You might as well come in and sit down with me here. We're apparently getting ready for a party, like, so don't expect anyone to take much notice you're there for a bit, because of all the fuss.
How d'you do? I'm Gus, the gardener, as you can probably tell by, well, me. But the mucky old gloves in my shirt pocket were probably a hint, yes? Or is it my boots that give me away? Gus for short, Augustus for long. I'm not too long, so everyone calls me Gus, right? Heh. Sorry, just my little joke.
They wanted me in to help lay out the party grounds, but everyone's too busy to notice that I'm here, too. That swearing on the stairs is the men come with the extra kegs of ale for the Green Man Pub -- the loudest voice is Reynard, the current publican. I think I saw some of that German stuff, that Aventinus, tasty stuff.
The hubbub in the kitchens is Mrs. Ware, our housekeeper, supervising the laying in of provisions into the larders, perilously close to Cook's realm, which is why the hubbub. Scottish heather-smoked salmon, whole haunches for roasts, baskets and baskets of leeks, onions, carrots and such from my gardens -- I've got loads of young French haricot vert ready to go, too. Mmmm, mm. Those French know how to eat. The vines aren't fussy in the least, either, though they'll stop producing if you don't keep 'em picked at least every other day.
Glad you're here, actually. I sat down in the Pub for a bit, but I had to get away from the musicians, all they could do was talk nonsense about what to play for the guest of honor. Well, I play the concertina, but being a gardener means I like a certain amount of decorum to my day, and if that lot isn't playing, they're talking all sorts. Fine for a while, but when they got to the songs about what a unicorn's horn is really for, I figured I'd come up here for a bit and wait for the Ware to get done arguing with Cook.
Oh, didn't you hear? We're having a Guest of Honor in a fortnight. Peter S. Beagle, his name is. He wrote that classic novel, The Last Unicorn, that got made into the film. I liked the novel, I remember reading it at the end of sunny days out in the garden, and I think the film adaptation was quite good. The staff're doing reviews and features on Mr. Beagle's work for a special issue, the first one we've ever had that's focused on just one author. There's even going to be an in-depth interview.
Yes, we're very lucky to have him -- Mr. Eldridge, our publisher and editor, received a draft of Mr. Beagle's new novel, Summerlong, he says it's brilliant, and then he talked to Mr. Beagle's publisher, Connor Freff Cochran, about the special issue. Ought to be something to read, both the new novel and the issue!
Anyway, I'm waiting to hear about where they want the tent for Mr. Beagle to read from his novels, and for the fête. I hear that if we're lucky, he might bring his guitar and give us some of his music, too. Hope so. Might make up for setting back the lawns, having all that traffic on 'em.
With Summer Solstice come and gone, and Lughnasadh around the corner, Wiccan traditions and tales are definitely in the air. A modern spin on Wicca was the show Charmed, a show that spanned eight seasons before ending earlier this year. Denise Dutton reviews Charmed -- The Complete First Season to see if the original episodes would get her into the spirit. 'When Charmed first aired, it was dismissed by many as a poor-Wiccanís Buffy knock-off. Which, considering Buffy the Vampire Slayer was only in its first season, wasnít intended to be kind. But viewers took to the three Halliwell sisters, and even embraced such story-altering changes as the death of a sister and the discovery of a new one. In the eight seasons Charmed was on the air, love came and went, children entered the picture, and powers were lost and regained too many times to count. But in the end, good always triumphed over evil....now, with the final season wrapped up tightly (or rather loosely; thereís still a push from the fans to have a spin-off series created for the next generation of Halliwells), itís as good a time as any to take a look back at when this series was brand new.' Denise does just that, and turns in an Excellence in Writing Award winning review that takes a look at the start of this long-running series.
Quick -- name the best known Irish Celtic group. The Irish Rovers? Thin Lizzy? Hothouse Flowers? Me lad, you need a musical education, so go read the Excellence in Writing Award winning review by David Kidney of The Essential Chieftains: 'The Chieftains! Everybody's favourite Irish band. Everybody's! I recall the first time I heard them. It was on the soundtrack of Stanley Kubrick's stately and luscious Barry Lyndon. I was running to the record store the next day. I had discovered some music that linked me to my own Irish roots. That theme, called 'The Women of Ireland (Love Theme from Barry Lyndon), is on this new collection, and still has that unmistakable attraction. The harp, fiddle, bodhran, pipes, simple straitforward production, and virtuosic playing. In 2004 I checked out a small music shoppe in Limerick and there on the walls around me were all the tools of The Chieftains' trade. 'Come to th' pub t'night,' the fellow behind the counter offered, 'There's a session.' Ireland is all about music. And The Chieftains are all about Irish music.'
