28th of January, 2001

Merry Gwyl Mair Dechraür Gwanwyn! (That's the Welsh celebration that falls on the same day as the better known Candlemas. It's intended to banish the winter and welcome in the spring.) Oddly enough, I just ordered a copy from a Welsh bookseller of Alan Garner's The Owl Service, which is set in Wales, so the circle was perfect! Appropriately enough, our first review this week is of Joy Chant's The High Kings (Arthur's Celtic Ancestors), which Naomi de Bruyn says "... is a return to the time when the Celts were mighty. A time when the gods had an interest in the world, and when magic was still believed in, when the fey folk walked the earth alongside giants. Joy's words paint vivid scenes in each and every tale, allowing the richness and excesses of the Celts to be seen and enjoyed to their fullest once again." Naomi is having tea with Tania Elizabeth, a Victoria fiddler who may well give Ashley MacIsaac a run for his money, as I write these notes. She will be reviewing Tania's CDs in a future edition of Green Man .

We've been blessed of late with great English dance music CDs, so I looked at four of them that came in recently: Bismark's Upstream -- Traditional Dance Music from England; Bollywood Brass Band's Bollywood Brass Band; Captain Swing's and other likely stories, and Whirling Pope Joan's Spin. I said of these CDs that they "suggest that English dance music, which is based on traditional forms, is also doing quite well, thank you. Mind you, that this is not music that simply repeats the old forms, but rather is music that builds upon the old forms and creates something new and, I think, rather exciting!"

Meanwhile, Big Earl Sellar got one of the many, many Alan Lomax CDs we've received from Rounder, Sing Christmas And The Turn Of The Year. I'll let him state it clearly: "To be blunt, this is one of the most rambling, pretentious and downright surreal hours of music you'll ever hear. Presented in that bizarre chaotic late '50's style (think Wolfman Jack, but with several folk genres), every song on this CD is in snippet form only, often a minute and a half if you're lucky. From up-tempo skiffle to full choir ballad in 10 seconds or less, this broadcast is often a mess. It might make a great soundtrack for some holiday mushroom sessions, but it's hardly something to enjoy at your next Christmas gathering." He was much happier with another Lomax CD, Italian Treasury: Sicily, which he thought was "...a truly unexpected pleasure." Weird but pleasurable was Vladimir Martynov's Night in Galicia, about which he notes: "I'm not sure how many hours of music I've reviewed for Green Man: I will guarantee you I've never run into anything remotely like this disc. Lying somewhere between folk, orchestra, avant garde and downright weird, Night in Galicia is one of those fascinating little discs to review. It challenges every musical convention, it challenges any concept of idiom or style, and most of all, it challenges this listener." And he finishes out his quartet of reviews with another worthwhile CD, Chichi Peralta's ...de vuelta al barrio. He notes, "Chichi Peralta had a major Latino/Caribbean hit album with Pa' Otro La'o in 1997. With this sophomore effort, Peralta continues his fascinating cross-pollinization of world percussion styles with the music of his native Dominica." Big Earl picks up an Excellence in Writing Award for his Night in Galicia review.

Oops! Almost forgot another review by this prolific reviewer: Furry Lewis' Take Your Time. He says of this CD that "we get a real aural treat: a master blues man playing a typical gig in a Memphis club in 1969. Only this isn't any blues man, but Furry Lewis, a joker and kidder, a man who understood his talent and abilities, and a real character to boot. Take Your Time presents this enigmatic artist raw, exactly as he probably wanted to be heard."

