Neo Angelique- Hyuga & Ange

Reviews: Howl's Moving Castle, Castle in the Air, The House of Many Ways & HMC movie.

Posset of the Day: Linden Tea

I have been woefully lax at posting anything. I even missed my traditional 'Year in Review' post. That is ridiculous considering last year was one of my best ever... in fact I think it *was* my best ever. I hope to do a nice, sentimental overview sometime before this year is half over, but for now I need to get these reviews down while the books are still reasonably fresh in my mind. (Not that HMC won't be fresh again... if EVER a book cried out for rereading it's that one!)

I had been wanting to read this book for awhile. Unfortunately there is currently no eBook so it went onto the long list of classics I would love to read if only there was an eBook of it.(There was one, but the reviews seem to indicate that there were many errors in it. Perhaps they will fix it and put it back someday.) Not too long ago a few fanarts popped up on my DeviantArt watch list and that brought back my desire to read the book. Finally it seemed like the ONLY book I wanted to read, and if I dragged around the hardcover Omen Machine with a booklight and read/walked with it, I could handle a much lighter paperback. I'm really glad I did!

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Nathan 3

Reviews: The books!

I thought I could at least say a few words about the books I read. The books are not in perfect order, though the later ones are pretty close.

The Dresden files series by Jim Butcher-

I LOVED this series and have been trying to get everyone to read it. It seems almost everyone HAS except the people I know! :P Harry Dresden is such a truly wonderful character. Easily the most interesting and complex primary protagonist I have read. He is as heroic as they come, but is no glowing paragon of perfection. He is powerful, but he makes mistakes, occassionally bad ones. There are definitely shades of gray in Harry and most of his friends. They are good, flawed people who do the best they can, even if they don't always succeed. There are some very harsh moments in the series. Changes, in particular, is extraordinarily morbidly dark on a number of levels. It's actually even worse than it seems. (As we find out in Ghost Story.) But it also shows just how far a man will go in the name of love. But there is also great humor, genuine heart, powerful love of all kinds, an amazingly varied cast of characters and plenty of exciting adventure. As a whole the series is an unreserved ***** Stars! I definitely liked some of the stories better than others, but it was more personal preference than any fault of the books themselves. (I will never really like zombies in anything, for example.)

All I know for sure is that I was reading it during Aeternitas in May. Reading the wrong Harry at the Harry Potter convention.

-Storm Front
-Fool Moon
-Grave Peril
-Summer Knight
-Death Masks
-Blood Rites
-Dead Beat
-Proven Guilty* (My favorite!)
-White Night
-Small Favor
-Turn Coat* (Second Favorite!)
-Ghost Story
(And an assortment of short stories)

Angelology, Danielle Trussoni. ** Stars. Definitely overhyped. It had the seed of a good idea and a promising premise. I just don't think the author had the skill necessary to handle it yet. Its most grievous fault was its characterization. The so-called 'good guys' manage to be just as unlikable, immoral and nasty as the 'bad guys'. I joked that it managed to offend everyone at least once, but in the end it just isn't good enough to provoke much reaction at all.

The Three Books of Enoch: with notes by Joseph Lumpkin.

Plato on Atlantis

The Myst Reader, Robyn and Rand Miller (Reread.)
-The Book of Atrus
-The Book of T'iana
-The Book of D'ni

I read the Myst books about fourteen-fifteen years ago. They held up quite well and it had been long enough that it was almost like reading them for the first time. Three excellent stories.

A reread of Laurie R. King's Sherlock Holmes & Mary Russell series. Again, they held up quite well, though it has not been as long. One thing I noticed is that LRK is not particularly skilled at writing villains. Most are either forgettable an/or of the mustache twirling variety. The best of them (In the Language of Bees) was defanged by the forgettable villain of God of the Hive. I don't personally consider richly hued villains to be terribly important so it isn't a major problem for me.

- The Beekeeper's Apprentice
- A Monstrous Regiment of Women
- A Letter of Mary
- The Moor
- O Jerusalem
- Justice Hall
- The Game
- Locked Rooms
- The Language of Bees
- The God of the Hive

Sun of gOd, Gregory Sams (**** Stars. Quite interesting and it gave me some ideas for my own sentient stars.)

The Lost Land of Lemuria, Sumathi Ramaswamy **** Stars. A different approach to the legendarium of Lemuria with quite a bit I did not know about how Lemuria is/was viewed in India. A worthy read.

Fifty-One Tales, Lord Dunsany. A book of tiny short stories that I called 'anti-urban fantasy.' It passed the time on a walk, but none of the stories were very memorable.

Dead Reckoning, Charlaine Harris (*** Stars. Eh. Readable, but far from my favorite of the series.)

Thomas the Rhymer, Ellen Kushner. Hm. ****ish Stars. It was pretty good, though I'm not sure if it is one that will stay with me for very long.

