Eight hours, sixteen ounces of chocolate and they’re still not right — Resident Izzie Stevens, making cupcakes in the Grey’s Anatomy, “Save Me”
Yes, we love chocolate a lot around here, to the extent that Ellen Kushner once shared her hot chocolate recipe with us, the same chocolate drink quite popular with the characters in her Swordspoint novel and other Riverside tales. You’ll have to ask Mrs. Ware and her Kitchen staff for it as I’ve never actually been told what it is. Oh, and that toast is spread with the Lindt Chocolate Hazelnut Spread which they’ve just starting selling here in the UK. Really, really ymmmy!
It’s summer, so the Neverending Session has decamped from the Pub to the Greensward ‘til the sun starts to come down to take advantage of the fantastic summer weather. Yes, I know this is Scotland, which has shitty summer weather, but we share The Border with that place, call it, if you will, Tír na hÓige, and their Summer Court love warm, sunny summers so we get the same. Now guess what it’s like when the Winter Court holds sway…
Cat had high hopes for Philip DePoy’s The Devil’s Hearth as he has ‘a special fondness for mystery series set in the Appalachian Mountains, even though there aren’t a lot of good ones and a lot of not so great ones. Sharyn McCrumb’s Ballads series had some memorable outings, particularly among the later novels, and one which was outstanding, Ghost Riders.’ Read his review to see if DePoy lived up to his expectations.
Craig has a look at three mystery novels by the venerable Ray Bradbury, as collected in an omnibus. See for yourself why Craig says, Where Everything Ends is a trio of fine detective novels (together with the short story that provided the starting point) from Bradbury in his inimitable style. He plays with the conventions, but since he so obviously loves the genre, this is easily forgiven — embraced, even — because the end results are, simply put, fine additions to the canon. This series is also dear to fans.
Denise has a novella by Stephen King and Richard Chizmar that may start off in the summer, but gets decidedly chillier as you turn the pages. Gwendy’s Button Box ‘is a delightful slow burn of disquiet and dread’ that has our reviewer wanting more. ‘If this is how King and Chizmar work together? I’m hoping this will be the start of a beautiful friendship.’
Gary says Kim Stanley Robinson lulled him into a sense of complacency in one of his recent SF tomes about the future of humanity and the Solar System. ‘The main body of his prose in 2312 is so calm and measured, coolly analytical and matter of fact, that I must have been expecting thle Solar System-wide conflict that it portrays to be ironed out peacefully, boringly, in a committee meeting of polite but forthright diplomats. But then, as it nears the 500 page mark, a crisis looms, action erupts, danger flares, lives are lost and almost lost, souls sent spinning across the void of space inside the orbit of Venus, and you can’t seem to turn the pages fast enough.’
Ellen Datlow and Nick Mamatas’ Haunted Legends, says Gereg, is ‘something of a paradox: As a collection I found this volume kind of weak, but there are a lot of very fine stories in it. So many, in fact, that on going back over the anthology a second time, I wondered why I’d thought it was weak in the first place. As a reader, I’d probably just leave it at that; but as reviewer, I feel I owe it to my adoring public to tell you precisely why I feel the overall effect is weak. So I dove back into the book for a third time. Such travails are how I earn my fabulously high salary here.’
Charles de Lint’s Yarrow: An Autumn Tale gets a loving look by Grey: ‘Cat Midhir has stopped dreaming. People assure her that it isn’t possible, that she just doesn’t remember her dreams, but Cat knows they’re wrong. Where her dreams have been, there is only heaviness and loss. For Cat, this loss means more than it would to most of us, because she is that rarest of all dreamers, a person who returns to the same dream every time she sleeps. In her dream world live her truest friends and her only source of inspiration for the books and stories that have won her acclaim in her waking life…’
Robert has two Autumnal fantasies by de Lint: ‘Charles de Lint is known as “the godfather of urban fantasy,” and indeed, it’s in that genre that he’s made his mark – he’s never been a writer of heroic fantasy: in a better than thirty year career, very few buckles get swashed, although the two short novels included in Jack of Kinrowan — Jack the Giant Killer and Drink Down the Moon — come close, something of a romp a la Dumas pere — by way of Harold Lloyd, perhaps. Both concern the adventures of Jacky Rowan and Kate Hazel, best friends who find themselves enmeshed in the doings of the land of Faerie that coexists with modern-day Ottawa.’
He also looks at Moonheart, perhaps de Lint’s best loved novel: ‘Moonheart may very well be the first novel by Charles de Lint that I ever read. I can’t really say for sure — it’s been awhile. It certainly is one that I reread periodically, a fixture on my “reread often” list. It contains, in an early form, all the magic that keeps us coming back to de Lint. (And be reminded that Charles de Lint may very well be the creator of what we call “urban fantasy” — he was certainly one of the first to combine contemporary life and the stuff of myth.)’