Lars Nilsson has our sole Celtic review this time, Donnie Munro's Donnie Munro (of Runrig fame). He notes of this sterling CD that "...Those who are into Runrig or Munro will know what to expect. Maybe not quite as powerful as the Runrig live albums, it is still a fine offering, with a great singer and budding songwriter, in his right element, with an audience in front of him." Equally good was the Razor & Tie re-release of the Continental Drifters' self-titled debut release from 1994. Gary Whitehouse says of this group that he would "nominate the Continental Drifters as the First Family of roots rock. The group's six members are all seasoned road warriors, multi-instrumentalists, and most of them capable singer-songwriters in their own right." Colliers all -- Nai was fortunate enough to review two recordings from the Men of the Deeps choir, which is composed of Cape Breton coal miners: Coal Fire in Winter and Diamonds in the Rough: Twenty-five Years with the Men of the Deeps. She comments, "The Men of the Deeps are well worth the listening. They are talented, and they have a rich history to share with you. The history of miners, from the days long ago to present time, resides in these songs, and is a treasure worth more than any gold. Thank you to the Men of the Deeps for sharing this rich tapestry of history with us, in this unique manner. May your lamps never go dim."

Three works of fiction get reviewed this outing, all by Nai, who must have had at least two cups of tea by now. Single White Vampire Seeks Same is another fine anthology from those folks at DAW who send us great books almost weekly! This one consists of tales about particularly odd personals! Read her review to get all the gory details. Her second review is of Irene Radford's The Wizard's Treasure. She note that "The Wizard's Treasure is the fourth in a series, the previous three books being The Glass Dragon, The Perfect Princess, and The Loneliest Magician. The prolific author has used this fourth book in her series to resolve a number of issues which were left hanging in earlier books. We all hate those unresolved bits and pieces in a series, I'm sure. There were enough to make this a very interesting book, indeed. And Irene shows real originality in her methods of dealing with those loose ends." Nai's third review is of Cyclops in B Minor, written by our own Jayme Lynn Blaschke. This chapbook delighted her; find out why.

John Fahey's How Bluegrass Music Destroyed My Life is reviewed by Chris Woods, who initiated an interesting debate last week among the editors: when is a Ceilidh band English and when is it Celtic? (My classification of Roger the Badger's Snout CD was what started the debate. Cath James of the band says they're Celtic.) Chris really, really loved this book. "I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. In a few days' time I shall read it again, and probably again after that. I'm sure there are a whole load of ideas in there which I missed or didn't fully understand first time around." And Kim Bates reviewed American Folk Music and Left Wing Politics, which opened her eyes to the connection between folk music and Cause with a capital C.

That's it for this outing. I'm off to read a few chapters in Katherine Kurtz's new novel, St. Patrick's Gargoyle, which arrived from Ace Books yesterday, and listen to Trip to Harrogate's Tunes & Songs from Joshua Jackson's Book of 1798. May you likewise find good reading and worthwhile listening!

21st of January, 2001  

Week in and week out, we review more Celtic music than anyone else on the net. And this week's no exception!

Chuck Lipsig, our Celtic Editor, leads off our reviews with a look at five tasty CDs: Gill Bowman's Toasting the Ladies, Celtic Offspring's "Nobody Cries When You Cut Up a Bagpipe", Keltik Elektrik's Keltik Elektrik 2 -- Just when you thought it was safe to sit down, Conor McCarthy and Alph Duggan's Selection Box, and Rod Patterson's Rod Patterson Sings Burns: Songs from the Bottom Drawer. Chuck says of these CDs, "We've just gotten through the coldest two months in the annals of Florida weather, and I've just discovered that, after 12 years down here, I've gotten soft. All those years being raised on the snow-swept shores of Lake Ontario have gone for naught. I used to be able to wait for half an hour in zero degrees Fahrenheit, never mind the wind-chill. Now I feel like my fingers are going to break off into my gloves at twenty degrees. And for all that, we didn't even get a trace of snow, so I couldn't prove to Derek, my five-year-old, that such a thing actually exists. Well, Derek will learn in time. But I'm not going to get my cold weather perseverance back without some effort. So I've gone into training. No, I'm not taking a trip up north. I'm not shutting off the heat in the house. And I'm not doing naked yoga in the freezer. (I have probably just lost half my readers with that image, but left the other half paying very close attention.) What I have been doing is listening to a lot of Celtic music. Problem is that it's not working. The music may be from a cold weather climate, but it doesn't exactly put a chill in the air. Indeed, the good stuff makes things hot. Hmm... Maybe that's the idea."