The Privilege of the Sword, Ellen Kushner. **** 1/2 Stars. A mixed bag overall, but the Mad Duke Alec was a wholly arresting and fascinating character. If he weren’t gay/bisexual/omnisexual I’d have fallen for him myself. (It just feels too weird for me to ‘fall for’ someone not heterosexual. I loved him… just not in that way.) He is definitely the reason for the 4 ½ stars. The ending of the book is immensely satisfying. Almost too satisfying!

Heart's Blood, Juliet Marillier *** Stars. It was a mild, readable, pretty standard-issue romance novel without the detailed sex scenes. I doubt it will stick around in my memory too long.

The Habitation of the Blessed, Catherynne M Valente. *** Stars. A psychedelic dream of a book. I liked one part of the story quite a bit. Unfortunately the whole just didn't seem to go anywhere. I am not very familiar with the mythology behind it, however. I'm sure it would help quite a bit if I were.

The Omen Machine, Terry Goodkind. ** 1/2 Stars. I had modestly high hopes for this one. Unfortunately my worries that it might be a filler book written strictly for the $$ turned out to be all too accurate. Goodkind's best surviving characters were all here... or at least their names were. They were physically present without any of the things that made them wonderful in the first place. There was no characterization in this book. None. At all. If you didn't know these characters from previous books you'd have no idea why people like them so much. It is not that they were 'out of character.' They just didn't have ANY character. None of them!

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That is about it for now. I'm going to a Celtic fiddle concert on Friday in Plymouth, then the Moodies on the 12th and Ed on the 17th, and an assortment of others after that. My next convention is Faeriecon in Baltimore. I leave November 3rd. I'm rereading the best of the Sword of Truth series and may finally read Naked Empire (The only one I never read.) just for completeness' sake. LRK's Pirate King comes out next week and Blake Charlton's Spellbound after that... I can't wait for those two!
Gone Frotzing

I Liiivvvve!!!

BPAL of the Day: Schmendrick

I really wish I had kept up my reviews.... Just got out of the habit. I mostly just post what few notes I write on Facebook now. I have gotten so much busier, though I really would like to have a record of this time. I really should get in the habit of writing journals more often.

Let's see... this summer I went to Readercon and Worldcon in Reno! Readercon was fun and both Reno and Worldcon were awesome. A whole week of awesome, actually. I have been pining in post Trip Syndrome ever since coming back.

I'm not sure I can remember every concert, musical and play I've been to since March 29th. Luckily I can look at my ticket history for the CCA and Palace Theater shows. I'm more likely to remember those that were in different places.


Aeternitas: A Harry Potter Convention in Laconia, NH (May)
Readercon in Burlington, MA: (July)
Renovation in Reno, NV: (August)


Ed Gerhard- Towne Crier in Pawling, NY. (Early April)
Neil Berg's 101 Years of Broadway- CCA (April 19th)
The Nu-Utopians: A John Lennon tribute band at the Palace Theater. (April)
Various awesome Wizard Rock bands at Aeternitas!
Crosby and Nash- CCA- (May 10th)
Blackmore's Night- Tarrytown, NY... (May, I think... whatever day it was the world was supposed to end.)
The NH Philharmonic Spring POPS concert- Palace Theater (May 4th)
Ed Gerhard- Boothbay Opera House, Maine (June)
Ed Gerhard- Bow Lake Grange Hall in Strafford. (June)
Yes and Styx- Meadowbrook (July)
Steve Earle- CCA (August 7th)
Judy Collins- The Flying Monkey in Plymouth. (August 10th)
Hippiefest- Meadowbrook (August 14th)
Tricky Pixie and their various spectacularly talented bandmates at Worldcon! (August)
Arlo Guthrie- The Flying Monkey in Plymouth. (August 27th)


42nd Street- The Palace Theater (April.)
Spring Awakening- CCA (April 5th)
Imago Theatre ZooZoo- CCA (April 10th)
A dance recital that my cousins were in- The Palace Theater (May)
Fiddler on the Roof- CCA (June 9th)

The only movie I saw was HP and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 during Raedercon. I found it to be a respectful and reasonably well done end to the series. It didn't stray too far from the book and the time was pretty well used. It seemed better balanced than Part one was.

I also read lots and lots of books! Those will go in my next post.
Neo Angelique- Hyuga & Ange

Review: The Last Unicorn, by Peter S Beagle

BPAL of the Day: Nude Woman Reclining

This is backwards since I just finished this one on Sunday night, but it is the one I want to write about now, so here it is!