Spiritwalk he says ‘is a loose sequel to Moonheart, a series of related tales, again centering around Tamson House and including many of the same characters. In fact, the House is even more important as a Place in this group of stories. It begins with a brief discussion of Tamson House from a book by Christy Riddell, whom we will meet again in The Onion Girl and Widdershins, followed by a delightful vignette, “Merlin Dreams in the Mondream Wood,” of Sarah Kendell, age seventeen, remembering her childhood “imaginary” playmate, a red-haired boy named Merlin who lived in the oak tree at the center of the garden. It’s a sweet, sad tale of the price of love.’
Our culinary review is Randy Armstrong’s Dinner On The Diner which has the dubious honour of being the first and only recording in our long history that got legal action threatened by the artist against us for defamation. Big Earl, a Canadian baker, just wasn’t pleased with either the music or the recipes in the booklet. The artist in the end backed down.
David did an omnibus review of four graphic novels: Walt Holcombe’s Things Just Get Away From You, Gilbert Hernandez’s Heartbreak Soup, Jaime Hernandez’s Maggie the Mechanic, and Rutu Modan’s Exit Wounds. The fourth, Exit Wounds, he says, “…is a modern classic. It tells the story of a young Israeli taxi-driver whose father left the family for another woman a few years back. The cabbie Koby Franco receives a message from a female soldier named Numi. She believes that Franco’s father (her lover) has been killed in a suicide bombing. Their investigation opens wounds of all sorts.’
A longtime fan of British-Albanian singer Elina Duni, Gary was rapturous over her new quartet album. ‘A new Elina Duni album is always cause for joy, and A Time To Remember is no exception. … Nostalgia, the ache you feel for times gone by, knows no season. This album is flawless and moving now as spring turns to summer, but I suspect it will gain an added poignancy come autumn and winter.’
Next he take a close look at the reissue of a trio of albums from the ’90s by the U.K. singer of Indian descent, Sheila Chandra: Weaving My Ancestors’ Voices, The Zen Kiss, and ABoneCroneDrone. ‘They sound just as fresh, arresting, and revolutionary to my ears in 2023 as they surely must have when first released.’
He also liked Elements, a new recording by Swedish ‘rock star’ folk fiddler Lena Jonsson. ‘This time out she’s playing in a trio with Erik Ronström on guitar and Kristofer “Krydda” Sundström on bass, on a dozen of her own compositions. Based around the Swedish folk tradition but with lots of influences from jazz to world music, they range from humorous Scottish folk dances to melancholic waltzes and nimble polkas.’
The new release from Norwegian violinist Nils Økland and keyboardist Sigbjørn Apeland, Glimmer, is a mostly somber affair of traditional folk melodies performed with modern arrangements, he says. ‘Smack in the middle of the tracklist are two traditional pieces that lighten the mood considerably. The transcription “O, venner” (Oh, Friends) is warm and uplifting, with both of the musicians providing lots of twinkly improvised grace notes. And even warmer is the lovely, hymnlike “Se solens skjønne lys og prakt” (See the beautiful light and splendor of the sun), which was a perfect listen on the evening of the solstice, I assure you.’
Gary loves jazz standards, so he was bound to enjoy a new one from Noah Haidu. ‘Rising star pianist Noah Haidu releases a quartet album called Standards 40 years after the famed trio of Keith Jarrett, Gary Peacock and Jack DeJohnette released their first album of the same name, but you don’t need to know that to immediately fall in love with this date. In a trio format (with sax on a few tracks), Haidu deftly explores a double handful of durable swinging bops and ballads. This is straight ahead hard bop and post bop at its best.
Encounters with Sasquatch and trapping rabbits for dinner on a university campus are paired with more serious songs about Indigenous oppression on an album of country music by Saltwater Hank. Gary says, ‘Saltwater Hank is the stage name of songwriter, fiddler, and guitarist Jeremy Pahl, a member of the Gitga’at Ts’msyen community in Kxeen, (Prince Rupert), British Columbia. Writing and performing in Sm’algyax, the Ts’msyen language, he’s part of the pushback against centuries of cultural oppression and erasure. … But any political, linguistic, or cultural significance aside, this is kick-ass music.’
Our What Not this outing is a Folkmanis Mouse with Cheese puppet that got overlooked when it came so Reynard gives it a review now: ‘I’ve no idea when it came in for review, nor do I know how it ended up in the room off the Estate Kitchen that houses the centuries-old collection of cookbooks, restaurant menus and other culinary related material, but I just noticed a very adorable white mouse puppet holding a wedge of cheese in its paws there. Somebody had placed it in a white teacup on the middle of the large table so I really couldn’t overlook it. ’
We’re big fans of the Thompson clan here, and some of us are particularly fond of Teddy Thompson’s way with a classic country ballad. Good news: He’s releasing an album of just those kinds of songs, a follow-up to 2007’s Up Front & Down Low. The aptly titled My Love of Country will be out in August, and the first single is out now. You can just tell that “A Picture Of Me Without You” has George Jones’s stamp on it, but check out Teddy’s excellent cover.