I was lucky enough to hear two great albums this past month: Donal Lunny's Journey: The Best of Donal Lunny and Roger the Badger's Snout. The Donal Lunny two-CD set is a must buy, period. As for Snout -- well, I noted in my review "...any lover of Celtic and/or English traditional music should have this CD." I picked up an Excellence in Writing Award for this review as did Kim Bates for the next review.

Kim Bates likewise says Malinky's Last Leaves is a must: "If you enjoy good Celtic instrumentals, fine Scottish ballads -- old and new -- filled with spirited characters who follow their own way, then this is an album you must check out, it's certainly going to continue to spend a great deal of time in my stereo." And her review of Song of the Green Linnet is equally glowing: "It must be something to have a catalog of musical gems at your fingertips, and the wit to pick some of the best material from the hoard, because that's exactly what we find on this collection. The cynic probably thinks the folks at Green Linnet are trying to milk the most out of their collection, while the generous soul insists that collections like these allow people to sample from a variety of artists they might not take a chance on. Me, well, I enjoy this folk music thing, and collections such as these give me new glimpses of familiar favorites as well as introductions to groups whom I should have heard but have somehow slipped below my radar screen. So I tend towards the latter position." And Jayme Lynn Blaschke gets the last word with a look at Smithfield Fair's new album, Cairdeas (Kinship). He says, "...they['ve] produced an album that surpasse[s] their previous release in almost every way -- and there's no way I'd characterize Highland Call as gum stuck to your shoe."

Lars Nilsson adds to our impressive number of tune book reviews with a look at Flower of the West - The Runrig Songbook. He notes your purchase of this "...is really a matter of whether you like Runrig or not. If you do this is a must, even if you do not play yourself. If you are not familiar with Runrig you can always use it as an introduction to the group. And if you do not like them you can check it out to set a standard for what you are looking for when you are buying songbooks."

And then there's the Washington Area Folk Harp Society's The Song of the Selkie (A new folk tale with music) featuring Jo Morrison and colleagues, of which Naomi de Bruyn says "Something I am always looking to find, and usually never do, is a way to return to that childhood sense of wonder and delight over something seemingly magical. You know the feeling, all warm and snugly safe, grinning like a fool and holding your breath to see what happens next. Magic never happens when you are actively looking for it, but as soon as you stop, "BOOM!" There it is, right before you. Such is the case with this CD."

Lars Nilsson raved about the Whiskey Priest albums he reviewed a short while ago, but their side-project, Going Down With Alice, recorded under the name of Mad Dogs & Englishmen, left him less than pleased. He notes, "...the musicianship is substandard. I often get the feeling of listening to rough demos, cut to give the band an idea of how the songs could be treated. Often sloppy guitar playing and out of tune singing has been left on." David Kidney was more enthusiastic as regards Long John Baldry's A Thrill's A Thrill: the Canadian Years. (Did you know that he was the voice of Gavin the Crimson Pirate on Reboot, an animated science-fiction series?) David says, "There is a wealth of material to be found on this collection. It is not a blues classic, and Long John Baldry is not the King of Rock and Roll... but every once in awhile he does provide a thrill... and after all...a thrill's a thrill!"

Rebecca Swain looked at four singer-songwriter CDs this edition: Chet Delcampo's The Fountain, Skott Freedman's Swimming After Dark, the Kennedys' Evolver, and Erin McKeown's Distillation. Her Queenness says of these CDs, "These four singer-songwriter CDs don't have much in common. On the contrary, they are examples of the wide range of style and feeling that can be found in this type of music: from jangle pop guitar to dissonant piano playing; from gentle and melancholy to bold and jazzy."

Ah, music from warm climes! Big Earl Sellar -- back from way up north where it's not warm -- looked at an Alan Lomax collection, Brown Girl In The Ring. Big Earl comments, "When Alan Lomax went on his legendary Caribbean tour of 1962, he must have kept his recorder working constantly: he seems to have recorded everything that he came across. Brown Girl In The Ring is a collection of children's songs, mainly from Trinidad and Dominica, spanning from school-yard chants and play songs, to elders singing songs of their youth." (Big Earl garners an Excellence in Writing Award for this superb review.) And Gary Whitehouse looks at three Cuban acoustic folk-jazz CDs: Pancho Amat y el cabildo del son's De San Antonio a Maisi, Ignacio Pinero's Septeto Nacional Soneros de Cuba, and the Rough Guide to Cuban Son. Read his review to see why he was thrilled by these CDs!

