Wednesday, 28 September 2011

The Moon of Gomrath - Review

Author: Alan Garner
ISBN: 9626344709/9789626344705

Why did I choose this book? Because I had listened to The Weirdstone of Brisingamen and enjoyed it very much.

What did I like? The pace of the adventure was faster than The Weirdstone of Brisingamen and the same characters gained some depth.

I loved the weaving of celtic and local myth, and folklore into the storyline as well as the concept of old and new magic. I appreciated the way Alan Garner chose to describe occurrences and, more importantly, feelings ascribed to the afterlife or in-between; it was almost beautiful.

What didn't I like? Unfortunately, I was not as enthralled as I was with The Weirdstone of Brisingamen, and I found myself losing attention despite the wonderful narration of Mr Madoc. At certain points, I lost the any concept what was happening and I feel I may need a second listen, when not driving, to better appreciate this sequel.

I never heard an explanation as to how the Morrigan returned. As others have said, it felt more contrived with certain events seeming to happen at precisely the right moment purely to set-off another, and to provide the story with momentum.

So, despite the increase in pace, the further exploration of characters, and the fusion of folklore, myth, and landscape The Moon of Gomrath fell short of the standard set by The Weirdstone of Brisingamen.

Would I recommend it? Yes, but only because it is the sequel to a fine book.

Rating: 2½/5.

Sunday, 18 September 2011

The Seasons Turn

I've encountered many a blog, and online chatter about the change of season.  People seem to have noticed it more this year, and I must admit I am one.   I'm including a few - I feel appropriate - snippets of what I've seen today.

May the rains sweep gentle across your fields,
May the sun warm the land,
May every good seed you have planted bear fruit,
And late summer find you standing in fields of plenty.

Source:  Island Ireland.


Autumn's Arrival
by Starlight the Fox 

Her breath mists the twilit air, frost and pearl, as she mounts her horse, a steel grey beast of taut muscle and lean limbs, built for speed.

Pulling the collar of her cloak around her, she gazes out at the surrounding landscape. She owns it all, in a way which will never be written on parchment, never be lodged in the minds of men.

In the Realm of the Lady Winter ~ Ina.

Friday, 16 September 2011

The Gnome and Mrs Meyers - Review

Author: Susan Klein
ASIN: B005D4Y77U

Why did I Read It? It came up as a recommendation over at Podio Books and the idea of a modern fairy tale appealed.

Synopsis: Mrs Meyers sleeps, eats and lives on the couch in her den. Though afraid of confrontation, Mrs Meyers works as a paralegal, and she enters sweepstakes in the hope of some luck to give her relief from the pressure of debt accrued after the prolonged illness and the death of her husband. Then, one morning, Mrs Meyers discovers she is the winner of the Expect the Unexpected sweepstake, and a mythical creature has come to stay with her. If Mrs Meyers can keep Mr. G. safe for the duration of his stay, riches will be hers and all her problems will be solved. But, Mrs Meyers really should Expect the Unexpected.

Short synopses of the various chapters can be read at Gnome Home Stay.

What did I like? This really is a modern fairytale. It's clear Susan Klein has thought long and hard about the story, in particular the make-up of the Gnome Nation from which Mr. G. hails. The audio version, in podcast format, to which I listened moved along at a fair pace. It's amusing, downright funny at times and I can truly hear the empathy Susan Klein has for her main character, Brenda.

This book could have been over-sentimental, but it's not. Mourning, loss, timidity and mild depression are explored within The Gnome and Mrs. Meyers, but with a level of (almost) understatement.

What didn't I like? I preface this with the statement that I work with Texans, and other Americans, but I was raised within a British household. It is a truly personal thing, but Susan Klein's accent when narrating was unpalatable - to begin with. After I while, I found her accent and her odd pronunciation of some words amusing, mostly because I came to equate her voice with that of Mrs. Meyers.

I realise it is difficult to narrate, and produce your own book for broadcast, but there were some hiccoughs: paper rustling; odd pauses as pages were turned; words missed; and doubling back on the text. These could be overlooked, as they didn't really spoil the story, and are only relevant to the audio edition.

I would have preferred if the author hadn't spent so much time on the backstory, and the expounding on the nature of the Gnome Nation; some of it felt superfluous, and only snippets were really required to move the story along. I would have preferred a bit more mystery, as found in older fairy tales when the reader is not always sure of motivation of various supernatural characters.

Would I recommend it? You bet. A great story with memorable characters, and creatures and, I suspect, an easy read; it is certainly an easy listen being only 22 (very short) chapters long. I certainly hope Susan Klein continues to write another modern fairy tales.

Rating: 6/10.

Saturday, 10 September 2011

Book Give Away - Moon Mysteries

Red Moon Designs are giving away two copies of "Moon Mysteries: Reclaiming Women's Menstrual Wisdom". Go to the website of Red Moon Musings for details.