This one came to me, rather unusually, through BPAL. I knew of the book for a long time, of course, but never paid that much attention to it. Even when BPAL (Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab) put up the first set of scents based on the book, I didn't really think about it beyond being interested in and buying a couple of the scents. That changed when I read the descriptions of the second set of scents and saw this:

Wonder and love and great sorrow shook Schmendrick the Magician then, and came together inside him, and filled him, filled him until he felt himself brimming and flowing with something that was none of these. He did not believe it, but it came to him anyway, as it had touched him twice before and left him more barren than he had been. This time, there was too much of it for him to hold: it spilled through his skin, sprang from his fingers and toes, welled up equally in his eyes and his hair and the hollows of his shoulders. There was too much to hold, too much ever to use; and still he found himself weeping with the pain of his impossible greed. He thought, or said, or sang, I did not know that I was so empty, to be so full.

Just incredibly beautiful! I needed to read this book after seeing that. Even though it wasn't available in eBook I went and got a copy from Borders and took the first chance I got to start reading. (Before bed while I was at the Middle Earth conference. Their health club closed at 5:30pm on weekends, meaning no read/walking... ack!)

I wasn't wrong. This is a truly lovely story. All of the characters have something to learn from each other, even the unicorn. It has a gentle, never overbearing moral, wonderfully captivating characters (I loved Schmendrick just as much as I knew I would!) and an elegant mixture of emotion without sappiness, humor, wonder and a little grit. The ending was bittersweet, but left me smiling. Its only major flaw is that it is much too short! However it is pretty amazing how rich and fully realized such a slender little book is.

I read the two short stories set in this world on Monday. 'The Woman who Married the Man in the Moon' and the Hugo and Nebula award winning 'Two Hearts.' The former is one of Schmendrick's pre-unicorn adventures and the latter works as a epilogue to 'The Last Unicorn.' Both were excellent. (And also too short!)

Absolutely and unreservedly ***** Stars!

It has been a little hard to get into anything else since finishing 'Unicorn.' I saw on the BPAL site that Peter Beagle is working on a sequel to 'The Last Unicorn.' I hope so! I want to see how Schmendrick and Molly Grue fare on their adventures.
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Brynna and Dal

What I've been up to during the winter of 2011

Perfume of the Day: Top Quark by ZOMG Smells!

It's almost funny. I have had the most memorable and busy winter that I can remember and I haven't written anything about it. I'll try to get caught up with everything eventually, but this is just a 'Books I've read and events I've been to since my last review' list so I don't forget anything!

The conventions!

Arisia (January 13th-17th)

Boskone (February 17th-20th)

Pax East (March 10th-13th)

The 3rd Conference on Middle Earth. (March 25th-27th)

(The dates begin with my first night at the hotel.)


First I slowly reread the Lyonesse series. The first time I have ever immediately reread anything. I simply wasn't ready to part with it!

Agatha Hetrodyne and the Airship City, by Phil and Kaja Foglio (Also the whole Agatha Hetrodyne online comic.)

The Sherlockian, by Graham Moore

The Visitants (Partial) short story collection.

The Sookie Stackhouse series by Charlaine Harris:

-Dead Until Dark

-Living Dead in Dallas

-Club Dead

-Dead to the World

-Dead as a Doornail

-Definitely Dead

-All Together Dead

-From Dead to Worse

-Dead and Gone

-Dead in the Family

-A Touch of Dead, short story collection

The Complete Sherlock Holmes, by Arthur Conan Doyle

All 56 short stories plus

-A Study In Scarlet

-The Sign of Four

-The Hound of the Baskervilles

-The Valley of Fear

One of our Thursdays is Missing, Jasper Fforde

The Last Unicorn, by Peter S Beagle

Plus the 'Last Unicorn' short stories:

-The Woman Who Married the Man in the Moon

-Two Hearts

Concerts, plays, etc...

This is harder! I hope I don't forget anything, but I probably will...

Cinematic Titanic, January 29th

Ed Gerhard at Roaring Brook, Canton, CT, February 12th

Ed Gerhard at the Seacoast Repertory Theatre, February 13th

Alice in Wonderland and Celebrating the Classics, February 16th

Iphigenie en Tauride (The Met: Live in HD series), February 28th

Green Traditions Concert, March 5th

Dervish, March 16th

Benise: The Spanish Guitar, March 17th

Celtic Crossroads, March 20th

Cirque Mechanics: Boom Town, March 24th

I think that is about it!
Sirius in blue

Reviews: Sarah McLachlan, VotDT & HP:DH1

Perfume of the Day: Alien

Getting the easy ones out of the way before Arisia. I honestly don't know if I'll get the six Patricia McKillip books reviewed before then, but at least that will be all I'll have backlogged since I'm still amidst a leisurely reread of Madouc.

1/2/11 Sarah McLachlan

This was a very good show. I found the vocals a bit murky in the 'electric' songs, but otherwise the show was professional and well-performed. It all brought me back to writing/reading fanfic in the early 2000s. Just how many Draco and/or Snape songfics were written to 'Fallen'? Or 'Building a Mystery'? I had 'Answer' on my writing playlist. I still have a few of her songs on my writing playlists.