According to Iain MacKenzie, the Green Man Librarian, there's an entire section of our Library devoted to material on J.R.R. Tolkien and his works. So why would yet 'nother work, Wayne G. Hammond and Christina Scull's The Lord of the Rings: A Reader's Companionto be precise, thrill him? (He's not easily impressed.) For the same reason that it did Liz Milner: 'This chapter-by-chapter concordance to The Lord of the Rings by two distinguished scholars is an excellent resource and a labor of love. This is a Herculean task, for, as they note in their introduction, 'the late Dr. Richard E. Blackwelder once counted in The Lord of the Rings 632 named individuals (of which 314 are in the Appendices).' When you consider that many of these individuals had multiple names and complex back stories, the amount of work involved in simply identifying the dramatis personae in The Lord of the Rings is staggering. Hammond and Scull, who are also the authors of J.R.R. Tolkien, Artist and Illustrator, go way beyond the call of duty in documenting every textual change, every influence, every unfamiliar word or concept and every comment Tolkien ever made regarding The Lord of the Rings.' Read her Excellence in Writing Award winning review for her comprehensive look at this important work of scholarship!
We will not be doing 'nother general book review section until the first issue in August on the 13th as we have the Peter Beagle issue next outing followed by our Lughnasadh issue which will be devoted exclusively to Celtic music reviews. Look for dozens of Celtic recordings to be reviewed which will tempt you to loosen your purse strings and spend quite a few of those silver coins!
So a number of ever-so-tasty reviews are being slated for the August 13th issue including our Editor's look at the nineteenth (!) edition of The Year's Best Fantasy & Horror as he's been engrossed in the proof which arrived this week; Robert Tilendis' review of a work that is embargoed for reviewing 'til August, The Privilege of the Sword by Ellen Kushner should be an interesting read as should his rave review of Elizabeth Bear's first fantasy novel, Blood and Iron; Donna Bird will be turning in her review of the ever-so-cool Oriental Carpets. and also Kevin McKiernan's The Kurds: A People in Search of Their Homeland, Geoffrey Nash's From Empire to Orient: Travellers to the Middle East, 1830-1926, Gerald MacLean's The Rise of Oriental Travel: English Visitors to the Ottoman Empire, 1580-1720 to name but three other reviews she's working on now; David Kidney's going to review the fifth volume of The Complete Peanuts; April Gutierrez will be reviewing singer-songwriter Dar Williams' YA novel, Lights, Camera, Amalee!; and I see Denise Dutton's scribbling away on her commentary about Melanie Rehak's Girl Sleuth: Nancy Drew and the Women Who Created Her. All by herself, Lisa L. Spangenberg is planning on reviews of Delia Sherman's Changeling, a Tolkien omnibus, and Witches, Druids and King Arthur by Ronald Hutton.
Now for the reviews this edition...
Donna Bird generally loves historical fiction as you can see from her GMR reviews but Michelle Lovric's The Remedy disappointed her: ' I read and gave a positive review to Lovric's last novel, The Floating Book, so I gladly volunteered to read The Remedy when it arrived at the Green Man offices. Although I found reading this one an entertaining and generally enjoyable experience, I would say that it didn't work quite as well for me as her earlier offering.' Go read her Excellence in Writing Award winning commentary on why sometimes novels even by well-meaning authors don't quite work!
Eva Jana Siroka's Maddalena earns Donna her first Grinch Award, a coveted prize here at Green Man good for the winner's choice of drinks in the Pub for an entire evening, or a special request for the kitchen staff. As she noted to our Book Editor, it came in as an email request from the publisher to her: 'Most of the time, I get ideas for books to review for Green Man from the shelves of the bookstores we visit frequently. Sometimes I buy the books; sometimes we are successful in obtaining them from the publishers. Maddalena is the first book a publisher has ever asked me to review for Green Man. I suppose I should be flattered..' Go read her biting commentary for why this novel is truly dreadful. Donna, for her prize, is having them make her a dinner plate sized fraise fraîche galette with Devonshire cream served on the side. Mrs. Ware is busy making it now.