Michael Hunter, publisher of Fiddlestix, the finest Fairport Conventions zine in the world, interviews for us Richard Thompson, folk rock legend. And David has a review of a long gone legend, Ritchie Valens, as he looks at the Complete Ritchie Valens, limited edition DVD.

Just a bit of fiction to whet your appetites this outing. I looked at three novels in which Robert Johnson, the apparently dead bluesman, plays a central role. I say "[t]hat Robert Johnson has become a character in many novels is hardly surprising as many individuals clearly do not believe he died when he was supposed to have." New staffer John J. Hall offers up a review of Raymond E. Feist's The Krondor Assassins. He notes, "this is a story that is quite entertaining, even to those who might not expect to enjoy a fantasy novel." Nai returns this edition with her look at Anne Bishop's The Invisible Ring. She comments that "Anne Bishop is perhaps best known for her Dark Jewels Trilogy: Daughter of the Blood, Heir to the Shadows, and Queen of the Darkness. This latest literary release is set in the same realm as the trilogy. It is a fascinating look at the dark side of human, and non-human, nature, and the balancing goodhearted nature which can also be found when one looks hard enough."

Nai finishes out our reviews this edition with her review of Gregory McNamee's The Serpent's Tale. She notes, "This book is rich in the lore of the snake, and provides us with different angles from around the world to view him from. In some tales he is the good guy, in others, he is the bad. And in others, he just is. If you have any interest in snakes, I would highly recommend this book. It will keep you absorbed for a number of hours, in speculation, as well as in amusement and acceptance."

That's it for this time out. We'll be back next Sunday with more reviews to tickle your fancy!

14th of January, 2001 

Welcome to another edition of Green Man , your best source for exploring the roots and branches of literature and music. And I hope that you'll be celebrating this King Boggan's Day in the fashion that it deserves!

The tune "Ballymun Regatta" from the two-CD collection from Donal Lunny, Journey: The Best of Donal Lunny, is playing as I write this commentary, which is appropriate as once again we have lots of Celtic music reviewed here. Both Kim Bates, who is our Music Editor while Brendan Foreman cavorts in N'Orleans, and Jack B. Merry, who wishes he was where it was warm, turned in omnibus reviews of Celtic CDs. Kim says in her omnibus, "I've always loved the drama and the dark tones of Scottish music; and as Robert Burns Day approaches, I felt motivated to round up these Scottish influenced albums. Mind you, the musicians in this list don't all hail from the old country. We have bands from the U.S. and Canada as well as the old sod. There are original songs written in the Scottish tradition, and compilation discs showcasing various aspects of the tradition. Ah, the Scottish fiddle ... the dark wail of Scottish fiddle playing is one of my favorite styles and we find them here, but mostly in supporting roles, as this collection of discs favours the songs." And Jack notes of his review material, "I took a spot of time to organize our CDs this past week and I found more than a few that had come in for review, but that had escaped me attention. Swag in any form is always wonderful, and CDs are the best form of swag there is!" Kim also reviewed Chris Norman Ensemble's The Flower of Port William, a CD she says is a good place to start with this artist. "Fans of Norman's music will be delighted to add this album to their collection, as will anyone in need of a graceful instrumental album who appreciates Celtic, Maritime, or classical music." Meanwhile Jo Morrison was looking at Flora MacNeil's Orain Floraidh. Jo notes of this Scots Gaelic singer that in this work, "Using her wide vocal range, her intimate knowledge of expression, and her wide repertoire of traditional Gaelic songs, MacNeil has put together an outstanding collection of Gaelic song that will interest any Gaelic music aficionado." Jo gleans an Excellence in Writing Award for the bloody good review!