**** Stars.

HP: Deathly Hallows 1

It has been a long time since I saw this. As I recall I had no serious complaints. My biggest one was actually in the treatment of Dudley, of all people. I liked how Harry and Dudley left things in the book. Here it was just rushed through meaninglessly. A little more there and a little less camping would have gone a long way. I know there was a lot of camping in the book, but they could have cut it down a bit more without losing anything important. I also missed seeing Luna's room. Otherwise I found the movie reasonably well done. Hopefully they will pull it all together well in the final movie.

**** Stars.

Narnia: Voyage of the Dawn Treader

We saw this on Christmas night. Unfortunately I was a little too late to see it in Hooksett so it ended up being Concord on a tiny screen. It was quiet, though. The movie was entertaining and fun to watch, with good effects and a mostly well-paced story. It suffered from my being deeply entrenched in the world of Lyonesse, but I had no complaints.

**** Stars.
Neo Angelique- Hyuga & Ange

Review: Lyonesse 3: 'Madouc' by Jack Vance.

BPAL of the Day: Sea of Glass

Truly the crown jewel of this extraordinarily compelling series. I finished it with deep regret that there are no more. The politics, while present, are generally more interesting than in the previous books and do not detract from nor bog down the story. A goodly part of the book revolves around its heroine Madouc- the remarkable half fairy that was exchanged for Dhrun by the fairies of Thripsey Shee. Madouc was raised in Lyonesse as the daughter of Suldrun. Like Suldrun she was not particularly wanted nor certainly loved. Madouc is of very different temper than poor Suldrun, though, and retains a bright, willful intelligence and strong self esteem. One day she goes out riding her pony with only a stableboy as an escort and they are beset by thieves. Madouc runs into the forest where she learns the truth of her fairy parentage and meets her real mother, Twisk. Twisk isn’t terribly enthusiastic to see her dear daughter, but does give her a comb to order her wild red-gold hair and a very useful little spell to keep her safe from enemies and thugs. Twisk also warns Madouc to never tell the king that Dhrun is Suldrun’s son, as it would put him in great danger.

Madouc learns that the king knows that she is not the daughter of Suldrun, but he intends to marry her off for his own political benefit anyway. While Madouc asserts that she would have jumped the fence in Suldrun’s garden and have been gone on her way, she realizes that her fate could be very like Suldrun’s if she is not careful. She is only about nine-years-old, but she is put on display for the lords at Prince Cassander’s birthday party. She is unhappy and bored until she sees Dhrun and Shimrod arrive. She is drawn to Shimrod immediately and finds Dhrun to be quite handsome. She tells Dhrun she knows the truth, and later she sneaks over to visit with Dhrun and Shimrod. The three get along beautifully and Shimrod gives her another spell to use so she can protect herself from malicious behavior.

Shimrod is busy cataloguing the artifacts taken from Tamurello when he receives a summons from Murgen. Shimrod is sent to investigate a demon from another world and capture him if possible. His investigation takes him back to the villa of Melancthe. And it was here when I finally understood the non-physical aspect of Shimrod’s fascination with her. She is quite a puzzle for him to solve and, as I said in my review of ‘Green Pearl’, his inherent romantic optimism and indomitable will leads him to believe he can change her, or make her whole as the case may be. The sad truth of her nature as an automation for the use of and direction by Desmei and Tamurello is immutable, but I cannot blame Shimrod for wanting to help her and free her from their evil influence.

Madouc, displaying courage, wit and resourcefulness far in advance of her years, manages to incite Casmir’s wrath, but still escape relatively unscathed and with the oblique permission to seek her pedigree wherever it may be found. She takes her favorite stable boy whom she dubbed Sir Pom-pom, and visits Twisk at Thripsey Shee. Twisk tells her the story of how she had been accosted by a troll who chained her to a post in the middle of the forest with the curse that she must be used by three men in order to be freed. Twisk was certain that one of these was Madouc’s father. The fairies came up with a plan for Madouc to capture the three men. Later a fairy named Osfer used a kind of fairy magic version of DNA testing to discover Madouc’s paternity. When none of the three was a fit, he tried another test which recreated the face of Madouc’s father by subtracting her mother’s influence and piecing together what was left. (Really quite brilliant!) The face seemed familiar to Madouc and filled her with warmth. Twisk recognized the face as being that of a wandering minstrel-knight she dallied with on an idyllic and highly romantic afternoon. The horrors of her ordeal chained to the post drove the affair from her mind. The knight’s name was given as ‘Sir Pellinore’. Twisk never saw him again.

Madouc and her little band, including Sir Pom-pom who sought the Holy Grail and a man in search of his lost youth visited an ogre whom Twisk feared might have taken Sir Pellinore. After a fruitless (for Madouc) and harrowing adventure Madouc and Sir Pom-pom return to Lyonesse town.

