Review: Donna the Buffalo: Positive Friction

Another review of another album from Donna the Buffalo, and another enthusiastic response. To give you a little grounding on what it is, our review lays it out:

It’s a rare mix of infectious rhythm and a sureness and lightness of musical touch, combined with arrangements which retain enough familiarity and pop sensibility to be easy to listen to while at the same time being new and original. Cajun music often has a similar combination of rhythm and lightness, but after a while it begins to all sound similar. Donna The Buffalo have a definite Cajun influence and have managed to create the same type of lively and infectious musical atmosphere although with varied arrangements and songs and tunes from quite different rhythmic roots.

Yes, there’s Cajun in there, along with a lot of other things. That’s why we’ve tagged it “American music.” To get the full picture, read the review.


Musings: Stephen Brust & Megan Lindholm’s “The Gypsy”

Pay attention now — this is going to get complicated. Stephen Brust and Megan Lindholm in writing The Gypsy attempted to merge two literary forms that for the most part haven’t fit well together in my experience: the retelling of a traditional folk tale, Hungarian in origin, and a police procedural.

This novel is an urban fantasy novel which blends elements of Hungarian folk tales with, as I noted above, a modern day detective story. The book contains many lyrics to songs that were later recorded on Boiled in Lead‘s Songs from ‘The Gypsy’ album.

Now that album is a sort of story cycle. As our reviewer notes in his review:

Steven Brust, with Stemple, wrote these songs. They grew out of characters he created in The Sun, The Moon, and The Stars, and which found new life later on in his collaboration with Megan Lindholm, The Gypsy. (His notes on the genesis of the characters and the songs has now forced me to confront that I absolutely must read both novels, both among the very few — perhaps the only — of Brust’s works I haven’t read.) For those who have read anything of Brust besides Taltos (and if you haven’t, you are really shortchanging yourself), the lyrics touch on many of Brust’s archetypes, particularly the Coachman, who recurs in his works (Brokedown Palace, The Khaavren Romances), always taking people to where they need to be, whether they knew it or not.

It’s a very downbeat album echoing the tone of the book and Stemple’s voice with a gruff blues feel is perfect. I’d love to give you music from the album but there’s not even a video of them performing, nor is there anything showing Adam performing on Antler, the only other BiL recording he did!

Review: Peter Guralnick, Robert Santelli, Holly George-Warren and Christopher John Farley (editors): Martin Scorsese Presents: The Blues

That may seem like a lot of editors for one smallish — although substantial — book, but it turns out that it’s quite a book. As David Kidney notes in his review of Martin Scorsese Presents: The Blues from our Archives,

As is standard practice these days, as well as offering a vast array of CDs and DVDs to accompany the original PBS broadcast, the marketers of The Blues have provided a hard cover book, “a companion” to the series.

Often these books are little more than an illustrated shooting script. Sometimes they are fleshed out with anecdotes from the making of the programmes. But Amistad’s The Blues exists on a different plane than the video series does, entirely.

As it turns out, there’s a lot of good stuff in this little tome, so go read David’s review to see just what’s between those two covers.

From the Letters Bag: Kim Antieau’s “Coyote Cowgirl”

We decided to delve into the email we used to get before moving to a WordPress based system several years back. The book review mentioned here was really disliked by the author but at least one of our readers liked it!

From: Amal
Subject: Coyote Cowgirl
Date: August 23, 2003

Dear Mrs. Nutick,

I’d just like to thank you for your review of Antieau’s Coyote Cowgirl. It’s a wonderful relief to know that I am not, in fact, insane, and that there is another person in the world who thinks the book is mediocre. I’m almost as annoyed at it as at Jacqueline Carey’s Kushiel’s Dart, in fact — it’s frustrating to have pages upon pages of your favourite authors singing the praises of a book you despise. “But you write good books,” I keep wanting to remind them. “You should know what they read like.”

However, I didn’t despise Coyote Cowgirl. In fact, your review felt familiar to me, in that it’s almost word for word what I protest to the friends of mine who keep going on about how much they loved the book. These friends, when first telling me about it, spoke of desert magic, truth-inducing food and talking crystal skulls. What gorgeous ideas, thought I. But upon reading it, I kept gagging at the soap-box rants, the shallow characters, the boring “surprises” and so on.

So once again, thank you for an accurate and insightful review. And thank you for giving me the assurance that, if insanity is indeed being a minority of one, I, at least, am not crazy.

Cheers, Amal

Mia Nutick replies:

Thank you for the positive feedback, Amal! I, too, am happy not to be a minority of one! Now, when do we get that audition review from you?


Review: Warren Ellis and John Cassaday: Absolute Planetary: Book One / Absolute Planetary: Book Two

absoluate planetaryWe have another look at Planetary, that amazing collaboration between writer Warren Ellis and artist John Cassaday, widely recognized as one of the best comics series ever.

This time, it’s the Absolute Edition, and it’s a honey. As reviewer Cat Eldridge puts it:

Now let’s discuss the awesomeness that is the Absolute Planetary. It’s very appropriate that what I consider WildStorm’s best series would get an Absolute Edition slip-cased release. The first half of Planetary had been collected in such an edition way back in 2004, that version went out of print very fast as fans of Ellis snapped it as was only fitting, but when Absolute Planetary: Book Two was released, DC decided to reprint Book One and release the collections within a week of one another.

If you want the full story, read the review.