And Chuck Lipsig, who's doing another Celtic music omnibus for next week, wraps up this section with an Excellence in Writing Award winning look at the Tannahill Weavers' Alchemy CD. He notes, "It's just not one of the Tannahill Weavers' best overall efforts, but the Tannahill Weavers' lesser efforts are still worth listening to."

Would you believe Maddy Prior is Celtic? So says Mairéad Sullivan's Celtic Women in Music: A Celebration of Beauty and Sovereignty. Ha! That's a bloody crock! Maddy Prior's as quintessentially English as steak and kidney pie, or black tea as we know it now. And Naomi de Bruyn says Memento - The Best of Maddy Prior is a very good look at her career. Read her review for all the details!

Frifot was here last night in Portland for a concert and I was amazed at how much Lena Willmark, their lead vocalist, reminded me of Wimmie, a Sami singer from Finland. Nai this week has a review of Gierran, which features his amazing yoiking. She says, "This is a style of music where the vocals are laid down first, no changes, no editing, just raw shamanic style chanting." Nai also reviewed Free Fall by Jesse Cook. She says, "Free-Fall will have you up and dancing around the room without a second thought. The energy Cook put into each and every track carries through the music and spills over into your feet. They just refuse to sit still, and the rest of you will soon be squirming and squiggling in your seat wanting to get up and dance." This reviews picks up our third Excellence in Writing Award this edition!

Gary Whitehouse wraps up our music reviews with a look at Cafe Creole by Amanda. He notes, "Amanda is a Swedish vocal ensemble founded in 1981. Over the past two decades, the group has grown to some 35 musicians and incorporated theatrical elements into its stage show. The group performs music and theater from various traditions in Europe and the Americas. This disc combines contemporary Swedish choral music with traditional songs and chants from Haiti. It's an intriguing combination, and mostly it succeeds."

A splendid review of English artist Pete Morton has been provided by Lars Nilsson. Lars, a true fan of English folk music, says, "Right from the beginning of Pete Morton's first set at the Ram Folk Club it was clear that we were not going to be treated to an ordinary folkie. Morton opened with a rocking and reeling 'The Battle of Trafalgar,' not about the battle itself but a pub named after it, that would not be out of place if included in the repertoire of a rock group. Morton has made a name for himself as a songwriter of high quality and as a good interpreter of traditional songs, mostly border ballads. He gave us a taste of both during his two sets."

I'm now on the second disc of Journey and I can truly say this is a great set of CDs! Look for my review next edition!

Three fiction reviews grace our pages this outing. Nai was a busy lassie as she reviewed Mercedes Lackey and Larry Dixon's Owlknight ("fast-flowing and captures the imagination from the get-go") and Fred Saberhagen's Book of the Gods -- Volume III: The Arms of Hercules ("...a delightful journey through classic literature made even more interesting by Fred's prodigious imagination and writing skills..."). I squeezed out some time to review a book that all fans of dark fantasy should read: George R.R. Martin's The Armageddon Rag. I noted, "I won't spoil your enjoyment of this book by detailing the plot beyond what I wrote above. It's a mystery wrapped in a fantasy with believable elements of the music biz -- I found it to be a bloody good read!" This reviews was deemed worthy of an Excellence in Writing Award. And our ever-whimsical Jack B. Merry has written an admiring review of Christy Moore's autobiography One Voice: My Life in Song. (Moore founded Planxty and Moving Hearts.) Jack says, "[This book] is not your typical 'look, I'm a musician' biography." Read his review to find out what kind of autobiography it is. Our final an Excellence in Writing Award goes to Jack for this review!

Be sure that you've pissed before reading David Kidney's Christmas in New England video review as we'll not be held responsible for any, errr, accidents! Yes, you may laugh that hard when reading his review.

That's all for this time. Check back in a week to see what mischief our writers have been up to!