Meanwhile Shimrod has a harrowing adventure of his own wherein Murgen sends him in disguise to seek out an outlaw in league with demons. Along the way he meets up with and foils a band of cutthroats paid by King Casmir to assassinate Aillas.

The finale is extraordinary. Madouc shows her precocity, ingenuity, will and tremendous courage at a gathering of the kings of the Elder Isles where she lays bare the plots of King Casmir. Murgen is beset by demons and renegade magicians which threaten the fragile safety of the Elder Isles. We finally learn the full, sad reason for Melancthe’s existence and war comes between Lyonesse and the rest of the Elder Isles. The ending is immensely satisfying in every way and the final revelation of the identity of Madouc’s father is just perfect.

My only disappointment was that we don’t see Glyneth again. She seems to be busy being pregnant off screen for the whole book. :/

Unreservedly ***** STARS!

I would like to retract my view of the series as misogynistic. While the world itself is pretty misogynistic, Madouc is easily equal to the best of the men and Glyneth, though kind and gentle, was not presented as helpless. Madouc is easily the most exciting and remarkable heroine I’ve encountered in a very long time, if not ever. She reminds me a bit of Phillip Pullman’s Lyra Belaqua (sp?), only with a much better personality and a more forthright character.

There are brilliant little touches of whimsy and humor that work without being incongruous in a rather serious story and witty prose that provides just the right amount of atmosphere and setting. Most of the characters are intriguing and the story is a fanfic writer or roll player’s paradise with so much that goes on off screen that just cries out for exploration and extrapolation. Recreating Jack Vance’s whimsically witty atmosphere would be the greatest challenge in writing Lyonesse fanfic.

I’m currently rereading parts of the books. (Mostly those relating to Shimrod and Madouc.) When I’m done it will be hard to start something different after having been with these characters in this world so long. That this book is out of print as a physical book is a tragedy! (So is the fact that The Dying Earth isn’t available in eBook!)

Now I am down to reviewing the six Patricia McKillip books, a few short stories, two movies and a concert. Still quite a lot, actually…
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Neo Angelique- Hyuga & Ange

Review: Lyonesse 2: The Green Pearl, by Jack Vance

BPAL of the Day: The Lilac Wood

Like 'Suldrun's Garden' ‘The Green Pearl’ was a rather slow starter that bogged down in too much politics at the beginning. Only this time the politics were unrelieved by the somewhat more interesting aspect of Suldrun’s plight. Had this been the first book I doubt I’d have kept reading long enough for things to change. (Which would have been a DREADFUL shame!!) As I mentioned even Shimrod, whom I love passionately and dearly, frustrated me to no end with his insistence on throwing his wonderful wit and intellect away for the sake of (essentially) an amoral, perverse little glorified magical sex doll created by a bitter witch in revenge against all of the male gender. That he KNEW the ‘woman’ Melancthe was sent to befuddle him and keep him from his duties by his enemy made it worse. I only did not lose all respect for him because she exercises some sort of glamour over him and his inherent optimism and romantic nature led him to believe he could somehow ‘save’ her while also playing out his erotic fantasies.

Anyway… After the political wrangling inherent in securing his rule over South Ulfland and war against the invading Ska, King Aillas manages to capture a highborn Ska lady named Tatzel. Aillas had become infatuated with Lady Tatzel when he was captured by the Ska and forced to work as their slave during his adventures in the previous book. He decides to teach her a little lesson about slavery by calling her a slave and forcing her to travel with him. Of course Aillas is too inherently noble to do much more than make her cook dinner for them while he sets up camp and make an idle threat or two. He even saved her honor when she thought that two outlaws made for better travelling companions than himself. Aillas may be a good king but he was a poor slave driver! I don’t know exactly what he expected of their association or really what it accomplished. She was willing enough to sleep with him by the end of their travels but in the end he chooses against it and hands Lady Tatzel back to her father utterly untouched. Perhaps that fact helped him with the Ska? It didn’t really seem like that, though. It may simply be that he needed to put aside his infatuation with her. Much as Shimrod needed to put aside his infatuation with Melancthe. The only way for then to get over it was to go through with it.

Aillas secures his military victories and returns home in very high spirits. Only to find that Glyneth, who had been living at Aillas’ palace as his ward, had disappeared.