Story: A Real Princess (A Swedish Tale)

Edmund_Dulac_-_Princess_and_peaThere was once a Prince who wished to marry a Princess; but then she must be a real Princess. He travelled all over the world in hopes of finding such a lady; but there was always something wrong. Princesses he found in plenty; but whether they were real Princesses it was impossible for him to decide, for now one thing, now another, seemed to him not quite right about the ladies. At last he returned to his palace quite cast down, because he wished so much to have a real Princess for his wife.

One evening a fearful tempest arose, it thundered and lightened, and the rain poured down from the sky in torrents: besides, it was as dark as pitch. All at once there was heard a violent knocking at the door, and the old King, the Prince’s father, went out himself to open it.

It was a Princess who was standing outside the door. What with the rain and the wind, she was in a sad condition; the water trickled down from her hair, and her clothes clung to her body. She said she was a real Princess.

“Ah! we shall soon see that!” thought the old Queen-mother; however, she said not a word of what she was going to do; but went quietly into the bedroom, took all the bed-clothes off the bed, and put three little peas on the bedstead. She then laid twenty mattresses one upon another over the three peas, and put twenty feather beds over the mattresses.

Upon this bed the Princess was to pass the night.

The next morning she was asked how she had slept. “Oh, very badly indeed!” she replied. “I have scarcely closed my eyes the whole night through. I do not know what was in my bed, but I had something hard under me, and am all over black and blue. It has hurt me so much!”

Now it was plain that the lady must be a real Princess, since she had been able to feel the three little peas through the twenty mattresses and twenty feather beds. None but a real Princess could have had such a delicate sense of feeling.

The Prince accordingly made her his wife; being now convinced that he had found a real Princess. The three peas were however put into the cabinet of curiosities, where they are still to be seen, provided they are not lost.

Wasn’t this a lady of real delicacy?

Hans Christian Andersen’s Andersen’s Fairy Tales, 1904

Review: Randall Garrett: Lord Darcy

Lord DarcyI remember, years ago, reading Randall Garrett’s Lord Darcy fantasy mysteries. They are one of the earliest examples of a subgenre that has taken on a life of its own, from authors as diverse as Glen Cook, Steven Brust, Mike Resnick, Tanya Huff, and even Isaac Asimov, with influences that range from Nero Wolfe to Sam Spade to the inimitable Sherlock Holmes himself.

And make no mistake: these are fantasy as much as mystery. Reviewer Cat Eldridge sets it up this way:

In the world of Lord Darcy, the Plantagenets rule an Anglo-French Empire that stretches from allies in the German states to all of the Americas and has lasted over eight centuries. Indeed the current Majesty is John IV, by the Grace of God, King and Emperor of England, France, Scotland, Ireland, New England and New France, King of the Romans and Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, Defender of the Faith.

Happily, Baen Books reissued them recently, so they’re now available to a whole new audience. To get an idea of what’s in store, read Cat’s review.

From the Letters Bag: On Dystopian Fiction

Editor and Publisher (of Green Man Review) Cat Eldridge got these comments on his review of Halting State.

From: Peter da Silva
Subject: Comment on your review about Halting State

“The protagonist’s use of computer hacking to escape pursuit in a dystopian future, and for the coining of the word “worm” to describe a program that propagates itself through a computer network, makes it a seminal work in the cyberpunk genre.”

I didn’t read the world of Shockwave Rider as particularly dystopian, since by the time I read it (well before the end of the decade, since I was still living in Australia) Apollo was dead and the space program was lying in shards. G2S seemed terribly optimistic to me.

The mob running the government? Nixon was a recent wound in the body politic!

Don’t forget, we only briefly see the middle and upper classes. Rev. Lazarus is a minister in an area beset by gang warfare (you’d find those in any city, even back then), and most of the book takes place in a disaster area that was deliberately never reconstructed (something the British would have been well aware of… it took a long time for London to recover from the Blitz… and which is happening now in New Orleans). The only view we have of the rest of the society starts when FOR PURPOSES OF IDENTIFICATION he introduces Sandy Locke and his brief career (career: an uncontrollable downward plummet).

I could see 2001 and Shockwave Rider both taking place in the same world.

One can turn any society into a dystopia by taking the right (wrong?) viewpoint. It’s a mainstay of mainstream fiction… it was just rarer to combine the literature of ideas with that kind of view… and most of the subsequent writers in that genre seemed to miss that point.

Review: Donna the Buffalo: Rockin’ in the Weary Land

Now, before you read our review of Donna the Buffalo’s Rockin’ in the Weary Land, I want to make one thing clear: we’ve always been pretty much seasoned veterans here — writers, musicians, and the like — who seldom (well, fairly seldom) succumb to fits of fanboy/girl enthusiasm. However, our reviewer, when confronted with this disc, couldn’t restrain himself:

Wow! What an incredible debut album from this New York based six piece band. It’s not often I play a CD by a band I have never heard of and am captivated within seconds. Plenty of energy and power coupled with excellent melodies, interesting rhythms and catchy musical arrangements.

He does give reasons for his enthusiasm, but if you want to know what they are, you’ll have to read the review.

Interview: SK Tucker on Food

You may think it’s a little late to be publishing an interview with our Summer Queen, but since it’s the season of harvest festivals and Thanksgiving observances, it seemed appropriate to publish this one, since it’s concerned with food. (Of course, we’re more than happy to discuss food at the drop of a fork, but this is especially apt for those of us in the States, since our Thanksgiving is coming up in only a few days.)

So, without further ado, read “SJ Tucker on Food”, just a click away.