7th of January, 2001 

Welcome back! I won't ask if you missed us during our time off as I'm sure you occupied your time quite well. We certainly did! And now we have, not unexpectedly, a very large issue for you. So large, in fact, that two Celtic music omnibuses covering nearly two dozen CDs were held over 'til the next edition! And speaking of Celtics CDs, let's look at what was reviewed this time. No'am Newman tackled recordings by Terry Coyne, Filska, the Gordon Gunn Band, Grainne Hambly, Cathal Hayden, and John Wright Band, not to mention two collections by an assortment of artists. In this omnibus, he says, "Hanukkah came early this year when my editor sent me a package of eight CDs, all of which come loosely under the collective label of Celtic." Read his review to see if he was satisfied with this bonny bunch of CDs! Kim Bates was very pleased with Danú's Think Before You Think. She comments, "It's a great pleasure to begin the new year with an album of Irish music that is filled with stellar arrangements, tunes and songs that don't pop up on every second disc, fine musicianship and one of those famous Irish tenor voices singing the traditional style." And Chris Woods has the very first review online of the second CD, Faerie Stories, from the Peatbog Faeries. Chris says, "It has been a couple of years since their first Mellowosity album; and while it would have been nice to have had the next album sooner, this one certainly makes up for the wait. I'm tempted to simply say 'If you like Shooglenifty, Afro Celt and similar trance/dance/atmospheric/new age instrumental roots bands then get a copy of this, it's every bit as good' and stop writing now!" Chris wins a well-deserved Excellence in Writing Award for this enthusiastic review!

Slipping over the Scottish border into England finds us with Jack B. Merry's review of Earthly Delights Band's four volume set titled The Lost Dances of Earthly Delights. He says, "If I may be so bold, this band is as good as Blowzabella -- Indeed they resemble that august band in many ways!" Jack picks up our second Excellence in Writing Award for this insightful commentary. David Kidney found Eliza Carthy's Angels & Cigarettes to be quite good. This album, he says, is "...a glorious introduction to a major talent. Watch for it coming soon, and be on the lookout for her tour. She is extraordinary!" And Chris got yet another wonderful album when he received Little Johnny England's new Live CD. Chris gushes, "Anyone who had the good fortune to attend the Cropredy Festival in August 2000 will know what a storming, high-energy set Little Johnny England performed there. Indeed anyone who knows an attendee will probably have been told how good it was. I was able to see them at a smaller local festival, a few weeks before Cropredy, and was impressed then by their performance, so I expected good things at Cropredy. They still managed to outperform my expectations. In my opinion, theirs was easily one of the best sets from a new band at Cropredy for some time, which is not surprising, given the background of the musicians. I won't go through those details here as they are in the review I wrote only a few months ago for their studio album, Little Johnny England." And Lars Nilsson looks at two CDs by the Whisky Priests: Bloody Well Live! and Think Positive. Lars says, "The Priests are on a continuing time line that binds together the Dubliners, the Pogues and themselves. They are more punk folk than folk rock, and it is highly successful." Lars wins our third Excellence in Writing Award for this review.

Waltzie, according to Gary "Buzz" Whitehouse, is from Caitlin Cary, who "plays fiddle and sings harmony in the alt.country band Whiskeytown, which is currently on hiatus. With front man Ryan Adams recording a critically acclaimed solo effort, Cary has stepped into her own little corner of the spotlight with this charming little five-song EP." Gary goes on to review Ass Ponys' Some Stupid With a Flare Gun, a CD he says "is arresting, rootsy rock from a band that's been around for more than a decade and may be just hitting its stride." And Ramblin' Jack Elliott's Best of the Vanguard Years is a CD that, according to him, "captures him in his prime, and it's not 100% perfect, but it is 100% Ramblin' Jack. Ride 'em, cowboy!" And be sure to check out his review of The Rough Guide to Country Music. He says "this is a timely and useful book for the fan of country music who wants to know more about the music, its history and artists, and who may want some guidance in deciding which recordings to buy." He wins our final Excellence in Writing Award for this review.

Naomi de Bruyn rounds out our country music offering with a look at Stacey Earle's Dancin' With Them That Brung Me. Nai says, "This is one of the most intriguing vocalists that I've heard in a very long time. Stacey sounds a little like Dolly Parton, but a bit more like a little girl. Her voice adds a depth and innocence to the music which is quite charming and addictive. This is a disc that has seen much use since it arrived. Its songs address the issues of life, the emotions and feelings we deal with. And some of them reach right in and mess with you ... for the good, of course."