Shimrod first heard of Glyneth’s disappearance from Melancthe. She was sent again by the evil wizard Tamurello to incite Shimrod and make him do something (else) stupid. Shimrod learns that the perverted Visbhume, a low-level mage with a penchant for performing vile acts upon young women in particular, has taken Glyneth into an alternate world known as Tanjecterly. He contacts his master Murgen before running off to Tanjecterly and the three- Shimrod, Aillas and Dhrun go to Swer Smod where Murgen lives. Murgen works on a plan to retrieve Glyneth without any of the three trapping themselves in Tanjecterly. Murgen creates a being made out of the stuff of a beast-man of Tanjecterly and a pirate from a far moon of Arcturus named ‘Kul the Killer.’ Inside this body must go the blood and spirit of someone who loves Glyneth. All three of them- Shimrod, Dhrun and Aillas- love her in their own way. Murgen decides it is Aillas who has the qualities necessary for survival in the strange and hostile world of Tanjecterly, as well as the necessary quality of love for Glyneth. The deed is done and the creature is sent into Tanjecterly.

Glyneth follows a strange butterfly into a hut wherein the gateway to Tanjecterly opens up and swallows her. She finds herself in a world with two suns and a black moon with blue grass, trees in every color of the rainbow and very strange beings… and of course the horrid Visbhume, who shows her what she can expect by first molesting a flower and then a bird. She manages to escape Visbhume by stabbing him in the face with his stiletto. She gets a goodly distance but is caught by a group of goblin eels when back comes Visbhume. Things could have gone badly for Glyneth then if it were not for Murgen’s creation Kul, who comes along to rescue her.

After that Glyneth and Kul capture and threaten Visbhume and force him to tell them how to leave Tanjecterly. They have to travel a long way and have many harrowing adventures through a dangerous and fantastical landscape. The ending is very satisfying.

I didn’t even get in to the story of the Green Pearl itself. It is the condensed evil essence of Faude Carfilhiot and brings a wide assortment of people to grief. It eventually ends up buried in the forest with the remains of one of its victims it causes very strange and malevolent seeming flowers to grow. The flowers attract Carfilhiot’s ‘sister’ Melancthe. The pearl manages to wreak as much havoc for the bad guys as it did for the innocent bystanders before the end.

It was sluggish at the beginning but once Glyneth went to Tanjecterly I could hardly stop reading. It was unusual, intense, exciting, compelling and awesome in every way.

Overall rating: ****1/2 Stars.

More reviews tomorrow!
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Memories of Tours past

Reviews: Two months worth of concerts and theater!

BPAL of the Day Nothing Gold Can Stay

Happy New Year! Last year was a pretty good one overall for me. I definitely had some spectacular moments and good adventures. I stuck with my 'resolution' all year and made great progress. I made some great musical (Lisa Gerrard in particular) and literary (Too many to list!) discoveries. I met some of my heroes, travelled and learned much at the conventions. It was a year of experiences and learning.

Not as exciting a NYE as last year. This post began in a Wolfeboro parking lot waiting for fireworks with my mother asleep. Hopefully Ed and Kelli will decide to do another NYE event in the future but there was none this year. :( (Obviously, or I would not have been posting LJ entries from a parking lot.)

Here are all the concert/theater reviews I have been neglecting over the past two months. Some are more like notations. It has been too long to review the earlier ones properly.

November 4th: Joan Baez

So long ago! Yikes. I'm afraid that I can't do much better than 'It was a good show.' Which it was. Joan Baez is always excellent to see live. She didn't seem in quite as perfect form as she did in Lebanon a couple years ago. Her voice sounded great, though.

**** 1/2 Stars.

November 10th: Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis.

One of those I went to so long ago that doing a 'review' is nearly impossible. It was the Capitol Center's fifteenth anniversary show and included a 'strolling' dinner and dessert reception. The Capitol Center was decorated beautifully but the dinner was overpriced for what was available for anyone who does not eat massive platefuls of food. I really just did it to support the CCA. The concert was very good. While not the kind of thing I regularly listen to, I could definitely appreciate the talent of the performers. It was a very professional show.

**** stars.

November 13th: Arlo Guthrie

It was the two year anniversary of my first Arlo Guthrie concert where I saw Ed Gerhard the first time. Much to my delight Ed was there again playing with Arlo. It was an excellent show all around and wonderful to see Ed playing with Arlo again!

***** Stars.

November 17th: Video Games Live

Easily the most exciting and fun of the November Capitol Center shows. They had a full orchestra, guitars, videos and a lot of energy and excitement. It was a free show, but I ended up spending more money buying Blu-Rays, books, T-shirts, etc than at any show in memory. An excellent evening!

***** Stars.

November 20th: Belly Dance Superstars

This is weird. I would have sworn that this show was after Jigu, but the brochure says it was on the 20th! We went to this with my niece. Both she and my mother enjoyed it. I liked it, but I'm not crazy about belly dance music. Still an entertaining show.

**** stars

November 21st: Jigu! Thunder Drums of China:

An entertaining little show with a nice variety of different drumming styles and costumes. A fun evening's entertainment.