Craig Clarke has an insightful look at Ben Fong-Torres, Becoming Almost Famous: My Back Pages in Music, Writing, and Life: 'Ben Fong-Torres' second collection of rock journalism is a sequel of sorts to his first, Not Fade Away: A Backstage Pass to 20 Years of Rock & Roll. Becoming Almost Famous features profiles of -- and interviews with -- a vast array of diverse musicians from Frank Sinatra to Lou Reed, Hank Ballard to Sheryl Crow, Michael Nesmith to Janis Joplin, and with two features on Al Green written 30 years apart -- all written with the same level of appreciation. Even comedians Cheech & Chong and Steve Martin benefit from the author's engaging personality.' Good rock journalism is always a joy to read, be this review or Ben Fong-Torres' book, so go read Craig's review now!
Faith J. Cormier looks at Knights of the Round Table: Lancelot: 'Gwen Rowley gives us a surprisingly 21st century Sir Lancelot. Is he mad or soulless, a killing machine or a sensitive lover? He is wracked with indecision, torn between incompatible oaths to his sovereigns, to his lover, to one closer than a lover. To say that Lancelot du Lac is the product of a dysfunctional childhood is worse than an understatement. Kidnapped as an infant, raised by the Lady of the Lake and the Green Knight (if you can call the latter's efforts to kill him 'raising'), then dumped at Camelot in ignorance of his very name. It's no wonder the poor boy is a little mixed up.'
Just savour the first paragraph of Kestrell Rath's review of Theodora Goss' In the Forest of Forgetting: 'Every book is a grimoire, a witch's recipe book for summoning thoughts and feelings, travels and transformations. Books of different genres can be used to invoke different seasons: horror for the haunted harvest time of late autumn, mysteries for the long nights of winter, and ghost stories to accompany the thunderstorms of spring. But fantasy -- with its bewitching call to be out and away -- is for summer. One June day you may open a book of fantasy stories and notice that, as if dried petals had been pressed between its pages, the faintest scent of roses begins to stir upon the air, banishing the last memories of wool socks and raincoats. Your senses begin to awake, slowly noticing that wisps of birdsong and tendrils of soft breezes have come curling like magically growing vines through the crack of a half-open window, inviting you to escape.' How can we not give her an Excellence in Writing Award? Now go read her review to see why this should be on your summer reading list!
Unfortunately James Lynch must pan what might have been a good mystery: 'Crime drama can benefit from brevity, if a sense of urgency and impending crisis is the result. For example, the Mary Higgins Clark novel Where Are The Children? is filled with tension as the horrific perils, plotting, and escapes are compressed into the space of less than a day. Alas, The Painted Bride by Stephen Gallagher shows the perils of brevity: poor description and undeveloped characters that leave the reader uninvolved.' Read his review to see where Gallagher failed so miserably!
Tanya Huff's Smoke and Ashes really impressed Robert M. Tilendis: 'One thing that I find marginally irritating about some of my favorite fantasy and science fiction writers is that if I don't pay attention for a minute or two, they start a new series and then I have to catch up with them. Tanya Huff, for example, one of those protean writers who seems to be able to write in any subgenre, from 'classic' fantasy to military SF to supernatural thrillers, and do it well, started a new series while I wasn't looking and here I am with the third book, Smoke and Ashes. Bummer. Now I have to go back and find the first two.'
Robert also looked at two books by Diana Wynne Jones, The Tough Guide to Fantasyland (Firebird, revised edition) and The Dark Lord of Derkholm which made him appreciate her sense of humour: 'Dark Lord of Derkholm has its share of chuckles, but it is ultimately a charming, light-hearted and heart-warming adventure story. I do not, however, recommend reading The Tough Guide to Fantasyland over your morning coffee (unless your sinuses need clearing out), nor anywhere but in private, except for those of you who are completely oblivious to the stares and whispers of total strangers. I howled my way through The Tough Guide.' Read his review of The Tough Guide to Fantasyland and its sequel, The Dark Lord of Derkholm, for a look at some truly great reading!
Elizabeth Vail says: 'One interesting point about Devin Grayson's contribution to the DC Universe collection of novels is in the Foreword at the beginning of her book. In it, she mentions that one of the countries mentioned in the novel, Qurac, is not, despite being a recently-bombed Middle Eastern country, based in any way on Iraq or any of the political problems derived thereof. The funny part of this Foreword isn't only the fact that Qurac is already a fictional nation in the DC Universe and thus blameless for any comparisons people might make between it and Iraq, but that the storyline involving the Quraci characters is really only a flimsy narrative thread to hold together a novel that is essentially a character study.' Does Inheritance work as a novel? -- read her review for one reviewer's opinion.