Roots music was also reviewed this time by Gary who looked at two Horse Flies related discs: Ancient Hand's Tranze is the Danze, and the Horse Flies' Two Traditions: Contemporary Fiddle Music with Ethnic Percussion Accompaniment. See what he has to say about these outings.

Excuse me while I change CDs as The Horslips' Dancehall Sweethearts has come to an end. Ah, 989 is now playing -- very good. It's from XIM, a pipe- and melodeon-centered group from the North of England. Not so good was Patrick O'Donnell's reaction to When The Stone Is Exposed by a group called the Trycksters. He says, "I've got to be honest about Tryckster: their music doesn't thrill me. The band often becomes bogged down in cloned styles and trite lyrics..." But Rebecca Swain liked Jamie Solow's Riddles. Our Snowqueen says, "I like this pretty CD. I think many people will appreciate the gentleness of the songs and the positive messages they convey. It is worth looking for."

Our staff seemed to have really, really liked long series of fantasies this time out! First up is Brendan Foreman's commentary on C.J. Cherryh's Fortress tetralogy. He says, "...she has created a world that seems to be based roughly on England circa 1000 AD. Magic has been gradually disappearing from the land." and says it is "...in these books that she truly allows the characters to grow and the world that she's created to bloom in front of the reader's eyes." Next up is Nai's look at Mickey Zucker Reichert's Bifrost Guardians series. Nai notes, "Al Larson is a young American soldier in Vietnam, at least until he gets shot after appealing to the god Freyr. For reasons revealed within the novels, Al is taken from his own body and placed in that of a young Elf, in a world where Norse mythology is the reality. Al even has a benefactor among the Norse deities; the God Vidaar has taken a personal interest in and liking to him. This obviously has its good points and bad, as all dealings with supreme beings must. Al's companions in the majority of his adventures are Shadow, who is a master thief, as well as Astryd and Silme, who are both beautiful Dragonmages." Read the rest of the review to see why she loved this series! Michael Jones looked at Lawrence Watt-Evans' Ethshar novels. Michael notes, "So what's the Ethshar series all about? Well, to sum it up succinctly, it's fantasy with a twist. It's the sort of fantasy where things can (and will) go awry. It specializes in turning fantastical conventions on their ear, and exploring a different, grungier side than epic fantasy does."

Whew! Gary tackled the latest in Terry Pratchett's Discworld series, The Truth. He says, "I think I can say without ruining it for anybody that the bad guys get their just desserts in the end, and the good guy ends up smelling like roses in spite of all the foul-smelling messes he falls into on the way. It's all great fun, delightful escapism, and hip, literate nonsense, and it makes me want to go back and start reading other books in the 'Discworld' series." And Snowqueen looked at another Merlin-centered novel, Merlin's Bones. She says simply, "This is a delightful story."

Finishing out our literary reviews, Patrick has a look at Stephen R. Wilk's Medusa: Solving the Mystery of the Gorgon. He says this book "is an interesting look at this icon of mythology. Wilk covers the history of the Gorgon myth and its various incarnations, its influence on art, literature, and film, and delves into similar characters in mythology the world over. Wilk also unmasks some of the embellishments added over the centuries, sometimes with surprising results."

Michael "Penguin" Jones has the final say with the latest installment of his soap opera, errr, ongoing commentary column, Peregrine's Prerogative: The New Year. He comments, "And so we enter, not just the new year, and the new millennium, but the second year of Peregrine's Prerogative, that semi-regular column which touches upon all manner of things as they scamper through my overactive imagination, and take root in that dustbin I use for a brain. I'll be touching, however briefly, upon a wide variety of subjects today, as I launch what will hopefully be a fun year's worth of commentary and opinionating, sharing the best and worst of fantasy, fiction, folklore, fandom, and felines."

That's quite enough for now -- Join us next week as we continue to review whatever tickles our fancy! In the meantime, good reading and happy listening in this New Year!