**** stars.

November 26th: The Nutcracker

This was at the Palace Theatre in Manchester. It was a good production. A bit different from the CCA version. Perhaps a little more athletic and professional since the dancers were not all young students. I missed the Chinese dragon, though!

**** Stars.

December 4th: Ed Gerhard at the Belknap Mill.

I love seeing Ed at the Belknap Mill. It is such a charming and warm venue with full and rich sound. I managed to forget all my rings and my stick-on nails fell off, but otherwise I had a perfect seat and the concert was excellent, as always. His set list was a bit different as he mixed the holiday songs with some of the songs from his new album which is to come out soon.

***** Stars!

December 15th: WZID 'Christmas at the Palace' Holiday Concert.

I heard on one of Ed's newsletters that Ed would be performing a couple of songs at this show. It was very late when I found out but I got lucky and managed to get an acceptable ticket. It was a 'Variety' type show with an array of musicians and comedians. Ed did two rather wonderful songs 'What Child is This/Greensleeves' and 'Imagine.' Truly wonderful choices! It was a fun show overall, too.

**** 1/2 Stars.

December 17th: Ed Gerhard at the Unitarian Church in Portsmouth

While I have enjoyed all of Ed's concerts this one just seemed to be turned up a few notches on the perfection meter. Ed was in truly fine form with plenty of chatter. I like it best when he is in a chatty mood. :) He also performed the most breathtaking renditions of 'Imagine' and 'Across the Universe' imaginable. The sound was perfect. This may be the best concert of the year for sheer beauty and aching loveliness.

***** STARS!

December 18th: Ed Gerhard at the Unitarian Church in Portsmouth

This one was perhaps turned down a teeny bit from Friday's, but still gorgeous. The show was professional, elegant and went off without a hitch. Ed was a bit quieter this night. It was bittersweet since it was the last of the holiday shows. I will see him on the 12th of February in Connecticut and again on the 13th in Portsmouth.

***** Stars!

December 31st: Aine Minogue at Wolfeboro First Night.

Since there was sadly no NYE event with Ed. *sniff* We decided to go up to Wolfeboro to catch a couple of concerts and see the fireworks. I went primarily to see Aine Minogue. She is a Celtic harpist and singer. She played beautifully and I would definitely see her again sometime. I wish I had been able to catch both of her shows!

**** Stars.

And that is it for theater and concerts! I am seeing Sarah McLachlan tomorrow. I will be sure that review is up much quicker! I still have a frightening number of book reviews to tackle, but they will be done. If not all tomorrow, then certainly before Wednesday. I need to get caught up to start fresh for the new year!
X-Mas tree monster

Reviews: Alphabet of Thorns by McKillip, Wildwood Dancing & Cybele's Secret by Marillier.

BPAL of the Day: Yule

Happy Christmas to those of you who celebrate it! May it bring a lot of presents! I celebrate Yule and my presents are two layaway payments this year.

'The Green Pearl' went from borderline boring to mildly entertaining to high suspense over the last two nights. I had to end my walk just as things were getting very nerve-wracking and intense. I really want to read it on a walk, but it is all I can do not to plunge into it right now! I'm posting these reviews in a poor attempt to distract myself.

'Alphabet of Thorns' by Patricia McKillip.

I read this one before I went to Columbus. (Which feels like ages ago.) It follows the tale of a transcriptior foundling named Nepenthe who was taken in by the librarians as an infant. A young mage named Bourne gives her a mysterious book written in an indecipherable language to take to the librarians. Nepenthe keeps the book and finds that she is able to translate it, eventually becoming obsessed with it.

The book, written in a language of thorns, tells the ancient story of Axis and Kaine. A conqueror and his powerfully magical cousin whom were madly in love, but it was decreed that Axis needed a strong political match and was forced to marry someone else. Kaine 'gave herself' to Axis as a wedding present. First she masqueraded as a masked and robed boy jester of sorts that entertained the queen and later her children. When Axis decided to conquer other lands, Kaine was unwilling to leave him so she made herself dangerously powerful and Axis took her with him as a weapon of war. He conquered the world with Kaine's powers at his side. Once he was done with the world Kaine opened portals in time so he could conquer even more lands in other times. They were unstoppable.

Entwined with the tale of Nepenthe and her book is that of a new young queen with magic of her own, a young mage from a rebellious family and the Dreaming Knight whom it is said will only awaken if the kingdom is in grave peril.

It is a beautifully woven tale with some lovely unexpected twists and McKillip's exquisite prose. The ending is very unique and surprising.

The only fault I found, if it can be called that, is how strongly some of these characters resembled characters in 'Od Magic'. It gave them a feel of being the same actors playing different parts.

A lovely, unusual and beautifully told tale.