"Moon Mysteries is a unique and beautiful combination of breathtaking images, ancient matriarchal teachings and personal stories. Sims and Seeds boldly address the menstrual disconnect that women have been undergoing for centuries, but not without offering remedies to heal this split. Moon Mysteries invites all women to reclaim the wild and inherent menstrual wisdom that is their birth right."

Thursday, 8 September 2011

And a tempest cleared the path

I don't know about anyone else, but for me in the south-east of the country, the winds and driving rain that appeared earlier in the week appear to mark the first signs of Autumn.

At first, I thought summer had gone, but driving out today, I noticed the grassed areas scattered with lights of yellow as various flowers seemed to bloom.   Aside from which, a lovely set of taller-than-a-man sunflowers graced the yard of a terraced house along the A13, and there were dark red roses in bloom along one particular drive near to home.   Summer is just holding on it seems, but those gales did their best to clear the way for Autumn's arrival. 

For me the cool, crisp air of the nights over the last few weeks have been a signal of Summer's End, but this week as some of the leaves start to change colour, and this change in atmosphere combined with the recent storms have been akin to a flashing billboard with the announcement Autumn isn't coming; it's here.

Many bloggers I follow have already been harvesting mushrooms and have been since the beginning of August; our yew tree has already displayed its first crop of berries.  All the signs of Autumn appear to have started early, long before summer's blooms have finished their display.

So, with the last vestiges of summer being blown away with the winds and driving rain, I, too, will undertake my annual Autumnal clear out.  Anything not used in the last year, or that will not be used in the next year will be recycled, either through freegle, charity or sale.   My home will be reorganised and made comfortable for the coming cold months.   My short-term plans will be assessed and adjusted accordingly, including my reading.   In other words, I plan to have a stock-take and clear-out of my life and this will include all aspects of my spiritual life.

It will take some time, as I cannot work as quickly, or as quirkily as a gale force wind.

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell

Author: Susanna Clarke

Why did I read it? Because it had wonderful reviews. I enjoy magical, historical and fantasy fiction and, it has been lauded extensively. In the end, I did not read it, but listened to it, unabridged.

My Opinion? Let me preface this review by saying: I am a fan of Austen; I am a fan of Dickens; and I am a fan of Tolkien.

I am not a fan of Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell.

I purchased two copies of this book, one on my way to Australia, which I promptly handed to my grandmother before a single page was read, the second on my return for my own use. I ended up purchasing an audio copy which was over 32 hours long.

Several times I stopped listening because I found it boring, despite the wonderful efforts of Mr. Prebble in voice characterisation. After a while, I knew which character was speaking simply by their voice. Mr. Prebble was also very adept at handling the footnotes in that I always knew when they had ended and he had returned to the main story. Mr. Prebble really tried to breathe life into this book. Alas, he was unsuccessful.

I probably took 15 hours before I discerned any sort of plot. Though it is said that in an Austen book, "nothing ever happens", it's not exactly true, whereas in the case of Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, I'm afraid that it's not until section 2 of the book (around the 15 hour mark on the audio) before matters progress and some semblance of a plot emerges.

For my own part, I could have done without knowing anything of Mr. Strange's actions in the Napoleonic Wars; I have no idea what they added to the plot other than for the purposes of ridiculing the perceptions of historical characters and, indeed, Mr. Strange himself. I felt some characters were shoehorned into the story even though they did not particularly add anything. The Graysteels being one instance: Apart from receiving Mrs Strange upon her return from Faery - Mr. Segundus might have been a viable alternative - I have no idea why they were created. Mr. Norrell’s servants whom Childermass directs to assist the two magicians at the last, but then desert, were another. Did I really need to know anything about them? Surely Lascelles would have fled if left on his own anyway?

Like others, I admire Susanna Clarke's ability to recreate the Regency era in a style entirely new, wherein magic "is simply an arcane branch of learning, like medicine or physics, and its practitioners as essentially applied scientists". I can also appreciate the attempt to write a pastiche of authors such as Austen and Dickens and to imbibe it with ironic humour; for me, though, it failed in its delivery.

Would I recommend it? I know I am in the minority, the awards bestowed upon Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell are many, and the majority of readers can but sing its praises, but I just cannot recommend this book to anyone. I shall be disposing of my hard copy imminently.

Rating: 2/5.

Saturday, 3 September 2011

One Body : One Spirit : and a Soul
Uniting these and for it's only goal
The unique expression of Unity
In this life, and then for Infinity.

Many bodies : many forms : across Time
Uniting Plurality with what is confined.
We are, all of us, here forever
But only have one life to remember.

One life, and one life only, to know
All there is to know. For Soul to grow
From Oneness of being, plurally
Formed, again and again, endlessly.

Posted, with permission from Heron, 2011