from the Mediterranean to the Baltic Sea, from the Ural River to the Ruhr, and stretching even beyond those boundaries. Taken as a whole, it clearly shows the shared musical and cultural heritage that all of the people of the Balkans share, a heritage that, given the current violence of the region, is that much more heartbreaking to witness.’

Big Earl loved the music but not the presentation of One To Remember, a live disc by the American Balkan group Sviraj. ‘This disc is a live recording of a particularly fine performance in November 2000: it is superbly recorded for a live disc (although the bass could be louder). The problem is, as a double disc set, it is far too drawn out. So, by the time the high points come around, like “Niska Banja,” or “Zorice, Zoro Moja,” the songs turn into a blur. The disc never sounds forced or dull, but long-winded.’

Gary had fun with Balkan Jam I, a re-release of an early recording by Sviraj previously available only on cassette. ‘The 15 tracks on Balkan Jam I are full of the kind of passionate performances cited by GMR’s Naomi de Bruyn in her review of Ciganine. This disc came to me without anything in the way of documentation, so I’m relying on my ear, but it seems to draw on much the same sources, particularly Croatia, Bosnia, Macedonia, Dalmatia, Romania, Hungary and the Roma. It also includes a cover of Dick Dale’s surf classic, “Miserlou,” sung in some Balkan tongue, with Spanish-style guitar and Balkan-style three-part harmonies. Dudes!’

Gary also enjoyed Many Languages, One Soul, a live recording by a one-off group called Balkan Clarinet Summit. ‘If you at all like instrumental music from southeastern Europe, if you enjoy the sound and versatility of the clarinet, or if you just like wildly eclectic international music – personally, all three describe me – then this Balkan Clarinet Summit disc is a must-have.’

Kim nearly ran out of superlatives in her review of Reptile Palace Orchestra’s We Know You Know. ‘This album is chock full of songs that pique the interest, encased in some fine horns and rhythms that gallop along almost out of control, but never quite. Great fun.’

Naomi had unqualified praise for Sviraj’s disc Ciganine. ‘This CD has 17 tracks, filled with a music containing so much passion it is impossible not to let it work its magic upon you. The lyrics are in both their original tongue and in English, allowing for a complete understanding of the song. The handful of instrumental tracks are delightful in many ways, some with the simplicity, others with their complex arrangements.’


Our What Not is a rather unusual review today which means Warner has a bit of a treat for us today. For those feeling a bit of Tolkien withdrawal, The One Ring role-playing game, Second Edition can serve as a game manual or enjoyable art book.


Now let’s have some music to finish out this edition. It’s Northumbrian piper and fiddler Kathryn Tickell performing   ‘The Pipes Lament’, a tune written by her,  which was recorded at the Shoreditch Church, London on the 15th of June 2010, should do nicely. Tickell, by the way, connects indirectly to Charles de Lint’s The Little Country novel as smallpiper Janey Little in the novel lists Northumbrian Bill Pigg as one of her inspirations to become a musician, something that Tickell also claims.

Iain Nicholas Mackenzie

I'm the Librarian for the Kinrowan Estate. I do love fresh brewed teas, curling, English mysteries and will often be playing Scandinavian or Celtic  music here in the Library here in Kinrowan Hall if the Neverending Session is elsewhere. I'm a violinist too, so you'll me playing in various contradance band such as Chasing Fireflies and Mouse in the Cupboard as well as backing my wife Catherine up on yearly Christmas season tours in the Nordic countries.

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About Iain Nicholas Mackenzie

I'm the Librarian for the Kinrowan Estate. I do love fresh brewed teas, curling, English mysteries and will often be playing Scandinavian or Celtic  music here in the Library here in Kinrowan Hall if the Neverending Session is elsewhere. I'm a violinist too, so you'll me playing in various contradance band such as Chasing Fireflies and Mouse in the Cupboard as well as backing my wife Catherine up on yearly Christmas season tours in the Nordic countries.
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