**** Stars.

Wildwood Dancing, By Juliet Marillier

I have been getting around to some of the books long on my 'maybe someday' list. I spotted this one at Borders last year, but never got around to reading it. I seem to be on a fairy and folk tale based/like fantasy kick lately, so this one strongly appealed. I believe it is based on the same folk tales as the Barbie 'Dancing Princesses' movie. This is, of course, a very different version! To begin with, their father is a merchant, not a king.

The narrator is Jena, the second eldest sister and the practical one who is good with numbers. Jena has a frog named Gogu as a... 'Pet' isn't really the right word; 'best friend' would be closer to the mark. They speak to each other and he gives her advice and friendship. Her elder sister Tatiana is something of a flighty ninny. One of her younger sisters, Paula, is a budding scholar at a time and place where women are supposed to be domestic, decorative and nothing more. Ilulia seems more standard issue for a 'proper young lady'- that is to say boring. The youngest is five and is too young to tell what sort she will be. Their father becomes ill and is told by his physicians to take himself to a warmer climate for the winter. He leaves Jena in charge with a kindly uncle nearby to help out if needed.

The five sisters have a special secret. For nine years they have visited the Other World (faery) on almost every full moon. They dance and play there with their friends all night and return the following morning to their homes. All goes well until one night when member of the Night People (vampires) come to the Fairy Queen's court. One of them, a young man named Sorrow, catches the eye of Tatiana. (Are all women who fall in love with vampires or semi- vampires hopeless ninnies?) It is love at first sight, worrying Jena greatly. (I personally liked the tall and strange, but gentle-natured Grigori. A relative of the witch who is the real ruler of the wood.)

Meanwhile back at home troubles are mounting. Their good-natured uncle was killed in a hunting accident, leaving their power-hungry and vengeful cousin Cezar as lord. He quickly belittles, bullies and insults Jena and her sisters and takes over their home and finances, saying girls are incapable of taking care of themselves. His brother drowned when they were children and Cezar blames the witch of the Wildwood for his brother Costin's death. He plans to burn down the Wildwood in the spring.

Jena's struggles against her cousin, her lovelorn sister, her frog that is not a frog, the Night People and various others made for an interesting, if frustrating story. Jena certainly was trying to put things right, but is utterly ineffectual at actually fixing anything until a male comes along and saves the day.:P Tatiana's pathetic wasting away was spectacularly aggravating. I gave the story some leeway for being based on old fairy tales, but it tested my tolerance strongly.

*** 1/2 Stars.

‘Cybele’s Secret’ By Juliet Marillier

This is the sequel to ‘Wildwood Dancing’ and is written from the PoV of Jena’s scholarly sister, Paula. It has been several years since the sisters’ last visit to faery. Two of Paula’s sisters have completed the requisite task of breeding male heirs, Tatiana has not been seen since she entered Faery with her beloved and Paula has had no luck finding another gate to replace the one that was lost. Paula and her father travel to Istanbul to acquire an ancient pagan artifact for one of her father’s clients. Paula’s father allows his daughters more freedom and education than would be considered proper for young ladies and this is quite an exciting and dangerous trip for young Paula. She hopes to use her part of the proceeds for the sale to start her own bookselling business.

When she arrives in Istanbul she meets the dashing and dangerous pirate Duarte, who steals her scarf and seems to immediately take an interest in her. Her father learns that his friend and the man who told him about the artifact’s sale has been murdered and hires a bodyguard for himself and (mostly) Paula. Paula chooses a man named Stoyan who was once bodyguard for her father’s friend. (He was away at the time of the murder on the trail of his brother who was taken by the sheik to become a eunuch in his service.) Paula is invited to visit the one woman who passes for a scholar in Istanbul, an imposing Greek lady named Irene. She (happily) has a frequently absent wealthy and important husband and has created an oasis of scholarship for women in her home.

The culture of Istanbul at any period is enough to get my hackles up, and reading about it in this book was no exception. It is pretty much my own version of HELL- women never leaving the home, being told what to do, forced subservience and then sitting around naked. Yep, that’s hell. :P

There are adventures, mysterious artifacts, handsome men and moments of peril aplenty. The ending was expected and a little bland, but not terrible. I enjoyed Paula more than Jena, as she seemed more resourceful and capable of action on her own behalf. Her relationships with Stoyan and Duarte are interesting and enjoyable. While both had their charm and strength, they did not overshadow Paula. (I’d have chosen opposite of the way she did romantically.) In the end it is Irene that really impresses. She is more than she seems. While the things she does are not always ‘nice’ it is very easy to see why she does them. To be a woman of intelligence and ambition in a culture where those traits are severely frowned upon would have been maddening for her. She would have achieved her aims by any means necessary. She was a true ‘gray’ character who cannot be stamped with a simple ‘good or evil’ label.

An excellent and thought-provoking book.

**** ½ Stars.

Next up six Patricia McKillip books! Including a set of short stories that includes one beautiful, haunting tale that I have read four times already. Much more on that later.
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